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CDC Endorses Third COVID-19 Dose for Some People with Compromised Immune Systems; Pentagon Says U.S. Troops Moving to Afghanistan as We Speak Rapid Speed of Taliban Takeover Deeply Concerning; Judges Hearing Capitol Riot Cases Step Up as the Conscience of Democracy While Lawmakers Squabble. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 13, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Also tonight, the Pentagon calls the Taliban's rapid take over in Afghanistan deeply concerning as U.S. troops are now heading to the country, which is moving closer to a very dangerous collapsed.

And a new warning for the potential violence, terrorist violence in the next coming weeks, homeland security officials were dealing possible attack threats pegged with the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

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

And we begin with breaking news on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. CNN National Correspondent Nick Watt is covering it all for us. Nick, some people with compromised immune systems, they are getting good news. They now have final approval to get a third dose of the vaccine.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDNT: That's right, Jim. And here's the deal. We have all heard the talk about breakthrough infections, people who have been vaccinated but catch COVID anyway. Well, today, the CDC told us that immunocompromised people make up less than 3 percent of the U.S. population but more than 30 percent of those breakthrough infections. So this is a big step towards dealing with that problem.


WATT (voice over): An additional vaccine dose for the immunocompromised who might not have had such a great response to two doses green lit by the FDA last night. This afternoon, CDC vaccine advisers also voted in favor.


WATT: Sometime not yet booster shot likely for the rest of us.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It would have to be in an orderly fashion. So you would not want to say, okay, now everybody is going to go getting a third boost. It will be an orderly fashion in a timely way.

WATT: In Florida, the Broward County school board is offering cash incentives to get the vaccine.

ROSALIND OSGOOD, CHAIR, BROWARD COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: There are a lot of people that have still not gotten the vaccination and it is becoming a deadly thing.

WATT: Three of their teachers just died within 24 hours, all unvaccinated.

OSGOOD: We have not opened schools yet, so that's why the eight of us on our board are adamant that we cannot have people in schools without masks.

WATT: Meantime, more than 10,000 Texans are in the hospital now fighting COVID-19.

JUDGE CLAY JENKINS, DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS: In Dallas we have zero ICU beds left for children. That means if your child is in a car wreck, if your child has a congenital heart defect or something needs an ICU bed or more likely if they have COVID need an ICU bed, we don't have one. Your child will wait for another child to die.

WATT: In these five states, more than 90 percent of ICU beds are now occupied. This situation is worse in states where vaccination rates are lowest. In Mississippi, just 36 percent are fully vaccinated.

THOMAS DOBBS, MISSISSIPPI STATE HEALTH OFFICER: Almost 8,000 Mississippians have died from COVID. How many Mississippians have died from the vaccine? Zero.


WATT (on camera): And this just in from Florida, a record number of new COVID cases in one week, more than 150,000.

Now, remember when Governor Ron DeSantis threatened to withhold the salaries from educators who were enforcing mask mandates for schools? Well, the federal secretary of education has just written DeSantis a letter saying that policies like that put students and staff at risk, and he noted that there is federal money to pay those salaries should DeSantis follow through on that threat. Jim?

ACOSTA: Very interesting response on the Biden administration. All right, Nick Watt, thank you very much for that.

Let's bring in Michael Osterholm. He's the director of the Center For Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and CNN Medical Analyst and Emergency Room Physician, Dr. Leana Wen. She's the Author of Lifelines, Doctors Journey in the Fight for Public Health.

Dr. Wen, let me start with you. The CDC just moments ago formally recommended this third dose of the coronavirus vaccine for certain immunocompromised people. Did the vaccine advisers make the right call, do you think?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Definitely. In fact, if anything, this is something that is overdue because we have known for some time that there is a group of people, a small group of people who are severely immunesuppressed, who do not mount the immune response to these vaccines. These are also individuals who are more susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19. They could harbor the virus for longer if they were to contract it. And so there is a public health reason for this as well and giving them a third dose could increase their immune response. And so, this really makes sense with this group of people.

And what I really like about what the CDC decided was, they said we're not going to put additional barriers in place.


And so you don't have to prove that you are immunosuppressed. And I think that's really important because that allows patients in consultation with their doctors to make the right decision as to whether they should be getting a third booster dose at this time.

