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State Department Says Taliban Gains in Afghanistan of Grave Concern; Israelis Over the Age of 50 Told to Get Third COVID Vaccine Dose; Some Overrun Texas Hospitals Using Tents To Triage Patients Amid Rapid Surge In Covid Patients; Harris County, TX Judge Issues Mask Mandate For All County Schools, Childcare Centers. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 12, 2021 - 20:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. With tomorrow shaping up to be a big day in the fight against COVID, especially the prospect of a decision on additional vaccine doses for those who might need them, we are joined shortly by Dr. Anthony Fauci.

We begin though tonight with the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the consequences on the ground and President Biden's decision to end 20 years of military presence there by the end of this month. Today, as Herat, the third largest city fell to the Taliban, The Pentagon on the President's instructions ordered troops to Kabul Airport, the Marine and Army Forces, about 3,000 in total, be tasked with helping and what The Pentagon spokesman calls a quote "reduction of civilian personnel at the embassy."

And after those old enough, this might bring back memories of the American departure from South Vietnam in 1975, with helicopters on the Saigon embassy rooftop. What may also be familiar is the strained language surrounding it.

Listen to State Department spokesman Ned Price saying this is neither an escalation nor a retreat, nor any kind of signal to the Taliban.


NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: This is not about re engaging militarily in conflict in Afghanistan.

This is not abandonment. This is not an evacuation. This is not the wholesale withdrawal. What this is, is a reduction in the size of our civilian footprint. So, this shouldn't be read as any sort of message to the Taliban.


COOPER: Well, whatever it is, however you want to describe it, the American pullout appears to be accelerating from a country if not on the brink of collapse, then certainly falling.

CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward is on the ground tonight in Kabul. Clarissa, what's the latest you can tell us about the Taliban gains

and the plans the U.S. government has put into motion for the American Embassy.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the situation is really going from bad to worse, 12 provincial capitals now under the control of the Taliban, among them Herat that is the third largest city in the country, also Kandahar appears to be on the brink of falling. This would be a huge one. It's a strategically important city. It's also the birthplace of the Taliban, and so it has a lot of symbolism behind it.

Because of course, they are seeing quite how quickly things are unraveling, the U.S. State Department and The Pentagon now saying they're going to be sending 3,000 U.S. troops in the next 24 to 48 hours, their mission is to simply help the withdrawal of U.S. Embassy personnel, and the State Department was really trying to underscore this is not an evacuation, the embassy is remaining open. This is about enduring partnerships still with Afghanistan.

But I've got to tell you, Anderson, that on the ground, people see this as an evacuation. And as such, it is really contributing to this growing sense of panic as the situation deteriorates.

COOPER: So my understanding is there's about -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- about 3,000 or 4,000 people who work at the American Embassy in Kabul. How many of those are Americans? How many are Afghans? And would the Afghans be evacuated as well?

WARD: Well, that's the million-dollar question, and it's a question that was being hedged a lot. They weren't giving any sense of the numbers, and beyond the people working in the embassy, Anderson, there is also the tens of thousands of people who have worked with the embassy in some capacity, who've worked with the U.S. Military in some capacity, the scores of translators, logistics operators.

They did say that 1,200 or so have been able to get out of Afghanistan with their families. But as I said, tens of thousands still here, mired in bureaucracy and paperwork, not knowing when or if they will be able to get their families out to safety -- Anderson.

COOPER: I mean, the idea of Kandahar being taken over is just stunning. I mean, it was a -- that was a major point of operations for the United States. I mean, I remember the base there, the fact that -- I mean, Helmand Province was hard fought by U.S. Marines for a long time.

This is just stunning. I mean, what is the likelihood of Kabul itself falling?

WARD: So at the moment, the situation in Kabul feels at least potentially pretty calm and stable. But there's an eerie sense that that can change at any moment.

COOPER: So there's reporting from "The New York Times" that the U.S. envoy for negotiations with the Taliban has been trying to get Taliban leaders to agree not to attack the American Embassy when -- or if their fighters reach Kabul. What leverage does the U.S. really have to get them to agree to that and would any kind of agreement really hold up?

WARD: So, the main leverage that the U.S. has right now at the negotiating table, with you know, the Taliban in Doha is airstrikes. Well, we've seen that that's got limited impact, ultimately. But they also have the leverage of becoming an international pariah, right? You don't want to be an international pariah. You want the international community to accept you with all the funding, that that could possibly entail.


