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Biden's Economic Agenda at Risk; Inside Bagram Air Base; Fall Arrives Today; Facebook Under Fire for Instagram's Toxic Environment; Couple Kicked out of Restaurant for Wearing Masks. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 22, 2021 - 06:30   ET



LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President's agenda, which is everything they have been campaigning on for the last several years, several decades really at this point. And this is going to be key because he's going to be meeting with the leadership, both Pelosi and Schumer today, but also progressives, like you said. And that's going to be an important meeting because that is where the White House can send a message, look, it's either this option or it's nothing. And right now that's potentially what's going to happen if folks can't get together and find a way forward.

Now, you also have sticking points moving forward, which is part of the challenge of getting everyone on the same page. And that includes things like raising taxes, because one of the things that maybe Democrats aren't talking a ton about right now is you have to find a way to pay for this 3.5 trillion bill. And some of the ways that you raise taxes, even though some of those tax increases are going to the wealthy, are going to be very difficult for Democrats to swallow, including moderates like Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, who have already been expressing concerns in private meetings with their leadership and with their fellow members.

You also have a hang-up over this prescription drug policy that has struggled to get through in the House of Representatives. There are a number of lawmakers who are from states that have big pharma industry in their districts, in their states. They are struggling to get behind that package. But it really matters because it includes about 700 billion in pay-fors, which you may need to actually finance this bill.

You also have a disagreement over the most basic element of this, which is how much money are you going to spend? Again, you have moderates saying 3.5 trillion. That's far too much. You have progressives saying, we have already compromised. We wanted 6 trillion. Now we're at 3.5 trillion. We can't cut that number down any more. How you square that circle, still very unclear at this point, Brianna.

And, finally, how much of this bill should actually be paid for? You have people like moderate Senator Jon Tester saying he will not support anything that isn't fully paid for. You also have to find a way to get all these numbers to add up. A lot of work to do, which is why this idea that it could be done in the next week is simply impossible, Brianna. BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, you can see how much they have to

hammer out today at the White House.

Lauren Fox, thank you so much for that.

Up next, CNN is going to take you inside the now abandoned Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: So we've passed one cage, two, three, number four, five, six, seven cages I can see here.


KEILAR: What our cameras uncovered as the Taliban took control.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis choosing an anti-mask vaccine skeptic to be the state's next surgeon general. Hear what this doctor believes.

Stay with us.



BERMAN: In Afghanistan, the Taliban now manning the gates of Bagram Air Base, which was the U.S. military's main hub during the 20-year long war. There was also a detention center there that was much feared by Taliban fighters who were housed and interrogated there after being caught in battle.

CNN's Nic Robertson gives us a remarkable look inside.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): Behind Bagram's gates, a wasteland. Military hardware, abandoned.

ROBERTSON (on camera): It's like driving through a ghost town here. Completely deserted. The odd (ph) Taliban vehicle. And everything just the way that it was.

ROBERTSON (voice over): But eerily different. A mini city. Hospital, shops, cafes, restaurants, power plant --

ROBERTSON (on camera): This was Route Disney (ph), the main road through the base. Those are the hangars at the side of the runway over here.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Where presidents and defense chiefs once landed, America's multi-billion dollar Afghan hub is in the Taliban's hands. Its dark secrets are being revealed.

ROBERTSON (on camera): These are the handcuffs for the prisoners?

ROBERTSON (voice over): Bagram's jail, once feared by the Taliban, that the U.S. handed to Afghan Security Forces in 2014, vast, sprawling and trashed.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Prisoner's identification. Cover his face. But this is an ID photograph I'm looking at of a prisoner here just laying on the ground.

ROBERTSON (voice over): The Taliban's victory freed the prisoners. Not all of them were Taliban. They want us to see the harsh conditions.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Even they're confused about how to find their way around this place. They really don't know it.

Are we going in?

ROBERTSON (voice over): The way the prisoners got out.

ROBERTSON (on camera): This is the cages inside here.

These are the cages, huge cages. They've just been left as they are.

