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Kentucky Rescue Efforts Continue; Primary Day; U.S. Kills Al Qaeda Leader; Nancy Pelosi Visits Taiwan. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired August 02, 2022 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
New information into CNN. China says it will launch a series of targeted military operations around Taiwan to counteract House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's arrival on the island. She is now the first House speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
China has called this move a major political provocation, and has warned that those who play with fire shall perish by it. That's a quote.
Now, China views the democratic self-governing island as part of its territory. That's why this is a big deal.
CNN's Will Ripley is in Taipei.
Will, tell us more about Pelosi's visit, what you're learning and the response?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So I will start with the response, Ana, because that is the new information that we're getting from the Chinese side.
They have actually put out a map showing a number of different military exercises that are going to be happening at various locations that encircle, essentially, the island of Taiwan. Some of these locations -- and I don't know if we have the map prepared, there's a graphic yet, but they are very close to the shoreline of Taiwan.
So we don't know exactly details yet about what these military exercises are going to entail. But, theoretically, if they're loud enough, there could be some people living in Taiwan along the coastline who could actually hear the sounds of this.
And that would be, of course, incredibly dramatic, incredibly escalatory, and exactly the kind of point that Beijing is trying to make to express their furor over Nancy Pelosi visiting the island of Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, home to 25 million people who elected their president, Tsai Ing-wen, a president that Xi Jinping in Beijing does not feel is legitimate.
He doesn't feel that the democratic wishes of the people who live on the island of Taiwan are legitimate, because -- and you heard the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. speaking on John King's program previous hour calling this the Taiwan region of the People's Republic of China.
They have Taiwan in Chinese passports as essentially like any other province in China, or like Hong Kong or Macau, the Chinese territories. They do not at all acknowledge that this place has had its own government and military for more than 70 years. And the communist rulers in Beijing, while they have always said that this is their island, they have never controlled it. They have never governed it.
And so that is the dynamic, now the military exercises commencing. Let's talk about Speaker Pelosi on the ground here. By the way, that announcement about the military exercises came pretty much at the same exact moment that we saw the live pictures of Speaker Pelosi and her delegation touching down in Taipei.
They have now taken -- they have now driven by convoy to the Grand Hyatt in Taipei, which is a very short distance from Taipei 101, where the building has been lit up to welcome Speaker Pelosi.
And we have confirmed, CNN has confirmed that starting tomorrow she will be meeting with the Taiwan president, Tsai Ing-wen, and also with members of Parliament, and spending pretty much a full day here, perhaps also speaking with local business leaders, touring various sites, and getting a real sense for the situation the ground here, Ana, which is exactly what the Taiwanese government wants.
They want American lawmakers to know what Taiwan is like here, what life is like here in the world's only Chinese-speaking democracy, with the hope that those lawmakers will, if and when the time came, vote to help Taiwan if it came under attack from mainland China.
CABRERA: Will Ripley in Taiwan for us, thank you for that reporting and that update.
Let me bring in CNN anchor and chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto now.
Jim, what do you make of Pelosi's decision to go, despite the concerns we have been hearing from U.S. officials about the rising tensions in the region and possible blowback from China?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, some U.S. officials, right, but not others, frankly.
You had Mitch McConnell release a statement a short time ago from 25 or 26 Republican senators, notably. And there are Democratic senators as well whose support Pelosi's visit there. It's not the first visit by a speaker of the House. There was one in 1997 by Newt Gingrich. Granted, that's 25 years ago, and the situation, the relationship between the U.S. and China different.
But there have been multiple congressional delegations of both parties in recent weeks and months. So, remember, the U.S. and China and, frankly, Taiwan and China have a fundamentally different view of this issue.
Yes, China views it as a region of China, but certainly Taiwan does not. And Taiwan has decades of elective democracy, decades of a market economy, a world-beating market economy, to show for that. So there are fundamentally different points of view here regarding Taiwan's situation. And Pelosi's argument is, she's simply recognizing that.
Now, the trouble is, China has -- it's in the midst of its own, not leadership transition, but leadership extinction here, where the Chinese president is just about to be allowed to break term limits in that country. And he has made bringing Taiwan back into Chinese territory one of his sort of hoped-for historical legacies here.