WARD: And I do think that holds some appeal to the Taliban. However, does it hold enough appeal to extract major concessions and compromises from the Taliban when at this point in time, they feel they're very much in the driver's seat, they are winning. And as long as they can believe -- as long as they believe that they can win this militarily, without making huge concessions, it is unlikely that they'll do that.

At the same time, the Taliban wants to see U.S. forces go, and so if it needs to make promises to, you know, protect or not to attack these U.S. embassy personnel as they leave or U.S. military personnel who might be facilitating that extraction, then I think it's likely that they might agree to something like that -- Anderson.

COOPER: Clarissa Ward, appreciate it. Thank you.

WARD: Thank you.

COOPER: Let's get perspective now from a diplomat who knows better than anyone, almost anyone what this moment means to the country, in his foreign service career, Ryan Crocker has served as Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria. Ambassador Crocker, appreciate you being with us. First of all, your reaction to the U.S. sending in these 3,000 troops to help the evacuations in the embassy potentially being relocated.

You had reopened the embassy in Kabul. This has got to be obviously difficult to imagine.

RYAN CROCKER, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN: Given the circumstances, I think the administration is doing the right thing, not to delay this, to move in a force sufficient to hold the airport at the embassy and possibly some roots. That is what we are reduced to now.

And it is very sad to hear that our envoys to the Taliban are now pleading with them not to shoot at us as we retreat. When you think how this started, a peace agreement that we had somehow brokered, well, welcome to reality. The reality is this. The evacuation -- and it is an evacuation -- of a number of U.S. personnel, but also a number of Afghans. And I honestly don't know how they're going to do that with embassy

Afghan staff, and most especially with our interpreters and others who risked their lives to help us. How are we going to get them out?

COOPER: Yes, I mean, you're talking about tens of thousands of Afghans who have had close relationships with the U.S. in this time. Obviously, this country, you know, sadly, in Vietnam, we saw this. We've seen this elsewhere in Iraq. It has a history of having people work with us, and often when things get really bad fast, we leave them -- we leave them behind.

What do you attribute just the speed of the collapse of the Afghan Army, which is, you know, I mean, from the first time I ever got there in 2002, that was the priority. The Americans were saying, you know, we are -- we're standing up the Afghan Army, we're pouring resources into it. How many, you know, Green Berets, Special Forces were there training the Afghan Army over the last 20 years. To see them -- what do you account for their failure on the battlefield and the Taliban's success?

CROCKER: Anderson, in my view, we bear a major responsibility for this. It began under President Trump, when he authorized negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban, without the Afghan government in the room. That was a key Taliban demand. We acceded to it. And it was a huge demoralizing factor for the Afghan government and its Security Forces.

We pressed them to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners. Eventually they did it and watched them go back into the fight against the people who released them. So, this is a year and a half worth of demoralization. And now, this abrupt withdrawal on our part, I think solidifies it.

So, it's like any complex phenomenon. There are a number of reasons for the collapse, I think, of the Afghan Forces, but we cannot ignore that we had a central role in delegitimizing them and their government.

COOPER: I mean, four years ago, would this same result have happened, though? I mean, three years ago, before that decision was made, because I mean, it seems like there was an awful lot poured into this. It's hard to believe that just a recent demoralization, I mean, it seems like a pretty inherent intrinsic lack of confidence among Afghan Forces in the state itself.

CROCKER: We were a major backer of course of the State and of Security Forces. Symbolism counts and the symbol of the U.S. military affecting a complete and final withdrawal, I think was devastating. And again, it didn't happen overnight. This demoralization process if you will began the first day we sat down with the Taliban and excluded the Afghan government.


COOPER: What happens to -- I mean, can Kabul itself just hold on -- as you know we have seen Afghan fragment in the past. Obviously, I know the central government is reaching out now to warlords trying to get them to kind of join in this fight, and if the National Army itself is not doing it, are there going to be pockets like Mazar-i-Sharif in the past and Kabul?

CROCKER: I think it's an important point, Anderson. The Taliban has made enormous gains on the ground, but how many of them are there? How far can they go? Because it's one thing to take territory, it is another thing to hold it.

And I would guess, they are probably pretty close to being at full stretch right now in terms of their capacity. Again, I don't have any insider information on this, but taking is one thing and holding is something else. So I think if the Afghan can muster a defensive Kabul, it might cause this process to bog down a bit.

