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After 27 Years Jeff Bezos Stepping Down as CEO; Afghan Commander Promises to Retake Territory from Taliban; Massachusetts' Police Arrest Heavily Armed Militia; Chicago Mayor Disputes that Shootings and Murders Are the Rise. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 5, 2021 - 15:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK, remember back when Amazon started. This is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in the early 2000s around the time his company was turning its first profit and now to today.

After more than two decades as CEO, Bezos is handing over the reins but he will not be handing over his power. CNN Christine Romans explains.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, Jeff Bezos is not your typical retiree. Later today he steps down as Amazon's CEO. That's the company of course he founded that changed the way we shop and made him the world's richest man.

He founded Amazon 27 years ago in a garage in Washington state and it started as an online bookstore and became a global powerhouse. At 57 years old, he retires with a nest egg approaching $200 billion. Bezos is in a retirement league of his own as Amazon's stock soared, he has made more than $80 billion just since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when the world turned to online shopping in droves.

Now Bezos is handing off Amazon's day-to-day operations and that CEO title to Andy Jassy. The company says Bezos will focus his energy on new products and early initiatives and he'll spend more time on his space start up, Blue Origin. You know, in just 15 days he's going to head to space on first crewed flight of the New Shepard that's rocket ship made by his company.

Bezos will remain the executive chairman of the board at Amazon, Alisyn. And he is its largest individual shareholder. So he will still have tremendous influence at Amazon for years to come even though he's handing off the day-to-day reins to someone else -- Alisyn.


CAMEROTA: OK, thank you, Christine. OK, this just into CNN. A judge has denied an effort by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell in a lawsuit against his Republican colleague Congressman Mo Brooks. Swalwell sued Brooks as well as Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani for their roles in the January 6th insurrection.

But Congressman Brooks and his lawyers never responded to the court. So Swalwell asked the judge to go ahead and rule in his favor. Today a D.C. District Court judge said he is interested in hearing arguments about how Brooks may have protection for his words and actions on January 6th because of his role as a member of Congress. In other words, the case continues.

Next, a top U.S. general in Afghanistan says we should be concerned about the Taliban's seizing more territory as American troops leave. What does President Biden plan to do?



CAMEROTA: In Afghanistan, tens of thousands of people are fleeing their rural homes as Taliban militants control more and more of the country. The Taliban claims they have seized control of 150 districts from the Afghan military since May. That's more than a quarter of the country. The last U.S. troops left Bagram Air Base days ago, but a top Afghan general tells CNN the fight against the Taliban is not over.


BRIGADIER GENERAL MIR ASADULLAH KOHISTANI, AFGHAN NATIONAL ARMY: The most important thing is our confidence and our plan, so we will defend our country as much as possible but anything is possible. And we will continue and right now the MOD is going to plan to retake some district which already taking back.


KOHISTANI: Yes, a counterattack.


CAMEROTA: All U.S. troops are expected to leave Afghanistan within weeks but we're learning the Biden administration still has not finalized a plan to tackle terrorism once that happens.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand, our White House reporter, and Oren Liebermann Pentagon correspondent join me now. Natasha, I understand that you have some new reporting specifically about drone strikes. What are you learned?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Alisyn. So when U.S. troops do finally withdraw and the war is declared over by President Biden, there's still going to be some logistical questions and legal questions about whether and how they can conduct drone strikes against high level terrorist targets in Afghanistan. Now the CIA and Pentagon have long had kind of broad authority to carry out targeted drone strikes in Afghanistan because it was a war zone. It was a combat zone.

But again once troops leave, that designation could change. Thereby changing the roles for the CIA and Pentagon to conduct these lethal strikes against terrorists.


So what we learned is that the National Security Council is conducting this broad interagency review of the rules for Pentagon and CIA drone strikes against terrorists globally and that now includes, of course, Afghanistan because it's no longer going to be a combat zone. So whether or not the rules change there, following this troop withdrawal, is something that the CIA and Pentagon are trying to figure out now along with the National Security Council. Because of course that could affect deeply how we carry out counterterrorism operations in the region.

CAMEROTA: Oren, we just showed that map of how much Afghanistan the Taliban now says it controls. What does the Pentagon say about the Taliban's advance?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Alisyn, the Pentagon is very much monitoring the advance of the Taliban and is well aware of how quickly it has moved through parts of the Afghanistan countryside pushing back in many, many cases Afghan forces. They are well aware of how quickly and with the amount of force that the Taliban is moving. It is certainly a concern here. And it's because of that advance that military officials are A, watching it and B, warning that a civil war is very much possible.

They are fully aware that there are dark days and may well be dark days ahead for Afghanistan because of the advance of the Taliban. In fact, General Scott Miller, the head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said this about the future of the country.


GENERAL AUSTIN SCOTT MILLER, COMMANDER, NATO RESOLUTE SUPPORT MISSION: We should be concerned. The loss of terrain and the rapidity of that loss of terrain has to be concerning. One, because it's a war as physical but it's also got a psychological and moral component to it and hope actually matters, and morale actually matters.


LIEBERMANN (on camera): In recent days, the administration and the military leaders have retained the authority to carry out strikes on the Taliban in support of Afghan forces. It was up until recently that they wouldn't be carrying out those sorts of strikes and would only really focus on counterterrorism.

But the decision was made that military leaders could carry out strikes on the Taliban in support of Afghan leaders. That'll give them much needed support if and when these strikes are carried out and perhaps it'll give Afghan military forces what the general there just talked about. A bit of hope knowing that there's still U.S. support.

Meanwhile the withdrawal pretty much effectively complete at this point and the vast majority of U.S. forces in the country are those that'll be doing security for the airport and for the embassy.

CAMEROTA: Natasha, yesterday Congressman Mike McCaul was on one of the Sunday shows -- he's of course on Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Chair. He talked about the Taliban's advancing and how he feels about it and it's basically on President Biden's hands. So listen to this.


REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R-TX): So it's quite frightening and they have gone on quite an offensive right now in the more rural areas and they're poised to take over provincial capitals once our troops are finally out of there, it looks like within a month.


CAMEROTA: Does the Biden administration have plan for when that happens?

BERTRAND: Well, U.S. intelligence reports have said repeatedly that the chances that much of Afghanistan fall into Taliban hands within 6 to 12 months are pretty high at this point, and the administration knows that the White House knows that. Press Secretary Jen Psaki has addressed that on multiple occasions.

And what they are saying is that the Afghan security forces are essentially going to be taking the lead on this. They are going to take the lead on retaking their country from the Taliban. But that the U.S. would work with them in certain areas in their certain capacities in a way that they could to the extent possible without troops on the grounds.

Now they will retain the authority to carry out strikes in support of Afghan forces to counter the Taliban. But ultimately the Biden White House says this is going to be kind of our last hurrah here. This is really the Afghanistan security forces' move now. And we have done all that we can. Because after May 1st, which was the deadline that the previous administration put on the withdrawal, they became concerned that U.S. forces would be put in danger if they were to remain any longer in the country, that they would be shot at Jen Psaki's words.

So I think that their plan right now is just to kind of provide support where they can. Provide economic support to the government, support the president there and just hope that the entire country and the entire government doesn't eventually fall to the Taliban.

CAMEROTA: Natasha Bertrand, Oren Liebermann, thank you very for the update.

We also want to tell everyone about a new CNN original series. It goes back 3,000 years to explain the history of the conflict in Jerusalem. "CITY OF FAITH AND FURY" details six epic battles. It premieres July 18th at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.

Alright next, 11 members of an armed militia group have been charged after a standoff with police on a major interstate. We have details on who this group is and what they want, next.



CAMEROTA: Listen to this story. There are new charges against 11 members of a self-proclaimed Massachusetts militia group involved in a tense standoff on I-95 over the weekend. Massachusetts State police say it started during a traffic stop in Wakefield which is just north of Boston. When the officer saw multiple armed suspects wearing tactical gear flee into the woods.


A manhunt forced police to shut down part of the freeway and issue a shelter-in-place order for the surrounding area for about nine hours until the suspects were finally arrested.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is here with more. Polo, Massachusetts? I mean what do we know about this so-called militia group.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, this story is as unusual as it was probably surprising for Massachusetts' State Troopers. On early Saturday morning, it's when of their troopers actually noticed a vehicle where occupants were fueling up that vehicle and pulls over hoping to help and then finds himself face-to-face with 11 self- described militia men. All of them out facing a variety of weapons related charges and well as accusation of conspiracy to commit a crime.