So this is as much about domestic Chinese ambitions and politics as it is about anything else.
CABRERA: So what was the big concern then from some U.S. officials about the potential threat that could occur around this visit should she go? Now she's there.
Are U.S. officials bracing for some kind of further escalation on China's behalf?
SCIUTTO: Some are, right?
I mean, there's nervousness about escalation and, with escalation, miscalculation, right? Do Taiwanese and Chinese aircraft get too close to each other in the sky and you have something? There was even concern about Pelosi's flight going in. Might Chinese aircraft -- and they didn't, by the way -- somehow challenge Pelosi's aircraft, right?
I mean, when you have tensions like this, a big part of the concern is, do you run into each other in a way you don't want to run into each other? And that is always a problem. But there's also a difference of opinion, frankly, between some U.S. officials and others, current and former, as to whether you can be too deferential or not deferential enough to China's security concerns here, but -- and what you gain from it, right?
There are many in the U.S. government say the better thing to do, give China the means to -- sorry -- give Taiwan the means to defend itself against a potential Chinese invasion, weapons, et cetera, and don't do the kind of showy trips like this that's certainly going to get noticed, more noticed in terms of public attention. That's the debate.
I will say this, that the feeling has changed somewhat over the last 10 years, from a bipartisan perspective, in terms of how far people from both parties think you can go in standing up to what is -- America's view, this would be a land grab by China to forcefully take over Taiwan.
And I think officials of both parties are less reluctant than they might have once been in terms of standing up to China in instances like this. Of course, the question, it's all risk/reward, right, what you gain from it vs. what you risk.
CABRERA: Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.
Now to brand-new footage showing the aftermath of the U.S. drone strike that killed the world's most wanted terrorist. This was the scene in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. You can see that smoke rising after two Hellfire missiles hit the safe house of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Now, U.S. officials say he was killed out on the balcony and that there were no civilian casualties. This precision strike on this key plotter of the 9/11 attacks concludes a manhunt that spanned more than two decades.
CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for us.
Barbara, what more are we learning about this operation and how it came together?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, when you look at that neighborhood in Kabul, that is a very well-to-do neighborhood in Kabul, heavily populated, crowded, and yet they knew exactly where he was.
They knew he'd be out on the balcony. They knew when to launch the drone and when to launch those Hellfire missiles. So, a lot of intelligence buildup over several months went into this mission. In fact, we are told by administration officials, Ana, that President Biden first began to get briefed on this back in April.
Several briefings continued as they refined the intelligence. And then it was on Sunday that he gave the final go-ahead. It is an interesting proposition the Zawahiri was in Afghanistan, in Kabul. Certainly, he must have felt more comfortable being there with the U.S. gone for the last year, the Taliban in control, felt that he and his family could be there.
But the U.S. able to collect that intelligence and reach out and kill him, so a lot to learn about exactly how this happened. We know that this is what happened. But how did they collect the intelligence? How did they up until the very last minute know exactly where he was, where he was in that house to hit the balcony, not have any other civilian casualties?
What officials are saying is, while they have no DNA confirmation of his death, they have visual confirmation and other sources of intelligence that convince him -- them that he was the man killed. So it's a bit of a word game here. They're telling us some things, but not everything -- Ana.
CABRERA: Our understanding is it was a seven-month process of collecting intelligence before the strike.
Barbara Starr, thank you.
I'm going to bring in now Seth Jones, senior adviser for the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He was also an adviser to U.S. Special Operations Command and special operations forces in Afghanistan.
Seth, so great to have you here.
How big of a blow is this to al Qaeda?
SETH JONES, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, it's a pretty serious blow.
It was one thing to kill bin Laden. Zawahiri was with bin Laden essentially from the beginning, and was very influential in providing some of the chief religious texts, and then ran the organization since 2011, since bin Laden's death. So this puts al Qaeda now in a bit of a bind at its leadership level.
There are some possibilities, like Saif al-Adel, who could take over the organization, but no one really with the recent skill set that Zawahiri had. So it does put al Qaeda really behind the eight ball a little bit.
CABRERA: The U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan almost a year ago. So what does this successful strike tell you about U.S. intel capabilities inside Afghanistan right now?
JONES: Well, I haven't been involved in some of these operations directly.
