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Erin Burnett Outfront

NYT: Ex-U.S. Attorney Tells Senate Panel Trump Wanted To Fire Him For Not Backing Election Fraud Claims; Interview With Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Judge Allows Defamation Lawsuits Against Trump Allies Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, MyPillow CEO To Move Forward; FDA Expected To Authorize Booster For The Immunocompromised; YouTube Suspends Senator Paul For Misinformation On Masks; Official: Intel Shows Kabul Could Collapse In Next 90 Days. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, the breaking news, a key revelation from a top federal prosecutor who suddenly quit his post saying he left because Trump wanted to fire him. The New York Times reported Trump wanted him gone because he wouldn't back the big lie.

Plus, tonight breaking news, the FDA expected to authorize a vaccine booster shot for Americans with compromised immune systems within the next 48 hours.

And arrest warrants now out for 51 Texas Democrats who fled the State. Remember that, to block that controversial voting bill? I'm going to talk to a state representative who is facing arrest tonight. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, damning testimony today from a former prosecutor who wouldn't back Trump's big lie. Now, this is according to The New York Times reporting tonight. Now, you may not know his name, but his story is important and tonight he is providing a key piece of evidence in proving the former president staged a coup attempt in the United States.

So let me introduce you to him. You see him on your screen, B. J. Pak. He is the former U.S. Attorney in Atlanta. He reportedly spent three hours with lawmakers and staff today. CNN learning that he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he quits suddenly on January 4th because he got word that Trump was going to fire him, wanted him gone.

The Times reporting Pak told the Committee that he was going to be fired for not backing Trump's election fraud claims. So firing someone specifically because they refused to back the big lie. Now, according to The Times, Pak also revealed that state officials and the FBI vetted what Trump was claiming. They vetted all of the stuff he kept going out and saying about a rigged election and they never found any evidence to support the wild claims that Trump was pushing both publicly and privately about Georgia. Here is just a little taste of the conspiracy theories. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Remember Georgia when they said, oh, we had a big flood, we had a pipeline break, a major water pipeline break. But guess what, there was no pipeline. That was the people where they took all of those ballots, all of those Biden ballots under the table with the black dress and they took them and they started shoving them into machine.

In Georgia, the Secretary of State began illegally processing ballots weeks before Election Day.

So dead people voted and I think the number is in the - close to 5,000 people.


BURNETT: Just to be very clear, all of this is completely false, OK. And Pak refused to buy into it because he also knew it was false. And because of that, he had a target on his back.

Remember what Trump said to the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger? Well, here's what he said to him about Pak and what Trump claimed were 18,000 suspicious ballots. This was on January 2nd, it was two days before Pak resigned.


TRUMP: I mean, look, that's, you'd have to be a child to think anything other than that. Just a child. I mean, you have your never- Trumper U.S. Attorney there.


BURNETT: OK. Just to be clear, when he's calling Pak a never-Trumper I think it is important to put some very important fact out there, which is the Trump appointed Pak. So Trump appointed Pak to that job in 2017. Now, on the day of Pak's resignation, Trump was actually in Georgia and had this to say.


TRUMP: There's no way we lost Georgia. There's no way. The rigged - that was a rigged election. But we're still fighting it and you'll see what's going to happen.


BURNETT: And of course, it wasn't rigged and Trump loss but what Trump did then was replaced Pak with a much more friendly prosecutor. The U.S. Attorney from Southern Georgia named Bobby Christine. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Christine actually donated $2,800 to Trump's reelection campaign and was described as someone who was 'absolutely devoted' to Trump.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill tonight. And Manu, what more are you learning about what happened in that interview tonight with B. J. Pak?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a source familiar with his testimony told me that Pak testified for about three to three and a half hours today and he indicated that he was planning on resigning on January 20th. But then when he caught wind that he was going to be fired, he decided to quit earlier.

