Return to Transcripts main page
Erin Burnett Outfront
VP Harris Says Voting Rights "Is The Fight of Our Lifetime" as Texas Weighs Election Overhaul Bill in Special Session; Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX) Discusses About the Removal of Two Provisions from the Voting Rights Bill; Pfizer to Seek Emergency Use Authorization for a Third COVID Dose as it is Seeing Waning Immunity from Vaccine; Report More Than a Year Before Condo Collapse Warned Parts of Building Had Zero Years of "Remaining Useful Life"; Biden Defends Pulling U.S. Out of Afghanistan as Taliban Advances. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired July 08, 2021 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Ryan Nobles reporting from Capitol Hill. We'll watch it unfold together with you. Thank you very much. And to our viewers, thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. Tweet the show @CNNSITROOM.
Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Kamala Harris tells Democrats they're in the fight of their lifetime and the State of Texas tonight could be proving her right.
Plus, Pfizer admitting it's seeing waning immunity from its vaccine. The company now looking to the FDA for emergency authorization for a third dose to be administered as soon as six months after the second.
And an OUTFRONT exclusive, new documents warning the Surfside condo's garage and entrance had zero years of 'remaining life left'. That warning coming more than a year before the collapse. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the fight of our lifetime. Well, that's what Vice President Kamala Harris says it is as she slams the growing number of laws that Democrats say will seriously restrict voting rights in America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These laws create obstacle upon obstacle. These laws make it harder for you to vote, because they don't want you to vote. And so I will say again, your vote matters. Your voice matters. This is the fight of our lifetime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, right now ground zero for the fight over voting rights is the state of Texas. There are protests tonight outside the state capitol where a special session is underway as you see on your screen. Republicans there are proposing legislation that critics say would suppress voting by in part banning drive-through voting, putting new restrictions on mail-in voting and granting new powers to partisan poll watchers.
Now, the original bill had more extreme measures in it that were taken out. It was blocked in dramatic fashion back in May, because Democrats pulled a last minute maneuver. They walked out of the States Capitol that left Republicans without the minimum number of lawmakers needed to even vote on the bill.
Now, the Texas Governor Greg Abbott claims that it's all about election integrity. Of course, the only reason this is happening right now is because of Trump's lie about a rigged election. The bills are designed to strike at non-existent voter fraud. And don't take my word for it when I say non-existent voter fraud. Here's the now former Republican Texas Secretary of State.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUTH RUGGERO HUGHS, (R) TEXAS SECRETARY OF STATE: Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, this election was a resounding success.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And Texas is not the only state where Republicans insist election integrity is under attack. Take Pennsylvania, Republican state lawmaker Doug Mastriano, who has aligned himself with former President Trump is now trying to conduct the same kind of sham audit that is still, still by the way, they're still doing it out in Maricopa County, Arizona. Why?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DOUG MASTRIANO (R-PA): We had a Muhlenberg College also did a review, and the vast majority of people in Pennsylvania really have serious doubts about the safety, and security and integrity of our elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Of course, they have doubts because you tell them to have doubts. That's that ridiculous circular reasoning. But in a letter to Philadelphia City Commissioner, Mastriano also writes, "A forensic investigation of election results and processes for the 2020 General Election and 2021 primary will go a long way toward restoring trust and support in our system."
Well, of course, that argument doesn't add up. Because, again, the only reason there isn't trust in what was the most free and fair election in American history is because people are telling people that it wasn't fair. And in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, you end up with the same situation as you had in Arizona. Here's a Republican election officials in Philadelphia, who famously drew President Trump's ire when he had the audacity to say things like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL SCHMIDT (R), PHILADELPHIA CITY COMMISSIONER: There have been all these allegations of massive or widespread voter fraud. And if that's the case, then they should at least to be able to cite a single case of it in any of these state and federal lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania and as of yet there have been none.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: None. Not a single case of it. The Pennsylvania circus that we're seeing right now because of Mr. Mastriano is coming on the heels of that sham audit in Arizona, the audit run by a company that calls itself Cyber Ninjas. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has unanimously condemned the audit and I want to note that four of the five members on that board are Republican.
The board writing, "It's time to end this. For the good of the Senate, for the good of the Country and for the good of the Democratic institutions that define us as Americans. "
These lies about the elections integrity, these sham audits are dangerous because some people believe them.
