YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Challenges foreign and domestic.
PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: (From video.)
I will not send another generation of Americans to
war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.
ALCINDOR: President Biden defends withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but he faces
accusations he's leaving the country as it teeters on the edge of collapse.
And Haiti's president
What role will the U.S. play as the island nation falls deeper into crisis?
Meanwhile, more cyber hacks with alleged links to Russia.
Plus, six months after the Capitol attack former President Trump sues social media
companies for blocking access to his accounts, next.
ANNOUNCER: This is Washington Week.
Once again, from Washington, moderator Yamiche Alcindor.
ALCINDOR: Good evening.
It's been 20 years since U.S.
troops entered Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11th attacks in 2001.
Tuesday President Biden announced - Thursday, I should say, President Biden announced a
complete withdrawal of U.S. forces by August 31st.
The move will end America's longest war.
Here's President Biden explaining the mission there.
PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: (From video.)
The United States did what we went to do in
Afghanistan: to get the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and deliver justice to Osama bin Laden.
We achieved those objectives.
That's why we went.
We did not go to Afghanistan to nation build.
ALCINDOR: But there are serious concerns about what will happen once the U.S.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham criticized the move.
He tweeted that he fears it will be President Biden's, quote, "biggest mistake yet."
This marks just one of the many foreign policy challenges facing President Biden.
Also this week, Haitian President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in his home.
Here's Bocchit Edmond, Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., and what he had to say.
HAITIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S. BOCCHIT EDMOND: (From video.)
This is a threat.
the president of Haiti today, but it's been a - it is a threat on the democracy of our region.
So it's very important for us - for all of us to consider how we can work together and to
make sure that those things do not repeat in our region and our partner.
ALCINDOR: Now, pressure is building on one key question: Is the U.S.
doing enough to help the island nation?
Meanwhile, in recent days another ransomware attack hit American companies and the
Republican National Committee confirmed that their IT provider was breached by hackers
believed to be Russian.
On Friday President Biden spoke to Russian President Vladimir
Putin about the cyberattacks.
He says the U.S. will act against the hackers if Russia does not.
And this week marks the six-month anniversary of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Joining us tonight are some of the best reporters covering it all: Miami Herald Haiti
and Caribbean reporter Jacqueline Charles, she is joining us now from Port-au-Prince,
Haiti; and joining me in studio, Dan Balz, chief correspondent for The Washington Post;
Leigh Ann Caldwell, Capitol Hill correspondent for NBC News; and Weijia Jiang, senior
White House correspondent for CBS News.
I want to start with foreign policy.
I want to come to you, Weijia.
Talk to us a little bit about the decision to pull out
President Biden has been out forcibly defending his decision.
WEIJIA JIANG: Right, and that's exactly what happened yesterday.
The real news was that his deadline actually moved up from what he initially set for
September 11th and now he plans to get all the troops out by the end of August, and this
was an opportunity really to again explain why.
And he made very clear that from the beginning the U.S.
was out for two objectives and wanted to accomplish, one, hunting down and capturing
Osama bin Laden; and two, eliminating al-Qaida's threat to the homeland.
He said those were both accomplished and therefore it is time to pull out, and so he got
a lot of questions about the civil war that looks like is already unfolding and about the
fall of the Afghan government, and whether the U.S.
would bear any responsibility for civilian lives, for the chaos that is likely to erupt,
and he said no - no, because we have done our part not only for those two things, but
also training and equipping the Afghan forces that he said have the capacity to defend themselves.
Now, his own intelligence community assessed that it was likely that Kabul would fall,
maybe even in the next six months, and I asked him about that and he rejected that assessment.
I don't know if, you know, he meant that the content was wrong or that that assessment
was wrong, but we widely reported, along with several other outlets, that that is what
they found, that it was likely going to happen.
But even if that were the case, he has made very clear that his priority is national
security, national interest, and he believes this is absolutely the right move.
ALCINDOR: And Weijia, we were there in the White House together questioning him about
He rejected the idea that this was going to be the responsibility of the U.S.
to nation build here.
He also rejected any sort of comparisons to Vietnam when I
questioned him about that.