I'm not sure that's a good thing. Because what does that mean? That would basically mean a Civil War, as does Ashraf Ghani's appeal to the militias of the former Northern Alliance. So, we kind of saw this film in Iraq after the Islamic State swept through and what was it -- five years ago now? So, here it is, again, the Afghan version.

COOPER: It's so fascinating how history repeats itself and to see it happening in real time. Ambassador Crocker, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you so much.

CROCKER: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us on the eve of what could be a major decision on additional vaccine doses for millions of Americans.

And later Mike Lindell, the My Pillow person who claimed he would present evidence that would prove to the world the election was hacked and stolen from the former President. He also invited us and experts to keep them honest. See what happens when we took him up on it.



COOPER: There is breaking news tonight from a country that's been leading the way on COVID vaccinations. Starting tomorrow in Israel, the cutoff age for getting a third dose drops from 60 to 50. According to the Prime Minister's Office, more than 750,000 Israelis have gotten third shots since it was introduced for the over 60s less than two weeks ago.

Meantime, the C.D.C.'s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is scheduled to vote tomorrow on additional vaccine doses for the immunocompromised. With that in mind, we're glad to be joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and President Biden's Chief Medical adviser.

So Dr. Fauci, is Israel ahead of us just when it comes to data collection? I know they've been able to collect reams of data because of the deal they made with Pfizer. Why did they feel confident in the science to offer booster doses to people over the age of 50? DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND

INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, Anderson, based on the data from the utilization and implementation of their vaccine program, they are seeing a significant diminution in the durability of protection; they see that more among the elderly than they do among younger. So, they made a decision to do that.

We, in this country, are collecting data for multiple cohorts, both domestic and international. The domestic cohorts are being followed literally on a daily and weekly basis by the C.D.C. We are assuming that sooner or later, we're going to have to give boosters. So, what we're doing, right now, the decision is we don't need to do it right now. It's not imminent. But we're preparing as if it will be imminent.

So, we're going to be ready to do it whenever the data shows that the protection has gone below a certain level because of a combination of the durability of protection and the special effect you're seeing with the delta variant that is very distinctly different from the issue, which was addressed today. We have immune compromised people who never really ever got as a group, an adequate response to protect them.

So, it isn't as if they have a durability problem. It's as if they've never really had an adequate response. And that's the reason why the decision is made to give it to them and we will be hearing more details about it as you just said, when the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, talks about this tomorrow at their meeting.

COOPER: So how would it -- how would it work if there is going to be a third booster shot for everybody, at some point? Will there be -- will that be done through doctors' offices and pharmacies? As the vaccine is kind of being given now, will they be reopening kind of larger locations?

FAUCI: Well, you know, we don't want to get ahead of ourselves. But if you say, let's assume that this occurs, that we're making a decision to do this, it would have to be in an orderly fashion. So, you would not want to say okay, now everybody is going to go getting a third boost. It'll be an orderly fashion in a timely way. And I think it's going to be through the same outlets, Anderson, that we did before, namely, through pharmacies, et cetera, through sometimes through doctors' offices and other ways that we very successfully have done before.

COOPER: Do you think there's harm in getting a booster dose right now? I mean, can people do that? As far as some people received the one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, why not let people who want a booster here in the U.S. receive one?


FAUCI: Well, Anderson, I mean people can do what they want to do and some people are already doing that. We know that. But you want to do something that's based on some scientific evidence, something that gives you scientific and public health direction, something that you can follow the success of it, and find out what you need to do down the pike as time goes on. I mean, obviously, anyone can decide, they just want to do it. But I

think when you look at the science of it and the immunology, you want to do it in a way that's really based on the science that you're observing through these cohorts.

COOPER: There's obviously a lot we don't know. I mean, we know a lot more than we did at the start. But there's obviously -- you know, we need to be humble in the face of this virus, as we've said, repeatedly. If there is going to be a booster, does that mean then that people will be set for -- do we know how -- what length of time before they would need to, you know, think about getting vaccinated again? Because I assume, if this is around for years and years, this is going to be the kind of thing we have to routinely get vaccinated for just like getting a flu shot?

FAUCI: Well, there are a lot of factors that are going to go into that type of decision, Anderson. The first thing is that we feel in studies that we've done, we've already done studies where we've taken boosters to be given to people who have been fully vaccinated. And the good news about that is that the acceleration of the response goes way up, I mean, even better than what you get with the two doses together.

