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EU, 42 Countries Urge Russia to Pull Out from Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant; Republicans Defend Trump, Democrats Seek Damage Assessment; Taliban Marks One Year in Power; U.S. Lawmakers On Unannounced Trip To Taiwan Spark Renewed Outrage From Chinese Government; Kenya Election Results Expected Today; India And Pakistan Mark 75 Years Since End Of British Rule. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired August 15, 2022 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: 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.

Just ahead, we will take you inside a Ukrainian hospital on the front lines where doctors work to save the lives of the war wounded while coming under attack themselves.

The legal and political aftershocks keep rumbling from Mar-a-Lago. Some shaken by the search itself, others by what was found, all the while exposing widening cracks in American democracy.

Plus, one year after the fall of Kabul, we will speak live with the head of the U.N. delegation there about how the Taliban takeover has reshaped life in Afghanistan.

Good to have you with us. We begin in Ukraine where threats to Europe's largest nuclear facility are prompting an outcry from world leaders. Forty-two countries, along with the European Union are now calling on Russia to immediately withdraw its troops from 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. To the south, Ukraine says the 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 the war began. In eastern Ukraine, 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. A warning though, what you are about to see is graphic.


NIC ROBERSON, 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 artillery in the last week when the Russians start to shots of the three lab quarter (ph).

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

NIELS ERIXSON, VOLUNTEER MEDIC: This place I'm working in, it's 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 patient stable and to safety and get ready for more.

DIMA: We hardly have any time to clean the rooms after the injuries. You come into the room, and there's 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, taken 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. Vitali (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 front lines. Shelling here on the rise, too. They need the beds freed fast.


ROBERTSON (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.


CHURCH: And for more, we want to bring in CNN's Nina dos Santos who joins us live from London. Good morning to you Nina. So, the E.U. and 42 other countries are now calling on Russia to withdraw its forces from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant immediately. What more are you learning about this and of course the situation on the ground there?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is an escalation of the rhetoric that we've seen already last week where authorities became extremely concerned as they have been for months now about fighting over this crucial nuclear facility, which by the way, Rosemary, is crucial not just to Ukraine and also Russia as well, it is the fact that it is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

So, the fallout if any of the reactors of this facility were to be hit would be felt far and wide from obviously the west to the east as well. So, there is real concern that there is a danger point here in terms of this facility potentially being used as Ukraine accuses Russia of as being militarized if you like.

It was captured earlier on in the invasion of Ukraine, a few weeks into the war in fact by Russia. And since then, Ukraine has accused Russian forces of using it as a launching point for attacks across the Dnipro River to other cities inside Ukrainian territory.

Indeed, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, just yesterday in his evening address said that anybody who is a Russian soldier targeting Ukrainian cities on the other side of the Dnipro River from this facility should be facing international war crimes tribunals in the future and that they would be a target by Ukrainian intelligence.

In the meantime, just last week in fact, the IEA, the U.N. watchdog became so concerned about not just the prospects of fighting over this plant, but also the fact that they cannot be assured that the nuclear reactors are being well maintained to prevent any kind of leak of radioactive material.

They asked, which is a plan that the United States also backs, for there to be a demilitarized zone around this region, essentially trying to strike a deal between Russia and Ukraine to stop the fighting for a moment and agree to allow U.N. nuclear inspectors inside of the facility to make sure that things are running as they should be and that the plant itself can make sure that it's safe in accordance to its nuclear obligations, if you like.

As yet, obviously that appears to have fallen on deaf ears. But the situation around it is tense, the villages and towns on the other side of the Dnipro River have continued to be targeted, Ukraine says, by attacks that have been launched from inside this facility behind, if you like, a potential line of impunity, Rosemary?

CHURCH: Alright. Thanks for staying on top of this. Nina Dos Santos, joining us live from London.

Well, U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are seeking more information about the documents seized at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home. The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee wants Attorney General Merrick Garland to testify before the panel. He says he is not convinced that what the FBI seized was sensitive enough to pose a national security threat.

