Return to Transcripts main page
The Lead with Jake Tapper
General Milley: No Indication Afghanistan Would Fall In 11 Days; Taliban Block Access To Kabul Airport With Gunfire, Violence; Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) Is Interviewed About The Situation In Afghanistan; Any Moment: Biden Speaks As Questions Mount Over Afghanistan; President Biden Announces Plans For COVID Booster Shots. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired August 18, 2021 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: President Biden pushing a boost in the nation's fight against COVID.
THE LEAD starts right now.
This hour, President Biden set to speak about his administration's new recommendation, a third vaccine shot. But still, many questions about the science and priorities behind that call. And we have the experts to answer them.
Then, top defense officials admit nothing indicated to them how fast the Afghan military would collapse, and now gunfire and beatings from the Taliban. We're live in Kabul as the Taliban shows they have not changed.
Plus, thousands evacuated as a new fire explodes east of the California capital and triples in size in a single day.
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We start with breaking news in our world lead. Moments ago, we heard from the U.S. secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the first time since Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. General Mark Milley pledging to get all Americans and Afghan allies safely out of that country and defending the intelligence behind the troop withdrawal, saying absolutely nothing indicated to the Pentagon that the Afghan government and army would collapse in only 11 days.
The situation on the ground getting increasingly harrowing for the thousands of Americans and Afghans trying to reach the Kabul airport to escape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(GUNSHOTS) (END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That's the sound of the Taliban firing purportedly to disperse crowds outside the airport.
Desperate Afghans had been telling CNN that even after presenting correct paperwork, Taliban fighters are not allowing them to enter the airport to board evacuation flights. And the U.S. embassy put out a warning this afternoon that they cannot guarantee safe passage to the airport for anyone.
For those lucky enough to get out of Afghanistan, today we learned two more U.S. military bases, Fort Bliss in Texas, and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin will be used in addition to Virginia's Fort Lee for a safe haven for Afghan allies and their families who are evacuated as they begin or continue the vetting process.
CNN's Clarissa Ward is live in the Afghan capital of Kabul. But we're going to start with the breaking news out of the Pentagon with CNN's Barbara Starr.
Barbara, even President Biden has said that the U.S. miscalculated how quickly the Taliban would take over the country. So what are the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs saying about how they're going to assess the intelligence and what they advise President Biden?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, first up, those photos, those images you showed of the Taliban, that's the Taliban the U.S. is negotiating with right now to try and get that safe passage. But can you trust them? Well, the last 20 years certainly indicate that you cannot.
General Milley and Secretary Austin, both longstanding combat veterans of Afghanistan, acknowledging that they did not anticipate what happened.
Listen to what General Milley had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: The time frame of a rapid collapse, that was widely estimated and ranged from weeks to months and even years following our departure. There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: They simply did not anticipate that the Afghan government, the Afghan military would not have the will to fight -- Jake.
TAPPER: Barbara, you asked the Pentagon about Americans who are not in Kabul, not in the capital city. Is there a plan to make sure that they are going to be able to get out of that country safely? STARR: Well, that certainly remains to be seen in reality. Now,
General Milley, I just want to tell you, he said that one of the tasks, and let me quote him, is to, quote, evacuate all American citizens from Afghanistan who desire to leave the country. That may be a check he cannot cash.
There are Americans all over Kabul that currently cannot even get to the airport. There is an assessment perhaps that there are Americans in other parts of Afghanistan that cannot get on the roads and get past Taliban checkpoints to even get to the capital city in the first place. Right now, the strategy is to negotiate with the Taliban to try and ensure safe passage. You have to believe that there may be some doubt about any Taliban promises on that -- Jake.
TAPPER: Yeah, I would hope so.
Barbara Starr, thanks so much.
Let's bring in CNN's Clarissa Ward who is in Kabul.
Clarissa, there seems to be conflicting reports here about whether those trying to evacuate Afghanistan can even get into -- much less get to the airport in Kabul.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I would say, Jake, it's not for the faint of heart.
I mean, we went today, we saw for ourselves absolute chaos, frankly. And there were far fewer people trying to get into the airport today than there have been on previous days. But it doesn't matter because the system or complete lack of system is creating a situation whereby you have these Taliban fighters who are beating at people, who are shooting into the crowds. The U.S. also today was forced to fire shots to disperse crowds, not into the crowds though, not actually hurting people, but all of this creating a very chaotic and dangerous situation.