Look at this. Take a look. Take a look. Prisoners' food. This bread is still hanging on the plate here. This looks like the place for putting shackles on, handcuffs, food here.

How many prisoners in here? How many?

ROBERTSON (voice over): Thousands, he tells me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says the prisoners escaped.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Yes. Yes, they got out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they left everything behind.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they didn't (INAUDIBLE) all here.

ROBERTSON: So this is everyone's shoes hanging here. Blankets, towels, books, Koran.

Phone numbers scribbled on the wall.

You really get an idea of just how many people were crammed into these cells. One mattress, another one, another one. It looks like at least 30 in each of these wire mesh cells. Look.

Conditions in here were so tight, the prisoners are hanging their possessions. And there's not much in this bag. Hanging them from the little ropes from the wire cage.


And this -- this was it. This -- this piece of mattress, that was their personal space.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Some prisoners were locked up here for years. And like Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, infamous for torture.

ROBERTSON (on camera): So we've passed one cage, two, three, number four, five, six, seven cages I can see here.

ROBERTSON (voice over): What we don't realize until later, this cavernous cell block just one of many.

ROBERTSON (on camera): And when you look at all this now, how do you feel about the situation for the people that were held here?

ROBERTSON (voice over): It was harsh, he says. They were beaten. There was torture. The U.S. Department of Defense said it investigated all credible allegations of abuse by its soldiers. Some were convicted.

ROBERTSON (on camera): So here are the rules. No throwing or assaulting guards. No fighting. No escaping. No damaging the cells. No disobedience. You will not touch my guards. No spitting in my house. Those are the rules.

ROBERTSON (voice over): We're not the only ones getting a look. The Taliban are bringing their friends in, wandering on the top of the cages, too.

ROBERTSON (on camera): What do you think, sir?

ROBERTSON (voice over): It should be destroyed, he says, so brutal people can't use it again.

ROBERTSON (on camera): This is the staircase to the platform above the cells. When you get up here, you get a sense of the sheer scale of this detention facility, how many people must have been in here. Just huge.

This is where they say the guards patrolled so they could look down in the different cells.


ROBERTSON: They sprayed it on the prisoners.

ROBERTSON (voice over): The Taliban commander says the guards used water to break up fights or keep the prisoners awake at night.

ROBERTSON (on camera): What I find a little surprising is that everyone here has come to look. Some of the guards here are familiar with this. But none of them seem angry, angry at us at least. And that's something I would have expected.

Do you want revenge for this?

ROBERTSON (voice over): We forced the Americans out, he says. That's revenge.

The other Talib says, but it doesn't mean we'll forget them.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Can you shine the light in there so I can just have a look in here?

ROBERTSON (voice over): Room after room, documents scattered.

ROBERTSON (on camera): And over here, a board with all the prisoners' numbers on. Look.

ROBERTSON (voice over): The remnants of an occupation in overdrive. Years and years of jailing Afghans.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Look at this. This must have been the control room. Look at all the LCD monitors around the wall here.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Around the corner, the psychiatric ward.

ROBERTSON (on camera): It's a medical center but it's still got cages inside. Smaller cages.



Ah, OK. So he's showing us here the isolation cell. I don't know if you can see it. If you put your camera up right next to here, John (ph), with his torch shining in, there, isolation cell.

ROBERTSON (voice over): The writing on the wall tells us two prisoners crammed in here.

ROBERTSON (on camera): And then there's this net, which I can't figure out what it's for, unless it's for putting on somebody to restrain them, just lying on the floor.

ROBERTSON (voice over): What is clear here, individual trauma, collective anger and, from what we've been told, an unpaid score to settle with America.


ROBERTSON: And I've just talked to a very senior Taliban official, Anas Haqqani, brother of interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, who has a 10 million FBI bounty on his head for connections to al Qaeda and terrorism. He, Anas Haqqani, was held in that jail. He claims to have been tortured there. But he said, right now, there is an end to the war with the United States. And he said what this country wants, what he wants, what his family wants, and they're the most powerful family in the country here at the moment, what they want is to now get on, move forward diplomatically with the United States. That's the message now, they feel that the war is over.

