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At This Hour

Police Respond to Suspected Explosive in Vehicle Near U.S. Capitol; Kentucky Hits Record Number of ICU Patients with Coronavirus; Journalist Captures Images of Taliban Beating Afghans. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 19, 2021 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:02]

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We know there had been some pretty strenuous debates internally about whether what, how this should proceed. Those happened, and just to the principal level but at lower levels as well.

And there were some, we were told, at time, including the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, who advocated for keeping a presence in Afghanistan. Now, how long he wanted to keep that presence there, what size of a presence, he believed, of course, those are meetings that happened behind closed doors with the president and his defense secretary, national security adviser and top aides.

But we do know that on the day President Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 election, it was very clear that this was route that he wanted to take. Now, it is not clear and necessarily when he was going to do that or whether or not he was going to try to abide by this agreement that his predecessor had struck, but he even said during this interview with ABC that he was going to get out regardless at some point. This was something that was obviously very important to him.

But when it comes to what the advice was from the military, why certain paths weren't pursued, those are going to be major questions that aren't going to go away for the administration going forward because I think a lot of Democrats have questions about it as well.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. But the crisis is still at hand is now trying to get Americans and at-risk allies in Afghanistan out of the country. Kaitlan, thank you very much.

We have some breaking news as well still we're following as well. Police are responding to a claim of an explosive device in a vehicle near the library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Two House office buildings are being evacuated at this hour.

CNN's Whitney Wild is live at the scene with more details on this. Whitney, what is happening?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well at this point, Kate, in addition to those office buildings, the Capitol complex have been evacuated, there are also buildings at the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court that has been evacuated as well. Important to note, Supreme Court is not in session right now. So, there have very few people here at the Capitol Complex because Congress is still in recess. So, that is the silver lining here as this chaotic situation unfolds.

What we know now is that this has been going on for about 90 minutes. The early reports were that a man had driven up in a vehicle claiming to have an explosive device. This obviously prompted a lot of anxiety, a huge law enforcement response. We are still a couple of blocks away, so I can't give you a visual description of what is going on. But what we're told is that law enforcement is negotiating with this person, this man who is apparently in this truck, again, claiming to have an explosive device.

Right now, Kate, we don't know the veracity of that claim. We don't know if they believe that there is an explosive device in there, but it is a real concern. Just a few minutes ago, we saw a caravan of more than dozen enormous dump trucks driving toward that scene, very likely to continue to block off the streets to keep everyone safe.

Kate, right now, we've learned that the situation is under control. There is a few more details coming in. Again, this is a man who is in a pickup truck, law enforcement sources telling me and my colleague, Evan Perez, the pickup truck apparently doesn't have plates on it so we don't know if they're from the Washington, D.C. area or came from far away. We just don't know those details yet. But this is continuing to unfold, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Whitney, thank you very much. We're going to get back to you as this clearly is developing, as we speak. Thank you very much for those details.

Coming up for us, more and more states are reporting a record number of coronavirus patients in ICUs and they are running out of beds. Kentucky's governor, Andy Beshear, joins us live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:35:00]

BOLDUAN: Developing at this hour, a record number of coronavirus patients are filling intensive care units at hospitals across the state of Kentucky. The state is now on track to soon surpass its most people hospitalized with the virus at any point in the pandemic.

Joining me right now is Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. Governor, thank you for being here.

Your state has now a record number of COVID patients in ICU. You said just yesterday that within 10 to 14 days, you won't have enough staff to care for all of the ICU patients. That is terrifying. What is happening -- what happens then?

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): It is terrifying and it is entirely preventable. What is so sad about where we are as a state and as a country is that if people would just go out and get this vaccine, we wouldn't be where we are right now. Those that are refusing to get vaccinated are filling up our ICUs. We have more people in the ICU right now battling COVID than ever before. And that not only means there are fewer beds for COVID patients but there are fewer beds for folks that have been in a car accident, have a stroke, or have a heart attack. It means that you're less likely to get the full amount of care that you need in any one of those instances.

We have been proud that our hospitals have not been overwhelmed at any point during this pandemic but it's about to happen. And all we have to do could to keep it from happening is to get vaccinated and to wear a mask in the right situations.

