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CNN Projects Newsom Landslide, Will Remain Governor; New Book Reveals Chaos During Trump's Last Days; Republicans Still Using Trump Playbook During Elections. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired September 15, 2021 - 02:00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Vause. Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM. The era of election denialism has arrived. Even before California's Governor Gavin Newsom defeated a recall vote in a landslide. His Republican opponents were claiming the election was rigged.

New revelations about former Vice President Mike Pence and just how far he was willing to go to help Donald Trump overturn the results of the 2020 election.

And back in the weapons testing business, North Korea firing a pair of ballistic missiles just days after launching a newly developed long range cruise missile.

California's governor appears to have won the biggest fight of his political career. With CNN projecting he has defeated a recall vote by huge margin. The recall effort was led by Republicans opposed his handling of the coronavirus, homelessness, the economy. The first question on the ballot, should governor Newsom be recalled? About two- thirds of voters said no. A landslide victory.

Exit polls show about a third of voters said the COVID pandemic was the most important issue. Using push tough lockdowns. Made masks and vaccines mandated. There was a sharp contrast to his main Republican challenger, Larry Elder who opposed pandemic restrictions. A few hours ago a very relieved Gavin Newsom thanked his supporters.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): No, it's not the only thing that was expressed tonight. I want to focus on what we said yes to as a state. We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic.


VAUSE: Dan Merica is live this out at the Newsroom headquarters in Sacramento, California. Lisa Kafanov is following the story from the Elder headquarters in Costa Mesa. Also in California but we will go to Dan. I will start with you. This -- Newsom could emerge from all of this, this recall effort in a much stronger position than he started.

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: It's big news for Governor Newsom. It's also a big news for Democrats. You know, writ large in the United States. What we saw this race really boiled down to is Governor Newsom who is pressing strict COVID measures who is running in line with the Biden White House on what they were trying to do on coronavirus. And then the Elder campaign which was pledging to reverse many of the coronavirus orders that Governor Newsom has put in place.

And, you know, the result is resounding. It, you know, Newsom was certainly relieved tonight. It wasn't necessarily a victory speech, but he was clearly very relieved to hear past this hurdle. The no vote had won overwhelmingly. And it is going to be almost a stamp of approval for Democrats across the country now who can feel like -- feel confident that they can run on these COVID measures and in some ways, strict COVID policy tackling the coronavirus is good politics.

Now, it's also worth noting that Newsom nationalize this race. He made it about more than just California and you note that, you know, Elder has talked about homelessness and drought and other issues that focus on California that have hit California particularly hard. Newsom somewhat ignore those issues or avoided those issues and nationalize the race calling on top Democrats across the country to come to California and rally on his behalf.

And what he did was he compared Elder throughout the campaign to Donald Trump. That is another lesson that Democrats can take out of this race, that Trump may be out of office. He may not be in the White House anymore but Democrats are rallied and are fired up about the prospect of defeating not just Trump but Trumpism. That was a question for the party going into the 2022 midterms and some races in 2021.

So going forward, what this taught Democrats is that they can run on COVID strict measures, and in some cases, like Governor Newsom did, they can also run on the legacy of Donald Trump. John?

VAUSE: Dan, thank you. Dan Merica there live in Sacramento. Let's go over now to the Elder campaign headquarters in Costa Mesa. There we find Lucy Kafanov. She is with us live. And Lucy there was a lot of talk before this recall vote from the Elder campaign about legal challenges and claims of rigged elections, that sort of stuff. What are they saying now?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, John. You know, we've been here throughout the entire evening. The campaign building this as a victory party even though there would have had to have been a lot of in-person turnout by Republicans in order to close the lead that Newsom, the current governor of California had in the early mail-in voting before the results were called by the television networks.


KAFANOV: A lot of the Republicans that we had talked to on the ground, the voters, the ordinary supporters here did mention their concerns about fraud to us. Baseless concerns at this point. But a lot of the folks we spoke to said that they were casting their ballots in person because of what they were worried about. But of course, the big question is, what would Larry Elder say? Is he going to continue to push those baseless claims of fraud if he had in the lead up to the election or would he concede? He did seem to accept his loss. Take a listen.


LARRY ELDER. CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN GUBENATORIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent, Governor Gavin Newsom, come on. Let's be gracious, let's be gracious in defeat. And by the way, we may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war.