Take a look.
WARD (voice-over): America's last foothold in Afghanistan is now guarded by the Taliban. We've come to Kabul's airport to see the gauntlet people must pass through to fly out.
You can hear gunshots every couple minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN, CNN, CNN.
WARD: Quickly we are accosted by an angry Taliban fighter. Can I ask you a question? Excuse me. Cover my face?
What is this? What is that?
He told me to cover my face, but he doesn't want to comment on that thing he's carrying.
The fighters tell us these chaotic scenes are the fault of America. The cause of all this is America in Afghanistan. Look at these people, he says. America's really acting unfairly towards them. Why are they lying and telling them that they can go to America? Why don't they let them stay and help their country?
Okay, he doesn't want to talk to me, all right.
We keep walking to avoid confrontation. A man follows us, asking for advice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How we can enter the base?
WARD: How you can enter the base?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Because they are saying --
WARD: Do you have paperwork to enter?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
WARD: Show me your paperwork. Was this an Italian company?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, Italian company.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
WARD: Others crowd around us to show their documents.
You were a translator?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
They're saying they all worked at American camps as translators for the Americans and they can't get into that airport. The Taliban fighters are a little upset with us.
We decide to leave and head for our car. The fighter takes the safety off his AK-47 and pushes through the crowd.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay behind him. Stay behind him.
WARD: You can see that some of these Taliban fighters, they're just hopped up on adrenaline or I don't know what. It's a very dicey situation.
Suddenly, two other Taliban charge towards us. You can see their rifle butt raised to strike producer Brent Swails (ph). When the fighters are told we have permission to report, they lower their weapons and let us pass.
Now we're going. Get in the car.
WARD (on camera): And you can imagine, Jake, I mean, this is us. We are a news crew. We are clearly Western. And still we were exposed to all sorts of insanity.
If you're an ordinary Afghan trying to get past those Taliban guards and trying to get into the airport, I mean, I don't see how you're able to do it. I don't see how you're able to really get in unless you have some kind of a contact or a connection or you're able to arrange something somehow.
But as I said, the infrastructure simply isn't in place to even begin to do that. So, as a result, you have all these poor people sitting outside the airport for days on end now. And it's their last hope. But frankly, Jake, there's no real hope.
TAPPER: It's so tragic.
Let me ask you when it comes to the American military presence there at the airport, they've recaptured the airport, it's secure, they say. Is there any rhyme or reason at the airport Americans go here, Afghan SIVs with documentation go there, other Afghans go to a third location.
President Biden said they planned for every contingency.
WARD: Well, I can only speak to the outer perimeter. And there is definitely no planning. There is definitely no coherent structure.
When we were first trying to push closer to the airport, the Taliban originally thought that we were trying to leave the country.
And so then they were sort of like, okay, yeah, you're Western, fine, you can leave the country, and they started trying to guide us further in. But meanwhile, there is gunshots being fired, there's people wielding truncheons. I mean, it was not a comfortable situation to be in.
We were not trying to get into the airport. But certainly it wasn't a coherent system, right? It wasn't like, oh, yes, please step right this way, Americans are supposed to line up over there and Afghans go here and this is where you present your paperwork. It's just completely chaotic.
TAPPER: And I want to get your reaction to something said by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, today. He said that they had no indication that an army the size of the Afghan army, which I think was estimated in the hundreds of thousands, no indication that it would collapse in 11 days.
As somebody who has covered this war now for a long time, what do you think?
WARD: I think -- listen, to be fair, Jake, no one ever thought that this whole thing would unravel in a matter of days. No one thought that the Taliban would be able to take Kabul, a city of 6 million people in a matter of hours while barely firing a shot. I mean, if you had written this in a movie script, people would've said it was over the top. It really does beg the belief.
At the same time, a lot of people on the ground here would say, well, it's your responsibility still when you are leaving a country that you've been occupying for 20 years to plan for every possible eventuality, including the sublime and the ridiculous on the very small chance that they happen to come to fruition.
