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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Department of Defense Must Decide Today Whether To Extend Afghanistan Evacuations; Tennessee Floods That Killed 21 Overtook Residents In Minutes; U.S. Capitol Police Says Fatal Shooting Of January Sixth Rioter Was Lawful. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 24, 2021 - 05:30   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It's Tuesday. I'm Christine Romans. Thirty minutes past the hour and time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

The U.S. military telling President Biden he must decide today whether he will extend evacuations from Afghanistan. The Taliban has signaled the August 31st deadline is non-negotiable. More on this in just a moment.

JARRETT: And European leaders plan to press President Biden to extend the Afghanistan withdrawal deadline during a special G7 summit today. E.U. leaders are also fearing another large-scale influx of refugees and some are telling Afghans who are thinking of fleeing to Europe to go, instead, to countries that border Afghanistan.

ROMANS: House Democrats are locked in a standoff that could jeopardize a key Biden agenda item -- his sweeping $3.5 trillion social safety net economic package. House leaders negotiated late into the night trying to reach a deal that would satisfy moderates. They're set to try again this morning.

JARRETT: New York has a new governor. Kathy Hochul becoming the state's first female chief executive, replacing Andrew Cuomo. Her first official order of business, even before her swearing-in just after midnight, was appointing two women to two top state government posts.

ROMANS: The official FDA approval of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine paving the way for vaccine mandates from the military, corporations, and school districts. The number of Americans dying from the virus hasn't been this high since late March.

JARRETT: Arizona's sham election audit delayed after three employees of the auditing company Cyber Ninjas tested positive for COVID. Employees, including the CEO, are said to be quite sick. It's not clear whether they were vaccinated.

ROMANS: Don't wait, evacuate. That's the message for California residents as the huge and spreading Caldor Fire threatens the Lake Tahoe area. More than 42,000 people have already been forced to flee their homes as nine large fires burn out of control.

JARRETT: The calendar says August but Starbucks wants to bring on fall. The pumpkin spice latte returns today. It's the earliest date ever for the popular drink. An estimated 500 million have been sold since the 2003 debut.

ROMANS: All right, the time is now. The U.S. military advising President Biden he must decide today whether he will extend that timeline for evacuations in Afghanistan.

Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine and Laura, today marks not only one week until the end of the month -- that August 31st deadline by which the Biden administration is trying to complete not only the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan but all of the U.S. citizens, Afghans, special immigrant visa applicants, and more.

But it is also the day where a Defense official familiar with the conversations and the discussions around withdrawal says military advisers have told the president that if you want to get out by August 31st, that decision may have to come today. That's because it takes time to organize and get out 5,800 troops who are on the ground there managing this evacuation. And that decision will have to come, roughly, on Tuesday, give or take, if that goal of August 31st is to be met.

President Joe Biden has said the U.S. may extend by a few days if it needs to, to try to get out all U.S. citizens and others, but it's clear from the Biden administration and from the Pentagon that that's not the option they want to pursue.

In addition, the Taliban has said that August 31st deadline is something they expect the U.S. to stick to. If not, there will be, in their words, consequences.

The U.S. has had communication with the Taliban as the withdrawal has continued -- as the evacuation of not only U.S. forces and citizens but also Afghan evacuees has continued, but those are sensitive talks. They are -- it is constant communication but also communication that comes amid a very tense situation. The U.S. trying to finish this as quickly as possible. August 31st still very much what they hope to achieve, and we'll see if that decision comes from the president, himself -- Christine and Laura.


JARRETT: Oren, thank you for that.

So, this decision whether to extend evacuations puts President Biden in a difficult spot. The Taliban, of course, has said the U.S. must get out by August 31st, but leaders from top foreign allies plan to press the president to extend that deadline during this virtual G7 meeting this morning.

CNN's Jasmine Wright is live for us in Washington, D.C. Jasmine, good morning. The clock is ticking. Any sense of which way the president is leaning on this complicated decision he has to make?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Laura, that is the million-dollar question this morning. And you're right, the clock is ticking. As of Monday, President Biden hadn't made up his mind, CNN had learned, despite that warning from the military. And we know -- officials have told us that this meeting with the G7 could be when first learn about what he's thinking.

But let's take a step back and talk about why this decision matters. Because President Biden, himself, just last week, said that he would do whatever it takes to get all Americans out of the U.S. -- excuse me, out of Afghanistan who want to come home. And he also extended the same version of that olive branch -- that pledge to Afghans who have helped the U.S. over the 20 years.


Now, officials say that they believe that they can get all Americans out of Afghanistan by August 31st, but that's not the same for Afghans because there are way more of them in that country. So the question is where does this leave them.

