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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Governor Cuomo Resigns Following Damning A.G. Report On Sexual Harassment Allegations; As School Districts Battle GOP Over Masks, Cases Skyrocket & Hospitals Run Out Of Beds; Several Texas Counties Defy Gov. Abbott's Mask Ban, Will Require Masks In Schools; Official Says Taliban Could Cut Off And Take Kabul Within Weeks; Mixed Day On Wall Street As Report Shows Surge In Prices. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 16:00   ET



LAUREN LEADER, CEO, ALL IN TOGETHER: It's an extraordinary full circle to see her sworn in.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: All right. Lauren Leader, thank you so much for your time.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Is there a PowerPoint template for a resignation?

THE LEAD starts right now.

A huge moment in American politics. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is stepping aside, but still defiant in the face of multiple accusations of sexual harassment.

And then, more school re-openings, more kids caught in the middle as battles over mask mandates get heated and hospitals get overwhelmed.

Plus, President Biden moments ago celebrated a monumental step for his agenda, calling it proof that Washington can work, as he promises to bring it across the finish line.


BROWN: I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

And we begin with our politics lead and a truly historic day in American politics. Embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is resigning exactly one week after the New York attorney general's investigation concluded he sexually harassed 11 women. Cuomo maintains his innocence, even as he resigned today. The three-term governor will leave office in two weeks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: My instinct is to fight through this controversy because I truly believe it is politically motivated. I think that given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing. And therefore, that's what I'll do.


BROWN: This can only be described as an abrupt and dramatic fall from grace. A little more than a year ago, Cuomo received high praise for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, holding daily press conferences. You may remember, which turned into must-see TV.

But then the scandal started. A federal investigation into nursing home deaths in his state, a federal investigation into giving COVID testing priority to family and close allies. The numerous sexual harassment allegations. A long list of drama that led to an even longer list of Democrats calling for him to step down including President Biden, who moments ago said he, quote, respects the governor's decision.

And as CNN's M.J. Lee reports, with Cuomo still up against a criminal investigation, his uphill fight to prove his innocence is far from over.


M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An upheaval in American politics, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing his resignation.

CUOMO: The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing. And therefore, that's what I'll do.

LEE: The news marking a dramatic fall from grace for the three-term governor, a fixture in national politics for decades.

The governor coming under siege in recent weeks accused of sexually harassing multiple women, facing an impeachment investigation in Albany and several criminal investigations.

Cuomo remaining defiant about the attorney general's report released last week, detailing the women's allegations.

CUOMO: The report said I sexually harassed 11 women. That was the headline people heard and saw and reacted to.

The reaction was outrage. It should've been. However, it was also false.

This is not to say that there are not 11 women who I truly offended, there are. And for that I deeply, deeply apologize.

LEE: The governor explaining that his instinct was to fight, but he didn't want to become a distraction for the people of New York. CUOMO: It is your best interest that I must serve. This situation by

its current trajectory will generate months of political and legal controversy.

LEE: Cuomo's resignation coming after a lengthy briefing by his lawyer, going on the attack against some of the governor's accusers and saying the A.G. investigation was incomplete.

RITA GLAVIN, GOV. CUOMO'S ATTORNEY: Everybody should have a chance to respond, and everybody should be scrutinized with what they say by facts, context, and evidence. That hasn't happened here.

LEE: An attorney for two of Cuomo's accusers, Alyssa McGrath and Virginia Limmiatis, saying in a statement that the women felt both vindicated and relieved that Cuomo will no longer be in a position of power over anyone.

Cuomo handing over the reigns to Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. Hochul tweeting this afternoon, in part: I am prepared to lead as New York state's 57th governor.



LEE (on camera): Now, there are some things that don't automatically go away just because the governor has resigned. There is the impeachment investigation that is still ongoing, in Albany, there is the DOJ probe.

There is also of course the criminal investigation that is being conducted by the sheriff's office in Albany. That one is significant.

So, we are going to learn, Pam, in the coming days and weeks what happens to all of those different probes even after Governor Cuomo is no longer in office -- Pam.

BROWN: Yeah, this story will continue.

All right, thank you so much, M.J. Lee.

And let's discuss, joining me now, Maggie Haberman of the "New York Times", former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Rebecca Roiphe, former prosecutor with the New York district attorney's office.

Great to see all three of you.

