On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Weijia Jiang:
- Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden
- Governor Phil Murphy, Democrat of New Jersey
- Cynthia Sheng, president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
- Representative Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas
- Sue Gordon, former principal deputy director of national intelligence
Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."
WEIJIA JIANG: I'm Weijia Jiang in Washington. And this Labor Day weekend on FACE THE NATION, Americans may be more than willing to turn the page on what's been a sobering summer. Back to school time brings new concerns about COVID and the questions are more urgent and pointed. When will children be eligible for vaccines? When will boosters be available? And when will the pandemic ever end? We'll check in with Doctor Anthony Fauci. And in the aftermath of Ida, will her legacy be a wake-up call on both climate change and the need for boosting America's infrastructure?
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We need to be prepared for the next hurricane, and superstorms are going to come, and they're going to come more frequently and more ferociously.
WEIJIA JIANG: We'll talk with the leaders in the two states hit the hardest: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, and Cynthia Lee Sheng, president of Louisiana's Jefferson Parish.
Plus, the Texas anti-abortion law is now the strictest in the country. After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the controversial new law, will other states enact similar ones? We'll hear from Texas Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar about the fight to preserve Roe v. Wade.
Finally, President Biden struggles to recover politically from the tumultuous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Are we prepared for the consequences? We'll talk with the former deputy director of National Intelligence, Sue Gordon, and our own David Martin on what we've learned about the war in the twenty years since 9/11.
It's all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.
WEIJIA JIANG: Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. On this traditional last weekend of summer there's a lot of news to get to this morning--developments on Afghanistan, abortion rights, and the extreme weather that's wreaking havoc across the country. We will get to all of that very soon. But we begin this morning with America's COVID crisis and President Biden's chief medical adviser, Doctor Anthony Fauci. Good morning, Doctor Fauci. It's great to see you.
ANTHONY FAUCI, M.D. (Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden/Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases): Good morning. Good to be with you.
WEIJIA JIANG: I want to start with boosters, because we are just over two weeks away from September 20th. That is the date that the administration had planned to start administering vaccine boosters for adults. Is that still the plan?
ANTHONY FAUCI: In-- in some respects it is. We were hoping that we would get the-- both the candidates, both products, Moderna and Pfizer rolled out by the week of the 20th. It is conceivable that we will only have one of them out, but the other will likely follow soon thereafter. And the reason for that is that we-- as we've said right from the very beginning, we're not going to do anything unless it gets the-- the appropriate FDA regulatory approval. And then the recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Looks like Pfizer has their data in, likely would meet the deadline. We hope that Moderna would also be able to do it so we could do it simultaneously, but, if not, we'll do it sequentially. So the bottom line is very likely, at least part of the plan will be implemented, but, ultimately, the entire plan will be.
WEIJIA JIANG: So I know that the FDA and the CDC have-- have said that there's insufficient data, as you just mentioned, about the Moderna booster. Is there anything you can tell us about what data is still missing that you still need and how long it's going to take to collect that information?
ANTHONY FAUCI: You know the data are-- are in-- in two elements, one is safety. In other words, to get enough people that you've followed significantly along enough to say that it's safe. We feel almost certainly that it is. But you want to make sure when you're dealing with allowing the American public to receive an intervention, you want to make sure you're absolutely certain. The other is the immunogenicity or efficacy. Immunologists (AUDIO CUT) would predict it would be protective. The company is getting their data together, will submit it or even has submitted some of it, if not all of it, to the FDA. The FDA will examine it and then make a determination whether from a regulatory standpoint, it's okay to go ahead. So, it looks good. I mean, I think it's going to be at the most a couple of week to few week delay, if any.
WEIJIA JIANG: And if the Pfizer is available on the 20th, has the eligibility changed for people who can start getting it?
ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, no, actually, the-- the-- the eligibility, as we've mentioned, is-- is a regulatory decision and a-- and a recommendation from the advisory committee, so nothing has really changed with regard (AUDIO CUT).
WEIJIA JIANG: Okay. Well, if I had the Moderna vaccine and I am hearing that Pfizer is going to be available come September 20th, is it okay for me to mix and match? And what about for people who got the--
ANTHONY FAUCI: We are doing--
WEIJIA JIANG: --Johnson & Johnson?
