Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

FDA Advisers Vote to Recommend COVID Boosters for People 65- Plus; Pentagon Admits Kabul Strike Killed Ten Civilians, Not Terrorists; Republican Who Voted for Impeachment Won't Run in 2022, Cites "Cancer" Trump and "Toxic Dynamics" Inside GOP. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 17, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our coverage right now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in The Situation Room. I'll see you Sunday morning.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, FDA vaccine advisers vote to recommend COVID vaccine booster shots for people age 65 and older and those at high risk after rejecting a broader proposal for boosters for everyone 16 and up.

Also breaking, the Pentagon admits a drone strike in Afghanistan killed ten civilians, including seven children, not terrorists, in what military officials are calling a tragic mistake.

An up on Capitol Hill, on alert, just ahead of a far-right rally tomorrow, in support of the arrest of January 6th insurrectionists. Tonight, new details of the heavy security measures being put in place to prevent another Capitol siege.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in The Situation Room.

And we begin with the breaking pandemic news on COVID booster shots and who FDA advisers are recommending should get them. Our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us. He has details. Sanjay, there were two votes by the vaccine advisers today. One of them was something of a surprise. Update our viewers.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, there were two votes. And the first vote was really basically asking the question. It was about the question of do the -- does the safety and efficacy data support the use of recommending boosters for those 16 and older after six months after six months, after their first two shots. And that was the vote that they voted against.

This was a surprise, Wolf, because I think for a lot of people, they have thought that boosters were sort of pre-ordained, that this was happening. That was the message that came from the White House a few weeks ago, September 20th you would start being able to get your boosters. They said not so fast basically for the general population.

They then had a second vote and this instead of an approval was asking for an emergency use authorization specifically for people over the age of 65 and those who are at risk of severe COVID, saying could they be authorized to get this booster. And that came back as a unanimous yes.

Now, this is an advisory committee, so they're making this recommendation to the FDA, which typically take those recommendations, but they still have to formally do that.

So that's where we are, Wolf. Obviously, the CDC then still has to weigh in on this. FDA authorizes and then the CDC makes the official recommendation that this group of people, in this case, 65 and older or those at severe risk go ahead and get the boosters.

So it was a lot of back and forth, Wolf. And again, I think it was a surprise to some extent because I have had people coming up to me telling me, hey, I've got my booster. They're talking about it already thinking that this was inevitably going to happen. And at least at this point that is not the recommendation from this advisory committee.

BLITZER: And as you point out, it is interesting that they said people 65 and older should get their booster shot six months after their second dose, not eight months, which was what was the White House was suggesting earlier, right?

GUPTA: That's right. That's right. So, that's a good point. That was a little bit of a difference there as well. You know, clearly, this timeframe I think the most important thing about it in listening to conversation is that it's quite a bit away from those initial two shots. So, you know, six months, eight months, I think there was a little discussion back and forth. But that is now going to be the recommendation from this advisory committee. We'll see what the FDA says.

BLITZER: All right, standby, Sanjay. I want to continue our conversation.

I want to bring in CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen and a member, a key member of the FDA's Vaccine Advisory Committee, Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Offit, you were involved in these decisions today. Tell us, first of all, how you voted and why.

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATIONA CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Well, we were uncomfortable actually following essentially Israel's lead, which was to make this a three- dose vaccine for everybody over 16 years of age. We didn't think there was enough data to support that. We wanted to test the water with one foot really and make the vaccine recommendation usually for those over 65, those who have high risk medical conditions that put them at risk of serious disease and those who were in occupations where there is a high risk of transmission, to test the water with one foot.

I think what people should take away from this is the Israeli data, in many ways, or it varies with U.S. data. The U.S. data has shown protection against serious illness remains high through delta and for all age groups, which is different from what the Israeli's are finding, and so we didn't follow their lead exactly.

BLITZER: And you've also said, Dr. Offit, that the Biden administration rushed the booster approval process.


Can you explain why you feel this was moved too quickly?

OFFIT: Right, Wolf. The way the process works is you identify a problem. You pose a solution to the problem, which in this case would be a booster dose. And then it goes to the FDA, which is regulatory bodies, as Dr. Gupta Said. And then that regulatory body listens to their advisers and then you move from there to the CDC, which is a public health agency that makes a recommendation.

