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Governor Newsom Remain in His Seat; Larry Elder Used Wrong Strategy; COVID-19 On Top of Voters' Minds; General Milley Crossed a Red Line to Save the Country. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired September 15, 2021 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom. And I'm Rosemary Church.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH (on camera): A victorious and vindicated Gavin Newsom defeats an effort to remove him from office.
Plus, new revelations about a top secret move by America's highest ranking general to protect the nation's nuclear weapons in the final days of the Trump presidency. We have excerpts from a new book.
Good to have you with us.
Well, CNN projects California Governor Gavin Newsom will get to keep his job. Voters in the golden state rejected a recall effort led by Republicans opposed to his handling of the coronavirus, homelessness, and the economy.
The first question on the ballot, should Governor Newsom be recalled. About two-thirds of the voters said no, a landslide victory for Newsom. Exit polls show about a third of voters said the COVID pandemic was the most important issue.
Newsom pushed tough lockdowns, mask and vaccine mandates, a sharp contrast to his main Republican challenger, Larry Elder, who questioned the science behind such measures. In his brief victory speech, Newsom took aim at Republican claims of voter fraud.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWSOM: We may have defeated Trump, but Trumpism is not dead in this country. The big lie, January 6th insurrection, all the voting suppression efforts that are happening across this country, what's happening the assault on fundamental rights, constitutionally protected rights of women and girls, it's a remarkable moment in our nation's history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH (on camera): CNN's Dan Merica is live at Gavin Newsom headquarters in Sacramento. He joins us now. Good to see you, Dan. So, what's been the mood there since Newsom's victory speech? And what's the plan ahead given this strengthens the governor's hand on all issues, particularly tough COVID-19 measures?
DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: I'm going to be honest with you, the excited mood has left Democratic Party headquarters here. And I would imagine is that a local bar here in Sacramento where I'm sure Democrats are toasting this victory, a pretty resounding victory at that.
This was not a close election at all. And you really hit on the main point. This was all about COVID. Governor Newsom was largely recalled because of his tough measures on COVID throughout the pandemic. Many who signed the recall petition said they did so because they wanted to lean -- take the thrusters off in a way, pullback and not be as tough in the fight against COVID. And Larry Elder, his opponent, said he would do just that.
Now, what is ironic here is that Governor Newsom, the man who was almost recalled, or the recall was called on him because of those COVID measures, actually ran on exactly those COVID measures. And I think that's where you are going to see the broader impacts of this race. You are going to see Democrats point to California, point to this resounding victory and the fact that -- the fact that Governor Newsom stayed in office as a reason as defense for pushing tougher COVID measures here in the United States.
And that has really been a big divide here in politics in the United States, where you have governors, Republican governors and Republican states leaning out and pulling back on COVID measures and Democratic governors doing the exact opposite.
And what one Democratic official told me is that this election shows that tough COVID politics is good politics for Democrats. The other issue, and you noted, is the Trump factor. Donald Trump is no longer in the White House. He was not on the ballot in this recall, but Governor Newsom made this race largely about the impact of having a Republican governor would have on national Democratic politics and what it would mean for the party of Trump.
Larry Elder was very much in the line of Donald Trump and ran in large part many of the same policy positions that Donald Trump held during the 2020 election. And that is another lesson that you are going to see Democrats take from this. They can talk about Trump even if Trump is not on the ballot. Rosemary?
[03:04:59] CHURCH: All right. Dan Merica, many thanks to you.
And Republican Larry Elder made claims of election fraud in the waning days of the race, well before the votes were even counted. But he ultimately admitted defeat Tuesday night in front of his supporters.
CNN's Lucy Kafanov is at Elder campaign headquarters in Costa Mesa.
LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, it's been an interesting evening. The campaign has billed this as a, quote, "victory party." All night, the band had been playing. The alcohol was flowing. The mood was celebratory up until the networks, the news networks, began calling the election for current Governor Gavin Newsom.
