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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Bill Cosby Released From Prison After Conviction Overturned; House Votes To Create Select Committee To Probe Capitol Riot; Florida Deadly Collapse: 16 Confirmed Dead, 147 Unaccounted For As Search Enters Day Seven; Delta Variant Fears; Investigating Cause Of Florida Building Collapse; Top U.S. Commander In Afghanistan: Withdrawal Could Lead To Civil War. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 30, 2021 - 16:00   ET



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Of course, her friends don't want it to come to Linda March being identified by DNA, but that was a concern because she doesn't have any immediately family. Her sister passed away from cancer. Her parents are both gone. So, her immediate family is gone, but now her uncle did make contact with authorities and has offered a DNA sample, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Understood. Randi, thank you for bringing us that story.

And "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Something I did not wake up thinking I would say today. Bill Cosby is a free man.

THELEAD starts right now.

Breaking news. Comedian Bill Cosby walking out of prison today after a court vacated his sexual assault conviction, saying Cosby's rights were violated, leaving the country and especially his accusers in a state of shock.

The death toll rising as crews desperately dig for survivors in Surfside, Florida. And we learn that some residents complained a couple years ago that the tower was shaking all the time.

And masks and the mixed messages about masks making a comeback. The new warning from the surgeon general, especially if you're around kids.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start with breaking news in the national lead. And the stunning ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacating the conviction and sentence of Bill Cosby, essentially dropping sex assault charges against the comedian and making the 83-year-old a free man. According to a Cosby family spokesperson, Bill Cosby may be making a statement soon. We'll bring that to you live if it happens.

Cosby was released from prison shortly after the ruling this afternoon. He arrived at his home outside Philadelphia, in Elkins Park, just a few moments ago. Cosby, of course, you'll recall, was sentenced in September 2018 to ten years in a state prison after a jury found him guilty of assault, for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home outside Philly in 2004.

What was pivotal in today's ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was the deal made back then by the man who was then the district attorney of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Bruce Castor. Castor had announced that Cosby would not be prosecuted back then.

Let's bring in CNN's Brynn Gingras.

And, Brynn, we should note, Castor, then the district attorney of Montgomery County, he did not think that he could successfully bring a case against Cosby over Constand's allegations, but also, he thought that by announcing publicly that there would not be a prosecution, he was helping Andrea Constand. Explain how.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. And, essentially, Jake, he told CNN, he was thinking, since he didn't have enough evidence to bring forward a criminal case against Cosby, then, hey, you know what? Let me pave the way for people like Andrea Constand and other accusers to benefit in a civil case.

So that's why Cosby basically didn't have a Fifth Amendment right to sit down for those depositions, if you remember, we learned a lot of that information over what was in that. He admitted to using Quaaludes on women. There are just a lot of information that came out of those. And then those depositions were then used to criminally charge him later by a different district attorney.

So that's what the higher court in Pennsylvania is saying. You can't do that. It's not fair. It's not due process, and Cosby should be released, and that's where we are right now. And we're -- listen, we're getting a ton of feedback of people getting comments about what happened, many people just in shock not only that it happened but how quickly it happened. I mean, this opinion from the higher court coming down just before 1:00 and as you can see, we already he's home.

As you said to your viewers, we're waiting to hear if Mr. Cosby will speak, although we were just told by a representative that he's napping at this point. But a spokesperson did say, praise Jesus to one of our producers, he's innocent.

Let me be clear. The higher court in their opinion did not say Cosby is innocent. It is just that his conviction was vacated. In fact, the district attorney who brought the charges in 2015 against him released a statement saying, he was found guilty by a jury and now goes free on a procedural issue that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime.

Prosecutors in my office will continue to follow the evidence wherever and to whomever it leads. This was something also echoed by Gloria Allred, an attorney who represented a lot of the accusers who did come forward against Bill Cosby.

TAPPER: Brynn, more than 50 women, of course, 50 publicly accused Cosby of assaulting them or raping them.

Was Andrea Constand's case the only one that made to it court? It did make it to court. Could any of these other women file charges or whatever? And ultimately, end up sending Bill Cosby back behind bars?

GINGRAS: I mean, Jake, the short answer is no. The higher court said certainly the Andrea Constand case, you can't go backwards on that.


