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Trump Ally Steve Bannon Indicted For Defying January 6th Committee Subpoena; 500 National Guard Troops On Standby Ahead Of Rittenhouse Verdict; COVID Cases Up In 12 States Amid Fears Of A Winter Surge; Britney Spears' Conservatorship Terminated By Judge; Dire Conditions, No Food For Days As Poland-Belarus Crisis Deepens. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 12, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Until then, be sure to tune in to State of the Union Sunday morning. Among the guest, Director of the National Counsel Brian Deese, Republican Congressman Fred Upton, plus more of our exclusive interview with Republican Congressman Anthony Gonzales 9:00 and noon eastern on CNN.

Our coverage on CNN continues now. See you Sunday morning.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, Trump ally Steve Bannon indicted for defying a subpoena by the January 6th select committee, a federal grand jury charging him with contempt of Congress. We'll break down this critical turn in the Capitol riot investigation, and whether it will compel Bannon and others Trump insiders to testify.

Also tonight, 500 Wisconsin National Guard troops are now on standby ahead of a verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial. The judges is set to decide if jurors can consider lesser charges against Rittenhouse after his emotional claim of self-defense on the stand.

And Britney Spears finally has her freedom. A judge just terminated the conservatorship she's lived under for 13 years. Stand by for the details on this life-changing moment for the pop star.

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.

And let's get right to the breaking news on Steve Bannon's indictment and what it means for the January 6th investigation. Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is joining us. Paula, this is a major, major win for the January 6th committee. Tell us what's going on.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a critical development for the committee because up to this point, they have not been able secured meaningful cooperation from any of the Trump associates they've subpoenaed. And in speaking with sources, I'm told several of the witnesses who have been stonewalling that actually have been watching to see if there would be any consequences for Bannon's defiance. So without this indictment the investigation would have effectively been crippled.

Now, this afternoon, a federal grand jury indicted Bannon on two counts of contempt of Congress or defying that subpoena. Each count carries a minimum jail term of 30 days and a maximum of one year.

Now the attorney general, Merrick Garland, has received some criticism for taking several weeks to bring these charges. He actually released a statement today on this case saying, since my first day in office, I promised, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law, and pursues equal justice under the law.

Now, our intrepid colleague, Henry Benoitz (ph), spotted federal prosecutors from D.C. entering the grand jury room today and helped us break this story. Now, this indictment sends a clear message to other witness who have been stonewalling the committee that if they do not cooperate, they should be prepared for potential criminal charges.

Now, sources tell CNN Steve Bannon is expected to self-surrender on Monday and appear in court that afternoon.

BLITZER: Paula, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in our Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director. He's the Author of the book, The Threat, How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump. Also joining us, our Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig. He's a former U.S. Assistant Attorney. He's the Author of the book Hatchet Man, How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutors Code and Corrupted the Justice Department. Guys, thank you very much for joining us. Big day, major breaking news.

Andrew, just how significant is this indictment of Steve Bannon?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's enormously significant, Wolf. As Paula detailed, that's a primary significance to the committee, right, because it puts them on and even footing to be able to push back on witnesses that have been giving them a stiff arm currently. I think it's important also to remember that we are not really much closer to ever hearing anything from Steve Bannon. This is going to be a long process, and my guess is he will fight it every step of the way. At the end, if he loses, he can always just stop to serve his jail time and never speak to the committee.

But at the end of the day, the most significance here is to the other witnesses who are recipients of subpoenas. Many of them will not make the same choice. They're not similarly positioned to Steve Bannon, and an indictment will not help them publicly. And so folks may start thinking twice about cooperating.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect they will.

You know, Elie, the January 6th select committee chair, Bennie Thompson, the vice chair, Liz Cheney, they just, minutes ago, released a very forceful statement saying among other things, Steve Bannon's indictment should send a clear message to anyone who thinks they can ignore the select committee or try to stonewall our investigation. No one is above the law. We will not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal to get the information we need.