Now, I am told that he also believed that Donald Trump simply did not like him, did not think he was working hard enough that The New York Times reported also that he would not back Trump's claims that the election was fraudulent in some way in Georgia. That being part of the reason why that he stepped aside.

But this is all part of the investigation this committee is launching into interference at the Justice Department after November 3rd efforts by Donald Trump, some of his allies to try to urge the Justice Department to suggest to state legislators and local officials that the States that bind one somehow had fraudulent tallies and needed to be reviewed in certain ways.


So Pak is one of three witnesses that the Committee has interviewed so far. They expect to interview more and they also want to talk to people such as the former White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows who allegedly was involved in the effort trying to pressure the Justice Department to intervene as well as some of the White House officials like Pat Cipollone that then-White House Counsel who's pushing back against those claims.

So today providing some more evidence about what was happening behind the scenes and how one official here, the former U.S. Attorney at the time had concerns about what was happening, concerns about Donald Trump was doing and ultimately decided to resign, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much. I want to go now to the Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal because he's on the Judiciary Committee and participated in the questioning of the former U.S. Attorney B.J. Pak today.

Senator, I appreciate your time and I do understand that there are restrictions on what you can tell us about what happened behind closed doors today. But, of course, we're learning tonight that Pak said he resigned because he found out Trump was going to fire him for pushing the big lie. And according to The New York Times, that was specifically the reason that Trump wanted to fire Pak for refusing to say there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia. Is that why Pak resigned?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Sitting through that interview today, a very extensive and intensive process, first of all, my impression was that B.J. Pak was telling the truth. He was forthright and forthcoming and he appeared voluntarily.

And second, my strong feeling was as well that he believed in the rule of law and he stood up for it. He was the top federal prosecutor in Atlanta, Georgia where Donald Trump was trying to show falsely that there was corruption in the local election. And Donald Trump would stop at nothing.

He mounted a pressure campaign to break the Department of Justice, including top officials there and he continued that pattern, even as it involved very improper pressure brought to bear seeking to overturn the election to overthrow democracy, to enlist the Department of Justice in the big lie and really corrupt and weaponize it.

BURNETT: So let me ask you, I mean, by the way, again, I emphasize that Pak was appointed by Trump in 2017. So then, of course, he wants to fire him because he won't support him in the big lie. That he's some never-Trumper or a political person. It was his person.

Did you, Sen. Blumenthal, learn anything from Pak's interview that surprised you even after everything you already know, that you were not previously aware of?

BLUMENTHAL: I know as a former United States Attorney myself, as well as a State Attorney General for some 20 years in Connecticut that an investigation is a little bit like piecing together mosaic. There are details that come to the fore that may not be surprising, but are important. And I think every one of these interviews produces very important information, but also leads as to additional witnesses and we know also that there is a pattern here.

Trump has surrounded himself by acolytes and sycophants who do his bidding and enable him to launch these kinds of improper pressure campaign.

BURNETT: So let me ask you in terms of other people you want to talk to, obviously the Chairman of your committee, Dick Durbin, told CNN he wants to interview the former president's former Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows who was obviously central to everything that was happening during this time. Do you have any indication Meadows would speak to the committee? Would you subpoena him? Do you believe he'll be forthright?

BLUMENTHAL: We've already asked some potential witnesses to come before us like Jeff Clark who did Trump's bidding, unlike other top officials. We have no guarantee they're going to appear. Our subpoena powers may be somewhat limited as a practical matter. I wish I could talk more about the details of what we've seen and heard.

You're absolutely right, Dick Durbin is the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee ultimately will make the call about whether to seek subpoena power and what other witnesses will be called. But there is plenty to do here and the American people deserve accountability. We need to know all of what happened, so it doesn't happen again.

And so whatever happens in the legal courts, we know that there is some justice in the court of public opinion as people assess who aided and abetted Donald Trump in this extraordinary pressure campaign.

