Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Taliban Names Former U.S. Prisoners To Interim Government In Afghanistan; Rep. Ro Khanna, (D-CA), Is Interviewed About Afghanistan And Taliban; Biden Admin. Tells Former Trump Officials To Resign From Military Academy Advisory Boards Or Be Dismissed; Schumer: "Moving Full Speed Ahead" On $3.5T Budget Bill; Child COVID Hospitalizations Hit All-Time High as Schools Open; Chinese Government Bans Foreign Textbooks, Sets Limits on Video Game Use in Effort to Eliminate Western Influence; Confederacy's Capital Takes Down Robert E. Lee Statue. Aired 5-6pm ET

Aired September 08, 2021 - 17:00   ET



KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Critics have accused the administration of making it even harder to get flights in the air. Quote, "I have been deeply frustrated, even furious at our government's delay and inaction," tweeted Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal on Monday. His office has been trying to help clear the hurdles.

Passengers stuck because of the grounded flights include Americans, Afghans, and green card holders. Sources tell CNN the State Department says there are about 100 Americans still left behind. On Tuesday Blinken said this.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't have the means to verify the accuracy, manifest the identity of passengers onboard these planes, aviation security protocols or where they plan to land, among other issues.

ATWOOD (voice-over): But Blumenthal's office pushback saying that they had submitted information for the passengers that quote, "Goes above and beyond what was required for travel out of Hamid Karzai International Airport just one day earlier."

Today, Blinken acknowledged the complexity of the situation, but said every effort is going into getting the flights off the ground.

BLINKEN: While there are limits to what we can do without personnel on the ground, without an airport with normal security procedures in place, we are working to do everything in our power to support those flights and to get them off the ground.

ATWOOD (voice-over): Still, there remain members of Congress and private individuals who think the department is not doing enough.

In recent days, Congressman Mullin helped get a Texas mother and her three children out of the country using an overland route. He accused the State Department of trying to take credit for the effort.

REP. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): Well then they say they facilitated, it is absolutely a lie. We had to go through over 20 checkpoints, which each one of those checkpoints you actually had to pay money to get through.


ATWOOD: And, Jake, we've just learned from the Department of Homeland Security that 60,000 people have come to the United States as part of these evacuation efforts from Afghanistan. Six percent of those are legal permanent residents of the United States. Eleven percent of those are Americans. Eighty-three percent of those, of course, the vast majority, are Afghans coming here to resettle in the United States.

And we should note that the Department of Homeland secretary said that this has been a enormous logistical challenge. They've surged resources both abroad and here in the United States to try and help deal with this massive number of people coming to the United States.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Kylie Atwood at the State Department, thank you so much.

Back in Afghanistan, five men once detained by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay now have senior positions with the Taliban's new interim government. Four of the five were released from Gitmo in 2014 as part of that prisoner swap approved by President Obama for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl, of course, had been held captive by the Taliban for five years after going AWOL. CNN's Sam Kiley is covering this angel from Doha, Qatar.

And Sam, what do we know about these detainees, former detainees, now helping to run Afghanistan?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of them are pretty notorious figures from within the Taliban founding members, senior clerics and so on. Five of them -- four in the cabinet and the fifth is the governor of Khost.

But their portfolios, Jake, these are all supposedly temporary portfolios for a caretaker government include borders and tribal affairs, also the director of intelligence, minister of information and culture, Deputy Minister of Defense, and as I said, the tribal, sorry, the governor of Khost province, all extremely powerful individuals.

Individuals, I have to say well-known to the United States, because all of them were part of the negotiating team here in Doha following their release from Guantanamo Bay. They were able to come and stay here under the eye of the categories (ph). And then when the Afghans opened, rather, the Taliban opened their political office here, they were seeing elements within that office and part of the U.S. negotiating team.

And some of them in interviews subsequent to that, even expressed the lack of rancor over the 13 years in Guantanamo Bay. But clearly, they're very much part of this new hardline government, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sam Kiley in Doha, Qatar, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna whose California District is home to one of the largest Afghan American populations in the U.S. He's also on the House Armed Services Committee.

