Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Taliban Announce New "Caretaker" Government; 400K People In Louisiana Without Power In Stifling Heat; TX Governor Signs Controversial Election Bill Into Law; Russia Space Chief: Our Millionaires Invest In Yachts, Not Spaceships. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 07, 2021 - 13:30   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: We've got breaking news out of Afghanistan where the Taliban are unveiling their new caretaker government.

The announcement comes after the militant group took control of the country's last holdout province in recent days and just a week after the final withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

CNN's Nic Robertson is in Islamabad, and Alex Marquardt is at the Pentagon.

Nic, this new government is dominated by Taliban veterans. This isn't the inclusive government the Taliban promised, is it? And what does a caretaker government even mean?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Look, the headline here, Ana, I think, has to be the Taliban government is clearly sending a message to the international community. It's either inclusive, nor is it meeting in any way the expectations of the international community.

Sir Roger Dean Haqqani, with a $5 million bounty on his head with connections to terrorism, has been made the interior minister. The interior minister is the key to any government to deal with counterterror issues.

They put a guy with a $5 million bounty on his head in charge of the role of connecting with the United States on terrorism.

Remember, the Taliban promised to keep an eye on al Qaeda and prevent them from starting attacks from their soil on the United States.

So what does this government look like? The prime minister is a religious conservative who has governed Kandahar. He has a reputation for hanging adulterers, the people who commit adultery.

The main minister, the defense minister is the son of the original founder of the Taliban. A real strong military commander.

The deputy prime minister was the one who was negotiating with the United States in Doha.

This is a tough team sending a tough message to the international community. It will send chills through the moderate parts of Afghanistan society.

CABRERA: What does this mean for the U.S.? Alex, today the U.S. said formal recognition of the Taliban is still a long way off. They're watching the Taliban's behavior. What is the White House looking for, watching?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. President Biden himself last night telling reporters it's a long way off. The White House today saying that there's no rush to recognition.

The Biden administration has repeatedly said that this is not about what the Taliban says but what about what they do.

In the immediate term that means a number of things. That means getting Americans, other foreign nationals and Afghans at risk out of Afghanistan, which the Taliban has given assurances they'll allow to happen.

It means getting humanitarian aid into Afghanistan. It means treating women and girls in a way that the U.S. finds appropriate.

And Secretary Blinken also raised another one last week. The safe return of Mark Frerichs (ph), who is a U.S. citizen believed to be held by the Haqqani network. Several of whose senior members are now in this Taliban government. So a lot remains to be seen.

Ana, we heard from Secretary Blinken earlier today saying the Taliban does appear to be standing by its assurances of allowing Americans out. He pointed to the evacuation of four Americans, a family, a mother and three children announced yesterday.

So the U.S. continues to coordinate and speak with the Taliban, including on security issues. But a lot remains to be seen before there's any sort of recognition of this Taliban government.

CABRERA: Alex Marquardt and Nic Robertson, thank you both.

Eight months after the insurrection at the capitol, officials are bracing for more right-wing violence at the capitol at an upcoming rally in support of those charged. The rally is set for September 18th.

Last night, the former acting FBI director had some advice for avoiding a repeat of January 6th.


ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: I think they should take it very seriously. In fact, they should take it more seriously than they took the same sort of intelligence that they likely saw on January 5th. I think there's a few factors here that maybe are leaning in their

favor this time. If you think about it, January 6th was a failure primarily because you had a massive group of people and a complete failure of preparation.


In this case, it looks likely that they'll get a somewhat smaller crowd with things like the proud boys telling some of their members not to come. You don't have been a sitting president actively fanning the flames.


CABRERA: CNN previously reported the D.C. Metropolitan Police will be fully activated for the event, organized by a former Trump campaign staffer.

You know how frustrated it is to lose power for a few hours? How about more than a week? That's life for more than 400,000 people in Louisiana right now.



CABRERA: Right now more than 400,000 people in Louisiana have no power more than a week after Ida's hit.

But I want to Martin Savidge in New Orleans where there's a new threat in this moment, flash flooding.

What's happening, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, we go from extreme heat to powerful thunderstorms roaming across the storm area. We're hearing the thunder in the background.

The problem is the city of New Orleans is in no shape to receive it. Most of the drainage areas are plugged with all the debris from the storm.

There's street flooding taking place and not to mention if your home was damaged, you've got a lot of damage pouring in.

Another concern that is growing in intensity in the state is what happened to senior citizens in Louisiana in the days after Hurricane Ida coming ashore.

First and foremost, in Independence, Louisiana, there was a consortium of seven nursing homes that moved about 840 seniors to what they thought would be a safer place up there to a warehouse.

Unfortunately, that area of Louisiana suffered heavily in the storms, and the warehouse is not a nursing home.

After a couple days, conditions inside according to witnesses deteriorated greatly. We know seven people have died as a result.

They were sleeping on the floor. There was no COVID precautions. No changing of patients that needed to be changed and they were saying bathrooms were basically a five-gallon bucket.

The state tried to intervene on Tuesday. They were turned away saying this is private property. The residents have been relocated.

And in New Orleans, outside the building where I'm standing, two senior citizens were found. A total of five others have been recovered.

And that's as a result of investigations that were done of apartment buildings. They're not nursing homes. These were apartment buildings where the city knew there were a lot of elderly living.

When they began checking on the welfare of them after the storm, they found terrible conditions. Of course, no power. No air-conditioning.

