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Biden Swarms Swing States as Spring for Midterms Begins. 3 Majority Black Schools in Alabama Still Bear Confederate Leaders' Names. Third of Pakistan Under Water as National Faces Horrific Flooding. Israel Admits Al Jazeera Journalist Likely Killed by Israeli Gunfire. How Many Extremists are there in America? Aired 7:30-8aET

Aired September 06, 2022 - 07:30   ET



MARK MCKINNON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, GEORGE W. BUSH AND MCCAIN CAMPAIGNS: And so, Biden is really focusing on that in Pennsylvania in his recent messaging and I think rightly so. And he's taking on republicans, but he's trying to take a real razor to it to say it's MAGA Republicans that are the problem. They're the extremists. They don't really support democracy. They support the lies that Donald Trump keeps pushing.

And again, to John's point, you know, Donald Trump has become part of the problem for Republicans now because the - normally Republicans would have the enthusiasm advantage, and now largely in part because of Trump's nominees in those states and because of Trump's legal problems, that's, in fact, deflating Republican enthusiasm.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Why do you think Biden is doing this carve out? Who's the audience for the carve out? By calling out MAGA Republicans he's obviously not trying to solicit, you know, support from MAGA Republicans, so who is that targeted at exactly?

MCKINNON: Me, Liz Cheney, and the few Republicans still (inaudible). Listen, Republicans are still about the - I mean, elections are still about the margins, right? And those margins are around the center of American politics, and there are - there are a lot of Republicans out there who are not MAGA Republicans who are looking for a place to land, and that's what Joe Biden is sending a signal for and that's how Joe Biden got elected in the first place by being this sort of moderate, centrist guy.

Say, hey listen, I've worked with Republicans all my life. I know Republicans, and most Republicans and Republicans that I know, that you may know are reasonable, commonplace people who recognize that I'm a real president. So come on with me. Join us this round until the Republican Party gets its ship righted.

BERMAN: Do you think it could work?

MCKINNON: I think it is working. I mean, clearly there's some momentum going the Democrats' way right now, and Joe Biden's going to keep his foot to the pedal. I mean, just again, three months ago Democrats would say don't even bring Joe Biden to Pennsylvania, and he's been there three times in the last week, so an advantaged Joe right now.

BERMAN: Mark McKinnon, as always great to see you. Thank you so much.

So as the school year picks back up, so do efforts to rename Confederate-named schools. CNN is in Alabama.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And one of the biggest strikes in U.S. history is brewing, and it could affect nearly every household in the country.



KEILAR: This morning as the new school year gets underway, Alabama students at three majority-black schools are returning to buildings that still bare the name of Confederate leaders. Despite a vow to change the names two years ago, obstacles remain in the way. CNN's Nadia Romero has more.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A new school year brings new hope in the year's long fight to change a trio of names that lieu over this building and two others in Montgomery, Alabama: Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Sidney Lanier High Schools.

Melvin Brown grew up in Robert E. Lee's hometown. Today he is the Superintendant of Schools. Just weeks into his tenure Brown is determined to see the names go.


ROMERO: So what do you say to those who believe you're trying to erase history and erase our heritage?

BROWN: Not at all. The gentleman by - for whom this building is constructed and named was a brilliant military tactician. At the same time he was a slaver. At the same time he lead a rebellion against his own country.

ROMERO: The Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit with the mission of challenging racial and economic injustice says Lee High was named in 1954 as retaliation to Brown versus Board of Education ending separate but equal in U.S. schools. Jefferson Davis High named in 1968 right after integration. As of 2021, EJI identifying more than 240 schools in 19 states named in honor of Confederate leaders.


ROMERO: In response to George Floyd's murder, school districts across the south and beyond pledged to rename schools named after Confederate leaders. In Atlanta, Forrest Hills Academy, named after Confederate General and one of the founders of the Klu Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest, is now Hank Aaron New Beginnings Academy.

In Baton Rouge, Lee Magnet School renamed Liberty Magnet School, but in Montgomery, Alabama where there public high schools have at least an 80 percent black student population, Confederate-named schools still remain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's time for the name to change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to just cut all ties.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It needs to happen now. It needs to be changed.

ROMERO: When protestors brought down the statute of Robert E. Lee in front of the school that bears his name in 2020, Montgomery County Board of Education President, Clair Weil, called it a turning point.

CLAIR WEIL, MONTGOMERY COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION PRESIDENT: It was kind of a wake up call for all of us that it's time.

ROMERO: But School Board member, Lesa Keith, argued changing the names would be more divisive than helpful.

LESA KEITH, MONTGOMERY COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION MEMBER: My perception of this whole thing is that it has divided us as a Board and it had divided us as a city.

ROMERO: Despite Keith's objection, the school board had enough votes to change the names of all three schools in July 2020, but more than two years later not much has happened.

BROWN: We got a lot of work to do left.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh yes, most definitely.

