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Pentagon: About 3000 U.S. Troops Will Go Into Afghanistan To Assist In Departure Of Diplomats, Possible Evacuations; U.S. Orders Drawdown Of Embassy Personnel In Afghanistan As More Cities Fall To Taliban; Soon: FDA Expected To Authorize A Third Vaccine Dose For Some Immunocompromised People; More Than 400 Students Quarantined In Palm Beach County After Two Days Of School. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 12, 2021 - 17:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The higher rates still need to be approved. Our coverage continues now.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news 1000s of U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan as the country may be on the brink of collapse to the Taliban, just months after President Biden's order to bring American forces home.

Also, tonight, we're standing by for the FDA to authorize the first COVID booster shots targeting Americans with weakened immune systems.

And new census data reveals the U.S. has reached a historic level of diversity with the white population shrinking for the first time.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta. And you're in the "Situation Room."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

ACOSTA: And we begin with the breaking news, the Pentagon just announcing that some 3000 U.S. troops will be deployed to the Afghan capital within 48 hours to help Americans leave as Taliban forces seize more territory. We're covering all angles of the story with CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward on the ground in Kabul and CNN Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly over at the White House.

But first let's start with CNN Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann.

Oren, the situation in Afghanistan is clearly deteriorating rapidly. What are you learning about the mission for these 3000 U.S. troops?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well as the Taliban has swept and gained control of some 12 provincial capitals with an advance that clearly has momentum as they move forward. Here, the U.S. is sending in 3000 additional troops specifically to Hamid Karzai International Airport. That is the international gateway to Kabul to secure the airport and to assist in the evacuation or the partial drawdown of some staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

State Department spokesman, Ned Price, says the embassy will go down to its core diplomatic staff. And also to assist in the evacuation of Afghan interpreters and their families, special immigrant visa applicants who assisted the U.S. who are beginning to come out of Afghanistan. That mission has only just begun.

Some 1200 of these Afghans have left the country, but there are 10s of 1000s more of them, along with their families who still need to come out. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby made it clear that the additional troops going in are not on a combat mission, but this is clearly a war zone where the Taliban is making advances. And it seems the Pentagon is preparing for the possibility that there could be fighting that reaches the airport.

Here is the Pentagon press secretary.


REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We're mindful that the security situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan. And as I said before, our troops will, as always, have the right of self- defense. But this is a narrowly focused mission to help with the -- to help safeguard an orderly reduction of civilian personnel.

I'm not going to speculate beyond August 31. Our job right now with this additional plus up is to help facilitate the safe movement of civilian personnel out of Afghanistan. And the President's been very clear that he wants that reduction complete by the end of August.


LIEBERMANN: Kirby said the drawdown of military forces in Afghanistan would still be complete by the end of the month, but he wouldn't speculate on the additional troops going in. Clearly saying that, at least from his position and the Pentagon's position, they are not on a combat mission and leaving the door open to them staying longer as the drawdown of the embassy proceeds and as Afghan interpreters and their families are brought out of the country.

In addition to those forces, there will be 1000 Army and Air Force troops starting in Qatar (ph) who will help as part of that Afghan interpreter process of getting through their visa applications. And another 3500 soldiers standing by in Kuwait in case the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates even further, and they need to be brought in. Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, CNN's Oren Liebermann on that situation in Afghanistan. We'll get back to you.

Now to Kabul, CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is on the ground for us is there.

Clarissa, we heard you describe earlier a feeling of near panic in the capital. That is very worrying. Tell us about the deteriorating security situation from your standpoint. CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the situations going from bad to worse. Herat, the country's third largest city fall into the Taliban today.

Kandahar, the second largest city, which has huge strategic and symbolic relevance, but appears to be eminently on the point of collapse. We spoke with a lawmaker there, he said it hasn't fallen yet, but it will. He told us that groups of Taliban fighters have penetrated the front lines in the western part of the city, that they're running around the city center outside the governor's house shooting, creating an environment of chaos.

