Return to Transcripts main page


China Marks 100 Years of Communist Party; Delta Variant Causes COVID Surge; Historic Heat Wave Affects Millions in Western U.S. & Canada; China's Ruling Communist Party Marks Centennial; Ethiopian Government: Withdrawal a Political Decision; U.S. Could Finish Afghanistan Withdrawal within Days; Architect of U.S. War in Iraq Dies at Age 88; Bill Cosby Released from Prison in Stunning Court Reversal; Florida Condo Collapse. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired July 1, 2021 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Well, ahead this hour:

Talk up the achievements, ignore the failures. China's communist party is celebrating 100 years since it was founded.

In the race between vaccines and variants, the Delta variant is edging ahead globally. New case numbers now surging in the U.K. and other places.

And convicted sex offender Bill Cosby has been released from prison. His sentence overturned. We'll have more of the legal blunder from the prosecution that led to this verdict.


VAUSE: As the saying goes, history is written by victors. And in Beijing, they're writing their own version of history to celebrate 100, apparently, all glorious year since the communist party.

The message was clear. The communist party is the sole reason modern China has become a formidable world power. While claiming ownership of any progress and achievement, as for the setbacks, the failings, the mistakes -- well, they haven't been any. At least that was the conclusion by watching the celebrations in Tiananmen Square and around the country.

Before a carefully vetted crowd of tens of thousands cheering party faithful, President Xi Jinping promised China will never be bullied or oppressed by foreign forces. He also called out Taiwan, saying China wants to crash its independence. And he stressed the "one country, two systems" principle of governments with Hong Kong and Macau must be respected. Xi's sartorial choice was notable, the only senior official wearing a traditional Mao's suit.

We have more now in the celebrations from CNN's Steven Jiang reporting from just outside the Forbidden City in Beijing.


STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: For the Chinese communist party, this day is about putting on an enormous show to remind the people what the party has given them. It's about traveling down the memory lane, but very selective lane, as we have heard from the party's and the country's most powerful leader in decades, Xi Jinping, said in that speech, extolling the party's virtues and listing its accomplishments.

Many of which are undeniable, from its humble beginning, the party has become the world's most powerful political organization, boasting more than 95 million members, commanding the world's largest second biggest economy with the fast modernizing military that increasingly unnerves the United States.

But how the party has gotten here, the journey has not always been as glorious as the official history portrays. There is its ruthless nature, its harsh crackdown on any forms of dissent both within and outside the party, resulting in the deaths of millions of Chinese. These dark chapters obviously are being downplayed or even outright censored here in China, including the bloody crackdown on pro- democracy protesters right here in Tiananmen in 1989.

But the party has always managed to not only survived but even thrive after these episodes because of its willingness and ability to shift ideologies and priorities. That's why the leadership launched its reform and opening policy after the tumultuous cultural revolution, ushering in decades of rapid economic growth.

That's also why Xi Jinping has been reinstating the party into every aspect of Chinese society, not just in politics and military but also in private, business and private life, to ensure the party maintains its monopoly on power in the age of new technologies and social media.

The party has taken advantage of its top down power structure to deliver economic benefits, and effective governance for ordinary people across the country, lifting millions out of poverty and injecting a sense of national pride, thanks to its growing technological prowess and increasing global clout.

And all of this obvious now being used by the party to tout the superiority of its system, even as the strongman leaders policies and ambitions increasingly clashed with those of the United States, and other liberal democracies of the world.

Steven Jiang, CNN, Beijing.


VAUSE: CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is live in Hong Kong for us this hour.

And, Kristie, Beijing loves a good parade, Beijing did not disappoint in the message wasn't subtle.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And they look a good show, the show to prove the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party.

Earlier today, we heard from the Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also the general secretary of the communist party, who hailed the successes of the communist party over the last 100 years, praised the national rejuvenation that the party has achieved over the last 100 years.


And while he made the claim that China doesn't bully other nations, but he also made the pointed remark directed at China's overseas rivals.

Take a listen.


XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT (through translator): At the same time, the Chinese people will never allow any foreign forces to bully, oppress, and enslave us. Anyone who tries to do so will find themselves in the collision course with the great wall of steel forged by 1.4 billion people.


STOUT: Now, for the months weeks, and days leading up to this big event, of course, this is the centennial of the communist party there has been wall-to-wall saturated coverage of propaganda on Chinese state media and online media pressing the achievements of the Chinese Communist Party, not necessarily the challenge that it's facing in China, growing income inequality in China, the falling birth rate in China, the quashing of dissent in various corners of China including here in the territory of Hong Kong.

Now, this day is about the birthday of the Chinese Communist Party, observers also say it's about one person, Chinese President Xi Jinping, the core leader of China. Take a listen to this.