ACOSTA: And, Michael Osterholm, can you tell us what you know about how the CDC determined who should get these booster shots and who could wait a bit longer? Everybody is asking when they can get these booster shots, it seems. What can you tell us?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Yes. Well, first of all, let me just add some context here. I think that I'd rather not call these booster shots because I don't think that's what they're really talking about. These are finishing a primary series. Think about childhood immunizations. We have vaccines which we need three or four doses.

What we found here is that the immunecompromised will often didn't mount an adequate response at all. And so we're still trying to do is build that. That is different than a booster dose where someone did respond and, in fact, over time, that wanes. So it is a fine point, grant you, but this is what the WHO has warned us. You know, don't give out booster shots right now for the rest of the world and needs a vaccine, whereas, we are not completing the protection for these people.

So, this one is a slightly different situation. And I think it was a great decision. And I agree. And I think the way it's being approached right now, as Dr. Wen said, this should be between the individual physician and their patients because these immunocompromised people are all seeing physicians for one reason or another.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. And Doctor Wen, you like millions of Americans received the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, are you disappointed by the lack of specific guidance for these J&J recipients? I have heard this from people who have gotten the J&J vaccine. They wonder about this.

WEN: That's right. And I think that people who got the J&J vaccine feel like they're being left behind in some way because the recommendations to by and large don't seem to apply to them. And here, we're talking about 13 million people, of which I am one. And I think it is -- I understand why the CDC said, okay, we don't have enough data for the J&J individuals and probably it's a small group because the people who are immunosuppressed are early on in the process and J&J was not authorized at that time. So we're talking about a small group of people here.

However, we can also use our common sense. We know that the J&J vaccine is less effective than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and we're talking about immunosuppressed people who got a less effective vaccine. Common sense would tell us that they really should be getting a booster at this time.

What I think is good though is that individuals now can in consultation with their doctors go to a pharmacy and get a booster dose. And so I would definitely recommend, even though this is not what the CDC specifically said today, I would recommend for individuals who fall into this category. If you are severely immunosuppressed and you got the J&J vaccine, you should definitely be talking to your doctor about the best option for you. Understanding them, clinical medicine is complicated. And we have to take into account each patient's individual circumstance.

ACOSTA: And, Michael Osterholm, Dr. Fauci says, sooner or later, we will all need boosters. When do you expect the rest of us will need to start lining up for these booster doses? And it is a tricky question because half of the country is not vaccinated yet.

OSTERHOLM: Well, I think the data that we are seeing right now, much of it is just available in the last week, does support that there likely is going to be a need for a booster dose. And I think what we have to emphasize right now is over the course of the next few weeks, we will see lots of discussion about how these vaccines are working.

And I worry that in that discussion, the public, particularly those not vaccinated, will take that to mean I shouldn't get vaccinated. No, no, no. Get vaccinated. We're not talking about any issues around safety. Safety will be the one reason we wouldn't say, oh, maybe take a pause. We are not seeing any safety signals at all. What we're trying to do is figure out what's the best dose, you know, over what time period.

And, you know, if we had had a situation in the past where we had two or three years to do the research on this before the vaccine was ever approved, we would know that. But that would be -- have been irresponsible for us to have avoid giving the vaccine to so many people until now.

So I would just emphasized, don't be confused by discussions about are we seeing breakthroughs, who should get it, how they should get it. Get the vaccine and it's a safety that you would be concerned about and that is not an issue right now.

ACOSTA: And, Dr. Wen, we were just talking about this a little while ago. Florida just set a new record for coronavirus cases in a week. That is very distressing information. What is it going to take for that state to turn things around, do you think?

WEN: It's going to take the things that the governor of Florida seems to be unwilling to do. I mean, one of those things is right now that needs to be done is indoor mask mandates. Ideally, there are also vaccination requirements and there will be ways to increase the vaccination rate substantially over time.


But the immediate step that needs to be taken is masking because masking does work, and we know that crowded indoor settings, that's the breeding ground for all these coronavirus transmissions that are currently happening.

And we also know that it's not just care to coronavirus patients who are impacted. It is also patients coming in with heart attacks and strokes and car accidents. Medical care doesn't stop during COVID-19. And those patients are being impacted too.

ACOSTA: It's such a worrying situation down in Florida and you're so right. If they could just start embracing masks down in Florida, it would make such a huge difference. Michael Osterholm, Dr. Leana Wen, Thank you so much for being with us this evening. I hope you stay safe. And talk again real soon. I appreciate it.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

ACOSTA: All right. And just ahead, we will have a live report from Afghanistan. And new information on how quickly the capital could fall to the Taliban as U.S. troops are heading in. You are in The Situation Room.



ACOSTA: We have following breaking news on U.S. troops heading into Afghan right now. The Pentagon calls the rapid speed of the Taliban's takeover of the country deeply concerning. And we're covering this story with our correspondents at the Pentagon and on the ground in Afghanistan.

Let's go to our Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward, who had been doing some amazing reporting over there in the Afghan capital of Kabul and beyond. Clarissa, what can you tell us about the security situation on the ground right now? It seems quiet in Kabul, but I suppose that that is not the reality everywhere.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely not. Quiet here, but it feels like the calm before the storm, Jim. I spoke to one official who is based here. He said, can you hear the sound of silence? That's a sign here of everyone packing, packing to leave because people are desperately afraid of what's happening around the country. Half of the provincial capitals now under the control of the Taliban in the space of just over a week, it's extraordinary. No one could have predicted this. And among those provincial capitals, some pretty major cities, most prominently, of course, Kandahar, that is Afghanistan second largest city. It's the birthplace of the Taliban. It's the place they originally declared as the capital of their Islamic emirate.

And now, there's just a sense that no one knows what's going to happen next. Are they going to march on Kabul? Well, for the moment, that seems unlikely. The situation here is relatively secure. But what could happen, what has people very nervous is they could extensively surround the capital, try to isolate the capital, cut off those vitally needed supply lines bringing things into the city of Kabul.

So a lot of anxiety on the ground as the situation continues to deteriorate and no real sense of clarity as to where this thing is going. That's exactly why 3,000 U.S. troops are heading this way to start the process of withdrawing U.S. personnel from the embassy, Jim.

ACOSTA: And, Clarissa, we are seeing local Afghan leaders defect to the Taliban as they sweep across the country. It is just remarkable to see. Is the Afghan president doing anything to reassure the Afghan people right now?

WARD: Well, this is one of the most stunning parts of this whole story, Jim, is that it's just been radio silence from the president, from President Ashraf Ghani. And people here are all on Twitter about what's happening, is he resigning, what is the message, what is the vision, what is the strategy? And it's only really contributing on the ground to his further sense of dread and anxiety and really among a lot of people, particularly anyone who has worked with the U.S. military, or U.S. embassy, a growing sense of panic that there is no plan in place to deal with this situation, that the Afghan government doesn't have any real leverage when it comes to these peace talks that are supposed to be happening in Doha, Qatar and which don't appear to be gathering any momentum at all, Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes. That radio silence is not a good sign. All right, Clarissa Ward, thank you so much for that reporting.

And now to the United States' assessment of the Afghan crisis, let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann. Oren, what's the latest U.S. intelligence and how long Kabul can hold on? It does seem very tenuous right now.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, as Clarissa report in that Kabul is not under threat. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said, it's not in an imminent threat environment right now. But the emphasis was on right now. There is one diplomatic source who told us that one intelligence assessment says Kabul could be isolated within 72 hours to one week. And we have seen around the country and other cities, other provincial capitals and population centers have gone from surrounded to isolated, to captured and under the control of the Taliban in the space of a matter of days, if not, even shorter than that.

So that question is all on Kabul. What is the Taliban's intent? Do they intend to march there? And of course, it looks like the U.S. is preparing for that possibility at least with the partial drawdown of embassy staffer down to a core diplomatic mission there, as well as an instruction that was given out today that we've learned was to destroy sensitive material, and that goes to include anything that could be used in propaganda videos, to include the U.S. flag and embassy logos.

So that gives you an idea of how worrisome this situation is as it deteriorates rapidly around the country. Jim?

ACOSTA: And the Afghan forces have been trained extensively by the U.S. military. Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars on this here in the United States. The Pentagon sounds pretty surprised by how quickly they're crumbling.

LIEBERMANN: Nobody here will acknowledge a level of surprise, just the concern about the speed with which this all happening. The Afghan military has at least on paper about a four to one personnel advantage. It has an air force. It has equipment, and it has the training. What it doesn't have, it seems, is the will and the fire to fight.


And that, of course, is an important element of the battlefield.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: They are using the air force, Jim. In fact, they are flying more airstrikes than we are on a daily basis. But you can't -- you know, money can't buy will. Will has to be there. The ability to exert leadership and exude leadership on the field, that has to be there.


