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New Day

Biden Heads to United Nations Amid Headwinds; Evan and Katie Lane are Interviewed about Losing their Father to COVID. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 20, 2021 - 08:30   ET



JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Behind me here at this bridge. Officials say that their goal is to process 3,000 per day. At that rate, we don't expect to see a noticeable diminishment here for several days more.

But certainly a crisis for border officials here and, obviously, the migrants themselves who are living in these squalid conditions here awaiting processing by the U.S. government.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Josh, thank you so much for that live report for us. Josh Campbell at the border.

And just ahead, will some bad global headlines overshadow President Biden's U.N. speech tomorrow?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And what will happens when a famously unvaccinated Brazilian president shows up to speak at the General Assembly?


KEILAR: President Biden speaking at the United Nations tomorrow, just as a couple of global headlines have some questioning U.S. leadership in the world.

France just pulled its ambassador from Washington, angry about a U.S. deal to give Australia nuclear powered submarines to counter China.

And in Afghanistan, the Pentagon now admits that it killed an aide worker and seven children and two other civilians in a drone strike in Kabul during the U.S. troop withdrawal last month.


Joining me now is Jim Sciutto, who is our anchor here at CNN and, of course, our chief national security correspondent as well.

You know, these are challenges -- these are challenges for sure that the Biden administration is facing and both of them, in a way, are kind of wrapped up in this pivot to China, getting out of Afghanistan to try to focus more on China and Russia, as well as trying to counter Russia with this commitment to Australia over France. But -- but it hasn't been graceful.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It has not been graceful. And, listen, you see, right next to each other, two events that created real diplomatic problems for them, the withdrawal, the summary withdrawal from Afghanistan, which, before this drone strike, of course, upset U.S. allies, that they didn't get a lot of warning, even for getting their own citizens out, and now this nuclear deal, which makes sense in the bigger picture, but clearly is also upset an ally in France.

But why is the Biden administration doing it? They've been very public about this, to say, end the endless wars in the Middle East. We've been wasting a lot of resources there. The real challenge is China. China is our global challenger economically, politically, militarily, et cetera.

And, by the way, if you look at it, it's a really significant move. The U.S. has shared nuclear submarine technology with one ally in the last 70 years, and that's Britain. And that was to counter the USSR, during the depths of the Cold War. So to share this with an ally as far afield as Australia in the Asia-Pacific to counter China just shows exactly how seriously the U.S. is taking China's rise in Asia, and demonstrating, it hopes, we're here to stay.

KEILAR: Let's talk about the UNGA, or UNGA as it's affectionately called.


KEILAR: Of course, we're going to hear from President Biden. We're also going to hear from Brazil's president, Bolsonaro. He's known as Brazil's Trump. He is -- he's actually, though, unlike Trump, he is proudly unvaccinated, and he's supposed to be vaccinated, by the rules, at the General Assembly, but his plan right now is to go up to that lectern and speak.


KEILAR: How do you see this playing out?

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, big picture. First of all, Bolsonaro, I mean, he's trying to replicate January 6th, but successfully in his own country, a year out from elections there. He's making bones about, oh, it's going to be election fraud. Here's what we have to do to prevent that, et cetera. Where have you heard that all before? Where are you still hearing that today? Here inside this country. So he is a dangerous figure in Brazilian politics and to Brazilian democracy.

He has also been dangerous to Brazil because he was a COVID denier, right, for many years. He said, oh, it's not that serious. Even as people were being buried -- buried by the thousands.

KEILAR: Even as he got it, right? SCIUTTO: And even as he got it himself. So this will be a challenge. What does the U.N. do? Do they block him at the door?

But it's also a challenge for Biden because, based on what we were just discussing, you know, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, questions about U.S. leadership and so on, how does he then explain America's role in the world? What is our role going forward? Our understanding is he's going to say, we need collective cooperation to meet the challenges of climate change, to meet the challenges of authoritarianism, et cetera. The trouble is, or the question is, does he have credible leadership to do that for U.S. adversaries, China and Russia? Do they respect that leadership? But also U.S. allies. Are those alliances strong with Europe -- with Europe, with -- with Asia. This is the test.

KEILAR: Look, he has a lot of damage to undo, and I think allies expected that he was going to do so a little more perfectly because he has very little wiggle room, as we are watching the General Assembly.


KEILAR: Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

KEILAR: Yes, thank you.

BERMAN: CNN is now reporting that just seconds before a deadly drone strike in Afghanistan on August 29th, the CIA warned the U.S. military that civilians could be injured or killed. Three sources familiar with the situation tell CNN that the warning also said children could be inside the targeted vehicle. It was too late. Ten civilians were killed, including seven children. A U.S. military investigation found no terrorists are known to have been inside the car.

And despite that warning, the administration justified the strikes as necessary for weeks afterward. Immediately after the strike, U.S. CENTCOM said it had eliminated an imminent ISIS-k threat, citied significant secondary explosions as evidence of a substantial amount of explosive materiel. It also said there were not indications of any civilian casualties at the time.

