Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

US Has Issues Evacuating Remaining Americans in Afghanistan; Donald Trump Campaigns for VA Governor Candidate. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 28, 2021 - 07:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, HOST, NEW DAY: Right, this morning CNN is back on the streets of Afghanistan. We hope CNN's Chief International Clarissa Ward live in Kabul. Clarissa, if you can hear me, we've been having some issues with your signal. Hopefully, it will stay up. Give us a sense of what you're seeing on the ground now.

CLARISSA WARD, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Hi, John, yes, apologies for those technical difficulties. Basically, it looks very different from when we were last here. The Taliban now has a much lighter footprint. We're seeing far less or far fewer Taliban fighters out on the ground.

The ones that we do see tend to be manning checkpoints. And now many of them are wearing uniforms. A lot of those, John, U.S. issued uniforms, and the purpose of that is to try to look professional but also to try to avoid situations where ISIS-K fighters could potentially infiltrate and pretend to be the Taliban.

The Taliban definitely wants to set -- show the world (technical difficulty) adopted a more (technical difficulty) there is (technical difficulty) that things are a little bit (technical difficulty). There's a lot of (inaudible) you don't see the (technical difficulty) street corner. (Technical Difficulty) seeing some (technical difficulty). Taliban is (technical difficulty).


BRIANNA KEILAR, HOST, NEW DAY: You know what, we're going to -- we're going to pause as we try to clean up this signal with Clarissa and just listen as we do to some of the sound. She's been out reporting this morning, here's what she has heard.


WARD: So, we're now inside the Green Zone. This is the area where all diplomats, international organizations were based and it's so eerie driving through. It's now completely empty except for Taliban guards. So, just up here these are the gates to the U.S. Embassy here in Kabul.

And the Taliban guards are telling us that nobody has been in here since the U.S. left this embassy just days after the Taliban took power. So, you can see through here this appears to be sort of the first layer of security to get into the embassy and now it's just completely abandoned.


KEILAR: We really do get a sense of sort of the ghost town that is there, Clarissa. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you've been seeing?

WARD: So, essentially as you saw there that Green Zone has basically been completely abandoned. And that's part of the reason it's difficult for the U.S. to go about evacuating the roughly 100 Americans who remain on the ground. Because there is no embassy, there is no American footprint here.

I will say on the streets of Kabul things feel a little bit calmer. You do see women on the streets, you see fewer Taliban on the streets. But make no mistake, there are some very troubling signs that the Taliban have not changed their true colors. Over the weekend we saw a horrifying scene in the city of Heart.

Four kidnappers the Taliban said who were killed and then their bodies were hung up in public as a sort of warning to other people, to ordinary citizens that this is how the Taliban will be doling out justice. This is medieval justice to many people all over the world. But it may well be a sort of signal of what is to come.

And certainly, we are seeing also women's rights being subjugated, women are not part of the transitional government here. Women are not allowed to go to school, girls after sixth grade. And so and so forth.

So, even though the traffic might be flowing in Kabul and I might be wearing a slightly looser headscarf, there is still a very high level of fear here on the ground that things are going to take an ominous turn.

BERMAN: I have to say, Clarissa, that's the first thing I noticed is you are wearing a looser headscarf now than in those tumultuous days when the Taliban was taking over. There's another example of the Taliban exerting its control over one of the universities there, correct?

WARD: That's right. Essentially the new chancellor who is 34-years-old and has very little experience and education has said that women are essentially banned indefinitely. That women will not be allowed to either study in this university or teach at this university until quote, "the proper Islamic atmosphere is created." And that's sort of what they've said about girls going back to school as well.

But we have heard this before from the Taliban. Back in the '90s, the same exact excuse was given. That girls and women could be educated once the sort of institutions had been prepared for their return. But it never happened. Now they say they want to try to bring, you know, deal with issues of transport ensuring that women can get to school safely. But we visited a girls school yesterday, they're already segregated. So, why on earth would you not allow girls to go to a school that is already segregated where there are no boys? These are the kinds of questions that many women, particularly here in Kabul would like the Taliban to answer and so far we are not seeing those answers forthcoming.

The Taliban is really keeping a pretty tight lid on what their real plans are. And that's because they're desperate to see international aid unfrozen. This country is on the precipice of a real economic disaster.

So, for now, they're trying to present themselves as more pragmatic hoping to get the purse strings reopened. But the fear, of course, of so many, is that they haven't changed at all.

BERMAN: Clarissa, I'm going to tempt fate, try to get one more question in while the signals up. General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs is testifying on Capitol Hill today, he'll face a lot of question about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. What question would you ask him?

WARD: I would ask the question that I think many Afghans on the ground were asking me throughout, why wasn't there more preparation in place? It was clearly always going to be challenging, it was clearly time for the U.S. to end this war.