BURNETT: So I want to ask you one more thing, the Senate finally passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, of course, overnight. And I know you're now focused immediately that was sort of the imbroglio.


You got the bipartisan infrastructure bill and Democrats are going to push everything else they wanted via reconciliation majority only vote $3.5 trillion on that right now. So you just need a majority but that means you need everybody, every single Democrat and hours after voting to do this, Sen. Joe Manchin said the price tag is too high, that 3.5 trillion. Are you opening to lower it if that's what it takes to get him on board or do you think they'll change mind?

BLUMENTHAL: We're all going to have to come together, Erin. We know that legislating is the art of the possible. The perfect can't be the enemy of the good. And what really impresses me and so excites and inspires me, having been here for 10 years and watched a lot of this function is how we've come together.

Now, the first measure was bipartisan and we're moving on to assess the human needs. And I think we can come together. I think it's an exciting, extraordinary once in a generation opportunity, we all have that sense about it.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Senator, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BURNETT: And I want to go now to Laura Coates. She is a former Federal Prosecutor, of course, as you know. You know her well. So Laura, based on what Sen. Blumenthal just described and what we're learning tonight about what B.J. Pak said today in that three-hour closed door interview, how important is what he said in determining whether Trump committed a crime in his attempts to overturn the election?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's going to be very important to give the context as he alluded to, the idea of the why, why did he on his own decided to resign? Was it actually autonomous decision or was it because he saw the writing on the wall as a result of threatening or intimidating behavior in some respect? What was it that he thought - why was it he thought he would be actually fired? What were the conversations that ensued there?

The idea that we know that the U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States. They are political appointees, meaning that once the President of the United States no longer wants them to be in office, they can in fact be removed. But what prompted the decision to remove and why there was the notion of removing him or why there was the illusion that he might be fired in some respect is going to be very critical.

And it's because he did not go along with some scheme that falls under an umbrella of trying to interfere with the people's right to a fair and free election or try to conspire in some way to conjure up votes or defraud the public in some way.


COATES: Well, then that is going to be very, very telling about what sort of ramifications there will be going forward.

BURNETT: So we're also learning tonight that federal judges allowing defamation lawsuits against three Trump confidants to go forward; Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, all three are being sued for billions of dollars by Dominion Voting Systems which, of course, is the company that they falsely accused of election fraud with the voting machines. I know you spoke today with Dominion's lawyer, how important is his ruling?

COATES: I did speak with the Clare Locke partner Megan Meier about this who's been a lead attorney on my show earlier today and it's so telling. First of all, this is a very, very serious set of litigations and lawsuits because defamation essentially says the person knowingly made false statements that there was actual malice involved, they've actually alleged here that the statements weren't made based on some profound understanding or that they really believed it, but because it was made to injure reputation, to harm the goodwill to harm the profits of the company, to make this part of the notion of the big lie and the promotion of it.

And so what's so important here is that Dominion has had to be thrust into the limelight, not of their own accord by based on a whole host of conspiracy theories that seem to have had legs on a variety of networks. And now they're forced to defend against that, not only in terms of death threats among their employees, but also the notion trying to fight against the conspiracy themselves.

So if the judges are saying, look, based on your motions to dismiss and say you have no reason to bring it, the judge is saying actually it's the defamation claims themselves that have the legs. This is very, very powerful and a real warning to any company or enterprise that is saying, look, we can continue to make these statements. They're on notice and they have been.

BURNETT: All right. Laura, thank you very much.

And next, the breaking news, the FDA expected to green light COVID booster shots for some people within the next 48 hours, weeks after Israel had already said it was necessary. Details just ahead.

Plus, the White House firing back at Ron DeSantis tonight who claims that he did not know that his state got hundreds of ventilators from the federal government.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You don't send ventilators to states without their interest in receiving the ventilators.


BURNETT: And a new intelligence assessment tonight warns Afghanistan's capital could collapse in weeks as the Taliban makes alarming gains.


We're live on the ground tonight.