That whole process was really skipped, and in many ways, the FDA and CDC were marginalized, which is never good idea. But, I think, finally the administration stepped back and let this process play out the way it should have played out at the beginning.

BLITZER: I know, Dr. Wen, that you advocated for booster availability a lot more broadly. So, what's your response to today's two decision?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that the FDA advisory committee did reach a reasonable middle ground at the end of the day, saying that individuals 65 and older and also very importantly those at high risk. I think that was really important because that allows for individualized decision-making. Because who is to say that somebody who is 42 and with diabetes and heart disease, maybe that person is at higher risk than a healthy 65-year-old or individuals who maybe living at home with unvaccinated people who are not taking any precautions and that person also has a high-risk medical condition and allows individuals to make the best decision together with their doctor. So I think, overall, the right decision, the FDA did come to the right decision.

Although I do take issue, maybe just with one thing the Dr. Offit have mention regarding process. I think it was entirely appropriate for the White House to come out last month with foreshadowing that a booster program was going to come. Imagine the counter factor, imagine the outcry from the public if the White House had said nothing last month when the Israelis, the Germans, the British government, when they had already started allowing boosters, when there was pretty good evidence that immunity was waning. If the Biden administration did not take a stance at that point, we would have been very angry and there would be an outcry of a different type about confused messaging.

BLITZER: What do you think, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, I think that there are ways to certainly be prepared, which I think I totally agree with Leana on. You know, you want to send a message, hey, look, a booster discussion is happening. If it does go through the FDA and CDC, we're prepared. I think that's totally reasonable. But adding a date to it, saying September 20th, no longer makes it sound like you are just trying to be prepared. To me, at least it sounded like they were getting out ahead of things. That was my own impression.

BLITZER: And Dr. Offit, what was your impression?

OFFIT: The same. I think what still isn't known is whether or not we could get on top of this pandemic by with a two-dose strategy. I mean, what is going to be the change in the ark of this pandemic by giving a third dose to people who are already vaccinated as compared to giving two doses to people who are unvaccinated. It is unclear to me whether or not we could have gotten the two-dose strategy.

And I think the biggest mistake we make communications-wise is labeling asymptomatic with wildly symptomatic infection breakthrough infections. That's not a breakthrough infection. A breakthrough infection is despite being fully vaccinated, you are hospitalized or worse. And I just think we created an expectation for this vaccine that, frankly, was unfair.

BLITZER: You know, Sanjay, I want to get your reaction and also Dr. Offit and Dr. Wen to the danger that this delta variant is posing to the American people right now. Look at these graphics. We have seen an explosion of new cases over the last three months from about 11,000 a day to more than 150,000 right now, a similarly, very troubling rise in the number of deaths. Three months ago, maybe 200 Americans were dying a day dying from COVID-19. Now it's almost 2,000 a day. Give us your sense why things have deteriorated so quickly over these past three months.

GUPTA: It's really hard to look at those graphics. And I hope people don't become numb to those numbers. I mean, I think, you know, a lot of people I have just talked about the high contagiousness of the delta virus. And I think that certainly seems to be the biggest factor here. You know, people who kind of got away with things in the past didn't, you know, with a virus that's so contagious.

I can tell you I spent time on the COVID ward yesterday at our hospital and talked to some of the ICU doctors. There is not clear evidence that the delta variant is making people sicker. It is just maybe that it's more contagious. Although, anecdotally, at least when you talk to the doctors, you are seeing patients who are younger, who are getting critically ill and you are seeing patients who require not only the ventilator but increasingly needing things like dialysis, you know, because of significant kidney dysfunction when they get sick with this.

So, it is heart-breaking to see that, especially when you also recognize that 95 percent of COVID patients in the hospital roughly around the country are unvaccinated.


You know, we're talking about boosters, which will help the five percent or so that are vaccinating get sick enough end up in the hospital, but 95 percent roughly are unvaccinated. So that makes it more heartbreaking, you know, that the line at the top is the unvaccinated population, and the flat line is the vaccinated, just to give you an idea how different it is between these two groups.

BLITZER: And all of us agree the most important thing right now, if you haven't been vaccinated, go out there and get your shots. Do it as quickly as possible. Potentially it could save your life. Dr. Gupta, Dr. Wen, Dr. Offit, thanks to all of you. Thanks to all of you for what you are doing as well.

