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Unvaccinated Americans Filling Hospitals As Dangerous COVID Surge Takes Hold; Biden Tells Senate Democrats We're Going To Get This Done As Lawmakers Reach Deal On $3.5 Trillion Spending Plan; New Book Portrays Trump As Self-Obsessed, Delusional And Dangerous In His Final Days In Office; Bush Warns Of Unspeakable Harm As U.S. Leaves Afghanistan; Alleged Iranian Plot To Kidnap U.S. Journalist; Officials Release 911 Calls From Moments After Deadly Surfside Condo Collapse; Judge Allows Britney Spears To Hire Her Own Attorney In Conservatorship Battle. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 14, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The FBI released a statement saying they're taking steps to ensure these failures never happen again.
Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, unvaccinated Americans are flooding hospitals as a dangerous new COVID surge grips the nation. New cases have nearly doubled in just two weeks.
Let's get it done, that's the message President Biden said to Senate Democrats today as lawmakers are closing in on a $3.5 trillion dollars domestic trending package. Will months of negotiations finally pay off?
And a bomb shell new book, "Landslide," is giving fresh insight into former President Trump's chaotic, very disturbing final days in office. The author, Michael Wolff, he's standing by live, he will join us.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin our coverage tonight with the latest on the surging coronavirus pandemic. CNN's Erica Hill is joining us from New York right now. Erica, update our viewers.
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So we just learned from L.A. County, where cases, by the way, are up 500 percent over the last month, that all of the COVID patients admitted now are unvaccinated. Here in New York City, we learned today that from January to June, nearly all of the new cases, hospitalizations and deaths were also among people in the city who were unvaccinated. All of those headlines, all of those numbers just underscoring the boost in efforts to try to get more shots in arms.
HILL (voice over): The White House calling in pop star Olivia Rodrigo in an effort to boost vaccinations, especially among teens and young adults, as misinformation and politics threaten to derail vaccine progress.
DR. MICHELLE FISCUS, FORMER DIRECTOR OF IMMUNIZATION PROGRAMS, TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: It's pretty clear who they're listening to, and it's not the scientists.
HILL: After sharing information on Tennessee's vaccine policy for minors, one of the state's medical directors was fired this week. Now, according to documents obtained by CNN, the state has ordered a halt to all vaccine outreach for kids.
FISCUS: It is any kind of outreach around the importance of vaccines for children, around the importance of COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents, especially, has been halted, even going so far as to cancel events that are scheduled well into the fall for flu vaccination within schools.
HILL: The American Academy of Pediatrics calling her firing the most recently example of politicizing public health expertise.
DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT, TEXAS CHILREN'S HOSPITAL: What we'll see, and the ones who will also pay the price other than the unvaccinated adolescents are the little kids who depend on the adults and adolescents to get vaccinated in order to slow or halt transmission.
HILL: In Mississippi, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, seven children are in the ICU with COVID, two are on ventilators.
DR. CHRIS PERNELL, FELLOW, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE: We're too often falling back on to human behavior thinking that people will do what's in the best interest of the most, but that hasn't proven to be true so far.
HILL: Hospitalizations, skyrocketing in several states with one common thread.
DR. HANY ATALLAH, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, JACKSON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: The people who are being hospitalized are those who are unvaccinated and we think that that's come with a lot of the unmasking.
HILL: Meantime, the more contagious delta variant now accounts for nearly 60 percent of new infections in the U.S. Nationwide, all but three states seeing a jump in new cases over the past week.
BEAU TIDWELL, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, NEW ORLEANS MAYOR'S OFFICE: Delta is here, delta is dangerous and delta is killing people. This should scare the hell out of you.
(END VIDEOTAPE) HILL (on camera): Wolf, one more update on what's happening in Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Health confirming to CNN that they have, in fact, halted notifications for adolescent vaccines. It doesn't mean vaccinations have stopped but those notifications have. So what does that mean?
That means kids who were ready for a second COVID-19 dose, and HPV vaccine, even kindergarten vaccination surveys, those have been halted while they reevaluate the notification process. The department spokeswoman saying it's because vaccines are a, quote, polarized issue.
Just to give you a sense, since 1987 in the state, kids 14 to 17 don't need parental permission to seek medical attention. That includes vaccinations. As for how many unaccompanied minors actually got the COVID-19 vaccine in Tennessee, Wolf, we're told it's eight.