TAPPER: The Taliban leadership have gotten more sophisticated in the last 20 years in terms of the propaganda, the rhetoric they use, the promises they make when giving press conferences and the like. There are a lot of foreign officials, even officials in the U.S. who are eager to hear that.
But I wonder, you and your team were accosted in Kabul. You were told to cover your face, which is medieval. And I'm wondering, is that the norm in Kabul? And if so, what's it like in Kandahar?
WARD: Yeah. So, I mean, this is a really important point because we're zeroing in on the airport right now and rightly so because these scenes are tragic and awful. But f you -- that's just a very small part of the city.
And if you walk around the rest of the city, I have to say, Jake, and we've been doing it a lot. It is relatively calm at the moment. People are coming back out onto the streets. Stores are opening. There is some semblance of law and order.
You don't see that kind of anarchic scene that you saw in our story there. This is very much specific to the airport. But it really speaks to this moment, right. The Taliban, for them, this is shameful -- these images of thousands of people desperately trying to leave the country so they can avoid living under their rule. That's humiliating for the Taliban.
And so you have this very bizarre dynamic where the Taliban and the U.S. are kind of working together because the Taliban wants everyone who needs to leave to leave, Westerners primarily. The U.S. needs the Taliban to provide some protection on the outer perimeter. But, essentially, there is a huge amount of tension just in the very coexistence of these two parties at such close proximity, Jake.
TAPPER: Clarissa Ward in Kabul, Afghanistan, stay safe, thank you so much.
Joining us now to discuss, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of U.S. Air Force.
And, Congressman, we just heard General Milley say that there was no indication that the Afghan military would collapse in only 11 days. You heard Clarissa say that she agrees that the collapse is not the surprise, the rapidity, how quickly it happened, is a surprise. What do you think? REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Well, I mean, a couple things. Yeah, I
don't think we expected it to happen this quickly. But, you know, keep in mind, we abandoned the Afghan military. Over the last 20 years, we've taken as many casualties in 20 years as they were taking every year in the ground fight. We made a deal with them in 2014, you fight on the ground we provide logistics and air. We took off, we left.
And keep in mind, under the prior administration, you had Donald Trump continually saying we're getting out, it's not worth the fight. You had Mike Pompeo negotiating with the Taliban, cutting the Afghan government out of it. This abandonment of the Afghan military began a while ago.
But then particularly in the last 11 days as we saw the military a rapid basically capitulation and the Taliban advances, why were we not then surging in military forces to take back Bagram Air Base, to defend Kabul, to make sure that we have things in place? Because this wasn't a 24-hour collapse. It was still a week and a half and now we're in a decision where we're disgracefully begging the Taliban for basically permission to save Americans.
And the ironic thing here is President Biden said we have to leave so that we can focus on China and Russia. This will have done more damage to our stand against China and Russia and our ability to hold our allies together than probably any event in American history, at least recently.
TAPPER: General Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said that the U.S. will not leave behind the Afghan allies who helped U.S. forces during the war. The Biden administration right now has a deadline for withdrawing all U.S. troops who are back in Afghanistan. It's August 31st, less than two weeks away.
I mean, is it even feasible to get all of the Afghan allies who are in the pipeline and their families out by August 31st?
KINZINGER: Not short of a miracle.
So, keep in mind obviously, we have Americans, as you guys have well- reported, stuck outside of the Kabul perimeter. You have at least 80,000 Afghan allies that we have promised.
And the bureaucracy has been slow-walking this up to this very point. We cannot leave those allies behind. Our reputation demands it. And I'll tell you what, Jake, even -- so, I've promised not to leave these folks behind.
So on country1st.com, it's country1st, we've actually set up a fund. Go and click on Afghanistan, we've set up a fault to help through No One Left Behind, and through With Honor (ph), these Afghan allies getting out of here and taking care of their families. It is the number one thing we can do right now.
And, Jake, the American people in the first hour have already given $20,000 to that. And that to me is heartwarming because it says as tragic as this situation is, the American people understand that we have a responsibility and a duty.
The only way to save any shred of dignity that we have basically voluntarily given up is to follow through on our promise to the Afghan people. So, again, country1st.com. That money goes directly to helping these families that are coming out of such a tragic situation.
