Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

President Biden Plans To Stem Flow Of Firearms Used To Commit Violence, Allow Cities & States To Reallocate COVID Funds For Crime Fighting; Biden Urges Congress To Pass Gun Reforms, Announces Plans To Punish Gun Dealers Who Violate Federal Laws; Now: Britney Spears In Court To Fight Conservatorship; San Francisco Faces Crime Fueled By COVID, Poverty, Mental Illness, Homelessness And Public Policy Changes; WSJ: Afghan Govt. Could Collapse Six Months After U.S. Leaves. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 23, 2021 - 17:00   ET



MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Most federally licensed firearms dealers operate legally and selling guns to individuals who have passed background checks. But those dealers that willfully violate the law increase the risk that guns will fall into the wrong hands.

Absent extraordinary circumstances, ATF will initiate proceedings to revoke the licenses of dealers that willfully violate the law by failing to conduct required background checks, falsifying records, failing to respond to trace requests, refusing to permit ATF to conduct inspections or transferring firearms to persons who are prohibited from owning them.

Second, we are seeking funding to increase ATF's dealer inspection capacity and improve its effectiveness. ATF has very limited inspection resources. The President's fiscal 2022 budget requests resources to add inspection positions in every field division.

The effectiveness of the enforcement program depends on the ability to identify and focus on those dealers that pose the greatest risk to public safety. Starting today, ATF will make clear to investigators in every field division that as they prioritize inspections, they must consider the extent to which firearms sold by a dealer are later used in criminal activity.

Third, we will improve information sharing with state local, tribal and territorial partners to help bring more intelligence and law enforcement resources to bear as well as with the public to increase our own accountability. Today, ATF has a point of contact in every field division to receive information from mayors, police chiefs and other local leaders about firearms dealers they believe are acting unlawfully.

And starting next month, ATF will begin sharing inspection data with the 16 states that licensed or regulate firearms dealers themselves. Also, beginning next month, ATF will publicly post information about inspection frequency, and outcomes disaggregated by field division, providing for enhanced transparency, and accountability.

Fourth, we are launching a concerted effort to crack down on gun traffickers. Yesterday, the Department announced that it will establish five new cross jurisdictional law enforcement strike forces within the next 30 days, the strike forces will focus on addressing significant firearms trafficking corridors that fuel violence in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington D.C., as well as in cities and towns along the way. The

Justice Department's violent crime reduction strategy and our initiatives to stem the rising tide of illegal guns will save lives. But these steps alone will not solve the problem of violent crime. Success depends on all of us joining together, those of you in this room, the many like you across the country who are working to keep their community safe, and the people of our communities themselves.

I would now like to introduce President Biden, who has emphasized the importance of this issue and who has my gratitude for gathering us together today. Thank you.


Let me -- before I begin, I thank the participants in our roundtable today, two mayors -- three mayors, chiefs of police, attorneys general and community organizers for doing significant work in bringing down violent crime in their communities. There is no one answer that fits everything. And it's about being engaged in multiple organizations being engaged.

So, I want to thank you for the time you spent with us today. And I warned you, I'm coming back at you again for more information.

And we just met, as I said, with a bipartisan group of America's law enforcement and community leaders. And we discussed a comprehensive strategy that I'm releasing today to combat the epidemic of gun violence and other violent crime that we've been seen in our country for far too long, it has spiked since the start of the pandemic over a year ago.

Crime has historically rises during the summer. And as we emerge from this pandemic of the country opening back up again, the traditional summer spike may even be more pronounced than it usually would be.


For folks at home, here's what you need to know, I've been at this a long time and there are things we know that work to reduce gun violence and violent crime and things that we don't know about. But things we know about background checks for purchasing a firearm are important, ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

No one needs to have a weapon that can fire over 30, 40, 50 even up to 100 rounds unless you think the deer are wearing Kevlar vests or something, community policing and programs will keep neighborhoods safe and keep folks out of trouble.

These efforts worked. They save lives. But over time, these policies were gutted are woefully underfunded.

In our conversation today, we talked about our strategy to supercharge what works while we continue to push the Congress to act on sensible gun violence legislation.

First, we discuss cracking down, as you heard from the Attorney General, on rogue gun dealers. We know that if there is a strict enforcement of background checks, then fewer guns get into the hands of criminals. Background checks have thus far kept more than 3 million guns out of the hands of felons -- convicted felons, fugitive, domestic abusers and others prohibited from being able to purchase a gun. And there's still too many loopholes in that system.

And today, enough rogue gun dealers feel like they can get away with selling guns to people who aren't legally allowed to own them.

And I might add, the Second Amendment from the day it was passed, limited the type of people could own a gun and what type of weapon you could own. You couldn't buy a cannon.

