Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Abortion Rights Supporters Search for Defense; Defense Secretary Comments on Afghan Threats; Newsom Fights Recall Election. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired September 07, 2021 - 09:30   ET



ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Intimidate or cause people who might try to harass people who might be assisting with the procedure from thinking twice. That's the goal here. But all sides are supporters of abortion rights. They see no clear silver bullet to block this right away, but they are trying in all these different areas to do as much as they can to push back on this law.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Ariane de Vogue, appreciate the new reporting. Thanks for being with us this morning.

Also here to discuss, Areva Martin, civil rights attorney and CNN legal analyst.

Areva, let's just pick up there where Ariane left off, no clear silver bullet, as she said. We're seeing this action from Attorney General Garland.

But talk to me, practically speaking, what does that actually do?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it's going to be challenging, Erica. Ariane mentioned the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrance Act. This is a 1994 piece of legislation signed into law by Bill Clinton, and it was signed after an abortion doctor actually was assassinated, you know, simply because he was doing his job of performing abortions. And the law was really designed to prevent these kind of physical threats and acts of intimidation against both those seeking abortions as well as those providing abortions.

So the thought that the Department of Justice would use this 1994 act, it's called the Face Act, to literally file civil and potentially criminal actions against these what are now being called abortion vigilantes is what, you know, opponents of this law is hoping. And I think what has been made clear is there isn't any clear pathway to prevent this law from quelling and quashing and basically shutting down abortion clinics. We know that in Texas, over 80 or 90 percent of those clinics have ceased doing business, and this is creating a real issue in terms of getting back into court and challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 8.

HILL: That court challenge, which, you know, Ariane was also touching on, I know you and I have talked about it, sort of throwing the kitchen sink at this, trying to figure out what can be done. The fact that you have to actually get to court, right, so there has to be some sort of a lawsuit filed which would have to involve this law. I mean how -- just walk us through how difficult that is, really what that means, again, from a practical perspective.

MARTIN: Yes, Erica, it's really difficult from a practical perspective because for a lawsuit to be filed, there has to be an action taken. So someone has to say that the Uber driver or a nurse at one of these facilities has aided and abetted a woman in her efforts to seek an abortion after the six-week timeframe. But if the abortion clinics aren't operating, that means there is not going to be the ability for someone to walk into a clinic and seek to have a procedure. So without an effort to have the procedure and without the clinics operating to make that possible, then filing a lawsuit becomes really challenging.

And the really unfortunate part about this anti-reproductive health legislation is this really anti-woman legislation, is that other states -- there's reports now that other states are looking to Texas and are going to be using the Texas -- you know, this road map that Texas has provide as a way to actually restrict abortions in their own state. So even women who are thinking of traveling out of Texas for abortions may find themselves facing restrictions in neighboring states.

HILL: Is this -- you know, that provides a framework for other states, as you just laid out, when it comes to restricting access. Is this, though, a framework, you know, that could be used in other ways? Could it actually backfire on conservatives if other states look at this as a framework to go a after other constitutional rights?

MARTIN: Well, we certainly hope that it backfires, Erica, because what we do know is that it is contravening. The constitutional rights provided in Roe v. Wade, 50 years of precedent that provides women with choice over their reproductive health has pretty much been wiped out by this single paragraph ruling. So we hope that it emboldens other states to look at ways to make abortion and reproductive health services available to women. And we hope that it emboldens people in the midterm elections and upcoming elections to think seriously about the kinds of legislators that, you know, should be elected. Legislators that will understand the importance of protecting a woman's rights to choice.

Unfortunately, though, we are hearing reports that other states, Republican-led states, are looking at ways to either further restrict women's rights, including looking at, you know, things as simple as reproductive health in terms of, you know, contraceptives and ways to prevent women from even getting access to birth control and, again, other reproductive health services.

HILL: Areva Martin, really appreciate it, as always. Thank you.

MARTIN: Thanks, Erica.

HILL: Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he has received assurances from the Taliban that Americans with the correct documents can leave the country. [09:35:01]

So, can we believe them? Can you trust them? That's next.

And this Sunday be sure to join Jake Tapper as he asks the tough questions about America's longest war. What went wrong in Afghanistan? A new CNN special report this Sunday, 9:00 p.m.


HILL: This morning, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the Taliban have assured the U.S. that all Americans and Afghan citizens with the right travel documents will be allowed to leave the Mazar-i-Sharif Airport in Afghanistan.


Now, this comes after reports that several U.S. citizens and Afghan allies have been stuck at that airport for days waiting to leave.

