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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on September 12, 2021

9/12: Face The Nation with Margaret Brennan
9/12: Kinzinger, Morell, Versalovic 46:00

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner
  • Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican from Illinois
  • Michael Morell, former acting CIA director
  • Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools
  • Dr. James Versalovic, interim pediatrician-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington. And this week on FACE THE NATION, as America remembers the September 11th attacks, Presidents, past and present, urged a divided America to unite, and President Biden tries to force the hesitant to get their vaccine. America closed one chapter in its fight against terrorism yesterday, marking two decades since the attacks that claimed nearly three thousand lives.

(Crowd singing)

MARGARET BRENNAN: And for the first time in twenty years, there are no U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but the Taliban is back in control, just as they were when they harbored Osama bin Laden there twenty years ago.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Can al Qaeda come back? Yeah. But guess what? It's already back other places. What's the strategy?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now U.S. intelligence officials are warning that America's chaotic withdrawal from that war is inspiring terrorist groups abroad. And as the President who first launched the war on terror warned, the hate espoused by extremists at home is now eerily similar.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll hear from a key Republican voice on foreign policy, Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We'll discuss the security threats facing America now with former acting CIA Director Michael Morell. Then, as COVID's ferocious Delta variant continues to spread, President Biden issues a sweeping vaccine mandate that may rest on shaky legal ground.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One group that clearly needs protection--children, too young to be vaccinated, who are being hospitalized with COVID in record numbers, as the school year gets into full swing. We'll talk with the top pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital, Doctor James Versalovic. And we'll check in with Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of schools in Florida's Miami-Dade County, where at least thirteen school employees have passed away from coronavirus in just the last month. And we'll get the latest on a timeline for children's COVID vaccines from former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb.

It's all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. Yesterday, Americans marked a somber milestone: Twenty years since the September 11th attack, an event that upended American life and launched the war on terror. We'll have more on national security later in the broadcast. But this morning, Americans are waking up to another threat--the Delta variant continues its unrelenting spread. President Biden now faces a slowing economy and his frustration with the eighty million Americans who remain unvaccinated is clear. He's now requiring federal workers to take the vaccine and mandating some private businesses to do so, too, or submit to weekly testing. But that order could soon face legal challenges. CBS senior national correspondent Mark Strassmann is in Atlanta with the latest on COVID's impact.

(Begin VT)

MARK STRASSMANN (CBS News Senior National Correspondent): COVID's back to school lesson: How vulnerable kids are, making up more than one in four new COVID cases.

CLINT SAAVEDRA: How are the parents-- how are they okay with that? How are they just okay with that over a mask?

MARK STRASSMANN: For the sickest COVID kids, hospitalization rates spiked almost ten-fold since late June. Alarm in Los Angeles, America's second largest school district just mandated vaccinations for eligible students.

JACKIE GOLDBERG (L.A. Unified School District Board Member): That's why there isn't measles and mumps and rubella in our schools, because we vaccinate. And we require it.

MARK STRASSMANN: These nine states have banned or restricted school masking mandates, including Florida. On Friday, a judge upheld the governor's ban.

RON DESANTIS: Let the parents make the decision that's best for their kids. If you want the masks, do it, if you don't, don't, that's fine.

MARK STRASSMANN: But Florida's pandemic politics has consequences. In Miami, Abe Coleman, an elementary math teacher for three decades, died of COVID.

TANYA JACKSON: He was just a great co-worker to many people, and stayed at the school like a monument.

MARK STRASSMANN: Coleman became one of thirteen Miami-Dade teachers and staff to die of the virus already this school year. All of them unvaccinated. COVID also killed more than twenty-four hundred Floridians last week, another state record. Four were children under sixteen. With the unvaccinated, many college campuses have gone from pleading to punishing. Ohio State will deny them housing and in-person classes next spring. At Quinnipiac University, fines of up to two hundred dollars a week. More than seven hundred colleges and universities have mandated vaccines.

MAN: I think it's a massive overstep of their authority.

MARK STRASSMANN: But this ICU in Boise, Idaho, largely reflects COVID America today. Every COVID patient is unvaccinated.

WOMAN: And they all ask, well, what could I have done? Will the vaccine save them now? No.

(End VT)

MARK STRASSMANN: Pfizer's vaccine for kids between the ages of five and eleven reportedly could get FDA approval by the end of next month. Communities like Metro Atlanta could use the help. Roughly twenty-five thousand kids have tested positive in the first six weeks of school. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mark Strassmann, thank you very much.