Trump supporters believe they will lead to Trump getting reinstated as they have told our Donie O'Sullivan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Were you disappointed when Trump lost the election?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was disappointed in the lack of truth and the election fraud that took place within it. And it's come out in Arizona and it's going to be a domino effect for the truth. That's moving forward.
O'SULLIVAN: Do you genuinely think there's a possibility that the election could simply be overturned.
DEAN CASE, OWENSBORO, KY: That Trump could obtain the Electoral Slate of Arizona? Yes, I think that's a possibility. And if that happens, could it happen to Georgia? Possibly. Possibly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And the context here is nationwide, 17 states have passed laws that make it harder for Americans to vote according to the Brennan Center and there are dozens of similar bills moving through state legislatures coast to coast.
Kaitlan Collins begins our coverage OUTFRONT tonight at the White House. Well, Kaitlan, the President and Vice President just wrapped up a meeting with civil rights leaders about voting rights. Obviously, there's been some soaring rhetoric today, but what about reality, is there much they can actually do here?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the civil rights leaders walked out of this meeting with the President and with the Vice President saying that they want to see a lot of action on behalf of the White House. This is a meeting they say President Biden call it and then it went 40 minutes longer than it was scheduled to.
And one resounding message that you heard from each of these members who met with President Biden and the Vice President were talking about what they want to see is legislation. That is what they want the White House pushing forward. They believe that, not litigation is what's going to be what restores the vote, what protects voting rights and so that's obviously a response to a lot of the lawsuits that you've seen to states like Texas and others trying to change their election laws.
And the White House has been asked about this as well. They've said that President Biden would love to sign legislation. But given he has nothing on his desk right now to sign, they believe he can use the powers of the federal government to work on this in the moment. And you've seen Vice President Harris saying today an additional $25 million expansion to the Democratic National Committee's voting campaign that they're doing that on the ground kind of effort that you've seen so many voting rights experts talk about.
But also they really do want to see some kind of legislation and see the President use his voice here to call for that. And so you've seen President Biden say that he planned to speak extensively on voting rights even go on the road to talk about it. And Erin so far, that is a speech that has not materialized. He has also not traveled since he made those comments in recent days and the White House hasn't laid anything out.
And I think one of the biggest messages besides we want legislation that was coming from those civil rights leaders is they want the President to use his voice here, because they say, essentially, they're framing it as their backs are against the wall, and they need him to intervene, they believe.
BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much.
And on that report, I want to go to Democratic Congressman Colin Allred of Texas who also happens to be a former voting rights attorney. So I appreciate your time. It's good to have you back.
And in Texas as I noted there in the introduction, Republicans have removed two of the most controversial provisions from the bill. And I didn't say what those were. So let me tell people what they are; limits on Sunday early voting hours and language that would have made it easier for courts to overturn election results, so those things have been removed. Does that move the needle at all for you on this bill?
REP. COLIN ALLRED (R-TX): Well, I think it shows that when the public found out about some of the really egregious provisions in that bill, some of them, Erin, that have not been discussed in the House or the Senate and they were slipped in kind of in the dark of night by maybe outside groups, we still don't know who provided some of that language. But when folks found out about it, the pushback was so strong that they had to remove that.
But some of the stuff that's still in there is really dangerous. They make it harder to vote by mail. That could impact more people, potentially, than the Sunday early morning voting part could. And so allowing poll watchers to intimidate voters and polling places is extremely concerning to me. Banning our county officials from trying to send out a vote by mail application to eligible voters and telling them you can go by mail if you want to, banning it, saying you can't do that, these are all really problematic still.
BURNETT: So last time we spoke, Congressman, one of the things you singled out at the time was the reduced voting hours provision. That was something that you thought was the most egregious thing in the bill. And now the Texas Republican State Representative Travis Clardy said that that change was an error. Here's what he told NPR just the other day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TRAVIS CLARDY (R-TX): That was not intended to be reduced. I think there was a - call it a mistake if you want to. What should have been 11 was actually printed up as one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: No doubt you know the details here. Was that just a good faith mistake?
ALLRED: No. This was debated on the Senate floor at about 3 am. I was actually still watching when one of my state senators who represents Dallas, Royce West, was talking and saying that what you're doing here is going to impact African-American voters trying to vote after church.
