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The Lead with Jake Tapper

President Focusing In Gun Violence And Voting Rights; Cubans Protest For Regime Change; Interview With Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ); Trump Makes It About Ashli Babbitt On Capitol Riot; Missouri Hospital Group: Highly-Contagious Delta Variant To Blame For Explosion Of COVID Cases; Average COVID Cases Jump 47 Percent In One Week, Up In 36 States; Twenty-Two People Unaccounted For As Death Toll Climbs To 94; Top U.S. General In Afghanistan Steps Down Amid Troop Withdrawal. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 12, 2021 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Biden's plan includes allowing states and cities to use leftover COVID relief funds to hire more police officers and to invest in community resources aimed at reducing gun violence as CNN's Kaitlan Collins now reports.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden is kicking off a week filled with daunting challenges for his domestic agenda.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We recognize that we have to come together to fulfill the first responsibility of democracy, that's to keep each other safe.

COLLINS (voice-over): First, the president sitting down with federal and local leaders to strategize ways to combat an alarming rise in gun violence.

BIDEN: It seems like most of my career I've been dealing with this issue.

COLLINS (voice-over): New York City Democratic mayoral candidate, Eric Adams, was in the room after making public safety the centerpiece of his campaign while pushing back on progressive calls to de-fund the police.

ERIC ADAMS, NEW YORK MAYORAL NOMINEE: We're no longer going to normalize the level of violence that's taking place in our inner cities, particularly handgun violence, something we have ignored on a federal level.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden focusing on what the federal government can do as hopes for passing gun control legislation have all but vanished.

BIDEN: There's no one-size-fits-all approach. We know there are some things that work, and the first of those that work is stemming the flow of firearms used to commit violent crimes.

COLLINS (voice-over): Tomorrow he will take on another urgent issue, protecting voting rights.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He will redouble his commitment to using every tool at his disposal.

COLLINS (voice-over): The president is giving a speech in Philadelphia after being urged by civil rights leaders last week to use his presidential megaphone.

UNKNOWN: We must have the president use his voice, use his influence, use his power.

COLLINS (voice-over): But after Republicans used a filibuster to block Democrat's sweeping attempt to re-write election laws last month, passing any voting rights legislation is a long shot.

PSAKI: We don't accept the notion. He is an optimist by nature, otherwise he wouldn't be sitting in the Oval Office right now that it's dead. We don't accept that.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden also weighing in on the biggest Cuban protest in decades.

BIDEN: I don't think we've seen anything like this protest in a long, long time, if, quite frankly, ever.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden surging the Cuban government to meet protesters' demands as the demonstrations highlight how he has yet to fulfill his campaign promise to reverse Trump's Cuba policies including lifting restrictions on remittances that Cuban Americans often send to family in the oppressive state.

COLLINS (on camera): Why is the Biden administration continuing that policy?

PSAKI: Well, I would say, again, even under the embargo, there are a number of exemptions I should say, humanitarian assistance, medical supplies, but I have nothing to preview for you in terms of a change of policy.


COLLINS (on camera): Now, obviously, Jake, this is a humanitarian story first and foremost, but there are also political implications here too because remember, Biden lost Florida to Trump in the 2020 election after Trump repeatedly went around the state and said that if Biden got into office, he would turn the United States into a socialist country.

And those comments did resonate with Cuban-Americans living in Florida. And so right before Trump left office, he added Cuba to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Shortly after that, eight days after Biden was sworn in as president, the White House said they were reviewing the Trump changes to Cuba policy, but of course, Jake, so far that has not yielded any actual reversals that Biden promised on the campaign trail in September.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much. And with that, let us switch to our "World Lead" and CNN's Patrick Oppmann in Havana, Cuba. He's been following these rare protests fueled by frustration and rage as the community government there struggles to try to get this pandemic under control. Patrick, over the weekend the government cracked down on protesters. Now, the president seems to be going back to Castro-era rhetoric.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. If you closed your eyes today, you would have thought it was Fidel Castro, and that's certainly the image that the new president, the Castro's handpicked successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel, is going for. But, you know, he is a bureaucrat, he's not a revolutionary who fought and took power at the point of a gun.

