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FDA Expected To Authorize COVID Booster Shots For Some Immunocompromised People Within The Next 48 Hours; Sources Say Former U.S. Attorney Tells Investigators He Quit Because Trump Was Considering Firing Him; Incoming New York Governor Says She And Cuomo Haven't Been Close, Says She Wasn't Aware Of Sexual Harassment Allegations; Homeland Security Warns Of Potential Pro-Trump Violence This Month Fueled By Conspiracy Theories; Governor Newsom's Allies Sounding The Alarm Despite State's Huge Dem Majority. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 11, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The top Democrats warned the fight to pass this budget in infrastructure plan is not over yet.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And let's begin this hour with the breaking news on COVID-19 booster shots. Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us. She has details. Kaitlan, tell our viewers what you're learning.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is significant news that we are learning. In the next 48 hours or so, the FDA could authorize a third shot of the COVID-19 vaccines, those two-dose vaccines for some immunocompromised people.
Now, of course, the way this works, Wolf, as the FDA currently has its authorization in place for two shots of a Pfizer vaccine or a Moderna vaccine. And in order for someone to get a third shot of it approved by doctors and by the FDA and by medical officials, the FDA has to first authorize it to be used outside of the current way it is authorized, which right now is just for two shots.
And so what we are learning is that the FDA could soon change that authorization to include a third shot of Moderna or of Pfizer for people who are immunocompromised. Not all of them, but some of them based on what we are hearing from sources inside the administration who were involved with this discussion and with this decision.
Now, that is not the end of this, Wolf. That is just the first step in this. Because then it goes to a vote before the vaccine advisers for the CDC who did design whether or not to follow this recommendation as authorization from the FDA, while conveniently, those vaccine advisers for the CDC are scheduled to meet on Friday. And so whether or not they make a vote to recommend whatever it is that the FDA has authorized to by then remains to be seen.
But it is significant, Wolf, because this has been a big question that some people who are imuunocompromised have had. You know, there have been studies that have shown, people who are vaccinated but immunocompromised are more likely to end up in the hospital or potentially die from COVID-19 than the general population who is vaccinated. So this is significant news. We should note that our sources did tell us the timing on this announcement could slide, but right now, currently, internally, that's the expectation.
BLITZER: It certainly is. Kaitlan, is there any indication when a booster shot will be available for the general population?
COLLINS: No. Right now, what we have heard from sources is they're looking at potentially an early September timeline for laying out a strategy for those booster shots. That's a little bit different though, because that's measured by the efficacy of the vaccines.
We know we've heard comments from people at Moderna, from Pfizer about how long they believe their vaccines have the very high levels of protection that they offer right now. But it is something that is essentially studied on an ongoing basis by the administration. And so whether or not we actually find out that timeline for someone who is not immunocompromised but it's elderly and got their shot early on, was one of the first people in the U.S. to get their shot, that remains to be seen.
And so this is what we're hearing right now. This is an expected authorization from the FDA for some immunocompromised people. But they are also working on whether or not they need to recommend them for the general population. And if they do, what that looks like, because it is not just a clear cuts strategy where they'll likely recommend that everyone goes and gets one. It's likely going to be more targeted to certain age groups potentially.
And so that is something that they're working on right now. That is something that is likely still weeks away. And we have known for weeks that we were going to get a decision likely who are -- people who are immunocompromised before we got one for the general population.
BLITZER: All right, Kaitlan, thank you very much, excellent reporting, as usual.
Let's go to California right now, where the governor there has ordered a new vaccine mandate for teachers and school staff. Our National Correspondent Nick Watt is in Los Angeles right now. Nick, California is now the first state to take this kind of action. Update our viewers.
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, California loves to lead. Other states will likely follow. Crucially here, the teachers union is on board with this mandate, which kicks in tomorrow morning.
WATT (voice over): California just became the first state in the nation to mandate all school staff are vaccinated or tested weekly.
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We think this is the right thing to do and we think this is a sustainable way to keeping our schools open.
WATT: So might they one day mandate students are also vaccinated?
NEWSOM: We'll consider that if necessary. But we believe this is a meaningful first step.
WATT: The Biden administration now looking into whether it can legally overrule any state that bans mask mandates in schools.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If you're talking about the federal government coming in and overruling parents in our communities, you know, that would be something that we would fight back vociferously against.
WATT: More Floridians are in the hospital with COVID-19 right now than ever before.