BERMAN: I've got to say, Nic Robertson, a remarkable look inside Bagram Air Base and, clearly, this new era there. Thank you so much for your reporting. So the Gabby Petito case capturing headlines across the country, but

it's also shining a light on the racial disparity when it comes to missing persons cases.

KEILAR: And is Instagram toxic for teen girls. Facebook now under fire for what its own investigation found.



BERMAN: Happy autumnal equinox. I get chocked up even thinking about it because it's time for seasonal drinks. Fall formally arrives this afternoon at 3:21 p.m. Eastern Time. So, will the change in season bring an immediate change in the weather?

Meteorologist Chad Myers with the answer.



BERMAN: Thank you. Thank you, Chad.

Moving on.

MYERS: Cool air is on the way. Very nice. I mean temperatures are in the 40s in Kansas City.

This weather brought to you by Carvana, the new way to buy a car.

Yes, this is the best forecast I've given in a very long time. Yes, there will be rain and there will be thunderstorms to get there. The cold front is going to bring that. But the cold front will bring a relief from all the muggies. Chance for some flooding. Chance for some wind damage today. But that's the front that's going to bring all of this rain, push all of the humidity away, push some of the pollen away, too, because now we're into ragweed season.

But this is the relief we've all been waiting for. This is fall. The seasonal change pushing all the way through the East Coast. Temperatures in the morning in New York City, maybe in the 50s.


Tomorrow, Atlanta, it will be 53. The last time was April 22nd that Atlanta has been this cool tomorrow morning.


BERMAN: All right. Good forecast.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Appreciate it, Chad. Thank you.

MYERS: You bet.

KEILAR: Pumpkin spice latte time, indeed.

All right, Facebook is under fire following a study that shows the company has repeatedly found that Instagram has a toxic effect on teenage girls. "The Wall Street Journal" reported that the features the social media site has identified as the most harmful remain part of its key makeup.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is joining me now.

I think, Sunlen, this is what's most curious about this. They do this study, they find out what parts are bad for teenagers, specifically girls, and yet those are the things that drive these folks to the app and so they're still up

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Brianna. And if you ask any teenager, or any young woman, there is an anxiety that comes from social media, and it is very real. And these new leaked internal documents from within Facebook, they show just how detrimental that can be.


SERFATY (voice over): Madeline Taylor has grown up on Instagram. First creating her account in the sixth grade.

MADELINE TAYLOR, STUDENT, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: I was in a very, like, sad kind of, like, lonely place.

SERFATY: Her darkest moments of self-doubt over the last decade, she says, have all been triggered by what she sees on her feed.

TAYLOR: I felt very, like, isolated in my friend groups. And that was just totally perpetuated by Instagram. I would see all my other friends going and doing these really fun excursions with their other friend groups and I was wondering why I wasn't doing any of that.

SERFATY: Those harmful feelings are exactly what Instagram already knows. According to company documents obtained by "The Wall Street Journal," Facebook, the parent company of Instagram, spent the last three years trying to understand just how toxic Instagram is to young people. That internal research is damning, saying that comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves, their researchers wrote. Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. Finding that, we make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls. And among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13 percent of British users and 6 percent of American users traced their desire to kill themselves to Instagram.

ABBY MATTHEWS, PSYCHOLOGIST, CINCINNATI CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: I would say 99 percent of the time that patients who I meet with are reporting looking at idealized images and feeling horribly about themselves and using those images as a basis of comparison that really results in feeling like a failure often. SERFATY: In the wake of these internal findings, Facebook is pushing

back, calling the reporting deliberate, mischaracterizations, and conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook's leadership and employees. Adding that they believe "The Wall Street Journal" report cherry-picked selective quotes from individual pieces of leaked material in a way that presents complex and nuanced issues as if there is only ever one right answer.