That is when the two TVs behind me that we're playing the election returns turned off and then started showing the Elder signs. And that's when the mood shifted. The big question, of course, was whether Larry Elder was going to concede the election or continue to make baseless claims of possible election fraud.
He has mentioned, quote, unquote, "election shenanigans in the lead up to the election," but he did come out speaking to supporters, acknowledging the loss. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY ELDER, CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent, Governor Gavin Newsom --
ELDER: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAFANOV (on camera): Larry Elder then went on to recycle his campaign stump speech, talking about the issues that were important to conservative Republicans in California, issues like homelessness, crime, school choice, the high cost of living, the drought that's been plaguing the state.
His platform wasn't necessarily different from the other top Republicans running. There were, of course, nearly 46 people on the ballot. But he was able to rise to the top of the pack due to his name recognition. He's had a national platform for years on the radio and through his essays and blog post.
He did close this speech tonight by hinting at another potential run against Governor Gavin Newsom, saying when it's, you know, in terms of what he is going to do going forward. Stay tuned. Rosemary?
CHURCH: Right. Many thanks, Lucy.
Joining me now, Michael Genovese, president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University; John Phillips, KABC talk radio host; and Mo' Kelly, host of the Los Angeles radio program, the Mo' Kelly show. Welcome, everyone.
MICHAEL GENOVESE, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL POLICY INSTITUTE, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY: Thank you.
JOHN PHILLIPS, TALK SHOW HOST, KABC RADIO: Hello.
CHURCH: So, exit polls indicate COVID-19 was the top issue for most voters and that appears to have worked in Newsom's favor, even though this recall election took place because of the governor's tough COVID policies.
Michael Genovese, what does that tell you about what Californian voters want to see in terms of vaccine and mask mandates going forward?
GENOVESE: Well, for the governor, it was a mandate to continue doing those things, maybe even to ratchet it up. It was very, very clear that both the no and the yes folks took very seriously the COVID question. But the no votes were overwhelming, and they were overwhelmingly in favor of more of the same from the governor.
You saw in exit polling, the no voters, the number one issue they said they voted on was COVID, at 42 percent rate. So, it was a big issue and it was a confirmation that the governor's policies were acceptable and that they would go on.
CHURCH: John Phillips, as a Republican, you wouldn't be very happy with this outcome I would guess. But I'd be interested to get your reaction to Larry Elder borrowing directly from the Trump playbook, even before the counting started, with his baseless claims of election fraud if he lost. Do you buy into that? And do you think this outcome shows that voters are rejecting Trump's big election lie?
PHILLIPS: Well, if you go back a couple of weeks ago, the polls were much, much closer. You had any number of polls that showed this race within the margin of error. And that was back when Gavin Newsom was running on the platform of California roaring back. His COVID policies are causing our economy to boom, children to go back to school, and all these wonderful things. And it wasn't working.
And at that point, he shifted his focus from talking about his COVID achievements and his achievements as governor, to attacking Larry Elder, attacking Republicans, trying to make this a referendum on President Trump. And in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, that became a battle that was much friendlier to him and ultimately was the reason why he won this election.
And in terms of whether or not they were shenanigans that took place in this election, if you lose by a touchdown, then maybe it can be a blown call. If you lose by three touchdowns the blown call wasn't the problem.
CHURCH: Mo' Kelly, what's your reaction to what John just said and to Elder's apparently flawed strategy here?
MO' KELLY, HOST, THE MO' KELLY SHOW: Well, I think it was a flawed strategy. And Elder, I guess, embraced Trumpism in his delivery and his style of force, echoing the calls of the big lie, and I think that animated and energized voters. It energized African-American voters.
And remember, Larry Elder is a talk show host, as John Phillips is and I am, and we don't have a political record to stand on. So, Larry Elder had to stand on his past public statements as a radio host, which are oftentimes inflammatory, which are oftentimes offensive. And that was an easy rallying cry for Democrats.