But also, the issue here is the statute of limitations. If you remember in 2015, when they brought this case forward, it was just days away from the statute of limitations in Andrea Constand's case expiring. So, now, we have women who have come forward, since, of course, that show with that cover of the magazine, their allegations are from decades ago. So, no, unless maybe the legal analysts can speak to this, new evidence comes forward, maybe. But, of course, it's very doubtful at this point, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Brynn, thanks so much. And we will talk to our legal experts about that in one second.

But, first, let's go to CNN's Jason, who was right near Cosby's home, right outside Philly, in Elkins Park.

Jason, this has been real quick from the ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Bill Cosby being released to Bill Cosby going home.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And crowds starting to gather. You've got at love media out here. Some of the noise you're hearing, the people who support the accusers, some of those from the #metoo movement who are visibly and audibly upset about the court's decision. Cosby said to be inside celebrating with his family, with his supporters.

And a short while ago, we heard from Cosby's attorney who said the following. He said, we are grateful and happy that it was vacated but he was discharged meaning case closed.

So, right now, what we are waiting for is Cosby and one of his spokespeople to come outside. It could happen actually any moment from now. But until then, what we're doing is getting reaction from various folks about this decision.

I want to get a reaction very quickly. It says here, this come from Andrew Wyatt, he's a Cosby's spokesperson who said: I want to thank the Supreme Court who saw the light and saw the truth. Mr. Cosby was originally given a deal by Bruce Castor in which he was granted immunity. You heard that being talked about a short while ago.

He gave up his Fifth Amendment rights in homes he would get back to work and to his life. He always showed up for any legal matters on his own accord. Charges never should have been brought against Mr. Cosby. So, at this point, we're waiting for Bill Cosby or at the very least,

one of his representatives to come out here. We are expect a statement to come at any time -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jason, thank you so much. We'll come back to you.

Let's bring in two legal voices for their expertise. Jennifer Rodgers is a former federal prosecutor. Joey Jackson is a criminal defense attorney.

Jennifer, I guess the big question a lot of people have is, there are all these other accusers. If Andrea Constand's case cannot be recharged, what about them? Is there any chance any of his other accusers could then testify that the prosecutors at Montgomery County could bring new charges or is this it?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think this is it, Jake. It is a statute of limitations issue. Only if accusers show up with events that happened within the statue of limitations and apparently, that's not the case. These are very, very old accusations. So, you know, the opinion wasn't about a lack of evidence. It didn't say -- there wasn't anything that might leave the door open to another trial where they could gather more evidence. This was a legal issue, a legal technicality.

And so, there is no way to bring a completely new case, which is what you would have to have here if it's older than the statute of limitations allows.

TAPPER: So, Joey, Cosby's lawyer told CNN, and this is what the Supreme Court ruling says, that the court vacated the conviction on the fact that his due process rights were violated for his civil deposition. To explain for folks, what happened was the D.A. did not think he could bring successful charges against Cosby.

So as to help Andrea Constand bring civil charges against him, announced that he would not prosecute Cosby, thus removing Cosby's ability to testify against himself because there was no self- incrimination possible in a criminal court because he wasn't going to be criminally prosecuted. So Cosby was deposed.

And then that deposition was used against him by other prosecutors in violation of that agreement.

Joey, having nothing to do with whether or not you think Cosby is guilty or innocent or should be in prison, or there shouldn't be a statute of limitations, do you see justification in the ruling of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania?.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, just based on the law, you explained it in an excellent way. So there are people, the victims, who are very concerned, frustrated and I'm sure, you know, shocked and just mortified by the fact they went so far and came together and here we are.

Just speaking objectively, right, on the law, what the court said, this has to be about the law. We're going to bar any prosecution moving forward, as Jennifer noted, and here's why. You have an instance where you have an elected official representing the common wealth. That elected official made a pronouncement. What he did, as a year later, he investigated these charges.

Like it, don't like it, hate him, love him, whatever, he said I'm not moving forward. What I will do is I'm going to say, I'm going to not prosecute and I'm going to announce that so that Cosby can sit for and otherwise parts participate in depositions. What are those? Legal proceedings where attorneys ask you specific questions as to your conduct.