So, what does that tell you?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, this is the most powerful single tool available in all of our law, to enforce Congress' will, to gather information. And as Andrew said, this really operates on one level, it's a warning shot to all the other witnesses out there thinking about defying, it makes the choice quite stark, either testify or risk indictment, risk imprisonment.

But even bigger picture than that, Wolf, this is about separation of powers and the balance of powers between Congress and the executive branch. So I think that's what you're seeing in the statement you just read from Representative Thompson. This is Congress standing its ground. This is Congress using the tools available to it under the law and the Constitution to perform its key investigative and oversight functions.

BLITZER: You know, Andrew, the former Trump chief of staff, Mark Meadows, he defied a subpoena just this morning, adding his name to a growing list of Trump insiders who are refusing to cooperate with this investigation. Is it realistic to think that the U.S. Justice Department will hold dozens of Trump allies potentially in contempt of Congress?

MCCABE: You know, I think, Wolf, that Bannon represents the extreme end of that spectrum. His was the easiest case to pursue with a criminal referral, because he has the weakest claim of actual presidential executive privilege. Mark Meadows is probably the opposite end of that spectrum. He was the president's chief of staff during the events in quest. So if anybody has got a decent argument to make that their communications that the president are privileged, it's probably Mark Meadows.

Nevertheless, and I expect the committee will come after him as hard as they possibly can, and, again, you know, fighting a criminal charge is on brand for Steve Bannon. That's his thing. That's the way he tries to position himself in his media activities, as a fighter, not so much for Mark Meadows. Mark Meadow is a guy who's probably thinking an indictment really not going to look good for me, so that's going to change his calculus, I think, considerably.

BLITZER: You know, Elie, Steve Bannon is expected to turn himself in on Monday. So, what happens next? Walk us through that.

HONIG: Yes, Wolf. So, he'll be arraigned on Monday, meaning he'll be formally advised of the charges against him. They'll make sure -- the judge will make sure that he has a lawyer to represent him. And then the court will consider the question of bail. In some cases defendants get locked up pending trial. I think there's virtually zero chance that happens here with Steve Bannon because the maximum penalty is only one year because he has no prior convictions. Worth noting, he was indicted by the Southern District of New York on a fraud case but then pardoned. So he'll be arraigned on Monday, and then they will go into motion. Steve Bannon will argue to throw the case out, he'll argue that he has a legitimate of executive privilege. For reasons that Andy just laid out, I don't think he will succeed on that, and then we will have a trial, unless Steve Bannon pleads guilty. I don't expect that. But we will eventually have a trial, United States of America versus Steven Bannon. If he gets convicted, he goes to jail for at least one month, and possibly as much as a year.

BLITZER: You know, Paula, in a new audio recording released today by Jonathan Karl of ABC News, the former president appears to defend the threats made against then-Vice President Mike Pence during the insurrection. Let's listen in to Trump in his own words.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: No, I thought he was well protected and I heard he was in good shape.

KARL: Because you heard those chants, that was terrible. I mean, those -- you know the --

TRUMP: He could have -- well, the people are very angry.

KARL: They were saying, hang Mike Pence.

TRUMP: Because it's common sense, Jon, it's common sense that you're supposed to protect. How can you -- if you know a vote is fraudulent, right, how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress?


BLITZER: The January 6th select committee, Paula, will likely be very, very interested in those remarks, right?

REID: Oh, absolutely, Wolf. We know that they're looking very closely at the pressure the vice president was facing to undermine the election results, sort of overturn those results. We also know from CNN reporting that the committee is interested in talking with members of Pence's inner circle, at least five people that they have been targeting.

We've also learned that some of Pence's associates are actually more willing to cooperate with the committee than was publicly known. And they certainly they hear those remarks were released over the past 24 hours, they may be even more likely to cooperate with the investigation.

