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Biden Unveils New Measures on Vaccinations; Republicans Furious Over Biden's Vaccine Mandates; U.S. Justice Department Sues Texas Over Restrictive Abortion Law; Afghan Women Vow to Keep Protesting Despite Ban; Looking Back at America's 20-Year War in Afghanistan. Aired 4- 4:30a ET
Aired September 10, 2021 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM --
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JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My message to unvaccinated Americans is this, what more is there to wait for?
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BRUNHUBER: Frustration at the White House as President Biden goes on the offensive with vaccine mandates and some Republicans are promising to fight.
Plus, the Justice Department takes on Texas' controversial abortion law.
And a CNN exclusive investigation uncovers evidence of genocide being committed right now in Tigray.
The White House's latest move to halt an alarming spread of COVID-19 is provoking and an angry backlash among Republicans. They are furious that many large companies could soon face hefty fines if they don't get more their workers vaccinated or at least tested weekly. The administration's tough new measures directly impact more than 20 million people whose jobs are tied to the U.S. government. An executive order now requires all federal workers and contractors to get their shots soon or they could be fired. And as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports that is only the start.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Biden's frustration was clear as he unveiled these new measures to try to encourage tens of millions of Americans to get vaccinated. Saying that he believes those 80 million Americans who still have not done so have, quote, failed to get the coronavirus vaccine. The president making an appeal to those talking about the safety and efficacy of these vaccines but also areas where they may not have a choice but to get the vaccine.
One of those is a new vaccine mandates for all federal workers. Previously they had the option to test out of that requirement, they could take a test instead of being vaccinated. But now that has been eliminated and all federal employees or contractors who do work with the federal government will have to be vaccinated within the next 75 days of the president signing the executive order.
His second step he took involves the private sector. Where the Labor Department is going to issue a rule according to officials in the coming weeks that says any company that is 100 or more employees must require that those employees be vaccinated or take a test once a week. Of course, that is something that is likely to face legal challenges as you are going to see, a lot of pushback on that. But it is a model that the president and his aides are hoping to set for other companies to encourage their employees to get vaccinated when they return to the office.
One other step the president is taking that is also significant is for health care workers and anyone who works in a health care setting that received reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid will also have to ensure that those employees are vaccinated with the president explaining this is why --
BIDEN: We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us. So please do the right thing.
COLLINS: The president is also taking a series of smaller steps when it comes to the pandemic including doubling fines for TSA for people who do not wear a mask or try to not wear a mask in the airport or on an airplane. The president adding of the remarkable videos you've seen of people pushing back on that mandate that they need to, quote, show some respect.
Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.
BRUNHUBER: Some Republican governors are vowing to fight back. Greg Abbott of Texas denounced what he called an assault on private businesses and is vowing to halt what he calls a Washington power grab.
Mississippi governor Tate Reeves said: Even though vaccines are lifesaving, the president's move is unconstitutional and terrifying. He added: This is still America and we still believe in freedom from tyrants.
And that was echoed by Montana's Greg Gianforte who slammed the vaccine mandate at unlawful and un-American and a gross federal overreach.
Attitudes towards vaccinations are frustrating health officials as well as the president, and that includes top U.S. disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. Here he is.
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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I am frustrated and the reason is we do have the tools to end this. I mean, I've been in situations in public health situations where you didn't have the tools to end something that was devastating people with regard to illness and death. That is very frustrating. It's frustrating in a different way when you have the tools and you have the wherewithal to get to the end game of where you want to be, but you don't implement them.
So, yes, I am I believe equally frustrated. I don't want to see people get sick. I don't want to see them get hospitalized. And I certainly don't want to see them die. But that's what is happening when you don't vaccinate to the fullest extent possible.
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BRUNHUBER: And that lack of vaccination particularly among adolescents is causing a troubling surge in new cases and hospitalizations among that age group. On Thursday the second largest school district in the U.S. addressed the problem. The Los Angeles Unified School Board voted to mandate COVID vaccines for students 12 and older. The board is requiring eligible students to have had their first doses and second doses respectively no later than a few days before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. In an exclusive interview with CNN's Erin Brunette, White House COVID czar Jeff Zients explained why it's important that all teachers and staff get vaccinated as well.
