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Ex-Pence Aide: Trump, Miller Sabotaged Afghan Refugee Efforts; Florida County That Voted For Trump Defying DeSantis On Masks; Jeopardy! Host Out After Misogynistic Comments Surface. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 23, 2021 - 07:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I want to bring in Olivia Troye now. She is a former adviser to Vice President Mike Pence and she has pushed back against this idea that the withdrawal and evacuation operations would have gone smoothly under former President Donald Trump.

And, in particular, Olivia, you have, as we just heard in John Avlon's reality check there, sort of pulled back the curtain on what went on during the Trump administration as far as getting these folks who are eligible for relief -- people who helped the U.S. troops -- at getting them through the system.

Tell us a little bit about -- you were in meetings about this and this is something that's personal to you. You did serve as a civilian on and off in Afghanistan. What would, say, Stephen Miller say in these meetings as he argued against relief for these individuals?

OLIVIA TROYE, DIRECTOR, FORMER ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE, REPUBLICAN ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT: Well, it was really hard to hear his statements and they were said very openly in front of cabinet- level people -- in front of very senior staff people. And he would say well, what do you guys want? Do you want a bunch of little Iraqs in stands across the country -- across the United States?

And it was -- it was hurtful to hear that and offensive to many of us in the room who had served on the ground in both countries. I've been to both countries. These are the people that helped keep us alive and helped navigate us around the country. And to hear this naive hateful rhetoric being said in cabinet-level discussions when we're making decisions -- specifically, on items like the refugee ceiling and what was going to happen on that -- to hear that kind of rhetoric, we knew what we were up against.

KEILAR: And so, what happened when Trump administration officials like yourself were trying to make progress on these immigrant visas and relief for people who had helped the U.S.?

TROYE: Well, what you would find -- I mean, this is a very cumbersome, challenging system already. It is very hard for many of these applicants to actually get through the process and actually get their visa issued and be able to -- be eligible to leave. But what you find is that the resources there -- this entire thing was being gutted and under-resourced. And if you look at the numbers on a yearly basis, you'll see that a lower and lower number of people get approved and the visas don't get issued.

I remember, specifically, there was one time where former Vice President Pence was upset at a story -- a new story that he had seen on the front page of a newspaper. And so I got the piece -- he put it on my desk -- that said what is going on with this? Why are they -- why have they been stuck in this process for two years? And when you look at the days of these people being stuck in the process, they were stuck for three years -- and that number increases under the Trump administration.

When I called over to the State Department I found out that there was one person -- one person doing the security checks there for thousands of people. And this is, I think, in 2009. And this is a year after there had been a critical decision saying we will prioritize this irregardless of what's happening.

KEILAR: In 2019, you mean?


KEILAR: In 2019?

TROYE: Two thousand nineteen -- sorry.

KEILAR: Oh, no -- no worries. I just wanted to double-check on that.

So look, it's -- when you talk about some of the things that -- I mean, the heinous things, really, that you heard Stephen Miller say in these meetings, they're not that different from what some folks, especially in right-wing media, are saying now about why these people who helped the U.S. should not be allowed to come in. They're painting them as invaders.


KEILAR: Do you see, like, a direct link there or --

TROYE: Yes, absolutely, and these are classic talking points that were espoused throughout the entire tenure of the Trump administration. This is anti-immigrant, anti-refugee rhetoric and it's absolutely disgusting. It's terrible to hear these things said, once again, when these are people that put their lives on the line. That were there side-by-side with our military, our civilians, and officers like myself on the ground -- even media and NGOs.

This is what happens when you travel to these countries. You need these people. They need to be your allies. And to send that message to the world and say we're not going to help these people, starting in the Trump administration the way they behaved, is just deplorable.

So I see these narratives surface again and this is why I found it so upsetting because I said, you know, yes, we're in a critical and very, very tough situation on the ground there right now. But let's not forget the context of where a lot of this started -- where the crisis was built -- and how we dropped the ball on this. These people should have been processed the entire time in the tenure of the Trump administration, especially since he was the one negotiating with the Taliban, which was ludicrous, and planning for this withdrawal.