BLITZER: I suspect, Andrew, this new audio just released will further underscore the need for a thorough investigation and for holding people like Bannon, for example, accountable.

MCCABE: You know, Wolf, time and time again, and this investigation you've seen exactly that. People like Steve Bannon, whose own statements currently stand as the most powerful accusation against him. Steve Bannon who is recording on his own podcast the day before the insurrection, saying you know there's going to be all hell breaking loose tomorrow, and you've never seen anything like this. And you don't know what's going to happen.

And so you're now seeing the same thing with the former president. I mean, how can you possibly countenance any sort of excuse to a threat on the life of the vice president of the United States?


That's exactly what you just heard the former president say.

BLITZER: You know and, Elie, there's no doubt that these other former Trump associates who have been subpoenaed, they're going to really be worried about not only facing potential charges but enormous legal expenses at the same time, right?

HONIG: Yes, Wolf. It's definitely not cheap to defend yourself in any criminal case, especially a federal case. So, this is a warning shot to Meadows, Scavino, on down the line. You know they're paying attention.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thank you very much. Don't go very far.

This note, even as Steve Bannon is now in very serious legal jeopardy, the former president, Donald Trump, did just score two legal wins. Former Apprentice Contestant Summer Zervos agreed to drop the defamation lawsuits she filed against Trump after Trump denied her allegation that he sexually assaulted her back in 2007. That means Trump avoids sitting for a deposition under oath.

And at the same time, a New York judge granted Trump's motion to dismiss a 2019 lawsuit filed by his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, seeking reimbursement for legal fees from the Trump Organization.

Coming up we're getting White House reaction to Steve Bannon's indictment. We'll have more on that. That's coming up.

Also, a first, officials in Kenosha, Wisconsin, they are bracing for a verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. 500 Wisconsin National Guard troops are now on standby.



BLITZER: As the Kyle Rittenhouse trial moves closer to a verdict, officials in Wisconsin are now bracing for the outcome.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, I understand the governor is putting the National Guard on potential duty.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers just announcing about 500 soldiers from Wisconsin's National Guard are on standby, ready to deploy to Kenosha, but only if they're requested by local law enforcement. This comes as the trial enter its critical home stretch.



TODD (voice over): A dramatic trial near is its final stages tonight, a trial marked by intense emotional testimony from the accused.

RITTENHOUSE: There were people right there.

TODD: A trial where the judge commands seemingly as much attention as the defendant, admonishing lawyers, like he did today during debate over jury instructions.

JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER, KENOSHA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: You're asking me to give an instruction. I want to see the best picture.

TODD: The homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse is now slated for closing arguments and jury instructions on Monday. Today, prosecutors won a small victory when Judge Bruce Schroeder said he would add an instruction on provocation, allowing prosecutors to argue that Rittenhouse provoked one of the victims who was shot and killed, Joseph Rosenbaum, into chasing him.

Today, prosecutors also ask Judge Schroeder to give the jury instruction for lesser charges in addition to the six original counts, some of them more serious Rittenhouse already faces. The judge explaining to Rittenhouse what that could mean.

SCHROEDER: Having a lesser-included offense included, you're raising the risk of conviction, and you're also decreasing the risk that you'll end up with a second trial, because the jury is unable to agree.

TODD: Rittenhouse said he understood the ramifications and agreed to the inclusion of lesser charges. The judge indicated he will likely allow some lesser charges but not allow others.

Kyle Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to six charges, including intentional homicide, reckless homicide and attempted intentional homicide for shooting three people during protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August of last year following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Two of those three people, Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, were killed. One was wounded.

Judge Schroeder's behavior has loomed large over the trial. Schroeder has been accused of favors in the defense. He's harshly admonished prosecutors multiple times, including once when a prosecutor asked questions the judge had already disallowed.