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JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID RESPONSE DIRECTOR: On teachers, the president is doing it where he can within the federal government. So, all teachers that teach as part of the Department of Defense, school system and at the Department of Interior, we are insisting, the president is insisting on a vaccine of all teachers. Across the country about 90 percent of teachers and staff at schools are vaccinated. But that should be 100 percent. And many states have put in place vaccine mandates for teachers and school staff and the president is calling on all governors to do the same. Our kids should be with vaccinated teachers.
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BRUNHUBER: The U.S. Justice Department is taking the state of Texas to court over its strict abortion law. As he announced the lawsuit Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland blasted the Texas legislation. It bans abortion at six weeks before most people know they are pregnant. The majority of Texas clinics have stopped providing the procedure and activists worry the situation may drive some to desperate measures. Dianne Gallagher reports.
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good afternoon. DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Department of Justice is suing the state of Texas over its new abortion law, alleging it violates the U.S. Constitution.
GARLAND: The act is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): The Biden administration hoping the lawsuit will eventually overturning the law that makes it illegal to have an abortion after six weeks before many people even know they are pregnant, even in cases of rape and incest.
GARLAND: The United States has the authority and the responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): While the administration waits to see how the case plays out in the court system, on the ground in San Antonio, there's a growing sense of urgency. Makayla Montoya has been busy. The hard part, she says, is finding a way to help the surge in pregnant people reaching out to her organization in need of abortions that are no longer legal in the Lone Star state.
MAKAYLA MONTOYA, BUCKLE BUNNIES FUND: We got double, at least double the request for assistance since this SB8 has passed. I mean, it's desperation.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): The U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the new law from going into effect. It's enforced not by state officials but by private citizens empowered to file civil suits with a minimum $10,000 payout against anyone who assist a pregnant person seeking an abortion in violation of the law, which could be doctors or any staff member at an abortion clinic. Three of the four abortion facilities in San Antonio have temporarily stopped the procedure for anyone. The final days of August were like nothing Planned Parenthood's South Texas CEO Jeffrey Hons has ever seen.
JEFFREY HONS, CEO, PLANNED PARENTHOOD SOUTH TEXAS: We on the days that we provide abortion, which is not every day, but on those days, we might see somewhere between, you know, 15 to 25 patients on that day to provide abortion care. We had days where staff were working 12 and 13-hour days. We had days where we saw more than -- provided abortion care to more than 100 people in one day.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): It's not just providers. Lawsuits could be filed against family, friends, drivers, even people like Montoya and Kimiya Factory who advocates for and assists sexual assault survivors.
KIMIYA FACTORY, ACTIVIST: I'm afraid that organizers like me will be targeted for simply believing in the future of the autonomy of our bodies, and our minds and our spirits.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): The strategy right now seems to be getting people in need of an abortion out of state. HONS: Do you think you could get to Albuquerque? Do you want to be connected with an abortion provider in Denver? Some people are eager to hear that and make those plans, but many people are -- you know, this is just -- the idea just seems insurmountable.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): And though anti-abortion activists outside Planned Parenthood are celebrating the law, claiming it will save lives --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm super excited. This is great step.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): Advocates tell CNN unless the courts step in soon, they feel the opposite.
GALLAGHER: The concern is that --
HONS: The concern is that if they don't and they are moved to desperation to do something with self-managed abortion, health care providers need to be ready that some of these women then may show up on their doorsteps needing emergency help.
GALLAGHER: Is that a real fear that you guys have?
HONS: I think about it regularly?
GALLAGHER: Now, Texas Governor Greg Abbott's press secretary did send me a statement saying in part that they were confident that the courts would uphold and protect in their words the right to life. Now, those providers that we spoke with said that the current strategy of sending patients out of state is not sustainable. And it's not even adequate in real time right now. They point out that there are many people who can simply not leave the state because of child care or job issues or potentially because they are undocumented and it would put their status at risk.