And if that one falls, then you can understand why people are just so petrified here in Kabul, Jim, because they see the writing on the wall. They see what's happening. They see that Afghan forces are simply unable to stem the tide of this massive Taliban offensive. And they see also what many of them would call a lack of leadership from the Afghan government, leaving them with very little reassurance as to where they can So what many of them would call a lack of leadership from the Afghan government, leaving them with very little reassurance as to where they can go for safety, what the plan is to try to mitigate this situation, to get it in check.


You've been hearing reports could be within 30 days that Kabul would be isolated. So, a real sense of dread and yes, some panic here too, as people try to work out what their next steps might be.

ACOSTA: And Clarissa, the Taliban have broken through the front line in Afghanistan, second largest city of Kandahar. You were just there last week, and you saw this fighting firsthand. How big of a blow would that be if the Taliban takes control of that city?

WARD: It's a devastating blow, Jim, because this city is the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban. It's where Mullah Omar, the group's former leader lived. It was in fact their capital of their Islamic Emirate.

It's possible that if they take that city, they could go ahead and just declare another Islamic Emirate and declare that the capital immediately. So, once Kandahar falls, and I should stress that it really does appear to be imminent from everyone I'm speaking to on the ground, including.

By the way, those soldiers who were on the front lines with when I sent the messages earlier to see if they were OK. They wrote back simply, we left. And this is the attitude you're seeing from Afghan forces now. They're not even trying to fight at this stage, Jim, many of them simply surrendering, deserting, they are not ready to die in this fight.

And so, yes, if Kandahar falls as it appears, it may well in the coming hours, that will be a devastating blow. And I think it's fair to say that most people will see that really as being the death knell for Afghan forces and the Afghan government as we know it, Jim. ACOSTA: Just extraordinary and how quickly it's all happening.

All right, CNN's Clarissa Ward, we'll get back to you as well.

And we're also learning more about how this decision was reached. Let's go to CNN Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly.

Phil, President Biden has been adamant about leaving Afghanistan. We're not seeing any wavering there. But he signed off on this order to send these additional troops. What are you learning about these discussions within the administration?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, it's important to note there's certainly a new urgency inside the administration over the course of the last several days since they've watched what is played out on the ground in Afghanistan. But the President is not moving off of his position. He still wants the same withdrawal timeline and he has made clear his position has not changed.

What has changed, obviously, is their posture given those rapid Taliban gains. The President convening his senior national security team last night, he was given a briefing of the battlefield, the deteriorating situation on the ground, as well as a briefing of the preliminary plans to send in U.S. troops to help facilitate the withdrawal of a significant number of embassy personnel and officials.

This morning at 7:30 a.m., President Biden's principals team met to go over the final details of that plan. They unanimously approved that plan. And thereafter National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin brief the President on that plan. The President signed off, ordered Austin to put that plan into place.

And Jim, for the remainder of the day. It is literally been a sprint in diplomatic engagement. Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, and Austin speaking with President Ashraf Ghani, speaking with allies, individuals or -- sorry, countries that have any type of presence on the ground there, diplomatic or partners on the ground, as well as the NATO secretary, making very clear what's going on and why. But also underscoring that there is a real problem right now on the ground.

U.S. officials want to make clear, Jim, say there was an expectation that there would be Taliban gains, particularly in certain parts of the country. What they did not assessed was that they would come this quickly, this fast, this dramatically. And that is what's really kind of driven the shift we've seen from the administration over the course of the last 24 hours.

ACOSTA: All right, Phil Mattingly standby.

Let's get more on this. We want to dig deeper with you Clarissa Ward in Kabul, Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon.

Oren, let me go to you first, the Pentagon says the deployment of these 3000 troops is about, quote, "prudent preparation." But in reality, are they really just bracing for the worst-case scenario? Are they prepared for the worst-case scenario?

LIEBERMANN: I think it's certainly safe to say they are preparing for the worst-case scenario, a drawdown of the embassy and acceleration of the plans to bring out Afghan interpreters and their families pretty much as quickly as possible leads you to believe that they're considering the possibility that the worst-case scenario is going to play out.