And so, Larry Elder made it about himself and Gavin Newsom obliged him, and made it about Larry Elder and energized and animated the Democratic base.
CHURCH: And Michael, back to you, despite the loss, Republicans have, of course, succeeded in threatening the governorship of the Democrat at a time when democracy in this country is looking increasingly fragile. Newsom himself calling it an antique buzz (Ph), not a football. How flawed is the political system that allows less than two million disgruntled voters to man a recall election on a governor who originally won by a landslide?
GENOVESE: Well, you hit the nail on the head, Rosemary, because California has the lowest bar, the lowest threshold, for getting on the ballot with a recall, 12 percent of the voters from the last election. Most other states that have a recall have 20 or 25 percent, the state of Kansas, 40 percent threshold.
So that's one lesson I think that we will learn and we may reform that. But I think it goes way beyond that. I think it goes to -- I think what John had said, and that is that in California running against Trump really sells. That was the gift to the Newsom campaign.
Because before they nationalized the race -- one -- they were really having trouble. Once they nationalized it and made it about Trump, Democrats shot ahead. And so, fear of Trump really sells for Democrats, and it works.
CHURCH: And John Phillips, your Republican Party was able to recall Democratic Governor Gray Davis back in 2003, replacing him with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Why couldn't Republicans make this happen this time around do you think?
PHILLIPS: Well, before people vote at the ballot box, they vote with their feet. And a lot of people who are upset at the policies in California, instead of sticking around and fighting and voting at the ballot box, they got in their electric cars, they loaded up their yoga mats and grabbed as much kale as they could to Texas.
CHURCH: A lot of stereotypes there --
PHILLIPS: And they move on to bring their pastries. CHURCH: OK, Mo' Kelly, this was a high-stake recall election for Democrats in California. What are your thoughts on what Gavin Newsom needs to do with his win in terms of the coronavirus, the economy, homelessness, and other big issues that voters made clear they were concerned about?
KELLY: Well, first, he needs to thank Larry Elder for getting in the race and saving his political skin. But also, I think Gavin Newsom needs to be more attentive to California voters, writ large, because he still has to turn around and go back into campaign mode for the general election in 2022. So, he is not out of the woods but he is in a better position now than he was.
And if I could just say this, Gavin Newsom and also Joe Biden, President Biden are, I would say, recipients of good timing. If President Biden were in a general election today, he'd probably loses. If Gavin Newsom were in a recall election 10 months ago, he probably loses. So, then win, elections are.
And Governor Gavin Newsom is a product of the timing of the recall as opposed to if it was not then as opposed to now. So, Gavin Newsom needs to listen to California voters.
CHURCH: Yes, timing is everything. Michael Genovese, Mo' Kelly, and John Phillips, many thanks to all three of you. I appreciate it.
GENOVESE: Thank you.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.
KELLY: Thank you.
CHURCH: And still to come, disturbing details from a new book on Donald Trump's last days at the White House, and how his advisers worried he may provoke a conflict abroad to distract from his crushing election defeat. That's next.
CHURCH (on camera): There's word from South Korea's joint chiefs of staff that North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles into the waters off its east coast. South Korea is strengthening its surveillance and monitoring of the North while working with the U.S. to maintain its readiness.
Japan's prime minister called the launch outrageous and said it threatened the peace and security of the region. This comes days after Pyongyang tested a long-range cruise missile. And we'll keep a very close eye on that story of course going forward.
Another one we are following, a new book by legendary journalist Bob Woodward and veteran Washington Post reporter Robert Costa is painting a chilling picture of former U.S. President Donald Trump's last days in office. "Peril" based on more than 200 interviews with witnesses is Woodward's
third book on the Trump presidency. It recounts behind the scenes moments of an angry and unhinged commander in chief yelling at senior advisers as he desperately tries to cling to power.
