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Back to School Battles Erupt over Mask Mandates; Doctors who Studied One Million Students say Universal Masking Works; One Person Stabbed at COVID Protest Outside Los Angeles City Hall. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 14, 2021 - 19:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Tonight the president deploying more troops to Afghanistan as the Taliban seize more ground and America scrambles to get its allies out of Kabul. As the situation there quickly unravels, CNN gets exclusive access to a former U.S. base that is now home to Taliban fighters.

Meantime, the death toll in Haiti is climbing after a powerful earthquake. At least one hospital reportedly is overwhelmed with patients.

And another judge in Texas is defying the governor by ordering students, staff, and visitors to mask up in county schools.

I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM on what is shaping up to be a very busy Saturday evening.

Additional U.S. troops heading to Afghanistan this weekend, at the same time Taliban militants there appear on track to retake the entire country. President Biden is sending 5,000 more forces to Afghanistan. He says the added troops are to ensure, quote, "an orderly and safe drawdown as they help Americans get out." But millions of Afghans are desperate to escape the escalation of violence in their country, as the Taliban take over more ground at a speed that has jolted officials in the Biden administration.

Five more capital cities fell to the Taliban in just the last 24 hours. Now 22 of the country's 34 provincial capitals are under Taliban control. Only two major cities, Kabul and Jalalabad, remain under the Afghan government.

Take a look. This timelapse from the "Long War Journal" shows the speed the Taliban gained territory. See the red spread starting in mid-April after the president announced the U.S. withdrawal.

Last hour I spoke with Democratic Congressman Jason Crow from Colorado, he's a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now on the Armed Services Committee. He says what is happening is heartbreaking but isn't willing to second-guess President Biden's strategy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Yes, we are not without risk in Afghanistan. There's no doubt about that. We're seeing the consequence of this. And, you know, I'm going to reserve judgment on the manner in which this withdrawal happened until we can actually look at this with some separation and perspective and actually have the information we need to have a discussion about it. But the bottom line is, there are threats everywhere. Everywhere around the world.

China, Russia, Iran, South America, Central America, terrorism, narco- terrorism, cyberattacks, ransomware attacks. We face threats that we have never even imagined that we would have faced just five or 10 years ago. And the president has to make decisions about how we spend our blood, our sweat, our treasure, and our limited resources, to address those threats. And that's a hard thing to do. And yes, I am heartbroken about what's happening here. But there are tradeoffs to be had.


BROWN: I want to now talk to CNN military analyst and retired Air Force colonel, Cedric Leighton. Also here political scientist Ian Bremmer, who's president of both GZERO Media as well as the Eurasia Group.

Thank you both for coming on.

Colonel, let's start with you. What does it say to you about the situation on the ground that the president is bringing in nearly double the number of troops he initially deployed last week?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I tell you, Pam, it's really a crisis situation. You have something here that is extremely dangerous for the people on the ground. It also shows that what we're dealing with is really a way in which we've got to do something more to get people out, you know, in terms of Afghan interpreters. So what we have here is from a strategic standpoint a very difficult situation.

We have a problem that in some ways was of our own making, but in other ways was a result of ineptitude and corruption in the Afghan military. And the resulting mess that we're dealing with now is one in which there are really no good way out, and that's what we see here. We have a problem that is partially of our own making, but it is a very difficult way to extract ourselves from this problem, and we have to find a way very quickly to do that because it is a situation that was rapidly spinning out of control at the moment.

BROWN: And on that note, Ian, the president said this when he announced these 5,000 additional troops. Quote, "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."

Do you agree? How much blame do you assign President Biden for this, when Afghan soldiers are not fighting, largely, but fleeing?

[19:05:07] IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP AND GZERO MEDIA: I don't assign blame to President Biden for the strategic assessment that the status quo was not going to hold for another one, two, five more years and that they had to either expand troop presence or they had to make a decision to leave. But I absolutely fault him on execution. The fact that we have in the Pentagon the best scenario planning for military presence in the world, we have 20 years of experience on the ground, and they clearly were completely caught flat-footed and had no plan in place for the Taliban advancing as quickly as they did.

