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Blinken Tells Afghans U.S. Still Committed Despite Withdrawal Plan; Biden Slaps New Sanctions on Russia for Cyberattack, 2020 Election Meddling, "Abuses" in Crimea; Top Japanese Official Won't Rule Out Canceling Olympics; Pelosi Takes on "Squad", McConnell in New Book; Family of Daunte Wright Holds Press Conference; Capitol Police I.G. Testifies on Security Failures Ahead of Jan. 6th Riot. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 15, 2021 - 13:30   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: America's top diplomat now in Afghanistan reassuring leaders and its people that the U.S. is still with them, despite the now imminent withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken made a surprise trip to Kabul today following President Biden's announcement that all American troops will leave before September 11th.

Speaking alongside Afghan leaders, Blinken insisted Washington will have a lasting partnership with the country even after U.S. forces are gone.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States will remain Afghanistan's steadfast partner. We want the Afghan people, countries in the region, and the international community to know that fact. It's also a very important message for the Taliban to hear.


CABRERA: President Biden's timetable, not fast enough for the Taliban. They have now issued a statement demanding the U.S. leave Afghanistan immediately or face consequences.

Meantime, the Biden administration now hitting Russia with sweeping new sanctions. This is in response to several alleged offenses, including 2020 election interference, the Solar Winds cyber hack, Russia's actions in Crimea.

CNN national security correspondent, Kylie Atwood, joins us now. Both Presidents Obama and Trump also leveled sanctions against Russia.

Kylie, talk about how these measures may be different than the sanctions imposed in the past and the impact.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well I think that's a really good point, Ana. That's what everyone's wondering. What is this going to do here?

And I do want to point to one thing that was part of this broad spectrum of actions the U.S. took to impose costs on Russia today.

And one of those things that they did with the executive order, in coordination with treasury, is go after Russia's debt.

And so there's some provisions in there that are putting new restrictions on American companies. And this is going to be something that's essentially going to try and hit Russia economically.

And the senior administration official made it clear that if the United States wants to, if President Biden wants to, they can actually turn this up a little bit.

There's room for them to impose bigger sanctions, greater sanctions on Russia when it comes to their sovereign debt. So that's an important area to watch.

But they also ruled out a number of other actions here today.

They said that it was Russia's intelligence service that was, indeed, accountable. They are the people that carried out that Solar Winds hack.

And they went after companies, sanctioned companies that are working with Russia's intelligence service.

They also went after individuals and entities that were involved in the 2020 election interference efforts.

And lastly, they also sanctioned individuals and entities that have been involved with Russia's efforts in Crimea.

So there's a tremendous number of things that they are doing here.

And I think it's important to note that the Biden administration has said they're trying not to escalate things. They want a predictable relationship with Russia. And these are, in their mind, proportional responses.


So I want to read to you a statement from Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who sort of crystallized what the Biden administration was trying to do here today.

And he said, quote, "These actions are intended to hold Russia to account for its reckless actions. We will act firmly in response to Russian actions that cause harm to us or our allies and partners."

"Where possible, the United States will also seek opportunities for cooperation with Russia, with the goal of building more stable and predictable relationship consistent with U.S. interests."

Now, it's also important to note, Ana, that one of the things that a senior administration official doubled down on today is the fact that there are some actions that the Biden administration is taking here, in response to Russia's malicious malign activity that are unseen.

We're not seeing the whole spectrum of their response today. But this is a lot that they are rolling out.

And we're waiting to see how exactly Russia is going to respond because they have said that the U.S. will pay a price.

CABRERA: So we really focus on the sanctions there but we know Russia also will have to expel some diplomats. What does that entail?

ATWOOD: Yes, there are 10 Russian officials, according to the Biden administration, that they are expelling from the United States.

Essentially, the bottom line is that -- the Biden administration won't say this exactly -- but they've determined those folks are spice. They are working with the Russian intelligence service in so many terms. That's what U.S. officials tell me.

The thing to watch here is what does Russia do in response to that. Do they also try and kick out U.S. diplomats as we've seen in the past -- Ana?

CABRERA: They have warned that they would have some kind of response as well.

Thank you, Kylie Atwood, for your reporting. You were breaking those details early before that news came out. You're all over it and we appreciate it.