Many seniors trapped up on the upper floors because the elevators didn't operate. It was a tragedy after the initial tragedy of the storm -- Ana?

CABRERA: And still horrible conditions for so many people who don't have power and, as we've discussed, the weather is not letting up. It's like no rest for the weary.

Martin Savidge, thank you for your update.

Now to Texas where a highly controversial elections bill is now the law. Governor Greg Abbott signed the legislation that adds new restrictions and even criminal penalties to the voting process.

Supporters say it's needed to ensure election integrity. But critics argue its main goal is to suppress Democratic votes.

CNN's senior national correspondent, Ed Lavandera, is in Dallas.

Ed, remind us what's in this controversial new law.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, in a lot of ways this new law signed by the governor a short while ago in Texas targets some of the things that we saw unfold in some of the biggest cities in Texas in this past election cycle.

Specifically Harris County where Houston is, which has voted heavily Democratic.

But some of the things that this bill includes is it restricts early voting hours from 6:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. It blocks counties from sending unsolicited mail-in voting applications to voters.

It increases protections for partisan poll watchers at election sites and sets new limits on how people can assist voters in the voting booth. This applies to elderly, perhaps disabled voters.

A lot of questions swirling around exactly how this is going to look.

Many critics of the bill say this is one of the most restrictive bills -- voting bills in the country.

Despite all of that, Republicans here in Texas say it's a good thing.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): The Texas law, it does make it easier than ever before for anybody to go cast a ballot. It does also, however, make sure that it is harder for people to cheat at the ballot box in Texas.



LAVANDERA: And, Ana, the bill has just been signed, and already lawsuits swirling of challenges. This will be challenged in court, and all those lawsuits are beginning to be filed now.


CABRERA: I mean, that law is just one example of the interesting political dynamics in play right now.

On one hand, Texas has become more competitive politically, especially in the national races. But then you have state lawmakers passing these laws that are moving Texas much further to the right.

Take us through some of the other bills passed in the last several months and what it tells us.

LAVANDERA: Well, you have the abortion bill. There's permit-less carry that has been so controversial. And there's the national anthem that is required to be played at professional sporting events in this state.

It really is a dramatic shift, even by Texas standards.

If you talk to people who have followed Texas politics since Republicans have dominated the scene here since the mid-1990s, many people will tell you they're surprised by the rightward shift of the Texas Republican Party.

This comes at a time where the governor is up for reelection and facing two primary challengers saying he's not conservative enough.

CABRERA: Ed Lavandera, thank you.

Meantime, they are two of the world's richest men. They just took two out-of-this-world trips. And now they're even making Russia's space chief jealous?



CABRERA: An 11-year-old wounded during a shooting rampage in Florida that left four people dead Sunday is in critical but stable condition after being shot multiple times.

Palm Beach County sheriff says when deputies entered the House where the shooting took place they found the bodies of a couple, their 3- month-old infant and a grandmother.

Police say a former Marine wearing body armor entered this house and shot four people he didn't know.

They've identified him as 33-year-old Bryan Riley and they say he admitted to shooting several people, though his motive and any possible connection to the victims still unclear.

El Salvador is betting on bitcoin. The Central American country is the first country in the world to accept bitcoin as a form of payment. Starting today, goods and services can be paid for using bitcoin.

The country's president hopes it will attract new investment and save Salvadorans. A poll found by a local university found 68 people oppose the move.

To a CNN exclusive. Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson's trips to space are stirring up international jealousy.

Russia's new space chief says he wishes the billionaires in his country were as interested in space and less interested in buying yachts.

Ironic, since it was Russia that sent the first tourist into orbit 20 years ago.

CNN space and defense correspondent, Kristin Fisher, is joining us with this exclusive reporting.

Kristin, candid remarks from the new head.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE & DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Dmitry Rogozin is not one to hold back and he certainly did not in this interview. He is really criticizing Russian oligarchs for not investing more of their wealth in space.

This criticism is quite rich because Rogozin himself and other Russian space leaders have been accused of failing to foster an environment in their own country that is set up for commercial space companies to thrive.

But after watching Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson become the first people to ever fly in space on vehicles that they helped fund and develop, he says it is time for Russian billionaires to step up.


DMITRY ROGOZIN, RUSSIAN SPACE AGENCY CHIEF (through translator): There will be people who have an opportunity inexpensively to fly to space. I think this is a wonderful idea.

We also have space enthusiasts. However, our millionaires prefer to invest more in yachts rather than in spaceships. But maybe kids of current Russian millionaires will be much more wise creatures.


FISHER: Now, in addition to Bezos and Branson, Rogozin saved his highest praise for SpaceX founder, Elon Musk.

He says that Elon Musk and SpaceX, what they are doing is something that Russia has been trying to do ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union but they weren't able to because of all of the financial hardships that the collapse of the Soviet Union caused.

So Elon Musk -- I'm sorry, Rogozin says his company deeply respects Elon Musk. He also says they respect him as an inventor not afraid to take risks.

But this praise is quite notable because he has not always been this friendly towards Elon Musk. He once accused SpaceX of getting to work in very gentle conditions in Texas while he has to operate in the frigid Siberian winter.

But Rogozin now inviting Elon Musk to his home in Russia and saying that he is leaving the tea kettle on heat for him.


CABRERA: Very interesting.

Kristin Fisher, thank you.

That does it for us. Thanks for being here. I will see you back here tomorrow at 1:00 Eastern. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

The news continues next with Alisyn Camerota.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Thanks for joining me on NEWSROOM. Victor is off today.