Dianne Gallagher, CNN, San Antonio, Texas.
BRUNHUBER: It's campaign season in California. Next week the state will vote to either keep or replace current Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom. The recall election has become a rallying cry no many Republican voters especially in rural counties. Some tell CNN they feel Newsom is disconnected from there every day lives. One couple says they will leave California if Newsom isn't replaced.
On the other side of the aisle, Governor Newsom is rallying his base, enlisting high profile national Democrats to help including Vice President Kamala Harris. Now during a rally on Wednesday, Harris focused heavily on winning over women voters. She voiced her outrage about the conservative agenda saying their policies attack women's rights. All right, still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, leaving Afghanistan. A
planeload of foreign nationals flies out of Kabul and there may be more to come.
Also coming up, the leader of the world's two largest economies talk for the first time in months. We'll have a live report from Beijing.
Plus this --
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NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: We just had an impact perhaps two mile away.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): I was in Kabul during the 9/11 attacks. Each major anniversary I analyze the intervening years.
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BRUNHUBER: As the U.S. approaches a grim anniversary, our Nic Robertson looks at 20 years of war in Afghanistan. Stay with us.
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NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We have said that we have been in regular contact with American citizens and others to whom we have a special responsibility in Afghanistan both before the end of the U.S. government-led evacuation effort and after.
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BRUNHUBER: 21 of those U.S. citizens and green cardholders are now in Qatar after leaving Afghanistan on a charter flight. The State Department says some Americans chose to stay behind. More than 104 nationals in total left Kabul on Thursday including Britons, Canadians and Germans. A source tells CNN Afghanistan's two main commercial airlines plan to restart flights soon.
Meanwhile, a U.N. special envoy is warning of a total breakdown of the economy and social order without major help from the international community. She says millions of Afghans are at risk of hunger and poverty. But Taliban leaders seem more concerned with cracking down on dissent. Two Afghan journalists say that they were detained and severely beaten for reporting on protests in Kabul this week.
CNN's Anna Coren has covered Afghanistan extensively and was in Kabul recently, and she is joining me live. So, Anna, on one hand the Taliban have allowed that charter flight with Americans on board out of Kabul. On the other hand, more brutal crackdowns on dissent. What's the latest?
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kim, it's quiet on the streets of Kabul at the moment. But as we know protests are now deemed illegal, that's according to the ministry of interior affairs. Shooting these protests, filming these protests is now illegal. You have to ask for permission if you want to protest, what sort of slogans will be used at these protests. I mean, it is all ridiculous and absurd. And the women that we are talking to, Kim, just say that this will not silence them. They will continue to protest and to fight for their rights. Rights that they have achieved over the last 20 years.
We are talking about a generation of women who have gone to school, have got a university education, are professionals. And they want a Taliban -- I should say an Afghanistan that they were promised, not this Taliban government that is trying to send them back to the dark ages. Yesterday we saw more protests on the streets, not as big as what had been anticipated. There was a heavy Taliban presence not just in Kabul but also in the city of Herat. There was a convoy of Humvees obviously U.S.-funded Humvees that were once owned by the Afghan military driving down the street scaring people from coming out and protesting.
But we're hearing, Kim, that there were protests as well in Kunduz, Kapisa, in Mazar-i-Sharif. So, this is gaining traction around the country. Even though the Taliban is violently suppressing these protests, beating people, we saw those injuries from the journalists who were just filming these protests. But certainly, Kim, from the people I'm speaking to say that they will silenced and they will continue to take to the streets in protest.
BRUNHUBER: Yes, so much bravery there. Anna Coren, thank you so much. Appreciate that.
Hameed Hakimi, a research associate at Chatham House in London and he still has family living in Kabul. And I asked him earlier how they are coping under Taliban rule.
