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Fmr. Afghan Pres. Ashraf Ghani Speaks With CNN; One-Year Since Taliban Seized Control Of Kabul; CNN Goes Inside Field Hospital Near Eastern Front Lines; India And Pakistan Mark 75 Years Since End Of British Rule; 18 Children Among 41 Killed In Egypt Church Fire. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired August 15, 2022 - 01:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome coming to you live from Studio 7 at the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.

Coming up here on the program, the images of Afghans running after a U.S. military plane still fresh in the minds of many. One year after the United States withdrew from Afghanistan, we'll see how the country has changed under Taliban rule.

Nowhere is safe will take you to the hospitals on the front lines in Ukraine where doctors are working to save lives even as they come under attack. And India and Pakistan marks 75 years since partition, which brought on one of the largest force migrations in history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN Newsroom with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: It has been exactly one year since the Taliban seize control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. It came, of course, amid the chaotic U.S. and Western withdrawal from the country, which was finally completed on August 30 last year. And since U.S. troops and other troops left, Afghans have seen the reversal of many hard-won gains.

Taliban leaders have blocked women from most workplaces and banned girls from high school. Hunger and poverty are spreading as well. A Human Rights Watch report released earlier this year found that 95 percent of Afghan households didn't have enough food to eat with more than half expected to be at crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity this year.

CNN has obtained a copy of a scathing report on the U.S. withdrawal by Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The report says the Biden administration did not accurately portray the nature of events on the ground and failed to put an adequate plan in place. Texas Republican Michael McCaul slamming the operation.


MICHAEL MCCAUL, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: There was a complete lack and a failure to plan. There was no plan and it was -- there was no plan executed. And to, you know, to your point, you know, even beforehand, I think the State Department probably didn't have the resources that needed to carry out an evacuation of this size.

And enormity, they had 36 consular officers at HKYAA (ph) trying to process hundreds of thousands of people. They were overwhelmed, but there are so many mistakes.


HOLMES: Democrat Adam Schiff acknowledged there were major problems but said the recent killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri showed the U.S. was still keeping an eye on threats to U.S. security.


ADAM SCHIFF, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRAT: Well, I certainly don't think that withdrawal had to go as it did, and the loss of American lives during that withdrawal. And the degree to which it took months and months. And we continue to try to help people escape from Afghanistan, I think could have been handled differently.

But I do think that we have demonstrated, the administration has demonstrated with the killing of Zawahiri, the number two and al-Qaeda under bin Laden. That it retains the capability much as it said it would a year later to go after those that threaten the country wherever they may be, in this case, the heart of Kabul.


HOLMES: CNN's Fareed Zakaria spoke with former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. When asked if he felt betrayed by the U.S., Ghani said there was too much work to do to waste time thinking about that.


ASHRAF GHANI, FORMER AFGHAN PRESIDENT: We need to draw lessons from the past and deal with the present. Our country is in dire condition. I do not have the luxury to engage in blaming or sense of betrayal. Super powers, big powers decide on the base of their national interest. What I hope is that they've considered the implications of those.


HOLMES: Ghani express hopes that one day he could go back home and said the suffering of Afghanistan could have ripple effects across the world.


GHANI: That three majorities, woman, youth and the poor, are collapsing. [01:05:07]

Hope is gone. A sense of belonging is not there. The world needs to think in terms of its own interest. Do you want millions more of refugees to knock on your doors? Or can you think about ways of stabilizing?

Those who are saying that the Taliban have changed, the Taliban needed healing, they needed the embrace of a society to be able to integrate them. And don't forget, they're highly traumatized. And now, unfortunately, their sense of revenge, their sense of repression, and reciprocating some of the repression that they'd experienced in exclusion is being repeated on escape. I want to be able to help my country heal, and I hope to be able to do that, from the place that every cell of my body belongs.


HOLMES: That was former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaking with CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

Michael Kugelman, is the Deputy Director and Senior Program Associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center. He joins me now. And thanks for doing so. When we look back at the Western withdrawal a year ago, one of the demands of the West as they pulled out and Taliban assurances were given was no terror threat on Afghan soil, then we have the killing of the al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, last month really made a mockery of that assurance as we look back over the last year, didn't it?

MICHAEL KUGELMAN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR & SENIOR PROGRAM ASSOCIATE FOR SOUTH ASIA, WILSON CENTER: Yes, it really did. And I think what really makes it such a mockery of that assurance is that the Taliban had given that assurance again and again. It's not like the Taliban had simply shrugged off the issue and hadn't said anything about it. But it would explicitly and repeatedly say that it was not going to give space to terrorists.

