Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

New January 6 Committee Subpoenas For Six Close Trump Allies; New Agenda Hurdles As Biden To Sign Historic Infrastructure Bill; Lawsuits Filed In Deadly Concert Surge As New Details Emerge; Obama Urges Global Action On Climate Crisis, Takes Swipe At Trump; U.S. Reopens Borders To Fully Vaccinated International Travelers, Lifting Ban After Nearly Two Years. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 08, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: See you next tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking in news, new subpoenas in the January 6 investigation. The select committee targeting six of former President Trump's close allies accused of plotting to try to overturn the election. What could they reveal about the Capitol riot if, if they cooperate?

Also tonight, President Biden faces new hurdles for his agenda even as he prepares to sign the historic bipartisan infrastructure bill. Will that hard fought victory boost his new low approval rating? I'll discuss what's next for the Democrats with the progressive caucus chair, Representative Pramila Jayapal.

And the first lawsuits have now been filed against Rapper Travis Scott and others in connection with the concert that turned deadly when the crowd surged toward the stage. We're learning more about safety concerns that were raised just ahead of the disaster.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get straight to the breaking news. These new subpoenas from the House select January 6 committee targeting former President Trump's inner, inner circumstance.

Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is working the story for us. Paula is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Paula, so what are you learning about these new subpoenas?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, looking at these subpoena's it's clear the committee is targeting top advisers from the former president's re-election campaign who helped push the big lie.

Let's take a look at this list. The first one on the list is Bill Stepien, Trump 2020 Campaign Manager, also Jason Miller, former Senior Campaign Adviser. John Eastman, he was actually an attorney who helped craft Trump's argument that the election was stolen. You also see Mike Flynn, a former Trump administration official who was also involved in a meeting about how the Trump campaign wanted to promote the lie that the election was stolen. Angela McCallum, an Executive Assistant to the Campaign, and Bernard Kerik, who participated at a meeting at the Willard Hotel centered around trying to overturn the election results.

Now, all six of these individuals have been asked to hand over documents by November 23rd and then they have depositions scheduled from the end of November to mid-December. But, Wolf, it's just not clear if any of these people are going to participate. What we've seen so far is that the committee has had some difficulty getting meaningful cooperation from Trump administration officials who they have subpoenaed.

And we saw just last week, former Trump Justice Department Official Jeffrey Clark. He did show up for his interview, but he completely stonewalled the committee. He cited ongoing litigation between the committee and Trump and privilege concerns. And, of course, this is the first round of subpoenas that the committee has sent out since it referred longtime Trump Adviser Steve Bannon for criminal contempt.

And this is so critical here, Wolf, because Steve Bannon completely defied this committee, which is why the House referred him for criminal contempt. And if the Justice Department that received the referral, if they don't do anything else, if he isn't indicted, if nothing else happens, there really isn't any deterrent for other advisers to defy this committee.

Now, it's been about two weeks since the referral and today, the attorney general asked for a status update. He declined to comment, but prosecutors at the Justice Department tell CNN they really don't feel too much pressure to move any more quickly on this referral. And while we don't know what they're going to do with Steve Bannon, it's clear the committee is moving ahead even without their answer.

BLITZER: Yes, they're moving ahead quickly, but we'll see if they get answer to their questions. Paula Thank you very, very much.

Let's get some more in all of these. Joining us now, our Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, he's the author of the book, True Crimes and Misdemeanors, The Investigation of Donald Trump. Also with us, CNN Senior Commentator, the former Ohio Governor, John Kasich and CNN's Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger.

Jeffrey, how important are these witnesses going to be as the committee tries to piece together the events that led to January 6th?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they're very important, but I think the odds of the committee hearing from any of them are remote. Look, what jumps out about these six is none of them worked for the government, so none of them should be in a position even to claim executive privilege for protecting their conversations. But like Steve Bannon, they are likely to refuse to testify because they are all Trump loyalists.

But look what's happened to Steve Bannon. Yes, the House referred him for contempt to the Justice Department, but the Justice Department has been dithering since October 21st doing nothing, allowing Bannon to run out the clock. And it certainly seems like this six will follow a very similar pattern and this committee cannot last forever.