BURNETT: Breaking news, the FDA is expected to announce it will authorize booster shots for immunocompromised people within the next 48 hours and a booster strategy for all vaccinated Americans by next month. Now, this is according to a source familiar with the talks. And here's the Surgeon General just a few moments ago with my colleague Wolf Blitzer.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: It is likely that boosters will be needed for a broader segment of the population. What we are trying to figure out right now is the right timing for when to initiate those additional doses and also who those doses should be available to based on where the need is greatest.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now Dr. Jonathan Reiner who was a Medical Adviser to the George W. Bush White House. So Dr. Reiner, first your reaction, the FDA expected to authorize booster shots for immunocompromised people within the next 48 hours, so what does that mean? Anyone in that category should just go book your appointment immediately?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think this is expected and I think this is good news. It's good to see the FDA and the CDC becoming a little bit more proactive about this.


We've known for a while that it appears that the efficacy of the mRNA vaccines and particularly we have data for the Pfizer vaccine that over six months, the effectiveness of the vaccine begins to wane a little bit. Although the vaccines remain very effective, super effective at preventing severe illness that would require hospitalization or death, we're starting to see a decline in the efficacy of these vaccines to prevent symptomatic illness.

So this is now the first group of people who would be boosted, would be the immunocompromised. The U.S. has about 3 percent, maybe up to 10 million people, solid organ transplant recipients, cancer patients, people who are been shown not to be able to mount an effective antibody response, so there'll be first.

I think the second group should actually be healthcare workers.

BURNETT: Interesting.

REINER: Many of the healthcare workers have been vaccinated eight months ago. I was vaccinated on December 17th. So I think that we should, in the setting of a surging Delta variant, I think healthcare workers should probably be the next group. BURNETT: So that's interesting. OK. But the Surgeon General, you heard

him, and two weeks ago he said the data didn't suggest the need for booster shots at this time. But the reality, of course, Dr. Reiner is that Israel said that it was needed at that time and France said it was needed at that time and it feels that it's kind of they've been slow, OK. It feels they've been slow. What do you think is really going on?

REINER: I think messaging has been poor. I think CDC and FDA and the administration are trying to get the science right, but they've struggled to get the messaging right. And what the message should have been at the beginning of the summer when we saw that the Israelis reported a decline in efficacy against symptomatic infection for the Pfizer vaccine to 64 percent, that the CDC and FDA should have said, we're probably going to have to boost.

Files that came out with really compelling data showing good news that a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine could increase the amount of neutralizing antibodies between 5 percent to 10 percent. That's good news. We have a fix for this.

And I think the public should have been told pretty explicitly that we're going to put together a plan to boost the public. There was some news today that suggests that the CDC thinks that about a million people have sort of illicitly gotten a boost already this summer.

So what that tells me is that there's a lot of interest in the public and doing this and if you tell the public that they need to be boosted, it'll be pretty well accepted.

BURNETT: Right. Well, that's true. But, of course, you want to lead not follow. It comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom today in California said that the state would become the first to mandate that all teachers and school staff be vaccinated. All right. That's something many people in this country would celebrate.

But in Texas, the Gov. Greg Abbott filed a petition today to block an executive order in Dallas County just to require masks in certain places including schools. And the Gov. Abbott just tweeted, "Any school district, public university or local government official that decides to divide defy GA-38 which prohibits government entities from mandating masks will be taken to court. The path forward relies on personal responsibility, not government mandates." What do you say to someone like Gov. Abbott?

REINER: So Gov. Abbott should be a problem solver, not a problem creator. Look, we're going to put millions of children in this country under the age of 12, all of whom are susceptible to infection now with a much more virulent, much more transmissible virus. We're going to put all these kids in an enclosed space and the Governor of Texas and the Governor of Florida don't think we need to maximize the protection for these children.

