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The Lead with Jake Tapper

NYC Starts Vaccine Mandate As Schools Reopen For 1 Million Kids; New CNN Poll: Growing Support For Vaccine Requirements; Biden Pushes Infrastructure And Climate Agendas On First West Coast Trip; Dems Give Final Push To Keep Newsom In Office Hours Before Race Ends; Biden Admin To Resettle 60,000 Afghans Inside U.S. In Coming Weeks; White Nationalist Threat?; Tropical Storm Nicholas Hours Away From Texas Landfall; Lawmakers Ramp Up Oversight Of Biden's Afghan Withdrawal. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 13, 2021 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So if voluntary vaccines don't work on skeptics and mandates don't either, what will?

THE LEAD starts right now.

New CNN polling reveals a majority of Americans support the new COVID vaccine mandates, but could the new mandates force skeptical Americans further away from the vaccine.

And then, President Biden "goes west, young man" in hopes of boasting embattled California Governor Gavin Newsom hours the recall race ends.

Plus, bracing for violence, but hoping for the best. The fencing around the U.S. Capitol is about to go back up, days before a right- wing rally, as police today arrest an armed neo-Nazi blocks from the Capitol.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we begin today with our health lead. While President Biden's new COVID vaccine or testing mandate on businesses continue to face fierce opposition from some Republican governors, a new CNN poll shows that the majority of the American people support these mandates for workers, for students, and for everyday public life.

And now, we're learning that the Biden administration is expecting to make more announcements in the fight against the delta variant, as the death count keeps climbing up, now averaging 1,600 COVID deaths a day, 1,600 in the United States. And more than 100,000 hospital beds are currently filled with COVID patients nationwide.

Some good news? Well, we are seeing case numbers at the lowest point in three weeks.

In New York, today is the first day that you'll have to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants or gyms or entertainment venues.

And as CNN's Athena Jones reports, today is also the first day that all New York City students are welcomed back in the classroom since last year.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: This is the day we have been waiting for.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A pivotal day in New York City, as people of all ages face new requirements aimed at beating back COVID-19. And many of the city's municipal employees return to their workplaces.

BLASIO: You're going to remember in the history of this city, this day, September 13th, 2021, a day that was a game changer.

JONES: Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test now required at indoor restaurants, bars, gyms, and entertainment venues. With companies that don't enforce the rule facing fines.

Children under 12 too young to be vaccinated will have to mask up. Same goes for the nation's largest school district, where all students and teachers must be masked, as full-time in-person learning begins. And all public school employees must receive at least one dose of vaccine by September 27th.

Meanwhile, at least seven schools in Fulton County, Georgia, reverted to virtual learning today, due to a spike in COVID cases. With the CDC director warning of the delta variant --

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I would say dangerous is more transmissible, right? If it is more transmissible, we have more kids with disease, we have more kids with symptomatic disease and more kids ending up in the hospital.

JONES: Experts say widespread mandates could be key to ending the pandemic.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I think that if you get trusted public messengers who put aside political ideologies and convince people to get vaccinated -- the other way to do it is to have many, many more mandates.

JONES: One reason President Biden announced that companies with more than a hundred vaccines must require they be vaccinated or tested weekly.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: We've heard a lot of feedback from the Business Roundtable and others that this will help create save our workplaces.

JONES: But blowback was swift.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: The problem is that I'm trying to overcome resistance, but the president's actions in a mandate hardens the resistance.

JONES: And after too many maternity ward staffers at one Upstate New York hospital quit over vaccination requirements, a stunning step.

GERALD CAYER, CEO, LEWIS COUNTY HEALTH SYSTEM: We are unable to safely staff the service after September 24th. The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital.


JONES (on camera): And there are nearly a 100,000 people hospitalized with COVID nationwide. Intensive care units in several places are overwhelmed, even maxed out, like in Alabama. "The Washington Post" reporting that a man who was having a cardiac emergency died because he was turned away from 43 hospitals, none of which had an ICU bed available -- Jake.

