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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Four Iranians Charged In Alleged Plot To Kidnap U.S. Journalist; Biden Makes The Case For $3.5 Trillion In New Spending; Interview With Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA); New Book Explores What Led To Trump's 2020 Demise; Right Now: Court Hearing In Britney Spears Conservatorship Fight; Survey: Police Retirements Up 45 Percent, Resignation Up 18 Percent; DOJ Inspector General Releases Scathing Report On FBI's Mishandling Of Allegations Against Larry Nassar. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 14, 2021 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In moments she will join us live to talk about her experience and what she thinks Biden should do to respond to this brazen conspiracy.

But first, CNN's Brynn Gingras has the details of this Iranian kidnapping plot on American soil.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The FBI foiling in alleged Iranian government backed plot to kidnap a U.S. journalist. And tonight, these four men at the center of the movie like scheme still wanted.


GINGRAS (voice-over): Masih Alinejad telling CNN this morning she was the target.

U.S. Attorneys with the Southern District of New York don't name her in the indictment, but prosecutors say the plan started around 2018 when the Iranian government offered to pay Alinejad's relatives in Iran to lure her out of the U.S. When her family refused, the plan allegedly picked up last year.

The group of Iranian men led by an intelligence agent hired an American private investigator by falsely claiming they were looking for someone who owed debts. Prosecutors say, the team who are each facing a number of conspiracy related charges, instructed the investigator to track Alinejad, her family even strangers and take, quote, "quality pictures so that we can see license plate on car." And "send two pictures in one video every hour." Adding, "He wants pictures of faces of everyone visiting the address, even if they are marketers and sales people."

ALINEJAD: When I saw the picture of myself, I got goosebumps because I was watering my sunflowers. They took picture of my stepchildren.

GINGRAS (voice-over): They are also accused of researching how to rent a military style speedboat that could bring Alinejad to Venezuela, then ultimately Iran. The U.S. Attorney noting in her statement, "where the victim's fate would have been uncertain at best."

A woman from California who allegedly funneled money in the scheme was arrested.

Alinejad posted this video on Twitter Tuesday showing a police presence outside what she says is one of many safe houses she and her family have lived in recent months. Her nightmare began eight months ago when she says the FBI alerted her to the plot.

ALINEJAD: And I have 5 million followers on my Instagram, I have 1 million on Facebook. What I do, I give voice to these people.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Alinejad says she uses social media to give voices to the women of Iran. Her activism and outspokenness of the regimes autocracy is why she and authorities believe she was a target.

The Iranian Government calling the claims baseless, "This is not the first time that the United States has undertaken such Hollywood scenarios," a spokesperson told CNN. The White House responding.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Although we categorically condemn Iran as dangerous and despicable reported plot to kidnap a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.


GINGRAS: And you saw those wanted photos, those four Iranian men are still on the run at this hour, Jake. The FBI not saying if they even know their current whereabouts.

And ask for that California woman, rather, she has been arrested and she has appeared before a judge and she's pleaded not guilty to the charges she faces in that indictment. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

Let's bring in Masih Alinejad, the American journalist positions at the center of this foiled kidnapping plot. It's good to see you. I'm glad you're OK.

Since you spoke with CNN this morning, the Iranian Government reacted to the Justice Department accusations against Iran. They, as you heard, they dismissed them as a Hollywood scenario, they call it baseless, ridiculous not worth answering. What do you make of their response?

ALINEJAD: Anytime when they failed, they make it ridiculous. But anytime when they succeed, like when they kidnapped one of Iranian journalists last year, Ruhollah Zam, they were so proud of it. They executed him while, you know, the whole world was watching that. So, for me, it was obvious that they're going to deny it. But for the western government, I'm not sure that whether they're going to accept this, and they're going to, like legitimize this regime. Because to be honest, Jake, I got very scared, but at the same time, I see that this regime when they scared of anyone they can easily kill them.