And so clearly, the fact that Zawahiri was found right in the middle of Kabul, really explodes the myth, so to speak. Propagated by the Taliban, that it's a group that does not provide space to terrorist groups and terrorists.

HOLMES: And to that point, the Taliban, they want international recognition, they want their frozen funds released and so on. Does the presence of al-Zawahiri in the heart of the capital, make it less likely, the West will do what the Taliban wants in that regard?

KUGELMAN: I think that recognition of the Taliban regime from the West was always a long shot. But certainly, the fact that Zawahiri was found in Kabul, I think, makes it all been an impossibility that any Western government would recognize the Taliban regime. And of course, you know, Western governments not only are concerned about the terrorism issues in Afghanistan, they're also concerned about the Taliban's human rights record. But that said, I mean, there are some things that both the Taliban and the West still want. And one of those things is to get more funds to Afghanistan. So you are going to see humanitarian assistance continue to flow into Afghanistan from the West, and especially in the coming months as the weather starts to get worse in Afghanistan.

But I also think that we will see efforts on the part of the U.S. to try to work out some arrangement to get these frozen African bank assets back into Afghanistan, somehow. There is a lot of pressure on the U.S. government to do this from a lot of key constituencies.

Just in recent days, you had a group of very prominent economist who issued a letter calling on the U.S. government to release those funds. Now, not long before the Zawahiri raid happened, there had been some negotiations between the U.S. government and Taliban leaders, and some proposals were exchanged about how to return those those funds.

Now we're talking about $3.5 billion in funds, but they hadn't gotten very far. And then we had this our hearing rate, so the negotiations may take a while to pick up. But if the U.S. does get assurances, that the Taliban will not get its hands on those funds once they're returned to the Afghan central bank in some way that would work, then we can't rule out the possibility.

But we're still a long way from that. And of course, as well that the U.S. government would need to be careful that if it were to work out some arrangement, where those those frozen funds were returned to Afghanistan, it would have to be done in a way that does not --


KUGELMAN: -- violate the sanctions regime.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. The humanitarian crisis, giving that a bit of an imperative. I mean, and to that point too, a seizing power, it's different, as we know, to running a country. How would you evaluate the Taliban's ability to govern after a year and given the food situation, human rights, women's rights, and as we say, an unfolding human catastrophe?

KUGELMAN: Well, not to give too much credit to the Taliban, but the Taliban has achieved some successes in the sense that it's been able to continue to collect revenues for the government, particularly through customs tariffs.


It was able to pass a budget some months ago. And there also are indications that corruption levels have gone down in Afghanistan. I wouldn't necessarily give that credit to the Taliban, but it's more the fact that you don't have as much money flowing into Afghanistan from overseas. And obviously, the more money floating around, the more chances there is of corruption. But beyond that, absolutely. The Taliban have been in over their heads for the last year. You have this economic crisis they can't solve. They also face the relentless threat of terrorism from Islamic State Khorasan. And the Taliban is also grappling with divisions, internal divisions within their ranks, which have made it even more difficult for them to focus on these immense policy challenges.

HOLMES: And we're almost out of time, but I wonder to ask you this in terms of the neighborhood, the geopolitical area. I know you follow Pakistan closely, I saw you quoted in foreign policy saying that, in your sense, perhaps Pakistan has a bit of buyer's remorse when it comes to its support of the Taliban. Now they're back in power. What do you see as the risks regionally?

KUGELMAN: Well, I mean, the Pakistan is, I think were initially encouraged when they saw the Taliban takeover, because for a long time, their main interest in Afghanistan had been a government in Kabul, that would be friendly to Pakistan. And the Taliban, of course, have been aligned with Pakistan for some time. But what Pakistan has discovered, and much of the region is discovering this as well, is that the Taliban are not addressing terrorism threats on their soil.

You know, we know about the Zawahir raid. The Pakistanis have been very concerned about the presence of militants on Afghan soil that have targeted Pakistan over many years, the Pakistani Taliban. The Taliban have refused to curb that group, and that has led to a resurgence of attacks, a resurgence of this group, Pakistani Taliban.

They've been staging attacks in Pakistan. And this makes Pakistan worry that the Taliban, which had been their ally in the past is not addressing terrorism concerns. And I think that other countries in the region, Iran, Russia, China, they all worry about different terrorist groups in Afghanistan, that the Taliban has either been unwilling or unable to curb.

HOLMES: Yes. And the risk of it bleeding across borders, whether as you say, it's Russia or China or, you know, even Iran. I wish we have more time. Michael Kugelman, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

KUGELMAN: Thank you.

