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FDA Expected To Authorize Booster Shots For Immunocompromised People Within The Next 48 Hours; CDC Strengthens Recommendation For Pregnant Women To Get COVID Vaccine; Biden Touts Senate Wins On Infrastructure And $3.5 Trillion Budget Plan, But Hurdles Remain; Kathy Hochul Declares She's "Fully Prepared" To Be New York's First Female Governor Once Cuomo Steps Down; U.S. Official: Intelligence Assessments Warn Afghan Capital Could Be Cut Off And Fall To Taliban Within Weeks; YouTube Suspends Sen. Rand Paul For Spreading Misinformation On Mask. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 17:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news CNN -- that the FDA is now expected to authorize COVID booster shots for some Americans within the next 48 hours. I'll get reaction from the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy who's standing by live.

Also tonight, the incoming New York Governor says she's fully prepared to take over for Andrew Cuomo as she tries to distance herself from him and his sexual harassment scandal.

And President Biden bet on the U.S. Senate and he just won big twice. Will his budget in infrastructure plan survive? The hurdles ahead.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the Situation Room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: And we begin with the breaking news, very serious breaking news from the FDA. And COVID booster shots for some Americans are now on the way.

CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us right now.

Kaitlan, tell our viewers what you're learning. This is significant.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, this is what we're learning, Wolf, that we are expecting the FDA to come out in the next 48 hours or so, though that timing could slide, and announced that they are authorizing what is commonly known as booster shots for people who are immunocompromised, and therefore more susceptible to variants of COVID-19, variants like the Delta variant that we have seen really overtake the U.S. in recent months.

This is significant because we knew they have been working on this behind the scenes. Having growing concerns about the efficacy of these vaccines, how long they last, how effective they are for people who have, of course, you know, were often first in line to get the COVID- 19 vaccines when they first made their debut in the U.S.

And so, we are now learning that the FDA is expected to come out and announce a third dose has been authorized for some people who are immunocompromised of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in the next 48 hours or so. Though, the source who is familiar with the discussions that told CNN about this, given it was first reported by NBC, did caution that timing could slide, Wolf. But this is incredibly significant. This is news that people have been waiting to find out exactly what the details of this are going to look like, who the FDA believes should be first in line to get this third dose.

And of course, we should note this comes as on Friday, the CDC vaccine advisors are scheduled to have a meeting to talk about booster shots, not just for the immunocompromised, but those are on the list. And so, this is a decision that we could get as soon as tomorrow, it could not be until Friday once those vaccine advisors do meet with the CDC. But Wolf, it is significant that we are now expecting this announcement to happen from the FDA

BLITZER: Very significant. And it's only the first step, Kaitlan, because I've been told shortly thereafter, people 60 and over will presumably become eligible for that third shot as well, the booster shots. This is just the first of several steps that the FDA is now considering together with the CDC. Is there anything else you're learning?

COLLINS: Yes, that's right, Wolf. This is kind of in the discussion that's happening behind the scenes is how do we do this? How do we carry out these booster shots? Because what you've heard from President Biden's coronavirus team is they have the shots, it's not like before where they had to divvy them up and give them to the people who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 because we didn't have enough supply in the U.S.

Now, supply is not the issue. The question is just who do they recommend get it first doesn't then changing based on when you actually got your vaccine shot when your second dose was, of course. And so, that could be by age groups.

A lot of those details, though, are still not clear. That is something that will come in a formal announcement from the FDA. This is just the general idea that we do know now.

This is an announcement. It is forthcoming. And we know that they are expected in September -- early September right now based on what sources have been telling us to lay out a general booster shot strategy for the rest of the population.

BLITZER: Yes. Really, really important information.

Kaitlan, I know you're working your sources. We'll get back to you.

But let's discuss what's going on. Joining us right now, the timing is perfect, the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy. Dr. Murthy, thank you so much for joining us.

