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New Day Saturday
Taliban Control Half of Afghan Provincial Capitals; Eight States now Make up Half of U.S. COVID-19 Hospitalizations; CDC Endorses Third COVID-19 Dose for Some People with Compromised Immune Systems; DHS: Online Calls for Violence Similar to Before Jan. 6 Riot; CNN Gets Access to a Former U.S. Military Base in Afghanistan Seized by the Taliban; Aired 6-7a ET
Aired August 14, 2021 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CLARISSA WARD, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Clarissa Ward in Kabul, Afghanistan and this is CNN.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. I'm Christi Paul.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Christi. I'm Boris Sanchez. As the Delta variant pushes hospitals to the brink, officials approving a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine for people with immune system issues. We'll tell you what you need to know.
PAUL: And also under siege, the Taliban continuing its aggressive push through Afghanistan, capturing 17 cities now in just days. What it's like for people there in that country as the Taliban closes in.
SANCHEZ: Plus, troubling chatter. The Department of Homeland Security warning of potential violence ahead. Why experts say that new threats are very similar to what they heard before the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
PAUL: And some double trouble here. States of emergency are up in nearly two dozen Florida counties ahead of tropical depression Fred and we're tracking another system that's right behind it.
Welcome to your Saturday, August 14th. We're so grateful to have you waking up with us. Good morning.
SANCHEZ: Good morning. We appreciate having you bright and early. Christi, always great to see you. We have plenty of news to get to this morning. The Biden White House facing two crises as the nation battles a fourth surge of COVID-19 and Afghanistan now on the brink of collapse as more cities fall to the Taliban, leaving Americans there in harm's way.
PAUL: Yes. The Pentagon's deploying more than 3,000 troops into that country after the U.S. issued a major warning to American citizens to get out. Now, officials say there's no imminent threat of the Taliban seizing Kabul right now, but embassy staff have been instructed to destroy sensitive material. The Pentagon's also pushing back on some criticism that the U.S. was caught off guard by the Taliban's rapid gains.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: What we couldn't predict was the lack of resistance that they were going to get from Afghan forces on the ground and as you heard the president speak just a couple of days ago, what's really needed is for political and military leadership in Afghanistan. No outcome here has to be inevitable. They are using the air force, Jim. In fact, they're flying more airstrikes than we are on a daily basis, but you can't -- you know, money can't buy will. Will has to be there. The ability to exert leadership and exude leadership on the field, that has to be there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: We have some eye opening and exclusive reports from Afghanistan just a few moments away, but we should tell you that here in the United States, we're facing a new wave of hard-hitting COVID infections that's flooding hospitals across the country. Eight states now make up half of COVID hospitalizations in the country, states like Alabama, Mississippi. They have fewer than 100 ICU beds available state wide. One Mississippi hospital even putting hospital beds in parking spaces and an overwhelming majority of those who are sick are unvaccinated.
PAUL: CNN's Polo Sandoval is with us here. We don't want it to all just be horrible because there is actually a bit of good news here, Polo, walk us into that, won't you?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christi and Boris. Good morning to you. Especially for those who are perhaps the most vulnerable now that they are eligible for yet another layer of protection here, but when you look at that map alone here, Christi and Boris, it's certainly telling that of course much of the issues right now being faced in the southeast. The White House going beyond that yesterday, saying that Texas and Florida, they account for nearly 40 percent of new COVID hospitalizations right now.
As Dr. Peter Hotez in Texas said on our air last night, in the south, it's looking very ominous.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SANDOVAL (Voice over): For the first time, some Americans with compromised immune systems will be able to get a third dose of COVID- 19 vaccine. The vote by the CDC's advisory panel on Friday was unanimous. The FDA's revised emergency use authorization only meant for people with moderate to severe immunosuppression.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They put a list out, the CDC did, on their website of the types of conditions that would sort of fall into this category and we can show you some of that there. I mean, people who, for example, have received organ transplants and they're taking medications to prevent rejection of their transplanted organs, people who've recently been through chemotherapy, people who may have autoimmune disease and take medications to tamp down their immune system for that reason. It's an exhaustive list.
SANDOVAL (Voice over): It's on the honor system, so no prescription or doctor's note will be needed, though some experts saying eventually we could see others getting a third dose of the vaccine.
DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT AT TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: I think it's going to broaden over time, similar to Israel. We've seen now information from the Mayo Clinic this month that we are seeing a decline in the ability of more of the Pfizer vaccine than Moderna to protect against infection.
SANDOVAL (Voice over): Meanwhile, ICUs are filling up, mostly with the unvaccinated. Florida reported more COVID-19 cases over the past week than any other seven-day period of the pandemic.
That's according to the latest data from Florida's Health Department. In Broward County, Florida, three teachers in the same school district died in a span of 24 hours and two more are hospitalized. Broward County also ground zero for the fight against the state governor's attempt to ban mask mandates in schools. The school board has defied Governor DeSantis as he continues to threaten to cut funding and salaries, the district keeping the mask mandate in place.
ANNA FUSCO, PRESIDENT, BROWARD TEACHERS UNION: Hearing three of our educators in one day and two of our other community members had passed away, it was -- it was really a really strong blow. So I'm extremely happy that our school board and our superintendent are going to enforce the mask mandate. I am thrilled to hear that our President of the United States is backing all of Florida school boards and superintendents that are going to take that position.
SANDOVAL (Voice over): At least three schools in Mississippi have temporarily closed following an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. And in Gwinnett County, Georgia, 679 positive cases between students and staff since the start of school on August 4th. Even states that have traditionally done well against the virus are getting hammered by the Delta variant, with Oregon and Hawaii both setting records for new cases on Friday.
GOV. DAVID IGE, (D) HAWAII: Friday the 13th has never been so frightening. It is real, it is terrifying and tragically, it's preventable.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SANDOVAL: CVS Health saying that it is prepared to be administering third doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccine as early as today for those who are eligible now in terms of efforts to try to prevent that triple dosing for those people who are not eligible, Boris and Christi. We do know that many of the places that are administering these vaccines, they do have protocols to try to keep triple dosing from happening, but ultimately, as we just said in that piece, it's going to come down to honesty for those folks who truly need that third shot.
PAUL: No doubt. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.
SANDOVAL: Thank you.
SANCHEZ: Let's talk all things COVID with Dr. Saju Mathew. He's a primary care physician and public health specialist. Dr. Mathew, always appreciate you getting up early for us. Let's start with these booster shots. The FDA authorizing an additional COVID vaccine dose on an emergency basis. It's for certain immunocompromised people. Dr. Fauci suggesting that eventually everyone is likely going to need a booster shot. So help us understand the process here. When do you think we could realistically see the need for everyone to get a third shot?
DR. SAJU MATHEW, PUBLIC HEALTH SPECIALIST: Yes. Good morning, Boris. I think it's important to make that distinction between a booster shot and a third shot and there is actually a big difference. So this is really the point. The reason the immunocompromised population is going first is their immune systems are basically compromised just like the word suggests. They were not even able to mount an adequate antibody response.
So for them, it's a third dose and there are about 13 million of immunocompromised people in this country and it's a long time coming because if they're not able to have enough antibodies, they're about 485 times more susceptible to dying and being hospitalized than the general population. So that is basically, if you will, the third dose, a series of shots.
When it comes to booster shots, that would be for the rest of the population who actually mounted a good response, Boris, but now will need a little bit of a higher antibody response with a third dose. So I think we shouldn't panic when it comes to the rest of the population. Let's wait for the CDC to give us that indication that we need a booster shot, but right now, it's only the immunocompromised that will need that third shot.
SANCHEZ: That's a really important distinction between a booster and a -- and a third dose. I want to ask you about counseling some of the people who may have immune issues, but don't fall under this authorization. Right now, it's people that, for example, have organ transplants, people with certain cancers. How would you talk to someone, a patient, who is immunocompromised who isn't included in this group? What would you tell them about the threat of the virus?
MATHEW: Right. So I mean, obviously the threat of the virus is great for all of us because we know this Delta variant is way more contagious. It has 1,000 more viral fold or dose in the back of your nose compared to the original strain. So we're all susceptible to this infection, but what I would do is when I talk to these patients, I would look at their history. Are they on chronic steroids? What is their age group? Are these patients receiving chemotherapy for cancer? There's going to be a defined population that will fall under that immunocompromised and let's remember, it's not just the older people. It could be a 20-year-old who has leukemia that's going through chemotherapy.
