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One Dead, 99 Unaccounted for in Florida Condo Collapse; 751 Unmarked Graves Found at Former Indian School; Merkel: Europe on "Thin Ice" As Delta Variant Spreads; Chinese-Made COVID Vaccines Face Efficacy Issues; Efficacy Issues on China-made COVID Vaccines; Biden Hosting Afghan President in Washington; President Biden Meeting with Afghan President in Washington Friday; Afghan Allies will Not be Left Behind; U.S. and Afghanistan Made Gains Over the Past 20 Years. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 25, 2021 - 01:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Paula Newton.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM:

Florida first responders in a race against time at this hour, as they search for survivors in a building collapse. While the fire chief says that there could be hope among the rubble.

We're just hours away from Joe Biden's critical meeting with Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani. What to expect in the hours ahead.

And, a rare tornado in the Czech Republic, blazing heat near the Arctic Circle, and historic temperatures right here in the United States. Our meteorologist is standing by to try and make sense of it all.


NEWTON: And we begin here in the United States, where fire and rescue teams in south Florida are working around the clock, at this hour, to find anyone who might be buried in the rubble of the Champlain Towers. One person is confirmed dead, and at least 99 others, unaccounted for after the 12-story building, collapsed, in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Now, no one knows why. Local professor says he did a study that showed that the building was sinking, in other words, subsiding, about 2 millimeters a year, during the 1990s.

Now, an attorney for the residents association says thorough engineering inspections during the past several months showed no signs that anything like this would ever happen.

U.S. President Joe Biden has just approved emergency declaration, freeing up federal resources to deal with the tragedy. In the meantime, rescuers are using sonar equipment cameras, and sniffer dogs to try and find any survivors.


DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA MAYOR: Our firefighters, men and women, are working around the clock. A huge task force of people that are continuing there, right now, working -- they're going to work all through the night.


NEWTON: Again, this is what they are facing. It shows rescue crews, inside of the buildings parking garage. They are using concrete saws, trying to cut through the structure, trying to create tunnels to reach any survivors.


JASON RICHARD, DISTRICT CHIEF, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE: So, in this type of collapse, even though it is a pancake collapse, as the slabs of concrete slide, and move towards the ground, they do create voids, you know, as the rubble crushes, and slabs of concrete land on top of it. There are, definitely, are avoids. So, we are hopeful that we will find patients in those spaces.


NEWTON: CNN's Randi Kaye, in Surfside, Florida, with more.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a matter of moments, a huge chunk of the Champlain Tower South, in Surfside, Florida, collapses into a cloud of dust. This video appears to show what happened at about 1:30 in the morning, as resident slept.

CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA MAYOR: You don't see buildings fall down in America. Here, we have a building, literally, fall down. It just doesn't happen.

KAYE: The 12 story condo tower, just north of Miami Beach, was built in 1981. Of the more than 130 units inside, nearly half of them are now destroyed. More than 100 people have been accounted for. But, officials say, nearly 100 are still missing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought my nephew was here with wife and with 3 children. I'm losing hope, and I'm just asking God.

KAYE: Whatever brought the building down was so strong, neighbors heard it, and felt, it next door.

FIORELLA TERENZI, HEARD THE BUILDING COLLAPSE: I was asleep, and suddenly, a loud bang, almost like a tremble went on. It woke me up, but this rumbling was very different, and very strange. Something was not right in this sound. It was too strong, too violent. It almost felt like a shock wave coming from the next building. KAYE: Since long before dawn, search teams were using concrete sauce,

and other lifesaving equipment. Search and rescue dogs, also helping go the way.


Rescuers are hoping someone, anyone, is still alive, trapped beneath the rubble.

Earlier today, they thought they found someone.

JIMMY PATRONIS, FLORIDA STATE FIRE MARSHALL: They heard sounds, early this morning, from what they felt was somebody in the parking garage. So, however the communications were made, some clanging, people in those situations, find items to make noise with, because they want to be saved.

KAYE: Thirty-five people were rescued from the structure that was still standing. Two more people pulled from the rubble. At least four taken to the hospital, where one died.

BURKETT: The problem is the building has literally pancaked. There is just feet between stories where there were 10 feet. That is heartbreaking because it doesn't mean, to me, that we are going to be successful, or as successful, as we would want to be to find people alive.

KAYE: Nicholas Balboa, out walking his dog when he heard a boy, in the wreckage, screaming for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was screaming don't leave, me don't leave me.

KAYE: Rescue teams pull the boy to safety, but dozens of families are still wondering about their loved ones.

JOSE "PEPE" DIAZ, CHAIRMAN, MIAMI-DADE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS: This is very sad, when you are dealing with people that do not know the outcome of their family. They are very worried. They are desperate in a sense that they want to know what is actually taking place. We continue to try to rescue, we continue to try to find more people.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Surfside, Florida.