Well, we want to go now to former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb, who sits on the board of Pfizer. He's got a new book coming out to you next week, "Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID 19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic." Scott, it is great to see you again.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, MD (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Good to see you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Look, states can mandate vaccines. Federal government has never done something like this before, outside of the U.S. military. The Republican governor of Arkansas is on TV today, saying this is going to backfire. He's trying to convince his constituents to take the vaccine and because the federal government is telling them to, he says it's going to be even harder. Practically speaking, does this mandate make sense?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D.: I think the downside of this mandate in terms of hardening positions and taking something that was subtly political and making it overtly political could outweigh any of the benefits that we hope to achieve. If you look at where we are right now, right now, seventy-five percent of adults over the age of eighteen have had at least one dose of the vaccine. Most of them will complete the series. That's a very high number of people vaccinated owing to the good work of the Biden administration. We're not going to get above ninety percent. We don't even really reach ninety percent with childhood immunizations, which are mandated. So, we're going to get somewhere between eighty and ninety percent. I-- I would state that we would have gotten to eighty percent just on our current trajectory in short order. Perhaps with a mandate on small businesses, eventually you get to something akin to eighty-five percent, but it's going to be slow because this is going to get litigated. It takes OSHA time to implement regulations. You'll have to put in place guidance, give businesses a grace period and then figure out what the enforcement mechanism is going to be in. In the near term, a lot of businesses that might have mandated vaccines are now going to sit on their hands and say, I'm going to wait for OSHA to tell me just how to do it--


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D.: --and give me more political cover. So, in the near term, you could actually discourage some vaccination.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. OSHA, that's going to come from the Labor Department, and they haven't filed that yet.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's what you are referring to. But the President, what he said was mandating a vaccine for businesses and if employees at those businesses don't take it, the alternative is to get weekly testing. Do we have the testing capacity in the country to do that right now?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D.: We would have the testing capacity to do it, but it puts a big burden on businesses to have to operationalize that and determine what they're going to do with the result. So, I think a lot of businesses are going to opt to try to force workers to get vaccinated if in fact this ever goes into effect. But again--


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D.: --we are looking at a very long timeline here. Excuse me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Many already were.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D.: Many-- many were, exactly. Many-- many businesses are, and I think that the federal government's action to require federal employees to get vaccinated, which is probably well within their purview to do that in a function of federal readiness that gives plenty of political cover for more businesses, more private sector businesses to start to implement their own mandate. So, I don't think we had to reach down to the--


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D.: --level of small businesses with a hundred or more employees and put a federal requirement on them. I don't think the federal government should be dictating this. I also don't think governors should be preventing small businesses from making these determinations on their own. We should leave these decisions to communities, local communities and businesses to make assessments on what their risk is, what their settings are, how much precautions they can put in--


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D.: --and whether vaccine requirements are an absolute necessary-- necessary to-- to protect people in those settings.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, kids still can't get a vaccine if they're between the ages of five and eleven. When will it be available to them?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D.: Well, I'm more familiar with the process for Pfizer, the company I'm on the board of. Pfizer has said that they're going to have data before the end of September. They could be ready to file within days of having that data, so they'll file very quickly with the FDA. FDA has said it's going to be a matter of weeks, not months, in terms of their evaluation of that clinical data to make a determination whether they're going to authorize vaccines for kids aged five to eleven. I interpret that to mean perhaps four weeks, maybe six weeks. But I think in a best-case scenario, given that timeline they've just laid out, you could potentially have a vaccine available to children aged five to eleven by Halloween. If everything goes well, the Pfizer data package is in order, and FDA ultimately makes a positive determination, I have confidence in Pfizer in terms of the data that they've collected. But this is really up to the-- the Food and Drug Administration to make an objective determination.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, then it's up to parents, whether they want to use a vaccine under emergency use for their children. If you're a parent, what do you ask your pediatrician and are there options out there?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D.: Yeah, I think parents should look at this as a decision where there is some latitude in terms of what you do with your child, and you really should consult your pediatrician and have a conversation. Parents have understandable concerns about putting any new product, new medical product in a child. It's not just this vaccine. It's any vaccine or any therapeutic, and I understand those concerns. This isn't a binary decision. It's not a choice of do I vaccinate my child or not? There's different ways to approach vaccination. You could go with one dose for now. You could potentially wait for the lower dose vaccine to be available, and some pediatricians may make that judgment. If your child's already had COVID, one dose may be sufficient. You could space the doses out more. So, there's a lot of discretion that pediatricians can exercise, making largely off label judgments, but exercising discretion within the context of what an individual child's needs are, their risk is, and what the parents' concerns are. So, I would urge every parent to have a conversation with pe-- their pediatrician. Pediatricians are very good at counseling through these decisions, and I think that they could provide good objective advice to parents.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, what about the parents themselves? We've seen this Israeli data that shows the vaccine may have some waning impact after six months. When is the FDA going to fully approve boosters and if Pfizer's first out of the gate, as has been reported, when will we see Johnson and Johnson and Moderna follow?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D.: Well, there's a meeting this Friday of the FDA's advisory committee to discuss this very issue. The agency could be in a position to act very quickly, depending on what the outcome of that meeting is. If there is a recommendation from the FDA's external advisors to authorize boosters or licensed boosters, the agency could act very quickly, and then ACIP, the advisory committee to the CDC would meet and make a recommendation about what population should receive boosters. The conventional wisdom is-- is that if boosters are approved, it's probably going to be for people who are more at risk from COVID right now. They've already recommended it for those who are immunocompromised, moderately or severely immunocompromised. I think the next tranche would probably be older individuals, particularly individuals who live in congregate settings like nursing homes. And that's may-- that may be what we see next. Pfizer has filed their application with the FDA. I think J&J is going to be in a position also to file a package with the FDA soon as well.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D.: They have very good data also looking at boosters. They've showed a good response. And I think that vaccine also could be in a position to get authorized by FDA in short order.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Also, very quickly, governors issue mandates for kids to get vaccines. Anyone sending their kid in the classroom has to do that. Do you expect COVID to be any different?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D.: In time, no, I think you're going to see more local school districts and governors make those recommendations. Eventually ACIP is going to make a recommendation about whether this should be included in the childhood immunization schedule. My guess is they're waiting for more of the vaccines to be fully licensed to make that kind of a recommendation. But I would expect this eventually to be required as part of the childhood immunization schedule.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Doctor Gottlieb, always good to talk to you.

And FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Tomorrow, lawmakers will get their chance for the first time to question the Biden administration on that chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Taliban is solidifying control in Kabul, raising their flag over the Afghan presidential palace. Our Charlie D'Agata is in neighboring Pakistan. Charlie, U.S. intelligence is already acknowledging that the victory is inspiring jihadist propaganda. What are you hearing about how the chaos of this withdrawal will impact the U.S.?

CHARLIE D'AGATA (CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent/@charliecbs): Well, Margaret, we have to make clear right way the Taliban are claiming victory, and, of course, that's going to embolden jihadists in this region, it already has. The priority is an al Qaeda in Afghanistan and here in Pakistan. We have to remember that almost everybody that we have spoken to here and in Afghanistan, including the outgoing Afghan government, if you want to call them that, said al Qaeda is intrinsically linked with the Taliban, in terms of how Afghanistan is now. They are in trouble. I mean, there is a deep humanitarian crisis going on now. So they need an outreach. They need legitimacy from the United States, the international community, but if they don't get it, there are others that are willing to fill that void. I'm talking about players like Russia and China, who if the Taliban don't play by the rules in international standards, they are there to move in.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The CIA chief was in Pakistan this week, and he has acknowledged the U.S. has lost capabilities without a footprint in Afghanistan. Does that mean we are more reliant on Pakistan now?

CHARLIE D'AGATA: Well, right now after William Burns came on Wednesday, a couple days later, just on Saturday, the intelligence chiefs of Russia, China, Iran, and other local countries here met with the intelligence leaders here as well. So there is a sense that the United States is being sidelined. Prime Minister Imran Khan said you have to think twice if the United States thinks they're going to be able to aptly a base here, reestablish a base here. So the U.S. may need-- they do need to have some sort of footprint here, but for the time being, they're being pushed out by other players.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Charlie D'Agata in Islamabad. Thank you.

We go now to Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Good morning to you.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER (R-Illinois/@RepKinzinger): Hey, good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Intelligence officials are predicting that al Qaeda could reconstitute in as little as twelve months. Have you heard a strategy from the administration yet? Tomorrow, you'll be able to put questions like that to the secretary of state.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Yeah, no, I haven't. And, you know, all you keep hearing is this nebulous over the horizon capability. And I think what's important is to understand what over the horizon capability is. It basically says if we see a target of opportunity, we have the ability to come forward and strike it, you know, great, we can do some of that. And in areas that you know, we hear about a one-off drone strike. But keep in mind, when we defeated ISIS, for instance, in Syria and Iraq, and obviously that's ongoing, we had to embed people with the local forces to be able to get the intel necessary for those strikes. So, I've heard nothing but that nebulous over the, you know, over the horizon strike capability. And secondarily, the fact that you know, your prior guest was talking about having to rely on, in essence, the Russians or China is in there now in Pakistan is playing such a big role.


