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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Pentagon Press Secretary Says It's Up To President Biden Whether To Extend U.S. Withdrawal Plan Past August 31; Former Afghan Interpreter Fears The Taliban Will Target His Family; TSA To Extend Masking On Planes, Trains Into 2022; Texas GOP Gov. Abbott Tests Positive For COVID; Sources: Biden Admin To Advise Booster Shots For Most U.S. Adults; Trump's Niece Describes Him As "An Instinctive Fascist" In New Book; Shrinking Of Lake Mead Forcing Cuts To Water Supplies. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 17, 2021 - 17:00   ET



JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): -- decades that war. Sources told CNN it's a question Biden put to his team during briefings. Answers have been harder to come by amid internal finger pointing.

Sullivan said the Taliban have promised safe passage for civilians to the airport. But he refused to commit to evacuating every American in Kabul after the plan August 31 withdrawal.

JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: So I'm not going to comment on hypothetical. So, what I'm going to do is stay focused on the task at hand which is getting as many people out as rapidly as possible and we will take that day by day.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Behind the scenes, a senior White House official acknowledging "our competence is being questioned." Telling CNN, "The only way to fix that is to stabilize the airport and safely withdraw Americans and our partners to the best of our ability."

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I stand squarely behind my decision.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Biden hasn't shown any sign he believes his decision to pull most U.S. troops from Afghanistan triggered the current crisis. Instead, shifting blame to Afghans --

BIDEN: Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed sometime without trying to fight.

DIAMOND (voice-over): -- into his predecessor.

BIDEN: I inherited a deal the President Trump negotiated with the Taliban.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Sullivan insisting Biden isn't trying to pass the buck. SULLIVAN: As he said the buck stops with him. That doesn't change the fact that there are other parties here responsible as well, who have taken actions and decisions that help lead us to where we are.


DIAMOND: And at this hour, President Biden remains at Camp David where officials insists he is following the situation in Afghanistan by the hour. But one thing that President Biden is not doing is speaking with any foreign leaders. As -- since the fall of Kabul, he has not spoken with any foreign leaders according to the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Those conversations have been happening at Sullivan's level as well as the level of the secretary of state.

That's different from what's happening with his foreign counterparts in Germany, France and England. All of those heads of state have been in touch with each other, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Very unusual. Jeremy diamond, thanks so much.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins us now live on the phone from Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.

And Nick, the Biden administration says that their priority is making sure that the Kabul airport is safe and secure in order to get people out to evacuate. What's the reality on the ground at the airport?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (through telephone): Yes, I mean, I got into the airport from this afternoon and exceptionally difficult task even for clearly foreign Western reporter like myself caught in a crowd up against crushed, frankly.

We would try and speak to the U.S. Marine to let me and the people with me in. One of them said to me very clearly, look, I can't let you over simply because I think they feared that would trigger a rush of people trying to push each other over the enormous gate in front of us.

Shots were fired in the air to try and control the crowd. Listen to the instructions, loudspeakers we use. And I was told by one of the Marines that possibly somebody's been injured earlier on the side -- of the side of the Afghans.

It's extraordinary, because at each possible hole in the fence around this enormous airport compound, Afghans gather, trying to see if they can get in. And then once they're in, they're often vetted by U.S. personnel here as well.

But what's extraordinary, Jake, is as I stand here now, and instead of night, it's not that busy. And you would expect if you're talking about an evacuation and not be able to move for people simply trying to get on the plane. And it's fair to say that it seems you've seen early on in the week of people on the other civilian side of the airport rushing onto the tarmac is not replicated here.

It is more organized, there's more people turning up when the flights actually available, certainly, but the priority seems to be foreign citizens first. I've seen a number of Afghans here, obviously bewildered frankly, sitting there in a room waiting for a flight to take them to a completely new life, leaving everything behind, but only taking with them what they can actually physically carry. It's an extraordinary emotional things to see.

But also to take what really struck me during today was standing in one of these buildings, looking at the wall and looking up at the Taliban on television giving their first press conference in Kabul. And I'm sure, you know, as you've been through this sort of part of military infrastructure before, those T.V. screens normally play cable news, they normally play U.S. president talking sometimes about Afghanistan. I've watched speeches by last four presidents who've been fighting this war on those screens. And now it's the Taliban giving their message, now they're the power here.

