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Johnson & Johnson Releases Booster Data; Trump Criticizes Afghan Withdrawal; Rachel Helwig is Interviewed about Afghan Refugees. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 25, 2021 - 08:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, Johnson & Johnson releasing the first data on booster shots for people who have received the company's single-dose vaccine. And they say it shows a big spike in antibodies.

Want to bring in Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health.

Dr. Jha, this is data from coming from Johnson & Johnson. We need to stipulate that. But what's your reaction?

DR. ASHISH K. JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, good morning. Thanks for having me here.

My reaction, this is great. You know, from the beginning I have felt like the J&J vaccine was a really fabulous vaccine. It has often gotten a bad rap.

Again, we're just seeing some preliminary data, so I don't want to overstate what we know. But based on what we're seeing, a big boost in antibodies, probably a lot of protection against severe illness. Again, that's what we're seeing in the rest of the data. So I'm cautiously optimistic that this is a path forward for people who had gotten the J&J vaccine.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: OK, so antibodies increasing nine times. What does that mean in practice? You know, this is, of course, what they've seen in a lab. What would you expect that would mean in the real world facing the delta variant?

JHA: Yes. So what I would expect that to mean is far fewer breakthrough infections if you've gotten that second shot. Look, all the data we've seen so far suggests that protection of the J&J vaccine against severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths remains really, really high. So that part I don't expect to change very much because, again, you have high degree of protection. Big bump in antibodies should mean far fewer breakthrough infections. But let's see what the real life experience looks like.

BERMAN: You know, Dr. Jha, I want to ask you about schools because I just saw this CNN update that a school district in central Florida, Osceola County, announced that the Celebration K-8 school will close for the rest of the week because of a COVID-19 outbreak.


They've got 52 positive student cases, 11 positive staff cases, 247 students quarantined. There are serious questions about kids going back to school right now, particularly those younger than 12 who can't be vaccinated.

What are the risks?

JHA: Yes, look, the good news here is a year in we actually know how to get kids back to school safely. And that is the good news. And the risks are high if you don't do the things that will keep kids safe and the risks are really low if you do them. So we know what those are, right? Masking indoors, testing, vaccinating everybody who can be vaccinated, good ventilation in the classrooms. These are all things that we have known about for about a year, and now Congress has allocated billions of dollars to schools to do all these upgrades. There's really no excuse for schools to be running without doing these things.

KEILAR: Yes, my kids, my little kids who cannot be vaccinated going back to school next week, very excited about that. We are getting them tested here at the end of the week before they do that, for free here in Washington, D.C., to make sure, look, at least they have a good start, right? We know the baseline where all the kids are operating at the beginning of school.

Dr. Jha, really appreciate the insight. Thank you.

JHA: Thank you.

KEILAR: Up next, Donald Trump trying to rewrite his own history. We will remind you what he used to say about U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

BERMAN: And the church group now mobilizing to help Afghan refugees who will be arriving here in the United States.



KEILAR: As the United States works to evacuate remaining civilians and Afghan allies and draw down troops, former President Trump is fiercely criticizing the withdrawal.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (August 21, 2021): This will go down as one of the great military defeats of all time. And it did not have to happen that way. This is not a withdrawal, this was a total surrender. A surrender for no reason.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: No, it was Trump himself who wanted American troops out even earlier, by May 1st, and he repeatedly called for the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible.


QUESTION (February 29, 2020): How soon do you expect troops to be coming back?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (February 29, 2020): Like today, OK, today. They'll start immediately.

We want to bring our people back home.

TRUMP (March 3, 2020): We are going to be leaving and we're going to be bringing our soldiers back home.


KEILAR: Joining us now is Maggie Haberman, CNN political analyst and Washington correspondent at "The New York Times."

