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Americans and Afghans Continue to Leave Afghanistan from Kabul Airport Ahead of August 31st Deadline to Complete Evacuations; Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) Interviewed on Meeting New Arrivals from Afghanistan at Fort Bliss; Baltimore County Declares State of Emergency After 370 Percent Case Spike; Video Surfaces of Louisiana Trooper Beating Black Man with Flashlight. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired August 26, 2021 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: That is far less than the nearly 20,000 we had seen during each of the two previous days. About 5,000 coming out with the U.S. military, also a dip from previous days here. U.S. efforts underway right now to help nearly 2,000 local embassy staff evacuate. And this morning there are American citizens trying to leave Afghanistan, the thousands of green card holders, legal permanent residents, and Afghan allies. Hope is really fading here.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, if there is any hope left at all for any of them.
Overnight, the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan warned all Americans not to travel to the airport, and for people already gathered at certain gates, the message is even more urgent, leave immediately. One defense official told CNN there is a very specific threat stream from ISIS-K about planned attacks against the crowds. The warning specifically names three of the airport gates.
Let's go to right to Nick Paton Walsh who is in Doha in Qatar with breaking news on what we know about evacuations, the pace, and how much longer realistically people will be leaving, Nick.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Realistically, 36 hours more. That's what a source familiar with the situation is telling me. And if you look at the sheer numbers of people being taken off the airport, that begins to be a clear reflection of the reality. I understand today that all the gates are fully closed. That's the access for ordinary people who don't have escorts or some arranged access with the Americans, prearranged. That causes the numbers to slow significantly.
There is a separate stream of people getting onto the airport who appear to be using access provided by the Afghan security forces who assist the Americans in securing the perimeter. That's always been there and that sort of muddies the figures often, because suddenly turning up at the airport are thousands of people who weren't necessarily officially expected.
But at this point we know that there are 150 Americans as of 8:00 this morning for certain who the U.S. was trying to evacuate to the airport. They did the remarkable job of getting a higher number than that, 200, to the airport and flying them out between midnight and 8:00 a.m., so a remarkable pace of evacuating American citizens.
I should point out Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, yesterday referred to 500 cases they were sure of. Now, these they've taken out since could well be diminishing that number. And then 1,000 who they were not so sure about. So there's a lot that's gray here in motion, but it does seem U.S. citizens being very quickly taken out of Afghanistan. And it may also be if the same rate continues as we're dealing with late afternoon in Kabul, there aren't that many left the U.S. is aware of.
The question is, of course, SIV applicants. It's very hard for them to get on. There are pictures of buses, it seems, circulating around the airport. These are people who thought they had a deal with the Taliban to get through, but that may not have been shared with the U.S. to let them onto the base. So very, very many scared, disappointed souls.
But we're hearing also, too, from Australia, Canada, Italy, Turkey, and it seems possibly the British, too, that their presence is coming to an end, if not already yesterday. The British beginning at some point later today. So the allies are departing. And we've known all along that there was going to be a point when the evacuations had to slow down and they had to switch their attention to the military operation of withdrawal. That doesn't mean, of course, that if an American desperately manages to get onto the airport at some point on Sunday the U.S. military will refuse him passage out. Of course not. But the main effort here is focusing on the next 36 hours and the fact that come Saturday, it seems, that a lot of the focus will be on getting their operation off the airbase in the middle of the end of America's longest war surrounded by insurgents, some appear to have links to Al Qaeda, a very fraught security situation, rather than keeping the evacuation going. That by default itself because of its difficulty seems to have slowed enormously.
KEILAR: The White House --
KEILAR: Sorry, Nick. The White House is really pushing back on this idea of 36 hours. It's not an official policy per se, but it is effectively what we are going to see are we're already seeing with the dipping numbers, Nick.
WALSH: Yes, I don't quite know what the official policy sometimes is in this regard because they appear to be essentially saying we're going to do all the things that we can, do the best just that we can, which of course is great. But there comes a point where the evacuation has to wind down and they have to slip to the military evacuation.
