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At This Hour

Nearly 1,300 Dead, 5,000 Hurt in Haiti Earthquake; Biden Returning to White House to Deliver Remarks on Afghanistan Today; Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) Fights Back Against Recall Election. Aired 11:30- 12p ET

Aired August 16, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Scenes of devastation in Haiti where at least 1,300 people are now dead after a massive earthquake hit the island nation. Hospitals are being overwhelmed at very same time with injured patients and tens ever thousands of people now need shelter after their homes were damaged or destroyed, as you see here, by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Saturday.

And this is a country already in crisis. Haiti's president was assassinated last month and the country has really been spiraling since.

CNN's Matt Rivers is in the capital, Port-au-Prince, for us.


He's joining me now.

Matt, you've been reporting on all of this. What is latest that you're seeing?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. Unfortunately, the number of dead, the number of injured, those numbers are going to go up. There is just no question about it as search and rescue efforts continue here in Haiti in large part because authorities are having difficulty accessing the hardest hit areas at this point. This is a wide area that was affected, some 2.5 million people roughly within 50 miles of the epicenter. And a lot of these places that have been affected are more individual locations. And so that is what authorities are trying to get to.

A lot of the places are one road in and one road out kind of areas. There have been mudslides, damage from this earthquake have blocked roads, aid convoys are having trouble getting in. And so as they get to more places, unfortunately, the number that we know affected about this is going to go up.

We managed to get access to a particularly hard hit area via helicopter. We saw some of this damage firsthand. We saw a hotel, a several story hotel that had collapsed. Authorities told us there were still people in the rubble. Some people that we saw there were going through the rubble trying to help. Others were merely taking things away from the site, things like scrap metal, air-conditioners, I saw a dresser being taken away, people looking to sell that stuff.

And that all goes to the desperation in this part of Haiti. It is already an incredibly poor place and now it's dealing with a natural disaster yet again. And that is not the only one, Kate. You can see the skies behind me getting darker within the next few hours. Tropical Depression Grace is expected to directly impact the epicenter of where this earthquake happened. That is going to bring winds. It's going to bring rain, which brings the threat of mudslides and flash flooding. It's going to make an already complicated search and rescue effort that much harder.

Unbelievable. Matt, thank you very much for your reporting.

And if you would like information on how you can help all of those affected by the earthquake in Haiti, go to We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: The breaking news we're following, President Joe Biden is heading back to the White House and he will be addressing the nation for the first time since the fall of Afghanistan. With the chaos truly unfolding every image coming out that we're showing you, the Biden administration announced that it is sending in more troops to aid in evacuations. But what went so wrong to even need that as the whole point was clearly to get U.S. troops out of that country.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman John Garamendi. He sits on the Armed Services Committee. Congressman, thank you for being here.

So the president is speaking this afternoon. Do you think he needs to address the criticism that he's facing, accept blame for what we're seeing play out in the last just 24 hours?

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Well, the president will certainly tell the American people what we need to know. We need to know what we are doing to protect Americans, what are we going to do to protect our troops and what the future holds. As to blame here and there and everywhere, really goes back many, many years, actually two decades, about mistakes that were made by presidents in the past.

Not recognizing the corruption and not able to deal with the corruption, not able to put together a government that really was broad based but rather a very narrow-focused government. And what happened right now is that the government simply disappeared. Not a collapse, just disappeared. The president, Ghani, left and it seems as though everybody else simply melted into the streets.

So the president will address all of those things. He'll be very forthright, as he has throughout, his tenure and his campaign and he'll tell the American people the truth, as we know it now. In the past, he was expecting, as were all of us, that there would be a government there that would stand up for itself and for the people of Afghanistan. That is simply did not happen.

BOLDUAN: And to that point, Congressman, the now former president of Afghanistan, he was just at the White House in June. I mean, Ghani was sitting next to Biden really just weeks ago and we look back and Biden and only called Ghani a friend but also said, quote, we're going to stick with you. I'm sitting here thinking of that meeting now. I mean, is that just proof that Biden did not see this coming?

GARAMENDI: Nor did the members of Congress. We actually, the leadership of the Congress, met with, had lunch Abdullah as well as Ghani, and they shoulders back. They were going to defend the country. They knew that American troops were leaving but they also knew that American support would continue.

BOLDUAN: But shouldn't the president have seen this coming? Shouldn't the president have seen this coming? Because at this point, the president said that the Taliban takeover, a Taliban takeover was highly unlikely. So was the intelligence wrong or did the president dismiss it?