NEWTON: Now, authorities are pointing out that not everyone who is unaccounted for is missing. In fact, some people may not have even been in the building when it collapsed. You can still see every day items. You can see, how said, fans, bunk beds. You see right inside of people's homes. It's heartbreaking.

Pablo Rodriguez's mother and grandmother lived in the building, and they are unaccounted for. He spoke with CNN's Erin Burnett about what he's been through.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PABLO RODRIGUEZ, MOTHER AND GRANDMOHTER MISSING: Finally getting back to normal after the pandemic, we had gone to D.C. to visit my brother, because he lives up there. Then we went over to Philadelphia for a couple of days. It was a great trip with my mom, we got back last Saturday, and then today, they were going to go pick him up, to take him out to lunch. They came over, every single weekend to spend the day with him. So, it's my son's -- you know, it's going to be difficult.

BURNETT: I mean, are you even able to grapple with what has happened here? I mean, this is just something that no person would ever, even, comprehend, or imagine happening.

RODRIGUEZ: It is hard to explain. It is waves of devastation with troughs of disbelief. It's just one second, you are overwhelmed. It's a really difficult to not break down right now.

And then, another, you get a semblance of normalcy because you just say, well, it's impossible. This doesn't happen. Buildings don't just collapse. It's not real. So, it has been like that, all day.


NEWTON: Yeah, important to point out, for family still waiting, and hoping, it is now almost 24 hours since that building collapse and the grief is just unimaginable for families, what they're actually going through right now.

And we have to point out that not everyone here was a U.S. citizen, so some people have to wait for news a continent away.

CNN's Matt Rivers has more.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As we learn more about the victims of this partial collapse, it's becoming more and more clear that the United States is not the only country whose citizens have been affected by this tragedy. In fact, we heard on Thursday from the foreign ministry, and the country of Paraguay, the foreign minister saying, the sister of the first lady of Paraguay, first lady of Paraguay's sister, and her family were, now, unaccounted for after this partial collapse.

The foreign ministry saying, the first lady sister, and her sister's family, we're staying in one of those towers, on the 10th floor, they were in the country, according to the foreign ministry, to get vaccinated with the Paraguay government saying they spent the day checking in the various hospitals in the area to see if there was any news about the first lady sister, and her sister's family but, unfortunately, they turned up no positive results.

But Paraguay is not the only South American country affected. In fact, we heard from other countries, citizens have been affected, and are now unaccounted for, including Uruguay, including Argentina, and including Venezuela. We know that this is part of south Florida where many people, from South America, either live permanently, or visit, from time to time. Unfortunately, this tragedy, touching the lives of citizens from across the Western hemisphere.


Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


NEWTON: Leaders of indigenous tribes in Saskatchewan, Canada, saying more than 750 unmarked graves have been discovered in a former Indian residential school.

Now, officials began mapping the grounds, on June 1st, after 215 graves were found at a school, at a former school in British Columbia. The Canadian prime minister saying that the government will provide funding, and resources, to bring, what he called, these terrible wrongs to light. One tribal leader said this most recent discovery at Maribel has opened up deeper wounds.


CHIEF CADMUS DELORME, COWESSESS FIRST NATION: The grave site is there. And it's a real. If you were to see it, there are 751 flanks, when you look at it. It is the pain of the memories of being in the school, for many, that it is triggering.


NEWTON: Bobby Cameron is the chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. He joins me from Witchekan Lake First Nations in Saskatchewan, in Canada.

Chief, thanks so much for being here. My condolences.

I really can't believe what a heartbreaking day this must be, for so many indigenous people, right across Canada. The words that you talked about, today, after revealing those details, really, you could feel the trauma in it. And your words were quite blunt -- genocide, concentration camps, the extermination of indigenous people.

What do you say to people who say, look, this is Canada, that can't have happened?

CHIEF BOBBY CAMERON, FEDERATION OF SOVEREIGN INDIGENOUS NATIONS: We say this to the individuals that need a better understanding, or to be educated on this particular subject. It happened, it's a real, it is the truth. Our survivors have been telling these stories for decades, and only now, the world is believing them, because finding these remains, you cannot deny it anymore.

NEWTON: And you are pointing to the fact that there is no evidence, and yet, indigenous communities have to fight to get that evidence. Why only now? Why is the ground penetrating radar only being used on the sites now? It's been 6 years since Canada has had the report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission outlining the problem with these lost children.

CAMERON: Yeah, we would like to say this for several decades. The Roman Catholic church of Canada, and the federal government of the day, all trying to sweep this under the rug, all tried to hide it, when in fact, it was a brutal reality for thousands of our indigenous students who are subject to torture, abuse and death but a worldwide travesty.