TAPPER: Athena Jones, thank you so much.

A brand-new CNN poll in the politics lead gauges our support for mandatory vaccines in the U.S. right now.

I want to bring in Harry Enten. He's CNN's senior political writer and analyst.

So, Harry, this new poll shows that more Americans are in favor of requiring vaccines.


Break it down for us.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Sure. So, look, take a look right now across different specific actions that you might take. Attend school in person, attend a sporting event, work in a grocery store.

Look at that and compare those numbers to April. You see increases across the board. Now, 55 percent attend school in person, supported vaccine mandates. Same for attending a sports event. Work in person, 54 percent, again a majority.

Even shopping in a grocery store, where you only have a minority, look at that increase. A 15-point increase from April. So, on these specific things you do see majorities on most. But broad it out to the general idea of a vaccine mandate and here what we see is far less agreement.

Look at this, overall, acceptable to increase vaccinations of vaccine mandate for everyday activities outside the home. Only 51 percent say it's acceptable. Compared to 49 percent, well within the margin of error, unacceptable infringement on rights.

And look at the partisan break between those two. They're basically mirror images of each other with Democrats very much in favor, and I think when you saw Governor Asa Hutchison of Arkansas speaking that Republicans are against it, you really see it on this question.

TAPPER: Yeah, he said it hardens opposition. It hardens skepticism. The poll also asked about children wearing masks in schools. There's been a lot of debate about this. What are the results of that?

ENTEN: Clearly in favor. That's what we see. We see Americans are clearly in favor of that, a clear majority, 63 percent. Both Democrats and independents are both in favor. Republicans are not at just 33 percent.

But, hey, if you can get 33 percent of Republicans to go along with 93 percent of Democrats on anything, that's pretty impressive. And that's where we see a lot of folks in favor of masks being required for kids in classrooms.

TAPPER: And, Harry, this poll looked as a post-pandemic world and asked if mitigation efforts should keep going once COVID cases go down. How did people respond to that?

ENTEN: They agree, we should have different things going forward. If there's one thing the pandemic has done, it's not just change things for now, it's change things going forward. You can see the list on your screen right here. Staying home if you're symptomatic. People mask on mass transit, schools offering remote learning, or perhaps my favorite, and one of your producers as well -- movies debuting in theaters and streaming at the same time, 81 percent!

I really like that. I like the idea that I can stay home and don't necessarily have to go to a movie theater and spend $15 to $16 as you have to do in New York in order to watch a movie on its first run.

TAPPER: That's a sloth. That has nothing to do with health, Harry. That's, that's --

ENTEN: Maybe! You know, I'm a little bit lazy. I like staying at home, drinking my diet A&W cream soda and enjoying a good movie on my couch.

TAPPER: All right. That's a nice side benefit of this. Harry Enten, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

ENTEN: Thank you, sir.

TAPPER: Let's discuss all this with Dr. Ashish Jha. He's the dean of Brown University School of Public Health.

Dr. Jha, good to see you, as always.

We saw that most Americans are in favor of vaccine mandates for work and the overwhelming majority say the pandemic is not over and they're still taking extra precautions every day.

So, what are your takeaways from these numbers?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yeah, Jake, thanks for having me back. Well, my takeaway is while everyone agrees the pandemic is not over,

we all want it to be over. People are ready to put this pandemic behind them.

And the fastest way to do that, the most effective way of doing that is getting most Americans vaccinated. And so, policies that really push vaccinations forward, I think, are popular for that reason.

TAPPER: Dr. Scott Gottlieb, he's the former commissioner of the FDA. He's on the board for Pfizer, I think, also. He said Sunday he believes President Biden's new vaccine requirements ultimately might discourage some skeptics from getting vaccinated. Take a listen.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: In the near-term, a lot of businesses that might have mandated vaccines are now going to sit on their hands and say, I'm going to wait for OSHA to tell me just how to do it and give me more political cover. So, in the near-term, it can actually discourage some vaccination.