Maggie, I want to start with you. You have covered Andrew Cuomo for many years. You say his decision to step down today is stunning. Why is that?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, it's both unsurprising and surprising, just to be clear. I don't think he had a choice. I think that he assessed the situation, he ran the string as long as he could and realized this was the best option because the other option was going through a pretty painful impeachment hearing. It's clear that the votes were there to remove him and to go through about hearing not just about these allegations but potentially about nursing home deaths or about his book deal, that that would bring in his staff.

But it is surprising if you covered Andrew Cuomo and you know how much he likes to fight and how much he doesn't like giving in and how he generally goes kicking and screaming when he does back down. So the fact that he basically right after that combative statement from his lawyer and himself was, like, and I resign. It is a seismic shift in New York.

BROWN: Right. I agree with you. I think, you know, he clearly wanted to defend himself and also that's what he was doing with his lawyer. And then he said a couple other things, and then he got to the resignation part.

Christine, do you agree with President Biden that Cuomo has done, quote, a hell of a job as governor given his personal conduct?

CHRISTINE QUINN, FORMER NYC CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: You know, I think there are a lot of great things that Governor Cuomo has done like marriage equality, like legislation around rape and sexual assault on college campuses, like legislation around abortion and reproductive rights. But all of that said, his legacy will be what he did to these 11 women, and God knows how many others.

You can't take marriage equality away from him, but it's all tainted now. I'm someone who has worked very closely with the governor on a lot of different issues, but particularly ones for women and girls and the LGBTQ community. And I have to say, I thought he was one of the greatest allies women had in New York. And I really now feel, you know, misled and somewhat manipulated by him.

So his legacy is never going to be the same and is really tainted and almost ruined, basically ruined by what he has done repeatedly.

BROWN: And, Rebecca, there was a clear strategy here today as I was talking about with Maggie. You know, he had his lawyer come out setting up the defense, saying that there were some troubling omissions in the report, that it was a shoddy report.

Then he comes out with part defense, part apologies. Then he resigns. What was the point of having his lawyer go first?

REBECCA ROIPHE, FORMER PROSECUTOR, NY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE: His lawyers, I think, were in a really unenviable position in a certain way because they were facing a political situation, a public situation, a civil legal battle, and a potential criminal legal battle. Each of those arenas has its own rules and provides for certain kind of process for the person who's been accused.

So, the hodgepodge defense was partially caused by the fact that they were trying to address all of these at the same time. So, I think part of what that did was set up future battles in which, you know, even though these allegations were so -- I agree, incredibly strong, incredibly convincing.

And there's still -- you know, people accused of something who stand to lose a lot have certain rights. And so, his lawyers are setting up their ability to defend him in those other arenas now that he's taken impeachment and at least temporarily possibly the political scene off the table.

BROWN: If you would, Maggie, just set the stage for us big picture. How huge of a deal of it is in American politics at large that Andrew Cuomo is stepping down as governor of New York today?

HABERMAN: Look, Andrew Cuomo was a comeback story after pulling out of the election in 2002, the Democratic primary just a few days before it was taking place when it was clear he was going to lose. He's obviously a legacy politician. He is the son of a very famous governor in New York.


Andrew Cuomo's life has been constructed in part at trying to best his father. His father died several years ago but Andrew Cuomo still wanted to get a fourth term, which had eluded his father. Mario Cuomo lost in his effort for a fourth term. Andrew Cuomo's not even getting to that election. And so, it is dramatic just in terms of the stories of its state and politics.

In terms of America, this is somebody who had been described as a possible presidential candidate on a number of occasions. This was somebody who was floated briefly as a possible attorney general for the Biden administration during the transition. So, she was seen as a Democratic star, and certainly last year during COVID and obviously his response has been pretty heavily criticized to the virus in the months since. But, at the time, he was getting a lot of kudos and a lot of plaudits.

And so, I think you are seeing this big shakeup in terms of the world of governors on the Democratic side across the country and potential presidential candidacies. I will say I'm not certain that Andrew Cuomo thinks his political career is done. I think many people in the state think it is. I think it's very hard to see him comeback from him. But I think he clearly thinks he could have a future just based on how he telegraphed that message today.

HABERMAN: And to resign rather than get impeached and be removed from office also might make you think that as well.

I want to ask you, Christine, I think this is important. Because he made clear today he thinks that at least some of these allegations are politically motivated. His lawyer who I interviewed over the weekend said, look, some of these women are being truthful, the governor has said that he has done some of these things. But as you heard him today, he was trying to make the case that some of this is politically motivated.