The Olympic games, meantime, are less than 100 days away but there were new comments by a top Japanese official suggesting there's still a chance the games will be cancelled.

As it stands, more than 11,000 athletes from over 200 countries are expected to converge on Tokyo in late July.

CNN's Selina Wang is there and is following the latest developments -- Selina?


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, a key figure in Japan's ruling party said that cancelling the Tokyo Olympics is an option.

This comes as Japan is struggling to contain a fourth wave of COVID cases, which experts say are driven by more contagious COVID variants. Toshihiro Nikai is an extremely figure in Japanese politics. And he

was asked in a local TV interview if a cancellation of the games was an option. He responded, of course.

Adding, quote, "What would be the point of the Olympics if it leads to a spread in infections?"

And that is exactly what the question people in Japan are asking themselves.

Hosting the games in Tokyo this summer remains deeply unpopular among the public.

This comes as less than half a percent of the Japanese population has been fully vaccinated.

International spectators are banned from these games. But they will still entail more than 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries.

Meantime, the government official later watered down his comments, saying he's hopeful these games will still be held successfully this summer.

But still, what he said struck a chord with the public here, where there's deep skepticism that these games can be successfully and safely held in less than 100 days -- Ana?


CABRERA: Selina Wang, thank you. Can only imagine the athletes waiting on the word.


Speaker Pelosi not holding back. Excerpts from a new book regaling what she really thinks about the so-called progressive squad and Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell.



CABRERA: The relationship between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is complicated, no doubt.

But in a brand-new book out next week titled, "Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power," "USA Today's" Susan Page gives us an inside look at the relationship between the House speaker and the four then-freshman progressive lawmakers known as "The Squad."

In one excerpt published in "Politico" magazine, Page details a conversation she had with Pelosi, where the speaker says, "Some people come here as, Dave Obey would have said, to pose for holy pictures."

She changed her voice and mimicked a child, trying to make a solemn show of piety. "See how perfect I am and how pure?" This, according to Page, was after the congresswoman blocked her on an

immigration bill in 2019.

Joining us now is CNN chief political correspondent and anchor, Dana Bash.

Dana, the tension, of course, I think has been obvious for a lot of people between Pelosi and some of the more progressive wing of the party.

But mocking them in a baby voice, for example, did you know it was this tense?


And, you know, so much of this is steeped in, as you said, the difference between somebody who feels that she -- in Nancy Pelosi -- is in line with a lot of the ideals, maybe even most of the ideals that somebody like AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, believes in.


You know, she is, after all, a San Francisco liberal, proudly. Pelosi is.

And yet, she is also a leader who is -- has to govern and has to be in charge of making sure that her entire Democratic caucus can as much as possible support any given legislation.

And more importantly, more practically, that she can get any given piece of legislation through the House because of those differences in ideology across the Democratic spectrum.

What's so interesting, Ana, we see this terrific reporting from Susan Page coming the same week that we are seeing -- and I've finished reading -- the former speaker on the Republican side, John Boehner's book come out.

Where he speaks colorfully about the people to the right in his -- who were in his right flank when he was there.

And ultimately, he had to leave because he couldn't control them because they were the chaos caucus. He called them the "Knuckle Head Caucus."

A different dynamic, obviously, very different philosophies, but it's the same idea as the idea that these speakers, these leaders in Congress, have a very, very hard time.

Because, in many cases, in certainly, Pelosi's case, she wants to do a lot of what these younger members are saying. It's just not practical in a lot of cases. And that's what she's trying to get across.

CABRERA: There's another revelation from this new book. And Pelosi also spoke about Mitch McConnell rejecting her idea for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to lie in state in the capitol rotunda.

And McConnell claimed there was no precedent, according to experts obtained by CNN.

And Pelosi reportedly says McConnell wasn't swayed by her argument that RBG had achieved iconic status in American culture, especially among women and girls.

Are you surprised McConnell refused to give RBG this honor?

BASH: You know, in some ways, yes. In more ways, no.

Because, yes, RBG was and still is an iconic, iconic figure. In pop culture and in American history. Full stop.

Never mind how she presented herself on the court, but also, as we know now from learning about her through CNN films and others, that -- how much she pushed for equal rights for women before she was on the court.

That's how made her name, made her bones in the legal profession.

And -- but she was certainly not political very much on the court, but she was an unabashed liberal.