Dan, I want to come to you.
He would have been the - he
is the fourth commander in chief to oversee this war in Afghanistan.
Talk about what
you see in this decision-making and what it says about Biden and his foreign policy agenda.
DAN BALZ: Well, I mean, one thing you can say about it is that it is - there is a line
of consistency about what President Biden has thought about this for many, many years.
During the early stages of the Obama administration when they did a major reevaluation of
what to do and there was a request to send more troops, a significant increase in troops,
which they ultimately did, Joe Biden as vice president was against that.
He argued against that, and so what he has done now as president is fulfill the ideas
that he had pursued as vice president and earlier, so on that sense he's consistent.
He's right that the initial goals were as he said, to get Osama bin Laden and to try to
make it impossible or less possible for Afghanistan to become a breeding ground for terrorists.
But as with all of these missions, you know, the role of the United States expanded and
we wanted to do other thing beyond training the Afghan military forces.
We wanted to
bring general stability to the country if possible, which no outside country has ever really
been able to do there.
We wanted to do something to make it a better life for women and girls
in Afghanistan, who now face, you know, a setback if the Taliban really do take over.
So those were things that, in a sense, part of the mission creep that we are now walking
away from, and there will be consequences of that, but he's made clear he's prepared to
accept those consequences.
ALCINDOR: And Leigh Ann, Dan is very clear here and the president is very clear: he is
willing to accept the consequences of this decision.
How is this playing on Capitol Hill?
We pointed out, of course, Lindsey Graham, who has been critical on a number of things;
no surprise that he is critical on yet another thing.
But what are you hearing on Capitol Hill?
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL: And Senator Graham was also critical when President Trump was
talking about removing forces from Afghanistan as well, but it's more than Lindsey Graham
on Capitol Hill.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, he put out a scathing statement
a couple weeks ago really criticizing this plan, and Republicans are prepared to make
President Biden own this decision.
Now, this was a decision that a president was going
to have to make at some point.
His predecessors were unwilling to do it, and now that
President Biden has done it Republicans are going to sound the alarm.
And this is not a story that is going to end today; this is a story that we are - that's
going to develop depending on what happens in Afghanistan moving forward and this is
something that could have big political consequences, perhaps, for President Biden even
though the American people at this point are supportive of it.
ALCINDOR: And talking about a story that's going to continue and that's ongoing, we want
to turn now to Haiti and the assassination of the president there, Jovenel Moise.
Now, the prime minister said the country is in a state of siege as many remain shocked.
On Wednesday I questioned President Biden about the situation.
ALCINDOR: (From video.)
What's your reaction, Mr. President, to the Haitian president being assassinated?
PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: (From video.)
We need a lot more information, but that's - it's
very worrisome about the state of Haiti.
ALCINDOR: Jacqui, you're the best reporter on Haiti and the Caribbean in the world.
I'm so happy that you can join us.
You're on the ground in Haiti.
What's the latest on
the assassination and the arrest of the suspected assassins, including two American citizens?
And do people in Haiti, do they believe the Haitian government's version of events?
JACQUELINE CHARLES: We don't really know what the Haitian government's version of events
are because we're not really getting a lot of information.
Last night they announced that there were 28 in all - 26 of whom are Colombians, two of
whom are Haitian Americans - but we still don't know how they gained access to the
president's home, and yet they could not find their way out of the area - out of the neighborhood.
And I have to tell you that some of these arrests - there were 15 - actually, 17 arrests,
15 of whom were Colombians, and they were made by the population.
And in fact, last
night when I returned to my hotel there were two additional arrests that were made, and
it was the population that went and grabbed these people and turned them over to the police.
ALCINDOR: The crowds gathering and attacking people and taking them into custody, it's
an extraordinary situation.
Now, the late president, President Moise, had been facing
calls to step down.
He was accused of increasingly acting like a dictator.
Activists tell me they want a transitional government, human rights activists as well.
What are you hearing about what the people want, the people in Haiti, for their
government, and what does your reporting tell you about what might happen next as this
political crisis continues to unfold?
CHARLES: Well, I have to tell you, we have two dueling prime ministers.
