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Biden Authorizes 5,000 Troops To Ensure Safe Drawdown In Afghanistan; Haiti Hit With 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake; Hospitals Overwhelmed As Delta Surges Among Unvaccinated; "I Am Legend" Movie Plot Becomes Part Of Bizarre Anti-Vaxx Conspiracy; Prominent Republicans Slapped With Social Media Suspensions; Republican Senators Grilled After Fox Host Touts Autocrat Viktor Orban As Model For GOP; GOP Congressman Aided Trump Effort To Flip DOJ On Big Lie. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 14, 2021 - 17:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Be sure to tun in, an all-new episode of "HISTORY OF THE SITCOM" airs tomorrow night at 9:00 right here on CNN.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ACOSTA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington. We begin with breaking news.

President Biden is announcing that he has authorized 5,000 troops to help ensure a safe and orderly drawdown in Afghanistan. This comes as the Taliban continues its brutal and unrelenting advance to take control of the country. Within the last few hours Taliban forces claim they've captured three more major cities. That means they now control 22 of the country's 34 capitals. Only two major cities remain under the government's control.

One of them is Afghanistan's capital of Kabul but there is no longer a question -- there appears to be no longer a question of if Kabul will fall but when. There's also an urgency this hour at the U.S. embassy in Kabul as 3,000 new troops arrive to get Americans to safety and destroy sensitive material.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is at the White House for us. The president is at Camp David.

And we have this statement from the president in just the last hour or so, Arlette. What more are you learning?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, this is really the most robust statement we've gotten from President Biden since the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. And the president explains how he has authorized the deployment of 5,000 American troops to Afghanistan to help draw down and evacuate American civilians, and also help get those Afghans who had helped the U.S. over the course of this 20-year war.

Now, just to clarify, the majority of those 5,000 troops were either already on their way or in Afghanistan, but there is an additional 1,000 troops who are now being sent that way.

Now, in the statement the president also issues a warning to the Taliban saying that they have warned them that there will be consequences if Americans are put in danger. The president says that they've warned the Taliban through representatives saying that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan that puts U.S. personnel or mission at risk there will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response.

And you also have the president in this statement offering a defense of his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan in the coming weeks. The president specifically places blame on his predecessors, former President Trump, saying that he negotiated a deal with the Taliban that ultimately empowered the Taliban and promised that withdrawal. The president in his statement, I want to read you what he said.

He said, "When I became president, I faced a choice, follow through on the deal with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies' forces out safely or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country's civil conflict." President Biden says, "I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan, two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not and will not pass this war on to a fifth."

So the president making very clear that he remains resolute in that decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan. And right now so much of the priority is ensuring an orderly and safe drawdown of Americans who are currently in the country.

ACOSTA: And Arlette, what are we learning about how early they began planning for the removal of Americans there?

SAENZ: Well, the planning for this has been under way for months. Our colleague over at the Pentagon, Barbara Starr, reports that the Pentagon had been planning for possible evacuations in May. That was part of the overall plan, to plan for the withdrawal from Afghanistan. She said -- Barbara says that as early -- as recently as just two weeks ago, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was asking for updated tabletop exercises to prepare for the possible evacuation.

And just to put a point on how seriously and how swiftly this administration wants to act, a U.S. Defense official tells Barbara time is of the essence. We don't have the luxury of time to wait.

ACOSTA: They certainly don't have that luxury.

All right, Arlette Saenz, thank you so much for that report.

And I want to bring in retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. He's a CNN military analyst and former official at the National Security Agency.

Colonel, thanks so much for being with us as things are just rapidly deteriorating in Afghanistan. Every few hours today we've learned about a new city captured by the Taliban. Are you surprised at the speed in which these major cities are falling? It's just incredible to watch.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It really is, Jim, but I'm not surprised. And the reason, Jim, I'm not surprised is because we have known for a very long time that the Afghan military has had a lot of serious problems. Including not only morale but also the ability to maintain the force.


In other words, they don't have the ability to keep their people. There are a lot of desertions that have preceded even these drastic events right now. And it was very clear to me from the very beginning that once we started the withdrawal process, the Taliban would advance very rapidly. And that's exactly what we're seeing right now.