And that is not something that stood well or sat well with Mitch McConnell. And, you know, that is clearly where he drew the line.

It is interesting, though, that despite the fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn't lie in state in the rotunda, she still got an honor.

And for most people watching the incredible funeral and memorial services for her, they might not know the difference, because she was in Statuary Hall, which is the next hall over in the center of the capitol. But it's the one that Pelosi controls.

CABRERA: Dana Bash, great to see you. And glad to see you got the memo to wear yellow today.

BASH: I know.

CABRERA: Brightening it up on this day.

BASH: Happy spring.


CABRERA: Exactly.

Thanks, Dana.

I want to take everybody live now to a press conference underway with the family of Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old who was killed in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Let's listen.

KATIE WRIGHT, MOTHER OF DAUNTE WRIGHT: Sitting down eating dinner with us, going out to lunch, playing with his 1-year-old, almost 2-year-old son, giving him a kiss before he walks out the door.

So justice isn't even a word to me. I do want accountability, 100 percent accountability, like my sister said, the highest accountability.

But even then, when that happens, if that even happens, we're still going to bury our son. We're still never going to be able to see our baby boy that we're never going to have again.

So when people say justice I just shake my head.

Do you want to say something?


Thank you, Katie.

Mr. Wright is going to defer to his sister, Naisha, to speak on his behalf.

And she has demonstrated, with raw emotion, the pain and the agony that this family deals with, that many families deal with. Stefonte (ph) experienced it with his brother and Trayvon's mother experienced it with the loss of Trayvon.


And these families -- it's a case, it's a cause, it's a hashtag. To them, this is their blood. And it hurts. It hurts really bad.

So, please give the charity of your undivided attention to a young woman who is speaking for her family and for her nephew, Miss Naisha Wright.

Take your time.

NAISHA WRIGHT, AUNT OF DAUNTE WRIGHT WHO WAS KILLED BY POLICE: I want everybody to sit here and imagine you having to bury your child that somebody just murdered.

We all know when our children are born, we're so proud. Fathers, they want their baby boys. Us moms, we get that love from our sons. They don't get that anymore.

Justice -- what is justice? Do we get to see Daunte smile? We don't get to see that. Do we get to hear Daunte joke again? We don't get to hear that.

The highest accountability. I know the highest is going to be being judged by God. But can we get a conviction?


N. WRIGHT: Can we get something? Manslaughter?

You all see the difference. This is a taser. This is a taser. But, no, my nephew was killed with this, a Glock.

These two are hurting. Our family is hurting. Our blood has been spilled.

And all we ask for is to please just keep getting his name out there and please help us to go ahead and get something done, a conviction, something.

And if this was -- I'm not even going to call her officer, because if this Potter, whatever, if it was her child, if someone killed her child, we wouldn't even be having all this press conference.

No, none of this. Because whoever that would be under the jail again. Can we get that same thing?

I don't care what's said, what my nephew may have done, whatever it is. Again, he was ours. He was a good boy. He was ours.

We want the same conviction that anybody else of our race, or even outside of our race, what they want to call a minority, would get. Not a pat on the back.

Unfortunately, my nephew didn't get to -- get to drive to Burger King to get something. He didn't even kill nobody.

It's so much I want to say, but because we're in the house of the Lord -- and I pray all day and I pray every day.

I -- my brother and my sister need this woman to be convicted. If we can have life, we want life. We got to go life without him. We got to go life without him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Naisha.

You can see how emotional this is.

But Naisha --

CABRERA: Again, this was the family, you just heard from, of Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old who was shot and killed by a police officer, now former officer, Kim Potter, who's expected in court for her first hearing facing second-degree manslaughter charges within the next hour.


Quick break. We'll be right back.


CABRERA: Happening right now, Capitol Police inspector general, Michael Bolton, is testifying on the deadly January 6th insurrection at the U.S. capitol.

In a scathing statement, he described security failures ahead of that attack. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BOLTON, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE INSPECTOR GENERAL: -- provide to us that it was a decided that these heavier munitions, specifically the sting balls, .40 millimeter, were not to be utilized based on the information that we received that they could potentially cause life- altering injury and/or death.

And if they were misused in any way, that that could result in those things.


Our feeling is that, well, anything that you give a police officer can be misused. If it's misused, can cause life-altering injuries and/or death.