In other words, it goes up and up, and then if you give a boost, it goes way up. That may mean, I don't know for certain, but that could mean that you induce a response that's high enough and durable enough that you may not have to worry about what people are concerned about needing a so-called boost every year or so.

I would hope that the degree of elevation of response that we will see with the boost might actually give us a lot of wiggle room of not necessarily needing a boost often. But I have to be -- you say we are humbled, and we are modest about it, we don't know the answer to that. And the only way you do that, is you continue to do the clinical studies and the observational studies.

As you said, this is a virus that has evolved. We went from a virus, the alpha variant that when you got infected, the level of virus in your nasopharynx was considerably lower than what we're seeing with the delta variant, where it's like a thousand times more. There is a lot about not only the protection against serious disease leading to hospitalization, but there is the issue of the prevention of transmissibility among people who might have a breakthrough infection, as unusual as that is, it has occurred and will occur, because vaccines are not 100 percent protective.

The thing that we're seeing with delta is that when you do get a breakthrough infection of someone who is vaccinated and gets infected, even if they have minimal or no symptoms, the level of virus in their nasopharynx is still quite high enough to do what we've documented and seen that they could transmit it.

So, there are a couple of things you want to separate, protection against severe disease, which the vaccines do really, really well. They are holding up very well against delta versus protection against getting infected to the point where you may then transmit it. And that's the thing that sometimes confuses people, understandably so. COOPER: But just -- I read an article in "The Atlantic" today that

kind of clarified it for me and I wish I had the author's name on the top of my head, but one of the things he was saying, which I just sort of clarified things for me in my own mind, because I started wearing a mask again, indoors, and I'm very concerned about my child is that if you have been vaccinated, fully vaccinated, you're less likely to get obviously, the delta variant than you would otherwise be if you were unvaccinated, far less likely.

You are also less likely to transmit whatever you have to somebody else, than if you were unvaccinated. The unvaccinated are more likely to transmit, correct?

FAUCI: Correct. Totally correct.

COOPER: And the other thing this author said, which again, reframed this, in my mind is that he made the point of, you may say -- the vaccine isn't about, you know, guaranteeing you don't get the virus, but it doesn't -- it means that the virus itself doesn't have to become COVID-19 inside you. That essentially, you may get infected, but it's not COVID-19 in the sense of a life-threatening, potentially deadly disease.

FAUCI: Exactly.

COOPER: So it is breaking -- it is separating the virus from the illness COVID-19, is that right?

FAUCI: And that's what -- you're totally correct, Anderson, and that's what I just said. You've got to make sure that people understand the difference of a virus is real -- a vaccine is really doing what you want it to do if it protects you from getting ill, seriously ill to go to the hospital.


FAUCI: If you just give me 30 seconds, I'll explain with you and your child. You're vaccinated, you're fully vaccinated. The chances of you getting infected at all is very low. But let's say you do get infected, and you don't get any symptoms. But you do have enough virus in your nasopharynx that you may then inadvertently and innocently infect someone else, it could be your child. So how do you prevent that?

You prevent it that when you go out to a place that's a public indoor place, you wear a mask. And people say, well, wait a minute, why do I have to wear a mask if I'm vaccinated? Because you want to go the extra mile to prevent you from getting a subclinical infection that you might then inadvertently pass to someone else.

You don't have to worry about getting seriously ill. The vaccine is going to protect you against that, but it may not protect you against getting infected to the point where you may transmit it to someone else.

COOPER: And just finally, because I knew we're at a time, long COVID. What do we know about the possibility of somebody who has been vaccinated, gets infected, developing long COVID symptoms? And also children who can't be vaccinated under the age of 12? Do we know about what kind of -- do they get long COVID from delta or can they?

FAUCI: All right, two questions. Yes, yes. Two questions separate answers. Certainly, if you get vaccinated, and you get a breakthrough infection, you can get long COVID. We don't have enough data on that to say, if it's the same kind of risk of getting long COVID of others, but it is likely it would be less because you got a good deal of protection from your vaccine.

Children can get long COVID, but the incidence of it is significantly lower than an adult. It's just a few percent of children, whereas with the adult, it's anywhere from 10 to up to 30 percent.

COOPER: Dr. Anthony Fauci, I appreciate it. Thank you so much, and thanks for what you're doing.