And so he's got to perhaps establish his tough-guy bona fide. And so we heard him say last night a chilling expression that he had given the order to combat. And we saw groups of plain-clothes police and other groups going out and cracking some heads as protesters themselves threw rocks at police.

So, these protests which are really unprecedented, Jake. Never before people here tell me that they remember seeing protests in town after town, city after city. They are like dominoes falling yesterday as people watching images for the first time as they are now able to get online, see social media.

They saw their neighbors, they saw the town down the road, people going out and protesting, so they did the same. And people have a lot to complain about. Not surprisingly, Jake, the internet has been cut off today in much of Cuba.


It has been very hard for us to get online. I've not been able to reach many of the Cubans I talk with regularly around the island. Groups that monitor internet traffic say it appears the Cuban government, which controls all communications on the island is keeping Cubans from posting on social media.

Obviously, it was a big shock to the government what took place yesterday, and they're trying to prevent something like that from happening again.

TAPPER: Patrick, with the lack of human rights and basic democracy in Cuba, the Cuban people have a lot to protest about. But give us an idea of just how bad the COVID situation is on the island right now and how much that is fueling the protests.

OPPMANN: It really is so much worse. I mean, the people who are outside of Cuba say, you know, there have always been lines, there's always been bureaucracy, there's always been a real problem with just feeding your family. It's very, very difficult. It's a full-time job, I like to say, to be Cuban. It has gotten downright awful over the last several months. First you

had increased U.S. sanctions from the Trump administration. But COVID has cut off all tourism to this island just about, and people are hurting, not the Cuban government per se, but regular people. They are having a hard time making ends meet and are getting increasingly desperate.

TAPPER: All right, Patrick Oppmann in Havana, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Joining us now to discuss, Democratic senator, Bob Menendez, of New Jersey, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Chairman, thank you for being with us.

Let's start with the protests in Cuba. I have a lot to ask you about, but obviously this is not just a political issue, it's a personal issue for you. You're the son of Cuban immigrants. It is extremely unusual for so many Cubans to take to the streets against the government. What is your response as you see these images?

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Well, it's an incredible historic, I think, set of protests. It's beyond Havana, which, of course, is very urban. It is the breadth and scope of different parts of the island that are in protest. And this is the frustration of years of a regime whose policies ultimately do not allow the Cuban people to realize their hopes and dreams and aspirations and have a better life.

And COVID has only gone ahead as in our own country where we saw the inequities that was created by -- that were shown by COVID to exist. And in Cuba, the failure of the regime to deal with COVID has only, you know, shown the greater consequences of the Cuban people are facing at large.

And so, it's a historic moment. It's a time for the United States and others in the world to give echo to the cries of the Cuban people and to create an opportunity for them to realize change in their own country.

TAPPER: After President Obama restored diplomatic relations in 2015, President Trump, he reversed those policies. On the campaign trail, Joe Biden pledged to go back to the Obama-era policies, but he hasn't changed anything yet. Why do you think that is?

MENENBDEZ: Well, I think the president has had a time to review the actual policies under President Obama. And all of the openings that President Obama made which were one-sided unilateral in terms of concessions, showed themselves to create absolutely no change inside of Cuba.

The regime still arrested peaceful protesters. The regime still put political dissidents in jail. The regime still rationed the Cuban people even as they had dollar stores bursting with food, but the Cuban people could not get access to that unless they had access to dollars.

So, the regime showed no change, but what it did do is profit dramatically by the revenues that flowed into the regime because the regime controls all tourism and all agriculture sales inside of Cuba. Raul's Castro's son and son-in-law control the two major corporations, which are part of the Cuban military.

So the regime enriched itself. The Cuban people never saw any benefit from it. So the result of that I think is that the Biden administration looked and said, wait a minute, that didn't seem to work. We have to think about what exactly we should do in this regard.