ANTHONY FAUCI: No, that's a good question. We are doing studies right now, which are just what you said, they are mix and match studies. Namely, we are lining up Pfizer against Pfizer, Pfizer for Moderna and vice versa. Hopefully, within a reasonable period of time, measured in a couple of weeks, we will have that data. But right now we are suggesting and-- and, hopefully, it will work out that way, that if you got Pfizer, you will then boost with Pfizer. If you get Moderna, you will be boosting with Moderna. But we are doing the studies to determine if we can do just that. Switch one with the other.
WEIJIA JIANG: Got it. Thank you. I want to move on to kids who have COVID because so many are returning to the classroom after this Labor Day weekend. And I know the CDC just released two reports this week, one that showed hospitalization rates in the U.S. for children and teenagers increased by nearly five times from the end of June to mid-August. Can you help us understand that spike?
ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, it's pretty easy to understand because we're dealing with the Delta variant. The Delta variant, as opposed to the Alpha variant, is much, much more transmissible. It has an efficiency of transmitting from person to person much, much more readily than previous variants. And so many more people, including children, are getting infected. And that's something that is not so (AUDIO CUT) that is so easily transmissible. You'll get more children infected. And, in fact, when they get infected just on a pure basis of the relative number of people that will actually get into the hospital, you're going to wind up seeing more children in the hospital.
WEIJIA JIANG: And what can you tell us about the severity of those cases in light of the Delta-- Delta variant?
ANTHONY FAUCI: You know we're looking at that very carefully, there is some indication in adults that the Delta variant might be more severe, but all the data that we are collecting right now does not give us any definitive information that the Delta variant is more severe in children. We know certainly more children are getting infected and, therefore, more are getting hospitalized. But we don't have definitive enough data to say that is fact on a child-by-child basis, that it's any more severe.
WEIJIA JIANG: And I know that Delta remains very dominant. But you said this week that you're also keeping a close eye on the Mu variant. And the World Health Organization has listed it as a variant of interest. What does a close eye mean? What are you looking for?
ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, you're looking to see if it becomes more dominant, namely, if the relative proportion of isolates in a given place, including in this country, becomes more. Right now, we're not seeing that the Delta variant is over ninety-nine percent dominant. So when we say we're keeping an eye on the Mu variant, we want to make sure it doesn't become more dominant. We actually don't know what the consequences would be. The concern is that it has a few-- a constellation of mutations that would indicate that it might evade the protection from certain antibodies. That's what we mean when we say we're keeping an eye on it. But right now it is not an immediate threat, even though, we take all of these variants very seriously.
WEIJIA JIANG: And is there any data available to gauge how effective the vaccine might be against Mu?
ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, no, I don't think there's any indication right now because we don't have enough data, but if you look at the level of antibodies that our vaccines induce, particularly following the boost, I mean, we have data now that when you give a third boost to either the Moderna or to Pfizer, you (AUDIO CUT) that, it's very effective against any variant that we've tested. So that's the good news about our vaccines. If you get the level of antibody high enough, which boosters actually do, then you can feel pretty confident that you're going to be protected against virtually any variant.
WEIJIA JIANG: Okay. Doctor Fauci, thank you so much for joining us this morning. And we're sorry about some of those technical glitches you saw, but we heard you loud and clear. Thanks.
ANTHONY FAUCI: No problem. Thank you.
WEIJIA JIANG: We turn now to the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Ida. Ida's path measured more than a thousand miles from where it made landfall in Louisiana through the Northeast bringing torrential rain and flooding and spawning tornadoes in at least six states. At least sixty-five people are dead. In New Jersey alone twenty-seven people were killed, largely due to flooding. The state's governor, Phil Murphy, joins us now from Middletown. Good morning, Governor. Thank you for making time for us.
GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY (D-New Jersey/@GovMurphy): Good morning. Thanks for having me.
WEIJIA JIANG: I want to get the latest on the recovery from Hurricane Ida, but I do want to start with a quick question on COVID since children are returning back to school in your state this week. The Star-Ledger editorial board, the largest newspaper in your state, published an op-ed criticizing your decision not to require school staff to show proof of vaccination or submit to any testing until October 18th. Given how transmissible the Delta variant is why not use every weapon you have at your disposal now?
GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY: Well, I would just respond to say that we are. Period. Everyone in our school buildings will be masked. Students, educators, staff. No exceptions. Educators, as we sit here today, are already at a very high level of vaccination. We think that timeframe is a realistic one, and they will be required to have a vaccination and if not, be subject to multiple tests per week. We think that package of steps is what we need to have a safe environment, because we desperately need to get our kids back in person back into school, and we are confident we can achieve that.