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: That is what happens when you leave a position that we have there in Afghanistan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I'm not going to litigate the leave or stay. It's done, right? And the American public overwhelmingly seems to support the concept. But on the practicalities on the national security front, the President said yesterday to reporters when he was asked about the chaotic withdrawal. It's hard to explain to anybody how else you could do it. He said if you pulled up a plane in another country, for example, you would also, quote, "have people hanging in the wheel well. Come on." Was this as unavoidable as he is suggesting?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: You know, I don't think it is, I mean, look, it's-- I get armchair quarterbacking and it's easy for some people to come up and say that, you know, the prior president would have done it perfectly or not, whatever. But I think there are so many people that know military strategy and policy that say, look, even if we made the decision that we're leaving and that's an unnegotiable decision, there were a couple of key points. We always talk about the air base in Bagram. We could have defended that until every American was out and every Afghan civil was out. Secondarily, let's say that we still, you know, shut down that air base and we were down to that last week prior to the complete collapse of the Afghan government. That's when those six thousand marines and other-- and soldiers that rushed into the Kabul airport--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: --actually could have pushed out and defended Kabul proper, the city, because the Taliban at that point had no interest in coming into the city yet. And we could have had the evacuation on our timetable as quickly as we could have.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, on that evacuation, it was the ambassador in Kabul who issued the evacuation order on August the 12th. Kabul fell three days later. Is the secretary of state going to take the blame for that? Do you hold him responsible for that? And was the timeline here a real factor?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: You know, look, I think there's a lot of people that bear blame and the secretary of state is one of these, and I think it would be nice. And keep in mind, even under the prior President, I would say this exact thing for some people to just take responsibility. That's what the American people want, is somebody to stand up and say, look, this is on me. We know, obviously, that there is a detailed plan and that's not always on. But in the case of-- of the secretary of state, when we began to see the collapse of the Afghan military, which actually started with the threats of the Taliban, we're doing on these night letters against Afghan leaders and Afghan military leaders saying the U.S. is leaving. We're going to kill your family unless you give up your arms. When we began to see that fall apart, that's when the order should have been given to basically in a defensive posture to get everybody out. We can and not have to wait two or three days prior because a lot of us were watching this happen. We were talking about it and-- and it's like it wasn't a surprise to many of us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about domestic extremism because you're one of the two Republicans investigating the attack on the Capitol from January 6th. There are at least two extremist groups who are expected this coming Saturday to attend a rally in defense of those who were arrested. Have you been briefed on the security measures to protect the Capitol? Are you confident?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: We haven't been briefed yet. We know that the fence is coming back up. We expect to be briefed this week. Yes, I'm confident. And I feel confident in our-- our, you know, our law enforcement. But I think it's an important point here, everybody has a right, obviously, to protest and nobody would argue that. But George W. Bush said an amazing thing in his speech yesterday when he said-- he talked about al Qaeda and domestic terrorists. And he said they may be culturally very different, but they're children of the same foul spirit. And-- and they seek to basically divide people that are different than them. This is why it's important that we as Republicans, frankly, and as Americans, stand up and say we shouldn't be at this point where we are truly worried for the seat of government every few months when there is a protest. So I hope it goes off well. I-- I have a lot of faith in our law enforcement and hopefully we'll find out more this week.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. So tomorrow? When-- when will we hear more about the security measures? You're not sure yet?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: I would love to hear more tomorrow.


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Yeah, I would love to hear more tomorrow. I would love to have heard it last week. I hope it's soon though.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be watching that. I want to go to vaccines. This is also a national security threat, the health of the American public. The President issued this sweeping vaccine mandate because he's frustrated eighty million Americans haven't gotten that shot in the arm yet, and-- and COVID is spiking again. He said he's doing this because Republican governors have been cavalier with their constituents, particularly kids. Doesn't he have a point?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Oh, I do, I think he has a point. Look, I-- I don't know if all of his mandates will hold up in court. There's constitutional questions on some of it. I'll leave that to lawyers because I really don't know, but I think it's going to save lives and-- and the failure here comes in leaders that have basically used vaccine status as some tattoo of what political tribe you belong to. I mean, we all hear stories of people that are in, you know, very red areas that are embarrassed to say they're vaccinated. That is insane and silly, and that is a problem with leaders, particularly Republican leaders, that don't stand up and give cover to people and say, look, this is not what republicanism or conservativism should be.


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: And you see these governors that do, you know? Mike DeWine in Ohio. And they just get pushed aside by some of those that are out to simply manipulate our base, raise money off of them and not care about their life, only care about what it means for their votes and their bottom line as politicians. It's actually pretty sad.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The RNC itself, the Republican National Committee, has said that they want to file, but that's, you know, rhetoric because nothing's actually been instituted yet by the administration. Is that what you're referring to when you say raising money off this?