It's almost, Maggie, like he pretends or forgets that this was a war that was ended by two presidents. It was Trump who started it. In January he reduced the number of American troops to 2,500. And, I mean, I remember those choose your own adventure books, you know, from when I was little and in school, but that's not how this kind of thing works. That's not how history works here.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, there is reality, and what he's talking about has very real consequence. His own behavior had very real consequence. And you will hear the Biden administration talk about that over and over again. Two things can be true at once, Brianna. People can be critical of what has happened with the current administration and also recognize that what Donald Trump is saying is basically a continuation of this, you know, professional critic role that he has played for about 20 years. And while that accelerated him to the White House in 2016 when he had no experience, he does have experience now. He does have a record. And what he's saying about what he wanted to do just simply is not true.

And it was his administration that kicked the can down the road in terms of getting out, that he took various sides of the issue. He often wanted to pull out of Afghanistan, was talked out of it by his advisers. They then they signed this deal with the Taliban that put, as you said, that deadline to May 1st of this year.

So he has -- he has managed to be, as he often is, all over the map on this. And now he is basically taking whatever position will be as critical of his successor as possible.

BERMAN: Now, this is clearly disingenuous criticism coming from Donald Trump on this because Joe Biden, rightly or wrongly, did what Donald Trump promised to do --

HABERMAN: That's right. BERMAN: And, frankly, couldn't do in the time frame he wanted to do it. Joe Biden achieved it. Whether or not it was the right decision is a different story.

Let's talk about the Biden administration, right, which has been criticized on some fronts for how it has handled this. How do you think they have received this criticism? How do you think they have handled this onslaught the last three weeks?

HABERMAN: Look, I don't think any administration ever likes to be criticized. There is no presidential administration I've covered, or gubernatorial, or any mayoral that likes being criticized. I don't think that they have handled the criticism particularly well. I think that there were legitimate criticisms about the chaos around the exit. And even if you factor in the idea that there was always going to be chaos, which is something the president -- President Biden said, that's probably true, except he's the one who told the country it is was unlikely the Taliban was going to move as fast as they did.

So presidents are accountable for their own words. I don't think they like the pushback. I don't think that Joe Biden -- we saw this in that interview that he did with ABC. There was a defensiveness about it. It does seem as if the evacuations are going much better. It seems as if there have been, you know, any -- any number of them. It's been, I think, something like 80,000 in the last several days. That's a large number. And that's a -- that's a very positive thing. But it doesn't mean that the criticism from before was invalid. And I think that's what the administration has been trying to say. And that's just not fair or right.

KEILAR: You know, Maggie, I do want to ask you about really something that raised a lot of eyebrows that happened during president -- former President Trump's Alabama rally on Saturday.

Let's -- let's watch.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I recommend, take the vaccines. I did it. It's good. Take the vaccines. But you got -- no, that's OK. That's all right. You've gotten your freedoms. But I happen to take the vaccine.


KEILAR: They booed him when he tries to recommend kind of half- heartedly getting the vaccine. What'd you think?

HABERMAN: I think that whatever opportunity that former President Trump had to try to lead his supporters to take this vaccine has come and gone.


I think that he had the opportunity to do it when he was still in office. But, instead, he chose to focus on false claims of widespread election fraud. He tried to look for ways to stay in office and to extend, you know, his time at the White House.

And now what he's doing, Brianna, and we've seen him do this over and over, over the years, he doesn't actually really sort of direct his followers to a certain place all the time. Sometimes he does. But often he's following their ques. And what you saw there is there is now a very vaccine hesitant population that supports him. He saw that his support wasn't playing well, so he goes in the other direction and says, but freedoms, but freedoms. And the problem is, is that when you are saying to people, take the vaccine, and then in the next beat you say, but, yes, freedoms are important, you are undermining your own message.

BERMAN: Because that's the buzz word that they wanted to hear there.

HABERMAN: That's right.

BERMAN: And, you're right, I mean in real time you can see him reacting. He doesn't like to be booed, even when he tries to take a stand.


BERMAN: And it is interesting because, you know, people have been criticized, should he come out more strongly now. But the point may be that -- that it may just be too late.

HABERMAN: Yes, I think the ship has sailed. I think that he should have come out and could have come out back when he got the vaccine, which was still in the White House. Remember, they didn't even make public that he had gotten the vaccine until I asked one of his advisers and he said that he got it.