ALINEJAD: They easily, like, you know, so we have to take an action right now. Otherwise, none of the journalists outside Iran, activist outside Iran would be safe.

TAPPER: Well, what do you want the Biden administration to do? I mean, they -- you heard them basically acknowledge that it's true. It's the Biden Justice Department that brought the charges against these four men.

I mean, it's brazen, a foreign government attempting to kidnap an American citizen in America. What do you want President Biden to do?

ALINEJAD: First of all, I want to meet them. I left my homeland to come to America to be safe. And now, I found out that even here in America, in the United States of America, I'm not safe because the Islamic Republic of Iran can easily hire someone here to kidnap me.


Of course, I'm under FBI protection. But what I want Biden's administration to do, take a strong action. We don't really need empty words, especially when they said that this is a law enforcement. It just broke my heart. Because this is not called law enforcement, Jake. This is called kidnapping.

And the Islamic Republic actually challenging the authorities, the U.S. authorities, and saying that we have the power to actually come to your land, to your own soil and harass your journalist, spying your citizen. And now, we have to actually see Biden himself, the President Biden actually condemned that strongly.

TAPPER: Yes. Yes. I want to play a little bit of more sound from the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki today. Take a listen.


PSAKI: Its actions to attempt to silence the voices of those peacefully working to address the situation both inside of Iran and outside of Iran that are appalling, we'll continue to speak out against that. But at the same time, we still see it in U.S. interest and in our national interest to engage in ongoing discussions so that we have -- can have greater visibility into Iran's path to acquiring a nuclear weapons.


TAPPER: So, just to translate that from Washington political speak, what Psaki is saying there is that the White House stands with you and others who are trying to bring the truth of what's going on in Iran to the public, which is what you do through social media, being a voice for Iranian women who cannot speak for themselves. And yet, the Biden administration continues to want to try to deal with the Iranian government on a nuclear agreement to prevent them from getting nuclear weapons. What's your response?

ALINEJAD: So that's beyond sad. Because, look, it's not about me, I don't want Biden's administration to protect me. I want them to understand that this is the nature of the Islamic Republic.

It's not about one Iranian American citizens here, they're going to deal with a regime that easily, easily killed 1500 people in Iran protests, and I just gave the voice to the mothers and fathers of those protesters. And that is why actually the government is scared of me. That is actually my crime.

So, what I'm trying to make it clear here, that human rights should be the first agenda. The U.S. government should stand for universal values, for Western values, so they should not burry (ph) human rights under a nuclear deal. That's my point.

TAPPER: Yes. Masih, you said you've known for eight months of this plot to kidnap you, but you only learn the specifics last night, the plan to take you in a boat to Venezuela. Surveillance on not just you, but on your family on your friends. Why do you think these details are coming out now? What changed?

ALINEJAD: I'm not sure why. But I know that the FBI was going to publish this details earlier. I don't know what's going on behind the scene. I really, I mean, the FBI should answer this or White House should answer this or Justice Department. But I know that they were going to release this information earlier. I don't know what happened, that just came out now.

TAPPER: And Masih, what do you think if they had succeeded in kidnapping you and getting you on a boat and taking you on that boat to Venezuela, what do you think they were going to do with you?

ALINEJAD: Can I be honest with you, Jake? When you ask this question, I got goosebumps. Because it just reminds me of the time when Ruhollah Zam, Iranian journalist found himself in the car with the Intelligence Service Officers. We all saw this footages.

And right now that I'm talking to you, Ruhollah's two children were dreaming that some police in France actually warning him the way that FBI warned me that you're not allowed to travel abroad. So, I was going to be executed.

And why? I'm going to give you two examples. Look, one Qasem Soleimani, the head of the revolutionary, the Quds, Revolutionary Guards got killed by the U.S. Some of the Iranian, like some of the Iranian reformist, so called reformist and moderate, one, two different media called him a hero, national hero.