I have no confidence -- I mean, that they would have gotten any of these people out. And so, now we're in the situation where we have thousands of people trying to get out of the country and it's tough.

KEILAR: Olivia -- and look, I know this is personal for you. I know that when these provincial capitals were falling you weren't just thinking oh, this is Herat, this is Kandahar. You were thinking of the people -- the Afghan people who helped keep you safe when you were there. And I appreciate you telling us -- really, pulling back the curtain on all of this for us. Thank you.

TROYE: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Olivia Troye.

And up next, a Florida county that voted for Donald Trump is now defying Gov. Ron DeSantis on masks in schools.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And how should social media platforms deal with content posted by the Taliban?


KEILAR: Seven Florida counties are now bucking Gov. Ron DeSantis by enacting mask mandates in schools with some limited exceptions. One of them is Leon County where the governor lives.

Another, Sarasota. This is the first county in Florida that actually went for former President Trump in the 2020 election to implement a strict -- a strict mask mandate. Many parents there disagreed with the measure.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't mask up my 12-year-old and 16-year old granddaughter. I will fight you to the end and so will my family. That's not what my dad -- my Pearl Harbor survivor dad fought for.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our governor has executive orders ensuring parents' rights to choose. So we can -- I'm not giving you not one inch. I'm not giving you an inch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These parents are standing up now. This is the end of this tyranny. This is the end.


KEILAR: Now, currently in Sarasota County, 272 students and 40 staff members are positive for COVID-19, and another 192 students are quarantining. Since July first, 778 students have tested positive for COVID-19.

And joining us now to discuss this is Politico reporter Gary Fineout.

OK, Gary, first off, tell us about the significance of this decision by the Sarasota County School Board.

GARY FINEOUT, REPORTER, POLITICO (via Skype): Well, the significance is that this is a Republican county. It went for Donald Trump -- about 54 percent for Trump in the 2020 election.

And it's also the home of both the chairman and the vice-chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. And, in fact, the wife of the vice- chairman is on the school board and she was one of the two votes against instituting the mask mandate. It was a 3-2 vote, so it was a very narrow vote to put this policy in place.

BERMAN: Gary, it's been great talking to you throughout this standoff between Gov. DeSantis and these towns and schools that want the power to issue mask requirements if they deem it necessary.

And one of the things that's truly interesting is around the country, mask requirements poll well. It's actually a bit of a non-troversy around the country. It polls very high -- mask requirements. And among Republicans, it even polls fairly well -- 44 percent approval in one number I saw.

Yet, there is a political advantage, clearly, that Gov. DeSantis sees here even as, now, Republican counties start to turn against him.

FINEOUT: Well, as we've been discussing over the last few weeks since this surge has occurred, the governor has not really shown a lot of interest in deviating from his position on this. There's been some tweaks in how this, sort of, enforcement has happened and what exactly is the power of the state to do things. But for the most part, he and his team have stuck to the position that they don't believe in mask mandates and they've even questioned the efficacy of masks and have pointed out that it's not in place in other countries.

So, yes, there has been no real material change in the way that the governor feels about it. And again, as we've discussed again and again, the question is -- is he worried about the 2022 election or is this more about 2024?

BERMAN: And Gary, we have to let you go, but bottom line -- still, despite the threats of repercussions, as of now, has anyone actually been punished for any of this?

FINEOUT: No, but it possibly is coming. Basically, there have been -- the Department of Education, on Friday, said that it would begin to withhold money from two districts if they didn't give an answer in 48 hours. And we would expect more notices to go out to the additional districts this week.

BERMAN: That will be interesting to watch. Gary Fineout, as always, thanks so much for being with us.

FINEOUT: Thank you.

KEILAR: And up next, Donald Trump is still banned from Twitter. Why isn't the Taliban?

BERMAN: And, "JEOPARDY!" -- I mean honestly, what a mess. Looking for a new host again. The journalist who uncovered the comments that cost Mike Richards his job joins us.