ACOSTA: And I want to read more from President Biden's statement that just came out during this program. Put up on screen, it says, "Over our country's 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in U.S. history. One more year or five more years of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country."

Colonel, I suppose he has a point there. You know, and the president is indicating I think very clearly he is not changing his mind on this. What do you think, do you agree with the thoughts that he put forward there?

LEIGHTON: Yes, I do actually, Jim. And the reason that I do is because what the president is saying, you know, why throw good money in this case, good training after bad. And what you're looking at is in essence a drastic way to cut our losses. Now, the actual execution of this is another matter. And, you know, in Arlette's report we talked about, we learned about the planning that had gone on from about May until the present time to do this.

What bothers me about this are two things. First of all, that they didn't seem to account for the rapid advance of the Taliban. And secondly, that a lot of the Afghan interpreters and others from Afghanistan who have served the U.S. Military over the last 20 years, that their fates are being ignored by this. And it seems as if that was an afterthought. Now they're trying to catch up and trying to get these people out, but that is a very big issue that they're going to have to pay very close attention to.

ACOSTA: Yes, we absolutely cannot leave them high and dry. They helped the United States through all of this. The United States has to help them. And we've seen video of the Taliban at abandoned U.S. Military bases driving American trucks as they take over cities. And it makes you wonder what were the last 20 years for? We built up this country, as the president was saying, we built up this military. Are we just going to watch it go up in smoke in real time? Is that what we're going to do here? LEIGHTON: Well, that's really the sad thing about this, Jim. I mean,

all the blood and treasure that we've sacrificed, all the lives that we've sacrificed. That is, you know, a real problem when you look at everything that we put into this country. And now we are basically losing all of that.

Now, on the positive side, we have to remember that for the last 20 years, no terrorist attacks that affected the West, the United States, its European allies, any of the other countries that were closely aligned with emanated from Afghan soil, so in that case it was a success.

But it was one heck of a price to pay for that. And unfortunately, our efforts to in essence remold the society of Afghanistan, whether it comes to women's issues or the military, those efforts have, I'm afraid, failed, unfortunately.

ACOSTA: That appears to be the case this evening.

All right, Colonel Cedric Leighton, thank you so much for that information. We appreciate it. Good talking to you, sir.

Now to breaking news in Haiti. At least 227 people have died after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck near Haiti. We're expecting the death toll to climb much higher according to estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey. Officials and rescue crews are racing to assess the damage right now, but these brand-new images look devastating. Entire buildings turned to rubble, cars crushed. This video showing a building that's completely mangled by the shaking.

Remember Haiti is still dealing with another major crisis. Their president was assassinated just last month. And on top of everything else, Tropical Storm Grace, yes, there's a tropical storm in the region, is expected to hit the area as soon as Monday.

CNN correspondent Patrick Oppmann joins me now from Havana, Cuba.

Patrick, what's the situation on the ground in Haiti as best as you can guess? I suppose it's going to take some time to get more eyeballs on the ground there because of the sheer devastation.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Probably days if not weeks before we really get an accurate picture, Jim, of how bad this was. But already some of the images we've been seeing throughout the day, the accounts of people being pulled out of the rubble, pictures of people receiving medical attention, essentially on cots out in the open air because it's too dangerous to be inside with all these aftershocks, you know, it really is heartbreaking to see this country once again, the country of Haiti, enduring so much suffering, not even a month since or a little over a month since their president was assassinated.


Now the new man in charge, Haitian prime minister, is now touring -- the Haitian prime minister is touring the area he says where the earthquake struck. Luckily, if there's any luck here at all, it's that it did not hit the Port-au-Prince area where of course the 2010 earthquake devastated so much and caused such a high death toll.

This latest earthquake happened less populated area, so that's perhaps the only silver lining here, Jim. But as you said, Tropical Storm Grace has formed and is heading towards Haiti in the next several days. That could lead to mudslides, lead to more structures collapsing. So by no means is this over as of yet and certainly in the hours ahead we expect that death toll to continue to rise.

ACOSTA: Just a desperate situation in Haiti right now.

Patrick Oppmann, thanks so much for that report. We appreciate it.