WEIJIA JIANG: Okay. Thank you, Governor. I know a lot of families are not only thinking about sending kids back to school, but right now how they're going to get their kids and families back in their homes. President Biden is heading to New Jersey this Tuesday to look at all of the damage. Are you going to ask him for any additional resources or assistance that you already know you need?
GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY: Yeah, the President and his team have been outstanding. We have already asked for assistance. We've gotten the first step and we will continue to ask for more because we need it. This was a historic storm, deadly, tragically, the loss of twenty-seven lives, and still at least four persons missing significant destruction of both homes, small businesses, roadways in some cases, by the way, schools, folks, first responders were extraordinarily heroic. Folks up and down the state were extraordinary. But there is a significant loss associated with this storm. We'll do all that we can in the state but we need the federal government in a big way. I'm confident they will be there for us. And I'm looking forward to having the President with us on Tuesday and seeing it up close with our own eyes.
WEIJIA JIANG: You said after this storm that New Jersey needs to update its playbook for storm response is, quote, "as it relates to our infrastructure, our resiliency, our whole mindset, the playbook that we use, we have got to leap forward and get out ahead of this." What was it about this storm that led you to that conclusion?
GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY: Yeah, I mean this is something that we have been spending all of our-- our hours thinking about, and we will be doing that, I suspect, for many years, if not decades to come. We screamed loud and clear: tornado warnings, flood warnings, flash flood warnings. We begged people to get off the road. And still you've got twenty-seven losses of life and enormous destruction. We had rain in-- in many communities in two or three hours that were equivalent to what they normally get in a month or two. And-- and-- and this, sadly, we think, is part of the-- part of what we're going to be facing, more frequency and more intensity. So I mean that in terms of the playbook in every respect. We need a much more resilient infrastructure. That infrastructure bill that's being debated in Congress would have a huge positive impact on states like New Jersey. We're the most densely populated state in America, a location second to none. But we've got infrastructure that was built for a different reality. And so that's the big piece of this. And we want to make sure that folks, when they hear these warnings, bless their souls, that they take them as seriously as we need them. And, God willing, we will-- will be able to sharpen that as well going forward.
WEIJIA JIANG: Mister Governor, that reconciliation bill that you mentioned, it is going to have a tough road ahead to passage. If it fails, what can you do as a governor to recreate that playbook?
GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY: I think the-- the failure would be historic. I think it would be, sadly, an example where America did not meet the moment. The alarms have been going off for-- for decades, if not longer, and the intensity and the loss of life and destruction that we've seen just this week is a stark reminder. So, if it does not happen with the heaviest of hearts will do everything we can inside of our state. But this is one example where the resources and support of the federal government is-- is-- is vital. There's no other-- there's no other player that can fill that role. As I say the President and FEMA have been extraordinary in the-- in the reaction to this storm. But as a proactive matter, we need Congress to step up right now.
WEIJIA JIANG: Governor Murphy of New Jersey, thank you so much. And best of luck to you as you try to get your state through this.
GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY: Thank you for having me.
WEIJIA JIANG: FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute. Stay with us.
WEIJIA JIANG: We turn now to the situation in Louisiana, following Hurricane Ida. CBS News reporter Jessie Mitchell has been there since the storm made landfall last Sunday.
JESSIE MITCHELL (CBS News Reporter/@CBSNewsJessie): Weijia, the Louisiana heat and humidity has become unbearable for the hundreds of thousands here still without power. Officials said yesterday full restoration might not happen until the end of the month.
JESSIE MITCHELL: A week after Ida slammed the Gulf Coast much of New Orleans is still in the dark and drying out after deadly flooding and high winds. Barrier Island, Grand Isle, is uninhabitable.
MAN: Hopefully, we can get start, we get this clean. We're going to take one day at a time.
JESSIE MITCHELL: Supplies aren't the only thing for residents to worry about. There is more bad weather on the horizon.
GOVERNOR JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-Louisiana): Even if it visits our area as a tropical storm, we're in no condition to receive that much rainfall.
JESSIE MITCHELL: And tragedy continues. Louisiana has ordered the closure of seven nursing homes following the discovery some of its residents relocated to a makeshift shelter at a warehouse. At least six have died. State health officials said conditions in the warehouse were unhealthy and unsafe.
WOMAN: To think that they would just put these people in a warehouse and leave them like that, I mean, right, like they're not even human.
JESSIE MITCHELL: The owner of those nursing homes, Bob Dean Junior spoke with local reporters last week.