CNN's Jamie Gangel has the details.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Woodward and Costa report in "Peril" that General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs, took secret action to limit President Donald Trump's ability to order a dangerous military strike or to use nuclear weapons.
Just to set the stage, it's January 8th, two days after the assault on the capitol, and Woodward and Costa reveal that Milley is deeply shaken by the attack and that he believes that President Trump has become increasingly unstable and unpredictable since his election loss, according to the book.
They also write that Milley believed Trump was in serious mental decline. Woodward and Costa then reveal that Milley has intelligence that China is on edge, that the Chinese are worried Trump may try to order a military strike, a wag the dog to try to stay in power. And Milley has back channel phone calls with his counterpart, the top general in China to reassure him.
Taking all of this into account, Milley says to his staff, quote, "you never know what the president's trigger point is." And that same day, on January 8th, he decided he had to act and he called a secret meeting at the Pentagon, he called in the generals and colonels who man the national military command center, the Pentagon War Room, and even though he is chairman of the joint chiefs he is technically not in the chain of command, he is the top military adviser to the president.
And he instructed those generals and colonels that they were not to take orders from anyone unless he was involved, according to the book. Milley said to the room, quote, "if you get calls, no matter who they are from, there is a process here, there's a procedure. No matter what you are told, you do the procedure, you do the process, and I'm part of the procedure.
Woodward and Costa write that Milley was very concerned and was taking precautions that there were no dangerous or illegal orders. The book then goes on to say that it is true that Milley may be criticized for what some may think was overstepping his authority, but Woodward and Costa write that his actions he believed were a good faith precaution.
One of the other things that's revealed in the book is there are new details about January 6th and what President Trump is doing during the insurrection. And there is a remarkable scene in the book where retired General Keith Kellogg, who is Vice President Pence's national security adviser at the time, is in the Oval Office watching as President Trump is watching television, watching the insurrection and action. And according to the book, retired General Kellogg says to the president, quote, "Mr. President, you really should do a tweet, this is out of control. They are not going to be able to control this. Sir, they are not prepared for it. Once the mob starts turning like that, you've lost it." And the president simply replied, yeah, and according to Woodward and Costa, Trump blinked and kept on watching television.
The book is certainly something that the January 6th Select Committee is going to be taking a very close look at.
Jamie Gangel, CNN, Washington.
CHURCH: CNN projects California Governor Newsom has defeated an attempt to remove him from office. More of our special coverage of California's recall election, coming up next.
CHURCH (on camera): Welcome back, everyone.
Well, CNN projects Democrat Gavin Newsom has survived a recall election and will keep his job as California's governor. About two- thirds of voters rejected the Republican-led effort to remove Newsom from office. His most prominent challenger, conservative talk radio host, Larry Elder, has conceded the race.
In his victory speech in Sacramento, the governor thanked voters for their support and for saying yes to science, vaccines and ending the pandemic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWSOM: I'm humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercised their fundamental right to vote and expressed themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH (on camera): So, let's bring in CNN senior political analyst, Harry Enten. Harry, always great to have you with us.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: My pleasure to be with you.
CHURCH: So you, of course, are the expert on all of this, break down the numbers for us in the issues that motivated the voters.
ENTEN: Yeah, I mean, look, at the end of the day, the most important issue in the exit poll was the coronavirus. And how did voters who said the coronavirus is the most important issue vote? They voted significantly for Gavin Newsom.
You know, Larry Elder tried to make this race about mandates and folks who are or against mandates. But in fact, if you ask those voters in California whether or not they favored mask mandate for children in school, what did the exit poll find, that 70 percent of voters supported mask mandates.
So, to me, this was just a race in which the Republicans completely misread the electorate. Newsom read the electorate correctly and was able to use the coronavirus and his actions on it to propel himself to the no, on the recall and therefore to keep his seat in the Governor's Mansion.
CHURCH: So what message should Larry Elder and indeed Donald Trump take from these numbers and are there any national implications for this vote, do you think?