And when you look at the gains the Taliban has made in Afghanistan, and continues to make in Afghanistan, and the speed with which those gains have been made. This can't be that far from the worst-case scenario.

The Pentagon and the State Department have both emphasize that they want to see a diplomatic solution to this. They don't believe that a military solution, the Taliban simply taking over, can lead to a good spot. That's not advisor. That's not the sort of thinking that the Taliban seems to be taking at this point, as they simply move through the countries. So the Pentagon often says it is a planning organization.

So I think, you have to look at the situation, look at what's unfolding and say, yes, they're preparing for the possibility of a worst-case scenario.


ACOSTA: Certainly. It seems that way. And Clarissa, it looks like Americans and foreign diplomats will have the resources to get out safely at least that's how it looks at this point. But where does that leave Afghan civilians in all of this?

WARD: Well, I mean, that's really the question, Jim. And that's why people are so frightened, especially those people who have risked their lives to work with the U.S. military, to work with the U.S. Embassy here, to work with NATO allies here.

You know, there's 10s of 1000s of them, the paperwork that they're mired in can take a long time. CNN spoken to one individual who is so desperate, who's so distressed, he's threatening to set himself on fire outside the U.S. Embassy. Now, I hope very much that that doesn't happen. But I really think it speaks to the desperation that you're seeing on the ground, because there's such a lack of clarity about this situation.

The only thing that actually there is clarity about is that the situation is evolving very quickly. The Taliban has the upper hand, Afghan forces are not capable of sort of fending off their attack. And so, the question becomes what happens to Kabul, what happens to the people inside Kabul? What happens to anyone who's worked with Afghan forces.

And as I said, so far from Afghanistan's leadership, a lot of people feel a stunning lack of clarity, and lack of reassurance, and lack of a coherent strategy going forward, which only contributes to that sense of panic. And believe me, this U.S. drawdown or whatever it's being called, whether it's semantics, it's being seen on the ground as an evacuation. And it only serves to further deteriorate morale, and gives people this sense that, you know, essentially, Americans are fleeing a sinking ship. Jim.

ACOSTA: And the Taliban can exploit that, Phil Mattingly. Do officials inside the Biden ministration realize just how jarring it is, to hear this rhetoric about enduring partnership while they're abandoning ship?

MATTINGLY: I think they recognize that it's a careful balance that perhaps has gone off kilter over the course of the last several days. But it's also been made very clear from U.S. officials that their priority is the safety of U.S. personnel that's on the ground. And obviously, that leaves Afghan civilians, the Afghan national security forces at an extreme deficit, but at this point in time, that's what they want to be prepared for.

And I think Oren makes a really good point. It's been made clear to me by U.S. officials, this was a plan that existed, they didn't come up with this last night, they knew this was a distinct possibility, and they are very much so preparing for the possibility they will have to evacuate all U.S. personnel from Kabul. They're just looking at -- what's happening on the ground right now.

I think the most probably -- the thing I'd want to put a point on right now from the White House that you hear from administration officials that you hear is that the President is secure in his decision to withdraw. And their point, which they have made repeatedly, the President has said it and they've continued to make it is they don't believe that having 2500 troops, which is what the President drew down from was something that they could sustain past the May 1 deadline with the Taliban.

They thought what you were seeing right now from the Taliban, in terms of the conflict with the Afghan national security forces would have been directed at U.S. forces had there not been a withdrawal. So their decision was either withdraw or significantly increase U.S. presence, something the President did not want to do and therefore they are in this place. Something they knew was possible, just not this quickly.

ACOSTA: All right, the conversation on this does not end here. CNN's Oren Liebermann, Clarissa Ward, Phil Mattingly, thanks so much for those insights. We'll be talking to you soon.

And coming up. We're awaiting an FDA decision on COVID vaccine booster shots for people with compromised immune systems. That and all the latest pandemic news is ahead.



ACOSTA: Breaking news tonight, the Pentagon deploying about 3000 US troops to the Afghan Capitol within the next 48 hours on a mission to help American diplomats leave as the Taliban take over more of the country. Let's get more now with Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations. He's the author of the newly revised edition of "The World A Brief Introduction."

