Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Taliban seizes Fifth Afghan City After U.S. Troop Pullout; U.N. Climate Report Is A Red Alert For The Planet; California's Dixie Fire Now Second-Largest In State History. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 09, 2021 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. Laura's on vacation and we have Whitney Wild this week. Nice to see you.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for having me. All right, 33 minutes past the hour -- time to get you up to speed. And it's time for our top stories that you need to key an eye on today.

ROMANS: Education Sec. Miguel Cardona says lawmakers making it harder to control the pandemic by banning mask mandates. Putting students at risk, Cardona says, is unacceptable.

WILD: The top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Melissa DeRosa, resigned late Sunday. This comes less than a week after a report from the state attorney general's office that found Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women. The governor denies these allegations.

The state's assembly -- the State Assembly's judiciary committee is meeting today and could deliver a timeline on the potential impeachment process.

ROMANS: A U.S. citizen has been released from solitary confinement in Russia. Paul Whelan has been detained there since 2018 on espionage charges, which he denies. The State Department says it's focused on the release of Whelan and another American being held.

WILD: Jury selection in R. Kelly's criminal trial begins later this morning in New York Federal Court. The singer faces racketeering and sex trafficking charges for allegedly coercing and transporting women and girls across state lines for illegal sexual activity. Kelly has been in custody since his arrest in 2019. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

ROMANS: The New Orleans Jazz Fest canceled for a second straight year due to the pandemic. The annual event, which normally takes place over two weekends in the spring, had been moved to October. But organizers say it won't take place at all because of the exponential growth of COVID-19 cases in the New Orleans area.

[05:35:10] The huge bipartisan infrastructure package now teed up for a final Senate vote. Sixty-eight senators, including 18 Republicans, voted to end debate on the $1.2 trillion package.

WILD: The final vote now expected sometime Tuesday morning. That brings us three questions in three minutes for CNN White House correspondent John Harwood. John Harwood, thank you for joining us this morning. You are up so early and we really appreciate it.

ROMANS: Hey, John.

WILD: And lots -- a lot of questions. This is a huge bill.

ROMANS: It is. And before we get sort of the infrastructure piece of it -- the traditional infrastructure piece -- you write that back in 2013, Sen. Ted Cruz said the Affordable Care Act, remember, was meant to, quote "get everyone addicted to the sugar." Yes, affordable healthcare is just a sugar high.

Well, meet the president's American Families Plan. That's the second part of his big infrastructure push, right -- the human part of it. Can we expect it to face the same sentiment, you think?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly right from Republicans. And first of all, welcome back, Christine. You were driving that boat like a boss on vacation. It's great to see you back in the chair.

Look --

ROMANS: I had to get away from the news part for just a few days.

HARWOOD: -- this is a -- absolutely -- a different kind of flow.

Look, when you have social benefits on the scale that are being contemplated in Biden's Families Plan, those are likely to be popular. You're talking about big tax credits for people -- low-income people with children. Increase their income substantially. Big subsidies for health insurance. Medicare dental coverage.

All these things are things that Americans like. And the more spending you have that Americans like, the more difficult it is for conservatives to keep taxes low. That was Ted Cruz's argument. We've got to stop Obamacare before people like it too much.

This is a package that if Biden can get it passed it's pretty likely that people are going to favor these benefits and it's going to be tough for conservatives.

WILD: All right, this is a huge bill, as I mentioned. This has a lot of long-term changes. So what is the plan to get this passed and then solidly in place for the future, John?

HARWOOD: The plan to get it passed is with Democrats only. We've been paying so much attention to this infrastructure bill that's done on a bipartisan basis -- roads, bridges, broadband. All these things that members of both parties like and have been talking about for years and didn't get done for years under Obama or President Trump. Those are -- that's one set of priorities.

But when you talk about the social spending Democrats are for, Republicans are not on board. But they do have a budget vehicle called reconciliation where they can pass it only with Democrats. The key there is to keep Democrats united. They haven't accomplished that yet but they've got a good chance to do it.