So, what can you tell us about what CNN and other news organizations are now learning that potentially the immunocompromised people out there who got their shots five or six months ago will now presumably become eligible for this third shot, this third booster shot?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, Wolf, this is a really important topic and then that really the question of how do we best care for and protect those who are immunocompromised and communities. And this includes those who may be under you know, treatment for cancer and receiving -- be receiving immunocompromising drugs. It could include those who are organ transplant recipients and may be on medications that suppress the immune response.


And so, we've been concerned about these individuals. We've been following them closely. And I think most of us believe that we've got to do more to protect these individuals. So the FDA has been working hard to basically do the evaluation around safety, make sure that we have everything we need to make these additional doses available to people.

The CDC is also looking in to making sure that guidance is clear and available for immunocompromised individuals, which is why the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is meeting at the end of the week to consider those recommendations.

So, the bottom line is all of us are working very hard. I won't get ahead of the FDA in terms of its announcement that it may make around this. But suffice it to say that immunocompromised individuals, you know, you'll be hearing more very soon, about the additional steps that we are taking to protect them.

BLITZER: We know this is already developing in other countries in Israel, if you're immunocompromised, or if you're 60 and over, got the first two shots five or six months ago, you're now eligible for this booster shot. The U.K. and Germany, they're moving in the same direction.

I've been told that the U.S. is going to be moving in that direction fairly soon, as well. But can you confirm that?

MURTHY: Well, Wolf, what I can tell you is that the broader question of whether the population at large needs boosters or at more accurately a third dose in the vaccine series is something that we've been looking at very closely. And specifically, what we're looking at is multiple data sets from, you know, our experience here in the United States from companies that are still following the individuals that were in their clinical trials to the experience in other countries that have large data sets as well.

And we've been looking for evidence that immunity is waning, and that breakthrough infections, especially hospitalizations and deaths may be going up. And so, while we think based on, you know, looking at the trends in the data, that 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 base on where the need is greatest. And so, that is the information. Those are the questions that will be answered in the weeks ahead.

And when we have that answer based on what the data and science tells us, then we'll be ready to make an announcement to the public.

BLITZER: What so worrisome, you know, Dr. Murthy, and I know you agree with me is there are still so many people, so many Americans out there who haven't even gotten their first shot, let alone now who are standing by for potentially a third shot.

How do you get people to -- how do you convince these folks that these are lifesaving decisions right now that almost all of the people who are hospitalized right now from COVID, almost all of the people are getting COVID, and certainly almost all of those who are dying within 500 a day now from COVID are those who have not received any, any shots?

MURTHY: Yes, it's a really important question, Wolf, because with Delta surging in many parts of the country and with our hospitals filling up primarily with those who are unvaccinated, we know that the protection from the vaccine is more important than ever.

I think the good news, Wolf, is that in part, I think because of what's happening with Delta and because people are seeing more and more of their friends and family members get sick, there are more folks who are stepping forward and asking for that first shot. And we've actually seen a significant increase in the vaccination rate over recent weeks, particularly in states that have been the hardest hit.

But we've got to do more, because we can't move fast enough, because it's really a race now between the variant and the vaccines. And what we'd like to each do is make sure we're reaching out to our family and friends and asking them if they've been vaccinated. If they haven't, urged them to please consider doing so. They can go to vaccine stuck up find a place around them, where they can easily walk in and get vaccinated now.

But look, whether or not boosters or an additional third dose are needed, doesn't change the fact that these vaccines work to save lives. They work to prevent hospitalizations, they work to reduce your chance of getting sick in the first place. That's been proven time and time again, it saved many lives already. We want everyone to have that protection, which is why we need everyone to step forward and get vaccinated.

BLITZER: We can't overemphasize how dangerous this Delta variant is, as the more that you guys are learning about it. And this is what I've been told the more dangerous it certainly is emerging as.

As you know, steps are being taken around the country, at least in some states. California, for example, just became the first state to require school staff to either be fully vaccinated or get tested weekly. Would you like to see other states follow California's lead?