We are headed to our darkest hours. That is the sobering warning from a doctor in Mississippi. Next we'll take you to a hospital there that has been forced to set up a triage in its parking garage. That's right, in a parking garage.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: This summer's dangerous rise in COVID cases has not let up for weeks in the U.S. and now just like the experts warned, hospitalizations are surging. Today more than 83,000 Americans are being treated in a hospital for COVID. Just like last year parking garages are being converted into COVID field units. And tents are being outfitted to treat overflow patients.

The situation is the most desperate in five states, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi. They all have less than 10 percent of their ICU beds left. One doctor in Mississippi warns, quote, "We are headed to our darkest hour."

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is outside of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Adrienne, Mississippi hospitals are at emergency capacity. What are you seeing on the ground right now? How bad is this?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you step inside that parking garage behind me and go to the lower level, and the spaces typically reserved for cars, Jim, there are now hospital beds, 20 of them. And that area has been transformed into a COVID unit. That's where COVID patients who need minimal care will receive treatment. And next week the hospital is going to convert another section of the garage to treat patients daily, 60 to 100 patients, who need outpatient care.

On Friday we got some new numbers from the State Department of Health. More than 5,000 new COVID cases and 31 deaths. Despite all of this, the state's governor, Tate Reeves, still refuses to initiate a mask mandate. Listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. TATE REEVES (R), MISSISSIPPI: We're not going to have top-down statewide intervention at this time. If you believe -- if you have not been vaccinated, I encourage you. If you're going out in public, I would encourage you to wear a mask.


BROADDUS: And among those numbers we received yesterday, 31 people died due to COVID complications according to state health officials. Among the deceased this month, Heinz County Sheriff Lee Vance. Friends and family said good-bye to him about two miles away from where we are right now a short time ago. He was 63 and spent nearly three decades serving and protecting this community, but he could not fight off COVID-19. That's according to his friends, family and the coroner.

Meanwhile the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said among people here in Mississippi who are diagnosed with COVID, at least 2.2 percent will not make it home alive. He also talked about people who walk into hospitals like this one behind me, those who are placed on ventilators will also not make it home. So the hope is that people will hear this plea, people will hear this message, and take precautions and start getting the vaccine or, Jim, wear one of these, a mask.

Back to you.

ACOSTA: It's not that tough. And Adrienne, we saw similar scenes play out last year but now we have the vaccine. We have something to protect ourselves. That has to be frustrating for the hospital staffers. How are they holding up? What are they saying?

BROADDUS: They are exhausted. I spoke with the associate vice chancellor yesterday and he kept talking about the number of new patients. Nearly 97 percent of them are unvaccinated. His fear is if the hospital continues at this level, he already said they're on the brink of collapse. And quite frankly, he says they cannot continue at this level.

On Thursday, Jim, 90 clinical staff members at this hospital were out sick. COVID, he says, is running through the medical community the same way it's running through the state of Mississippi.

ACOSTA: That is scary stuff. All right, Adrienne Broaddus, thanks so much. Thanks for that report, we appreciate it.

Joining me now is Dr. Rob Davidson, he's an E.R. doctor in West Michigan and the executive director of the Committee to Protect Health Care.

Doctor, it's so great to see you, as always. Mississippi we just heard is one of eight states right now that make up half of all COVID hospitalizations here in the U.S. They are just getting hammered down there. But in so many other states across the south. What do people and public health officials need to do right now to get a handle on this?


DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY MEDICINE, PHYSICIAN FROM WEST MICHIGAN: I wish I knew. Right? I mean, it's exactly what you said. Last year it was tragic watching all of the hospitals fill up. Our hospital a couple of different waves was full for weeks on end. And the people we forget about are the paramedics, the EMS crews who are driving all around these states looking for beds because they're being diverted or because people have to be transferred particularly when one hospital fill up, they have to go to other places.

We lost at least six paramedics in our small county in the last few waves and now we're running a rig short every shift. And what's going to happen what that wave crashes here? So I think it's frustrating. It's exactly what you said. Last year when this happens it was tragic, it was a crisis. This year it's happening and it truly was mostly avoidable. Yes, the Delta variant is worse, it's more contagious, but these vaccines are remarkable.