FAUCI: Good to be with you. Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Things are so dire in Texas, they are putting up tents outside hospitals because they are running out of capacity in some. The latest from our reporter on the ground and a key player in Texas politics as the feud over mask mandates flares, next.



COOPER: More than a year or half into this pandemic. Many of our hospitals are in crisis again, our health heroes overwhelm particularly in Texas we're only 368 ICU beds were available in the entire state as of the latest reporting. Some hospitals there have set up makeshift tents and parking lots to triage patients and the tragedy is we have the vaccines now to prevent desperate scenes like this.

CNN senior national correspondent Ed Lavandera has the latest from Dallas.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Sunday in the small city of Clifton, Texas, 69 year old Gordon Robinson walked into Goodall Witcher Hospital sickened by COVID-19. The moment triggered a heart pounding race to save his life. For chief nursing officer Joycesarah McCab and her nursing team.

JOYCESARAH MCCAB, CHIEF NURSING OFFICER, GOODALL WITHCER HOSPITAL: This patient needed to go from our rural facility into a higher level of care. So we got on the phone, and we called. I put together a notebook. And in this notebook, this is every hospital that that I will begin to call it. So this is this is our list. And I start making the phone calls. And so, every hospital that you see on here, our hospitals that we have called trying to find a bed for patients.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): McCabe started dialing number after number, 50 different hospitals a day with the same answer. No beds available. Calls to hospitals in Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, nothing. Robinson was getting worse by the day, she says

MCCAB: the clock is ticking.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): And if you can't find a bed fast enough --


LAVANDERA: -- that has to weigh on you.

MCCAB: Tremendously. Yes. Yes.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): This is the real life daily battle for medical teams on the frontlines as Texas smashes into a wall of surging COVID- 19 cases. Adam Willmann is the CEO of the Clifton Hospital. He says the positive infection rate in his hospital tests has jumped from 4% a month ago to 35%. And he's struggling to find nurses to handle all the patients. His team is exhausted.

ADAM WILLMANN, CEO, GOODALL-WITCHER HOSPITAL: I do think that we're headed to a very bad situation. And it's going pretty rapidly.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): It has to be exhausting.

WILLMANN: Once you get behind, go to the nurse's floor, and you look at them in the eyes. You can see that it's stressful. You can see it, you can feel it.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): But this pandemic crisis is once again clouded by the fight over mask wearing and vaccine acceptance. Forty five percent of the Texas population is fully vaccinated. And almost all of the newest cases are among the unvaccinated.

School superintendents and county officials in the biggest cities across Texas are mandating masks despite the governor's orders. But Republican state leaders are vowing to fight the mandates in court.

(on-camera): You're 43 years old. We're doing this interview and you still have to wear the oxygen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) this oxygen, I'm like, wow, I can't believe I'm like, these are my age. I'm like, wow. This is shocking.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Andres (INAUDIBLE) was unvaccinated and got sick last month. He spent two weeks in the hospital and felt like he was moments from dying. But the memory he can't erase is the sound of the patient next to him in the COVID-19 ICU wing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was screaming, screaming for waters when the nurses, fighting with the nurses. And he was totally positive. Every night he was screaming and it was scary to be like this. I thought I was I was going to be just like him.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): He says that's what it's like being inside a hospital right now. After four days of endless phone calls. Joycesarah McCab finally found an ICU bed for Gordon Robinson. He was now on a ventilator put on a small plane and flown to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

(on-camera): So the moment that you were told, yes, we have this bet in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

MCCAB: Oh man. I started crying. Yes, I started crying.


LAVANDERA: And Anderson the story of how she found that bad is like a Texas version of six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. Her husband is a cowboy in the rodeo world. So through a friend of a friend of a friend, they were able to get a phone number to a possible lead on a bed in New Mexico she called that and that's what led them to that bed in New Mexico. And she says that is what hospital administrators, administrators and nurses are going through all over the state right now trying to make these little small miracles happen.


I spoke with Gordon Robinson's wife, and she says that he is still on the ventilator and that they are sitting and praying for his recovery. Anderson.

COOPER: Well, we wish Gordon Robinson's family, the best and for him, we hope he recovers. And Ed, I mean, you know, God bless the hospital administrators and the nurses and doctors, we need to do better by them. And you can see the personal, you know, the she was on the verge of tears talking about trying, you know, work in that phone to try to get this man who she doesn't know if this is somebody who came into the hospital, but she's, you know, for her, it's very personal. And we need to do better by that by folks who are doing this. Ed Lavandera, thank you. I really appreciate it.