But all that aside, there is an extraordinary disconnect you feel from what people on this airport think is happening and what is actually really happening around it. And there's a definite obviously valley of great benefits (ph) because all the soldiers we met (ph) it gets to 10s of 1000s of Afghans they want on to the base and then on to these planes that seem to arrive sometime in vast numbers.

But what's happening in the streets outside involve Taliban blocking the very main roads and often seem to chaos there. We saw their presence on some of the other roads around the airport too. And it's utterly imperative that they find some way, if they want to get the 1000s of people.


Through the Taliban, it's considered most likely the most treacherous Afghans they've had, because they help the U.S. military presence here. So they find a way to peacefully get them on to the airport.

And I have to say, seeing the chaos swirl around here, and frankly, is a mess. I mean, I'm standing next to an extraordinary pile of trash. This is a very much a spontaneous effort here with very little infrastructure or kind of follow through to it. It's very troubling that they may not find a way to actually get everybody on safely, and then begin this extraordinary evacuation, which is essentially the final effort, final moments of the U.S. presence here after 20 years, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Paton Walsh in Kabul, Afghanistan. Stay safe, my friend. Thank you for that report.

Let's bring in Ambassador Peter Galbraith. He's a former deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan for the United Nations.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us today. I want to play a moment at the Pentagon briefing today. The press secretary there was asked about this effort to get Americans out of Afghanistan in the next few weeks. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: Mission that we've been given, Tom, is to conduct this drawdown by the 31st of August.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- airports or cure, you could continue into September, couldn't you?

KIRBY: That is -- that's a decision that the President, Commander in Chief, would have to make. Our mission right now that we have to talk about what we're doing now, Tom, and what our focus is. And that's on getting this completed by the 31st of August.


TAPPER: Beyond the issue of this -- of a continued us presence in Afghanistan, I'm sure you see a way that this exit could have been conducted better. I don't understand this arbitrary August 31 deadline, do you?

PETER GALBRAITH, FMR. U.N. DEPUTY SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR AFGHANISTAN: No. And I have to say, first to thank you and your reporters in Kabul for giving us a picture of what's actually going on. And for me, it's personally very moving. I've also been speaking to Afghan colleagues, who are terrified at the moment.

So, there's nothing magical about the 31st of August or even the 11th of September in terms of a deadline that the U.S. is there. Our goal should be to get obviously all the Americans out, the other foreign nationals, but also the Afghans who have worked not just with the U.S. military and the embassy, not just with our coalition partners, but also the United Nation staff, because after all, they were there pursuant to a Security Council mandate that the U.S. sponsor where people who work for humanitarian organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and Afghan journalists.

We trained a generation of Afghan journalists through Western style reporting. A lot of them are going to be in danger right now. And we can stay, we control the airport, the Taliban is not going to force us out.

TAPPER: You've been talking about the problems with the effort in Afghanistan, the western effort in Afghanistan for a long time. And you've noted that long before the Taliban takeover, decades of corruption and fraud at the top levels of Afghan government have been a real problem.

President Biden said the U.S. mission was never about nation building. Although, I mean, maybe he thinks it shouldn't have been but it ultimately was.

Do you think that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was going to be this messy no matter when the U.S. left? Was this a foregone conclusion in your view?

GALBRAITH: No, I anticipated that Afghanistan would descend in a prolonged period of civil war, not the, you know, incredibly rapid collapse of the Taliban. But the causes are very clear. You had a corruption that started at the top and went all the way down. And the corruption I think, began with a succession of fraudulent elections, Karzai, second term, Ashraf Ghani's two terms.

You know, when you have corrupt power brokers stealing elections, it's awfully hard for you as the top man to do anything about corruption. And that went through entire system. And then the United States, I put a lot of fault, frankly, on the military -- U.S. military commanders. They said they were fighting a counter insurgency. And that in order for a counterinsurgency to be successful, they said, you have to have a local partner. And I think that's basically true.

But then they pretended they knew that didn't have a local partner in the Afghan government or military. They pretended they did because it fit their strategy. And that was the ultimate formula for disaster.

TAPPER: A new report out today from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan, reviewed 20 years of attempts to build in Afghanistan. The top line conclusion, the U.S. spent hundreds of billions of dollars in this effort in nation building and Afghanistan. But in the view of the Special Inspector General, never had a coherent strategy, had an unrealistic timeline.