And the sponsor of the bill was saying, well, poll workers want to go to church too and that's why we're changing the time. This was no typo. This was intentional. And it's ridiculous, of course, and I think when people found out about it, they realized how ridiculous it was and so that's why they pulled it.
But now you're seeing all of this nonsense about typos and things like that. But we have to remember that we had a successful election, as you said, in the State of Texas that we had a record turnout. Republicans still won. It was closer than they'd like it to be, but they still won. And now with no rationale at all, they're trying to make it even more difficult to vote in the state that's already the hardest vote in the country.
BURNETT: It's pretty incredible charges, though, to me to say that someone says it was a typo, but it wasn't a typo. I mean, I guess it's just a reflection of where things are right now in this country. Congressman, President Biden and Vice President Harris, as you know, met today with civil rights leaders in Washington. You heard our Kaitlan Collins' report. The meeting went 40 minutes longer than had been expected. The Vice President gave a speech about voting rights today as well. I'll play a little bit more for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Regardless of who you are, where you live, what party you belong to, your vote matters. Your vote is your power. And so I say don't let anybody ever take your power from you. Don't let anybody take your power from you, especially the power of your voice. We will not let anyone take away our power and that's why we are all here together today. We're not going to let that happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So Congressman, obviously, she's the point person here leading this up for the White House, the voting rights issue. And she can give a speech. My question for you though is, is there anything tangible that the White House could actually do, to practically do that would stop or halt what's happening in states like yours?
ALLRED: Well, I agree that we can't just sit here and agonize and we have to organize to make sure that people know why they're trying to make it so much more difficult for them to vote, we've seen before Erin in Georgia and Houston, Texas when you mess with voters and you tell them we're trying to stop you from voting that they will come out in numbers to try and prove you wrong. And that's going to certainly be something we have to do.
But as somebody who's led voter protection efforts here in Texas and has been through that fight of trying to help voters actually vote with some of these just ridiculous laws that we have on the books here. I know that there's not enough organizing you can do to overcome some of these things. There will be voters who will be disenfranchised who would not have necessarily been if these laws hadn't been passed.
And so that's why we need federal legislation to protect the right to vote. That's why we need the White House and I believe they will and are to make this a priority in terms of pushing this through the Senate. We've passed H.R. 1 the For the People act in the House. We will pass H.R. 4 The John Lewis Voting Rights Act later this summer or early fall.
We need one of those to get through the Senate because we have to have some protections in place before this next election or I'm very, very concerned that it's not going to be a free and fair one.
BURNETT: All right. Congressman Allred, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
ALLRED: Thank you so much, Erin. Thanks for covering this.
BURNETT: All right. And I want to go to Elie Honig now. He's the former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Author of Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutor's Code and Corrupted the Justice Department was officially released this week.
So, Elie, you hear what the Congressman is saying. He thinks something tangible must be done. He's talking about the risks that he sees. But, yes, the White House and Congress as of yet have not been able to do anything on voting rights, nothing significant. Lots of talk, lots of rhetoric, but no ability to actually put something specific on the table. Is there anything the Feds can do other than talk?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So Erin, as Kaitlan said, there's really only two ways for Democrats or anyone who wants open and fair elections to fight back and that's legislation or litigation. Legislation does not appear to be particularly promising as the representative just pointed out, there doesn't seem to be much of a realistic chance of this federal legislation getting through the Senate, which leaves litigation, lawsuits, the courts.
Now, DOJ has been aggressive. They challenged a restrictive voter law in Georgia and that's, I believe, all of these restrictive state laws in Texas and elsewhere will be challenged by somebody maybe by DOJ. But that's really the only Avenue left to challenge these laws.
BURNETT: So the DOJ, when you talk about the lawsuit in Georgia, does the case that the DOJ is bringing have merit, do you think?
HONIG: It does have merit but to be realistic, it's going to be an uphill climb. The last two major voting rights decisions we've seen from the US Supreme Court have both scaled back, have restricted the scope of the Voting Rights Act including the case we saw just last week.
Now, the argument the DOJ makes in the Georgia case I think is interesting. What they argue is these new laws that are cropping up in Georgia and elsewhere are really pretext and they're based on the big lie. The argument is where were all these laws, where were the need for these laws in 2018, 2016 on back.