KAFANOV: And this was important because we didn't know how much of a pain he would take out of the former President Donald Trump's playbook when he dragged out this election fighter what he can see hurt him. Conceding in that speech there. He then went on to basically recycle his stump speech talking about the issues that were important to or continue to be important to conservative Republicans here in California.

Issues like homelessness, crime, school choice, the drought that's been plaguing the states. He also talked about race a lot accusing Democrats of politicizing race. He has managed to tap into the anger that a lot of conservative Democrats feel in California. A state in which Democrats outnumber republicans nearly two to one. And in terms of a preview of what he has in store going forward, he said stay tuned. Perhaps his political ambitions aren't over yet. John?

VAUSE: Lucy, thank you. Lucy Kafanov there live for us in Costa Mesa. Appreciate it. Joining me now is Ron Brownstein, CNN Senior Political Analyst and senior editor at The Atlantic. We have Caroline Heldman, democratic strategist and Professor of critical theory and social justice. Also with us Lanhee Chen, former Public Policy Director for the Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign. Thanks to all of you for being with us, I feel like old days.

So Ron, I'll start with you. If this margin of Newsom is -- if it's as big as those exit polls now suggests. When he sits down at his desk on Wednesday to write out thank you cards, should the first one be to Donald Trump for giving him something to run against? And the second one to Larry Elder for making that possible by claiming to be further to the right of Donald Trump?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Maybe reverse, maybe reverse the order. Look at you know what the reek of the recall got on the ballot by mobilizing discontent in the most conservative parts of the state, particularly to Governor Newsom's tough measures on lockdowns in response to COVID last year, all punctuated by his ill- fated decision to go to French Laundry.

They were never able to expand beyond that. And as Larry Elder became the face of the recall and kind of the personification of the recall, it probably folded in on itself even more. And what Newson was able to do in the final weeks of the election was really bring the whole campaign full circle. It got on the ballot because conservatives didn't like his response to a COVID. He won going away because he was able to convince the broader electorate that the Republicans represented a threat to the health of the state by opposing mandates for masks and vaccines.

And I think, you know, obviously, every state is different. But there was a clear lesson here that Democrats can lean into this contrast, mobilize their base, move a lot of independent voters and leave Republicans kind of isolated by emphasizing the "Rights and choices of the unvaccinated" at a time when three quarters of Americans are vaccinated, and those who are increasingly exasperated with those who won't get the shot.

VAUSE: Well, Donald Trump issued a statement, I think was last week of baseless claims that a rigged election. We also heard from Larry Elder who's been talking about a landslide win in this recall that was quickly followed by talk of voter fraud. Listen to this.


ELDER: So many people are going to vote yes, on the recall. There won't be any question about the outcome. I just hope my opponent is willing to accept the results when he loses. I have every hope that this election is going to be free of fraud, and it's going to be one of integrity.


VAUSE: So Caroline, not only did Newsom get to run against Trumpism. But Trump seems to be working to suppress the Republican vote in a way by declaring the election rigged. This -- is this sort of winning formula for races beyond California?

CAROLINE HELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it certainly wasn't in this particular race. And I think as Ron pointed out, you know, this is a state where if you're going to put down Trumpism, this is the state to do it. And it's two to one Democratic registration of a Republican registration but what was particularly kind of unnerving was that Larry Elder even in his concession speech, didn't actually concede, right?

And he's been a big proponent of the big lie, right? The idea that the 2020 election wasn't free and fair. And it really -- I mean they did inspire the January 6th violent insurrection. We don't want that in California.


HELDMAN: But more importantly, this is the Republican strategy, and it's eroding our democracy. And our belief in free and fair elections is fundamental to actually having a democracy that is functioning.

VAUSE: Lanhee, how is this strategy of sort of claiming election fraud ahead of every major vote going to work when the Republicans actually win one? LANHEE CHEN, FORMER MITT ROMNEY PUBLIC POLICY DIRECTOR: Yes. It's not. I mean, quite frankly, I think, unfortunately, trying to look at the electoral process and try to figure out ways to sow doubt. I don't think is a great long-term strategy for the Republican Party or for any other political party for that matter. I think the focus really has to be on how you expand the appeal of the message and the appeal of the policy prescriptions.