Agents removed 11 sets of classified documents in their search this past week. And that includes materials marked with one of the highest levels of classification. Democrats say they want a congressional briefing and an assessment about any potential damage to national security.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Some of those documents were marked top secret, sensitive compartmented information. That is among the highest designation in terms of the extremely grave damage to national security that could be done if it were disclosed. So, the fact that they were in an unsecured place that is guarded with nothing more than a padlock, or whatever security they had at a hotel, is deeply alarming.


CHURCH: Joining me now is Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic." Always great to have you with us.


CHURCH: So, Ron, former U.S. President Donald Trump keeps changing his mind about those top-secret documents seized at his Mar-a-Lago property. First, suggesting that they were planted by FBI agents, then saying they were declassified, and later suggesting they were protected by attorney/client and executive privilege. And even saying the FBI and Department of Justice only had to ask and he would've handed over the documents. We know that's not the case. Is he fooling anyone with these crazy conflicting explanations?


BRWONSTEIN: You know, this is a kaleidoscope. What it says to me is that he no longer feels and maybe he hasn't in a long time that he even needs to try to make a coherent argument to compel the Republican Party to stand in line behind him. Obviously, these ever-shifting explanations are mutually contradictory and many of them are, most of them are implausible on their face, but I think he is demonstrating how much he believes he has the party in his pocket that he doesn't even have to make a serious case and they will fall in line.

And in fact, you know, almost -- many leading Republicans came out and condemned this execution of the search warrant before Trump said a word, before they knew anything about what was ultimately taken out of Mar-a-Lago. And I think this is another example of we are seeing how much the party remains broken to his will.

CHURCH: And Ron, the big unanswered question of course is why Donald Trump would want these top-secret documents stored on his property. What do you think the likely explanation is?

BRWONSTEIN: It's really hard to know, you know, what would be a good explanation. The most benign explanation is that this is someone who has collected mementos throughout his life as kind of totems of his influence and power, kind of physical manifestations of it. And this is the same thing as what he might have done when he was an owner in the U.S. Football League.

And it goes from that too much marker places of what he maybe was attempting to leverage these documents in terms of some of his foreign relations with countries that have worked to curry favor with him. You know, I obviously, we don't know exactly what was in the documents and what was -- what prompted the execution of the search warrant that the moment that it was done.

But the fact that they used the Espionage Act rather than other statutes that could be kind of lesser ways of dealing with the mishandled -- simply mishandling of classified information suggest that law enforcement officials also had concerns about what his motivations were in hoarding these documents.

CHURCH: And Ron, as we just reported, Donald Trump's allies trying to shift pressure on to Attorney General Merrick Garland. The GOP calling for proof that these seized documents could have threatened national security if they fell into the wrong hands. How will the Justice Department likely respond to this do you think?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first, I think this is one of the most revealing aspects of the entire episode because I think we are learning two big things over the course of this week. One is that Trump feels even more unconstrained by the boundaries, the traditional boundaries and laws that have limited the arbitrary exercise of presidential power.

And I think he is giving the fact that he took these documents and is being so brazen in kind of claiming the right to do so gives you a pretty good idea of how he would approach a second term as president, in terms of any kinds of constraints on his power. And second, I think you are equally seeing from the Republicans in Congress that they would be even more unwilling than they were in his first term to impose any limits on Trump's activities.

The fact that they've fallen in line so completely, so quickly, with so little information is just, I think, an ominous signal of how they would respond. Look, I think the Justice Department said, -- what Merrick Garland said is going to be their guidepost going forward. They are going to speak in court.

So, it may be a very long time until we hear from them again after these original statements. The next time we hear from them maybe when we learn whether or not they are going to indict Donald Trump over this and obviously the second investigation is going on about January 6th and all of his efforts to subvert the election.