Now, though, that this big lie is really taking hold, you're seeing opportunistic politicians at the state level pass these new laws that are restricting the voter rights and disproportionately affecting minorities. That's the argument, but realistically the federal courts are not in sync with that.
BURNETT: All right. Elie, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
HONIG: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: And next the breaking news, Pfizer saying it's seeing waning immunity from its vaccine and now recommending a third booster shot. We have the details on that after this.
Plus an OUTFRONT exclusive tonight, you're going to see new documents revealing why so many repairs were not done right before that catastrophic disaster in Surfside, Florida.
And Britney Spears' father detailing why he and other family members he says are now receiving death threats.
BURNETT: All right. Breaking news, CNN is learning now that Pfizer is saying that its vaccine effectiveness is waning and they plan to file for emergency authorization now for a third booster dose which they say could be administered as soon as six months after the second dose.
Now, that news actually came at the end of the day, but already worries about the Delta variant which is causing this concern had caused the markets, which had been reaching all time highs of 18 percent since pre-pandemic to tumble over fears about the Delta variant of what it could mean for the global economy and for the market.
OUTFRONT now Dr. Jonathan Reiner, he advised the White House under President George W. Bush and Dr. Philip Keiser. You may remember him. He was on this program the other day. He is the local health authority in Galveston County, where there has been an outbreak. And I want to ask you, Doctor, because I know there's a lot of updates on that.
First, Dr. Reiner, though, let me start with you. It's concerning for people to hear that Pfizer is admitting its immunity is waning and that they're therefore filing for a third booster shot next month for emergency authorization for that. How are we going to get these boosters to people in time? And how are we going to get people to get them so soon? This is not what people had anticipated or the system had, frankly, prepared for. You're not going to get an email saying here's your date, here's your appointment, the way you did for the other dose.
JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes. First of all, what I like to stress is that what Pfizer has said is that the efficacy of their vaccine for preventing a serious illness and death still remains extraordinarily high. I think a lot of their recent push for a booster comes out of the recent Israeli data suggesting the efficacy for preventing either asymptomatic or symptomatic infection had dropped to about 64 percent.
But I'll say there's other data that also has recently come out of the United Kingdom where the efficacy was 88 percent, and Scotland is 79 percent, Canada is 87 percent. So while the efficacy against infection seems to be lower than against the original wild type, which was 95 percent in the original clinical trial, I think Pfizer really is reacting to this real world Israeli data but again that showed an efficacy of about 93 percent for preventing serious illness.
Most of us have thought that at some point we would need boosters and now Pfizer is moving towards that. They're going to submit an EUA in August for that. Not a big surprise and this really shouldn't cause the markets to crash. BURNETT: So Dr. Keiser, you are experiencing the effects of the Delta
variant firsthand right now in Galveston County, as you and I have talked about. And since we talked the other day, you have more people confirmed to have been infected. Now I know it's more than 125 at that church camp outbreak.
And I know that now it's up to 10 of the people who were positive were fully vaccinated. That was only six when we spoke the other day. How much does it concern you, Doctor, to see that number rising?
DR. PHILIP KEISER, LOCAL HEALTH AUTHORITY, GALVESTON COUNTY, TX: Well, it is worrisome. We don't know how well this virus can evade the current immunity that people have. And so we have vaccinated probably 175,000, 200,000 people in our county and we've only had about a hundred breakthroughs and now we have an example where we have an exposure of 450 people, and we have 10 breakthroughs already.
So I'm a little worried about that proportion and that coupled with the data that we're seeing from Israel does give one pause and concern as to how well the vaccine is going to hold against this variant if it keeps going.
BURNETT: And Dr. Keiser, I understand some of the breakthrough cases in your county are actually symptomatic. Is there anything more you can tell us about that?
KEISER: Yes. That's about all we have at this point. Some of the people are symptomatic. Some are not or their family members who had been vaccinated and they've got tested because their family members came down as positive.
And so no one has been hospitalized and no one has been sick enough to have to receive any monoclonal antibodies as an outpatient yet. So again, that's all good news. So it's, in many ways, it's consistent with the data we know about it. A lot of it is, is the glass half empty or the glass half full at this point and we don't know the answer to that.