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: Well, it's-- it's everything. I mean, it's them. It's-- it's when you look at really any Republican, you know, not any Rep-- there's a lot that are not doing this, but there are some, you know, Republican members of Congress and stuff putting out fundraising after fundraising e-mail about-- first, it's going to be a vaccine mandate--


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER: --next thing, the Gestapo is going to show up at your door and take your Bible away. Like, that's not going to happen and that's playing on people's fear.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, thank you for your time today.

And we will be back in a moment with a lot more FACE THE NATION, so stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: If you're not able to watch the full FACE THE NATION, you can set your DVR or we're available on demand. Plus, you can watch us through our CBS or Paramount Plus app.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. Late last night, the FBI released a newly declassified document related to the investigation of the 9/11 terror attacks, outlining contacts that hijackers had with Saudi associates here in the U.S. It did not include any evidence that the Saudi government was complicit. Holly Williams is in Riyadh with the look at how that country is fighting against extremism.

(Begin VT)

HOLLY WILLIAMS (CBS News Foreign Correspondent/@HollyMAWilliams): At Al-Ha'ir prison, Saudi Arabia claims it's reforming convicted terrorists with music, sports--

This is your coffee shop?

YASER ESAM HAMDI: Yeah, exactly.

HOLLY WILLIAMS: --and even a coffee shop that the prisoners run themselves. Our guide was an inmate. Yaser Esam Hamdi, born a U.S. citizen to Saudi parents in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

YASER ESAM HAMDI: I was there for five years, and it was very nice, it's very-- it's a very nice experience.

HOLLY WILLIAMS: Bizarrely many inmates wore business suit during our visit and others filmed us, they said, for the prison's TV station. Saudi officials accompanied us at all times and denied allegations of torture at the facility. After growing up mainly in Saudi Arabia, Hamdi told us he traveled to Afghanistan to train with the Taliban just before the 9/11 attacks.

YASER ESAM HAMDI: I watched action movies a lot. And I wanted, like, to have-- I want to try-- I want to try doing stuff like that.

HOLLY WILLIAMS: He was captured, held in Guantanamo Bay, and then U.S. military prisons before agreeing to give up his American citizenship and returning to Saudi Arabia a free man. He was later arrested by Saudi authorities, though he was vague about why.

YASER ESAM HAMDI: I didn't want to speak about it a lot. Yeah.


YASER ESAM HAMDI: Yeah. But talking and stuff like that, I am the-- because of that, I came back to prison.

HOLLY WILLIAMS: But Hamdi and several other prisoners were happy to describe their upbringing in an ultra-conservative, closed-off kingdom exposed to religious fundamentalism.

If you went looking for extremism.


HOLLY WILLIAMS: If you went looking for fundamentalism.

YASER ESAM HAMDI: Exactly. You can find them. You can find them. You can learn from them, and they will misguide you.

HOLLY WILLIAMS: The same factors helped radicalize the fifteen September 11th hijackers who were Saudi citizens, according to some. And Saudi Arabia has been criticized for being slow to fix the problem. Now Saudi Arabia says it's reforming--extremist preaching has been banned, women have greater freedom than ever before, including finally the right to drive, and school textbooks that once justified violence against non-Muslims have been rewritten. As Saudi Arabia tries to rehabilitate its image and stamp out extremism, Yaser Esam Hamdi told us, he's also been successfully reformed.

YASER ESAM HAMDI: All people do mistakes. I did the mistake. I was an extremist-- extremist once, but now I am not.

(End VT)

HOLLY WILLIAMS: The Saudi government has always denied any involvement in the 9/11 attacks. This country has won praise for its effort to combat terrorism, but it's still widely criticized over its human rights record. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Holly, thank you.

For more analysis on the threats facing the country, we turn to Michael Morell. He's a former acting director of the CIA and a CBS News contributor. Great to have you here.

MICHAEL MORELL (Former Acting and Deputy CIA Director/CBS News Senior National Security Contributor/@MichaelJMorell): Great to be here, Margaret. Good to have you back.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda, issued a video on the twentieth anniversary of the attacks. The U.N. said in July he's living in Afghanistan, is he?

MICHAEL MORELL: We think so, which means that the Taliban is harboring Zawahiri today. The Taliban is harboring al Qaeda today. And I think that's a very important point.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So is that just a complete false premise then to say that pulling out of Afghanistan, we can still keep the threat from al Qaeda at bay?

MICHAEL MORELL: We have a lot of work to do in order to do that, right? We have to figure out how we're going to collect intelligence-- two types of intelligence. How are we going to make sure that al Qaeda is not rebuilding its capabilities and is planning on attacking us again? And then we have to-- if we do that, then we have to collect the kind of intelligence that gives you the precision you need to conduct strikes, right? Drones need to be told exactly where on the earth to go. What tells you that is precision intelligence. So a lot of work for the intelligence community to do here going forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we've seen some of that. If you follow headlines, the CIA director in Pakistan this week, he's already said under oath, Bill Burns, that you will have fewer intelligence tools if you pull out U.S. troops. So what exactly do we need and isn't building up in the region the opposite of what the President intended to do, which was look at Asia and threats elsewhere?

