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Alabama Sees Record Number of ICU Patients with COVID; Soon, Pentagon Holds Briefing on End of War in Afghanistan; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Warns Companies Not to Hand Over January 6 Records. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 01, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Alabama hospitals are at a breaking point. The state is out of ICU beds. And the problem is coronavirus patients, most unvaccinated, filling many of these precious spaces. More than 880 patients are currently in intensive care, the most since the very beginning of the pandemic, and nearly all of them are unvaccinated, according to the Alabama Hospital Association.

COVID-19 cases continue to spike nationwide in adults and kids. But here is what is also new on that front. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports more than 200,000 children tested positive for COVID in the last week, a five-fold increase from a month ago.

And joining me now is Dr. Nancy Tofil. She's the director of the Division of Pediatric Critical Care at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Children's of Alabama Hospital. It's good to see you. Thank you for coming in.

A five-fold increase in cases in a month, what does that look like in your hospital?

DR. NANCY TOFIL, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF PEDIATRIC CRITICAL CARE AT UAB AND CHILDREN'S OF ALABAMA: We've been a lot busier just with the number of patients. This weekend, we had 31 pediatric patients with COVID, and like you say, most are either unvaccinated or under the age of 12 and unable to get vaccinated. The numbers have been three or four times what we were seeing last winter at its peak.

BOLDUAN: What are you hearing from the parents of these kids?

TOFIL: A lot of them are remorseful that they didn't get vaccinated, and I try to encourage them that, at this point, what we're going to do is take the best care of their child we can, and when they go back to their community, I have a mission for them to get two or three other people vaccinated, and for the kids who are in high school, to get some of their classmates vaccinated so that, hopefully, they can begin to spread the word about the necessity of the vaccine, especially with the delta variant, which is so much more contagious than the prior variants.

BOLDUAN: That's interesting, Doctor. You're trying to turn this into a mission, kind of an army of people who have learned and have seen how bad it is, to go out and do the good job of trying to convince people to get vaccinated.

TOFIL: Yes. I try to think of trying to be what optimistic given all of the patients we're taking care of, and to get frustrated is only so helpful.


But if I can get these people who have friends and relatives who felt the fear that they had in the hospital, maybe that will be effective at least in their communities.

BOLDUAN: It's worth a shot, right? I spoke to an E.R. doctor from Texas yesterday who has a story that no doctor should ever have to tell. His patient, an Army veteran, died from a treatable disease because there weren't any ICU beds available. He needed an elevated level of care, could not find a bed. He was going to multiple states, could not get them in, all full of COVID patients. There are now also reports of doctors in your state having trouble finding beds for non- COVID emergencies as well. What does this mean for you? I mean, honestly, is this what we're facing now?

TOFIL: For children, luckily, our hospital has a lot of capacity, and we're actually able to help out Atlanta this weekend and take a critically ill patient from them who ended up not needing ECMO or heart-lung bypass, but they were concerned that she may. And so with our capacity being a little bit higher and the children numbers being a lot lower than adults, we've been able to help other surrounding communities and states take care of these critically ill children.

BOLDUAN: Yes, It's unbelievable that that's even now a question we would be facing. Doctor, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.

TOFIL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, President Biden giving a forceful defense of the Afghanistan withdrawal. Soon, the top leaders of the Pentagon will be speaking for the first time since the end of the war. That's coming up.



BOLDUAN: Now to the fallout from Afghanistan exit. In just hours, we will hear from the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs about the end of the Afghanistan war as President Biden is firmly defending his decision to withdraw troops and also defending the execution of that plan. Joining me now is CNN Military Analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, and CNN Global Affairs Analyst Susan Glasser.

General, the defense secretary and the Joint Chiefs chairman, when they speak after the president's defiant defense of the U.S. withdrawal, what do you expect or what do you hope to hear from them?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think there's going to be a summary of some of the things the president said from a military perspective, how we defeated but not destroyed Al Qaeda during this period of time we were in Afghanistan, that certainly things were ugly in the last few weeks, but it was because of the chaos of conflict and the chaos of complexity, and sometimes you can't always plan for that.

They're probably going to give the context of the situation, of planning and they'll be asked questions on the planning of the noncombatant evacuation, as many have already started to talk about. And they'll likely tell how that has been in the planning works for several months but that, frankly, you can't plan for every contingency, like the disaster of the Afghan government departing.

They may also talk about how the Afghan military, the ANA and the security forces, were more beholding to the U.S. than they were to their own government because there was not the loyalty between the government and the soldiers and the soldiers and the government. So I think all of those contributed to what we've seen over the last couple weeks, and I think Secretary Austin and General Milley are likely going to talk about all those things.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Susan, the president declaring in his remarks yesterday that the withdrawal was an extraordinary success, is how he put it. Do you think he's trying to will that to be so? Is he hoping that history is going to look kinder on this chaotic exit than it looks presently?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, it's interesting. Originally, you saw President Biden and his administration really emphasizing not so much the chaotic evacuation as the overall rightness of his decision in his view back in April to execute the withdrawal in the first place. And that's a much more broadly supported by Americans across the political spectrum, that after 20 years, it simply wasn't worth it to continue on an uncertain mission that had not succeeded.