TAPPER: Congressman, it's been reported in one of the other outlets that one of the reasons why it was slow-walked, all these Afghans getting into the U.S., Afghan allies would help service members, is because some people on the Biden administration were afraid of the attacks from the right wing about immigration and hoards of Afghans coming into the country, the kind of thing we hear all the time on MAGA media.
What do you make of that?
KINZINGER: Well, that very well may be true. I'll tell you, I've been working on this since I've been in Congress, so for 11 years, first with Iraq and then with Afghanistan. And the bureaucracy itself is mind-blowingly slow.
But I'll tell you, in the last administration under Donald Trump, we had resistance both in Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee on this issue when we tried to raise the caps. Obviously, you see people like Steven Miller out there and some of the crazy far right saying things like, this is an alternative plan to populate the United States with Muslims.
No. This is the United States following through on its commitment it made. We failed the people of Afghanistan, but we can at least not fail these people we've made a promise to.
So, everybody in Congress and everybody in politics right now is pointing fingers at the other side trying to see if they can get political win -- both sides own this. Republicans and Democrats failed you, the Republican and Democratic administrations failed you. Donald Trump negotiated a terrible deal and made it clear we wanted to leave. And Joe Biden executed an awful pull-out.
TAPPER: Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, thank you so much. Good to see you again.
We're standing by for President Biden to begin speaking on COVID and vaccines and boosters. We'll bring that to you live. The remarks come as President Biden is also facing mounting pressure over the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, including backlash from some Democrats. That's next.
TAPPER: Any moment now we're going to hear from President Biden at the White House. He is planning remarks on COVID and on vaccine boosters. But he is also facing a Hindu Kush-sized mountain of questions on Afghanistan. And as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports for us now, one of the most
urgent questions is how is he going to get tens of thousands more Americans and Afghan allies out of Afghanistan with this looming, self-imposed deadline less than two weeks away?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In moments, President Biden will speak publicly amid backlash from Democrats in major allies over the chaotic U.S. exit from Afghanistan. The president returned from Camp David last night and was briefed earlier today by top national security aides on the latest developments.
The Pentagon says there are now 4,500 U.S. troops in Kabul undertaking the daunting challenge of evacuating thousands by the day.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What our effort is now is focused on moving as many people out as we can from the country.
COLLINS: Yesterday, the president's top aides said they had assurances from the Taliban that civilians could get to the airport safely.
JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: By and large, what we have found is that people have been able to get to the airport.
COLLINS: But the U.S. embassy in Kabul warning today that the United States government can not ensure safe passage to the Hamid Karzai International Airport, adding evacuation flights are now available on the first come, first serve basis.
One Democratic lawmaker is calling on President Biden to extend the August 31st deadline and keep U.S. forces at that airport until everyone is out.
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): There's no way humanly possible that you can keep our promise, the promise that the president has made by August 31st.
COLLINS: The questions for the White House aren't going away as Democrats are ramping up oversight into the drawdown, with the Democratic-led House Foreign Affairs Committee inviting top officials to testify. And Biden ally Senator Bob Menendez is also warning the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will seek a full accounting for these shortcomings.
Biden spoke with German counselor Angela Merkel today, as the turmoil in Afghanistan has shaken major U.S. allies.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced an angry parliament today who blasted him for following the U.S. on a, quote, wing and a prayer.
THERESA MAY, FORMER U.K. PRIME MINISTER: What does it say about us as a country? What does it say about NATO if we are entirely dependent on a unilateral decision taken by the United States?
COLLINS: Now, Jake, when it comes to the situation on the ground right now, lawmakers are pushing the White House to change that self-imposed deadline of August 31st saying it is not possible to get everyone they want to get out, out by that date. And Defense Secretary Austin, when speaking with reporters earlier, said he is going to work to evacuate as many people as possible until the clock runs out or they run out of capability, he said.
TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.
In minutes, we do expect President Biden to speak about the pandemic. And we will bring that to you live as soon as his remarks begin.
Plus, I'm going to speak to the CEO of the health system in Houston, Texas, where ICU beds are almost completely full.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our health lead, any moment we're expecting President Biden to speak on his administration's new guidance on booster shots and vaccines, announcing that he will require all nursing home staff to be fully vaccinated, or the nursing homes will lose federal funding.