Also new this morning, the U.S. Defense secretary weighing in on the security risk to the United States now that American troops have left Afghanistan. Retired General Lloyd Austin admitting it will be harder to identify potential terror threats moving forward.


LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, there's no question that it will be more difficult to identify and engage threats that emanate from the region, but we're committed to making sure that -- that threats are not allowed to develop.

There isn't a scrap of earth that we can't reach out and touch when we need to. We've demonstrated that time and time again. And, again, our job is to make sure we stay vigilant and continue to develop capabilities.


HILL: CNN's senior national security correspondent Alex Marquardt joining us now from the Pentagon.

So, Alex, what resources does the U.S. military still have when it comes to keeping an eye on the region?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no doubt that as Secretary Austin said there, Erica, that the U.S. still has remarkable resources all around the globe and in the region that they can reach out and touch any scrap of land pretty much anywhere in the world. That is not in question.

What is in question is really how efficient it is and how smart it is to not have assets in the country where there is a significant risk of counterterrorism -- of terrorism arising and the need for counter terrorist operations against those threats. What the Biden administration has been arguing is that without a

military presence in Afghanistan, they can still go after these terrorist targets with what they call over the horizon capabilities, that is to say assets coming from in the region, from outside Afghanistan, like drone strikes, which we've already seen twice recently against the group ISIS-K in Afghanistan.

So, Secretary Austin here is acknowledging what pretty much every expert is saying is that the -- the capabilities are being significantly degraded, but their hope is that they will still be able to -- their plan is that they will still be able to go after these terrorist targets in Afghanistan, even despite the fact that the U.S. won't be there, Erica.

HILL: Alex, stay with us.

I also want to bring in CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood, who's joining us from the State Department this morning.

Kylie, as we just heard, of course, from Secretary of State Blinken, hearing a little bit more about what is or is not happening at the airport in Mazar-i-Sharif. What more do we know this morning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the secretary of state said that the U.S. continues to be engaged with the Taliban on trying to get out these Americans who are still in the country, and also the Afghans who worked alongside the United States in the country.

But this, of course, comes after we have heard from the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who said that he, after having classified briefings, was told that Americans and Afghans, on these planes at that airport that you were just referencing, were actually being held hostage by the Taliban because the Taliban wants something in return. But the secretary of state said that according to the information that he has been shared, conversations that the U.S. continues to have with the Taliban, that those Americans are not being held hostage, but rather the ones who are getting out are the ones who have their proper documentation and there are some challenges with those who don't yet have their proper documents.

Listen to what he said.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have been assured again that all American citizens and Afghan citizens with valid travel documents will be allowed to leave. And, again, we intend to hold the Taliban to that. They've upheld that commitment in at least one instance in the last 24 hours with a family that was able to leave through an overland route. And we are not aware of anyone being held on an aircraft or any hostage-like situation in Mazar-i-Sharif.


ATWOOD: Now, over the weekend, we reported on a woman and her three children who were able to leave Afghanistan. This was an American woman from Texas. They got out through an overland route. They had to go through a tremendous amount of challenge going through Taliban checkpoints and the like. And this is one of the ways that the United States is working to get out the rest of the Americans who are still in the country right now.

But, Erica, this is a quickly evolving situation. So we'll keep watching what happens at the Kabul airport and, of course, at this airport where Congressman McCaul said that Americans were not being allowed to get out.

HILL: Yes, certainly a lot of interest in both of those.

And, Alex, I just want to bring you in here, too, on, you know, the story of Americans who made it out on an overland route. We know there's a GOP lawmaker who's disputing the State Department's claim that it was actually the State Department that facilitated the rescue. It's, frankly, a little bit confusing based on the conflicting stories that we're hearing there. What's the latest?

MARQUARDT: Well, this is a conflict and, therefore, there is a lot of fog of war, Erica.


But this all started because the State Department, on Monday, had claimed that they facilitated the evacuation of these four Americans that Kylie was just talking about. So it made it seem like it was their operation. Not so according to Republican lawmaker Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, who says that it was a group that he's been working with who managed to get this mother, whose name is Merriam (ph), and her three children from Amarillo, Texas, out of Afghanistan.

I spoke with a member of this group, Corey Mills (ph), who is a veteran, who is working with other veterans to get Afghans out of -- Americans out of Afghanistan. He said they worked feverishly around the clock for weeks to get this family first out of Kabul, where they failed to get on a flight, and then up to Mazar-i-Sharif, where they couldn't get on another flight. And then navigating this series of more than 20 Taliban checkpoints, they say. So he says it was their group that did the vast majority of this work. And it was only at the last moment that the State Department swooped in, tried to work with the Taliban to get this family through. Failed, he says, but then once they got across the border into a third country, which they are not naming for security reasons, then they -- then the U.S. embassy there finally provided consular services.