TAPPER: So, yes, when we were down in Cuba in 2015 for the re-opening of the embassy, dissidents told me exactly what you said, that this was not going to work because Obama was not requiring any concessions, any reform. Trump came in, reversed it all. It seems to be that you're saying Biden should not just go back to Obama's policies, he needs to require some concessions by the Cuban government before returning to normalized relations.

MENENDEZ: Well, yes, I don't think the administration should just return to the Obama policies, which show themselves not to succeed in the aspirations that they had.


In fact, I have given the White House a white paper on a whole host of policy options that they should consider as it relates to how do we embrace the Cuban people but at the same time make it clear to its dictatorship because Diaz-Canel is a different name than the Castros, but he is cut of the same cloth.

His verbiage and his features are all of the same thing. And so when the Cuban people say that in fact they want to see change, patria y vida. What does that mean? It means country and life. Yes, they can have a life and their country, but it doesn't have to be under the circumstances that exist now.

TAPPER: Let's talk about some Democratic priorities because today President Biden met with Attorney General Merrick Garland and local law enforcement leaders and mayors about reducing violent crime. The new Biden plan includes using some excess COVID relief funds to hire more police officers. Do you support that?

MENENDEZ: Sure. I mean, look, the police officers are incredible part of law enforcement. It's one element of it. But I like the comprehensive plan that the president has put out, and that is considering engaging, and that's one element of it. But at the end of the day as much as I embrace the president's initiative, Congress needs to act.

You know, my legislation, for example to you know, eliminate high- capacity magazines. High-capacity magazines are about high-capacity killing. Universal background checks. These are simple common sense gun safety measures that the president cannot do simply by the stroke of a pen. It needs the action of Congress and I don't know how many more must die before Congress will act.

TAPPER: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez of New Jersey, thank you so much. Good to see you again, sir.

MENENDEZ: Good to be with you. TAPPER: "Love in the air." That's how former President Trump characterized this, what you're seeing right now, the deadly attack on the capitol. Coming up next, a look at how Trump is using the death of one insurrectionist to rewrite history and perhaps incite more violence.

Plus, a Republican governor says we need more leaders with grit, and she's not slamming Democrats. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "Politics Lead" today, former President Trump is not only fully embracing the insurrectionists who stormed the capitol on January 6th. He is further attempting to demonize the law enforcement officials who protected the capitol and lawmakers on that day. Trump, who never had any issue with Secret Service taking extreme measures to protect him during his presidency, is now falsely suggesting a conspiracy surrounding the death of one of those insurrectionists, Ashli Babbitt.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): Who shot Ashli Babbitt? Why are they keeping that secret? Who was the person that shot an innocent, wonderful, incredible woman?


TAPPER: Ashli Babbitt was killed by a capitol police officer after she, among others, tried to squeeze through a smashed window of a barricaded door that would have put her within feet of lawmakers who were hiding from the violent mob. The Justice Department cleared the officer of any wrongdoing. But as CNN's Tom Foreman reports, none of that apparently matters to the former president.


TRUMP: Who shot Ashli Babbitt? Who? Who shot Ashli Babbitt?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In speeches, online, even on t-shirts, the effort to turn Ashli Babbitt into a martyr is steaming ahead with pushers of the big lie of a stolen election demanding to know who shot her and why.

TRUMP: Boom, right through the head, just boom. There was no reason for that.

FOREMAN (voice-over): They get this part correct. Babbitt, a 35-year- old Air Force veteran, was unarmed and killed during the capitol insurrection by a police officer whose identity has been kept quiet.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: -- an American, 2021, under Joe Biden, you can just kill people, unarmed women, and you don't have to admit who did it. FOREMAN (voice-over): But beyond that, exaggeration and speculation

are running wild.