The Biden administration also announcing today that, pending FDA approval, beginning on September 20, any American 18 or older will be eligible for a booster shot.
This comes as soon as CNN's Athena Jones reports, hospitals across the country are hitting their breaking point.
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: The time to lay out a plan for COVID-19 boosters is now.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With new COVID cases and hospitalizations surging to where they were in November, before the first vaccinations began, the White House announced plans for a broad rollout of vaccine booster shots next month.
Starting September 20, the administration recommending vaccinated adults receive a booster eight months after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, presenting data suggesting waning immunity over time.
MURTHY: We are concerned that this pattern of decline we're seeing will continue in the months ahead, which could lead to reduced protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death.
JONES: Booster doses still must be approved by the FDA, which is still reviewing the data.
But experts warn:
DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Boosters is not going to end this pandemic. What's what's going to end this pandemic is finding a way to motivate the 30, 40 percent of people in this country who haven't gotten any vaccines yet.
JONES: It's the unvaccinated that have hospitals around the country stressed.
In the five hardest-hit states, intensive care units are more than 90 percent full, Alabama reporting is out of ICU beds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really just a...
TAPPER: President Biden is speaking now at the White House, so I'm afraid I have to interrupt this piece.
Let's listen to the president.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good afternoon.
I'd like to make an important announcement today in our work to get every American vaccinated and protect them from the Delta virus, the Delta variant of COVID-19.
I just got a lengthy briefing from my COVID team. And here's the latest data that confirms that we're still in a pandemic of the unvaccinated.
While we're starting to see initial signs that cases may be declining in a few places, cases are still rising, especially among the unvaccinated. There are still 85 million Americans who are eligible to get vaccinated who remain unvaccinated and at real risk.
Across the country, virtually all of the COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths continue to be among the unvaccinated. In Alabama, more than 90 percent of the current hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated. In Texas, 95 percent of those in hospitals are unvaccinated.
Right now, it's worse in states where overall vaccination rates are low. But let me be clear. Even in states where the vaccination rate is high, the unvaccinated in those states are also at risk. And we're seeing cases rise as a result.
Quite frankly, it's a tragedy. There are people who are dying and who will die who didn't have to. So, please, if you haven't gotten vaccinated, do it now. Do it now. It can save your life and it can save the lives of those you love.
You know, and the good news is that more people are getting vaccinated. Overall, weekly new vaccinations are up more than 80 percent from where they were a month ago. While it can take up to six weeks to get fully protected after your first shot, this increased level of vaccinations are going to provide results in the weeks ahead.
Just remember, we have two key -- and two key ways of protecting ourselves against COVID-19, one, safe, free, and effective vaccines, and, two, masks. Vaccines are the best defense. But masks are extremely helpful as well.
And for those who aren't eligible for the vaccine yet, children under the age of 12, masks are the best available protection for them and the adults around them. That's why we need to make sure children are wearing masks in school.
Before I talk about the news related to vaccines, let me say a few words about masks and our children. Unfortunately, as we have seen throughout this pandemic, some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures, that is, children wearing masks in school, into political disputes for their own political gain.
Some are even trying to take power away from local educators by banning masks in school. They're setting a dangerous tone. For example, last week, at a school board meeting in Tennessee, protesters threatened doctors and nurses who were testifying making the case for masking children in schools.
The intimidation and the threats we are seeing across the country are wrong. They're unacceptable. Now, I have said before this isn't about politics. It's about keeping our children safe. It's about taking on the virus together, united.
I have made it clear that I will stand with those who are trying to do the right thing. Last week, I called school superintendents in Florida and Arizona to thank them for doing the right thing and requiring masks in their schools.
One of them said, we teach science, so we follow the science. The other said they have a guiding principle: students first.
I couldn't agree with more than -- I just couldn't agree more with what they both said. And that's why, today, I'm directing the secretary of education, an educator himself, to take additional steps to protect our children.
This includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal action, if appropriate, against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators.
And as I have said before, if you aren't going to fight COVID-19, at least get out of the way of everyone else who's trying. You know, we're not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children.