SCHROEDER: Don't get brazen with me. You know very well that an attorney cannot go into these types of areas when a judge has already ruled without asking outside the presence of the jury to do so. So, don't give me that.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He seems to be a narcissist, likes a lot of attention, draws attention to himself, engages in these really outlandish outbursts and a lot of attention has been focused on him, his demeanor, his conduct when, in a trial of this nature, this is a serious murder trial. We shouldn't be talking after the fact about the judge.


TODD (on camera): Kyle Rittenhouse's defense attorneys have filed a motion for mistrial with prejudice, citing what they call prosecutorial overreach. The judge is taking that under advisement, so we should know about that by Monday. Our Legal Analyst Areva Martin says, she believes it is unlikely the judge would declare a mistrial at this point. Wolf. It's getting close.

BLITZER: Yes. And it's certainly. All right, Brian, thank you very much.

Let's get some analysis. I want to bring in Criminal Defense Attorney Mark O'Mara, and CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson.

Joey, what does it say to you about the prosecution's faith in their case that they have now asked for these lesser charges to be included?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, good to be with you. So, when you look at lesser included offenses, the standard is whether it's a reasonable view of the evidence that might support some charge other than the counts for what to charge. And generally, it's not really a matter of competence in the case, it's a matter of prosecutors believing that they could sustain any type of conviction.


And so understand that what prosecutors generally do is they shoot a lot at you, any one of which will stick becomes problematic for you. I think as you look and examine the nature of this case though, I think prosecutors have an uphill battle.

It's one thing again to argue the issue as to whether Rittenhouse should have been there in the first instance, whether he exercised good judgment or not, whether he acted as law enforcement, when he shouldn't have, but that's not the issue. The issue is whether he engaged in self-defense, and did so reasonably and thought his life was in immediate danger. And that's what the jury has to assess ultimately, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, indeed. You know, Mark, does it make sense from Kyle Rittenhouse's point of view that he agreed to these lesser charges? The judge explained this lowers the risk of a second trial but it increases the risk of a conviction, right?

MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it is quite a risk for the defense to take. It is certainly up to him. You can't deny and just go forward on the cases as charged. But I always recommend to a defendant to at least give the jury the opportunity to give you something less than the major cases.

So, the concern is are you willing to really roll the dice to convince the jury you should be guilty of nothing and walk out the door, or if you're going to get convicted of something. If the jury doesn't wasn't to let you go fully, which I think the jury is going to want to hold him responsible for something in this case, then giving the lesser is an opportunity for the jury to hold them responsible but at a much lower charge than the intentional homicide or even the reckless homicide.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. You know, Joey, once this case is in the hands of the jury early next week, how difficult do you think their decision will be?

JACKSON: Yes, it's always difficult, Wolf, because there's a lot to balance, and there are competing narratives in the courtroom. And I think, really, in this particular case, those narratives are very clear. From a prosecutor's perspective, he as an active shooter who had no basis or justification for being there, much less engaging in the conduct that he did.

The jury will weigh, of course, what the defense is arguing and that was check the surrounding circumstances and the context. You heard this repeatedly described by defense witnesses as a mob. It was a riot. There were people who were act -- milling about who were angry. It was a volatile situation. You add that to the defense's contention, which is that their client was an imminent threat, immediate threat of serious bodily injury or harm, and that to the notion that he was protecting himself properly as the defense. And I think this saying he acted reasonably, that's what the jury will have to balance when they deliver it, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, the judge, Mark, has become a focal point in this trial, and his willingness to inset himself sort of out of the ordinary. Do you agree?

O'MARA: No. Well, I agree he has. I would suggest it's very inappropriate. Look, the jury looks to the judge more than anyone else, sometimes more than the witnesses, to try and get a feel where things are. And a judge can infect, if you will, the jury with his predisposition.

