The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Taliban topple Afghan government; critics blame Biden

                              Presented by AT&T

A wall mural painted on the wall of US embassy in Kabul



Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Monday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths as of this morning: 621,635. 

The week begins with vivid policy examples of failed leadership, missed opportunities and mistaken assumptions that in retrospect renew lessons that even the best intentions can exacerbate human tragedies.


Here are some of the headlines: Afghanistan’s blink-of-an-eye fall to the Taliban, a rising U.S. crisis among children infected with COVID-19, yet another natural catastrophe in Haiti, and a record number of undocumented migrants trying to enter the United States. Add to that roster the shrugs last week among many U.S. elected leaders after a prominent United Nations report warned of dwindling options to repair a planet increasingly damaged and riskier for humans to inhabit.


The consensus over the weekend was that President BidenJoe BidenDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors On The Money — Vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses nixed Warner tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case MORE was already being held responsible for a painful end to decades of commitments to the Afghan people that now resemble a warning in 1965 by then-Secretary of State George Ball that Vietnam for the United States would be a “long protracted war [that] will disclose our weakness, not our strength.” 


Afghanistan on the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks will likely be under Taliban control. The Associated Press reports that the United States is concerned about rising terror threats to the United States and its allies with the Taliban in charge and al Qaeda members and other prisoners freed from Afghan government detention.


This morning, a thinly staffed, U.S. makeshift embassy has relocated to the Kabul airport (signage pictured above) and the State Department confirmed that all embassy personnel are there under U.S. military protection. Many are prepared to depart as five non-Americans were reported killed amid the airport chaos (The Jerusalem Post and Reuters). Up to 6,000 U.S. forces were expected to arrive by Tuesday to respond to the Islamist militant’s shockingly rapid overthrow (The Associated Press). Taliban were videotaped on Sunday inside the presidential palace in Kabul (Al Jazeera).


The Associated Press: A Taliban spokesman said Sunday that militants were in talks about forming an “open, inclusive Islamic government.”


President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, an academic twice elected president, on Sunday went into exile, reportedly in Tajikistan (CNN and Reuters).   


Reuters: The U.S. Embassy staff in Kabul warned on Sunday of a worsening security situation, including reports of gunfire at the airport.


Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenPutin, Macron to hold call on Friday amid rising Russia-Ukraine tensions Meeks leading bipartisan trip to Ukraine amid Russia tensions Negotiating with a liar (Putin's dog is a cat)  MORE, appearing on three Sunday television shows, suggested the continued presence of diplomatic personnel, shuffled in Kabul in what he described as a “fluid situation,” might depart if conditions were determined to be unsafe. The State and Defense departments said the United States was in control of flights in and out of the Kabul airport. U.S. personnel there were scrambling to help “Afghans at risk” to exit the country, he said (CNN). 


The New York Times: Washington is awash in Afghanistan recriminations, blame and I-told-you-sos. During a 45-minute conference call on Sunday among lawmakers and top administration officials, members of Congress sought explanations about how U.S. and allied intelligence about the Taliban could have failed so badly and how long the military will secure the Kabul airport.


Bret Stephens, The New York Times: Disaster in Afghanistan will follow us home.


Greg Jaffe, The Washington Post: America’s warrior class contends with the abject failure of its Afghanistan project.


George Packer, The Atlantic: “Perhaps the effort to rebuild the country was doomed from the start. But our abandonment of the Afghans who helped us, counted on us, staked their lives on us, is a final, gratuitous shame that we could have avoided. … This betrayal will live in infamy. The burden of shame falls on President Joe Biden.”