TRUMP: I've heard also that it was the head of security for a certain high official, a Democrat.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Not true, officials say. But the outrage rolls on.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): If this country can demand justice for someone like George Floyd, then we can certainly demand justice for Ashli Babbitt.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The facts, investigators say Babbitt joined the mob at the capitol expressing fervent belief in President Trump's lies about election fraud. She was in a group trying to smash into the speaker's lobby outside the House chamber and was climbing through a broken window close to where members of Congress were hiding when --

UNKNOWN: It sounds like a (BLEEP) gunshot.

FOREMAN (voice-over: She was shot in the shoulder, not the head as Trump claims, by a capitol police lieutenant. The Justice Department watched videos, talked to witnesses and found insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution against that officer. Still.

AARON BABBITT, HUSBAND OF ASHLI BABBITT: Somebody up in D.C. knows. I think a lot of people know, but nobody's telling us. And the silence is deafening.

FOREMAN (voice-over): That did not stop her widower from filing a lawsuit nor the steady drum beat for more information.

TERRELL ROBERTS, BABBITT FAMILY ATTORNEY: I think one of the reasons why they are hiding his identity is they don't have a good explanation for this shooting.


FOREMAN: Authorities say facing the violent mob, which at that point included Ashli Babbitt right in front of them, the officer had reason to believe he was firing in self-defense or the defense of others. And political analysts say the motivation for this conservative uproar over Babbitt is equally clear to draw attention away from Donald Trump and other Republicans as investigations get underway into the cause of this riot. Jake?


TAPPER: All right, Tom, thanks so much. Let's discuss with my panel. Stephanie, let me start with you. Babbitt was not the only Trump supporter who died during the riot or insurrection. Roseanne Boyland (ph) also died. She was trampled by the mob, not killed by a Capitol police officer. So, presumably, that's why she's not getting the same attention from Donald Trump. There are some others as well who had health effects or whatever during this incident. Why do you think Trump is focusing so much on the death of Ashli Babbitt?

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, FORMER BALTIMORE MAYOR: He is a T.V. superstar and he knows what sells and who shot Ashli Babbitt is catchy just like who shot J.R. He knows that it's catchy and it's going to be something that people glam (ph) onto unfortunately. People who, like -- I feel like we're re-living a George Orwell novel, you know, that are willing to rewrite history that we saw with our own eyes. And it's something that again, it's catchy and they'll hold on to it.

TAPPER: You know, one of the things that we see in this town, and it's regrettable, but when people do violent things and go places where they're not supposed to be, such as bursting into the capitol or jumping onto the White House grounds, they get shot, they get killed. Or maybe there should be some sort of national conversation about use of force.

I mean, I think there are a lot of people in the African-American community who have been trying to do that for centuries. But that's not really what's going on here, is it?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER: Well, I think President Trump or former President Trump understands that the incident on January 6th for a moment really shook his standing in the Republican Party, but that over time a lot of Republicans have sort of tried to put this in the rearview mirror. They've tried to forget about it.

And by sort of bringing this back up, I think what he's trying to do is sort of force Republicans into an uncomfortable position where they're either with him or they are against him. I think he knows that something like talking about Ashli Babbitt is going to draw him a lot of attention. It's going to personalize or humanize his side of the story.

And I think that's why he wants to keep bringing this up, even though it's been so long since January 6th. I think that's why you've seen this like change in the way he's talking about it.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, he just started talking about this. But meanwhile, the lie about the insurrection continues and when he tries to make Republicans choose, and I don't doubt that we're going to start hearing Republican members of Congress and the Senate start taking on this cause as well. He's also asking people to embrace this alternate reality that we know is not the case. Take a listen to him talking about January 6th.


TRUMP (via telephone): There was such love at that rally. You had over a million people there. They were there for one reason, the rigged election. They felt the election was rigged. That's why they were there. And they were peaceful people. These were great people.