And a health official tells CNN, 200 ventilators have been sent to the state from the federal stockpile. The governor claims ignorance.
DESANTIS: I would honestly doubt that that is true but I'll look, because we have a lot of stuff that we stockpiled over the last year- and-a-half.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would note that as a policy, we don't send ventilators to states without their interest in receiving the ventilators.
WATT: In Texas, the governor banned school mask mandates but two temporary legal rulings just allowed them, some districts now slapping them in place.
DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Schools are opening here in the south during the screaming level of transmission from Texas all the way to Florida and everything in between.
WATT: And remember, vaccines are still not authorized for kids under 12.
DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: The clock is ticking as we move to late fall and early winter, you want a vaccine for young children. I certainly hope we have one in place by then because children need this.
WATT: One-year-old, Carter Butrum, caught COVID after attending day care in Missouri.
KYLE BUTRUM, FATHER, YOUNG SON CAUGHT COVID-19: There's no smaller feeling than watching someone who can't even speak for themselves go through that and not be able to help.
WATT: Now, up until today, the CDC said pregnant women could get vaccinated. Armed with new data, the CDC now encourages all pregnant people or people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated.
WATT (on camera): Now, one more slice of news from out west and it's not great, Oregon just posted its highest ever case count, maybe a little days of bump issue there, but hospitalizations in the state also at an all-time high and an indoor mask mandate just implemented across that state.
Wolf, 18 months since the first case, and we are still wrestling with this virus. Back to you.
BLITZER: Yes, certainly we are. All right, Nick Watt, reporting from L.A., thank you.
And joining us now, Dr. Ashish Jha, the Dean of the Brown University School of public health. Dr. Jha, as usual, thanks so much for joining us. Let me get your reaction to the breaking news that the FDA is now expected to announce its authorizing coronavirus booster shots for some people who are immunocompromised I may do so as early as the next two or three days. What is your reaction?
DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, Wolf. First of all, thanks for having me. I think this could not come fast enough for immunocompromised Americans. There are hundreds of thousands of Americans, if not millions, who -- for whom the vaccines have not been adequate. The two doses have not been adequate. They need that third dose. I don't even see it so much a booster as this is the regimen they need and the data on this is now becoming really clear, thrilled to see the FDA doing this.
BLITZER: Do you expect that the FDA will recommend people get the same vaccine brand, they got the first time around whether let's say its Pfizer or Moderna, or can they get a booster of whatever is available at their drug store or whatever?
JHA: Yes. So far, the data has largely been done with the same vaccines, if you get two shots of Pfizer, getting a third Pfizer. There is advantage, potentially of getting -- of mixing that third dose. We'll see where the FDA lands on this. The data has largely been setting with the same vaccine, but as you said, the FDA could make a broader recommendation.
BLITZER: And if you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 12 million Americans got that dose, J&J, do you expect they will be getting an additional shot as well? And if they do, should it be Moderna, Pfizer or J&J?
JHA: Yes, these are really good questions. I think, for again were talking about immunocompromised people. I think if you've gotten a J&J shot, you probably need an additional and, again, we will have more guidance from the FDA. There is a trial coming of two doses of Johnson & Johnson. We'll probably get those results in the next couple of weeks.
So we are right now in a place where I think FDA is going to make some smart decisions based on limited data, but I think we'll know more in the coming weeks.
BLITZER: Does this mean, Dr. Jha, that the FDA is seeing antibody levels decrease over time following vaccination? In other words, if you got your two doses six or seven months ago, by now, the antibody levels are going down and they're less effective?
JHA: Yes. So, for people who are immunocompromised, they often didn't general enough antibodies even in the first place. So, they didn't get the full protection even right after their second dose. For those people there is, I think at this point, really convincing evidence that a third dose is necessary. We are seeing declining antibody levels.
Remember, antibodies are not everything. You have T-cells and B-cells and lots of other things that keep your immune system in check. So what we want to do is actually track how many breakthrough infections are happening in whom how long after the vaccine. All of that is going to determine whether a broader set of people need a third shot or not.
BLITZER: California, as you heard, just became the first state to require school staff to either be fully vaccinated or get tested weekly.
How helpful will this policy be in keeping schools safe and most importantly keeping kids safe?
JHA: I think it's enormously important and couple of reasons. And I mean, first, it's great for teachers, right, because all of their colleagues will be vaccinated, they will be vaccinated or getting tested regularly.