BERMAN: Social media giants scrambling to figure out how to deal with the takeover of Afghanistan. The Taliban barred from using Facebook accounts but still allowed on Twitter where even former President Trump remains banned.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan live in Birmingham, Alabama with the latest on this. They've tied themselves up in knots again, Donie.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, yes. I mean, it really is rather remarkable when you think about it. Trump was banned from Twitter while he was President of the United States, right after the insurrection. Meanwhile, now you have the Taliban -- they are essentially freely available to use the platform. They do not have this blanket ban.

I want to show you what "The New York Times" reporting -- what sort of -- the type of content that is being posted by the Taliban. In one video, a Taliban official reassured female health workers that they could keep their jobs. In another, militants told Sikhs, a minority religious group, that they were free and protected. And still, others suggested a new lawfulness in Kabul with Talib fights holding looters and thieves at gunpoint.

So the difference, I guess, in how the Taliban and how Trump was using Twitter is Trump was being very active in pushing the big lie, which inspired the insurrection. And Twitter was able to point it out and say his posts are dangerous.

But the Taliban is using Twitter, in a way, for a propaganda battle right now -- trying to paint a rosy picture of their takeover of the country. But, you know, that is, of course, very, very different to the reality on the ground for Afghans.

Look, there is a whole debate to have about whether platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube should be able to ban groups with popular support and ban politicians with popular support no matter how heinous or dangerous they might be.

But Twitter did take a stand here. They took a stand in the United States against Trump. But yet, they are seemingly doing something different in Afghanistan with the Taliban. This is something, from speaking to folks at Twitter, that they are

thinking about. They are actively monitoring but they're still trying to figure it out.


KEILAR: And, Donie, worth mentioning -- there you are. You're in Alabama where Donald Trump held a rally. And it really seemed from the folks that you talked to that the election isn't over for them.

O'SULLIVAN: No, not at all, Brianna. And we are expected to see the final report from that sham audit in Arizona -- sort of the biggest manifestation of the big lie about the election. And folks we've been speaking to here and across the country -- Trump supporters -- are looking at these audits, hoping somehow that it's going to bring him back. Have a listen.


VICKEY SIMS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I'm a Trump supporter. Honey, I can't wait for him to get back in office. I know he won the election and he's coming back. Whoo-hoo -- I can't wait.

O'SULLIVAN: You think he might run again in '24?

SIMS: Oh, he ain't going to have to. He's already our president. God's going to put him back in there. He's going to reinstate President Trump.

STEPHEN PALMER, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I don't think there's going to be a 2024 election until we get the 2020 resolved.

O'SULLIVAN: There's no way at this point to overturn the 2020 election, right?

PALMER: No, there's always a way. There's always a way.

O'SULLIVAN: There's no --

PALMER: Just wait until the audits are out. There's millions of guns here and I -- you know, it took 11 days for them to take over Afghanistan. I wonder how many days -- just asking for a friend, how many days it'd take the patriots to take over this country? Think about it.

O'SULLIVAN: You don't want that to happen here, do you?

PALMER: I don't want it to happen but if our country and our government and our Congress and Biden and them don't get their heads out of their butt, it's going to happen. I assure you, it's coming.


O'SULLIVAN: And that man, I should point out, said he was in Washington, D.C. on January sixth but that he did not go inside the Capitol. But all that to say is the sort of lies that's still being pushed by the pillow man, the sort of lies that were embraced and being pushed on stage by Trump here in Alabama on Saturday night, it is still being actively watched and causing excitement and perhaps inspiration for more violence among certain segments of the Trump base -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Indeed, it is. Pretty alarming to hear that last man that you spoke with there.

Donie, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

And just ahead, a deadly firefight overnight at Kabul airport as the U.S. successfully gets more than 10,000 people out of the country in 24 hours. We are live on the ground with the latest.

BERMAN: And how the man named the new permanent host of "JEOPARDY!" turned out to be -- well, anything but.