Now, this is, of course, a hard choice for the president because if he keeps the troops in Afghanistan he risks angering the Taliban, as we just heard from Oren. And if he takes them out he risks alienating himself from those U.S. foreign allies -- top foreign allies that have, over the last few days, made, really, requests of President Biden, including France's Macron -- saying that the U.S. has a moral responsibility to the Afghans who have contributed to their wartime efforts. So, really, it's a hard choice for the president.

And now, because of those risks -- and including those security risks that advisers have really advised him against staying because of the growing threat of ISIS-K and other security issues on the ground -- you -- allies have not necessarily been hopeful.

Take a listen to the U.K. Defense minister this morning on the issue.


BEN WALLACE, U.K. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think it is unlikely not only because of what the Taliban has said, but also if you look at the public statements of President Biden, I think it is unlikely. It is definitely worth us all trying and we will.

And we've also changed internally within our own military system how quickly it can take for us to get out because for every hour we can squash the military evacuation is an hour we can add on to help the civilian evacuation.


WRIGHT: So, we will hear from President Biden in the 1:00 hour today when it's expected that he will address Afghanistan after that G7 meeting -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Jasmine -- all right. Thanks so much -- appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right.

New this morning, the Pentagon says U.S. and coalition aircraft evacuated about 16,000 people from Kabul within the last 24 hours.

And, United Airlines says its first evacuation flight has landed in the U.S. -- 340 people on board. The plane flew more than 14 hours from Doha, Qatar with a stop at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to refuel.

JARRETT: Ramstein has now reached capacity with nearly 8,000 evacuees from Afghanistan. That means this race to evacuate -- well, it's hitting practical limitations with options narrowing for where everyone is supposed to go.

ROMANS: Sixteen thousand evacuations in 24 hours -- remarkable.


ROMANS: Dr. Anthony Fauci says the U.S. could enter spring of 2022 with the virus under control if enough people get vaccinated.

In Florida, about 75 doctors stepped outside their hospitals and offices Monday to talk about their burnout.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are exhausted. Our patients and resources are running low and we need your help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many of these patients have decided not to get vaccinated, but when they're hospitalized they tell us they wish they had.


JARRETT: Duval County School Board, in Florida, will require masks in schools with only a medical opt-out. It joins schools in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Hillsborough counties. Orange County, which includes Orlando, will consider a mask mandate at a meeting this week as well.

And in Texas, three Houston area emergency rooms closed Monday due to a coronavirus surge.

ROMANS: In Kentucky, the governor canceled a school mask mandate after it was blocked by a judge. But the governor had some good news as well when he announced the National Guard and FEMA will deploy resources to help overwhelmed hospitals in Kentucky. Hospital officials, high five.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY. -- everything we can, but we love you all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we had another disaster happen now -- even a small one -- we don't have any reserve left.


JARRETT: Meanwhile, New York City's police commissioner is imploring NYPD officers to get vaccinated after three employees died in one week.

And despite the hit to tourism, Hawaii's governor is encouraging tourists to stay away as COVID cases surge now.

ROMANS: All right.

Summer is over yet but COVID's shipping issues mean your holiday shopping could be at risk. Disruptions to global supply chains are getting worse, causing the cost of shipping to skyrocket. That's bad news for retailers and ultimately, for shoppers. The cost of shipping a 40-foot container on eight major routes is up 360 percent from last year.

Adidas, Crocs, and Hasbro warning about disruptions as they prepare for the end of the year.

The latest snag is in China. A terminal at the world's third-busiest port has been closed since mid-August after a dock worker tested positive for coronavirus. Major shipping lines have changed their schedules to avoid that port and they are warning customers of delays.

And the problem isn't just container ships. The shortage of truck drivers in the U.S. and the U.K. has only made disruptions and delays even worse. All of this means higher prices for shoppers.

Hasbro said it's raising prices to offset the rising cost of shipping.

Analysts say shoppers should also expect longer delivery times and may need more than one option up your sleeve for gifts around the holiday season.

JARRETT: Just what we need.

ROMANS: All these COVID kinks and wrinkles in the supply chain.


We'll be right back.


JARRETT: A tidal wave. That's how one resident described the deadly flash floods that swept through the middle of Tennessee on Saturday. The flooding overtook parts of the region in just minutes, killing at least 21 people, including 7-month-old twins.

ROMANS: It's tragic there. Multiple shelters have been open to accommodate residents who fled their homes as the water rose. And new video showing a human chain rescuing an infant from the floodwater. Three days after the storm, 10 people are missing with search and rescue efforts ongoing.