Turning now to Ukraine, where threats to Europe's largest nuclear facility are prompting an outcry from world leaders. 42 countries along with the European Union, are now calling on Russia to immediately withdraw its troops from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. It comes after days of repeated shelling around the facility raised fears of a nuclear catastrophe. Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the attacks.

Now to the south, Ukraine says an underground resistance movement blew up a railway bridge near the Russian held city of Melitopol. Ukrainian officials say Russian troops use the bridge to transport weapons and other equipment from occupied Crimea.

Meanwhile, a U.N. chartered ship carrying 23,000 tons of wheat to Ethiopia is ready to set sail from Ukraine. It is the first humanitarian cargo ship bound for Africa since this war began. And in the east of the country, fierce fighting has raged for months with a constant barrage of artillery, inflicting massive casualties on soldiers and civilians alike.

CNN's Nic Robertson traveled to a field hospital to see the daunting task medics are facing near the front lines, and a warning what you're about to see is graphic.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): At a frontline field hospital, a soldier gets stitched up. Russian forces getting closer, more casualties, military and civilian coming in.

DIMA, VASCULAR SURGEON: A lot of turbulence in our last week when Russians start to shots of the (INAUDIBLE).

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The hospital has been more than once. Its location, secret.

NIELS ERIXSON, VOLUNTEER MEDIC: This place that I'm working in is a stabilization point. So all casualties from the zero line or from the red zone are taken here.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Volunteer medic Niels himself injured during recent shelling. Surgeon Dima's priority, get patients stable and to safety and get ready for more.

DIMA: We hardly have the time to clean the rooms after the injured. You are coming to the room and a lot of blood on the floor.

ERIXSON: And then transport units like mine, we then transport them to the next level of care in safer areas.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Arriving for better care at a rear base hospital, this soldier, the high spec volunteer ambulance keeping him alive on the journey. Take him directly for a CAT scan.


ERIXSON: We had our surgeon and our anesthesiologist in the back together with the patient, doing all the necessary interventions to keep him alive.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In other rooms, civilians are also getting treated. Fitali (ph) hit by a cluster bomb. His leg badly broken, his arm requiring surgery too.

I've had X-rays and painkillers, he says. Now I'm waiting to go to the next hospital.

No one kept at this rear base hospital for long either, transferred even further from the frontlines. Shelling here on the rise too, they need the beds freed fast.

(on-camera): Everyone in this hospital knows the frontline is getting closer and that can only mean one thing, more casualties.

(voice-over): According to officials, 50 or 60 patients a day passing through the ward won't be empty long.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Eastern Ukraine.


HOLMES: India's Prime Minister focused on the nation's path forward and address marking 75 years of independence from British rule. It's an anniversary also shared, of course, by Pakistan which held its celebration on Sunday. At a border post that stretches across both nations, guards from India and Pakistan performed a flag ceremony amid the Independence Day observances.

Our correspondents are covering the anniversary from India and Pakistan. Sophia Saifi is in Islama bad but let's begin Vedika Sud in Delhi. And Vedika, 75 years proud moment for millions of Indians but also a reminder for some of -- some pretty dark times.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, Michael. On 15th August 1947, at the stroke of midnight, India became an independent nation after almost 200 years of British colonial rule. And it was a bloody partition, there no two ways about it. I have figures that stayed almost 500,000 people to 2 million people died during the violence during that partition, and more than about 15 million people were uprooted.

We spoke to some of the survivors from 1947 who had witnessed this firsthand. I spoke to first generation migrant Baljeet Dilon Vikram Singh. She now lives in America. But she was all of five, Michael, when partition took place. She's woken up one night and these are her words. She was woken up along with a family, they rushed into a jeep. They were near Lahore, and they had to cross into India, into the city of Amritsar, where her maternal grandparents lived.

They were in that jeep and she said when I looked to my right where I knew of a canal, there was some strange objects flowing in that canal. She said very soon I realized there were decapitated heads there. They were bodies flowing, bloated bodies, there were suitcases. There were clothes, there were limbs, and there were many of them.

That is the most horrific memory that she has of partition. Even after that when they were going in the jeep forward towards Amritsar, that Jeep was stopped by the then Pakistani soldiers. And her mother had to beg the Pakistani soldier to let them go. And he recognized her. And they were the lucky ones to have survived partition.