BERMAN: So, this morning, the spread of the Delta variant clearly has return-to-office plans on hold. Chief business correspondent Christine Romans here with that. I mean, this could be months.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Yes. I mean, when it's all said and done, you're looking at almost two years of people out of the office, right? Because it wasn't long ago many companies were planning to bring back workers to the office after Labor Day. But September now is November, and even January.

Apple won't bring employees back to corporate offices until January 2022. Last month, it pushed the return date from September to October, all of this because of the surge in cases of the Delta variant. Apple's stores are open with a mask mandate for all staff and customers regardless of your vaccination status.

The accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers won't reopen its U.S. offices until November first.

And last week, IBM closed its New York City offices because conditions don't meet its health and safety protocols. IBM still plans to reopen offices on September seventh. But again, that depends on health conditions in the city.

Facebook, Amazon, Lyft, "The New York Times" and many others have pushed forward their return plans months in the future.

What we're hearing from managers now, be patient, be flexible.

And the delay does have an added benefit, John. It gives managers more time to encourage or, in some cases, mandate their employees be vaccinated. In fact, a majority of Americans support vaccine mandates at work -- 55 percent in this Axios-IPSOS poll. It's a balancing act for companies, though. They want vaccinated

workers for a safe workplace and they want their people to start coming back. But they're also facing these labor shortages. They don't want to lose anyone over mandates or pushing them back to the workforce too soon.

BERMAN: Yes, being flexible is important but it's not easy at this point.

ROMANS: It isn't.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, thanks very much.

Who is Mike Richards? The answer to the question is no longer the host of "JEOPARDY!" The current executive producer of the show stepped down as the next host following the discovery of several comments that many see as misogynistic that he made in a podcast.

Joining us now is the journalist who uncovered that very audio, Claire McNear. She is a staff writer at "The Ringer." Claire, great to see you. Really terrific reporting.

Why is it that you think that your reporting seemed to be final jeopardy -- forgive me -- as it were for Mike Richards?


And obviously, what has gotten a lot of attention is scrutiny of a podcast he hosted while he was the executive producer of "THE PRICE IS RIGHT." And over the course of that, he made a number of controversial comments. There was a lot of sexist language. He used some ugly slurs. And that's gotten a lot of eyeballs.

But also, it's that he was extremely involved in the search for the permanent host. And then, of course, he was named permanent host. And I think a lot of fans were rightfully a little suspicious of that. And it turns out that he was intimately involved with just about every stage of that process.

BERMAN: Yes. The "I pick me" factor rubbed people the wrong way. And the existence of this stuff that you broke -- that you uncovered also begged the question -- I mean, there's just so many good people out there. So why did it have to be that guy given the surfeit of other people out there?

So what does this mean for who is the next host of "JEOPARDY!"?

MCNEAR: Right. So, I mean, I think the big question is where does "JEOPARDY!" go from here. Because I think, really, it has been such a stable institution on television and in American culture for so many decades. And suddenly, now with this scandal, it feels like that has been shaken. And I think there's a lot of concern, especially within Sony and within the "JEOPARDY!" staff that this reliable thing might not be what it was and it could just become another game show. BERMAN: You know, it's interesting. That's sort of the answer to the question that my mother has asked me almost every day for the last few weeks, and you have an answer to it -- a real answer, which is why are we talking so much about "JEOPARDY!"? Why has this become such a big deal?

MCNEAR: Yes. I mean, I think people love "JEOPARDY!" I wrote a book about "JEOPARDY!" and it has been great to kind of hear from people over recent months about all of the guest hosts and the permanent host search.

But it just is such an institution. Everybody knows "JEOPARDY!" Everybody has a "JEOPARDY!" memory. Whether you watch it every single night religiously or whether it's something you watch with a grandparent, everybody knows what it is and contestants spend years and years training for their chance to get there. So it really is this very special television show.

BERMAN: Claire McNear, as I said, the reporting is terrific. I know a lot of people now waiting for a call. My phone line continues to be open. And if you're not going to call me, call Laura Coates.