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Video, Interviews Cast Doubt On Pentagon Account Of Drone Strike; Tropical Storm Nicholas Threatens Texas, Louisiana; Two Middle Schoolers Accused Of Plotting Columbine-Style Shooting; Interview With EPA Administrator Michael Regan On Climate Action In The Biden Spending Plan. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 14, 2021 - 06:30   ET




SHAMILA CHAUDHARY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Many of them did result in civilian casualties. So when I hear the news of this family's got -- the death sentence family, I'm reminded that Americans have forgotten about Afghans.

And so it's great that people are paying attention now but this has been happening for two decades. And I'm ready to close this chapter in our 9/11 history. I'm ready for the U.S. to stop conducting strikes that kill civilians. I think it's time.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's important now, I think, because it reveals what the situation will be going forward, because this strike happened at the moment when all U.S. troops were being withdrawn.

So what does this speak or how does this speak to the situation now and in the future, Josh?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. Well, it's obvious and tragic that there have been mistakes over the course of the 20-year war in Afghanistan. This is different. This is new.

This is the first example of what it looks like to conduct counterterrorism in Afghanistan, when we don't have troops on the ground. And we were assured we would have these over-the-horizon capabilities, everything would be fine.


BERMAN: Can you tell people what over the horizon capabilities --

ROGIN: -- that means doing counterterrorism without any people on the ground in Afghanistan and no local partners.

As imperfect as the system was, this is worse. This is more difficult. Remember, we didn't bring the troops home, we just moved them to a different Middle East base and told them to do the same counterterrorism job in the same country, from farther away with less tools and no partners on the ground except for the Taliban. That's why these mistakes are going go up and not down. That's why withdrawal had its benefits but also its costs. That's why when we have a horrible accident, we have to understand that this is a byproduct of our decision, right or wrong, to withdraw all of our troops and to leave our partners holding the bag until the Taliban was the only people on the ground that we could deal with.

And also, I think it's pretty clear that the U.S. military doesn't have good intelligence, OK, because if they're claiming good intelligence, what does bad intelligence look like at this point?

How is it they could not know who they're attacking and how can they say there was an imminent threat on the airport when they killed a guy in his own parking lot, in his own driveway, around a bunch of children?

So, no, we don't have good intelligence. And no, the Taliban are not good security partners. We found that out when ISIS-K hit the airport and killed 13 Americans and 200 Afghans. So it's not working.

That's not to say withdrawing was good or bad, it's to say we can say that the war on terrorism is over. But the terrorists have a vote. And we can't take our troops out and think everything is going to be fine.

As it turns out, the war on terrorism continues, even in Afghanistan. They're not going to stop trying to kill us just because we're not there. And now we have to fight that mission with one hand tied behind our back. We're starting to see what that looks like. It's not pretty.

CHAUDHARY: On the question of intelligence, I think we have to be specific on what we mean when we say intelligence failure.

The U.S. made a very precise attack, it was very precise. We have superior hardware.


ROGIN: On the wrong guy.

CHAUDHARY: We have superior surveillance capabilities. However, this was a targeting failure. We don't have the same kind of assets on the ground to verify if our targets are actually the right targets.

We have seen this again over the past two decades. But now we don't have the military footprint or the diplomatic footprint to verify any of this.

The question becomes, what do we need in order to prevent U.S. national security from being threatened?

One school of thought is we don't need to worry so much because we don't have people on the ground so we won't be targets. What that means is groups like ISIS-K are going to look at American targets all over the world. They don't need to look just at Afghanistan. They can look to the Gulf, to Europe and work with organizations that share their values. So I think we have to look at it in a different way now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Are you saying that -- Josh is making the point this is emblematic of what we're going to see with the over-the- horizon capabilities.

Do you think that's not the case?

CHAUDHARY: I think only in Afghanistan. If you look at threats to American interests in other parts of the world, I think we have lots of partners to work with, our Middle East partners, our European partners. We'll be sharing intelligence with them like we have this entire time.

ROGIN: Afghanistan just happens to be the place where thousands of new terrorists have just been released from a bunch of prisons and where the government includes the Haqqani Network, which is linked to Al Qaeda and where, all of a sudden, we have absolutely nothing to say when people say, OK, how are we going to deal with that threat?

We have also been told that, oh, we don't need people on the ground. But there was a guy who said we do need people on the ground, the same as Vice President Biden when he was campaigning.

When President Trump tried to withdraw troops from Syria, President Biden was against that, he said we need people on the ground, even a small contingent to fight counterterrorism.

He's totally reversed himself.

Why was he right on Syria and not on Afghanistan?

CHAUDHARY: We shouldn't assume the U.S. won't have people on the ground.

ROGIN: We don't.

CHAUDHARY: But there's always going to be some kind of U.S. intelligence focus on South Asia, on Afghanistan. There will be. Just not right now. We have to -- you guys, there's no government right now in Afghanistan.