BLITZER: All right, Erica Hill, a very disturbing information indeed. Thank you very much.
Let's go to our Chief White House Continue Kaitlan Collins right now. Kaitlan, the misinformation about COVID, the lies out there about the vaccine, this is a growing concern for White House right now. So what are they planning to do about it?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're preparing to push back more aggressively, Wolf, because they are concerned that this is going to be or it already is a driving force, and why you're seeing people not get vaccinated.
And they're still devising ways in which they are going to push back on this. But they say they will push back on it more forcefully. That could involve President Biden himself getting involved in all of this.
But really, what they want to do and the main goal of this is not really actually doing anything, but it's calling it out and noting that this is a driving force behind a lot of people having misinformation and misconceptions about what is behind this vaccines, the science behind them and science it's in them and how they were approved.
And so a lot of them is going to start with just public statement from the White House and it's going to begin tomorrow with the surgeon general making a rare appearance in the briefing room where he's going to talk about a government-created report that does deal in part with the misinformation they believe is surrounding the vaccine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's a report that will be coming out that that, again, our surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, will be coming to the briefing room tomorrow to talk about, and certainly the push back against disinformation, information that is, you know, literally a matter of life and death is something that is going to be a continued focus of this administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: And, Wolf, it's not just some conservative outlets or conservative channels or some Republicans who have been pushing lies about the vaccine because they point to people like the Senate, former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been nonstop almost in encouraging people to get vaccinated.
And one big concern inside the administration is the role of its social media platforms is playing in all of this. And so that was part of the question there too. Jen Psaki earlier today was, we know that the chief of staff, Ron Klain, has gone directly to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook to say, that a lot of the times when they talk to people about where they see the misinformation about vaccines, people tell them Facebook.
BLITZER: All right. Kaitlan, stand by, we're going to get back to you. I know you have more news developing over at the White House as well.
But in the meantime, I want to get analysis from Dr. Paul Offit. He's a Member of the FDA Vaccine's Advisory Committee. Dr. Offit, thank so much for joining us.
How important is it that the White House be actively engaged in this fight against coronavirus misinformation right now?
DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: I think very important. I mean, you would have thought that the hard part about getting people protected from this virus would have been constructing the virus, which was done in 11 months, or mass producing the vaccine, or mass distributing the vaccine or mass administering the vaccine. It's not. The hardest part is getting people to actually take the vaccine.
And I think the White House has taken the lead on this in trying to solve the major problems. One was access, which I think their door-to- door idea is a great one. The second is education, to try and get -- find out who the influencers are in these communities and educate them about how to educate those communities, and then the sort of nudge principle of just, you know, the free beer or the lottery as a way of sort of finally getting people to do it.
But then the question is going to come down to what percentage of the people who are choosing not to get a vaccine are simply science denialists. And it doesn't matter what you tell them, it doesn't matter how well you educate them, they just aren't going to get the vaccine. And they provide a rich and fertile ground for this virus to continue to reproduce itself, cause people to suffer, be hospitalized, and die, and, in addition, continue to create these variants.
And what do you do then? Well, I think the answer to that question is you have mandatory vaccines, at least at the local level. I think that's going to, in the end, have to happen.
BLITZER: Yes. I suspect you might be right. As this delta variant, Dr. Offit, takes hold across the country, we're hearing from physicians that the patients who are now hospitalized with this virus are younger, and they are sicker. What warnings should they be sending?
OFFIT: Right. So, I think, you know, you have the greater percentage of people now who are being hospitalized are those less than 50. They're, in some ways, less likely to be vaccinated than the older group. This is a more contagious virus, therefore, you know, it's more likely to spread and more likely to cause disease, including serious disease.
But the good news here, though, is that if you look at the delta variant, and it makes up about 50 percent of circulating, strains, in some areas, 80 percent. Nonetheless, still 99.2 percent of people who are hospitalized or killed by this virus are unvaccinated, which is to say the vaccine protects against severe critical disease caused by the delta variant, so get vaccinated.
BLITZER: Which is so, so critically important. It's a life and death issue, as I keep on saying. Dr. Offit, thank you so much for joining us.
OFFIT: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, President Biden pressing lawmakers as Senate Democrats reach a deal on a $3.5 2 trillion spending plan. We're going to talk about it with Senator Bernie Sanders. He's standing by. We'll discuss with him when we come back.