TAPPER: Do you agree?

JHA: You know, I have enormous respect for Dr. Gottlieb. I think the experience so far has been that when people have put in mandates, it has worked. That 98, 99 percent of employees get vaccinated. Companies that sit on their hands and choose not to are just creating an unsafe work environment.

So I don't know how much of an impact it's going to have in the negative. I do think it's going to provide political cover for companies that want to do a vaccine mandate, but are struggling to figure out how to do it.

TAPPER: So Dr. Fauci, President Biden's chief medical adviser was asked if he would support vaccine mandates for airline travel. That has not been instituted yet.

Here's what Fauci had to say.


FAUCI: I would support that. If you want to get on a plane and travel with other people, that you should be vaccinated.


TAPPER: It's an easier call constitutionally, since the president clearly does have powers when it comes to interstate commerce, that are less debatable than other steps he's talking about. Do you think it's inevitable, at this point, that airlines will require a COVID vaccine?

JHA: I do. I do. I think that the reason that the White House, I suspect, didn't do it is because we don't think there's a ton of spread happening on airplanes.


That said, Jake, you know, I would feel more comfortable flying if I knew everybody around me was vaccinated.

And I think over the upcoming months, more and more airlines are going to require either vaccinations or a negative test. And I suspect the administration is going to push them towards that direction.

TAPPER: We're also coming up on the September 20th start date for the Biden administration's booster shot rollout. Not without controversy. There are two departing leaders of the FDA. They were among a panel of international scientists who say that COVID vaccines do not currently show a need for boosting.

What do you think?

JHA: Yeah. I read that editorial in "The Lancet". I thought it was a little bit odd. It's certainly at odds with the data that I am seeing coming out of Israel and other places that suggest that for high-risk individuals, elderly people, frail individuals, immunocompromised and chronically ill people, boosters clearly are going end to up being an important part.

It's not just Israel. Germany is doing. The U.K. is doing it, other places, as well.

The big question right now is what about young, healthy people? There, I think the science is far less settled. But for high-risk people, absolutely, I think boosters are going to be necessary.

TAPPER: And finally, Dr. Jha, even though COVID cases are rising, we're starting to see case numbers fall. We're seeing deaths go up, but case numbers are falling. Is that a good sign, do you think? Are we starting to get on the other side of the delta variant?

JHA: Yeah, it's a great question. So it is -- the case numbers are starting to fall, down about 10 percent from its peak, thank goodness. You know, deaths will always lag a few weeks. I'm hoping that this is the beginning of a longer trend, but this is really about what we do next.

If we stay on with indoor masking, if we ramp up testing, get more people vaccinated, the delta variant can be put behind us, but not if we sort of let everything go and get complacent.

TAPPER: Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, hours left in the California recall race and now, President Biden is hoping to boost Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom and some of the president's own agenda items at the same time.

Plus, the massive effort now underway to resettle some 60,000 Afghan refugees inside the United States and it is predictably not easy to do. We'll take you inside this delicate process. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead now, President Biden today making his first West Coast trip as president, with stops in Idaho and California today, Colorado tomorrow. The president using his trip to push his infrastructure and climate change agendas and to give one final push in support of his fellow Democrat, California Governor Gavin Newsom, one day before the recall.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond joins me now from Boise.

And, Jeremy, interesting choice to push climate change in ruby Red Idaho.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about it, Jake. This is a state that president Biden lost by 30 points back in the 2020 election. But when you think about it, and last week, President Biden has visited red and blue states affected by extreme weather events, which experts say are being made worse and more frequent by the threat of climate change. That is why you saw President Biden today arguing that climate change and combating it shouldn't be a Republican or a Democratic issue, instead saying that it's an American problem.

And he talked about what his administration has done so far to combat those wildfires in the region. Twenty-two of the 81 active large fires are here in the state of Idaho, but the president also talked about what his administration wants to do going forward. And a lot of that has to do with that bipartisan infrastructure bill, which both of these state's Republican senators actually supported and the president talked it up while standing alongside the Republican governor of the state of Idaho.

Now, the president is also looking to push that budget reconciliation plan that is moving its way through both chambers of commerce. That is something that we expect President Biden to talk about tomorrow, when he's in Denver, Colorado, talking about the other climate-related proposals, included in that, including tax incentives, for example, for clean energy.

As for today, the president is headed to the state of California. He's expected to survey the damage of wildfires in and around the Sacramento area, and of course he's got that campaign event with Governor Gavin Newsom -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeremy Diamond in Boise, Idaho, thanks so much.

Now the non-policy politics, Biden holding an event tonight with California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, who is hours away from a recall election, where his job and his political future hang in the balance. And as CNN's Kyung Lah reports for us now, the Democratic Party in

California is pulling out as many big names as they can to push their voters to turn out to try to save Newsom.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Early ballots in California, preparing to be counted when polls close across the state tomorrow night, with just hours left to vote, President Joe Biden is out west, rallying Democrats to vote "No" in the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: Vote no, no, no, no.

LAH: Newsom needs a simple majority to stay on the job. He's hit rally after rally, up and down the state, telling Democrats the election is not just about California, but the national Democratic agenda.

NEWSOM: The contrast and the stakes could not be higher. This election is a matter of life and death. Public health is on the ballot.

LAH: Policies on masks and vaccines that Democratic voters could fear could roll back if Newsom is recalled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you have another candidate who's very similar to what we had four years ago, that's not what we want here in California.

LARRY ELDER (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama's done commercial for him. Joe Biden --


ELDER: I was called the black face of white supremacy.

LAH: That candidate is Republican Larry Elder. He's among 46 names of challengers on the second part of the ballot.

ELDER: They're trying to federalize this election when this is about California.

LAH: In these final hours of campaigning, Elder is pulling a page from the Trump playbook, questioning the election results before the votes are even counted.

ELDER: We're going to file lawsuits in a timely fashion. What I believe is that no matter what they do, and I believe that there might very well be shenanigans, as there were in the 2020 election.

NEWSOM: Don't think for a second this recall lives in isolation. His closing argument is I will file a lawsuit because of the voter irregularities in this race, with no evidence whatsoever. It's act two of the big lie. That's what we're up against, Democrats.


LAH (on camera): Now, it's not just Elder throwing around these baseless claims of fraud, of election fraud. Donald Trump issued a statement today, also saying and questioning the validity of mail-in ballots and throwing around these accusations of election fraud. A reminder, Jake, not a single ballot has been counted yet. That doesn't start until after the polls close tomorrow night, further proof in these final hours that what's happening here in California is indeed a proxy war -- Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah, I mean, no evidence of any fraud, and yet they're talking about fraud. What to expect from a pig but a grunt, I suppose.

Kyung, is what you're seeing out there more Biden boosting Newsom, or is it Newsom trying to boost Biden's progressive agenda?

LAH: That answer would be very different, just a few weeks ago. Certainly, it was the governor then who really needed Joe Biden. This has really become a healthy marriage of sorts, because now what the president potentially stands to gain is a governor with the wind at his back. We are hearing increasingly, very positive vibes from the governor's office, feeling very confident about what's going to happen tomorrow, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kyung Lah, thanks. I will see you tomorrow night.

And tomorrow night, you can join us for CNN's special coverage of the California governor recall election. It starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Pacific.

Coming up, a massive effort now underway to resettle tens of thousands of Afghan refugees. While back in Afghanistan, the Taliban are reverting to form and cracking down. We're going to go live to Kabul next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, right now, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is testifying on America's largest war and the massive interagency effort to resettle around 60,000 Afghans in the United States.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: They've met enormous need. They've coordinated food, water, sanitation for thousands, tens of thousands of people. They're arranging medical care, including the delivery of babies. They're reuniting families who are separated and caring for unaccompanied minors.

(END VIDE CLIP) TAPPER: CNN's Oren Liebermann has some details from the Pentagon for us now on some hiccups in the effort, including several cases of measles among Afghan refugees at U.S. military bases, grounding refugee flights for at least a week.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ever since the first flights of evacuees landed at Dulles International Airport in early August, the number of Afghans coming to the United States has soared. The U.S. anticipates the arrival of more than 60,000 U.S. refugees by the end of the month.

Already, the military has built what one official described as small cities on eight bases. Those bases now hold 53,000 at-risk Afghans.

Ft. Bliss in Texas was the first to grant media access. Here, there's housing for more than 10,000 Afghans. They'll get COVID vaccines, medical screen welcome and the beginning of a new life.

At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, the Afghans have broken up their village into councils. The leaders of these councils meet with base officials on Afghan society within a U.S. military facility.

Already two babies were born on different bases, some of the first new Americans from the Afghan evacuation. Some Afghans who were far along in their visa application left the bases within days, but that number one U.S. official said, was not large.

Many may be here much longer, months, even, as they work through a complex visa process. At Dulles Airport, officials discovered three confirmed cases of measles among at risk Afghans. Another case was confirmed at Ft. Pickett in Virginia, and a fifth at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

REP. RON KIND (D-WI): There are no 100 percent guarantees with any of this, but I am comfortable with the extreme vetting process that we were briefed on today -- the multi-layered, the biometric, all the background checks.

LIEBERMANN: The discovery of the highly contagious disease prompted the military to pause the flights of Afghan evacuees from Europe to the United States for at least seven days.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We want the people who work on these bases and the families who live there to know how seriously we're taking it.

LIEBERMANN: One homeland security official said this is likely one of the most important missions they'll ever work on, as the U.S. tries to draw a better future for tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees.


LIEBERMAN (on camera): Secretary of State Antony Blinken was grilled on the security screening and the medical screening of Afghan evacuees before they entered the country. To help speed that screening, DHS has added some 400 employees overseas to help move that screening along. But make no mistake, this is a process that will take time. It's unclear how long these Afghans will be on U.S. military bases, but the military says it's ready to house them as long as is needed.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon -- thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Back in Afghanistan, a country on the verge of a complete collapse, according to the United Nations, food is running out. The Taliban are reverting to form, beating journalists, jailing protesters, barring some girls from school, beating women in the streets.

Let's get right to CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, who's in Kabul for us.

Nic, a senior Pentagon official told Reuters that women should not be allowed to work alongside men. Other Taliban officials have said differently, that women and girls can still work and still go to school under their conditions. What's the reality on the ground?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The reality is that the Taliban have really yet to take strong control and take real direction on how they're going to run the country.

We know what they're saying on education. That is going to be segregated. Girls can still go to school, but there will be separate or divided classrooms. Women who worked in government offices have been told to stay at home and wait until the proper conditions have been made.

If you go back 20-odd years, when the Taliban were less than power, that pause on women going to work in government offices lasted five years. It's not clear, really, if the Taliban are actually going to implement some of those old policies. Are they really going to keep women sitting at home?

And part of the reason that the Taliban haven't made progress on these issues seems to be divisions that we're hearing here and what you have just explained, divisions within the Taliban about how to run the country.

To that point, Mullah Baradar, the deputy prime minister, the man who negotiated with the United States, essentially allowing the Taliban to come back to power, issued an audio recording and a written statement saying that he hadn't been killed or injured in a dispute in a shoot- out within the Taliban.

The fact that he didn't appear on TV to say that has a lot of people here in Kabul worrying that there actually is a serious dispute going on, and he may be injured. So I think these are the underlying reasons that these issues haven't been resolved and they're not clear yet, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Nick, the United Nations has pledged more than a billion dollars in aid for Afghanistan.

Is there any guarantee that that aid will reach the Afghans who need it, given the degree of corruption in that country?

ROBERTSON: Yes, not clear. It's not clear at all.

The Taliban are saying, yes, they will guarantee that access. The U.N. is saying that there has to be an environment, a safe, secure environment, where humanitarian aid officials can get out to the sort of -- and oversee these aid programs across the country.

The Taliban don't fully control and have security in all areas. They certainly don't have the institutions and the infrastructure built to sort of manage the management of getting aid all across the country. But it's a desperate situation; 90 percent of the people here live on less than $2 a day. The U.N. says close to half the population, 18 million, depend on humanitarian aid; 40 percent of the GDP of the country under the last government came from remissions of aid to the country.

So it is a difficult situation. I think the international community and the United States is offering $64 million worth of medical aid to come in through U.N. organizations and other NGOs, not to go directly to the Taliban.

It's going to be fraught. I mean, let's be really clear about that. It's going to be fraught. The international community wants to do it because the need is great. But it's far from clear that -- again, it's one of these things here, Jake, it has to be said it's just far from clear how it's actually going to be managed.

This is a country that's going through a huge, huge, monumental change right now.

TAPPER: CNN's Nic Robertson in Kabul, Afghanistan, thank you. Stay safe, my friend.

Coming up: a man with a machete and a bayonet. arrested today outside the Democratic headquarters in D.C. in a truck that had white supremacist and Nazi symbols inside.

The details and the fears of new violence at the Capitol later this week, that's next.



TAPPER: In our national lead: While marking the 20th anniversary of September 11, former President George W. Bush, speaking at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, warned that domestic extremists at home pose a threat to this nation perhaps as much as foreign terrorists do.

He alluded to the January 6 attack on the Capitol. And, right now, D.C. is preparing for a rally related to that attempted insurrection. The U.S. Capitol Police chief briefed congressional leaders today on Saturday's right-wing rally in D.C., which is in support of those arrested for their actions on January 6.

It's a rally the law enforcement officials are warning could very well turn violent. There is certainly concern.

CNN's Melanie Zanona joins me now from Capitol Hill.

And, Melanie, what did we learn from this Capitol Police briefing about their plans for Saturday?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Jake, we are starting to get a very clear picture of exactly how the Capitol Police are preparing for the September 18 rally and just how seriously they're taking the threat.

Earlier today, the Capitol Police chief told us that the temporary fencing will go back up around the Capitol later this week and come back down a few days after, assuming everything goes well.

The Capitol Police also issued an emergency declaration, which will allow them to deputize outside law enforcement officials to help with response efforts that day, if needed, although no mention of the National Guard, calling them up.

And, finally, the Capitol Police have been holding regular planning meetings, as well as hosting security briefings for officers and lawmakers. And it's worth noting that this level of transparency and communication is a stark contrast from January 6, when there was a serious lack in intelligence sharing.


And that was actually cited as one of the reasons for the security failures that day. Even Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the briefing said it seems like the planning this time around is much better, although she also noted she doesn't have much to go off of, since congressional leaders did not perceive a similar briefing out of January 6.

TAPPER: All right, so that's the planning by law enforcement. What about the planning by the protesters?

They don't have President Trump proclaiming that this date is the one to come to Washington, et cetera, as they did for January 6. Is this protest or whatever it ends up being expected to be similar in scale to what we saw January 6?

ZANONA: Well, it's probably going to be smaller in scale for a few reasons.

Number one, the crowd size estimate is somewhere in the hundreds right now. There are no high-profile speakers that we're aware of, and it's also taking place on a Saturday, when the House is in recess. But that being said, the Capitol Police confirmed our reporting from last week that there is some concerning online chatter surrounding this event. They are clearly bracing for potential violence and unrest, and not to

mention the Capitol Police just announced today that last night they arrested a California man who was near the DNC in his truck, had multiple illegal knives, and also had white supremacy images on his truck.

So, even though we don't know whether he was planning to attend to the September 18 rally, it is a reminder of the type of very real threats facing Capitol Hill -- Jake.

TAPPER: Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill, thank you so much for that. Appreciate it.