I understand raw numbers here from a source familiar with the situation. One of the key concerns groups were local Afghan staff that worked for the U.S. embassy. They appear to have gotten 1,300 of them already out of the country, which is a great success and will be a huge weight off the minds of the diplomats in the embassy who sat next to these Afghans all day in, day out, and we're seeing them stuck in Kabul without any possible redress. But they're still looking for 1,800.
That number may have come down because there is this extraordinary rate of people being escorted and assisted to get onto the airport. What there is not at the moment, it seems, is for an unconnected, not well-versed in the geography of the base, SIV applicant to find a way to get through the crowds and the Taliban checkpoints, to get onto the gates that are now closed. That stream of people is drying up.
And so I am absolutely, fervently led to believe that we are looking at the end of Friday being when this evacuation effort -- it's massive. It involves thousands of people, being processed. I've seen benches of marines with their laptops and the bar codes you get to board the plane. This is a big operation, so it's not something that you can keep going to the last minute when you're in the middle of a military evacuation. I understand that is probably got another day left going tomorrow.
So, of course, there are nuances here. Of course, America wants to leave nobody behind. But there has to be a cold acceptance at some point that the evacuation project in itself comes to an end, and it becomes about withdrawal. Brianna?
BERMAN: All right, Nick Paton Walsh for us. Nick, thank you so much for your reporting.
Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of Texas. She visited Fort Bliss in her district yesterday and spoke directly with Afghan evacuees who are now being housed there. Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us. You had a chance to speak to some of the first Afghan refugees arriving here in the United States. What condition were they in?
REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR, (D-TX): Good morning, John. I did. I feel so incredibly privileged that I had the opportunity to be there and to speak with families, and to tour the Fort Bliss facilities, and all the accommodations that are being made for the people that our soldiers call our guests.
I saw small children. I saw a nursing baby. I saw a lot of women, families. And person after person that I was able to speak with and who I was able to visit with thanked us. And I had the opportunity of speaking with a translator, and he and his wife were able to make it out. He spoke fluent English. His wife is an Afghan journalist. They had to leave their family behind, and it was heartbreaking. But their family did not work for the U.S. government or with the U.S. government. And so it is -- it was one of those examples for me about how no matter how successful the withdrawal could have been, there are going to be families who are going to be split simply because not everyone worked for the U.S. government. But he was so grateful. He was so happy to be there. I asked him how his journey was, and I expected to hear a pretty harrowing account. And he just said, it was good. It was good. I'm glad to be here.
BERMAN: Well, look, and they are the lucky ones, lucky in the sense that they're here, not lucky in that it wasn't deserving. This is what they were promised. And the idea that they had to leave their family behind is heartbreaking. I can't imagine what it must be like for the people who you visited with who know that their lives may be saved because of where they are now standing in Texas, but that someone that they love is in Afghanistan.
ESCOBAR: I can't even begin to imagine. And they talked about the limitations -- or he mentioned to me the limitations of the SIV and the visa that provided safety for him because he was one of our allies who worked alongside with our U.S. troops, and so he was able to bring his wife. But he could not bring his entire extended family. That just was not -- unfortunately he wasn't able to benefit from that.
The American Red Cross is onsite at Fort Bliss, and I am so grateful to them as well along with my incredible gratitude for all of the troops who are doing an amazing job at Fort Bliss. The American Red Cross is bringing in tablets and telephones so that our Afghan guests can call their family members in Afghanistan, reach out, stay in touch with them as long as they are in our care at Fort Bliss, to hopefully try to ease some of the stress and some of the concern for their family.
BERMAN: And I know that these efforts are being made around the country for the people who are here already and will be arriving in the next few weeks. What do you think needs to happen after August 31st for the people who are still there? What will you as a member of Congress work to achieve?
ESCOBAR: I think two things, John. I think, first and foremost, as a member of Congress, I am going to press the administration for a plan for women and girls who were left behind. I'm one of the vice chairs of the Women's Democratic Caucus, and this has been absolutely top of mind for us, the women activists, teachers, journalists, advocates who are going to remain behind.