MURTHY: Well, Wolf, I think what California is doing is going to help create a safer learning environment for our students and a safer environment for educators. And this is actually one of the reasons, Wolf, you see workplaces and healthcare systems and universities moving toward vaccine requirements because they also want to create a safe place for workers, for clients, and for students.


So, look it out, see it, you know, is a dad, you know, of two small kids. You know, when I think about them going to school, I want to be absolutely sure that all measures are being taken to make sure that my kids are safe and that all kids are safe. And I think what California is doing is a step in that direction. I wouldn't be surprised if you saw more localities and more states following suit.

BLITZER: Another part of the equation, Dr. Murthy, in terms of keeping school safe, for example, is vaccination for the students. The American Academy of Pediatrics is putting pressure on the FDA right now to approve the vaccine for younger children. Here's the question, when will five to 11-year olds finally become eligible to get the shots?

MURTHY: Well, you know, again, as a father of two, kids who are young, who are below 12, who don't have access to a vaccine yet, I'm certainly as eager as anyone to have a vaccine for younger kids. Here's where we are right now, though, the FDA is prioritizing the evaluation of COVID-19 vaccines. This is the top priority for the FDA.

But in order for the FDA to evaluate a vaccine for under 12, it has to get an application first from the companies, which means they have to complete their trials, put the data together and submit them to the FDA. The trials are still underway right now for kids under 12.

And my hope is that they will come to a conclusion soon, and that we will get that application from the companies to the FDA, because I will tell you that they will move fast to evaluate that, to determine again, if a vaccine is in fact safe and effective work for our kids.

If everything were to go well, and everything would fall into place, I think it's possible that we could see a vaccine before the end of the calendar year for kids under 12. But you know, everything would have to go well, you know, in that circumstance.

But make no mistake, the FDA will move quickly on this because they recognize what's at stake. It's the health of our children. And there's really nothing more important than that.

BLITZER: There's -- you're absolutely 100 percent right.

As you know, President Biden is looking into whether he has the authority to actually intervene in various states, for example, Florida and Texas, that are prohibiting mask mandates for schools, should we expect to see the Biden administration get more involved, Dr. Murthy, in this fight?

MURTHY: Well, I think the President, you know, as a dad and a grandfather himself, really wants to do everything he can to help protect kids and make sure the kids are able to not only go to school, but stay in school and keep learning and the way that we all want them to, that they weren't able to do last year. And you know, he and the administration are looking more broadly at ways to support schools, especially those that want to take the right precautions.

What worries me, Wolf, is that right now, there are teachers and school administrators who I hear from and who others in the administration hear from who are saying we want our children to be protected, we want them to be wearing masks, we want to require masks in school for that reason, but we're, you know, being blocked in a sense by either the county or by the state in doing so. And this worries me because we're at a point, Wolf, where we should be taking every possible step to protect our children.

And we know that masks work to reduce the risk of transmission. We know that frequent testing also helps. We know that distancing, when possible, better ventilation, all help as well. That's why these are part of the layers of precaution that the CDC recommended.

So, it worries me when I see, you know, states trying to block those kind of safety measures, because why would we want to block steps that we know could help keep our children safe?

BLITZER: You're absolutely right.

The CDC also today is strengthening its recommendation that pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19. What new information, Dr. Murthy, led the agency to reaffirm this recommendation?

MURTHY: Well, I'm glad you asked, Wolf. And this is a really, you know, important development. The CDC has been following very closely the experience of pregnant women with the COVID-19 vaccine. And throughout the experience since the vaccines came out, what they've been finding has actually been consistent, which is that women who are pregnant and receive the vaccine actually do well.

And they were finding that data initially and women who, you know, were late in their pregnancy when they got their vaccine or just delivered their baby and got the vaccine, but their recent data that they shared, you know, reveal that then in all the women that they have followed who have received pregnant vaccine early in pregnancy, they too have done well with no increase in adverse events like miscarriages.

So this is all very good news. And it's why the CDC move to make its strongest recommendation yet that pregnant women get vaccinated.