ENTEN: Yeah, I mean, the first implication to me is, you can't run a Donald Trump candidate in every single state. My goodness gracious. Joe Biden won the state of California by 29 points. And now, you are going to run a Donald Trump basically clone in that state? That's ridiculous. It's crazy. You got to pick better candidates that fit the state.
Now that being said, right? California, as I mentioned was a state that voted for Joe Biden by 29 points. So I wouldn't take too much from it. But again, I just go back to the issue of the coronavirus. When 70 percent of the voters in California say that they supported mask mandates for children in school, that's going to translate nationally. Even in red states, it's a majority of voters who support those mask mandates.
So, I think if there is one message that Democrats should take from this and try to apply nationally, it is that you should run hard on the coronavirus. You should run hard on mask mandates. That's the type of issue that can translate to other states as well.
CHURCH: Yes. So Republicans a little tone-deaf on this, do you think?
ENTEN: I think they're tremendously tone-deaf. I mean, look, on something like vaccine mandates, you are a little bit more split. But take mask mandates again, right, we've seen this battle down in the -- key swing states of Florida, Ron DeSantis was basically trying to block local schoolboards from implementing mask mandates, and that was terribly unpopular there.
So, I think that -- again, I think it is a misreading of the electorate, especially on mask mandates. Democrats will be smart to push the issue. And if I were Republicans, I'd back off of it.
CHURCH: Harry Enten, always a pleasure. Thanks so much.
ENTEN: Thank you.
CHURCH: And joining me now, Jean Guerrero, columnist for the "L.A. Times" and Mathew Littman, Democratic strategist and former speech writer for Senator Joe Biden. Good to have you both with us.
MATHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST (on camera): Thank you.
JEAN GUERRERO, COLUMNIST, L.A. TIMES (on camera): Good to be here.
CHURCH: So, Jean, let's start with you. Last month you wrote in your column that if Larry Elder is elected, life will get harder for black and Latino Californians, as it turns out, he was not elected. But what are your thoughts now, as you look at the outcome of this recall election? And what will it mean for the future of the state do you think and perhaps even the country?
GUERRERO: Well, early exit polls show that Latinos and black voters, voters of color in the state, really drove the results here. Early on, it was unclear whether Latinos were going to be motivated to vote. But as the information reached them about what was at stake as far as Larry Elder promising to reverse all of the state's progress on immigrant rights, on racial justice, scaling back sanctuary laws, attacking -- you know, health -- public investments and public education and then health for these communities, then they were very mobilized to come out and vote.
And we don't have the exact numbers yet, but it is very clear that these communities, you know, handed Trumpism its defeat in the state. And I think it signals that, you know, California voters are very much in favor of immigrant rights, and racial justice in the multiculturalism that is greatly feared by a minority of far-right conservatives in the state, who really helped to drive this recall.
You know, painting California as this quote/unquote, "Third World," failing state, often with racial undertones. You know, campaigning on Fox News with images of, you know, brown and black homeless populations and just spreading racist fears about the state. But we have shown and we have -- you know, California voters have loudly declared that we are a multi-cultural state and we stand by our values and the idea that progressive policies actually make lives better for all Californians.
CHURCH: And Matthew Littman, Gavin Newsom's victory speech wasn't just focused on California, but on the big picture as well. What are the national implications of this recall election, particularly as we watch democracy come increasingly under attack right across this country?
LITTMAN: Well, it's interesting that you say democracy is under attack, because Larry Elder is saying basically that a lot of the vote is fake. You know, just as Donald Trump did, they are trying to undermine the vote and Gavin Newsom won an overwhelming victory.
The national implication of this is COVID, where your guest talked about before, which is that there's a large majority of people in this country and California that are very angry at the people who are not willing to take the vaccines. And Joe Biden talked about that a little bit last week and Gavin Newsom talked about it tonight. And I think that's what's propelling Gavin Newsom and may propel Democrats in 2022. It's listening to the majority of voters who are very angry at those people who are not getting vaccinated.
