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Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) On Washington Post Report That CIA Director Held Secret Meeting With Taliban Leader; January Sixth Committee To Seek Phone Records Of Some Congress Members; Former GOP Rep. Sanford Says Trump Committed Treason On January Sixth. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 24, 2021 - 07:30   ET



JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I just spoke with a senior official who said -- who would not provide the reason for the delay but they did say that it was not related to the situation in Afghanistan.

Of course, we do know that the vice president is supposed to be that last person in the room with President Biden as he makes decisions -- the same role that President Biden played as vice president to President Obama. So that was, of course, something that we certainly had on our minds here.

We are expected to find out at some point in the next couple of hours what the reason for this delay was. But certainly, unusual to see her leaving a highly-choreographed foreign trip like this three hours late. Hopefully, we'll find out soon exactly what the reason is.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jeremy. Thank you so much for that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, more breaking news this morning.

"The Washington Post" reports that CIA Dir. William Burns held a secret meeting with the de facto leader of the Taliban in Kabul yesterday. This is, by far, the highest-profile encounter between the Biden administration and the Taliban.

Joining us now is Democratic congressman and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jim Himes.

Congressman, you were part of a classified briefing on Afghanistan yesterday, which means I know you can't tell me exactly what you were told behind closed doors there. So let me ask you about "The Washington Post" report. If William Burns, the CIA director, was meeting with the de facto leader of the Taliban yesterday, what's your takeaway? What would that tell you?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Well, John, I think it's probably a good thing. We're obviously in a situation that is -- that is very, very tough on the ground there and Baradar, at the end of the day, holds a lot of the cards.

As your viewers will probably know, Bill Burns, before he became director of CIA, was one of the nation's most seasoned diplomats and if anybody knows how to negotiate, how to establish relationships, how to get good outcomes internationally, it's Bill Burns.

My guess is -- and here I'm just speculating -- my guess is that there's two things at the very top of the agenda.

Number one, keeping things peaceful. Again, the Taliban hold a lot of cards. Because we don't have that much military manpower on the ground there, they hold a lot of cards.

Number two, as I look at the situation, I think that it is increasingly unlikely that we're going to get everything we need done by the end of this month. And that means we're going to need a little bit more time to do what is morally absolutely essential, which is getting out those people who helped us -- every last American, every last translator, every last person who helped us. And that's going to require the cooperation of the Taliban.

BERMAN: Just to reiterate that last point, your chairman, Adam Schiff, came out of this classified briefing yesterday saying he did not think it was possible to get everyone evacuated who needs to be evacuated by this August 31st deadline.

So you, as you sit here this morning, think that deadline somehow needs to be moved in order to get the people out, even as the Taliban publicly says -- publicly, at least for now -- that's a red line.

HIMES: Well, that's right, John. I mean, think about what we're weighing here. We're weighing something that is fundamentally moral -- and not just fundamentally moral but also important to future operations that we do around the world where we're going to need the cooperation of locals. We've got that on the one side.

On the other side is this arbitrary deadline, which I understand the Taliban is interested in. But the Taliban is also interested in having us out of there. So I do think that Dir. Burns has cards to play. I do think it's been pretty remarkable the extent to which the Taliban, who are not known as a reasonable group of people, have actually -- they could have created a whole heck of a lot more havoc than they have.

So, yes is the answer to your question.


HIMES: What is important here is not an arbitrary deadline, it's that we get every last person out. BERMAN: And as of now, at least over the last two weeks, an enormous number of people have been able --

HIMES: Remarkable.

BERMAN: -- to get out.

HIMES: Remarkable.

HIMES: And 21,000 people over the last 24 hours on U.S. and NATO planes. And much more on that as we learn the information.

Congressman, I want to ask you about what happened overnight. Now, I know your mind has been in a lot of places -- Afghanistan and elsewhere -- but right now, the Democratic economic agenda -- the White House Democratic economic agenda is on hold because Democrats can't agree on how to move forward.

Now, it's complicated. Some House Democrats want to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill first. Others want to have some kind of vote on the $3.5 trillion larger budget resolution. But basically, for an American sitting at home this morning, seeing this bipartisan deal that was made in the Senate -- they want their roads fixed. What do you tell them this morning about what Democrats can agree to?

HIMES: I would note, John, that the narrative that because everybody gets into Washington yesterday at 4:00 p.m. and they don't have a deal completely done by midnight -- eight hours later -- that's actually, I think, probably not first and foremost on the folks watching at home.