There's one other important reason here to underscore, Wolf, which is that pregnant women are actually at higher risk of bad outcomes if they get COVID. And that means they're at higher risk for hospitalization for being intubated and being on a breathing machine, for being admitted to the intensive care unit and for having preterm labor and preterm birth.


So, for the health of the mother, for the health of the developing baby, you know, getting protected from COVID-19 through a vaccine is really one of the most effective things that you can do. And as the CDC said today, it is also very safe.

BLITZER: I know you got to run, but very, very quickly, Dr. Murthy, before I let you go, just want to clarify the breaking news. All of the evidence shows that after five, six, seven months, the effectiveness of the two dose Pfizer, Moderna vaccines is beginning to be reduced that's why we probably will all need eventually a booster shot. Is that what's behind this decision?

MURTHY: Well, what we -- there are a number of data sets that we're looking at, Wolf. Some of the data sets show that the antibody levels may decrease in some populations over time. There's a question of does that actually result in more infections, which is the clinical outcome that we care about? And again, there's mixed results based on what dataset you're looking at.

What we are doing though, is literally every day, we are getting more and more information from various parts of the country and around the world. We are putting that together. We are talking about this issue nearly every day. And looking at those data -- dynamic data sets as they evolve.

And it's based on that that will ultimately make a determination of when those boosters are needed and in which populations. But I do think it's likely that we will need boosters for at least some portion of the population so people should expect that.

But the critical thing here, Wolf, is it doesn't mean that the vaccines don't work. They've been working and working well particularly to prevent hospitalizations and death. What we need to do is make sure they continue to work, which is where an additional dose may help extend the good benefits we're already seeing in the vaccines.

BLITZER: As soon as that booster shot is approved, I'm ready to stand in line and get one.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, we're grateful to you for joining us. Grateful for all the important work you're doing. Thank you so much.

MURTHY: Thank you so much, Wolf. Take care and be well.

BLITZER: And you too.

Coming up, by President Biden celebrating not one but two major wins for his agenda. But there are still significant hurdles ahead. We have details of the challenges. That's next.



BLITZER: President Biden is celebrating two major wins for his agenda early this morning. Senate Democrats approved a massive three and a half trillion dollar budget resolution just hours after the infrastructure deal passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote. But as CNN's as Kaitlan Collins reports it could be months before either of these bills finally crosses the finish line with Democrats divided on the next path forward.



COLLINS (voice-over): Tonight, President Biden is cheering his recent legislative feats.

BIDEN: In the past 24 hours we've seen the Senate advanced to keep pieces of my economic agenda.

COLLINS (voice-over): But while a sense of celebration is in the air, Democratic leaders are warning of the difficult path ahead.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: This was one of the most significant legislative days we've had a long time here in the United States Senate. But we still have a long road to travel.

COLLINS (voice-over): Overnight, all 50 Senate Democrats voted to approve a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint which they're hoping to turn into an expansion of the social safety net filled with funding for climate priorities, healthcare and education.

SCHUMER: It's as if we caught a pass, a nice long pass at midfield. But we still have 50 yards to go before we score a touchdown.

COLLINS (voice-over): Hours after Democrats passed that $3.5 trillion dollar budget paving the way for the ambitious package, a key moderate voice issued a warning. Senator Joe Manchin saying he has, quote, "Serious concerns about the grave consequences if Congress decides to spend another 3.5 trillion."

Press Secretary Jen Psaki says Manchin is conflating short term stimulus spending with the proposed long term investments.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'd note that I think he's confounding a couple of things in there. It's not about putting a huge amount of money into the economy over the next few months.

COLLINS (voice-over): President Biden is also pushing back on Manchin's fears about adding trillions to the debt.

BIDEN: My bill back better agenda is fiscally responsible, the fiscally responsible way to reduce the cost for families.

COLLINS (voice-over): Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is declining to say if he'd support lowering that price tag that moderate Democrats have said is too high. SCHUMER: Every part of Biden's proposal will be there in a big robust way. There are some members in our caucus who want less, some members in our caucus who want more.