Congressman Khanna, thanks so much for joining us.

So, I do want to get your reaction to this news that the Taliban has named four former Gitmo detainees to senior leadership positions in the Afghan government. These are individuals freed by President Obama in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, it's deeply concerning. It shows that you can't trust the Taliban to have human rights. I still believe, though, we need it to withdraw because it was an ugly civil war.


And Anand Gopal has a brilliant piece in "The New Yorker" saying that women and children were being killed in rural Afghanistan, many who wanted an end to the war. So the decision to end the war was right, but we should be clear eyed about what the Taliban is.

TAPPER: Yes, it's a very powerful, very powerful piece about why women in the countryside, 70 percent of the population of Afghanistan is in the countryside, why they turned against the U.S., turned against the Afghan government.

There are at least 100 American citizens right now remaining stuck in Afghanistan, they're trying to get out. Today, Secretary of State Tony Blinken insisted he's doing everything he can to help rescue any American who wants to leave, in addition to legal permanent residents and Afghan allies. Take a listen.


BLINKEN: We're working with NGOs, with advocates, with lawmakers around the clock to help coordinate their efforts and offer guidance where we can.

We made clear to the Taliban that these charters need to be able to depart. And we continue every day, virtually every hour to work on that.


TAPPER: Was that good enough for you?

KHANNA: Well, Jake, first of all, there are American citizens. I know we have cases with American citizens still there, we have 600 requests that we're still working on.

Here's what I know --

TAPPER: All from American citizens?

KHANNA: Not all. About a dozen from American citizens. And so, there's still many of them who can't get out. And the idea that they don't want to leave is not true. We have cases of people who want to leave and are unable to leave, who were beaten getting to the airport.

And here's what I don't understand on the documentation. When we evacuated people after Vietnam, we took them to Guam and then we worried about the paperwork. Why are we doing that -- are not doing the same thing now? Why are we worried about so much of the paperwork? Get them the documentation, take them to a different site, and then we can worry about resettlement, but no one should be stuck there because they don't have the proper documentation.

TAPPER: Well, who's objecting to the documentation? Is it the Taliban? Or is it the Department of State?

KHANNA: One, there's no clarity. I mean, when you hear Senator Blumenthal, he's saying, well, the State Department is slow in getting the documents, some of the children don't have the documents. The Secretary saying it's the Taliban. Well, we need clarity. Is -- does everyone have the documents? Is that the burden?

Because if that's the burden, why aren't we doing what we did after Vietnam, taking them to a separate place, and then worrying about the resettlement? Let's not get caught up in bureaucracy. And then if the Taliban isn't allowing this, what is our leverage? People have said, we have this leverage on the Taliban. Well, why aren't we using that leverage to say, let the charter flights out? I mean, that's the most basic thing, rescuing the Americans.

TAPPER: Well, that's just it. I don't understand why the United States is acting as though we're powerless here. Unless, of course, we are.

KHANNA: Well, we're not. I mean, you know, Boris Johnson says, we have diplomatic, economic military pressure. Jake Sullivan says that. So let's use that pressure.

I mean, the Taliban needs -- they want to be recognized. They want aid, then this is the time to use it. The most basic thing, the fundamental thing is we've got to rescue Americans and American families.

And if they're not letting American sitting on an airplane fly out, I mean, how are we not saying you must do that, or you risk the wrath of the United States. You can't keep American citizens hostage.

TAPPER: Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, as he just noted, he's a pretty partisan Democrat from Connecticut. He's not one to raise his voice much at the Biden administration. He said, he's deeply frustrated, even furious at the government's delay and inaction. That's the Biden administration's delay and inaction, he's saying. Do you echo that frustration? KHANNA: Look, I give the President credit for the withdrawal. But to pretend that everything went perfectly, I think defies reality. We ought to be honest, we ought to say where were some of the mistakes? Not just, by the way, last 20 days, but the last 20 years.