ROMERO: One of the major obstacles slowing them down is the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act signed in 2017 by Governor Kay Ivey. Will says (ph) if they change the names without getting state approval they could face steep fines.

WEIL: There are funds that have been collected to pay those fines.

ROMERO: And more money would be needed to change everything from signage to letter heads to uniforms, a price tag the school district hasn't determined, but as Superintendant Brown sees it.

BROWN: There's no price that is too steep for us to help kids and their well-being.

ROMERO: Nadia Romero, CNN, Montgomery, Alabama.


KEILAR: Our thanks to Nadia for that report. One-third of Pakistan is under water as the country faces the worst flooding in its history, and this morning 150 more villages have been breached. We're live on the ground in those flood waters.



BERMAN: An escalating disaster in Pakistan now facing the worst flooding in its history. More than a third - a third of the country is said to be under water. Some 33 million people are affected. More than 1,300 people have died, and that number is expected to rise.

Joining us now live from the Sindh Province in Pakistan is Susannah George, Pakistan Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post". Oh my God, Susannah. Behind you all I see is water. What's happening around you?

SUSANNAH GEORGE, THE WASHINGTON POST PAKISTAN BUREAU CHIEF: The latest that we're hearing is that there's been a breach at Manchar Lake that lies just ahead of us. It's Pakistan's largest lake. And unlike previous breaches, this one was uncontrolled, which means that there was no government preparation for the flow of water out. That means that thousands more could be displaced by this breach and hundreds more villages could be put in danger.


BERMAN: We see livestock there up to their necks in this water currently. Susannah, we keep hearing a third of the country underwater. Can you just describe what it's like?

GEORGE: Well what we've already seen just today is a few kilometers north of us roads that were passable just yesterday are now under water. We've spoken to the Minister of Irrigation who says that other villages are not under threat of being drowned. But we see the roads that are open full of farmers moving their livestock to safety.

One man, who we spoke to earlier today, said that he had to leave his family on the road side so that he could get his livestock to safety first.

BERMAN: And any sense that it's improving?

GEORGE: What we're seeing now is while the monsoon rains have stopped in this area the large body of water that collected over the months of heavy rains is slowing making its way down south across the country. This lake, Manchar Lake that was north, is expected to be able to hold back some of those waters. But with this latest breech some irrigation experts are calling for further breeches by the Pakistan government in order to divert the waters safely away from heavily populated areas.

So while there aren't more rains, the floods are continuing to displace thousands.

BERMAN: Susannah George, thank you so much for showing us what's happening. To your and your team, please stay safe.

KEILAR: Israel's military has admitted, for the first time, that Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, was likely killed by Israeli gunfire. The Israel Defense Forces released a report on Monday concluding Abu Akleh death was an accident. She was killed in May while she was covering an Israeli military operation in the West Bank.

The IDF says there is a high possibility they are responsible. They don't though intend to pursue criminal charges against the soldier responsible. In a statement, the military said, the soldiers did not know they were firing at the press and thought they were firing back at militants.

Evidence though, from a CNN investigation in May, revealed there was no active combat or Palestinian militants near where Abu Akleh was standing. She was also wearing a vest identifying her as press; both on her front and on her back.

Abu Akleh's family slamming the IDF report Monday saying it quote, "Tried to obscure the truth and avoid responsibility." And now they're calling for an independent U.S. investigation.

Joining us now is Shireen Abu Akleh's niece, Lina Abu Akleh. Lina, thank you so much for being with us this morning and I'm so sorry for what you and your family have gone through here. How are you and your family reacting to this news?

LINA ABU AKLEH, SHIREEN ABU AKLEH'S NIECE: Thank you so much for having me. Our family, you know, we were - we were not expecting the Israeli government or army to hold themselves responsible. This is what we were expecting at the end. And it's honestly - it's been very difficult, it's been very upsetting and frustrating. And at that same time, the statements is just trying to obscure the truth and avoid responsibility.

We know the truth, we know the facts, as you stated. Multiple investigative reports have concluding that Shireen was targeted and shot by the Israeli soldiers. And she was wearing a protecting vest and it clearly was marked with "PRESS" from the front and the back. Yet they were able to precisely aim in between the area of her helmet and her vest.

So it's very frustrating that until this day there hasn't been any accountability from the U.S.. If the U.S. truly believes in accountability then there needs to be action and this, today more than ever, this is what we are calling for. For a U.S. independent investigation because Israeli war criminals can not be investigating their own crimes.

KEILAR: What would that look like to you when you're talking about an independent U.S. investigation?

ABU AKLEH: Yes, Shireen was a U.S. citizen, she deserves a U.S. led investigation. It needs to be independent, transparent. And it needs to be conducted by the FBI, the same as it's done in other cases when a U.S. citizen is killed abroad.