COLLINS (voice-over): As the White House navigates the economic recovery, officials are also confronting rising concerns about inflation.

BIDEN: There's going to be -- there's going to be some ups and downs.

COLLINS (voice-over): After consumer prices rose by 5.4 percent in July compared with a year ago, President Biden predicted a reduction as the economy recovers.

BIDEN: We will keep a careful eye on inflation each month and trust the Fed to take appropriate action if and when is needed.


COLLINS: And Wolf, when it comes to that bipartisan infrastructure package, we should note that there are some moderate House Democrats who are calling on House Speaker Pelosi to bring it up for a vote immediately.

However, she has made pretty clear she is sticking to her plan to wait until they get that much bigger, more ambitious package passed to the Senate and delivered to the House as well. She told her caucus on a call today saying that this is the consensus and this is what she's sticking to.

BLITZER: That could take a few months if she would stick to that plan.

All right, Kaitlan, stay with us. I also want to bring in David Gergen. He's a CNN Senior Political Analyst who has been an advisor to four U.S. presidents.


David, this legislation isn't a done deal as we know. But if President Biden does get the infrastructure reconciliation package across the finish line signs both into law, how do you think the first year of his presidency will be judged?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He will be mentally well judged. We haven't -- if he can get the rest of this done before the end of the year, Wolf, we haven't seen anything like this as Franklin Roosevelt. And it's so reassuring. As you say, it's more than just a Biden victory. This is also a victory for the Congress, for the spirit of bipartisanship that has languished in Congress for so long.

And the Joe Biden was one of the few people had faith that it can be restored. And his leadership, I think, can be should be given credit for doing that.

Frankly, it's also a victory for a lot of moderate Republican senators who no longer be held interest this entire of being held hostage to Donald Trump. They do believe that they offer something more than that. And this was a responsible action on their part that's in the best interest of the country from their point of view.

BLITZER: Yes, 19 Republican senators joined all 50 Democratic senators, they rejected the threats coming from Trump, and they voted in favor of this bipartisan compromise infrastructure legislation.

The bills that still face of this uphill battle, is it wishful thinking, David, to expect a repeat of this type of bipartisanship on other key issues?

GERGEN: Well, I think a lot depends on how the public responds. If the public has sort of notices and really rallied behind it, there'll be more incentive to move a little more to the center and to take care of things like some of the voting rights questions or gun questions and other things.

But for now, Wolf, I think the big, big question is, everything seems to be the point toward the reconciliation bill being the turning point. Can, you know, can they get 50 votes? Can Manchin go along with -- can they find a plan that Manchin and Sinema, the two senators who are now expressing some skepticism about going forward? Can they find a plan that will satisfy those two and maybe put it on a bipartisan basis to get the whole thing through?

BLITZER: Yes, that reconciliation legislation only needs 50.


BLITZER: So if all 50 Democrats vote --

GERGEN: Right.

BLITZER: -- favor of it, it will pass -- it will certainly pass the Senate and presumably have enough votes in the House. Well, but we shall see.

You know, Kaitlan, the President, as you know, he faced sharp criticism from the left for trying to reach across the aisle. He faced ridicule from former President Trump and the right wing media painted him as an old man blundering, not knowing what he's doing. But clearly he is delivering at least right now.

COLLINS: Well, and this is what he had talked about for so long, bipartisanship and actually getting this through. And so yes, as Senator Schumer said today, there is still a long path ahead, and it is likely difficult based on what we've already heard from some of the Democrats in his party.

But the idea that he did get those 19 Republicans on board is significant because it was in the face of threats from former President Trump, a lot of which were shrugged off by these senators who voted in favor of this. But it is still significant, because there were some Republicans who had initially come out backing this deal. And in the end, Wolf, they did not vote for it. And so, this is a validation that President Biden feels like he is seeing right here. This is what he said he wanted to get. It wasn't always clear he would get here but of course, when it comes to passing it in the Senate, they did.

BLITZER: And there was 19 Republicans, included the Senate Minority Leader, the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well. Very impressive.

