Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Up To 1,500 Americans Still In Afghanistan, 6 Days To Deadline; State Dept. Warns Of "Very Real Possibility Of An ISIS-K Attack" Amid Race To Evacuate Afghans And Up To 1,500 Americans; House CMTE Seeks Massive Tranche Of Documents On Trump And Jan. 6 Capitol Attack; Deadline In 2 Weeks; Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) Talks About The Massive Documents The Select Committee Demands For Trump Including Family Members And Aides. Nebraska Ties To Recruit Nurses, Vaccinations "Not Required"; U.S. To Americans At Some Kabul Airport Gates: "Leave Immediately"; Gov. Newsom In Danger Of Being Recalled Weeks Before Election. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 25, 2021 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, racing against time. Six days before the deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan, up to 1,500 Americans are still in Afghanistan. This as warnings about an ISIS attack at the airport are growing.

And one state allowing vaccine skepticism to flourish, sending out recruitment flyers to nurses saying no need to be vaccinated in order to work.

Plus, he's a former NFL star backed by Trump but a 2008 interview with our Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows why some in the Republican Party are not sold on Herschel Walker. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, a race against time. With just six days left before the deadline for U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan, up to 1,500 Americans are still on the ground in Afghanistan. That's according to the Secretary of State Tony Blinken.

But even as the administration offered for the first time any concrete numbers of Americans left to evacuate, Blinken said the U.S. does not know if all of them are looking to leave or are even still in Afghanistan.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: These are dynamic calculations that we are working hour by hour to refine for accuracy.


BOLDUAN: Blinken also saying at least 4,500 Americans have been evacuated so far, more than 500 in the last day alone. But those evacuations in Kabul growing more dangerous by the day as CNN learns an ISIS affiliate wants to create mayhem at the airport and is planning to carry out multiple terror attacks there, that's according to a U.S. defense official who also tells our Jim Sciutto the concerns increased because of 'a very specific threat stream from ISIS-K'.

Adding to those concerns, members of ISIS-K escaped to prisons near Kabul with one regional counterterrorism source saying as many as several hundred members of the group may have escaped. And you only need to listen to the words of President Biden and his top advisors to see how serious they believe this ISIS threat is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These incredible threats.

BLINKEN: We're operating in a hostile environment in a city and country now controlled by the Taliban with the very real possibility of an ISIS-K attack.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every day we're on the ground is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport.


BOLDUAN: Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT at the White House for us. Kaitlan, even as the President said that they are going to be meeting their deadline, you have new reporting on contingency plans.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. The President was briefed on those contingency plans by his team in recent days. Those are the plans, of course, that he instructed the Pentagon and the State Department draw up in case they decided they could not meet this deadline by next Tuesday to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

And essentially what those plans looked at without the Pentagon offering specifics was how many people would they need to stay, how many U.S. troops would they need to stay on the ground, for how long and what would the goal of that mission be, because, of course, they don't want that extension to be pointless to not have an end. They want to have pretty tight goal of why they are extending it past the deadline.

But President Biden has decided to stick with this August 31st deadline. They are not planning on extending it right now.

And Kate, we know what that means is that in the coming days, these evacuations happening on the mass scale that we've seen over the last several days, judging by these updates from the White House are also going to come to an end, because at a time they have to provide for time for the troops that are on the ground thousands of them right now to draw down their forces, their weaponry, their machinery, get their resources out of there before this deadline is up.

And so Kate, it's raising a lot of questions about what's going to happen over the next few days. Because as Secretary Blinken said today, there are still hundreds of Americans who are there. We know there are still 10s of thousands of Afghans who qualify for these visas, potentially, who are also still on the ground waiting to be evacuated.

And so what Secretary Blinken said today is that they have gotten private commitments from the Taliban that they would permit and provide the safe passage of Americans of third party nationals and of these Afghan allies who, of course, are endangered by the Taliban to get to the airport once the 31st has passed.