LIEBERMANN: As we head into the weekend here by the end of this weekend, the first 3,000 troops that are moving into Afghanistan to help secure the airport should be on the ground here with about another 3,500 troops moving into Kuwait just as a standby force in case the situation deteriorates even further. But that gives you an idea of how carefully the U.S. is monitoring, what's going on there and how it sees this going. And, Jim, it is not going well. And there's nobody here who is trying to sugar coat this.

ACOSTA: That's right. Oren Liebermann, all right, thank you so much. Joining me now, Fareed Zakaria, Host of CNN's Zakaria GPS. Fareed, great to have you with us.

You heard what the Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, told me, that money can't buy the will to fight and that they did not anticipate this collapse on the part of the Afghan security forces. Why do you think the Biden administration was caught by surprise in all of this? They won't admit it, but they were.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Yes. I think everyone was caught by surprise at the extent to which this has collapsed. The most important thing to look at in all of this, Jim, is when the Taliban has been taking these cities, Kandahar, Kunduz, Herat, there have been very few casualties. What does that mean? The Afghan army is not actually fighting. It is melting away. That is a 300,000-person army, trained for 20 years with, as you say, tens of billions of dollars of American money with an air force. And it just doesn't fight. It melts away.

Now, that tells you that, you know, that we have handled this kind of at a broad macro level wrong, which was, we try -- we decided that we were going to stabilize Afghanistan by destroying and defeating the Taliban rather than trying to incorporate them.

And I say this with the benefit of hindsight. I don't know what I was saying 20 years ago, but it does seem as though the Taliban cannot be defeated in that way. They represent a part of Afghan society. They represent part of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan, the largest ethnic group. And, you know, because what they have is passion, tenacity and will.

It does remind me, Jim, of South Vietnam. We stayed there for years and years, 500,000 American troops, spent billions of dollars. And at the end of the day, if you talk to the military people on the ground, what they would tell you is the one thing we lacked was the South Vietnam Army just wouldn't fight. Well, that's the problem here. The Afghan army just won't fight.

ACOSTA: It is maddening because we seem to have bought a military for the Afghan security forces and now that's going to belong to the Taliban, it seems. But Admiral Kirby continues to say, no outcome is inevitable, that the U.S. embassy in Kabul is instructing personnel to destroy sensitive materials. That seems to be an admission that they expect Kabul to fall.

ZAKARIA: I think you'd be a bit crazy not to be planning for that. As you point out, you know, you're not hearing from the president of Afghanistan. You're not hearing about counteroffensives. You are not hearing about regrouping. You know, some of these cities have fallen before, Kunduz, for example, which fell in the last few days, has fallen twice before in the last ten years, each time the Americans, at great cost, with American lives and Afghan lives retook it, these cities.

And the question is, is there a strategy? Does the Afghan government have a plan? Do they have the capacity to try and get back? We know they have, again, the military capacity. They have aircraft. They have, you know, weapons. But do they -- do they really want to do this? They're facing a Taliban that is only 60,000 or 70,000 troops. There are 300,000 of them vastly better trained, vastly better equipped. Why are they not trying to take back these cities?

ACOSTA: Yes. And, Fareed, what about President Biden's handling of all this? Obviously, we have the video that shows he didn't anticipate this happening. But should he have also prepared the American people to expect something like this? Because it seems like we are all going to be watching this horrific scene unfold over the next few weeks where the Taliban, some of the worst people on the face of the Earth, are going to take over this country that we have invested trillions of dollars in.

ZAKARIA: Yes. This was a slow motion disaster in the making in the sense that Donald Trump really took the most important action, which was he drew down American troops significantly from, I think, about 15,000 to 3,000, and he began negotiating with the Taliban. That created this unreal atmosphere where people thought things had gotten stable. They hadn't. The Taliban just stopped fighting against the Americans because they were waiting to negotiate their withdrawal.


Once we started to withdraw, the Taliban ramped up again.

So, we were in a kind of no man's land where it seemed like things were stable. Biden should have prepared people for the reality that the Taliban, once it started to fight, was going to -- you know, was going to gain the upper hand.

ACOSTA: All right. Fareed Zakaria, I know you will be watching this. You have been watching it for so long. We will be watching it together. Thanks so much for those insights. We appreciate it as always.

ZAKARIA: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Coming up, homeland security officials are warning of potential terrorist violence as the U.S. nears the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack.



ACOSTA: Tonight, an alarming new warning from the Department of Homeland Security about potential terrorist violence in the weeks ahead.