But I don't think we're going to hear a lot from them. I think that, you know, what Garland said this week probably was, you know, take him at his word. They speak in terms of what they file in court. CHURCH: And Ron, the FBI and Justice Department seized 11 sets of

classified documents in that search last week at Mar-a-Lago including documents marked with one of the highest levels of classification. And Democrats on the House Intel and Oversight Committees say they want a congressional briefing and assessment on potential damage to national security. Where do you see all this going politically and what impact could it possibly have on the midterms do you think?

BRWONSTEIN: Well, you know, Republicans said that the initial reaction shows that their base is going to be even more energized. It's hard to imagine that there is much more energy that you can squeeze out of the Trump base.


You know, Democrats see this as part of a continuum of events that is awakening their base. The decision, the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the mass shooting tragedy in Uvalde, the revelations of January the 6th, and now this. I think all of it points toward, you know, a bigger broader midterm again as, you know, we saw in 2018 with the highest turnout for midterm elections since before women had the right to vote. The last time it was that high was in 1914.

And I do think that it just, as I said before, it underscores the states because I think what -- the clear -- and to me the clearest message that is coming out of this reinforces what we're seeing in these primaries, state after state and we are seeing it on Tuesday night, which is that the Republican Party remains enthralled to Donald Trump. It is his party.

And putting Republicans in the majority in the House or the Senate or both is institutionalizing a kind of a movement that remains largely under -- predominantly, under his direction. And in many ways, that creates almost as some people would call it, a dual incumbency situation in November, where you not only have the tradition of voters dissatisfied with the incumbent president, Joe Biden, more likely to vote for the party out of power, Republicans in this case.

But you also have these 93 million separate Americans who have come out to vote in at least one of the past three elections against the Donald Trump defined Republican Party. They may also now see much more motivation to vote than we would have expected three or four months ago when Democrats were pretty down in the dumps about the trajectory of the Biden presidency.

CHURCH: Yes. Watch to see what happens, of course. So, Ron Brownstein. many thanks for your analysis.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

CHURCH: Appreciate it. Well, there is much more to come here on CNN including the changes that have taken place in Afghanistan in the year since the Taliban seized Kabul.



CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Taliban is now on the outskirts of Kabul, they're at the, gates. They are ready to come in, but they say they don't want to come in violently. They want to come in peacefully.


CHURCH: It has been one year since Kabul fell to the Taliban. You will of course remember the chaotic scenes at the airport with Afghans so desperate to escape they chased planes as they took off. Families huddled outside the gates although many Afghans were evacuated before the U.S. withdrawal was complete on August 30th. Others had to stay behind to live under Taliban rule.

Many hard-won gains have been reversed in the last year. Afghan women have been nearly forced out of public life. However, some are still trying to make their voices heard, as you can see in this video from last week. Now, take a look at the Taliban's response despite the group's assurances that they would respect women's rights. Women are now blocked from most workplaces in Afghanistan and girls are no longer allowed to attend high school.

Well, Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov is the U.N. Secretary General's Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and a U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator. He joins me now live from Kabul. Thank you, sir for being with us.


CHURCH: So, today marks one year since the Taliban seized control of the Afghan capital after that chaotic U.S. troop withdrawal, and since then the Taliban have rolled back all progress made for women and girls, and the country is in dire economic shape, with millions of people on the brink of starvation. You have witnessed a lot of this. Talk to us about what has happened inside the country over the past year?

ALAKBAROV: Well, indeed, the situation on the grounds was difficult and remains difficult throughout the year. Through a joint effort we had with all partners, the worst-case scenario this winter, the mass starvation of people in Afghanistan was avoided. But we still are in a place in the space, there are nearly 19 million people experience food insecurity and 6.6 million people need food in an active way. We call it RPC4 (ph).

On top of it, half of the children under five are malnourished. Economy is in peril, banks are not operating and the overall, employment, women's rights and the economic context of the country remains to be very complicated (ph).

CHURCH: And given Afghan assets were frozen by the west after the Taliban takeover, what needs to be done and what can be done to improve the lives of women and children without those funds being diverted and used by the Taliban?

ALAKBAROV: The only way forward with Afghanistan is to everyone get together and try to support the bottom-up growth. The growth, economic growth centered on the villagers, on simple people. This country is a rural country and we have a basic choice.