Those who say the blood of the patriots, you know, and all this stuff about how we're going to have to move against the government. Well, the tree of liberty is not watered with the blood of patriots. What's happened is that there never been -- if you wanted to think you need to have weapons to take on the government, you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons.

The point is that there's always been the ability to limit -- rationally limit the type of weapon that can be owned and who can own it.

The last time we had data on this issue of who is purchasing guns was more than 20 years ago. Five percent of gun dealers, it turns out in the study we did show that 90 percent of illegal guns are found in the crime scenes sold by 5 percent of gun dealers. Five percent sold 90 percent of the guns found in crime scenes.

And these merchants of death are breaking the law for profit. They're selling guns that are killing innocent people. It's wrong. It's unacceptable. And as the Attorney General said, we're going to crack down on those gun dealers and the violent criminals they knowingly arm.

In April, I announced that the Justice Department is going to be issuing an annual report on gun trafficking so we can update that data.

Today, the Department is announcing. as I just did, a major crackdown on -- to stem the flow of guns used to commit violent crimes. It's zero tolerance for gun dealers who willfully violate key existing laws and regulations. I repeat, zero tolerance.

If you will sell a gun to someone who's prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully failed to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with the tracing requests or inspections, my message to you was this, we'll find you and we will seek your license to sell guns. We'll make sure you can't sell death and mayhem on our streets. It's an outrage. It has to end and we'll end it. Period.

Second, we discussed disrupting illegal gun trafficking. Now, the gun lobby wants you to believe that cities that are the toughest gun had the toughest gun laws still have the highest rates of gun violence, as was pointed out by the group we had today in our roundtable. The violence is so -- they argue, why do you need those gun laws if they don't work in cities that have tough laws? Don't believe it?

Here's the truth, today's conversation with Mayor Scott of Baltimore, for example, echoed what we know to be the case in here for mayors all across the country. Mayors have the power to help shape and enforce the laws in their cities, but they can't control the laws in neighboring cities and states even though the gun legally bought there is often ends up in their streets.

Mayor Scott says that 80 percent of the guns in Baltimore were acquired outside the city, outside of the city. There's little he can do about that, so we have to act.

As part of our strategy, the Justice Department is creating five new strike forces to crack down on illegal gun trafficking and the carters supplying weapons to cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., the Bay Area.


With these trade forces, local and federal law enforcement and prosecutors are going to be able to better coordinate the prosecution of illegal gun trafficking across cities state lines, so illegal gun soul from the back door of a gun shop in Virginia don't end up in a murder scene in Baltimore. And if they do, then local and federal law enforcement can better coordinate to trace illegal gun sales back to a shady gun dealer and hold them accountable.

Police Chief Murray (ph) of the Baltimore -- excuse me, Police Chief Merritt (ph) -- Police Chief Murphy Paul of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, talked about how he's coordinating more closely with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the ATF, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, to help take on criminal organizations committed violent crimes in the city. This kind of coordination is essential for keeping the weapons of war out of the hands of dangerous criminals, fugitives and gangs as well as organized crime.

Third, we discussed historic funding -- we discussed historic funding for states, cities and counties and tribes for law enforcement and crime prevention. You know, they've not only had to fight this pandemic, they've also had to deal with economic crisis that has decimated their budgets, forced them to cut essential services, including law enforcement and social services.

And amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they've had to deal with a second public health crisis, gun violence. The American Rescue Plan, which we passed in the first 100 days of my administration is providing much needed historic relief to bring back those law enforcement jobs and social service jobs.

Much of this relief has already arrived. The rest is on its way. And we're now providing more guidance on how they can use the $350 billion nationally that the American Rescue Plan has available to help reduce crime and address the root causes.

For example, cities experienced an increase in gun violence, we're able to use the American Rescue Plan dollars to hire police officers needed for community policing, and to pay their overtime.

Mayors will also be able to buy crime fighting technologies like gunshot detection systems to better see and stop gun violence in the communities. They can use the funding to scale up wraparound service for the residents as well, including substance abuse mental health services that we know will make a difference in prevention of crime.

Here's another example, it reminds me of the old saying my mom used to use to say, an idle mind is the devil's workshop. Well, schools after the summer, teenagers are in tough neighborhoods, no -- who are in neighborhoods, no jobs, more trouble.

We know summer job training -- summer jobs training and recreation for young people work. They helped make sure young people pick up a paycheck instead of a pistol. One study found in Boston summer jobs program for youth reduction reducing violence crimes by 35 percent in Boston.

Another study found that a program that offers high school students in Chicago a good summer job and adult mentor and behavioral therapy led to 45 percent drop in violence.

We can invest in more of these programs with the American Rescue Plan. And here's another thing, states, cities, counties and tribes can do with that funding. When someone finishes their time in prison, they can't just give them -- we can't just continue to give them 25 bucks in a bus ticket and ended right back where they started and got them in trouble in the first place or no option for being able to provide for access to public housing or for schools or for mentors to help them find their way and the stuff that prevents recidivism and helps them integrate in a society. That's changing with guidance we're issuing today.