But why wasn't more done to ensure that it was less chaotic? That fewer lives were lost? That fewer dreams were crushed? These are the questions I get from the Afghan people, and these are the answers I hope we might hear some of today.

BERMAN: Clarissa Ward, chief international correspondent, it's terrific to see you back on the streets there. Thank you to you and your team, all of you please stay safe.

KEILAR: The state of Virginia is about to provide the clearest preview of what is to come in the 2022 election. The two candidates, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, and Republican Glenn Youngkin will face off tonight in their final of two debates before the November gubernatorial election.

So, how high are the stakes here? And what should we expect? What should we be extrapolating from what we're seeing in Virginia? Let's bring in Susan Page, she is the Washington bureau chief for USA Today, she moderated the previous debate between these two candidates.

OK, let's, you know, let's talk first about the state of the race here. This is going to be incredibly important, so let's tell folks where they are. According to a new Monmouth University Poll, McAuliffe has a five-point lead over Youngkin with 48 percent of voters saying they will be choosing the former governor, 43 percent saying they would vote for his opponent. That's still pretty close for comfort, especially in Virginia. SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Democrats did not think it was going to be this hard. That is a margin of error race, Cook Political Report just moved it to the toss-up category. This is a state that Donald Trump lost by 10 percentage points.

So, you'd think it was a pretty blue state where President Biden'd be pretty popular but this is a contest that you could not call at this moment. It's going to come down to whether Democrats can generate a little more enthusiasm among the voters and what happens with those suburban independent voters.

KEILAR: All right, so, before we talk about the defining issue, let's talk about why we're paying so much attention. Why if you're in some other state you shouldn't just be going, oh that's Virginia. You should be paying attention to what's going on in Virginia here.

PAGE: Well, for one thing, we don't have that many races to look at on an off-year so we look at Virginia a lot. But it's also turned out to be a pretty good bell-weather for where the state of the nation's politics are. Especially when you think about presidents and new presidents.

You know, we -- Democrats remember back in 2009 when President Obama was in his first year in office, the parallel time to where President Biden is now they lost a Virginia governor's race in 2009. They lost both houses of Congress in 2010. So, that's one reason we pay a lot of attention to what's happening in the Commonwealth.

KEILAR: Yes, I was actually there that night in Virginia. And looking back on it you realize whoa, that was one of those moments that was really defining, it was a sign of more to come. OK, so, what is the issue then in a state where Donald Trump, you know, obviously, didn't do so well? What is -- what is on the mind of voters right now there?

PAGE: Well, COVID is a big issue in Virginia as in everywhere else. But there's also a third candidate on that debate stage, and that is Donald Trump. And if Donald Trump is center stage in the spotlight that is good news for Terry McAuliffe.

But if Donald Trump is a little to the side and McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate can talk about issues like taxes, his proposal to cut grocery taxes, things like that that is good for Youngkin. And he's proved to be a steadier candidate than Democrats thought he would be. He has never run for office before.

That debate he did at the Appalachian School of Law was the first time he had ever done a televised debate. And he was reasonably sure- footed. He'll have a second chance to show what he can do tonight.

KEILAR: Yes, held his own. And you're talking about these issues that they respectively want to keep front and center. That's what tonight is really going to be about. What are you looking for?

PAGE: Well, let's watch and see how Youngkin handles this tightrope he has to walk. Which is to not annoy or put off the Trump voters or that former president himself. Because, you know, that can bring some peril for Republican candidates while also appealing to independent voters who may not be that happy with what they see happening in Washington.

One thing that's hurting McAuliffe now I think is the failure of Democrats to seem like they have their act together in Congress. Terry McAuliffe has talked about how if Congress could pass that bipartisan infrastructure bill that would be good for states like Virginia, that would be good for his campaign too.

KEILAR: All right, big week on the hill so we'll see how that affects things. Susan, great to see you.

PAGE: Nice to see you.

KEILAR: Thank you so much, Susan Page.

Next, why dozens of violent criminals may be released in one major American city.

BERMAN: Plus, Will Smith making rare remarks about race, politics, and what he thinks about the Defund the Police slogan.



BERMAN: A court deadline is looming in Fulton County, Georgia, that's where Atlanta is. It gives prosecutors 90 days to indict a defendant or let that defendant out of jail on bond.

The DA says if she doesn't get help with this huge backlog of cases, violent criminals could be set free. Ryan Young is at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Ryan, what's going on here?

RYAN YOUNG, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Hey, John, you know, 2020 was a violent year, we have FBI stats to prove it. When you think about it though, police officers never stopped working despite the pandemic. Well, a lot of courts were closed and now that backlog is catching up with prosecutors.