And that really is kind of what happened tonight. I mean, I think Ron hit the nail on the head when he said, listen to that coalition necessary to come together to recall Gavin Newsom, you know, the numbers just weren't there. You can't win in California with just Republican votes. I think that's got to be part of the formula. But to be successful, you have to really reach out and be more than that.

You've got to be able to demonstrate that you can put together a coalition that's more than just the 24 percent of Republican voter registration to state. And I think in this situation that simply didn't happen.

VAUSE: And Ron, if we look across the country, this sort of election denialism. It's easy in full swing. And it's unique right now to the Republicans, not just in California, but in other states where recounts are underway, that sort of stuff. Will it always stay with the Republican Party, or will it spread in a way across the political spectrum?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, right now it is centered in the Republican Party, and it is very much a kind of product of what -- of what Trump has done, you know. Something like 60 percent of Republicans in the CNN poll that was released this week, the national poll said that believing the election was stolen or the Donald Trump was the real winner in 2020 was an integral part of being a Republican.

Half of Republicans and another poll by Monmouth University this month describe the January 6th insurrection as legitimate protest. And we see, you know, we see this being moved into action in state after state with Republican legislators and governors passing laws making it more difficult to vote and increasing the opportunity for partisan manipulation of the vote counting.

And then, you know, John, that is why democrats face an absolutely existential choice over the next few weeks in the Senate. They introduced today, revised legislation to create a nationwide floor of voting rights to make -- to protect the independence of election administration. All the Democratic senators are likely to endorse it. And the question will really come to a head in the next few weeks.

Will they give Republicans in the Senate a veto over that or will Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema allow them to reform the filibuster in a way that allows them to pass this? No more consequential decision over any of the policies they face through the next -- through the 2022 election.

VAUSE: But we look at Larry Elder as a candidate. He's a climate change denier. He opposes gun reform. He's against the minimum wage. He says he wouldn't have voted for the Civil Rights Act. He opposes abortion as well. So Lanhee, well, he's not exactly representative of Main Street California, is the representative of Republicans in California?

CHEN: Yes. I mean, I think this is going to be the question that we're going to see the answer to. I think as we move towards 2022, in California, certainly, you know, the dynamic of the Republican Party is one that to be competitive. Again, I think the candidacies of people who are running in California, as Republicans have to be consistent with where the state more broadly is. Now, obviously, you're not going to have 100 matchup because after all, Republicans aren't progressive.

But my point is, you have to understand how much of this is driven by the need for candidates who -- yes, have a message of reform, yes, have a message of change, but also understand the unique circumstances of running in California and running in California is still going to be different than running in other parts of the country. And the recognition that the quicker that recognition comes I think the sooner the Republican Party and Republican candidates in California become more competitive.

VAUSE: And just lastly to you, Caroline, how much does this win by Newsom which was a very -- it was a significant, it was a huge win if you just look at the fewer numbers. How much does this now help Joe Biden when it comes to, you know, his battles when it comes to mandates for masks and vaccines?

HELDMAN: Well, I think it's -- it is a national referendum on this, right? That the Democrats can go out it nationally if they want to run on this. It doesn't matter where they are in the country that this is a winning platform. And I think for Newsom the wind is at his back. There's a whole get out the vote effort that the union spearheaded that really had an impact in this recall election.

That setup not only for his next campaign, but perhaps getting back some of these California seats in 2022. And I can imagine this being the playbook for what Democrats do in 2022.

VAUSE: Caroline, thank you. As well, Ron Brownstein and Lanhee Chen. It's good to see all of you. It's been a long time.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks, John.


VAUSE: Thank you. Take care. Still to come. For more than a year, Mike Pence has been seen as a defender of the Constitution who on that day in January, said up to Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the election results. But a new book by Bob Woodward has a reality check.


VAUSE: Well, the Elder campaign says lawyers have been on standby for days just waiting to challenge the recall vote in California. In what appears to be a replay of the Trump campaign strategy in 2020. Filing dozens of baseless claims of fraud to undermine the credibility of the result. But in the new book by Bob Woodward, it's been revealed that during the certification process of the 2020 vote, former Vice President Mike Pence was not so much defender of the Constitution who stood up to Donald Trump but rather someone who did the right thing.

Only after every other option was well and truly exhausted. Pence sought advice from former Vice President Dan Quayle who told him the U.S. Vice President has no legal authority to do what Trump wanted. He then did what he did, what all vice presidents have done.