GRAEME SMITH, DEPARTMENT OF PACIFIC AFFAIRS, AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL LAW: He is powerful until things run against him. So, at the moment, he's doing quite a good job of controlling the narrative around which China is going. And it's from the outside, it appears to be a hard-line narrative. But, he does certainly have some firmer grips than he had in 2017 (ph), that's for sure.


STOUT: And today is also the 24th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British rule, to China, and the one-year anniversary of the national security law. And under the law, the territory has fundamentally changed. All aspects of society have changed, with national security, education being ruled out in schools, the rest of 117 people under the law, including politicians, journalists, students. This is the reality in Hong Kong as the party marks 100 years.

Back to you.

VAUSE: And the reality also in Hong Kong, 24 years since the handover from Hong Kong from Great Britain to Beijing. Clearly, this is a territory that is undergoing a lot of change right now.

How are they looking at the celebration there over 100 years of communist party in mainland China?

STOUT: Usually on this day, July one, in the past, and this territory, which has been very rebellious and raucous, there would be large-scale political protests. That has not happened. Two years in a row with police citing pandemic restrictions, there are no protests this day.

However, a small group of protesters did turn out this morning, we followed them as they carried signs saying that they want to free political prisoners and down with fascism. There's a mood here in Hong Kong, of either accepting the national security law, stay silent, or to leave -- John.

VAUSE: Quite the message.

Okay, Kristie, thank you. Kristie Lu Stout there in Hong Kong.

Let's go to Taipei now. Will Ripley is standing by there.

And, clearly, quite the message from Xi Jinping to the people of Taiwan about any thoughts of independence.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And within the last hour John, response from Taiwan's mainland affairs office, urging China as they have for many years, to adopt a democratic system like they have here on the self-governing island of more than 23 million. It has governed itself and gradually involved into the world's only Chinese begin democracy over the last 70 years, since the end of China civil war in 1949.

So, this is the alternate reality in this region of what could have happened, had the nationalist forces defeated communist troops as opposed to the outcome that we have seen. The CCP is celebrating today, John.

There has been stepped up military intimidation in recent weeks including last month's largest ever air incursion by China into Taiwan's air defense identification zone.

There have also been moves on the part of Taipei, closer to Washington, including just yesterday, the resumption of long stalled trade talks. Every time Beijing seems to think that Taiwan is moving closer to Western democracies led by the United States, they tend to flex their own military muscle. And that was certainly the messaging from Chinese President Xi Jinping when he spoke, about Taiwan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) XI JINPING (through translator): Resolving the Taiwan question, to realize China's complete unification, is a historic mission, and an unshakable condition of the CCP. We should persist. No one should underestimate the resolve of well and ability of the Chinese to define the national sovereignty and the territorial integrity. .


RIPLEY: When I spoke with Taiwan's foreign minister last month, Joseph Wu, he said that here in Taipei, they do not believe that China necessarily has the intent of unifying with force. He says they prefer peaceful unification, but they feel here that China will certainly not rule out using force, to prevent separation.


And so, here on this island, they say they have to be ready for anything, including a military conflict with Beijing, which many analysts have said maybe somewhat of a risk, even more of a risk perhaps now than in recent years, John.

VAUSE: Will, thank you. Will Ripley there live for us CNN in Taipei. Thank you.

Well, the U.K. is now reporting its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in months. More than 26,000 infections were reported on Wednesday, a peak not seen since the end of January. The country is heading towards another potential wave of coronavirus cases, with the Delta variant mostly to blame.

The pandemic though is claiming fewer lives, mostly because 2/3 of adults there are now fully vaccinated. The U.K. health department is considering booster shots to those who are most at risk later this year.

In the United States, the Delta variant is now being confirmed in all 50 saves. Its rapid spread around the world has countries rethinking their public health measures.

Here's CNN's Kim Brunhuber.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plans to ease COVID restrictions now delayed in parts of France, strict new measures imposed in South Africa. Rush lockdowns in three Australian cities. New restrictions in Bangladesh, Indonesia, parts of Thailand and elsewhere in Asia. They are among countries renewing the fight to contain the coronavirus as the so called Delta variant reaches across the globe.

First detected in India in February, cases have now been reported in dozens of countries. In some places. It's spreading quickly as countries struggled to vaccinate their populations. Public health officials warn the new strain is behind recent spikes in some countries like Russia, South Africa and also Indonesia, where Red Cross says there is a warning of a COVID catastrophe as the country's recent surge strains hospitals and oxygen supplies.

Worldwide it's on track to become the most dominant version of coronavirus according to one WHO official. European health officials say it's 40 to 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant first identified in England, making it the most contagious form of coronavirus to date. In the U.S., it now accounts for one in four cases and has spread to every state. In the United Kingdom the Delta variant makes up nearly all new infections.

Although the U.K. had a relatively successful vaccine rollout, the variant is spreading quickly among the unvaccinated. The current vaccines being used in the U.K., Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson are proving effective against the Delta variant. Still, experts say the new mutations are changing the equation of herd immunity.