From here on in, we should be moving forward and thinking about our going to address and improve the quality of life for indigenous people right across this world?

NEWTON: I want to ask you about that in a moment. I do want to circle back to the Catholic Church, though. Is it still the truth, that they are not handing over the records as they should be, along with some government arguments as well? And we know that the pope hostelry fused to formally and officially apologize.

CAMERON: I will say this. There have been repeated requests and attempts from many of us throughout this country demanding that they release all school records within the church and within the federal government of Canada. Release them. Those are our property. And we deserve the right to see them.

The whole world deserves to understand the truth and with the release of those records, we will know the truth. To this day, it hasn't happened. So, we're going to keep demanding and we're going to keep advocating until it does happen.

NEWTON: You are positively sure that more of these kinds of masked graves, unmarked graves will be found right across our country?

CAMERON: Well, within our region for sure, I'll say this, we have the most residential school sites here in Saskatchewan. We had more first nations students walk through those schools and attend for schools in Saskatchewan and the rest of Canada. Therefore, that leads to more cases of torture, abuse and death here in Saskatchewan. We are certain we attended and visited many sites and you can see with the naked eye that they are unmarked graves.

NEWTON: Chilling just to think about what went on in those places. I want to ask you about -- I know there is certainly a kinship that the Canadian indigenous people feel with many, many first nations all around the world.


You know, here in the United States and, the interior secretary has not started investigation here in the United States. I mean, how important do you think that this is a worldwide effort to really illuminate the kind of, not just discrimination, but as you say, torture, first nations people are going through today?

CAMERON: Yeah, we want -- we want all the viewers to understand something. If you are a parent or grandparent or a caregiver or a guardian, you are children in the world to. You will do everything in your power to ensure that your child is protected, love and care for. This is what we are doing as first nations people here on our treaty lands.

NEWTON: And we all take that to heart. Again, I'm sorry, Chief Bobby Cameron, we can't know your pain, but we certainly will continue to follow these stories as the terrible story uncovers. Appreciate it.

CAMERON: I would like to say this on a closing note. President Joe Biden, if you are listening, we implore you and we advise you to work with our brothers and sisters in the United States, because there are many unmarked graves in your country. Work with those chiefs and councils and survivors to help give those bodies a proper burial.

You know, we try to think and try to put ourselves in the eyes of bodies of these children that have been found in the ground recently. This is what we come up with. A small first nations voice whispers, they have found us. They have found us.

Thank you for your time.

NEWTON: Yes, it is important to definitely, for those souls to be put to rest properly. Again, Chief Bobby, thanks so much.

CAMERON: Take care.

NEWTON: Israel is set to reinstate some COVID restrictions as variants spread and cases tick up. We will take you to the site of one of the country's largest outbreaks, plus some countries who depended on Chinese produced coronavirus vaccine are seeing troubling new cases. We'll explain why.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been absolutely flattened. Tourists are not coming. I've had no work since the 20 the February last year.


NEWTON: So, travel and tourism more crystal to the streets of London this week to voice their frustration with the U.K.'s COVID restrictions, they are calling on the government to offer more financial support in making it easier to holiday abroad. Now, this comes despite a resurgence in COVID cases in Britain because of the Delta variant.

That uptick in cases of people from the more transmissible strain has the E.U. on a high alert. German chancellor, Angela Merkel, warns the bloc is on thin ice, in her words.


And she's urging other European countries to enforce a quarantine for those traveling from regions where the delta variant was spreading. And that includes the U.K. French president, Emmanuel Macron, voice his support.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): We, are obviously, concerned about the Delta variant. I lobbied for a more coordinated approach, particularly with regard to entries with the violence abound.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): I must remain vigilant, because of the delta variant. It spreads faster than the previous variant, and we see it affects people who are not vaccinated, who only have one dose. So, that means we need to go even faster in the vaccination campaign, and above all we have to be very coordinated.


NEWTON: Now, while the E.U. may tighten its restrictions, the U.K. is adding several countries to its quarantine-free travel list.

CNN's Cyril Vanier has the details.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some good news for U.K. -based travelers. They will be able to enjoy a tropical getaway this summer without needing to quarantine upon their return. The U.K.'s government list of green countries has been expanded to include Caribbean islands like Barbados, or the British Virgin Islands. Closer to home, Malta, and Spain's Balearic Islands, including Ibiza, have made the cut.

Just as important, if not more important, the travel policy of the U.K. should soon factor in the country's successful vaccination drive. At some point this summer, dates still unknown, fully vaccinated Britons should be allowed to travel to, so called amber countries. That is Europe, that is the U.S., that is most countries in the world, without having to quarantine when they come back.

At a later stage, fully vaccinated travelers from those countries should, in turn, be allowed into the U.K. without self-isolating.

