Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Blasts Indictments; U.S. Economy Surging; U.S. Forces Leaving Afghanistan. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 2, 2021 - 14:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hi, everyone. Welcome to NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Victor Blackwell is off today.

And we begin with a landmark moment in America's longest war. All U.S. forces have left Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. This is the most significant step yet in the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country after nearly 20 years, even as the threat of civil war looms. In 2011, there were almost 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Bagram, once a sprawling compound, was the center of American military operations there. That base was the target of numerous attacks by the Taliban. It was October of 2001 when the U.S. entered Afghanistan in response to the September 11 attacks.

Since then, more than 2,300 troops have been killed there, more than 20,000 wounded. The United States spent about $2 trillion funding that operation. And the U.N. reports at least 100,000 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan from this conflict.

CNN's Anna Coren is live for us in Kabul.

So, Anna, tell us, what is happening as the U.S. officially hands over Bagram to the Afghans?


The Afghans are already in charge of Bagram Air Base. That happened early this morning when the last planeload of U.S. and NATO forces left around 6:30 a.m. It has now been handed over to the Afghans, as has really the security of this country.

We heard from President Biden when he addressed the media a little bit earlier today, and he said, we are bringing our troops home. Those troops will be back by the Fourth of July. And whilst this might be the end of the forever war for America, for Afghanistan, it's just another chapter.

The people that we have been speaking to, local Afghans, they knew this day was coming, but they didn't think it would happen now, when the situation on the ground is as precarious as what it is.

We are seeing advances from the Taliban. They have launched offenses around the country, gaining significant ground, particularly in the north of the country. And this has caught the government, as well as security forces off-guard.

So, really mixed emotions today, disbelief and a sense that now is the time for Afghanistan to have to step up and take on the threat, also mixed feelings as well, Alisyn, for those who have served in this country.

I spoke to a member of the U.S. Special Forces who I met here some years ago on a previous trip, and he said that today feels like a failure, a failure for America and for NATO forces and a victory for the Taliban, and he is very concerned about the future.

I want to read to you something that he wrote me. He said: "I have a bad feeling that we will witness atrocities in the months to come and that we are far from done fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, whether it's weeks, months, or years from now," certainly a very sobering assessment from somebody who has served multiple tours in this country, where we know so much blood and treasure has been lost, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely, after all those numbers that we just talked about, about what was lost there, that that's the sentiment as they leave.

But what about the local Afghans? What about those 18,000 Afghans who helped the U.S., many of them as interpreters? What's their fate? What becomes of them?

COREN: Absolutely.

We know that 18,000 of these applications have been made of people who have worked for the Americans, whether it be translators or in other types of work. This is an enormous task ahead for the American government to go through those visa applications, perhaps get them to a third country, which is something that the United States is investigating.

But it cannot happen soon enough for these people who worked directly with the Americans. The Taliban knows who worked for the Americans. You know, this is a country where people talk. People live in villages. Families know.

And, certainly, the Taliban have their targets. There are people who will be left behind, they will fall through the cracks, because perhaps they don't meet the criteria. And then you have those, Alisyn, who are just everyday Afghans, educated people who were perhaps the future of this country.

They now say, we don't have a future, and they -- if they can leave this country, they will.

CAMEROTA: Anna Coren, it is so complicated. Thank you for explaining it to us and for being on the ground there for us.

Well, a short time ago, President Biden said the U.S. is on track to achieve full withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 11. That's the deadline that he set.


Then, President Biden grew frustrated after reporters asked him multiple questions on Afghanistan.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think they have the capacity to be able to sustain the government.

We can be value added, but the Afghans are going to have to be able to do it themselves with the air force they have, which we're helping them maintain.

QUESTION: Sir, on Afghanistan--

BIDEN: I'm not going to answer any more quick question on Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Are you concerned--

BIDEN: Look, it's Fourth of July.

We're bringing out -- bringing our troops home. We have -- all across America, people are going to ball games and doing good things. This is good.

I will be -- I will answer all your negative questions -- not negative -- your legitimate questions.


CAMEROTA: CNN White House reporter Natasha Bertrand has done extensive reporting on the president's decision to end America's longest war.

So, Natasha, one official describes President Biden as making this by gut decision. What does that mean?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: This is a decision that President Biden has wanted to make for years now.

When he was vice president with former President Obama, he was arguing in favor of withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan years ago. And now he's finally been able to make that decision. He feels that now is the moment, that, after 20 years, there's just not much left that the United States can do to stabilize the Afghan government and that the Afghan government is going to have to kind of go it alone with economic support from the U.S., with some kind of air support in certain instances from the U.S. to help fight the Taliban in certain cases. But, otherwise, he feels like, really, if we stay any longer there, then U.S. troops are going to be attacked. And the White House line on this as well has been, they were boxed in by the previous administration, because the Trump administration made a deal with the Taliban to get out by May 1.