The fact that they will go to court means that they will be able, it seems to me, to run out the clock on all of this.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, some of these witnesses were in what was called the command center at the Willard Hotel right near the White House in the hours leading up to the riot. They can offer information that no other witnesses can, can't they?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they can. They were like Trump's kitchen cabinet only they were in a hotel suite on Pennsylvania Avenue. I mean, these people are important because they were in constant communication with the president, with Rudy Giuliani, and so they can give you a real sense of what the president was asking them to do. We also know what advice they were giving the president, which was that Mike Pence could effectively decertify the election.

And I agree with Jeffrey. Unless the Justice Department moves expeditiously, and already it's been, what, more than a couple of weeks, unless they move quickly now, everybody can just say well, we're going to sit back and see how this is resolved. And if Bannon is indicted, then I do think it's a different story.

BLITZER: Yes. That's -- you're absolutely right, if, keyword, if he's indicted.

Governor Kasich, some of the other key witnesses subpoenaed by the committee have simply refused to cooperate as well. As a former member of Congress, does it make any sense to you that so many people feel free to defy congressional subpoenas?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: You know, Wolf that's what's so troubling in listening to both Jeff and to Gloria talk about this. If nothing happens, if you can just say, I don't really care what you think, then I think you lose your power. And I think that Congress needs to be protective of that power. So, to just keep issuing these subpoenas and nothing happens, then people say, why do I have to show up? And now it's about January 6th. But how many other things may come down to road where people say, I don't have to show up. So, I think we have to see what happens here in the next couple of weeks.

Look, as I think Toobin will tell you, the justice moves slowly and maybe sometimes it moves more slowly than people like, but maybe it's not over just yet in terms of what is going to happen to enforce these subpoenas.

BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey, in their subpoena to John Eastman, the Trump attorney who advised Vice President Pence that he can overturn the electoral count on January 6th, the committee says Eastman waived his right to attorney/client privilege by making public comments about the matter at issue. Do you agree? TOOBIN: It's certainly possible. I mean, the attorney/client privilege is very important, but it usually does not apply in a government context. It is sometimes does, sometimes doesn't. But the important point here is that even if the Justice Department gets off its duff and indicts Bannon, that case will be argued and there will be constitutional issues addressed there. Even if there's an indictment, the Justice Department will not be in control and the courts will grind at the slow pace that they usually grind, including appeals to the circuit court, appeals to the Supreme Court.

So, I mean, the problem here is that even during the Trump administration, the Trump administration learned that they can wade out Congress on these investigations, and that seems to be the strategy here.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, the Department of Justice, as we've been noting, still hasn't taken action on Steve Bannon's criminal contempt referral for refusing to cooperate with the committee. Just today, the attorney general, Merrick Garland, refused to say whether Bannon will be prosecuted. Is the committee's credibility right now at stake?

BORGER: Well, the committee's investigation is at stake. Getting to the bottom of who funded January 6th, who was behind it, what was the president's role exactly in January 6th, that's all at stake. I mean, this is historic in this country. This insurrection is something that we should all never forget and we need to find out about how it occurred.

And I think that is at stake and that is so important in terms of making sure that something like this cannot happen again. And so, yes, congressional oversight is at stake, as Governor Kasich was saying. But this is important for the country to know how this happened.

BLITZER: You know, Governor Kasich, what's your message to some of the members of your own Republican Party who are actually happy to let these witnesses off the hook?

KASICH: Wolf, unfortunately, that ship has sailed and it's like they live in some dystopian world here.


You know, I mean, think about this, there have been members of Congress who have said, well, these were just some unruly visitors to the Capitol. I suppose if you can make things up and keep repeating the same lie over and over again, somehow, you know, people come to believe it but this is the problem we have in America with people being trapped in the same silo and they just keep telling each other exactly what they want to hear and they ignore any of the facts or any of the evidence.

So, it's a sad day, Wolf. With just those who believe we need to get to the bottom of it, which has just got to keep speaking out.

BLITZER: Yes. All right good point. All right guys, thank you very much. Just ahead, can President Biden get his social spending bill across the finish line after finally scoring a historic win on infrastructure? I'll speak live with the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, there she is. Representative Pramila Jayapal is standing by live. We will discuss.



BLITZER: Tonight, the Biden administration is continuing its victory lap after the long-awaited passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. But as the president gears up for a signing ceremony, there's still a lot of very, very hard work to do to get the other big piece of his agenda through Congress.

Phil Mattingly has our report from the White House.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: It's a generational investment in every sense of the word where it's --

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the Biden administration basking in a cornerstone legislative achievement.

BUTTIGIEG: President Biden's historic bipartisan infrastructure deal will now become the law of the land and it couldn't come at a more urgent time.