TAPPER: Now, the rally is different from what happened at the capitol obviously. And most of the people who were there were -- at the rally, did not go to the capitol. But what happened at the capitol was violent. What people did in the capitol was violent. You see these images, these are not peaceful people, the ones I'm showing right now. Nobody begrudges of the rally itself. When you see President Trump, former President Trump, continue to win straw polls like at CPAC, what goes through your mind?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: To me it just is a wake-up call for Democrats because it's clear to me that the Republicans are going to -- they are ride or die for Trump. And, you know, we have Democrats that are willing to, you know, cancel someone if they, you know, screw up someone's pronoun? You know, we have to figure out what we're going to do in this midterm election and we have to be serious about aligning ourselves with candidates, getting on board, getting everyone on board because the republicans are all in for Trump.

TAPPER: And, Kristen, I want you to take a listen to something else that happened at CPAC. Very interesting. South Dakota Governor Kristy Noem took a shot at some fellow governors even though she was claiming she wasn't at the same time. Take a listen.


KRISTI NOEM, GOVERNOR OF SOUTH DAKOTA: We've got Republican governors across this country pretending they didn't shut down their states, that they didn't close their beaches, that they didn't mandate masks, that they didn't issue shelter in places. Now I'm not picking fights with Republican governors. All I'm saying is that we need leaders with grit.


TAPPER: Well, South Dakota doesn't exactly rank in a good place when it comes to the effects of the pandemic. But it's true that she had a much more hands-off approach than other governors. Who was she specifically targeting, do you think?

ANDERSON: Well, initially, you would think it maybe it's some of these Republican governors in the northeast, folks like people like Charlie Baker, et cetera. It's in some ways surprising. The number of northeastern states that have Republican governors, those states tended to take pretty tough lockdown measures.

But then she uses the word beaches. And that to me says Florida, my beloved home state and potentially a veiled swipe at Governor Ron DeSantis. Now, he's been become a cause celeb on the right because of both his sort of fighting style, his focus on the sorts of, you know, battles that Republicans love to see fought.


But he also sort of prominently became the governor of a state that was a haven for many folks during the coronavirus pandemic. If they wanted to leave a state like New York that was lockdown, go down to Florida. It's the promise land. And Florida had a better record on COVID than a state like South Dakota. And I think for a governor like DeSantis, I don't know that

necessarily being set up as someone who was too tough on the coronavirus pandemic is something that's necessarily going to sell with Republican voters.

He's doing quite well right now in the way-too-early primary polls that I've been seeing. He's got a pretty strong constituency in the GOP. It strikes me that, you know, if you're someone like Kristi Noem who wants to maybe make a bigger name for herself, you take a swipe at someone who's currently on top and you try to make the case you think he's with you, but actually it's someone like me who's even better.

TAPPER: You said something just a second ago that I thought was interesting and I just want to bring it back because we've talked so much about Republicans in this panel. You talked about how Democrats cancel somebody for using the wrong pronoun while Republicans are all in with Donald Trump.

There has been a lot of talk right now, especially Eric Adams who is not one of the woke brigades, if you will, won the Democratic primary in New York. Do you think Democrats are too beholden to what you're talking about, these kind of social issues that might alienate suburban voters as opposed to uniting around something that can help win an election in 2022?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I definitely think we Democrats focus on issues, and even though we have a big tent, we allow certain issues to divide us in a way that we just cannot afford to do in these upcoming midterm elections. Just take a look at what's happening with the infrastructure bill and how certain factions of the party want to fight with Biden when, you know, he's really trying hard, I think, to get something passed.

You know, they're willing to -- they're trying to make it perfect and they're willing to sacrifice progress. And we're going to be left empty-handed. We are fighting efforts to suppress the vote and we're dividing ourselves, you know, in these camps. I think we're setting ourselves up for the Republicans to take the House back in two years.

TAPPER: Great to see both of you. Thanks so much for being here. I appreciate it.

Next, I'm going to talk to a doctor at a hospital that is overwhelmed with COVID patients, virtually all of them are unvaccinated. He's going to come to us from one of these hot spots that we've been covering for the last few weeks. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead, an explosion of COVID cases as the pace of vaccinations significantly slows in the United States. Daily cases are up on average, 47 percent in just one week. One CNN Medical Analyst says five hotspots are driving the numbers.