But that is raising a lot of questions because that is all dependent on the Taliban. And once the 31st is passed, once we reach next Tuesday, the Pentagon confirmed today the U.S. government will no longer be in control of the airport in Kabul. What happens to it is really largely going to be up to the Taliban.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Kaitlan, good to see you. Thank you.

Meanwhile, many Afghan allies of the United States are now coming to grips with the reality, they may not get out in time. Sam Kiley is OUTFRONT.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice over): In the closing moments of America's longest war, a desperate legacy. A day after the Taliban announced that they would stop Afghans getting into Kabul Airport, these are the scenes at its walls.


They wade through sewage in breathtaking heat, waving their documents desperate for escape. Beyond these barriers, plane after plane carrying thousands to freedom. But here there is fast fading hope that they will get to safety before America and its allies leave in a few days time. The process taking an added urgency with what U.S. intelligence have described as a very specific threat against crowds gathering outside the airport.


KILEY(on camera): We've also had a number of reports of Afghans stuck in pockets around the town, desperately sending out signals to Americans to try to get them out particularly people who've been working with the United States. We've heard from one group whose identity we're keeping secret that really fear that they will not survive the coming days if they can't get to this airport.


KILEY(voice over): Nineteen-thousand have been evacuated in the last 24 hours. But with the Taliban blocking refugees from getting to the airport, the numbers here are down. There will be a day, maybe two before the military effort will have to focus on its own withdrawal. Amid detailed threats from ISIS-K who sources tell CNN have the

capacity and plans to commit atrocities against desperate Afghan crowds. Such fears are now behind those who are boarding on the plane, relief. Mohammed Yusufzai is a U.S. citizen, so with his family of six, he was able to make it through the Taliban blocks.


MOHAMMED YUSUFZAI, U.S. CITIZEN FROM CALIFORNIA: Nobody wants to leave their home easily, but there are a lot of challenging around.


KILEY(voice over): Landing in Doha, a muted joy. Now they're safe, but on a long journey into the unknown.

Sam Kiley, CNN, Kabul International Airport.


BOLDUAN: Sam, thank you for your continued fantastic reporting.

OUTFRONT with me now retired four-star general, Wesley Clark, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Europe and Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama.

Juliette, this is the tightrope that the administration has created for themselves right now. They've got six days and growing warnings about ISIS looking to carry out attacks at the airport that they are using to evacuate. Every evacuation is going to be dangerous. That's the way it is in a conflict zone. But how much more dangerous is it getting every day they get closer to this pronounced deadline?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's getting more dangerous simply because of the ISIS-K threat and just inability, I think, to control the areas surrounding the airport. So I want to make clear here though that the danger would exist whatever the deadline was and having no deadline was not possible given that the Taliban is now in charge of Afghanistan.

So I'm of the school now that keeping the deadline makes a lot of sense, because it does not force the Taliban's hand at this stage. Why would we get into a fight with them publicly at this stage? We have a common interest which is to minimize the ISIS-K threat, get people out, that's clearly happening, not as many as we wish and do that as safely as possible over the next week, and then deal with what evacuations look like this contingency planning after the 31st.

But those clamoring for the President to push a deadline and to get the Taliban to agree, the Taliban is not going to agree. They need to show that they're in control of the government and a war that they won. And so I think that this in a weird way, this weird, horrible, awful heart-wrenching deadline is in some ways giving a little bit of time to get as many people out and then on the other side see what evacuations look like. That's clearly the strategy laid out by the administration and the fact that Taliban is not denying it makes me feel a little bit better at this stage.

BOLDUAN: That is interesting.

Gen. Clark, the State Department as we've reported said today, there are up to 1,500 U.S. citizens left in the country. That does not include U.S. legal residents, green card holders and they don't have a number, specifically, of how many of special visa applicants are still out there.

If you don't know how many people you have to get out in six days, how do you get out in six days?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, that's been the problem all along. There's never a requirement when you go into a country to sort of register with U.S. embassy. I'm sure you got people there that no one knows about and some of them are probably waiting their chances right now.