It sort of started with some of the pretrial motions as he continued during his jury selection. And some of the way he presented, once he suggested to this jury, subtlety as it might be, nonverbally as it might be, that he favors the defense, they're going to follow that lead because that, to him or to them, he is the courtroom. He is the courtroom sort of in persona. And I think really injecting himself much more than he should, and needs to be more careful, keeping his thumb off the scales when this jury is supposed to make the decision, not him.

BLITZER: And quickly, Mark, a lot of us will remember when you famously defended George Zimmerman. I wonder do you see similarities between the two cases? JACKSON: Well, I do because Rittenhouse, you know, is arguing through his counsel that he did only what he had to do, that even if you don't like a 17-year-old with an AK in his hands, and he's not supposed to be there, when he was attacked, when that person came at him, lunged at him, advanced towards him, hit him in the head with a skateboard, then at that moment, in his mind, he's allowed to react in self- defenses. And that's what you're going to hear in the closing arguments.

BLITZER: We will hear those on Monday. All right, guys thank you very much.

There's more breaking news were following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're going live to the Biden White House for a reaction to the breaking news, Steve Bannon's indictment today for defying the January 6th select committee.



BLITZER: We're following breaking news on a new federal grand jury indictment against Steve Bannon. The Trump ally is expected to turn himself in on Monday, as he faces two charges of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the January 6th select committee.

Let's go to Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, the attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland, sought this indictment. It's fair to say the Biden White House has been waiting and watching for this very closely. What are you hearing?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, I think the White House is keenly aware of what's happening right now. But they have also taken pains to keep their distance from what the attorney general ends up deciding or how he decides to move forward. No comment tonight about the indictment. For the most part, that is tracked with how they operated as it relates to the January 6th committee, with one exception, the president, when he was asked by our colleague, Kaitlan Collins, if those who defy subpoenas should be prosecuted, he said this a little less than a month ago.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I hope that the committee goes after them and hold them accountable.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Should they be prosecuted by the Justice Department?

BIDEN: I do, yes.


MATTINGLY: Now, Wolf, shortly after those comments, the Justice Department put out a statement pushing back, making clear, any decisions it makes would be independent, and the president himself walked it back saying in a CNN town hall a few weeks later, those comments weren't appropriate.


The real role the White House has had throughout this entire process, Wolf, has been through their counsel's office, and as it relates to the executive privilege. And the president and his lawyers have made clear that they are waiving executive privilege as it pertains to the specific issues to the January 6th committee is investigating related to the attack on the Capitol and the lead up to that. That's not just specific to Steve Bannon, that's also other White House officials as well, including former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Now, as it pertains to Bannon, the council's office was very clear that given the fact Bannon had no role in the White House at the time that this transpired, the idea that he would have any privilege claims simply weren't in existence base on what the council's office said at that time.

One thing to remember, Steve Bannon in that book Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, the Washington Post reporter, said he wanted to strangle the Biden presidency in its crib. At this point in time, he will now have to face the Justice Department at some point in the weeks and months ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: He certainly will. All right, Phil Mattingly, at the White House, thank you very much.

Let's discuss all of this and more with Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, the deputy whip of the Progressive Caucus. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

What message do you hope this federal grand jury indictment sends to Bannon and others who have shown a willingness to totally disregard Congressional subpoenas?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Wolf, it sends a message that no American is above the rule of law, that the same rules apply to everyone. And I don't know why Steve Bannon thinks that he shouldn't have to answer questions from the United States Congress or produce documents to the United States Congress when every other citizen would comply.

BLITZER: The top Republican in the House Judiciary Committee, we're talking Jim Jordan, just weighed in and he wrote this, and I'll read it to you. Joe Biden has eviscerated executive privilege. There are a lot of Republicans eager to hear testimony from Ron Klain and Jake Sullivan when we take back the House, Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, Jake Sullivan the national security adviser to the president. What's your response to that?

KHANNA: They probably don't understand executive privilege. First of all, Steve Bannon wasn't working in the White House or for the president at that time. Second, executive privilege applies to sensitive communication and advice to the president. This is not that situation. This has nothing to do with national security.