All right guys, thank you very, very much.

Up next, New York's incoming governor distanced herself from Governor Andrew Cuomo following his resignation. And the question tonight certainly will be this one, will he still be impeached?



BLITZER: In the wake of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's resignation over sexual harassment allegations, the Lieutenant Governor who will replace him is laying the groundwork for what she says will be a very different administration. CNN's M.J. Lee is joining us now from New York. M.J., Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul was clearly distancing herself today from Governor Cuomo. What did she say about her plans in the weeks ahead?

M.J. LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. You know, this was Kathy Hochul's chance to properly introduce herself for the first time as the incoming governor and it was clear that she, one, wanted to distance herself from Governor Cuomo and, two, really emphasize that she believes that she is prepared to take on this job starting on day one. You know, it is not a secret that Hochul and Cuomo are not close. And she herself indicated in a number of different ways in this press conference that that is in fact true.

She said her administration is going to be run in a very different way. She said that she was not aware of the allegations that were in this explosive A.G. report that came out last week. She said she's also going to bring on her own people, that she is not interested in keeping on anyone who might have ethical questions around them. Take a listen to some of what she have to say earlier today.


LT. GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): There's no secret that we have not been closed and I've not been associated with that. No one has named -- who is named as anything -- doing anything unethical and report will remain in my administration. At the end of my term whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment.


LEE: Now, Wolf, this job of Governor is going to be hers in exactly 13 days and she said that she has spoken with Governor Cuomo and that he promised to her that he is committed to there being a seamless transition between the two administrations.


I also just want to quickly know, it's widely expected that she was going to run for re-election in 2022. And she confirmed that that is, in fact, the plan to my colleague, Brynn Gingras, who is up in Albany right now.

BLITZER: Yes, she was answering those questions. Yes, she was very firm, very decisive. M.J., thank you very much. M.J. Lee reporting for us.

So let's discuss this and more with the Majority Leader of the New York State Assembly, Democratic Crystal Peoples-Stokes. Majority Leader, thank you so much for joining us. As you heard, Lieutenant Governor, assumed to be governor, made it very clear earlier today she's not afraid to make some changes in the executive chamber, what's your reaction to what we heard from her today?

CRYSTAL D. PEOPLES-STOKES (D), NEW YORK ASSEMBLY MAJORITY LEADER: Well, it's a pleasure to be here with you and your viewing audience, Wolf. And my reaction to Kathy Hochul is, as it's always been since I met her back in 1998. What she says, she means. What she says, she will do. She's very strong, she's very committed, she's compassionate, and she should not be taken for granted.

BLITZER: I know that the Judiciary Committee there in Albany is set to meet on Monday to discuss possible impeachment inquiry issues involving the outgoing Governor Cuomo. How likely is it do you believe, Majority Leader, that this process of impeachment will move forward?

PEOPLES-STOKES: Well, this is questionable. Quite honestly, the way our Constitution reads, it says that the Judiciary Committee of the Assembly has the ability to enquire and put together articles of impeachment to remove. Well, if he's resigned, he's already removed. So, perhaps there is no need to further go through an impeachment process.

BLITZER: The only need, the only advantage of doing the impeachment from certain perspectives, is that this would potentially bar him from seeking re-election, at some point, getting back into politics down the road. He will be barred from holding statewide office, right?

PEOPLES-STOKES: Well, that actually -- it would bar him, but quite honestly, I don't know why -- how that would be an advantage. First of all, I'm not sure why he would want to run for another office. And secondly, you know, I don't think that people who have been convicted of crimes or been accused of crimes or have been held accountable of crimes should pay for those for life. And so, I'm not so sure if that's even unnecessary step for us to take as well.

But clearly, now that decision will come out of the Judiciary Committee on Monday. And I will weigh in my opinion on how they feel on that at that point. But for my take, I think now that he has resigned, which is what a lot of members and electors have been clamouring for, for the entire year, then we should allow that resignation to take hold in 14 days, and allow Kathy Hochul to step in and start moving our government forward again. There are a number of things that we need to be focused on, and that are very important to the lives of people of New York State. And I don't think we should continue hiring outside lawyers to follow through --


PEOPLES-STOKES: -- with an impeachment process.