They're asking, "Can I get to the airport? Should I wait till the last minute? What about the Taliban?" Maybe they have families, maybe they have connections with Afghan Special Forces or something that puts them at special danger. So there's a lot of uncertainty here and the State Department, obviously, is doing what it can. But I think we have to face the fact that we're not going to be assured that we're going to get everybody out.


I mean, that's just the reality of it. There will be people who didn't make it, I suspect.

BOLDUAN: And Juliette, exactly to Gen. Clark's point, there is a senior administration official put it to CNN this way that many Afghan allies who the U.S. aimed to help will be left behind. It's a reality that they say 'that would be true whenever we evacuated and whenever the Taliban took over no matter when'. Is that the harsh reality that people need to start facing?

KAYYEM: Yes, I think it is. I think one of the, I think, reasons for all the concern, and I get it, and all the emotion that's animating a lot of this, which I think is appropriate, is the realization that we're at the sort of risk minimization stage of this. No one or very few anticipated that we would lose control of the capital or that the Afghan Army would lose control of the capital that quickly. The rise of ISIS-K this quickly and the fact that we're hitting the end of the runway.

That being said, so that is why we're at this issue of just how fast can you get as many people out as possible, worry about the paperwork later, worry about the conditions that they're living in later, worry about all that later and I think that has to be the strategy. It is less bad is our standard now. Good is not our standard and that is the nature of having committed our resources for 20 years and having the country fall that quickly. It's horrifying but it's just the reality.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And Gen. Clark, we know that President Biden's been briefed on contingency plans that he asked for in case they don't make the August 31st deadline or the circumstances change. Today, we also heard this from Secretary Blinken, let me play it.


BLINKEN: Let me be crystal clear about this, there is no deadline on our work to help any remaining American citizens who decide they want to leave to do so along with the many Afghans who stood by us over these many years and want to leave and have been unable to do so.


BOLDUAN: So the Secretary says that they're developing plans for post-August 31st, will do everything in their power is how he put it to help Afghans get out after August 31st. But what can the U.S. do after the military leaves? Is that an empty promise?

CLARK: I don't think so, but I think what we do need to go and do is go to the U.N., because we're going to be facing an urgent humanitarian problem in Afghanistan, not just with the people who want to leave but there's a drought, there's no money, there's going to be food shortages, there's funds that have been tied up, are we going to release those funds, what will they be used for, what's happened to the government.

I mean, this is not the same society that the U.S. came to 20 years ago. This is a society that has 6 million to 8 million people in urban centers. They're not farmers anymore. They're not subsistence people. They've got to have ongoing functional economy. How much food do they have? A week? Two weeks? Three weeks? What's the impact of the drought? I've read maybe 40 percent of the wheat crop is lost.

So not only do we have to worry about the people that want to come out, we have to address this larger humanitarian issue. It's what the U.N. should be doing and I hope the administration among their many contingency plans is going to the United Nations and saying set this up, get a U.N. Security Council resolution, do it under Chapter VII, maybe NATO, maybe the United States could be lead nation, maybe someone else will be.

But we've got 2 million to 3 million people in Afghanistan who want to get out, that's the best estimate. Plus you have more people there who are going to be in huge distress over the next three to four months. So it's more than just holding the airport open.

BOLDUAN: What a damn mess. Sorry for saying that, but it's true.

General, thank you. Juliette, thank you as well.

OUTFRONT next, the January 6st Committee requesting a massive number of documents related to Donald Trump.

Plus, the State of Nebraska trying to hire nurses, sending out this flyer reportedly approved by the Governor himself highlighting COVID vaccines not required.

And why Gov. Gavin Newsom is in real danger of being recalled?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really leaning very heavily towards the recall. I'm disappointed in the Democratic Party in general.




BOLDUAN: Tonight, the House Select Committee investigating January 6th demanding documents related to the insurrection and digging into former President Donald Trump. The scope and scale of this first records request, breathtaking. Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT(voice over): The Select Committee blasting out a sweeping demand for documents hoping to find out the conversations inside the White House and among former President Trump's allies and advisors related to those false claims of election fraud and the Capitol attack on January 6th.