For the fact that the Afghans weren't prepared to fight, they instead bled away once the United States made it very clear that we're not defending them anymore. It's unconscionable, in my view, that the United States is now playing catch-up for a decision that was made on our timeline. That's the problem. It's an execution failure. And anyone that faces this on the ground in Afghanistan as a consequence of not being prepared, that's something this administration has to speak for.

BROWN: So then, Colonel, how could this drawdown have been executed better?

LEIGHTON: Well, first of all, Ian is right. You know, the planning should have been done in a very thorough manner. You know, we hear reports that they started planning for this back in May. They should have been planning for this way before then because we knew that we were going to be leaving Afghanistan one day. But the other part of it is, look, say you start in May, you also have to have imagination.

You have to understand that the Taliban has a mission in mind. They have a goal in mind. And we have a Taliban that is very zealous in their posture. And what we're looking at is failure to understand that zealotry, if I can use that word, and actually use that to their advantage. They've done a very good job, just from a military standpoint, of gaining territory. And we have to account for that, and we failed to account for that. And had we accounted for it, we would have been better prepared for this.

BROWN: You know, you talk about the execution, Ian. And I was speaking to Jason Crow, Congressman Jason Crow, who also said that he certainly didn't expect the speed by which the Taliban have taken over Afghanistan. And that's what you're hearing from a lot of people.

To your point earlier, how did the U.S., the White House, underestimate the Taliban and their ability to do this, to take over the ground that Afghanistan so quickly -- why do you think that happened?

BREMMER: It's more they overestimated the willingness of the Afghan military to fight when the United States was clearly no longer going to provide them direct military support. And what bothers me here is the fact that Biden sort of owns this decision by himself. The United States has been fighting with our allies for 20 years now. When we went into Afghanistan, we asked them to join us. They all did. NATO came together. We should not be leaving by ourselves. It would have been so easy for

Biden, the administration, when they did the policy review on Afghanistan, to have done it multilaterally with the allies that are fighting with us on the ground. I don't want it to be this easy for Biden's enemies at home and internationally to be able to undermine him for what should have been a decision taken jointly.

And by the way, leaving Afghanistan is popular among Republicans, Democrats, and independents. This should have been a lay-up for Biden. And instead, it's becoming his first major foreign policy crisis.

BROWN: It's interesting, you say that the problem was overestimating the willingness of the Afghan military. But we've seen this show before, we saw it with Iraq. A lot of it comes down to will and morale. And it's just clearly most of the Afghan soldiers on the ground there don't have the will or the resources to fight back is what we're seeing.

From a national security standpoint, Colonel, what is the concern for you?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think from a macro perspective, Pamela, what we're looking at is a vacuum in Afghanistan. This is going to be a place where the possibility certainly exists that al Qaeda, ISIS, or a similar group could use Afghanistan as a springboard for attacks in other countries. So that's the traditional view of everything.

The other part of this, though, is Afghanistan once again becomes a playground for all of the regional powers in the area. You know, whether you're looking at Iran, Pakistan, India, even Russia and China. And each of these countries has an interest in Afghanistan. Each of these countries has worked in various ways to either support what the U.S. is doing or, more importantly, to thwart what the U.S. was doing. And that's particularly true of Pakistan. And I think what we'll see with the advent of a Taliban regime in Afghanistan, you will have a chance where the Pakistanis will believe that they're vindicated in their efforts to control that country.


But I don't think they'll succeed. I think the Taliban will either turn on them or there will be so much factionalism in Afghanistan that it will become a very big mess for the entire neighborhood over there.

BROWN: All right, Colonel Cedric Leighton, Ian Bremmer, thank you both for your analysis and perspective on this.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Pamela, thank you.

BROWN: CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is right now in Afghanistan. She got a chilling look at a former U.S. base there that is now the home of Taliban fighters. Here's her exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what remains of the U.S. presence in much of Afghanistan, the hollowed-out skeletons of sprawling military bases now under the control of the Taliban.

Once there were hundreds of U.S. and NATO troops at FOB Andar in Ghazni Province. The last Americans left a couple of years ago but their memories still lurks, ghostlike.

(On-camera): It's just so strange to see this, you know.

(Voice-over): The Taliban granted access to CNN, along with award- winning Afghan filmmaker, Najibullah Quraishi, keen to show off the spoils of war.