Let's go to our CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider. Jessica, this sounds very worrisome. How significant is this warning, do you think?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty significant, Jim, because this is the first time that DHS has put out sort of this advisory terrorism bulletin since May here. And what they're pointing to is a diverse set of potential threats here, both on the domestic side and on the foreign side. So when they talk about the domestic threat, this is from racially and ethnically-motivated domestic extremists but also encompassing with their calling this grievance space groups. These are anti-government groups who could potentially be seizing on the emergence of new COVID variants and they could be railing, promoting violence because of government restrictions and also public health safety restrictions as well. So that's on one side here.

Then on the other side, we have these foreign groups, actors who might be motivated by foreign terrorism groups. And, interestingly, DHS is pointing out we're just weeks away from the 20th anniversary of 9/11. And to that end, they say Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has put out its first English language version of Inspire Magazine in four years, so they're watching that very closely.

So, all of these threats as we move into the fall season when there is 9/11, schools are reopening and to that end, DHS is saying this in the bulletin. They're saying, the reopening of institutions including schools as well as several dates of religious significance over the next few months. It could also provide increased targets of opportunity for violence though there are currently no credible or imminent threats identified to these locations.

So, Jim, this threat bulletin is coming out at the exact same time that our Geneva Sands actually had an exclusive interview with the homeland security intelligence chief, John Cohen. And what he saying is that, the online extremist rhetoric that they're seeing now, it is really strikingly similar to what they saw in the lead-up to January 6th. These are calls for violence all related to conspiracy theories and false narratives. Of course, it is all part of the big lie and the fallout from the big lie.

And one thing we're seeing Congressman Bennie Thompson, he is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and he came out with a statement today wailing against this, saying it is extremely disturbing that these grievance-based groups are now gaining traction, calling for violence and, of course, Congressman Thompson is pointing directly at the former president, President Trump.

ACOSTA: And people should see that these crazy conspiracy theories don't hold up. There was one that he was going to be reinstated today.

SCHNEIDER: Today. Yes.

ACOSTA: And it didn't happen. So take that as a clue that this crazy stuff is wrong.

SCHNEIDER: They're all false. Yes.

ACOSTA: It's all false. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

And joining us now to talk about this, CNN Senior Commentator, former Ohio governor, John Kasich and CNN Senior Political Commentator and former Obama Senior Adviser, David Axelrod.

David, let me start with you. Just how alarming is this new terrorism bulletin warning from the Department of Homeland Security, do you think?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think we should take it really seriously. And It underscores, you know, what I think is one of the fundamental challenges we have today, and that is the dissemination of conspiracy theories, disinformation. You know, it started at the top with president. It starts at the top in some ways with President Trump and the big lie about the election.

But, you know, think about it. Just in that context, if people believe that the election was stolen, then, you know, all of a sudden the patriotic act is to resist. And so you can see how pernicious these conspiracy theories are. And I really think, you know, we should focus on these threats, but we should also focus on the source of disinformation and how it spreads because this is a threat not just to our safety in the near term but to our democracy in the long-term.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. And, Governor Kasich, what concerns you about what we just heard?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: Well, I echo a lot of what David has said here about these domestic groups. You know, we are very familiar with the group up in Michigan that was training with the idea of trying to kidnap Governor Whitmer. There are anarchists and radicals in this country that will seize on anything because they're basically anti-American. And if they can figure out how to use a forum to be able to stir people up and to feed them information to get them riled up, that's what we have to be concerned about.

The second thing is you have got done a lot of coverage today on Afghanistan. And you begin to wonder because this also not only involved domestic threats but foreign threats as well. Could some radicals somewhere in this world look at Americans and say, ah-ha, see, they're weak now so maybe now is a time to strike.

So, you know, I think this warning is pretty broad. And what it says to all of us is if you see something, say something and keep your ears open.


And it shows you how important the intelligence community is when it comes to protecting all of us.

ACOSTA: And that is so true. And, David, what were all do, Republican lawmakers up on Capitol Hill have in all of this? They're echoing, they're fuelling a lot of this crazy stuff. I mean, we don't have to name the members of Congress by name but we know who they are and they are peddling these conspiracy theories and you know just right along with the former president.