What else they’re saying …


This disaster, the catastrophe that we're watching unfold right now across Afghanistan did not have to happen," Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden faces Ukraine decision amid Russia aggression Cheney hits Gingrich for saying Jan. 6 panel members may be jailed The Hill's Morning Report - US warns Kremlin, weighs more troops to Europe MORE (R-Wyo.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told ABC’s “This Week.” “And it's not just that people predicted that this would happen. Everyone was warned that this would happen. … The Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulConservative pundit says YouTube blocked interview with Rand Paul These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 I'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back MORE, Donald Trump, Mike PompeoMike PompeoSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Pence to deliver keynote at fundraising banquet for South Carolina-based pregnancy center Russia suggests military deployments to Cuba, Venezuela an option MORE, Joe Biden view of the world here is fundamentally dangerous and irresponsible and wrong.” 


The Hill: GOP lawmakers blast Biden over Afghanistan’s collapse.


The Hill: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHow Cruz Supreme Court case could lead to unlimited anonymous election spending Trump and Biden should stop denigrating US elections The Armageddon elections to come MORE (R-Ky.) on Sunday slammed Biden’s “botched exit” from Afghanistan.


“I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan, two Republicans, two Democrats,” Biden said in a Saturday statement, blaming his White House predecessor for a U.S. deal with the Taliban that was bequeathed to him. “I would not, and will not, pass this war on to a fifth.” (The president, who spent the weekend at Camp David and is there today, joined Vice President Harris on Sunday for a videoconference with top Cabinet and other advisers to discuss the collapse of the Afghan government). 


The Hill: Sunday shows: Afghanistan dominated.



Images via Al Jazeera of the Taliban inside the presidential palace in Kabul



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CORONAVIRUS: How could the wealthiest nation on Earth be unable to save more than 400 U.S. children who have died from COVID-19 — with more than 2,000 children in hospitals over the weekend with the coronavirus? The situation has been complicated by a fast-spreading delta variant, adults’ objections to required mask-wearing, federal assurances last year that children were the least at risk of contracting COVID-19 and becoming seriously ill, and the fact that children under age 12 currently are ineligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19, even as they return to classrooms.


What they’re saying about rising COVID-19 infections …  “All of this is entirely predictable,” Anthony FauciAnthony FauciKid Rock releases anti-Biden, anti-Fauci single with a 'Let's go, Brandon' chorus Fauci: Omicron-specific vaccines 'prudent' but may be unnecessary Conservative pundit says YouTube blocked interview with Rand Paul MORE, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS’s “Face the Nation.“And yet, on the other hand, entirely preventable. We've got to get people vaccinated. We have about 90 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not vaccinated.” 



Healthcare workers are seen inside the Covid Intensive Care Unit in North Oaks Hospital in Hammond, Louisiana



National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins pleaded again on Sunday for elected leaders and adults everywhere to wear high-quality masks, get vaccinated and help their children wear masks if they congregate in close proximity to others.


"I will be surprised if we don’t cross 200,000 cases a day in the next couple of weeks, and that’s heartbreaking considering we never thought we’d be back in that space again," Collins told “Fox News Sunday.” “Here we are with the delta variant, which is so contagious, and this heartbreaking situation where 90 million people are still unvaccinated who are sitting ducks for this virus, and that’s the mess we’re in. We’re in a world of hurt, and it’s a critical juncture to try to do everything we can to turn that around.” 


The bitter battles over mask requirements emerging most prominently in at least seven states stoke tensions between frustrated parents who believe that their children should not be made to wear face coverings in school and strained school districts. But school officials remain defiant against threats from both the state and local communities, maintaining that the safety of children and school staff comes first (The Hill).


Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) on Sunday tweeted a list of Texas school boards that he said will meet today, including time and address information for concerned parents who want to “urge them to require masks in schools to protect children & teachers.”  


Meanwhile, the Texas supreme court on Sunday upheld Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s order that prohibits any requirements in his state for mask-wearing, a win for the governor while local entities pushed to defy him (The Hill).


In Florida, the Broward County School Board on Sunday defended its defiance of an order by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisOvernight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul Sen. Tim Scott rakes in nearly million in fourth quarter White House dismisses DeSantis calls to reverse decision on antibody therapies that don't work MORE that public school students shall not be required to wear masks in school. The county’s enrollment is the sixth largest in the nation (The New York Times).