But we also know that kids largely get the infection from adults, adults at home, adults at school. They're the primary source of infection for kids. So for kids under 12 who can't get vaccinated, having adults around them be vaccinated makes an enormous different. I think this is going to be one part of the solution of how we keep kids safe in school this fall.
BLITZER: The CDC also today, Dr. Jha, will strengthen its recommendation that pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19. What led to that decision, and why is it so especially important for pregnant women to get the shot?
JHA: Yes. I'm thrilled by this. The data on this has been getting better and better, but the last couple of weeks, or really the last few days, we've seen much stronger data that these vaccines are very safe in pregnancy. And flipside is pregnancy is a pretty substantial risk factor for having bad outcome if you get COVID. So if you're a pregnant woman, getting COVID is very dangerous and getting these vaccines seem to really quite safe. Put those two together, and I think the CDC recommendations are exactly right.
BLITZER: Dr. Ashish Jha, were always grateful to you for joining us. Thank you very, very much. JHA: Thank you.
BLITZER: Let's go to Florida right now, where some of the state's largest school districts are openly defying Governor Ron DeSantis in his effort to ban mask mandates in schools.
We're joined now by the Broward County School Board chair, Dr. Rosalind Osgood. Dr. Osgood, thank you so much for joining us.
I understand you just received this letter, and I have a copy of it right here, this letter from the state education commissioner warning you to either reverse your mask mandate or risk sanctions, that's the word that this commissioner is uses. What is your response? Will you reverse your mask mandate for kids, and teachers, and everyone in schools in Broward County, which is where Fort Lauderdale is?
ROSALIND OSGOOD, BOARD CHAIR, BROWARD COUNTY SCHOOLS: Our board voted 8-1 to make masks mandatory, because we believe that mask is a tool that should be used during this time to protect our students and our staff.
As you know, Florida has become the epicenter for the coronavirus. We continue to break records with having such large cases reported each day. So we are committed to educating our students in a safe environment and we believe that everyone in school classrooms, cafeterias, buses, and school environments should wear a mask.
We wore masks all through the summer for our summer camps. We had masks that were mandatory. We didn't have any major outbreaks of COVID-19. And we're just not willing to risk the lives of our students and staff that we love so dearly.
We did receive that letter and I was very surprised that the punitive threats continue to come and be directed toward our school board. We are a local school board that was elected by the people in Broward County to make policies for the school district. And we took an oath, a constitutional oath to protect and serve our community.
So we are not looking to back down. We are committed to protecting the lives of our students and staff at any cost. We believe that their lives are invaluable. So if it means that our salaries are taken away, we would rather have those salaries taken away than take a risk at having one of our kids or one of our staff, people come down very ill.
In 2018, we had a horrific tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, where 14 students and three adults lost their lives. So we are at a whole another level of safety and security in our schools. We're not willing to risk the life of one more adult or one more student, especially not to a pandemic when we can use masks that will provide a measure of safety for all of us.
BLITZER: Well said. Another county in Florida, Leon County, as you probably know, that school district there is changing course on its mask mandate because of the Governor DeSantis' threats. They're now allowing parents to opt out. Are you considering making a similar change to your policy? OSGOOD: No. Our board met this week and we voted to make masks mandatory. We do not have any meetings or anything scheduled to change our position. You know, it's very, very difficult when you have these types of threats coming from the state government, who is demanding that the president of the United States allow them to have control of the state.
And I think we deserve that same type of respect when it comes to making policy on the local level for our schools. Our community is a community that is being majorly impacted by COVID-19 right now, and we're not willing to risk the lives of the people that we love and care about in this community.
BLITZER: Dr. Rosalind Osgood, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck.
OSGOOD: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, there's new reporting on what a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta told congressional investigators about then- President Trump's role in his decision to call it quits.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: This just coming in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're getting new information about Senate testimony by a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta. CNN has learned this former U.S. attorney told investigators today he abruptly resigned in January because then-President Trump was considering firing him. According to The New York Times, that Trump wanted B.J. Pak gone because he wouldn't embrace Trump's false claims about election fraud in Georgia.
We're joined now by Democratic Congressman Jim Himes. He's the chair of the Financial Services, a National Security Subcommittee, and also a key member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks for joining us.
