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Last U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base; Trump Organization, CFO Charged in 15-Year Tax Fraud Scheme; Biden Meets with Families, Search and Rescue Teams; Lawsuits Claim Years of Delays in Fixing Problems; White House Admits It Will Miss Vaccination Goal; W.H.O. Says New Cases Up 10 Percent in Europe, First Increase Since April; Heat-Related Deaths Suge in Oregon, Washington State. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired July 2, 2021 - 04:00   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: After 20 years of war in Afghanistan, U.S. and NATO forces take a historic step withdrawing from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

The Trump Organization is charged with running a 15 year employee tax scheme, its top financial officer faces more than a dozen charges. We'll explain what it could mean for Donald Trump.

And crews considered demolishing the Surfside complex that still stands as rescue operations continue.

Welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

It's been nearly 20 years since the United States first invaded Afghanistan. Now a senior U.S. defense official tells CNN that the last American forces have left Bagram Air Base ending the U.S./NATO security for the Afghan people. The sprawling compound has become the center of military power in Afghanistan over the past two decades. Here is what the top American commander had to say about the situation there.


GENERAL SCOTT MILLER, TOP U.S. COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: It's the intention of the United States and the international community to remain diplomatically involved in Afghanistan and we see that in the best interests of Afghanistan as well. To leave behind those things that secure the assurances for the diplomatic community so that they can operate in this environment, and it will be condition based.


BRUNHUBER: CNN's Anna Coren joins us now from the Afghan capital. So Anna, a momentous occasion and I imagine a bittersweet one given the state in which the country is being left. ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's interesting, Kim, this has

been shrouded in secrecy. Obviously, we knew that the date was impending, it was imminent. But certainly, you know, we only got news after U.S. and coalition forces departed Bagram Air Base. We understand two plane loads of troops and equipment flew out last night, one this morning at 6:30 a.m.

And as you say, this really symbolizes the end of America's presence in Afghanistan. Yes, they're going to be leaving up to a 1,000 troops in country to protect the U.S. embassy as well as to secure the international airport until Turkish forces come into play.

But as for their physical footprint, their physical footprints in Afghanistan, assisting, training, advising Afghan forces, that has now come to an end. This is after 20 years, $2 trillion, more than 2,400 U.S. troops killed, 1200 coalition forces killed. You've got 100,000 -- more than 100,000 Afghan lives have been lost during this conflict, tens of thousands of Afghan forces have also died. We never got a specific number on that because the ministry of defense does not release those details due to the casualties that they have suffered.

But you know, it comes at a time when the country is reeling. We know that the security situation has ban rapidly deteriorating over the past few months. We've got the Taliban making, you know, serious headway particularly in the north of the country as their offensive continues. We're seeing this propaganda videos come out from the Taliban as they claim that forces are either fleeing bases or surrendering.

Now, we just heard from a Taliban spokesman and he said that the withdrawal of foreign forces is a positive step and that it is now up to Afghanistan and Afghans to decide their own future. Well we spoke to Dr. Abdullah Abdullah yesterday who's part of the Afghan government. He is in charge of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. And he says the outlook is grim. He does not hold out hope that there will be a peace agreement and that there are dark days ahead -- Kim.


BRUNHUBER: All right, not good news there, but thank you so much for that. Anna Coren, great to have you on place there.

We want to bring in international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson in London. Nic, you were at Bagram in the years before U.S. troops arrived. The Afghan government insists its troops can deal with the Taliban but there seems to be, you know, very little evidence of this so far given the rapid gains they've made, often without firing a shot. Do you have any confidence in the Afghan army going forward?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, there's a lot of pressure on the Afghan army to kind of regroup itself. It's been shocked and indeed him the Afghan government has been shocked by the speed of the Taliban gains. The Afghan army have been used to fighting, knowing that there could be an extremist close air support from NATO forces, the Afghan military has a certain amount of close air support that it can bring to bear but not with the skill or not in the numbers, not with the capacity and capability of U.S. and NATO forces.

So that they in some places appear to have collapsed, that they have surrendered, that the Taliban have let them go rather than, you know, lock them all up. All indicators that the Afghan forces are now on their back foot. I think, you know, when you look at the significance of what's happening and what's happened at Bagram today, this will be another dent to the morale of Afghan forces because now they know that the vestiges, the last vestiges of that close air support are now over the horizon.

We know U.S. forces. We know that the intent is that they will come back, that close air support is there to counter any terror threats against the United States that emerge from Afghanistan and also an intent to support the diplomatic community. We've heard that from the general speaking there just now.