Adding to the concern, a new and slightly changed version of the Delta variant called Delta plus which has been spotted in at least 11 countries. Health officials are investigating whether it may be more resistant to vaccines. For now, authorities say it's too soon to tell. Instead they're warning the public stay watchful, but don't panic as an ever changing virus prolongs the world's fight to contain this pandemic.

Kim Brunhuber, CNN.


VAUSE: Earlier, I spoke with Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of tropical medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, about concerns that some vaccines just are not getting enough protection against the Delta variant, especially those made in China. Here's what he said.


DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE: What you're seeing is the clear northern hemisphere, southern hemisphere divide. The northern hemisphere, having full access to the Moderna and Pfizer Biotech mRNA vaccines, the J&J vaccine, where the southern hemisphere has limited access to those, and access to vaccines that are not quite as effective.

The reason we know that it is, these vaccines, they all work by similar mechanisms inducing what are called very high levels of virus neutralizing antibodies. The mRNA vaccines do that the best, and maybe with the J&J vaccine, the others did not. They are not as resilient against the variants. That's why you are seeing some of the Chinese vaccine, some of the others are not as effective.

You know, in my 40 years of big vaccine scientists, this is one of the worst disparities I've seen in a long, long time.

VAUSE: The situation of the vaccinated where than unvaccinated world that's existing in the United States. Here is the chief White House medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, talking about it.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It's almost like it's going to be to Americas. You're going to have areas where the vaccine rate is high, where it's more than 70 percent of the population as we see receiving one dose. When you compare that with areas, we may have 35 percent of the people vaccinated. You clearly have a high risk of seeing these spikes in those selected areas.


VAUSE: So, you have spikes in the selected areas, but for the most part, the unvaccinated in the U.S., unvaccinated by choice, if you look at the world that, people are fully vaccinated and where they are not, Africa for example, has a very high rate -- a low rate of vaccination. There is no vaccine hesitancy in Africa.


It's simply a problem with supply. So, again, if that supply comes from China, it might be better than nothing. It seems hard in the best way to end the pandemic.

VAUSE: That's right. There is some vaccine hesitancy in Africa. We now know some of this is coming from the Russian government has been seeking to discredit Western COVID vaccines in favor of Sputnik V. This is been reported by the unelected group Novatel. And there is a lot of anti vaccine disinformation coming out of Russia. So, it's not entirely true. We are seeing vaccine hesitancy in the southern hemisphere, through deliberate misinformation which is so tragic.

But you are absolutely right. We need to do a better job providing access. One of the things that we're doing now is we're accelerating a low-cost recombinant protein vaccine through our Texas Children's Center for Vaccine Development, at Baylor, in collaboration with Biological E, one of the big vaccine producers in Hyderabad. It's now in phase 3 trials in India and the Indian government has just ordered advance purchase of 300 million doses.

So we are hoping that this vaccine can come in and start filling in the gaps in Africa, in Latin America, and in Southeast Asia. And there is real urgency, we need to do it by the end of the year if we're going to get ahead of the delta variant.


VAUSE: Our thanks to Dr. Peter Hotez there from the Baylor College of Medicine, speaking with me just a little earlier.

Another setback for Tokyo's beleaguered Olympic to the weightlifters withdrawing from the games. The team is unable to travel because of lockdown measures in place in Samoa, which has reported just three confirmed cases and no fatalities. The athletes-based outside the country will still attend the Summer Games.

Well, the Delta variant is also putting it committee on edge. The director told CNN in the interview that athletes from country where the variant is spreading the most, we'll have even more rules to follow.


CHRISTOPHER DUBI, IOC OLYMPIC GAMES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: You have to be able to adjust your plans, and make sure that then the information is clear, which is not easy, because the rules that we are applying to everyone, certainly you add on top a layer of additional rules, that has to be explained through a system where you have thousands of individuals that will be impacted. As a result, what you have is that those nations affected by the virus have extra layers of rules that they will have to follow. It is the ultimate challenge and ultimate reward.

And the closing ceremony, everybody will remember that moment. Will we have full stadium? No. Will we have the whole world into the stadium and the energy of the stadiums back to the world? Absolutely.


VAUSE: Well, a surge in new COVID cases forcing Bangladesh into lockdown, and now the military is ready to enforce new pandemic restrictions.

Also ahead, a deadly heat wave goes across the United States as well as Canada. Ahead the forecast in when temperatures may finally begin to cool.



VAUSE: Welcome back.

Bangladesh is now under a 7-day lockdown after reporting a dramatic increase in the number of infections. No one is allowed outdoors, with government troops patrolling to enforce restrictions. The government reported nearly 9,000 new cases on Wednesday and a fourth straight day of more than 100 COVID related deaths.

CNN's Vedika Sud joins us now for the latest. She's in New Delhi.