And stay with CNN this weekend for a very special report, the Origins of COVID-19, Searching for the Source. It's Sanjay Gupta is hosting the extraordinary program. It airs Sunday night 8:00 P.M. Eastern only here on CNN. Now, we'll watch it.

The breaking news continues next here in The Situation Room. The Pentagon now admitting it made a very, very deadly mistake in a drone strike that was supposed to target terrorists in Afghanistan but instead killed ten civilians including seven children.



BLITZER: There is more breaking news we're following this hour. The Pentagon revealing a drone strike in Afghanistan that was supposed to target ISIS-K terrorists, instead hit a civilian vehicle killing seven children and three adults.

Our Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny is over at the White House for us. Jeff, this is a truly horrible development coming on the heels of the very chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Update our viewers.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, and it has been nearly three weeks since that deadly drone strike killed ten civilians including seven children. And finally the U.S. government today admitted what has become clear in recent days. They called it a tragic mistake. A driver for a USAID group was misidentified as an ISIS-K terrorist in those final chaotic days of the withdrawal of the American citizens and Afghan partners. Wolf, this adds another dark view of those final dark days of America's longest war.


GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Our investigation now concludes that the strike was a tragic mistake.

ZELENY (voice over): Tonight, a dramatic reversal from the U.S. government that the Pentagon conceding a drone strike last month in Kabul hit the wrong target, killing ten civilians, including seven children. General Kenneth McKenzie, Chairman of U.S. Central Command, apologizing the deadly misfire, striking an innocent aid worker and its family.

MCKENZIE: This strike was taken in the earnest belief it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport. But it was a mistake, and I offer my sincere apology. As a combatant commander, I am fully responsible for this strike and this tragic outcome.

ZELENY: It was the last known missile fired by the U.S. in Afghanistan during the chaotic withdrawal of Americans Afghan partners. Threats from ISIS-K were looming and U.S. intelligence believed terrorists intended to use a white Toyota to attack the airport.

MCKENZIE: This was not a rushed strike. The strikes have been literally follow-up and observed this vehicle and its occupants for eight hours.

ZELENY: But a new Pentagon review following an investigation by CNN and other media outlets concluded it was a tragic mistake and arrows certainly in the days after the attack.

GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: At this point, we think that the procedures were correctly followed and it was right to strike.

ZELENY: Now giving way to condolences with General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, calling the deadly drone strike on civilians a horrible tragedy of war. President Biden initially hailed the drone strike as evidence the U.S. can confront threats from ISIS-K without having boots on the ground.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We've shown that capacity just in the last week. We struck ISIS-K remotely days after they murdered 13 of our service members and dozens of innocent Afghan.

ZELENY: But that assessment turned out to be false, now raising questions about the drone strategy going forward and the U.S. capacity to strike ISIS-K terror targets.


ZELENY (on camera): Now President Biden was briefed about this investigation earlier today before leaving for a week long -- a weekend long vacation at one of his Delaware beach homes. But, Wolf, the White House has since not said a single word about this strike in the hours since. We have been awaiting a statement from the president, but as of this moment, it has still not yet arrived. Wolf?

BLITZER: If you get that, let us know. All right Jeff Zeleny at the White House for us. Jeff, thank you very much.

Let's go to Afghanistan right now. Our International Editor Nic Robertson is on the ground in Kabul for us tonight. So what is the likely reaction from the new regime over there led by the Taliban?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, nothing so far, Wolf. And I don't think we would expect it in the middle of the night, but this was Friday here. It was Friday prayers. The main sermon at the mosque behind me, we could hear it being broadcast outside to the people on the streets outside. The message was very, very clear. The message was the reason that this country is in such a difficult situation economically and everything else, this was the message coming from the mosque from the Taliban was, due to the United States, they were blaming it, blaming the situation here on the United States.

So I would anticipate -- we don't know yet, but I would anticipate that when the Taliban do wake up in the morning and they do pick up on this report coming in from the Pentagon that they are likely to use this for their propaganda. They do not trust the United States.


They believe that the United States still has friends in this country, friends who might do them harm in the future, friends who could be the seeds of resistance against the Taliban in the future.

That's why there is a crackdown going on in this part of the city, houses being searched every night. So, right now, I would anticipate that when the Taliban get their hands on this information, they will use it to darken the United States' name even further in the way that they have been doing it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect you are absolutely right. Nic Robertson, stay safe over there in Kabul. I appreciate it very much.