We heard a little bit more about this from Congressman Mullin on "NEW DAY" earlier today. Let's take a listen.


REP. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): We had her there for 24 hours before the State Department was even aware she was there. They didn't show up until a few hours after we had actually -- or before we got her across. And so for them to say they facilitated it is absolutely a lie. We had to go through over 20 checkpoint, which every one of those checkpoints you actually have to pay money to get through.


MARQUARDT: So these two sides are also disagreeing about how much the Taliban is willing to let people through these checkpoints. You just heard from Secretary Blinken saying that the Taliban has been letting people through with the proper documentation. Mullin and Mills say that it is much more complicated than that. That it is very difficult to get Americans through these Taliban checkpoints and out to freedom.


HILL: Alex Marquart, Kylie Atwood, thank you both. Appreciate it.

Well, we are now exactly one week away from the California recall election and one of the most recognizable candidates who wants to take the governor's job is speaking to CNN. Hear what Caitlyn Jenner had to say about the chances that Texas' -- the new, extreme abortion law in Texas, that it could make its way to California.



HILL: One week from today, California voters will decide whether to recall their governor. It's only the second gubernatorial recall election in the state's history. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is fighting to keep his job against a field of Republican challengers.

CNN national political reporter Dan Merica has been following this for us.

So, Dan, what is the latest now one week out?

DAN MERICA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, you're absolutely right, this is a turnout election for the governor. He's a Democrat in a state that is overwhelmingly Democratic, two to one voter advantage. And so for him it's less about convincing people who voted for him just a few years ago to do so again, it's about getting them out. I mean this is a summer election. This is an off year election. It's not in a typical month that elections are held as well. So that has been a struggle for the Democrats here. And they hope recent polling shows that they've overcome that.

But for Republicans, they argue that the anger at Newsom, the anger about COVID, the anger about the economy, the anger about drought is enough to overcome that registration advantage.

Now, Newsom is pushing back on that saying he's a popular governor and that if his voters turn out he will win. But he's also trying to nationalize this race. He's linking Republicans, like Larry Elder, his leading opponent, to Donald Trump, as well as to Republican policies like that abortion law in Texas and he's -- and that's creating a difficult situation for Republicans because they have to, at the same time, keep their voters intact, their base in tact by not attacking the law like that, but also not sounding too extreme for voters in California who may not be as right wing as voters in Texas.

Take a listen to how Caitlyn Jenner, one of the candidates running against Newsom, described this today this morning on "NEW DAY."


CAITLYN JENNER (R), CALIFORNIA SPECIAL ELECTION GOV. CANDIDATE: I am for a women's right to choose. I am also for a state having the ability to make their own laws. And so I support Texas in that decision. That's their decision. I'm OK with that. But as far as being a woman's right to choose, I don't see any changes in our laws in California in the future.


MERICA: It's worth noting, Jenner has been polling near the bottom of candidates running against Newsom. But Larry Elder, who, by all accounts, would likely become the next governor if Governor Newsom was recalled, if that were to happen, Larry Elder has said pretty similar things, that the California legislature isn't likely to pass anything at all similar to what Texas did, trying to kind of skirt the issue by putting the onus on the California legislature, which is obviously overwhelmingly Democrat.

Now, Newsom is going to continue to nationalize this race. Tomorrow he will campaign with Vice President Kamala Harris, former California senator, up in the Bay area where you've got to expect that they are going to continue to talk about and compare Elder and other Republicans to Donald Trump, a candidate who, it's worth noting, lost this state by about 30 points just less than a year ago.

HILL: Dan Merica, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.


HILL: President Biden is heading to New Jersey and New York today to tour the damage left by Hurricane Ida. So what do people on the ground now picking through the remnants of their homes in my cases want to hear from him? That's next.



HILL: Good Tuesday morning. I'm Erica Hill.

Moments ago, President Biden departing the White House. Here he is now about to arrive at Joint Base Andrews. He is headed, of course, to New York and New Jersey this morning. He's going to spend the next several hours in those states surveying some of the damage from the remnants of Ida. That deadly storm pummeled six northeast states, killing at least 52 people in the region after slamming Louisiana first, of course, as a category four hurricane.

Today there are new questions and concerns in Louisiana. At least seven nursing home residents there died after being evacuated to an overcrowded warehouse.


And all of this as a heat advisory has been issued for parts of the state today. Temperatures there expected to soar. Hundreds of thousands are still without power. We're going to get you caught up on that in