So, good news for international travel, except, well, except, it takes two to tango. This is all happening, just as European neighbors start to impose restrictions on U.K. travelers, on account of the Delta variant, which is causing a surge of infections here. Starting Saturday, Belgium is banning U.K. travelers. Italy and, Germany, already having mandatory quarantines in place, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, pushing other European leaders to follow suit.

As the U.K., gradually reopens, some European neighbors are shutting the door.

Cyril Vanier, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NEWTON: The delta variant we keep talking about, there is also causing concern in Israel. A country on the verge of reinstating indoor face masks requirements due to rising cases.

Hadas Gold reports from one of the most affected areas.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A site Israelis had hoped they would soon forget, pop-up COVID testing sites, as Israel tries to stop a new wave, especially among the young.

Ayelet Ilan bringing her 14-year-old daughter Gal to be tested, nearly every student in her grade, now, under precautionary quarantine.

AYELET ILAN, BINYAMINA, ISRAEL RESIDENT: We feel secured, everything is under control, we pay attention to the rules, and regulations. And that's it. We hope it will pass as it came, and it will go away.

GOLD: Here in Binyamina, an outbreak at two schools, including this one, helped lead to a surge in positive cases in the education system, as well as in a number of towns. Masks are now required at the affected schools.

Other times in Israel, also experiencing new cases, partly due to the new Delta variant which health officials say could be 50 percent more contagious. Although they were encouraged by data from England, showing that the Pfizer vaccine, still, offers protection.

DR. SHARON ELROY-PREISS, HEAD OF ISRAELL PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICES: Compared to that, the Delta variant, and its effectiveness, the vaccine effectiveness, is about 88 percent, which is a slight to reduction, but it's still, very high effectiveness of the vaccine.

GOLD: Israelis returning from abroad, and unvaccinated children, combined with the new variant, have threatened the sense of normalcy that had returned to Israel, after vaccinating more than 85 percent of those eligible. Israel's new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, now recommending masks be worn by all, endorse, warning that stricter restrictions may soon need to be reinstated and begging parents to get their children vaccinated, before Israel's current batch expires next month.

NAFTALI BENNETT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The pace of vaccinations right now is not good, only 2,000 young people, being vaccinated per day. In order to meet our goal, we need 20,000. In simple language, I am calling on parents, to go out immediately.

GOLD: A message getting through to Gal, who is urging people to stay close to home, and also has an appointment to get her vaccine.

Hadas Gold, CNN, Binyamina, Israel.


NEWTON: The World Health Organization says Africa is experiencing a third wave of coronavirus infections.


The agency says the total number of new cases across the continent has been rising for five straight weeks, and 12 countries are seeing a resurgence in cases. Now, the agency's regional director for Africa warns, things are getting bad, quickly.


DR. MATSHIDISO MOETI, W.H.O. REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR AFRICA: The third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder. We have surged past last year's peak, and now, the current pace that continental cases will surpass the second wave's peak in just about three weeks. This is incredibly worrying. With rapidly rising case numbers, and increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be Africa's worst yet.


NEWTON: Yeah, and many African nations are struggling to get those all important vaccine doses. Only about 1 percent of people, across the continent are fully vaccinated. That's according to the W.H.O. Now, the agency says, 29 countries have used half of their COVAX supplies, and at least eight have run out altogether.

Now, some countries are seeing a surge in new coronavirus cases, even though they have healthy vaccination rates. Countries like Chile, and Mongolia, who mainly use vaccines produced in China. That's where the problems are starting.

David Culver has all the details.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in China, it's been difficult to test the efficacy or effectiveness of vaccines, because the country keeps strict measures in place and we're essentially living in a sealed off bubble, with life near normal. But other nations receiving the Chinese made vaccines are showing surges in infection compared with those receiving U.S.-backed (ph) vaccines.

(voice-over): China portrayed it as an act of goodwill, shipping Chinese-made vaccines to other countries. Even before guaranteeing enough for its own citizens. State media reports 350 million doses have gone out to more than 80 countries.

Among the nations on the receiving end, neighboring Mongolia, and in South America, Chile. Both countries, mobilizing quickly to put those vaccines to use. In Mongolia, more than 52 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. Chile, just a little less. They are among the highest vaccination rates in the world, alongside countries like the U.S., and Israel.

But, why is it that is cases are dropping in those countries, Mongolia, and Chile, are seeing surges of new COVID-19 infections? Last week, Mongolia hit a record high and daily case counts, and, authorities in Chile announced a blanket lockdown across capital Santiago, two weeks ago.

BEN COWLING, HEAD OF EPIDEMIOLOGY AND BIOSTATISTICS, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: Some places where this relatively high vaccine coverage, and social distancing measures have been relaxed. It may be that those measures are relaxed a little too soon.