The American Rescue Plan funding can help formerly incarcerated people get skills training and apprenticeships and work experience so they can gain stability and security and a chance for a better life rather than going back to exactly what they left.

Attorney General Grewal of New Jersey and Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade talked about their efforts to lift up those kinds of community programs that reduce gun violence, keep communities safe, and make real positive difference in people's lives.


And for folks at home, the American Rescue Plan, which is a once in a generation investment to reduce violence in America is available. I'm proud of it. It means more police officers, more nurses, more counselors, more social workers, more community violence interrupters to help resolve issues before they escalate into crimes. It means we go after the people who flood our streets with guns and the bad actors who decide to use them to further terrorize the communities. It means saving lives.

And Congress should in no way take away this funding is already been appropriated. In fact, a few weeks ago, the bipartisan United States Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, they all came out forcefully against efforts to reclaim American Rescue Plan funds that have already been allocated to the state, cities, and counties and tribes. This is not a time to turn our backs on law enforcement or our communities.

Fourth, we discussed the need to support community violence intervention. These are local programs that utilize trusted messengers, community members and leaders to work directly with people who are most likely to commit gun crimes or become victims of gun crimes. We know who they are. They intervene before it's too late, these interruptions. Turn down the temperature, called the cycle of retaliation, connect people to social services. And it works. Community violence intervention programs have shown a reduction in violence up to 60 percent in many places.

We heard from two community leaders that do this work. Eddie (ph), thank you for coming from Chicago. You're really -- quite frankly, it was impressive, your presentation. And DeVone Boggan (ph) from Richmond, California.

Eddie was formerly incarcerated for gun homicide, and DeVone lost his brother to gun violence. And Eddie worked as a violence interrupter. Now he runs a program that provides high risk men with cognitive behavioral therapy to help them react to the impulses by slowing down rather than following through violence. It puts them in -- he puts them in paid jobs to change their trajectory. The program has reduced shootings by 40 percent.

DeVone runs a program across California and six other states that enroll high risk individuals and peace fellowships, complete with intensive mentoring and social services is saving lives. In Sacramento, for example, 91 percent of the participants stayed away from gun violence.

States the city should invest in American Rescue Plan, funds in those kinds of anti-violent crime programs. And today, I'm announcing that the White House will be working with 15 jurisdictions that are doing exactly that. From Baltimore to Baton Rouge, and Memphis to Minneapolis to build up their community violence intervention programs starting this summer.

And Mayor Steve Allender of Rapid City, South Dakota, a Republican and a former chief of police himself, joins us today to be part of the effort to help disrupt cycles of crime and violence in his community, and nearby tribal communities.

We need more mirrors to follow and I'm going to be pushing and keep pushing for more of these proven programs, which are part of the American jobs plan in my budget.

Fifth, and I'll close with this. We talked about the lives we lost have already been lost and the lives that we can save. We talked about how much pain and loss so many people have experienced and so many people have now accepted as their fate here in America. We have an opportunity to come together now as Democrats and Republicans, as fellow Americans to fulfill the first responsibility of government in our democracy, to keep each other safe enough.

That means Congress passed the sensible gun prevention. Violence prevention initiatives is worried as makes sense. Background checks, ban on assault weapons, repeal of liabilities over gun manufacturers, it means the Senate reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, my proudest legislative accomplishment to close the so-called boyfriend loophole as boyfriend and stalking loophole, to keep guns out of the hands of abusers.

We added a provision saying, if you have a stay away order, you are stalking someone and you're told that has to stop. You can't own a weapon. Every single month, an average of 57 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner. We can help stop that.


And needs confirming my outstanding nominee for -- to lead the AFT, there should be -- the ATF, David Chipman, has been without a leader for a while. The top job has been unconfirmed for much too long. A career and distinguished ATF official for 25 years, David is eminently qualified for the job that we desperately need to fill.

As vice president, I've pushed hard to lift the freeze on gun violence research to see the Center for Disease Control, the CDC. Guess what? Why should they not be able to study gun violence and what causes it, but there's been a block on it. I want to unfreeze that.

As president, my budget doubles funding for the gun violence research at the CDC, and the National Institute of Health, the NIH, to study gun violence as a public health threat that it is. And while we keep pushing them, Vice President Harris and I also and our entire administration continue to be -- continue taking action while we can and stop for lift ration of ghost guns as we announced back in April with the Attorney General. We need to support the development of smart gun technologies.

This doesn't affect responsible gun owners or Second Amendment rights. It help keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have in the first place, from a child who accidentally picks up -- picks it up to a burglar or violent criminal trying to steal it and use it. We need to keep going on the gun violence and crime prevention strategy we're laying out today.