BOB DEAN JR. (Nursing Home Owner): We only had five deaths within the six days and normally with eight hundred and fifty people you'll have a couple a day, so we did really good with taking care of people.
JESSIE MITCHELL: Louisiana's governor said the state is going through a tough time. Ida's death toll stands at twelve. In the same period, three hundred and fifty have died of COVID.
GOVERNOR JOHN BEL EDWARDS: We have had a winter storm, a flood, and all of this during the course of a pandemic. And, quite frankly, it's more than a lot of people can bear.
JESSIE MITCHELL: At last count, some twenty-four hundred people remained in Red Cross shelters across the gulf. For some, it could be months before they return home. Weijia.
WEIJIA JIANG: Jessie Mitchell, thank you.
We go now to the president of Jefferson Parish in the Greater New Orleans area, Cynthia Lee Sheng. Good morning to you, Cynthia.
CYNTHIA LEE SHENG (Jefferson Parish President/@CynthiaLeeSheng): Good morning. Thank you so much for having me on the show.
WEIJIA JIANG: Thank you for being here. You said in a recent briefing that the dangers after the storm are just as serious as during the storm. What are the most imminent dangers you are worried about right now and how are you coping with them?
CYNTHIA LEE SHENG: Well, I mean that's definitely the case. If you look at the storms that we've had in Louisiana in the past year, I think we've lost more lives post-storm. In Jefferson Parish we only lost one life during the storm. Unfortunately, I happen to know the person--very, very tragic--in Lafayette, where the-- where the waters rose very high. But then, you know, a couple of days later, I feel like two days later, we lost three people to carbon monoxide poisoning. We lost another resident to a nursing home with-- with the, you know, issue with that with the people who evacuated. And then we also had, which is not directly storm related, but we had a fatal shooting at a gas station because we were living in a community that is just completely broken down. And people are, you know, stressed. And-- and it's just a very fractured community right now. So that's absolutely the case. We've lost more people post storm than we did during the storm. And we're day by day trying to put our community back together. You know the fuel situation just hit us. It's a double whammy and the fact that eight refineries got hit. So the fuel at the source of it got hit. If this storm would have been anywhere else and the roads were passable, we would have been shipping our gas to them. But the fact that our eight refineries got hit right where the storm hit land was just a double whammy for us in terms of trying to rebuild and trying to make sure our first responders have fuel, our critical needs have fuel. So that was very unfortunate for us with this storm.
WEIJIA JIANG: Well, I know the Biden administration has tapped into its emergency fuel reserve to try to help you guys out, but it sounds like that's not enough. Did you ask President Biden for more when you met with him on Friday? And what else did you ask from him?
CYNTHIA LEE SHENG: Yeah, absolutely, we-- we appreciated the visit, and, you know, I'm so glad that he got here to see the destruction firsthand, but, you know, fuel was absolutely the essential need. We talked about the assistance for our medical-- medical special needs people, because as the days go on and people were staying at home, it was getting harder and harder to kind of take care of these people. So that was great news yesterday. I was at the New Orleans Convention Center meeting, DEMAT teams from Rhode Island and New Hampshire and law enforcement officers from California. It was such a bright way to start my day yesterday to-- to know that my the most vulnerable citizens we have in Jefferson Parish will be able to send. They are, you know, if they can't handle a bus ride outside to a mega shelter in Bastrop, Louisiana, but they're not critical enough to be in a hospital. We have major resources right here locally that we can send our-- our-- our vulnerable people. And that was, like I said, a great way for me to start the day yesterday to see all these additional resources. And I told my team, you know, when it's just the days after the storm, it's so difficult because the problems are there. We don't have the resources. We're-- we're trying to do search and rescue, save lives. But every day additional resources come in from outside and we feel better about things. And that's-- that's been really a relief, just getting the reinforcements in from outside.
WEIJIA JIANG: And I know that despite all of that help right now, you're still asking some people who evacuated not to come back just yet. Is that right?