SCHNEIDER(voice over): The Committee's Chairman signaling this will be a sprawling probe.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): It's several hundred people that make up the list of individuals we plan to contact.


SCHNEIDER(voice over): The initial wave of requests sent to eight government agencies, including the Department of Justice, the FBI and the National Archives. The archives could be key since it has legal custody of all the presidential records from Donald Trump's time in office.

The Committee has sent that agency 12 pages of demands, including for White House records relating to Trump's family like the call logs and schedules from Melania Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner and his three eldest children.


DONALD TRUMP, JR., DONALD TRUMP SON: An actual fighter, one of the few.


SCHNEIDER(voice over): They are also seeking communications from key White House staffers like Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who pushed the Justice Department to investigate baseless claims of fraud already released documents show and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who CNN has reported pushed back.

Plus, the Committee wants the archives to hand over evidence of any efforts to delay the Electoral count, including communications involving Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani.




SCHNEIDER(voice over): Who persistently pushed false claims or fraud all over the country.


TRUMP: All I want to do is this, I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have.



SCHNEIDER(voice over): Trump's pressure campaign on Georgia officials to overturn the results also a target of the massive records request. But all the White House requests will be subject to executive privilege if the current president chooses to assert it. And even if Biden chooses not to, Trump could try to challenge it and wage a long ranging legal fight.

The Committee's chairman has also said the panel plans to send notices to various communications companies, requesting that they preserve phone records of several people, including members of Congress.


THOMPSON: In terms of telecom companies, they're the ones that pretty much already know. The major networks, the social media platforms, those kinds of things. We will do what's required to get the information.


SCHNEIDER(on camera): And the Select Committee also wants to know who stood up to Trump. They've asked for a paper trail about whether anyone defied any orders from the President, Kate. And the Committee is on a very tight and ambitious deadline. They've asked for all this information to be handed over in the next two weeks. But, of course, it's still unclear how much of a fight they might face. Kate?

BOLDUAN: That's right. Jessica, thank you very much for that.

I want to bring in right now, Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California. She is a member of the Select Committee investigating January 6. Congresswoman, thank you for being here.

Why are you all casting such a wide net with this request?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, this is just the beginning. We are trying to find out what happened leading up to January 6th, the various elements, the reasoning, who instigated it, why they instigated it and the like. We want to find out every element of it and so we've made this request and this is, as I said, just the beginning.

There are many other requests for documents that we will be making. Some of these requests were made to these agencies by other committees in Congress earlier and they have not been responded to. So we need the information now and we've made that clear to the various federal agencies.

BOLDUAN: So casting a wide net and it's going to be even wider since this is just the beginning. As part of this, Jessica laid it out very well in her piece, but as part of this, the Committee is demanding all communication related to challenging the election results from Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, attorney Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis. And all three of them, everyone will remember, were front and center in pushing Donald Trump's election lie. In one case on the very day of the insurrection, here's a reminder.


GIULIANI: Let's have trial by combat.

SIDNEY POWELL, PRO-TRUMP ATTORNEY: The entire election, frankly, in all the swing states should be overturned and the legislators should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump.

JENNA ELLIS, DONALD TRUMP LAWYER: And we have constitutional provisions that will step in when we show the corruption and the irredeemably challenged and overturned votes that are absolutely corrupt.


BOLDUAN: Of course not true. What are you looking for in the communications of these lawyers?

LOFGREN: Well, we don't know what we're going to find out. But let's just say this, it is a feasible for a losing candidate who has evidence to go to court and contest various elements of an election, the former president did that and he lost. That's quite different than a mob coming to stop the certification of the election and prevent the peaceful transfer of power that our constitution provides for. And the question is what happened beyond what is permitted, which is

to go through the judicial process and get an outcome that was impermissible, and how did that connect, if at all, to the riot on January 6th.

BOLDUAN: You're also asking for communications on January 6th between the White House and any members of Congress or congressional staff. Look, we know some members like Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy, they've spoken publicly about speaking with the president in the White House on that day, but do you have other specific names in mind?