These numbers are only hitting in one direction, that's south.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John, and it's a worry for the Bangladeshi authorities as well. From early morning today, that hard nationwide lockdown in Bangladesh has been implemented, so much so that you have only personnel and border security force personnel out along the streets, across Bangladesh to ensure that nobody leaves their homes without a valid reason. If they do, they do face arrests and could face a jail term of six months as well.

Now, to the lead up to the official announcements of a one week hard lockdown in Bangladesh, a lot of people from Dhaka have been flying out of this city, essentially migrant workers because they were anticipating this lockdown in the coming days and now it has been implemented in so much so that people leaving for outskirts of the city were actually full with thousands of people at the time, (INAUDIBLE), and that, of course, has been a worry as well. Because of which there was also an implementation of a severe lockdown from today.

Also, what we do know at this point in time is that the Delta variant is creating havoc in Bangladesh. It's the first variant in India and now it's the source with a number of cases we are seeing in Bangladesh. It's a 4th consecutive day of the deaths of 100, and Wednesday saw the highest single day rise in the cases of COVID-19 in Bangladesh. As well as of now, public transport, offices, malls, all closed, essential services are only on.

And this will be a state of affairs for in the next one week. Speaking to local journalists I believe, the streets are absolutely empty. We can see the army first on the ground. It's very quiet around Dhaka, as I speak with you, we expect to be the case in the next coming days as well.

Back to you.

VAUSE: Vedika, thank you for that. We appreciate the report. Vedika Sud there live in New Delhi.

SUD: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, some welcome relief from record high temperatures in cities in the Western United States including Seattle and Portland. But a deadly and dangerous heat wave continues in other parts as well as in Canada.

In British Columbia, nearly 500 people have died since Saturday almost triple the usual number seen over in a five-day period. Chief coroner of the province says it's likely the spike in deaths can be linked to the extreme weather.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins now with the very latest.

I guess, the big question is, when do these temperatures come down? And how long will they stay down for do you think?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, they have come down a little bit. They are still well above average. We are not at the 45 to near 50-degree temperature in some of these areas. They are back into the thirties. But remember, they should be in the low twenties for this time of year.

Of course, it is so dry in this area a lot of fires have not been ignited they are beginning to spread out of control. That's the concern in some of these communities.

Lytton, British Columbia, the community we've talked about that have set back-to-back-to-back national record temperatures, one of the fires is just within a few kilometers of this particular community. That's where the evacuations are in place right now, 360 hectares of land consumed, and far is considered to be out of control.

So, that's why they've virtually taken out everyone out of these town with the temperatures that had recently climbed up to near 50 degrees, the warmest observation we have ever seen this far north anywhere on our planet, taking place in the last couple of days.

Now, look at this, drought conditions, and incredible number, 90 percent of the Western United States dealing with drought conditions at this hour. You know it is going to be a dangerous and potentially destructive wildfire season ahead of us. In fact, today, you will notice nearly 30,000 wildfires have been observed across the U.S. alone.

Your 10-year average for this year is around 25,000 fires, and you kind of look at the climatological pattern, how we see an increase in large fires per decade, going back since the 1980s where it's about 140 large fires per year in the Western United States, 2000 to 2012 data showing us that number has risen to 250 large fires every single year in the western United States.

So, look the forecast here in the Western U.S. This is where temps have been in the forties. We do cool off a significant amount, but thunderstorms is possible, a lot of these temperatures that do not produce much in the way of rainfall. So, we know additional fire threat remains in place. But the concentration of the heat is shifting towards the east.

John, look at these observations, these are coming in the last 24 hours. Places such as Manchester, New Hampshire, into, say, LaGuardia, New York, and also in Boston.


These are the upper through the southeast 100 degrees Fahrenheit, in the shade, not factoring in the humidity. And mind you, the heat of summer typically takes place in the 3rd week of July, that's the climatological norm is that for the hardest temperatures across North America.

So, we are well ahead of that pace right now around much of North America, John.

VAUSE: Yeah, and it's going to get hotter.

Pedram, thank you for that. We appreciate the update.

Well, the U.S. House has approved the select committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection on the Capitol. Just two Republicans voted in favor of the investigation. House Speaker Pelosi moved forward with this plan after Republicans in the Senate blocked an independent bipartisan investigation, claiming that was an attempt to attack former President Donald Trump.

Pelosi will appoint eight members to the committee. Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy can choose five, though he's refused to say if he will cooperate or appoint anyone. Well, he's been out of office less than a year, but there are signs that history will not be kind to Donald Trump. Historians are already ranking him among America's worst presidents. Despite famously boosting that he will be more presidential than any president that ever held office, except Abraham Lincoln, he's already ranked in the bottom four. That's based on a C-Span survey of presidential historians who asked to rank the leadership of every previous American commander-in-chief.

So, if you're wondering who the historians. Well, the great emancipator, Abe Lincoln, that's followed by the founding father, George Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR, led the U.S. through the Great Depression and World War. Coming in at number 10, Donald Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.