Also a disturbing portrait of former President Trump during his final days in office. We're going to talk to the author of a new book revealing Trump's state of mind during those final days.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to get this done.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We are getting this done. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Biden up on Capitol Hill today telling Democratic senators, you just heard him say it, we're going to get this done, After lawmakers announced a deal on a $3.5 trillion dollars spending package.
Let's go back to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, she's joining us along with CNN Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles.
Ryan, you have some new details emerging right now about what's actually in this new budget package that Senate Democrats have agreed on? What are you learning?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And there's a lot of optimism right now among Democrats about this $3.5 trillion package, but there's a long way to go before it ends up on President Biden's desk, in part, because we don't know specifically what's going to be in it.
So far, these budget negotiators just releasing some top line concepts that they want to include, which are key priorities for many Democrats.
Among them, some major investments in fighting climate change, also investments in things like universal pre-K, paid family and medical leave, as well as child care. They also want to put investment in housing, small business support and American manufacturing.
And there's also going to be significant changes to the tax code. We don't know the specifics behind this either, but based on what we're hearing Democrats say, this means tax increases on the wealthiest Americans and corporations, that's been a key priority, especially for these progressive members of both the House and Senate who have been pushing for this big package.
Now, Wolf, it's important to keep in mind that $3.5 million is no doubt a lot of money, but progressives wanted to spend as much as $6 trillion. And so far, they have been open to finding out more about this package. The big question for them is just how much is going to be spent in each one of the areas. So far, they seem to be receptive to this package, at least in its early offering. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, standby. Kaitlan, the president returned to Capitol Hill today to make the sell, to rally support among Democrats. What are you hearing? How did it go?
COLLINS: Well, publicly, he just said, he felt good to be home. Of course, he spent three decades on Capitol Hill as a senator. But, Wolf, we know from our reporting that behind closed doors, he was urging the Democratic Party to stay united on this process. Because we know that they are trying to move quickly. They would like to get this done by August. That is going to be a significant haul for the Democrat lawmakers on Capitol Hill and for the White House being involved in that.
And so that was his main message today. He was trying to make sure that they are unified on this because we know when it comes to the $3.5 trillion agreement, there are progressive members of the Democratic caucus that wanted it to be a lot higher, and moderates who wanted it to be a lot lower. And they cannot afford to miss a single vote on this, as they are also trying to subsequently get this bipartisan infrastructure deal passed.
That is the agreement that the president outline with several Republicans. And one that he was trying to sell this afternoon to a group of the nation's mayors and governors here at the White House, and Wolf, he does feel it needs to be a two-track process?
BLITZER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.
Let's get more on what's going on. The Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is joining us. He is the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. Senator, thank you so much for joining us.
So, as you just heard, and as you would know a lot better than I do, this is, what, some $2.5 trillion less than you and many of your fellow progressives initially wanted. What do you say to those fellow progressives who feel that maybe you gave in too easily right now?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, what I would say, Wolf, number one, we are, in fact, looking at the most consequential piece of legislation for working families since the great depression. So this is a very big, big deal, which is going to transform the lives of many millions of Americans.
Second of all, what I would simply say is I wish, you know, that the rest of the Senate held my political views, but they don't. As I think Ryan mentioned, Kaitlan mentioned, there are 50 of us in the Senate, some more conservative than others, and we have to reach an agreement.
But, essentially, what the framework of this bill is about is number one, telling the wealthiest people in the largest corporations, many of whom have avoided paying their fair share of taxes, those days are over. They're going to start paying their fair share of taxes. Second. I'm sorry.
BLITZER: Have you -- go ahead, make your second point.
SANDERS: Second of all, working families in this country, while the rich are getting much richer, working families are struggling. They can't afford health care, they can't afford child care, they can't afford to send their kids to college. They can't afford home health care for their parents. And we are going through it in a very significant way address many of these crises that working families are facing.
And, thirdly, finally, the United States will lead the world in dealing with enormous threat to our country and the planet in terms of climate change.
And when we do all of these things, we're going to create many, many millions of good paying jobs, which we desperately need.
BLITZER: As you know, your Democratic colleagues, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, he's a pivotal vote in all of this. It's a 50/50 Senate. He says, he is, and I'm quoting him now, very, very disturbed by provisions in the deal. He believes that would eliminate fossil fuels. That's a point you're making. Are those provisions on the table if it means getting Manchin to support the whole package?