MATTINGLY: President Biden's bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the house late Friday night, delivering on two central campaign promises, bipartisanship.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We need to revive the spirit of bipartisanship in this country.

MATTINGLY: Bringing praise from an unlikely corner.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I was delighted that the house finally found a way to pass the infrastructure bill last week.

MATTINGLY: And after years of so many empty pledges, it turned into a punch line, a sweeping infrastructure package.

BIDEN: Finally, infrastructure week. I'm so happy to say that, infrastructure week.

MATTINGLY: The win coming at a crucial moment for a president facing real questions about his performance with a new CNN poll showing 58 percent of Americans say Biden hasn't paid enough attention to the nation's most important problems and a majority disapproving of his handling of the job.

The infrastructure bill set to deliver hundreds of billions of dollars touching everything, from bridges and roads to the nation's broadband to water and energy systems, the frenzy (ph) final late night hour of negotiations clinching the deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is adopted.

MATTINGLY: Creating what senior White House officials believe will be momentum to push through Biden's $2 trillion economic and climate package, but also leaving the exact path forward in open question. House moderates eagerly awaiting a full congressional budget of it to score to move forward.

REP. JOSH GOTTHEMER (D-NJ): We plan to move forward because it's going to beat our expectations, I'm sure.

MATTINGLY: As Senate centrists Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are still on the fence with clear expectations that whatever the House does will then be changed by the Senate.

RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We are going to get a very strong version of this bill through the House, through the Senate, to the president's desk and into law.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, White House officials are clear- eyed about the challenges ahead with that $2 trillion economic and climate package. But beyond just getting an outcome late Friday night, there is some hope that the process to get to that outcome will help some of trust issues that have developed over the course to the last several months, as one White House official told me, just the process of getting something across the finish line makes people feel success that creates momentum, Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly over at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's discuss what's going on with the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Representative Pramila Jayapal is joining us right now. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

You compromised and voted for the infrastructure bill without a vote on the larger spending bill at the same time. So, how much faith do you put in your moderate colleagues, Congresswoman, to follow through with the vote next week for that more ambitious plan?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, Wolf, it's good to see you. Look, I think we had a very important negotiation with the six Democrats who still needed to see the CBO score and I'm very pleased to report that I think, you know, we started to rebuild some of the trust.

They committed in writing to doing the vote, voting for the Build Back Better Act, in about ten days. That CBO information that they're waiting for should be here by then. And they really committed that they did not believe anything was necessarily going to change with the information that they got, but they wanted to see it.

And they were willing to put in writing both the date and the fact that it would be the bill as is, so no more dithering about what the provisions are. This is the bill we had, which is what progressives always wanted.

So while we didn't get the actual vote and I wish we had, Wolf. I mean, I'll just say I wish we had, but we were in a position where we felt like we got something that was almost as good, which is their commitment.

And I do think that if we're going to rebuild trust, then we have to believe that when they give a commitment publicly, when they look me in the eye and each one of them says to me, yes, we're going to vote for this, that that needs to be enough for us to move forward.

And, again, it's a date certain, in just ten days, we'll be able to pass it through the house. Very strong vote at that point, and send it over to the Senate.

BLITZER: But what happens if the Congressional Budget Office, the CBO, if the score is different than the numbers out there right now?


JAYAPAL: Well, in our agreement, in our written agreement, it says that the top line spending and revenue investment and revenue side should be the same and that essentially it wouldn't produce a deficit. There is a line in that written statement from them that also says that they will work very closely if there is some discrepancy to quickly resolve it and get it over the finish line. That was also a commitment they made to the president. It was a commitment the president made to us and to them that we would all work together to get it finished.

I don't believe that there will be a discrepancy, Wolf. I just think they need a little time to look at it, to make sure that they feel comfortable with it. And, again, while I wish we could have passed it all, I think at the end of the day, we got -- we delivered the votes for the infrastructure bill, progressives helped deliver those votes and we worked together with our moderate colleagues to make sure that we could get the Build Back Better Act across the finish line in ten days.


JAYAPAL: And, you know, or that week. And so I think that's the important thing for us on the front.

BLITZER: But even if you get it passed in the House, as you well know, there could be more cuts coming up in the Senate. It hasn't passed the Senate yet. It's got to go back to the Senate. That's where Senator Joe Manchin still has concerns over the price tag and specific issues, including paid family leave. Do more cuts in the Senate, do you believe more cuts in the Senate would risk progressive votes when it comes back to the House, the changes that presumably will be made in the Senate?