That time I said he was not the hero, opinions of Iranian people, Syrian people, Iraqian people. He was a war criminal. Guess what happened. They took -- they made a poster, the Islamic Republic made a poster and saying that Masih should be executed. And another journalist with verified account on Twitter said that, the hard revenge should be Masih Alinejad in America.


So, and another time, the Iranian television actually, the newspaper published a poster of me and Ruhollah Zam and Jamshid Sharmahd and saying that those two got kidnapped. Now, Masih should be ready. So I knew that.

If they kidnapped me, and I wouldn't have been here with you, Jake, I would be there, fake trial, and then they would execute me.

TAPPER: Yes. And people -- I follow you on social media, as you know, people who are watching should follow you on social media, what you do his protest brutality, you protest misogyny, you protest how women are mistreated in Iran. It's not as though you're shipping weapons to rebels in Iran, you're a journalist, you're bringing attention. Do you still feel unsafe?

ALINEJAD: First of all, thank you so much for confirming that I'm not a criminal. I'm just doing my job.

TAPPER: Right.

ALINEJAD: Every day, yes, every day I just give the voiceless people. And I want actually CNN help those people within the society bravely protesting against gender apartheid, protesting against the brutality of the Islamic Republic, give them a voice. And this is my job. But I feel safe.

I have two different feelings. First of all, of course, under FBI's protection, I think I am safe. But I feel so sad that police in Iran, suppose when I see police around me in Iran, people see police around who's supposed to be tortured, beaten up, arrested, get lashes. So here, sometimes I feel so sad for my people that they don't have the same feeling.

And another thing is, yes, I am safe here. But there are many journalists, many activists, they live in Turkey, they are not safe. They live in Europe and they are not safe. So, I'm just one of the example. And I want actually this situation help all the human rights organizations, all the European government, the U.S. government get united and have all the freedom fighters and do not legitimize the regime who actually kidnap and kill innocent people.

TAPPER: Masih Alinejad, we're so glad you're OK. Thank you so much for coming and taking -- and telling us your story. And thank you for the work you do to bring a face in to the human rights violations going on in Iran.

ALINEJAD: Thank you so much for having me.

TAPPER: Coming up. We're going to get this done, that's President Biden's message to Democrats today on Capitol Hill. Is it realistic? I'm going to talk to a House Democrat, next.

Plus, the former president's offensive remark that stunned even a top aide, the details from a new, quite revealing blockbuster book ahead. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today, it's an all-out push for President Biden who wants a big infrastructure package and bipartisan wants to define his first year in office. Today he met with Senate Democrats on the Hill and later a bipartisan group of governors and mayors. Let's go right to CNNs Manu Raju.

Manu, let's start with the bigger budget proposal reconciliation. Last night, Democrats on the Budget Committee agreed to $3.5 trillion for this budget blueprint. Does it have the support of moderates as well as progressives?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, that remains to be seen Jake. So many the details have yet to be written. We do understand the broad outlines of this massive proposal to expand the social safety net, everything dealing with expanding child care, as well as immigration provisions, including expansion of Medicare, all part of this massive $3.5 trillion plan.

And ultimately, they'll have to get all 50 Senate Democrats in line, liberals as well as moderates like Senator Joe Manchin on board in order to fulfill much of Joe Biden's domestic agenda. In a sign today, Joe Manchin raised concerns about some elements of the plan, but sounded open, at least to the price tag.


RAJU: You said pretty clearly that 2 trillion was probably the max you can go, are you even open to the idea of going to 3.5 trillion?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Well, I'm open to looking at everything they provided. (INAUDIBLE) is a very important part of a person's health. And all I care, all these things are very important. But we have to pay for all this.


RAJU: So in that last part, he sounded open to the idea of expanding Medicare. Democrats are talking about adding dental, vision and health to Medicare as part of this proposal. But Manchin also told me that he's very, very disturbed at the climate provisions that are part of this proposal.