DR. JONATHAN REINER, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE AND SURGERY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and Nevada. And those five states are generating a third of the cases in the United States right now.


TAPPER: My wife's home state of Missouri on that list. And that's where the CEO of Cox Hospital Groups said just today that they took in 125 new COVID patients in the Springfield, Missouri area, the southern part of the state for comparison, two months ago in May, the same hospital group reported just 14 COVID patients. Doctors there said the highly contagious Delta variant is mostly to blame. And in some cases, it's those vaccinated getting sick and so-called breakthrough cases.

But I want to bring in Dr. Chris Morrison, he's an army veteran and emergency medical physician with the Cox Hospital Group. He's one of those breakthrough cases. But listen before you make a judgment, Dr. Morrison, you're back at work. You had a mild case of COVID. You're vaccinated. Do you think that the vaccine prevented you from getting much, much sicker than you got?

DR. CHRIS MORRISON, EMERGENCY MEDICAL PHYSICIAN, COXHEALTH SYSTEMS, MISSOURI: Yes, I absolutely do after a year of seeing very sick COVID patients. My COVID symptoms were so mild. I didn't even know I had COVID. I was running daily with COVID, and would have never known I had COVID if I hadn't lost my sense of taste and smell. And that's when I got tested.

I didn't miss a day of work because of it. And I'm back at work seeing patients. The COVID vaccine, it keeps people out of the ICU. That's just utility. It keeps people from becoming severely significantly ill with COVID.

TAPPER: So, let me ask you a question. Missouri, one of the areas of the country where vaccination rates are very disappointingly low, why? You are meeting these people, you are meeting them -- these are good people, they're smart people, why are they not getting vaccinated?

MORRISON: Well, I think, you know, the reasons I run into patients are really meaningful (ph). And I think there's may have been an overemphasis on, you know, political reasons or this or that. You know, a lot of people have jobs, and they just aren't thinking about the stuff. And, you know, they're not watching the news every day. And, you know, we were under the impression in late spring that we were dunk, I wasn't even really testing patients for COVID in April, in May.

And then in May -- on May 10, the Delta variant was detected in Branson and within a month, we exploded. So I think part of is just we're living behind the curve so I think people had a false sense of security. And -- but I do think there's an education component there as well and there's certainly some misinformation that we are -- we're having to battle. TAPPER: Misinformation about the vaccine, misinformation about what, about Bill Gates wanting to put microchips in people's arms? I mean, I've heard all sorts of nonsense.

MORRISON: There is all sorts of nonsense out there and yes, misinformation about the vaccine. You know, people need to understand the vaccine is safe. I've been vaccine, my wife has been vaccinated. My children will be vaccinated, all my family will be vaccinated.


And all of the sick patients we're seeing right now that need hospitalization, almost all. There's a handful that have been vaccinated, but other than that, every sick patient we've had has been unvaccinated. And 99 percent of the COVID deaths in the last week were unvaccinated.

TAPPER: Researchers at Georgetown University say that your area is among five clusters in the U.S. with low vaccination rates that are breeding grounds for the deadly COVID variants, especially the Delta variant. Why do you think so many people in the region do not want to get vaccinated?

Do you think it's just people who had a false sense of security? I mean, what -- I was -- I'd personally in -- look, I'm in Washington, D.C., where this is one of the most highly vaccinated parts of the country and we do consume a lot of dose (ph) here. Why do you think it is, people just didn't think they had to worry anymore?

MORRISON: I think that was part of it. You know, I'm sure for every citizen in this country is not vaccinated, their reasons could be unique. You know, I certainly do think that to a degree, it's -- there's some personal belief there. But, you know, but to a degree, you know, that's -- I think, people were kind of under the impression that, well, we're heading in the right direction. And that could potentially be why.

TAPPER: And what are you now hearing from people, patients of yours, people in the emergency room, people in the ICU, people who did not get vaccinated and now are incredibly sick? What are they now saying? Are they expressing the desire that they had listened? I mean, what did they say?

