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CNN Exclusive: Wild Chase Followed Assassination of Haiti's President; Taliban Execute 22 Afghan Commandos as They Surrender; Michigan Judge Grills Lawyers on Election Fraud Claims; Soon, Biden to Deliver Major Voting Rights Speech & Is it Time for GOP to Get Behind Federal Voting Legislation?; 67 Large Fires Currently Burning Across 13 States; U.S. Consumer Prices Hitting 13-Year High. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 13, 2021 - 13:30   ET



MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know from our source they were allowed to leave the residence because, interestingly, at the time that they left, security forces here in Haiti didn't know whether the president was alive or dead.

That was a big question at the time: Why were they allowed to leave? Well, they thought the president might have just been kidnapped.

They confirmed his assassination. They then set up a roadblock. They forced the assailants into an empty building. It's there that a shootout eventually takes place. Three Columbians, at least, end up dying in that facility.

But the strangest part is this could be, sometime during hostage negotiations -- because there was two Haitian hostages inside the building.

Sometime during the negotiations, a group of these mercenaries actually ended up leaving that empty building and going about 100 meters up a hill to the Taiwan embassy.

Our source believes they did that because they thought it would be harder for police to enter those grounds because of the diplomatic status, which it was.

Ultimate, they got permission from the Taiwan government to go in, get the suspects inside, and they took them without harm.

But still, after all that, there are still suspects on the loose here.

But just a fascinating 36 hours after that assassination took place.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Matt, what more are you learning about these suspects, why they were doing it, who they are? RIVERS: You know, the fascinating part, Ana, is there's a lot of links

to the United States. That's what we keep seeing over and over and over again, including what you mentioned about these informants.

Evan Perez, our colleague, reported last night there's several suspects in the assassination that have direct links to law enforcement agencies as informants.

Including the DEA, confirming that, in the past, one of the suspects did work for them as an informant.

But they no one here in Haiti was working for them at the time of the assassination.

Just tons of intrigue in this -- Ana?

CABRERA: Matt Rivers, thank you so much for your continued reporting there in Haiti.

To Afghanistan now, where the U.S. troop withdrawal is now more than 95 percent complete. But concerns are building as the Taliban make more gains on the ground.

And those fears made all the more real by a horrific new video showing Afghan commandos executed by Taliban fighters as they tried to surrender.

CNN's Anna Coren spoke to some people who saw it happen.

And I have to warn you, what you're about to see is graphic.



ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After over two hours of heavy fighting, all ammunition spent, Afghan commandoes walk out with hands in the air.


COREN: "Surrender, Commander, surrender," yells a Taliban member.



COREN: But the rules of war don't exist on this battlefield.


COREN: Seconds later, more than a dozen members of the elite special forces have been executed.


COREN: The Red Cross confirmed the bodies of 22 commandoes were retrieved.


COREN: A villager pleads with the Taliban to stop shooting, asking, "How are you Pashtun and you're killing Afghans?"


COREN: CNN has spoken to five eyewitnesses to this massacre, which occurred last month in Dawlat Abad, a district of a Faryab Province in northern Afghanistan. All confirmed these events took place.


COREN: "The commandoes called for air and ground support but none came," says this local resident. "Then they surrendered but the Taliban just shot them."

Among the dead, 32-year-old commando, Surab Azini (ph), the son of a retired Afghan general.

This born leader did his military training in the United States and was due to marry his American fiancee next month.


COREN: His father said Surab (ph) tried to call in air support during the attack but it never came.


COREN: "Anyone would be angry if that happened to their son," he tells me. "Why didn't they support the operation and why did someone tell the Taliban they were coming?"


COREN: Ever since the U.S. announced its withdrawal, an emboldened Taliban has launched offensives across the country.


COREN: The militants have gone to great lengths to show they are accepting the surrender of Afghan troops but that PR effort is contradicted by the commando execution.



COREN: A week before the massacre, this video was taken of Afghan special forces in the same district attempting a clearing operation.


COREN: When that mission proved unsuccessful, Surab's (ph) unit was called in.


COREN: "The Taliban said, when foreigners leave they will stop fighting and make peace. How long will they continue killing our brothers in this country?"


COREN: Eyewitnesses say they did not understand the language spoken by the militants, evidence the fighters weren't local or that some may have come from outside Afghanistan.

And just last week the Red Cross says it collected at least two dozen more bodies of Afghan commandoes from Faryab (ph), the results of new fighting.


COREN (on camera): U.S. President Biden says he believes in the capability of the Afghan forces despite the mass casualties.

But when U.S. trained soldiers, like the commandoes, are dying in such high numbers, many people in this traumatized country are questioning if the military can defeat the Taliban on its own.


COREN (voice over): These young Afghan warriors, stretched thin and dying at an alarming rate, are now the last line of national defense.

Without U.S. troop support or intelligence, they alone are fighting for this country's survival.


COREN (on camera): And, Ana, we contacted the Taliban about this execution video --


CABRERA: All right, our thanks to Anna Coren. We're obviously having some technical difficulties with her signal there. She is continuing to report live in Afghanistan, joining us from Kabul this afternoon.

Now, they claimed election fraud and now lawyers for former President Trump could face some serious consequences. We'll explain.

And, "Just say we won." Rudy Giuliani's advice on election night, according to a new book detailing what happened as the votes were being counted.



CABRERA: Legal backers of the Big Lie are now facing big consequences.

In Michigan, here's what happened. For hours yesterday, a Michigan judge questioned nine lawyers, including Trump allies, Sydney Powell and Lin Wood, about their failed lawsuit last November to overturn the election.

The judge wanted to know exactly what steps these lawyers took to ensure fraud claims they cited were legitimate.

At one point, she asked the group if any of them ever followed up to learn whether any of their so-called witnesses actually saw a vote being changed. All nine lawyers, silent.

Preeminent Republican election lawyer, Ben Ginsberg, joins us now.

Ben, this Michigan judge told the lawyers every lawyer has a duty to do minimal research to verify evidence presented in court.

Apparently, they didn't. And so now this judge has to make a decision on it on a potential punishment here.

What could the repercussions be?

BEN GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN ELECTION LAWYER: The most serious repercussion is that lawyers involved, that the judge felt were not honest with her and with the evidence, could lose their ability to practice law in Michigan.

And losing your license in one state can have repercussions in other jurisdictions, as Rudy Giuliani discovered when he got in trouble with the New York Bar Association and had his license revoked and the District of Columbia this week followed suit.

CABRERA: Do you think that should happen in this case for these other lawyers?

GINSBERG: Well, one thing that has never happened with all the barrage of Donald Trump's charges is they've had to prove the allegations. In other words, they've never put on evidence.

If, in fact, what they've given the judge in the Michigan case in terms of no factual basis for the representations they made, then, yes, that is what lawyers traditionally lose their license for.

CABRERA: This Michigan hearing, of course, is just one of several happening across the country to hold lawyers responsible for falsehoods spread during these failed lawsuit attempts.

How critical is accountability?

GINSBERG: Accountability, in the legal profession is incredibly important.

Now, when cases get adjudicated, it is important that the court and the trier of fact and whoever is rendering judgment has real verifiable facts. Now, people's version of factual events can differ.

But making representations where the lawyers haven't even talked to the witnesses and can't vouch for the witnesses, and at least their sincerity in making the affidavits, is what is getting the Michigan Trump lawyers in a great deal of trouble.

CABRERA: We're talking about how much information is out there and people are finding information and not verifying it and just running with it.

Giuliani, according to a new book by "Washington Post" journalists, Carol Leonnig and Phil Rucker, was involved in all this while votes were still being counted last November in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Rudy Giuliani apparently pushed members of Trump's inner circle to, quote, "Just say we won."

Trump's aides reportedly pushed back, telling Giuliani it would be both incoherent and irresponsible. Nonetheless, Trump went on to do apparently what Giuliani suggested.

Now, Ben, this didn't result in Trump staying in the White House, but it did result in the Big Lie. It resulted in the dozens of new state election laws we're seeing. It resulted in the insurrection.

Who should be ultimately held accountable here?

GINSBERG: That's what the court proceedings find out.

But certainly Donald Trump is the one who has been talking about it the most.

And there's a barrage of information from three books that have come out about the last days of the Trump administration, including one where the Republican National Committee's chief lawyer is saying that the suits they were filing was a joke.


But the chickens are coming home to roost, Ana.

Look at the audit in Arizona, which appears to be severely off track. And that's going to provide both a forum for Trump to prove his charges, but also then for people to delve into the accuracy of it.

In Michigan, where this court case was held yesterday, a Republican Senate committee did an exhaustive investigation of the Trump allocations -- allegations and found them meritless.

So that, in a sense, the Big Lie is coming up for adjudication and hearing, where Trump has to make his case and, yet, has not been able to.

CABRERA: As we look ahead now to the president's speech at the top of the hour, is it time for Republicans to get behind federal legislation to make voting more accessible if they really want to protect the right to vote and ensure every legal vote counts?

GINSBERG: Well, there are - there are gradations.

I would argue, as a Republican, there's no bill currently before the Congress that does that without doing damage to other parts of the election system.

I think that if the Democrats and President Biden are sincere in wanting to redress the ill-conceived bills Republicans are passing in the states, it's time to do directed legislation precisely at the right to vote and the ability to vote and prohibiting the putting up of barriers to people to voting.

Which is what a number of provisions in these state election laws are doing.

CABRERA: Ben Ginsberg, we've got to leave it there today. This is such an important conversation, and there are so many more details that we could be discussing.

I really appreciate your time. And I look forward to continuing the conversation a different day.

GINSBERG: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: This just in. Americans are shelling out consumer prices, putting an even bigger squeeze on your wallet. How much more are you paying? And when will inflation let up?



CABRERA: Record-breaking heat in the west and now a record-breaking season for wildfires. And 67 large fires are currently burning across 12 states.

California alone has already seen three times as much land burn so far this year compared to this point last year.

CNN's Tom Sater is in the Weather Center.

Tom, it is only July. What do you think we're in for?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Well, Ana, if you lo at the last couple of years, some of the most destructive, most damaging fires and largest fires were in the month of December.

So that changed the whole ball game now. We're in a year-around event now.

But I want to back up to next month. We had 6,000 temperature records broken. If you look where they are, they pretty much line up to where the fires are.

The extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada, a mass casualty event where hundreds died, some climate scientists would argue they didn't expect it to happen for another decade or so. But it is where we are.

Look at the fires, where the heat records are. Again, 67 active fires, over 100,000 acres burned in California. As you mentioned, Ana, that's three times what we saw last year at this time.

Right now, what we've had so far for the year, nearly 34,000 fires. And the 10-year average is nearly 30.

But, again, with, you know, 94 percent of the west in drought, a good 60 percent are at the highest two levels. This is going to continue.

Air quality is a problem. The fire threat in the Pacific Northwest continues. The smoke is going to move into the northern-tier states. This is just the beginning.

Now, it is not as bad for most of the western states. California is picking up the slack.

The last time Lake Mead was at its highest of contained level, at capacity was in the year 2000. That's 21 years ago. Every day, with this heat, more and more evaporation takes place.

So we've got multiple problems, not just the heat and the fires, but the loss of water each and every day.


Tom Sater, thank you for staying on it for us. I appreciate it.

To the economy now. Bottom line, you are paying more for just about everything.

CNN lead business writer, Matt Egan, is here to break down the prices.

Matt, go for it.

MATT EGAN, CNN LEAD BUSINESS WRITER: Yes, Ana, sticker shock is real and getting worse. Consumer prices in June were up by more than 5 percent. That's the fastest annual rate that we've seen since 2008.

And if you exclude food and energy, prices surged by the most since 1991.

Now, let me give you a few real-world examples of the kinds of price hikes we are talking about.

Prices for used cars, up 45 percent over the past 12 months. That means a used car that was $20,000 a year ago is now fetching $29,000.

Washing machines, up 29 percent over the past year.

Another big one is airfare. Up 25 percent over the past year. That means a $400 flight in 2020 is now costing $500 -- Ana?

CABRERA: Wow. Looking at all of the different items, why, why is it happening?

EAGEN: Well, listen, the pandemic, of course, crushed the economy. And we actually saw prices falling last spring.

But, thankfully, the economy is rebounding. We are actually having an all-out economic boom.


The problem is that the economy can't be turned back on like a light switch. It takes time. It could be messy. And right now, supply is having a hard time catching up with demand.

CABRERA: And in 10 seconds, if you will, is there an end in sight, Matt?

EGAN: That's the trillion-dollar question. The fed and the White House say yes. Other economists, they're not totally sure.

But, Ana, listen, no one knows for sure because there's no playbook for what happens to inflation after a once-in-a-century pandemic.

CABRERA: Matt Egan, we know you are going to stay on it. Thank you.

EGAN: Thank you.

CABRERA: And thanks to all of you at home for joining us. We will see you back here tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. In the meantime, please follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera. We will continue our discussions there.

The news continues next with Alisyn and Victor.