But this was Bagram -- was a massive symbol of U.S. continuity, presence, determination to help the Afghans. You know, the base was so big, it would take an hour or so to literally run around the perimeter. It was used as a detention facility, as a sort of jumping off point for U.S. and other special forces. It was so busy at times on the flight line, you really, you know, in the early days camping by the flight line couldn't get a wink of sleep with the sound of planes coming and going and helicopters taking off. It was the big hub in the north of the country for U.S. forces. So another big morale dent for the Afghan military when the morale is already at a low ebb -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right, appreciate your insights there. Nic Robertson in London.

More than two years of investigations have now led to the first criminal charges against former U.S. President Donald Trump's real estate company. New York prosecutors accuse the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer of helping executives keep income off the books for 15 years. Paula Reid has more on what we know and where things go from here.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The namesake company of former President Trump now charged with tax crimes along with one of its top executives. Allen Weisselberg, the Chief Financial Officer for the Trump Organization led into court in handcuffs.

To the judge, prosecutors described a 15-year tax scheme charging Weisselberg, Trump Payroll Corporation, and the Trump Organization 15 counts against the CFO and 10 against the former president's namesake company. Prosecutors allege Weisselberg evaded taxes on $1.7 million in compensation. All three defendants pleaded not guilty.

Weisselberg's attorney announcing in a statement, he will fight the charges. His indictment and charges against the Trump Organization come after more than a two-year probe by the Manhattan DA, Cy Vance. An investigation, which ultimately led to obtaining Trump's tax records in a Supreme Court battle.

Investigators have been focusing on perks awarded to employees like free apartments, cars, and even school tuition. Benefits that would amount to tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, and were allegedly not properly reported for tax purposes.

REID: Allen, how are you feeling?

REID (voice-over): The Trump Organization fired back today claiming prosecutors are using Weisselberg, quote, "As a pawn in a scorched earth attempt to harm the former President."

Saying in a statement, "The District Attorney is bringing a criminal prosecution involving employee benefits that neither the I.R.S. nor any other District Attorney would ever think of bringing. This is not justice, this is politics."

Lawyers for the Trump Organization spoke after court.

ALAN FUTERFAS, TRUMP ORGANIZATION ATTORNEY: If the name of the company was something else, I don't think these charges would have been brought.


REID: No indication that the former president or any member of his family will be charged anytime soon. But these charges certainly increase the pressure on the longtime CFO, who so far has been resistant to pressure to cooperate against the former president. Prosecutors will likely need a cooperating or two to successfully pursue former President Trump.

Paula Reid, CNN, New York.


BRUNHUBER: And there is speculation about how much Donald Trump may have been involved in all of this. Weisselberg's former daughter-in- law tells our Chris Cuomo that Trump not only knew about the perks but personally signed off on them. Listen to this.


JENNIFER WEISSELBERG, TRUMP ORGANIZATION CFO'S FORMER DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: In Barry's deposition. And when he would come home, he would talk about every January, he would meet with Donald and Allen, and they would go over what his raise would be for the year. And it would be, I'll pay your daughter's tuition in lieu of a raise this year. I got it. Or there's apartment becoming available. I got it. I got it. It's available.


CHURCH: Search and rescue efforts are again under way at the site of the collapsed high rise building in south Florida after being suspended over safety concerns. Joe Biden visited the Surfside community to meet with first responders and rescue workers. The president and first lady laid a bouquet of flowers at a memorial wall near the collapse site. He also spoke with the families of the victims and those still missing.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're praying and pleading that, God, let there be a miracle, let there be something happen for me that's good. As I have, and like many of you have some idea what it's like to suffer that kind of loss. So many of them are suffering. Jill and I wanted them to know that we're with them and the country is with them. Our message today is that we're here for you as one nation, as one nation.


CHURCH: At least one survivor who met with the president is singing his praises. Steve Rosenthal's condo was one unit away from where the building collapsed. He shared these pictures with CNN and spoke with us about the president's visit.


STEVE ROSENTHAL, BUILDING COLLAPSE SURVIVOR: It was fantastic. The president was fantastic. The first lady was fantastic. He gave, you know -- said his speech, talked about the grief, you know and his son, when his son passed away and died. And then he walked around -- there must have been 200 people in that room. And he walked around and talked to every single person. As long as that person was talking to him, he listened. And I'm not embellishing this at all. If a person talked for 6 minutes, he sat there and listened for 6 minutes. It was absolutely incredible and it was very uplifting. It was amazing, it really was. Very impressed.


BRUNHUBER: Authorities say that a portion of the Champlain Towers that's still standing will likely be demolished although a final decision could take weeks.

The Miami-Dade fire chief reports dangerous shifting in the structure and a large column hanging from the building is in danger of falling. Search teams are working in three of the nine grids at the collapse site.


MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTRY, FLORIDA: Clearly we think it's safe for the rescue operation to take place in the areas where we have our team.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is it still a search and rescue operation as opposed to a recovery? In other words, it's been a week now, is there still hope that there may be survivors there?

CAVA: We are still conducting our search and rescue. We are still exploring crevices. We're still looking for voids. And we continue to seek bodies that are alive.


BRUNHUBER: Authorities have identified the 18th victim of the collapse as 80-year-old Magaly Delgado. Her daughter says she came to the U.S. from Cuba and had lived at the Champlain Towers for the past ten years.

Every day seems to bring new evidence of structural damage at the building. But investigators may never be able to pinpoint a single cause for the collapse. CNN's Drew Griffin reports.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lawsuits, e-mails and letters are emerging pointing to years of delays and disarray in fixing known problems at Champlain Towers South. Building documents reveal property management and leadership of the condo association had changed in recent years.

"The Washington Post" reports the resignation of five board members in 2019 as residents and board members argued over how to pay for a massive multimillion dollar repair bill aimed at fixing deteriorating concrete pillars and damaged concrete slabs.

In a letter obtained by "The Washington Post," the former president of the homeowner's board voicing her frustration.

We worked for months to go in one direction and at the very last minute objections are raised that should have been discussed and resolved right in the beginning.


She goes on to say: This pattern has repeated itself over and over, ego battles, undermining the roles of fellow board members, circulation of gossip and mistruths.

All of it crashing down last Thursday as surviving residents watched in horror.

ILIANA MONTEAGUDO, ESCAPED CHAMPLAIN TOWERS SOUTH: I saw a crack starting in the ceiling coming down, coming down fast and that black line opened it, and opened it and opened it.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): While the official cause has yet to be determined.

MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: The investigation is ongoing. We have no comment at this time about the possible causes.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Another unanswered question, why major repairs on the building had not been done? Lawsuits point to a 2018 engineering report that identified major structural damage. Conditions that were becoming significantly worse according to a letter sent by the board president just this past April.

John Pistorino is a South Florida structural engineer who helped write the Miami-Dade County requirement that all buildings reaching 40 years of age undergo major inspections and re-certification.

JOHN PISTORINO, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: We expect in the state statutes and our building code require that owners of these buildings maintain them from the day that they were built.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Champlain Towers South 40 years old this year appears to have waited until just now to begin fixing major issues. New video shows water spewing into the garage just moments before the collapse.

PISTORINO: Consulting engineers have discovered issues that were alarming and we would bring them on to the association. We'd bring them to the building official and we made sure something is being done if we found it necessary.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.


BRUNHUBER: Another note about President Biden's visit to south Florida. He and Governor Ron DeSantis managed to keep politics out of it. DeSantis of course is a staunch supporter of Donald Trump and even a potential 2024 presidential hopeful. But the pair focused on the task at hand and even had some nice things to say about each other.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You recognize the severity of this tragedy from day one and you've been very supportive.

BIDEN: You know what is good about this? We're letting the nation know that we can cooperate when it is really important.


BRUNHUBER: The cooperation reminded some of then President Barack Obama's 2016 meeting with New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie after hurricane Sandy.

All right, still to come CNN NEWSROOM, a Canadian village engulfed in an inferno as scorching temperatures fueled massive wildfires across the region. Plus a heatwave in the U.S. is claiming dozens of lives. When will temperatures cool off? Well we'll have a check on the forecast when we come back. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Well he got pretty close but the White House now concedes that President Biden will miss his July 4th vaccination goal. So this year this is the percentage of Americans who have received at least one vaccine dose. Biden had open hoped this number would be at 70 percent. But as Lucy Cavanaugh reports that the White House is trying to put a positive spin on it.


JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We have exceeded our expectations for where we would be on July 4th.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But despite the upbeat message, the White House missed President Biden's original goal of 70 percent of American adults getting at least one dose of the vaccine. Right now just over 66 percent, that's two-thirds of adults, have gotten their first jab. This as the highly contagious delta variant spreads across all fifty states. That spread is clear in the case numbers.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: It does also reflect a 10 percent increase in the 7 day average from last week.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Unvaccinated communities especially in the Southeast and Midwest at risk.

WALENSKY: Looking state by state and county by county, it is clear that communities where people remain unvaccinated are communities that remain vulnerable.

KAFANOV (voice-over): The Biden administration announcing it will deploy response teams to areas where officials are worried about a potentially deadly combo, low vaccination rates and significant presence of the delta variant.

ZIENTS: We're trying to help states prevent, detect and respond to spots among the unvaccinated by mobilizing COVID-19 surge response teams to be at the ready to deploy federal resources and where needed, federal personnel.