BOLDUAN: Look, and I want to talk about masks because children are a big concern in Kentucky right now. You've got COVID cases in Kentucky among kids have risen more than 400 percent in the last month, and that leads me to schools. You issued an executive order mandating masks in schools. You're being challenged by your own state attorney general on that.

The president has told his education secretary to use his oversight and legal power to fight against governors who are blocking mask mandates and I'm wondering with what you're staring down in your state, what do you say to Republican governors like in Florida and Texas who are fighting schools on mask mandates?

[11:40:14]

BESHEAR: I'd ask everybody to have the courage to do the right thing, to put the health and safety of our children above personal ambition. Sending unmasked, unvaccinated kids into a poorly ventilated classroom is like holding the world's largest chicken pox party, except instead of chicken pox, it is the third leading cause of death last year and may surpass cancer this year. Please, do the right thing.

I'm not just a governor. I'm a parent. I have a 12-year-old who is now fully vaccinated and I have an 11-year-old who is not old enough to get vaccinated. Let's make sure that that we are making the decisions and we have the courage to make the decisions that protect them. But not just protect them, keep them in schools.

So my kids' school system did universal masking and they've done pretty well. Sure, they have some quarantines. We had one district that went back for three days with it being optional before I put the mandate in and they have 700 people in quarantine after three days. One works and keeps kids in school, if you don't require masks, they're not going to be in person in class.

So, come on --

BOLDUAN: But, Governor, and that is what I was going to say, there is a little bit of come on, right, because you are not only a governor, you are a parent and you just laid that out. Do you understand just honestly fundamentally why Ron DeSantis in Florida and Greg Abbott in Texas, why they are fighting so hard against mask mandates when you know what you know?

BESHEAR: Well, listen, I know what is right. And it may be hard right now to do what is right. But my faith teaches me it's always supposed to be hard to do what is right. I mean, when we look back at this time and our decisions, I would rather know that I did the right things for the health and lives of my people than the popular things at the time.

But I think what people don't get is that the vast majority of people out there support this type of protection. But we are allowing just a small group of people that are really vocal on social media, that show up at school board meetings and try to bully people, at school board meetings, we're letting their voices sometimes shout out what that vast majority of reasonable folks know that we got to protect our kids and do what is right.

Let me tell you, as a dad of two kids who are both wearing masks in schools, they are just fine. They are in class, they are seeing their friends, they're communicating and it is fine. It is not the kids. It is parents trying to argue through their kids. But our kids are not our property or our chattel. They are our solemn obligation to do the right thing for.

BOLDUAN: Governor, thank you for your time. Your hard up against it right now in your state. Good luck.

BESHEAR: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the Taliban cracking down on protesters as well as Afghans who are trying to get out of the country. Up next, I'm going to talk to the journalist who captured these heartbreaking images of just some of the suffering at the hands of the Taliban now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:45:00]

BOLDUAN: The scenes of chaos and suffering outside of the airport in Kabul have quickly become some of the enduring images of fall of Afghanistan. Among the most startling, photographs from L.A. Times Correspondent and Photojournalist Marcus Yam.

A warning, these are graphic. Yam captured the brutal truth behind the Taliban's empty promises that they have reformed, pictures showing a child appearing unconscious and bloodied. A woman also seemingly unconscious laid out on the street, bloodied. Men trying to help her, we presume, in another image. And also a man sobbing, as Marcus Yam reports, he watches Taliban fighters attacking fellow Afghans.

Marcus Yam joins me now. He's live from Afghanistan, of course. Marcus, the images that you captured were so startling. Do you know what happened to that woman and that child, if they are okay?

MARCUS YAM, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT AND PHOTOJOURNALIST, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Thanks for having me on the show, first of all. And second of all, I was not able to follow-up with the woman and child because I wasn't sure which hospital they ended up in. And there was no way for me to figure that out. They were put in a yellow taxi, as in that picture, and sped off. It all happened very, very quickly. It came and went like in a few minutes, basically.