But I think the next big question most people have is what about older people, 60 to 85? If they're diabetic and they have high blood pressure, do they qualify as being immunocompromised? And the answer to that is no. They are not immunocompromised like a 80-year-old on cancer therapy. So the distinction is definitely different.
SANCHEZ: And, Doctor, we're watching hospitals across the country get overwhelmed. In some states, there is a severe shortage of ICU beds. At the University of Mississippi, for example, they set up a field hospital in a parking garage to try to alleviate some of the strain. For you, it has to be frustrating to see. It's like a scene out of the spring of 2020. We're now more than a year and change into this pandemic and yet it seems like, in a lot of ways, we're losing progress.
MATHEW: Right. I mean, this virus is gaining so much speed ahead of the rest of the population, Boris, and I didn't think I would be having this conversation with you now. I mean, this is supposed to be summertime when the virus doesn't really misbehave. Can you imagine what happens when we get into the colder weather?
But I think what's most frustrating for me as a doctor that sees COVID patients is the fact that this is preventable, Boris. If you get this vaccine, it is working beautifully to prevent people from dying, being hospitalized and that is really what you want from a vaccine and these breakthrough infections or post-vaccine infections, we really shouldn't worry about that because those are mild symptoms.
This vaccine works best at the lung tissue and not the upper airways and that is also why we're seeing a lot of these breakthrough infections, but if you get vaccinated, we can prevent all these field hospitals from being erected left and right and in so many places in the U.S..
SANCHEZ: Yes. The surge is mostly among the unvaccinated. The vast majority of the surge is among the unvaccinated. That's why it's so important to get out there and I think people are getting that message which is why we're seeing an uptick in vaccinations. Dr. Saju Mathew, always appreciate having you. Thank you.
MATHEW: You bet.
SANCHEZ: Of course. The other major issue consuming the White House's attention this morning, Afghanistan. President Biden is under pressure as the Taliban blitzes through town after town. In just a few moments, we're going to talk with a reporter based in Kabul as the Taliban approaches.
PAUL: Also, there are new concerns regarding a domestic terror threat. Online extremist rhetoric, it's ramping up and the threats are similar to what we saw before the attack on the Capitol weeks before, as you might note, the 20th-year anniversary of September 11th.
PAUL: So glad to have you back with us here. Homeland Security officials say they're hearing extremist rhetoric online that is, quote, "Strikingly similar to the build-up before the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol," and they're also warning of potential violence linked to conspiracy theories and false narratives. Now, you may notice something significant here. This is happening just before the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks. It is approaching and CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider has more for us.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The Department of Homeland Security issuing a new threat bulletin and it's detailing a diverse set of potential threats. It ranges from domestic terrorism, which could include people participating in grievance-based violence, or even actors here in the U.S. motivated by foreign terrorists and the warning is coming out now because the 20th anniversary of 9/11 is just weeks away and DHS says that anniversary poses the potential for violence.
Plus, the ongoing pandemic is inflaming anger from people who are against government restrictions and against public health safety measures. So DHS is saying this in the bulletin, "The reopening of institutions, including schools, as well as several dates of religious significance over the next few months could also provide increased targets of opportunity for violence, though there are currently no credible or imminent threats identified to these locations."
Now, this comes at the same time as our team learned in an exclusive interview with the Homeland Security Intelligence Chief John Cohen that they're actually seeing online extremist rhetoric that is strikingly similar to what they saw in the build-up to the January 6th attack on the Capitol. They're seeing increasing calls for violence, that violence linked to conspiracy theories and false narratives.
And Congressman Bennie Thompson, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, he released a statement saying he finds it especially troubling that the terrorism threat now is increasingly based on grievance based violence and conspiracy theories related to the election and former President Trump and all based on the Big Lie which continues to permeate over social media. Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
SANCHEZ: Jessica, thank you for that report. We want to pivot now to the worsening situation in Afghanistan where the government is teetering on the brink of collapse. Moments ago, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani told his people that he's focused on avoiding, quote, "further instability, aggression and displacement." Despite those assurances, one intelligence assessment indicates that the capital city of Kabul could be isolated by the Taliban within the week, possibly within the next 72 hours. The Taliban have already taken control of Kandahar, the country's second largest city, and if you look at this map, they now control half of Afghanistan's provincial capitals. Video claims to show victory celebrations following the capture of Kandahar. CNN is now working to verify the source of these videos.