The highly contagious delta variant is considered by infectious disease specialists to be at least twice as transmissible and has viral loads up to 1,000 times greater than the previously dominant alpha strain of the coronavirus, reports The Hill’s Justine Coleman, who unpacks why delta is roaring through the United States.


ADMINISTRATION: In Biden’s Cabinet, Blinken may have the roughest job this week along with Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinDefense & National Security — Pentagon puts 8,500 troops on high alert Pentagon puts 8,500 troops on higher alert over Russia-Ukraine tensions Special Operations Command's top general tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (and the much-criticized U.S. intelligence chiefs who were wrong about the Taliban’s strength in Afghanistan), while the member with the most charmed perch appears to be Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Airlines suspend US flights in response to 5G deployment AT&T, Verizon to delay 5G rollout near certain airports MORE. Surprising many Washington observers, Buttigieg, who had no senior federal experience before joining the Cabinet, has morphed into a key administration spokesperson for COVID-19 vaccines, infrastructure spending and jobs, considered a high-profile role unusual for the transportation secretary, report The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Morgan Chalfant.  


> Food assistance: Today, the administration will announce that millions of Americans will see their food stamp benefits permanently increase by a record amount beginning in October, The New York Times reported on Sunday. Average monthly benefits are slated to increase by $36 from a pre-pandemic average of $121, or about 25 percent. The change does not require a signoff from Congress. 


> Empty offices: The executive branch has oodles of key vacancies seven months after Biden took office, in part because of the slow pace of Senate confirmations, aggravated by the president’s slow pace of selection, vetting and appointments. Current and former officials and advocates for effective governance believe that lingering vacancies hamper federal management and operations. It will be at least another month before the president sees any of nearly 300 pending nominations get Senate attention because of the August recess (The Hill). … The Partnership for Public Service maintains a nomination tracker HERE.  


> West Wing: White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul Qatar emir to meet with Biden at White House next week White House underscores action amid violent crime streak MORE, 42, (pictured below), who is nationally recognizable as Biden’s spokeswoman, received some flattering media treatment in Vogue and a Q&A in Mediaite


Psaki says Biden does not believe that governing only to his base during a public health crisis and wobbly economy can carry the day in the current climate. To make inroads, she added, means “delivering results. ...That’s what we’re betting on. We’ll see if we’re right.


RealClearPolitics: Biden’s job approval was 50.1 percent on Sunday, according to the RCP average, a decline from a high of 55.7 percent in April.



White House press secretary Jen Psaki answers questions





POLITICS: Democrats are expected to lean heavily on state supreme courts in the upcoming fight over redistricting the future of congressional representation. The new weaponry now is 2020 census data released last week and the courts. The GOP has the edge in the map-drawing process with control in state legislatures and governorships that will decide 187 House districts, while Democrats will have full control to demarcate just 84, reports The Hill’s Tal Axelrod.


The Hill’s Reid Wilson writes that the new census numbers kicked off a redistricting process that will be both the most transparent in the nation’s history and its most lawless in six decades.  


The Hill’s Niall Stanage follows up with his latest Memo exploring how the country’s shrinking population of whites and the rising percent of self-identified multiracial Americans may impact what he calls “nativist passions,” which shaped national politics in the past decade, and admittedly well before (including beyond U.S. shores). 



Activists Demonstrate Outside Supreme Court As Court Hears Case To Challenging Practice Of Partisan Gerrymandering



> California: As the effort to recall Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomCalifornia bill would require all schoolchildren to be vaccinated against COVID-19 Virginia's Youngkin gets the DeSantis treatment from media Equilibrium/Sustainability — Solar-powered cars on the EV horizon MORE (D) heads into its final month, Newsom faces what looks like a turnout challenge: While voters would marginally prefer to keep him in office at the moment, it looks like that will heavily depend on whether Democrats in his party get more motivated about it, according to a new CBS News/YouGov poll.