I asked her, Michael, if there's been any closure for her. And she was very emotional. And she said, there's been no closure for us for so many of us here and that pain goes down generation, she said. A lot of the survivors of the partition era. They don't like talking about what they've seen of the violence that they have seen. But they do once in a while with their families. And that has gone down generations, even been penned by so many of the family members be the third generation or perhaps even the second. So that's just one story, Michael, but India today is celebrating this bomb, this fervor all around India. You had Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on the 75th anniversary from the ramparts of the iconic red fort where he said, it's time to look forward the first 75 years, India was basically trying to come together. And now we're going to work towards advancing the nation and making it the powerhouse. It's reputed to be and that's the dream of India today. Michael?

HOLMES: Yes, fascinating stories. Thank you, Vedika. And Sophia, to you in Islamabad, talk about the challenges that Pakistan sees in the years to come particularly in the context of relations with India.

SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: I think Michael, just going back to exactly what about the guy said those horrific memories that are shared by one person like she mentioned earlier where millions of memories, millions of similar incidents that happened on both sides of the border and were shared by those people.


I mean I had my own grandparents telling me these stories before they passed on. And this is, of course, tempered and kind of tainted the relationship between India and Pakistan, because it was a joint freedom movement against the yoke of British imperialism that actually led to the creation of these two independent states.

You've got Pakistan having a hostile relationship with India. And it has become -- I mean, although there have been wars in the past, of course, we're not at that extreme lower step. But there hasn't been much dialogue between these two countries since at least 2014. A dialogue that we know of in the public sphere.

There hasn't been a contact between students and activists and academics. And it's something that Raza Rumi, for example, who is a public policy expert, a Pakistani public policy expert, who works on reconciling Pakistani students, together with Indian students mentioned that this is extremely important to keep that conversation and that shared history going, Pakistan and India face many similar problems in the years ahead.

I mean, of course, we've got them connecting on, you know, the new spares of social media like YouTube and the YouTube videos, et cetera. But then, of course, you've got the larger specter of global warming, extreme weather, Pakistan and India, as well as Bangladesh. So extreme weather in July.

There were about 500 deaths in Pakistan alone last month, and that is something that Pakistan's Prime Minister spoke off, and an op-ed that went out last night and the economist. And he said that perhaps it's a time that the these two acrimonious neighbors might have to sit down and reconcile to deal with these issues that are facing their populations in the near future. Michael?

HOLMES: Yes, great reporting there and fascinating angles of all of this. Sophia Saifi, Vedika Sud, thanks to you both. And we will take a quick break here. When we come back, a church fire in Egypt, leaving dozens dead, including many children. Details on how this tragedy happened. Also, a long wait for election results when we hear the outcome of Kenya's presidential vote. We'll have that as well after the break.


HOLMES: Welcome back everyone, at least 41 people are dead including 18 children after a fire broke out inside a crowded church in Egypt. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh with more on the cause of the fire and a warning some of the details are graphic.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What started as a day of worship has turned into tragedy. Investigators in Giza sift through the debris of a burnt-out Coptic Church.


Stunned relative seen outside grappling with the losses of what occurred here. Egypt's Interior Ministry says a fire broke out after Sunday mass, caused by an electrical failure in an air conditioning unit. Dozens of people were killed. And it's the ages of some of the victims. Some witnesses, say make this even more tragic.

This man was injured in the fire. He says, the fourth floor of the church was on fire. There were children in the nursery, he says. There were kids and elderly people. We saved who we could save.

Hospital documents say many children between the ages of three and 16 were among the victims. A Coptic Church spokesperson says a priest was also killed. Officials say most of the deaths and injuries were caused by smoke inside church classrooms. One witness says he broke down a door of the church to try to rescue people. And so desperate people jumping out of windows to try to save themselves.

He says he and a group of others caught a man falling from the building in a blanket. But he says, the man eventually died.

Overwhelming grief fills the halls of another church where family members who have gathered to begin bearing the dead. Coffin after coughing is carried through the crowds. The raw emotions of the mourners echoed through the church.

Like so many others, Egyptian President Abdelfattah Elsisi tweeted his condolences to the victims' families, as did Egyptian football Mo Salah. But for these devastated families, there are a few words of comfort to cut through the pain.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Oman (ph).


HOLMES: Well five people have died and 60 are in hospital following an explosion at a fireworks warehouse in Armenia's capital. Firefighters and rescue workers still at the scene of the explosion in Yerevan, which happened early on Sunday. And the mayor's office says there could be more people trapped under the rubble.