CHAUDHARY: There's an interim government and the United States is trying to figure out what its relationship is with the Taliban and with other countries in the region. Once that gets sorted out, which they are working very hard on, in the multilateral space, I think we're going to see a little bit more, a better sense of how to approach these threats.

ROGIN: That's one way to go. The other way to go is we could just have an increasingly dangerous situation, that festers until it comes back to haunt us, which is exactly what happened before 9/11, which is exactly what happened in Iraq, when we left Iraq to end the forever wars 10 years ago, that we can say the forever wars are going to end. But they don't end just because we say. They don't end just because we leave. They're going on because the terrorists still want to kill us.

KEILAR: Josh and Shamila, I think there are a lot of not great answers to the questions. I know it's an unsatisfying discussion, I think, you know, as we look at what the future is going to hold here. Thank you so much.

A category 1 hurricane making landfall in Texas overnight. We're monitoring all of the latest developments as the state is inundated with heavy rain and wind.

BERMAN: Plus, Russia's president, you may have heard of him, Vladimir Putin, in isolation after a COVID outbreak in his inner circle.

How bad must it be if the Kremlin is coming out and saying that Putin is in isolation now?

That's coming up.





KEILAR: Breaking overnight, tropical storm Nicholas drenching parts of Texas after making landfall as a category 1 hurricane. More than 360,000 customers have lost power.


KEILAR: Capitol Police preparing for an armed protest this week, in support of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6th. We'll have news on these concerning developments coming up.

BERMAN: Plus, two middle schoolers accused of plotting a Columbine style shooting at their school in Florida. The town sheriff joins us next.





BERMAN: Developing this morning, a 13- and a 14-year old have been arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit a shooting in Florida, just two hours away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed in 2018.

According to investigators, the boys allegedly studied the Columbine shootings and were researching how to find firearms on the black market and make pipe bombs.

Joining me now is the sheriff of Lee County, Florida, Carmine Marceno.

Sheriff, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

How far along were the boys in this alleged plot and how were they caught?

SHERIFF CARMINE MARCENO (R), LEE COUNTY, FLORIDA: First, good morning. Thanks for having me on. This is a horrible story, actually.

And I'll tell you, I mean, when you put all the pieces together, which is what we have done here, we prevented a mass shooting. There's no doubt in my mind. Our school resource officer, a program we have, absolute heroes.

But most importantly, the student that comes forward, the teacher that comes forward. People see it, say it, they make the call. We don't ignore red flags. And that's most important here because, if not, I could be sitting here talking about a mass shooting.

BERMAN: So again, how far along were they?

MARCENO: Well, the plan had -- the plan was in place. They were surfing the black market for guns. They were surfing the internet, they were sensationalized by Columbine. They were inspired. They were all over the maps of the school.

They had maps of exactly where our security cameras were. They knew exactly what they needed to do and what they wanted to do.

BERMAN: And how was it that they were caught ultimately?

MARCENO: So the student comes forward, talks to the teacher. The teacher calls the school resource officer, says, listen, I think there's a gun in a backpack here.

Immediately, our SRO goes into action, takes that backpack and looks for that gun, looks for that firearm, nothing. Now he could have stopped there but guess what, we don't. We start talking and interviewing multiple students and witnesses.

And one witness says, you know, at lunch, both our suspects were talking about shooting up this whole school. So now we pull the other suspect in. And now we find a map. And from there we begin our investigation.

Now what does that mean to us?

It means we leave no stone unturned. Our real-time information center goes into work, goes into action. We take search warrants on both houses. And inside the houses we find guns. We find the gun, knives, we find ammo. It all unfolds right in front of our eyes.

BERMAN: It's chilling. And I have to say, the fact that what it takes is a tip, it takes a student, a teacher, people speaking up, just shows how important it is to be aware of what's going on around you.

One of the boys' mothers in court yesterday said that her son is just a little boy and that she didn't think the plans were serious.

What do you say to that?

MARCENO: Well, it's very simple.

Is he a child?


MARCENO: Yes, he is. But when a child, I don't care what age, 14, 15, presses the trigger on a gun, the aftermath is the same.

And you know what, unfortunately, parents have to be parents. When your child is surfing the web, the 'net online and you go in and you got to see what they're searching. Now you see that your child has been watching Columbine shooting narratives, you know, 12, 15 times and they're inspired by it, they're trying to buy guns online on the black market, trying to recruit other students and people to help them with their mission, OK.

Parents need to be parents and don't ignore red flags.

BERMAN: Look, Sheriff Carmine Marceno, I'm so glad you caught, even if it was never going to happen, the mere possibility it could have, I'm so glad you stepped in. Appreciate you being with us this morning.

MARCENO: Well, thank you for having me.