Democrats particularly on the left have pushed hard for this proposal to have a wide range of provisions dealing with climate change. Manchin hales from an energy producing state, a coal producing state, and he wants changes to that proposal. So Jake, just a sign of the challenges ahead for Democrats to get both

factions of their caucus in the House and Senate in line on that proposal, much less that the narrower bipartisan deal that they're trying to get through with 10 Republicans to back all raising questions about whether this eventually can get to Joe Biden's desk.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thanks so much. Let's talk to one of those Democrats on the left, the Chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives, Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal from Washington State. She also serves on the House Budget Committee.

Congresswoman, do you support the $3.5 trillion reconciliation proposal?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, Jake, the first thing is when we looked at this, what we looked at were our five priorities. The Progressive Caucus has priorities in this package. We laid those out almost two and a half months ago. And the really good news is they are all contained within this package.

We don't know the exact details, the levels of funding, we still need to get to that. I think that this is a big down payment. It's big momentum. And we're very proud of having put our priorities forward and fought for them, some of which weren't in the original family's plan proposal, including Medicare expansion.


The second piece is, we're going to continue to fight for everything that we put -- that we laid out. We understand that we're not going to get the level of investment that I had hoped that we were going to get, but it's never been about the top line number. It's always been about what are we going to deliver to people.

Can we say to Americans that we really are going to give them the opportunity to send their kids to a free community college, to get health care, to deal with the planet and, you know, the burning of the -- I'm sitting here in Seattle right now, the burning of the West, that's happening and all of the climate effects of that?

Are we going to be able to say to people, we're going to invest in housing? And are we going to say to those essential immigrant workers that we will take care of you after you took care of us. And the good news is, all of those in some form are in this.


JAYAPAL: As are the tax increases, which are extremely wealthy for tax fairness for our Progressive Caucus members.

TAPPER: Well, you sounded very positive there. But you didn't say you support it. Earlier today, Senator Sanders, the Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, defended the proposal. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: This is the most consequential program in the modern history of this country. Could impact millions of working-class people, very proud of what we've accomplished. Thank you.


TAPPER: So, Sanders is in favor. Are you?

JAYAPAL: Well, we don't know yet. We haven't seen everything that's in there. And until we do, we can't give a definitive answer. We're going to push -- I can tell you from what I've heard, we're going to push for more money for the care economy. We know that there are some climate provisions we care very much about, we want to make sure that they're included.

So, I think we're, you know, we feel very good about this step. But we can't give a firm commitment until we actually see what's in there. And we get to the final piece.

But Jake, I just have to tell you, you know, two and a half months ago, we laid out our priorities. People said you're not going to get all that in there. And today, we see that progressives inside Congress, outside Congress, of course, with Senator Sanders' leadership have really made that happen. And it will change lives for Americans.

People will feel the difference when they wake up in the morning. And they know that they -- that government has their back.

TAPPER: The budget proposal, if it passes, would likely have a lot of the issues that you've been championing. New commitments to Medicaid and Obamacare, paid leave programs, child tax credits, climate change, measures two years free community college, a path to citizenship for some immigrants. I guess the question is, is perfect going to be the enemy of the good for Democrats? This is certainly a lot of Democratic priorities, and it is a lot of money.

JAYAPAL: Yes, absolutely. And let's be clear, we helped make that happen. So no, perfect is not going to be the enemy of the good, because as you know, we thought that the total investment that was needed would be somewhere between six and 10 trillion.

But we've seen this as a massive down payment, we will push to get as much as we can in the House and make sure that these priorities are really, you know, cemented in there. But we're looking forward to seeing the details. And we're going to continue to push hard on the pieces that we think still need to be strengthened. But we feel very optimistic about this big step that the Senate has taken in the fact that our priorities are all contained within the framework.