In Jerusalem, police still investigating a shooting attack that wounded at least eight people including five Americans near the Western Wall. A security source says the suspect is an Israeli citizen with no know in connections to militant groups. CNN's Hadas Gold reports.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The attack took place around 1:30 in the morning, near one of the main entrances to the Old City of Jerusalem that religious pilgrims as well as tourists use to visit some of the holiest sites of the city. The attack took place as a bus was loading and unloading passengers and the shooter also targeted cars as well as pedestrians along the street.

We know that at least eight people were wounded including two who were wounded critically, including a pregnant woman who has had to deliver her baby by emergency C-section. Both she and the baby are in serious condition.

We also understand that at least five of the victims are American citizens. At least two of them were American tourists. Some of the others were likely American and Israeli dual nationals. The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem confirming that American citizens were among those wounded, saying that they are in touch with the families and they are also shocked and saddened by this incident, that they condemn all acts of terrorism and actions that exacerbate tensions.

As for the suspect, he initially fled on foot into a neighborhood of East Jerusalem. This sparked a massive manhunt, hundreds of security forces out in the streets as well as helicopters being used in the search. But then earlier in -- on Sunday morning, he ended up actually turning himself into a police station. And police said they also seized from him the weapon that was used in the attack.

Israeli media saying he is a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship and a security source and Israeli security source telling CNN that he is a resident of East Jerusalem who holds Israeli citizenship who did have a prior criminal record.

Now in terms of the context of when this happened, it was just about a week ago that a ceasefire was declared between the Israeli military and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza after a two and a half, three-day long conflict that saw Israeli airstrikes targeting the militant group in Gaza that left dozens of Palestinians dead, as well as more than 1,000 rockets that were fired from Gaza towards Israeli communities.

Now, as far as we understand, the suspect has no known connections to any militant groups. Although both the Palestinian, Islamic Jihad group as well as the Hamas militant groups that runs Gaza both celebrated the attack.

Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem. [01:29:48]

HOLMES: Tensions are rising as Kenyans wait to hear the outcome of last Tuesday's presidential race. Votes are still being tallied, making it the longest wait for results the country has ever seen.

Right now, Kenya's deputy president and the opposition leader are the front runners. The election being closely watched around the world.

The electoral commission has until Monday to declare a winner. If neither candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff for the first time in Kenya's history.

Quick break. When we come back here on CNN NEWSROOM, a second U.S. congressional delegation is in Taipei just days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit provoked outrage in China. We'll have a live report.

And later, the fallout from the FBI's search of Donald Trump's Mar-a- Lago home. What U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are seeking now.


HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

A bipartisan delegation of U.S. lawmakers are in Taiwan on an unannounced two-day visit sparking renewed outrage in China. The five- member group led by Democratic Senator Ed Markey say the trip is meant to quote, "reaffirm U.S. support for Taiwan".

Their visit, of course, coming on the heels of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip, which also angered Beijing and triggered Chinese military exercises near Taiwan.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins me now live from Hong Kong. As we say, there was a harsh response to the Pelosi visit. Why is this delegation there and how might China react?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to the U.S., the delegation is there to shore up support as well as stability. AS for China's response we are still awaiting official word from Beijing this hour.

But look, you have another delegation of U.S. congressional leaders in Taiwan, this time led by the U.S. Senator Ed Markey on an unannounced two-day visit that was part of a larger trip to the Indo-Pacific Region.

And this visit comes less than two weeks after the U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made her controversial visit to Taiwan, which really drew the ire of China.

We know this morning at around 10:00 a.m. local time that this latest delegation, they met with the Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen. They also plan to meet with other elected officials in Taiwan, as well as business leaders.

On the agenda, two items. Number one, expanding economic cooperation, which has emerged as a really key theme between Taiwan and the United States this week especially in regards to further investment in semiconductors and chips. On top of that, how to reduce tension in the Taiwan Strait.

As mentioned at the top of the heap (ph), we know that the focus of this trip according to the U.S. is to shore up support, to express solidarity with Taiwan but also to help maintain peace and stability.


STOUT: I want you to look at this statement, we'll bring it up for you, from a spokesperson of the office of U.S. Senator Ed Markey who says this, quote, "On their visit, the delegation will reaffirm the United States' support for Taiwan as guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, U.S.-China Joint Communiques, and Six Assurances and will encourage stability and peace across the Taiwan Strait," unquote.

Taiwan has thanked the U.S. delegation for their visit. They have also issued comments and reaction as well as photographs of the visiting delegation on Twitter. This according to the ministry of foreign affairs of Taiwan, we'll bring it up for you saying this, "Vice minister Yui extended the warmest of welcomes to Taiwan's long- standing friend Senator Markey and his cross-party delegation. We thank the like-minded U.S. lawmakers for the timely visit and unwavering support."