Some big cities in Texas are an open revolt against Governor Abbott's orders barring mask mandates. Harris County that includes Houston, join the growing list of counties to file suit against Abbott saying he's repeatedly misused his authority under Texas disaster laws. And Harris County Judge Knight has ordered a mass mandate for all county schools and childcare centers.

Want to bring in a political voice in this fight. Beto O'Rourke joins us. He's a former congressman from El Paso.

Congressman O'Rourke, how do you square Governor Abbott deploying additional health care workers to state hospitals which obviously is needed, but at the same time fighting in courts against any kind of a mask mandate?

BETO O'ROURKE (D), FORMER CONGRESSMAN OF TEXAS: It's interesting, he's issued a mandate as the governor of the state of Texas, preventing local jurisdictions like school districts or cities or Texas counties, from issuing their own mandates to protect the public health by requiring masks. What's interesting, also is that those local jurisdictions in many cases are taking matters into their own hands and they defied the governor in some cases, getting court injunctions to stay his mandate, so that they can require mask. You're seeing the Houston Independent School District do that. Travis County, which is home to Austin, Texas, Dallas County, Fort Bend County, Bear County, home to San Antonio.

So this is the rise of local leadership in the absence of statewide leadership. I hope sooner rather than later, the government -- governor will see the wisdom of this local leadership and follow suit and allow local jurisdictions to require masks where it's going to help those who are most vulnerable, including kids.

Anderson, there are no more pediatric ICU beds in North Texas. So that means kids in Fort Worth, in Dallas, in Denton and Plano and Frisco, if they get COVID and our God forbid sick enough that they need to go to the hospital. There will not be a staffed bed there for them. This is a crisis and we need the governor to treat it as such.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, a number of those counties, I mean those counties have sought legal recourse against the governor's banning of the mask mandates. Where do you see the on the legal front? Do you see that happening? Do you think that will happen increasingly?

O'ROURKE: I do. One school board after another right now across Texas is voting on this issue. And it's really personal for a lot of us. Amy and I have a 10-year-old son in El Paso Independent School District School. And, you know, he's too young to get vaccinated, we send him to school with a mask. But there's no requirement for other children to wear masks or teachers or staff at the school putting all kids at risk. And some of his classmates have already gotten sick. But because of the governor's mandate, you know, they don't have to inform the parents necessarily. They don't have to do any kind of contact tracing. They don't have to protect the public health, which I think is the fundamental at least one of the fundamental reasons you have government in the first place.

So, I hope those local jurisdictions, including my own here at the El Paso Independent School District, will continue to stand up against the governor and for the lives of those kids who are in their trust, and that ultimately de facto, you will have a statewide response to the governor's mandate that will force the courts to either acknowledge it or the governor to change course.

COOPER: You've been tweeting out dates and times of school board meetings throughout Texas. We've seen a number of those meetings become very contentious nationwide, frankly, over the past several weeks. It says a lot about where we are in this debate right now that you have, you know, parents screaming at doctors who are just simply testifying about the science on wearing masks in schools.

O'ROURKE: You know, when you hear from parents about their children being admitted to hospitals, when you see videos of kids hooked up to ventilators of machines that are shake the mucus from their chest to keep them alive. As a parent that's about all you need to hear and see in order to understand the wisdom of wearing masks, and to ensure that those who are old enough to receive a vaccine, actually get one. And then to ask those who are in positions of public trust, to follow the science. And the best public health guidance.


And that's what we lack at a statewide level right now in Texas. But thank God for the courageous school board trustees who regardless of how popular or unpopular a mask requirement might be in their schools are one by one beginning to require that. And unfortunately, that's what we have to count on right now instead of what would be the most effective and efficient solution is for the governor to stand up and do the right thing for the people of Texas.

COOPER: Congressman better O'Rourke. I really appreciate your time. Thank you.

O'ROURKE: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, there's breaking news Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett weighs in on vaccine mandates and a decision that may have broader impact in schools offices, and even the U.S. military. Details when we continue.


COOPER: There's breaking news tonight on a Supreme Court decision that may have a really big impact on the legality of vaccine mandates across the nation as well as in the military. Justice Amy Coney Barrett has declined a request by several students to block Indiana University's mandate. That means the school can legally require students to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Justice Barrett acted alone without referring the matter to the full court.