You wrote a book on what you call an American and competence in Iraq. Did we make the same mistakes in Afghanistan that were made in Iraq?

GALBRAITH: Yes. And the core mistake in Iraq, which is also the core mistake in Afghanistan, was to have a strategy and then try to fit the facts so the strategy would work. In the case of Iraq, the idea was that there were people called Iraqis rather than Kurds, Sunni, Shia, who had their own agendas.

In Afghanistan, the core mistake was to think that there was a partner in the Afghan government and military both in Kabul and at the local level that was capable of working with us, that was capable of providing security, capable of providing honest administration, capable of improving the lives of Afghans.

And the evidence that it wasn't working was every place. You know, we built roads, billions on roads to help subsistence farmers raise their incomes to get their product to market. What happened? Corrupt police set up checkpoints, rob the farmers. The net result was that the farmers were alienated, they became recruits for the Taliban. And those roads were primarily used by the Taliban to reach areas of Afghanistan that otherwise might have been defensible.

TAPPER: Yes, when I was in Afghanistan a decade ago, there were U.S. soldiers with a 227 Wolfhounds who had literally sacrificed their lives in an attempt to build a road in Kunar.

Listen, I got one more question for you and we're going to run out of time, but we're hearing a lot of propaganda from the Taliban in their press conferences and statements. What do you think, factually, rule will look like under the Taliban, especially for women and girls and for Afghans who do not share their strict fundamentalist Islamist religion?

GALBRAITH: I think we can hope that the Taliban will be not quite as bad as it was in the 1990s when they ruled. But it's going to be very grim for women for girls. I want to say a word about the Hazara ethnic minority, these are about 15 percent of the population are Shiite. The Taliban view Shiites as apostates, there were even beginnings of genocide in the 1990s.

And then there are hundreds of 1000s of Afghans who participated in the westernization of the country and the globalization of the country. And it even for the men they're going to find it very, very difficult time. I mean, literally my heartbreaks for the people of Afghanistan, and for my friends there.

TAPPER: Yes, me too.

Ambassador Peter Galbraith, thank you so much for your time today, sir, we appreciate it.

Coming up next, we're going to talk to a former interpreter, an Afghan, who worked with U.S. service members in Afghanistan. His family is left behind and afraid to leave their house.

Plus, a lake that's responsible for providing water for more than the population of Florida now is at a record low. Why that matters ahead? Stay with us.



TAPPER: Breaking in our world lead, CNN has just learned that President Biden spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson according to a source, it is the first known call that Biden has had with a world leader since the complete fall of Afghanistan. It comes as the U.S. military is hoping to speed up the pace of evacuation flights out of Kabul within the next 24 hours.

The Pentagon confirming today that earlier today, the U.S. military flew between 700 and 800 people out of the country, including 165 American citizens. The rest of those onboard were special immigrant visa applicants in third country nationals.

And joining me now from a location in the United States is a former interpreter for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, whose face we are blurring and whose name we are not sharing in order to protect his identity and more importantly to protect his family.

Thanks so much for joining us. What's it been like for you to watch the Taliban take over Afghanistan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for having me, Jake. It's heartbreaking because we were not expecting this to happen like this. It is a total chaos. It's a heartbreaking and it's a dismay. So, we are so disappointed at what's been going on, what's been happening in Afghanistan in these days. TAPPER: Have you been able to reach family and friends in Afghanistan? What are they doing? Are they OK? Are they trying to evacuate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, I mean, I talked -- I didn't talk to my family for the first two days. We actually, some things are happening like -- but I talked to my brother this morning and yesterday for a few minutes. And he was telling me that they're still at home. They're not going outside because everybody is scared. And they're scared that they might get targeted because I was working as an interpreter with the U.S. troop before.

So, it's a heartbreaking thing for them as well because they're shocked (ph). Leaving the country is becoming more difficult (ph) because there is not a system for them to get out. So, we don't know how to get them out of the country because there's not -- there's a lot of things happening, you know. It's not like a physical way or way that you can get them off from the country.


TAPPER: They are -- the Taliban, who to be clear, are the bad guys here and also who cannot be trusted. But they're out there saying that they forgive everybody, nobody is in danger. Presumably, you don't believe that at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is actually their propaganda stuff that they're doing. Actually, they will do this for a few days or 14 months. But after that, we're going to go back to what it was before.