SANDERS: Well, let me tell you, when you're dealing with a bill as big as this, and with 50 senators from states all over the country, a lot of people are disturb about a lot of things, there's a lot of work that has to be done. But my own view is climate change, I mean, we're seeing what's going on in the west coast of this country right now.
And everything being equal, if we don't get our act together and transform our energy system, what you're seeing on the west coast, what you're seeing flooding in Detroit, in New York, it's only going to get worse.
So we have to become very aggressive about combating climate change. Obviously, we have to work with all 50 Democratic senators to pass this bill.
BLITZER: Hovering over all of this right now is the fear of inflation. As you well know, the Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, today addressed deep concerns about high inflation readings going on right now. And inflation is a really serious problem, not so much for the rich but for the middle class and the poor. Gasoline costs $4 a gallon or $5 a gallon. Rich people don't care but middle-class people do care. How concerned are you right now, Senator, about inflation?
SANDERS: Well, I am concerned about inflation among many other things. As I think you know, this bill, this $3.5 trillion, and then there's another 600 billion in a so-called bipartisan infrastructure bill will pay for itself. It will be paid for in a variety of ways, but significantly by higher taxes on the wealthy and large corporations. So that should not add to the inflation concerns.
BLITZER: Because the inflation problem potential is a huge problem. You and I remember the Jimmy Carter administration, he lost his bid for reelection as president of the United States in part because of the Iran hostage crisis but also because inflation, high interest rates were really devastating the U.S. at that time.
SANDERS: Well, Wolf, inflation is a real concern but we should also be concerned about is that real inflation accounted for wages for many, many workers in this country has not gone up for almost 50 years. People are paying much more than they can afford for child care, for college, for health care, and this legislation begins to address those concerns.
BLITZER: All right, Senator, thank you very, very much. We obviously will continue this conversation with you.
A very important programming note to our viewers, be sure to join us one week from tonight for a CNN town hall with President Joe Biden. CNN Anchor Don Lemon will moderate live from Cincinnati. That's Wednesday, July 21st, 8:00 P.M. Eastern only here on CNN.
Coming up, former President Trump portrayed as dangerous and delusional during his final days in office. We're going to speak to Michael Wolff about his brand new book entitled, Landslide, when we come back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:25:00]
BLITZER: We're getting some very disturbing new insight into former President Trump following his election loss to Joe Biden last year. A brand new book just out portrays him as self-obsessed, delusional and even dangerous. Michael Wolff has written three books about Trump. His new book is entitled, Landslide, The Final Days of the Trump Presidency, there you see the cover. Michael, thanks so much for joining us.
I want to read your description of the former president leading up to January 6th. You write this. How far had he, Trump, left reality and to what extent had the government itself become charade to support his delusion, not that the delusion, mind you, would ever become reality, but the checks and balances of government would not discourage it either. The president would just simply float, disconnected, out there. Give us some insight into how you came up with that.
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, LANDSLIDE, THE FINAL DAYS OF THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY: You know, what really happened here after November 3rd, after election day by Saturday, November 7th, almost everybody -- not almost, literally, everybody around the president, people in the White House, people in the campaign, people in his own family had come to the conclusion that, number, one, Donald Trump had lost this election. Number two, whatever Donald Trump did would not change that outcome.
So, effectively, it was just Donald Trump, Donald Trump alone, who had this idea that the election was stolen and that he could change it. Now, he was -- he came to be aided by Rudy Giuliani, which is alarming in its own way, but, essentially, the entire government, his entire White House, the administration, his lawyers, everybody deserted him.
BLITZER: Speaking of Giuliani, he's clearly a central character in your new book. Here's what you write about his infamous press conference at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping site. You write this. This was in every sense a Rudy affair, chaotic, disorganized, scattered in result and purpose, and not unlikely conceived and executed with its key actor a few sheets to the wind.
That's a pretty dramatic statement. The man you describe as chaotic, disorganized and you even say drunk. He was America's mayor at one point. He saw the country through 9/11. So what happened here?
WOLFF: I mean, I think at one point is the key phrase. Rudy has changed. Life didn't work out for Rudy. It was -- what he imagined happening didn't happen. As a matter of fact, he imagined Donald Trump will be his side kick and he would be the president. That didn't happen.
But Rudy, nevertheless, was and is desperate to be at the center of attention. Of course, as the years went on, he drank more and more.