Well, we take a short break. There's nothing like a military parade. When we come back, the Chinese communist party turns 100. We'll take to Tiananmen Square and on the pilgrimage for the party faithful.

Also, Bill Cosby's accusers say they are outraged at a court's decision to free him from prison. Coming up, reactions coming up from the women at the center of his criminal case.



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody.

I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Well, they've been celebrating in Beijing the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party. Tens of thousands gathered earlier in Tiananmen Square, the crowd was carefully vetted.

Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed them saying China quote, "will never allow any foreign. forces to fully oppress and enslave us. And if they do, they will find themselves in a collision course with the great wall of steel forged by 1.4 billion people."

Patriotism and nationalism was on full display, and not just in Beijing.

CNN's David Culver shows us one place that's part of history -- sorry -- that is part history lesson, also part indoctrination.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In a country were organized religion is strongly discouraged, there is faith of a different type widely promoted here in China -- faith in the ruling Chinese Communist Party, that is. And this, one of its revered holy sites, Yan'an in Central China.

(on camera): Yan'an it's a place in which the party's founding fathers lived and worked before the communists took over Mainland China in 1949. Just over my shoulder here, this is one of the spots where Mao Zedong called home for a brief time.

(voice over): CNN recently joining other international media for a carefully-curated government tour. A visit to the historical places that marked the parties rise over the past 100 years. So called a Red Tourist traveling here to make a pilgrimage of sorts, some more enthusiastic than others.

The parties origins are central to a national curriculum aimed at indoctrinating the next generation. School children brought here on field trips. Adult students here to further their understanding of the party.

(on camera): And what's the idea behind coming here? What does it do for you, long term?

MA JIANHUI, PARTY SCHOOL TRAINEE (through translator): I come here to study the party's history, to have a better grasp of the party's mission.

CULVER (voice over): We visited one communist party school that grooms its elite members, a pristine and modern university-like setting.

(on camera): This is a campus where they gather business leaders, government officials, military officers and they're brought here and brought into lecture halls like this one that we are about to walk into to learn more about the theoretical and the party spirit education as they consider it.

Step inside.

(voice over): Classrooms filled with trainees taking notes. They come here for a few days to a few weeks. For Wang Wenjun (ph) it's about learning to think big, not climbing high.

WANG WENJUN, PARTY SCHOOL TRAINEE (through translator): Personally, I want to serve more people, to help them improve their lives, and pursue greater happiness.

CULVER: These could very well be the party and country's future leaders. While originally founded in Shanghai in 1921, China's Communist Party did not take control of Mainland China until the end of a brutal civil war in 1949.

And since, there have been missteps, failures, and catastrophes that are often downplayed or even missing from the official narrative. From the pains of the cultural revolution to the blood of the Tiananmen Square massacre

But there are also undeniable successes turning this once poverty- stricken agrarian nation into the world's second largest economy with a fast modernizing military force that increasingly unnerves the United States. And those triumphs takes center stage.

In a dramatic and elaborate production, officials invited us to watch a show created to celebrate the party's founding. Showcasing its victory over Japanese occupiers and then the nationalists portraying a heroic journey. While projecting a future promise and prosperity, leaving the audience under a wave of red, and the party undoubtedly hopes, awash with patriotism and gratitude for its century-long presence.

David Culver, CNN -- Yan'an, China.


VAUSE: Joining us now is Victor Gao, former translator for the late communist leader Deng Xiaoping. He is now professor at Suzhou University.

And Victor, it's been many, many years so it's good to see you. Thanks for being with us.

VICTOR GAO, PROFESSOR, SUZHOU UNIVERSITY: Thank you very much for having me on this important day.

VAUSE: Yes. very important day. But tell me which country or countries want to enslave and oppress China? Precisely who was President Xi Jinping talking to?

GAO: I think China is facing tremendous amount of difficult international prejudice especially from the United States. And I think there are people in the United States who are not coming to terms to the prospect and the eminent reality that China may surpass the United States as the largest economy.

And they may want to do whatever they can to try to hold China down, as if that will have no consequences. I think what President Xi Jinping was talking about was against such anti-China forces, which want to deprive Chinese people of the right of economic development and China's peaceful rise in the world.

And I think Chinese people are fully ready to deal with such anti- China forces and China's rise is inevitable and China's peaceful rise is actually contributing to world peace and stability as a whole.

VAUSE: Ok. We'll take one thing at a time. When you say deal with, you know, those countries that want to enslave or oppress. Precisely how will China deal with that?

GAO: Well, I think the best way is to build up Chinese national defense capabilities and also to commit China to more reform and opening to the outside world.


GAO: Because I think that fundamentally, the most important thing that matters is China's economic development, and building up national strength at the national level, at the local level, and also at family level.

So in that case, we are very confident about China's future and we believe tomorrow in China will be better than today. And we will have enough resources and national commitment to deal whatever international or external pressures that may come from whichever country it may involve, either the United States or someone else.