In Michigan, 98 percent of new cases over the last few weeks have been in unvaccinated people. Nearly all of the hospitalizations and deaths are unvaccinated. And so we can sit and shake our heads and be frustrated. You know, for me, you keep marching on, you keep talking to your patients about it. My wife is a family doctor, I say that a lot, she does, and these physicians and nurses down there who are just working their butts off I think have to keep doing that and they just keep taking care of what comes in.

ACOSTA: Yes. And we have some new information just coming in the last couple of moments. Let me get your take on it. It's from Florida. Over 4,000 students and 280 staff members in a single school district are either in isolation or quarantine right now after testing positive or being exposed to a positive person.

What is your sense of what is happening in Florida right now? And we keep talking about what Governor Ron DeSantis is doing, just flat out refusing to get on board with mask requirements in the state. What do you think?

DAVIDSON: I mean this is an abject failure of leadership on behalf of Governor DeSantis, without a doubt. You know, it's one thing to not have a statewide mask mandate. OK. We'll go with that. But to actually go to battle with school districts who are trying to protect kids? And it's not even just protecting kids it's keeping them in in-person learning. We just had our school board or our school district make a bit of a turnaround on their masks and we're going to have our kids going back with masks because numbers in our county are now at very high levels of transmission.

And they said one of the reasons isn't necessarily just to mitigate the transmission of virus, it's to keep kids in class because they don't learn when they're going into isolation or going into quarantine for a week or two on end. You know, they have to think about that. All they do is tell us we want kids in classrooms. Yes, so do we. So just put on a simple mask that doesn't hurt anybody. And we can do it much more safely and much more effectively. ACOSTA: And DeSantis says he's deploying a rapid response team to

administer monoclonal antibody treatments to people infected with COVID. Let's listen to what he said this week.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: This is the most effective treatment that we've yet encountered for people who are actually infected with COVID-19. This, if applied early and properly, has the ability to reduce your likelihood of being hospitalized.


ACOSTA: He's painting this as some sort of a miracle drug. I mean obviously it's an important treatment option, but he almost sounds like he's parroting Donald Trump from 2020. What's going on here?

DAVIDSON: I mean the thing about the former president last year was he was just acting on instinct it felt like, you know, just sort of doing what he thought was right and people would follow him. Governor DeSantis knows better. He's following that path because that's what some base that he has in his mind wants him to do. And, you know, he says it's the most effective treatment. And you know, we can have a discussion about that.

I think dexamethasone, the steroid, is a more effective treatment once you have COVID. But you know what, Governor DeSantis, the most effective thing we can do? Get people vaccinated, have people wearing masks in crowded indoor spaces like schools so they don't get it in the first place. Then we wouldn't have to worry about tens of thousands of dollars of treatment of monoclonal antibodies when we have a vaccine that, you know, costs your insurance 40 bucks or if you don't have insurance, it costs you nothing. And so --


ACOSTA: Right. Masks and the vaccines are cheaper.

DAVIDSON: They are and more effective and people don't get long COVID syndrome. All of those things that we know have an impact on the long- term health of people we can avoid if he would just get out of the political arena when it comes to public health and just listen to his experts.

ACOSTA: And yesterday the CDC recommended a third COVID vaccine for certain immunocompromised people but they also said that more than one million people have already received an unauthorized extra dose of the vaccine. They have snuck off to the local drugstore and just went and did it, that sort of thing.


Is it safe for the general public to be doing this right now? I talked to Dr. Jonathan Reiner early on in this program who were saying it's time to start doing booster shots, so-called booster shots, I know some people quarrel with the term booster shots, but start getting extra shots out there to people because that protection may be needed as we head into the fall and winter.

DAVIDSON: Listen, the more people who don't get vaccinated at all, the more we're going to need a third shot, a fourth shot. And I don't think there's any safety issues with doing that. I also don't think it's necessary for people with strong immune systems. I don't fault people for doing it.

People are scared. They don't want to get Delta variant. They don't want to get COVID. And even if, you know, your risk is, you know, 1/100 of somebody who isn't vaccinated and you want to bring that down a little bit more, I understand that.


DAVIDSON: And, you know, I know the FDA is monitoring the numbers and once they recommend that, that will happen. We've still got to keep getting it in those arms of people who aren't vaccinated, though, so we can get out of a fourth dose and a fifth dose down the road.