Richard, great to see you.

This is a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. How has the Biden administration allowed this situation to get so out of control with the Taliban sweeping across the country as quickly as they are? People panicking and Kabul. How did they not see this coming inside the White House?

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: There's no reason they shouldn't. What they essentially did was they signed on to the policy they inherited from the Trump administration. I think both are equally flawed.

And what we've done is by pulling out U.S. troops on a calendar link to just that date, rather than the conditions on the ground. We've essentially handed the Taliban what they wanted. So they held back until this withdrawal was well underway. The withdrawal demoralized what there was that the government and its forces, and we're seeing what we're seeing.

ACOSTA: And how ironic is that the U.S. withdrawal in the last 24 -- 2500 troops has now led to the Pentagon sending in 3000 troops? It's almost an escalation and a withdrawal at the same time.

HAASS: You're right, except the reinsertion of troops is totally limited and tactical to simply get us out. So it reinforces the sense that we've given up. I think the real debate of what it needs to be, though it's too late, it will affect current policy is whether the administration was right to pull out the 2500 U.S. troops, which were an anchor for another 7500 allied group. And that was a presidents that seemed to provide enough ballast and enough foundation for the Afghan forces not to win, not the winner military victory, not to bring about peace, but simply to avert what we're now seeing.


ACOSTA: And the State Department spokesperson today said that the U.S. message to the Afghan people is "one of enduring partnership," that's a quote Bring. One of enduring partnership. How can the administration make that claim, though, when the military is, you know, on hand to evacuate Americans?

HAASS: They really want to shut down who's ever putting out these messages, whether it's enduring partnership, when if this is our definition of a partnership, no one's going to want to be our partner anywhere, what we're talking about our hopes for peace talks with the Taliban, again, for the Taliban peace talks are simply a tactic. And they got what they wanted, which was a date specific U.S. withdrawal. So, these kinds of feel-good statements actually just add salt to the wounds. ACOSTA: And nearly 400,000 Afghans have now been displaced from this recent fighting, many trying to seek safety Kabul. What does the United States owe to the Afghan people do you think at this point to address this humanitarian crisis? Can we do anything about it at this point or we just going to be watching this unfold before our eyes over the next several weeks and just -- in seeing this sort of ugly thing unfold here?

HAASS: Ad lot of it is going to be an ugly and a lot of it, we won't be able to get back (ph). You've got now the internally displaced going to Kabul. We can provide some help for them, excuse me, temporarily. But sooner or later, I think the Taliban will put Kabul under siege by coming from the north and the south of the light. And if it's a question of when not if they take over, then we won't be able to help those people.

So anyone who worked with us, if he or she hasn't been taken out by the United States, they're going to be massacred. I also think you're going to see millions of Afghans want to leave the country, it's going to put pressure on the neighbors. So this is going to be a humanitarian nightmare. And I would argue potentially, a strategic one as well.

ACOSTA: And there are talks happening with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, but is there any hope for diplomacy with the Taliban advancing on city after city? They may be taking Kandahar any moment, et cetera?

HAASS: The short answer is no. A military or a movement that sees victory in its grass is not inclined to compromise. So any talk about power sharing or working together with the government is empty.

Again, the Taliban got what they wanted in diplomacy a year and a half ago, which was the U.S. pledge withdrawal. And all they had to do, the Taliban was agreed not to bring back terrorists, they didn't have to disarm. They didn't have to agree to a ceasefire. So we gave them a very generous agreement. And this is now the return on that investment.

ACOSTA: All right, Richard Haass, a very desperate situation is developing there in Afghanistan. Thanks for your insights and joining us this evening. We appreciate it.

HAASS: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: And coming up next, the FDA ways whether some people with compromised immune systems should get a COVID vaccine booster shot. We'll talk about that with CNS, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.



ACOSTA: Just two days into the new school year, hundreds of students in Palm Beach County Florida are quarantine as the COVID Delta variant ravages that state. CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Miami for us.