And Jen Psaki said just last week that, if we were to stay any longer, she fears that U.S. troops and the White House fears that U.S. troops would then be shot at. So they feel like this is really the final moment where they can really do something.

They can tell the Afghan president that they have their full support, obviously. But it's really fascinating that we haven't seen much come out of the White House or from the president today about this momentous occasion of U.S. troops leaving Bagram airfield.

It's a hugely symbolic moment. It was handed back to the Afghans today, and it is really one of the biggest moments in the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The withdrawal is expected to be completed by next week and the White House is very much standing behind that decision.

CAMEROTA: And yet, Natasha, it sound like there are still multiple major issues that the White House may or may not have a plan for. Like, what are some of those?

BERTRAND: The pace of this withdrawal has really kind of caught a lot of people in Washington off-guard. Of course, the president had said that it would be by September, but we're on schedule to complete it much sooner than that, and a lot of questions do remain unanswered, as you said.

Lawmakers, for example, are asking about counterterrorism missions, how the U.S. is going to conduct strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan either through the CIA or through the Pentagon. What is that going to look like, since we will not have bases in the country anymore from which to conduct those drone strikes?

Of course, the future of these Afghan translators. Are they going to be able to get out? And the future of Kabul Airport, which is such an important point in the country. And if that falls into Taliban hands, then the rest of the country could really suffer as well.

So, a lot of unanswered questions here that the administration is hoping to kind of figure out as they go along.

CAMEROTA: Natasha Bertrand, thank you for all that reporting.

So, new job numbers are out today, and they show the pace of the economic recovery accelerating. The U.S. added 850,000 jobs in June, beating economists' predictions. It's the strongest month since August 2020.

The unemployment rate ticked up, though, slightly to 5.9 percent. President Biden is celebrating the hiring surge and taking credit for the turnaround.


BIDEN: This is historic progress, pulling our economy out of the worst crisis in 100 years, driven in part by our dramatic progress in vaccinating our nation and beating back the pandemic, as well as other elements in the American Rescue Plan.

None of this happened by accident. Again, it's a direct result of the American Rescue Plan. And, at the time, people questioned whether or not we should do that, even though we didn't have bipartisan support. Well, it worked.


CAMEROTA: Catherine Rampell is a CNN economics and political commentator and a columnist for "The Washington Post."

Great to have you here. So, great jobs numbers for June, but you say not time to pop the champagne yet.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The overall number is good. It beat expectations, and it's an acceleration in hiring from previous months.

The one thing that gives me pause is the number of people who were in the labor force, so meaning people who are either working or actively looking for work. There is still more than three million fewer people in the labor force today than was the case when the pandemic began.


And the real question is, where are they? Why are they sitting on the sidelines? Why haven't they been drawn back into the economy, given that there are tons of vacancies, it's safer to work, things are reopening, and employers say they really need these workers?

CAMEROTA: Nine hundred and forty-two thousand people quit their jobs in June, right, like, voluntarily left their jobs. What's that about?

RAMPELL: So, that, perhaps counterintuitively, is a sign of optimism.

These are probably people who are looking around and saying, hey, there are better job opportunities out there. I can find higher pay. I can find more flexible hours, maybe a nicer boss, maybe a different line of work.

The fact that people are voluntarily quitting their jobs means that they think there are better opportunities that are available for them. And probably there are, because, again, there is this massive synchronized reopening. There aren't enough workers. A lot of people have dropped out.

Probably, retirements are way up, so older workers are less available, so there are more opportunities for their younger peers. The number of immigrant workers is down too. So there are a lot of available opportunities out there, if you're unhappy with wherever you are now.

CAMEROTA: So, it's such a workers market. Are wages up also?

RAMPELL: Wages are up.

So, one way that employers are trying to grab the few workers who are available, of course, is by offering them higher pay. And you're seeing higher wages or at least above-trend wage growth across the board, but especially in low wage sectors, which, again, is good for those workers.

The question is, how long will that be around? There are some constraints on how much employers can raise wages, right? I mean, you can pass along some of your higher costs to your customers, but, at some point, they might say, hey, I'm not going to shop at your store anymore, I'm not going to go to your restaurant.

And there is, of course, the risk that there could be some self- sustaining inflation that comes out of that. Hopefully, it won't get to that point, but, yes, you are seeing wages go up.

CAMEROTA: I want to get your take on what happened yesterday with the Trump Organization.

So, the CFO was indicted on some financial crimes. And, last night, Eric Trump, the president's -- former president's son, came out on television with what I think you think was an interesting defense. So let's play that.