BOLDUAN: Of course. I mean, we've heard from -- I've heard from fellow correspondents, CNN correspondents on the ground of how volatile the Taliban fighters can be who are now in charge. Do you know why the people in your pictures were beaten and attacked by the Taliban as they were trying to make their way to the airport?

[11:50:00]

YAM: I mean, they were -- there were thousands of Afghans basically standing around and basically gathering at the airport, hoping for any information or trying their luck in basically -- a lot of them had read on Facebook, according to a lot of people I talked to, that the Americans were evacuating Afghans at the airport. So a lot of them would just show up and hope to try their luck out there. And I guess the Taliban were trying to keep the crowd away from the airport, at least the road on the airport side by shooing them away on to the other side.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And that kind of gets to like the defense secretary and the Joint Chiefs chairman said yesterday that the government is in communication with the Taliban. They said that today at a briefing. Just now, they're in communication to kind of create the passageways to allow people to get to the airport. I mean, but what is your sense of how well that is working at this point?

YAM: It's changing day-by-day. As of today, I was at the road to the military entrance of the base where there's still like hundreds, if not, thousands of Afghans still awaiting on the side, waiting for any opportunity to cross, to cross past the Taliban checkpoint to go into the airports, into the military side of the airport. And it's still a bottleneck out there and still not as fluid as it should be.

BOLDUAN: You've also -- you were at one of the protests that occurred in Kabul. Taliban fighters, I saw your tweet, they surrounded the protesters and there were some new images that you published from that, kind of surrounded the protesters to try to disperse them. What happened?

YAM: Today is the Independence Day of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. And I was out covering a religious event at a nearby neighborhood, and I saw a flash mob march down the street about, 200 people waving, you know, the national flag of Afghanistan, chanting, death to Pakistan, you know, God bless Afghanistan, long live the national flag, basically making their way to a busy downtown circle in Kabul where the -- the national bank was.

And I guess there was a big flag pole there. And some of the protesters climbed up and tried to raise the national flag there, basically, in defiance in front of the Taliban fighters that were posted out there to protect the building, the government buildings in that circle.

BOLDUAN: Well, Marcus, it goes without saying, thank you for coming on, but also thank you for your extraordinary work and courage. Thank you very much.

YAM: Thank you for having me on the show.

BOLDUAN: Be well.

So a pressing question also at this hour is what does the U.S. owe Afghans who helped American forces, so many desperate to get out, so many with their lives at risk. Earlier today the former foreign secretary of the U.K., David Milliband, he called out the U.S. and allies on their pledges to help with humanitarian aid for Afghans. Milliband tweeting this, quote, announce an immediate doubling of your aid programs. USA currently flat lining to Afghanistan. U.K., massive cut. Show you mean business, deeds, not words.

Joining me right now is the former U.K. foreign minister, David Milliband. He's now the president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. Thank you for being here.

Those are strong words. What do you want to see what the Biden administration in this moment?

DAVID MILLIBAND, FORMER U.K. FOREIGN SECRETARY: Thanks very much for having me on. There are three humanitarian crises in Afghanistan at the moment. The first, involving tens of thousands of people, those who are in the midst of the bureaucratic process of showing that they've worked for the U.S. or the U.K. and are trying to get out. And that needs expeditious, fast, efficient processing of those claims.

The second crisis is the half a million people who have been displaced within the country as a result of the fighting in the last six to eight weeks. Those are people who are now homeless with nothing. And then there are about 18 million people, ordinary Afghans across the country, who are struck by drought, by COVID, and are desperately poor and in need of humanitarian aid.

The International Rescue Committee, my organization, serves all those people with 1,700 Afghans starve in the country. And what they're desperate is that while there's a U.S. military withdrawal, there is not a humanitarian development, political and diplomatic withdrawal. So, yes, there needs to be a fast, efficient U.S. processing system for the visa claims, both special immigrant visas and the priority-2 visas, but also an infusion of humanitarian aid not into government coffers but down into the communities that are desperate to hold onto some of the gains that have been made over the last 20 years.

BOLDUAN: And, I mean, add to that you -- I saw you say that the IRC has about 1,700 staff in Afghanistan.