KAFANOV (voice-over): This as concern grows over masking up. The former Surgeon General says some states dropped their mask mandates to quickly/

JEROME ADAMS, FORMER SURGEON GENERAL: Well absolutely they were dropped prematurely.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Another reason to get the vaccine, 12 to 29- year-olds now account for about a third of all hospitalizations.

WALENSKY: Now all hospitalizations are going down. The proportion attributable to only to our young populations are actually going up.

KAFANOV: For the unvaccinated, the delta COVID-19 surge is a major concern that threatens to undo a lot of the progress America has made in turning the corner on this pandemic. But the CDC director said that vaccinated Americans can feel safe in celebrating the fourth of July holiday without a mask. She also added there's a lot to be thankful for when you look at how far the nation has come in the past 15 months. Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Denver.


BRUNHUBER: Johnson & Johnson says new data shows its single shot vaccine is effective and long lasting even without a booster. The company says its shot provides immunity that lasts about eight months and remains robust. Johnson & Johnson also says they believe that their vaccine provides protection against the fast spreading delta variant.

The World Health Organization is now reporting a 10 percent spike in new cases across Europe over the past week. Well it's the first time those weekly figures have gone up since April and many of them are linked to the delta variant.


Health experts say scenes like this in London where soccer fans gathered in large numbers for the Euro 2020 championship games are contributing to the resurgence of cases. One W.H.O. official says the delta variant, coupled with low vaccinations and relaxed travel restrictions don't bode well for the near future.


HANS KLUGE, W.H.O. REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE: By August, the W.H.O. European region will be delta dominant. But by August, the region will not be fully vaccinated. 63 percent of people are still waiting for their first jab. And in August, the W.H.O. European region will still be mostly restriction-free with increasing travels and gatherings.


BRUNHUBER: Strict COVID rules have now been relaxed in parts of Australia, but 5 million people in Sydney will remain lockdown until July 9. The Prime Minister says that the country should start managing COVID-19 more like seasonal flu. The success of this plan will depend largely on reaching certain vaccination goals. In the meantime only 3,000 international visitors per week will be allowed into the country.

Well there is some relief in sight, the scorching temperatures in the northwestern United States have already taken dozens of lives. In Oregon more than 50 deaths have been linked to excessive heat in the county which includes Portland and authorities have received a record number of calls for medical emergencies.

Just this week, 13 people have died in Seattle, Washington because of the high temperatures and millions in the eastern part of that state and Oregon remain under heat advisories.

The Canadian village that just broke the record for the nation's highest ever recorded temperature has been burnt to the ground. Lytton was engulfed in flames within minutes Wednesday night. Officials say more than 1,000 people in the area were forced to quickly evacuate. Most homes have been destroyed and several people are missing. Right now there are nearly 80 active wildfires burning across British Columbia.

For more on the latest conditions, let's bring in meteorologist Derek Van Dam. Derek, really sad what's happening and what happened in Lytton. And I guess it's a preview of what could happen in many other places in Canada and the U.S. if this hot dry weather continues.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we recognize the links between climate change and extended heat durations and long duration heatwave events just like we experienced across British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

But I think that it is port for our viewers to really let the magnitude of that situation sink in because it was unprecedented and it was quite profound. I mean we're talking about the period from June 27 to June 30th. The first day of that period we set our Canadian all- time daily record high, it had never been that hot ever. And then the second day it beat that very record it set the previous day, and then on the third day once gone temperatures soared to 49.4 degrees Celsius, that's roughly 121 Fahrenheit.

And then what happens after that, the location where that record high was set burns down with a wildfire. So the wildfires over Canada have been devastating this year. They have burned over 400,000 hectors, that's roughly 1 million acres of land so far. These are a look at satellite imageries of the fires that have burned near the Lytton region, just to the north across British Columbia.

They were so intense this week that they created what is called a pyrocumulonimbus cloud which is a thunderstorm that is induced by a wildfire. You see the updrafts from the intense heat from the wildfire creates this rising motion and thunderstorms can form and additional lightning can spark additional wildfires as well. So it's just a cyclical problem that can happen especially when conditions got so hot and so dry.

Now we're not breaking temperatures in Lytton nor the extreme western sections of British Columbia for that matter, but we are still above average and that will continue for the days to come. And you can see the forecast across the Pacific Northwest. It has cooled a bit for Seattle and Portland. But look at Spokane, all the way south into Boise, temperatures are really nearing that 40 degree mark. We don't want to mercury climb that high. Now the extended forecast does shows that the potential for more heat expected across the western portions of North America -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, and we all need to hear. All right, thanks so much, Derek.

Still ahead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces her picks to serve on a committee to investigation the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill. That only adds to the political bickering over the issue.

Plus efforts to get humanitarian aid into Tigray, Ethiopia faced a new setback ahead of a key meeting. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)