MORRISON: Yes, most of the patients I see are regretful that they didn't get vaccinated. And, you know, I'm not, I'm not there to wag a finger at them at that point, when people are that sick. You know, if you haven't been around someone that's extremely sick with COVID, and they're struggling to breathe, it's one of the most miserable feelings I think you could imagine someone having. And so when people are that sick, that, you know, they wish they had done anything they could to avoid being that sick.

You know, unfortunately, once people get COVID, and if they're going to get sick with it, there's not a whole lot we can do to treat it once you have it. I mean, we have some, you know, monitoring (ph) advice might help a little bit, you know, but once people are critically ill COVID as, you know, oxygen support and trying to help them out. So the patients I run into are past that point where the vaccine could have helped them. And they're very regretful.

And, you know, even if they're not critical in the ICU, we're at the point we're having to transfer patients, five to six hours away from their family to get care, because we're beyond our capacity to care for them. And, you know, there's a financial strain and being separated from your family --


MORRISON: -- it's just -- it's a bad deal.

TAPPER: If you're watching and you're not vaccinated, please get vaccinated. Almost all of the deaths these days in the United States due to COVID are preventable. Almost all of them.

Dr. Chris Morrison, thanks for your service for the United States Army and thanks for your service on the frontlines in Missouri today.

MORRISON: Thanks, Jake. Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: The heartbreaking personal items now being found in the rubble of the Surfside collapse, that's next.



TAPPER: In our national lead today, as the death toll mounts in Surfside, Florida, the town's mayor today announced that they are tightening security at the collapse site, only allowing authorized personnel in the area for the near future. So far, 94 are confirmed dead with 22 others still unaccounted for. The youngest victims have now tragically been identified, three children, just five years old, six years old, and nine years old.

CNN's Leyla Santiago joins us live from Surfside. Leyla, how have recovery efforts gone today.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, today weather was a bit of a problem, Jake, and that's because we had heavy rain as well as lightning. Anytime there's lightning that forces a pause on those rescue teams. Rescue teams, by the way, that are working with fewer folks. We know that the Virginia Task Force One was sent home this morning. So that's about 80 people that are not assisting here on the debris pile.

But we can tell you that we have seen heavy machinery pulling out cars, towing them away. And the mayor of Surfside today confirmed that teams have been able to get down into the garage. And here's why that's significant.

Several engineers have told CNN based off of the video of the collapse, that the failures appear to begin near the structures foundation. So, the idea that they are down near the bottom could really be critical to the investigation into what caused this to happen.

Now officials today also assure people that nothing has changed in terms of their mission, that they are making every effort and they will not stop until they can bring every victim back home to their loved ones. They're being very strategic, very methodical about this. They're even finding and collecting personal belongings.


MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: When they found a business card in the debris that listed the occupation of the cardholder as an artist, they, as a result of that clue, began looking around and found paintings in the area which they were able to pull out of the rubble and preserve for the family.


SANTIAGO: But here's the thing about those belongings, Jake, all of that is being tagged, collected and sent for the investigation. So that's part of answering the question of what went wrong here. So no telling yet anyway if and when the families will be able to be near those personal belongings again.

TAPPER: Leyla Santiago, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

Coming up next, Afghan commandos executed by the Taliban moments after surrendering. New video that you'll see first on The Lead, next.



TAPPER: In our world lead today, the top U.S. General in Afghanistan, General Austin Scott Miller handed over control the U.S. Central Command and a planned yet important milestone for the end of America's involvement in America's longest war. You might remember General Miller's warning that the U.S. withdrawal could lead to a civil war.

CNN's Anna Coren is in Kabul with new evidence of the Taliban's atrocities. We want to warn our viewers what you're about to watch is disturbing.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After over two hours of heavy fighting all ammunition spent, Afghan commandos walk out with hands in the air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).


COREN (voice-over): "Surrender commandos, surrender", yells a Taliban member. But the rules of war don't exist on this battlefield.