AXELROD: Yes. Well, some of them actually believe them when we have a couple QAnon adherents now in the United States Congress, which is a really alarming fact. But, you know, more than -- more than the people who are true believers, there are the people who enable them because they are afraid of affronting the former president because they think -- look at Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House who, you know, essentially stood on the House floor and blamed the president for what happened on January 6th, then a week later flew down to Mar- a-Lago and kissed the ring and has been doing that ever since. Why? Because he fears politically losing Trump's support. He wants to be speaker of the House. He thinks he needs to be speaker of the House. So people, these guys are making -- and gals are making fusty (ph) and bargains at the expense of the country.

But let me say one other thing about these threats and about disinformation. I did a podcast this week with Ann Applebaum, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. She was talking about Putin and how he's figured out a way on the cheap to wage war against America, waging war against western democracies, by getting in these crevices of disinformation and sowing discontent and sowing this kind of -- you know, this really dangerous rhetoric out there that divides, that incites. So this is really a serious threat for our country and we need to confront it.

ACOSTA: And, Governor Kasich, what role does Leader McCarthy have in all of this? He wants to become speaker. And you used to be a member of the House. What would you be saying to your House Republican colleagues who are engaging in this QAnon (INAUDIBLE)?

KASICH: Well, first of all, you know, I think they lose sight sometimes. The pursuit of power, just for the sake, of it is a disgrace. You need to put your country first. And I wish that more people in the caucus, for example, who had said we need to have a full investigation of January 6th. I mean, you see these reports of these police officers, just one I saw the other night where he kind of smashed in the door and being sprayed with tear gas from his own canister. It's really frightening.

But the other thing that I would like to bring to your attention is I remember distinctly that there were a handful of people who were up in Michigan hiding in the woods and they ended up getting together and they moved and they blew up the Oklahoma City -- the Oklahoma City building. I'll never forget that day.

So we've got to watch everything across the board. And that's why we need a robust intelligence community that can keep their eye on these radicals and infiltrate them if necessary.

ACOSTA: All right. David Axelrod, and John Kasich, thanks again so much, gentlemen. We appreciate it, as always.

Just ahead, Democrats at odds over a critical priority for President Biden. We'll talk to a key party leader in the House, next.



ACOSTA: Tonight, a possible new threat to a top priority for President Biden, nine Democrats are demanding the House vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill before they'll support a $3.5 trillion budget plan.

We're joined now to talk about this by the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. Congressman Jeffries, thank you so much.

Let me ask you about this because it sounds like it could be a potential complication in all of this. Will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi change her strategy in response to what sounds like a threat from these moderate Democrats and bring a vote on infrastructure? They want to vote on it. REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): I continue to support the strategy that has been laid out by Speaker Pelosi and believe that this two-track approach to make sure that we both get the infrastructure bill over the finish line as well as the reconciliation package over the finish line on behalf of every day Americans, working families, middle class families, low-income families is the right way to proceed. And I'm confident that we're going to be able to continue to find a way to stay together.

We have accomplished a lot so far throughout the Biden presidency. Millions of good paying jobs have been created, the fastest growing economy in 40 years, a massive tax cut for American families with children. And I think the best is still yet to come.

ACOSTA: But as you know, Congressman, infrastructure is an important priority for Democrats, and it may be the biggest priority right now for President Biden. Why not just vote on it now, get that win for him in the win column, as he has so many Republicans who have signed on to this?

JEFFRIES: Well, the step that the Senate has taken is to send over both the reconciliation bill as well as the infrastructure bill. And I think that we have a responsibility to have a discussion within the caucus about both of the bills that have been sent to us by the Senate.

And what we have seen over in the Senate is that a very diverse Senate Democratic Caucus came together in its entirety to support both pieces of legislation, everyone from Bernie Sanders to Joe Manchin and all points in between. And I expect, Jim, that at the end of the day, within the very diverse House Democratic caucus, we're going to be able to stay together and do the exact same thing.

ACOSTA: It sounds like what you were saying is that if you were to vote just on that infrastructure bill, you would be pulling the rug out from under some of your progressive Democrats over in the Senate, like Bernie Sanders. Is that essentially what you are saying?

JEFFRIES: Well, I support the steps that are going to be taken in $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill as absolutely critical to President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.


We need to invest in the caring economy, invest in child care and long-term care, in home care, in health care and caring for elder Americans and making sure we give opportunities within the job market for all Americans. We know that infrastructure is incredibly important in terms of our bridges, our roads, our tunnels, our airports, our mass transit system. But we also need to invest in human capital and infrastructure. And that is what the $3.5 trillion plan will ultimately be all about.