Instagram says it's looking at new ways to discourage users from focusing on their physical appearance and making it a positive space for all. But lawmakers on Capitol Hill say that is insufficient.

SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA): After this revelation, Mark Zuckerberg has to come back to Capitol Hill. He has to give answers.

SERFATY: And have demanded Facebook release their findings.

MARKEY: He has to explain why he knew about the dangers and yet continued his business practice.

SERFATY: In the past, Facebook has taken pains to downplay the negative impact on teens.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R-WA): Mr. Zuckerberg, yes or no, do you agree too much time in front of screens, possibly consuming content, is harmful to children's mental health?

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: I -- I don't think that the research is conclusive on that.

SERFATY: An assessment that lawmakers aren't buying.

REP. LORI TRAHAN (D-MA): We all knew that that was a hollow talking point back then when he said it. But, obviously, this internal research shows that he knew or at least he should have known that it was the exact opposite.


SERFATY: And lawmakers have sent Zuckerberg a letter with a series of questions, including asking for a full copy of that research. They have given him three weeks to respond. And if he doesn't, they expect to call him back to testify on Capitol Hill.


KEILAR: Quite the threat.

Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much for that report.

A couple is speaking out after they were kicked out of a restaurant in Texas for wearing their masks.

BERMAN: And a new book revealing evidence of the former president's relentless pursuit of power and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The authors of "Peril" join us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KEILAR: A Texas couple, who managed to score a rare night out after the birth of their child, says it was cut short when the restaurant asked them to leave because they had on face masks. The couple says they wore them to protect their baby boy, who is immunocompromised. And that couple is with us now from Dallas.

Natalie Wester and Jose Lopez, good morning. And little one with us as well.


KEILAR: Tell us a little bit about what happened here. I know you went into this establishment. Cheers to you for, you know, getting out together and putting your marriage, you know, first probably for the first time in a while there. And a waitress actually approached you at your table as you were wearing your masks.

Natalie, tell me what she said.

NATALIE WESTER, KICKED OUT OF RESTAURANT FOR WEARING A MASK: Yes. So, our waitress came up and she basically said, you are going to need to pull your mask down, take it off, because this is a political situation, but the owner here doesn't believe in masks and, you know, there's a strict no-mask policy here.

KEILAR: And so then what happened, Jose?

LOPEZ: Well, then we were asked to, you know, either remove our mask or leave. And then we explained the reason we weren't removing our mask was for our son, who has cystic fibrosis. But even after we explained what that was to them and the reason why we weren't taking the mask, they didn't seem to care. Like his political views are more important than a child's health, I guess.

WESTER: Yes, they told us that if we -- if we didn't want to take our masks off that we were going to have to close our check and leave.

So we chose to do that.

KEILAR: But, just explain, cystic fibrosis. I mean, look, you know, our understanding is, the risk is low to children even though we, obviously, want to protect them. It is important to protect them. But in the case, specifically, Jose, of a small child with cystic fibrosis, you're dealing with a lot of other things.

LOPEZ: Well, yes, the -- like you said, it is not as risky for younger people, but that's younger healthy people. Our son is immune compromised (INAUDIBLE).

WESTER: Yes, our -- yes, he's immune compromised.

LOPEZ: Yes. WESTER: And we've been told by his doctors to continue to wear a mask throughout, even without COVID, to be worried about, you know, flu season and RSV and things like that. We just have to take extra precautions.


KEILAR: Yes, look, you know, I am friends with someone who has a small, vulnerable child and they've been told the same thing, this is the -- this is the reality if you have a -- a small, venerable child.

Jose and Natalie, I do want you to listen to what the owner of the restaurant that you were at, Hang Time, had to say about why he asked you to leave.

Let's listen.


TOM BLACKMER, OWNER, HANG TIME SPORTS GRILL AND BAR: I've spent my money on this business. I've put my blood, sweat and tears in this business. And I don't want any masks in here.


I feel the overall reaction with the mask is ridiculous in the United States right now.


KEILAR: Natalie, your -- your reaction to that?