But it's a little worrisome. I wouldn't have expected 10 people out of so few of out of 125 people having been vaccinated.
BURNETT: Dr. Reiner, when you look at this in the broader context, there's still a third of the eligible population in the United States that hasn't even gotten a single dose. So now the Biden administration says it's not their role to mandate people get vaccinated. Instead, they've said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Please get vaccinated now.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Please know if you are not vaccinated, you remain susceptible.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Please get vaccinated. It will protect you. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Dr. Reiner, given where things are going, is it time to move on from saying please to mandating?
REINER: I do think it's time to start mandating vaccines and I think that private industry and private organizations will do that. At GW University where I work, starting this fall you can't be on campus unless you're fully vaccinated.
Look, I think that we're in the part of the pandemic now where the problem in this country is that 150 million Americans are not vaccinated. Now, half of that number is less than 18 years of age. But let's look at the adults, 75 million adults have chosen not to get vaccinated and that choice has consequences.
Now, we can't force you to take a jab in the arm, but there are many jobs perhaps that can prevent you from working if you decide not to get vaccinated. So I think we need to be more proactive and I think we will see industry take the lead in this.
BURNETT: Dr. Keiser, Dr. Reiner, I appreciate you both. I thank you.
REINER: My pleasure.
BURNETT: And next we have an OUTFRONT exclusive report and here's what you're going to see, we have just gotten new documents for more than a year before the Florida condo collapse. And they detail urgent need for major repairs to the garage and entrance, not enough money to do it. A year ago, urgent, didn't happen.
Plus, President Biden announcing an end to the U.S. war in Afghanistan and that the Taliban is making significant gains. Is it a decision Biden will regret?
BURNETT: Breaking news: the confirmed death toll after the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, reaching 64 tonight. It is expected to rise to the 140 lives lost, still missing, making it one of the deadliest mass casualty events in the United States since 9/11.
The question remains, how? How did it happen? And why?
Well, tonight, we have obtained new and exclusive documents OUTFRONT, and they warn in detail that the condo's garage and entryway needed much repairs, and that the condo association didn't have anywhere near the money to do any of it.
Leyla Santiago is OUTFRONT with our exclusive report.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, a new report obtained by OUTFRONT, an independent review of Champlain Tower South's budget. The review, done just over a year before the building collapsed, wasn't a good one. The 99-page report underscores the building's anemic financial reserves, combined with the need for structural repairs. The review included a visual inspection of the building incorporated with an engineering analysis done prior to the report.
It shows several components of the building had zero years of remaining useful life, including the entrance deck and garage, where some experts said concrete sprawling may have contributed to the collapse, news like this for the families of those who haven't been recovered not easy to hear.
PABLO RODRIGUEZ, MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER STILL UNACCOUNTED FOR: I don't understand how that happens, with a building that collects so much maintenance fees every year, over 40 years, how does that even happen?
SANTIAGO: Also significantly detailed in the report was the fact that the facade and balconies of the building had concrete deterioration, and if left untreated, small problems can develop into major issues over a relatively short amount of time.
ROBERT NORDLAND, FOUNDRE AND CEO OF ASSOCIATION RESERVES: Amount of deterioration we saw made me wonder how much of that was visible 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago?
SANTIAGO: Robert Nordland, the CEO of Association Reserves, which prepared the budget report for the condo association, says a gap in funds is not unheard of.
NORDLAND: Three out of ten associations across the country are in a weak financial state with respect to reserves.
SANTIAGO: The Champlain South Association was projected to have $607,000 in reserves as of January 2021, according to the report, while association reserves recommends the stockpile nearly $10.3 million to account for necessary repairs. Just 6.9 percent of the funds it should have had.
Nordland says that he believed his company's report was a wakeup call for the condo board, spurring the assessment residents were give in April of this year totaling $15 million.
RODRIGUEZ: My mom was very strong, as we talk about, and she would be yelling at the top of her lungs to make sure that anybody that was responsible for this is held accountable.
SANTIAGO: A spokesperson for the Champlain Tower South condo association did not provide comment about the budget report.
Attorney Peter Sachs specializes in condo law in Florida.
PETER SACHS, ATTORNEY: Buildings need to be maintained on a regular basis. They need to be checked. They need to be fixed. They need to be brought up to standard, and that's best done over the course of time in a planned out manner, with funds on hand.