Now, we are still awaiting an official word from the ministry of foreign affairs in Beijing -- from Beijing. What kind of response is going to be unleashed from there in reaction to the latest visit?

But we have seen an early response from a spokesperson at China's embassy in Washington D.C. who took to twitter to write the following, we'll bring it up for you saying this, quote, "China firmly opposes any kind of official ties between the U.S. and the Taiwan region. Members of the U.S. congress should act in consistence with the U.S. government's One China Policy," unquote.

Now, I should add that the White House has said that there is no change to America's One China policy that Washington continues to recognize the People's Republic of China or PRC as the legitimate government of China. But it should also maintain that -- also admits that the U.S. does maintain an unofficial relationship with Taiwan. There have long been these congressional visits that have taken place. Earlier this year in May, you had Senator Tammy Duckworth pay a visit to Taiwan.

But, as we also know, this is a complicated relationship. The U.S. is bound by law to provide Taiwan with defensive arms. Back to you.

HOLMES: Indeed. Thanks for that, Kristie. Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong for us.

Now Democrats in Congress want to know how much damage was done to national security after the FBI found Donald Trump was keeping classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home. But Republican lawmakers are also seeking more information about the search.

CNN's Jessica Schneider with the details from Washington.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Former President Trump now claiming the documents that were taken from Mar-a-Lago are protected by executive privilege and attorney-client privilege. But the reality here is they still are not his documents to keep. Under the Presidential Records Act, they do belong to the National Archives.

Plus, given that 11 sets of these documents have various levels of classified designations, including Top Secret, Democrats are now demanding that the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, conduct an immediate review of the materials, because of the national security implications of what was found at Mar-a-Lago and concerns that it could cause grave damage if that information fell into the wrong hands.

And on the flip side, Republicans are demanding more details. Some say they want to see the affidavit that laid out the basis for that search warrant. It is highly unlikely though that that affidavit would be unsealed, because of the delicate information and sources that investigators likely disclosed in that affidavit.

And these calls for action, they come all while the questions loom. What comes next for the former president? The warrant said that FBI agents were looking for possible violations of sections of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice, and the criminal handling of government records.

Trump has defended his actions over the weekend, saying that he declassified all the material while he was in office, but you know we still haven't seen any documentation or proof of that.

And notably, none of those three criminal statutes actually require that information be classified. Only that there was an intent to injure the interest of the United States, or destroy or conceal a document that would interfere with an ongoing investigation.

Jessica Schneider, CNN -- Washington.


HOLMES: New York Governor Kathy Hochul visited the institute where celebrated author Salman Rushdie was stabbed multiple times on Friday. And she said these kinds of attacks could not stop the freedom of expression.


GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): Wisdom will always prevail over ignorance. I will also say that tolerance will always prevail over hate. Courage will always prevail over fear. And the pen will always prevail over the knife.


HOLMES: Rushdie's agent says the writer is now off a ventilator but still recovering in hospital. It could be a long road. His family adding that his condition remains critical.

Meanwhile, the suspect accused of stabbing Russian is pleading not guilty to second degree attempted murder and other charges.


HOLMES: We can take a quick break, when we come back, protesting Putin's war on Ukraine. A defiant Russian journalist sending an anti- war message from a Moscow courtroom.

We'll be right back.


HOLMES: It has been ten years now since journalist Austin Tice was kidnapped in Syria. And his family say they are still cautiously optimistic about a safe return.

They held an event on Sunday to continue to bring awareness to Austin's situation. The journalist and former U.S. Marine was reporting in Damascus on the uprising against Syria's president when he was taken.

The U.S. National Press Club is calling on the Biden administration to step up its efforts.


BILL MCCARREN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PRESS CLUB: Well, the U.S. needs to make direct contact with Syrian officials and listen to what they are saying and begin a dialogue, discussions and negotiation.

That is the only way that Austin Tice will come home. We have some hope that that may happen. There have been a lot of changes in the last year or so. But as of now, we don't believe that direct contact has been made.


HOLMES: President Biden last week said that Washington knows quote, "with certainty", that Tice has at times been held by the Syrian government and urged Damascus to help bring Austin home. The Tice family has heard promises from three different presidents now, going back to Barack Obama regarding Austin's return.


MEAGAN TICE, SISTER OF AUSTIN TICE: You know, just reflecting on these last ten years, it's amazing to think, I mean I have three children now that have never met my brother and just felt lost (ph), so deeply. And we are so ready for him to come home.


HOLMES: Syria denies ever having held Tice.