Multiple news outlets, including CNN, spoke to neighbors at the scene immediately after the strike. Those neighbors said children had been killed. CENTCOM quickly revised their statement, acknowledging reports of civilian casualties and suggested a large amount of explosive materiel in the car could have caused them.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby still justified the strike as necessary.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY (August 30, 2021): Nobody wants to see that happen. But you know what else we didn't want to see happen? We didn't want to see happen what we believe to be a very real, a very specific and a very imminent threat to the Hamid Karzai International Airport.


BERMAN: Army Major General William Taylor cited a secondary explosion to claim that the car contained explosives and posed an imminent threat.



MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM "HANK" TAYLOR, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, REGIONAL OPERATIONS AND FORCE MANAGEMENT OF THE JOINT STAFF (August 30, 2021): We know that, as I said earlier, there was a secondary explosion that assessed that what was there was going to be used in a high-profile attack.


BERMAN: That claim was repeated multiple times in the days ahead, and not just by the Pentagon.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY (August 21, 2021): We are investigating and assessing, even today, to try to learn more about the aftereffects of the secondary explosions from when that vehicle was hit. And we know there were secondary explosions of a -- of a significant size.


BERMAN: The White House also.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (August 31, 2021): I will note that in CENTCOM's statement just two nights ago, they made clear that their assessment was that there was the vehicle that was the target also had explosives in it. And those explosives may have also led to an impact on the ground.


BERMAN: We also heard about the secondary explosions again later that week in a claim by Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley, who stood by the need for the strike.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF (September 1, 2021): We had very good intelligence that ISIS-k was preparing a specific type vehicle at a specific type location. Because there was secondary explosions, there's a reasonable conclusion to be made that there was explosives in that vehicle.

We know from a variety of other means that at least one of those people that were killed was an ISIS facilitator. So, were there others killed? Yes. There are others killed. Who they are, we don't know. We'll try to sort through all that.

At that point, we think that the procedures were correctly followed and it was a righteous strike.


BERMAN: You heard right there, Milley insisted at least one of the people killed was an ISIS-k facilitator, as did White House Secretary -- Press Secretary Jen Psaki.


QUESTION (September 2, 2021): Can you address those concerns and speak to whether these drone strikes mean an extension of the war?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The strikes that killed ISIS-k terrorists?

And the possibility of more. President Biden, yesterday, said that this is not over.

PSAKI: Well, if anybody wants to convey they don't think that we should kill ISIS-k terrorists and kill the people who killed 13 members of our military, then the president's happy to have that debate.

Go ahead.


BERMAN: To be fair, Psaki was talking about multiple drone strikes, including one from August 27th, which is said to have killed ISIS-k militants. She went on to say this.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (September 2, 2021): I will say that the United States takes the threat of civilian casualties incredibly seriously. We do everything we can to prevent civilian casualties. That will continue.


KEILAR: Just a week later, multiple news outlets, including CNN, reported that the driver of the car that was targeted was not a terrorist. He was Zemari Ahmadi, an aide worker with an American NGO. The suspicious behavior that U.S. military intelligence said linked him to potential ISIS plotting, much of it was caught by surveillance camera with colleagues describing it as innocent, filling plastic containers with water because the running water was off at this house.

But when the Pentagon was asked about the attack again --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION (September 13, 2021): Probably about ten days ago, Secretary Austin and/or Secretary General Milley referred to the drone strike as a righteous strike. Did he share the general's assessment at that point? And then I have a follow-up.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I think the secretary already spoke about the -- the -- the need that we had to protect our -- our people at the airport. We've -- we've -- the department has talked about the fact that the -- this strike prevented an imminent attack on those people, and I think nothing's changed about that view at this point.

I -- I have nothing to -- to speak today that -- that -- that alters the view. CENTCOM is conducting their assessment and I think we need to let them finish that work and then we'll -- you know, we'll be as transparent as we can at the end of it.


KEILAR: By the very next day, Secretary of State Blinken was tempering that response.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE (September 14, 2021): The administration is of course, reviewing that strike and I'm sure that, you know, a full assessment will be -- will be forthcoming.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): So you don't know if it was an aide working or an ISIS-k operative?

BLINKEN: I can't speak to that and I can't speak to that in this setting in any event.

PAUL: So you don't know or won't tell us?

BLINKEN: I don't -- I don't know because we're -- we're reviewing it.


KEILAR: And when the White House was asked if the president takes responsibility for any innocent people who were killed --


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (September 15, 2021): And the United States takes incredibly seriously our role in preventing civilian casualties whenever we possibly can. So I'm going to let that play out. The president also takes that responsible incredibly seriously. We'll let that conclude and then I'm sure we'll have more to say.


QUESTION: But he doesn't know the answer, I guess, right?