BURNETT: So amazing, Leyla, you know, from your report when he says five years ago, 10 years ago, things could have been done that would have prevented this horrific event. I know you're learning new details about how the condo association, when they realized they had this massive shortage, struggled to obtain loans. What have you learned?
SANTIAGO: Right. Records show that two lenders actually denied them, citing that they were too high a risk, in part because of the low funds in the reserves. Now, eventually, the association did get a $12 million loan for repairs in March of this year. But the bottom line, it can't come without complication because at least in part of those reserves.
BURNETT: All right. Leyla, thank you very much.
And next, President Biden defending his decision to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, like you have not heard her before, opening up about her mental health, telling the world it's okay to not be okay.
BURNETT: Tonight, Joe Biden on defense, explaining his decision to swiftly end the Afghanistan war, despite major gains recently by the Taliban.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Nearly 20 years of experience has shown us that the current security situation only confirms that just one more year fighting in Afghanistan is not a solution, but a recipe for being there indefinitely. I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: U.S. troops have been making a hasty exit, suddenly deserting the massive Bagram Air Base, with one local Afghan official telling the "Associated Press" that looters then had on the removed by Afghan troops. Biden says the military mission will officially end in August 31st,
and that would conclude a nearly two-decade war, which 2,200 U.S. troops lost their lives. The cost of that war, $2 trillion, conservatively.
OUTFRONT now, Max Boot, he's a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a columnist for "The Washington Post."
So, Max, I just want to start with, look, it's a sudden withdrawal. You have the Taliban gaining ground.
Biden, of course, was a proponent of the war at its outset, went to Kabul right -- months after the war began. But he did sour on the mission there when Obama wanted to do that troop surge. He advised him not to do it. Biden campaigned to end forever wars, to use his words. But yet here we are, looking at this Taliban surge. Do you think that he'll regret this decision?
MAX BOOT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I hope not, but he very well may. I think there's a good reason why even though previous presidents including President Obama, were frustrated with the continuing war in Afghanistan. They didn't pull out because they were afraid of the risks of doing so. We saw some of those risks in Iraq where we pulled out in 2011 and you saw the rise of ISIS, and therefore, you had U.S. troops coming back into Iraq.
So I think that's kind of the nightmare scenario, and we're seeing something like that unfold already, with the announcement of U.S. troops are leaving, you're seeing district after district falling to the Taliban. And you're seeing a collapse of at least some of the Afghan security forces, creating a worrisome scenario where, once again, I think you have to imagine there could be images like in South Vietnam in 1975, the U.S. evacuating from a besieged capital.
BURNETT: Yeah, sometimes it's like, you know, you can pretend something isn't happening, until you're not able to pretend anymore. We all know what happened with Afghanistan when that happened.
Biden's also on the defense, Max, again when it comes to Russia. Cyber attack happening last week, another one, right? This one was against a software vendor that is now compromised up to 1,500 businesses. Fifth major cyber attack against the United States by actors tied to Russia.
And this one crosses a line that Biden set during his summit with Vladimir Putin. Here he is setting the line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I pointed out to him, we have significant cyber capability, and he knows it. He doesn't know exactly what it is, but it's significant. And if, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond cyber, he knows.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Max, is it time for Biden to back up those words with action?
BOOT: Clearly. I mean, you just saw one of the largest ransomware attacks ever hitting more than a thousand companies, and this is something that apparently was emanating from Russian soil. It's just not credible to imagine that the Russian state is not aware of what's being done from its own soil, because this is after all a dictatorship, and they are in control of their own territory.
So, yeah, it's clearly one thing to lay out the red line. But that doesn't mean much unless you can back it up. I think what you're seeing now, both Putin, as well as with Saudi Arabia, as well as the government of Iran, as well as the government of Beijing, governments all over the world are testing Biden.
They want to see, what is he made of? Is he willing to back up his threats? Is he willing to deliver on his red lines? And clearly in the case of Russia, he needs to do that.
BOOT: He needs to strike back to make them pay a price for allowing these kinds of cyber attacks from their soil.