HAMEED HAKIMI, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, CHATHAM HOUSE: The picture is mixed in terms of the kind of violence that we get reported on. But it is a picture where there is a huge amount of anxiety, people are very confuse and shocked still with the way the Taliban were able to take over the country so quickly. But also, about the future of themselves and of their country. Because it is an environment where poverty is very visible. Where unfortunately for many people, for a lot of people who have jobs even before the Taliban took over in an environment which you are talking about nearly 50 percent unemployment rate. And even that very few people who were lucky to have jobs are now jobless in predominant numbers.
So, there is this incredible amount of pressure, mental, psychological, physical and I think incredibly stressful economic situation for millions and millions of Afghans. And I think very briefly, I think this morning we heard from some reports and findings by the U.N. that if the situation doesn't change and it continues in the direction that it does at the moment, that you could potentially have nearly 100 percent of the population falling under the poverty line in Afghanistan. And that would be very catastrophic. You are talking about a population of 45 million people.
BRUNHUBER: Tomorrow the United States marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attack which launched the U.S. into war in Afghanistan. CNN's diplomatic editor Nic Robertson and his team were in Kabul when the attacks took place. Now with the Taliban back in control, he looks at the consequences of America's longest war and the threat that still remains.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Behind the Taliban's newly painted huge flag, America's Kabul embassy inside the grounds buried under a plug, debris from New York's twin Trade Center towers. Ten years ago, America's then Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who had overseen the memorial on his first tour, told me it was there so future diplomats would remember what triggered U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nic, what do you have for us at this point?
ROBERTSON: We just had an impact, perhaps two miles away.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): I was in Kabul during the 9/11 attacks. Each major anniversary I analyzed the intervening years. This was 10 years ago.
ROBERTSON: There are no signs yet of serious contact between the Afghan government and the Taliban. And it could be that the Taliban will wait out the foreign presence here.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Crocker wanted the talks but doubted the Taliban would negotiate in good faith.
RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN 2011-2012: Their goal is rather simply to re-Talibanize Afghanistan to retake the country. And if they do, then al Qaeda is going to be back in here. The only reason al Qaeda isn't here now is because we are.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Fast forward to today, 20 years of foreign policy fears realized American troops and diplomats gone.
The Taliban ousting the U.S. back government capturing much of the inventory of the Afghan army the U.S. help build proudly showing off warehouses loaded with weapons.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Look, these boxes are full, all new, unused.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): More, much more than the Taliban ever had before.
The new Taliban government as uncompromising as the one America ousted after the 9/11 attacks. Their newly appointed powerful Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani has a $10 million FBI bounty on his head for ties to terrorism and al Qaeda.
In 2020, they promise not to fight for power, but to negotiate in good faith, promised al Qaeda won't use Afghanistan again to attack the U.S. Now there is another potentially more dangerous enemy rooted in Afghanistan, ISIS.
ROBERTSON: We drove this road to Kabul just a few days before al Qaeda's attack on September the 11th. Al Qaeda was in the mountains over there in Tora Bora. Today, it's ISIS, that's a bigger threat here.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): The roads are in better condition now, thanks in good part to American tax dollars, the towns brighter, better developed, more prosperous, or a positive part of the legacy of America's longest war.
ROBERTSON: But here is hard reality, sources around here say it will be near impossible for the Taliban to take control of al Qaeda or ISIS rather than other groups, because their agendas are so intermingled. They share fighters, share causes at times, and if Taliban do go that way, it will risk splitting their base.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Right after the 9/11 attacks, we asked Kabul residents what would happen if U.S. forces came?
The result of Russian aggression was the breaking of Russia into 16 countries, this old man says, remembering the 1980s Soviet occupation. If America attacks us, Allah will divide America into 52 pieces.
Back then, it seemed inconceivable America could fail. 20 years later, the Taliban's writing outside the embassy wall, in effect claims just that. The conditions now a pariah government, a failing economy point to trouble ahead. And no guarantees it won't reach America's shores again.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.
BRUNHUBER: And one programming note, join CNN as we honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks. "9/11: 20 YEARS LATER" airs this Sunday and our coverage starts at 8:00 a.m. Eastern, 1:00 in the afternoon in London right here on CNN.
BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber, this is CNN NEWSROOM.
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Chinese President.