Leyla, what's the latest?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know Jim, we've been calling around to a bunch of different school districts today just to find out how many students in that first week of school are opting out, given that many school districts have implemented a mask mandate that still gives parents the option of opting out. And we found that of those we talked to, it really ranges from 4 percent over in Duval County and Palm Beach County to Hillsborough and Lee County where they're seeing as much as 15 percent of students opting out not wearing that mask in school.

And in its -- and when you check on things like quarantining, you talked to Palm Beach County they have right now 440 students in quarantine, because of those detected COVID-19 cases. It is things like that, as well as that very contagious Delta variant that are driving school districts like Broward County and Alachua County in a back and forth with the governor saying, no, we are going to have a mask mandate that does not have any sort of opt out even though that's what the governor says is legal given the executive order that he signed.

Listen to the Broward County superintendent.


VICKIE CARTWRIGHT, INTERIM SUPERINTENDENT, BROWARD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL: My core value is students first. No amount of personal financial loss will cause me to go against this value. No amount of money can compare to a person's life or the impact that this virus may have on a person or their family.


SANTIAGO: And when you look at hospitalization rates, this week, we're learning the latest numbers show that Florida's hospitalization is triple what the national rate is right now, 15,449, that's the latest number when it comes to hospitalizations. And the Florida Hospital Association is saying that in the next seven days, they expect 68 percent of hospitals to have a critical staffing shortage. That is an increase from last week.

And one more thing, Jim, to mention, you know, Governor Ron DeSantis, has been criticized by some for not releasing daily COVID-19 numbers by county and by local government.


And today in his press conference, he mentioned it might not be a bad idea to get back to that. So a bit of a shift and we might be getting more numbers given what he said.

ACOSTA: Yes, sounds like he may be starting to soften on some of those hard positions he's been taking down there. We'll have to see if that pans out.

Our CNN's Leyla Santiago, thanks so much for following that. Let's bring in CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, as you know, the FDA is expected to soon authorize a third coronavirus shot for some folks who were -- who are dealing with compromised immune systems. What factors can go into this in terms of who gets them and when?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the whole thinking behind this, Jim, is these are people who did not really mount a strong immune response because they have weakened immune systems. The vaccine works by basically stimulating your own immune system to make these antibodies. But if your immune system is compromised, you can't do that.

So that's really who they're going to be focusing on. It could be cancer patients who've had recent chemotherapy, people who may be taking medications to dampen their immune system because of autoimmune diseases, patients who have received organ transplants.

In fact, let me show you something here, Jim. This was from a study that came out of the New England Journal of Medicine, specifically looking at transplant recipients. And what they found was that not surprisingly, after the two shots, they typically had a certain antibody response, not much. But when they got a third shot, if we have that graphic, we can show it. When they got a third shot, you really saw a significant increase overall in their antibodies. So, you know, there's some data that is sort of informed that, but those are folks who are most likely going to be affected by this new FDA authorization.

ACOSTA: And Sanjay, Leyla was just talking about this few moments ago, more than 400 students are now quarantined in Palm Beach County, Florida after just two days of school. Is this something that we should expect to see if masks are not worn in these schools?

GUPTA: Well, I mean, yes. I mean, I think that that's the big concern. I mean, we are dealing with a very transmissible virus. Delta is very transmissible. It's very unforgiving. So, you know, there's all sorts of different things that go into slowing the transmission. And, you know, many of the students, obviously, are not vaccinated because it's not authorized for people 12 and younger.

But if you look at what happened there specifically, as Leyla was sort of outlining, you now have some 400 students that have been quarantined. There have been some 50, you know, students and staff, 51, that have, you know, been confirmed to have this, and more than 20 schools have been impacted. But we know that if masking was mandated, because, you know, you got about 5,700 students, my understanding is that we're not wearing masks, if it was mandated, there's now data, even data that just is coming out of Duke, showing how much of an impact masks can make in decreasing viral transmission.