BLITZER: So Majority Leader, what I hear you saying is, it's time to move on and forget about impeachment, at least for now, is that right?

PEOPLES-STOKES: That is what you hear me saying but that is not necessarily that will be the opinion that comes out of the majority of the Assembly. That opinion will not happen until after the judiciary meets on Monday. And the Speaker Carl Heastie has an opportunity to talk to the vast majority of the remainder of his colleagues.

BLITZER: Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it very much. We'll stay in very close touch with you.

PEOPLES-STOKES: It is my pleasure.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

PEOPLES-STOKES: Thank you for the invitation.

BLITZER: Of course. Good to have you.

Just ahead, a new warning from U.S. officials, the Afghan capital could fall to the Taliban within weeks.



BLITZER: The breaking news we're following, sources now telling CNN that U.S. officials fear the Afghan capital of Kabul could fall to the Taliban much more quickly than originally thought possibly within the next few weeks. Let's discuss with Peter Bergen, he's a CNN National Security Analyst.

He's also the author of a brand new very important book entitled, there you see the cover, "The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden". Nobody knows the history of bin Laden better than Peter Bergen. Very important book. Congratulations, Peter, for writing this book.

First of all, what do you think of this latest U.S. intelligence assessment suggesting that Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, despite 20 years of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan could fall to the Taliban within a matter of weeks?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's even worse than even the kind of the most sky is falling view of kind of what we thought even a few weeks ago, when President Biden first said we're withdrawing completely, which I thought was a spectacular error. And the worst speech of his presidency when he tried to kind of justify it. Because, I mean, this is pretty predictable.

It looks a lot like the summer of 2014 in Iraq with ISIS, right, where the Iraqi army collapsed. ISIS used American military vehicles that had captured from the Iraqi army, you know, marched into Iraqi cities. And we're seeing the same thing with the Taliban where they're capturing American military equipment.

The Afghan army isn't fighting. And they, you know -- I don't think Kabul will fall, you know, in a month, which is the kind of most pessimistic assessment. But you're going to see the split screen on 9/11, the 20th anniversary, Wolf, think is going to be the Taliban celebrating what they think is a very big victory in every jihadi group in the world, let's say.

BLITZER: Right now it looks like a disaster. Although yesterday, as you saw when he was answering questions, President Biden said he has no regrets about his decision to withdraw all U.S. and all NATO forces, by the way, by the end of this month. He said the Afghan people need to fight for themselves, and he is strongly defending that decision even though now it looks, like the situation with all these provincial capitals are falling to the Taliban, it looks like a disaster.


BERGEN: 75 years after the end of the Korean War, we have 25,000 American troops in South Korea. I mean, you know, I -- we -- there was no, you know, there are 1.3 million Americans serving in the American military. There were 2,500 of them that we pulled out, you know, it's a tiny, tiny number. I don't think there was a huge constituency, saying let's leave, let's leave, so let's leave.

And I think the President Biden is going to have a disaster of his own making where he will have to reverse his decision in some shape or form, in order for the Taliban not to take over in every jihadi group, including al-Qaeda, according to the United Nations in a recent report, which is closely allied with the Taliban, you know, to use this as a home base, and we've seen this movie before.

BLITZER: We certainly have. Yesterday, the former Defense Secretary William Cohen, he was sitting in this seat right here. He said, we should brace for a bloodbath in Afghanistan. Are you that worried?

BERGEN: Yes. I mean, I think there's going to be a very nasty civil war that makes the present conflict look like a croquet match. I mean, there was a very violent civil war in the early to mid-90s, where hundreds of thousands of people were killed. That's the kind of situation we're going to see, I think.

BLITZER: And when the Taliban takes over, if they take over, the girls and the women, they're going to be in for an awful situation.