Is there any evidence of that, Christine? QUINN: There's no evidence of that. One of the women was running for

office. She didn't raise this issue in her campaign at all, and that the governor raised that is still on the defensive, tragically shows he just doesn't get it.

BROWN: Yeah. And, you know, this does raise the question of, Rebecca, about what's going to be his future not only politically as Maggie raised. He might still think he has a future there, but also the legal aspect of this. The Albany County D.A. says the governor's resignation doesn't change the criminal investigation into him. You're a former prosecutor. How concerned should he be about potential criminal charges?

ROIPHE: Well, I think it is a concern, although there are a couple of things to point out about those potential charges.

One, it looks like from all the evidence that we see that this would be a misdemeanor charge. He would be facing up to a year in prison and probably wouldn't serve prison time at all even if he were convicted.

And second of all, the rules of evidence make it such that those charges will be hard to prove. And the D.A.s understand that. They have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

And part of what made that report so convincing is what everybody keeps repeating, which is those 11 women. But in a criminal case, you have rules of evidence that prevent you from usually bringing in evidence of other bad acts, and that will make it much harder if you have isolated one act to defend against.

And so, you know, while I think it's possible, I think that would be an uphill battle for a D.A., and I think they also -- you know, a D.A. really has to consider this is going to be a lot of resources that takes away from other sorts of cases that the D.A. might be working on.

And maybe this is a priority, in which case they should pursue it as long as they have the evidence there. But those are a lot of considerations so we really don't know how that will end up panning out.

BROWN: OK. Rebecca Roiphe, Christine Quinn, Maggie Haberman, thank you all.

Well, an entire state left with just a few empty ICU beds. Up next, a look at the surge of COVID in places where people aren't getting the shot.

Plus, some school officials risking their salaries over a battle involving kids and masks. I'll talk to one of those officials, ahead.



BROWN: In our health lead, nearly one-third of eligible Americans still are not vaccinated, fueling an alarming rise of new COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Now children, many who don't have the option to get vaccinated, are getting infected at unprecedented levels.

And as CNN's Nick Watt reports, some children's hospitals are trying to prepare for the unimaginable when more kids go back to school.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRCTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We are in a major surge now as we're going into the fall into the school season.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So, should districts mandate vaccines for teachers?

FAUCI: I'm going to upset some people on this but I think we should.

WATT: Some places, there are politicians and parents fiercely opposing mask mandates for schools.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Forcing masks is child abuse.

WATT: Among the actual experts, there's a near consensus view.

DR. MARK KLINE, PHYSICIAN-IN-CHIEF, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL NEW ORLEANS: I think bringing together large numbers of children, congregating them in classrooms with masks being optional or, worse yet, even forbidden, is just a formula for disaster.

WATT: Kids can get COVID. In just the past week nearly 94,000 confirmed cases among children nationwide.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY: With the delta wave, we need to do everything possible to protect those that are not vaccinated. And those that are not vaccinated get protected two ways, by those that are eligible for vaccination, getting vaccinated, and by wearing a mask. And I think it's as simple as that.

WATT: Big picture, we're now averaging well over 100,000 new cases a day, up 37 percent in just a week.

Just over half of Americans are fully vaccinated.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R), WEST VIRGINIA: You're taking a hell of a risk if you're not vaccinated. That's all there is to it.

WATT: And you're pretty darn safe if you are. More than 99.99 percent of the vaccinated have not suffered a severe case, according to our analysis of CDC data.


Andres Perekalsk from Texas, young and healthy, did not get vaccinated, nearly died, now regrets it. ANDRES PEREKALSK, COVID-19 PATIENT: Do it for your family, do it for


WATT: Arkansas has just eight ICU beds unfilled.

In Mississippi?

NICHOLE ATHERTON, ICU NURSE, OCEAN SPRINGS HOSPITAL, MISSISSIPPI: There are going to be children in my own community that are orphans, and it could've been prevented.

WATT: Many hospitals now feeling the strain particularly in states with low vaccination rates.

ARTHUR CAPLAN, DIRECTOR, MEDICAL ETHICS AT NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: There's outbreaks following the unvaccinated strategy all over the place with hospitals just about to tip over. The moral equation has to shift. Stop protecting the unvaccinated. They're selfish, they're greedy, they're not doing the right thing by their neighbors.