Jim, I won't be perfect. It's going to be a tough school year for a little bit of time because your kid may not test positive but may have had an exposure, thus get quarantined and we may stutter step, you know, Jim, for the next, you know, couple of months. We'll see. But masking would definitely decrease the chance of that happening. ACOSTA: Absolutely. And starting next week, this is, I think, pretty interesting. San Francisco will become the first major U.S. city to require proof of full vaccination for people aged 12 and up to take part in some indoor activities. That's pretty remarkable to see that on a city wide scale. Does this policy make more sense of New York City's policy, which only requires one dose of a vaccine for indoor activities? What do you think of those -- how those two cities are --

GUPTA: Well --

ACOSTA: -- going about this?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, what I think is, I think what New York's trying to do is say, hey, look, let's get you to get the first shot. Do everything we can to start that process with the hopes that you're going to go ahead and get a second shot as well. But there's no question and I'll show you the data, if we have this graph, that basically shows the difference in how well these vaccines work. One shot versus two shots.

So, look, we looked at Alpha and Delta, the Delta is the blue. You get two shots, you see the protection compared to just one shot. That's what the data shows. So that time period between the one shot and the two shots is significant.

So without a doubt, it's better to have the two shots. But Jim, I do see the idea of using a caret (ph) to try and get people to start that process of at least getting the first shot.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. And there's so many tourists who go to both of those cities. So it makes sense to require that sort of thing. And Sanjay, in your new essay for, you acknowledge the term breakthrough infection. I'm so glad you wrote about this, because I've been thinking about this too, that this term breakthrough infection is confusing to folks and that it should be reframed, redefined for people to think about because people think, oh, breakthrough infection, that means my vaccine doesn't work. Let's talk about that, explain that for us.

GUPTA: Yes, it probably means the opposite. It doesn't mean that your vaccine doesn't work that somehow this is broken through the immunity --

ACOSTA: Right.

GUPTA: -- of your vaccine. It kind of shows that it's working because you still tested positive and you did not get severely ill.


I think one way to visualize this, Jim, someone was telling me this from the NIH, the vaccines primarily work, these antibodies primarily work at the level of the lungs. If the virus gets into the lungs, that's when you're likely to get severely ill, you know, maybe you need hospitalization and be at risk of death. The vaccine doesn't work as well in the upper airways, but that's OK because you typically don't get sick if the virus just stays in your upper airways, but you could test positive. That's the point, that you could test positive, have no symptoms. That's the way the vaccine was designed.

ACOSTA: All right, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, great stuff. Thank you so much. We always appreciate it. We'll see you again soon.

GUPTA: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: And just ahead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office says enough is enough. And she issues a stark warning to Republicans spreading awful conspiracies about the officers who protected the Capitol on January 6th.



ACOSTA: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office is now calling for Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to, quote, get off of his hands and stand up to members of his party who have been demonizing the officers who protected the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection.

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill. Manu, this sounds like another round in their war of words but, I mean, this is important stuff here.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really been the fallout from January 6th to going back and forth. And the latest stemming from a statement from the former President last night talking about the killing of Ashli Babbitt, who died as she was joined by that rioters' mob on January 6th here in the U.S. Capitol. Trump putting out a statement saying, "Ashli Babbitt who was murdered at the hands of someone who should never have pulled the trigger of his gun. We know who he is".

The reality of the situation is that she was joined with other members of the mob breaking -- trying to break through the glass doors of this -- the U.S. House Speaker's lobby, which is two steps from the floor of the House, as were members of Congress were sheltered as well as some were being evacuated through that very Speaker's lobby and Babbitt broke through the glass window. She was shot, even though she shouldn't killed.

And the Justice Department also investigated what happened here and clear the officer who shot Babbitt of any wrongdoing. Now, some in McCarthy's conference like Paul Gosar in particular have defended Ashli Babbitt's role and closest spokesman and a person put out a statement today saying, "It's long overdue for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to get off his hands and stand up to the members of his conference and party who have been terrorizing the brave officers".