So, I hope that none of the Republicans abuse the executive privilege. This is about having a private citizen answer for their role on January 6th. Something all other Americans would have to do.

BLITZER: So, do you think Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff has a stronger case? He was working directly at the White House at the time of the January 6th insurrection. He's seemingly going to be -- he's defying this subpoena from the house select committee.

KHANNA: He should know, of all people, to comply. He was on the oversight committee. He has asked for subpoenas before. If there were sensitive information about national security that doesn't violate the rule of law, he can claim executive privilege for that. But there's no reason he should be claiming executive privilege to talk about the events of January 6th. There's nothing about national security there and it certainly doesn't cover anything that could be illegal.

BLITZER: Let me move on to another sensitive issue that we are learning about. CNN, as you may know, has learned that you and other progressive Democrats are working to try to de-escalate tension within your own party. How important is that if you're going to have success with the much broader spending bill that's still out there on the table?

KHANNA: Wolf, it's very important. We have to come together as a party to deliver for the American people. You know, the Republicans talk about family values, the Democrats actually value families. We're going to have universal preschool that values families, we're going to have child care. And to do that, we have to be a united Democratic Party.

BLITZER: What is your message, Congressman, to fellow progressives who are still very vocal about their opposition to Democratic Senator Manchin of West Virginia? He's critical in all of this. As you know, there are 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans in the Senate. If the Democrats are going to pass what you pass in the house, they need all 50.

KHANNA: I would say keeping about the ideas, engage him in debate, make your case, make your case why the budget shouldn't be cut. But let's not have ad hominem attacks. Let's understand that he represents a constituency, we all represent different constituencies, and, ultimately, if we tear each other down, we tearing the president down and we are not delivering for the American people. Let's put the people first and the party first.

BLITZER: Do you think that President Biden can eventually get Manchin on board so that this legislation, I assume it's going to pass the House, will eventually, in one form or another, pass the Senate?

KHANNA: I do. I'm very confident of that. In my conversations with Senator Manchin, one thing is clear, he wants this president to succeed and he understands we have to pass something.


So I am confident that we will get there and that he understands also that this actually will ease inflation by helping supply chains by increasing the productive capacity. I'm confident he'll get to a yes. BLITZER: All right, we shall see. Congressman Ro Khanna, as usual, thank you very much for joining us.

KHANNA: Appreciate it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, fears of another winter surge as new COVID cases are actually ticking up here in the United States after weeks of declines. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Tonight, troubling new signs that COVID cases here in the United States may be on the rise again, especially in colder northern states, raising fears of a potential winter surge.

Let's discuss with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen. She's the Author of the important new book entitled, Lifelines. There you see it.


Dr. Wen, thanks for joining us. Look at all the recent data, 1,100 Americans are still dying every day from COVID. Are you concerned we're headed for another wave here in the U.S.?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I'm very worried. Wolf. And I wish that this is not where we were. Certainly, we're in a better place that we were back in September during the middle of the delta surge, but we saw this peak and the hoped was that we would have this significant decline. Well, right now, we seem to have plateaued at over 70,000 new cases every day, more than a 1,000 deaths every day. That would bring us up to about 400,000 daily deaths over the course of a year.

We cannot plateau at this point, and especially coming into the winter. We're already seeing in places in Europe that even in countries that have higher vaccination rates than we do, that they are going through a massive winter surge. And I'm very worried about the holidays ahead. And so everybody who is eligible to be vaccinated should be vaccinated including now in children 5 to 11 and also all those eligible to get boaster should do so too.

BLITZER: Yes, and wearing masks are still very, very important. CNN has learned on another important issue that the FDA is now considering bypassing its vaccines advisory committee and fully authorizing boosters for all Americans without -- adult Americans 18 and over without hearing the formal input that usually goes into a decision like that. Do you think that's a good idea?