Let's get more on this. I want to bring in the former U.S. defense secretary, William Cohen. He's the Chairman and CEO of the Cohen Group here in Washington. Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

All right, so military officials originally said the strike killed what they said were two high-profile ISIS-K planners, terrorists. Now, they admit it was ten civilians including seven children. How could the U.S. military and intelligence community for that matter have gotten this so wrong?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, they did get it wrong. How they got it wrong remains to be determined in terms of the quality of the intelligence, what they were relying upon. But I just want to pause long enough to say how this affected me, to see these -- this family wiped out. I remember that Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense, once said he worried we were creating more terrorists than we were killing in Iran.

It seems to me when something like this happens, you can expect the reaction is going to be very negative. This is going to be -- if I were that family that had just been wiped out, I wouldn't be looking for any kind of compensation, any kind of reparation. I would be looking for revenge. And I think that's the thing that we have to worry about when we launch these strikes, to be as careful as we possibly can.

And nothing is ever perfect. I know that I have been on the other end of this in terms of having launched strikes based on bad intelligence. It happens. But I think we need to pause here long enough to talk about the tragedy this family is going through, now to see their entire family wiped out over a mistake that we made.

So I think it causes some question about going forward using our over- the-horizon type of capability, making sure as best we can that whatever admonitions we use -- and I remember a Vietnam vet once said to me, remember this, Mr. Cohen, at the end of every bullet, someone's son is dying. Well, at the end of every hell fire or cruise missiles someone's children can be dying and could be dying.

And so we have to keep that in mind as we do the best we can under extraordinary circumstances to protect the American people. But make sure we understand that the people in Afghanistan are real human beings. They're not all terrorists. They're not all Taliban.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly not. Take a look at -- let me put these pictures back up on the screen. A few of the kids age two, age two, age seven, age six, a 19-year-old, a 15-year-old, a nine-year-old, you see these kids who were killed in this, you know -- and what's so concerning to me is that this was an over-the-horizon drone attack, meaning we had no one on the ground to try to confirm that this white Toyota was, in fact, a terrorist vehicle as opposed to an NGO who had worked with the U.S. for years and years helping the people in Afghanistan with the cooperation of the United States and then all of a sudden this over-the-horizon-drone attack happens. How worried are you that that's all we're going to be able to do right now, over-the- horizon attacks, as opposed to having people on the ground to confirm for example this white Toyota was, in fact, a terrorist vehicle?

COHEN: I think in the short-term, it is going to be, quote, over-the- horizon. But, again, it puts even more pressure on the United States to make sure that the intelligence is as good as it can be and better than it has been. What is most sad about this is the people on the ground, the parents who are left, the family members who are going around picking up pieces of their children, their nose, part or their jaw to identify who their children were, who their family members were.

And that's -- you know, that's part of the fog of war. But we have to be more careful. There are a lot of people who worry about using drones as an easy way, antiseptic way to fight war that we're remote from it and not on the ground. It makes it easier to try and kill other people. I don't think it makes it any ease your, nor should it be easier. They should take even greater care when it's over-the- horizon than were on the ground.

BLITZER: Yes. It's clearly you going to not to have as good information if you are over the horizon a few hundred miles away or a thousand miles away as opposed to right there on the ground. Mr. Secretary, thanks for coming in.

COHEN: A pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: Pretty awful day, indeed.

Coming up, we have more on that very heavy security situation unfolding right now here in Washington, D.C. as the U.S. Capitol makes final preparations for tomorrow's pro-insurrectionist rally.



BLITZER: A very heavy security here in Washington, D.C. tonight just ahead of tomorrow's rally in support of a pro-Trump mob that led siege to the U.S. Capitol on January 6th fueled by the former president's lies about a rigged election.

Our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles is working the story for us. Ryan, Capitol Police say they're ready, that there won't be a repeat of the January 6th insurrection.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. And part of the reason why is the security precautions they put in place. Now, this rally is going to take place over the reflecting pool over my shoulder. But if any of these protesters attempt to get into the Capitol, they're going to be greeted by this, this big black fence that wraps all the way around the Capitol and a huge police presence.


This as Capitol Police do everything they can to keep people safe tomorrow.


NOBLES (voice over): Capitol Hill on alert.