One of the mistakes was that we overestimated the Afghan army. I mean, Anand Gopal talks about it. Why don't we talk to people like Anand Gopal who would have told you no one is going to fight for the Afghan army? And then we would have had a better sense of withdrawal. Why don't we have more planning in how we were going to evacuate our citizens?

So, I give the president a lot of credit for withdrawal. But I think we -- what American people want is transparency. And to say everything went perfectly is just not the right approach in my view.

TAPPER: We've heard conservative talking heads and some Republican lawmakers, they've shifted from Biden abandoned our Afghan allies. And now they are saying things along the lines of Biden wants to let all these dangerous Afghans into the country. Obviously there needs to be vetting done wherever it can be done. But you have one of the largest Afghan American populations in your district. What's your reaction when you hear that?

KHANNA: It's deep hurt. I say come to my district, you'll see the vibrant Afghan American community. It's a little Kabul in Fremont. They are doctors. They are engineers. They are tech leaders. They've got brilliant restaurants.

I mean, and it said, I read Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. I like the book. And then I see him on T.V. saying that we're concerned that someone Afghan would be in a mall and you would look at their wife the wrong way and he'd blow up the mall. I just -- I mean that stuff is offensive and it's hurtful and it's wrong and it's not who America is.


If people were good enough to fight with us on -- in Afghanistan, you're saying they're not good enough to come live with us? That is wrong. And he should be ashamed of that. And I say that as someone who was an admirer of his book.

TAPPER: Congressman Ro Khanna, thank you so much for your time, sir. Really appreciate it.

President Biden just told some familiar names in the last administration to get out. But is he playing politics?

Plus, a relic of the Civil War and symbol of a racist history comes down and is cut to pieces in the former capital of the Confederacy. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our politics lead, the Biden White House has informed 11 officials who had been appointed to military service academy boards by former President Trump to resign or they will be fired.


A source says that those told to resign include prominent officials, such as Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, David Urban, H.R. McMaster. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki answered questions this afternoon about whether President Biden was politicizing the issue.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I will let others evaluate whether they think Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer and others were qualified or not political to serve on these boards. But the President's qualification requirements are not your party registration. They are whether you're qualified to serve and whether you're aligned with the values of this administration.


TAPPER: Kellyanne Conway just responded on Twitter with a copy of the letter she sent back to President Biden, which concludes "I'm not resigning, but you should."

Let's discuss.

Seung Min, let me start with you. Psaki was responding to your question there. But we should point out, it's not just political figures like Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer that were fired from these boards, it includes David Urban, who used to be a commentator here, he went to West Point, H.R. McMaster, who was fired from the Board of West Point today by Biden, but on Saturday, he's going to get their highest Alumni Association Award for graduates. So there are some individuals that have a claim to these positions who were just fired.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right, right. And the point that Jen was making to our questions earlier today is that these are presidential appointees. So of course, they serve at the pleasure of the president who is in office. And she said she wanted nominee -- or appointees to the board that would better reflect the President's values.

But also these boards, traditionally, these are, you know, largely advisory and ceremonial. A lot of these -- their three-year terms, they go across administration. So it was an interesting move by the administration to do this.

Now how far the former Trump officials fight this and make it an issue, we'll have to see. I mean, Kellyanne Conway's letter seem to think that she was going to push this on a little bit further.

TAPPER: Right. And it wasn't exactly a letter that was demonstrating that she --

KIM: Right.

TAPPER: -- was capable of doing the job in a nonpartisan way.

But Jamal, let me ask you because as someone points out, these terms for these board members are staggered.


TAPPER: There were people from the Obama administration on the boards when Trump started who were not fired, who were still there. One of the fired Board of Visitors appointees, Meaghan Mobbs, who's a veteran, wrote President Biden ran on a suppose a platform of unity but his actions speak directly to the contrary.

Wouldn't keeping at least some of the people like H.R. McMaster or David Urban or Meaghan Mobbs on the committee, on these boards? Wouldn't that be more in keeping with what Biden promised he would do?

SIMMONS: Maybe. But you know, we talk about the Trump administration as if these were the Bush people or they were the Reagan people.