MICHAEL MORELL: So we have China, right? China is a big problem. It's the big strategic threat facing the United States. We got to-- we have to-- we have to pivot to that, but we also have to keep our eye on terrorism. And there's terrorists in a lot of different places in the world. The President is right about that. But I think the place where we are most at risk from over the long term and the intelligence community is saying twelve months, so the long term is kind of short here, is Afghanistan, right? So al Qaeda could bounce back in as quickly as twelve months in Afghanistan if we don't do what we need to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So when I talk to sources about this, what they say to-- to the argument you just laid out is, well, why Afghanistan? Why regroup there? Why shouldn't we be as worried about Central Africa and al Qaeda's presence there? What's your response to that?

MICHAEL MORELL: So right now, the-- the-- the places I'm most worried about are ISIS in Africa and al-Shabab in Somalia. But longer term, I worry most about al Qaeda in Afghanistan and-- and ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Why? Because at the end of the day, the most important thing that-- that a terrorist group can have, the most important determinant of their success is safe haven.


MICHAEL MORELL: Right? And-- and you have safe haven in Afghanistan that you really can't have anywhere else because you're being harbored now by the Taliban. And Afghanistan is a big place. It's tough to get to. It's tough to find partners. We just heard about that earlier in the show. So that's why I worry more about Afghanistan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So are we more at risk then without the military presence there?

MICHAEL MORELL: We are more at risk, without a doubt, because we haven't yet, as we heard from-- from Representative Kinzinger, we haven't yet put together a strategy for how we're going to do the two things. So one, right, is to collect that intelligence that I talked about. The intelligence community's got to figure that out. Then the Department of Defense has to figure out this over the horizon capability, right? So when the intelligence community says, Mister President, they're rebuilding again, they're getting to the point where they can attack the homeland again. And the President says, take action. The military has to be able to reach in and degrade al Qaeda, right? We haven't figured those two things out yet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And-- and on that point, over the horizon, it's just a euphemistic word for flying in drones and planes from far away. So you had this drone strike that now The New York Times and The Washington Post is raising questions about. This was to target some of the members of ISIS who killed U.S. troops and over a hundred Afghans just a few weeks ago.


MARGARET BRENNAN: So, did we actually kill the person intended and if we didn't, doesn't that show that over the horizon has some problems?

MICHAEL MORELL: So-- so-- so this wasn't over the horizon, right? This-- this was done with assets in Afghanistan. So you got to remember that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Assets still in Afghan?

MICHAEL MORELL: Yes. You know what happened here, it needs to be investigated. And I would hope that the administration, once it does the investigation that it tells all of us publicly exactly what happened and if we made a mistake, why. You know, President Obama was very strong on being open about making mistakes with drone strikes. And I think this administration needs to do the same.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that's a question for the Pentagon, or that's a question for the CIA?

MICHAEL MORELL: It's a question for the White House.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Secretary of State will sit for questions tomorrow. For the very first time the administration is going to have to explain this chaotic withdrawal. You hear about the Taliban effect, that jihadists looked at this, looked at American troops exiting and said, it's possible that they are inspired by this. How much should we be concerned about that now?

MICHAEL MORELL: I think that the Taliban winning the war in Afghanistan and then the way our exit happened has absolutely inspired jihadists all over the world. The Taliban is saying we just didn't defeat the United States. We defeated NATO. We defeated the world's greatest military power ever. So there's a celebration going on. We defeated the Soviet Union. Then it fell. Now we've defeated NATO. Right? Maybe they can fall, too. I think not only will jihadists be inspired, but a lot of them are going to come to Afghanistan to be part of the celebration, to be heart-- to be part of jihadist central. So after 9/11, they all scattered from Afghanistan.


MICHAEL MORELL: I think we're going to see a flow back in, and that's one of the things that makes Afghanistan more dangerous than other spots on the planet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will keep an eye on it.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Mike Morell, thank you for your analysis.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to turn back to our coverage of the COVID pandemic, several school districts in Florida are in an ongoing battle with the governor over that state's ban on mask mandates. The federal government is now involved with the Department of Education investigating whether it violates the civil rights of children with disabilities. We want to go now to the superintendent of the Miami-Dade County School District, Alberto Carvalho. Good morning to you.

ALBERTO CARVALHO (Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent/@MiamiSup): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, a Tallahassee judge says the governor is well within his legal rights. But do you believe that this ban on mask mandates actually does violate the-- the rights of children with disabilities as the federal government is investigating?