An outspoken Russian journalist has made yet another defiant statement protesting the war in Ukraine. At a court hearing last week, Marina Ovsyannikova held up a sign that read quote, "May the dead children haunt you in your dreams." Security guards, as you'll see, there they go trying to block the message with their hands.

The former Russian state TV editor faces up to ten years in prison for a demonstration in March when she held up an anti-war sign during a live news broadcast.

Jill Dougherty is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, also a CNN contributor and former CNN Moscow bureau chief. Always good to see you, Jill.

When it comes to her courtroom protest, just how courageous was it, given you know, doing what she is doing, given the situation in Putin's Russia right now?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think going back to the beginning, she really has been very courageous. She'll just let it all hang out. She has been also very critical directly of President Putin, which is really taking it to a very high level of protest.


DOUGHERTY: Not a lot of people would do that. And she continues to do that -- signs in the courtroom as you mentioned, and the things she keeps talking about are, you know, criticizing the military operation, the army, Putin himself, and that is highly, you know, inflammatory in Putin's Russia right now. And it is highly dangerous as you can see.

HOLMES: Yes. And risky. I mean -- but in terms of the points she is making, it was interesting. In President Zelenskyy's nightly address, he said something I wanted to ask you about, let's have to a listen to that.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: But we must remember that when evil takes on such proportions, people's silence approaches the level of complicity. And the rejection of the real fight against evil becomes the assistant to it.

Therefore, if you have Russian citizenship, and you are silent, that means that you are not fighting. It means that you are supporting it.


HOLMES: A real appeal there to ordinary Russians. I guess the question is, are Russians actually getting a sense of the toll of this war yet? Are they noticing the body bags or hearing the criticisms? DOUGHERTY: You know, they have to be seeing the body bags. And

families are, you know, unfortunately, having their sons come back in body bags. But so far, there is not an indication that there is widespread opposition.

That said, it's extremely difficult right now to really judge that. Now looking at polls, and polls right now, you really truly can't even, you know, believe them.

But there seem to be indications that Russians are paying less attention to the war. Now that might be because it's just going on for a longer time than people expected, but I think, you know, economically, they've been getting through a bit better than they expected, that could get worse as we goes on, but there's less attention.

That said, the penalties for speaking out, publicly going on the streets are very, very serious, and I'm sure a lot of people just simply don't want to risk it.

HOLMES: Yes. Exactly. They don't want to put their head on the block. I mean when it comes to the overall state of opposition to the war, I mean is Putin still managing to stifle all opposition? Or what would it take for there to be cracks in that control?

DOUGHERTY: That really is the question. The second one that you asked. Control, yes, I think if you look at the earlier days, there were a lot of people who came out on the streets and protested. Now, there are very, very few, and that's why Ovsyannikova is pretty notable for what she's doing.

But the thing is, right now, 15,000 detentions, according to a human rights organization that tracks, and I think it's quite believable. And then somewhere around 178 cases that are going through the courts.

And remember, the law against publicly speaking out, criticizing, you know, the war, as a war, or the invasion as an invasion, you can get up to 15 years in prison. It is -- it is very -- you know, it's not -- it's a very difficult situation to be in those camps or in those prisons.

So it's certainly having an effect.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes. And if you're going through the court system in Russia, I think it's more than 90 percent of court cases end in a guilty verdict.

Real quick too, human rights groups reporting record numbers of Russians trying to escape conscription. There's billboards everywhere trying to recruit. They're trying to recruit prisoners, as our Nick Paton Walsh reported this week. What does that tell you?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I mean that tells me they're having trouble getting people who really want to fight this war. The information about the war has to be seeping back to people. So what they're turning to is exactly prisoners, people who are in it for the money, a group that's called Wagner, which are essentially mercenaries.

And they don't want to admit that directly, but that is what's happening. I mean, we both know that a lot of people have been killed on the Russian side.

HOLMES: Yes. A Wagner camp, apparently, hit by the Ukrainians this weekend.

Jill Dougherty, we'll leave it there. Appreciate it as always. Thanks so much.

Severe drought has led to water restrictions in dozens of French communities. And some say the burden is not being shared fairly.

We'll have a report from southern France, coming up.



HOLMES: Much of western Europe, as we've been reporting, is suffering through the fourth heat wave since June. Now that includes France where some towns and cities are facing waters shortages.

CNN's Jim Bittermann reports from a village where the severe drought has sparked extreme measures and heated controversy.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nestled in the foothills of southeastern France, the village of Seillans claims a dubious distinction. The mayor says his town of 2,500 is the country's first community hit with water restrictions because of this year's devastating drought.