VAUSE: And he oversaw the count of the Electoral College that was on January 6th. Now here's part of the conversation he -- when he gave the President the bad news. Trump asked if these people say you had the power wouldn't you want it? Pence replied, I wouldn't want any one person to have that authority. And that's when Trump responded. But wouldn't it be almost cool to have that power?

Jessica Levinson is professor of law at Loyola Law School. She joins me now from Los Angeles. Welcome back. Good to see you.


VAUSE: OK. So, you know, the narrative from that day, let's go back. So Mike Pence resisted the pressure from Donald Trump. He did what was right. But now it seems it didn't happen without him trying and trying almost everything he thought possible to do his master's bidding. So what would have happened if Pence had found a loophole? Something which could justify doing what Trump wanted? Where would we be now?

LEVINSON: Well, I mean, let's just say, first of all, wouldn't it be cool if we didn't have a constitutional republic? I mean, can you imagine that this is the argument here? Wouldn't it be cool if like, we didn't have checks and balances, and instead we had a monarch? So -- but there's something serious there, right? Which shows that President Trump, former President Trump really didn't understand our structure of government and/or didn't respect it.

And there's something serious here about Mike Pence not, of course, being the defender of democracy or the defender of our Constitution, but instead try -- basically running through a house trying to find every possible door, they're all locked. And then finally, he just says, OK, I guess I have to run through the window. There's literally no other choice. I mean, you asked me where would this leave us? I mean, that leaves us in a term that was overused.

A potential constitutional crisis where you have vice president of the United States not doing his constitutional duty as he correctly concluded, there are no loopholes. There are no end runs. This was the only choice. He had a very ministerial task of simply saying, yes, I bless the results of the Electoral College.

VAUSE: Yes. We came that close, it seems. A little closer than most people realize. The other big headline from this book, it concerns the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley. In the weeks after Trump lost the election but still held office. He was worried he would go rogue and Woodward writes about a secret meeting when Milley told officials in charge of the National Military Command Center, basically the Pentagon war room that no one would follow orders from anyone unless he -- Milley was involved.

Here's part of the book. No matter what you are told you do the procedure, you do the process. And I'm part of that procedure. Milley told the officers according to this book. He then went around the room, looked each officer in the eye, asked them to verbally confirm they understood. Got it? Milley asked, according to this book. Yes, sir. And that was repeated again and again.

There are no laws which limit the powers of a defeated or retiring president. He remains president until the next one is sworn in. Donald Trump may not have started a nuclear war, but he has undermined confidence and faith in American democracy. So how could a losing President be restrained in future from doing what Trump did?

LEVINSON: This is something that -- it's such a good question. It's something that you and I talked about for maybe the last half decade now, which is the Trump administration really was a stress test on our democracy and it showed where the cracks in the constitution are. What -- well, for instance, in this case, why do you have such a long period of time between the election and the inauguration?

In any other job in America, if you need to fire somebody, 14 days at most or I'm going to stand next to you while you clear out your box and we'll escort you to the parking lot. So we have a couple of places here where we see that the chief executive not only can stay far past the election but also has these really unfettered controls where I think we've just been frankly, very lucky in the past where we had presidents who certainly transgress certain norms, who certainly acted in really questionable and problematic ways.

But they didn't so transgress the norms and the guardrails that we were in this situation. And, frankly, I mean, there -- but for the grace of many different things, did we end up in this place where we still have an intact constitution? And yes, there are places where we can look at how chief executives, one, have a lot of authority under the Constitution and two, take a lot of authority. Maybe when it's not even granted. And we can think about confining that.

VAUSE: You know, at one point Milley apparently likened Trump to a four-engine plane with three of them out and no landing gear for the last couple of weeks. And that one-engine plane, you know, it's now the clear preference for Republicans to be the leader of their party. 51 percent believe this, Republicans believe if he was at the top of the ticket for 2024 it would be an advantage and taking back the White House.

You know, I guess the question is whether he runs or not. It's almost beside the point because it seems increasingly Republicans are now running on the Trump book, declaring voter fraud even before the votes are counted, you know, and undermining the result.


LEVINSON: Well, I'm talking to you from California. And in the introduction, you talked about how the recall was just defeated. But the thing that wasn't defeated are these baseless allegations of voter fraud which comes straight from the Trump playbook. Now, clearly, they didn't begin with Trump. Clearly, they're not going to end with Trump. But the astounding thing and -- is not that President Trump just trumpeted these baseless attacks on our elections but it's so many people, as you said, want him to be the standard bearer.