ALBERTO CARVALHO: I certainly do, and I believe that the recent actions taken in Tallahassee are contrary to the expert advice of public health and medical entities that declare that mask mandates are protective measures that serve a compelling public interest. Look, I'm the superintendent of a district that has lost thirteen employees since August 16th. Yes, all of them were unvaccinated. We're still in a community where the positivity rate is at eight percent, where the number of cases per one hundred thousand residents is elevated at around three hundred and thirty. When back in June, it was only about seventy-six individuals per one hundred thousand.


ALBERTO CARVALHO: So the conditions are not what they should be for us to relax the protocols.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, what actually controls the spread in the classroom? Are classrooms vectors for spread of this virus?

ALBERTO CARVALHO: I think the experts are very compelling in telling us what controls the spread. Number one, vaccination for those who are eligible, twelve and older, and I am proud of my community since ninety-eight percent of residents in Miami-Dade have already obtained at least one dose of the vaccine. As a school board, we've taken courageous steps in-- incentivizing the vaccination of employees with--


ALBERTO CARVALHO: --financial incentives for our employees, social distancing, mandatory masking, ionization, cleaning techniques in the classrooms. If you put all those together, a multi-layered approach, then we can in fact contain the spread of this awful disease.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you can't employ-- require your employees to be vaccinated. The--

ALBERTO CARVALHO: In the state of Florida, there are legal restrictions in terms of mandating vaccination of employees.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Exactly. And then the teacher's union, they're encouraging vaccination, but they aren't mandating it. Does anything change now that the President made this announcement?

ALBERTO CARVALHO: Well, I think one thing that has changed is the fact that there is a greater incentive and a greater focus on the need to vaccinate individuals in our communities. You know, the best way-- the best way to reduce the positivity rates to contain the spread of COVID-19 is by surrounding kids with--


ALBERTO CARVALHO: --vaccinated individuals. And our incentives, the deployment of mobile vaccination units and testing units to our schools, which we do around the clock--


ALBERTO CARVALHO: --are having an effect.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I-- I want to ask you about the tragedy, as you just mentioned, of those thirteen people who worked for you, right? And in a district--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --which has high positivity rate, high poverty rate, they were unvaccinated. Why did they refuse to get vaccinated? And--

ALBERTO CARVALHO: I think that's an important question, and I think it underlies, you know, it's-- it's-- it underscores a real tragedy in our community and across the country. There are individuals in our communities, particularly ethnic minorities, who as a result of sad examples that are historic in nature, coupled now with misinformation and disinformation from a very small but very vocal minority that seeks to misinform and confuse.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that's why I'm asking you if--

ALBERTO CARVALHO: And the sad reality--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's why I want to ask you if the President's mandate and talking it up makes a difference because the former surgeon general was tweeting, Jerome Adams, this week that he-- he gets the intent, but many minorities, he says, "still have historically founded reservations. Many people have"--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --"honest questions." So, he's saying essentially this may backfire in those minority communities by-- if they don't trust the federal government, the federal government telling them to take a vaccine isn't going to help.

ALBERTO CARVALHO: I understand, and that's why local governments that are usually trusted--school districts, teachers, educators, superintendents, school board members, community-based organizations need to step up to provide an echo and a course of reason in our communities. Look, this should not be a political issue. This is a health concern issue. We've never debated the value of vaccination for measles--


ALBERTO CARVALHO: --mumps, polio or hepatitis. What's different now?


ALBERTO CARVALHO: The conditions-- the health conditions are not what are causing this issue. Politics are, and-- and sadly--


ALBERTO CARVALHO: --here we are debating this from a political perspective, rather than a health benefit perspective. I tell you, as a superintendent--


ALBERTO CARVALHO: --as a father, as a teacher, I am concerned for our kids. They are being used as political pawns in this political chess game, and that is reprehensible.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you very much for joining us and good luck with the kids in your schools.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're going to go-- we are going to go now to Doctor James Versalovic, the pediatrician-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital. Good morning to you.

JAMES VERSALOVIC, MD (Interim Pediatrician-in-chief, Texas Children's Hospital): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So twenty-five percent of new infections in this country are among children for the people that you are taking care of. How are they getting infected? What are you seeing in your hospital with these kids?