BURNETT: And, you know, you mentioned Russia. I can make the same question here with Saudi Arabia. Now the most senior national security officials in the Biden administration are rolling out the red carpet for the Saudi Arabian defense minister, who is the brother of the crown defense, MBS, Mohammed bin Salman, who U.S. intelligence concluded approved the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Before he was president, Biden was a withering critic of this. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered and I believe in the order of the crown prince. I would make it very clear we are not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them. We were going to, in fact, pay the price and make them the pariah that they are. There's very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia. They have to be held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, Max, here's the problem, not treating them like a pariah, little social redeeming value of the government, but that's the government the Biden administration is doing business with. I understand the difference between campaigning and governing, but does it make Biden look like he's not keeping his word or does it portray weakness?
BOOT: I think that's a legitimate concern. He can't entirely cut off Saudi Arabia. I was sympathetic what he did earlier in his administration where he sanctioned a number of Saudi officials, but to not go after MBS himself, because it was be unprecedented to sanction the head of a state, the de facto head of a state of an ally government.
But, you know, it's one thing not to sanction MBS, it's another to entertain MBS' brother, who's also been implicated in the plot to lure Jamal Khashoggi into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
And this just is unseemly, and it looks weak. I think this is an example where he's going too far in the direction of diplomacy and not drawing enough of a red line with the Saudis here.
BURNETT: All right. Max, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
BOOT: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, the next victim of the delta variant, the Summer Olympics, now zero fans. That's what Tokyo announced today amid a nationwide state of emergency.
Plus, Britney Spears' father revealing death threats he says he's receiving after the legal battle surrounding control of Britney's life. Spears' mother tonight also weighing in.
BURNETT: It's okay to not be okay. That is a quote from tennis superstar Naomi Osaka who's speaking out in a new essay for "TIME", opening about her decision to drop out of the French Open, to focus on her mental health after she was punished for skipping a press conference, and calling for athletes to be able to take personal days for mental breaks. These just days before Osaka is set to represent Japan at the Olympics in Tokyo.
She writes in part, quote: I do hope that people can relate and understand it's OK to not be OK and it's OK to talk about it. There are people who can help and there is usually light at the end of the tunnel. Michael Phelps told me by speaking up I may have saved a life. If that's true, then it was all worth it.
Christine Brennan is OUTFRONT, she's the "USA Today" sports columnist who'd be covering the Olympics in Tokyo, her 19th straight.
So, Christine, I want to talk about the Tokyo Olympics but first Naomi Osaka. She's the number two ranked tennis player in the world, the first Asian to be ranked number one, four-time grand slam champion.
How big is it for her to open up like this, and to be so in-depth, and put it out there, about her mental health?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Erin, It's really in keeping with what we've seen from her over the last few years, these breakout star, so articulate, so smart, so interesting, I think a lot of viewers may remember that the masks she wore with the names of the victims of police brutality, one day after the next, in the U.S. Open.
A remarkable young person. A great young leader, and a role model, on the court, and off.
And so, to me, this is no surprise at all that we are seeing her, once again, talk about these issues that she has made headline news over the last few months, and, in fact, has created a movement. I think you could make a case of Michael Phelps started this, there's other athletes who've been involved in the conversation about mental health, and such an important one for our time. Naomi Osaka, really, has taken it, and run with it. As I said, I think she gets credit for making this now a movement.
BURNETT: So, she has, also, as you point out, Christine, with what you are saying, she has not shied away from politically sensitive topics. You talk about the masks, with the name of the victims of last year's open that she read.
This is no different, Christine. I want to read up another sentence that stood out. She writes, quote: The world was as divided as I can remember in my short 23 years. Issues that are so obvious to me, at face value, like wearing a mask in a pandemic, or kneeling to show support for anti-racism are, ferociously, contested. I mean, wow.
When I said I needed to miss the French Open press conferences to take care of myself mentally, I should have been prepared for what unfolded.
You know, Christine, it's interesting, you know, she's tying a lot of things together, obviously. Masks is a scientific reality, kneeling during the national anthem is something that people have passionately different views about, it seems as if she is putting some things, for her, in the same category.
BRENNAN: Yeah, and then talking at the press conference. You know, obviously, I'm a journalist, and I go to a lot of press conferences, and of course, Naomi also does. All tennis players do.
So, it's interesting, and she has every right to say it, because it is her reality, and something she cares about. Of course you can say.