Look, the reality is that it is -- it is still very likely that this deal gets done very soon. As you know, Speaker Pelosi can afford to lose just three votes in the House Democratic Caucus. The House Democratic Caucus is far more diverse, far more ideas, far more different philosophical points of view than the Republican Caucus is. And so, yes, there's a little bit of negotiation that needs to be done.


But look, I think that negotiation -- there's still a lot of tools. The President of the United States, to my knowledge, has not weighed in and that's a pretty big tool. There's a lot of ability to move different votes around in terms of timing. The speaker could make a commitment about when votes occur.

So look, people arrived in Washington yesterday afternoon and the deal wasn't done by midnight. Today is a new day and I think there's -- I think there's a lot yet to be said, a lot yet to be negotiated. At the end of the day, I do think that this deal gets done.

BERMAN: Fair, but you also know, having been around and been around Nancy Pelosi long enough, if she had the votes last night you would have taken the votes last night.

HIMES: Yes, that's right. And look, what's new -- and I've been doing this for a while -- what's new is that -- and I can't remember in the last decade or so a situation like this -- is that three members of the House can hold up legislation.

And as I said, it's a remarkably diverse group of people. It's the equivalent of Sens. Manchin and Sinema in the Senate. They can hold up legislation. So I think we're feeling our way through what that negotiating dynamic looks like.

But again, today is a new day. There's still a lot of tools on the table. I do think that at the end of the day this deal gets done.

BERMAN: Congressman Jim Himes, thanks so much for being with us this morning. I appreciate it.

HIMES: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: So, Dr. Anthony Fauci now warns that the pandemic could be here through next spring. We're going to get reaction from the U.S. surgeon general just ahead.

KEILAR: And what the phone records tell us about the January sixth Capitol attack and some members of Congress.



KEILAR: The committee investigating the January sixth insurrection will seek out the phone records of several people, and this includes some members of Congress.

Whitney Wild is with us now. Whitney, this is pretty interesting here. We're talking about the phone records of members of Congress.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a huge deal. And so, what it also shows is that this House Select Committee has solidified what their investigative strategy is. We know from reporting and sources telling my amazing colleagues Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen, Annie Grayer that the chairman of this House Select Committee, Bennie Thompson, has signed off on the investigative strategy.

At this point, what we know is that the first plan is to send out notifications to the telecommunications company saying preserve these records of these -- this very long list of people, which includes members of Congress. Bennie Thompson also told my colleagues that they are going to contact social media companies.

So what they're drilling down here is the communications between what they think are possibly the key players in all of this.

Bennie Thompson telling my colleagues last night, "We have quite an exhaustive list of people" that they'd like to contact. "I won't tell you who they are. But it's several hundred people that make up the list of individuals we plan to contact." So again, this investigative strategy now coming into clearer light. It's still very early so things could change -- it's fluid. But the scope is coming into focus.

We've also reached out to members of Congress we understand had spoken with former President Trump that day. For example, Jim Jordan telling my colleagues, "I've got nothing to hide. I've said that all along. I've nothing to hide."

So, Brianna, again, a really important moment here as they start their work on what could be an -- a very broad, long-lasting investigation.

KEILAR: I will say sometimes you can run things through a translator on Capitol Hill -- and I have nothing to hide, once you run it through, comes to I do have something I want to hide. So we will see.

WILD: Right.

KEILAR: We will see. I'm sure there are some things that Republicans do not want out there who were talking with the president.

Whitney, great reporting. Thank you so much.

Former Republican governor and congressman from South Carolina, Mark Sanford, has a message for his party -- ignore what happened on January sixth at their own peril and the peril of the country.

Sanford writes in a new book, "The President of the United States should not be given a pass on sedition and treason. Common sense tells me if it swims, quacks, and walks like a duck, it's a duck. And therefore, what looks, sounds, and feels like sedition to me is sedition. I think the president's acts were sedition, and I think we are terribly mistaken in looking the other way and pretending this does not matter."

Mark Sanford joining us now, former Republican governor and congressman from South Carolina whose book "Two Roads Diverged: A Second Chance for the Republican Party, the Conservative Movement, the Nation -- and Ourselves" is out today.

OK, first, I want to ask you -- you just heard Whitney Wild reporting there that they're going to be seeking the phone records of members of Congress. How do you think Republicans should handle this?


I mean, as I write in the book that was just released today -- a mouthful, as you put it just a moment ago -- that this is kind of a core issue. I mean, we've had the peaceful transition of power as one of the great institutions that has held our republic together for over 200 years. And for the first time, that was disrupted this last go- round.

We better get to the bottom of what was going on because if not, it's not just at the peril of the Republican Party, it's at the peril of our nation.