Want this to be the message for the Republican Party. And this is a really dangerous game for the Republican Party. This is a little bit of Russian Roulette to continue to say, you cannot trust the electoral process because there's a certain point, yes, you use it to try and justify restrictive voting laws. But also it can turn people off from the process. Republicans really only want to turn Democrats off from the process.

They want to turn their own voters off. This is a really high stakes game. And, you know, it feels like the last gasp of a party that knows that it's losing key strongholds. Look at what happened in Georgia. Look at what almost has happened in Texas. And look at, you know, this party still looking at President Trump as their standard bearer.

VAUSE: Yes. And still, you know, essentially is the leader of the party and yet taking control and taking the lead. Jessica, thank you, Jessica Levinson for us in Los Angeles. Appreciate it.

LEVINSON: Thank you.


VAUSE: -- from both parties are demanding answers. Coming up. A second day of questioning to the Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Plus, the U.S. military claims it folded an ISIS attack at the Kabul Airport. But new evidence suggests that deadly drone strike may have targeted the wrong person. A CNN investigation is next.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Vause. You are watching CNN newsroom.

And CNN is projecting a landslide win for California's Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom. The first question on Tuesday's special election ballot, should Governor Newsom be recalled. About 2/3 of voters said no. Newsom's handling of the coronavirus pandemic sparked the recall effort last year. Republicans, led by Talk Show Host Larry Elder were furious over strict lockdowns and promised to overturn mask and vaccine mandates. Newsom says, voters said yes to science (ph) vaccines and ending the pandemic.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): I am humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercised their fundamental right to vote and express themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division.


VAUSE: Well, the U.S. Congress, which often finds it difficult to agree on the day of the week has found a moment of rare bipartisanship. And it is coming from frustration with the Biden administration over the withdrawal from Afghanistan. For a second day, the secretary of state answered questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Republicans call withdrawal a strategic error and the evacuation the worst foreign policy catastrophe in the generation. Antony Blinken made a point of highlighting the withdrawal agreement which was negotiated by the Trump administration.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: When President Biden took office in January, he inherited an agreement that his predecessor has reached with the Taliban to remove all remaining forces from Afghanistan by May 1st of this year. As part of the agreement, the previous administration pressed the Afghan government to release 5,000 prisoners, including some top war commanders. By January of 2021, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 9/11.


VAUSE: Lawmakers from both parties seemed miffed as to why the defense secretary was not available to answer questions as well. Lloyd Austin is scheduled to appear before a different committee later this month.

For the last two weeks, CNN has been investigating the U.S. military's final drone strike which targeted a car in Kabul, Afghanistan, just hours before all U.S. troops were withdrawing. The U.S. military claims they hit a legitimate terrorist target. But CNN's investigation raises some serious questions about the U.S. government's accounts of what happened that day. And a warning to some of our viewers here, this report contains some very graphic scenes, it may be difficult to watch.

But first, live is CNN's Anna Coren who has been working this story. She is with us now from Hong Kong.

Anna, what can you tell us?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, look, there are serious doubts as to whether, in fact, the U.S. military actually got the right target. Possibly killing 10 innocent civilians. As you say, this has been a two-week investigation by CNN and what we have learned paints a very different picture.


COREN (voiceover): Screams of horror in a Kabul neighborhood on the last Sunday afternoon of August. As residents desperately in vain try to extinguish the fireball caused by a hellfire missile airstrike. First, I thought this was an attack on the whole of Afghanistan, I did not know the attack was only on our house.


The target, a white sedan that had been under U.S. military surveillance for the past eight hours. According to a U.S. official with knowledge of the operation. It had just driven into the residential compound, with father of seven and NGO worker Zamarai Ahmadi was behind the wheel.

SAMIA, DAUGHTHER OF ZAMARAI (through translator): I saw my father behind the car, there was shrapnel in his chest, throat, everywhere. Blood was flowing through his ears.

COREN (voiceover): Bu the strike didn't just take out the 43-year-old father. According to the family, two other men were also killed, along with seven children. Three of whom were toddlers.

Our children were in such a state that we try to identify them from their hands, ears or nose, says Zamarai's cousin. None of them had their hands and feet intact and in one place. They were all in pieces.