CYNTHIA LEE SHENG: Yeah, because we still have the fuel issue. You know I was very grateful that the school systems are not starting this week. My teams, and this is my departments, we have to get the water pressure up. We're still under a boil water advisory. Our sewer system is largely dependent on the-- it is dependent on electricity. Thank goodness, you know, all our hospitals are-- have electrical power now. Our emergency operations center, our-- our core of communication for first response actually lost generator power. So, the electrical company got us powered up. So, the critical infrastructure needs-- need to get powered up. And then Entergy is working on, you know, getting the neighborhoods back up slowly. But if you don't have fuel, you don't have electricity, water pressure is low, the sewer system is-- is fragile, having the masses come back as-- as a community we're not ready for it. But I think as electricity comes on every day, I think this gas situation hopefully will get better. We will-- we will bring people back. You know we-- all my job is-- is to tell people this is the situation, this is the real-life situation. It's up to them to make the personal decisions as to whether they want to return. If they think life's too difficult financially, if they can stay out longer, I mean, that's an issue with the hotel bills. So, we're not-- we're just trying to get people accurate information for them to make their own decisions. But I really feel good about it. Every day we're going to get better and better on all of our systems across the board.
WEIJIA JIANG: Well, Cynthia, we are thinking of you as you do that. And I am so sorry about your personal loss. Thank you for joining us this morning.
CYNTHIA LEE SHENG: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you.
WEIJIA JIANG: And we will be right back.
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WEIJIA JIANG: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION.
WEIJIA JIANG: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I am Weijia Jiang. Texas now has the strictest anti-abortion law in the country. It bans the procedure after the sixth week of pregnancy and provides a ten-thousand-dollar incentive to the public to police abortion. Last week in a five-four decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block that law from taking effect, and now lawmakers in at least six states are considering enacting similar laws.
Texas Congresswoman Veronica Escobar condemned the Supreme Court's decision. She joins us now from El Paso, Texas. Good morning, Congresswoman.
REPRESENTATIVE VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-Texas/@RepEscobar): Good morning, Weijia. It is a pleasure to be with you.
WEIJIA JIANG: It's great to have you. You called the new law one of the most draconian state laws to date. Since it took effect I wonder, have you heard from constituents and health care providers about any immediate impact?
REPRESENTATIVE VERONICA ESCOBAR: I have, Weijia, people are shocked, horrified, outraged. We knew it was coming down the pike because it was debated in our state legislature, but actually having it become law on September 1st has been pretty horrifying because of two really awful consequences. The first is the fact that neighbors and friends and family members are-- are being incentivized to be bounty hunters. It's incredible that we live in a state that is willing to incentivize that. But there are also other real-life consequences that are happening right now, deadly consequences. There are folks who want to believe that you can eliminate abortion. But what-- what this law and other laws like it will do is simply make it deadlier, more dangerous. Women are going to take their health into their own hands. It will impact young women, poor women, and women of color. And I am really afraid of the lives that will be lost as a result.
WEIJIA JIANG: And to help handle those immediate consequences and what you're talking about, women seeking care, is there anything you're asking from the Biden administration that they can provide, whether that's transportation to another state or funds for a trip like that? What are you asking from the President?
REPRESENTATIVE VERONICA ESCOBAR: Well, I'm grateful that the President wants to fight for women's health care and wants to protect women from a state and, frankly, a party that is not pro-life, but is instead pro birth, willing to put women's lives on the line. So, the-- the Biden administration is looking at a whole of government approach, asking its agencies to take action. So, I'm grateful for that. But Congress needs to act as well. We are going to bring to the floor the Women's Health Protection Act, which will put into law the protections that women need and require that-- that we've had for decades under Roe v. Wade. But, in the meantime, Weijia, I am afraid of, what will be happening to women who are desperate right now, especially women who've suffered traumatic experiences such as incest or sexual assault, who's-- who are trapped in the state of Texas.
WEIJIA JIANG: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would bring a vote on that act, which you are a co-sponsor of. But this week, you also tweeted, "Expand the court. Abolish the filibuster." Do you think that is the only way the bill stands a chance of passing?
REPRESENTATIVE VERONICA ESCOBAR: I am really afraid that because of the Senate's desire to hang on to a relic of the past, a Jim Crow relic, the filibuster, that while the House will move expeditiously to protect women from states like Texas and from a Supreme Court that is an activist court. My fear is is that some members of the Senate will use the filibuster as an excuse to not take action. And in the face of inaction, we will see more death in Texas. Texas is now a very dangerous place for women and children. We are going to see more states basically import this law and do everything possible to create the most hostile conditions for women in our country. And I do believe I am a supporter of eliminating the filibuster so that the American people will be able to see progress in government. And I believe the filibuster, which voters never voted for, which is not in the Constitution and which is a relic of the past, it needs to be eliminated. But I do think we also need to expand the court. We've now seen SCOTUS basically engage in late-night decisions through their shadow docket. We've seen them become an activist court. We need to restore integrity to the court.