ROMANS: So, the Senate voted to cut off debate on the president's $1.2 trillion infrastructure package. The final vote expected to happen early this morning.

The plan has this: $110 billion for roads, bridges, major infrastructure projects; $39 billion to modernize public transit; $65 billion to expand broadband internet access; $7.5 billion to build a network of charging stations for electric cars; $7.5 billion for zero and low-emission buses and ferries; $73 billion to rebuild the electric grid. I can go on and on here.

Is it going to make it? There's a lot in here that I think Republicans and Democrats can agree on.

HARWOOD: It is going to make it. You've got Republican support in the range of 10 to 20 members. That is enough to get it passed -- that filibuster.

It is going to pass in the House as well. There may be some back-and- forth, but Democrats in the House understand that getting this package through is the key to getting that human infrastructure that they want through.

It's all part of a larger piece and President Biden is on track to have a significant success on both elements of this plan later this year.

ROMANS: All right, John Harwood. Nice to see you bright and early this Monday morning. I loved reading your piece. We'll tweet that out so everybody can feel a little smarter this morning. Thank you, sir.

HARWOOD: You bet.


WILD: All right.

Well, switching to international news, this is a dramatic breakdown in the Middle East. The Taliban now seizing control of the first major city in Afghanistan to fall since the start of the U.S. withdrawal in May. The insurgence capital of the northern city of Kunduz is marking a very big blow to the Afghan government.

Nick Paton Walsh joining us now. So, Nick, this is a major Taliban victory. This comes just weeks before the withdrawal of U.S. troops is set to end. What is the state of play here? NICK PATON WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: We simply haven't seen a number of days -- four now, going on for five -- quite as bad as this for the Afghan government in the 20 years of the war.

We've seen initially, on Friday, the first provincial capital fall. That was near the border with Iran -- Zaranj. And now, as you mentioned, the first major city of Kunduz yesterday -- one of three provincial cities that fell. There's now great pressure on another key city as well, Ghazni, to the southwest of Kabul. Taliban fighting for elements of that, too.

And all of this comes, as you say, with the broader backdrop of the U.S. forces leaving very quickly. They're still using airstrikes, it seems, but they are not clearly having success.


And what's so important about these cities falling is that the Afghan government's strategy had been we'll aim at keeping the cities. We'll let the Taliban move more freely in rural Afghanistan like they always have done.

What seems to be happening, though, is the Taliban are kind of making too many fires for Afghan security forces to be able to put out all at once. There is still an intense fight happening for a very important city that appears to be something the government in Kabul want to show they can hold, and that's Lashkar Gah in Helmand, where many Americans and many NATO soldiers died over past years.

But this is unraveling pretty quickly and I think the broader question is whether Afghan security forces feel overstretched and are unable to precisely choose where they seek to defend and whether we see, increasingly, the cities around the capital of Kabul.

So far, very hard to imagine that actually falling to the Taliban, although they appear to be able to reach in just as recently as Sunday -- assassinate key prison officials. The real sense of how we're going to see this battlefield deteriorate very fast against the Afghan government's interest.

But the U.S., at this point, apart from a few airstrikes, more spectator -- even more recently asking for some sort of ceasefire to be implemented -- the Taliban has outright rejected. Quite startling -- all the worst projections here coming true.

WILD: It's devolving so quickly.

Nick Paton Walsh live for us in London. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, 41 minutes past the hour.

The American jobs market back on track. Nine hundred forty-three thousand jobs added back in July -- biggest gain since last August. May and June had better jobs growth, too. The economy now down 5.7 million jobs since February 2020. And this quite bullish outlook from the economists at Goldman Sachs this morning predicting another 3 1/2 million jobs added before the end of this year, crediting vaccinations, the end of extra jobless benefits, and the return of in-person learning. That will bring back jobs in schools and education.

Goldman forecasts -- get this -- a jobless rate down to just 3 1/2 percent by the end of next year. That matches the 50-year low we saw before the pandemic. The unemployment rate last month fell to 5.4 percent. That's a pandemic-era low. The big question looming right now, the Delta variant.