CULVER: One of the most striking differences? The types of vaccines. One of the U.S., and Israel turned to Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna, Mongolia, and Chile are relying heavily on two from China. Sinovac, and Sinopharm.

My team and I based here in China received our two doses of Sinopharm in recent months.

The efficacy rates of the Chinese made vaccines containing inactivated virus, ranging from around 50 percent, to 79 percent. Whereas U.S.- backed Pfizer and Moderna, using mRNAa science, are more than 90 percent efficacious.

Though the environments in which they were all trial varied, with different variants of the virus circulating, the American-backed ones appear to be much better presenting transmission, compared with China's vaccines.

COWLING: Right now, what we can see very clearly is the antibody level and people who received BioNTech, is much higher, much higher, then the antibody level and people who received Sinovac.

CULVER: The W.H.O. authorized both Sinovac and Sinopharm for emergency use, despite the Chinese companies behind them, providing limited clinical trial data. But, medical experts warn, while less effective, this does not mean that the Chinese vaccines are a failure.

COWLING: Somewhere like Chile, somewhere like Mongolia, vaccines have saved a lot of lives, but maybe, they haven't been able to stop the virus from spreading, and causing mild infections, in vaccinated people, and then, of course, the potential for more severe infections and people who haven't yet been vaccinated. That is one limitation of less effective vaccine.

CULVER: While overall cases in Mongolia, and Chile are on the rise, the vaccines may be helping lower the severity of, those cases.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you look across the board, and countries with higher vaccination rates, those hospitalization rates, those death rates, while they may move around a little bit, they are probably, are much better than now than they would have been without the vaccines, because the vaccines, more than anything else, regardless of which one it is helped, protect against severe illness, and death.

CULVER: To better stop the spread of the virus, countries like Bahrain, and the UAE, which also relied heavily on China's Sinopharm, are now offering their citizens a 3rd dose, as a booster. The choices? A third shot of Sinopharm, or, they can use the Pfizer vaccine as their booster.

The development and distribution of vaccines has become highly politicized, especially between the U.S. and China.


And, if both countries refused to recognize each other's vaccines, that could keep you limited to crossing borders, based on the vaccine you've gotten. Potentially, preventing international travel from returning to near normal, for years to come.

Here in China, they've recently have given a billion doses to folks living here, and they've recently raised their vaccination target, hoping to vaccinate as many as 85 percent of the more than 1.4 billion people living here, by later this year. But it remains unknown if they can reach herd immunity, especially given the efficacy of Chinese vaccines against the more easily transmissible Delta Variant. That is not yet known. And so, there are the reports suggesting strict border measures will remain in place, well into 2022.

There have been discussions by Chinese health officials to add a third dose here, along with a suggestion to mix Chinese, and American vaccines, with an eye towards making them more effective.

David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.


NEWTON: The U.S. president will host Afghanistan's leader of the White House Friday. And America's troop withdrawal and the Taliban surge are certain to be on top of the agenda. The latest from Washington. That's coming up.

And there finally is hope for the thousands of Afghan nationals who served alongside U.S. troops throughout the conflict as President Biden vows, they will not be left behind.


NEWTON: All right. We want to bring you right up today on our top story. Search teams are, at this hour, continuing to work through the night in Surfside, Florida to find 99 people still unaccounted for in the rubble of the Champlain Towers. You see their work right there.

Now, part of the 12-story condominium building collapsed early Thursday, 24 hours actually ago, right to the minute. And unfortunately, it has killed one person. Firefighters searched and try to shore up the heavily damaged basement parking garage, is what you're looking at right now and used cherry pickers to reach residents stranded on their balconies in the part of the building that was actually still standing.


BARRY COHEN, BUILDING RESIDENT: We opened up the door from our apartment, and there was a huge pile of rubble and dust. And just havoc.

AARON MILES, COLLAPSE SURVIVOR: We grabbed the children and we started running out the door. And as we went down the stairway for the exit emergency, everybody was screaming and panicking.

MICHAEL RUIZ, LIVES NEARBY COLLAPSED BUILDING: I have never seen so many ambulances and police in my life all at once. It looked like something from 9/11. Literally.


NEWTON: Now, and here's the question, there's unfortunately still no word yet on what might have caused this collapse. Stay right here though at CNN. We will keep you updated every hour on the developments.


Now, the U.S. president will welcome the Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani, to the White House Friday on the agenda, the continued withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan as the U.S. winds down its longest war.

But with the troops moving out, the Taliban advance on Afghanistan is now gaining momentum. You can see that on the map there. The U.N. estimates the group has taken over at least 50 districts since last month.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has the latest from Washington.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Biden will welcome Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, to the White House at a critical time. A critical time for the U.S. position in the country as it continues to move towards withdrawing all of its troops by September 11th. A critical time for President Ghani, for Afghanistan, as the tempo of Taliban attacks, Taliban offensive over the course of last several weeks has reached a level that I don't think anybody had actually predicted, certainly a higher level than had been occurring last year.