You know, the U.S. funds the Israeli military annually of around $4 billion. It's not just us who are calling for this investigation but also members of Congress, Senators, Representatives who are - who are worried that our money - our taxpayer money is going into the funding of killing a U.S. citizen.


A U.S. investigation will hold the Israeli army accountable for the killing of my aunt. And this is what justice will look like for us. Changing the entire system that continues to perpetuate this kind of violence.

KEILAR: Lina, I do want to ask you to react to something that was in this report. You said, "In this report Israeli says there was no suspicion of a criminal offense that warrants the opening of an investigation."

So they're finding that obviously this happened. The initial story was it might have been Palestinians or it was likely Palestinian fire. The story has migrated considerably. Now it's high possibility it's Israeli fire.

Someone at the time, it seems, would have known that there was a possibility that it was Israeli fire. What do you make of how long it took Israel to come this conclusion after coming to these other contrasting conclusions?

ABU AKLEH: Well, you know, from day one the Israeli government, Israeli army they changed their narrative over seven times. And four months later, when everyone has been saying the same thing from day one that Israeli soldiers have killed Shireen, they still are not holding themselves responsible. There is still no accountability. They still claim that it was probably an Israeli soldier.

Which, in a way, it's kind of adopting the same U.S. statement that was released on the Fourth of July, saying that it's probably Israeli soldiers. So in a way they still continue to avoid responsibility and obscuring the truth. And them holding their soldiers accountable will lead into greater concerns for them such as an ICC investigation which is what we're calling for; for the ICC to also intervene and carry out an investigation.

But, of course, time and time again we have seen how there is a track record of Israel escaping responsibility and accountability and continuing to enjoy impunity. That's why we continue to call for an independent investigation.

KEILAR: Look there is a chasm here between your view obviously and Israel's. Israel is denying that soldiers targeted her, targeted press, targeted civilians. Clearly that is not something that you or your family believes. And so we'll continue to follow this story.

Lina Abu Akleh, thank you for your time.

ABU AKLEH: Thank you.

KEILAR: Students in Uvalde are returning to school this morning but not to Robb Elementary. We are live with this uneasy first day back.

BERMAN: And as the final sprint begins to the midterms, how many extremists are there in the U.S.? A reality check ahead.



KEILAR: More than two-thirds of Americans think democracy is in danger of collapse, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. So what's driven Americans to the political extremes? John Avalon with your "Reality Check".

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You don't want to over index a single bad headline but this one really got me. Parties agree on U.S. crisis but not cause. That is a front page article from "The New York Times". It went on to explain that 69 percent of both Democrats and Republicans agree that our democracy is in danger of collapse. That's according to a new Quinnipiac poll.

Now this is a rare point of bipartisan agreement it would seem. But when it comes to establishing the reason for the widespread concern, well that's when the wheels come off. As the article states, one side blames former President, Donald J. Trump and his MAGA Republicans while the other fingers President Biden and the Socialist Democrats.

Really? Is the best we can do to find the facts really the equivalent of an emoji shrug? Obviously not. Because for all our decent into partners and polarization over decades, our fundamental faith in American democracy as opposed to its effectiveness or fairness was never really in question until we had a President who refused to recognize the reality of election results, resulting in an attack on our Capitol.

And the reason this isn't in the rearview mirror is because Trump election lies have metastasized inside a core portion of the Republican Party. And Trump remains a favorite to win his party's next presidential nomination.

Even as Quinnipiac finds that just 33 percent of Americans, overall, would like to see Trump run. But somehow, despite all of this, the outrage du jour was directed at President Biden's speech on defending democracy in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Well there was some gnashing of teeth around the bizarre lighting and the presence of Marines in the background. But the main GOP objection was that Biden was demonizing quote, "Half of America".

Now here's what the President actually said.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Not every Republican, not even the majority Republicans are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology. Blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal in democracy. I'm asking our nation to come together, unite behind the single purpose of defending our democracy regardless of your ideology. (END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Now what we need most and have least of right now, is perspective on our politics. And that's why I was glad to see a typically thoughtful analysis from "The Washington Post" Philip Bump who set about trying to find exactly how many Americans fit the criteria for extremist MAGA Republicans.

Now here are the criteria. They reject the 2020 election results, embrace candidates who also reject the results, approve of the Capitol riot and finally, they're willing to consider violence as a political tool.

Now we've all seen polling about how 60 to 70 percent of Republicans believe Trump's election lies. But here's the big thing to remember, just 28 percent Americans identify as Republicans according to recent Gallup survey. So even if 66 percent of Republicans believe that Biden's not the legitimate President, as a July CNN poll found, that's just over 18 percent of all American adults.

And what about the 41 percent of Americans who say their Independent voters? Well, even if you add in the one-third of Independents who lean Republican, you're still talking about a decidedly minority opinion. But which ever way you look at it, support for these positions is small because even fewer folks say they'd support election deniers or approve of the -