For example, if a governor wants to cut the pay of a hardworking education leader who requires mask in a classroom, the money from the American Rescue Plan can be used to pay that person's salary 100 percent. I'm going to say a lot more about children in schools next week.
But, as we head into the school year, remember this. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, says masks are critical, especially for those who are not yet vaccinated, like our children under the age of 12.
So let's put politics aside. Let's follow the educators and the scientists, who know a lot more about how to teach our children and keep them safe than any politician. This administration is always going to take the side of our children.
Next, I want to talk to those of you who can get vaccinated, but you haven't. The Delta variant is twice as transmissible as the Alpha variant. It's dangerous, and it continues to spread.
Vaccines are the key to stopping it. We're making progress. Today, more than 90 percent of seniors have at least had one shot, and 70 percent of people over the age of 12 have gotten their first shot as well. That's good news. But we need to go faster.
That's why I'm taking steps on vaccination requirements where I can. Already, I have outlined vaccine requirements that are going to reach millions of Americans, federal workers and contractors, medical staff caring for our veterans at VA hospitals, and our active-duty military, reservists, and National Guard.
Today, I'm announcing a new step. If you work in a nursing home and serve people on Medicare or Medicaid, you will also be required to get vaccinated. More than 130,000 residents in nursing homes have, sadly, over the period of this virus, passed away.
At the same time, vaccination rates among nursing home staff significantly trail the rest of the country. The studies show that highly vaccinated nursing home staff is associated with at least 30 percent less COVID-19 cases among long-term care residents.
With this announcement, I'm using the power of the federal government, as a payer of health care costs, to ensure we reduce those risks to our most vulnerable seniors. These steps are all about keeping people safe and out of harm's way.
If you walk into a government office building, you should know that federal workers are doing everything possible to keep you safe. If you're a veteran seeking care at a VA hospital, you should not be at a greater risk walking into the hospital than you were outside the hospital.
And now, if you visit, live, or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk for contracting COVID from unvaccinated employees. While I'm mindful that my authority at the federal level is limited, I'm going to continue to look for ways to keep people safe and increase vaccination rates.
[16:40:02] And I'm pleased to see the private sector stepping up as well. In the last week, AT&T, Amtrak, McDonald's, they all announced vaccine requirements.
I recently met with a group of business and education leaders from United Airlines to Kaiser Permanente to Howard University who are also doing the same thing. Over 200 health systems, more than 50 in the past two weeks, have announced vaccine requirements.
Colleges and universities are requiring more than five million students to be vaccinated as they return to classes this fall. All of this makes a difference.
"The Wall Street Journal" reported the share of job postings stating that new hires must be vaccinated has nearly doubled in the past month. Governors and mayors in California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, and Washington have all announced vaccination requirements.
So, let's be clear. Vaccination requirements have been around for decades. Students, health care professionals, our troops are typically required to receive vaccines to prevent anything from polio to smallpox to measles to mumps to rubella.
In fact, the reason most people in America don't worry about polio, smallpox, measles, mumps or rubella today is because of vaccines. It only makes sense to require a vaccine that stops the spread of COVID- 19. And it's time for others to step up.
Employers have more power today to end this pandemic than they have ever had before. My message is simple. Do the right thing for your employees, consumers, and your businesses. Let's remember, the key tool to keeping our economy going strong is to get people vaccinated and at work.
I know that I will have your back -- they should know I will have their back, as I have the back of the states trying to do the right thing as well. For example, yesterday, I instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, to extend full reimbursement through the end of the year to stake developments -- to state deployments of National Guard in support of COVID-19 response.
Nearly 18,000 National Guard members are supporting our response nationwide, from caring for patients, to administering vaccines, to running testing sites, to distributing supplies.
As the states continue to recover from the economic toll left by COVID-19, the full reimbursement of National Guard services during this pandemic will be another tool that will help them shore up their budgets, meet the needs of their communities and continue our economic recovery.
These are the latest steps we're taking to get more people vaccinated.
Next, I want to speak to you all, all of you who are vaccinated. How should you be thinking about the moment we're in? First, know that you're highly protected against severe illness and death from COVID- 19. Only a small fraction of people going to the hospital today are those who have been vaccinated.
But we have a responsibility to give the maximum amount of protection, all of you the maximum amount. Earlier today, our medical experts announced a plan for booster shots to every fully vaccinated American, adult American.