We need to work as closely with the Taliban, as odd as that sounds and as unbelievable as that sounds, the administration is going to need to work closely with the Taliban because we've got to do everything possible for the women and girls that are left behind, and also any Americans and any Afghan allies. So there's a lot of work that will continue after August 31st.
But here at home, John, we as Americans have an obligation as well. I've heard a lot of my colleagues pointing to the administration, pointing to -- mentioning promises that need to be kept. We in America need to keep our promises as well. We are going to be receiving thousands of Afghan refugees, thousands of guests in our country, lots of children, lots of moms, lots of families. We need to wrap our arms around them. I am very concerned about the direction some of my Republican colleagues are going in with their descriptions of our guests and these refugees. So we have to live up to this moment. We have to embrace our values and the foundation of our country, and keep our promise here at home as well.
BERMAN: It's time for people to ask what kind of human being they want to be. Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, we appreciate you joining us this morning. This is some of the first face to face account we have of these refugees now arriving in the United States, so we appreciate it.
ESCOBAR: Thank you, John.
BERMAN: We're getting brand-new numbers just in on evacuations from Afghanistan. It does show the pace of the airlift is slowing as the deadline to withdraw approaches. We have a live report from the Pentagon still ahead.
KEILAR: Plus, the latest from a COVID hotspot that's seen more than 700 new cases in just seven days. And former President Trump threatening once again to invoke executive privilege, this time in the Capitol attack investigation.
KEILAR: Baltimore County, Maryland, seeing an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases. Since July, cases have jumped 370 percent. The county has declared a seven-day state of emergency.
And joining us to talk about it is Baltimore County executive Johnny Olszewski.
Sir, thank you so much for being with us.
Just give us a sense here of what's going on. Seven days and you've seen 700 new COVID cases. That's an increase of 370 percent since July.
What's happening, do you think?
JOHNNY OLSZEWSKI, BALTIMORE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Yes, so the spike we've seen in Baltimore County has been alarming. In addition to the case rate that you mentioned, we've also seen a 611 percent increase in our hospitalizations. And we're proud in Baltimore County to be a jurisdiction where 74 percent of eligible residents are vaccinated, but what we're seeing is a lot of our younger people and those who are unvaccinated are still catching this deadly variant, and we're seeing an alarming increase in our case rates and our hospitalizations, and that led to the state of emergency that you mentioned at the top.
KEILAR: That's really the issue here. You got people who are 18 to 39 who are very much driving the uptick in cases. Are we talking here about those folks being unvaccinated or are we talking about breakthrough cases, or are we talking about both? OLSZEWSKI: Yeah, a little bit of both, but we know the best tool we
still have in our fight against COVID-19 is the vaccine. It's safe, it's effective and now with the FDA approval, we are encouraging all residents to get it.
Our -- to date, our health department reports that just 0.2 percent of our cases have been breakthrough. While we are seeing breakthrough cases, we know that this vaccine not only helps us prevent people from getting COVID, it also keeps them out of our hospitals and certainly prevents them from dying. So we know that we're trying to keep pushing that message for those who haven't been vaccinated, but also encourage our partners in the school system.
It's why I'm very proud that we are requiring masks as our students return, including my daughter next week. It's why we are proud to have our teachers be required to be vaccinated or test every week because we know that our young people can't protect themselves, and we're seeing the surge which really has us concerned.
KEILAR: Yeah, school open here in D.C. next week as well. I'm a little nervous as a parent of school age children, I'll tell you that.
OK. You mentioned hospitalizations. What's the ICU capacity situation for you guys?
OLSZEWSKI: We have plenty of capacity at this current point. But again, we're seeing these alarming numbers, the startling increase in hospitalizations. We have declared the state of emergency because while we've taken some significant actions, as I mentioned with our school masking, our school vaccination requirements for educators, we require masks in all of our county buildings, our courthouses, our libraries.
This state of emergency equips me to take additional public health measures as necessary. Expedite contracts and other measures to make sure we can do whatever it takes to keep our people safe.
But currently, you know, our ventilator and our capacity is good. I talk regularly with all of our hospital leaders. But they share concerns about where things are heading and they want to work in partnership to make sure that we avoid our hospitals becoming overwhelmed and not having access to those ventilators if they become necessary.