Folks, this shouldn't be a red or blue issue. It's an American issue. We're not changing the Constitution, we're enforcing it, be reasonable. We're taking on the bad actors doing bad and dangerous things to our communities and to our country. Talk to most responsible gun owners and hunters. That title is no possible justification for having 100 rounds in a magazine. Like I said before, what do you think, the dear wearing Kevlar vest? Responsible gun owners will tell you that there are too many people today who are able to buy a gun but shouldn't be able to buy a gun.

These kinds of reasonable reforms have overwhelming support for American people, including gun owners. The bottom line is this, let's show the world and show ourselves that democracy works. And we can come together as one nation, we can do this and save lives.

So, thank you. God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. And again, I thank you all for participating. But the bad news goes, I'm coming to you to help.

Thank you very much. General, thank you. Appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you still holding out hope that Congress can pass another assault weapons ban?

BIDEN: I never give up hope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you feel about the bipartisan infrastructure deal that's been released?

BIDEN: I'll tell you that when I get the final numbers tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, what do you feel is the most effective thing that the government can do to change the mindset of those who feel compelled to pull the trigger of these guns?

BIDEN: By being engaged in a whole range of programs we talk today. Everything from mental health programs to engaging people early on and letting them know there's other options. Making sure that when a child is young, they have access to real education, they get started off on the right foot. Making sure that when someone gets out of prison, they're not denied public housing, they don't have to go back under the bridge they were living before, that they're able to get help for health care, et cetera. And reengaging them in the neighborhood, giving them some hope, some opportunity.

And in the meantime, making sure that those folks who are taking advantage of them by taking advantage of their situation are in fact held accountable. Thank you all so much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- the voting rights bill, do you think it's time to reform the filibuster?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You've been listening to President Biden and his attorney general, Merrick Garland, speaking at the White House, talking about new steps to try to address a surge in violent crime across the United States. Their proposals include sending more federal resources to local law enforcement, punishing gun dealers who break federal rules, providing more money for community programs aimed at reducing violence. President Biden, once again, also called on Congress to pass new gun control laws. Let's go straight to CNN's Phil Mattingly who is live for us from the White House.

And Phil, part of Biden's plan, his proposal includes having local areas, city, states tap into unused funds to combat COVID to help combat gun violence, how is that going to work?


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, of all the things that the President, the Attorney General talked about, I think this is the most tangible piece in terms of getting some type of results very, very quickly. At least, that's what administration officials think.

And you listen to the President at the very end there, outline a lot of different programs or perhaps pathways. You can go down to try and address the individuals that are committing the violence. Now, states and localities will be able to utilize those funds from the $1.9 trillion COVID Relief Plan to fund those programs. They will be able to use those funds to be able to surge police presence to pay overtime as well.

The ability for these states now allowed by the Treasury Department to expand the actual capability of what they're able to deploy this money on is a really crucial piece of what the President's outlining today. I think if you talk to White House officials, Jake, they acknowledge there's no silver bullet here.

But they don't have to wait for legislation. They don't have to wait for new funds. There is money they can use and deploy now, and that at the core of everything else, is what the President and his team think can have a real effect very soon on what has become a major problem nationwide.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly at the White House.

Let's discuss with our panel. We have with us Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey, retired LAPD Police Sergeant. Also in studio we have CNN's Gloria Borger and Nia-Malika Henderson, as well as Politico's Laura Barron- Lopez.

Let me start with you, Sergeant. The president wants to go after rogue gun dealers. These are individuals who fail to run the background checks that are required, they falsify records, they sell to somebody who is prohibited from having a gun. Is it that simple, just get rid of their gun license?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: Well, I mean, it's a start. I don't ever say no to anything. I've often said that, you know, these kinds of guns and ammunition are unnecessary in an urban environment. And so, it's a good first step.

TAPPER: And Laura, let me ask you, you know, for the average policeman or woman out there, it must be really a case of whiplash, because a year ago they were hearing -- or two years ago, when was that exactly? I guess it was a year ago.


TAPPER: They were hearing defund the police. They were being -- police were being demonized by many activists out there. And now there are calls from the President for more funding to police forces because of this horrific crime wave.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. And through it all, though, Biden was always saying he wanted to give more money to police, actually angering activists and angering Black Lives Matter protesters. And so, you heard him talk about that there.

And also, what was interesting was today, earlier today, Jen Psaki was trying to get ahead of the attacks from Republicans about addressing police and about defund the police. And what she said was that in the Rescue Plan, there was funding to help cop programs, and that no Republicans voted for it. So, she said, you would think that maybe Republicans are the ones that want to defund the police. You heard that's clearly something that the White House is going to be pushing more and more.