TAPPER: There's a group of House Democrats and Republicans called the "Problem Solvers" caucus. It's a bipartisan group, they tried to work together, it's a lot of moderates. Two Republican members of the caucus have already said that this budget proposal, $3.5 trillion, impacts their potential willingness to support the smaller bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Are you worried at all about losing the little Republican support that the infrastructure deal already has? I know, in the past you -- I think you've said that you'd rather have a bigger Democratic plan than a smaller bipartisan plan?

JAYAPAL: Well, I've doubted from the very beginning that there are going to be 10 Republicans that are willing to get along -- go along with a bipartisan deal, because Mitch McConnell, two and a half months ago said that 100 percent of his focus is on stopping the Biden agenda. When there was a bipartisan deal that emerge, great. I'm supportive of that, assuming we like what's in it obviously. Seemed like we mostly liked it.

But are there 10 Republicans? I still don't know. I don't -- I haven't seen 10 Republicans come out in support of that. So you know, to me, it has always been that we can do that but we're not going to give up on the vision that we have laid out for Americans to wake up every morning and feel differently about their opportunities and, you know, and their livelihoods. So, that's what this reconciliation packages, that's where my attention has been.


And to me, you can't move one without the reconciliation package. Our members have been very clear about that.

TAPPER: Washington State Congresswoman Jayapal, thank you so much. Good to see you again.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: And one week from today, tune in for a CNN exclusive. President Joe Biden will join CNN's Don Lemon for a CNN Town Hall. That's next Wednesday 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, I'm going to talk to the author of a new book with some stunning accusations about President Trump from inside the White House. The plan Trump floated as he recovered from coronavirus, that's next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, a new and explosive book, giving an inside look at just how chaotic former President Trump's White House was from the very moment he took office, to the day his supporters stormed the Capitol and ultimately how Trump's detachment from reality in a rather disorganized campaign led to his demise.

The author of the new book, "Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost" 2021, Michael Bender of Wall Street Journal joins me now.

Thanks so much for being here. Congrats on the book. MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: It's a great book. It's upsetting at times, based on the facts. Based on your reporting, what do you think ultimately led to Trump not being reelected?

BENDER: Well, that's a good question. I mean, there's a -- and it's a multiprong answer there. COVID, I think is the big one and his response. The -- he's -- excuse me, the --

TAPPER: What about his -- I mean, his campaign was kind of chaotic and his --


TAPPER: -- campaign was not well run, you make the argument very strongly in here that the campaign was kind of a mess.

BENDER: Yes, that's right. There was a -- it's a $2 billion operation, that even at the end of this race, they are scrambling to get -- to chase, Joe Biden, the man who Trump would not take seriously over and over again, just like he didn't take COVID seriously, and it concerned people from the campaign, to the White House, to his friends around him, that he had grown so desperate to hold on to power, that he'd lost perspective and become violent and reckless in his decision making, whether it was COVID, or this response to George Floyd. And his failure to take seriously his job to beat Joe Biden.

TAPPER: You talk a lot about how Trump presented himself to Americans, most importantly, his supporters during the pandemic. You recall a conversation you had with him just minutes before one of his daily COVID briefings where he was boasting about how those briefings were the number one show on television. And Trump told you, "I'm going out there in about 15 minutes. I took all my time to study. If I do a lousy job, it's your fault, because I didn't have time to read anything". That's nuts.

BENDER: Yes, I was stunned to find that out right at the end of our conversation.

TAPPER: He didn't have time to read anything.


TAPPER: I mean, hundreds of thousands of Americans were dying.

BENDER: That's right. And it showed how he was approaching this pandemic, this crisis. People were tuning in to see minute by minute information. They want a minute by minute updates on a wild virus that was -- we were finding out about in real time. And Trump saw this personally. He told me in another interview that he viewed mask wearing as a personal affront, at least partly.

And the idea that these task force meetings, these news conferences were -- he compared them to rallies and what was getting to more people instead of the other way around. How are we getting information to the American people.