JAYAPAL: Well, you know, let's see. I mean, think that the vast majority of this bill is pre-conference. And so I think there is agreement around almost all of it. There are one or two areas that are not agreed to and I hope my Senate colleagues will work very hard to get all 50 senators on board.

We did our job in the House, Wolf. Four weeks ago, there wasn't even a Build Back Better Act done. There was no agreement that had -- you know, there was no negotiation, frankly, that had had happened between those two senators and the White House, and today, we had a full bill, we have a vote on the rule already, and we will pass it through the House and it will be a strong vote. It will have, I believe, almost everyone, if not everybody, on the Democratic side in the House. And I think that, that puts more pressure on the Senate to keep it the same and to pass the whole thing and let's move along and get this thing done so that we can move on to voting rights and other important issues that are before the country.

BLITZER: Representative Pramila Jayapal, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, we're getting some new details right now about safety concerns just before the crowd surge that killed at least eight people at a Travis Scott concert in Houston.



BLITZER: Right now, we're learning disturbing new details about the crowd surge that killed at least eight people and injured dozens at a Houston music festival starring Travis Scott.

CNN Senior National Correspondent Ed Lavandera has the very latest.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Before Travis Scott took the stage at the Astroworld Festival on Friday night, the rapper and his head of security met with Houston's police chief. The chief says he expressed concern about public safety and urged Scott and his team to be mindful of what they were posting on social media, but it didn't take long for chaos to unfold.

Panic and partying is how Jared Kuker described the scene when the show started.

JARED KUKER, ASTROWORLD FESTIVAL ATTENDEE: Everyone screaming. I mean, it's like an airplane crash type of situation. You know, people are screaming like bloody murder. Just kind of like a matter of fact thought, I was like it's okay, this could be it, could be how I go.

LAVANDERA: Kuker, says everyone around him was struggling to stay on their feet and breathe. At one point, he fell down and landed on someone he thinks might be one of the victims. KUKER: I remember looking down and the person on the bottom was just laying there. And all I could do is I just slapped their face. I think they were unconscious. They might have passed at that point.

LAVANDERA: Houston police have launched a criminal investigation into what happened at the concert that left eight people dead, as the mayhem in the crowd unfolded, the show on stage kept going.

Multiple civil lawsuits against Travis Scott and the entertainment company, Live Nation, have already been filed. Before the Astroworld Festival, Travis Scott had faced criminal charges twice for inciting his concert crowds.

In 2018, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Scott pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Police say he encouraged a concert crowd to rush the stage in a 2017 show in Rogers, Arkansas.

And in 2015, the Chicago Tribune reported Scott pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor reckless conduct charge for urging a Lollapalooza crowd to climb over security barricades.

In an Instagram post, Travis Scott indicated he wasn't aware of how bad the crowd situation had become in Houston.

TRAVIS SCOTT, RAPPER: Anytime I could make out anything that was going on, you know, I stopped the show and, you know, helped them get the help they need.

LAVANDERA: Houston authorities released the name of all the victims who died in the crush of people at the concert. John Hilgert was 14 and Brianna Rodriguez was 16. The others were in their 20s, Danesh Bag, Rodolfo Pena, Madison Dubiski, Franco Patino, Jacob Jurinek, and Axel Acosta Avila.

CNN has obtained the 56-page operation plan for the Astroworld Festival.


The document does not include a specific plan for how to handing surging crowds. The plan said, when dealing with large crowds, the plan said when dealing with large crowd the key in properly dealing with this type of scenario is proper management of the crowd the minute the door is open. That did not happen.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Wolf, we also heard from the entertainment company, Live Nation, who says that its staff has already met with investigators here in Houston and that the company has also turned over closed circuit television video so that officers and investigators can piece together a more broader picture of how this tragedy unfolded. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. What a horrible tragedy, indeed, a disaster. Ed Lavandera reporting for us, thanks very much. Let's get more on all of this. Joining us now, the area's top-elected official, the Harris County judge, Lina Hidalgo. Judge Hidalgo, thank you so much for joining us.

First of all, what's the latest that you can share with our viewers on this investigation?