VAUSE: If Communist China was truly secure and confident on its grip on power and its future, why not on everything it's done, you know, like say the military on unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators back in 1989, you know, the largest roundup and detention of ethnic minorities since the Japanese internment in the U.S. During World War II. The purges of the cultural revolution. You know, unless they are sort of ashamed of those moments, why not own everything?

GAO: Well, I actually disagree with some of the presumptions you just now made. I think the situation and the realities in China are very, very different. I think what lesson we have learned from 1989 is that China cannot have another revolution. And whatever differences you may have, you need to overcome them through peaceful means, in an evolutionary way.

And the situation in Xinjiang is very, very stable right now. Why? Because the Chinese government has led the Chinese people to overcome the extreme pressure points from radicalization extremism and terrorism and the situation is stable right now.

This is not because there were no pressure points. They were extreme radicalization forces, many of which come from the 20-year-old war (INAUDIBLE) still not ending. And I think we as a nation are very much united against such radicalization.

And the Uyghurs are our brothers and sisters. And they will remain part of the Chinese national fabric for thousands of years to come. No one can change the fact that Xinjiang Province, China and the Uyghurs are our brothers and sisters.

VAUSE: Ok. Victor, we are having a few hits on your shot right now, so we will leave it there. A few (INAUDIBLE) problems, but we managed to get most of it there. So thank you so much for being with us, and we appreciate your time.

GAO: Thank you.

VAUSE: Take care.

GAO: Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: Pleasure.

Well, exactly what is or is not happening in Ethiopia's Tigray Region remains unclear. The U.N. describes the situation as extremely fluid and unpredictable.

Ethiopian troops have withdrawn from the regional capital Mekelle but the prime minister says they left voluntarily and not for -- voluntary rather and for political reasons. His claim cannot be independently verified because of the communications blackout.

CNN's Larry Madowo has more now from Nairobi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): After declaring a unilateral cease fire and leaving Mekelle, the regional capital of Tigray, now the Ethiopian military is trying to re-frame the conversation and the narrative about why exactly they left.

The military saying now that this Mekelle is no longer the central gravity it once was and the Tigrayan fighters do not present an existential threat to the nation and they withdrew so that the humanitarian needs of this region can be addressed, access for aid workers and withdrawing Eritrean troops that remain there.

This was state minister Redwan Hussein speaking to the press.

REDWAN HUSSEIN, ETHIOPIAN STATE MINISTER (through translator): First, the fighting needed to stop which we stopped.

Secondly, if we were still there, even if we stopped fighting, the government would still be blamed for killing people or hindering access. So we decided to take our troops out altogether in a transparent manner for everyone to see.

It was a political decision, not a military one. If the political decision were reversed, the military could enter Mekelle even now.

MADOWO: The Tigrayan Defense Forces have rejected this unilateral ceasefire declared by the Ethiopian government.

And communications still remains down in the area. No phone connectivity, no Internet. It's difficult to access and tell exactly what's going on. There's going to be a U.N. Security Council meeting about this region and this conflict on Friday.

The Ethiopian government is also warning that if that provoked -- the word is "provoked" they're using -- they can easily re-enter Mekelle at anytime. And this is the specter of conflict that still hangs over this region which has seen a bloody brutal conflict for eight months.

And it looks like if this continues this standoff, the people who are in dire need of aid or food, of health, will still be very greatly affected by what happens.

Larry Madowo, CNN -- Nairobi.


VAUSE: Well, there are growing calls for an end to the violence in Afghanistan as the U.S. troop withdrawal could wrap up in just a number of days.

We head to Kabul for the very latest.



VAUSE: With the Taliban gaining ground in Afghanistan, the U.S. is calling for an end to the escalating fighting. That statement from the American embassy in Kabul comes with the U.S. now just days away from a total troop withdrawal.

CNN's Anna Coren is reporting now from Kabul.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): America's longest war could be coming to a close within a matter of days as the remaining U.S. troops here in Afghanistan prepare to leave.

The deadline set by President Biden was September 11, however the withdrawal has been brought forward two months as more than 900 C-17 planeloads of equipment and troops have already returned home.

A thousand U.S. soldiers will remain in country -- 600 to protect the U.S. embassy while the remainder will secure the international airport in the interim until Turkish troops are in place to take over.

U.S. Commander General Austin Scott Miller overseeing the withdrawal has warned of an impending civil war in Afghanistan after U.S. troops leave saying quote, "This should be a concern for the world."

It comes as the security situation in the country rapidly deteriorates with the Taliban latching offenses (ph) across the country particularly in the north where they've made serious advances in the past few weeks.

(on camera): So far the Taliban has seized more than a hundred of the 370 districts. Propaganda videos have shown Afghan forces surrendering and handing over U.S.-funded weapons, ammunition, Humvees and armored personnel carriers.