BERMAN: All right, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turning heads with this statement making gown at last night's Met Gala.

Would you wear this?

KEILAR: Would I?

BERMAN: Would you wear it?

It's not my size.


BERMAN: There are some people calling it hypocritical.

Are those people actually missing the point here?

We'll discuss.

KEILAR: Plus new details about Donald Trump's pressure campaign to overturn the presidential election.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Frances, how are you? DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Hello, Brad and Ryan and everybody.


KEILAR (voice-over): Coming up, you'll hear from the local election officials who were on the other end of these phone calls and text messages.






JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My Build Back Better Plan includes billions of dollars for wildfire preparedness, resilience and response; forest management to restore millions of acres and to protect homes and public water sources.

Scientists have been warning us for years that extreme weather is going to get more extreme. We're living it in real time now.


KEILAR: President Biden calling for urgent action to address the climate crisis, during a visit to the West Coast during one of the worst fire seasons there in history. The president using the trip to try to rally support for his spending plan, which provides billions to combat extreme weather fueled by the climate crisis.

This includes funding for wildfire preparedness, flood control and forecasting of extreme weather events.


KEILAR: Joining us now to discuss more on this, the administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, Michael Regan.

Sir, thank you so much for being with us this morning.


In studio, no less. Senator Manchin is the linchpin when it comes to pushing through this infrastructure bill, some of which could address climate change issues. And he told our Dana Bash over the weekend that he's a no on the $3.5 trillion price tag. He wants to see something much smaller.

President Biden -- and I'm sure you -- make the argument that if you delay action on climate change, it's going to be more expensive in the future.

How do you bring over a senator Manchin?

He does not see it the way you do.

REGAN: Well, thank you for having me and if there's anyone who knows how to work with Congress, it's President Joe Biden. And I think we have to keep making the case.

The president is traveling to the western part of the country this week, highlighting the significant impacts, the costs, the impacts of wildfire devastation. I was there just a couple of weeks ago with Governor Newsom, visiting on the ground, looking at the economic impacts, the health benefits and the impacts on natural resources.

The same thing with hurricane Ida, traveling along the southeast coast, up the Gulf, impacting the Northeast. The realities are, we have to listen to the scientists. We have to listen to the economists. We have to listen to the national security advisers.

But more importantly, the people are seeing and experiencing this pressure and the president has it right. This is code red for climate.

KEILAR: You're talking about wildfires, right?

West Coast, largely California; we've seen flooding here, Northeast, largely. This is West Virginia we're talking about, senator Manchin. This is the guy who, when he campaigned to join the Senate, did so by firing a gun at the cap and trade bill.

How do you get through to him?

REGAN: I think you make the economic case. I think you make the national security case. Listen, when you look at the president's Build Back Better agenda, we're talking about significant investments to create millions of jobs.

More importantly, we're talking about making our nation's infrastructure more resilient, our water infrastructure more resilient, our grid infrastructure more resilient. These infrastructures are crumbling, vulnerable to cyber threats.

This is a national security issue and also an economic competitive issue. If we make the investments in our water infrastructure, if we make our investments in grid infrastructure, we are making this country more globally competitive.

So there's an economic competitive argument that the president has been making, the $3.5 trillion investment is a shot in the arm for this country, in terms of making America competitive.

KEILAR: He's not there, right. He wants something significantly less than half of what you're calling for. I want to play something from senator Manchin, it's about what is in this bill and this is what he says about the structure of a clean energy program that's currently in the House bill. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): The transition is happening. Now they want to pay companies to do what they're already doing. It makes no sense to take billions of dollars and pay utilities for what they're going to do as the market transitions.


KEILAR: It's not just about how to pay for it, what do you say to that?

REGAN: We're bringing investments off the sidelines, this is about clean energy tax cuts that will help to shore up technologies that will mitigate against climate impacts. We're talking about a clean energy electricity standard, a standard that would begin to build a framework so that we can construct an expedited decline in emission reductions.

So this really is about public-private partnerships to stimulate the economy, to bring technologies off the sidelines, to increase market potential and create millions of jobs.

KEILAR: Administrator Regan, thank you so much. We are tracking this bill. We know you are as well. And we thank you for coming in studio this morning.

REGAN: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: "NEW DAY" continues right now.


BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Tuesday, September 14th. I'm John Berman, alongside Brianna Keilar.

And this morning, a number of important threats are coming together at one moment, all pointing to one thing. There are forces actively trying to undermine the foundations of democracy.

And they're doing it in broad daylight and they're doing it proudly. So the California recall election, that's today. The polls aren't even closed yet and already Larry Elder, the leading candidate to replace governor Gavin Newsom, if he's recalled, is laying the ground work to baselessly dismiss a Newsom victory as somehow cheating.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether or not you win or lose, will you accept the results of the election tomorrow?