ACOSTA: Let me ask you very quickly though about this new Department of Homeland Security terrorism bulletin warning of a range of possible threats. The intelligence chief is saying for the Department of Homeland Security that what they're seeing right now reminds them a great deal of what they saw ahead of the January 6th attack.

What is your response to all of that?

JEFFRIES: Well, it's deeply concerning. I'm hopeful that we will be able to receive a classified briefing some time soon. As you know, Jim, we will be back in Washington during the week of August 23rd. A lot going on in the country and in the world.

But the protection and safety and well-being of the American people has to be a foremost priority for all of us.

I'm confident that the Biden administration will do everything necessary to continue to secure the homeland as best they can. But it certainly is something for us to be gravely concerned about.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. We just can't have something like that ever happen again.

All right. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thank you so much. We appreciate it. Have a good weekend. We'll talk to you soon.

JEFFRIES: Thanks so much.

ACOSTA: Thanks.

Up next, while lawmakers bicker, federal judges overseeing capital insurrection cases are acting as the conscience of democracy with stinging rebuking to rioters.



ACOSTA: Seven months after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, new voices are emerging as proponents of democracy. They are judges presiding over cases against the insurrectionists.

Our Brian Todd is digging on that important story -- Brian.


You know, for those Americans looking for strong national voices to heal America's wounds caused by January 6th, they often cannot find those voices in the halls of Congress but tonight, the voices of moral outrage over the attack are coming from behind the federal bench.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our capitol!

TODD (voice-over): As lawmakers engage in partisan bickering over the capitol attack.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We will run our own investigation.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is deadly serious. TODD: Federal judges handling cases of Capitol riot defendants are

filling the void of moral outrage over January 6th issuing blistering rebukes to those accused of breaching the Capitol.

Quote: You called yourself and everyone else patriots but that's not patriotism, Judy Amy Berman Jackson recently told defendant Karl Dresch. That is the tyranny we rejected on July 4th, she said.

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERLA: It's very common for judges to say what was wrong about the crime, especially with defendants who entered into it seeming to think it was okay. It's especially pungent here for two reasons. First, because the behavior was so terrible in a way that the defendants all seem to be unaware of or denying, and second, because the system overall will be so polarized nobody has stepped up.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Questions we've been asking.

TODD: Indeed of stepping up, some right wing members of Congress has been spending their time spouting ridiculous, false conspiracy theories about the Capitol attack, like one that suggests the FBI orchestrated the assault.

REP. LOUIE GOEHMERT (R-TX): We really need to know what the FBI knew and when they knew it.

TODD: At a hearing for an alleged capitol rioter this summer, Federal Judge Royce said the characterization by some Congress members that January 6th was nothing more than tourists walking through the Capitol is, quote, utter non-sense. Lambert describing the attack as a, quote, disgrace to our country.

LITMAN: I think they are pissed the way citizens are pissed and speaking from themselves and partly the community.

TODD: The exasperation captured by Federal Judge Reggie Walton, who recently said of January 6, it's an embarrassment to me and should be for every American.

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: We should be listening to them especially when these voices come from people appointed by different presidents of different parties. In a sense, it's a wakeup call the issues at stake in the investigation of January 6th lie at the core who we are.


TODD (on camera): Historian Tim Naftali points out, not every politician in Washington is dropping the ball when it comes to speaking the truth about January 6th. He says Republicans like Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and Democrats like President Biden do come and talk about it but are often attacked when they do -- Jim.

ACOSTA: And, Brian, the sentencing has not been all that strict though in some of these cases. So -- I mean, the judge can talk a good game, but they also need to hand down stiff sentences to send a message.

TODD: That's right. In many cases, they're not doing it. They are sometimes sensing to time already served but it's still important. Historians say it's important to say these things from behind the bench to admonish people and let everyone know who's listening -- a lot of people are listening to these judges -- that what happened that day was absolutely horrible.


ACOSTA: And it's in the permanent record for people to read years from now.

All right. Brian Todd, thank you so much for that report. Great story.

More news just ahead.


ACOSTA: And this programming note, be sure to join Dana Bash for her special "Being A.O.C.". It airs tonight at 11:00 Eastern on CNN. A lot of news there, so make sure you watch that.

And I'll see you this weekend, tomorrow from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, and Sunday 4:00 to 6:00 Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Jim Acosta.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT " starts right now. Good night.