But you also heard Biden talk at the end about community prevention programs. And that is something that is also -- more money for that is in the Family's Plan. And there's a big question about whether or not that will finally be passed clearly in the reconciliation bill that Biden is going to try to pursue, either after the bipartisan infrastructure deal or just go it alone without the bipartisan deal.

But that's his way of telling activists and telling others that are working in the communities with people that he's trying to listen to them and use these other methods of addressing the violence.

TAPPER: And Nia-Malika, one of the things that we were talking about while the President was speaking, he was talking about the fact that it's the summer, there are a bunch of young men and women out there with not much to do.


TAPPER: And funding for -- and sometimes they get into trouble and funding for these programs, community programs would be beneficial. And it reminded me of the 1990s and the idea of midnight basketball, which was mocked a lot by Republicans, but the truth is that sometimes the programs like that are effective.

HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, yes, we were talking during the break, and it was sort of like back to the future. But that is one of the things that Biden was talking about even back then, and you talk to activists, local folks in different communities and these are the kinds of things they want, investment in these communities in terms of activities for kids who were on the streets, summer jobs programs, which are very popular in cities all across the country, including here in D.C. You know, I thought Biden's presentation was a bit low energy for the urgency that I think people are feeling in different cities and in towns and rural communities across the country.


But in terms of the substance of what he's saying, it does feel like there is something immediate that he can do, which will please folks on the ground in these different communities, and not completely alienate some of the activists who have been calling for more defunding the police or restructuring some of the funding that goes to police officers. But we'll see what this summer brings and how immediate the effects will be seen.

TAPPER: And Gloria just on the subject of laws to address guns getting into the wrong hands. President Biden and then two NRA backed senators, Pat Toomey, Republican, Joe Manchin Democrat, pushed to close what's called the gun show loophole so that everyone would have to go through a background check, even if it was a private sale --


TAPPER: -- at a gun show. And that couldn't pass. And that was in the immediate aftermath of the horrific Sandy Hook shooting 26 and seven- year-old slaughtered. If they couldn't get it done, then can they get it done now?

BORGER: I mean, that's what's so depressing about all of this. I mean, we recall that. We remember that. We remember when they couldn't get that through, and how disappointed Members of Congress were --

TAPPER: Toomey was stunned.

BORGER: -- about it.


BORGER: Toomey was stunned, Manchin was stunned, Obama --


BORGER: -- Obama was stunned. And Joe Biden has been dealing with this issue of assault weapons for decades. And here he is, he started out today by saying, you know, I've been dealing with this. He said, I've been here, I've been at this a long time.



BORGER: And he has been added a long time. So the question is, will they be able to do it this time? And of course, you'd have to say that the odds are against it, which is very sad to say, but what he put out today was, OK, we're going to give you money. Yes, we're going to fund the police, we are going to do that, but we are also going to look at social programs. We're going to crack down on gun dealers, who don't pay attention to what the laws are.

So it was -- they call it a multipronged approach --

TAPPER: Right.

BORGER: -- but they're trying to attack it from all different ways. And I think that makes a lot of sense to people. But the political bumper sticker remains, which is that the Democrats don't want to throw as much money only at the police as they want to do it at all kinds of programs. And that is what Republicans will say about it.

TAPPER: And Cheryl, let me ask you as a former LAPD sergeant, what do cops need to make the streets safer? What do communities need to not have to make so many calls to the police?

DORSEY: Well, certainly the effort must be a collaboration between the two. And it's going to be very difficult to realize that as long as there's a lack of trust and we continue to realize that based on the things that are occurring in communities. And so my hope and concern now is that there won't be elephant hunters out there who are living for the overtime.

This is going to come to work these specialized units, much like the one in Portland where officers stepped away from, the rapid response team here in L.A. We have Metropolitan division to become overzealous and militaristic with the community because there's an influx of money now to support that.

TAPPER: All right, Sergeant, thanks so much. And thanks to everybody here in studio with me.

Coming up, one of America's most beautiful cities dealing with a surge in crime, why officials are having such a hard time getting it under control in this one specific city. We'll take a deeper look, that's ahead. Plus, Britney Spears in court right now in a fight to get control over her own life and the struggle larger over conservatorships. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Breaking news in our pop culture lead, moments ago, one of the most successful performers in history, pop star Britney Spears just spoke in court, pleading her case as to why she should control her own life. Spears has been under the strict conservatorship since 2008, after suffering an apparent mental health crisis leaving her father in control of her career, of her finances, even of her own medical decisions. And it all shines a spotlight on the issue of conservatorships and whether they are justly imposed in the United States.

CNN's Stephanie Elam joins us live now outside the courthouse in Los Angeles. Stephanie, tell us what's happening in court right now.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you I was just listening to Britney Spears, listening to what she was saying inside court and I can tell you, Jake, that Britney Spears is angry and she has been waiting for this moment to talk about this conservatorship. And for everyone who doesn't know what that means, take a look here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hit me baby one more time.