Nadia Romero is on the ground for us in Waverly, Tennessee.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine and Laura, this has been so devastating for this small close-knit community. Many people have been here for generations -- they know the family next door -- including one woman who said that she bought the house across the street from her childhood home just to be near her family.


Listen to her story of survival as she stood on top of her roof hoping someone would find her and her mother and rescue them both.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over and over, I saw them pick up our neighbors and our family, risking their own lives for us. And seeing that moment of my mom surfacing -- because I didn't know if she was alive in there -- was something I'll never forget. I was fine sitting on that roof all day if I had to, as long as she got out OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The guy came in and he hollered anybody in here and I said, yes, me. And he came back there and said are you OK and I said yes. And I said what about Amanda across the street, and he said she's OK -- she's on the roof. And as a parent, to see your child on the roof -- it was heart-wrenching. But it's like oh, yes, save my child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I was saying save my mom.

ROMERO: Now, part of the confusion during this storm was, in part, because electricity was out, cell service down, and stories like this.

So, the woman who lived in this home -- this house was picked up off its foundation and it was carried two blocks away in those floodwaters. The woman who lived inside -- she's alive. But this car right here that's now in the house, completely unrelated. And the woman inside that car -- she was pulled out by first responders but she did not survive.

Still, people here are thinking about those who are missing and the family members who are no longer with us -- Christine, Laura.


JARRETT: Just incredible. Nadia, thank you. All right, maybe you can chalk this one up to do what I say, not what I do. The "New York Post" has trafficked in a lot of anti-mask rhetoric during this pandemic. Now, according to a memo obtained by CNN, the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid is telling its employees they're required to wear a mask while at the office, like many offices.

The "Post" mask mandate is just the latest example, though, of the hypocrisy in the Murdoch media empire. Both the "Post" and "FOX NEWS" have quietly required their employees to follow the very same health and safety protocols that they have lampooned in print and on air.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Looking at markets around the world this Tuesday addition, you can see Asian shares closed higher and Europe has opened narrowly mixed here. On Wall Street, stock index futures at this hour leaning higher.

Optimism on Wall Street after the FDA granted full approval for Pfizer's COVID vaccine.

The Dow closed up 215 points. That was just short of a record high. The Nasdaq finished up 1 1/2 percent. That's a good day there and a record. The S&P 500 also higher but fell short of a record high. Really close there, though.

Look, the comeback in stocks since last March has been epic. The S&P 500 has doubled from the March 2020 low -- the fastest bull market since World War II to do that.

So cue the Main Street-Wall Street disconnect. Investors are making loads of money while Main Street struggles with higher prices on just about everything in the COVID economy. Stocks are hitting record highs even as the Federal Reserve, by the way, is considering pulling back its historic support for the economy.

And, of course, there's the big risk right now of the Delta variant and what that means for the economic recovery -- just too soon to tell.

Meantime, signs of cooling off in a red-hot real estate market. Existing home sales and prices rose again in July, but prices fell short of recent records. And there were more homes on the market last month. That relieves some of the pressure for buyers. First-time homebuyers, though, still being priced out of the market.

Economists say there's a chance prices will start to level off as inventory gradually improves. We'll see the new home sales report later today at 10:00 eastern time for a look at what that part of the market is doing.

JARRETT: All right.

A state court in North Carolina ruling to restore voting rights for people that are formerly incarcerated who are on parole, probation, or supervised release. According to "The New York Times," the ruling affects more than 55,000 people -- a group that is disproportionately Black. It's the largest expansion of voting rights in North Carolina since the 1960s, and state Republican leaders say they plan to appeal this ruling.

ROMANS: The U.S. Capitol police officer who fatally shot a rioter during the January sixth insurrection has been cleared. An internal review found the officer's actions were lawful, and the department says the officer may have saved the lives of lawmakers and staff hiding inside that building.

Ashli Babbitt was shot as she was trying to climb through a barricaded door.

JARRETT: The tallest man in America has died. Guinness World Records say Igor Vovkovinskiy was 7 foot-8 1/3 inches tall. His family says he died Friday in Minnesota in a hospital from heart disease at the age of 38. He had moved from Ukraine to the U.S. back in 2010 for medical treatment.

Guinness says the world's tallest man lives in Turkey and is just shy of 8 foot-three.

ROMANS: All right.

The New York Yankees take down the Atlanta Braves in a matchup of the two hottest teams in baseball. Andy Scholes has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Christine. So get this. It had been 120 years since we've seen teams with at least nine-game winning streaks facing off against each other in baseball. Both the Braves and Yankees winners of nine in a row heading into last night's matchup.