I mean, you and other lawmakers were briefed by top administration officials yesterday. Which do you think it is?

GARAMENDI: Well, clearly, the president, clearly, the members -- at least most members of Congress did not anticipate that the government of Afghanistan would simply melt away, disappear, with no fight at all. That was certainly a surprise to me. We would expect that they were there.

We know that in our meeting, in the Capitol, and I'm certain the president did the same, there was a promise of continuing support, including air support as necessary. And, in fact, that was going on just the day before the -- before Ghani left Kabul and the government disappeared. So we were there. We were providing air support. We were providing the necessary equipment and whatever intelligence was available.

Now, what happened was, I am sure, a surprise if not a shock to all of us, and, therefore, where do we go from here and I'm quite certain the president will address where we go from here. Initially, right now, as we speak, there are American troops attempting to evacuate American citizens, families and other Afghans as possible from Kabul. Will that succeed? I suspect it will. The American troops have authority to protect themselves and they will do so.

Now, the president will address all of these issues in about four-and- a-half, five hours from now. And we will all learn more at that time. In the meantime, how are we going to deal with the reality of a new Afghan government? I would expect that the American military on the ground and other places are in communication with the Taliban military and leadership setting out some rules of engagement as we deal -- as they deal with the chaos at the airport.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And that is now what you face, really, the reality of it soon to be engaging with the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Congressman, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

Coming up for us, California Governor Gavin Newsom is fighting back against the high stakes recall election that he faces. Details in a live report.



BOLDUAN: In California, Governor Gavin Newsom's campaign to try and stay in office is kicking into high gear ahead of next month's recall election. Beyond the people who want to take his seat, the biggest challenger though that he is maybe facing is voter apathy.

CNN's Kyung Lah has the latest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's give it up to our governor, Gavin Newsom.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This wasn't supposed to be an election year. The California governor, Gavin Newsom, is fighting for every votes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are the phone calls going? Are they going good?

LAH: Call by call --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm calling to remind you to vote no on the recall next month.

LAH: -- person-to-person --

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Vote no on this recall.

LAH: -- all to convince Californians he should say on the job.

NEWSOM: We have got a battle on the next 30 days.

LAH: How would you characterize that battle?

NEWSOM: We just have to gin up that enthusiasm and that's what this next weekend is about. That's what the next 30 days is about.

LAH: Less than a month until his recall election where voters will say yes or no on keeping Newsom. The Democrat has been increasingly visible in the center of the state's most pressing problems, from homelessness --

NEWSOM: Extraordinary work.

LAH: -- to the massive wildfires, to hosting multimillion dollar giveaway to encourage more Californians to get vaccinated. Why is he fighting so hard in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-1?

NEWSOM: Well, that is what recalls are about. They are about getting you sleepy in these off-year elections, they have an opportunity, they have a chance.

LAH: That chance is because many California Democrats don't know the recall is even happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, really? They want to like remove him.

MICHAEL TRUJILLO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Democrats constantly lose campaigns because we don't turn out to vote.

LAH: Democratic Strategist Michael Trujillo says voters of his party are depressed by COVID-19 and a host of persistent state problems, making this recall far closer than it should be.

TRUJILLO: If we sleep on this election, then we will be waking up to a Republican governor.

LAH: And who will that Republican governor be?

TRUJILLO: It seems like it might be Larry Elder.

LAH: Radio Host Larry Elder, with no political experience, virtually no public scrutiny, has lit up Republican enthusiasm. A Trump supporter, he would be vastly out of step with the majority of California voters.

LARRY ELDER, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR: The outrageous unemployment wage has gone higher and higher.

LAH: Governor Newsom is increasingly invoking Elder's name --

NEWSOM: You've got a guy in the name of Larry Elder. That is not fighting for 15. He doesn't believe there should be a minimum wage.

LAH: -- to turn up Democratic passion against his recall.

NEWSOM: We thought we turned the page when Trump lost this last election and somehow Trumpism would start to go and wane. It's just the opposite.



LAH (on camera): Underscoring the concern of California Democrats is a new poll that is from cbs.ugov, and it shows, Kate, that the recall yes or no is within the margin of error. That's why you are seeing Governor Newsom hit the trail so hard here.

BOLDUAN: Yes, very clearly. Kyung, great reporting, thank you so much for that.

And thanks so much for being here At This Hour. Inside Politics with John King starts after a quick break.



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington.