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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Any Moment: Biden Meets With U.K. Leader Amid Spat With France; Biden Defends Afghanistan Withdrawal In U.N. Address; Dems Try To Force Vote On Govt. Spending, Debt Ceiling Showdowns; Rep. Pramila Jayapal, (D-WA), Is Interviewed About Infrastructure Bill and Reconciliation Bill; Progressives, Moderates Divided Over Biden Agenda; J&J: Vaccine Booster Provides 94 Percent Protection Against COVID; Experts Warn Winter Could Bring "Twin-Demic" Of COVID & Flu; President Biden Tries To Rally World Leaders In Fight Against COVID; CNN Goes Inside Abandoned U.S. Air Base Now Under Taliban Control; Prime Minister Trudeau Claims Victory, Falls Short Of Majority Govt. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 21, 2021 - 17:00   ET



JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Of course, the big elephant in the room will be this situation, this diplomatic rift between the United States and Australia and France. And the United Kingdom, they did not get their French ambassador recalled back to Paris by the French president. But nonetheless, the British are very much part of this new trilateral alliance between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia in the Indo-Pacific.

We know that President Biden, he didn't raise this issue of France in his earlier meeting today with the Australian Prime Minister, and I expect it will be much the same here. But make no mistake that that will certainly be looming large over this. We know that President Biden has tried so far to talk about the importance of France's role in the Indo-Pacific. But there's no question that France has felt severely snubbed, they have called this a crisis of trust.

And as of yet, President Biden has not yet spoken with the French president. We know that President Biden requested a phone call with the French president, but as of last hour, the White House press secretary saying that that call is still being scheduled, the details still very much being finalized. Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Jeremy Diamond, thanks so much.

Let's discuss with my team. David Sanger from "New York Times," let me start with you. How much of this meeting between Biden and Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the U.K., do you think is focused on the U.S. and U.K. repairing relations with France? Or do you think they don't maybe actually care that much?

DAVID SANGER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It's not clear how much they care. They blame the Australians who they -- the Australians, of course, had to deal with France. And so, the American view and the British view was, it's for the Australians to go unwrap themselves from that.

Of course, the world doesn't work like that, Jake. You know, what they needed to do was come up with a plan to go basically come up with an alternative that would bring the French into it, or at least make up some of the economic damage. But more importantly, in the economic damage is making sure that they felt like they were part of the Alliance. Instead, you've got this huge breach that is threatening what is fundamentally a correct strategic move, which is to focus on China.

TAPPER: And Kylie, let me go to you, it was interesting to hear how much President Biden talked about unity today, especially given the situation with France. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We must work together with other partners, our partners toward a shared future.

I believe we must work together as never before.

Now, we must again come together to affirm the inherent humanity that unites us as much greater and the outward divisions or disagreements.


TAPPER: I can't imagine what Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, thought while listening to that. We should note, Biden has still not spoken with him.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. President Biden had a lot to say about strengthening alliances, hailing multilateralism, the need to do that in order to preserve world order and to preserve certain values that are valued by democracies. But I spoke with a senior French diplomat after that speech, and they said that this rift between France and the U.S. isn't going to be solved, isn't going to be cured by speeches and words, indicating there that President Macron wants a little bit more from President Biden than just this speech at the U.N. today.

TAPPER: And Gloria, it's interesting that President Biden talks so much about unity, because we should know it's not just this rift with the French over this deal.


TAPPER: A lot of American allies, especially NATO partners, were very upset at how the evacuation and withdrawal from Afghanistan, how it happened, not necessarily the fact that it happened, but the way it happened in which many of their own countrymen whether French or British or whatever, were, you know, scrambling to get out.

BORGER: Yes, I think it was a little awkward to say the least. I mean, you have a president who said, you know, these are our democratic values, we value these relationships, these are the ethics we abide by, we are democracies, we are better than autocracies, we are unified, we work together towards a common goal. And then you have Afghanistan. And then you have this argument with the French, an ally.

And so you can imagine the French sitting out there in particular, but others as well, saying, wait a minute, where was all this discussion with us before you decided to withdraw? Talk to us about -- you know, we were participants, we need to know what your intentions were. Why not? Why not do that? And aren't you a little hypocritical here?

I'm sure they're relieved he's not Donald Trump, honestly, because Donald Trump wanted, you know, to sort of say goodbye to NATO. But on the other hand, I think they expected more from Joe Biden.

TAPPER: And David, take a -- on the subject of Afghanistan --


TAPPER: -- take a listen to President Biden today defending the withdrawal from Afghanistan.


BIDEN: U.S. military power must be our tool of last resort, not our first. And it should not be used as an answer to every problem we see around the world.



TAPPER: I mean, if I were a NATO ally, I'd be thinking you guys are the ones that declared war in Afghanistan, we joined you.

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: We invoked Article V.

SANGER: That's right. On the other hand, the Europeans also won that. I mean, by the time the war came to an end, everybody wanted that --


SANGER: -- for the past seven or eight years. Every time that President Biden and his team are criticized for this, they go back to the original concept of why the United States seems to get out, because they know that's the unifying issue. But as you suggested before, the issue wasn't getting out, the issue was how they got out, right?

TAPPER: Right.

SANGER: And the chaos involved in it and leaving people behind and so forth. And odd way, the same thing is true in the submarine deal. I don't think that many people, some Europeans perhaps, would argue that you shouldn't be refocusing on Asia. Clearly, China is the considerable threat of the next 50, 100 or more years. The question is how he did this?

BORGER: Well, it's clumsy and chaotic, which is I think what the opposite of what Joe Biden was promising.

TAPPER: Right.

BORGER: We're not going to have chaos, we're not going to be clumsy, things are going to be well thought out and well planned, and we're going to bring you into the circle. And that didn't happen.

TAPPER: Yes. And in fact, Kylie, we should note, I mean, both Biden and Trump argued about putting American interests first. But Biden aides would say, the difference is that Biden believes in alliances. That's the main difference and a significant one. And here you have alliances frayed. I mean, the French never withdrew or recalled their ambassador from the United States during four years of Trump.

ATWOOD: And that is just why this is so problematic, right? You hear Biden administration officials sort of trying to downplay this as a non-issue. But the fact that the French went out of their way to compare what President Biden did here to the actions taken by former President Trump is significant. Those sorts of comparisons aren't just thrown around willy-nilly, that is a very low blow, but maybe a very deliberate one we should expect from the French here.

I also think, you know, that it's important to recognize that President Biden didn't talk a lot about China, even though he evoked the idea of China as a challenge to the United States and to democracies around the world. And it was a deliberate choice, right? Not to mention China by name, but to say very explicitly that the Biden ministration doesn't want a Cold War. And that is probably the reason that he didn't mention China by name, because that would have created the assumption that if you're calling out China, there is this Cold War that some say is already emerging, whether the Biden ministration wants to acknowledge it or not.

SANGER: It's absolutely right and Kylie's got it just right. In public, no one wants to use the Cold War terminology. In fact, what they will say is, look, this is different. The Cold War was a military competition with the Soviet Union, we had minimal economic interchange with them. With China, we've got a big economic interchange, a big technological interchange.

All that does, Jake, is make this form of Cold War more complex, harder to get into and harder to get out of, and in many ways more dangerous.

TAPPER: And Gloria, I don't know how much you think Biden was playing to a domestic audience, which necessarily --

BORGER: Always.

TAPPER: -- which doesn't necessarily care that the French are mad.

BORGER: No. TAPPER: Which doesn't -- which probably, generally speaking, is focused on what Biden wants to focus, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, not how the withdrawal happened.

BORGER: Well, yes, I think he is playing to a domestic audience always and you project strength and you talk about your values. And the thing that Biden always comes back to, and we hear this so much, is his insistence that democracies have to prove that they can deliver, because autocracies are out there and they're delivering and democracies have to do more.

And I think that plays to a domestic audience, look at what he's got on his plate here in Washington right now, he's got to deliver. He's got to deliver on infrastructure and all his economic programs. I mean, they're all hanging in the balance right now. And so it's all part of one piece, which is --


BORGER: -- I've got to deliver for you foreign policy, project strength, and also at home, I've got to win.

TAPPER: And when he talks about democracy versus autocracy, he's not just talking about China and Russia as the autocracies. He's also talking about what Donald Trump would do with the United States in Biden's view.

BORGER: Exactly.

TAPPER: Thanks one and all. Really appreciate it.

Breaking News, we just learned that the coroner has confirmed that the remains found in Wyoming are the remains of Gabby Petito who went missing while traveling with her fiance who is missing right now, too. The details right after this quick break, stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with some sad breaking news. The Teton County coroner in Wyoming confirmed moments ago that the remains found in that National Forest on Sunday are the remains of Gabby Petito. And the initial cause of death, the coroner says, is homicide.

CNN's Athena Jones joins us live.

Athena, what else are we hearing about this? What does the FBI have to say?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the FBI is who confirmed this information, Jake. We know that this autopsy began this morning. We expected to hear some results today. And now we have those results confirming this is in fact Gabby Petito who had been missing for weeks and the cause of death is homicide.