You know, this was not like a normal situation. We had a president of United States who was doing really irregular things. He had a hotel that foreign leaders were staying at to try to put money in his pocket, but all reports. And we got -- he got away with.

They put a Supreme Court justice on the court in the last year of the administration after denying Barack Obama to do the very same thing. I think we have to look at this and the totality of what really has happened with the Trump administration and recognize this is not normal, and we shouldn't pretend like the Trump time was normal.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: Well, that just seems like the ratchet effect, which is what we strive to prevent, I would think if we're trying to bring people together.

In addition, I feel like it takes a real brain trust to look at the withdrawal from Afghanistan and be like, the military needs a shakeup and I know where I'm going to do on the boards of the military academies.

Look, Meaghan Mobbs, for one, just to name one, is a young female Afghanistan vet on the board of West Point. She deserves to be there. And her viewpoint is important. And the fact that these people can work in common team (ph) have for years is a boon to the military, and they shouldn't be tossed out.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": This is actually reflective of a stance that I came across in some reporting months ago. I remember during the transition, I was doing a story on what the Biden administration's approach would be to the different cabinet agencies and looking at the Department of Homeland Security given that was so molded by the Trump administration to focus on some of the more aggressive immigration policies.

One transition official told me when I asked, you know, what about career officials that were here for multiple administrations, not just Trump but also the Obama administration? I mean, or just anybody that worked for Trump and was involved in these policies, would you consider keeping any of them? And this person said they are (INAUDIBLE) at this point, you know, we will be -- we're moving on from those folks.

Now, that is for positions where you're instrumental in, you know, immigration policies, border policies, you're at a cabinet agency, this is different, right? These are -- we're talking about boards. And as was just stated, some of those, you know, symbolic of a certain kind of bipartisanship that the President has touted as well.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the battle inside the Democratic Party right now. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer saying today that they're moving full steam ahead when it comes to this $3.5 trillion budget package, despite requests for a pause from Senator Manchin. Who has the power right now in these negotiations? I can't -- you have both AOC and Joe Manchin, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, I don't --



TAPPER: I can't tell who has the leverage.

KANNO-YOUNGS: Right. Well, you've got -- exactly, you've got Senator Manchin with his recent comments. You've got Pelosi who has said that they're going to try and bring a vote on infrastructure by September 27. However, I mean, is that going to come to fruition now, I mean, with, you know, members of the House, Democrats in the House, also focusing on reconciliation?

A couple weeks ago, we did some reporting with -- I did some report with my colleague, Jonathan Weisman, where we said, you know, the President has clearly, you know, showed that he can work with some Republicans and Democrats in Congress, but this is the real test of actually can unify those within your own party.

TAPPER: Right. Can he work with the progressives? Take a listen to AOC, Seung Min.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: I as well as many, many members of the Progressive Caucus simply will not vote for Senator Manchin's infrastructure bill unless it is tied together with the Build Back Better Act so that we have an all of the above approach. So what we are saying, it's either your bill or our bill, but that both of these bills must move forward together or neither will.


TAPPER: Is there a path forward here?

KIM: There's -- Democratic leaders are trying to find a path forward.

I think the power center kind of just really shifts back and forth, depending on where things are. And I think liberals have been particularly frustrated, especially in the House, but also in the Senate as well, that so much of the attention and so much of the focus has been on the Manchins and the Sinemas of the world. And that's why they're trying to bring it back to them saying, our votes matter, too. We have a vote and we have a say in this matter, too.

So, a lot of the hang ups are procedural as Congresswoman Ocasio- Cortez just mentioned, but there are deep policy divisions to that. We can't, you know, we also have to focus on here.

One is on health care. How are you going to, for example, expand Medicare benefits versus shoring up Obamacare? And do you have the money to do that? You know, how do you -- how high does the corporate tax rate go?

And there are divisions, you know, Republicans would call it disarray, Democrats might call it dynamism, but there's a lot of a substantive procedure or substantive hurdles to have to overcome as well for the next several weeks.