(On-camera): So we're just arriving at another U.S. base and already I can see a large number of military vehicles over there.

(Voice-over): According to the Taliban, Afghan forces here surrendered three weeks ago when their food ran out, leaving weapons and ammunition and more.

(On-camera): When the Americans were here, were you and your men attacking this base a lot?

MUHAMMED ARIF MUSTAFA, TALIBAN COMMANDER (through translator): Yes, many times we attacked this base when America was here. We did operations. We were using IEDs. The Americans had their helicopters, weapons and tanks on the ground. We Mujahideen resisted very well.

WARD (voice-over): Now they roam through what's left of the tactical operation center. Anything of value will be stripped down and sold.

(On-camera): Walking through what's left of these American bases, you have to ask yourself, what was it all for?

(Voice-over): America's great experiment with nation building now vanished into dust.

MUSTAFA (through translator): It's our belief that one day Mujahideen will have victory and Islamic law will come not to just Afghanistan but all over the world. We are not in a hurry. We believe it will come one day. Jihad will not end until the last day.

WARD (voice-over): It's a chilling admission from a group that claims it wants peace, despite continuing a bloody offensive.

(Voice-over): Since the U.S. began its withdrawal in May, the militants have advanced across the country at an alarming rate on the backs of American pickup trucks. On the Ghazni Highway, we pass base after base, all flying the militants' flag.

At the Andar bazaar, it is a similar sight. The days of underground insurgency are over and the Taliban is poised to reestablish the very emirate America once came to destroy. But Taliban governor Mawlavey Kamil insists the group has changed since then. MAWLAVEY KAMIL, TALIBAN GOVERNOR, ANDAR DISTRICT (through translator):

The difference between that Taliban and this Taliban is that the Taliban of 2001 were new. And now, this Taliban has experience, disciplined. Our activities are going well. We are obeying our leaders.

WARD (on-camera): A lot of people are concerned that if the Taliban takes power again, women's rights will move backwards. How can you guarantee that women's rights will be protected?

KAMIL (through translator): We assure this to people all over the world, especially the people of Afghanistan. Islam has given rights to everyone equally. Women have their own rights. How much Islam has given rights to women, we will give them that much.

WARD (voice-over): That is clearly open for interpretation. Next to the mosque, we find a classroom of young girls. But their teacher says they will only receive religious education and will not attend regular school.

At night, I am separated from my male colleagues and sleep in the woman's part of the house with the children.

(On-camera): I've been talking to some of the women in this room and I promised that I wouldn't show any of their faces. But it's interesting because, you know, the Taliban talks a lot about how it's changed and girls can go to school now. But I asked if any of these girls will be going to school and I was told, "Absolutely not. Girls don't go to school."


And when I said why don't girls go to school, they said, "Taliban says it's bad."

(Voice-over): Here, what the Taliban says goes. This is now what Afghanistan's future looks like, far from what the U.S. once envisioned and what so many Afghans dreamed of, as the Taliban pushes on towards an all but certain victory.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.


BROWN: Up next, more than 300 people are reported dead and the numbers are expected to rise after an earthquake in Haiti. I'll ask the country's former prime minister just how bad things could get.

Also ahead, school openings so far revealing that the science is right. Masking works. New data tonight on exactly how much face coverings can cut the spread of COVID. We'll be right back.


[19:20:08] BROWN: A tragic blow to a nation already mired in deep crisis. Haiti has declared a state of emergency and raised the official death toll after this morning's devastating earthquake. A 7.2 magnitude. Details are so far just trickling out of the western hemisphere's porous nation. 304 people are confirmed dead, with every expectation that number will climb much higher.

Well, for now the most urgent fears are for the living. At least 1800 people are injured. One local hospital says it is overwhelmed with patients and has set up tents to handle the overflow. The U.S. Geological Survey says high casualties are probable.

Haiti has already endured immense hardship. The country's president was assassinated just a month ago, adding to the political turmoil. And Haiti is still recovering from the earthquake in 2010 that killed as many as 300,000 people.