JUDGE LINA HIDALGO, HARRIS COUNT, TEXAS: Well, we released the names this afternoon, our Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, of the eight victims and incredibly tragic as the correspondent was just sharing. Any death is tragic, but these were young people, enjoyed dance and baseball and different trajectories. What they would have in common is they all wanted to go see a concert and have fun. And so it's tragic.

What is missing, the autopsies have been done, but it's the toxicology report, and that will have to be a key part of any assessment as to what happened. That's going to take weeks.

So now there's a criminal investigation, and I as the county executive, I'm pushing for an independent investigation, objective investigation, separating and apart from the criminal piece, which absolutely has to take place. That can evaluate all the different players and the different pieces and figure out were the plans adequate, were they approved adequately, were they followed or was the issue something else entirely that was outside of the control of any of the different stakeholders that were part of this tragedy.

BLITZER: Yes, you have to learn exactly what happened to make sure it doesn't happen again. As you know, Judge Hidalgo, the Houston police chief, your police chief in Houston, met with Travis Scott before the concert to share his concerns about public safety. Scott has a history of riling up his crowd, as you know, and this concert went on even after it was declared a mass casualty event. So who bears responsibility for ignoring these many warning signs?

HIDALGO: I've been asking those questions since that night, when I was out there speaking to different folks, you know, midnight, 1:00 in the morning. And what's evident is there is a complicated web of different entities. So, for my part, Harris County, there is the venue that belongs to Harris County's -- it's Harris County's NRG Park, it's one of the county parks, is one of the country venues, then the police presence, Houston Police Department, Houston Fire, that's separate from the county. Then there is the private security, the medical services. Many were private, and then, of course, Live Nation, Astroworld.

Now, those questions are exactly the ones we're answering. Yes, there was a breach of some barricades at the beginning. We've heard from some of the security experts saying those are somewhat typical. At the same time, Live Nation has a history of issues with incidents. But we can't come to a conclusion and say that was the situation. There's a lot of evidence of drug use. Could that have been part of it?

So it's hard for these families to grieve without answers. And the best I can do is make sure that we're doing everything we can, that I'm doing everything I can to help them get information as to what happened, why it happened and hopefully that will help other jurisdictions as well around the country because this is not the first time this has happened around our nation, certainly the first time in Houston.

BLITZER: Not only around the country, but indeed around the world. People have to learn these lessons. The Harris County chief executive, Judge Lina Hidalgo, good luck to you and thanks so much for joining us.

HIDALGO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the NFL star, Aaron Rodgers, sparks a huge, huge COVID controversy, but doesn't seem to want to take responsibility for his misleading statements. We have details. That's next.



BLITZER: There's a huge COVID controversy swirling around one of the NFL star players. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. So Brian, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers is facing fierce, fierce criticism right now.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He really is, Wolf and it' not so much for the fact that he's not vaccinated and has tested positive, but more of the fact Aaron Rodgers has been caught misleading the public and the media and he's still blaming others.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who wanted to kick that field goal.

TODD (voice over): It was only a few months ago that Aaron Rodgers guest hosted Jeopardy. Got rave reviews and was in the conversation to be the permanent replacement for Alex Trebek.

AARON RODGERS, GREEN BAY PACKERS QUARTERBACK: That is a great question. Should be correct, but --

TODD: Tonight, the three time NFL most valuable player, a star quarterback on the story Green Bay Packers is being skewered for his handling of COVID protocols and misleading the media about it. Terry Bradshaw on Fox saying Rodgers lied to everyone.

TERRY BRADSHAW, NFL ANALYST: I give Aaron Rodgers some advice. It would have been nice for him to just come to the naval academy and learn how to be honest. I'm extremely disappointed in the actions of Aaron Rodgers.

TODD: Rodgers now blaming others for the brush back.

RODGERS: I realize I'm in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now.

TODD: While appearing recently on the Pat McAfee SiriusXM show, Rodgers confirmed he is not vaccinated against COVID and has tested positive for the virus.


He blamed reporters, saying the media was on a, quote, witch hunt, to find out which players are vaccinated. He was asked back in August whether he had been vaccinated, his response used a different word.

RODGERS: Yes, I've been immunized.

TODD: On the McAfee show, Rodgers tried to explain.

RODGERS: Had there been a follow up to my statement that I've been immunized, I would have responded with this. I would have said, look, I'm not you know some sort of anti-vax, flat earther. I am somebody who is a critical thinker.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: He could have immediately corrected the record back then. He did not do it. He let this lie go on for months.

TODD: On that same SiriusXM show, Rodgers made a claim about something he said an NFL doctor told him.