You know, this will boost your immune response. It will increase your protection from COVID-19. And it's the best way to protect ourselves from new variants that could arise. The plan is for every adult to get a booster shot eight months after you got your second shot.
Pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the CDC's committee of outside experts will be ready to start these booster -- this booster program during the week of September 20, in which time anyone vaccinated on or before January 20 will be eligible to get a booster shot.
So that means that, if you got your second shot on February 15 you're eligible to get your booster shot on October 15. If you got your second shot on March 15, go for your booster starting November 15, and so on.
Just remember, as a simple rule, eight months after your second shot, get a booster shot. These booster shots are free. You will be able to get the booster shots at any one of approximately 80,000 vaccination locations nationwide. It will be easy.
Just show your vaccination card and you will get a booster.
No other ID. No insurance. No state residency requirement.
My administration has been planning for this possibility and this scenario for months. We purchased enough vaccine and vaccine supplies so that when your eight-month mark comes up, you'll be ready to get your vaccination free -- that booster shot free. And we have it available.
It will make you safer and for longer. And it will help us end the pandemic faster.
Now, I know there are some world leaders who say Americans shouldn't get a third shot until other countries got their first shots. I disagree. We can take care of America and help the world at the same time.
In June and July, America administered 50 million shots here in the United States and we donated 100 million shots to other countries. That means that America has donated more vaccine to other countries than every other country in the world combined.
During the coming months of fall and early winter, we expect to give out another -- about 100,000 boosters, and the United States will donate more than 200 million additional doses to other countries.
This will keep us on our way to meeting our pledge of more than 600 million vaccine donations -- over half a billion.
And I said -- as I said before, we're going to be the arsenal of vaccines to beat this pandemic as we were the arsenal of democracy to win World War Two.
So, let me conclude with this: The threat of the Delta virus remains real. But we are prepared. We have the tools. We can do this.
To all those of who are unvaccinated: please get vaccinated for yourself and for your loved ones, your neighborhood and for your community.
And to the rest of America: this is no time to let our guard down. We just need to finish the job with science, with facts, and with confidence.
And together, as the United States of America, we'll get this done.
God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you.
TAPPER: You have been listening to President Biden speaking at the White House pushing his administration's new effort for booster shots starting in September. Also requiring nursing home workers to get vaccinated if the nursing homes get federal dollars. All of this is part of continued efforts by the Biden administration to increase shots in arms.
Let's bring back CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, as well as our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
And, Sanjay, we were talking about this yesterday. The World Health Organization says that evidence is lacking as of now that booster shots are needed for fully vaccinated people. So, why is the Biden administration pushing them?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the answer they give is that they're trying to stay ahead of the game here a little bit. They're looking at some data, some of it presented for the first time today from the United States among healthcare workers and long-term care facilities, among the general population, that does show some decreased effectiveness of this vaccine, of these vaccines against the virus, specifically the delta variants.
Let me show you. I don't know if we have the graphs. But these are some of the data that was presented today looking again on the left healthcare workers and on the right primarily at these long-term care facilities. And you can see pre-delta and delta. You can see the impact primarily of this variant on the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Now, the rub a little bit here, Jake, and I think what people are sort of trying to figure out is this is, if you look at overall the waning effectiveness, it's in mild and moderate disease. It is not among people who require hospitalization or people who die of this disease. The effectiveness of the vaccines have remained very effective in those regards.
So there's two messages at the same time. The vaccine's very effective against the things we care the most about, hospitalization and death. But some evidence that they may be starting to wane to mild and moderate illness. The question is, will that inevitably lead to a waning of protection against hospitalization and death a couple of months from now? And that's what they say want to be ahead of the game.
It's a bit unusual because they've been saying for so long we're not sure if we need booster shots. We'll see if hospitalizations go up among the vaccinated. All of that is the triggers. And now, they're saying let's try and get ahead.
FDA still has to weigh in on this to show that it's safe. CDC still has to formally recommend it, but they're making it pretty clear that this ball is rolling now, Jake.
TAPPER: Kaitlan, President Biden has also announced that he's requiring nursing homes that receive federal funding through Medicare and Medicaid employees there need to be fully vaccinated or they will lose that federal funding.