KEILAR: But you have this message for your party, which is welcome an investigation. You should want to look at what happened. And I just have to say -- and I'm sure you feel it, too -- it kind of seems like you and other Republicans who are saying this are screaming into the wind. There's no indication that Republicans on the Hill are taking any of this advice, right?

SANFORD: Well, I'm not on the Hill these days so I don't know the degree to which people are obstructing or cooperating.


I would say to your larger point, people are sort of reticent about phone records and others being released. It's highly unusual. I don't remember a time over my 25 years of politics wherein you had phone records being released in this form en masse.

But it is what it is. And again, it goes back to a problem that is a -- is much more than the Republican Party or anybody elected within the Republican Party. It goes to the heart of, again, these institutions and traditions that have been the glue that have held our system in place. And if we disregard those it comes at, again, not Republican peril but American peril. And at the end of the day, we're all in the boat together.

So yes, people may be reticent but let's lay the cards out and let's see what comes because we've got to get to the bottom of this.

KEILAR: Do you have faith the January sixth investigation is going to be fulsome and really get to the bottom of things?

SANFORD: Well, I hope so. I mean, there are a lot of powers that go with congressional authority in terms of oversight. I suspect that Bennie and others will use it to full effect. So I don't know. I can't predict the future but I hope so.

And what I do know is the blatant tribalism that exists right now on both sides. It's not just a Republican side. It's a Republican and a Democratic side. It's -- I think it was put on, sort of, steroids under the Trump era and it's still with us -- that that's dangerous because if it's just my team versus your team, at the end of the day, or system doesn't work. Our Founding Fathers gave us a reason-based republic and if we, again, lose reason to tribalism we've got some real problems.

But I'll be watching along with you and others to see what comes as a result of the investigations.

KEILAR: I do want to ask you about something that your successor as governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, said. Also, of course, she was the former -- she was the ambassador to the U.N. under President Trump.

And she's rewriting history a bit when it comes to Afghanistan, criticizing President Biden -- saying that dealing with the Taliban is like, quote, "dealing with the devil." Of course, her foreign policy team that she was a part of negotiated with the Taliban.

What is your reaction to what she and many other Republicans who were part of the Trump administration are saying now?

SANFORD: I -- this is precisely what I write about in the book that, as you mentioned at the beginning of our segment, is being released today. I mean, this is the tribalism that is absolute cancer in a reason-based republic.

I mean, to your point, she -- you know, she earlier had given accolades and others to Pompeo and others who were, indeed, negotiating with the Taliban. And then, it's OK when it's the Republican team doing it. But now that Biden's team is in she's making headlines coming out saying this is crazy. You can't be negotiating with the Taliban.

You've got to pick a flavor and stay with it. It has to be something more in the American system than my team versus yours.

Again, this is what I write about in the book. This is what certainly is current news today with her actions.

KEILAR: Sir, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Former congressman and governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford.

SANFORD: My pleasure.

KEILAR: Brand-new information this morning on the evacuations underway in Afghanistan. So many people getting out. A record set here in the last 24 hours. We are live on the ground at Kabul airport just ahead, asking the question is it going to be enough?

BERMAN: And, Dr. Fauci's new timeline for returning to a sense of normal. It's a pretty long timeline and it comes with a big if.



BERMAN: Dr. Anthony Fauci with a little bit of a new timeline on the pandemic. He says there can be a return to a sense of normalcy by next spring. That's a ways away and even that comes with a giant if -- if unvaccinated people get vaccinated. So, what can you say to those who are still hesitant to get the shot?

Dr. Jose Romero, the Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health and former chair of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices joins us now.

And Dr. Romero, what we wanted to do is give you some of the questions that we hear from unvaccinated people that maybe you could answer clearly.

So, what if someone says to you -- says, you know, hey, I'm young and healthy and don't think COVID affects me, what do you say? DR. JOSE ROMERO, SECRETARY, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, FORMER CHAIR, CDC ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON IMMUNIZATION PRACTICES: Yes, good morning and thank you for having me.

So, I -- my statement to them is that, really, young and healthy people get COVID and we know that a significant number of them can wind up in the hospital in the ICU and progress to using a ventilator and even die. So it -- this new variant -- the Delta variant -- seems to be attacking younger populations than the older variant does. So it's important to get vaccinated.

KEILAR: Doc, what do you say if someone says well, you know what, I've had COVID. Natural immunity lasts longer.

ROMERO: Well, that's not exactly true because we don't know exactly how long your immunity is going to last when you have natural infection. And that has a lot to do with how severe the infection is, how high your antibody titers are. So we can't predict how long the protective antibodies will last.