TAPPER: Well, when Trump had the coronavirus, which is a scene you couldn't have even -- if you'd written that in a script in a Hollywood movie, people would say that's a little much, it's a little broad, but he had coronavirus. He was medevac out essentially, helicopter to Walter Reed. Then he came back, we could all see that he was still very, very ill although it was actually far worse than we knew.

According to your reporting, "An excited Trump phoned friends and planned a grand entrance at the White House, where he would pretend to have been weakened and then rip off his dress shirt to reveal a Superman t-shirt underneath. Aides hope Trump was joking, but the message was clear, there would be no pivot to empathy".

Was he serious? Was he joking? And, I mean, that's just so shocking. It's so wildly irresponsible. Not every American who was sick was going to be able to get medevac to Walter Reed.

BENDER: Well, these were the questions that his own staff members were asking. Before he got, he -- they were worried he was reckless with the American people's health, the public health, he was reckless with his own health and the people around him.

He -- at the start of this, another similar scene in the book is coronaviruses is breaking out to the first couple months of the pandemic and he's at Mar-a-Lago obsessing over the details of the logo for the Republican National Convention. You know, and there were effects to this, right?

I -- one of the things this book does that I don't think any other Trump books -- we go behind the scenes in the Oval, you brought up a couple scenes in the campaign. And I spent two years with a really hardcore cross section of the Trump base, the folks who go to 10, 20, 30, 50 rallies to try to understand their appeal and really why they still go today.


Well, they are -- these people were misled when it comes to COVID. I talked -- became very close with a man named Randall. Randall is a former marine. He's overweight, he's a smoker. He's in his late 60s. He understands the health risks of COVID. When he got very, very sick, thought he had COVID, he refused to go get tested because he didn't want to add to his president's numbers. That's how he described it to me. He didn't want to come up positive. He also didn't want to come up as even a test akin (ph).

TAPPER: Is he OK now?

BENDER: No, he's not. It's not because of COVID, but I'll --


BENDER: -- leave that to readers of the book.

TAPPER: Based on your reporting, quickly if you can, how likely is it you think Trump will run in 2024?

BENDER: I think it's likely. He's -- he wants to be in the headlines. He wants to be part of the conversation. I do think his age right now, his advisors have had told him and I think probably correctly, that he has to wait at least until 2022 plays out. See what the landscape looks like then. I mean, he's endorsed two dozen candidates for office from Senate to Staten Island Borough President. So some of those have to play out.

But he -- what this book shows is that Republicans are going to have a choice in 2022, the move on from Trump or not. And this book shows that in new ways and new seems that they're heading into that decision with their eyes wide open.

TAPPER: Yes. The book is, "Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost". The author is Michael C. Bender of The Wall Street Journal. It's a great book. It's an upsetting book, and it's a must read.

Thanks so much for being here. Best of luck.

BENDER: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: Britney Spears fighting for her freedom. Next we'll discuss the court hearing happening right now. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have some breaking news, in our pop culture lead today, about the future of Britney Spears conservatorship right back in court right now. This is the first hearing since Spears made a number of stunning claims during a hearing last month.

She said she was forced to take medication against her will. She said she was required to work seven days a week with no time off. And shockingly, she said she had been prevented from getting married and she was forced to use an IUD to prevent her from getting pregnant and having a baby.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is live outside the courtroom in Los Angeles. Stephanie, what's at stake exactly for Britney Spears in court today?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This could be, Jake, the time that we could see Britney starting this march towards her freedom. Now, a lot of people were impacted when they heard Britney Spears speak in court about three weeks ago as you were just speaking about. She called this conservatorship abusive. She said it was embarrassing. She said it was demoralizing having to live under this arrangement.