The first, but not the last, because there are now more than 100 places like Seillans in France where water is so short they're forced to do as in Seillans, supplying residents with water from tanker trucks or setting a strict limit on the amount of water each resident can use or both.

RENE UGO MAYOR OF SEILLANS: Seillans has always been a territory relatively affected by the lack of rain, but never, never like this year.

BITTERMANN: That's a sentiment felt across Europe this year, where heat waves and droughts have left fields and forests parched and rivers dry right across the continent. The River Rhine in Germany, the Po in Italy, the Thames in England.

Back in Seillans, the most worrisome aspect is the lack of water for personal use. People here are constantly checking their water meters, because the limit in some parts of town is 150 liters, about 40 gallons of water per person per day.

Brigitte Ricou says she's gotten used to the limitations, but not without some adaptations. She reuses the water from washing fruits and vegetables on her houseplants.

The family tries to avoid flushing the toilet after every use.

BRIGITTE RICOU, SEILLANS RESIDENT: This is basically what we try to do on daily basis to pay attention to water and to become concerned about water all the time.

BITTERMANN: Choices have to be made. Ricou thinks too much water is being used for agriculture. But ask her neighbor, Cecile Messelis, a vegetable family, and she couldn't see the situation more differently. To her, food should be the top priority. She's no longer allowed to use public water supplies on her organic crops, and they are suffering.

And yet, in towns all around, there are people with swimming pools who are able to privately buy the water they need to fill them up at prices the farmers can't afford.

CECILE MESSELIS, FARMER: It's astonishing. You say to yourself, it's so obvious that the priority I s to eat. We put some time to realize that now, it's not necessarily obvious for everyone. This question of water and how we share it, I think that we shouldn't avoid the debate.

BITTERMANN: It's not just in the south that there is arguing over who should be first in line for water use. All over this country, similar controversies of broken out, and how to prioritize the use of water. Especially after the month of July, the second driest in French history.

And while there still maybe some climate deniers around who refuse to believe in global warming, it doesn't take much to convince those suffering from this year's water shortages that the climate crisis is real and is unlikely to go away.

Jim Bittermann, CNN.



HOLMES: Meanwhile, more than 200 cities and counties across China are under their highest heat alert, with temperatures soaring once again.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri with more on that. What are you seeing, Pedram?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Michael. We're back at it again. Another week of excessive temperatures. If you're on the eastern side of China closer to the water here, you're going to see some relief in the coming days, but interior portions, including Wuhan, the heat has been on. People trying to cool off any which way possible. You'll notice these temperatures across some of these areas running as much as ten, 11 degrees above seasonal averages.

Incredible heat. Even Shanghai, was just shy of 40 degrees in the past 24 to 48 hours because of cloud cover that was in place -- that kept them at 39. But of course, about a month ago, they reached their all- time mark at 40.9 degrees and we're again, you're seeing excessive heat across some of these areas. The front comes in, increasing cloud coverage. A few showers and storms.

You'll notice Shanghai goes to 38, down to 35, settles in back at around 37. But these interior areas as hot as you will ever see them across this region.

In fact, looking into the data, this looks like among the hottest weeks of all-time in (INAUDIBLE) history. A city with over 30 million people here that typically reached 40 degrees three times each summer. But this happened 13 times so far this summer, another seven times in store here as you see in the 7-da forecast.

We talk about a remarkable heat wave for some, it certainly is the case.

Now, across the Korean Peninsula, the story here as been the incredible amount of rainfall. Some areas seeing three weeks worth of rainfall in a span of 24 hours.

That system is on the move. They kind of take up linear -- that's the front moving farther to the south. Komimoto (ph) caused southern areas of Japan. Get ready for some heavy rains here in the coming days. Should expect increasing cloud cover as well and maybe some cooler temperatures. Certainly some good news there when it comes to these storms bringing in a little cooler temps.

But this is the forecast here in Tokyo. -- 43 down to 29, and settling in, finally, with a week -- a more bearable temperatures there around 28 degrees, Michael.

HOLMES: All right, Pedram. Thanks so much. Now, these extreme heat waves and storms will no doubt be a big focus on the U.N.'s next climate change conference. COP27, which we held in Egypt this november. Now, to raise awareness for the summit, environmental activists with the group (INAUDIBLE) Egypt with =- which opposes plastic waste, cleaned up the beach in Alexandria over the weekend. Police say the rain is to show people quote, "the problem of the waste they leave behind".

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN.

CNN NEWSROOM continues with Rosemary Church next. I'm going to go see her.