CHIEF TOM MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: The leadership of the U.S. Capitol Police Department has been appearing, working to ensure that we don't have a repeat of January 6th.

NOBLES: The U.S. Capitol Police are preparing for the worst, establishing a massive security presence.

MANGER: We're not going to tolerate violence and we will not tolerate criminal behavior of any kind. The American public and the members of Congress have an expectation that we protect the Capitol. And I'm confident with the plan we have in place that we're going to be able to meet that expectation.

NOBLES: This security presence is akin to that of a major event, like a state of the union or inauguration. It includes a massive security fence that wraps around the entire Capitol, an all hands on deck force of officers, backup from local police and the National Guard and specific training and tabletop exercises for a worst case scenario.


NOBLES: The Pentagon confirming they are ready to provide help if needed.

KIRBY: The task force will only be deployed to help the U.S. Capitol Police to help protect the U.S. Capitol building and Congressional office buildings by manning building entry points and screening individuals that are seeking access to the building. They will be unarmed. NOBLES: It will be the U.S. Capitol Police though tasked with the bulk of the responsibility, many of the same officers who are on the frontlines on January 6th. And Chief Tom Manger said he and his leadership team took time to meet with each individual officer to make sure they were ready.

MANGER: We're trying to get in front of every single U.S. officer in the U.S. Capitol Police Department. And the reason was to brief them on our plan. And the whole purpose behind that was to instill confidence that the department has prepared.

NOBLES: While the Capitol is the focus, law enforcement leaders are also concerned about the city at large. A number of festivals and sporting events are scheduled throughout Washington, D.C. And the Metropolitan D.C. Police chief promises his officers are prepared.

CHIEF ROBERT J. CONTEE III, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: We expect it to go on and people who attend are going to enjoy themselves. Again, we're prepared. We have contingency plans for any possible disruptions.

NOBLES: Chief Manger couldn't provide an estimate of how much this massive and quick security scale-up would cost but said more than anything it was designed to practice for threats bigger than the one they anticipate this weekend. He also predicted this won't be a regular occurrence.

MANGER: I think that we're going to use it when it needs to be used, and -- but 99 percent of the demonstrations we handle are handled without this kind of planning.


NOBLES (on camera): And we're still more than 15 hours away from the start of this rally, but we're already starting to see the security precautions start to tighten up. This is First Street southwest, which runs in front of the Capitol. In just the last hour, Capitol Police have shut it off to vehicular traffic. They've also put up bike racks around a big swat of this area, Wolf. They are taking every precaution they can to keep tomorrow as safe as possible.

BLITZER: Yes. Very, very sad to see this unfold here in Washington, D.C. Ryan, thank you very much, very much, Ryan Nobles reporting from Capitol Hill.

Let's get some more on all of this. Our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger is with us and CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey is with us as well, former D.C. Police Chief.

Chief Ramsey, Capitol Police say they have conducted these training exercises overall, their intelligence operations, they have the D.C. National Guard on standby. Do you believe all of this will be enough?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, I do. I think they're as prepared as they can be. I was glad that they did put the fencing back up that gives some standoff distance. They'll have enough resources. I think you will see an overwhelming presence of police. The other issue, of course, is going to be on Metropolitan Police Department with all the other events going on. And whereas I haven't seen the operational plan, I'm sure that they will have some mobile platoons to be able to respond quickly should something occur away from the Capitol.

BLITZER: The Capitol Police chief, Gloria, admitted it is tough to tell which threats are really credible, but, clearly they're not going to underestimate the risks this time. They want to err on the side of caution, don't they?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: They do. You know, originally he requested 100 armed National Guard on standby. That was changed to unarmed National Guard on standby. And what it makes me think about is this chain of command that really still exists from the Capitol Police to everyone else who can help them. They cannot act independently when they see a huge national security threat. They have to let everyone else know what is going on, as we saw on January 6th, and there was a real problem with that.


They don't want to repeat that this time, so they want everybody on alert, even if they're unarmed. They want everybody on alert so they understand how this would progress should the need be.

BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, rank and file officers have gotten intelligence briefings. How important is it for these officers to know what they're up against as opposed to what we saw back in January?