And so I think in historical terms, we're at the very beginning of a debate that's going to last a long time. What I would like to hear from the military leaders, and I didn't really hear it in Biden's speech yesterday, it may be too soon, what are the concrete lessons that we'll take away for our national security and foreign policy from this, as with Vietnam. That provoked a real soul searching that went on for a long time about the nature of U.S. power overseas.

And my question is will Afghanistan do the same thing or will we just turn the page on it. President Biden, I thought the most interesting thing, in some ways, he said was, listen, this is not just the end of Afghanistan. It's the end of an era of U.S. nation building in other countries. And if that's going to be the case, this really marks a pivot point in how we think about the use of our military in other countries.


BOLDUAN: General, the president said that it is his obligation to defend and protect the country, and this is how he put it, quote, not against the threats of 2001 but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow. The read on that from many is it both makes sense, and for some, it doesn't. You have 13 U.S. service members who were killed last week by a growing ISIS-K threat and insurgency in Afghanistan. What do you think of that assessment, about the threat no longer being in Afghanistan?

HERTLING: Well, Kate, that is the question of the day. And, first, if I can comment on what Susan just said, there will most definitely be not just the military after-action review of the last 20 years, but I'm certain that there will be an interagency review. And the critical part of that, if I may, is to make sure that it's a bipartisan and calm effort to determine what we did right and what we did wrong. And there was certainly a lot of things we did right as well as many of the things that we did wrong during our time in Afghanistan.

Now, to answer your second question, I actually have a letter to myself in my desk drawer that when I was the war planner in 2002 when we were in the Pentagon, in the Joint Staff, I had to brief a couple of key leaders in the Department of Defense about what going into Iraq would cause us. And in that long four-page letter that I wrote to myself, which I haven't shown anyone, except my wife, there were some things that talked about the future of American potential to do strategy in other places of the world.

And we have been bogged down. Make no mistake about it. We have been bogged down in both Afghanistan and Iraq over the last 15 to 20 years. And I think that's what the president was talking about, that we as a nation must have a larger strategy for how we conduct national security and national defense.

And, unfortunately, because many of us in the military, not so much the American public, but many of us in the military had been focused on the combat zones of Afghanistan, Iraq, maybe even Northern Africa and in the Horn of Africa, we have allowed those who were our peer competitors to get the better of us. And I think that's what the president was saying yesterday in terms of a rebooting of American foreign policy and national security strategy.

BOLDUAN: That's so interesting. It's great to hear from you both. Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, a threat against telecom and social media companies coming from Kevin McCarthy. Do not cooperate is what he says. What he's trying to do, what he's trying to block and why, next.


[11:50:00] BOLDUAN: A threat from the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, warning companies not to hand over phone records relating to the Capitol insurrection. In his words, a Republican majority will not forget.

Melanie Zanona is live in Washington. She's tracking all of this for us.

Melanie, what is Kevin McCarthy doing here?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, this is a pretty remarkable and stunning statement from the top Republican in the House. And let me just back up a little bit and be clear about he's actually doing here.

So, CNN reported this week that the select committee on January 6th is requesting telecom companies preserve documents for certain GOP lawmakers and members of the Trump family who were involved in some way in the Stop the Steal rally. Now, McCarthy's name itself was -- he was not mentioned in this initial batch. That doesn't mean he can't be requested eventually down the line or that he won't be called as a witness to detail his conversation with Trump on January 6.

But listen to what he said in the response last night. He said, quote, if these companies comply with the Democrat order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States. If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.

Now, a couple of things to point out here, Kate, it's unclear what law McCarthy is referring to, claiming that these companies would be violating. We did ask his officer clarification and have not heard back. And second of all, this is a duly authorized congressional investigation. Past panels like this have used subpoena power to get private records from citizens before.

I think the big question is whether McCarthy's statement is running afoul of House Ethics Rules, specifically a clause that says members cannot act in a way that would discredit the House in any way. However, I mean, the House Ethics Committee probe is largely toothless and it would take a long time for them to actually investigate.

The other option here for lawmakers to look into this is to have a criminal referral, but, again, a very high bar to sort of prosecute something like this from a member of Congress. McCarthy could be protected by the speech and debate clause. So, it really does seem to be more of a political problem than a legal problem for Kevin McCarthy. But, nonetheless, it shows the lengths to which Republicans are willing to go to derail this investigation as it heats up. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, even telling companies to violate what would be a lawful request. Thank you, Melanie, I appreciate it.

ZANONA: Thank you. BOLDUAN: Coming up, the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation now in effect in Texas. This law could have major implications for the future of Roe versus Wade. The latest, next.



BOLDUAN: Top of the hour. Thanks for checking with us. I'm Kate Bolduan.

We are going to begin with the breaking news, the most dramatic restriction on abortion rights in decades, U.S. Supreme Court allowing a Texas law to go into effect that essentially bans most abortions in that state. The law prohibits abortions after just six weeks of pregnancy, which is before most women even know that they're pregnant.