WOLFF: He, you know, ballooned up to almost 300 pounds. He was someone actually Donald Trump went around saying Rudy is -- Rudy drinks too much, falls asleep all the time, can't focus on anything and is always -- whatever he does, he messes it up.
Nevertheless, and this is sort of the key characteristic of Donald Trump is that if you say what he wants to hear, then you are his man. You are in Rudy's case, his personal lawyer, because Rudy was the only one saying what Donald Trump wanted to hear.
BLITZER: I was really impressed, Michael, that you managed to interview the former president not once but twice for this new book, even though as a lot of us remember, he tried to sue you to stop publication of your last book. Now, how did those conversations with Trump come about and how did they go.
WOLFF: It's extraordinary. I mean, I am as dumbfounded as anybody about this. But the way it came about is I had been speaking to people around the president, and, I mean, many -- a number of these people I have been speaking to for four years about the president. But someone told him or I suppose probably warned him that I was going to write another book.
And the president's response was as follows, oh, that guy gets ratings, let's see him. So I was immediately invited to come down to Mar-a-Lago to interview the president, to have dinner with the president.
BLITZER: That was a pretty impressive, I must say, that you managed to do that.
Let me read something from the book that the former president told you about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. You write this. This is what Trump told you. There were so many others I could have appointed and everyone wanted me to. Where would he be without me? I saved his life. He wouldn't even be in a law firm. Who would have had him? Nobody.
Why was Kavanaugh, in the interview that Trump gave you, the recipient of this level of wrath from the former president?
WOLFF: Well, very simple, because Brett Kavanaugh, when it came to it, did not rule in favor of the president's bid to overturn the election. So it's very simple. In Donald Trump's mind, he was owed by Brett Kavanaugh, owed for putting him on the court, and then owed for defending him when he was accused of all manner of sexual abuse.
He stood by him, therefore, it -- in Donald Trump's mind, Brett Kavanaugh should have stood by him, and he absolutely is incapable of understanding how Brett Kavanaugh could not understand that.
BLITZER: The book is entitled -- let me put the cover back up on the screen -- Landslide, The Final Days of the Trump Presidency, the author, Michael Wolff. Michael, thanks for writing the book. Thanks for joining us today. I would like to continue these conversations down the road.
BLITZER: Coming up, officials are revealing new details about an alleged plot to kidnap an American journalist in New York and extradite her to Iran.
Also ahead, we have breaking news out of Los Angeles where Britney Spears just scored a major victory in court.
BLITZER: As the Taliban make major gains right now in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. troops, former President George W. Bush is speaking about his fears, enormous fears for the Afghan people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Sadly, I'm afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm.
REPORTER: Is it a mistake, the withdrawal --
BUSH: You know, I think it is, yes. Because I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad. And I'm sad. Laura and I spent a lot of time with Afghan women, and they're scared. And I think about all the interpreters and people that helped, not only U.S. troops but NATO troops, and they just -- it seems like they're just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and it breaks my heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's Anna Coren is joining us from Kabul, Afghanistan, with more. Anna?
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Former U.S. President George W. Bush, who sent U.S. troops into Afghanistan 20 years ago after 9/11, has described the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces as a mistake. He said the consequences of ending America's longest war will be, quote, unbelievably bad for women and girls.
His comments come as the Taliban make even more gains across the country. They have seized the border crossing Spin Buldak in Kandahar Province bordering Pakistan. This is the fourth border crossing to fall in less than a month as the Taliban goes after key infrastructure, trying to choke the country and pressure the government.
Well, meantime, the Taliban is on a P.R. offensive to try to discredit CNN's reporting of the execution of Afghan commandos surrendering. The state department has weighed in, describing these horrific actions as an atrocious act. Well, CNN spoke to five eyewitnesses who confirmed the massacre took place.
And the Biden administration has launched Operation Allied Refuge, to relocate thousands of Afghans who helped work with the military.
[18:40:03] It's still not known where they will be taken while their visas are processed but the White House says the flights will begin by the end of the month. Wolf?
BLITZER: Anna Coren in Kabul, Afghanistan. Anna, stay safe over there.
Also tonight, we're learning new details, very disturbing new details, about a bizarre, and very frightening plot to kidnap an American citizen and extradite her to Iran. Officials say the plan was hatched by the Iranian regime. Brian Todd has more.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Speaking Farsi and showing a New York Police vehicle with lights flashing beneath her vehicle, Masih Alinejad says the police have been outside her home for about two weeks.