We keep getting all these disturbing developments, but how disturbing is this late-breaking development about B.J. Pak's testimony today?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Yes. Thanks for having me, Wolf. It's disturbing. I mean, it's not surprising, right? I mean, we know that this president, because we all heard the transcript of his phone call to Brad Raffensperger in Georgia saying, just find me those 11,000- plus votes, that number, of course, being exactly what it would have taken him to reverse his loss in the state Georgia.
We've seen him promote the Arizona -- the sham Arizona audit. You know, this president tried very hard to reverse the results of the election. If it had happened in any other country, and maybe we should start referring it to here in the United States, this would be called a coup attempt.
So, to your question, what is interesting here is that, you know, having been there on January 6th and watched four years of a Trump administration, I'm not sure that a president, by him or herself, could pull off the kind of coup that Donald Trump tried to pull off.
But and here is the big but, with the assistance of people in places like the Department of Justice, maybe God forbid, in places like the Department of Defense or in the intelligence apparatus, you get enough people working on your side, and you might actually be able to pull off the kind of coup that Donald Trump was attempting to pull off. And that's why it's so important for us to understand how his people may have tried to pervert organizations, like the Department of Justice, in favor of his attempt to overturn the election.
BLITZER: Do you believe Congressman that these investigation have only scratched the surface so far of what appears to be a very widespread effort to essentially attempt, as you point out, a coup?
HIMES: Well, you never know for sure, but we keep learning new things, right? So, clearly, we haven't sort of exhausted the discovery phase of this work, which is happening on the House, with the January 6th commission, happening in the Senate, because, of course, the U.S. attorney in question who testified in the Senate, we're still learning new things. And we know that there's more to learn.
You know, the Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, my former Republican colleague in the House, what did Mark Meadows know? He is -- you know, chief is staff is one of the key positions in the White House. He was all-in to the Trump lie and the Trump efforts.
You know, what about people like Mike Pompeo? You remember Mike Pompeo, secretary of state's comment, when he was asked about, you know, whether -- what the outcome of the election was, and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, we look forward to a second Trump term?
You know, it's time of the country that know what all of these people who bought in to Trump's personal political interest, knew and said and did leading up to January 6th, and of course to the inauguration of Joe Biden.
BLITZER: How important is it, Congressman, for congressional investigators to hear directly from another Senior Justice Department Official at the time, Jeffrey Clark, who was in charge of the civil division, who was apparent apparently doing then-President Trump's bidding directly inside the U.S. Justice Department?
HIMES: That's right. That's right. It would appear that Mr. Clark was one of the people calling up and talking to all of these players, and arguing in favor of investigating the completely made up allegations of fraud, putting pressure on those who were saying, and many were saying, like Raffensperger, like apparently U.S. Attorney Pak, saying that there's nothing there.
You know, by the way, there are 60 courts who have subsequently who have said there's nothing there and even the attorney general at the time resigned, saying that there's nothing there. But there were these functionaries, there were these people like who were with Donald Trump, whatever it was that Donald Trump wanted to do. People like Mr. Clark, people like Ric Grennell, who was Director of National Intelligence, shockingly, for some period of time.
And, look, I think those people need to be subpoenaed. We need to understand what they did, not just what they said publicly. And if what they did was serious enough, what they did was a violation of their duties and their oaths, they should be prosecuted.
BLITZER: Congressman Jim Himes, thanks so much for joining us.
HIMES: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, the incoming governor of New York speaking out for the first time about Andrew Cuomo's resignation, and the sexual harassment scandal that forced him out.
BLITZER: Tonight, for the first time, we're hearing at length from the woman poised to become New York's first woman Governor. The lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, will replace Andrew Cuomo following his resignation over multiple sexual harassment allegations.
CNN National Correspondent Brynn Gingras is joining us from Albany right now. Brynn, Hochul says she and Cuomo haven't been close and that she wasn't aware of the allegations against him.
What is the latest?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Wolf. And she did say she did speak to Governor Cuomo, and he is promising a smooth transition. But, yes, she was very candid with the fact that she knows that it's no secret that she hasn't been close with the governor for many years, and she said that's kind of giving her a way to sort of curve her own path, make her own relationships and she hopes that's is what going to help her when she assumes this role as governor.
KATHY HOCHUL (D) LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, NEW YORK: Our work has already begun.
GINGRAS (voice over): Kathy Hochul ready to become the 57TH Governor of the state of New York and the first woman in that role.
HOCHUL: I will fight like hell for you every single day, like I've always done and always will. GINGRAS: The 62-year-old speaking publicly to New Yorkers in her first news conference since Governor Andrew Cuomo announce his resignation Tuesday, promising a different kind of leadership.