Now, it's important to note, and U.S. officials point out, those attacks, those offensives have not targeted U.S. troops but they have paid -- laid a heavy toll on Afghanistan security forces and Afghanistan police, and it's part of the reason why this meeting at the White House between President Ghani, President Biden, some President Ghani's top senior officials is so crucial, trying to lay out what the actual next steps are for U.S. support.

President Biden made very clear when he announced the withdrawal that he planned to continue to support the government, that obviously the U.S. would keep an embassy in Afghanistan and that both the U.S. and its partner allies would continue to support the Ghani government over the course of the coming years, but that has been severely threatened by the offensive of the Taliban over the course of the last several weeks with very real questions amongst many U.S. officials as to how long the Afghanistan government could actually hold up to those Taliban offenses once U.S. troops officially leave.

And it's worth noting, while September 11th is the deadline, U.S. officials have made clear, those troops are pulling out at an even faster rate, more than half troops -- half of the U.S. troops in country right now have already been pulled out. Some questions about whether or not over the course of the next several weeks because of those Taliban attacks, that process will slow. But make no mistake about it, U.S. officials have been very clear, the September 11th deadline is a hard deadline. It is not changing.

So, what the U.S. can offer, what the Afghanistan president will seek, and how this meeting ends up when all things are said and done, is a very open question and a very crucial question, given the current state of play in the country. One thing U.S. officials stress as they want peace talks with the Taliban to continue or at least to ramp up to some degree from where they were or where they are. But based on the Taliban posture over the course of the last several weeks, some are skeptical, but it will certainly be a centerpiece of a very crucial conversation at a critical moment for the country as the U.S. departs.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


NEWTON: Lisa Curtis is a senior fellow and director of the Indo- Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. She joins me now from Washington.

So, we have this meeting at the White House. This is, of course, the Biden plan. He's ending America's longest war. The Afghan leaders want something in return. Do you see anything that can make the difference when the Taliban is, as we know, literally on the sidelines, not waiting to reassert their control but already doing it?

LISA CURTIS, SENIOR FELLOW AND DIRECTOR, INDO-PACIFIC SECURITY, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: Well, I think this is it is a great opportunity for President Biden to show that we are not abandoning Afghanistan. We may be withdrawing troops, but we are still supporting the Afghan government and the Afghan National Security Forces. And there are some things that the Biden administration could do, for instance, they could reverse the decision about removing all contractors, from Afghanistan. There's 18,000 some contractors who helped to repair and maintain helicopters, they helped to fly the aircraft. So, if they could find a way to keep contractors in the country, that would be enormously helpful.

Also, if the Biden administration could figure out a plan for continuing to provide air support, close air support for the Afghan's, that would make a huge difference in the Afghan's ability to stave off some of these Taliban advances.

NEWTON: You know, those are two of the issues that are on the table. And obviously, Biden is having there at the White House to do exactly what you just said, to prove that, look, America is not abandoning you even though we are withdrawing troops.

You know, the attacks that we've seen have been picking up pace in the last few years, obviously in the last few months as well. And given the progress that has been made, we are still now seeing mounting attacks against women, freedom of the press, even health care workers. The Taliban has been absolutely relentless. Despite what you are saying, is there a way you can actually hold on to any gains of the last two decades?


CURTIS: Well, look, the U.S. and Afghanistan together had accomplished these gains over the last 20 years. Women going to school. Women involved in the social economic, political life of the country. And so, it's really in the interest of both our countries to maintain those gains and to find out how we can do that. And I'm sure President Ghani he will have some requests, and there are things that the Biden administration can do. They can provide financial assistance, not only to the Security Forces but also to civil society, provide economic support.

So, there's a lot that the U.S. continue to do without having troops on the ground. To make sure that the Afghans can preserve some of these gains that we both -- both countries have sacrificed so much. It would not be the right thing to just abandon Afghanistan at this crucial moment. It is an opportunity to have a new partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan, one that is strong but does not require troops on the ground.

NEWTON: Yes, there's certainly a lot of skepticism that this is possible. I want to talk to as well though at what's at stake in terms of more of a military presence in the region and, obviously, the important intelligence gathering that goes on there. How much capability do you think the United States can keep in the region now?

CURTIS: Well, I think they're going to have to find a way to offshore some of these capabilities. For instance, looking at neighboring countries like Tajikistan or Uzbekistan. Perhaps they can stage some forces or equipment and air capabilities that are, you know, offshore from Afghanistan but can get to Afghanistan relatively quickly. So, I think that is a possibility. I think they are exploring these options right now, as we speak.