ELAM (voice-over): Confident and in control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oops I did it again.

ELAM (voice-over): Britney Spears exploded on the pop scene in the late 90s. But in 2007, the performer with the girl next door image seemingly unraveled. The Paparazzi there to capture many uncomfortable moments in the pop singer's personal life. The following year, multiple health and psychiatric issues landed Spears in the hospital in January.

Her father, Jamie Spears, filed a petition with the Los Angeles County Superior Court that February to place her under a temporary probate conservatorship. Jamie Spears and attorney Andrew Wallet were made permanent co-conservators of Britney's estimated $60 million estate that October. Her father was also given control of her medical care.

LISA MACCARLEY, CONSERVATORSHIP ATTORNEY: Usually, most conservatorships in probate court are for the elderly, people that have exhibited memory deficits or judgment deficits that are pervasive and most likely going to endure for the rest of their lives.

ELAM (voice-over): Yet well, under this conservatorship, Britney Spears kept working, releasing several albums too that went platinum.


ELAM (voice-over): Holding down her domination Las Vegas residency.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): Britney, what's up.

ELAM (voice-over): And serving as a judge on The X Factor.


Attorney Andrew Wallet resigned in the spring of 2019, leaving Spears's father in control of just about every aspect of Britney's life. In August 2020, however, Britney pushed back. In legal documents, her court appointed lawyer stated Britney is, quote, strongly opposed to having her father as a conservator, and requested that Jamie be removed. Instead, a judge in November added Bessemer Trust, a private wealth and investment management firm, as a co- conservator with Jamie Spears to oversee her state.


UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): Free Britney. ELAM (voice-over): In 2009, fans concerned about Britney started the Free Britney movement, pushing for the singer to be released from her conservatorship. A New York Times documentary in February framing Britney Spears sparked renewed interest in the singer's plight.


ELAM: And just to give you an idea of what she was saying in court, she said here that I've told the world that I'm happy and I'm OK. She even went on to say that she was faking it until she could make it but she went on to say, I'm traumatized. I'm not happy. I can't sleep. I'm so angry. I'm insane.

And I can tell you before I came over here to talk to you, Jake, she did say that she wanted an end to the conservatorship. She said that you wanted to not have court appointed lawyers that she wanted to pick her own lawyer. And she also said that she doesn't think she needs another psych evaluation, that she's doing so much, that so many people are making money off of her and that she doesn't feel like she needs to work for the people for whom she is providing a living, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Stephanie Elam in Los Angeles, thanks so much.

Let's bring in CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson. Joey, tell us your reaction to what Spears just said in court, that she's traumatized, she's not happy. She can't sleep. She's so angry. She's insane. Is this enough, her please to end this conservatorship?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It may not be enough good to be with you, Jake, in the short term, but I think moving forward, it just very well may be. I think those are reactions that are natural from someone who has not had the ability to control right her assets. And so, just taking a step back, obviously she's had her problems, right? Young, rich, successful, famous, so many demands upon her and it's not lost upon anyone that she had some mental health issues, right? That's not, you know, many people in this country have those mental health issues.

And as a result of that, for her own protection, her father, 13 years ago, petitioned the court so that he can oversee what was happening. And there's been some contention in the meantime and should also add the conservatorships, right?

So the normal process is about 1.3, 1.5 million people in the country, right, 50 billion in assets, where courts really have a guardian that offending for your interest. And so, I think she's arguing, I'm competent, I'm responsible, I'm able, I'm not the Britney Spears of old, allow me to control my destiny, my future and my life. And that's the point she's made.

TAPPER: And beyond the celebrity aspect of this and the prurient interest that we might have in her private life, there is this issue of conservatorships. 1.5 million Americans, not being able to control their own finances and their own health decisions is a lot of Americans. How do these conservatorships work?

JACKSON: So, what happens is, is that you have to, as an adult, right, be competent to deal with and manage your affairs. And as a result of that, if there's some competency issue, whether it be because you're older and firm, whether it be because you have mental health maladies, whether it is that you have drug or other substance abuse issues, and you have assets in many ways, right, it's for your own good.

The court sets up a system that allows people to come and petition who are those people, family members, others who are close to you to say, hey, you know, something is amiss here, let me step in and let me, otherwise, have control over something as basic as food and shelter, right, or something as significant, as in Britney Spears case, of significant assets so that I could manage them, so that I could oversee them and so that I could be the responsible person who's looking out for their interests.

Obviously, Jake, at some point, an individual, right, if you're fortunate enough, doesn't have that competency issue, doesn't have the mental health malady or the substance abuse problem and then you come to court, and you'll likely get evaluated. And it may be time that you are competent, you are able, no one else has to fend in your interest but you.