I want to get some analysis now from Jeffrey Toobin, former federal prosecutor and CNN chief legal analyst. So how big a deal is this move by Justice Barrett?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's a big deal because it leaves in place an order that I think most people recognize is something that is routine in American life. You know, courts and communities have required vaccines for school for decades in this country, it would have been a big shock if Justice Barrett had done something else, but the fact that, you know, a conservative justice didn't even think it was worth referring it to the full court suggests that this issue, at least is pretty uncontroversial.


And so, this could impact future lawsuits around vaccine mandates, because we're seeing more and more of those throughout the country, whether it's California mandating teachers and other school employees get vaccinated or submit to regular testing or the Pentagon with active duty troops.

TOOBIN: That's right. And I think that issue at least is probably going to be pretty uncontroversial. You know, vaccine mandates, by a university by a state, by the military, I don't think is going to be difficult for the courts to uphold. The really tricky issue is the one that's heading up the road, which is what happens, and it's already starting to happen. What happens when a state bans a vaccine mandate, or bans a mask mandate? And a locality is as Congressman O'Rourke was just talking about. You know, what happens when a locality says we want one that conflict? That's a much tougher issue. And I think that's the big fight that's going to be going on for months now.

COOPER: Would that potentially end up in the supreme court? I mean, is there precedent?

TOOBIN: It might, although many of those issues will be resolved under state law. There are lots of state rules about, you know, what localities are allowed to do what's what and what is the province of a state. Those are usually decided under state law, they probably would not wind up before the Supreme Court, but some sort of mandate issue may well wind up before the Supreme Court. And the fact that Justice Barrett, you know, who is a conservative, you know, didn't, you know, rebel at this mandate, is at least one sign in the wind that this issue is something that even conservative justices may have some sympathy for?

COOPER: So this is a stupid question, and I should know this, but can you just explain how is it that she can just decide this to not refer to -- so not referred to the whole court? Because we've heard we heard in the past about Supreme Court just saying, we're not going to take this up? Is that what this is, and one, it's up to one of the justices to decide?

TOOBIN: Right. On emergency appeals, the court, each justice is responsible for one or two circuits one or two areas of the country, Indiana, where -- and it tends to be where the justices from Justice Barrett was a professor at Notre Dame South Bend, Indiana, she's responsible for the Seventh Circuit where the where Indiana is located. So any emergency cases from Indiana go to her. It's then her choice, whether she decides to refer it to the full court. If she thinks that the issue is genuinely controversial, she can refer to the full court.

Now, the losing side here has the right to go to the full court. But if a justice doesn't think it's legitimate, it's a big enough issue or controversial enough to even refer it to the full court it means that the losing party has virtually no shot These are only apply to emergency applications. This is an emergency case because, you know, Indiana University like most universities about to start so that's why this case worked that way. But it's not that Justice Barrett, you know, reached out for this case is that she covers Indiana that's the really (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: I knew you'd have the answer to my dumb question. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much.


COOPER: I should have know that.

Next -- coming up next. Thanks Jeff. MyPillows though speaking of my pillows Mike Lindell promised proof of a baseless election fraud conspiracy instead what a live audience witness was an epic face plant. Not for the first time. Donie O'Sullivan who spoken Lindell at this event joins us.



COOPER: TV pitchman turned election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell had sworn he had proof of a stolen election involve the Chinese and hackers, he was going to present it to true believers. On Wednesday, a judge ruled three defamation lawsuits against him and others worth billions potentially could move forward. In other words, a good day to show this proof to the world instead, no surprise at all came apart in front of a live audience.

Donie O'Sullivan was there.


MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MYPILLOW: We got attacked by China and they flipped the selection and down tickets to the tune of tens of million. This is crazy. And all you have to do is come to the symposium.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For weeks MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has been touting his so-called Cyber Symposium in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Claiming he would present data that would prove to the world China hacked the 2020 election and stole it from Donald Trump.

(on-camera): If you're correct, if you have that evidence.

LINDELL: No, what -- just forget about the evidence. If I'm right, they're trying to choke our country. Right now, do you care? Would that bother you? What does bother you?

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): We have to show the proof right now.

LINDELL: No, no. Would that bother you?

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): Of course I would.

LINDELL: OK. Then why do you think I keep going? Do you think I like getting a check.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Lindell invited the media and cyber experts to the symposium to vet his claims. We went along and brought Harri Hursti a world renowned cyber and voting machines expert.