We have to -- I'm actually seeing videos from across the country. There are some videos -- they're disturbing videos that they're actually going through people houses and searching for people already. They are showing this to the western media and to the other medias to show that they are good people, but I will not trust them because they are not people that need to be -- that should be trusted at all.

TAPPER: Beyond the Taliban, which again, they are the bad guys in this story. Beyond that and them, who do you blame for the collapse of the Afghan government and military?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So to be honest with you, you know, all the outcomes, including me and everybody else, we are feeling that we were actually betrayed by the West, you know. Working with the U.S. in the West, you know, like the natural or whatever, we work with them. We were betrayed by them.

We are invaded by Pakistan, and we are ignored by the United Nations. So we are blaming, you know, everybody. I too blame the Afghan government as well for not talking to the people, for not telling what was going on. But we are blaming, you know, the most illogical what's been going on in Afghanistan. That's the honest (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: Including the United States, I assume, since so many promises were made to the Afghan people by the United States. And we know 10s of 1000s of Afghans who helped to U.S. service members in Afghanistan are still in Afghanistan waiting to be evacuated, what happens if they don't get out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's true. Even the U.S., you know, they made so many promises. You know, we are actually really sad because, you know, what was the reason of the United States, you know, to use that much money, you know, their own soldiers died for our country or against them? And what was the need for that?

You know why -- if you were thinking that we're going to come back, why not leaving that like it was like the chosen one? Coming to the questions about the interpreters and the people who work with the U.S. military like in Afghanistan, if these guys are going to be left in Afghanistan or they will be left behind, trust me, they're going to be hunt on one by one and they will get killed. And their family will be, you know, they will be beaten and they get scared in front of their families. And of course, their family is going to be killed as well.

So it's not safe for them. It's not safe for those interpreters that they are already in the U.S. and their family in Afghanistan will be targeted as well. That's the reality.

TAPPER: Yesterday, President Biden said one of the reasons that Afghan civilians were not evacuated sooner was because, quote, "they did not want to leave earlier still hopeful for their country," unquote. Is that true?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't think so. Because I think a lot of people -- you saw the videos and stuff that people are trying to, you know, even climb or (INAUDIBLE) to the airplanes, you know. They'll trying to get out on abuse (ph) situations, you know. So, it's kind of like difficult for them because they want to get out of the situation. So, they were even trying to, you know, like just looking for some other way to get out of the country.

TAPPER: It's just heartbreaking. Sir, thank you so much for your service and your help to our service members. We'll stay in touch. We'll continue to bring our viewers your story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much for having me.

TAPPER: This just in, a governor who has been fighting mask mandates just tested positive for coronavirus. That breaking news right after this.



TAPPER: Breaking news in our national lead, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott has tested positive for coronavirus. Abbott is fully vaccinated and experiencing no COVID symptoms according to his office, which added in a statement that Abbott will isolate and undergo daily testing while receiving the Regeneron antibody treatment.

Video shared by Abbott's campaign on Twitter shows the governor in a packed room during an event last night. Abbott's office says, everyone who has been in close contact with Governor Abbott has been notified. More breaking COVID news, this time in Florida where the State Board of Education is holding an emergency meeting right now to consider what to do about school districts that have enacted mask mandates in open defiance of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis has even threatened to withhold pay from school officials who allow mask mandates.

Let's go to CNN's Leyla Santiago in Miami.

And Leyla, the meetings ongoing, but we're told by school board officials that the issue isn't whether mandatory masks are good or bad. It's only about following the rules?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Correct. And the education commissioner here in Florida is actually recommending that the board enact or enforces, uses their enforcement powers and says that two schools districts, in particular Broward and Alachua, are not in compliance with the governor's executive order.

The superintendent from Alachua just testified. We also heard public comments just a minute ago, but I got to tell you, this is something that became very political, very quickly, the commissioner starting off this meeting, attacking President Biden as far as how he is handling the COVID-19 pandemic. We also heard some of the public comments go down that same route.


And I can tell you from the school board districts that I checked in with, a lot of them are watching, have their eyes and ears on this meeting right now to see how they will proceed with mask mandates in the future. And this is in a state where we just got this reporting 4,500 COVID cases and 11,000 students in quarantine among the largest districts in the state. School hasn't even begun in some of the largest districts Broward County starting tomorrow, in Miami Dade a few days away as well, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Leyla Santiago in Miami, Florida, thank you so much.