TAPPER: And then, of course, there are the 19 Senate Republicans who voted for infrastructure. They're getting pressure from the MAGA side of the Republican Party to not vote for that, even though they support it.

HAM: Yes, no. And I think the question with the power center is whether progressives are actually willing to torpedo something with that sweet, sweet trillion at the end of it, even if it's 1 trillion, right? So I think there's a telling quote from Pelosi where she said, so we have reconciliation infrastructure C.R., and somewhere in there, we'll do the debt ceiling. And the U.S. Congress is telling you that they're going to do most of this during September.

It's September 8. Good luck with that. Get to kiss in Manchin's pinkie ring and move on.

SIMMONS: I love Pelosi when they asked her the question about the number. She basically said, I said what I said, it's $3.5 trillion.


SIMMONS: Listen, there are two roads for Democrats. The one road is past something and give people something to run on and talk about or oblivion, right? If they don't pass anything, 2022 is a wrap. There's nothing for them to run on anymore. So they got to pass something. I think everybody understands that.

It might be a mess along the way, but it would behoove them to do something very quickly before it becomes something that the public turns against.

TAPPER: All right, thanks to one and all of you. Appreciated it.

Just how effective are the COVID vaccines? A new look at how well the shots protect your parents and grandparents in real life. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Breaking news in our health lead, a brand new study from the CDC just released this hour shows how effective the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines are when it comes to preventing hospitalizations. Let's get straight to CNN's Elizabeth Cohen who brings us the news.

Elizabeth, tell us what they found.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, let's take a look at this because it's so important. Vaccines if they prevent infection, that's great. But really the point of a vaccine is to keep you out of the hospital and to keep you alive.

So let's take a look at what this study found that was just published in the New England Journal of Medicine. What they found is that Pfizer and Moderna were 89 percent effective at preventing hospitalization. In other words, if you got fully vaccinated with either of those, you were 89 percent less likely to end up in the hospital.

Now Johnson and Johnson's was not as successful. According to this study. It was 68 percent. But it was with a smaller number of patients, so that's important to remember.

It's interesting, because there's been a lot of thought about how effective are the vaccines for older people, they found that for folks who are 85 and over, Pfizer and Moderna were 83 percent effective, so not as good for younger people. But still 83 percent effective is an amazing vaccine. Jake.

TAPPER: Elizabeth, there's been a lot of misinformation about the vaccine in general, also specifically about whether the vaccines are safe for pregnant women. There's also a CDC's new study about this. Tell us about that.

COHEN: You know, it's interesting, Jake, there's never really been a reason to worry about this vaccine for pregnant women. Pregnant women take all sorts of vaccines all the time safely for decades and decades. But because there's been such misinformation about -- on social media about this vaccine for pregnant women, it's good to see these results.

So these are two studies very large, one was about 2,000 people one was more than 100,000 people and what they found was that the risk of miscarriage was no greater for women who are fully vaccinated. Now of course, people who are fully vaccinated did sometimes miscarry, so did people who weren't vaccinated. Miscarriages are actually quite common. So this is on top of other studies that show the vaccines work really well for pregnant women, and also that there aren't other side effects. So, all in all, there is nothing bad to say about this vaccine for pregnant women. Lots of good things to say can keep you and your baby healthy. And after birth, what they found is that vaccinated women, they had the antibodies in their cord blood and in their breast milk, so possibly conferring immunity to their babies. Jake. TAPPER: Oh, interesting. All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much. Also in our Health Lead, an alarming surge in the number of children infected with COVID. Last week alone, more than 250,000 cases in children were reported in the United States, the largest weekly surge since the pandemic began. Still severe disease among children remains rare.

Let's discuss this with Dr. John McCullers, Chief Pediatrician at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. McCullers, you said there was a rise in cases in your area among children, right when school was starting back up? What can you tell us about the kids who, for whom, the disease, the COVID disease was more serious, whether it required hospitalization or along those lines? Did they have any common characteristics underlying health conditions or anything?