And so, what we are looking to see today is whether or not some of the chips have started to fall after she spoke last time are granted by the judge today. Mainly, I'm talking about her lawyer, she has been with a court appointed lawyer since 2008, since this conservatorship began. Since she spoke in court, he has now a petition to resign. So Samuel Ingham has petitioned to resign. We'll see if the judge grants that today.

Also Bessemer Trust which is a wealth management firm, they have been the co-conservator since recently of her estimated $60 million estate along with Britney Spears father, Jamie Spears. And at this point, you will see if they are allowed to also lead (ph) this conservatorship. So we're seeing some changes here. And we've also seen that her mother is now supporting her. And as you can see, the crowd here very much, very much looking for any word we can get out of court and see what we get as an update.

TAPPER: All right, Stephanie Elam, thanks so much.

Let's discuss this with CNN's Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter, as well as defense attorney, Joey Jackson. Joey, let me start with you. Is what Britney Spears is asking for here unreasonable? What do you make of her legal claims?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think her legal claims are perfectly appropriate. I think we have to remember what this conservatorship was all about when it started. And it may have started in a very good way.

And what I mean by that in 2008, when there were things that were of concern with respect to her mental status, behavior, and other, you know, usages of substances, then perhaps that was appropriate for her father to step in and temporarily try to get a measure of, you know, control over her and what she was doing in addition to her finances.

But I think over the course of the last 13 years, there have been significant change circumstances, the primary change, Jake, being whether or not she has reached the stage in life, what she's ready to move forward, right? All of us have the right, and ability to control what we control, to do what we do, unfettered by anyone else.

And so last point is that, you know, these conservatorships, really, they're designed to assist not to oppress. And so if there's someone who is older and firm, which generally what therefore, we should keep in mind about 1.5 million people in this country, 50 billion in assets to help them. But at this point, I think our claims are reasonable, appropriate and she certainly can really start to march towards it. Stephanie Elan says her freedom and gaining control of her life.

TAPPER: And Brian, I talked to somebody who is rather skeptical of the Free Britney movement, somebody who has had interactions with her and says that he doesn't understand why so many people in the media seem to be thinking that Britney Spears's father and judge after judge are in on some conspiracy against her as opposed to a number of screaming fans who have never met her. How much is social media driving the story do you think?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, in enormous way. I think it's been two years since that Free Britney protest movement started. And now as we can hear, it is swelling outside the courthouse. And certainly they are the most vocal, they are the loudest. If celebrity media, the tabloids, the Paparazzi played a role in

Britney's downfall, then it is this social media movement that is trying to create a comeback for her and their voices are the loudest because we don't hear from Britney directly except a, you know, a three weeks ago in this hearing. And we don't really hear from the lawyers in the others except in these terse statements.


So it's the fans who are the most vocal. They are helping try to enable her comeback, but I think you're onto something. We're not hearing all the sides of the story. Those two documentaries though earlier this year, including one by the New York Times, did play a key role in bringing this case to national attention.

I think maybe what's most important, all this talk now about disability rights. What starts with Britney Spears and Free Britney turns into something much bigger, there's a snowball effect here right now.

TAPPER: Yes, no, it is an important story beyond Britney Spears. Brian and Joey Jackson, thanks to both you, appreciate it.

In one city, if you call the police for some crimes, they might not respond all because of an exodus of police officers. That's next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We are back with the national lead, an exodus of police officers across the country driven out in the wake of widespread protests calls to defund the police, poor pay. As CNN's Dianne Gallagher reports for us now, this is especially pronounced in one city where the police force has lost more than a third of its staff.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Asheville, North Carolina, calling 911 to report certain types of crimes doesn't guarantee police will come, at least not anymore. Back in early June, in an effort to improve response times, the department announced it would stop responding to 10 types of nonemergency calls.

The reason, APD had lost more than 80 staff members, roughly 40 percent of its 238-member force just since January 2020. And replacements are hard to find.