MASIH ALINEJAD, IRANIAN JOURNALIST: When I asked them why they were here, they told me it was to protect me.
TODD: And for good reason. Alinejad, a U.S. citizen of Iranian origin, is a journalist and human rights activist who is often critical of the Iranian regime. Tonight, U.S. law enforcement is accusing Iran of a brazen plot to kidnap Alinejad from the heart of New York City and hustle her to Iran, where a U.S. attorney says the victim's fate would have been uncertain at best.
ALINEJAD: Now, they're trying to kidnap an American-Iranian citizen from New York to use me as a bargaining chip or, I don't know, execute me.
TODD: The details are right out of a James Bond or Jason Bourne movie. According to the FBI and prosecutors, the Iranian regime first tried to get Alinejad's relatives in Iran to lure her to a third country so they could detain and transport her back to Iran. The relatives didn't agree. So an indictment says four members of an Iranian intelligence hired private investigators to surveil Alinejad at her Brooklyn home, which she says the FBI tipped her off to.
ALINEJAD: Then when they showed me the photos of my private life with my husband, my stepchildren, my beautiful garden in Brooklyn, I was like, wow.
TODD: The Iranian intelligence agents seemed to get really creative from there. Prosecutors say they looked at ways to get Alinejad to a water front neighborhood in Brooklyn, then possibly whisking her away in, quote, military style speedboats for self-operated maritime evacuation out of New York City. Then they researched how to take her by boat to Venezuela, which has friendly relations with Iran.
REUEL MARC GERECHT, FORMER CIA OFFICER: It is obviously disconcerting that they would dare to do these operations in the United States and certainly tells you that they don't sufficiently fear the United States. TODD: The four Iranians have been charged with conspiracies related to kidnapping and other counts. They're on the run. An Iranian woman who lives in California was arrested earlier this month, charged with providing money for the plot. She's pleaded not guilty.
This isn't the first time Iranian intelligence has been accused of an audacious plot on American soil. Ten years ago, prosecutors said Iran plotted to blow up an upscale D.C. restaurant, Cafe Milano, while the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. was there. The plot failed.
TODD: Are they going to try plots like this on American soil?
GERECHT: Well, unless they are punished severely, I wouldn't be surprised if they try again.
TODD (on camera): Wolf, the White House and the state department have condemned what they call Iran's dangerous and despicable plot to kidnap a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil. Iran has denied any involvement in the alleged plot. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson calling the allegations, quote, baseless and ridiculous and really not worth answering. He added that this is not the first time the U.S. has undertaken what he called Hollywood scenarios. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, very disturbing, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, CNN has just obtained harrowing 911 calls made just moments after that Surfside, Florida, condo collapse. Stand by. We're going to share those with you right after a quick break.
BLITZER: We have breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Officials in Miami-Dade County have just released 911 calls from the terrifying moments immediately following the deadly Surfside condo collapse.
CNN's Rosa Flores is on the scene for us in Surfside with all the late breaking developments.
Rosa, tell us more first of all about these harrowing 911 calls.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these are the very intense moments following that collapse. I can tell you that in the days following the collapse, we learned from dispatch audio what the police officers, the first responders were seeing as they approached the building, some of them describing it as resembling the World Trade Center after 911.
This is the first time that we're actually listening to those intelligence moments from the people that were inside this building that wanted to get out, and also from individuals in the surrounding buildings that were seeing the collapse that witnessed this.
I can tell you that some of these recordings are disturbing. They're difficult to listen to. Some of these individuals describe that they saw the garage collapse, that they're inside, and that they can see police officers outside. They describe the sounds of an earthquake. Again, it's difficult to listen to.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
OPERATOR: What's going on? Tell me exactly what happened.
CALLER: I don't know, there's a lot of smoke going on. I can't see the street right now.
OPERATOR: You see smoke? Sir?
CALLER: We got to get out of here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are we going?
CALLER: We got to go, guys, keep going.
OPERATOR: Hello? Hello?
CALLER: Yes, I'm here.
OPERATOR: What are you seeing?
CALLER: I can't see nothing but smoke.
CALLER 2: It seems like something underground, everything exploded down at 8777 Collins, okay, Avenue.
CALLER 3: Oh, my God.
OPERATOR: Ma'am, the operator is asking you, is anyone injured?
CALLER 3: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.