And I think that's the argument she's making whether a court will allow a permit moving forward for her to have exclusive control. I think that will be a subject of other tests that she has to undergo. But if she is fit and otherwise able and responsible, you know what, free will. She should be able to do what she needs to do, when she wants to do it.

TAPPER: Well, that's just it. It seems so unusual to me the idea of somebody who is really successful in the entertainment field, especially who has exhibited issues with substances or has acted erratically, that's not really all that uncommon and yet somehow her father was able to get this, and I'm not judging whether or not that was the right move, the average age for conservatorships is for individuals who are late 70s, early 80s.


She's 39. She performs shows. How rare is that kind of situation?

JACKSON: So point very well taken. As it relates to Britney Spears, just -- let's remember that a lot of what has been going on Jake, throughout the years has been underseal. So it's not like a typical situation where we could evaluate all of the transcripts, all of the issues, knowing the back and forth, the ins and outs. And so I'll just say, yes, conservatorships are set up perhaps the older, the infirm people who need them because they're going through it at an older age, right.

But there are instances to your issue on grandness (ph) where you do have a person who for whatever reason, and she's had her challenges, many people have, who a family members just steps in and says, look, there's a lot of money here, there's a lot of issues here, there are a lot of predators here, quite frankly, a lot of vendors and other people who mean you ill, perhaps I should step in. You go to a court, a court evaluates whether or not you might be the appropriate party to do that. A court makes a ruling based upon the competency and your ability and says, hey, you know what, I'm going to do this.

Apparently, that's what happened here. You know, not an instance we see every day, but it does happen. And I think moving forward, her challenge will be to demonstrate that she's able, responsible, and a court agrees with that, and she has it back.

TAPPER: Joe Jackson, thanks so much.

In our national lead, we have already covered President Biden's new proposals to address the rise in crime and gun violence across the nation. Now we have a closer look at the roots of the crisis in one particular city, San Francisco, and why it has been so hard to solve there. Here's CNN's Dan Simon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crystal meth. That's crystal meth right there.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We found 50-year-old Sin Queue (ph) in front of this carved out space on the edge of a San Francisco Street in Combat (ph)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That little bed right there, that's where I sleep. Crystal meth just helps me get through this shit.

SIMON (on-camera): I'm in the city's Tenderloin neighborhood and you can see tents and tarps basically lighting the entire street. This is pretty typical of what you'll find in this neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Residents here are mortified. We're beyond wit's end.

SIMON (voice-over): As it emerges from the pandemic San Francisco was facing multiple crises. Its homelessness problem has been out of control for years, but COVID made it even worse, with the shelters turned out to prevent the spread of the virus.

That in turn has exacerbated a raging mental health and drug crisis with an overdose rate literally flying off the CDC charts. That purple line, San Francisco. A record 712 deaths last year more than doubling those who died of COVID. Police sees more than 5.5 kilos has fenced (ph) all in 2020, quadrupling the previous year. This year, it's already up to 8.8.

And while overall crime went down last year, burglaries went up, 52 percent, according to police data. Now with tourists returning to the city, there's also been a surge of car break-ins. With thieves seen on camera ransacking and dumping luggage on neighborhood streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My security camera captured it directly in front of my house, eight or nine suitcases and backpacks. It just really creates a sense of lawlessness.


SIMON (voice-over): And there's also a shoplifting epidemic, highlighted by this viral video at a Walgreens last week.

(on-camera): Is shoplifting happening every single day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every single day. Anytime they want. Sometimes they have a group of shoplifters coming.

CHIEF BILL SCOTT, SAN FRANSCISCO POLICE: We need more cops. We need more officers.

SIMON (voice-over): San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott says the problem is twofold. Not enough cops on the street and a revolving door of criminals.

SCOTT: The same people that have break-in going in at stores and snatching property. Once we arrest them, we find out they've been arrested over and over again. Yes, it's frustrating.

SIMON (voice-over): Police say only 11 of S.F. P.D.s top 25 repeat offenders for burglary are currently in custody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a rogue district attorney Chesa Boudin.

SIMON (voice-over): The city's progressive THE, former public defender Chesa Boudin is facing a potential recall.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): Chesa! Chesa!

SIMON (voice-over): Elected in 2019, Boudin has enacted controversial policies, centered around decarceration like no cash bail. At the height of COVID, he reduced the jail population by nearly 50 percent.

CHESA BOUDIN, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Jail and prison should be a last resort.

SIMON (voice-over): Boudin says the most pressing problems confronting the city are better addressed at the root level.

BOUDIN: The reality is we are never going to police or prosecute our way out of problems like poverty, mental illness and homelessness. The United States leads the world and locking people up and it has not made us safer.

SCOTT: If you don't want people to sit in jail for running in a store and taking a garbage bag full of property, then put enough police officers out there to prevent it. You know, we can't say we're going to empty all the jails and not hold anybody accountable and then -- but we're going to cut the police budget too because then we're in chaos.