And Jim, we reached out to McCarthy's office, we still have not heard back for any comment. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right, Manu Raju, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Here to discuss, let's talk about this now with CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst and former D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey, and CNN Legal and National Security Analyst, Carrie Cordero. Chief Ramsey, after everything D.C. and Capitol Police have been through, are they now a greater risk because of Trump's language, talking about we know who you are and so on? I mean, you know, obviously, there's no bottom with the former president, but it does run the risk of causing more attacks, I suppose.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, it could very well do that and it's just disgusting. But, you know, you have it right. The former president has no bottom, it made you think he's hit bottom he finds a lower level to go to. So that's not surprising.

But it's disgusting, it's unnecessary. You're putting people at risk. And your men and women from the Capitol Police, in the Metropolitan Police that did everything they possibly could to protect members of Congress on January 6th against overwhelming art. And they do it again tomorrow if they had to, because they take that oath just that seriously. And when you think of a former President, members of Congress that are really criticizing them, saying all kinds of terrible things, they do not deserve it. They do not deserve it.

And I wish it would stop. I think the Speaker is absolutely right. McCarthy needs to show some courage and needs to stand up and say, well, enough is enough.

ACOSTA: And it can't be said enough. Ashli Babbitt would not be there on January 6th, Donald Trump had not been pushing the big lie. But Carrie, how dangerous is it for the former president to rile up his supporters in this way? We know the Department of Homeland Security has issued that warning of increased calls for violence around election conspiracies.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So DHS has issued that warning and that warning is not alone. For the first time, the administration this year released a domestic terrorism national strategy, the intelligence community, the FBI have all issued renewed threats regarding domestic terrorism. And so this environment of political violence is much broader than just the former president's words alone. There are other members of Congress who, when they push these different conspiracy theories, they are actually contributing to people who hear that, believe these theories and then are set on a path towards violence, whether that's against officers, whether that's against other elected officials, like members of Congress.

ACOSTA: And Chief Ramsey, this threat extends beyond D.C. last night here in The Situation Room. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger told our Wolf Blitzer about the heightened risks. Let's watch and talk about it.


CHIEF TOM MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: We've seen a dramatic increase in the number of threats against the members of Congress. I mean, we typically just a couple years ago had around 6,000 or 7,000. This year, I think we'll be up close to 10,000 threats that we're investigating against members of Congress.


ACOSTA: How does law enforcement deal with such a widespread and evolving combination of threats do you think, Chief?

RAMSEY: Well, it's very difficult. You have so many members of Congress, they're actually better protected when they're in D.C., are more vulnerable when they go home. And that's the challenge that they face. Of course, the Capitol Police coordinate with local police departments and so forth.


But it is a huge, challenge and the kind of rhetoric that we're hearing from members of -- the very members that you protected --

ACOSTA: Right.

RAMSEY: -- that kind of rhetoric, I mean, it just makes it even more difficult and more dangerous. Someone's going to get hurt at some point in time if things don't simmer down.

ACOSTA: Yes. And more people will get hurt than just what we saw on January 6th. We have to leave the conversation there.

RAMSEY: That's right.

ACOSTA: A lot of breaking news to talk about this evening with Charles Ramsey, Carrie Cordero, thank you so much for being with us this evening. We appreciate it.

And coming up, breaking news. In the years long battle, the legal battle for pop star Britney Spears, a big development there for the pop star. We'll talk about it next.



ACOSTA: Big breaking news right now, the father of pop star Britney Spears saying that he will step down as her conservator bringing an end to her long legal battle to regain some of her freedom in her life. Let's get more from the state attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida, Dave Aronberg. Dave, this is a huge development. How big of a win is this for Britney Spears? All of her fans for months and months have been begging for this to happen.

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Yes. Jim, this is a big win for Britney and all her fans. They've been trying to get Jamie off the conservatorship. Because once he's gone, then the conservatorship can wrap up because he's the problem here. He's making money off of her performances or albums, at the same time, he's supposed to protect her best interest. So, it seems like there's a conflict of interest.

Does he want her to be a moneymaker, or does he want to do what's best for her mental health? Well, now that he seems to be going out of the picture, you can expect this conservatorship to start wrapping up because although the conservatorship won't end immediately, the process will begin now that she has her own lawyer that she herself got to choose.