BERGEN: Yes, there was a lot of wishful thinking about the Taliban. They change their views and the Taliban will take over, not necessarily the whole country, but we can guarantee that the rights of women is not going to be high on their agenda when they take over.

BLITZER: The book is entitled, "The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden". Peter Bergen is the author. Thanks for writing this book. We'll continue our conversations. This Afghan story is getting worse by the day. Thank you very much.

BERGEN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, another Republican lawmakers suspended from a social media platform for spreading misinformation about COVID-19.



BLITZER: A top Senate Republican is suspended from YouTube for spreading misinformation about mask as the Delta variant, as COVID cases spiking in parts of the United States. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, Senator Rand Paul is the second GOP lawmaker to be suspended from a social media platform for spreading misinformation about COVID.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Senator Paul has been on an absolute tear recently issuing videos with a lot of misinformation on masks and vaccines, sparring with Dr. Anthony Fauci in those videos and in Senate hearings. Tonight, the social media giants are bringing the hammer down on Senator Paul and other Republicans who have trafficked in COVID misinformation.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Reserving (ph) the right to object --

TODD (voice-over): Senator Rand Paul in the middle of a growing battle tonight between social media giants and Republican politicians who spout misinformation on the COVID pandemic. Senator Paul has just been suspended by YouTube forbidden by the video platform from uploading content for a week. YouTube cites a video Paul made specifically this phrase where he claimed some masks are ineffective at fighting COVID.

PAUL: Trying to shape human behavior isn't the same as following the actual science, which tells us that cloth masks don't work.

TODD (voice-over): In reality, public health officials say cloth masks do offer at least some protection against COVID. YouTube has also deleted Rand Paul's video. It's now on the alternate video platform Rumble which has looser rules on content. Here's another phrase YouTube objected to.

PAUL: Most of the masks you get over the counter don't work. They don't prevent infection.

TODD (voice-over): In response to YouTube's suspension of him, Paul sent a tweet mentioning the, quote, left wing cretins at YouTube, calling the suspension a badge of honor. Senator Paul posted that video actually in response to another video that YouTube deleted, another video that's now also on Rumble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why isn't Dr. Fauci been fired?

TODD (voice-over): In that one, an interview with Newsmax, Paul continued his offensive against Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's preeminent experts on the pandemic, calling Fauci an elitist who misleads the public on masks and vaccines.

PAUL: And this is where I really have a disagreement with Fauci. One, he's not telling the truth, but he's promulgating bad science. They're pseudoscience.

Dr. Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress --

TODD (voice-over): Paul has openly sparred with Dr. Fauci in the Senate, including once last month when Paul accused Fauci of lying about research.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement. Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially, you do not know what you are talking about.

Those viruses are molecularly impossible to result --

PAUL: No one is saying they are.


PAUL: No one is saying those viruses caused the pandemic.

FAUCI: Senator, if you are implying that what we did was responsible for the deaths of individual, I totally resented and if anybody was lying here, Senator, it is you.

TODD (voice-over): YouTube's suspension of Senator Paul comes right after Twitter suspended Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for her false claims that COVID vaccines are failing.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, TRACKS MISINFORMATION ONLINE: We saw in 2020 a lot of election misinformation that the platforms really didn't do much about. But I think in this moment where we are in the pandemic right now, they really view this as a sort of emergency where there is so much misinformation that can really cause harm to people that could lead to people dying.


TODD: Senator Paul now has one strike on YouTube, two more in a 90-day period, and he could get suspended permanently, Wolf. Let's see if he cares about that.

BLITZER: We shall see. All right, Brian, thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting.


There's breaking news coming up next. A major announcement expected soon about COVID vaccine booster shots.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, CNN has learned that the FDA is now on the brink of announcing authorization of booster shots for some Americans who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. Also tonight, a new interview with the incoming Governor of New York as she talks about her political plans and works in distancing herself from Andrew Cuomo's tainted a legacy.

And President Biden celebrates two critical wins in 24 hours. But top Democrats warn the fight to pass his budget and infrastructure plans is not over yet.