ACOSTA: Yes. No, we've got to get those 49.5 percent folks who haven't been fully vaccinated vaccinated. And if they haven't done that yet, wear a mask as well.

All right, Dr. Robert Davidson, great seeing you, as always. Thanks, Rob, we appreciate it. Good to see you.

DAVIDSON: You too, Jim. Thank you.

ACOSTA: Coming up, why did a sci-fi movie from nearly 15 years ago suddenly become a topic of discussion on anti-vax sites? It is strange but, yes, it's happening. We'll give you a reality check.

Plus a programming note about a once in a lifetime concert event. "We love New York City." A celebration of the city's ongoing comeback from COVID airs next Saturday starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern exclusively here on CNN.



ACOSTA: If you needed medical advice, you probably contact your doctor or pharmacist. Maybe you'd talk it out with family and friends.

One source you probably wouldn't consult is an old Will Smith movie.

But in a sign of just how far into fantasyland the anti-vaccine movement as gotten, the 2000 sci-fi flick, "I Am Legend," is being used to spread fear about the COVID vaccine.

One account from "The New York Times," quote, "One employee said she was concerned because she thought a vaccine had caused the characters in the film 'I Am Legend' to turn into zombies."

People opposed to vaccines have circulated that about the movie's plot. But the plague that turned people into zombies was caused by a genetically reprogrammed virus, not a vaccine.

In a tweet, the movie screen writer put a finer point on it. "Oh, my god, it's a movie. I made that up. It's not real."

My goodness, that's where we are right now.

CNN senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy, joins me now.

Oliver, the people who are spreading this, do they think the science is realistic? Are they just grasping for anything at this point?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Jim, you really can't make this up.

What they're doing is taking a piece of disinformation and they're using an "I Am Legend" meme as a vehicle to drive that disinformation toward a broader crowd.

So anti-vaxxers peddle this false notion that the virus is less dangerous than the vaccine, that the vaccine could potentially cause more harm to your body than the coronavirus.

Obviously, that's not true and we have a huge amount of data that debunks it. But this is the rhetoric they traffic in.

So they have taken this "I Am Legend" meme where my understanding is a genetically reprogrammed virus is used to treat cancer.

They have suggested in the movie it turns them into zombies and they're saying look what happened in the Will Smith movie where the cure was worse than the actual disease.

You know, maybe that's the case here. Again, obviously, this is insane.

But this is the sort of stuff you see on social media these days.

ACOSTA: Yes, forget "I Am Legend." More like I am gullible.

And 30 percent of Americans who can get vaccinated haven't even gotten one dose. The stubborn anti-vaxxer movement is a subset of this.

Is a fringe of the fringe getting into this "I Am Legend" stuff?

DARCY: This is really fringy. Jim, if you go on TikTok, there are a lot of videos where people suggest that the vaccine will magnetize you.

There are some really fringe conspiracy theories out there that are attracting mainstream audiences.

And so it's funny. We laugh at it, I guess, here a little bit because it's so out there and it's so, you know, insane.

But it does end up polluting the minds of many Americans and there's so much information out there. And people have so -- they have a hard time these days maybe

understanding what's reliable and what isn't. This just makes it more difficult for them.

And if there's a hint of doubt that they think the vaccine might harm them in some tiny way, you can see why they'd be hesitant to go out and get it.

ACOSTA: That's true.

And two Republicans got week-long social media suspensions for spreading COVID misinformation, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene on Twitter and Senator Rand Paul on YouTube.

Are these bans effective, do you think?

DARCY: Well, they're not really bans is I think the issue here. They're temporary suspensions, which means that these people will be back on the platforms that they have been suspended from in a few days. It's meant to slap them on the wrist.

But what these Republicans end up doing is now they can say they have been censored by Silicon Valley. They can say send us money to fight back against censorship.

And so --



ACOSTA: It sounds like they're daring these companies to suspend them --


ACOSTA: -- so they can fundraise off of it.

It's almost like they're daring these companies to suspend them so they can fundraise off of them.

DARCY: Exactly. This actually ends up bolstering them with a conservative base and they can go brag about it. It's almost like a medal of honor that they wear to their base.

They think that they want to sell the idea that Silicon Valley is against conservative ideas. If you're conservative and outspoken, you get suspended.