Seconds later, more than a dozen members of the elite Special Forces have been executed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).

COREN (voice-over): The Red Cross confirmed the bodies of 22 commandos were retreating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).

COREN (voice-over): A village of pleads with the Taliban just stop shooting asking how will you Pashtun (ph) and you're killing Afghans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).

COREN (voice-over): CNN has spoken to five eyewitnesses to this massacre, which occurred last month in Dawlat Abad, a district of Faryab province in northern Afghanistan. All confirm these events took place.

The commander has called for air and ground support but none came, says this local resident. Then they surrendered, but the Taliban just shot them. Among the dead, 32-year-old Commando, Sohrab Azimi, the son of a retired Afghan general. This born leader did his military training in the United States and was due to marry his American fiance next month.

His father said Sohrab tried to call in air support during the attack, but it never came.

GENERAL HAZIR AZIMI, FATHER: (Speaking Foreign Language).

COREN (voice-over): Anyone would be angry if that happened to their son, he tells me. Why didn't they support the operation? And why did someone tell the Taliban they were coming?

Ever since the U.S. announced its withdrawal, an emboldened Taliban has launched offensives across the country. The militants have gone to great lengths to show they're accepting the surrender of Afghan troops, but that (INAUDIBLE) is contradicted by the commando executions.

A week before the massacre, this video was taken of Afghan Special Forces in the same district attempting a clearing operation. When that mission proved unsuccessful, Sohrab's unit was called in.

The Taliban said, when foreigners leave, they will stop fighting and make peace. How long will they continue killing our brothers in this country?

Eye witnesses say they did not understand the language spoken by the militants. Evidence the fighters weren't local, or that some may have come from outside Afghanistan. And just last week, the Red Cross says it collected at least two dozen more bodies of Afghan commandos from Faryab. The result of new fighting.

(on-camera): U.S. President Biden says he believes in the capability of the Afghan forces despite the mass casualties. But when U.S. train soldiers like the commandos are dying in such high numbers, many people in this traumatized country are questioning if the military can defeat the Taliban on its own.

(voice-over): These young Afghan warriors stretched thin and dying at an alarming rate. And now the last line of national defense. Without U.S. troop's support or intelligence, they alone are fighting for this country's survival.


Now, Jake, we contacted the Taliban to get their response to this execution video. They said the footage was fake, that it was fabricated and that it was government propaganda. They're in complete denial that these war crimes ever took place.

TAPPER: Anna, how is this affecting Afghans? The Taliban tactics going, not accepting surrenders, the Taliban taking over the country, especially the most vulnerable Afghans, women and girls?

COREN: We've been in touch with local journalists who are operating in those areas taken over by the Taliban. And they say that notices have gone up of recent days, saying that women must stay home, they're not allowed outside without a male chaperone. Then, in fact, one of these journalists witnessed a woman in a burqa on a phone outside and that she was whipped as punishment.

You know, if this does not compute with what the Taliban delegation was saying in Moscow, when they met with the Russian government last week, you know, spokespeople there were saying, we want girls to go to school, we want women to be educated and to work. But clearly, what we are hearing in the districts that have fallen to the Taliban is certainly not that, it's something that backs -- harks back to 2001, Jake.

TAPPER: CNN's Anna Coren in Kabul, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, royal reaction to the vile and racist attacks that came after England's big soccer loss. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our sports lead, three black members of England's national football team are facing discriminatory abuse and racist attacks on social media after they missed penalty kicks and lost the Euro 2020 championship to Italy. Twitter announced it is removed more than 1,000 tweets and permanently suspended a number of accounts due to racist posts directed at some of England's players. A mural of star Marcus Rashford was also defaced. Police now have opened an investigation into the vandalism.

Rashford saying in the statement he apologizes for his penalty kick not going in, but he'll never apologize for who he is, nor should he. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called the rhetorical racist attacks appalling Prince William called them sickening. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer who is, as I last checked, right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM.