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Taliban Seize Key Afghan City of Jalalabad; Sweeping Taliban Gains Follow 20-Year U.S. Mission; Haiti Devastated by 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake; Some States Running Out of ICU Beds as COVID Cases Surge; Capitol Riot Judges Step Up as Conscience of Democracy; Two Dead in Arizona after Floodwaters Sweep through Gila Bend; Extreme Weather Threatens U.K.'s Puffin Population. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired August 15, 2021 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, welcome to CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow, live in Atlanta.
Ahead, another major Afghan city is now under Taliban control as U.S. President Joe Biden decides to send more troops in to aid America's withdrawal.
Also, a huge earthquake in Haiti, leveling homes, buildings and leaving hundreds dead. This as a tropical storm bears down on the battered country.
And we'll take you to one U.S. hospital forced to take extreme measures as it struggles with a surge in COVID cases.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.
CURNOW: Thanks for joining me this hour.
Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, is the only major Afghan city still under government control. This after a local official says the city of Jalalabad has fallen to the Taliban. Video from the Taliban shows them being cheered on in what is said to be Jalalabad.
It is another crushing blow to the Afghan government and their soldiers, trying to fight back the militants. In recent days, they've also lost Mazar-i-Sharif in the north as well as the city of Nili.
At least 24 of Afghanistan's 34 provincial capitals are now in Taliban hands. That swift advance has triggered an exodus. Thousands of people trying to escape the Taliban have fled to Kabul. And that's putting even more pressure on a weakened government surrounded by enemies.
And we've got this video a short time ago. People in Kabul forming long lines at banks to withdraw cash. All of this as the Taliban get closer and closer to the Afghan capital.
The news on Jalalabad comes as the U.S. President, Joe Biden, has authorized sending 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan. That's on top of 4,000 already cleared for deployment. They're meant to help get U.S. personnel and allies out of the country. Arlette Saenz has more from Washington.
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Biden is increasing the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan as he and top officials have watched the Taliban seizing control of parts of the country with alarming speed.
The president on Saturday from Camp David announced he would send an additional 1,000 American troops into Afghanistan to help with what he's describing as a safe and orderly drawdown. This would bring the total U.S. presence on its way or in the country already to 5,000.
As the president says, they are trying to ensure the safety and evacuation not just of American personnel but also Afghan allies, who have helped the U.S. military over the course of that decades-long war in Afghanistan.
The president, also in a statement, said they have sent a warning to the Taliban that any on-the-ground action on their part that would risk American lives would be met with a swift and strong military response.
President Biden broke his silence on Afghanistan, releasing that statement on Saturday from Camp David. He had not spoken on Afghanistan since Tuesday. And the president further defended his decision to pull American troops from country by the end of the month.
The president writing, "One more year or five more years of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country."
He added, "And an endless American presence in the middle of another country's civil conflict was not acceptable to me."
The president also made the argument that he was hamstrung by decisions made by his predecessor, former president Trump, whose administration had negotiated a deal with the Taliban that the president now says ultimately empowered the Taliban and assured them that the U.S. would be withdrawing by May 2021 of this year.
But right now, everything that is taking place is happening under the current president's watch. And there will be many questions for this administration and for the president going forward about how exactly the U.S. reached this position and whether more could have been done as this situation has become more and more dire -- Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.
CURNOW: Cyril Vanier has reported from inside Afghanistan, for the latest he's tracking the events from London,
Arlette says the situation more and more dire, particularly now this breaking news that Jalalabad has fallen.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Robyn, the momentum of the Taliban is such that they are winning without fighting. That has been the case for at least 36 hours. Their biggest military successes of the last 1.5 days have actually come without protracted battles, which in some respects is a good thing; in other respects means the security forces are folding and abandoning ground to the insurgency.
If you think of Mazar-i-Sharif, the biggest city in the north, where the insurgency is traditionally not popular and there is resistance to the Taliban, the security forces actually fled to nearby Uzbekistan. If you think of Jalalabad, the city you just mentioned, 1.5 hours' drive away from the capital, Kabul, that city was surrendered without resistance.
There have been more. There are also reports, chatter of other provinces that have not yet fallen but may do so before long. Whether or not there will be more resistance offered by the Afghan security forces is unknown.
But frankly at this stage it is doubtful. So that leaves us with Kabul, the last major city that is under the control of the Afghan government. It is currently surrounded by the Taliban.
Do the Taliban have enough momentum, have enough even military know- how to take Kabul?
Because that's a different ball game. We don't know the answer to that question. I wouldn't venture a guess. That is where the Afghan government's resources are concentrated, including in terms of security, men, firepower.
Bear in mind that the Taliban's advance has afforded them seizure of weapons and equipment, so they are growing in strength.
Would they want to commit themselves to a street-to-street pitched battle in Kabul?
Unknown but they may not have to. They have so much momentum and the Afghan government has so little leverage right now, that it cannot dictate terms to the Taliban.
CURNOW: Cyril Vanier, thanks so much for that.
So the Taliban's march across Afghanistan is certainly a stunning blow for the Afghan army. In just a matter of months, the insurgents have seemingly erased two decades of Western investment in training and equipment in the Afghan army.
For more, we're joined by the "Daily Telegraph's" Pakistan and Afghanistan correspondent, Ben Farmer. He joins us from Islamabad.
Ben, I know you've just returned from Afghanistan.
What do you make of the way the Afghan forces have crumbled in the face of this advance?
BEN FARMER, "DAILY TELEGRAPH": It's RAY: been stunning, not just for the Afghan army's Western backers but also for the Afghans themselves. This is an army with combined security forces, the army and the police, which was supposed to number about 300,000.
That's far more than the Taliban numbers; on paper, at least. And it's had billions and billions of dollars poured into it. I think the U.S. alone has spent something like $68 billion in the past 20 years.
It's fought very hard at times in the last few years. But in the last couple of weeks, it's given up, it seems. Apart from some stout defenses by well-led commando units, we've seen time and again the Afghan army and the Afghan police have surrendered or they've melted away.
Talking to people about why this may have happened, there's a number of reasons. The withdrawal of U.S. air support, NATO air support, has had a vast psychological effect on them. They feel like they're not being supported.
But more than that, the armed forces have been undermined for a long time by corruption and poor leadership. Soldiers have complained that they don't get fed, they don't have ammunition. They get abandoned when they're surrounded.
They really feel that there's very little reason for them to fight for the government that puts them in these situations. We've known these reasons for a long time. But even having known them, what's happened in the last 10 days has been extraordinary.
CURNOW: Do you think the Taliban are surprised even by the speed by which they have moved across the country?
Or do you feel like this has been a well-organized, well-coordinated, well-planned, effectively messaged insurgency and that they have done exactly what they planned to do?
FARMER: I think both those things are true. I think this has been a campaign that has been a long time in the making. The Taliban have managed to very successfully reach out to people in rural districts, to try and persuade them that the government was not worth fighting for.
But having said that, speaking to Taliban commanders in recent days, they, too, are stunned by how fast this has happened.
FARMER: They expected that, when it came down to it, the army would not fight. But they've told me that the speed and the scale of what's happened has still left them stunned.
CURNOW: What else have the Taliban told you during your reporting in Afghanistan?
And what do you think is the timeframe -- or at least the end game -- when it comes to Kabul in particular?
FARMER: Someone I spoke to yesterday said there is no choice for the president, Ashraf Ghani. He has to surrender or as the former Taliban minister I spoke to said, he either has to surrender or he'll end up hanging.
I don't know, it's not clear; there's a lot of uncertainty about whether they will move into Kabul imminently. It's a very difficult situation for all sides.
Thousands of American troops have come in. And we don't know that, if the Taliban move in, what they will do. The Taliban, I'm sure, don't know what the American troops will do. They may well wait for some kind of surrender. Or they may well give it a couple of days for the Americans to keep their -- to complete their withdrawal.
CURNOW: You're in Pakistan. Obviously Pakistan has, over the years, provided support to the Taliban. We now know that the largest border between Afghanistan and Taliban (sic) has just been closed.
What is reaction where you are now to what is unfolding in the region?
FARMER: I think Pakistan is another one of those spectators, who's been surprised by what's happened. Pakistan denies having supported the Taliban. But of course, that's not a view that's held in many Western capitals.
And certainly the Afghans believe that they are responsible for supporting the Taliban. Pakistan, I think, now fears that it will be caught with a lot of the spillover. They fear a lot of refugees will enter the country. And it may embolden some of the militants who operate inside Pakistan. So there's a lot of worry here as well.
CURNOW: Just finally before we go, is there anger towards the Americans or an acceptance that Mr. Biden, President Biden, felt that, whether they stayed another year or five years, as he said, wouldn't make any difference to the Afghan forces and the Afghan government?
What is the feeling towards the American decision right now?
FARMER: In Afghanistan, there is a lot of anger. There is a feeling that they've been left behind and betrayed. And in Pakistan as well, we've had politicians complain that America is leaving precipitously, leaving the region in chaos.
CURNOW: Ben Farmer, thank you very much. Thanks for your reporting, live there in Islamabad.
So a deadly earthquake has hit Haiti, a nation already mired in crisis. At least 304 people were killed, thousands more injured after the 7.2 quake struck on Saturday morning. There is fear the death toll could rise much, much higher; possibly into the thousands.
Haiti is now under a state of emergency. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 7.2-magnitude quake hit about 78 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. The Caribbean nation is still recovering from that devastating earthquake back in 2010 that killed hundreds of thousands of people.
There is also more danger on the horizon for Haiti. We're watching a tropical storm move in its direction. Patrick Oppmann has the latest.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Scores of Haitians are dead and many more are missing or injured following a powerful earthquake that rocked that nation on Saturday.
The images are harrowing; people running from their homes, people running from buildings as they collapse down upon them. As well injured people, we have seen, have received medical attention outside because of the aftershocks continuing to rock Haiti. And it is just too dangerous for people to be treated inside hospitals, we are hearing are overwhelmed.
Haiti's new prime minister Ariel Henry is visiting the affected areas. He has only taken over control of Haiti in the last several weeks, following the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise in July.
So this is a country that continues to be rocked by calamity and disaster and the worst wave has not passed as of yet because tropical storm Grace has formed and is heading in the direction of Haiti.
OPPMANN: It could bring heavy winds and rain, which could lead to mudslides and could further compromise buildings that have been structurally damaged and could collapse in the heavy rains.
So while this earthquake did rock Haiti on Saturday, aftershocks continue to impact the area where the earthquake hit and with this tropical storm on the horizon, the danger has not passed -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.
CURNOW: As Patrick mentioned, more trouble ahead for Haiti. Tropical storm Grace could bring heavy rain and wind to the already devastated nation as soon as Monday. That could certainly complicate relief efforts.
CURNOW: Find out how you can help the people of Haiti, who are suffering in the wake of this earthquake and perhaps with more to come, cnn.com/impact is the place where you should go. Coming up on CNN, some U.S. children are heading back to school in
states where the governors have banned mask mandates, like Texas. But local leaders are speaking up for them. We'll tell you all about that.
And Israel makes more people eligible for a third vaccine dose as severe cases rise, despite its best efforts. We have a live report from Jerusalem. That's also next.
CURNOW: It's 22 minutes past the hour. I'm Robyn Curnow live in Atlanta. Thanks for joining me.
Right now, hospitals across the U.S. are packed full of coronavirus patients. Doctors describe intensive care units that are bursting at the seams.
Here's a look at how many COVID patients are currently hospitalized. It's mostly concentrated here in the South, where the vaccination rates are the lowest in the country. This doctor says the situation is quickly spiraling out of control.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF THE SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: This is starting to look really ominous in the South where I am. I mean, we're now, if you look at the rates of transmission in Florida and Louisiana, they're actually probably the highest in the world. That's how badly things have gotten out hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: In Texas, more local officials are defying the governor's ban on mask mandates in schools. Hays County, which includes part of the city of Austin, is the latest to require students, staff and visitors to wear masks.
This all comes after the Republican governor signed an executive order last month to prevent that from happening. But several counties are pushing back, saying it is a matter of protecting the safety of children and staff.
In Mississippi, hospital systems are struggling to keep up with a flood of new COVID cases. Adrienne Broaddus is in Jackson, where one hospital has been forced to build a field hospital in its parking garage to keep up with the demand for beds.
ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The University of Mississippi Medical Center is making history again. But this isn't the type of history it wanted to make.
The lower level of the outside parking garage behind me has been transformed into a COVID wing. In the spaces where you would normally see parked cars, there are hospital beds, at least 20.