You can feed 20 million people constantly or you can try to create several million jobs, basic jobs in the agricultural and food sector to make a situation available then the people can feed themselves. And that's what I guess is the way forward because the situation is very difficult.

CHURCH: Yes, and of course, one of the demands of the west when it pulled out of Afghanistan was for the Taliban not to harbor terrorists. And, yet Al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in Kabul buy a U.S. drone strike recently. What does that reveal about how much the Taliban can be trusted especially if much-needed funds are returned to Afghanistan under control of the Taliban?


ALAKBAROV: Absolutely. The recent developments have not contributed in any way or form to create a better trust or a better relationship between international communities and the de facto authorities of Afghanistan, which had a responsibility to provide the duty of care to the population of Afghanistan.

For us, it creates a more difficult operational environment, specifically with regards to the fundraising because it's very difficult to convince the good people around the world and the Taliban, and the contributors at least help us invest in Afghanistan. It is very difficult situation and unfortunately the people of Afghanistan, the ordinary people of Afghanistan are on the taking side of this economic crisis and all these difficulties.

CHURCH: And, you know, it has to be said, that they have had a year to run the country. How would you assess the ability of the Taliban to govern?

ALAKBAROV: Well, we have to look at various aspects of what is happening, but in reality, we still don't have any detailed social development agenda. We don't have a national development plan and we do not have an explanation how, for instance, various sectors will be supported. There's also no availability of the detailed national budget.

We know that the country used to have a $13.5 billion budget. Now there's a $3 billion budget announce with $1 billion deficit. There's no announcement of what -- how it's structured what it consists of. In absence of these key elements, the country continues to work in a survival mode. And moving from surviving to thriving will take functional economy, will take an operating banking sector and will take a lot of (inaudible).

CHURCH: Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, thank you so much for talking with us. We appreciate it.

ALAKBAROV: Thank you very much for having me and thank you for staying focused on Afghanistan.

CHURCH: Of course. Thank you. An electrical fire swept through a church in Egypt setting off a stampede and killing at least 41 people, many of them children. Weeping families watched as the caskets of their loved ones were carried to a funeral service late Sunday.

A fire broke out during pact morning services. Egyptian officials say a second-floor air conditioning unit caught fire, sparked by a short circuit in a power generator. Most of the deaths and injuries were caused by smoke inside the church classrooms.

Just ahead here on CNN, 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 for you next.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. A bipartisan delegation of U.S. lawmakers in Taiwan on an unannounced two-day visit sparking renewed outrage from China. The five-member group led by Democratic Senator Ed Markey says the trip is meant to reaffirm U.S. support for Taiwan. Their visit comes on the heels of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taipei which also angered Beijing and triggered Chinese military exercises near Taiwan.

CNN's Kristie Lu stout joins me now from Hong Kong with more on this. Good to see you, Kristie. So, a second U.S. congressional delegation, visiting Taiwan just days after Speaker Pelosi's controversial visit. What are they hoping to achieve with this? And how's China responding?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, according to the Americans, they say that this is a visit that is aimed to shore up support as well as stability and we have yet to hear a fresh response out of Beijing just yet. But look, this is another U.S. congressional delegation that is in Taiwan today. This time, they're being led by the U.S. Senator Ed Markey as part of a two-day unannounced visit to Taiwan, part of a larger trip to the Indo-Pacific region.

And it comes less than two weeks after the U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made that controversial visit to Taiwan which really drew the ire of China. It was earlier today around 10:00 p.m. local time. This latest delegation of congressional leaders met with Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen. They're also set to meet with other elected officials in Taiwan and business leaders as well.

On the agenda, two main items. Number one, expanding economic cooperation between Taiwan and the United States including investment in semiconductors. And number two, finding ways to reduce tension in the Taiwan Strait. Now, I want to bring up a statement for you from the spokesperson of the office of Senator Ed Markey talking about the aim of this trip. And in it, the statement says this "On their visit, the delegation will reaffirm the United States support for Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act.