But part of the problem is this decision was made peacefully. And I think the withdrawal is happening too abruptly and there needs to be some time given for some planning to plan out these options, because I think it's all just happening a bit too quickly. So, hopefully, President Ghani can convince President Biden to reassess, understanding that yes, the U.S. is writ drawing, but can we do this anymore responsible, deliberate way?

NEWTON: Certainly, a lot on their plates at the White House. We'll see what comes out of the meetings.

Lisa Curtis, thanks so much.

CURTIS: Thank you.

NEWTON: Now, Joe Biden has a promise for the Afghan nationals who have helped the U.S. military over the past few decades, you will not be left behind. The White House says it plans to relocate thousands of Afghans who worked alongside American troops and diplomats while they apply for their visas.

CNN's Kylie Atwood has more.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This will be a tremendous undertaking and we are still waiting for details from the State Department in the Biden ministration as to how they plan to really do this. We don't know exactly what country these Afghan applicants are going to be flown to. We know it will be a third country, not Afghanistan or the United States, but they are going to have to be relocated somewhere while they wait for these visas to be processed. We also don't know when exactly this is going to happen.

A State Department deputy spokesperson said earlier today that it would happen before the complete U.S. withdrawal of forces, which will be in September. So, we are looking at a pretty short time frame here. But this comes, this decision, this intent to relocate these Afghan visa applicants comes after the Biden administration has had a tremendous amount of internal deliberation over this, and some feared that any rapid relocation would lead to some concerns in the country, brain drain in the country, but there has been a lot of outside pressure on this topic, particularly from members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans who have urged the Biden administration to do this. To make good on their commitment, to keep safe those Afghan's who worked alongside U.S. troops and U.S. diplomats in recent years.

President Biden crystallizing this intention today saying, those who worked alongside the U.S. will not be left behind.

Kylie Atwood, CNN, Paris.


NEWTON: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is hours away from heading to El Paso, Texas to tour facilities along the border with Mexico. Now, the trip comes after weeks of criticism, largely from Republicans, that she hadn't visited the area despite being tasked with trying to stem the flow of migration from Central America.

Raul Reyes is an attorney an immigration analyst who's written opinion pieces for CNN about the border situation. I asked him to weigh in on the vice president's trip.



RAUL REYES, IMMIGRATION ANALYST: In a certain sense, the strip, we can look at it as a kind of political theater, because it's become a ritual for politicians, of both parties, to make their troops to the border that usually end up being a follow opportunity to be blunt. They typically tour border patrol facilities, meet with some local advocates or immigrant rights groups, and that's the extent of it. However, Kamala Harris has some real opportunities here.


NEWTON: Now, you will hear more of that interview in the next hour. Be sure to stay with us.

Still ahead here on CNN Newsroom, a high profile sentencing in a case that set off a movement for racial reckoning in the United States. Former police officer, Derek Chauvin convicted of killing George Floyd is about to learn his fate in court.


NEWTON: It's a horrific killing that set off a movement for racial reckoning in the Unites States, and it played a big part in making the words, I can't breathe, a rallying cry for racial justice.

George Floyd was killed at the hands of Minneapolis police during his arrest last year. But later on Friday, a former officer convicted in that case, Derek Chauvin, is set to hear his sentence.

Sara Sidner has our preview.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Less than 24 hours from now, Former Police Officer Derek Chauvin is expected to learn his punishment.

PETER CAHILL, JUDGE: I find the defendant guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

SIDNER: Two months after Former Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts, including second degree unintentional murder in the death of George Floyd, Judge Peter Cahill, who represented over the trial, will now decide Chauvin's sentence.

The world watched as Chauvin slowly took Floyd's life, kneeling on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. That slow-motion murder captured on a cell phone prompted protests worldwide. It also prompted Judge Cahill to find there were several aggravating factors in the case, including the slow death of George Floyd occurring over approximately six minutes of his positional asphyxia was particularly cruel, during which the defendant objectively remained indifferent to Mr. Floyd's pleas, Cahill wrote. But on May 25th, George Floyd's pleas were heard loud and clear by eyewitnesses trying to save him.

DONALD WILLIAMS, EYEWITNESS: I did call the police on a police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And why did you do that?

WILLIAMS: Because I believe I witnessed a murder.

GENEVIEVE HANSEN, EYEWITNESS AND FIRST RESPONDER: Had they let me into the scene, I already had decided what his level of consciousness was, so I would have requested additional help.


SIDNER: Prosecutors are asking for a 30-year sentence, the defense is asking for probation, no prison time beyond time served. But because of sentencing guidelines and aggravating factors, it will likely be something in between.

MARY MORIARTY, FORMER CHIEF PUBLIC DEFENDER, HENNEPIN COUNTY: The fact that the judge found aggregating factors simply means he now has the authority to give a sentence greater than our sentencing guidelines.