The Governor of California now gets it. What he's saying is that all teachers will need to be vaccinated. What that acknowledges that if we're going to bring our kids into the school rooms when we need to maximize how we protect them. And by making sure that the teacher in the room is not infectious, that goes a long way.

BURNETT: All right. Dr. Reiner, thank you very much.

REINER: My pleasure.

BURNETT: Well, and another state that may have come to mind when I mention the whole mask battle is Florida. The battle over masks is not letting up there. That's where President Biden and Gov. DeSantis are on a collision course. Leyla Santiago is OUTFRONT.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, a showdown over public health taking place as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and President Joe Biden continue to disagree over the Governor's handling of the pandemic. There have been more than 140,000 positive COVID cases in the state in the last seven days. And out of the 15,000 people hospitalized, about 200 of them are children.

The most recent back and forth over ventilators being sent to Florida earlier this week as the State's hospitalization rate as of Monday stands at more than triple the national rate.


Gov. DeSantis claiming he's unaware of the request from his State.


DESANTIS: I would honestly doubt that that's true.


SANTIAGO (voice over): But the White House says the Governor's office had to be aware.


PSAKI: We don't send ventilators to states without their interest in receiving the ventilators. Why would you oppose receiving ventilators when you clearly need those in your State given the percentage of hospitalizations that are occurring and Florida.


SANTIAGO (voice over): A health administration official confirms 200 ventilators were sent to the state this week. The Governor's office told CNN today in part, the first he had heard of it was that reporter's question to him. I can also confirm that no one in the Executive Office of the governor was involved or aware of the request. And the battle over masks in schools playing out in at least three different Florida counties.


DESANTIS: You got people like Fauci saying he should be muzzled that you should be throwing masks on these three-year-old kids. It's totally unacceptable.


SANTIAGO (voice over): The Governor says there's been no change in the proportion of hospitalized pediatric patients who were COVID positive and he continues to threaten to withhold salaries from superintendents and school board members choosing to override his executive order that essentially prohibits mask mandates in schools.


DESANTIS: But let me tell you this, if you're coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I'm standing in your way.


SANTIAGO (voice over): The White House is considering using federal funds to pay the salaries of those who DeSantis is threatening.


RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We're going to look at whether or not there are any federal ways to at least get those local educators whole for whatever pay they lose, do what we can to help them.


BURNETT: Still Gov. DeSantis insists he will not let the federal government get in his way over handling the pandemic in his State.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you aren't going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing.

DESANTIS: Why don't you get this border secure, and until you do that, I don't want to hear a blip about COVID from you.



SANTIAGO (on camera): And Erin back to the mask mandates where Gov. Ron DeSantis is really doubled down this week checked in with a few schools to see where they stand if they've started the school year on how many kids are actually coming in with signatures from parents opting out. In Orange County roughly 4 percent of students had signatures from parents, so they don't have to wear the mask. And in Broward, it was roughly 6 percent of students.

BURNETT: All right. Leyla, thank you very much. I wonder whether that's higher or less high than I would have thought.

All right. OUTFRONT next, Sen. Rand Paul suspended from YouTube for comments about masks. And he calls it now a badge of honor. So what exactly was so wrong about what Sen. Paul said?

And arrest warrants now out for the dozens of Texas Democrats who fled the State to stop a controversial voting bill. I'll talk to a State Representative who is one of them.



BURNETT: New tonight, Republican Senator Rand Paul suspended from YouTube for a week, seven full days. The company saying that these false comments about masks from the senator is why.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Most of the masks you get over the counter don't work. They don't prevent infection. Trying to shape human behavior isn't the same as following the actual science, which tells us that cloth masks don't work.


BURNETT: Senator Paul then tweeting, quote, a badge of honor, leftwing cretins at YouTube banning me for seven days for a video that quotes 2 peer reviewed articles saying cloth masks don't work.

OUTFRONT now, Scott Jennings, who is special assistant to former president George W. Bush, and Paul Begala, who is a counselor to former President Bill Clinton.