But, Goldman Sachs and other economists noting that you've got wages rising here. You've got people starting to return into the labor market -- moving in the right direction. We'll see where the virus takes us.

WILD: Absolutely.

ROMANS: All right. We'll be right back.



ROMANS: A landmark U.N. report on climate change that's just been released paints a dire picture of how human-caused climate change has affected the planet.

CNN chief climate correspondent Bill Weir joins us now. This is the clearest-ever real warning about the dangers of accelerating climate change and who's at fault here, really -- the human-caused climate change.

We're you surprised how quickly this scenario is changing?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes. I mean, there's sort of big gaps between these reports. It's been eight years since the last one.


WEIR: But the tools are getting better as our technology and our lives gets better. The same goes for satellites and computer models.

And the big headline here is agreement. These scientists will argue about anything all the time. But in order for this report to be submitted to policymakers, the scientists from 195 different countries -- allies, enemies alike -- had to agree that this is the state of the science. They looked at thousands of reports and the lead sentence is "It is unequivocal that human influences warm the atmosphere, ocean, and land." And we're seeing the painful results of that in real time right now.

And their tools have gotten much better at sensitivity. They can tell us we're probably going to hit a two-degree Celsius warming by the early 23s. That's a decade sooner. That's about 3.7 degrees Fahrenheit. It doesn't seem like a lot, but if you have a child you know --


WEIR: -- there's a big difference between 100 and 104-degree temperature.

And whether whiplash will be the new normal, as you're seeing in like Oroville, California now. There's not enough water to run through their dam -- the hydroelectric dam. It's a dead pool -- whereas, a couple of years ago it was overflowing from flooding. So that whiplash from extremes is the new norm.

And sea level rise is a big deal in this new report. It's baked in.

I was just in Greenland. Enough of Greenland melted on Wednesday to cover Florida in two inches of water last week. That's one day. And that's not stopping even if we all gave up the car keys tomorrow.

And so, whether it's six feet of sea level rise or 60 is entirely up to us right now.

ROMANS: And we're not going to give up the car keys tomorrow, but there are other things that countries and business can do. Is the red alert being heard by them? I mean, are they -- are they responding to the red alert commensurate with the crisis?

WEIR: We'll see. They're meeting again in Glasgow in November. This is the next big meeting of nations around the Paris accords.

But, no -- nobody's doing anything that meets the promises or meets the urgency. There's a lot of promises. No countries are meeting them, whether out of politics in a place like the United States, or poverty in developing nations where they need to be switching to whole new forms of energy. You're seeing some movement from corporations but you don't know how much of that is greenwashing.

But no, the answer is not nearly enough action is happening to match this warning. It really comes down to the fate of ourselves and our kids.


WEIR: It's human nature.

ROMANS: All right, Bill Weir. We know you'll be covering this all day today. Thank you --

WEIR: I will.

ROMANS: -- for getting up early for us and bringing it to us.

WEIR: My pleasure, yes.

ROMANS: Thanks, Bill. WEIR: You bet.

ROMANS: Whitney.

WILD: All right.

Bill was just talking about these extreme swings. There's an extreme swing going on right now. There are 100 large fires burning across 15 states in mostly the western United States.

The largest blaze is in California's Dixie Fire. That has already consumed one town. It's now burned more than 489,000 acres, becoming the second-largest fire in California's history.

We get more now from CNN's Camila Bernal.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine, Whitney, the smoke here is thick and it's unhealthy. If you look here behind me you're normally supposed to be able to see a canyon. Instead, you're seeing it full of smoke.


That smoke is coming south from the Dixie Fire and it's not only flooding this canyon but it's also flooding the nearby communities. The fire has been burning for almost a month and we're seeing it growing and growing, but we're not seeing much progress in terms of containment.

We're also seeing the number of structures destroyed by this fire going up. It's now at more than 400 structures that have been destroyed by the Dixie Fire.