HOCHUL: No one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment.
GINGRAS: Immediately setting herself apart from Cuomo.
HOCHUL: I think it's very clear that the governor and I have not been close.
No one has named -- who was named does anything, doing anything in that single (ph) report will remain in my administration.
GINGRAS: The longtime Democrat assumes the role in less than two weeks. She's no stranger to politics, holding officers from the U.S. House of Representatives to county clerk. The transition to governing as state of about 20 million people coming at a challenging time with the pandemic, Hochul says, being top priority.
HOCHUL: I'm going to be working with the communities where the rates are higher, the infection and the vaccination rates are lower and to come up with a very strategic approach to target that and make sure we overcome the hesitation and worries.
GINGRAS: With 16 months left in the term when she takes over, Hochul tells CNN in a one-on-one interview she plans to stick around.
We understand that you formed a political team. Does this mean you're going to seek a full term in 2022?
HOCHUL: Yes, it's not the time to talk politics, but I'm prepared to run for re-election. And begin the process as soon as we get everything under control in the state.
GINGRAS: Cuomo said he would step aside after mounting calls for him to resign based on the attorney general's report, which found he sexually harass multiple women, claims he denies. The governor expressing confidents in his successor, Tuesday.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Kathy Hochul, my Lieutenant Governor, is smart and competent. This transition must be seamless.
GINGRAS: Hochul says she's intent on leaving the controversy surrounding Cuomo behind but she'll be coming into the governor's mansion with a conflict of interest. Her husband is general counsel, senior vice president, and secretary of the Buffalo-based hospitality and gaming company Delaware North, and could be impacted by his wife's calls being made from the executive office.
HOCHUL: I have a recusal policy in place since I was Lieutenant Governor.
GINGRAS: So that's the same plan?
HOCHUL: And we're re-examining that to see if anything that we have change with my responsibilities changing.
GINGRAS (on camera): And one of the thing that was interesting in this news conference, Wolf, is someone asked the lieutenant governor how she felt about assuming the role in the now 13 days, instead of right away, and she said, quote, it's not what I asked for.
Essentially saying, typically, the lieutenant governor would step right into the new position if the governor resigned. But she says she admitted that this transition would help but she means she's also not stopped working, and that she's ready to take over the role, and will continue working in that period. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Brynn, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in Zach Fink the Albany Reporter for New York 1. Zack, I know you were watching closely as we heard from the incoming Governor Kathy Hochul. She made it very clear she and Governor Cuomo are not close. What do we know about their working relationship?
ZACK FINK, ALBANY REPORTER, NY1: Well, we know, Wolf, that they haven't spoken in months and she kind of reiterated and made that point. So she was trying to strike a balance between showing that this is new leadership. She's ready to step in and lead. She does not have ties to the Cuomo administration that might trouble people.
But at the same time, she is going to assure people that she's ready to do this. You have to let people know in state government, you have to let even investors with New York State bonds know that it's going to be steady, a smooth transition. And I think she hit all the right notes in that department
BLITZER: Yes. She was very firm and decisive. You know, Brynn, Hochul also made it abundantly clear that while she supports many of Cuomo's policies, she's not afraid to clean house in the executive chamber, right?
GINGRAS: Yes. I mean, she was asked about the attorney general's report, where there are a number of current Cuomo staffers, some who has since resigned as well. Will they have the possibility to stay on her staff? And she essentially said, anyone who is listed in that report will not be a part of her administration.
But, certainly, it was another sort of moment where she was making it clear, that she is separating herself from the governor and that this is going to be a new administration and to Zack's point, sort of maybe calming any fears people might have with this transition happening in just 13 days.
BLITZER: Yes. She promised that her administration would not be, in her words, a toxic work environment.
You know, Zack, Hochul wouldn't say whether she thinks the assembly should move forward with impeachment. What is mood up in Albany right now? Are lawmakers still eager to take that step, or do they want to move on and forget about impeachment for now?
FINK: Yes, she learned an important lesson pretty early, which is they don't want to have executive tell the lawmakers what to do. They're very touchy about that. Look, Wolf, It's very mixed. You have Republicans coming out with a statement today saying, the impeachment should move forward regardless of what happens with Governor Cuomo. You even have some Democrats agreeing with that.