CHURCH: And Jean, this recall election was about control of a huge blue state, the 5th largest economy in the world. What message did Californian voters send the Republican Party, Larry Elder and more specifically Donald Trump?
GUERRERO: Well, I mean, they told Trumpism to go back to where it came from. You know, this election was really driven by people who were motivated to disenfranchise communities of color. And I don't think that that gets enough attention.
And California voters saw through the tactics, and you know, this attempt to really focus on the problem of homelessness, which is a real problem in California, but it has nothing to do with Democratic or progressive policies, it has to do with moderates and conservatives, and some for progressives in California who continue to resist affordable housing here.
The real thing -- you know, the real issues that were on the ballot were, racial justice, immigrant rights, you know, science-based COVID response and recovery, science-based climate change response. You know, California has been a leader on these issues and the message that California voter sent was we don't want this progress that has taken so much work in so many years to be reversed.
CHURCH: And Mathew, the big election issues here were, of course, the COVID pandemic as we heard, women's rights, specifically access to abortion, voting rights, climate change. Does this give Governor Newsom the power to go tougher on vaccine and mask mandates and to fight harder on those other issues to show some of these Republican Governors across the country who are going in the opposite direction?
LITTMAN: I don't think that this has national implications for Republican governors in Florida or Texas, for instance. California is two-thirds Democratic state. So, we know that Gavin Newsom was going to win. And now the Republicans, by making Larry Elder the face of the party, are going to be even worse shape next year when Gavin Newsom runs again.
So, they have to be carefully. Now, California does have some major issues. The homelessness issue that was just mentioned is an incredible issue in California, wildfires, murder rates are up in some cities. There are some big problems. Having this recall election doesn't solve any of those problems.
We wasted about $270 million on a recall election when there is an election next year. There are big problems, people in this state are frustrated, but this is a two-thirds Democratic state, and Gavin Newsom is pretty popular, they want to see him solve these problems.
CHURCH: Many thanks to you both joining us, we appreciate it. GUERRERO: Thank you.
CHURCH: And still ahead, the U.S. military claims a deadly drone strike thwarted an ISIS attack on the Kabul airport, but new evidence suggest the U.S. might have gotten it wrong.
CNN investigation, next.
CHURCH: There's bipartisan frustration in Congress with the Biden administration over the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Secretary of State took a second day of questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Republicans called the troop withdrawal a strategic error and the evacuation the worst foreign policy catastrophe in a generation.
Anthony Blinken emphasized the withdrawal agreement was negotiated by the Trump administration. Republican Senator Rand Paul asked about the August 29th drone strike the Biden administration said was needed to prevent an attack on U.S. troops. Some reports say the driver of the targeted car was an aid worker and not a member of ISIS-K.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: The administration is, of course, reviewing that strike. And I'm sure that, you know, full assessment will be fully --
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): So you don't know if it was an aid worker or an ISIS-K operative?
BLINKEN: I can't speak to that, I can't speak to that in a setting of any event.
PAUL: So you don't know or won't tell us?
BLINKEN: I don't know because we are reviewing it.
PAUL: Well, so you think you've kind of know before you off somebody with a predator drone, whether he was an aid worker or he's an ISIS-K? We can sort of have an investigation after we kill people. We have an investigation before we kill people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: For the last two weeks, CNN has been investigating that drone strike, and our investigation raises some very serious questions about the U.S. government's accounts of what happened that day.
CNN's Anna Coren has been working the story and joins us now live from Hong Kong. Good to see you, Anna. So, what are you able to tell us about this?
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Rosemary, doubt certainly have been raised over whether the U.S. military actually hit an ISIS-K target when they dropped the hellfire missile on a car in a Kabul neighborhood two weeks ago.