Now, under normal circumstances, when you're facing prosecution, you could say, I plead the Fifth. I plead the Fifth. I'm not speaking. Because the prosecutor said, I'm not prosecuting you, he had no basis, Cosby, to plead the Fifth and otherwise had to answer questions about Quaaludes, about Benadryl, about everything and anything he may have did in the past as it related to women. The court said he would not have been in that position if he didn't believe you when you said he was not going to be prosecuted.

The only reason he sat for that deposition was you compelled him to. You said you won't be prosecuted. He speaks and then you use that against him in a criminal proceeding. That's a no-no.

We'll respect the fact that the prosecutor basically that, we won't prosecute you and we'll have any prosecutor moving forward, respect that as well. There will be no prosecution moving forward, period, says the court, because it is fundamentally unfair.

A person has a Fifth Amendment right against self-incriminating himself. He incriminated himself and that was based upon his reliance upon the D.A. That's the cold hard facts of the law and that's what the Supreme Court said moving forward. The case is now over.

TAPPER: Right. When the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania makes a deal, it has to stick with it, no matter who is administering the justice. I guess that's the conclusion.

Jennifer, the new Montgomery of Pennsylvania district attorney said they will continue to follow the evidence wherever it leads, to whomever it leads. Do you think it is likely that there are will be any other charges?

RODGERS: I don't. If they follow the evidence that leads to new accusations within the last few years, maybe, but I don't think anyone is holding out hopes for that. I mean, there's going to be no new charges based on the conduct that we know about now.

TAPPER: Jennifer Rodgers, Joey Jackson, thanks to both. Appreciate it.

Plus, more breaking news, the House of Representatives voting to establish a select committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection. How many Republicans voted in favor of it and what might the commission look like? That's ahead. And a resident who said their residence was shaking all the time

during nearby construction. New possible warning signs before that shocking and horrific tragedy in Surfside, Florida.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Breaking news in our politics lead, there will officially be a criminal investigation into the deadly January 6th Capitol attack.

Moments ago, two Republicans joined with Democrats to greenlight the select committee created by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The committee will be made up of 13 members, eight appointed by Pelosi, five chosen by Republican leaders, although a senior Democratic aid tells CNN that Pelosi might use one of her picks on a Republican, and beyond that, Pelosi has told CNN she reserves the right to veto anyone that the Republicans pick for their five slots.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is live on Capitol Hill for us.

Ryan, only two Republicans voted with Democrats, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger? That means a number of Republicans who voted for the original bipartisan commission, 35 of them, I think, a number of Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the riot, I think ten of them have now voted against this committee.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Jake. And many of them who are pretty clear-eyed about what happened on January 6th said that they just do not believe that this select committee accomplishes the same goals that would have been able to be accomplished with that bipartisan independent commission. Among them, Congressman John Katko who was the co-author of that original legislation which ultimately was blocked in the United States Senate.

But you're right that there were two Republicans who did vote yes, and that was Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. And Kinzinger, who I saw right after he voted didn't want to talk to us at that point, but did put out a statement a short time ago. We need a full accounting of what happened on January 6th, 2021, we need answers on who was involved in the insurrection and who played a role in orchestrating it. We need transparency and truth.

And Kinzinger went on to say that he would have much rather had that bipartisan independent commission. But it was his party that blocked it so he felt that this was a necessary step, and that's why he voted yes -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ryan, when are we going to find out who is going to be on the committee?

NOBLES: That's an open question right now. But we do believe that the house speaker does want to move quickly. The big question is just how cooperative is Kevin McCarthy going to be in appointing the five members that he has allowed to appoint in consultation with the speaker. We tried to press him on it today and he essentially said he didn't even know what was happening with the select committee and that he still needed to look at it.

So there is a chance that he could try and draw out this process by not giving those names to the House speaker in an orderly fashion. I will note, Jake, I did run into Jim Jordan, of course, a strong supporter of President Trump, someone who is speculated that someone that the House minority leader might appoint to that committee. I asked him if he was willing to serve and he says it is all up to Kevin. So, we'll have to see how this all plays.

TAPPER: All right. Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN's Jamie Gangel who has brand new reporting on the inner workings of the vote.

And, Jamie, Liz Cheney was just one of only two Republicans who voted yes today. She just released a statement explaining why she voted to form the select committee.


What did she have to say?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: She doubled down on GOP leadership, translation, Kevin McCarthy. And I would say she tripled down on Donald Trump.