[11:55:00]

I mean, what are they telling you? What are they seeing? I mean, are they trying to get out? MILLIBAND: Well, thank you for giving me a chance to speak to you about what they've said to me. We had a staff meeting yesterday, extraordinary testimony from women and men working for us. Some of those women were only able to go to school as a result of the last 20 years, the changes in the last 20 years, and now they're working for us. Of the 1,700 people, all Afghans, a tiny handful are international staff.

And they feel two things. On the one hand, real fear, fearful of the future. The older ones remember the 1990s. And some of them do believe that their lives are on the threat and are trying to get out, finding it very hard. But, secondly, they are Afghans who want to build a better community for themselves. And they know that even if their own immediate family get out, they've got mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, extended family and they're fearful of leaving them behind.

So, they say to me, look, we don't expect you to do nation building for us. We're doing the nation building, but we need your support because we're a poor country that's been afflicted by war. And we understand that America is leaving militarily, but, for goodness sake, don't let it leave on the money front. And that's where I made the point about the U.S. aid commitment. It's flat lining at $260 million. We need more aid going into community level.

We need it more flexible so that it can meet need. We need it to be deployed across the country in ways that really get money into the hands of people who need it, health protection, education, cash and livelihoods for people in desperate need, many of them women and girls trying to sustain their families.

BOLDUAN: Well, that's exactly right. And those who are going to be the most suppressed now.

Leaning on your former roles, former secretary, there has been a lot of criticism from abroad of the kind of unilateral action by President Biden here and the withdrawal and really how it was executed mostly. He spoke to Boris Johnson Tuesday. He spoke to Angela Merkel finally yesterday. Is -- do you think how this has played out, this kind of chaos and this debacle, really, do you think it is going to change how America's allies view President Biden, the administration going forward? I mean, is there an issue of trust, do you think, now?

MILLIBAND: I think there is an issue on part of European and other allies that they want their contribution to be matched on the American side. So, for example, just to give you an example, there's been a lot of talk about the 2,500 American troops are being withdrawn rightly, but there were 8,000 NATO troops alongside those U.S. troops. So, it's not the case that it was the U.S. alone. I think that European allies, allies around the world, know that President Biden is a multilateralist and his team is steeped in international cooperation. And they want that to be played out and practiced.

The administration has created a new so-called quad in the Far East involving Australia and India as well as the U.S. and Japan. European allies want to see the same kind of engagement in NATO and beyond. And I think that this is obviously a crisis situation. There's an understanding that the U.S. government will have to think

about its citizens and the duty to those Afghans, but it wants to be working in partnership. Because this crisis is happening at a time of geopolitics when, let's be honest, democratic countries are on the retreat, autocratic countries are on the march. And so there's a wider context to the debates that are happening about the crisis in Afghanistan.

BOLDUAN: David Milliband, it's great to have you here. Thank you very much.

MILLIBAND: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Breaking news, we have police all responding to a claim of an explosive device in a vehicle near the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. CNN is now learning that the suspect is communicating with police via a white board.

CNN's Whitney Wild is still there on the scene. Whitney, what is going on?

WILD: Well, this communication with the white board is slowing down the communications, as you can imagine. But what we're told is that, right now, the situation is controlled. It is a positive sign that there's any negotiation going on at all. At this point, everyone is safe. We don't know if this person really does have explosives in his vehicle.

He has made a number of statements, according to law enforcement, that he has explosives in his vehicle, that he intends to detonate them. This situation is extremely fluid. We're going to get an update here from the leaders of Metropolitan Police Department, as well as the Capitol Police in just a few minutes.

While we don't know anything about whether or not these explosives are real, Kate, what I can tell is the law enforcement response here is very real, federal officials and local law enforcement here trying to get a handle on this. We'll keep you updated.

BOLDUAN: Whitney, thank you so much. Really unbelievable how this is playing out, I really appreciate it.

A quick programming note before we go. You can join CNN for the We Love NYC. It's the homecoming concert. The big event airs Saturday starting at 5:00 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN.

Thank you so much for being with us this hour. I'm Kate Bolduan.

[12:00:00]

Inside Politics John King starts right now.