You also heard Biden slam governors who are trying to block schools from imposing mask mandates. He has not yet gone as for though as to say that he's going to withhold COVID funding from those states if they continue to block mask mandates.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think if that's the route that they take, they're trying to find other ways where they're not just blocking funding but they can distribute the funding in a way that is still helpful to people but in a way that doesn't reward the governors that they believe are taking measures that are counter to public health advice and what you're hearing from federal health officials.
And I think it is notable hearing the president say these things about Republican governors talking about using the leverage of the federal government to try to get more people vaccinated because it's a sign of the concern inside the White House over what we're seeing on a national landscape with the delta variant. Because these were things they were hesitant to do at the beginning of this administration even though there were areas where they disagreed with some governors, certainly on measures that they were taking. Now it just shows that they are actually trying to use it to their advantage.
And they are fine to go toe to toe with some of these governors, like Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida, Governor Greg Abbott in Texas, and pushing back on some of their measures. One thing I will say when it comes to booster shots is public officials have been saying for some time they haven't thought people have immediate boosters but privately this is something officials have been debating and arguing behind the scenes for weeks now. TAPPER: Well, Kaitlan, if I could just stay with you for one second,
they are using the full force of the federal government to push nursing home staffers to all be vaccinated. And obviously people in nursing homes are more vulnerable to coronavirus than children are. But I don't hear them saying that they're going to withhold federal funding from schools unless those schools require teachers and staffers to be vaccinated.
The Democrat running for governor of Virginia, former Governor Terry McAuliffe, he is saying he supports mandating that all teachers be vaccinated. Why not also do that? Is it just easier to go after Ron DeSantis because he's a Republican instead of the teachers unions, which tend to lean Democratic?
COLLINS: Yeah, I don't think it's also politically popular to look like you're going after educators and teachers and superintendents. They've actually tried to do opposite when it comes to routes in Florida.
So they are trying to work with the Department of Education to make this something that could actually be required, ways they could actually push back on schools that are trying to go the opposite route because you heard President Biden saying there clearly what he believes which is what every student in school should be wearing a mask.
And, Jake, this is certainly something we could see ramped up. But also, officials are watching and seeing how kids are going back to schools. A lot of kids are having to quarantine. They are hoping that that will have a factor into these decisions instead of it just all coming from the federal government.
TAPPER: Sanjay, I know you don't like to weigh in on politics. You're a medical guy, a health guy. But is there any health evidence that kids being masked stunts their growth, is damaging to a degree that the governors that we see, Governor Ducey in Arizona, DeSantis in Florida and others, blocking schools from mask mandates, that it makes sense for them to be doing that?
GUPTA: No, there's really not. At the beginning, obviously we didn't have a lot of data overall on that sort of mask wearing. But there is no evidence about stunting growth. And there is now plenty of evidence, in fact, a recent big study out of North Carolina looking at just how much of an impress masks -- universal masking makes on decreasing viral transmission, to less than 1 percent.
And so many schools are opening and immediately have masses of students going into quarantine. I mean, it's pretty clear now masks could prevent that. Masks could help keep kids in school.
TAPPER: And just to be clear, I'm talking about not physical growth, but emotional and psychological growth, that sort of thing.
Sanjay and Kaitlan, thanks to both of you. I appreciate it.
President Biden also just addressed the chaos in Afghanistan. We'll show you what he said, next.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
President Biden just announced that his administration is recommending a third COVID booster shot for Americans, as well as requiring nursing home workers to get vaccinated. But what about kids?
Plus, California's recall drama. Dozens of candidates running to replace Governor Newsom including one who was served with a subpoena in the middle of a debate.
And leading this hour, chaos as the Taliban take over and crack down. We'll talk to a U.S. congressman who served in Afghanistan and an Afghan refugee who is terrified for his family left behind.
Moments ago, President Biden addressed the disarray in Afghanistan, telling ABC News George Stephanopoulos that he did not see any way to withdraw U.S. troops without chaos ensuing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: When you look at what's happened over the last week, was it a failure of intelligence, planning, execution, or judgment?
BIDEN: Look, I think it was a failure -- it was a simple choice, George. When the Taliban -- let me put it another way.