They were arrested without incident eventually after that, as you correctly point out, that nine-hour standoff with police. This is some video that actually one of the members of that organization, that extremist organization actually recorded and live fed on YouTube.

Again, all of them surrendering to authorities after that long standoff. But then we're learning a little bit more about them. Apparently, according to authorities, they subscribe to Moorish Sovereign Ideology which actually emerged in the '90s.

But you can trace it all the way back to like 1913 here. And specifically this group here, the Rise of The Moors, they're described as this Rhode Island-based group. They do have a history of coming into conflict authorities. And it's a group that also claims to be an independent sovereign nation. It says that they have territorial rights over property.

Now in that video that you played a little while ago, Alisyn, you do hear one of the members of that group say that they are not anti- government. But when you hear directly from the Southern Poverty Law Center that's been tracking this group, they say they are.


MARGARET HUANG, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: This group is primarily people of African descent. And their beliefs really focus on their refusal to accept any authority from the U.S. government. They don't take driver's licenses. They don't seek gun licenses. They don't pay taxes to the U.S. government.


SANDOVAL (on camera): The head of the SPLC really shedding more light on this. And this really one of the big reason why we're talking about this. This is an organization obviously that does have the attention of law enforcement. And they are tracking this, as we look forward to potential charges being filed as early as tomorrow against these 11 men.

CAMEROTA: What an incredible story, Polo, we know you'll stay on it.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for all of that.

Now to Chicago, two police officers are recovering after being wounded during an overnight shooting. The officers were shot as Chicago Police attempted to disperse a large group of several thousand people early this morning. This is part of another violent weekend in Chicago. In all, more than 80 people were shot, 14 of them killed. This is across the city since Friday.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Chicago for us. So what more do we know about the officers injured in that shooting -- Omar?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, so these officers were a Chicago police commander and a Chicago police sergeant who were shot, again, trying to break up that large crowd. They say they're both expected to be OK, but they were among the more than 80 shot over the course of this weekend including a 5 and 6-year-old girl. Also among those shot, a member of the Illinois National Guard. He was killed as our CNN affiliate WLS reports.

And the National Guard confirmed to CNN that Private First Class Chris Carvajal had just completed basic training and was set to be assigned to a transportation unit. He was 19 years old. And he was among the 14 killed, again, that we saw over the course of this weekend -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Omar, can you just tell us what's going on in Chicago? Give us a status report. Because it appears to be a real violent spike, but the mayor of Chicago has disputed that crime is on the rise. So which one is right?

JIMENEZ: Yes, Alisyn, it's a little bit of both. But the bottom line is we have seen significant decreases in murders, especially compared to the beginning of this year and when you look at last year.

For example, as of June 30th, for the first time this year, the number of murders actually is now below what it was at this point last year. And then when you look at June in particular, we saw a roughly 20 percent decrease in murders compared with June of 2020 which means we have now seen a decrease of murders for three months in a row.

Now, that said, shootings are still up 10 percent compared to 2020. But when you put that in perspective, that number was 46 percent when we were in January. Then we were down to an increase of 20 percent in May and now here at 10. So numbers still up, but trending in the right direction.

Let's also remember though these numbers were compared to the spike that was 2020. When you look at 2019, homicides in the city are still up 35 percent compared to that year. That year is a little more widely regarded as normal since that's when we saw murders decrease for a third year in a row here in Chicago. So a lot of factors here. Bottom line, the city officials are trying to keep the downward momentum going.


It's little comfort to people that are continuing to lose loved ones, of course, while this is happening. But again, it's never -- they are trying to head in the right direction as we move ever forward into what has already been a bloody summer here -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean you can slice and dice statistics however you want, but it's helpful to know if the trend, which direction the trend is going. And sounds as though at the moment it's going in the right direction. Omar Jimenez, thank you very much for all of that.

So still ahead we are live in Surfside as more victims have been recovered from the site of that deadly condo collapse. And the survivors are grappling with what's happened to them and how they move forward after the demolition of their homes and all of their belongings destroyed overnight.

And again, we want to give one last plug to that non-profit that are helping those survivors try to regroup and find a place to live. We spoke to the founder at the top of the hour. They're doing it in cash cards to help people rebuild their lives. You can learn how to help them at --