And then there are others, more kind of centrist Democrats who are more establish been saying, listen, we want to be cautious, we want to make sure he resigns, we want to make sure he's out of government. There's nothing that we should do here to agitate him because he does have an $18 million campaign war chest and he could presumably turn around and run again in 2022.
BLITZER: Presumably. All right will see what happens on that front. Zack Fink, thank you very much. Brynn Gingras, thanks to you as well.
Just ahead, a dire new warning by U.S. intelligence that the fall of the Afghan Capital of Kabul to the Taliban may happen very soon.
BLITZER: We have breaking news on the Taliban's growing hold on Afghanistan, as all U.S. troops and NATO are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of this month. U.S. intelligence is now warning that the capital of Kabul could be cut off and collapse in the coming months.
CNN Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward is on the scene. She's joining us live from Kabul right now. This is so disturbing this latest U.S. intelligence assessment Clarissa on the ground there in the Afghan capital.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, things are unraveling at an alarming rate. It wasn't that long ago, U.S. intelligence officials were saying maybe six months before the Afghan government would collapse. Now, they're talking about 30 to 60 days potentially before Kabul would become completely isolated. Another assessment saying potentially 90 days before the capital falls to the Taliban. I mean, just try to get your head around that for a second. That is absolutely staggering.
I will say, from where we are here in Kabul, things do feel relatively secure at the moment. But I will also add that from the frontline spots we have been visiting in different parts of the country, many cities surrounded by the Taliban, nine provincial capitals falling to the Taliban in less than a week, the situation is not good.
We're seeing Afghan forces surrendering, deserting, giving up the fight. President Ghani, basically urging people to come out and form popular uprising militias, to join the warlords and try to reverse the tide. But there's a very disturbing sense on the ground, right now that those gains that the Taliban has made in the last few months cannot be recovered, Wolf.
BLITZER: So what does this mean specifically for U.S. diplomatic and other personnel who are still in Afghanistan working at the U.S. embassy, for example? Are they about to be evacuated?
WARD: So it doesn't look like there's any imminent plan to evacuate them but our colleagues at the state department have been reporting that they are looking at drawing down the number of U.S. personnel at the embassy here. Of course, this comes on the heels of the U.S. embassy warning Americans essentially to leave the country.
And what that does is it, first of all, calls into question how long America's is willing to stay the course. President Biden have said that America would retain a strong diplomatic footprint here. But it also really makes morale even worse than it already is.
And when it comes to the negotiations going that are going on in Doha right now, or the attempts to get both parties at the table to negotiate, it sort of dramatically decreases the leverage that the U.S. has coming into this because the Taliban now understands there is nothing, come hell or high water, that will stop the U.S. from fully carrying out this withdrawal within the next few weeks.
And as long as they believe, Wolf, that they can win, then there's much less incentive for them to sit down at the negotiating table, make compromises, make concessions and try to come up with some form of power sharing agreement.
BLITZER: Among other things, I'm so worried about those young Afghan girls and women if the Taliban takes over completely. Who knows what's going to happen over there. It's going to be a total, total disaster. Clarissa Ward, just be careful, be safe over there. We will certainly stay in touch. Thanks for your excellent work.
Coming up, the chief of the U.S. Capitol police gives us an update on the threat of the new pro-Trump violence this month.
BLITZER: U.S. Capitol Police are on alert this month after Homeland Security warned of potential pro-Trump violence, fueled by the conspiracy theory of the former president returning to power.
Let's get an update from the U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger.
Chief, thank you so much for joining us.
What can you tell us about this Department of Homeland Security warning that was issued yesterday, a bulletin warning of increased potential violence related to election conspiracies, and that Trump will be re-instated as president?
CHIEF TOM MANGER, UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE: We're keeping up on all the intelligence. We have folks looking everywhere, in all the fusion centers around the country, to pick up on any information. So, even since the 6th, we've been --
BLITZER: Since January 6th.
MANGER: Yes, since January 6th, we've been on higher alert. That remains. We've got a couple of dates where we know there will be some demonstrations. And so, we're going to make sure that we have enough folks in place so we can candle handle whatever happens.
BLITZER: Can you tell us about when you expect these demonstrations to take place where potentially there could be some problems?
MANGER: So, I think -- there's been a couple of days, but September 18th is one that we're -- I know there's a demonstration that's going to occur on that day. And right now, there's only a few hundred people I think that they anticipate. But we've got to be prepared for whatever happens.
BLITZER: Why September 18th?