She said: Since January 6th, the courage of my party's leaders has faded. But the threat to our republic has not. On an almost daily basis, Donald Trump repeats the same statements that provoked violence before. His attacks on our Constitution are accelerating. Our responsibility is to confront these threats, not appease and deflect.

And then she went on, Jake, to say, the threat to our democracy is far too great for grandstanding or political maneuvering. The committee should issue and enforce subpoenas promptly, hire skilled counsel and do its job thoroughly and expeditiously. The American people need and deserve a full accounting. We must ensure that what happened on January 6th, 2021, never happens again.

Two points. I am told by a senior Democratic aide that we will not get names for this committee today. I am also told by a senior Democratic source with knowledge that Nancy Pelosi is seriously considering appointing one Republican to this committee, and I think it's either Liz Cheney or Adam Kinzinger.

TAPPER: Speaker Pelosi also invited members of the Capitol Police and members of the Metropolitan D.C. Police Departments who protected the Capitol that day, many of whose members were injured, some seriously.

What do you know about their trip to the Capitol ahead of the vote?

GANGEL: I know that several of them actually changed their plans just to be here today. Capitol Hill police officer Harry Dunn was there. Metropolitan Police Officer Mike Fanone was there. The family of Brian Sicknick, his mother, his longtime partner Sandra Garza, they felt, I've spoken to them, very strongly that they be there today and that this select committee happened.

I will tell you I spoke to Republican sources who said that Nancy Pelosi was smart to invite them today. And I spoke to other Republican sources who admitted they were embarrassed that there were representatives of the police there today.

TAPPER: All right, Jamie Gangel, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

Day seven and 147 people still missing -- tireless rescue teams fighting some terrible odds and bad weather as the search continues in Surfside, Florida.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead today, the death toll in the deadly Florida condo collapse is growing. Overnight, four more victims were found in the rubble, bringing the total to at least 16 people confirmed dead, 147 still missing.

Now, as CNN's Drew Griffin reports, we're learning critical new accounts of residents who made it out alive.


DISPATCH: We do have a partisan collapse of the 13 story apartment building.

Multiple patients trapped, we're trying to make our way to them right now.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER (voice-over): The frantic moments as rescuers arrived on scene shortly after Champlain Towers South crumbled. Now, seven days later, the big question remains why.

Engineers tell CNN it will take access to the site, studying crumbled columns, soil samples, and computer modeling to determine the cause. But as the heart-wrenching search for victims continues, survivors are offering new clues.

Sarah Nir and her children were startled by what first appeared to be knocking, then something much worse.

SARA NIR, ECAPED BEFORE CONDO COLLAPSE: It was a big boom. And I was running to see where the sound came from. And I saw all the garage collapse. I thought I was in a movie.

GRIFFIN: Thinking it was an earthquake, Nir took her children and ran from her first floor unit, crossing Collins Avenue just at the moment the tower fell. NIR: Then another big boom, and then we didn't see anything.

GRIFFIN: Her account matching almost exactly the phone call Michael Stratton says he got from his wife inside the building and still unaccounted for. Telling the "Miami Herald" she was speaking about their building shaking. Then she said she saw a sinkhole where the pool out her window used to be. Then the line went dead.

MEHRDAD SASANI, PROFESSOR OF CIVIL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: We know that the deck, the pool deck for the garage roof caved in first. That seems to be agreed on, at least by a couple of eyewitnesses.

GRIFFIN: Engineers who studied building collapse say the eyewitness accounts will be crucial in determining where the initial failure occurred and where investigators should begin to search for answers, which professor Mehrdad Sasani says is that collapsing garage and pool structure.

SASANI: As it goes down, it could have pulled the columns that were already damaged.

GRIFFIN: Engineers are quick to point out, it is too early to conclude anything. But years of deferred maintenance and repairs left the building in need of extensive renovations. Champlain Tower South had been on notice of major structural damage.


Worries that were reiterated just this past April in a letter describing the conditions as significantly worse.

Homeowners were being assessed more than $15 million for an extensive overhaul. But the majority of the work had yet to begin when the towers collapsed.


GRIFFIN: And, Jake, in yet another sign that there was no urgency taking place in Surfside, a town official -- or the town actually sent that building notice of minor violations just last month, complaining of things like hedges not being clipped or an exit sign that was burned out, minor violations that they were asking them to fix.