We had the
prime minister who had resigned and who the president, for lack of a better word, fired.
That's president - that's Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who congratulated Ariel Henry,
the designated prime minister, but who has not yet been sworn in.
And then today, just now, the president of the senate, which is the only legal
constitutional institution that exists today - it's 10 people instead of 30 because the
terms ended - they voted to name Joseph Lambert provisional president.
Now, this is a third thing that goes into the confusion.
And so who will be in charge
of this country next week?
That is the question.
And we just don't know.
don't - they don't believe in democracy anymore.
They don't really believe in politicians.
They just want to be able to eat, they want to be able to live, they want to have security.
They feel violated, in the sense that their president has been killed, whether they liked
him or did not like him.
This whole idea that foreigners came in and did this they're
still trying to grapple with.
ALCINDOR: And Haitians and Haitian Americans have been very critical of the Biden
administration's policies toward Haiti.
Some have even been saying that he's continuing
the policies of former President Trump and breaking promises that he made to Haitian
Americans, but the U.S. is sending a delegation, including FBI officials.
What role do
people in Haiti want to see the U.S. and the U.N. play here, and how might President Biden respond?
CHARLES: Well, I think, one, you know, by sending in the FBI they're hoping to get some
answers, you know, because, again, was this an inside job?
How did these people get that close?
But yes, there's been a lot of pressure on President Biden to pay more attention to
Haiti, and not do sort of what his predecessor did which was kind of ignore it, always
sort of speaking in favor of the government because they were elected with this sort of
You know, Haiti has a lot of needs, the biggest of which probably is the
security issues today.
Just pouring money into the Haitian national police is not going
to get it.
I think people just want to have this country stabilized.
And the U.S.
has to figure out where that middle ground is.
They've gone from being sort of overreaching with Haiti to, some would say, ignoring it
in the last several years, and so they have to find that sort of, you know, middle
ground, where they - where people feel that they're being listened to and we can come up
with a policy that addresses, you know, people in Haiti and also addresses U.S. interests.
ALCINDOR: Well, Jacqui, thank you so much for sharing your reporting.
We're going to
continue to follow it.
I know you're on a number of breaking news stories, so I'm going to
let you go, but thank you so much for your reporting and joining us tonight.
And, Dan, I
want to now turn to you.
Talk to me a little bit about what shift we might see in the U.S.
policy here, and what options President Biden has in front of him.
BALZ: The options are not particularly good.
I mean, the United States has had a long involvement in Haiti.
I mean, we occupied the country for 20 years back in the early part of the 20th century.
We've had military forces there in the late '90s trying to bring stability, trying to
We sent enormous amounts of aid after the terrible earthquake in 2010,
I think it was.
We tried to do more after the hurricane that occurred a few years ago.
Instability has been the rule, not the exception, in Haiti.
And the United States' role
has been to try to bring some stability to it.
They've asked for U.S.
military forces to perhaps come in to try to help out at this moment.
It seems unlikely that they would do that given that we're pulling out of Afghanistan.
I don't think the president's going to send troops to Haiti at this point on an
There will be aid, there will be diplomatic support, there will be,
you know, rhetorical support, but this is a very tough country to try to bring stability to.
ALCINDOR: And I want to turn to Russia, because that's another, of course, big foreign
policy story playing out.
Weijia, what's your reporting tell you about where the
president's strategy is here as we see these ransomware attacks keep going?
JIANG: So the president actually had a phone call with Vladimir Putin this morning, and
it is another tale of two phone calls because afterward he said he was really optimistic.
He reiterated the very message that he delivered just three weeks ago, I know you were
there in Geneva, talking about how it is Putin's responsibility to crack down on these
ransomware attacks that we have seen, even if they are not carried out by state actors,
as long as they're happening on his soil.
And then you have the Kremlin releasing a readout after the call saying that even though
Putin noted Russia's willingness to curb criminal manifestations in the information
space, they're claiming that no inquiries on these issues have been received from the U.S.
in the past month, and that is very different from what, of course, the president himself
just said, along with other officials in the administration who pushed back immediately
and said that's not true.