RAMSEY: I think it's very important, especially after January 6th. Part of the problem was a lack of communication even internally with their own officers. So this time around, Chief Manger is making sure that's not a problem so that they feel confident that the department is ready this time around. That has a huge impact on moral and their ability to be able to respond tomorrow. So, I think they're about as ready as they can be and, quite frankly, you may wind up with more police officers than you do people at the rally tomorrow.

BLITZER: We shall see. You know, Gloria, the former president isn't attending this rally, but his statements, clearly, make it clear he sympathizes with their cause. How do his supporters seize on something like that?

BORGER: Well, first of all, given what the chief said, Donald Trump said this was a setup. So maybe if you told the supporters it's a setup, a lot of them will decide not to come. On the other hand, he is with the demonstrators. He says, our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly, related to the January 6th protests.

So he is saying, okay, those folks are getting thrown in jail, those folks that wanted to overthrow the government, invade the Capitol, I'm with them. He's giving them a permission slip.

BLITZER: He certainly is. All right, guys. Thank you very much. We will be having extensive coverage. Hopefully, it will be quiet, but we shall see. Thanks guys very much.

Just ahead, in a highly unusual move, France, has just recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia. We have details of this very dramatic decision right after the break.



BLITZER: There is more breaking news tonight. France is recalling its ambassadors to the United States and Australia over the new national security partnership the two countries just announced with Britain.

CNN National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood is working the story for us over at the State Department, as well as CNN's Melissa Bell is joining us from Paris.

Kylie, first, to you, this is truly an extraordinary move by the U.S.'s first ally.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is believed to be the first time that the French have resorted to this move in modern history, Wolf. This is very significant. What it demonstrates is that the French aren't just going to voice their anger and frustration and allow that to then kind of dissipate over time, they are recalling the ambassador here in the United States back to France for consultation.

It's clear that their frustration isn't over. And what they are frustrated over is this new U.S.-U.K. and Australia partnership. At the center of that is these nuclear submarines, this nuclear-powered submarines, I should say, that the United States is going to help Australia acquire. As a result of those submarines, there is an agreement that Australia used to have with France to provide them with traditional submarines. That's a multibillion dollar deal that is now, of course, on ice.

The French are frustrated because of the economic reasons here, the business reasons, but it also highlights just how significant this moment in time is when it comes to geopolitics. Of course, U.S. versus China and questions about what European nations are going to do as that competition heats up. Wolf?

BLITZER: And, you know, and Melissa, the French foreign minister minced no words at all characterizing this nuclear submarine deal as, in his words, a stab in the back. France is really angry. And I have been told they're especially angry because they were kept in the dark and only informed about this new deal maybe a few hours before it was publically announced.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Wolf. There is the fact of the cancelation of this deal worth some 65 billion to France, but the much broader and perhaps the most damaging and most hurtful to Europe which is that this announcement was made without terribly much warning. And so it came on the days that the president of the European Commission held the state of the union announcing that Europe was now united, one to be a major actor on the world stage on the eve of the day when Europe was going to announce its own Indo- Pacific strategy.

Very different to the U.S., much more about working with China when it could, containing it when it needed to, but something that it felt very strongly about. It was blindsided, to be clear, Wolf, by the announcement on that very same day on the Wednesday night that it learned at the very last minute that this new deal essentially restructured, reshaped the way the world worked geopolitically, but also that first and oldest alliance, not only the United States but France, this in the very week when we were meant to be celebrating, Wolf, the 240th anniversary of the Chesapeake Bay routing by the French Navy of the British that essentially led to Yorktown and ultimately the independence of the United States.

This was a week of celebration that has turn much muted with this ultimate move, really a sign of how deeply Europe feels about that complete lack of communication, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Good point. Melissa Bell in Paris, Kylie Atwood at the State Department, thanks very much.

Coming up, former President Trump gloats as one of the ten Republicans who voted to impeach him decides against running for re-election. Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: Tonight, one of the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump says he won't seek re-election next year, calling Mr. Trump a cancer for the country. The former president now gloating and I'm quoting him: one down, nine to go.

Let's get reaction from CNN senior commentator, the former Ohio governor, John Kasich, and CNN political commentator, Mia Love, a former Republican congresswoman.

Governor Kasich, Trump says Gonzales's departure is no loss for Ohio or our country. What do you say as you watch your state lose a Republican representative who stood up for democracy?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's a sad -- it's a sad situation, Wolf. A couple things, I think, though are going on. We're facing this redirecting gerrymandering, and I think that the Gonzales is very concerned about the fact whether he would have a district or maybe his district would be in the middle of Lake Erie.