Let's get the very latest from CNN correspondent Patrick Oppmann who is following the latest from Havana, Cuba.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pam, scores of Haitians are dead following a powerful earthquake that rocked that nation and the death toll is expected to rise. Haiti's government says that there are whole areas that are still off limits, towns that they have not been able to reach because of the roads, have simply disappeared, are unpassable.

But we've seen images of buildings collapsing on people, people running for their lives from their homes, as well, people receiving medical attention essentially on cots outside in the open air because it's not safe to go back inside as the aftershocks continue to rock Haiti.

And a new danger on the horizon. Tropical Storm Grace has swarmed in, expected to pass over Haiti bringing heavy rains in the next several days that will not only complicate search and rescue efforts, but could lead to dangerous mudslides. So by no means has the danger passed -- Pam.

BROWN: Certainly hasn't. Patrick Oppmann, thank you very much.

And joining me now a former prime minister of Haiti, Laurent Lamothe.

Thank you so much for making time for us. What is your reaction upon hearing the news about today's earthquake in Haiti?

LAURENT LAMOTHE, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF HAITI: Well, it's beyond devastating. I mean, this is the second earthquake, and this one is actually stronger than the first earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. And this is the second one. The only thing is this one is in the southern part of Haiti, not in Port-au-Prince. But it's a -- you know, it's a catastrophe of major proportions.

BROWN: What does Haiti need now as it reels from this earthquake and prepares for this storm heading its way?

LAMOTHE: Well, I would say a couple of things. One, the biggest problem not only is certainly emergency assistance, but it's a logistical nightmare we're going through because the four departments that are hit by the earthquake today have a huge issue. There is only one road leading to them, and that road is being dominated and controlled by gangs in the Martissant area. So basically those four departments are basically cut off from the rest of the country.

So one of the biggest certainly challenges will be to free up the access to the departments to bring assistance, aid, and a lot of help needed to rescue the victims of this catastrophe.

BROWN: Yes, I remember after the 2010 earthquake what a logistical nightmare it was in Port-au-Prince. And the roads being closed, and, you know, issues with getting in and out of the airport there. And as you point out there, a different kind of set of challenges going on right now. What would you like to see the U.S. do?

LAMOTHE: Well, I think a couple of things. The U.S. can help in assisting the police in clearing the gangs through a police assistance program or helping the police with equipment, with manpower, you know, for a short-term basis, in order to bring assistance to the troubled areas, and helping with the emergency relief, search and rescue, you know, hospitals. I mean, we're having issues certainly with the victims. So this is -- this would be the number one priority is the assistance and security.

Clear the roads in order to bring relief and assistance to the injured and to the victims. This would be an enormous assistance from the U.S. and certainly, you know, there is a coalition of international agencies that are working through Project Medishare. There is a coalition between the University of Miami, Project Medishare, the Center for Haitian Studies.


There is, you know, several people getting together, but certainly looking at helping Haiti would be, you know, supporting that, that effort, Project Medishare. And is the Web site to do so.

BROWN: All right. Well, thank you for sharing that. After the 2010 earthquake, do you think Haiti was better prepared for this earthquake in terms of getting back up to, you know, what the building code should be or so forth? Or just given all that it has to endure and the lack of resources, you know, that just wasn't possible?

LAMOTHE: Well, the difference was -- the difference in location. This one hit the south of Haiti. And that was not really touched during the 2010 earthquake. And this one is a stronger, much stronger earthquake. And it went into an area that's more impoverished. So the challenge is double in this case.

Now, what needs to happen in the future, certainly, is to, you know, build with codes. Like basically a lot of areas in Port-au-Prince has -- is trying to following right now. But it's going to be a long-term challenge. You know, Haiti's biggest challenge, of course, is, you know, the precarity of, you know, its economy. It's certainly a poverty issue and something that has to be tackled long-term.

BROWN: Just one hardship after another for the Haitian people. But I know seeing it firsthand after the 2010 earthquake, that they are resilient and courageous.

Laurent Lamothe, thank you for joining us.

LAMOTHE: Thank you very much.

BROWN: Well, local leaders across the country are taking on their governors who try to issue mandates against mandates. Dallas is now telling residents to mask up, despite an order from the governor not to. How will this play out in the classroom? The chief of Dallas Public Schools joins us live next.