(INAUDIBLE) body parts, pieces of skull with chunks of hair and a foot melted into his sandal were among the remains taken to the morgue. Zamarai's two-year old nephew lies on a gurney as a relative gently strokes his face. 10 coffins filled with only partial remains. Their names written in black marker, the only distinguishable feature.


COREN (voiceover): The U.S. claims to have intelligence, there was explosive material inside the car that was to be used on an imminent attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport by ISIS-K. Just days before, an ISIS-K suicide bomber had blown himself up at Abbey Gate. 13 U.S. service members and more than 170 Afghans were killed.

But for the past two weeks, CNN has been investigating the U.S. military's claims about the drone strike, interviewing more than two dozen people, family members, neighbors, NGO staff and multiple bomb experts that paint a very different version of events. We have also been given access to this CCTV hard drive of the NGO office that day and reviewed all the footage.

For 15 years, Zamarai worked as a technical engineer for Nutrition and Education International. A U.S.-based NGO that introduced soybeans to Afghanistan in 2003 to help feed the poor and reduce malnutrition.

STEVEN KWON, FOUNDER, NUTRITION AND EDUCATION INTERNATIONAL: He was always caring for the people who are in need and then, he's a compassionate heart.

COREN (voiceover): The organization's founder said that the Toyota corolla Zamarai was driving belong to the NGO, and he was responsible for picking up colleagues distributing soybeans to Afghans and refugee camps and running operations.

U.S. military officials have told CNN they had been monitoring chatter from an ISIS safe house in Kabul for 36 hours. When a car pulled out of the compound around 9:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. It was from that moment U.S. surveillance aircraft began following the car, not knowing who the driver was. But in an interview with one of Zamarai colleagues who was with him all day, he claims Zamarai picked up at about 8:45 a.m. And around 9:00, they stopped at the country director's house to collect a laptop to take to work.

KHAN, ZAMARAI'S NEI COLLEAGUE: Because he forgot his laptop bag there and we took his laptop back.

COREN (voiceover): The U.S. has told CNN that was intelligence that the car was being directed from the safe house on route around the city, instructing the driver to meet a motorcyclist and that it indeed. Zamarai's colleague says after collecting the laptop, they picked up another colleague and then stopped at a busy cafe to get breakfast, claiming they did not come into contact with any motorcyclists on their journey to the office. The only motorcyclists they did talk was the security guard at the NGO office, seen here with his bike on CCTV.

For the next few hours, Zamarai and his colleagues carry out various tasks. Visiting Taliban security stations for permission to resume operations since the Taliban takeover. They also visit a bank and returned to work for lunch at 2:00 pm. Around 2 30 pm, Zamarai begins filling water containers to take back home to his family who have no access to running water, a task he had been doing for months according to his colleagues. They say they then helped load the containers into the car before leaving around 4:00 pm.

The U.S. military says around the same time, drone footage showed the driver loading heavy packages with other men into the car, which they suspected were explosives, possibly for the imminent attack. Colleagues say Zamari dropped them off before he drove to his family compound also home to his three brothers and their families.


Around 4:45 p.m., the U.S. says that the car arrived at a residential location and another male approached the car. The military claims it had reasonable certainty that they a legitimate ISIS-K target and took the shot. It was only afterwards that the U.S. realized that there were three children within the vicinity of the car. The family says that there were actually seven.

A U.S. official tells CNN there was a significant secondary explosion, possibly caused by a suicide vest or explosives in the car that may have killed the children. Two bomb experts we spoke to who both viewed the same footage CNN filled from the scene say there is no evidence of a significant secondary explosion, stating there would have been major structural damage to the surrounding buildings and vegetation. And at the nearby SUV would have been overturned.

One of them noted, if was secondary blast was seen from U.S., it most likely was the vehicle gas tank exploding.

BRIAN CASTNER, SENIOR CRISIS ADVISER, WEAPON AND MILITARY OPS, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: This over the horizon, having incomplete information but conducting the air strike anyway, this is the modus operandi for the U.S. military now and there's just so many risks and harm to civilians that comes with that.

COREN (voiceover): A U.S. military investigation into the drone strike is underway.

GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: That at least one of those people that were killed was an ISIS facilitator. So, where there are others killed? Yes. There were others killed. Who they were? We don't know. But at this point, we think the procedures were correctly followed and it was a righteous strike.