Sources are telling CNN that the TSA mask mandate was just extended, which means you're going to have to keep masking up on planes and trains at least until mid-January. Let's bring in CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, as always, you and I, we don't -- it's not about Democrats or Republicans or Exynos (ph) scoring points are dunking on the libs of the Conservatives or whatever. It's about the science. Scientifically, would a vaccine mandate make more sense than a mask mandate?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they're both important. And that's not skirting the question, Jake. But, you know, I think a lot of times people sort of see these things as part of, you know, just another mitigation strategy. Vaccines are really good at preventing people from getting sick if they've been exposed. The thing about masks, Jake, right now, because there is so much viral transmission, we're being showered in virus. So at some point, when we're not all being showered in virus, you know, I think we can start to think about lifting mask mandates, but they're a little bit different. Ultimately, you know, it might be a situation where people should get vaccinated and still have masks available in times when there's a lot of virus out there, kind of like, you know, you take an umbrella in a thunderstorm.

So mask mandates on planes, you know, and things like that, they stuck with it, even when the CDC sort of lifted the mask guidance in the middle of May. TSA planes, you still had to wear masks. And they're basically looking at the data now in saying, there still had a virus out there. In fact, the numbers obviously have gone back up. So for the time being, they're going to maintain that mask mandate.

I think vaccine mandates are coming in many places as well, or at least this idea that in order to do X, you have to be vaccinated. You don't get to do this unless you're vaccinated. We're going to see more and more of that.

TAPPER: Let's talk about this other breaking coronavirus news, Texas Governor Abbott testing positive. He is vaccinated, he is not showing symptoms. We're all happy for that. So why would he be treated with Regeneron's monoclonal antibody treatment if he's not showing symptoms?

GUPTA: Well, there's been a couple of studies around this now. You know, we're basically broadly speaking, the Regeneron, the monoclonal antibodies, their purpose, the outcome measure is to keep people out of the hospital. So that's one of the things.

And first, they were testing it primarily in people who had mild symptoms or high risk of potentially having to go to the hospital, and they found that it had very good efficacy there. And then there was a trial looking at asymptomatic people as well, again, people who might be considered high risk or higher likelihood of needing to be hospitalised.

So, it's sort of that's the way these antibodies are supposed to work in a sense, you know, the vaccines induce antibodies. They teach your body how to make antibodies. With Regeneron, you're essentially giving those antibodies.

They're not going to last as long as the antibodies you get from a vaccine, that's why the vaccination is still important. But the whole point is to give them early, early when people are either minimally or asymptomatic, and if they are given early, it can help prevent the disease from progressing in the person needing to be hospitalized.

TAPPER: Let's turn to booster shots because we're told the Biden administration is expected to suggest for most adults, a third dose, when 30 percent of the eligible U.S. population still refuses to get the shot, kids under 12 still cannot get them. Should boosters still be top priority, as opposed to having the vaccine OK'd for kids under 12 and 30 percent of the country still won't get vaccinated?

GUPTA: I think that -- the other things you're mentioning are a bigger priority. Simple as that. And I know there's a lot of discussion about this back and forth. I've talked to a lot of people about this and people have strong views on this. Fact of the matter is 99 percent of the people who are in the hospitals COVID are unvaccinated. Most of the transmission that's occurring in this country are because of the unvaccinated.

We don't even have good data to show that the vaccine is actually waning in terms of its effectiveness. Hopefully the CDC will share some of this data because this keeps happening, Jake, where these policy decisions are getting floated out there even made, and we don't see data on it.

Let me show you what data we do have. This is some data that I think may be influencing their decision. But when you look at Moderna, you look at Pfizer and you compare them from January to July, this is against all infections, Jake, OK. So this may be people who have no symptoms, this maybe people who showed up at the hospital. It's all comers and they see some drop off, but there is obviously a lot of people out there who may have relatively mild symptoms with these breakthrough infections.


That's why the next graph I'm going to show you is sort of a critical one. And that has been, you know, how well do these vaccines accomplish the outcome measures that they originally intended to accomplish, which is to keep people from getting severely ill. Jake, it's still pretty good, right?


GUPTA: 91.6 percent for Moderna, 85 percent for Pfizer, it's not quite 100 percent anymore, but it's very close to 100 percent in terms of preventing deaths. So I think what they're going to have to do in terms of recommend these booster shots is square this idea of that data and why they're recommending boosters broadly. For immunocompromised people? Yes. For people who are considered vulnerable for some reason? Sure.