JOHN MCCULLERS, PEDIATRICIAN IN CHIEF, LE BONHEUR CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Yeah, so as you said, we have seen a significant surge in cases roughly for the last four weeks, again, roughly corresponding to the time when school got in, although it may have started maybe a few days before school got in locally. We are seeing also accompanying that a surge in hospitalizations. Interestingly, we're seeing about three times the number of hospitalizations that we saw during our peak during the winter, I think related to low vaccination status here in Tennessee, and many of those kids are very sick. About a third to maybe half of the kids we've put in the hospital in the last month have required intensive care. Most of those intensive care do have some chronic medical morbidities, either severe obesity or other chronic medical conditions, but not all of them.

TAPPER: And what is the situation with masking and testing in schools there in Tennessee, because Sanjay Gupta in the previous hour, showed that according to modeling, the best way to keep kids from getting sick while going back to school is to have masking and frequent testing.

MCCULLERS: Yeah, so we have a taskforce that we put together here at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, including University of Tennessee, faculty who are experts in many different aspects of infectious diseases, and childhood development, and so on. And we've been advising the schools, the school administrators to local, county and city government on this. And part of that has been a strong recommendation for mandatory universal masking within the school setting. So, for staff, for faculty, for children at all times, while we're in a period of high transmission. We're clearly in a period of high transmission right now. Should that come down, we may be able to alter that recommendation later on.

We've also recommended that testing occur in schools, we have had a number of programs within certain of the schools that do what we call assurance testing, where we're doing random sampling of kids. We've also had on demand testing put into some of the schools where we're able to test kids who are symptomatic, but then in many schools, we really have to rely on the safety net of testing across the city and county that we've put in place for all citizens and send those kids out to get tested there. TAPPER: Your state, Tennessee ranks in the bottom 10 of the 50 states with the lowest vaccination rates at just 42% of the population vaccinated. Do you think that that is one of the driving factors for all these new cases among kids?

MCCULLERS: Yeah, it's very clearly a driving factor. If you look just, you know, at the pediatric age range with vaccination, only 7% of children in Tennessee are fully vaccinated right now, about 20% of those who are eligible since many children still are not eligible for vaccination, that's less than half of the national average. And many of the surrounding states have very similar vaccination rates. And of course, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital serves really a tri state region across the Mid-South.

And this is translating directly again into those rates of pediatric hospitalization. Across the nation, most children's hospitals are seeing rates of pediatric hospitalization that are equivalent to what we saw during the winter. Again, we're seeing more than three times as many kids hospitalized right now.

TAPPER: Finally, as you know, children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine. What's your message to the FDA, as Americans wait for at least emergency use authorization for kids?

MCCULLERS: Well, I think there's two very important things we have to consider as we, you know, want the FDA to get this done quicker. But we also want to understand two things. One is the side effect profile, different insurant in children. It's not always just directly transferable from adults. In the 1950s, 1960s for instance, the influenza vaccine had very severe and significant side effects compared to that in the adults. And we have to change the formulation of the vaccine for children at that time.


So, we need to understand that issue. The second issue we have to understand is dosing. Do we need a different dose for kids? Maybe a smaller dose for kids? Does that relate to the occurrence of side effects? Those two are going to take a little time to tease out you're going to have to include more children in those trials to have the power to understand it. So, while we all want the FDA to move forward as quickly as possible, I don't want to rush it because I do want to answer those two questions.

TAPPER: Dr. John McCullers, thank you so much for your time and best of luck to you.

Coming up, banning private tutors. Limiting the hours kids can play video games outlawing certain textbooks. Why the Chinese government is cracking down on the younger generations. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our World Lead, a pro-Chinese government online propaganda operation is attempting to exploit COVID divisions in the United States.

In our World Lead, a pro-Chinese government online propaganda operation is attempting to exploit COVID divisions in the United States and incite protests among American. Cybersecurity experts warning the operation poses a serious threat. CNN's Alex Marquardt joins us now.