WATT (on camera): Now, Pamela, today, the Baltimore mayor was talking about re-enacting an indoor mask mandate, and he said anyone who's frustrated about wearing a mask and is not vaccinated, look in the mirror, it's your fault. He says if you're unvaccinated and complaining, just shut up -- Pamela.

BROWN: Did not mince words about that. Nick Watt, thanks so much.

Joining me now to discuss is Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Nice to see you, Michael.

Bottom line here, why is it taking so long for the vaccine to get at least emergency authorization for kids younger than 12?

MICHAEL OSTERLHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE REASERCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Well, particularly for the group under 12 we're still collecting data. And one of the things that we all want are these vaccines right away. But at the same time, we want to make sure that they're safe and they're effective. For younger kids under age 12, what's the right dose? We surely may not be wanting to use the same dose we're using in adults.

So those studies, which are ongoing, will hopefully provide us with licensed products some time yet even this year. But, as you and I both know, they can't come soon enough.

BROWN: So what is the difference, though, between a 12-year-old who is authorized to get the vaccine right now based on the data and, say, a 10 or 11-year-old? What are they really looking at?

OSTERHOLM: Well, you're absolutely right. It seems like there might be a bright line. If you're just one day old or one day younger, you're eligible or you're not eligible. But the challenges we have in doing these studies is you do them incrementally. First, we did them in adults. And that's a place where from a standpoint of consent and willingness to participate in these studies, you can make that choice.

Once you become involved with adolescents, for example, particularly the older ones, they still can have a voice. But it's parents that often decide.

Well, when you're in the younger age group, they don't really have a choice. It's the parents who decide if they're going to be involved or not in these studies. And from that perspective, we believe that safety has to be of the highest order.

So, you're right, it seems artificial, but they had to put a cut-off somewhere to do an incremental group to say we're going to look, for example, at 12 to 18-year-olds and now 11 to three-year-olds and now under 3. So, this is unfortunately one of the challenges of trying to do these studies. And normally for a vaccine like this, if it were not COVID, we would be taking years to do this kind of work.

I don't want anybody to misinterpret that as meaning there are being shortcuts taken. But it is going to take us until this fall or early winter before we have these vaccines for these kids.

BROWN: And the big reason is because you have the entire world medical apparatus trying to -- you know, working on this to get these vaccines out, to get vaccines to kids. That is in process.

We just heard Dr. Anthony Fauci say that teachers should be required to get the vaccine. Do you think that is enough to keep kids safe in school?

OSTERHOLM: Well, it's a critical step but it's not enough. I worry very much about what's going to happen this fall. As you're seeing right now, we're seeing the most number of kids hospitalized with COVID since the very beginning of the pandemic, and those numbers are continuing to increase.

Delta basically is a somewhat different virus in kids than it was these strains of virus that we had a year ago. When we first generated data showing that kids didn't transmit nearly as frequently, they didn't get infected often themselves, and they surely didn't get in serious disease that often. This is a different virus. This is not your strain of a year ago.

And what we're seeing now are kids frequently are transmitters, they're easily to get infected, they can get very sick. And I think that the school opening that we're seeing happen right now is a collision course with destiny.

I think clearly, we are going to see major outbreaks, and that's why the most we can do is bubble the kids as much as possible. Teachers, any adult in a school setting should be vaccinated. I strongly support Dr. Fauci's point about mandates. I think at the same time at home we have to do that. [16:25:00]

And, you know, one of the things, Pamela, it is just so concerning to me is kids 12 years of age and older are eligible for this vaccine. Junior high and high school, and yet we're seeing horrible, horrible rates in many communities of these kids getting vaccinated. And if you want to protect them, vaccine's it. If you want to protect their younger brothers and sisters, vaccine's it.

And so, I think we have to really put a full-court press on getting 12-year-olds and older vaccinated and then protecting the younger kids as best we can with vaccinating all those around them and what we can do in schools to provide them safer air.

BROWN: Very quickly if you can, just want to drill down on what you said about this strain being more dangerous for kids versus a year ago. How so?

OSTERHOLM: Well, clearly, it's much more transmissible. In that sense we're seeing that all over.

I mean, let me give you an example right here in Minnesota. A state that has an incredibly capable and competent health department, and they have been following it very closely and carefully cases throughout our community and trying to understand where they were exposed to the virus.

From the beginning of the pandemic through this past July 1, we had four examples of outdoor festivals or fairs where transmission occurred. We've all talked about the safer outdoor air. Since July 1, there have been nine in Minnesota. And that really gives you an indication just how much more infectious this virus is.