And this is where a medical team, sent through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will treat COVID-19 patients who need minimal care. On Friday, the state reported more than 5,000 new COVID cases.
And the state's governor, Tate Reeves, says at least 97 percent of those cases are among the unvaccinated. Despite the rising number of COVID cases here in Mississippi, the governor refuses to implement a mask mandate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TATE REEVES (R-MS): We're not going to have top-down, statewide intervention at this time. If you believe -- if you have not been vaccinated, I encourage you, if you're going to go out in public, I would encourage you to wear a mask.
If you have -- if you have been vaccinated, I believe that the vaccine works. And I don't personally think that that extra layer of protection -- but it is, to be fair, an extra layer of protection that may reduce the possibility of transmission by some amount. If that's what makes you feel most comfortable, then I'm all for you doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROADDUS: And on Saturday, about two miles from the hospital, friends, family and members of law enforcement said goodbye to one of their own, Pines County sheriff, Lee Vance. He was 63.
And the coroner says he died due to COVID complications. He spent nearly three years protecting and serving but he could not fight COVID-19.
Meanwhile, on Friday, the state reported 31 new COVID deaths. The state's top health official is hoping people will take precautions, get the vaccine or wear a mask to prevent the spread of the virus -- Adrienne Broaddus, CNN, Jackson, Mississippi.
CURNOW: And Israel is expanding the rollout of its third vaccine dose. The country is trying to shore up immunity for some vulnerable groups, as severe COVID cases continue to rise driven by the Delta variant. Hadas Gold joins me from Jerusalem with more on that.
And the extra booster shot, who's getting it now?
HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Robyn, as of Friday, anyone over the age of 50, as well as medical workers, people with underlying medical conditions, as well as prisoners and wardens, are now eligible to receive this third dose, the coronavirus booster shot is what it's being called.
This come two weeks after Israel began rolling out this booster vaccine to anyone over the age of 60. Already more than three-quarters of 1 million people in Israel have received that third booster shot.
The government is trying to really push people to get out as quickly as possible and get these shots in their arms because the cases are continuing to rise in Israel. Over the past few days, there have been several days of more than 6,000 positive cases per day. Serious cases in hospitals are approaching 500.
These are levels Israel has not seen for several months, not since the beginning of the year. This is causing much concern in Israel. Although there are restrictions in place, for example, the green pass, you have to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test in order to enter many public places like restaurants, public events.
You must wear a mask in crowded places outdoors as well as any indoor facility. There have not been further restrictions put into place and there has been criticism leveled at the government because there's concern the hospitals could soon come under strain if the numbers continue to climb as they have been.
But Prime minister Naftali Bennett writing a lengthy Facebook post last night, defending their policy, saying they are focusing on the current restrictions, they are focusing on booster shots, trying to get as many people vaccinated as possible, especially the holdouts, people who have not been vaccinated at all.
But he said the cost of lockdowns has cost Israel too much in the past, citing a number, $62 billion is what cost Israel in the past, in previous lockdowns, saying they are doing everything possible to avoid lockdowns, which he said are destructive tools for the livelihood, for the economy and for the education of our children.
Everybody looking toward the beginning of the school year, September 1st. A lot of concern about what that could mean for the cases. But the prime minister saying the lockdown will be the absolutely last resort.
CURNOW: Thanks so much, Hadas Gold in Jerusalem.
You're watching CNN. Still ahead, how the Taliban waited out the Americans to come back storming into Afghanistan.
And after the break, we'll speak to the head of the Haiti mission of Doctors without Borders and find out how people there are coping with a devastating earthquake.
[03:30:00] (MUSIC PLAYING)
CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow live from Atlanta.
And the Taliban continue a stunning sweep across Afghanistan. The militants have now seized the city of Jalalabad in the east, according to a local Afghan official, leaving the capital, Kabul, as the only major city still under government control.
We're also learning the Taliban have taken the city of Nili, which means at least 24 of Afghanistan's 34 provincial capitals are now under Taliban control. Sources tell CNN both Jalalabad and Nili fell without resistance.
Meanwhile, a key border crossing with Pakistan has been sealed. Sources tell CNN that Pakistani officials made the decision after Taliban forces took over transit and administrative offices on the Afghanistan side.