But, these athletes do like to have press conferences, so that they don't have to individually speak with, us one-on-one. That would take all day. But, I think that her point is well-taken.
I would point out, Erin, at the Olympic swimming trial, a few weeks ago, Simon Manuel, the Olympic gold medalist, came to the press conference to talk about dealing with depression, anxiety, overtraining syndrome, and then made the Olympic team, and will be representing the United States in Tokyo.
So, Simon Manuel used the press conference as a way to talk about the issues. We all asked are questions, we were kind, we thank her for coming in to talk to us, and she probably helped some young -- she said that, she helped some young people. She's heard from young swimmers, and others, who say thank you for speaking out. So, there is that side of it, too.
BURNETT: Christine, as I've said, you covered many Olympics, and part of it is the excitement of who is in the room. Now, all of a sudden, because of the delta variant, there isn't anyone except those competing, right? I mean, there's not going to be fans. What is an Olympics without fans going to be like, as you cover?
BRENNAN: It's going to be a TV show, Erin. That's what it is. We can hold it on the sound stage. Make no mistake, this is about the money, this is about the International Olympic Committee's, and the Tokyo organizers, trying to recoup some of the billions of dollars because of the pandemic, because of last year's postponement, in all the issues involved with these games.
But, it's going to be very different, and I think it's going to look different on television, and for me, as a journalist being there, I can't wait in the sense that I wish it weren't so (INAUDIBLE) pandemic. But, in terms of the news, and what it would look like, and how different it will be, it is a shame, and cannot be that wonderful celebration of coming out of the pandemic but, instead, we are still of course in the midst of it. It is really reflecting us more than it is a celebration.
BURNETT: Yeah. All right.
Christine, thank you so much.
BRENNAN: Thank you, Erin. My pleasure.
BURNETT: All right. Next, Britney Spears's father, claiming he has been receiving death threats.
BURNETT: Tonight, new court documents filed by Britney Spears' father, complaining that he and other family members are receiving death threats after last week's stunning conservatorship hearing. And now, the pop star's mother is speaking out in her defense.
Chloe Melas is OUTFRONT.
CHLOE MELAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Britney Spears, on Instagram, posting, quote, it's my first time dancing in heels in a while -- just days after making bombshell revelations in a court hearing, challenging her nearly 13 year conservatorship, run, in part, by her father, Jamie Spears. Several people close to Spears resigning after her recent courtroom testimony calling the conservatorship, led in part by her father, abusive, alleging --
BRITNEY SPEARS, POP STAR: What's up, Vegas?
MELAS: -- she was forced to perform. Take lithium, and stay on birth control, against her will. Telling judge Brenda Penny, I wanted to take the IUD out, so I could start trying to have another baby. On July 2nd, the co-conservator of Spears' $60 million estate, wealth management firm, Bessemer Trust, asked to resign, citing, quote, change circumstances.
On July 5th, Spears longtime manager, Larry Rudolph, resigned, writing that he recently became aware that Britney, quote, have been voicing her intention to officially retire, and made clear, he was never part of the conservatorship.
But just weeks ago, the Grammy Award winner did not rule out performing again.
SPEARS: Will I take the stage again? I have no idea. I'm having fun right now.
MELAS: July 6, Spears' court-appointed attorney, Samuel Ingham, asked the court to resign.
The pop star made clear, during her testimony, she wants to pick her own lawyer. Now, her mother, Lynne Spears, is backing her, filing a motion that became public this week, asking the court to grant Britney's wishes to choose her own attorney, stating, quote, her capacity is certainly different than it was in 2008. That is when the platinum selling artist experienced public meltdowns.
The singer's conservator of her person, Jodi Montgomery, who handled Spears medical decisions, filed her own petition, asking the judge to appoint a guardian ad litem, alleging, Britney is so disabled that she cannot select her own lawyer.
Attorney Lisa MacCarley says, this is the last thing the embattled singer needs.
LISA MACCARLEY, ATTORNEY: The court is being asked to, yet again, a sign a court appointed person, unknown to Britney, even though we know, Britney does not want to have more court-appointed individuals in her life.
MELAS: The singer's father has maintained to CNN that he has always acted in the best interest of his daughter.
Chloe Melas, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: Thanks so much, Chloe. And thanks so much all of you for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.