WEN: Yes, I do. And, frankly, this was already foreshadowed at the last advisory committee meeting. The FDA asked the advisers, what do you think about lowering the threshold, increasing the eligibility? And so the advisers already gave input into that. Many of them have already been on record saying they're okay with the FDA making this decision. And at this point, the U.S. should really look at the data coming out of Israel, the U.K., Qatar, looking at Canada, that's now expanded eligibility to all, everyone over the age of 18. There's increasing recommendation that probably the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines need to be three dose vaccines.

And so it's really time to let everyone know that they should be recommended to get boosters especially before those potential winter surge and people gathering over the holidays.

BLITZER: Yes, better to be safe than sorry. After nearly ten months in office, President Biden is finally, finally moving to select a permanent FDA commissioner, such an important position. We expect the president to nominate Dr. Rob Califf, who held the same role during the Obama administration. What do you make of that selection?

WEN: Well, I definitely think that it's time for us to have permanent FDA commissioner. This is such a critical role. There are still so many decisions to be made, including boosters vaccine for younger children, treatment, testing, not to mention all the oversight of medicines and therapeutic that needs to be made.

But I also had the opportunity to work with Dr. Califf when he was the FDA Commissioner at the first time, when I was the head of the Baltimore Health Department. We worked together on issues related to opioids. And he is a very safe and very good choice to lead the FDA again, has a reputation of working across the aisle, respected very much within industry, public health, as well as academia. So it is a good choice by the Biden administration and I hope that the Senate will move to confirm him soon.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Dr. Leana Wen, as usual, thank you very much for joining us.

Coming up, the conservatorship that's ruled Britney Spears' life for 13 years is now over. We're going live to Los Angeles for details on the judge's momentous ruling. Stand by.



BLITZER: Tonight, Britney Spears has won her long, long battle to be free of the conservatorship that controlled her life. A judge terminated the court-ordered arrangements just a little while ago.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is covering this breaking story for us. She's in Los Angeles.

Stephanie, you're just outside the courthouse over there. A huge day for Britney Spears. Tell us about this ruling.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Wolf, this was widely expected to happen today. It is effective immediately. That means Britney Spears is in control once again of her person and of her financials. What we did learn is that in court, her lawyer saying she will have some safety nets put in place to protect her and her estate. It's estimated at about $60 million, so she didn't go into a freefall here, and a couple more court dates after this for those technical movements that need to happen. But, officially now, she's in charge. It's important to note there were no objections from her mother's lawyers, or from her father's lawyers.

Remember, this summer she was very clear she wanted her father removed as the co-conspirator of her establishment. She accused him of conservatorship abuse. She said that she was forced to take birth control, forced to perform among other allegations.

He was removed as the co-conservator in September, but now it's completely gone. Her lawyer Mathew Rosengart saying in court today the time has come to end the conservatorship. So, this is happening.

Needless to say, Britney Spears is thrilled about this, going to Instagram shortly after the ruling came out and she posted, quote: Good God, I love my fans so much. It's crazy. I think I'm going to cry the rest of the day. Best day ever. Praise the Lord. Can I get an Amen?

And what's noteworthy here, she also put in there, Wolf, #freedbritney.

BLITZER: Stephanie Elam on the scene for us -- thank you, Stephanie.

Let's bring back our legal analyst, Joey Jackson.

Joey, after 13 years, what does the end of this mean for the pop star?


JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, it's very significant, Wolf. And as much now, she manages her own personal affairs, she manages her own financial affairs. You know, the law is structured in such a way that, in the event that you have a mental infirmity or if there is some other issue, you can have people who care about you step in, intervene, and take charge so that you can be okay.

But I think there was a determination made that it's run its course. That perhaps, there were issues in the past for which her family should have, and could've been put in place to deal with issues she may have been having. But over the years, of course, she's developed, you know, and gotten better and everything else, and fought this. And it's really become so oppressive that now is the time -- and now is the time to end this.