We also did talk about the shaking that was reported in 2019. You mentioned that at the top of your newscast, Jake. That was being felt when a construction project was going up next store. And one of the board members actually wrote to a town official and said, we're concerned that the digging there is affecting our foundation.

That town official wrote back nonchalantly saying, there's nothing I can do. That's because that building was not only across the street. It was in another town. And there was nothing that person could do to affect that construction, apparently. That is the same town official that told the people at Champlain Towers South their building seemed to be in very good shape -- Jake. TAPPER: All right, Drew, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

The Delta variant and the dangers for kids who still cannot get the vaccine, the new advice for parents -- that's next.



TAPPER: In our health lead today: To mask or not to mask? An increasingly confusing question, thanks to the Delta variant, even for the vaccinated.

Officials in Los Angeles and Illinois are suggesting that even the vaccinated should mask up.

And listen to what the U.S. surgeon general had to say on CNN this morning.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I think it's very reasonable for parents who are living with kids who are unvaccinated or, for that matter, other family members who are unvaccinated, to consider wearing a mask if they're in a high-risk area or if their job requires a high degree of exposure.


TAPPER: That is raising new questions about large gatherings ahead of the long Fourth of July holiday weekend, as CNN's Lucy Kafanov reports.


MURTHY: If you are not vaccinated, then you are in trouble. This is, again, a serious threat. And we're seeing it spread among unvaccinated people.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A stark warning from the surgeon general. But, as the more transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant continues to spread, the guidance from the CDC for now remains the same.

MURTHY: If there is a shift in the evidence base and the science, then they will update their guidance accordingly.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: If you're vaccinated, you are safe from the variants that are circulating here in the United States.

KAFANOV: For parents of young unvaccinated children, this advice:

MURTHY: I think it's very reasonable for parents who are living with kids who are unvaccinated or, for that matter, other family members who are unvaccinated, to consider wearing a mask. KAFANOV: According to the CDC, the Delta variant accounting for more than a quarter of COVID-19 cases across the country, the daily pace of vaccinations slowing, down to roughly a third from what it was two months ago.

Health experts concerned about the growing divide.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: It's almost like it's going to be two Americas. You're going to have areas where the vaccine rate is high, where more than 70 percent of the population has received at least one dose.

KAFANOV: Health experts worry the rising spread of more transmissible variants could make it even harder to reach herd immunity.

New polling shows most U.S. adults who plan to get vaccinated have already done so, with 77 percent of vaccinated adults saying everyone in their household is vaccinated, while 75 percent of unvaccinated adults said no one they live with is vaccinated.


KAFANOV: So, for the unvaccinated, the Delta surge is a major concern that threatens to undo a lot of the progress this nation has made in turning the corner on the pandemic.

But, today, the CDC director said that vaccinated Americans can in fact feel safe in celebrating the Fourth of July holiday maskless. She also added there's a lot to be thankful for when looking at how far this country has come in the past 15 months -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Lucy, thanks so much.

Joining us now Dr. Peter Hotez. He's the co-director for the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital

Dr. Hotez, so I have an 11-year-old. He's obviously not vaccinated. He's not eligible to get vaccinated until the vaccines become cleared for him or he turns 12. The rest of our household is vaccinated. D.C. has a high rate of vaccination.

Should we be wearing masks because of the Delta variant?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, I think this is part of the problem, is that the CDC is trying to use a one-size-fits- all recommendation for the country, rather than being a bit more surgical in identifying hot spot areas where transmission is accelerating.

So,for instance, Jake, if you were in Southern Missouri right now, where the Delta variant is now the highest percentage of virus variants anywhere in the country and the vaccination rate is really low, what that means, there is a lot of virus transmission going on.

So you might do one thing if you're a parent there with little kids or yourself even if you're vaccinated, vs. in Washington, D.C., where the vaccination rate is really high, and transmission is slower -- slowed dramatically, or up in the Northeast.

And I think that's what we need from the CDC is to be able to cut it a little finer, come up with a map, a force of infection map that combines those two variables. The low vaccination rates, high Delta, those places are at great risk for lots of transmission, including some vaccinated individuals who will have breakthrough infections.