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: In Hays County, Texas, which includes part of Austin, a judge is defying now anti-mask mandate Governor Greg Abbott. The judge is ordering students, staff, and visitors to wear masks in county schools. It's one of many skirmishes across the country over face coverings as school districts battle their own governors.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We're going to do whatever we can to vindicate the rights of parents, and make sure that parents are in the driver's seat when it comes to the health, education, and welfare of their kids. These should not be decreed by the government, this should be something that a parent is ultimately making the decision on.

ROSALIND OSGOOD, CHAIR, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA SCHOOL BOARD: We feel strongly that the lives of our students and staff are invaluable, and we are not willing to play Russian Roulette with their lives or take a risk of losing people because we have people in schools without masks.


BROWN: Well, leave it up to the parents? Well, they are bitterly divided themselves. We are seeing those for and those against masking mandates clash at rallies and meetings.


HOLLY ADAMS, PRO-MASKING PARENT: I am a nurse practitioner and I work at the hospital, and I see patients on the ventilator of all ages all the time right now. And it's disturbing that somebody would send their kid to school without a mask.

LEIGH-ALLYN BAKER, ANTI-MASKING PARENT: I would never put them in a mask because their brain needs oxygen to grow, which the neurologists can confirm.

Anyway, the real part of the clown show is that you all think that you actually have the authority to mandate this.


BROWN: Michael Hinojosa is the Superintendent for the Dallas Independent School District. His district is requiring masks, a judge recently upheld the mandate.

Thank you for joining us, Michael, a year and a half into the pandemic, did you imagine you'd be battling Governor Abbott over protecting your students?

MICHAEL HINOJOSA, SUPERINTENDENT, DALLAS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: No, in fact, I thought this year, we would be back to some kind of normalcy. But almost 10 days ago, things started turning for the worst. And all of a sudden, we had to make some important decisions that oh my goodness, here we go again, but this one is much more serious.

And so, we had to take matters into our own hands and it's been very difficult. But it's been the right thing to do, according to our community and our staff and the people who have supported us on this decision so far.

BROWN: So why did you make the decision to essentially defy the Governor and impose a mask mandate?

HINOJOSA: Well, things started turning very gray very quickly, and we had heard a story by a doctor from UT Southwestern that if you have a mask, it helps give you more -- another layer of protection even if you have the vaccine. It almost insulates you from it.

So, once I heard that report and things started getting worse, almost on an hourly basis, we decided to go forward. I notified my School Board, and we put a plan together. And so far, four days in, every student, over 20,000 students have already started. We have another 140 coming on Monday and so far, everyone has complied with our request in the Dallas School District.

However, we have a case in front of the Supreme Court. Two hours ago, our County Executive had to turn in information and so, we expect the Texas Supreme Court to rule maybe even as early as tomorrow as to how I'm going to operate the school district on Monday morning.

So, you're on the cusp of some significant breaking news either way.

BROWN: All right. Well, we'll be watching it closely.

More than 4,000 students, 280 staff members in Hillsborough County, Florida Public Schools are in isolation or quarantined due to either testing positive for COVID or being exposed to a COVID case according to a post on the district's website. Are you concerned that you're going to face a similar situation?


HINOJOSA: I've been very proud. We have a dashboard that is on our website, and because we have masks, we've had less than 15 cases so far. I was talking to a suburban superintendent, he had 15 cases Friday on his campus because they did not have masks. And so yes, I'm very concerned those numbers of Hillsborough County and districts like that are our size that are in the urban areas where there a lot of people, it could escalate quickly.

And so we need every tool in our toolkit to try to handle these matters. And so, we hope the Governor at least gives a temporary reprieve on this -- not allowing us to have masks.

BROWN: I'm curious, what are you hearing from parents about the mask mandate? I mean, we just saw a video of parents getting really fired up over this on both sides of the issue?

HINOJOSA: Well, actually, we get nothing but support so far. We've been very proud of our parents. We've been communicating with them a lot. But I'll know a lot more because some of our more middle class parents are going to start showing up on Monday. And so far, we've had no issues with parents.

I've had one teacher file a grievance. I had another teacher telling me she wish she hadn't come to the district. But we have -- we have 11,000 teachers. So overwhelmingly, we've had support in Dallas ISD thus far, but stay tuned because anything could happen.