> New York: The Hill’s Julia Manchester, reporting from Rochester, N.Y., describes Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) eagerness to turn the page on Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoJudge strikes down New York's indoor mask mandate Hochul raises .6 million since launching gubernatorial campaign Former aide says she felt 'abandoned' by Democrats who advanced Garcetti nomination as ambassador to India MORE (D), who departs later this month following a sexual harassment scandal, making Hochul the first female governor in the state’s history. “At the end of my term, whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment,” she said last week in Albany, making clear she and Cuomo were not close. The soon-to-be-former governor will not face impeachment (The Hill).


New York magazine: Cuomo gave his first interview to the magazine following his announced resignation, which will take effect Aug. 25 (subscription required).


> GOP: Former President TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE will hold a political rally in Cullman, Ala., on Saturday that coincides with the Alabama Republican Party's summer meeting and fundraising for the Trump-created Save America leadership political action committee (Montgomery Advertiser). 

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 


Afghanistan: Can we build bipartisan agreement out of bipartisan failure? by Kenneth C. Brill, opinion contributor, The Hill.


The U.N.’s terrifying climate report, by staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker.



The House will meet Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. Members are out of town until Aug. 23. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties holds an oversight hearing today at 10 a.m. on the Voting Rights Act with witnesses including Assistant Attorney General Kristen ClarkeKristen ClarkeNeo-Nazi Group group's leader sentenced over threats against journalists, activists Landlord accused of sexually harassing tenants to pay .5M to settle federal lawsuit DOJ launches civil rights probe into police department in New York suburb MORE and civil rights leaders. The complete witness list is HERE


The Senate on Tuesday will convene for a pro forma session at 9:30 a.m. Senators are expected back in Washington Sept. 13.


The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief. He is at Camp David and has no public events.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.


INTERNATIONAL: Haiti, a nation seemingly plagued by misery, reported nearly 1,300 dead on Sunday and more than 5,700 injured following a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Saturday (The Associated Press). Haitian hospitals are reported today to be overwhelmed (Reuters). The country, still reeling from a 2010 earthquake and the July assassination of its president (and the government chaos that followed both), is today bracing for rain and flooding from Tropical Depression Grace. The United States sent search and rescue teams to the Caribbean country (The New York Times). … Tennis star Naomi Osaka, whose father is from Haiti, pledged to donate earnings she will pocket next week for a U.S. Open warmup tournament to Haitian relief (The Washington Post). … Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauCanadian truck drivers protest COVID vaccine mandate Canadians warned against travel to Ukraine Canada to allow unvaccinated Canadian truckers to enter from US MORE called a snap election for Sept. 20, saying he needs a new mandate to ensure voters approved of his Liberal government's plan to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic (Reuters).


STATE WATCH: U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee, in Texas directed the Biden administration on Friday to reinstate the Trump-era policy of requiring asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for their U.S. court hearings, saying the program was illegally terminated. The judge ordered federal officials to revive the so-called Remain in Mexico program until it is "lawfully rescinded" and the government has the detention capacity to hold all asylum-seekers and migrants subject to mandatory detention (CBS News).


And finally … ♬  On an upbeat note, New York City will celebrate the arts and the communal joy of music on Saturday during tough pandemic times with a star-studded “We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert,” first conceived by the office of Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioSarah Palin dined inside NYC restaurant on Saturday despite not being vaccinated Hochul raises .6 million since launching gubernatorial campaign De Blasio says he won't run for New York governor MORE (D) and organized by iconic music producer Clive Davis, 89 (CBS News and New York Daily News).


Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon signed on to perform on the Great Lawn in Central Park, as did Jennifer Hudson, Andrea Bocelli, The Killers, Journey, Cynthia Erivo, Patti Smith, Maluma, Barry Manilow, LL Cool J and more. The show airs live on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Español and CNNGo. Information is HERE.



Bruce Springsteen performs onstage