WEIJIA JIANG: Earlier you did mention the way that this law is written and the fact that it outsources enforcement to private citizens. Are you worried that because of the way it's structured, that's going to make it really hard to challenge in court?
REPRESENTATIVE VERONICA ESCOBAR: It really will, and the consequences, I don't think that-- that-- that folks really understand the legal consequences involved because this-- it's so new to the American public. But basically, here's what can happen. If, for example, I had a young daughter who was the victim of a sexual assault, and I was taking my young daughter to a clinic. Her assault-- the-- the person who perpetrated the assault could take me to court incentivized by that ten thousand dollars.
WEIJIA JIANG: Mm-Hm.
REPRESENTATIVE VERONICA ESCOBAR: And let's say that-- that my young daughter was not pregnant. There was no abortion involved. But I still had to defend myself in court. I can't even recover legal fees. There are layer upon layer upon layer of injustices written into this law, intended to really send the-- the most severe chilling effect on women and women's reproductive rights in the state of Texas.
WEIJIA JIANG: But, Congresswoman, you represent a state where forty-one percent of people oppose abortion rights. Some of them not only approve this law, but they have spent years fighting for it, and now they are celebrating. How do you find common ground with those constituents on such a clearly emotional issue?
REPRESENTATIVE VERONICA ESCOBAR: And it really is a tough issue to discuss because each side is-- is equally as dug in and-- and it is very hard to find common ground. But what I have long talked about is if we want to lower the number of abortions taking place in our country, we have to do more for young women and men in terms of sexual-- sex education, in terms of access to contraceptives, in terms of legal protections for women. Instead, what we are seeing is an elimination of those things.
WEIJIA JIANG: Mm-Hm.
REPRESENTATIVE VERONICA ESCOBAR: And so, it-- it should be no surprise that-- that more young women end up pregnant. But then we have a government that wants to limit their-- their options once they are. It's a very backward way of addressing what is a concern. But that's why I say there's no law that you can create that will eliminate ab-- abortion. All that's happening is you're eliminating safe, legal abortion, causing women significant harm.
WEIJIA JIANG: Oh, we are going to have to leave it there, Congresswoman. But thank you so much for joining us this morning.
REPRESENTATIVE VERONICA ESCOBAR: Thank you, Weijia.
WEIJIA JIANG: We'll be right back.
WEIJIA JIANG: With American troops now out of Afghanistan, the Taliban is working on securing its leadership to govern the country. CBS News senior foreign correspondent Charlie D'Agata has the details from Doha, Qatar.
CHARLIE D'AGATA (CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent/@charliecbs): Good morning. Well, government officials here in Doha say they've been working very closely with the Taliban in Kabul to try to get that airport up and running again. It could mean a resumption of humanitarian flights for Americans and Afghan civilians holding special visas who are still trying to get out.
CHARLIE D'AGATA: In Kabul, the Taliban broke up a demonstration by dozens of women demanding rights under Taliban rule. Eyewitnesses say shots were fired into the air. Images showed one woman bleeding from her forehead. And this is just the latest in a series of protest after the Taliban said women would not hold any cabinet positions in the new government. They have yet to announce that new government, likely to be led, anyway, by Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The delay is apparently down to different Taliban factions jockeying for power under this new leadership. A different battle is underway at the Panjshir Valley, where the Taliban surrounded the last region not to have fallen to the militants. Taliban say they're making progress in that valley, which is just north of Kabul. Those resisting inside say they continue to hold on. In the capital, they're kind of getting used to a new life under the Taliban. Kids in soccer jersey is praying next to heavily armed Taliban fighters during Friday prayers. The Taliban is literally white-washing the capital, repainting the blast walls of Kabul, as the Taliban put it, getting it clean and ready for the new government. And some surreal scenes few would have predicted under the extremist regime, a full-house turnout to a cricket match over the weekend. Taliban flags flying right beside Afghan flags.
CHARLIE D'AGATA: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is en route to Doha, partly in thanks to the government for helping to evacuate tens of thousands of Afghans and others over the past couple of weeks. As we understand it, there are no intentions to meet with the Taliban delegation here in Doha. Weijia.
WEIJIA JIANG: Charlie, thank you.
Here with us now is Sue Gordon, former principal deputy director of National Intelligence. Good morning, Sue. It's so great to see you.
SUE GORDON (Former Deputy Director of National Intelligence): Good morning. Great to see you, as well.