LOFGREN: Well, I'm not going to mention the names because this is not an accusation. This is an investigation. There had been public reports of various members allegedly applauding to do various things. We don't know if that's true, but we need to find out and so that's why we're asking for evidence.


This is not going to be an investigation that is rooted in speculation. It's going to be rooted in the facts, we'll follow the facts wherever they lead us and then hopefully we will find a complete picture for the American people.

BOLDUAN: One element of this records request that I found head scratching is that the Committee is asking for documents pertaining to and the quote is the 'mental stability of Trump' or 'his fitness for office' in the days after the insurrection, why?

LOFGREN: Well, I don't want to get into what we might find. But obviously, what other officials were contemplating or discussing, relative to the President could be relevant to understanding the entire situation. So as you said at the outset, this is a very wide ranging request, it's not conclusionary, we don't know what we're going to find and so we may find things that lead to other requests that we can't even consider now.

But we do have, as I say, a number of other requests we'll be making in the days to come and the Committee works very hard and I will say together in a very collaborative way with our staff to try and have a solid beginning to this investigation. We think this is it.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thanks so much for your time.

LOFGREN: You bet.

BOLDUAN: We do have some breaking news we need to get to, U.S. Embassy warning Americans at specific gates at the Kabul Airport to leave immediately. We're going to have a live report on that coming up.

Plus, one state appealing to vaccine skeptics, recruiting nurses with flyers bragging about no vaccine mandates.



BOLDUAN: Now to the COVID crisis. The state of Nebraska seizing on vaccine skepticism among front line health care workers. Registered nurses across the state receiving emails and postcards like this advertising nursing jobs and highlighting, as you see there, that COVID vaccines are not required. That message reportedly approved by Republican Governor Pete Ricketts.

OUTFRONT now, Abbey Klein, a registered nurse in Nebraska who received both, a postcard, and an email with that job posting.

Thanks for being here, Abbey.

The ads also say, I want to make sure I have it right. While encouraged, state teammates are not required to have COVID-19 vaccines.

This is highlighted throughout these advertisements. You're vaccinated. What did you think when you got this?

ABBEY KLEIN, NEBRASKA REGISTERED NURSE: Yeah, you know, I thought it was just in really poor taste. Recently, the major metropolitan health care organizations have come out. They're all requiring COVID vaccinations for employees and the timing of these -- this recruitment campaign was pretty suspect given that every major employer in the state of Nebraska for health care was going to be requiring the COVID vaccine.

And I felt like it was just, you know, it was really in poor taste and not what our state should be advocating for.

BURNETT: Yeah, I'm looking at this and wondering is this dangerous, dumb, mean or all of the above because what they're doing effectively is recruiting unvaccinated health care workers to stick them right in front of the vulnerable patients.

KLEIN: Yeah, and I think that's the -- that's the biggest point here that these jobs are with patients who are already vulnerable and already don't have other options for health care.

So, we're thinking, you know, individuals with developmental disabilities or veterans, we really don't want to put vaccinated people in front of the super vulnerable populations.

BURNETT: We reached out to the Republican governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts. His office had confirmed to "The Washington Post" that the mailers came from them and here is how a spokesman is defending the ads telling our team this: There is a nurse shortage across the state and mandates are going to make it worse. That is a big safety concern. The people in the states care will be more safe by having more nurses on our team.

As a nurse yourself, I don't know, is that how you think the governor should be addressing a work force shortage? How does it make you feel?

KLEIN: You know, I don't think it's the right way to look at a work force shortage. There is a variety of factors that caused this shortage and I think boiling it down to just vaccine mandates is not appropriate frankly before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were facing a nursing shortage in the state of Nebraska.

So, you know, I really do think boiling it down to just the vaccine mandate is a, incorrect but it's also not helping, you know, our shortage because when we have unvaccinated individuals that are at a higher likelihood of contracting COVID-19, they, you know, will eventually be out of the workforce and that, you know, even deepens the staffing crisis that we're seeing here.