MANGER: Not sure what the significance of that date is. But that is just the date that they applied for a permit.
BLITZER: To come to the U.S. Capitol to protest?
BLITZER: But you fear that a peaceful protest could get violent?
Is that what your fear here?
MANGER: Well, I don't know if it's a fear, but we've got to be prepared for that, because we don't know what to anticipate and it could be, you know, if 5,000 people show up instead of 500, we need to be prepared for that. And so, we're going to -- we're going to make sure we have enough folks in place to handle the demonstrations.
BLITZER: How unhelpful is it to see some lawmakers actually still promote these conspiracies, these lies?
MANGER: You know, it's something that's out of our control. But I mean, it does not help when we're trying to ensure that these demonstrations remain peaceful and people are allowed to express their First Amendment rights, and in many ways, that's what is happening, but you just wonder what impact it's having on some of the public when elected officials, you know, are saying some of the things that they're saying.
BLITZER: And these threats, they go beyond the U.S. Capitol. Some members of Congress are facing threats when they go back to their home districts, they need beefed up security. I've spoken to several of them. There is police waiting outside their house in the morning just to be abundantly cautious.
MANGER: Yeah, we work with local agencies all over the country to ensure that the members of Congress have the protection and the security that they need and we've seen a dramatic increase in the number of threats against the members of Congress. We typically just a couple years ago had around 6,000 or 7,000. This year, I think will be up close to 10,000 threats that we're investigating against members of Congress.
So we are working very closely with the local police departments as well as providing not only advice but providing some level of security resources to the members not only when they're in the Capitol complex but in the district office the in their homes, as well.
BLITZER: You've been a chief of the U.S. Capitol Police for two and a half weeks.
MANGER: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: But what can you tell us your initial impressions about moral because we heard some -- there was serious moral issues understandably so during these seven months since January 6th.
MANGER: Well, I know -- I worked around this police department for many, many years and I know the U.S. Capitol Police Department is a great agency. They were a great agency before January 6th and a great agency now but clearly with what happened on January 6th, the men and women of that department didn't feel like they had the resources to do their job.
And so, it's understandable that they felt that they -- that the department let them down so it's up to us, myself, my leadership team to make sure they do feel like they have what the training, the resources, the equipment, all those things so that when they get out there and they're asked to do a job, that they have what they need to do it.
BLITZER: We're grateful to you and all the officers of the U.S. Capitol Police force for what you guys are doing. Thanks so much.
MANGER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Good luck.
BLITZER: Coming up, a Democratic governor out in New York and his counterpart in California potentially could lose his job. We'll have the latest on the effort to recall the governor of California, Gavin Newsom.
BLITZER: The two Democratic governors of two of the largest states, one Andrew Cuomo has now resigned in disgrace. But the other California's Gavin Newsom could find himself fired by voters in a matter of weeks. CNN senior international correspondent Kyung Lah is joining us from
Los Angeles right now.
Kyung, Newsom is facing a recall election that's looking apparently increasingly bad for him, at least right now. How much trouble is he in?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you listen to the governors, allies to this political team, they are sounding the alarm. And what they are most worried about, Wolf, is Democratic apathy.
Where is this apathy coming from? Well, Democrats have a super majority in state government. That in the words of one analyst I spoke with today, they've become the big fat and lazy party in this state because it is so blue.
What the governor's allies are saying is that they need Democrats to wake up. That's what you're starting to see rallies. That's why you're starting to see Democratic organizations, union allies go door to door knocking on doors canvassing throughout Los Angeles and they're just telling Democrats, hey, this recall is happening. Don't throw away your ballot. Make sure to fill it in and vote no on the recall. So the governor does stay in office.
This apathy, though, does equal opportunity for Republican challengers. Those challengers include names like Caitlyn Jenner. But a more formidable challenge right now appears to be radio host Larry Elder who has notable name recognition, especially in cities like Los Angeles.
Democrats, Wolf, do out number Republicans in the state by voter registration 2-1 but still, the energy does belong with the Republicans right now when it comes to mobilizing and looking to September 14th when the recall election takes place, Wolf.
BLITZER: And do we have any indication what's going to happen?
LAH: Certainly none. If you were to guess at this point, you shouldn't because it is -- we just don't know. That's really what you're hearing from both sides.
BLITZER: We will watch and see what happens to the California governor. Thank you very much. Kyung Lah reporting from Los Angeles.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.