OK. Thanks so much to both.

Scott, let me start with you. Senator Paul loves this and says it's a badge of honor. I want to know because context does really matter. Back in early 2020, obviously before the delta variants, Dr. Fauci did say in an email the typical mask you buy in the drugstore is not really effective in keeping out virus which is small enough to pass through the material.

Do you think this suspension, Scott, would have happened if the video was from a Democratic lawmaker?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't, and this is what has conservatives all bent out of shape is the double standards of all this, because it's not just the Fauci email that you referenced but there have been other respected people other than Rand Paul who are actually Democrats or have been affiliated with Democrats who said much the same thing.

Michael Osterholm, who was Joe Biden's COVID survivor, University of Minnesota, respected guy, told Christiane Amanpour who works here on August 3rd, when you look at a face cloth covering, those cloth pieces, they actually only have very limited impact, then told CNN on a later interview that we note today many of the cloth coverings people wear are not very effective. So, Rand Paul is not on an island and I recognize that there are

people who vehemently disagreed, but he's hardly the only person raising these questions. So, for Republicans they are like why does somebody like Osterholm get to run out and say this and it's fine, but Rand Paul gets banned from YouTube. This is what has Republicans bent out of shape.

BURNETT: So, it's an interesting point. I want to ask about a possible reason for that in a moment. But, first, Paul, I want to give you a chance to respond here because I will point out, Senator Paul did say in the video, not the part YouTube says they're banning him for, but in the video that he believes N95 masks do work and as Scott points out, other medical experts, including Dr. Michael Osterholm are now raising red flags about cloth masks. Here's Osterholm and others.


MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: We know today many of the cloth face coverings are not effective in reducing any of the virus movement in or out.

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: It's really important for us to emphasize that masking does work and quality of masks matter. That at this point, we really should be wearing not a cloth mask but at least a three-ply surgical mask.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: The quality of the mask does matter. If you get your hands on a KN95 mask or N95 mask, that's going to afford you a lot more protection.



BURNETT: So Paul, what do you say? Is it a case of Senator Paul says it so it's different and he gets banned? Is he right to complain?

All right. Sounds like Paul can't hear me. I'm going to ask him that question when we get him back.

Scott, I want to follow up with the point they was going to make, which is there are possible reasons why YouTube would pick on Senator Paul and not on Dr. Osterholm, right? The primary one is that Senator Paul has flouted COVID guidance frequently, right? Especially on masks as you and I both know.

He showed up for work while he waited for what ended up being a positive test result in March 2020 and used the Senate gym while he was waiting for result after he had been exposed. He ended up having it.

When he came back in May, he refused to wear a mask and that refusal has been on display with the senator again and again and again, colleague after colleague, maskless as they are masked up. We just got a bunch of examples, right? So, it's not that he just said this the way Dr. Osterholm said it, he said it in this context and made views on masks overall extremely clear. Here he is.


PAUL: If you've had the disease or you've been vaccinated and you're several weeks out from the second dose, throw your mask away.

There is no science to defend putting your kids in mask or parents wearing masks. No science whatsoever.


BURNETT: So, Scott, that's the context for Senator Paul, right? And that's the context that doesn't exist for Dr. Gottlieb or Dr. Osterholm or Dr. Wen, who I showed on those sound bytes. Does that matter?

JENNINGS: Well, it matters if you want to single out Rand Paul but if you just want to talk about politicians in general, it should not matter and why you should err on the side of free speech. If you want to talk about consistency, how many Democratic politicians have gone out and imposed mask mandates and say, hey, I'm following the science and been caught at public events flouting her own rules? It's happened in California, it's happened all over the country.

So, I think Rand Paul is a politician. Has he done inconsistent things or consistent things if you're a supporter of him? Sure. Have Democratic politicians done the same thing? Yes.