What it does say is that the U.S. does have intelligence in Afghanistan, most likely human sources, as well as some signals intelligence capabilities. Those can be gained by an MQ-9, which was probably the drone that was used to conduct the strike.
But it would be a very different situation to conclude that the U.S. has enough information and intelligence capabilities to conduct any kind of a sustained campaign. It's one thing to conduct a limited strike like this, but it'd be a very different situation to conduct any kind of a campaign about what looks like is an al Qaeda and Islamic State resurgence in Afghanistan.
CABRERA: So you think there is a resurgence? Because -- I'm curious to hear more, because, before 9/11 -- I want to remind our viewers, the Taliban provided a safe harbor for terrorists which allowed al Qaeda to fester and grow.
Are you concerned that's happening again right now with the Taliban takeover?
The minister of interior for the Taliban, Sirajuddin Haqqani, has long been the main Taliban conduit to al Qaeda. There are several recent U.N. Security Council reports that have indicated that al Qaeda numbers have significantly increased, in fact, doubled in Afghanistan. We also know that the Islamic State Khorasan province has been very
active in conducting attacks. So I think we're not out of the woods by any means in Afghanistan, despite the fact that a very senior, the most senior al Qaeda official, was killed.
CABRERA: Seth Jones, I really appreciate your expertise and insights. Thanks for making time for us.
JONES: Thank you.
CABRERA: It's a big primary day in America, voters heading to the polls in five states, where a slew of Trump-backed candidates, election deniers and a disgraced former governor are all fighting for their political future. What to watch for just ahead.
Plus, Jon Stewart joining us on his fight to help veterans suffering from toxic burn pit exposure. What he says to Republicans delaying a bill over a money dispute.
And does a four-day workweek really work? The results of a massive test are rolling in, and you probably want your boss to hear this.
CABRERA: Election lies, Trump's sway over the GOP and a battle of the Erics.
There's a lot at stake as voters hit the polls in five states today. They're set to send a very strong message to Washington about the direction they want this nation to head.
CNN's Harry Enten is here to lay it all out for us.
So we have three Republican incumbents today who are going to find out just how much their vote to impeach former President Trump really matters.
Let's start on those races. Lay it out for us.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, all right, let's start on that.
So, look, House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, we got one in Michigan, two in Washington. Now, here's the thing I will point out. In Michigan, it is a partisan primary. That is, it's just Republicans or those who choose a Republican ballot who will vote in that primary.
In Washington, what will actually have, it's a top two primary. That is basically all the Democrats and all the Republicans run on the same ballot at the same time. The one person who voted to impeach Donald Trump who survived their primary so far, David Valadao in California, ran in a top two primary. The one Republican so far who in fact went in a partisan primary down in South Carolina, Tom Rice, lost his primary. We will see if something like that happens again this evening.
CABRERA: OK, we will be watching that.
Let's talk about Arizona, because this is a little bit of a battle of Trump vs. Pence, sort of. Explain.
ENTEN: Yes, so, essentially, what we have here is, is we have Kari Lake and Karrin Taylor Robson running in this Republican gubernatorial primary in the state of Arizona.
Trump is in fact backing Kari Lake, while Robson is being backed by Mike Pence. And so this is one of these proxy battles that we have seen throughout the Republican primary process, where Trump is going up against his former V.P. We will see what happens.
So far, Trump has been fairly successful in primaries, but it may not be the case tonight.
CABRERA: Well, and we covered when they had the dueling rallies, and both men were there supporting their opposing candidates at the same time.
There are some other key Trump endorsements also that we will be checking out tonight?
ENTEN: Well, there will be a bunch of other races where Trump has made an endorsement.
So, in the Arizona Senate race, we will be watching this, Blake Masters, of course, Arizona Senate. Could be a very key matchup come the fall. Mark Kelly, the incumbent Democrat there, could be very key for Senate control. We have the Arizona secretary of state race. Trump has made a number of endorsements in secretary of state's races, trying to basically control who controls elections, also in the Arizona attorney general.
And then in Michigan governor, he's, in fact, backing Tudor Dixon. Basically, all the candidates there or most of them are in Trump's corner. But he decided to go with Dixon at this particular point.
But, basically, so far this primary season, this may be the most important night for Trump. And the only other thing I will mention here, Trump backed Eric in the Missouri Republican Senate primary.