FANI WILLIS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: I need help. I'm here begging you for help.

YOUNG: (voice over) As her office continues to deal with an avalanche of backlog cases, District Attorney Fani Willis warning that dozens of violent criminal suspects could be released on bond in the coming weeks.

WILLIS: We walked into an office with an excess of 11,000 unindicted cases. In addition to that, we already had another 12,000 that were indicted and were working their way through the court system.

YOUNG: (voice over) Georgia law says that suspects in jail are entitled to mandatory bond if not indicted within 90-days. The law was suspended during the pandemic but was reinstated over the summer.


Today was the end of the 90-day period for the first batch of eligible defendants and other suspects will become eligible to be released each day as they reach their 90-day threshold if they are not indicted.

WILLIS: This is the reality and I've told everyone this. There's going to be 400 or 500 defendants that we don't make the clock on.

YOUNG: (voice over) Some victims of violent crimes and their loved ones say that they no longer have closure.

BRENDA MUHAMMAD, DIRECTOR, ATLANTA VICTIM ASSISTANCE, INC.: People that we represent, the victims of crime they will find that the folk who committed the crimes against their loved ones or against them, they will be out on the street.

YOUNG: (voice over) Willis says that the backlog is forcing her to make difficult decisions not to prosecute such cases as aggravated assault and battery. Letting some of those suspects walk so that her office can focus on more serious charges.

WILLIS: Well, I can guarantee the public that there will not be someone that was charged with homicide that will not be charged. We also did the same thing with the sexual offenses. And now we are working our way through other violent offenders.

CHARLES RAMSEY, SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, CNN: We've got to be able to clear that backlog, set priorities, and we cannot afford to let violent criminals out. People with gun offenses, people with aggravated assault, robbery, things of that nature.

YOUNG (off camera): Murders in Fulton County increased by 48 percent since 2020, 224 murder suspects are currently unindicted, and 51 of those suspects must be indicted by Tuesday according to Willis' office.

YOUNG (on camera): What is your fear when it comes to some of these cases and some of these offenders having the opportunity to maybe get out of jail before they see a judge?

WILLIS: There's a very serious impact to people that should not get a bond possibly being released from jail. We have lots of people in our community that the way they survive is by committing crime, and they don't mind hurting you.

YOUNG: (voice over) Critics of Willis say that no matter what a person is charged with they still have a right to be proven guilty without languishing behind bars.

MANNY ARORA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: These people have been in jail for months if not years. The DA's office had plenty of time to investigate the cases because they've arrested these people COVID or not. Indicting them isn't that big of a deal.

YOUNG: (voice over) Willis says that she is trying to make bond for those released as restrictive as possible by allocating the highest possible amount and by implementing ankle monitors. She has also seated two grand juries for the first time in Fulton County history to try to tackle all the cases.

WILLIS: We'll be working through this crisis for at least the next two years.


YOUNG (on camera): Yes, and DA Willis has also decided to hire more staff. The Fulton County Commission actually gave her some extra money to do that. And, John, this cuts both ways because if you could imagine if you're in jail, and you think you're innocent, and you've been sitting in there quite some time trying to get your case heard.

But a lot of people in this community are worried about what's next.

BERMAN: Yes, understandably so. Ryan Young, thank you very much.

KEILAR: Actor Will Smith is opening up about race in his most revealing interview to date. Speaking to GQ contributor Wesley Lowery, Smith discussed his upcoming drama Emancipation, and explained why he avoided films about slavery earlier in his career.

He said quote, "In the early part of my career I didn't want to show black people in that light. I wanted to be a superhero. So, I wanted to depict black excellence alongside my white counterparts. I wanted to play roles that you would give to Tom Cruise. And the first time I considered it was Django. But I didn't want to make a slavery film about vengeance."

Joining me now is Wesley Lowery, correspondent for 60 Minutes and CBS News, contributor, pardon me for 60 Minutes and CBS News and contributor to GQ Magazine. I have to say, Wes, this is a fascinating interview that you did with Will -- with Will Smith.

And, you know, just sort of the top line here as he's talking so much about racism and issues of racial equality. What stood out the most to you?

WESLEY LOWERY, CORRESPONDENT, 60 MINUTES AND CBS NEWS: Of Course, and so, I actually met up with Will on site of his upcoming movie Emancipation that he's shooting, which is the first slavery film he's worked on. Now, Will has done projects around race, he famously portrayed Ali.

And even when you look at The Fresh Prince, that was a series that was in many ways about race and class and all these types of ideas. But it was really interesting sitting and talking with him, and also reading a copy of his forthcoming memoir that comes out later this year.