Joining us now, the former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and professor at Harvard's Kennedy School, Juliette Kayyem, joins us now.

Good to see you, Juliette.


TAPPER: So, let me ask you.

So, the Capitol Police arrested this man early, early this morning outside the DNC headquarters.


TAPPER: He was armed with a bayonet, with a machete. His car had at least swastikas drawn inside the door. You see one right there. He was speaking about white supremacist ideologies, if it can be called an ideology.

It's unclear if he was attending -- if he was planning on attending the rally Saturday. But, either way, it doesn't -- it kind of almost doesn't even matter, because it's all really part of the same extremist right-wing ideology that's been uncorked, and, in some ways, mainstreamed by the former president.

KAYYEM: The stew. It's the hate stew.

And so the idea that you're going to separate anti-Semitism from racism, from Islamophobia, it's all part of the same. And it was nurtured for years and years from the president, as we know, as we saw. It was done sort of indirectly at first, and then we saw it done much more directly for the protest or the insurrection January 6.

And now we're coming up to Saturday. So, first of all, it only takes one guy, right? So this could have been very damaging. We don't know how many people are going to show up on Saturday. And one of the reasons why you're seeing the Capitol Police come out so publicly so strongly is, one, they can. They're not being stopped by any political entity.

And I think they are putting Republicans who nurture this stuff on notice, right? In other words, they're coming out publicly and saying, we know this is a threat. If you nurture it, if you embrace it, if you show up, it's on you, because the Capitol Police are doing everything they can at this stage, including putting up fencing again.

TAPPER: Yes, don't forget, a few weeks ago, there was another right- wing extremist with a -- who allegedly had bomb-making materials. He was arrested.


TAPPER: And Republican Congressman Mo Brooks issued basically a statement of, like, I disagree with his methods, but I understand why people are being driven to this kind of statement, which is nuts.

And no major Republican decried it.

KAYYEM: Right.

And in the lead story, in the political story before this one, you mentioned that the president is already undermining the California recall vote by saying it's fraudulent with mail-in. That's part of the same narrative, right, that things are being taken away from these people, that the voting is not accurate.

Remember, Saturday's rally is not about Trump being president. It is about the fact that the people who are arrested and in jail at January 6 insurrection are freedom fighters. That's...

TAPPER: Right, who committed -- the people who committed crimes.

KAYYEM: Right. Exactly.

TAPPER: So let me -- you and I were recovering the 9/11 commemoration on Saturday in Lower Manhattan.


TAPPER: And it was pretty remarkable. You and I both listened to former President George W. Bush, who very directly talked about both foreign Islamist terrorists and domestic extremists and how they both pose a threat.

Let's run a little bit of that excerpt.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home.

But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. And it is our continuing duty to confront them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: I mean, he's drawing a direct line, not only between al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists and domestic extremists, including the January 6 insurrectionists, but how the first threat was not listened to and the second one needs to be paid attention to.


KAYYEM: Right. That's exactly -- we talked about this connective tissue, that bush of all people was the one to raise it. No one else had raised January 6th, until the former President Bush, the connective tissue between 9/11 and January 6th of the hate. And in some ways the hate that was unleashed after September 11th, the xenophobia, the Islamophobia, later, the anti-Semitism that became part of unfortunately some of the extreme reactions to the attacks on September 11th.

But like you, I also think that former President Bush was warning us that he underestimated the al Qaeda threat on September 10th and we should not underestimate this threat, as the former president, Donald Trump already starts to try to undermine the recall vote in California.

TAPPER: Yeah, and not surprisingly, even though former President Bush didn't mention President Trump, he took it personally.

KAYYEM: You must be talking about me, right?

TAPPER: Yeah, and we'll talk about that in a little bit. Thank you, Juliette Kayyem. Thank you so much.