ACOSTA: And as recently as last week, Jamie Spears was fighting this petition to remove him as the co-conservator, what led to this change?

ARONBERG: You know, it's hard to say but, you know, the rhetoric has ratcheted up. You know, she has her own lawyer for the first time in 13 years, because before this, the court appointed her lawyer and there was talk that her lawyer was in cahoots with Jamie Spears. And so you see a change now with Jamie. It's now about protecting Britney and going after Lynn Spears.

If you look at his announcement, he said that Lynn Spears is to blame here, which makes me think that he's trying to save what he made from Britney against a civil lawsuit perhaps. He wants to put the blame on Lynn, he wants to protect what he has. And he's ready to ride off into the sunset as long as he doesn't have to discords all the millions of dollars that he made off his daughter.

ACOSTA: And where does Britney Spears and her fight for freedom go from here? You know, we've heard for so many months now, it's been a documentary and so on, that she's been battling for this for some time. Does this mean that she's on the path out at having, you know, the freedom to choose, you know, how her life moves forward from here?

ARONBERG: Well, hopefully, I mean, for Britney and her fans, they want her to be done with conservatorship, but it's not that easy. There's a court involved, and the court has to approve the conservatorship to be wound down. And so, after Jamie leaves a conservatorship, I think what you will see is there'll be a petition by Britney's lawyer to end the conservatorship and then the process can actually happen because Jamie was standing in the way of that. With Jamie gone, I think they conservatorships days are numbered.

And that add insult to injury, mind you, Britney was paying the legal fees not just for her own lawyer who she didn't pick until now, but for the lawyers that were representing Jamie's interest. I mean, it really shows you that conservatorship law doesn't give the conservative a lot of power. It adds insult to injury that she's paying for the legal fees on both sides.

ACOSTA: Yes. And if you're watching the breaking news right now, we're covering this as we speak, Britney Spears's father's saying he plans to step down as her conservator. An attorney for Britney Spears is calling this announcement from the father to step aside as vindication for Britney Spears.

Let me ask you, Dave, while we still have you, does this whole process, this whole saga that we've seen Britney Spears go through, doesn't it raise legitimate questions about conservatorships in general and how just they are? I mean, it's just been -- it seems like it's been nightmarish for her watching the judge and, you know, her father and all these people have control over her life, and she hasn't been in control of, you know, how she wants to live her life. It's kind of incredible.

ARONBERG: Yes, Jim, this is going to be the lasting legacy of this whole saga. It's that there are millions of Americans who are dealing with conservatorships right now, and this will impact them, because this has exposed the problems with conservatorships. I mean, Britney had to pay lawyers on both sides. She didn't even get to pick her own lawyer. I mean, can you imagine that?

If she had, God forbid, committed murder, she would be allowed to choose her own lawyer. But not when she's a conservative. It shows you that the laws really do need to be revisited.

ACOSTA: Yes, it's because these laws are archaic, is that the issue then?

ARONBERG: Yes. And they've been exploited for years and abuse. But now we have a high-profile case that has drawn attention to it. It took something like Britney Spears to draw attention to the flaws in the conservatorship laws and that's going to be her lasting legacy. Maybe more so than her music career, she could help millions of Americans get a semblance of their rights back.

ACOSTA: Well, that would be something else. All right, Dave Aronberg, thanks for joining us so quickly on the breaking news, and we'll get back to you soon. Thanks so much.


Breaking news next, the U.S. deploying about 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to help get Americans out as the Taliban gains more ground.


ACOSTA: Happening now, breaking news. U.S. troops are on the move and expected to deploy in Afghanistan within 48 hours. More cities fall to the Taliban. Crisis in Kabul and the pressure on the White House are escalating this hour.

Also tonight, the FDA is on the brink of authorizing COVID-19 booster shots for people with weakened immune systems. That announcement could happen very soon.

And after a long bitter battle, Britney Spears' father says he intends to step down as the pop star's conservator. Does it mean Britney will be freed at last?