Few people, if anyone, saw this swift resurgence of the Taliban coming. Five years ago, the militants were divided after losing their leader and disagreeing about who should pick up the mantle.
But as Nic Robertson now reports, the group knew how to adapt and rebuild.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Twenty years after being driven from Kabul, the Taliban are poised to re-enter Afghanistan's capital once again.
In many ways, they've changed little; a rural movement led by deeply conservative clerics. But the Taliban have shown themselves smarter on the battlefield, adept at the negotiating table, as they've seized one province after another.
They've deployed a slick PR campaign to trumpet their victories, coaxing footsoldiers to hand over their arms and equipment, then sending them home. But as CNN has reported, also executing commandoes, assassinating air force pilots and other selected officials.
In just a week, they've executed the swiftest land grab in the nation's history, seizing more than half of Afghanistan's provincial capitals. Five years ago, the picture looked very different.
The group was split over a new leader, after Mullah Mansour was killed in a U.S. drone strike. The leadership settled on a quiet religious scholar, Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, who is rarely heard from or seen, cloaked in secrecy. His two deputies set about building the Taliban in all of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.
The Taliban's military commanders were convinced that they should join peace talks.
[03:35:00] ROBERTSON (voice-over): One prize being the release of thousands of veteran fighters from Afghan prisons.
Sensing the U.S. was exhausted by the Afghan conflict, the Taliban simply waited and planned. They joked, Americans had the watches; it had the time. It raised hundreds of millions of dollars.
A recent U.N. report said that, last year, the Taliban likely earned over $400 million from the mining sector and similar revenues from opium crops. It also profited from highway taxes and extortion.
It acquired weapons, such as drones and magnetic mines. With these weapons, it began targeting highways and local militias and building up a presence around provincial capitals.
All the while, its delegates were turning up for stuttering peace negotiations in Doha but making few concessions. The U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said, in 2018, he was cautiously optimistic that a peace deal would be reached.
The Taliban's chief negotiator, Mullah Baradar, had other ideas. Any peace deal would be on the Taliban's terms. There would be no space for the puppet government in Kabul.
Now the Doha process is superfluous.
The question is, when and how the newly strengthened Taliban reach Kabul, by force or through some transitional arrangement?
Whether they will be any better at governing than the last time or more merciful is still very doubtful -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Lewes, Delaware.
CURNOW: Thanks to Nic for that.
A return to another of our top stories, Haiti and that deadly earthquake that has rocked the troubled nation. The death toll now stands at 304 but that number is sure to rise.
Thousands of others are injured. Haiti's prime minister says the country is in urgent need of medical supplies and personnel. The 7.2 quake struck Saturday morning about 78 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
CURNOW: Joining me, now, is Alessandra Giudiceandrea. She is the head of the Haiti mission for Doctors without Borders and she joins me, now, live, from Port-au-Prince.
You are coordinating; you are speaking to your teams in the field.
What do you know? ALESSANDRA GIUDICEANDREA, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: Yes. So far, we know that there are big damages to the building, especially in the main cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie. The other towns surrounded so affected, the houses and most concerning, the hospitals.
CURNOW: Talk us through, with the hospitals, I understand that capabilities and capacity are -- are real issues here?
GIUDICEANDREA: Absolutely. It was already enough challenge before the earthquake. Now we know that in Cayes and among the three main hospitals, two are not full functioning so we are left with one public hospital.
Then, there is an hospital in Port-Salut. And then, in Jeremie, we are still trying to -- to -- to have -- how to say -- a better vision of it because, as you can imagine, the search and rescue takes quite a moment. And it's ongoing.
CURNOW: Obviously, this is all amplified by COVID.
How is Doctors without Borders managing in these areas and having to deal with the pandemic at the same time?
GIUDICEANDREA: It's not only the pandemic; we should not forget the security, as well.
GIUDICEANDREA: A reminder, we had to close a project (INAUDIBLE) Port-au-Prince, which had been open for 15 years and we had to close at the end of June. And we are trying -- we are -- today, we had to open quite in a rush exactly to respond to the emergency in another location.
So I think the earthquake is just another problem, on the top on several other problem that we were facing in the last months.