BOLDUAN: We've seen data across the country about one in four hospital employees have not yet received a COVID vaccine. Why do you think we're seeing so much skepticism among health care workers? And I say that because they clearly believe in science because they work in the field and they're also witnessing this pandemic firsthand.

KLEIN: Yeah, you know, I think it's really complex. I think there are people who still don't -- didn't feel comfortable prior to the FDA giving full authorization for the vaccine, but I also think, you know, some people just felt like they were young and healthy.


And, you know, I have seen a lot of people change their minds and change their attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccination with how many young people are going into our hospital systems right now.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. That is -- seems to be when you see basically a mirror image of yourself sitting in ICU, that can have an impact.

KLEIN: Yeah.

BOLDUAN: Abbey, thank you very much for coming on.

OUTFRONT for us next, we are going to get to that breaking news we're getting into CNN. The U.S. embassy telling Americans at certain gates of the Kabul airport to leave immediately. We'll tell you what we know and what we're learning after the break.

Plus, he's a former NFL star who has Trump's backing.


HERSCHEL WALKER, FORMER NFL STAR: I'm a kid from a small town in Georgia who's lived the American dream and I'm ready to fight to keep that dream alive for you, too.


BURNETT: So why are many Republicans convinced he won't win?


BOLDUAN: Breaking news out of Afghanistan. The U.S. embassy in Kabul warning Americans citizens at a number of gates at the airport to, quote, leave immediately.

Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT for us at the White House right now.


Kaitlan, what else can you tell us?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this alert says this is because of security threats outside of the airport. Of course, that is the one airport and the one airport right now that we have seen at the center of this coverage and now in bold letters in this statement, they are saying U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, the East Gate or the North Gate now should leave immediately and then instruct them further on the actions they should take.

And they are saying that those citizens who should be at the airport right now are only those who have gotten specific instructions from a government representative to be there and, of course, this comes as there is a bitter concern about potential mayhem happening outside that airport. We don't know, Kate, if this is because many specific threat but we know generally these are the threats that the White House has been worried about all week.

And Jim Sciutto reported earlier today that one concern that the administration have when it came to ISIS-K is that they were seeking to cause mayhem at the airport, that they potentially there was these intelligence streams showing they had intelligence and capability to potentially do so.

And this is even something President Biden cited this week when he was talking about why he is going or is set on making that August 31st deadline as he said he knows that groups like ISIS-K and other organizations are seeking to potentially target this airport and the crowds outside of it. So, now, this new alert from the U.S. embassy in Kabul is telling Americans at these three gates, probably the three biggest gates that we have seen on the ground like Clarissa and Sam Kiley talking about the most popular and most crowded gates, now telling them to leave immediately.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, much more to come. Kaitlan, thanks for the update. We're going to stay close to this breaking news. Bring you updates as we get them on that.

Let's turn now to the latest on the recall fight in California. Could the Democratic governor of a deep blue state like California be in danger of losing his job in three weeks?

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT with give Gavin Newsom's fight to keep his job.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How are you registered politically?



LAH (voice-over): You'd think rejecting the recall of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom would be a no-brainer for these three Los Angeles voters, but it's not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I have to say, I'm really leaning very heavily towards the recall.

LAH: To recalling the governor?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. You know, I'm disappointed in the Democratic Party in general.

LAH: Disappointed of the party in control with a super majority of California state government, while problems grow -- wildfires, drought, crime, cost of living, but the worst for them? Homelessness, which expanded through the pandemic, now in neighborhoods across middle class Los Angeles, including their own.

HELSETH: It's like, let me work, let me pay my taxes but provide me with safety and not be accosted by to homeless people within the matter of 15 minutes.

LAH: This is Governor Newsom's fault?

SANDOVAL: I mean, technically -- how can I answer that? He's the leader. Everything starts from the top, and it goes down.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: God bless you and the best is yet to come.

LAH: These women are part of the more than 60 percent of voters who resoundingly elective Newsom in 2018.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In my mind, when he was running, there was nobody else in the world that would have been better. And instead, it has become politics.