And I think that's what we need to see next coming out of Atlanta.

TAPPER: The American Academy of Pediatrics just told CNN that children under the age of 12 should be the ones who wear masks. Do you agree?

HOTEZ: Yes, especially if they're indoors, indoor settings, bringing them into stores, or restaurants, because this Delta -- remember, this Delta variant, Jake, is like nothing we have seen before.

All year, we have been -- this year, in 2021, we have been talking about the B117 variant from the U.K. that's 50 percent more transmissible than the original lineage. This Delta variant is 50 percent more than that, so it's twice as much. So, pretty much, we're going to see a lot -- wherever the Delta variant is accelerating, wherever low levels of vaccinations are around, we're going to see a lot of infections.

And so, absolutely, and we're going to have to mask up kids when they're indoors, at least until we get our arms around this Delta variant.

TAPPER: Many schools in the U.S. start in August. And for children to be fully vaccinated by the start of the school year, the ones who are eligible, 12 and older, they're going to have to get their first dose soon.

How close are we to approving vaccines for kids 11 and under?

HOTEZ: It's hard to know. We're hearing different things from the companies.

And we can't really rush these trials because of -- we are always a bit more cautious with the young kids. So, an optimistic forecast is by the fall, but it may not be to the end of the year, potentially.

So the way -- the way that you handle that is as follows. If you have got a place where large numbers of adolescents are vaccinated and the teachers and staff are vaccinated, you're going to have a very safe middle school and high school.

And if a high percentage of the community's vaccinated, elementary schools can open safely as well. But you take a place where there's low vaccination coverage overall -- look in the South. We have got states like Louisiana, Mississippi where only around 10 percent of the adolescents are vaccinated. There's going to be a lot of transmission in both middle schools, high schools and the elementary school. So, this is the problem. We -- Dr. Fauci says two Americas. I use the

term to COVID nations. We have got to bring that other COVID nation up to speed in terms of vaccinations. Otherwise, there's going to be a lot of complications as we move into the fall.

TAPPER: Right now, CNN -- I got to interrupt. I'm sorry, Dr. Hotez.

We got to go to Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, where Bill Cosby is about to speak.


JENNIFER BONJEAN, ATTORNEY FOR BILL COSBY: We knew all along he never should have been prosecuted for this. He had every right to rely on the prosecutor's word. And they pulled the rug out from underneath him because of politics, because of the court of public opinion. And that is not how our system should operate.

When that happens, there cannot be a just sentence. And if there had been a just verdict and a just sentence, we wouldn't be here fighting. But there was not justice and then not a just verdict.

And I think it's really important that we keep our eye on the ball, that our Constitution is sacred, and that we need to uphold it at all times. And I'm glad that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (OFF-MIKE)


BRIAN PERRY, ATTORNEY FOR BILL COSBY: I'm very proud of the team that we put together. I'm very proud to be part of this case.

We always thought that, eventually, this is where it would end up. Mr. Cosby and I had many, many talks over the last couple of years. I predicted it. And we're here. It's a good day for the Cosby family.

QUESTION: Mr. Cosby, how does it feel to be home?

BONJEAN: Well, he is extremely happy to be home. He looks forward to reuniting with his wife and his children.

And, obviously, this has been a hard three years for this entire family. And it's really a blessing for him. And he's -- he says his heart is just beating really fast. And he's happy to...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that we have Ashley here, who worked on the case too.

Ashley, say a few words, Ashley Cohen.


I'm just honored to be part of such an amazing team. These lawyers did an incredible, incredible job. And I am so thankful to be a part of it and to help Mr. Cosby. And I'm just proud to be here and watch him get released.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this wonderful attorney Haley (ph) you see right here -- I'm sorry -- her father was in prison with Mr. Cosby.

And he sent a message to Mr. Cosby before he left today for her.

Say a few words.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He did. He said that he loves you very, very much.

And I...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your father's name?


And I, in return, love him very, very much in return. And I was glad that Mr. Cosby and him got to know each other well while incarcerated together.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... so grateful to be here to see Mr. Cosby (OFF- MIKE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, in closing, this was an unwanted three-year vacation that Mr. Cosby never asked for.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But in hindsight we're happy that he got it because he was able to pull the covers off of the corruption in Montgomery County with a crooked D.A. and a crooked judge, Steele and O'Neill. These same people find this American citizen, I don't know how a D.A. has that much time on his hands to fine him $2,010 for not cutting his yard.

