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Biden Defends Pulling out of Afghanistan; Crews Work to Recover Victims; Gas Prices Hit 7-Year High; Suns Take 2-0 Finals Lead. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired July 9, 2021 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, the Taliban is now claiming it controls 85 percent of Afghanistan's territory. While that number is hard to confirm, they are certainly making progress. Still, President Biden firmly defending his decision to pull out all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of next month and insisting that American presence there would not resolve the country's problems.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nearly 20 years of experience has shown us that the current security situation only confirms that just one more year of fighting Afghanistan is not a solution, but a recipe for being there indefinitely.

I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.


SCIUTTO: More than 2,300 U.S. service members, men and women, died in the war in Afghanistan. It has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion.

CNN's Anna Coren is live in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Anna, clearly the Biden administration knows the danger. I mean they have an emergency plan now to evacuate translators who work for the U.S. military who are target of the Taliban. I mean you're on the ground there now. I mean is there panic among Afghan people and Afghan officials?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jim, it's palpable. And when President Biden talks about giving special immigrant visas to translators and interpreters, everyone else says, and what about us? There's definitely a mass exodus underway in Afghanistan as people do not see a future in this country.

And we are seeing sweeping gains being made by the Taliban, particularly in the last 24 hours, there's been a significant development on the border of Afghanistan and Iran. The Taliban claiming Islam Qala, which is a main trading crossing. Millions of dollars goes through this gateway. And the Taliban are now in control of it.

We know they've also claimed another border crossing in Herat province bordering Turkmenistan. But it just goes to show what is taking place. And this is all confirmed by a customs chief up in Herat province.

Interestingly, Jim, the Taliban sent a delegation to Moscow, and the spokesperson addressed the media today from Moscow saying the exact number that you mentioned before, they've got 85 percent of the territory. Obviously, the government disputes that.

They're sending forces out into the battle field to try and regain those areas. But it does not bode well for what is unfolding here on the ground. It seriously -- it's -- I should say, it's just a very serious, a very alarming situation. And as I say, people do not see a future in this country.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. You be safe, too, Anna Coren. I mean the conditions there can change very quickly. Good to have you there, though, on the ground.

Another story we're following this morning, professional killers. That is how authorities in Haiti are describing the suspects they say were behind the assassination of the country's president. Seventeen suspects are now in custody, including two Haitian-Americans. You can see some pictures there that the governor -- government released. Also several retired members of the Colombian military. Three suspects were killed in a shootout.


There is now a massive nationwide manhunt in Haiti for eight others.

CNN's Matt Rivers joins us now live from Port-au-Prince at the location, in fact, of a shootout between police and suspects.

I mean, Matt, what do we know about these groups? What's the government's level of confidence that these men were involved in this horrible assassination?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, the government's level of confidence is relatively high. They're the ones saying that these men are involved. How much confidence we have in what the government is saying, Jim, is a whole nother -- is a whole 'nother question, including how much confidence the public here in Haiti has in what the government is saying.

But, look, let me describe the scene as where we are right now. This is one of the areas where some of the shootouts that the government say took place between security forces here, it was an army police joint operation, and also some suspects, some of which were in this car behind me that you can see to my left. There's random bullet holes scattered throughout this vehicle. It obviously caught fire afterwards. You can see bullet holes in the building behind me. There are shell casings of different weaponry all over this area.

This is one of the shootouts that ended up killing several suspects. Let me give you the numbers that we have from the government so far, mainly coming from a press conference that was given here in Port-au- Prince last night. Seventeen different suspects have been detained so far. At least three have been killed during shootouts like in this area where we are right now. And eight people, at least at this point, remain at large.

The fascinating thing about all of this, Jim, is that of all the suspects that we have heard about from the government, 26 of them, of the 28, are Colombian nationals. Six of which, according to the Colombian defense ministry, have previous experience with the Colombian military. The remaining two suspects are Haitian-Americans.

That's about what we know so far. The motive of all of this, how they managed to get into the presidential residency, that's what we're here to find out and hopefully we'll have some answers for you soon.

SCIUTTO: No question. A very hard question still to be answered. Matt Rivers there right at the site of that shooting. Thanks so much.

Well, the condo collapse in Florida has now reached a grim milestone. It is now one of the worst mass casualty events in this country since 9/11. We will have the latest from Surfside, Florida, coming up.



SCIUTTO: Well, recovery crews in Surfside, Florida, are vowing to keep going until every victim of the condo collapse is found. Four more victims' bodies were recovered yesterday. There are now 64 confirmed deaths, 76 people still potentially unaccounted for. It is expected by local authorities that 140 lives in total were lost in all. That was down somewhat from some of the higher estimates early on. That makes this one of the biggest mass casualty building collapses in the U.S. since 9/11.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live in Surfside, Florida, this morning.

Tell us how it's going there. I mean it is grim work. It is painstaking work. And, gosh, I just, you know, for the families and for those crews.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, and they are continuing to work. You know, as I've been here, I have not stopped -- I have not seen them stop at any pointed today.

I can tell you, I did speak with some of the -- the teams out on -- or someone representing some of the teams out at the site today, and they tell me that a big focus right now is not only trying to recover the people who were inside at the time, to bring that closure to the families, but also retrieving personal belongings, the photos, family photos, any sort of IDs, if they find a passport or anything else like that, that may be inside that crews come across. They are actually pulling that out and they go into big bins to be collected.

But, right now, it is being collected as evidence because, remember, there is a big investigation to get to the bottom of what happened, what caused this building to collapse. You know, the teams were out all night and I am told, and the FEMA team told me this, this morning, that they were able -- they did come across a cat that was alive and they are currently working to reunite that cat with the family.

SCIUTTO: Wow, there had been a lot of questions about, you know, pets left behind there.


OK, big part of the story is about missed warning signs. And CNN has now taped video inside the parking deck from July 2020, so a number of months before the collapse.

SANTIAGO: Right. Right.

SCIUTTO: What does it show us?

SANTIAGO: Well, this is a video that we obtained from someone who, as you said, in July 2020, was looking to buy a condo -- decided ultimately not to buy that condo because felt that the garage was just awful. And those were her words.

We did manage to have two engineers look over this video. And while both of them were very quick to tell us that it's hard to discern anything that would get us to that answer of what caused the building to collapse, I will also note that both of them mentioned that one of the first things they notice is just the corrosion that can be seen in the garage a year before it collapsed.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, yet one more clue there, but a lot of questions still to be answered.

Leyla Santiago, thanks very much.


Well, prices at the gas pump keep rising. Republicans blame the president. We'll tell you the facts, what's really behind the spike, next.


SCIUTTO: Well, Republicans in Congress are blaming President Biden for the country's seven year high in gas prices, but the truth is, Biden's policies are not to blame, it's the pandemic's effect on supply and demand.

CNN's Pete Muntean has been looking into this.

Pete, break it down for us, because, like everything, it's become political. What are the facts?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's so interesting, Jim. You know, the national average for a gallon of gas, $3.14.


So many places are already seeing numbers higher than that, though. This station here in Bethesda, Maryland, $3.49. And the average just keeps going up and up. It was about $2.18 a year ago.

AAA says demand for driving is really through the roof. It's also driving prices up. There's this whole notion of pent up demand for travel. And July 4th was anticipated to be one of the busiest driving holidays of the pandemic.

Also the price of crude oil has gone up and OPEC failed to secure a deal to increase the supply of crude. Also, Tropical Storm Elsa is impacting crude deliveries, also impacting gasoline production across the southeast. So a lot of factors at play here. Demand up, supply is down. And AAA anticipates the national average for a gallon of gas will be $3.25 later on this summer.

But what's so interesting is that it says that that is not stopping people from wanting to get out.