And in fact, the president again today sent another warning.
So what happens now is the retaliation, the response.
And we do know, sources told us, that in the next days or weeks there will be action
against Russia - some that we will see, some that we won't see, but the burning question
is what it will take to actually stop Vladimir Putin, even though he has denied any
He has the power to stop these people who are carrying out the
attacks in Russia, and so far he hasn't used it.
ALCINDOR: And there's so much to unpack there, but I also want to go to the fact that
Tuesday marked six months since supporters of then-President Donald Trump and right-wing
militants attacked the U.S. Capitol.
Washington is still piecing together exactly what happened.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is putting together a select committee to look into the siege.
Leigh Ann, you were there on the day that the Capitol was attacked.
What more do we know?
What are the next steps here?
Tell us more about this committee and what we can expect there, too.
CALDWELL: So everyone's waiting on what GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is going to do.
He's allowed five seats on this committee.
Speaker Pelosi has already appointed her
One of them is including Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican.
And McCarthy has not publicly said if he's even going to appoint Republican members to
this committee, but our sources are telling us, on Capitol Hill, that he is in fact going
to do so, and he is currently talking to his members to determine who he is going to appoint.
So who he appoints is going to set the direction and the tone of the committee, because
he has a choice.
He has a wide swath of Republicans in his conference that range from
January 6th deniers all the way to Republicans who voted to impeach the former president
because of January 6th, so whatever he chooses is going to be heavily scrutinized.
Is he going to take this seriously or is he going to make a mockery of it?
And my sense is that it's probably going to be somewhere in the middle - he's going to
have a mix of members because Representative, for example, Rodney Davis, he's the head of
the House Administration Committee - he's someone who voted in favor of creating the
commission - the January 6th commission - he told me this week that Republicans were so
fearful of the January 6th commission becoming political and bleeding into the election
year next year - well, what they are now getting is their worst nightmare: this is a very
political committee that is going to do investigations but is going to be controlled by
Democrats and Republicans are going to have to figure out how they are going to deal with it.
ALCINDOR: And I have to ask you about something else that's going on in the Capitol, and
it's sort of head-spinning when I read this headline, and it is that the Capitol Police,
who saved lawmakers' lives, are running out of money.
There's this supplemental funding
bill that is literally stalled in the Senate.
Explain what is going on.
CALDWELL: I know, so on one hand you have the fencing around the Capitol that is
starting to come down as we speak.
This has been the most visible portion of Capitol
security since January 6th, a constant reminder of what happened that day.
That fencing is coming down, which I might - I also need to say that talking to rank and
file Capitol Police officers they are not very happy about it.
They are still worried about the security threats, but the decision was made.
Meanwhile, there is a funding gap of salaries for Capitol Police officers.
The House of Representatives passed a major funding bill about a month ago to accommodate
all the increased needs of Capitol Police, including all the overtime they are doing,
more equipment, et cetera, et cetera.
Well, Capitol Police are now running out of money
for salaries, and they could run out of money by mid-August and would have to furlough people.
The reason is because that bill is stuck in the Senate.
There are some Republicans who have said in the past that they don't think that
additional money is necessary, and so there is some political wrangling there.
But this publicization of the fact that they could run out of money is also a very
prudent political ploy to put pressure on the Senate to act.
ALCINDOR: And Dan, I want to come to you on something that's related to January 6th, and
that is former President Trump sued these tech companies because he is been - he's been
blocked from the access to his account.
What do you make of this lawsuit?
Is it a distraction?
And tell me a little bit about how important it is for President - former President Trump
to continue to falsely claim that the election was rigged.
BALZ: Well, let's start with the - with the lawsuit.
We know from his history
that he is an incredibly litigious person.
ALCINDOR: Right, that's one way to put it.
BALZ: He likes the - he likes the idea of filing lawsuits and he does them often for -
you know, for reasons of distraction or publicity, and I think this falls into that category.
Every legal expert who has looked at this says it is a frivolous lawsuit, that the
grounds upon which he is making the argument are that Facebook and Twitter and social
media platforms are in a sense part of the government and therefore they - you know, they
can't affect his First Amendment rights.