And his desire really to speak out, to weigh in on the issues of the day. To share things about himself he hadn't shared previously. And so, I think that's one of the reasons he was so forthcoming in our conversations.

KEILAR: He also -- he called for an adjustment in quote, "our marketing" is how he -- how he put it. When it comes to phrases like Defund the Police, I want to read some of what he told you.

He said, "So, 'abolish the police, defund the police.' I would love it if we would just say 'defund the bad police.' It's almost like I want as black Americans for us to change our marketing for the new position that we're in. So, 'critical race theory,' just call it 'truth theory.'"



KEILAR: This was really interesting to hear him say this.

LOWERY: Of course, well, what it -- and he goes on to say, he goes and I'm not even saying that we shouldn't defund the police, I'm saying that when we say those words some people who might support it don't because they don't like the words, right. That he was trying to kind of have this technical conversation.

And we see this happen, you know, very often among activists or among other prominent black celebrities or people who care about the issues of law. This debate about what's the best way to market these conversations, or to have these conversations to when as broad consensus as possible.

It's really interesting, you know, I've heard from a lot of activists and folks who say Will Smith should be quiet and shouldn't be talking about this in the first place. You know, have other folks who say, OK, this is interesting or appealing to me.

But it was fascinating to me anytime you have someone of that stature weighing in and thinking about these issues. And being willing to kind of speak freely no matter what backlash they may get to it or not.

KEILAR: OK, but some people maybe they say Will Smith should be quiet but people listen to Will Smith, he has a large audience.

LOWERY: Of course. Well, and one thing that was really interesting because like I said, this interview in many ways was pegged to his forthcoming memoir in November. And he talked a lot about how, and I could -- and we talked with on the record and off the record about how he thinks about when he is talking, when he is saying something the impact that might have, right.

All the people who he mentions in his book in major ways, he flew down to Miami to read them the excerpts of the book because he knew that if he had said something about his cousin or his uncle or his aunt that that might be the thing that defines them in public.

And so, it is really interesting and we got to that specific set of questions around defund and abolish and Black Lives Matter. He was very deliberate, he slowed his sentences down because he knew, all right, this is going to be a thing that's aggregated, this is a thing that CNN might be talking about in the more, you know, the morning after the piece comes out. And so, it is fascinating to think that you're somewhat of that stature, of that platform. And you've got to be really careful about what you say and how you say it. And yet, here he was for a few thousand words saying a lot of stuff.

KEILAR: What did he say about age?

LOWERY: Well, it was interesting, he talked about how he was kind of going through it in his late 40s. And so, he called Denzel Washington and Denzel says to him, OK, that's just your funky 40s.

KEILAR: Your funky 40s.

LOWERY: And -- but he goes but everyone gets to their -- to their eff if 50s was what Denzel told him. And so, he -- so he said that that's kind of how he wanted to think about things. And now that he's in his 50s, he's 53 now, that he said he's having the time of his life.

KEILAR: Well, I really appreciate the interview. As someone who kind of -- I kind of grew up with Will Smith, Fresh Prince --

LOWERY: Of course.

KEILAR: -- and even Independence Day --

LOWERY: All of them, the classics.

KEILAR: You know, and it was really interesting to hear him speak about how intentional he's been with his roles. That was something that I was not so aware of. Wes, thank you for sharing this with us.

LOWERY: Of course, thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Appreciate it. New Day continues right now.

BERMAN: All right, good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Tuesday, September 28th. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. Two major developments overnight in the week from hell on Capitol Hill. This is the week when the country's financial stability hangs in the balance.

Government funding hangs in the balance. Your roads, and bridges, and childcare hang in the balance. And President Biden's agenda hangs in the balance. So, two big things just happened. First, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a major reversal with what she is willing to do to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Also, Republicans led by Mitch McConnell followed through on a promise not to lift a finger in helping the United States pay its debts incurred in the past. Including during under Republican presidents. This is how he justifies it.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MINORITY LEADER: We will not provide Republican votes for raising the debt limit. There's no chance Republicans will help lift Democrats credit limit so they can immediately steamroll through a socialist binge that will hurt families and help China.


BERMAN: The debt ceiling is for past spending and promises, past spending under Republican and Democratic presidents. We'll get to that in a second. First, joining us now CNN Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, CNN National Politics Reporter Eva McKend, and CNN Anchor and Chief National Affairs Analyst Kasie Hunt.

Kaitlan, I want to start with you on what Nancy Pelosi did overnight, which is very significant when you're talking about the bipartisan infrastructure bill, this $1.2 trillion plan passed. And also, President Biden's domestic agenda, which may be $3.5 trillion, it seems like it's going to be less than that.

Up until now, Democrats from President Biden to Chuck Schumer to Nancy Pelosi said they had to be passed together.