The vaccines, we know, give you a long duration of antibodies and can protect you for a longer period of time. We are knowing now that certain individuals -- certain persons like immunocompromised individuals do need a third dose. And it's possible that older individuals will need a booster, and they're discussing that now at the FDA and at the ACIP -- the CDC's ACIP.

BERMAN: So, Dr. Romero, what about concerns about fertility because we hear a lot of questions there.


ROMERO: Yes. Yes, that's been an ongoing question. And I think there's no data -- I know there's no data at this time that suggests that there is any problem with fertility -- with fertility for men or for women. And so, it's -- the vaccine is safe.

It's effective for use in pregnancy, and it's safe and effective for use in women that are breastfeeding. So it should be used by these populations because women that are pregnant have an increased risk of bad outcomes if they are infected with COVID -- not just for themselves but also for their unborn child.

KEILAR: And they can pass on the immunity from the vaccine to their child so that their child has immunity once they're born?

ROMERO: That's correct. The infants do get antibodies from their mom. The questions, really, that are being looked at right now is whether those antibodies are enough to be protective for the infant. But we'll be able to answer that question as time goes on.

KEILAR: OK. So what do you say if -- I mean, we're talking about third shots. What do you say if someone says I don't think I need to get a second shot?

ROMERO: Yes. Yes, so these vaccines do need -- if we're talking about the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine, those vaccines require two shots in order to be fully immunized. Individuals that have received one shot do not have antibody levels that are high enough to protect them fully from the -- from COVID. So it's very important that individuals go back for the second shot even if they're late. Even if they didn't go in after 21 or 28 days after the first shot they should go back and get that second shot.

BERMAN: Dr. Romero, it's really great to have you on here because you're giving very simple answers to a lot of questions that people have. And the truth is that the questions, it seems in many cases, are just flawed or the premise with which they're asking the question is simply flawed. And you're doing a really nice job explaining what the truth is.

And I'm going to ask you one more question where I think the premise is a bit flawed also. There are people who say this was all developed way too quickly. We can't trust it because it all happened so fast.

ROMERO: Well, actually, that's incorrect because remember, the vaccines -- the trials were built on data that we had from years prior to these vaccines. The testing in humans -- the phases one, two, and three -- were accelerated because we had information and we had simply had them run one into another with the tail ends continuing.

And so, we now know that the Pfizer vaccine has been FDA approved. It's -- it is as safe as we have any other vaccine available to us today that is licensed. So the Pfizer vaccine is licensed. I'm sure that we're going to find the same with the Moderna vaccine, and we'll probably find the same with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine -- the Janssen vaccines.

So these vaccines have been used now for many months and have been scrutinized very carefully. We've identified those very rare -- very rare side effects and we will continue to watch them. There are five systems in the United States that monitor vaccine safety and we have the safest vaccine system in the world.

KEILAR: All good points to commit to memory here.

Dr. Jose Romero, thank you so much for being with us.

ROMERO: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: And NEW DAY continues right now.

Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Brianna Keilar with John Berman.

And we are beginning with breaking news from Afghanistan. The White House says 21,000 people were evacuated from the Kabul airport in the last 24-hour period as they are keeping track there. This is on both U.S. military and coalition flights, and this is the largest number of evacuations that we have seen in a 24-hour period, period -- all without a single U.S. casualty.

A source tells CNN that Afghans with special immigrant visas are again being allowed into Kabul airport. Our reports from Sam Kiley there on the ground say it's really kind of a one-off thing -- one or two people who are being led in at a time there.

But there is an estimated 4,500 people who are now waiting inside of that airport zone for these evacuation flights, while another 9,000 estimated are at gates surrounding the airport.

BERMAN: So, also breaking overnight, CIA Dir. William Burns was in Kabul yesterday meeting with Taliban leaders, including the de facto current leader of the Taliban. This is, by far, the highest-level face-to-face meeting between the Biden administration and the Taliban. The reporter who broke this story joins us in just a minute.

And it all comes as President Biden faces a critical decision today. A deadline, really, today concerning U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Will they stay beyond the August 31st deadline to continue the evacuation mission? The Pentagon says it wants to know by today in order to get all of the troops and equipment out in time. They'd have to know now to get it out by August 31st.

The president will discuss extending the deadline in a virtual meeting with G7 leaders this morning. The G7 wants the United States, largely, to stay past the August 31st deadline.

The Taliban, though, up until now, publicly says no -- they don't want it to last longer. They consider August 31st a red line. That's, at least, their public comments --