The Biden administration is deploying 3,000 U.S. troops to evacuate U.S. embassy personnel and as for the Taliban's rapid advance across the country, the administration says it is time for Afghan troops to rise to the challenge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRBY: Certainly deeply concerning, the speed with which the Taliban has been able to move. What has been disconcerting to see is that there hasn't been that will, that political leadership, the military leadership and the ability to push back on the Taliban as they've advanced.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: I want to bring in Fahim Abed. He's a reporter for "The New York Times" based in Kabul. Fahim, we appreciate you joining us this morning, especially under the circumstances, and I want to share with our viewers something that you tweeted this week. You wrote, quote, "Being an Afghan journalist in Afghanistan is like writing a story about different fires in your house and report the burning of each part, despite your family members being stuck there and you can't help them. Just in case if you don't know how it feels."
Fahim, how are you and your family members doing? Have you heard from them recently?
FAHIM ABED, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, my parents are living in Mazar and the city is under siege. So I talk to them every hour and they're super worried about the situation and the possible collapse of the city. Two farmer workers (ph) are in the city and they're fighting against the Taliban security forces are also there and they're committed that they will defend the city.
And elsewhere in the country, as you also say, the south is under Taliban control, east is also under Taliban control and most of the north is in the control of the Taliban. So our neighboring city to Kabul(ph) will also collapse to the Taliban and now Taliban are prepared to cruise (ph) to Kabul.
SANCHEZ: And you've heard the president of Afghanistan speak just about an hour ago. What did you make of his remarks? Did it offer any calm for you or your family in regards to the urgency you're feeling?
ABED: I don't think so. I don't think so. He was saying that he's got something with Afghan politician and with international community, but I think now it's late and the leadership of Afghanistan should do whatever they can do and they -- and they should do it very soon because it is very late now.
SANCHEZ: And, Fahim, you've heard the White House say that the Taliban has a choice to make in how it might govern, saying that it has to consider its role in the international community. That's from Jen Psaki, the press secretary, a few days ago. Given your reporting, what does the Taliban want out of a role in the international community? Does it care about the international community?
ABED: I don't think so. From pressure in the past couple of months that the international community was putting on the Taliban and urging them to decrease violence, they never paid attention to it and the system that the Taliban has for governing a country, it's not very important for them to be legitimized internationally. They don't consider relations with other country a very important thing.
So I'm not very hopeful about international pressures on the Taliban and that they may give up because they could be afraid of legitimization.
SANCHEZ: And, Fahim, with the Taliban, some estimates -- soon to be surrounding the capital of Kabul, some estimates put it at Kabul falling within 90 days. Are you concerned for your own safety?
ABED: Yes. Exactly. I am concerned because in the -- in the areas under the Taliban control, I have been in contact with many journalists and they were going house to house after journalists and asking for them, even sometimes accusing them of changing their religion from Islam to something else. So if Kabul collapse, the same thing will happen here and people will be persecuted or questioned for what they have done.
SANCHEZ: What would you do? Do you have any plans to perhaps leave Afghanistan?
ABED: Well, I am trying to, but there are very limited passes, so I don't know if I -- if I would be able to leave or not, but I know it will -- I won't be able to leave under the Taliban group because they are not leaving the freedom of speech, so I won't be able to work and live there.
SANCHEZ: Fahim, we very much appreciate your work and what you're doing to bring the news from Afghanistan to the world and we wish you the best and if there's something that we can do to try to help, please keep us updated. Fahim Abed from Kabul, thank you so much.
ABED: Thank you, Boris.
SANCHEZ: Of course. As the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, the Taliban has taken over several former U.S. military bases. Next, we're going to have an exclusive report from inside Afghanistan by CNN's Clarissa Ward. She was granted rare access to one of those bases by the Taliban and she hears from them directly. That's coming up in the next hour everyone and we want to share a preview with you.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
WARD: So we're just arriving at another U.S. base and already I can see a large number of military vehicles over there.
WARD (Voice over): According to the Taliban, Afghan forces here surrendered three weeks ago when their food ran out, leaving weapons and ammunition and more.