And Alex, walk us through exactly how this operation is targeting Americans and what the end goal is for China?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's not just Americans, Jake, it's people around the world. This is based on a report from the Mandiant cybersecurity company as well as Google. And they're saying that there has been an explosion of behavior by online pro-Chinese government accounts that one official tells our colleagues at Cohen are linked to the Chinese government. And what they're doing essentially is taking a page right out of the Russian playbook. They are identifying divisions in American society exploiting them, seeking to divide us, they are trying to spread misinformation, particularly when it comes to a different COVID narratives like the origin of COVID, or anti-American vaccine narratives.

And what's perhaps most interesting is that they're leaping from the online world into the real world and trying to get Americans to go out and protest. So, this is something that is taking place not just on the major social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These researchers say that it's on more than 30 different social media platforms that it is on more than 40 different websites. And that is expanding beyond English into multiple different languages, including Russian, German, Korean, Spanish and Japanese. So, it really is a global Chinese operation.

TAPPER: And have these Chinese trolls or whatever they are, have they had any success in actually getting people to go out and protest?

MARQUARDT: No, that is the good part. I want to show you a picture that was put out in Japanese, Korean and English. It's a cartoon that was targeting Asian Americans, telling them to go out and protest in New York City in April to protest racial inequality and false COVID narratives. People didn't turn out but that didn't stop the narratives. They claimed that protesters did show up. And not only that, but that they were then attacked. I believe we have a photo of them that this was what they claimed the protest to look like. The good news is, Jake, that there is very low engagement with these 1000s and 1000s of social media posts. The bad news is that there are so many of them. It's growing, it's evolving, and it shows that China is willing to try to instigate action beyond Chinese territory.

TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt, thanks.

Also, in our World Lead, the Chinese government working hard to eliminate Western influences on Chinese children and Chinese teens limiting use of video games, banning foreign textbooks, even banning private tutors in China. CNN's David Culver is in Shanghai with a look at the unique and invasive ways Chinese Communist Party, the China's Communist Party is shaping the next generation to fit their vision. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sweeping changes to China's social order focused on the next generation, the all-powerful central government rolling out drastic measures over several weeks, from a crackdown on private tutoring, to heavy restrictions placed on kids and gaming, all portrayed to help the masses.

DALI YANG, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: A lot of those actions are designed to help ease the pressures, whether it's property prices or schooling or gaming and so on.

CULVER: It resonates with some families like the Youngs in Shanghai, that Yeqing capturing picture after picture of his two teenage kids and thrall by their phones, playing hours upon hours of endless games. The government now restricting the use of online video games to just three hours a week for kids, eight to 9 p.m. on Friday, weekends and holidays.

YEQING YANG, FATHER OF SHANGHAI: It's a good policy that we get a chance to rebalance everything.

CULVER: And it's coinciding with a massive crackdown on privacy after school tutoring. Many venting concerns on Chinese social media, one post reading, I am very worried that this generation of children will become the victims of policy-oriented actions, but some supporting the government's efforts to restructure home life. This person writing in the past few years extracurricular training institutions have gone too far. If the country does not regulate them, these training institutions will only become more and more crazy.

A rising middle class has struggled in recent years spending millions buying homes and desired school districts and paying private tutors to keep their kids academically competitive, with some complaining that wealthier families had an unfair advantage.

As China marks 100 years since the founding of the Communist Party, General Secretary and President Xi Jinping is shifting focus back to its foundational party values, even calling for a redistribution of wealth to counter poverty. Some have labeled this as a new cultural revolution. Harking back to the 60s and 70s when then Leader Mao Zedong led a movement to purify the party as he put it, an obvious effort to reassert his control has led to brutal crackdowns on free thought, mass imprisonment and hundreds of 1000s of people were killed.


YANG: General Secretary Xi is careful not to mobilize the masses to rise clearly against the past structure has molded but at the same time, however many Chinese do feel like, actually, there are -- is resonates with the Cultural Revolution in certain respects.

CULVER: There are striking similarities. Last year, the government banning the use of foreign textbooks in most schools, and more recently limiting the role and influence our foreign teachers on some education platforms.

YANG: A lot of this is, really, about eliminating any potential risks to the system.