WEIJIA JIANG: As we heard from Charlie, there are still Americans and Afghan allies who are trying to get out. And one of the challenges is the ongoing threat from ISIS-K. The Biden administration has repeatedly said that their ability to carry out an attack like the one we saw at the airport is very different from their capability of striking the homeland. Is that true?
SUE GORDON: It is. I think one of the things to understand is the twenty years of our counterterrorism efforts, including that time in Afghanistan, has seriously degraded the ability of extremist forces to rally, gather their resources, and then to operate at a distance. That does not mean that they can't create havoc within Afghanistan, disrupt the formation of any new kind of government, and over time reconstitute themselves in a way that could be problematic for us.
WEIJIA JIANG: So twenty years later, can you answer if we are safer or not than we were before 9/11?
SUE GORDON: Oh, I think from a counterterrorism perspective, we are decidedly safer. We have collectively, with the help of allies and partners, waged great effort to disrupt the networks, to take away the geography and to improve our efforts to detect things going on. That doesn't mean that holds forever if you don't continue to invest, and now in the partnerships that are going to do the work in a region where we've decided to step away.
WEIJIA JIANG: Well, the President's critics have said that this withdrawal has set the stage for another 9/11 attack. Do you share any concerns that terrorists will use Afghanistan once again as a hub to breed more capacity?
SUE GORDON: Yeah, I think you have to be concerned about that, almost no matter what government the Taliban is able to put into effect, they-- they aren't a government in the way we think about it in terms of absolute control. Remember, they're the extremists that we went in originally to fight. So, it is a fraught area where you have tribal and-- and-- and extremist influences. So, it's worrisome. I think the Biden administration now, when presence isn't the advantage we have, when intelligence isn't going to be as good, because you don't have that presence, really going to have to double down on the regional partnerships and you're going to have to rely on non-traditional partners like Russia and China and Pakistan to really do that work in the region to try and influence the stability that is necessary to keep that threat from reemerging.
WEIJIA JIANG: You just said the intelligence not being as good. President Biden has insisted that the over-the-horizon capabilities are enough to monitor these threats. But I wonder if you think that's true and what we miss out on by not being on the ground.
SUE GORDON: So truth in advertising. I have over the course of my career seen this nation develop amazing capability to discover information that we needed to have that we typically didn't have access to. But especially in remote regions where the data you want is not held in neat server rooms and physical presence allows you to the humans that have the information. You get a little-- a considerable amount from the interaction with those humans, the information they have and the intention that comes with human intelligence. So, I'm not going to say that we can't develop over-the-horizon capabilities that are expanding on what we have today. But I will say that intelligence with presence is really important as well.
WEIJIA JIANG: I want to turn to the intelligence that we may have had before the chaotic withdrawal.
SUE GORDON: Right.
WEIJIA JIANG: Reuters published a report that-- that includes excerpts of a phone call between President Biden and the former president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, dated on July 23rd. So, three weeks before--
SUE GORDON: Right.
WEIJIA JIANG: --the takeover. The President reportedly said, "as you know and I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things aren't going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban. And there's a need, whether it's true or not, there is a need to project a different picture." The President is reportedly characterizing this threat as a perception when clearly it was also the reality--
SUE GORDON: Mm-Hm.
WEIJIA JIANG: --on the ground. Was that a failure in intelligence?
SUE GORDON: I think any time lives are lost and, if you look at our withdrawal, there is a collective responsibility between the policy, operational intelligence communities for that outcome. I would not characterize this as an intelligence failure for a couple of reasons. Number one is, I think of our twenty-year history involvement. The intelligence community has been pretty clear eyed in terms of what the on the ground situation was and what the likelihood of persistence of the government if the U.S. withdrew. Now, I think you have to acknowledge they apparently didn't have precision in their estimate on the speed of the loss.
WEIJIA JIANG: I want to-- I want to-- I'm glad you mentioned that, because later on in that same conversation, President Ghani said, "Mister President, we are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support." That does not match what he has publicly said, which is we had no idea the collapse was going to happen so fast.
SUE GORDON: Yeah.
WEIJIA JIANG: Is this another example of the President's claims changing the perception from the reality?
SUE GORDON: Yeah, I think a couple of things are clear to me with the caveat that I don't know what other conversations were had and I wasn't in the room when decisions were made. It seems clear from that conversation that he understood that the situation was fraught, that at least we could have foreseen the outcome, if not the speed. I stopped short of-- of having a problem with him telling Ghani that he needed to project strength. Right?