WARD: When the Americans were here, were you and your men attacking this base a lot?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Many times we attacked this base when America was here. We did operations. We were using IEDs. The Americans had their helicopters, weapons and tanks on the ground, but we mujahideen resisted very well.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SANCHEZ: An exclusive report you will not want to miss coming up next hour.
PAUL: And also ahead, the long-awaited sex trafficking trial for R&B singer R. Kelly is set to begin next week. We're going to discuss that with Joey Jackson next.
PAUL: Well, in today's "LEGAL BRIEF", the long-awaited sex trafficking trial for R'n'B singer R. Kelly begins next week in New York. There's a jury of seven men, five women who have been selected to weigh the charges against him. They'll remain partially sequestered during this trial which may last between 6 and 8 weeks. Kelly has denied the charges, they include racketeering charges based on alleged acts of sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping and forced labor.
So, let's bring CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson into this. Joey, we've talked about this case before. This surely is not the first time. But I think what's unique here is the fact that this is coming after this 2019 life-time documentary called --
JOEY JACKSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes --
PAUL: "Surviving R. Kelly". And with that said, what is so unique about this is, I'm wondering, have you ever seen a trial after something that was as expansive and documented as a documentary like this was made public.
JACKSON: Yes, so true, Christi, good morning to you. I think certainly that documentary exposed a lot of information and it really got the eyes and ears and interest, of course, of prosecutors not only in New York, but around the country. We know that in addition to the New York case based upon the R. Kelly, we know in Chicago, the then state sitting county attorney said, hey, you know what? Is there anything more to see here in the event that you believe yourself to be abused by R. Kelly, please come forward.
And so to your question, based upon that documentary and all the explosive details of it, you had a state investigation launched in Chicago. You have of course now, a state indictment in Chicago, a federal investigation in Chicago predicated upon that. Now a federal indictment of course than New York if you have, and then Minnesota even got involved. And so, to your point, certainly because of the allegations that were brought up by journalists, he's now been held to account, and of course, we should know very briefly, Christi, then, 2002 of course, he was put on trial in Chicago.
Of course, it lasted not the trial itself, by the time it went to trial, it was six years later, he was acquitted in 2008, but certainly that documentary had a lot to do with the fact that we're talking about this now and that he'll be standing trial in New York in the eastern district in Brooklyn starting next Wednesday.
PAUL: And with that, let's listen together here to part of that documentary, a couple of interviews, one with his ex-wife and then another with a couple of alleged victims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA KELLY, EX-WIFE OF R. KELLY: I would give my life for my justice and any other woman you validated. I would not go away. I would not be quiet. I would not hide. You know what you did, you know the turmoil you brought into my kids' life, and not just my kids, my family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like I feel like he needs to be held accountable for his actions. The more times he gets away with it, the worse it's getting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never really recovered from it. I'm really angry with you for what you're doing. I don't understand it why you would want to hurt so many women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Joey, when we watched that documentary, are we essentially seeing some of the witnesses that we're going to see in this case?
JACKSON: Well, we really are, and here's how. First of all, Christi, think about when we just listened to the short piece that you played there, how compelling those statements were that they made. Think about number two, how it made you feel. Think about number three, what prosecutors have asked to do, which is not only speak to the issues which he's facing, right?
Having his managers and other assessments -- assistants, excuse me, recruit women for him, obstructing justice, lying about things, et cetera, kidnapping, all the sexual exploitation, not only to those issues, but they're allowing -- the judge is allowing prosecutors to bring in other witnesses, other women who he's not even charged with so that they can tell the story to the jury. Why? Because it's part of a pattern of what we call uncharged crimes, prior bad acts which are admissible. And so, yes, we're going to hear very compelling testimony from other women who allege that he engaged in this misconduct when they were very young.
And so, I think that that's really damning evidence, and we've seen it before in connection with Cosby, we've seen it before in connection with Weinstein. We're in different times. And I think that they're very concerned, the women that he's allegedly abused, and they want to tell their story.