KEILAR: Yeah, let's hope that doesn't happen. Let's hope you turn this around quickly.
Baltimore County executive, Johnny Olszewski, appreciate you being on.
OLSZEWSKI: Thanks, Brianna. Take care.
KEILAR: Donald Trump is threatening to block the January 6th committee as the investigation turns to those in his inner circle. The former president's niece will join us next.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And it's down to the wire for people desperately trying to get out of Afghanistan this morning. The latest on the airlift which is frankly slowing down. That's just ahead.
BERMAN: Police bodycam video kept secret for more than two years shows a Louisiana state police trooper repeatedly clubbing a black driver with a flashlight. The case is part of a growing probe of police brutality and potential cover ups. We want to warn you, some of the video contains graphic scenes of violence.
CNN's Ryan Young has the story.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another black man beaten during a traffic stop.
This body camera footage from May 2019 appears to show now former Louisiana state police officer Jacob Brown beating Aaron Larry Bowman as other officers hold Bowman down.
AARON LARRY BOWMAN, BEATEN BY POLICE DURING TRAFFIC STOP: They were standing around watching. He wasn't trying to help me. I was asking for the help. They wasn't helping me. They just let him continue on hitting me with the flashlight.
YOUNG: Trooper Brown is seen swinging what appears to be a flashlight repeatedly striking Bowman while he's face down on the ground with his hands behind his head. Bowman's attorney saying brown hit their client 18 times in just 24 seconds.
BOWMAN: I haven't did nothing, man.
JACOB BROWN, LOUISIANA STATE POLICE OFFICER: Well, fine. This ain't going to help you, bud.
BOWMAN: I'm not fighting.
BROWN: You are.
YOUNG: Bowman can be heard moaning saying, it hurt me.
BROWN: He hit me in the head with a flashlight.
YOUNG: Bowman was left with multiple laceration, a fractured arm and broken ribs according to court documents.
BOWMAN: I was so scared. All I could do was holler. I thought I was going to die.
YOUNG: This video was from more than two years ago but was recently turned over to Bowman's attorneys.
[08:25:00] State police releasing a statement in December saying a detailed search of body camera video revealed the video was intentionally mislabeled and Brown was involved. Detectives concluded Brown engaged in unjustifiable actions and did not report the use of force to his supervisors. Brown was charged with aggravated second degree battery and malfeasance in office in December.
But the incident is a part of a bigger issue, the division of Louisiana state police where Brown worked, Troop F, is under federal investigation for potential abuses committed by troopers against black motorists.
LEE MERRITT, RONALD GREENE'S FAMILY ATTORNEY: True evidence that he belongs to Troop F in Louisiana is notorious. They left a lot of victims and families in their wake.
YOUNG: The Troop F investigation started following the death of Ronald Greene, a black man who died after he was beaten and tased during a traffic stop also in May of 2019.
RONAD GREENE: I'm scared. I'm your brother. I'm scared.
YOUNG: Greene's family say they were told by Louisiana state police that Greene died in a car crash following a chase. But nine body camera and dash camera videos tell a different story of what happened that night.
MERRITT: Now, will the leadership of Louisiana be stirred into action to hold these officers accountable, to dismantle this troop and address the policies that allow this to go forward to address the cover up from the prosecutors on down?
YOUNG (on camera): Yeah, John, when you watch all these videos, one thing we'll talk about, we've been covering stories in Louisiana for several months now. When you talk to people in that community, they want to see more action taken. They want to see more videos put forward because obviously, this video has been hidden from the public for years. So there is a belief there in that community that there are more incidents like this and they're hoping the federal government takes a look at it because they need help. They want some action taken. You have to think, this is body camera video that could have been reviewed by a supervisor years ago.
BERMAN: Transparency so important here, Ryan. Transparency just the beginning, right?
YOUNG: Especially if you're going to mislabel the video to start with.
BERMAN: Ryan Young, thank you for your reporting on this.
YOUNG: You bet.
BERMAN: All right. We do have brand-new numbers on the evacuation effort underway in Afghanistan. We're going to go live to the Pentagon for the latest, next.