CABRERA: A battle of the Erics.
ENTEN: Who is he actually backing? I thought it might be Erik Estrada, the former actor, but it's one of these two. We will see what happens. CABRERA: OK. We will check back with you tomorrow, when the results
ENTEN: Sounds good.
CABRERA: Thank you so much, Harry Enten.
Meanwhile, on the ballot in Kansas, abortion rights.
Today, voters there have a chance to weigh in on this issue for the first time since Roe v. Wade was overturned.
And I want to bring in Bob Beatty. He's a political science professor at Washburn University in Topeka.
Bob, Kansas is traditionally conservative. It's a Republican state traditionally. Voters are now going to the polls, right now, as we speak. So do you see this as a potential litmus test for the nation how much this abortion issue can really move voters or turn out voters?
BOB BEATTY, WASHBURN UNIVERSITY: Oh, I think very much it's a litmus test.
As you said, Kansas is a very Republican state. Close to 50 percent of all registered voters are Republican. And if this amendment is even close, mind you, even if it passes, if it's close, it really gives an indication of where America may stand on abortion rights, because Kansas before Roe v. Wade was overturned, this was going -- this was seen by most as an amendment that was easily going to pass.
Now the no forces who are pro-choice have actually outraised in terms of money the yes forces here. We're talking $12 million overall. So I do believe it's a litmus test.
CABRERA: I have heard and I have read that the language on the ballot amendment is a little bit confusing. Now, this is not a clear yes or no vote on banning abortion. Can you explain?
BEATTY: Well, it's to me, it's not so much the language. There's a lot of confusion in general.
I mean, one big confusing point is, the legislature decided to put this vote in a primary. And, in Kansas, unaffiliateds aren't allowed to vote in primaries. So that's part of the deal is, they have to be told, hey, you can vote on this.
The other is, is that if this passes, it's not a ban on abortion. It goes to the legislature. The whole issue goes to the legislature, but it's very likely -- we don't know -- but it's very likely that the legislature then might ban abortion. So many people are confused about that. And, of course, you both sides arguing that it is a ban, and then the other side -- one side arguing it's not.
CABRERA: And right now Kansas allows abortions up to 22 weeks. That's written in the state Constitution, so Kansas has been the go-to for abortion services for people in some of the bordering states where abortion is already more restricted.
So this vote doesn't just affect Kansas, right?
BEATTY: That's true to an extent, although Kansas has some pretty strict regulations on abortion that, of course, were allowed by the Supreme Court.
So it's not really considered a go-to state because there's so many other restrictions, that it's actually -- can be difficult to get an abortion in Kansas, even though it is legal.
CABRERA: OK, it's all very interesting.
Bob Beatty, thanks for your expertise on the matter. And we will be watching that vote tonight.
Destroyed bridges, roads and soon stifling heat, mounting obstacles for rescue crews trying to save lives in Kentucky. We're there.
CABRERA: A break from the rain, thankfully, but not from the heat.
Kentucky officials are now bracing for stifling temperatures as they search for flood survivors. At least 37 people are dead, and the governor tells CNN it's hard to know for sure how many are still missing.
CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is in Hazard, Kentucky.
And, Evan, how could this heat now impact the search for survivors?
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, the best way to illustrate that is by looking at the damage that this flooding caused.
Look at this -- look at this bridge. Look at this crack in this bridge. The road is supposed to be up here, where I'm standing now. But, as you can see, it's been all torn away, this bridge. You just can't get behind it. You can't access it.
So that means that people who are back there in places like this where these bridges have gone down, and they have gone on all over the area, that means that they can't get out. And if they don't have power and they don't have water, then they're going to be in real trouble when the heat comes.
But I want to show you a bit more about the damage that we're seeing now that things have dried up a little bit. We flew the drone up here from this bridge that we're standing on, on Route 28 in Perry County. And you can see, as we snake along the back of this creek that overflowed and ripped this bridge down and ripped all these houses apart, you can see just how -- just what it did to that large vehicle, just flipping it over and burying it in the dirt as -- almost as deep as you can imagine. This is the kind of damage people are dealing with all over this area.
And that's the challenge when it comes to the next phase of this recovery, the governor saying they're still actively searching for people.