Governor Gavin Newsom using the weekend to visit the town but also using this as an opportunity to talk about climate change.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: The extreme weather conditions, extreme droughts are leading to extreme conditions and wildfire challenges the likes of which we've never seen in our history. And as a consequence, we need to acknowledge just straight up these are climate-induced wildfires. And we have to acknowledge we have the capacity in this country, not just this state, to solve this.

BERNAL (on camera): And Gov. Gavin Newsom also pointing to prevention, talking about things like forest management, but making it very clear that more needs to be done.

He also took the time to thank the 8,500 men and women who are working around the clock to stop the flames -- Christine, Whitney.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that, Camila. One Chicago police officer is dead; another is fighting for his life

after they were shot during a traffic stop Saturday. Twenty-nine-year- old Officer Ella French was taken to the hospital where she died of her injuries. The other officer, who has been with the Chicago Police Department for six years is in critical condition. Three suspects are in custody.

Just a tragedy there.

All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this Monday morning. Looking at markets around the world to start the new trading week, markets in Japan were closed for a holiday, but Hong Kong and Shanghai both closing higher. European shares have opened slightly lower here this morning.

A quick check on Wall Street futures to set the tone for the week -- barely mixed here.

Stocks ended the week mixed after the jobs report showed the economy added back 943,000 jobs in July. This is the biggest gain since August of last year.

The Dow hit a record high, closing up 144 points. The S&P also a record high. The Nasdaq ended the week slightly lower.

A major win for the cruise industry in Florida. A federal judge ruled Norwegian Cruise Line can require passengers show proof of vaccination before boarding. That's a blow to Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on vaccine passports. Last month, Norwegian sued Florida's surgeon general over the rule.

Norwegian is scheduled to restart cruises from Florida to the Caribbean on Sunday.


Scene from "The Suicide Squad."


ROMANS: All right. The highly-anticipated R-rated movie, "The Suicide Squad," brought in an estimated $26.5 million at the North American box office over the weekend, slightly below industry expectations. A few factors could have kept people at home. Growing fears of the Delta variant may have kept some people away from theaters. The movie was also released the same day on HBO Max, which could have eaten into sales.

WILD: All right.

"MODERN FAMILY" star Julie Bowen and her sister helped rescue a hiker who fainted last week at Arches National Park in Utah. Minnie John, of New Jersey, is diabetic and she said that she was feeling kind of lightheaded out there when she was on her hike. So she sat down on a rock and tried to take a breather. That's when Bowen and her sister, who just happens to be a doctor, wandered up, saw her, treated her. John says that Bowen could have kept hiking. A lot of people probably would have walked right past somebody and thought that they were OK. But instead, they treated this stranger with love and respect.

ROMANS: What great luck to run into her and her sister-doctor. Her sister --

WILD: Yes, no kidding.

ROMANS: -- who is a doctor. Really glad that everyone turned out OK there. And nice to see everybody's out there enjoying the national parks, right?

WILD: Arches -- have you ever been there?

ROMANS: Yes -- I have not been.

WILD: Well, I used to live in -- I lived in Denver, actually. And so, my husband loves to do road trips and so we drove to -- we hiked Arches. It is so hot. And if you're not anticipating it, it can sneak up on you really quickly.

ROMANS: But I should put it on my list with the kids, yes?

WILD: Oh, it's beautiful.

ROMANS: I'll put it on the list.

WILD: Yes, it's great.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us this morning. "NEW DAY" starts right now.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. It is Monday, August ninth.

And this morning, the coronavirus pandemic is hitting levels not seen in months. And it's time for each person to ask himself this -- are you part of the solution or part of the problem? Even worse, are you literally cheering the problem, which some seem to be doing?

The United States is averaging more than 100,000 new COVID cases a day. Alabama has the lowest vaccination rate in the country. That state has seen a sharp uptick in hospitalizations, with most of the patients unvaccinated.

And over the weekend, a video surfaced of an Alabama crowd cheering Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene when she pointed out the state's low vaccination rate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): As I hear Alabama might be one of the most unvaccinated states in the nation.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Also over the weekend, Republican Congressman Glenn Grothman --