BROWN: We are staying tuned. Michael Hinojosa, thank you so much for your time tonight.

HINOJOSA: Thank you for having me.

BROWN: Well, kids need school, there is no debate about that. That's something that we can all agree on. But school districts across the country are already having to close down as we were talking about and switch to virtual learning because of outbreaks some within a matter of days. With vaccines still not approved for students younger than 12, masks are the best protection we've got right now, and research shows just how effective they can be.

CNN health reporter, Jacqueline Howard joins me now with more.

Jacqueline, arguments against masks fall apart when you look at this science, right?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: That's right, Pamela. The science is there, and that is why it's so sad really to see a lot of tension and debate and political tension really around wearing masks in school.

I mean, back in January, a preprint study found looking at two schools that when wearing mask was in -- wearing masks, excuse me, were not followed, 72 percent of COVID-19 transmission in the school was associated with not following mask policies. So that means 72 percent of COVID-19 spread in schools was tied to not wearing masks.

And then more recently, Pamela, in June, researchers in North Carolina published a report looking at schools there that found masks reduced transmission of COVID-19, even when people were not distancing, whether people were six feet apart, three feet apart, or zero feet apart, masks still worked in reducing transmission.

And that's not all that was found in that report, Pamela. Here is one of the researchers, Dr. Daniel Benjamin.


DR. DANIEL BENJAMIN, PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE, DUKE HEALTH: It started in the fall, and then we replicated the study during the winter surge. And through that time, we showed that masking was preventing transmission of COVID in schools. It drove it down to the point where a child coming in with COVID had less than a one percent chance of giving it to their peers or to a teacher.


HOWARD: So you see, Pamela, the research is there. The science is clear, but there is still this debate that's going on, which is really, really disheartening to see.

BROWN: And I want to point out, this study was done before the rise of the delta variant. Do we have any idea of masks are still this effective against communities spread in schools? And was there a specific type of mask they used in this study? Or was it any kind of mask, do you know?

HOWARD: So the studies were really looking at, you know, cloth masks, paper surgical masks, so whatever masks students were wearing at the time, and you're right, Pamela, there is this question of with the delta variant being more transmissible, does that change what is seen in the data?

Well, C.D.C. Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, she has said that the agency tracked COVID-19 spread over the summer in summer schools, during summer camps, and now, they are still tracking COVID-19 spread as schools are opening. And she says this data still shows that masks are working. Have a listen.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: The places that are having the problem, the places that are having disease that is transmitted in the schools are the places that aren't taking the prevention strategies, the places that aren't masking.

The places that you're seeing kids in the hospital, the footage of kids in a hospital are all places that are not taking the mitigation strategies to keep our children safe.


HOWARD: So you see, Pamela, it still shows masks are working and not wearing masks is tied to COVID-19 spread.

BROWN: All right, there you have it. Jacqueline Howard, thank you so much.

And still ahead on this busy Saturday evening, violence at the scene of a protest over vaccines in Los Angeles. CNN's Paul Vercammen is there.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, we will give you a brief look about what we're going to talk about a few moments here. We had several hundred anti-vaccine demonstrators show up here at LA City Hall. One man says anti-tyranny. We will give you the update in just a few minutes.



BROWN: This just in tonight. Chaos outside City Hall in Los Angeles where the LAPD is investigating a stabbing that broke out amid anti- vaccination mandate protest there. CNN's Paul Vercammen just got to the scene. It's a rowdy crowd. What is going on there, Paul?

VERCAMMEN: Well, there were several hundred demonstrators who showed up, we're going to talk to them in a moment. As you articulated, some violence did erupt from what we understand from the LAPD, someone who was among these protesters over here who are against any sort of mask or vaccine mandates, one of those demonstrators was stabbed. We understand that they are in the hospital, possibly stabbed in the torso in stable condition.

I'm going to get right to it, anonymous, you have a lot to say. You showed up here in LA today, and tell us what it is that you're trying to drive home right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, this is not political anymore. This is not religious. Every political party left and right, every religion, every class, everyone is coming together for human rights. The clinical trials are not done yet. So, how can you fire people in the United States who have worked for decades, and they are scared to take this experimental vaccine?