WEIJIA JIANG: Mm-Hm.
SUE GORDON: Regardless of what the situation was, it is probably a reasonable comment that he needed to project strength. But it seems clear from that conversation that he knew the situation was fraught. And so I think his challenge is going to be how he speaks to the American people as more and more of these facts become evident.
WEIJIA JIANG: Well, Sue, I could talk to you for another hour, but we are out of time. So, thank you so much for joining us this morning.
We'll be right back in a moment.
WEIJIA JIANG: Saturday marks the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, the attack that started the war in Afghanistan. And for the first time since then, there will be no U.S. troops in the country. Senior national security correspondent David Martin was at the Pentagon on the day of the attack. He and his long-time producer, Mary Walsh, have brought CBS News viewers every development in the war on terror since that devastating day. They've covered the war through four administrations and eight defense secretaries, and, most poignantly, they've brought us the stories of American forces fighting that war in person. Here's David and Mary's look back.
DAVID MARTIN: With the Pentagon still burning and bodies trapped in the rubble, it was a small victory near the end of the day on 9/11 for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld simply to hold a press conference.
DONALD RUMSFELD: The briefing here is taking place in the Pentagon. The Pentagon's functioning. It will be in business tomorrow.
DAVID MARTIN: Behind him, in a show of undivided political support stood the heads of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Three days later, Congress passed a resolution authorizing the use of force. The U.S. unleashed its fire power, and by December, Rumsfeld was taking his first trip to Afghanistan.
DONALD RUMSFELD: They've captured a number of Al-Qaeda, they've killed a number of Al-Qaeda. They've wounded a number of Al-Qaeda.
DAVID MARTIN: U.S. military looked invincible, until March of 2002, when seven Americans were killed in the Battle of Roberts Ridge. One of them, Sergeant John Chapman, can be seen on drone video charging across a snowfield directly at an al Qaeda machine gun position. American troops were tough and they were brave, but so was the enemy, fighting under the constant threat of being annihilated by airstrikes. As in all wars it came down to fighting as much for each other as for any cause. Army Captain Will Swenson put his wounded sergeant, Kenneth Westbrook, on a medevac and gave him a kiss before returning to battle.
WILL SWENSON: You know we had a moment we looked at each other. He-- he almost had a smile on his face.
DAVID MARTIN: Did you ever see him again?
WILL SWENSON: I never saw him again. One month later he passed away at Walter Reed.
DAVID MARTIN: Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, but the war ground on. In 2012, we visited the wounded at Walter Reed, where amputations, many of them multiple, were running at more than twenty a month.
What was the damage?
ERIC MYERS: Both legs ampu-- amputated.
DAVID MARTIN: Staff Sergeant Eric Myers was on his third tour in Afghanistan when he stepped on a booby trap.
You know most of the people back here think the war is winding down.
ERIC MYERS: Over there on the ground it's-- it's not winding down.
DAVID MARTIN: Yeah.
ERIC MYERS: It's still just as intense as it was.
DAVID MARTIN: The hard truth at Walter Reed was that Afghanistan changed them more than they changed Afghanistan. Now the war has come full circle. Major General Chris Donahue, the last man out of Afghanistan, was a junior officer serving in the Pentagon on 9/11.
LLOYD AUSTIN: America's longest war has come to a close.
DAVID MARTIN: Except now no politicians were standing behind Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley when they appeared in the Pentagon briefing room.
MARK MILLEY: This is tough stuff. War is hard. It's vicious, it's brutal, it's unforgiving. And, yes, we all have pain and anger.
CHAZRAY CLARK: I need something, please. It hurts.
DAVID MARTIN: War is the dying cries of Specialist Chazray Clark, bleeding to death waiting for a medevac to come for him, and the heartbreak of his young widow.
CHRISTINA CLARK: My husband laid there wondering why nobody is coming to get him, for how long? Like, forty minutes? An hour?
DAVID MARTIN: A twenty-year war is one in which some of the last to die, those Marines killed by a suicide bomber at Kabul airport were infants on 9/11, with no idea what was happening.
WEIJIA JIANG: David and Mary, plus, all the CBS News personnel who have been to Afghanistan and Iraq over the years, and those who have covered it here in Washington and New York, we thank you for your work.
We'll be right back.
WEIJIA JIANG: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. Margaret is winding up her last weekend off from maternity leave, and we are so excited for her return next Sunday. For FACE THE NATION, I'm Weijia Jiang.
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