The U.S. Embassy here in Kabul issued a statement a short time ago calling on the Taliban to end the violence and reaffirm its commitment to Afghanistan. It said the partnership between the two countries was not ending with President Biden pledging more than $3 billion for security assistance over the coming year.

But as we know, money alone will not fix the potential catastrophe unfolding here. $2 trillion dollars has already been spent on the Afghan war over the past 20 years. Many fear it's only a matter of time before the Taliban returns to power.

Anna Coren, CNN -- Kabul.


VAUSE: Well, the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was the beginning of Operation: Enduring Freedom. And the man who oversaw the U.S. war on terrorism has died.

According to family members, former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld died Tuesday in the city of Taos, New Mexico. He was 88 years old.

Rumsfeld may have been best known though as the main architect of the Iraq War.

But as CNN's Barbara Starr reports, he was a power player in Washington for many years before that.


DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Never forget what this great institution is about.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Donald Rumsfeld holds the distinction as both the youngest person to ever serve as secretary of Defense, and the second oldest to serve in the position.

He was Defense secretary for President Gerald Ford in the 1970s and President George W. Bush in the early 2000s.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's going to be a great secretary of Defense again.

STARR: It was his second stint in that role which would come to define what Donald Rumsfeld was most known for. Driven from office by the Iraq War after being seen as a hero in the hours of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.

RUMSFELD: We have taken a series of measures to prevent further attacks and to determine who is responsible.

STARR: Rumsfeld was inside the Pentagon when it was struck by a hijacked plane, killing 184 people. He rushed to help evacuate the injured, until his security team begged him to go back inside. But soon Rumsfeld would leave the global war on terror.

RUMSFELD: Active forces are deployed and redeployed.

STARR: In the coming years he oversaw two conflicts -- the Iraq War and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

RUMSFELD: We are in a sense seeing the definition of a new battlefield in the world, a 21st century battlefield. And it is a different kind of conflict.

STARR: Rumsfeld was left defending an unpopular war, the war in Iraq, which was widely denounced as a quagmire with no clear strategy especially when violence on the streets of Iraq grew.

RUMSFELD: It's untidy and freedom's untidy. Think what's happening in our cities when we've had riots and problems and looting. Stuff happens.

It's essentially a matter of physics.

STARR: And Rumsfeld was roundly criticized for this answer to a soldier's question about the military's lack of properly armored vehicles in Iraq.

RUMSFELD: As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish you have at a later time.

STARR: Many held him responsible for the Abu Ghraib torture scandals and abuse of detainees.

RUMSFELD: These events occurred on my watch as secretary of Defense. I am accountable for them and I take full responsibility.

STARR: And Rumsfeld would be known around the Pentagon for his so- called "snowflakes", memos on everything he was thinking.

RUMSFELD: There are known unknowns, that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknown's, the ones we don't we don't know.

STARR: Born in Chicago in 1932, Donald Rumsfeld was both a college wrestler at Princeton and a navy pilot, skills that served him well perhaps in later life in government office -- grappling with and navigating through a complicated political landscape.

Rumsfeld's legacy began to take shape after becoming President Ford's White House chief of staff and ultimately secretary of defense. While Defense chief under Ford, Rumsfeld worked closely with Dick Cheney, forming a connection that would last a lifetime.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some regard him as the best secretary of defense we ever had. I would say he was one of the best.

STARR: But for many who were at the Pentagon that terrible 9/11 day, the most important legacy even as the building was in flames, Donald Rumsfeld stayed, refusing to leave for a safer location.

Donald Rumsfeld was indeed a controversial public servant, but he never retreated.


VAUSE: Our thanks to CNN's Barbara Starr for that report.

We will take a short break. When we come back, CNN has obtained video from just moments before the collapse of the Champlain Towers -- water gushing into a parking garage. We will have an engineer's perspective in a moment.



VAUSE: After serving nearly three years in prison, disgraced comedian Bill Cosby is a free man with his sexual convictions surprisingly overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court because of a major legal error by the prosecution. The court said Cosby's due process rights were violated because he was promised immunity for testifying in a civil case in 2005. But that testimony was used against him years later in his criminal trial. His accusers have said they're outraged and stunned by the ruling.

CNN legal analyst Laura Coates weighed in on how the decision impacts the MeToo movement.


LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: On a legally procedural basis, the decision was actually reasonable. But of course, we can't look at it in a vacuum, can we? We know that there is the emotion. We know about the silencing of voices of victims of sexual assault.

We know about the notion of this being the first case in the MeToo movement to actually be prosecuted and for a verdict to be rendered.

And the Supreme Court in Pennsylvania never said that Bill Cosby was innocent. They did not address the substance of the factual allegations or did they say -- nor did they say that the prosecutors in that case failed to meet their burden of proof.

The jury found him guilty. What they did say, however was that look a deal is a deal.