CURNOW: You're working out of tents; there's obviously a security/political situation has been fraught; there's a pandemic, there are terrible memories of the 2010 earthquake where you are. You're expecting a tropical storm in the next few days. Haiti certainly seems to be getting hit with one disaster after another.
What do folks need there on the ground right now?
GIUDICEANDREA: People are scared who are already shocked because of the situation, the security situation was shaking everybody. I think, today, the immediate reaction, was as you said, now they have the impediment at least (ph) of 2010.
So, I would bet that even in Port-au-Prince, not everyone would feel comfortable to speak in the houses. Everybody is extremely shaken. And, I am still extremely, and deeply surprised, and how people are ready.
[03:40:00] GIUDICEANDREA: How the people around me are receiving it. And I can tell you, all of the people who was there, to prepare solidarity, to collect (ph) campaign (ph) and to help to respond to the rescue, this is still -- remains something still impressive (INAUDIBLE).
CURNOW: Yes. Alessandra Giudiceandrea from Doctors without Borders, many thanks for joining us. I know you have had a very, very long day. Please send our regards and thanks to all of your teams out there in the field.
GIUDICEANDREA: I will. Thank you very much.
CURNOW: You are watching CNN.
Still to come, how some U.S. federal judges are speaking out against the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. We have that story next.
CURNOW: Welcome back.
As the U.S. congressional investigations into the January 6th insurrection continue and as the partisan viewpoints on the significance of the Capitol attack grow even deeper, federal judges presiding over the cases have become the conscience of democracy, as Brian Todd now reports.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is our Capitol.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As lawmakers continue to engage in partisan bickering over the Capitol attack...
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We will run our own investigation.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: This is deadly serious.
TODD (voice-over): -- federal judges handling cases of Capitol riot defendants are filling the void of moral outrage over January 6th, issuing blistering rebukes to those accused of breaching the Capitol.
Quote, "You called yourself and everyone else patriots but that's not patriotism," Judge Amy Berman Jackson recently told defended Karl Dresch.
"That is the tyranny we rejected on July 4th," she said.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's very common for judges to say what was wrong about the crime, especially with defendants who entered into it seeming to think it was OK.
LITMAN: It's especially pungent here, I think for two reasons. First, because the behavior was so terrible in a way that the defendants all seem to be unaware of or denying.
And second, because the system overall has been so polarized that no one has really stepped up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Questions that we've been asking.
TODD (voice-over): Indeed, instead of stepping up some right wing members of Congress have been spending their time spouting ridiculous false conspiracy theories about the Capitol attack, like one that suggests the FBI orchestrated the assault.
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): We really need to know what the FBI knew and when they knew it.
TODD (voice-over): At a hearing for an alleged Capitol rioter this summer, federal judge Royce Lamberth said the characterization by some Congress members that January 6th was nothing more than a bunch of tourists walking through the Capitol is quote, "utter nonsense."
Lamberth describing the attack as a, quote, "disgrace to our country."
LITMAN: I think they are pissed the way citizens are pissed and they're speaking partly for themselves and partly for the community.
TODD (voice-over): The exasperation captured by federal judge Reggie Walton, who recently said of January 6th, "It's an embarrassment to me. It should be an embarrassment to every American."
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: We should be listening to them, especially when these voices come from people appointed by different presidents of different parties.
In a sense, it's a wake-up call that the issues at stake in the investigation of January 6th, lie at the core of who we are.
TODD: Historian Tim Naftali points out not every politician in Washington is dropping the ball when it comes to speaking the truth about January 6th. He says Republicans like Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and Democrats like President Biden do come out and talk about it.
But unfortunately, he says they're often attacked when they do -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
CURNOW: Still ahead on CNN, they're adorable and they're at risk. Why the climate crisis is a threat to puffins.
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CURNOW (voice-over): You're looking here at a welcome home ceremony for a firefighter injured by the second largest wildfire California has ever seen. A burned-out tree fell on him while he was fighting the Dixie Fire. He's back in his home of San Diego and is expected to make a full recovery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: This fire has burned more than 550,000 acres and is just 31 percent contained. More than 14,000 homes and other structures are at risk of destruction.
Search and rescue operations are underway in parts of Arizona and they are under a state of emergency there after flooding hit the town of Gila Bend. Two people died. The town's mayor tells CNN at least 30 had to be rescued, mostly from rooftops.