SIDNER: But before the judge makes his decision Floyd's family will get a chance to tell the court the deep and painful impact George Floyd's murder has not on their lives. Something they have revealed to the public many times outside court.

BRIDGETT FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S SISTER: The officer took a great man. A great father. A great brother. A great uncle. He loved his family.

SIDNER: Well, we will almost differently here from members of the Floyd family who will be making those victim impact statements, we could potentially hear from the defendant, Derek Chauvin. He has the right to speak in court. However, his attorney, Eric Nelson, has filed a post-verdict motion for a brand-new trial. He has cited many different things, including prosecutorial misconduct and jury misconduct. And so, it isn't likely that we will hear from Chauvin. It is likely but there will be an appeal depending on what the sentence is.

Sara Sidner, CNN in George Floyd Square, Minneapolis.


NEWTON: Now, as we just heard there, the U.S. braces for that sentencing. And another death at the hands of police causing outrage among Palestinian's. Police scuffled with protesters in the West Bank Thursday after activist, Nizar Banat, died in Palestinian authority police custody. Now, his family says he was arrested and brutally beaten early in the day, and that was a well-known critic of the Palestinian authority, accusing it of corruption. An official confirmed the activist's death in statement saying his health deteriorated after arrest and he was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Far-flung parts of the world are feeling the heat this summer. When we come back, we will hear from our meteorologist about possible record- breaking heat in Eastern Europe and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.


NEWTON: You're looking there at the destruction left behind by a rare tornado in the Czech Republic. Now, it struck on Thursday along the southern border. Local media reported about seven small towns were massively damaged. Emergency services say at least 150 people were injured. Search and rescue teams are looking for more survivors who may need help. This was the strongest tornado in the Czech Republic's modern history, and the first since 2018.

Joining me now is meteorologist, Derek Van Dam.

Derek, so good to see you.

It has been a minute. And the weather becomes more and more extreme. I know just looking at the some of the temperatures and some places that are not usually feeling the heat, really extraordinary what's to come.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, when you get these temperature clashes, the hot versus the cold, we're bound to see the severe weather in Czech Republic. That's unfortunately unveiled itself to us today with this rare tornado that was captured by a viewer.

You can see the twister behind me, preliminary reports, an EF-3 tornado that has winds of 254 to 332 kilometers per hour. That is significant. There were warnings, and we talked about this yesterday, actually. The widespread severe weather risk across the Czech Republic.


Now, that severe weather chance starts to shift a little further to the east and reduces improbability as it does so. But nonetheless, portions of Poland all the way to Bulgaria has chances of large hails, sever wind gust, can't rule out the tornado as well.

The other big story, Paula mentioned it, the record heat. We are monitoring this across the extreme eastern European countries, including Western Russia. Look at St. Petersburg and Moscow, their temperature this time of year ranging from 20 to 22 degrees Celsius. They top, this is not a typo, on Wednesday 36 to 35 degrees respectively. That is an all-time June record high temperature for both of those locations.

And then get this. In Belarus, this particular city over the south- central portions of the country reached a high of 36.7 degrees. Never in the entire country of Belarus has it seen that temperature during the month of June. So, that really puts it into context just how hot this European -- Eastern European heat wave has been and will continue to be for the next several days.

In fact, we have a temperature well above average for Moscow, but there is some relief in sight for the middle parts of next week. It's not only Europe and Russia that is experiencing extreme heat. The Pacific northwest of the U.S. So, this is North America now, the potential to shatter over 300 record high temperatures this weekend into early next week. The unprecedented heat for the states of Oregon as well as Washington and Northern California will continue to scorch this region.

This is not a typo either. Temperatures in Portland, Oregon should be about 24 this time of year. Paula, they will reach 45 by the end of the weekend. They have never experienced a temperature that hot this time of year. NEWTON: If you told me it was going to be 25 that day in Portland, I would think, oh, a hot day. Yes, we will continue to watch it all of you there.

VAN DAM: Yes. Correct.

NEWTON: Yes. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Now, depending on where you are, we are you, can you see it? Now, peak outside your window and look at the night sky. There it is. It is your last chance to see a supermoon this year. Isn't it gorgeous? Meaning, the moon is brighter and closer to the earth now. The June full moon is sometimes called the strawberry moon. It's the first of four full moons of the summer season in the northern hemisphere. And no, the name is not a reference to the color of our closest heavenly neighbor, it has to do with the ripening of strawberries and other fruit this time of year in parts of the world.

Now, the website, EarthSky, says you will be able to see the large golden moon for two or three nights longer. And I for one am pleased with that. It's always so striking just to see it up there like that in the sky.

All right. I want to thank you for watching. I'm Paula Newton. I will be right back with more news. That's after a quick break.