Should you and I, Jake, go out and get boosters? It's pretty hard to beat those numbers. I will say that a, you know, a terrible sort of cold in my dad, for example, who's close to 80 versus in me, would be a much more significant thing for him. So I could see vulnerable people potentially benefiting from boosters. But for us, I think it's hard to make the case, especially when so much of the world has simply not had access yet.

TAPPER: What about those who got that single J&J, Johnson & Johnson vaccine? Will they need to get a second shot?

GUPTA: Well, this is a source of frustration, I realized. I get more e-mails and social about this, anything else. And I want to put this up here. This is the statement from the CDC and we tried to break this down a little bit to give you an idea of exactly what they're thinking about. First of all, keep in mind that there's about 22 million or so, I believe, people who've received this, and they started getting these vaccines later. So there's less data.

They continue to review the science, they said. They do believe that boosters are probably going to be needed. And they say they're going to release some detailed plans soon about this. But they want the FDA and CDC to weigh in on this.

So what we're likely to hear about tomorrow, Jake, is regarding Moderna and Pfizer. But I know a lot of people out there got the J&J, they want that data. The reason they don't have it yet is because there's fewer patients and there's -- and it's less time the vaccines been out there. But I think all signals point to the fact that boosters will be necessary. And as you know, Jake, some places like San Francisco, have already started doing it.

TAPPER: Why is it taking so long for kids under 12, to be able to get approved to get the vaccine? I mean, there has to be a whole body of research of kids 13 and 14 years old who can't biologically be all that different from an 11 year old. What's the hold up?

TAPPER: Well, I think with the slightly older kids up until 16, they did bridge the data from adults to sort of make the case that 12 to 16 year olds could be receiving this by using some of that data. I think when they're going younger than that, they're basically saying, look, you know, there are things that happened during that timeframe, puberty, things like that, that may change how people are metabolizing the vaccine.

But I think it's primarily safety, it's primarily getting the dosing right and it's balancing the risk reward here, because we know these kids are at lower risk. So you got to make sure the reward is, you know, equal in terms of what it's providing.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks as always. Good to see you.

Coming up, Mary Trump will join us live. Her scathing words about her uncle who she blames for exacerbating the nation's COVID trauma. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today, the latest book to criticize former Trump's time in office, it's close to home, his own niece, Mary Trump, connecting Trump's leadership to political trauma, she says was experienced by Americans as well as worsening racial divides calling her uncle, quote, an instinctive fascist who is limited by his inability to see beyond himself.

Author of the new book, "The Reckoning: Our National Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal", Mary Trump joins me now. Congratulations on the book, Mary. As people may recall, you have a PhD in psychology in addition to, of course, having an up close and personal relationship and view of your uncle or the former president. What do you see as the lasting psychological effects of your uncle's presidency on the American people and then on our political psyche?

MARY TRUMP, AUTHOR, "THE RECKONING": Well, Jake, they're unfortunate a lot of things. I think principally, though, one of the most damaging things he did to us as a country is divide us. He stokes chaos in division almost from the beginning. And at a time in America, when we most needed to be united, which was when, of course, the COVID crisis struck, he made things even worse.

And after that, after the election, which he lost decisively to Joe Biden, he started spouting the big lie, which was that the election had been stolen, thereby undermining people's faith in free and fair elections in America, in a way I don't think had ever happened before. And then all of that, of course, led to the interaction.

And we're still dealing with all of the fallout from that and we see the worsening COVID situation because people remain in thrall to him in a way that they would not otherwise have been, perhaps, if Republican leadership hadn't enabled him to the extent that they have had and continue to do.

TAPPER: How do you think your uncle is likely handling emotionally being out of the spotlight right now? He's, obviously, been banned on all major social media platforms. He's out of the White House, so we can't just hold the daily press conference and get attention. Infrastructure, the Senate infrastructure bill got a very strong bipartisan vote in the Senate even though Trump was out there, sending out press releases against it. How do you think he's dealing with this?


TRUMP: You know, in some ways, I think he's surrounded by enough sycophants and yes men to feel that he still is the center of attention in some regard. Plus, of course, Republicans are just continuing to keep them relevant. You know, they continue to travel to see him, to kiss his ring. So although, yes, I'm sure he's feeling the sting of not having the power of the Oval Office and not having the platforms on social media, he still does have influence in a way -- as far as I remember, no other former elected official coming out of the Oval Office has.