SIMON: And chaos is the word I think many people in San Francisco would use to describe the situation.

[17:50:04] Now, in the short term, the city has been focused on trying to reduce the number of tents that you see and it's made some progress on that front, according to the city, a reduction of about 65 percent in terms of the tents.

Now, Jake, in terms of that Walgreen shoplifter, police did arrest him after he allegedly tried to rob another store. Police say he hit that same Walgreens four days in a row. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Dan Simon, thanks so much.

A new concerning report about what could happen in Afghanistan not long after U.S. forces leave later this year. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our world lead, the Afghan government could collapse just six months after the U.S. heads for the exits. That's according to a new intelligence report obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

Joining us now is Texas Congressman Mike McCaul. He's a top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as Green Beret who served in Afghanistan, Daniel Elkins. Thanks to both of you for joining us. Congressman, let me start with you. What's your reaction to this intelligence assessment? Is this withdraw doomed to mean that Taliban takeover.


REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX), RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, I think the Intelligence Community has had a very different point of view from the State Department. The I.C. assessment is very grim. And I tend to agree with them that once our military finally pulls out be the end of July, they're really at the mercy of the Taliban. And they're already launching a spring offensive.

And when our military or when our troops withdraw into July, I think you'll see a complete takeover of the country, which gets us to, you know, Daniel's story about the interpreters that we promised we will get them a special immigration visa. And yet, we haven't done that yet. It'll take about a year, at least a year to process. So we have to really evacuate them out of country to a safe country where we can process the visas.

TAPPER: Yes, and that's why I had you on today, both of you joined a bipartisan and urgent push on Capitol Hill calling on the State Department to expedite these visa applications for these thousands of Afghans who put their lives on the line for the U.S. providing crucial services, such as translating. Many of them now being hunted down, some even killed by the Taliban.

Daniel, as somebody who fought there, and no doubt, lost friends there, what's your reaction to the fact that as of now, the United States has still not made good on its promise to help these Afghans who helped people like you? DANIEL ELKINS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SPECIAL OPERATIONS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA: Yes, we're very concerned. And, you know, as the founder of the Special Operations Association of America, I hear from many operators, who are still in contact with their interpreters, and they're having problems and they are scared. And these interpreters risked their lives to serve alongside of us.

You know, when I was in Afghanistan, the pleasure of knowing a young interpreter named Johnny (ph) and on one of our missions, he sustained a pretty severe gunshot wound and we rendered aid to save his life and he survived. In months later, he was back wanting to do his role and job again, because he so believed in what we were doing. And that's the type of commitment that these people have had to us and we need to hold our commitment to them.

TAPPER: And Congressman McCaul, you and I have been talking about this for months now. You have said that the Afghans who are waiting for these visas to be processed, they should be evacuated right now. Now White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the White House is doing, quote, extensive planning for potential evacuation. Have they given you any specifics?

MCCAUL: Well, you know, Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin testified today, along with the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Milley, they have developed a plan of evacuation, and it's up to state to find the safe country that we can evacuate them to. The one thing is very clear, is that they can't expedite the processing within two months. And that's the timetable we're on right now.

So, seems to me the only decision to be left to made is by the President himself. I'll be meeting, you know, with the White House tomorrow on this topic. And the commander in chief needs to make this decision. He made the decision to withdraw. And we accept that but we have to protect the people who protected us over there like, people like Daniel. No man left behind, no one left behind. We have a moral obligation to protect them because they will be in the bull's eye of the Taliban if we leave them behind.

TAPPER: And Daniel, you're, no doubt, watching the map as I have been, 50 of Afghanistans, 370 districts have now fallen to the Taliban since May, according to the U.N. A peace talks negotiator tell CNN that it caught the Afghan government off guard this offensive. Just talked to us about how urgent the situation there is for these special visa applicants, not only considering the pending exit, the withdrawal of U.S. service members, but also the Taliban offensive.

ELKINS: Yes, absolutely. So we are literally hearing daily from interpreters whose lives are being threatened as we speak. They are in imminent danger, which is why we must explore every option we can to get these interpreters and their families out. And if that means a safe haven, before domicile here in the United States or in Europe, we need to make that happen.

And we need to work collectively with our NATO allies as well, because these interpreters have helped and served right alongside of them, just like they've served alongside of us. But there are significant concerns with the security in Afghanistan. And once the U.S. does permanently withdraw, that security concern is going to drastically increase.

TAPPER: So I want to thank both of you for being here. And I want to tell you, we're going to continue to cover this. And if these Afghans get slaughtered, we're going to cover that too. Our coverage and focus on this is not going to stop. Congressman, Daniel Elkins, thank you so much for being with us.

ELKINS: Thanks for having me.

MCCAUL: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. Our coverage continues right now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He is, believe it or not, right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.