VAUSE: Cosby's attorney tells CNN's Chris Cuomo the criminal trial was never fair.


JENNIFER BONJEAN, ATTORNEY FOR BILL COSBY: I have no problem with a just and righteous verdict if you get there a fair way. But when you cheat to get there, there's no righteousness or justice in that verdict. And that unfortunately is what happened.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Hold on one second. I'm with you that the game has to be played. We all know the adage. Either 100 guilty men should go free or women, so that one innocent is not punished wrongfully. I hear you.

But let's not fake the funk here either. You had a jury to your testimony from Constand (ph) and other women and they convicted him. So this wasn't that it was all manipulation. This was a real jury. They got to hear it and found him guilty.

BONJEAN: You also had a jury that heard evidence they shouldn't have heard, both in the form of this deposition that was obtained illegally. And you also had a jury that heard evidence from frankly other bad -- other accusers that we never should've heard because we don't live in a world where we try people's character, we try crimes.

So I do not believe we had a fair trial. And I don't believe you can look at this verdict and put any stock in it, frankly.


VAUSE: Cosby thanked his supporters after being released. He tweeted, "I have never changed my stance or my story. I've always maintained my innocence.

Well, the bodies of two girls aged four and 10 have been pulled from the rubble bringing the death toll in the Florida apartment building collapse to 18.

Two people staying at a nearby hotel recorded video of water and debris gushing into the building's garage just moments before the collapse.

The U.S. federal government is beginning an investigation into what caused the building to fall.

CNN's Nick Valencia spoke with an engineer about the disaster.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the first time engineer Greg Batista has looked at this video in slow motion. He used his decades of experience as a structural engineer in south Florida to tell us what he thinks went wrong.

GREG BATISTA, STRUCTURE ENGINEER: Go to that first frame where it begins to fall. There was something here at the bottom that gave way. And this is why this entire piece is just starting to come down.

As I progress the frames, you will see that there is a section that remains behind it or just to the north of it.

Now, obviously when you have this kind of -- this kind of collapse, obviously it's going to try to bring down everything that is around it.

Basically on this side, on this side, and of course the backside. Now the backside as we see here starts to come down almost immediately with the front side.

I was able to get my hands on the original plans. And the original plans as this goes down shows that there was a sheer wall. That wall, when we looked at the original plans was right there in that section. So that's why it didn't fall immediately. If that sheer wall was not there then this portion that's here would've pancaked also.

VALENCIA (on camera): Hanging on by a thread, really.

BATISTA: Basically hanging on by a thread and due to its loss of equilibrium and the momentum caused by the collapse of the other structure inevitably it gave way and just collapsed on itself.

[01:54:53] VALENCIA (voice over): As the collapse was unfolding, the "Miami Herald" reports Casey Stratton called her husband to tell him the pool was caving in. Then the line went dead.

Batista says the call is a critical piece to understanding what happened.

BATISTA: If there was a hole anywhere in the structure right before the collapse, it would have been right at the area where the collapse commenced, where that first domino fell.

VALENCIA: He says the call gives merit to the theory of a potential sinkhole.

But what's more likely, he says, is a confluence of factors including spalling or rust to the steel rebar caused by the ocean sea salt water and how well engineers glued the buildings columns to its concrete, flat plate slabs.

BATISTA: If I used some sort of very bad low capacity glue, of course, if I press down a little bit it's going to go through. Now, however, if I take precautions as an engineer and I said, look, I'm going to use super gorilla glue, then as I press down my finger on it, it's going to not -- it's going to keep it that way.

VALENCIA: Batista believes that if this particular building didn't have this superglue system, then that could've contributed to it going down so easily. He says the era it was designed and constructed in in the 80s is also relevant.

BATISTA: The design, the codes are not the same today as they were in the 80s. There is this whole process on the modern -- in our system today that is baked into the system where you have these different layers of overview.

VALENCIA (on camera): And this building would have been grandfathered into those evolution of codes?

BATISTA: Yes, absolutely.

VALENCIA (voice over): Sadly Batista says there is a chance forensic investigators may never pinpoint what went wrong or ultimately who is to blame. But he hopes that once it's discovered that this collapse is a catalyst for change.

BATISTA: You know, I've seen lots of accidents before. When you're on construction, you see death. People falling from buildings. I've seen a lot.

When I went there the first day, I had to -- I had to go home after I was there. It's horrible.

VALENCIA: Batista says many engineers agree that the cause of this collapse is complex and likely involves a variety of factors. Among those factors include the action or inaction of the condo board. (on camera): Did they push back against maintenance suggestions made in a 2018 report? Batista says if the price tag is high enough, in his experience, there often is pushback.

The question here, though, did it happen in this case? And if it did, how that might have contributed to what happened here.

Nick Valencia, CNN -- Surfside, Florida.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us. After a short break, CNN NEWSROOM will continue with Rosemary Church.

See you tomorrow.