(on-camera): If you see something in there, if you see some data, that does seem legit, that does show that there was some sort of fraud, you're ready to investigate it, right?

HARRI HURSTI, ELECTRONIC VOTING SECURITY EXPERT: Absolutely. I will follow the evidence wherever the evidence will go.

LINDELL: This was attacked, our -- the whole technology was attacked.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): So the conference was supposed to begin about an hour ago. But Lindell is having some problems with streaming live the event on his website. He's claiming without any evidence that it's because of an attack that his systems have been attacked.

LINDELL: There's a catch of cyber attacks every day, as you can see.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): And it went downhill from there. Lindell ultimately didn't produce the data to prove his claim the election was stolen by China.

TONY BAKER, ATTENDED SYMPOSIUM: I think the guy makes a wonderful pillow. But I wish some of this information would have been organized a little better.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): Were you given any data at all, from the 2020 election, anything useful. Anything that would show any sort of fraud?

HURSTI: We were not given any kind of raw data, which we would even be able to ask to start to look in that.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): But if your stuff is legit, if the data is legit, wouldn't it be better for you to hand it over to as many cyber experts as possible?

LINDELL: you know what I'll give you the answer, because I've been told that they can go out there and corrupt it and make fake stuff and put fake news out. So I don't need your people to go out and factor the evidence and put out a, Mike Lindell is a conspiracy.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): But you haven't seen for months, media, experts, everybody come see the data.

LINDELL: We're showing it right on screen right now. So you can sit here and do a hit piece. When it's on screen right now.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): To your knowledge was anything on those screens proof of Lindell's claims that the election had been stolen.

HURSTI: Based on everything we've found that is meaningless. There was nothing even compare to draw any conclusions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm not a computer guy. I don't know what most of this stuff means. But I've been researching this election since November 3. But the CNN's of the world, you guys need to start reporting this and stop fact checking it.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): In case you needed more proof, this is a sham Ron Watkins spoke remotely at the conference for hours.


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): He was allegedly behind the QAnon movement according to a HBO documentary, an allegation he denies.

LINDELL: Do you understand, all I need is for all those experts to say, yes it's from the 2020 election.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): But that's --

LINDELL: That's all you need --

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): That's not proven the election was rigged, aren't?

LINDELL: Yes, I have that prove with my people that we're bringing the Supreme Court. I don't need the media drive in the near chip (ph) before my case to the Supreme Court.

HURSTI: We expected a huge pile of data which we couldn't -- which we wouldn't be able to understand and how it can be evidence we didn't expect there's no pile of anything.

O'SULLIVAN (on-camera): There's not even a pile of bullshit here. There's just a pile of nothing.

HURSTI: There's only pile of nothing.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): No evidence of election fraud here, but plenty of promotions for pillows and other products.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bathrobes, slippers, pajamas, bath mats. So go look at what you like. There's so much cool stuff.


COOPER: Oh, Donie, where does dear Mike Lindell go from here?

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, well, he's still got a lot of pillows to sell Anderson. So he's still got that going for him. But look, I mean, as you saw there, this event was so farcical, bizarre, wacky. I mean, it is laughable --

COOPER: It looked hot in there. He was sweating a lot. He looked very uncomfortable. And where those slot machines like pushed to the side somewhere?

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, I was trying to figure out if the slot machines were also rigged, I was trying to get the cyber experts to tell us something about that.

COOPER: Who this people in the audience? Like what did they expect? I'm fascinated that they were disappointed.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, I mean, and here's the thing, right? Even the biggest supporters of Lindell, even the biggest believers in the big lie, who really wanted this to all come true this week. I mean, Lindell has been talking about this for months, for weeks. Even they were disappointed that Lindell couldn't even show, you know, even a shred of evidence you know to support these claims --

COOPER: (INAUDIBLE). O'SULLIVAN: -- that he is pushing for so, so, so long. Well, doesn't mean it's all going to go away. Of course not as we know what the big lie it will continue. Lindell will be back I'm sure tomorrow with somewhat a bright idea.

COOPER: I'm still -- I still don't know if he's still suing me. He was suing me for a while. I don't know if he's suing me still. Donie O'Sullivan, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Up next, the CDC advisory panel prepares for possible vote tomorrow on third doses for millions of Americans. We'll talk it over Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And the latest on the mask battles as schools reopen.