CHIEF DAVID ZACK, ASHEVILLE POLICE: Back in 2020, we graduated seven candidates. In 2020 of December, six have already quit.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): A recent survey shows police retirement rates up 45 percent for every 100 officers. Resignation rates increased 18 percent between April 2020 and the end of March. Now Asheville police declined multiple requests from CNN to talk about the vacancies, saying, "We are shifting our focus to the future and how we can retain our current officers and recruit high-caliber applicants". But according to public comments from the chief, a lack of support and poor pay are commonly cited in exit interviews.

ZACK: It's tough all over. It's not just here. We've got to address what we can. And we've got to support our police officers. We've got to pay them appropriately.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): One of the most expensive cities in the state to live in was paying most police trainees a starting salary of around $36,000, and officers just over $37,000. The city council just approved raises that went into effect this month for most police positions.

MAYOR ESTHER MANHEIMER, ASHEVILLE: And we hope that helps with our retention and our recruitment of new officers.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): But some complaints are unique to policing in 2021. A blue city in the middle of Ruby Red (ph) Western North Carolina, some officers felt the fierce criticism that erupted after the murder of George Floyd became personal. But for some living in Asheville, there's a historic lack of trust in police that eroded even further during last summer's protests for racial justice.

VICTORIA ESTES, ASHEVILLE RESIDENT: Why are we clinging to a police force that nobody wants and nobody even wants to work for? Defund the police, 50 percent, no more excuses. They already cut down your payroll for you. What stops?

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Not support defunding the police and committed to reimagining public safety.

KEITH YOUNG, FORMER ASHEVILLE CITY COUNCILMAN: I don't look at the situation as the glass half empty. I looked at it as a glass half full.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Keith Young, a former city councilman, actually sees the attrition as opportunity.

YOUNG: I think we have a very good launching pad right now to be able to take those any (ph) open spaces and shape those new incoming officers when they do arise and move them into a different era of policing.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Community activists like Clarissa Harris see it more as a chance for the city to find alternatives to traditional policing.

CLARISSA HARRIS, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: This is really an opportunity for us to be super creative, and the way that we figured out how to keep people safe.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): But not everyone sees opportunity and attrition. The staffing situation has prompted some citizens to speak out.

MICHAEL GREENE, ASHEVILLE RESIDENT: Tell them all, all of our officers, all the time that they're doing a good job.

MANHEIMER: There's kind of this Boomerang of wait, last year you had people showing up at a city council meeting talking about defund the police. This year, we have people saying how can we have police appreciation events.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): The mayor says she hopes the shift is about the city finding balance, not backlash, and they can work together on the road to reimagining and restaffing police.


GALLAGHER: Now the city of Asheville has worked with the county to pilot this community paramedic program that essentially responds to overdoses and substance abuse, crisis issues. It makes it less of a crime and more of a public health issue. And look, the police are all for that, they say.

And there probably going to be other initiatives, Jake, that the city goes forth with that, will take some of the extra duties off of the police officers that they've had to take on over the past couple of years or more. But the thing is, they are going to re staff they said, Jake, though, it may take years for them to make up this deficit, especially if they're trying to do it with new recruits.

TAPPER: All right, Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much, appreciate.

This scathing report just out on how the FBI dragged its feet while gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar kept abusing young girls in the biggest scandal in the history of sports. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our sports lead today, a follow to the biggest scandal in the history of athletics. A harsh rebuke from the Justice Department's inspector general this afternoon acknowledging that FBI officials seriously botched the sexual abuse allegations against USA Gymnastics team Dr. Larry Nassar. The report says that FBI officials violated multiple FBI policies and, quote, failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required, unquote.

Not only that, during the time the FBI failed to take action, Nassar's sexual assaults on young girls continued, the Inspector General says. Nassar is currently serving a 40 to 174-year prison sentence. He was convicted after more than 150 women and girls said he's sexually abused them. The FBI released a statement saying they're taking steps to ensure these failures never happen again.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer next door in THE SITUATION ROOM.