So he had the opportunity to do it on camera. He had the opportunity, even if not on camera, to come out and say, I just did this. It might not have impacted all of his supporters, but it would have likely impacted some of them. And now the ship has clearly just sailed.

BERMAN: I mean he put out the vice president for that big, incredible photo op, which was something to see.


BERMAN: It was a sight to behold.


BERMAN: Could have done it himself.


BERMAN: Great to see you, Maggie. Thank you very much.

So here is what else to watch today.


ON SCREEN TEXT: 9:00 a.m. ET, Pelosi news conference.

1:00 p.m. ET, White House press briefing.

2:00 p.m. ET, Biden speaks on cybersecurity.


BERMAN: So, Secretary of State Tony Blinken speaks just hours from now on evacuations underway in Afghanistan, and hopefully providing an answer to one of the most confusing questions, how many Americans are still in Afghanistan? Live coverage ahead on CNN.

KEILAR: And, up next, American volunteers are stepping up to help Afghan refugees resettle here in the United States.



BERMAN: Afghan refugees have already started arriving here in the United States. A group in Pennsylvania called Church World Service Lancaster is sending volunteers to Fort Lee in Virginia to help welcome and process them.

Rachel Helwig, development and communications coordinator for the Church World Service Lancaster joins me now.

Thank you so much for joining us and thank you for the work you're doing.

What's the biggest challenge in re-settling these refugees coming in from Afghanistan?


I think one of the biggest challenges in resettlement as a whole is finding and, you know, locating and acquiring safe and affordable housing pretty quickly for incoming families. We're really lucky here in Lancaster that we have such a long history of resettlement and have such a, you know, profound welcoming community that we're able to here locally tap into networks really quickly and to engage local community members in helping us identify that.

But I would say housing is typically one of the biggest challenges resettlement agencies face in resettling neighbors.

BERMAN: Is there anything unique about this incoming group of refugees? They've had to leave so quickly and in some cases under such painful conditions.

HELWIG: Sure. I think, of course, there are things that are unique about what we're seeing right now coming out of Afghanistan, right? Every individual who is in the process of resettlement has a unique story that's very specific to them. Their own sort of path towards resettlement is unique.

But what we also realize at the same time is that what we're seeing in Afghanistan right now is a very concrete and obvious example of the role that refugee resettlement plays in saving lives. And so while, you know, each individual fleeing persecution has a unique story, what we know is that, you know, generally, and broadly, the fact of resettlement's role as a lifesaving opportunity remains true, you know, across time and across conflicts.

BERMAN: You save lives and you change lives, yet you also know that there are some very ugly rhetoric out there when it comes to refugees. And I just want to read to you something that's been said over the last couple days. This comes from Fox entertainer Tucker Carlson. He said, we'll see many refugees from Afghanistan resettle in our country in the coming months, probably in your neighborhood. And over the next decade, that number may swell to the millions. So first we invade, and then we're invaded. Calling them invaders.

What's the impact of language like that? How do you respond?

HELWIG: Sure. I think we know that words matter, right? And so recognizing that words like that can be really harmful in the broadest sense and also to individuals who are coming here seeking safety, you know, that have played really important roles in supporting, in this case U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. And I think, you know, while those are sentiments that, you know, we know exist.


Here in Lancaster we're really lucky to have such strong community support. And, you know, we've really seen that over the last couple of weeks in particular. So I would say really profound offers of support, of, you know, in-kind donations, thinking about things new families might need as they begin life here in safety, housing, furniture, things like shampoo and toothbrushes. We've had people reach out and offer, you know, financial support, a willingness to walk in friendship and in solidarity with new neighbors.


HELWIG: So, you know, while those are words that we might hear sometimes, I think what we hear overwhelmingly, both in Lancaster, but I think we've also seen data nationally, right, that sees a -- a majority support for welcoming new neighbors from Afghanistan, and I think those are the words we can remember.

BERMAN: That's the American spirit. And we thank you for your generosity of spirit.


BERMAN: Rachel Helwig, thank you so much.

HELWIG: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: All right, we do have a lot going on this morning. Just ahead, breaking developments on the situation on the ground in

Kabul right now. Some new numbers. Our special coverage continues, next.