Giancarlo Stanton coming through big for the Yankees in this one. He homered to the opposite field here in the second inning to get New York on the board. Then with the game tied in the sixth, Stan would come to the plate again and this time he would double to left and would score two. The Yankees go on to win five to one for their tenth win in a row.

One more game in Atlanta tonight. The Yankees haven't won 11 games in a row since 1985.

All right, Jaguars and Saints wrapping up week two of the NFL preseason. This is our first extended look at first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence. He was under lots of pressure from the Saints. He ended up throwing for 113 yards and no touchdowns.

Jameis Winston, though, meanwhile, making a strong case to be the Saints' starring quarterback. He was nearly perfect in this one, throwing two touchdowns to Marquez Callaway in the first quarter. The Saints would win this one 23-21.

For the first time since 2016, a WNBA champion visited the White House. President Biden welcoming the Seattle Storm yesterday and said their title is much more than just about basketball. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And what makes this team remarkable is they don't just win games, they change lives -- encouraging people to get vaccinated so we can beat this pandemic. Speaking out and standing up for racial justice and voting rights.

That's what winners do. They shine the light. They lift people up. They're a force for change.


SCHOLES: Yes, and the president also getting a selfie with the team just outside the White House. He joked he might be a good ball boy for them one day.

All right, Little League World Series rolling along with South Dakota's Gavin Weir just continuing to dominate. Last night he was at the plate -- game tied at zero in the fifth. Gavin hit a three-run homerun -- a no-doubter. He was super pumped as he went around the bases. South Dakota would win that game three to zero.

And, I mean, Gavin's just been a one-man show in Williamsport. In his first World Series start on the mound, he struck out 15, allowing no hits. Gavin had a perfect game in regionals as well. He's only allowed one hit in his last seven starts while striking out 100 batters. That's dating back to the district tournament -- just incredible.

South Dakota plays California tomorrow.

All right. And finally, back to the Braves game. One of the most fun parts of Braves games is when one fan tries to beat the freeze in a race between innings. And this fan thought he had the victory all wrapped up but he went down just steps before the finish line. The freeze win.

And I'll tell you what, guys. It's so much fun at Braves games when they do this race. You get about a five-second head start when you're the fan. He had it won. I could just -- you could just hear the collective gasps and oh, no from the crowd when he stumbled there.

JARRETT: It's so painful. He was so close.

ROMANS: I've never --

SCHOLES: He had it. He had it won.

ROMANS: All the -- all the stadium food I eat when I go to baseball game, I'd never be able to even try to make that run. All those nachos -- no way.

All right, thanks, Andy. Nice to see you.

SCHOLES: All right.

JARRETT: Thanks, Andy. All right. Finally this morning, Beyonce making fashion history as the first Black woman to wear the iconic 128.5-carat Tiffany diamond. The Grammy-winning performer now the face of Tiffany's new "About Love" campaign as she wears the stunning piece featuring one of the world's largest yellow diamonds. There it is.

ROMANS: It's 128 carats.

JARRETT: It's enormous.

ROMANS: Yes. So there's some blowback here. She and her husband, rapper Jay-Z, are taking some heat for posing in the ad with a never- before-seen Jean-Michel Basquiat painting. You can see it in the background. It's that Tiffany-blue color, by the way.

The painting was acquired by Tiffany but some were angered that an ad was the first time the piece was shown to the public, calling it gross and tone-deaf. Critics argue that Basquiat, who started as a graffiti artist, would never approve of his art being used in an ad. That kerfuffle aside, Beyonce is awesome.

JARRETT: Yes. We take no position on what Basquiat would have wanted. He's, sadly, no longer with us.

ROMANS: The diamond is awesome. And I think she might be too young for it because Truman Capote wrote, quoting Holly Golightly in the novel "Breakfast at Tiffany's," that it is tacky to wear diamonds before you're 40. And she's 39, right?

JARRETT: Yes, she's 39. I think I can say on behalf of everybody who is under 40 that he's wrong about that, and Audrey would have wanted her to wear that.

ROMANS: Yes. All you need is your sparkling personality, right? All right.

Thanks for joining us, everybody. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar alongside John Berman on this new day.

President Biden expected to make a decision today that could seal the fate of thousands of Afghans who helped U.S. troops. Will he keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan past the August 31st deadline?

Plus, the president's trying to get his own party on board with his economic agenda. The Capitol Hill battle growing more heated by the hour.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A big step in the fight against coronavirus as the FDA fully approves Pfizer's vaccine. But a stunning new timeline from Dr. Anthony Fauci on when this pandemic will be over, with Americans asking this morning, that long -- really?

And breaking overnight, New York has a new governor but Andrew Cuomo has one last --