ACOSTA: Last week, Oliver, we covered Tucker Carlson's trip to Hungary where he celebrated that country's slide into far-right autocracy and was talking about it as a model for the Republican Party here in the United States.

This week, some Republican Senators were asked about it. What did they say? DARCY: Yes, "Insider" did some great work here and asked Republican

Senators what they thought of Tucker Carlson's portrayal of this Hungarian leader.

In many cases, these Republicans pretended they didn't actually know much about him.

And in other cases, you have Ron Johnson, a conspiracy theorist, quite frankly, Senator, saying that the Hungarian leader is doing some good things.

And I think, Jim, that really shows you two things. It shows you that the -- really how strong Tucker Carlson is, his pull is with the Republican Party, where you have some Senators who won't criticize him and others who actually believe the nonsense that he's selling.

ACOSTA: Yes. A new commandment in the Republican Party, thou shall not speak ill of Tucker Carlson.

Oliver Darcy, thanks as always. We appreciate it. Great to talk to you.

DARCY: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Thanks.

We've now learned a Republican Congressman was the link between former President Trump and the Department of Justice as the former president tried to overturn the election. That connection we'll talk about it, next.



ACOSTA: We are now learning a little-known Pennsylvania congressman was the hidden link between former President Donald Trump and the Department of Justice as he tried to overturn the 2020 election.

Republican Congressman Scott Perry has now acknowledged he connected Trump with Jeffrey Clark, an environmental law chief at the Justice Department.

Clark back-channeled with the White House to help push baseless fraud conspiracies.

And even attempted a leadership coup at the Justice Department, according to documents and testimony from former Justice Department officials.

CNN's senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig, joins me to answer your legal questions.

He's also the author of "Hatchet Man, How Bill Barr Broke the Justice Code and Corrupted the Justice Department." Elie, one viewer asks: What are the potential legal ramifications for

Trump and others who tried to use the Justice Department to overturn the election?

Surely, there must be legal ramifications.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's clear there was a coup attempt by Jeffrey Clark and beyond by Donald Trump and others. When it comes to actual consequences, they have been insufficient so far.

We've got Congress doing an inquiry, doing a good job and uncovering a lot of facts but that's realistically all Congress could do.

Theoretically, they could impeach but they're not going to be doing that.

DOJ's inspector general is investigating as well. The I.G. does not do criminal prosecutions. They do not indict. They do not arrest.

Which brings us to the big question: Is DOJ going to open a meaningful criminal investigation of election interference, of conspiracy to defraud the United States, both of which are federal crimes?

There's no indication Merrick Garland has done that yet. But I think it's absolutely imperative, at a minimum, that he open a criminal investigation, get all the facts and consider whether criminal charges are necessary here.

ACOSTA: Turning now to the coronavirus pandemic, a viewer wants to know: Can the government legally require students to be vaccinated before returning to school?

This is a timely question.

HONIG: Yes. That's just absolutely yes. We've known this since the early 1900s.

The Supreme Court said it was perfectly constitutional for public schools to require vaccinations. We do this with polio, smallpox. It's not controversial.

The federal courts over the last couple of weeks have upheld a vaccination requirement by Indiana University, including a three-judge court of appeals panel. All three Republican appointed.

Just a few days ago, Justice Amy Coney Barrett said we're going to leave Indiana University's vaccination requirement in place.

It clearly is constitutional and schools can require vaccinations.

ACOSTA: Elie, this week, a federal judge allowed the White House's new eviction moratorium to stay in place, a very important issue, but the ruling could be challenged in an appellate court.

One viewer wants to know: Does the CDC have the legal power to extend the eviction moratorium based on the ongoing COVID pandemic? A lot of discussion about this.

HONIG: This regulation by the CDC is very questionable legally, yet it continues to defy the odds and survive in court.

The Supreme Court left the original moratorium by a very narrow 5-4 margin but they made clear don't come back and ask us for an extension because this was a regulation issued by the CDC itself with no Congressional action. That's the legal problem here.

Now, it got challenged in court. The extension that happened just got challenged in court.

This week. a district court judge said I'm going to leave it in place. The higher courts have said it's legal so I'll leave it to the higher courts, the court of appeals and the Supreme Court.