It doesn't matter what you believe in, you have to respect everybody's rights. So, we are here to speak out against these mandates, which there have been many vaccine breakthrough cases. So, how are you protected really from the vaccine?

Everybody has the right to do what they want to do with their body, and we are here to assert our American rights and there were not hundreds of people, there were over a thousand today, and I've got to say that Antifa, that stands for anti-fascism. Well, my son right here says vaccine mandates are fascist.

So how come the liberal fascists are trying to fight with us when they should be on our side? They are the ones instigating harassment and terror and violence. Antifa should be with us, because we are fighting against fascism. And if you wear a mask, I respect you. If you want to get vaccinated,

I respect you. But you should have the right to choose what to do with your body. I should not show my papers to go to the store. This is not Nazi Germany. This is not China. This is not North Korea. This is America.

VERCAMMEN: Well, you heard it. She didn't want to give her name. That was anonymous and she alluded to -- see, there were counter demonstrators down there, a cluster of them. But that's the latest here from LA City Hall.

Right now, we should note, this is a peaceful demonstration. Although these are not exactly singing and dancing -- Back to you, Pam.

BROWN: Okay. Thanks so much, Paul. And we just want to note that the major clinical trials are done for Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines, but there are clinical trials ongoing for children and so we should find out more about that soon, but I just want to clear up that misinformation.

Meantime, they are in Congress, but getting kicked off social media. Tonight, we're shining a spotlight on elected leaders getting in trouble for spreading misinformation on the internet instead of helping stop the spread of COVID.

Join CNN for "We Love New York City: The Homecoming Concert." This once in a lifetime concert event next Saturday starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern exclusively on CNN.



BROWN: Well, the war on COVID like any war is full of propaganda, lies that are spread to confuse and stop the fight for what's right. In this case, urging science to survive the pandemic.

I was among those reporting on Russia's efforts more than five months ago to create COVID disinformation.

But for the record, we should never see disinformation campaigns aimed at our own citizens by the very people we elect to serve us, which brings us to Republican Senator Rand Paul. He is in the middle of a week-long suspension from YouTube for posting a video claiming that masks are ineffective in fighting coronavirus.

The video argued without citing evidence that most over the counter masks don't prevent infection, including cloth masks.

Also in the social media penalty box this weekend, G.O.P. Congresswoman and one time QAnon advocate Marjorie Taylor Greene. She falsely tweeted that the vaccines were quote, "failing." Not true. Well, that was enough to put her account into read-only mode.

But each of them will be back at full strength by Tuesday. These are close to slaps on the wrist to social media gets lately, while those in Congress merrily so doubt, even with ICUs again at capacity even for children.

Senator Paul was calling his suspension a badge of honor. Why wouldn't he? After all, he is probably not worried about what YouTube calls a first strike violation. His Republican colleague, Senator Ron Johnson served a week long YouTube suspension for posting dubious treatments for COVID back in June, you may recall that.

Well that video is gone, but his YouTube channel is alive and well.

How many more times will we see disinformation find a global spotlight however brief through our elected leaders? Dr. Fauci can go to Capitol Hill and get right back in Senator Paul's face, but how does society say no more to conspiracy theories that used to spread only by someone handing out flyers on a street corner?


BROWN: For the record, it is okay to ask questions about the vaccine or masks or anything else. We get to read the data and listen to the actual experts. But like shouting fire in a crowded theater, the people we trust with power have no business pushing conspiracies online that could harm public health without any evidence to back it up.

Perhaps they should take a lesson from fellow Republican Congressman Barry Moore, who faced controversy for tweets about the Capitol riot that either hinted or invoked a racial component.

Congressman Moore ended up deleting his account.

A better idea for them might be to listen to the Republicans who are following the science like Senator Mitch McConnell, who is happy to remind you what happens without vaccines, or a certain former G.O.P. Governor, now using his social media to call out disinformation spreaders hiding behind cries of freedom.


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: Screw you freedom because with freedom comes applications and responsibilities.


BROWN: Well as the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, thousands of Afghans who helped Americans over the two decades of war are left in limbo. An army veteran who has been trying to get an interpreter and his family to the U.S. joins us live to talk about the struggle, up next.