And so, if you're YouTube and want to make that the reason you got to ban Rand Paul today, then you really have to broaden that rule and say if I ban people that I consider to do hypocritical or inconsistent things, you have another kettle of fish you have to start banning. So, to me, that's why erring on the side of free speech is the right answer and unfortunately, that's not the route they chose.

BURNETT: So, Paul, I don't know if you could hear us. We couldn't hear you. But what is your response when you hear this? Do you think Senator Paul has a point, that it's just a double standard or does the context of his ridicule of masks matter?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He needs to stop whining and start worrying about public health. He's got 7,394 people in his great commonwealth of Kentucky who have died from COVID. Five hundred and two thousand were infected. The vaccine rate in his commonwealth is lower than the national average. He should be preaching protection, prevention, wear a mask, get vaccinated.

And instead, he's endangering the public health and, by they way, violating the terms of service of a private company that is not a free speech issue because it's not the government. He doesn't have a right to get on YouTube any more that I have a right to get on CNN. It's a private company. If YouTube wants to have him, they can, if they don't, they don't have to. But he ought to be telling the truth about this. This is very, very

dangerous what he's doing, trying to tell people not to protect themselves and their neighbors and children.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

And next, we've got arrest warrants out right now for dozens of Democrats in Texas. House Democrats who left the state. Remember that group to stop a voting bill from becoming law. Well, one of them is my guest.

Plus, a new intelligence report tonight warns Afghanistan's capital Kabul could fall to the Taliban in just months. We're going to take you live there, tonight.



BURNETT: Tonight, arrest warrants out for 51 Texas House Democrats who fled the state last month to block an election's overhaul bill that would add new restrictions to voting. Now, nearly two dozen remain out of the state but the Democrats can now be hauled against their will back to the House chamber to provide the quorum that's needed to pass the bill.

OUTFRONT now, Democratic State Representative Vikki Goodwin of Texas. She is in the state right now.

And I appreciate your time.

So, Representative Goodwin, we're showing your civil arrest warrant here. We'll put it up on screen, so everyone understands this is real. There is a civil arrest warrant for you. There it is. It's signed.

You're almost daring law enforcement to compel your return to the House, of course. You know, could they break down your door? They can't put you in shackled and drag you in or can they? I mean, why are you so confident this won't happen to you?

STATE REP. VIKKI GOODWIN (D-TX): Well, I -- it would be a really bad look for them to break down my door and put handcuffs on me and drag me to the house floor shows how extreme or the extreme measures that they're willing to go to to force a vote on a very bad bill.

You know, I've put a statement out saying when I would return to the house floor for would be to protect the people of the state of Texas. We need to work on COVID. We need to work on the electrical grid and restore the defending for our legislature.

BURNETT: So, your colleague, Representative Gene Wu is granted habeas corpus today from a district judge. So, that trumps the arrest warrant, that would force his return to the capital and he says that he and his lawyers are trying to get you and your 50 colleagues the same protections now. [19:45:04]

Will you ask for that protection?

GOODWIN: Yes. I have already and they have issued those. So we should be protected, as well.

BURNETT: All right. So you say you're committed to continuing to breaking quorum, so they can't have the vote. You obviously avoided the vote on these bills twice. But these arrest warrants, of course, are just one example of the Republican's determination to pass the bill and they have the majority, they've got the votes. You and your colleagues are basically staying away from the Capitol in order to prevent that from happening or any governing from happening, right? I mean, what is your end game here?

GOODWIN: Like I said, there is priorities that we would like for the Republicans to focus on. Right now, our kids are about to go back to our schools without the ability to have protections. I have just tonight actually right now one of my staff members is at a school board meeting where parents are showing up to ask that the school allow for a mask mandate to ensure the kids are protected.

So in my mind, that's the number one priority. The governor keeps saying he's not going to allow this. But we've had over 55,000 -- I mean, over 52,000 people die in the state of Texas of COVID and now they're saying that the delta variant is worse for children.