BROWN: OK. Michael Osterholm, thank you so much.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

BROWN: Well, proof that bipartisanship can work. That's what President Biden is touting today with a big step forward for his agenda, up next.



BROWN: Ed, has Governor Abbott responded to these counties defying him?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he hasn't responded directly yet, and this has been going on for several days now, but his Press Secretary did put out a statement yesterday saying that the Governor still believes that the time for mask mandates is over, that it is up to the, quote, "personal responsibility of Texans to get the virus under control and do what they need to do."

The Governor went on to say that he is urging all Texans to get vaccinated, and he is also working with the Attorney General here in this state. So, clearly, perhaps trying to work up some sort of legal response. But what we've seen here in the last couple of days is essentially an open revolt in the largest cities across the state -- Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, county and school board officials there in all those major cities, bucking the order that was issued by the governor just a few weeks ago saying that mask mandates would not be allowed.

We've had a couple of legal victories in the last 24 hours, where Dallas and San Antonio have requested a temporary restraining order against the Governor's order so that they could implement mask mandates. But a hospital officials say the time for action is an urgent situation right now, as hospitalizations are increasing and the number of ICU beds are dwindling.


DR. DAVID CALLENDER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, MEMORIAL HERMANN HEALTH SYSTEMS: The acceleration of new cases and the rate of acceleration and the numbers of hospitalizations is as steep as we've ever seen it, and we are worried about what that means. Does that mean that this particular surge is going to go a whole lot higher? Does it mean that it's going to be of longer duration than previous surges? It's just -- we know it's problematic. We're not yet sure how to interpret that.


LAVANDERA: And so that's the situation right now in Texas, Pamela. You have legal and political infighting going on at the state level and local officials, as hospitals are scrambling to deal with the high number of hospitalized patients facing COVID. And across the state, if you take a closer look at the numbers, there are some parts of the state that are down to -- in hospital region areas where they have single digit number of ICU beds available.

And every hospital official we've spoken to over the last several days, Pamela, is telling us that all of the patients coming in are unvaccinated and much younger than what we've seen throughout most of this pandemic -- Pamela.

BROWN: we keep hearing that over and over and over again from hospitals all over the country. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much.

And joining me now is Christina Martinez, Board President of San Antonio's Independent School District. Hi, nice to see you, Christina.

So, classes just started in the San Antonio Independent School District. Have you had any issues with children showing up maskless?

CHRISTINA MARTINEZ, BOARD PRESIDENT, SAN ANTONIO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: No, in fact, we've had the opposite. We've had families and educators who are showing up compelled to do the right thing. We had our first day of school on Monday, and 99 percent of our educators and students showed up wearing masks.

And so we've been working really hard to have strong compelling messages. You know, really knowing what we did last year, you know, our students have been in school since September of last year, not at a hundred percent, but we know that there are very effective strategies and keeping our students safe. And masking is definitely one of those.

BROWN: So, what will you do if a student refuses to wear masks?

MARTINEZ: I mean, we are not a punitive district, right? We want to work in partnership and in relationship with those families to really help them understand why making the choice to wear the mask is important. We are working every single day with those families, and if a family has a concern or a health issue, we're going to work with them, one on one for sure.

But today is the first day that the mandate, the city and the county mandate actually went into effect. And so we will start to see what happens. But at this point, we don't have any plans to punish anybody.

BROWN: So, it sounds like you will still allow some students to opt out under certain circumstances, right?

MARTINEZ: Absolutely. I mean, we are -- you know, we believe that, you know, every single person is going to make the right decision regarding their health and if they have some concerns, but we're going to meet people where they are and again, we're going to work to really compel them to do the right thing.

You know, a lot of times, I'll tell you that the students want to do the right thing. They want to show up, they want to keep their teachers safe, they want to keep their friends safe, and so a lot of times, we're dealing with adults making decisions for children, and that's a complicated situation to be in.

But again, we're going to work one on one with those families to make sure that we get to a place where everybody feels comfortable.

BROWN: California just announced that all school employees must be vaccinated. Is that something your school district will consider?

MARTINEZ: We haven't talked about what that is just yet or what the legal ramifications of those are, but we are encouraging as many staff members as possible. Last year we even took a whole day off of school. We canceled school for one day so that we could put staff on school buses and we bussed them to the vaccination sites.