A major tropical storm is hurdling towards the Gulf Coast right now, right after Hurricane Ida devastated so many parts of the region. The fears of more flooding with almost 2 feet of rain predicted.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you. A brand-new forecast for tropical storm Nicholas just came out. It may reach hurricane strength in the new few hours.

Let's go to meteorologist Tom Sater.

The storm is on track to hit the Texas coast before crossing Louisiana, is that right?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. Yeah, don't take this one lightly, Jake. I mean, nothing has been typical with these storms this year or any year. I mean, we're at the 14th named storm of the year, on average, we wouldn't hit until November 18th. But nothing's been average in the last several years, and this is extraordinary, as well.

Remember when Ida moved into the New England area? The Weather Prediction Center issued a very rare level four out of four for excessive rainfall and falling. Only 4 percent of the year -- days in the year have this alert. But they're responsible for 40 percent of the fatalities.

So, this is important. Do not pay attention that it's just a tropical storm. Sure, it could become a hurricane. The waters are like 87, 88 degrees here, and it's moving at a slow pace, and that's the problem. We expect this to really put on the brakes. Much like Hurricane Harvey did a few years ago, and we remember those pictures.

We do have a hurricane watch in pink, but again, it doesn't matter. You're not going to know the difference between a 65-mile-per-hour storm or a 75. We do have an issue with some surge. Sure, there's an area here of 3 to 5 feet. But this is all about the excessive rainfall and the rates that we may see. Urban flooding, it's going to be a problem. Remember the images that we had in Pennsylvania, in New Jersey, in areas of New York. Submerged cars, water rescues, 911 calls to get evacuations from home.

Sure, some of the coastal areas can handle a good 6 to 12 inches, but you get in the cities and the communities with the concrete and the steel, and that includes Houston. Houston area, especially areas to the east, we're going to see the possibility of 8 to 16 inches. Some areas will see 20 or more.

And that is a big problem. Corpus Christi has already had their heavier amounts earlier today. It looks like they're on the backside of this. But as the storm system moves up, it's going to spread to the east, and areas we do not want it. We have over 12 million now that are under flash flood watches and that includes areas that were hit by Laura and Lake Charles, Louisiana, and, of course, Ida.

They could have flooding from the storm system, as well. We've got exposed homes and power that is still out. This storm means business. It will take a couple of days to move through this region, but it's all about the massive amounts of rainfall. I can't believe we're even saying, there could be over 2 inches with a tropical storm.

This could be a record breaker. Do not pay attention to the status. Nicholas means business with this one.

TAPPER: All right. Tom Sater, good warning there. Thank you so much.

Coming up next, in the hot seat. Secretary of State Antony Blinken facing members of Congress, putting blame on the previous administration for the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, a Trump insider revealing how First Lady Melania Trump reacted to the insurrection. The damning text messages from the former first lady. That's ahead.

Plus, you know that mystery involving that powerful South Carolina family, murders, a shooting, millions of dollars allegedly stolen? We've got a deep dive into that wild story and what might have happened. That's ahead.

First, however, leading this hour, Secretary of State Antony Blinken right now facing tough questions on Capitol Hill in the wake of the chaotic and deadly U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan just weeks ago. Secretary Blinken defending the way the evacuation was carried out, saying the U.S. did extensive preplanning for the drawdown and saying ultimately, the U.S. evacuated almost all American citizens in the country. Though at least about 100 American citizens still remain in Afghanistan who want to get out, according to Blinken, to say nothing of Afghans and legal permanent residents.

As CNN's Jessica Dean reports for us, both Republicans and Democrats alike got heated in their demand for answers from the secretary.


REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): This was an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions. I never thought in my lifetime that I would see an unconditional surrender to the Taliban.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The House Foreign Affairs Committee questioning Secretary of State Antony Blinken for the first time since the United States pulled out of Afghanistan and 13 American service members died in an attack outside of Kabul's airport.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: The Taliban made abundantly clear in many public statements, private statements, to us, to others around the world that it was going to hold us to the deadline to the previous administration negotiated in terms of withdrawing the remaining American forces.