RODGERS: One of the main docs said it's impossible for a vaccinated person to get COVID or spread COVID.

TODD: A league source responded by telling CNN, quote, no doctor from the league or the joint NFL-NFLPA infectious disease consultants communicated with the player.

During the McAfee interview, Rodgers repeated some misconceptions about the virus and the vaccines.

RODGERS: To my knowledge, there's been zero long-term studies around sterility or fertility issues around the vaccines. So, that was definitely something that I was worried about.

TODD: Experts say there's no evidence the vaccines cause infertility.

Now, Aaron Rodgers has missed a game because of COVID protocols. Healthcare provider Prevea has ended his endorsement contract with them and his State Farm Insurance ads have been drastically reduced.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, HOST, THE DEAN OBEIDALLAH SHOW, SIRIUSXM RADIO: The idea that Aaron Rodgers is celebrating selfishness in attacking his critics for his own mistake, I think, unfortunately, for a lot of people it's going to redefine Aaron Rodgers in the worst light.


TODD (on camera): We reached out to Aaron Rodgers representative to respond to the criticism of him. We did not hear back. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much, Brian Todd reporting for us. Let's dig deeper right now. Joining us, Dr. Myron Rolle, the Harvard Neurosurgery Resident, he himself is a former NFL player. Doctor Rolle, thank you so much for joining us.

You're a doctor. You're also a former NFL player. What do you make of Aaron Rodgers blaming what he called the woke mob and cancel culture rather than actually taking responsibility for refusing to get vaccinated and then lying about it?

DR. MYRON ROLLE, NEUROSURGERY RESIDENT AT HARVARD: Well, thanks for having me, Wolf. You know, I think Aaron was intentionally duplicitous and deceitful with the answer to his COVID vaccine status. When players were asked that question earlier, some deflected, some didn't answer, but he intentionally misled everyone to believe he was, in fact, vaccinated and he wasn't.

And the NFL has these protocols for players who are vaccinated or are not vaccinated. And Aaron himself said that he didn't agree with some of the mask mandates and other protocols that he would have to follow because the NFL with this personal constitution.

And then as you reported, as Brian Todd reported, you know, he talked about his process of getting to where he is right now and that he was riddled with misinformation and had some political conjectures in there and someone off anecdotal experiences that weren't hard, true evidence.

So, taken all of that together, to me, that says that Aaron is self- serving right now, operating in a silo, looking inward instead of being the team leader that he ought to be, being the person who is a global leader and the global hero to many people. It's unfortunate. I think Aaron is a very intelligent person and, hopefully, that he can rectify the situation by taking a step back, looking at a 30,000 foot view and thing, look, there's a bigger scope, larger team that's going right now. We need to face this global pandemic together and I need to be productive towards that solution.

BLITZER: Aaron Rodgers also says he consulted with his friend, Joe Rogen, a controversial podcast host, on COVID treatments including an unproven drug most commonly used in livestock, for example. How dangerous, potentially, you're a doctor, is that kind of misinformation?

ROLLE: You know, I would tell Aaron look, you know if you came into mass general hospital to the neurosurgical department, you had a brain tumor and seizures, you would expect our team to treat you with the utmost respect and to have done the research and the evidence to take care of your (INAUDIBLE) disease burden and reintegrate you with your family and hopefully cure you.

I would hopefully ask him to have the same level of respect and dignity for the scientist, the women, the men who have put in hours, livelihood into finding out about virology, immunology, infectious disease and putting together thoroughly peer-reviewed articles that have gone through scrutinized academicians and their processes and their analysis so that we can have some guidelines to hopefully get us over this pandemic.

So, just as we respect you as an expert in your field, throwing the football down the field, I'd ask him to respect these people who are true scientists that give us hard, emotional-less facts and data, take that in and use that to move forward with your decision-making.


BLITZER: The Harvard neurosurgery resident, former NFL player Myron Rolle, Doctor Rolle, thank you so much, as usual, for joining us. Always good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Coming up, former President Obama rips into the Trump record on the climate crisis.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: The Biden administration got a very high-profile assist today in its call for action on the climate crisis. The former president, Barack Obama, appeared at the U.N. climate conference in Scotland.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Now, back in the United States, of course, some of our progress stalled when my successor decided to unilaterally pull out of the Paris agreement in his first year in office.


I wasn't real happy about that.