So, we are very serious about making sure our staff have access to vaccines and the majority of them are vaccinated. But no, we have not talked about mandating vaccines just yet.

BROWN: So this mask mandate in San Antonio, only last one week, do you plan to extend it?

MARTINEZ: So on Monday, our Bear County officials, our city officials, they will be going back into the court and asking for the mandate, the temporary restraining order that we have right now, they'll be asking to make that a permanent restraining order until we can have a hearing.

Who knows when that hearing will happen? But on Monday, that is what will happen. They will go back into the court and asked to extend that restraining order permanently.

BROWN: How long do you think it should last?

MARTINEZ: I think it should last until we have our positive -- our positivity rate locally below five percent, which is what it was back in July. Our positivity rate is about 21 percent starting off the week. And so back in July, everything was -- people were feeling comfortable. People were hopeful that the numbers were going down, and so, I think that that mandate should be in place until our local positivity rate goes down.

BROWN: And do you think that President Biden should step in to prevent Governor Abbott from banning masks and schools?

MARTINEZ: I think that our local government is doing everything that they can right now. You know, that's a complicated situation when you start to talk about the Federal and the State level.

I think, again, the most compelling thing for me is that our families and our kids know what to do to stay safe and they will continue to do that, regardless of a mandate or not. Our families know how to stay safe and our educators know how to keep our kids safe.

BROWN: All right, Christina Martinez, thank you for joining the show.

MARTINEZ: Thank you.

BROWN: The Taliban is rapidly gaining, raising fears Afghanistan's capital could collapse soon. We are live in Kabul, up next.



BROWN: Breaking news in our World Lead. Afghanistan's capital could be completely cut off and under Taliban control in a matter of weeks, according to a senior official. A stunning defeat after America's longest war that cost more than a trillion dollars and thousands of American lives.

The latest assessment has the Taliban controlling most of the country seen here in red.

The capital, Kabul is the gray island right there in the middle. The Taliban claimed nine provincial capitals since Friday and the U.S. military's withdrawal is now 95 percent complete.

Let's go straight to CNN's chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward. She is on the ground in Kabul. So Clarissa, are officials there nervous that the Taliban are knocking on their doors.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And there's a very real fear here on the ground, especially in Kabul that nothing can be done to sort of turn the tide of this rapidly expanding offensive.

We did hear from President Ghani. Earlier today. He was trying to rally the troops in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif which has been coming under attack from the Taliban yesterday. He also took to Twitter and basically urged ordinary citizens to pick up a gun and enlist with their local warlord and take part in sort of popular uprisings, if you will.

But clearly, that is not going to be enough to turn the tide here. We see the Taliban have spread across provincial capitals. You mentioned nine. We also visited other cities, Kandahar, which is the second largest city in the country, the frontline position that we visited in a wedding hall, that is now completely under the control of the Taliban, the entire city is surrounded.

We saw similar thing in Ghazni City, again major provincial capital, entirely surrounded by the Taliban and Afghan Forces more and more are simply deserting or surrendering when they find themselves coming under Taliban attack because, Pamela, morale here is very low.

BROWN: And President Biden has talked about this in the wake of the Taliban rapidly gaining control. He said the U.S. has poured over a trillion dollars into Afghanistan over two decades, and that the U.S. is still supporting them with money and airstrikes. So, why isn't this enough for Afghan Forces?

WARD: Listen, when you talk to Afghans and even Afghan soldiers, they will say, this is our responsibility. This is our country, we have to defend it. But at the same time, the reality is the Afghan Forces simply are not able to do so.

There is a number of reasons for that. There's problems with you know, morale on the ground, a lot of people feel that they're not getting enough resupplies because there's so many different bases spread out all over the country, there aren't effective means of getting them the food, the weapons, the ammunition that they need all the time.

And also, they feel that the Taliban in some ways, is just a really unusual and difficult enemy to defeat because Taliban fighters are not only willing to die, Pamela, they often actually actively want to die because they see martyrdom as being the ultimate achievement, a guarantee of their place in Paradise, whereas most Afghan soldiers are afraid, they don't want to die. They don't see any glory in dying for their country at this stage, and that makes it a very difficult fight for them to win.

BROWN: That really puts it into perspective, Clarissa.

Senator Bob Menendez, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman told AXIOS quote, "I always thought that a contingency would have stemmed the tide. The President has to consider whether what's happening is what he envisioned." Is that sentiment felt by Afghans, too? Do they feel frankly left behind and without a backup plan?