LAH: After an exhausting year of crisis after California crisis, the ones popular governor now fights for his job.

His battle cry?

NEWSOM: Vote no on this Republican-backed recall.

LAH: Blaming Republicans.

NEWSOM: Everybody backing Trump and Republican Party sees an opportunity.

LAH: And reminding Democrats they outnumber Republicans two to one in the state.

NEWSOM: We turn out our base, we're going to win, unquestionably. It's not a persuasion campaign. People are locked in.

LAH: But all politics is local, says Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo who warns there are troubled signs for his party.

Do you think they are nervous based on what you are seeing?

MICHAEL TRUJILLO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'm nervous. They are probably 100 times more nervous, homelessness is, I've never seen an issue like this so potent. It's making progressive voters moderate because they are so upset.

AD NARRATOR: This is California.

LAH: It's why you are seeing Republican challengers hammering Newsom on homelessness and cost of living.

LARRY ELDER, CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I was born here when the country was not nearly as affluent as it is right now and now, we have a homeless problem. Are you kidding me?

LAH: How will it make you feel if a Republican is elected?


LAH: Unwilling to vote for a Republican, but willing to risk sending a message to their party.

LAH: Do you feel that Gavin Newsom is listening to you?


HELSETH: That's a good question.


LAH (on camera): Well, that window to make a decision on whether or not to recall the governor, that window is closing. Voting has already started, the election is underway. Across Los Angeles County, the most populous county here in the state of California, you can see 400, more than 400 of these ballot drop boxes there, all over the county for people to drop off ballots.


We've seen people dropping them off since these ballot boxes first went up. As far as these voters, and whether they are going to decide anytime soon, Kate, they tell us, they're going to wait until those last couple of days, or maybe not even send those ballots in at all -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Really? Kyung, great to see you. Thanks so much.

OUTFRONT now, Marisa Lagos. She's a political correspondent for KQED News California and co-host of "The Political Breakdown" podcast.

Marisa, less than three weeks out of this recall election, how much danger do you think this recall is for Governor Newsom. Where are you hearing?

MARISA LAGOS, POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT CORRESPONDENT, KQED NEWS CALIFORNIA: I mean, similar to what we heard in that piece, Kate. I think Democrats are nervous. Look, they have the numbers on their side, but I think they are checked out in the state since Trump left office quite frankly. And so, what we are seeing is this effort to motivate the base, to speak to those issues, to really scare Democrats and independents who might not like some of the candidates that they see on the Republican side.

I think they have stepped it up in recent days, or weeks really. The polling that we saw really, the most recent polling came out a month ago -- and what we have seen is a real effort to get that ground game going. There's a lot of critique that Newsom and his team were, you know, focusing too much of their money and time on TV ads and sort of media instead of going out and talking to voters. We know the Newsom team is working with groups that worked to help get out the vote for Bernie Sanders in previous primaries, presidential primaries and had a lot of success here. Bernie Sanders won the state.

So, I think they're doing that ground game. If they can keep up and get people excited, then it is theirs to lose, basically.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, but can they keep it up? The Republican candidate getting the most attention right now is Larry Elder. And a long time -- for everyone out there who doesn't know, a long time conservative talk radio host from L.A. He has this shock jock sketchy past that you can follow. "Politico" recently reported that Elder's former fiancee claims he waved a gun at her during a fight in 2015. She told "Politico" she was so scared that she locked herself in a bedroom. Elder denies the allegation but it kind of goes on and on like that. But now, other Republicans are accusing him not only of dodging the base, but saying that he should drop out.

How did he rise to the top of the field of some, what is it, four dozen challengers?

LAGOS: Yes, we have 46 people on the ballot. He has name ID in Los Angeles, the biggest county. He has been on the air for two and a half decades on and off. He's got a loyal following. We've seen that, you know, people I think who maybe say outrageous things have ridden that into the White House.