They are not part of the government - they're
private institutions; they're private companies - so that argument will fall apart.
I mean, there is a - there is a debate about what you do about these companies in terms
of regulating them, but that's a separate issue from what he's done.
As for continuing to push the idea that this was a stolen election, a rigged election,
it's simply, you know, continuing to put, you know, fuel on top of this fire within the
base of the Trump support, and to try to keep that stirred up as a way both to keep him
prominent, to disrupt his party in any ways he can, and to keep focus on the Democrats.
You know, and I think - it's interesting, I think more Republicans are trying to walk
away from that in quiet ways than perhaps at the beginning.
ALCINDOR: And I want to turn to voting rights.
President Biden, he met with civil rights
What's the White House strategy here?
We're seeing GOP leaders move with such
efficiency, passing hundreds of laws to restrict voting.
JIANG: So we know that President Biden is going to Philadelphia on Tuesday to make a big
speech, according to White House officials, about voting rights and about the need to
protect them, especially as we are seeing so many of what you just mentioned, laws being
changed around the country.
And so we think that it is just the start of a series
of speeches, as he's indicated before, that he will make, but you know, there's
really little that he can do at this point from his view.
He has to continue to try to push for those lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass some sort
of legislation, which is exactly why he brought the vice president on as well, and I'm
sure Leigh Ann can tell you that is going to be a very difficult feat.
ALCINDOR: And before we go I want to turn to the pandemic.
Just as the country was ready to go back to a new normal - I was ready to go back to a
new normal - the death - the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is raising fears.
On Thursday the CDC director announced the Delta variant is now the dominant COVID strain
in the United States, and this week the Olympics announced that spectators will be banned
from the games in Tokyo after Japan declared a state of emergency amid rising COVID-19
fears and cases in that country.
I want to come to you, Weijia.
How is the White House
handling this, and are these cases changing the president's strategy here?
JIANG: Well, they are sending out what they're calling surge response teams to these areas.
The problem is when you look at these areas, they are red for the most part, and that is
something that vaccine experts immediately point to because even though the president
just gave a speech this week about the things that he's doing to make it easier for
people to access the vaccine, the question is no longer whether you can access the
vaccine - people are banging on your door trying to give it to you - the question is how
you can change people's minds who already have decided that philosophically they don't
believe in the science, they don't believe in their elected officials, they don't believe
that President Biden is trying to help them.
And I think they're at a loss right now - even though they have tried different groups
and working with different leaders, they're now relying on people at the local level to
try to, in their purview, talk some sense into the holdouts, because when you look at
who's getting sick, who's getting hospitalized, who's dying from COVID, it is people who
refuse to get their shots.
ALCINDOR: And in the 30 seconds that we have left, Dan, you were nodding your head.
You've covered politics in D.C. for so long.
What do you make of this politicization that continues with this virus and vaccines?
BALZ: Well, it's - I mean, it's just one more example of kind of the terrible problem
that this country's in in terms of the way people see things and the inability of people
to agree on a set of facts or to accept science or to accept, you know, medial expertise.
It's ironic we're a few days away from July 4th.
The president had set that as the day to open up, and yet in the days after that we're
realizing that there's problems ahead with this Delta variant and because of the lack of
vaccinations in a lot of parts of the country.
And so, you know, Weijia's exactly
right, they are stymied at this point in what they can do to overcome that.
ALCINDOR: I mean, it's an incredible time in our country, thinking about the
politicization that's informing what's going on on Capitol Hill and of course people not
That's all the time we have tonight, but there is so much news to cover
so stick with us every week.
Thank you to Jacqui, to Dan, to Leigh Ann, and to Weijia for
your insights, and thank you all for joining us.
Don't miss our Washington Week Extra.
We'll continue our conversation on the COVID-19 pandemic.
It streams live at 8:30 Eastern on our website, Facebook, and YouTube.
And remember to tune in to the PBS NewsHour all week for the deeply reported series
Raising the Future: The Child Care Crisis in America.
That's every night next week
I'm Yamiche Alcindor.
Good night from Washington.