I was on the way to pay their fine when I got a call Nick (INAUDIBLE) and Nick told me that they had vacated the conviction.

You know, what we saw today was justice. Justice for all Americans. Mr. Cosby, conviction being overturned is for the world, and all Americans who are being treated unfairly by the judicial system and some bad officers, because all officers are not bad.

So we want to thank this entire team. We want to thank Mrs. Cosby, her family. I want to thank my family, and just thank you all for those who decided to tell the truth and allowed us to tell the truth when we had the opportunity.

REPORTER: Mr. Cosby, how are you feeling? Mr. Cosby, how are you feeling? Are you happy to be out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself! TAPPER: All right. So Bill Cosby and his legal team heading back to

his house in Elkins Park right outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We heard a lot of people in the crowd cheering or yelling at him. We heard his legal representatives talking about what they perceive to be an injustice of Mr. Cosby having spent the previous three years in prison.

We did not hear Bill Cosby speak himself. He was just released this afternoon. He appears to be in somewhat frail condition. Let's go back to our legal experts we have with us former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers, as well as criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson.

Jennifer, let me start with you. We did not hear Bill Cosby speak, although he did make an appearance. Did that surprise you?

RODGERS: Not really. I mean, I'm sure he's overwhelmed and happy to have his lawyers speak for him. I was interested in what they said. They're celebrating as they should, their client has walked free. It's a big victory for them.

But to allege political corruption and I mean -- you know, they're making a lot of strong allegations here about what happened with the charges against him, which, you know, I don't think they have anything to support that, particularly given that no one has said that their client is innocent and there's been absolutely no evidence of any sort of corruption. This really was an overturning based on a legal technicality, and frankly one that I think the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania got wrong.

So, you know, while I appreciate their celebration, I think they're a little heavy handed with what they're representing the facts to be.

TAPPER: Well, let me drill down on that, if you would. Why do you think they got it wrong? The argument being that was made that was persuasive to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was that the district attorney for Montgomery county, Bruce Castor at the time, entered into a deal with Cosby basically saying we're not going to prosecute you, but by saying that you no longer have the right to refuse to testify against yourself.

Therefore, Cosby had to testify in depositions for the civil case, and it was in that testimony, those depositions where he basically admitted using drugs on multiple women leading to his ability to sexually assault or rape them, and then that testimony was used against him despite the fact that the prosecutor said they wouldn't.

Now I'm not talking about justice. We don't have a justice system in this country. We have a legal system in this country. But you don't see how they -- you don't see grounds there at all?

RODGERS: So, what the Supreme Court said, it was not that there was a deal. The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court, there was no legally enforceable deal. There was no agreement, and they also found that there was no valid claim for immunity. He was not granted immunity. So what they ended up finding was what's called promissory estoppel.

It's a legal concept. It is grounded in due process, but it's not itself a constitutional concept, that because the D.A. said he wouldn't continue to prosecute, even though they didn't make an actual legally enforceable deal to that effect, it couldn't then go back on that even with a later D.A.

The question is, the legal question is was that reasonable that Bill Cosby relied on that? The defendant has to rely on it, and it has to be reasonable. And the question is was it reasonable or not that without an actual agreement and without an actual effective grant of immunity, he would not try to effectuate his Fifth Amendment rights. I don't think that was reasonable, but legal minds can differ.

TAPPER: And what do you think, Joey?

JACKSON: Listen, these cases are difficult, and you're going to have a battle of the narratives.


Obviously you're going to have Cosby's people saying it's a miscarriage of justice, it's corruption, it's wrong, he shouldn't have been prosecuted, nothing to see here, it's an outrage and everything else. And you're going to have victims who themselves are outraged and concerned and upset about a legal system that they felt didn't work for them.

But I think as a matter of law in evaluating and looking at the opinion just as an objective analyst, I think the court got it right, right? You can yell and scream and say, you know, ABC and what about the victims. Yes, we have to be mindful of that. But from a legal perspective, you can't be a prosecutor and you can't say, you know what, you're not going to be prosecuted and that I forfeit all my rights and I speak and I am prosecuted and you allow that.