ERIC TRUMP, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: These are employment parks. These are -- these are a corporate car, which everybody has. I guarantee you there's people on this network that have corporate cars. I guarantee you there's people at every company in the country that have corporate vehicles.

This is what they're going after. This isn't a criminal matter.


CAMEROTA: So, I mean, basically, one of the alleged crimes is -- are these fringe benefits. What did you think of that defense?

RAMPELL: You know, sometimes, I think that the real Trump family business is admitting to crimes on live TV, because that was -- that was his father's solution whenever he was in legal hot water.

And it seems to be the case here, that if, in fact, the thing -- the items -- the behaviors laid out in that indictment are true, those are crimes, yes. I mean, if you get these kinds of in-kind benefits, and you don't report them as income, then you're evading taxes.

And it wasn't just the corporate car that was provided to him. It was a whole bunch of other things, basically petty cash that was given to him, rent for his apartment, which was not even a Trump-owned building, by the way. So there was a lot of money that was getting funneled to the CFO of the Trump Organization that was not being reported to either federal, state or local tax authorities.

And Trump's kid basically just went on TV and said, so what?

CAMEROTA: Catherine Rampell, thank you. Great to get your take, as always.

All right, still ahead: The death toll continues to rise in Surfside, Florida. And, moments ago, there was a heartbreaking discovery, the body of a 7-year-old girl and the daughter of a local firefighter.

Also, CNN's KFILE uncovers deleted tweets by "Hillbilly Elegy" author and potential Senate candidate J.D. Vance. So, what do his past comments about Trump do to his chances?



CAMEROTA: We have an update now from, Surfside, Florida. The death toll has climbed to 20 people, and among the latest bodies found, a 7- year-old girl, the daughter of a local firefighter.

We're also learning about more red flags about the structural integrity of the building before the collapse. A letter from 2020 just obtained by CNN reveals an engineering firm discovered deep concrete deterioration near the pool. But repair work was put on hold over concerns that it could affect the stability of surrounding structures.

CNN Rosa Flores continues to be on location for us.

So, Rosa, such heartbreaking news about that 7-year-old girl, the daughter of the firefighter. What more do we know?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Alisyn, it is just heartbreaking. And there really no words.

We have few details because, as you might imagine, the sensitivity of the situation. What I can tell you is that she was 7 years old, and her dad is a member of the city of Miami fire rescue team. And he also belongs to the Florida Task Force 2 team.

And it was his teammates who actually found his daughter and then called him over. The fire chief shared with us that they have a specific process that they follow whenever a body is recovered. But, as you might imagine, this was uniquely painful for everybody on that team, especially the father, who was there working when the body of his daughter was recovered.


Again, we have very few details, Alisyn, about that. But that is just probably the most painful news that this father could have received, and, of course, his brother and sister firefighters right there alongside him, and many of them now back on the rubble working again to make sure that they can do everything they can for all of the other families who are waiting to hear about their loved ones. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN COMINSKY, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA, FIRE CHIEF: Every victim we remove, it's difficult, it's very difficult. We try to respect.

We have a whole process in regards to how we remove each individual that we come across. And, unfortunately, we haven't been able to remove any survivors yet. But it's very difficult.

And last night was even more, when we're moving a fellow firefighter's daughter. And that's just where I want to emphasize the emotion, what we're feeling. As firefighters, we do what we do. And it's kind of a calling. And we always say that, and -- but it still takes a toll.


FLORES: Now, Alisyn, many of these firefighters live in this area. But, for now, they're living in tents. They're not going home. They're not going home to their families. They're working in 12-hour shifts, taking breaks only really to take check their pulse and also to check their oxygen levels to make sure that they are OK to continue working -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Rosa, I mean, just what a toll on every level emotionally and physically, and the sacrifices that they're making. Thank you very much for the reporting.

All right, let's turn now to former President Donald Trump and a pair of new threats to his political future that are escalating simultaneously.

So, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her appointments to the House select committee on the January 6 attack, which will likely investigate the former president's role in that day. And this was the same day that New York prosecutors indicted the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, on a host of financial crimes.

So, the former president responded in his usual way, calling the indictments against Weisselberg -- quote -- "a political witch-hunt that is dividing our country."

Here with us to talk about this, we have CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.

Dana, great to see you.


CAMEROTA: I was interested in former President Trump's response.

And one of them, Politico was reporting that he was almost excited about the indictments of Allen Weisselberg because he thought that this would be further fuel for whatever his political future was and would energize the base. But I'm not sure his base needs to be energized. I mean, you saw that Ohio rally that he held a week or two ago. There were thousands and thousands of people who turned out. So what do you think the upshot of these Trump Organization indictments will be?