TAPPER: Do you think he's going to run again for president in 2024?

TRUMP: If you'd asked me that back in November, December, I would have said decisively no, because he got so badly beaten. I don't know that he would have wanted to face that kind of humiliation again. But the problem is, he keeps getting away with stuff. You know, he -- Republicans are also perpetuating the big lie, Republicans are perpetuating the second big lie, which is either that the insurrection was something that the deep state perpetrated or that it wasn't that big a deal.

So this is somebody who's gotten away with inciting an armed insurrection against his own government. Plus, we have hundreds of voter suppression bills being passed in -- at almost every state legislature, which may rigged the system even further the Republicans favor. So, if Donald gets to the point, assuming he's still a free man, where he feels that he can't lose, why wouldn't he run and that's something that should strike fear at all of us.

TAPPER: So in your new book, "The Reckoning", you talk about the mass trauma that the world has experienced from COVID. In the United States, you say that your uncle only worsened that trauma and was unable to lead effectively, "Donald's behavior functionally lacked empathy and stemmed from his fear of being associated with weakness".

Explain why you think having your uncle in office during the COVID pandemic, the first year of it, exacerbated, not just the disease, but the trauma Americans have experienced as a result of the pandemic?

TRUMP: Well, first of all, by failing initially, to take it seriously enough, and then -- you know, again because Donald doesn't like being associated with sickness, which in my family always equated to weakness. But then when it became obvious that COVID was here, and it was worsening, it would have required a mature adult to course correct, which is to say, OK, we misjudged this, now we need to try something else. To him that would have made him admitting he's wrong, which he's incapable of doing.

So he needed to make it basically a choice between saving the economy or saving human lives. And he convinced people that the economy was more important, and these are people who are going to feel deeply betrayed. And now the result is hundreds of thousands of Americans are needlessly dead.

TAPPER: Mary Trump, author of the new book, "The Reckoning", thanks so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

TRUMP: Thank you, Jake.

Coming up next, mandatory water cuts are imminent all because of a drought fueled by climate change. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Earth matter series, the latest proof that climate change is real. And the impact is here now and getting worse. Look no further than Lake Mead on the Colorado River, it's the nation's largest freshwater reservoir and it is now so shrunken. The U.S. government just formally declared a water shortage and warned of imminent cuts in water supplies.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is live in Nevada at Lake Mead. Stephanie, who will be affected by these water cuts.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the way this is going to work, Jake, is that because the lake is now at this lowest level since it was first filled in the 30s, this means that the Bureau of Reclamation is saying that Arizona and Nevada as well as Mexico will be the first to see some cuts beginning January 1st. Arizona will be about an 18 percent that they'll see their water

allowance go down, 7 percent in Nevada and 5 percent from Mexico. This all because of the fact that we are at this record lows, and you can see it.

Let me move out the way so you can see, Jake. And you can see right now that you've got those rings out there. They are also saying the Bureau of Reclamation is saying that over a five-year period, this dam, or this lake has lost 50 percent of its capacity. Just think about that. Just think about how much water we are talking about.

And part of the reason that we are in this position is because of the punishing drought that we've seen is 22 years now long that we've seen that. The snowpack was too small. And then on top of it, it's just so hot. And so evaporation is part of the issue here as well.

All of this being battled by these days because of the fact that the drought is so punishing. About 95 percent of the West is in drought conditions. They say they are working on this. They've been working on this but clearly this shows a need for conservation. And if you ever need to see a picture that this whole drought situation is real and climate change is real, Jake, it's right behind me.

TAPPER: All right. Stephanie Elam, thank you so much for that grim report.

A first for an NFL team, I'll explain next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our sports lead, the Atlanta Falcons announcing that they have become the very first NFL team to have 100 percent of their roster vaccinated. Last week, the NFL told CNN that roughly 92 percent of its players were vaccinated, 15, club said.

Over 95 percent of their players vaccinated. The club with the lowest vaccination stood at 73 percent. The Las Vegas Raiders also announcing they will require proof of vaccination for fans attending home games this season.

Be sure to join CNN for "We Love New York City: The Homecoming Concert". This once in a lifetime concert event airs Saturday starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern exclusively on CNN. Until then, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN.

Our coverage right now continues with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." See you tomorrow.