According to the family and colleagues of the targeted victim, 43- year-old aid worker, Zamarai Ahmadi, the U.S. got it wrong. CNN's investigation was led by journalist, Sandy Sudu and Julie Hollingsworth (ph), in a span of past two weeks, we have spoken to a total of 30 people, including five colleagues, who are with Zamarai on that day.
We had also spoken to two bomb experts who dispute the military's claims. There was a significant secondary explosion after the drone strike which is code for explosive material, which the U.S. suspected. One of them told me that if there was a secondary blast, it must likely was the vehicle gas tank exploding.
We have also analyze the CCTV footage, which you are looking at from that day of Zamarai in the office. And what is critical to note, Rosemary, is that a U.S. official with knowledge of the operations, who spoke to us, said the U.S. military never knew who was driving the car. They began following the Toyota Corolla that Zamarai was driving based on intelligence and chatter they've been monitoring from an ISIS safe house.
The official said they saw the car leave possibly from the same safe house and then followed it for next eight hours before launching the strike. Now, we do need to remember that just days before an ISIS-K suicide bomber had killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 170 Afghans at the gate of the airport.
The U.S. had intelligence of an imminent and credible threat and were understandably on high alert. But Rosemary, from what we had established, there were serious doubts as to whether Zamarai, a father of seven, highly respected worker who worked for this U.S. based NGO for 15 years, feeding the poor was as the U.S. claims, an ISIS-K facilitator, where suspected explosive material in his car for an imminent attack.
And Rosemary, Zamarai was not the only one killed. According to the extended family who lived together in this compound, nine other family members died, including seven children, three of whom were toddlers. We've seen the distressing footage of the child remains of what was left to the bodies, you know, parents trying to recognize a hand, or foot and ear to work out which body part belong to their child.
The Pentagon says, an investigation is underway but maintains the strike was based on good intelligence and that no military works harder to prevent civilian casualties.
Rosemary, our full investigation will air in the next hour.
CHURCH: Yes, and an incredible report to Anna Coren, many thanks to you for that. And you are watching "CNN Newsroom." We are back in just a moment.
CHURCH: 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 two-thirds of the voter 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.
Now, to some of the other big stories we are following this hour, Haiti's Prime Minister, Ariel Henry has fired the country's top prosecutor. And this comes just hours after the prosecutor asked a judge to possibly charge Mr. Henry in connection with the assassination of Haiti's president.
Prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude alleges the prime minister received a phone call from a key suspect in the hours after President Jovenel Moise was killed. Moise was gunned down during an attack on his home in early July. Since then, dozens of suspects have been arrested but investigators have yet to identify a mastermind or motive behind that attack.
Residents in Houston, Texas are being urged to stay home as the city deals with the aftermath of Hurricane Nicholas, which has now weakened to a tropical depression. Authorities say dangerous conditions still exist, including downed power lines.
Nicholas made landfall as a category one hurricane early Tuesday and is expected to move very slowly across Louisiana over the next 48 hours. Flash flood watchers are in effect for more than 6 million people along the Gulf Coast.
COVID-19 has now claimed the lives of one in 500 Americans. That is according to CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Census Bureau. Officials are pushing for more people to get vaccinated to prevent more deaths.
The CDC says 54 percent of Americans are now fully vaccinated, still shy of what disease experts say is needed for herd immunity. Dr. Anthony Fauci says research is ongoing to provide vaccines to children between the ages of five and 11, which could become available later this year.
Well, four of Broadway's biggest blockbusters reopen to New York crowds on Tuesday, and audiences could barely contain themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (APPLAUSE)
CHURCH (voice over): It was good news for the opening night crowd of "Wicked," where excited cheers and vigorous applause forced performers to wait until they could be heard from the stage. Broadway theaters now require patrons to be fully vaccinated and wear face masks with all performers fully vaccinated as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH (on camera): I'm Rosemary Church. I will be back with more news in just a moment, don't go anywhere.