PAUL: And if we want a preview of what we think we'll see from R. Kelly, let's take a look at this 2019 interview with Gayle King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GAYLE KING, ANCHOR, CBS THIS MORNING: Here we are in 2019, they are still talking about you with underage girls. Have you ever had sex --
ROBERT KELLY, SINGER & SONGWRITER: No --
KING: With anyone under the age of 17?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: The first thing that stands out is his demeanor. I think, you know, he's very emphatic, he's very angry. Here's the problem. At last week's pre-trial hearing, Kelly's defense team conceded Kelly did have underage sexual contact with Jane Doe, number one, it is assumed to be the late singer a liar, she was 15, he was 27 when they were married. How does the defense team make that admission and then defend him?
JACKSON: So, they do it with great difficulty. So, in that case involving Aaliyah of course, the indication is that he got married to her when she was young, I think 15, he was 27, and the reason for the marriage, allegedly, was so that she could not be compelled to testify against him because of spousal privilege. That issue was going to be admitted to this court. So, the answer to how you get from around that, right? It's not a charge in the specific case, but it certainly goes to whether he engaged in the other conduct, and it's with great difficulty because when you're facing an indictment as he is, which is multiple counts of alleged similar behavior, you know, did you not do A? OK, maybe you didn't do A.
Did you not do B? OK, maybe not B, maybe service. What I'm suggesting is, when you have a mountain of evidence and the same people are saying the same things, it becomes very compelling testimony and at what point do those seven men and five women on the jury start to say, there's really something here and that something may equate with your guilt. And so, it's a very difficult thing to overcome from a defense perspective. PAUL: All right, Joey Jackson, your insight is so important to us.
Thank you for taking time for us this morning.
JACKSON: Always, thanks, Christi.
PAUL: Thank you.
SANCHEZ: Still ahead, President Biden was hoping for a banner year, but August has been testing that. He's under pressure to address moves in Afghanistan with the Taliban making huge gains and his handling of the pandemic, too, as COVID cases are climbing. We're back after a quick break.
PAUL: Well, the Biden administration is facing multiple crisis this morning. Afghanistan is on the verge of collapse. COVID is surging and overwhelming hospitals across the nation. There are persistent inflation concerns. Record numbers of migrants have been detained at the U.S.-Mexico border and there's still that uncertain path of the sweeping infrastructure agenda. All of this means President Biden is staring down a pivotal moment in his presidency. CNN political commentator and host of "You Decide" podcast Errol Louis with us this morning. Errol, good morning to you, sir, glad to have you here.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning Christi, good to see you.
PAUL: Thank you. So, let's talk about, first of all, Afghanistan because this was a long-promised move to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. The president says he does not regret his initial decision to withdraw the remainder of these troops. But based on what we know, what we've seen in the last couple of weeks in this, the swift power move of the Taliban and the territory that they've gained. What are the political ramifications for President Biden on that? And is there a plan moving forward? Should the U.S. have a plan, obviously, besides getting people out?
LOUIS: There were no good choices here. This was a campaign promise that followed on the previous administration's promise which followed on the previous administration's promise which was the Obama-Biden administration to end the forever wars, bring the troops home and get out of Afghanistan. So, this was long overdue. And one reason the promise had never been kept before is exactly the reason you are hinting at, which is, it's going to be awful, it's going to be terrible, the story.
There's going to be a catastrophe. There are an estimated 20,000 claimants who are in real danger of being attacked or killed or imprisoned when the Taliban complete their takeover of the country. You multiply that by 4 for family members, and you're talking about 80,000 odd people needing to get out of there in the next couple of weeks, and that's just not going to happen. Many of them can't even get to the capital where they could in fact, be evacuated. There are paperwork concerns as well. So, you know, look, we have had thousands of Americans who lost their lives there, 20,000 who have been wounded, in some cases grievously wounded.
It was time to end the forever war and Joe Biden is going to have to, I guess live with the consequences of it. But it's something he went into, I think with eyes wide open, Christi.
PAUL: So, let me ask you about Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. He says that there's an unprecedented number of migrants who are being detained at the border, and when I say unprecedented, we're talking about more than 212,000, and that was just in July. That's the highest in more than two decades, Errol. What is Biden -- the president's immigration plan?
LOUIS: Well, the plan is going to be the only thing that he -- the thing that he's campaigned on, and the thing that he has said repeatedly, which is to try and create some kind of a regional solution so that this is not simply a problem of the U.S. Unfortunately, he's working against a lot of different factors including the seasonal surge in migrants. This is the time of year when this kind of thing does happen as well as the strengthening economy in the United States where there are some labor shortages near the border and people are paying $1,000 bonuses in some cases just to get workers.