So I think what you are seeing here is about name ID and numbers. You don't need a majority to win this if Newsom is recalled. You just need a plurality. And he is more known than most other candidates. And quite frankly, I think he is more exciting even if you are appalled by what he is saying, he is saying things people are listening to.

BOLDUAN: Yes, the system is wild, right? You need a majority to not be recalled but you only need a plurality then if you are recalled, which could be like infinitesimal. It could be teeny-weeny and the person could still win the governorship.

It's good to see you, Marisa. Thank you very much. OUTFRONT next, Georgia football hero and Trump favorite Herschel Walker running for Senate. But some in the Republican Party worry about allegations like this from Walker's wife.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He held a gun to my temple and said he's going to blow my brains out.


BOLDUAN: And decades after he appeared naked as a baby on the cover of this iconic album, the now grown-up Nirvana baby is suing over this picture. Be right back.


BOLDUAN: Tonight, former NFL star and Trump ally Herschel Walker officially jumping into Georgia Senate race after months of encouragement from Trump himself.

But GOP strategists and lawmakers think the party could be throwing this seat away.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Herschel Walker made his name running on the track on the football field, and now, the former NFL star is running as a Republican for a U.S. Senate seat in his home state.

WALKER: I'm a kid from a small town in Georgia who's lived the American dream. And I'm ready to fight to keep that dream alive for you, too.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I want to say hello to Herschel Walker, Athens.

FOREMAN: Herschel has risen to political prominence in part because he and Donald Trump had found a mutual admiration society.

WALKER: I also get upset because he don't get the credit he deserved for all the things he's done in the African-American community.

FOREMAN: Beyond that however, it gets complicated.

GREG BLUESTEIN, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: There's talk in Georgia there are more skeletons in Herschel Walker's closets than there are closets.

FOREMAN: Walker who was a Heisman trophy winner for the University of Georgia played for the Vikings, Eagles, Giants and Cowboys.

WALKER: I'm getting ready, and we can run with the big dogs. FOREMAN: He only recently moved back to Georgia from Texas. Never

sought nor served in office before. "The Associated Press" says he's greatly exaggerated his business success and strategists wonder how voters might react to his personal life.

WALKER: I've played Russian roulette before.


WALKER: Yeah, I've played Russian roulette before and stuff.

FORERMAN: In 2008, Walker and his former wife Cindy discussed his mental health issues with CNN Dr. Sanjay Gupta including episodes of threatened violence.

CINDY GROSSMAN, FORMER WIFE OF HERSCHEL WALKER: He held a gun to my temple and said he's going to blow my brains out.

FOREMAN: Trump loyalists will undoubtedly love how Walker has embraced the big lie of a stolen election. But the incumbent Democrat, Senator Raphael Warnock, has his own strong following. He's raising money hand over fist and traveling the state.

BLUESTEIN: Not talking about Herschel Walker, not talking about 2022 really, but talking about how Democratic priorities are helping to expand the economy and bring new jobs in Georgia.


FOREMAN: (AUDIO GAP) doubts Walker could win the primary. He's famous, Trump loves him and Georgians are crazy about their football stars. But Republicans have to win the general election to take the Senate, and there Democrats want to exploit all of that to give a really bruising fight to this legendary athlete -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Tom, thank you.

OUTFRONT next, the naked Nirvana baby is all grown up and filing suit.



BOLDUAN: Do you remember and we'll show you, this album cover when there were actual album covers? It's Nirvana's iconic "Nevermind" from 199, grudge band classic. It's amazing.

The naked baby featured front and center now an adult is suing the band and its members. Take note of the money on the fishhook which I'll get to in a second.

Spencer Elden said the artwork is child pornography. His federal lawsuit obtained by CNN claims he's suffered lifelong damages from that experience. The now 30-year-old wants $150,000 from each of the many defendants including Kurt Cobain's widow Courtney Love who's the executor of Cobain's estate.

And if your head isn't spinning yet, the suit alleges Elden was sexualized because the dollar bill used in the cover artwork made the baby resemble a sex worker. Let's see where that goes.

Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Kate Bolduan.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.