WARD: I think there are a lot of people here who feel that this could have been handled differently. They understand that the U.S. had to leave, that this couldn't be a forever war, that there was a sort of plateau in terms of what the U.S. was able to achieve. But they feel that the withdrawal has been chaotic, that it's been hasty.

And most crucially, they feel that essentially the U.S. was beguiled by the Taliban, that they didn't understand when they were negotiating with the Taliban, that ultimately the Taliban was going to do whatever it wanted to. And now, U.S. Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, as he sits down in Doha and tries to get the two sides at the negotiating table is almost certainly finding that the U.S. doesn't have a huge amount of leverage with the Taliban any longer beyond airstrikes, beyond the promise of some kind of recognition from the international community if they participate in these peace talks. They don't have that crucial thing that allows them to say, you must stop doing this or else.

Right now, Pamela, the Taliban believes that they can win this, and they can win this on their own. And so they're not much in the mood for making concessions in order to talk about power-sharing.

BROWN: All right. Clarissa Ward in Kabul, thank you for your excellent reporting.

Food, clothes, gas all getting more pricey. Will it get better soon? That's next.



BROWN: In the money lead, a mixed day of gains and losses on Wall Street after a new report showing consumer prices for just about everything are up 5.4 percent compared to last year. Biden and his team insists the situation is temporary. But how long is this short- term surge?

CNN lead business writer Matt Egan is in Manhattan.

So, Matt, there are some signs that this price surge may be easing, right?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Well, that's right. But, Pamela, for now Americans are still definitely experiencing sticker shock. Just look at some of these price gains. Prices for car rentals are up 74 percent, hotels 24 percent. Fresh fruit, milk, and other items also more expensive.

One grocery store executive told me that in his 38 years in the industry, he's never seen price hikes like this. But the good news is that some items have actually gotten less expensive when you look very recently. Look at how prices went down between June and July for car rentals, fruit, and laundry machines. That's why some economists are hopeful that perhaps inflation is

peaking here. That would be welcomed news. Of course, the millions of Americans as well as to the White House and the Federal Reserve, which have been insisting that inflation is temporary.

But, Pamela, make no mistake. Inflation might've cooled off a bit in July, but it remains pretty high.

BROWN: Man, looking at how much car rentals have jumped up from a year ago. I'd like to see it going down a little bit. But it's still over 70 percent.

So what about companies offering bigger paychecks? Is that helping offset the price surge at all?

EGAN: Well, it's great news. We are seeing some companies pay workers more. McDonald's, CVS, Chipotle, Bank of America, they've all announced pay hikes recently. The problem is that those fatter paychecks are not going as far because of rising prices. In fact, a Harvard analysis found that compensation when you adjust for inflation is actually lower today than it was at the end of 2019. So, Pamela, that means that workers need those pay hikes just to keep up with inflation.

BROWN: And you also looked into where people are spending money and found a noticeable change in the restaurant industry. What happened?

EGAN: Well, that's right. We've seen restaurant reservations on open table. They fell last week in high COVID states to about 20 percent below 2019 levels. That's a big shift because just in early July, those numbers were trending higher in those high-risk states, which include Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Now, economists are telling me that is a yellow flag for the recovery because it shows that some consumers are understandably shying away from going out to eat because of COVID. I think, Pamela, at the end of the day this is nor evidence that 18 months that after the pandemic, COVID is still in charge of this economy, especially in states with low vaccination rates.

BROWN: All right. That is the bottom line.

Matt Egan, thank you very much.

And up next, double jeopardy. The game show finally has a new host or two. That's next.



BROWN: In our pop lead, this game show has not one but two new hosts. What is "Jeopardy!" I would not be a very good "Jeopardy!" host, apparently.

After a long audition process, "Jeopardy!" is finally announcing who will take the reigns of the popular syndicated game show. And in a surprising move, two hosts are being named to fill the shoes of beloved longtime host Alex Trebek.

Mike Richards who also serves as the show's executive producer will host the daily version, while actress Mayim Bialik, known for roles on "Blossom" and "The Big Bang Theory" will hold primetime specials as well as a spin-off series. Both Richards and Bialik were among the 16 people who took turns as guest hosts including our very own Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper, as "Jeopardy!" searched for a permanent replacement for Alex Trebek, who died in November of last year after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Well, I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper. You can follow me on Twitter @PamelaBrownCNN, or tweet the show @TheLeadCNN.

And our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Have a great day.