BASH: My sense is yours, that it's not going to make that much of a difference for him when it comes to his political viability with the people he's going to be politically viable with.

They already think that everybody is out to get him and that he has done no wrong and all the things that we know. That -- sort of either that way that he's projecting, if that is true, that he is kind of giddy on the political side, that may be one side of it.

But the reality is that this is the Trump Organization. And this is the guy who made everything happen in the Trump Organization, not just for him, but for Fred Trump, his father, as we know.

And the fact that this is such a sprawling -- or really damning indictment, allegations right now, just an indictment, really is -- as Michael Cohen was saying to you yesterday in that fascinating interview you did Alisyn, reminding us over and over again, as somebody who was in the room, in the building for a very long time, Donald Trump was and is involved in everything from buying of paper clips to whatever may or may not have happened with Allen Weisselberg and his family.

And so that is something to keep in mind, not just in this case, but with whatever -- if anything else happens down the road that Michael Cohen was warning you about.

CAMEROTA: I mean, obviously, the challenge will be proving that.

BASH: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: Michael Cohen has said that several times, but it will be connecting the dots on whether they can prove that Donald Trump directed any of this.

But let's move on to the January 6 select committee. So do we know if Leader Kevin McCarthy is going to name Republicans to be on this select committee? I mean, beyond Liz Cheney, who basically -- well, who Nancy Pelosi named, do we know what Kevin McCarthy's plan is?

BASH: No, no not yet. TBD.


And one of the interesting things about the answer to that question is that there are a lot of different calculations that Kevin McCarthy is going through right now.

First and foremost is the Jim Jordans of the world, put the biggest and loudest flamethrowers and Trump loyalists on this panel, just to completely gum up the works, and/or not put anybody on at all, because the moderates, those who -- most of those who either impeached -- voted to impeach the president or even voted for the commission -- remember, 35 Republicans voted for this independent commission, which didn't happen because the Senate, Senate Republicans blocked it.

Most of them voted no on this select committee, and that is because they don't want to have anything to do with it, not because they don't want to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6 -- I talk to a lot of those Republicans who very much do -- but because their Republican leadership has made it so toxic, it is a lose-lose proposition to serve on that committee.

So I think who is going to be on it is as much of a question as whether anybody will be on it at all. And they're very much a hand-in- hand kind of decision.

CAMEROTA: Dana, let's quickly talk about J.D. Vance. He was the author of "Hillbilly Elegy," which had so much fanfare when it was published, and now he wants to run for Senate in Ohio.

In 2016, he was not a fan of Donald Trump, and he made that clear in a lot of ways, including tweeting out a couple of things that our KFILE has found, I believe.

So here is what he said then in 2016: "Trump makes people I care about afraid, immigrants, Muslims, et cetera. Because of this, I find him reprehensible."

Here's another tweet: "Fellow Christians, everyone is watching us when we apologize for this man. Lord help us."

He has now deleted those tweets, and appears to be I guess, trying to embrace on some level Donald Trump. How's this going to work?

BASH: Well, Alisyn, it's the way we started this conversation. It's a question of what Donald Trump means for the current Republican Party.

And this race in Ohio, this Senate race, to me, is going to be one of the most fascinating illustrations or answers to that question that we're posing here, because Rob Portman is retiring. He certainly is a fiscally conservative Republican and even socially conservative, but, by Trump standards, not so much. He's a more of a traditional Republican, if you will.

And so the race to replace him, the primary race, is going to be very much a race to decide whether or not the former president has -- how much power he has right now. And the fact that you have the man who wrote the "Hillbilly Elegy," wrote the book that everybody read and read after Donald Trump won, and a lot of people on the coast said, how did that happen?

They read that book, his book, describing the kind of Trump voter, but what the KFILE reminded us was that, even though J.D. Vance described the Trump voter, he didn't think that Donald Trump the person was the prescription for the sort of woes and the needs and the challenges of the Trump voter.

But now that we're in 2021, heading into the 2022 cycle, and there's a big fight over who will be the Republican in this Ohio Senate race, he understands the realities of the Republican Party now, just like so many other Republicans who disavowed and kind of pooh-poohed the notion of Donald Trump as being somebody who was a standard bearer for the GOP.

And the question is whether or not President Trump is going to say, OK I forgive you for that, even though you deleted it, or maybe because you deleted it, or he will go with one of the others. There are other candidates there who are much more openly and historically pro-Trump.


Dana Bash, thank you for all the analysis.

BASH: Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Good to see you.

BASH: You too.

CAMEROTA: OK, so, in just moments at the White House, President Biden will host a naturalization ceremony to celebrate Independence Day, as he unveils an unprecedented new strategy to encourage more U.S. citizenships.