You can't allow that, and you have to look at the precedent being set. And I think the precedent is what the court looked at. And as a result of that they said, we're barring this prosecution. You have to enforce what the prosecutor says. You have to rely upon what a prosecutor says.

TAPPER: Which is a technicality we should point out, even if you think it's an important one, but it's impossible to read those depositions and not conclude that Bill Cosby was guilty whether or not he's in jail right now is another matter. But he did admit to drugging women and then sexually assaulting them.

Jennifer Rodgers, Joey Jackson, thanks so much. We're going to have much more on this in the coming hour.

But now, let's turn to our world lead. The top American military commander in Afghanistan is warning quite clearly of the possible of a chaotic civil war to come as officials tell that the United States is just days away, days from finishing the formal troop withdrawal, months before President Biden's September 11th goal marking the end of America's longest war -- America's role in it anyway.

As many as 1,000 troops will remain behind after the formal exit to guard the U.S. embassy and protect the airport in Kabul.

Let's bring in Anna Coren who's on the ground in Kabul, Afghanistan.

And, Anna, what are you hearing from Afghans?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, there's a real sense of disbelief and abandonment. You know, everyone knew that U.S. troops were going to be leaving, that they couldn't stay in country forever, but that they wouldn't be leaving under these specific circumstances, with the Taliban, you know, launching offenses across the country, gaining ground, and having basically the upper hand. They're in control of more than 100 out of 370 districts across the country.

We're learning in the last 24 hours now, the six districts have fallen. So there is this momentum --

TAPPER: All right.

COREN: -- the Taliban will return to power in Afghanistan. It's just a matter of time.

I spoke to a friend of mine who has been here, born here, raised here. And I asked him how do you feel with the U.S. leaving. And it was just a sense of dread. There is no future for him and his family.

And he is not alone. He said if there is the smallest window, he will jump through it and not spend one more hour in this country. And this is a man who's educated, who is the future of Afghanistan. Yet he feels he has no future in this country.

He is not alone, Jake. There are hundreds of Afghans who turn up to the passport office every day. It was shut by the government because of COVID. Since it's been reopened, there have been long queues of people trying to get visas to get out of here.

A U.S. human rights lawyer who I spoke to says she has never seen the sort of fear that she is witnessing now. She's been in and out of this country for 13 years, and she says what is going on now is rapid withdrawal, is reprehensible -- Jake.

TAPPER: The U.S. embassy in Kabul issued a statement calling on the Taliban to end violence as U.S. service members depart. Is there any chance the Taliban would heed that request?

COREN: The Taliban is on a mission. They are here to regain control. They have made that perfectly clear.

And that is what we are witnessing certainly in the north of the country, which is not necessarily a place where we would see the Taliban. And yet they are taking over serious territory.

The Afghan national forces, they are suffering mass casualties on the ground. And you mentioned that statement issued by the embassy, you know, just a short time ago, telling the Taliban to stop the violence.

But this is not going to stop. They have a mission, and that is to take back control, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Anna Coren live in Afghanistan, stay safe and thank you so much.

The man who led the pentagon at the start of America's longest war, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, died today. Rumsfeld served as Pentagon chief twice, first under President Gerald Ford, when he became the youngest secretary of defense in history, and then the second time under President George W. Bush during the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.


I interviewed Rumsfeld several times including in 2013 when I asked if he had any road rules for then President Obama.


DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: When I was a Navy pilot, the rule if you're lost is to climb, conserve, and confess, get some altitude, take a deep breath and get on the radio and say you're lost. To the extent that credibility gets eroded over time, you lose your ability to lead.


TAPPER: In his long tenure in public service, Rumsfeld was seen as controversial and steadfast, famously helping first responders and refusing to leave the Pentagon after it was attacked on September 11th. Moments ago, President Bush issued a statement saying, quote, a man of intelligence, integrity, and almost inexhaustible energy, Rumsfeld never paled before tough decisions, and never flinched from responsibility. We mourn and exemplary public servant and a very good man, unquote.

Donald Rumsfeld was 88 years old.

Coming up, we'll be right back with more breaking news. Bill Cosby released from prison and is back home. The lawyer for dozens of Cosby's accusers, she'll join us live next.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, we're learning the Trump organization is expected to be charged by Manhattan prosecutors along with its chief financial officer as soon as tomorrow.