She's been very vocal about it. So she will have control. She will make her own personal and financial decisions. And she will be free to live in the manner in which she believes is most appropriate, not that anyone else believes is most appropriate.

BLITZER: Should we expect any further legal action, Joey, from Britney Spears, relating to the conservatorship which she has described as abusive?

JACKSON: You know, Wolf, so that is an open question. There have been indications by her attorney that this is not the end of it. That they are going to do a full assessment, with respect to her father and his management or mismanagement, the money spent, and a complete review and accounting as to how he handled it, and what exactly he did. That, of course, in the spirit of litigation, there are fights. Now,

what she has to decide, because she is in control and she directs the lawyer, whether or not she wants to pursue that angle as to her father or she just wants to let this go.

So that is going to be a decision she will make in consultation with her lawyers. I'm sure, now, she is just feeling you know what? It's good to be me. I have my life back and she can make decisions as to whether she wants to step back into a courtroom for more fights at another time.

BLITZER: This case, certainly, Joey, has brought a lot of attention to the whole issue of conservatorships, more broadly, hasn't it?

JACKSON: I really think it has. I mean, the reality is, is that, again, they are an instrumental good, generally speaking. It's good that we have a legal system. You know, that provides for these things and usually, it's people who are older. As people get older and potentially lose control of various faculties or become, you know, mentally incapacitated, you have a legal system that allows for people who care about them greatly to take care of them, personally, professionally, to ensure that their finances are in order.

But when it becomes abusive, it's enough and the indication, Wolf, in this case, is that it was abusive. It was beyond someone simply providing for care and control. It was really them controlling her.

And I think she stepped forward. The fans had a lot to do with it with the Free Britney movement. And so, here we are. I think it is a big moment in her life as she continues to do great things professionally and personally.

BLITZER: Joey Jackson helping us appreciate what's going on. Thank you.

Just ahead, we are going to bring you a live report from the border between Belarus and Poland, where the humanitarian crisis over there is growing worse and worse.

Stand by.



BLITZER: Tonight, truly dire conditions on the border between Belarus and Poland. They are worsening as the migrant crisis deepens.

Our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is on the ground near the border zone in Belarus. Matthew, give us the latest. What are you seeing?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well very desperate conditions in that migrant camp that's formed on the border between Belarus and Poland. According to the Belarusian officials that we spoke to and we saw this for ourselves earlier today, there are more than 2,000 migrants. They are encamped in that location.

They are in pretty difficult conditions. They haven't got much shelter. They are using branches from trees, in many cases, to -- to cover them up and shelter themselves from the increasingly cold weather.

What we're being told, though, by the Belarusian officials that we have spoken to in control of the border is that if the crisis with the European Union is not resolved soon, and that these refugees are not let to cross into Poland and some of the other countries they are trying to get across into the European Union, the number is going to increase by 200 or 300 a day. And they are saying u know, by a week from now, another could have more than doubled from 2,000 in the camp to more than 5,000.

And so, that represents a significant escalation and a significant threat, of course, for the European powers, as well as the west -- other countries, the United States. They are increasingly watching the situation unfold on that border.

And of course, pointing the finger of blame at Belarus for actively encouraging these migrants to come in from various Middle East companies like Syria, like Iraq, like Egypt, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. And directing them towards this border as a way of perhaps putting pressure on European Union. As a way of retaliation, perhaps, for the kind of sanctions that the E.U. has put on Belarus over the past, you know, several months because of its human rights record and its crackdown on the opposition in this country.

This is Lukashenko, the leader -- Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus. This is his sort of revenge, if you like, against the European Union and critics in the West.

BLITZER: Yeah, some of those refugees are coming in from Iraq and from Kurdistan, as well. And they simply want some freedom. They want some opportunities and clearly that is not happening right now.

Matthew Chance, be careful over there. We will stay in close touch with you. Thank you very much for that report.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me, by the way, on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer.

Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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