CULVER (on camera): And starting this new semester, Chinese students of all ages from primary to graduate schools will have to start learning from textbooks like these, the subject, Xi Jinping thought, reinforced by the many photos of this country's increasingly powerful leader.

(Voice-over): For the young family, there are positives.

YANG (through translations): I do feel the policy came in abruptly. But it seems like people accepted well.

CULVER: His kids turning to sports and physical activities, again, less phone time and fewer academic pressures in exchange for more family time. But beneath the easing of some daily pressures, a deeper indoctrination may be underway and keeping anything the party disapproves of, firmly in its place.


CULVER: Now, Jake, many of these policies that are easing the burdens on families are rooted in trying to encourage families to actually have more kids. And that may sound strange in a country where you go back just a few years to 2016. And they had the one child policy that was still in place. Well, now they're trying to have families have up to three children. Why, it's about continuing prosperity. Prosperity, in turn, brings social stability. And I'll give you one more look at this. Can you imagine a Joe Biden thought or a Donald Trump theory textbook that is mandatory in schools? It's exactly what's here.

TAPPER: David Culver in Shanghai, China. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

It will not rise again, a symbol of slavery comes down as the United States comes to a reckoning on race. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our National Lead, you are looking at what simultaneously is a footnote to the Civil War and a testament to the shifting attitudes in a modern multiracial United States of America and America were the memory of what happened to George Floyd and the determination that yes indeed Black Lives Matter proved ultimately more powerful than the legacy of a long dead Confederate General. As CNN's Joe Johns reports from the one-time Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, the nation's largest monument to infamous confederate traitor General Robert E. Lee came down today.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After 131 years on display, the city of Richmond Virginia says goodbye to a monument that's been a source of controversy for decades. This statue of Robert E Lee, the largest confederate statue that was still standing in the U.S. was erected in 1890 more than a generation after the Civil War, but today it came down. A heavy-duty crane lifted the 12-ton Confederate General and his horse from its pedestal, cut into huge pieces for storage at a secure location. For many in the crowd this day could have come sooner.

KABAKA MAROON, WATCHED STATUE REMOVAL: It's hatred, and I do not like hatred, period.

JOHNS: Getting to this point was a monumental battle. The controversy surrounding it was amplified by the Black Lives Matter protests last year. And while Confederate monuments in other parts of the U.S. came down, including in nearby Charlottesville, in Richmond, once the capital of the confederacy, it took all three branches of government speaking with the same voice to overcome legal obstacles to removal.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM, (D) VIRGINIA: Yes, that statute has been there for a long time. But it was wrong then. And it is wrong now.

JOHNS: The legislature passed a provision supporting the removal. And finally last week, the Virginia Supreme Court threw out a challenge from some residents in the district and the descendants of the families who donated the property for the monument.

MWIKALI GREEN, PARTICIPATED IN BLM PROTEST LAST YEAR: There's a lot of pain in this statue. You know, in the bottom half, especially now. There's a lot of words in it.

JOHNS: But today also renews conversations over whether removing confederate statues is an attempt to rewrite or even erase the United States troubled racial history. At the end of the day, the statue and its removal equally symbolic, the old Richmond coming down and the New Richmond ascendant.

GREEN: This is a very powerful place now it's transformed into a powerful place.


JOHNS: And the pedestal remains in place at least for now. Robert E. Lee is the last confederate statue to come down out here on Monument Avenue in Richmond. There were four others, the city's already taken those down. Jake.

TAPPER: Joe Johns, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Coming up, it's a flop that would make most soccer players jealous. The con man outsmarted by a Tesla. That's next.



TAPPER: In our tech league today, Tesla onboard cameras outsmarting would be scammer in Louisiana. Police say that Arthur Bates claimed a driver struck him in a busy parking lot leaving him with multiple injuries. Little did he know the Tesla's cameras were recording. Police say the tape actually shows Bates intentionally jumped behind the vehicle and staged the accident. He is now facing charges.

Our coverage continues now with Jim Acosta in for Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." See you tomorrow.