So, those Republicans in charge -- and we try to change the law and have changed it to a degree. But still, this gerrymandering can lead to very weird things and I think he was scared he would be punished. But, secondly, you know, Wolf, there is so much loss of respect for so many things, so many positions and you saw the battering this guy took. You know, he was talking about the police having to escort his family through the airport.

You know, if you haven't been in politics a long time, to develop that thick skin, it can be very, very difficult. So, you know, I think he's decided he had enough both with possibility of being redistricted out of a seat and secondly, with a lot of the abuse he's taking, which is uncalled for.

BLITZER: Yeah, he was really worried about the security of his wife and kids he told "The Times".


BLITZER: And, Mia Love, he also told "The Times" the environment is so toxic in his words especially in our own party right now, adding that he no longer wants to win a seat if it means being part of a Trump dominated Republican caucus. I can imagine you can relate to that sentiment.

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I mean, I'm sure he looked at his polls and thought okay, this is not going my way, but what he talks about when he talks about an environmental, toxic environment, not just in Washington but also on the campaign side where you can see the comments or statements, the president made about him.

Look, Ohio especially Ohio's 16th congressional district is -- according to Cook Report -- PVIR of R plus ten. That means it's a solid Republican district. So, what is Trump doing instead of going after Democrats who he disagrees with all the time? He's going after Republicans who disagreed with him one time mainly and that is on impeachment and that is not good for the Republican Party.

BLITZER: What does it mean, John Kasich, for those remaining nine House Republicans who voted to impeach then President Trump?

KASICH: Fight like hell. Don't give in. Go out and tell people what you think. Today, I was with a couple guys and I was pointing out to them that, you know, normally when somebody leaves people, say nice things.

Trump is gleeful. He's bragging, you know, look, how horrible this is and, you know, I said, guys, this is the guy -- one was an athlete, I said is that the what the youth expect the opposing coach to do when they lose a game to make fun of you and go, okay, don't blame us. Don't blame us. We're Republicans but don't blame us and that's no way to behave.

Yeah, it's a sad thing when we're losing those folks but don't give in. Keep going. And have your voice out there.

BLITZER: I'll give you the last word, Mia. Do you think the other nine Republicans in the house that voted to impeach are in trouble?

LOVE: Look, the only thing, I'd say to them is it's not their job to represent the former president but their district. The branch of government closest to the people is the House of Representatives. So go out and be who you are and at the end of the day, make sure that people know you did what was right. We need Republicans that have all different ideas out there, not just following one person.

BLITZER: All right. Mia Love, John Kasich, guys, thank you.

Up next, we're going live to the U.S. Mexican border where a chaotic situation is growing worse and worse by the hour. More than 12,000 migrants have now crowded under a bridge near a small Texas town.



BLITZER: We're following a rather chaotic situation unfolding at the border of the U.S. and Mexico where thousands of migrants are crowding under a bridge near Texas town.

CNN's Michael Roa is in Del Rio, at the U.S.-Mexican border.

So, Michael, what are you seeing?

MICHAEL ROA, CNN REPORTER: Hi, wolf. I was on the other side of the international bridge in the Mexican side in Acuna, Mexico. We walked all the way through the Rio Grande and saw the migrants. We were there for few hours, several hours and it's a back of forth of people coming through the states, woman, children, pregnant women that they are just waiting to be present here for the immigration authorities below the bridge.

During the day, they go to Mexico to buy groceries because they said that they are not receiving enough water, enough food from the immigration authorities in the United States. I spoke with few of them. An immigrant, migrant from Haiti, he said it took him 22 days to reach the Mexican side of the border. He is out of money. He hasn't -- he doesn't have anything during the day and he's waiting for the opportunity to apply for a political asylum in the United States.

But it's very difficult. We saw people crossing with mattresses, with tents, with kids on the shoulders just hoping that they can be living in the United States. I mentioned them that the CBP and immigration authorities have said that they are going to be deported but they said they don't care and they insist to try one more time to be in the United States. It's very complex because also the weather is too hot right now, over 100 degrees -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Michael Roa, on the border for us. So, Michael, we'll stay on top of this story. Thanks very, very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @WolfBlitzer, tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.