The question is, if this gets back to the Supreme Court, will they uphold the extension? It looks like they will not. If I had to guess, I would guess they will not uphold the extension.

That said, it's going to take a couple more months to get up to the Supreme Court so the moratorium will live on at least for some time.

ACOSTA: It's an important topic.

Elie Honig, thanks so much for that. We appreciate it.

Move over, Tom Cruise. Apparently, Jay Leno is the one hanging out of planes these days. His epic mid-air stunt, next.



ACOSTA: You're probably not going to believe this is real but fasten your seatbelt and watch Jay Leno, yes, Jay Leno pop up outside the cockpit of a plane in flight.

CNN's Jeanne Moos reveals how he did it.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flying over the coast of California, is it a bird? A white fluffy cloud? No. It's Jay Leno?


MOOS: The former host of "The Tonight Show" appeared to be hanging out in mid-air and pretended to climb towards the cockpit.

Fake, you say?

JAY LENO, FORMER HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": It's not a fake. It's real.

MOOS: Leno says the plane, a Grumman Albatross, was flying 147 miles per hour when he ventured outside to get a laugh from his buddies.


MOOS: Leno told the host of Spike's "Car Radio" podcast that he was --

LENO: Just being stupid.

MOOS: Move over Tom Cruise, clinging to an Airbus. Cruise himself, not a stuntman --

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: Open the door!

MOOS: -- in "Mission Impossible."

For Leno, it was mission impossible not to ham it up, trying to crack up his buddies by surprising them with a secret hatch.

LENO: The nose opens on the inside. So I climbed out on here.

MOOS: One of the pilots demonstrated the hatch by the nose cone.

You don't need to be tethered in. They say it's safer than it looks.

From the cockpit, you end up resembling --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With Jay Leno, like an ornament on the front of the plane.


MOOS: One Instagram poster asked, "Wasn't this a 'Twilight Zone' episode?"


MOOS: When William Shatner, flying through a storm, spotted a creature out on the wing.


MOOS: There were no flight attendants to call when Jay Leno popped up.

WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: There's a man out there!


SHATNER: Look, look! He's crawling on --

MOOS: Leno may be in the twilight of his career, but he still knows how to land a practical joke.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.



ACOSTA: Unbelievable stuff.

California's former governor, otherwise known as the Terminator, is back, taking COVID deniers to task during an interview with retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and CNN's Bianca Golodryga.

Arnold Schwarzenegger had this message for anti-vaxxers and anti- maskers. He is not mincing words.


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR & FORMER ACTOR: There's a virus. It kills people. And the only way we prevent it is to get vaccinated, wear masks, do social distancing, washing your hands all the time.

And not just think about my freedom is being disturbed here. No. Screw your freedom. You have the freedom to wear no masks but you're an schmuck for not wearing a mask.


ACOSTA: Schwarzenegger followed up his sentiments with an op-ed in "The Atlantic" saying, quote, "I'll admit it, calling people schmucks and saying screwing your freedom was a little much even if I stand by the sentiment. But there is nothing that I'm more passionate about than keeping America great and it's the only subject that can make me lose my temper.

You definitely don't want to get Arnold angry. Great job on his part.

Meantime, the world has lost more than four million people to COVID-19 and the waves of grief for those left behind have been tremendous.

This week's "CNN Hero" knows just how difficult and isolating it is to lose a spouse. Michele Neff Hernandez created a community of widows that heals together.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would tell the nurse, tell him I love him, or put the phone by him, because they would not let me in.

Sometimes I'd just go sit in the parking lot just to be close to him.

You know, April 13th, they told me he was gone. I needed someone to understand what it was like to be widowed.

MICHELE NEFF HERNANDEZ, CNN HERO: Initially, you imagine that when someone dies, the worst day is the day they die. And the truth is, that living without them is the hard part. But you have to make your way through.

Thank you for being here and showing up for each other.

We hope people live, and live through something that, many times, they did not think that they would survive.


ACOSTA: To see the full story, go to

That's the news. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. I'll see you back here tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Pamela Brown takes over the CNN NEWSROOM, live, after a quick break.


Have a good night.





PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Afghanistan in chaos as Taliban control tightens and the U.S. scrambles to rescue its allies.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are people we relied on. We promised that we wouldn't leave them behind.