PSAKI: Well, the -- that's why there's an investigation, to determine what happened and -- and make some conclusions.


KEILAR: On Friday, that investigation and its conclusions were revealed. Defense Secretary Austin apologized, as did the CENTCOM commander, General Kenneth McKenzie, Jr.

And claims about a secondary explosion, a military official familiar with the investigation said that after reviewing footage from infrared sensors, they no longer characterized this as an explosion. Instead, it was more of a flare-up.

All of the apologies, of course, that are being offered by the administration mean very little to this family.

This is the family of aide worker Zemari Ahmadi, and of those children that the CIA specifically warned about. They spoke to CNN's Nic Robertson.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe. But how should I do? You know that I lost my family that -- who return them -- who return them back for us?

ROBERTSON: It's impossible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's impossible. It -- no one's able to return them back.


KEILAR: A family destroyed, and their loved one accused of associating with a terrorist group and an intelligence warning that we're just hearing about now.

The family of an unvaccinated man who died of COVID claims that he was the victim of the misinformation that he heard watching on videos. The family will join us next.

BERMAN: And a short time ago, Pfizer released the first data on its vaccines in children as young as five. More on CNN coming up.



BERMAN: A Washington family grieving the loss of Patrick Lane, a father of two who recently died of COVID at the age of 45. Patrick was not vaccinated. Patrick Lane's children join me now, Katie and Evan Lane.

Guys, I'm so sorry for the loss of your father. It's -- it's such a tragedy and I know it's been hard on both of you. And, Katie, he had just moved you into college like a month ago, right?

KATIE LANE, LOST 45-YEAR-OLD DAD TO COVID: Yes, it was one month ago that he was completely healthy, helping me move all my furniture into my first apartment, doing all the heavy lifting for me.

BERMAN: And he moved you in. This is your first apartment at college, I might add. He moved you in there. He stayed the night with you. And what did he say to you as he was leaving?

K. LANE: He gave me a really big hug and he said, I'm proud of you, Katie bug. And he walked out my front door. And if I had known that that was going to be my last time seeing my dad in person alive and well, I -- I don't think I would have left go -- let go of him.


Why was he so hesitant to get vaccinated, Katie?

K. LANE: There's multiple reasons, I think. One of which was some of the media that he ingested. He wasn't by any means far right. He was right in the middle, and he consumed media from both sides. And just some of the misinformation on one of those sides made him hesitant. So, he was going to wait for FDA approval, but by the time that Pfizer had been approved, it was already too late.

BERMAN: Pfizer got the full FDA approval and your father was already sick.

Evan, talk to me about your final good-bye to your father. Did you have a chance to spend any real time with him?

EVAN LANE, LOST 45-YEAR-OLD DAD TO COVID: Not really. I was already staying at another house, and he was just coming by to pick something up and he didn't even want to get too close because he was too worried about getting me sick so I didn't even get to hug him before he left. And then, before I knew it, he was gone.

BERMAN: You guys are vaccinated now, Evan. You know, what -- what was the message ultimately that your father wanted to spread about vaccines?

E. LANE: He wasn't anti-vaccine. He was just hesitant. And I -- now that, you know, Pfizer has been FDA approved, I don't think he would have anything wrong with us telling people to get that vaccine.

K. LANE: He -- his final words to my stepmom on a FaceTime call was that he wishes -- he wished that he was vaccinated.

BERMAN: Those were his final words?

K. LANE: To my stepmom, the last call that she had with him, he said that he wished that he was vaccinated.

BERMAN: And, Katie, you said from one media source in particular he was getting misinformation -- or he was getting information that led him to be hesitant on vaccines. Who? I mean who was he listening to?

K. LANE: He -- he watched some Tucker Carlson videos on YouTube,. And some of those videos involved some misinformation about vaccines. And I believe that that played a role.

BERMAN: Evan, what do you want people to remember about your dad? How are you going to remember him?

E. LANE: I'm -- I'm always going to remember him as just the fun dad in any school gathering, or just the person who always tries to bring everyone's mood up if they're feeling down.

BERMAN: Well, Katie, I'm looking at those pictures right now on the screen. I don't know if you can see them, but his smile just bursts right through the screen right there. He just looks like there was so much joy.


K. LANE: Yes.

E. LANE: A lot of joy and a lot of life that's he's never going to live.

BERMAN: Oh, Katie and Evan Lane, listen, we're thinking about you. Thank you for being with us right now. And, you know, you're his legacy and I'm sure he'd be so proud of you in everything you're doing now and will do going forward.

K. LANE: Yes.

E. LANE: Thank you.

BERMAN: We'll be right back.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning. I'm Erica Hill.

JIM SCIUTTO, And I'm Jim Sciutto.

Breaking this morning, and it's good news, new and critical data in the race to vaccinate children.


Pfizer reports that its vaccine is safe for young children, those under the age of 12, saying trial data shows a robust and well- tolerated