ANDREW GROSS, AAA SPOKESMAN: Well, gasoline prices are going to stubbornly stay above $3. And in probably in the $3.10 and $3.20 range through the rest of this summer. But we also know, people don't let that get in way of going on a vacation. They'll figure out another way of budgeting. You know, maybe eat out less or do more free activities, but they're taking the vacation this year.


MUNTEAN: A lot of high prices all over the country. Gas Buddy says the average in California is now $4.33. The White House says it is monitoring this but it really pins the blame on oil prices rather than politics, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, we'll see what that does to the idea of raising the gas tax to pay for infrastructure.

Pete Muntean, good to have you out there. Thanks very much.

Well, the Phoenix Suns are now just two wins away from their first NBA title.

Cory Wire has this morning's "Bleacher Report."

A first, possibly.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good to see you, Jim.

It has been 28 years since Phoenix has even been to the NBA finals. The Suns have brought so much excitement to that city that it's just one -- one men's pro-sports title in its history. The Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001. Devin Booker leading with 31 points in this one, seven 3-pointers. The

Bucks played well, but Phoenix just kept shooting down their hopes from beyond the arc. A playoff franchise record 20 3-pointers, just four off the NBA finals record.

Giannis Antetokounmpo single-handedly keeping the Bucks in this one. The two-time league MVP scored a playoff career high of 42 when the rest of the starters for the Bucks scored just 43 combined. The Suns win 118-108. Game three is in Milwaukee Sunday.

Twenty-two-year-old Team USA swimmer Michael Andrew says he will not be vaccinated for COVID-19 for the Olympics in Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee is encouraging but not requiring athletes to be vaccinated. Andrew, the American record holder in the men's 100 meter breaststroke told reporters yesterday he feels a vaccine would possibly interfere with his training schedule.

Here he is.


MICHAEL ANDREW, AMERICAN OLYMPIC SWIMMER: As an athlete, on an elite level, everything you do is very -- very calculated and understood. And, for me in the training cycle, especially in the trials, I didn't want to risk any days out because we do know that there were periods where, you know, you take a vaccine and you have to deal with some -- some days off.


WIRE: Now, tennis star Nick Kyrgios has pulled out of the Olympics completely. He says part of the reason, Jim, is because there won't be fans now in the stands at all. The 26-year-old tweeting, quote, it's been my dream to represent Australia at the Olympic and I know my I may never get that opportunity again, but I also know myself. The thought of playing in front of empty stadiums just doesn't sit right with me and never has, unquote.

And you're going to love this, Jim, the play of the day coming from Padre's relief pitcher Daniel Camarena, 28-year-old rookie, didn't just get his first big league hit, it's a grand slam. And the hometown hero did it off one of the best pitchers in baseball, three time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.

That's his dad right there getting to witness it from the stands. The San Diego native was called up from the minors earlier that day for his second stint with the Padres. His team was down 8-2 there in the fourth before he launched that thing over the wall. They end up winning 9-8. Got to love it, Jim.

SCIUTTO: That is quite a first major league hit, quite a comeback for the Padres, too.

Coy Wire, thanks very much.

Well, there is some confusion, questions after Pfizer says immunity to its vaccine could be waning somewhat and that it's already working on a booster shot. To be clear, the CDC and FDA say we're not there yet. We're going to help you understand this news, next.



SCIUTTO: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

This morning, could Americans, vaccinated Americans, eventually need a COVID booster shot? Drug maker Pfizer says it will seek Emergency Use Authorization for a booster shot next month. This after announcing that a third dose could give the best shot at protection against new variants. But to be clear, the FDA and CDC say we're not there yet. There's not enough data. The science is still out on this.

So here are the facts because we want you to have them before you.

The highly contagious delta variant is driving up new infections in nearly half of the country. State's in red you see on that map are where cases are rising the fastest. And not surprisingly it is now coinciding with clusters of areas with low rates of vaccinations.


So, in other words, where people -- areas where people are not getting vaccinated, the delta variant is spreading more quickly.