So that's our number one priority. We really should be addressing that first and foremost and if he would say that that's his priority, he's willing to work with us and reach across the aisle, you know, some of us might be willing to come back.

BURNETT: All right. Appreciate your time, thank you very much, Representative Goodwin. Thanks.

GOODWIN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, fears mounting that the Taliban could seize control of the Afghan capital. We're live in Kabul, next.

Plus, tonight, New York's incoming governor, the first woman to lead the state distancing herself tonight from Andrew Cuomo.


LT. GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: I think it's very clear that the governor and I have not been close, physically or otherwise.




BURNETT: Tonight, U.S. officials with a dire warning about the situation in Afghanistan. The new intelligence assessment warning the country's capital of Kabul could fall to the Taliban within the next 90 days, sooner. It comes as the militant group is rapidly seizing territory, claiming control of nine provincial capitals, as U.S. troops are completely withdrawing from the country.

But here's the thing, the Taliban speed is surprising many U.S. officials after a two decade military campaign.

Clarissa Ward is OUTFRONT in Kabul tonight.

And, Clarissa, the Taliban today claiming it seized the country's second largest city. They say they're freeing hundreds of prisoners. What is the situation on the ground right now?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: the situation just goes from bad to worse, and we've seen that in front of our own eyes on the ground. We were just in Kandahar less than a week ago. We were at a frontline position 600 yards away from that prison that the Taliban has now essentially taken over and freed. There's 1,000 prisoners there.

And the frontline position we were at, there was a wedding hall. There were Afghan forces there trying to repel Taliban attacks coming under fire from snipers. That position is now completely under the control of the Taliban.

And that really, Erin, is just a microcosm for you of a picture we're seeing over and over again.

We did a recent trip to Ghazni, another city, again, completely surrounded by the Taliban. They've already taken more than a quarter of the provincial capitals in Afghanistan in less than week, and there are many more, more than half of them, that are under a direct and imminent threat. And so, the fear right now, particularly here in Kabul is how can those gains be reversed if indeed at all?

BURNETT: Well, I know that really does seem to be the question. I mean, President Biden yesterday of course stood by his decision to withdraw U.S. troops even though the Taliban is moving so much more quickly than anybody pretty much anybody had anticipated.

Here's President Biden.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Afghan leaders have to come together. We lost thousands -- loss, death and injury, thousands of American personnel. They've got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation.


BURNETT: So, Clarissa, obviously, if you had U.S. troops there, this would be different, but how different?

WARD: I mean, listen, the U.S. has been fighting a tough fight against the Taliban for many years and I think they'd be the first to acknowledge the Taliban in many ways is a formidable adversary, right? Because when you have people often very eager to die it makes it difficult on a certain level.

And that's what we're seeing with Afghan forces. They don't simply have that same level of commitment to this cause. They're not willing to die for it in the same way.

Now, you could make an argument if there was a minimal amount even of U.S. forces still on the ground, that they would be able to contain some of the damage, some of the gains that have been done through this massive Taliban offensive across the country. The question becomes, though, how sustainable a policy would that have been, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Clarissa, thank you very much, live from Kabul tonight.

And next, New York's next governor with a message for anyone accused of unethical behavior in the attorney general sexual harassment investigation.


BURNETT: New York's next governor the first woman who will hold that position prepared to clean House when she takes office. Hochul vowing to remove anyone accused of an unethical in the attorney general sexual harassment investigation which found Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women. Hochul also distanced herself from Cuomo himself, making sure to emphasize this.


HOCHUL: I think it's clear the governor and I have not been close physically or otherwise. And I'm going to stand right here at the end of my term whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a hostile work environment.


BURNETT: Hochul pointed when asked about impeachment and a pardon for Cuomo, but pledges a smooth transition.

And before we go, a quick programming note. Next weekend, an event exclusively on CNN. Don't miss the We Love NYC homecoming concert Saturday on August 21st.

Thanks so much for watching.

"AC360" starts now.