COREN (voiceover): A Pentagon statement released over the weekend defended the strike based on good intelligence, preventing an imminent threat and that no other military works harder than we do to prevent civilian casualties. But many questions are being raised as to whether they got the wrong target.

How do you know from the sky of what is here, says Zamari's brother? There were children in and around the car and you targeted them. Isn't it a crime? You came here and shattered our hearts into pieces.

The following day, ISIS-K launched a rocket attack towards the airport from a Toyota corolla. The attack was countered by the missile defense system. That same day, Zamari's family buried their dead. 10 graves on a desolate hillside overlooking Kabul, belonging to a family demanding answers and justice.


COREN (on camera): And, John, we are obviously in touch with the family who are clearly suffering. They have had to change houses because of this link to the terrorist network, ISIS-K. I think it's also really important to note that Zamarai had applied for a P-2 visa to the United States for him and his family through his California- based NGO, this happened just days before the strike. This was a man who wanted to flee Afghanistan and start a new life in America.

VAUSE: Yes, so many, so many. Thank you. Anna Coren there live for us in Hong Kong.

Well, they just keep on coming. Days after testing long-range cruise missiles, North Korea has now fired two ballistic missiles as well. Details ahead.



VAUSE: Just days after testing a newly developed long-range cruise missiles, North Korea has fired two identified ballistic missiles into the waters of its East Coast. Confirmation coming from high-ranking military officials in Seoul.

CNN's Paula Hancock is Seoul with details. Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this is information we are now getting from the joint chiefs of staff here in South Korea saying that they believe that these two ballistic missiles were fired from the center of the country of North Korea. They went about 800 kilometers, that was the range, 60 kilometers altitude. And from that, they have decided that these are two short range ballistic missiles.

Now, there was one of those missiles fired earlier this year. But it certainly more rare that we are seeing this kind of activity from North Korea. But it does come just a few days after they said that they actually fired two long-range cruise missiles over the weekend. Now, when it comes to today's launches, we know that they have the local time around 12 34 and then another at 12 34 p.m. in the afternoon, around lunchtime.

Japan has said that it is very concerned. The prime minister saying that it is outrageous, these launches, obviously, firing in the direction of Japan, landing in the waters off the East Coast of Korea but not going into Japanese territorial waters. Now, we also heard from the U.S. military, the Indo-Pacific Command saying that it didn't hold any threat to the United States, but it does just show that destabilizing the impact that these missile launches and the military capabilities and decisions by North Korea can have on the region.

And it comes at a time when there's a lot of diplomatic activity going on not involving North Korea but talking about North Korea. We've got the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, in Seoul. He has been talking with his South Korean counterpart on Tuesday. We have the top nuclear envoys from the U.S., Japan, and South Korea meeting in Tokyo. They decided that there had to be "dialogue and diplomacy" urgently needed to talk about denuclearization of North Korea.

And then, of course, a day later, North Korea fires these missiles. These particular ones, unlike the ones over the weekend, do violate the United Nations Security Council resolutions. John.

VAUSE: Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks live for us there with the very latest in Seoul. Thank you.

Well, COVID now claiming the lives of one in every 500 Americans. U.S. president, Joe Biden wants to commit global leaders to be more (ph) to keep the world safe. His, that's next on CNN Newsroom.



VAUSE: One of every 500 American have now died from COVID, not become infected or fallen ill, but died. That extraordinary number comes from a CNN analyst of data from Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Census Bureau.

And with the U.S. death toll just over 667,000, many states continue to debate the need for pandemic safety measures. On an upcoming U.S. Summit, the U.S. president, Joe Biden, will call on global leaders commit to vaccinating 70 percent of the world within a year.


Well, for the first time in more than two months, the World Health Organization is reporting a substantial decline in new weekly COVID cases. Nearly 4 million infections were reported worldwide in the past week. But the W.H.O. say all regions report a decline in new cases compared to the previous week. Globla weekly COVID deaths have also been in decline.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't ever want to take live theater for granted ever again, do you? It took six years to get this on the first time.


VAUSE: Back to the room where it happened, the show was one of four major Broadway hits that reopened on Tuesday after the pandemic forced them to close a year and a half ago. Proof of vaccination and masks are required for the audience. Eight Broadway productions are now open or in previous. Many more set for the coming months.

Thank you for watching CNN Newsroom. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. Rosemary Church takes over at the top of the hour. You're watching CNN Newsroom.