So, despite four years of active hostility toward climate science coming from the very top of our federal government, the American people managed to still meet our original commitment under the Paris agreement. And now, with President Biden and his administration rejoining the agreement, the U.S. government is, once again, engaged and prepared to take a leadership role.


BLITZER: All right. Let's discuss with CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod, a former-Obama senior adviser.

David, thanks for joining us.

How rare is it to see former President Barack Obama on the world stage like this going after former President Trump and bolstering President Biden's climate agenda?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it is rare, Wolf, and the president -- President Obama made clear when he left office that it was going to be rare for him to speak out on matters like this, and he was only going to do it when they involved what he considered to be existential issues, like climate change, like the future of democracy. And -- and so, it's not shocking to see him out here now.

Now, he had a specific mission here, I think, which is to reassure the world that America's going to stay on track. You hear a lot from foreign leaders that it's fine that Joe Biden is committed to climate action. But what happens if Donald Trump or a Donald-Trump acolyte comes back in 2024? Will we go backsliding, again? And Obama's message was that there is a lot of moment here on the part of -- of businesses and states and localities and citizens.

And with this package that is working its way through Congress, half of which is done, a big commitment on the part of Biden so the world should have confidence that America's going to stay in the game.

BLITZER: This comes, as you know, David, as more Americans say they disapprove of President Biden's handling of his job than approve. According to CNN's new poll, despite a big win on the infrastructure bill, he still faces serious headwinds right now.

If you were in the White House, what advice would you be giving the president?

AXELROD: You know, I get -- I get pretty granular, Wolf. I said the other day that when I used to advise mayors, I'd say be as visionary as you want but make sure that you fix the potholes. Make sure that you get the basics done. That you pick up the trash and do the things that are right in front of people and affect their lives.

Right now, I mean, I filled up my car in Chicago today and I got a regular tank of gas and it was over $4 a gallon. People are experiencing these things around the country. There are -- there are shortages because of the supply chain disruptions. There are all kinds of dislocations.

A lot of it, having to do with the virus and the aftermath of the virus. Much of it is stuff that is not Biden's fault but people want to see him focus on these day day-to-day issues and once this infrastructure bill gets implemented and he -- and that will be shortly, you are going to see billions of dollars flow into the states for projects that people will be able to see right in front of them that are tangible. That will be helpful to him, I think.

BLITZER: I think, yeah, you probably make a good point.

David Axelrod, thanks very much.

Just ahead, a very significant milestone in the pandemic as the U.S. re-opens its borders to fully-vaccinated travelers from 33 countries.



BLITZER: Tonight, U.S. borders are finally open again to international travelers if -- if they have proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test. The 20-month travel ban just lifting now.

Let's discuss with Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

Dr. Jha, thank you very much for joining us.

Do you agree with this decision to finally let international travelers back into the United States?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN OF THE BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yeah, good evening, Wolf. Thanks for having me back.

I do. I think it's about time. It's a step towards normalcy. Also, an acknowledgment that when people are fully vaccinated, they really can start to travel again.

BLITZER: Right. It's an important point indeed.

Some other critical issues underway right now. The American Academy of Pediatrics is warning that COVID cases in children here in the U.S. are, once again, on the rise after declining for eight weeks. How concerning is that news?

JHA: You know, it is really concerning and it's, of course, now wholly unnecessary. Of course, kids over 12 have been eligible for months. 5 to 11, they are eligible now and will start getting vaccinated. Really important to protect kids now, until we can get them the shot.

BLITZER: Let me also get your reaction, Dr. Jha, to Pfizer now planning to seek authorization for booster shots, booster shots for all Americans over the age of 18 as soon as this week. Are we at the point where, essentially, every American needs a booster?

JHA: You know, President Biden said as much in -- in early august. And I think it was, already by then, we are starting to see the data. That's where things were heading. Again, I haven't seen what the Pfizer data is. But I do think, Wolf, that in the upcoming weeks and months, every American adult who is more than six months out from their second shot will probably benefit from a third one.

BLITZER: And so, you are recommending that people, if they are eligible for a booster, get one maybe six months or so after the Moderna or the Pfizer and two months after the J&J?

JHA: Absolutely. Right now, that's the recommendation. I think anyone with a J&J, Pfizer, or Moderna who meets those criteria should get it. My guess is overtime, even more Americans will become eligible.

BLITZER: Yeah. Good news advice from Dr. Ashish Jha.

Thank you so much for joining us, as usual.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.