Now, if you're coming from Guatemala where you typically might make $2,700 per year, that's simply irresistible. So, you've got a policy that's on a collision course with the success of the recovering economy and there's simply no end in sight. What the administration has resorted to, unfortunately is deporting migrants back further into Mexico, flying them into dusty little towns that can't handle the surge. And so rather than getting a regional solution, we're getting sort of a regional problem that is spreading elsewhere. There's going to be kind of no good end to that by the time those numbers really surge.
PAUL: So, let's talk lastly about the infrastructure agenda. It's in limbo. Nine house moderates are demanding the chamber passes infrastructure bill before they vote for the budget package. What is standing out to you at this stage of play?
LOUIS: Well, you know, the infrastructure bill is -- the president has gone back and forth on this, about whether or not the bigger bill needs to happen first, whether it's the traditional infrastructure bill has to happen first. It seems like the political state of play is that the traditional infrastructure is going to have to happen first. It's the easier, it's the lighter lift. It's the thing that is going to have to get done if he wants any kind of bipartisan win of significant size before the end of this year.
So it's on track to move faster. It's most likely going to move faster. That larger bill that's going to sort of create a lot of excitement with the Democratic base and get a lot of press attention, in some ways it could be a distraction from what needs to get done in order to put this big win, this major infrastructure bill behind us. The Biden administration as far as I can tell understands that fully. This is an ex-senator who knows full well what his colleagues in the Senate are capable of doing, and I think he's content to sit back and let the process play out, Christi.
PAUL: All right, Errol Louis, so good to have you here and to have your insight as always, thank you, sir.
LOUIS: Thank you.
SANCHEZ: So, this morning, we're keeping our eyes on Tropical Depression Fred. It could strengthen and slam Florida and parts of the south as a tropical storm. We'll have the latest forecast next.
SANCHEZ: All eyes are on not one, but two storms right now barreling right now in the Atlantic, and one of them, at least for now has Florida in its sights. Our Allison Chinchar is live in the CNN Weather Center right now with the latest. Allison, how is this storm going to impact Florida and which is this other storm that you're watching?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning, Boris. Actually, both of them may end up impacting Florida just several days apart, because as you can see, Fred is obviously much closer to the U.S. right now, Grace, albeit, the better-looking one on Satellite is still very far away. So, we begin with Tropical Depression Fred, sustained winds of about 35 miles per hour, moving west north, it's just about 13 miles per hour. It really got torn apart as it moved over Cuba. But once it gets back out over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, we do anticipate, it will re-strengthen back into a tropical storm before making landfall likely somewhere between say Biloxi and Panama City as we go Monday into Tuesday of the upcoming week.
In the short term, however, we're still going to have impacts from this storm, water spouts, isolated tornadoes and very strong gusty winds expected really for the southern half of Florida. Here, you can see a lot of those outer bands expected to move through during the day today as the storm continues to slide off to the north. Really, the bulk of the convection is on the eastern side of the storm which doesn't bode very well for Florida. Rainfall will then become a concern as it moves inland.
So places like Atlanta, Montgomery, Charlotte, as it interacts with the front may end up getting more rainfall than areas of Florida from that storm. And then you also have Tropical Storm Grace. For now, this storm is also expected to take a very similar track to Fred, but certainly, something we'll keep a close eye on in the coming days.
SANCHEZ: We appreciate you watching it for us. Allison Chinchar from the CNN Weather Center, thank you so much. Stay with CNN, we'll be right back.
[06:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SANCHEZ: A quick programming note to share with you. Be sure to join CNN for We Love New York City, the homecoming concert. This once in a lifetime concert event is next Saturday, starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern exclusively on CNN. You will not want to miss it. The next hour of NEW DAY starts right now. Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY, I'm Boris Sanchez.
PAUL: And I'm Christi Paul, hey Boris. Let's talk about what is happening under siege. The Taliban captures 18 cities now, this isn't just days, and it's still aggressively pushing through Afghanistan this morning. In a CNN exclusive, we're taking a look inside a former U.S. base that is now controlled by the Taliban.