OPERATOR: That's okay. We're on our way out there.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
FLORES: We later learned from officials that 35 people were pulled alive from the standing building. Two people were pulled alive from the rubble. The days following it, the world watched looking and waiting for a miracle.
Wolf, no one would be pulled alive from that rubble in the days that followed. I just got off the phone with Miami-Dade Police Department. They tell me the death toll stands at 96. Eleven people are still unaccounted for -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's awful situation.
All right. Rosa, thanks for all your excellent reporting from Surfside. Thanks very, very much.
There's more breaking news, Britney Spears just scoring a key victory as she's back in court today fighting for her freedom.
BLITZER: Just in, a judge in Los Angeles told Britney Spears she can hire her own attorney as she continues to fight against her conservatorship.
CNN's Chloe Melas is joining us from Los Angeles.
Chloe, a major victory for Britney Spears, right?
CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: A ground breaking moment for Britney Spears. For the first time in 13 years, Britney Spears is able to hire her own attorney and that person who is going to be taking over that job is Matthew Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor.
Also today, Judge Brenda Penny accepting Bessemer Trust resignation as a co-conservator for Britney's 60 million dollar estate.
But I want to get right to it, Wolf. Britney Spears, addressed the court once again, it was emotional. She spoke for 20 minutes. She was crying, many of us in the courtroom not careful, including myself.
She said, quote, I want to charge my dad with conservatorship abuse. I want to petition the court to terminate the conservatorship. But I do not want to be evaluated. I'm petitioning the court because I want my dad out as conservator.
I have serious abandonment issues. I was scared of my dad growing up. I thought he would show up drunk somewhere. This is f-ing cruelty, when describing the conservatorship. I thought they were trying to kill me.
She went on to say she went on to say she can't have coffee. She recounted a time when her father allegedly broke down a door and shook one of her sons.
She said to Judge Brenda Penny, I want to press charges on my dad today.
My lawyer didn't fight for me one time. I am so angry, I will go there. No, I am not perfect. I am not crazy. My family never cared.
And, lastly, Wolf, if this is not abuse, I don't know what is. I want Jodi Montgomery, the conservative her person's help, to get back into the real world. BLITZER: All right, Chloe, excellent report. Thank you very much.
Chloe Melas, reporting for us.
Let's get some analysis from Dave Aronberg, state attorney from Palm Beach County, Florida.
Throughout her nearly 13-year conservatorship, she hasn't even been allowed to choose her own attorney. That changed today. How much of a difference, Dave, do you think could this make?
DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Good evening, Wolf.
It makes a huge difference. Remember that her father and her legal team, they all said that, well, you know, Britney Spears never tried to end the conservatorship and 13 years. And we wondered why, until the hearing last month when she said, she didn't know she was able to petition the court to end the conservatorship.
That's because she was never allowed to hire her own lawyers. There were two lawyers that she wanted from the beginning. Instead of being allowed to hire them, the court said that she had no legal capacity. Instead, hired someone she had never met, someone who only first met her two days after the conservatorship was granted, and then only talk to her for about 15 minutes.
So, this is going to make all the difference in the world. You know, it's ironic, Wolf, that had she killed someone at the time, God forbid, she would've been entitled to a lawyer. It shows you that accused murderers have more rights when it comes to picking their own counsel then conservatees.
BLITZER: How do you see looking ahead, how do you see this whole evolving over the next few weeks and months as this legal process continues?
ARONBERG: I think that her new lawyer is the right pick. I think that he will petition the court to end the conservatorship. He is the right pick for a couple of reasons. He has had high profile clients in the past, like Stephen Spielberg, like Sean Penn.
Plus, he also works for a firm that specializes in probate law. And I think he will try to do the right thing here.
But keep in mind, this is now bigger than Britney Spears herself. There are about 1.3 million Americans subject to conservatorships around the country.
And so now, maybe it will be a review of the gaps in the law, like the fact that Britney has to pay for the lawyers, on both sides, including the lawyers who are working to keep her in the conservatorship against her will.
And so, hopefully there will be a review of this. Like the fact that she could not pick her own lawyer until now.
So, this is an area of the law that clearly needs review. I think that is going to be the lasting legacy of this matter.
BLITZER: What's so important is that by doing all of this, she is shedding light on what is obviously a huge, huge problem out there. Some of these details, I mean, they are new to me. I don't know if you follow that closely, but it is pretty heartbreaking to hear with this woman has been going through.
Dave, thank you very much as usual for joining us.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Erin Burnett starts right now.