On Saturday heavy rain and thunderstorms rolled through the area. The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings; flash flood warnings that remain in effect.
And Japan is recovering from devastating floods and bracing for more. Authorities said at least four people are presumed dead, two others are missing, after heavy rain triggered landslides and mudslides.
Hundreds of troops and first responders are deployed in rescue operations. Parts of Japan have received unprecedented amounts of rain over the past week.
And you can see the impact in this video, the submerged car and the boat going by. More rain is expected across large sections of Japan over the next week and we'll continue to monitor that.
Meanwhile Turkish rescue teams are searching for those still missing in flash floods that swept through the country's Black Sea region earlier this week. The death toll has climbed to at least 44. Dozens of villages are currently without electricity. Officials say more than 2,000 people have been evacuated from the flood zones.
Extreme weather is also putting animal species at risk around the world, including the U.K.'s beloved puffins. They live far away from humans but they can't escape the impact of what we're doing to the climate. Scott McLean now reports.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A few miles off England's sandy, northeastern coastline, there's a rocky archipelago. Isolated, barren and nearly unscarred by humans, save for a few lighthouses and a 650-year-old former monastery.
For centuries the Farne Islands have been left almost unchanged, attracting only a few solitary hermits, sunbathing seals and hundreds of thousands of breeding birds, like the Atlantic puffins.
But even on this remote outcrop, where only nature appears to govern who survives and who doesn't, there's now another force to contend with. Climate change.
Every morning Gwen Potter and her team of park rangers arrive before the crush of tourists.
GWEN POTTER, NATIONAL TRUST COUNTRYSIDE MANAGER, FARNE ISLANDS: They are very delicate. They can sometimes collapse, so we've got to be very careful.
MCLEAN: They go borough to borough, shoulder deep, to count how many puffins are underground with their eggs.
POTTER: Oh, unoccupied.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one home.
POTTER: I really want a nibble.
MCLEAN: The global population of Atlantic puffins is in steep decline, so the count is done every summer. The growing frequency of extreme weather threatens to flood their burrows and the eggs inside them.
MCLEAN (voice-over): Rising temperatures are disrupting their food chain.
But on this sunny day, it's hard to imagine the Farne Islands puffin has anything to worry about.
(on camera): I'm just looking at all the birds behind you. It's difficult to envision that these birds could be in any way be threatened.
POTTER: What we're seeing here is a snapshot in time. But over the long term, all of these birds are declining.
MCLEAN: You'll often see puffins holding fish in their mouths. That's their primary food source called sand eels. When eel eggs hatch, they're supposed to feed on plankton, which blooms at around the same time of year.
MCLEAN (voice-over): But with rising sea temperatures, those two events are now out of sync by almost three weeks. Less food for sand eels ultimately means fewer sand eels for puffins.
POTTER: And these puffins also, they -- they pair for life. Puffin divorce rate, we believe, is quite low. MCLEAN: They're better at commitment in relationships than we are?
POTTER: They're much better at bird marriage than human marriage, Yes.
MCLEAN (voice-over): A human commitment is exactly with these birds need. The 2015 Paris climate accord committed world leaders to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius.
But a newly-published report from the WWF warns of an uncertain future for the Atlantic puffin if temperatures rise more than 1.5 degrees. Leaders will have another kick at the climate crisis can at the COP26 summit this fall in Scotland.
MARK WRIGHT, WWF-UK DIRECTOR OF SCIENCE: If we do not step up at the end of this year at the climate meeting, it will have been a complete abrogation of responsibility, a real missed opportunity. And we'll be letting down future generations if we don't act now.
MCLEAN: Puffin populations in Norway have dropped sharply. And in Iceland, colonies are at risk of dying out completely, according to the WWF.
But on the Farnes, the puffin population appears stable after declining over the past two decades.
POTTER: What really causes issues is rapid change. And while our lifetime may not feel like a rapid change, that is a rapid change.
MCLEAN: They can adapt to a slowly changing climate but not at the rate that we're at right now.
POTTER: That's exactly it. Yes.
MCLEAN (voice-over): Meaning the rest of the world will have to change, so these islands don't -- Scott McLean, CNN, on the Farne Islands in northern England.
CURNOW: That wraps this hour of CNN. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow. Kim will join you next.