JAMES VERSALOVIC, M.D.: Well, we're seeing record numbers here at Texas Children's throughout Texas, and of course, as the story unfolds across the country, it's not just a regional problem, but a national problem. We've seen a record seven hundred fifty thousand plus, more than three quarter of a million children infected since early August through early September. We're seeing that play out here locally in one of the largest cities in the United States and the largest children's hospital in the USA. The reality is that we have seen record numbers of children hospitalized during this Delta surge. We have seen record numbers of cases reported by the day by the week. We continue to be on a high plateau and the reality is that we may be headed to another peak or to another valley if we all pull together.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Earlier in the program we spoke with a former FDA commissioner, Doctor Scott Gottlieb, who was predicting that you could potentially see a vaccine by Halloween that's available for kids five to eleven. Do you agree with that timeline? Do you recommend to parents that when it's available, they give it to their child?

JAMES VERSALOVIC, M.D.: Yes, we certainly are aiming for that timeline in October of this year to have the data here put together at Texas Children's as we continue to work with children. We are well into phase two-three, working with leading children's hospitals across the country and partners such as Pfizer and Moderna. That is our goal, October. We are doing everything we can now to move these trials ahead and they're moving ahead well. Children are getting a different dosage, but it's safe and effective. Thus far we are on track, and I certainly would agree with Doctor Gottlieb that we are doing all we can to get vaccines to children in the fall. In the meantime, use masking and other measures to keep our children safe and reassure parents that help is on the way in the form of vaccines for children under twelve.

MARGARET BRENNAN: For parents, what do they need to look for in their children? Are you seeing these infections develop in the form of some of these syndromes, like MIS-C? Is this a respiratory infection of COVID? Who is ending up sick in your hospitals right now? And how sick are they?

JAMES VERSALOVIC, M.D.: Well, in addition to prevention, Margaret, we need to continue to emphasize to all parents and families the importance of timely diagnosis through testing. Once the child is displaying symptoms, respiratory symptoms that could be consistent with COVID, COVID pneumonia, fever, could be shortness of breath, other symptoms. We need to make sure that child gets tested-- that-- if that child has a known exposure, getting timely testing is so pivotal. It's the only way we can make an accurate diagnosis and then triage the care appropriately. Decide whether that child needs hospital-based care. We know how to treat children at this point in the pandemic. We know that the vast majority of these cases, more than ninety-eight percent now are due to the Delta variant, highly contagious. But we are able to take care of these children in a hospital-based setting. We know that there are children with underlying medical conditions that are putting them at greater risk for severe COVID pneumonia, such as obesity, Down's syndrome, diabetes, pulmonary conditions. But we do have medications to treat children. We want to keep children out of the hospital and the reality is timely diagnosis is key. If a child needs hospital-based care, we do all we can to keep them out of the pediatric ICU. The reality is that children may need ICU-based care, and we're seeing that today. We're seeing infections throughout every age group. Infants and very young children, school-aged children and unvaccinated teenagers are getting hit hard now. We're seeing that impact during this surge more than ever.


JAMES VERSALOVIC, M.D.: So, we need to continue to remind parents, too, that beyond the acute infection, we could have MIS-C three to six weeks--


JAMES VERSALOVIC, M.D.: --after infection. We are seeing a spike of MIS-C today.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Doctor, good luck to you and thank you very much for your analysis.

We'll be right back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Twenty years ago, the terror attacks on 9/11 illustrated some of the worst that humanity has to offer. But in reaction to those attacks, we also saw some of the best: Courage in the face of danger, unity at an intensely divisive moment. We could use some of that now.

(Begin VT)

(Crowd singing)

MARGARET BRENNAN: It feels at times that was the last moment our country was united. Nearly three thousand people died in the attacks that September day. Today, we lose three thousand every two days to COVID. Yet appeals made to Americans' sense of civic duty to take the shot or wear a mask to protect the vulnerable are distorted as political battle cries. Twenty years ago, it was the passengers aboard United Flight 93 who tried to seize control of the plane from its hijackers. They stopped it from hitting the U.S. Capitol. Seven months ago on January 6th, it was our fellow Americans who violently attacked it in a deluded attempt to change the election. Yet lawmakers can't even agree on how to investigate. The trauma of that single September day is so embedded in America's consciousness, that the term 9/11 has become shorthand for horrific devastation, the benchmark against which we measure all loss. Yet there was persistent trauma in the years that followed--the two wars, the botched intelligence, the torture, the destructive institutions, government and journalists, surveillance violating civil liberties. Constant Islamophobia even morphed into a presidential campaign platform.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Today, more Americans are worried about domestic extremism than foreign terrorism. This week, Homeland Security warned domestic extremists may target refugees, particularly Afghan Muslims. Those who still see America as that beacon of freedom we have vowed to be. Twenty years ago, Washington promised to move heaven and Earth to prevent another attack. Today, we need that commitment again to fully heal ourselves--to decide what our values are and who we are in the world.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you all for watching. And thank you to my CBS colleagues for doing such a great shop-- job with this show while I was on maternity leave. For FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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