U.S.-China Joint Communiques and Six Assurances, and encourage stability and peace across the Taiwan Straight."

Now Taiwan has thanked the U.S. delegation for the visit. They turned to Twitter for the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Taiwan to issue photographs of the visiting congressional leaders, as well as this message saying this "Vice Minister Yul 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 again, we are still awaiting word from MOFA. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing. Any fresh response from China but we did get an early reaction from a spokesperson of China's embassy in the United States in Washington, D.C. And this from Liu Pengyu, the spokesperson of China's embassy in the U.S. took to Twitter to say this, "China firmly opposes any kind of official ties between the U.S. and the Taiwan region. Members of the US Congress should act in consistent with the U.S. government's one-China policy.

I should add the White House has said that there is no change in the U.S. one-China policy. Washington recognizes the PRC, the People's Republic of China as legitimate government of China. Back to you.

COLEMAN: All right. Kristie Lu stout joining us live from Hong Kong. Many thanks.

And still to come. A long wait for results could soon be over. We will go live to Kenya where the outcome of the presidential election is expected to be announced today.



CHURCH: Kenya's presidential election winner is expected to be announced in the coming hours as authorities race to count votes. Right now, the deputy president and the opposition leader are the frontrunners, and the race is extremely close. The Election Commission says about 87 percent of the votes are verified with the remainder expected later today. If neither candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff for the first time in Kenya's history.

So let's turn to CNN's Larry Madowo who joins us now from Kisumu. Good to see you, Larry. So what is the latest on these election results?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The latest that we're waiting for that last 15 percent of the votes to be verified so that Kenyans can know who will be the fifth president of the country. It's been a long wait, the longest actually on record to know who the next president of the country is. And Kenya's Electoral Commission has to announce the winner within the next 24 hours. That is required by the Constitution of the country. But it's been extremely slow, because part of the reason is a quirk in the Kenyan electoral system that even though the results announced that every polling station is final then 46,000 forms from each of those polling stations is transmitted electronically to a national selling center in Nairobi. But then the physical forms have to be also sent to Nairobi to be verified against what was electronically transmitted.

And in that process, agents of the major presidential candidates can begin to kind of nitpick and say no, this is not what they announced or whatever. And that's really slow down the process. On Friday here's what the chair of the Electoral Commission said.


WAFULA CHEBUKATI, IEBC CHAIRMAN: We advise that agents in this exercise cannot proceed in the manner in which we are proceeding as if we are doing a forensic audit. But please don't interrogate the returning officers and slow down the process. If we do that, then we shall not be able to finish this exercise.


MADOWO: So the delay in the announcing of the presidential result here in Kenya is because the agents of the two major presidential candidates especially Raila Odinga and William Ruto have been kind of laser focused on each of these forms and slow down that process exceptionally. That is why today we still don't have a winner for the presidential election. It's not -- but it's supposed to be in the hours ahead.

It's a really tight race like you mentioned between Raila Odinga who's running for the fifth time and the deputy president William Ruto who's running for the first time. If neither of them gets a majority 50 percent of the vote plus one, then there will be runoff which will be again for the first time.


MADOWO: But here in Kisumu, the heartland of Raila Odinga support everybody keeps saying Baba the Fifth, they call him Baba and they hope that finally he wins it this time.

CHURCH: All right. We'll continue to watch this. Larry meadow joining us live there. Many thanks.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi focused on the nation's path forward in an address marking 75 years of independence from British rule. It's an anniversary also shared by Pakistan which held its celebration on Sunday. In his speech, Mr. Modi said diversity is the country's key strength and pledge to transform India into a developed country in the next 25 years.

Elsewhere, at a border post that stretches across both Pakistan and India, guards performed a flag ceremony in mid the Independence Day observances. And thank you so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. For our international viewers, "WORLD SPORT" is up next. And for those of you here in the United States and Canada, I'll be back with more news in just a moment. You're watching CNN. Do stay with us.