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Erin Burnett Outfront

13 GOP Lawmakers Ask to Vote by Proxy on COVID Relief Bill; All Scheduled to Speak at CPAC; House Voting on $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill Tonight, Dem Leaders Say They Can Only Afford to Lose 3 Dem Votes; Biden Won't Punish Saudi Crown Prince for Role in Khashoggi Murder, Dem to Introduce Bill That Will; D.A. Investigating Trump Interviews Michael Cohen; FDA Panel Recommends J&J Vaccine, Likely Available Next Week. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 26, 2021 - 19:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Brian Todd reporting a very important information. Brian, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I hope you have a nice weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, 13 Republicans asking not to vote in person on Biden's COVID bill tonight, citing a public health emergency. That emergency, well, it has something to do with Trump, not so much public health.

Plus, President Biden not punishing the Saudi Crown Prince after an intelligence report says the Crown Prince was responsible for the dismemberment and vile murder of a Saudi journalist. Didn't he promised to be tougher on the Saudis?

And inside the Manhattan DA's investigation into Trump, now has Trump's taxes and Michael Cohen is set to speak to investigators for the sixth time in the investigation. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, caught playing hooky, as the House votes tonight on the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, a bill that will affect hundreds of millions of Americans, 13 Republicans who have asked not to vote in-person, because of what they say is a 'ongoing public health emergency'.

Well, that emergency it turns out is not COVID, that public health emergency that they're talking about. That emergency that they're talking about is CPAC. The Conservative Political Action Committee. They're heading down to bow down at the altar of Trump in Florida.

Yes. You see that there. That really is a statue of Trump at the event. They've put it up there. It's on display in his honor, in his favorite color gold. And like many dear leader type statue, of course, it is not made of

real gold. And the artist who made it says it was actually made in response to art mocking Trump, like this. So that's what they're going down to see.

We've learned that most of the 13 Republicans who are not planning to be in Washington to vote in the COVID bill are instead going to be with their statue. They're already in Orlando or expected to head there for the largest gathering of conservatives. One of them is major Trump ally, Matt Gaetz. OK.

So citing a public health emergency, heading to be with Trump in the statue. He had this to say about being in Florida instead of in Washington for the major vote tonight.


REP. MATT GAETZ (D-FL): Every day I'm a Florida man and it is good to be home. Florida is like an amazing woman; adventurous, beautiful, mostly sunny, sometimes a little crazy and always here to encourage and support success.


BURNETT: Putting aside the substance of that, let's let you ruminate upon that yourself, Gaetz says it's good to be home. Only it was just last summer that Gaetz railed against the rule that allowed lawmakers not to vote in-person, which of course is exactly what he's now doing himself.


GAETZ: Pelosi and the Democrat leadership have put into our rules an allowance for voting without members of Congress being present. They can do so by giving their proxy to another member of Congress. Anything that gets the representatives of the people further away from the decision-making process is something that I do not support.


BURNETT: Well, I guess, except for when it came to himself on this particular vote. OK. But he's not the only one with such great hypocrisy, Congressman Madison Cawthorn, who's voting by proxy, so he too can speak in Orlando also tweeted last summer, "Leaders show up no matter how uncertain the times are. The Democrats are cowards for hiding and not showing up to work. I guess we can label them as 'nonessential personnel'?"

That one is sort of priceless. OK. I guess why would hope you would say the same things about yourself then to Congressman Cawthorn and Gaetz and their fellow no-show Republicans. I guess you're saying your nonessential personnel and cowards. Perhaps you should show up for work, cast vote however you will, instead of spending your time down with the golden fake Trump's statue.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill. Manu, how are Republicans justifying claiming a health emergency to go to CPAC? Obviously, this has nothing to do with the health emergency.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, pretty simple, Erin, they're not. In fact, we reached out to all 13 Republicans, 12 of them did not respond to our requests for comment. One of them did, a spokesman for Darrell Issa who contended that he is complying by House rules and criticizing the Democrats' COVID relief plan.

But it's very clear here that Republicans has spent a lot of last year criticizing Nancy Pelosi for putting in place these rules that allow members to essentially designate another member to vote on their behalf and in their direction. They said that this is untoward and even unconstitutional process that they sued over.


Now they're using it also misusing this process, what the rule says or what they're supposed to sign and they did sign is a letter that is filed with the House clerk that actually says this, Erin. It says, "I am unable to physically attend proceedings in the House chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency."

And as we see there is no public health emergency that is preventing them from coming. Some of them have already spoken today, some of them expected to speak tomorrow. And today, of course, a significant day. Lots of votes happening on Capitol Hill, big one happening tonight.

But these members have made their choice here. They're going down to speak to their activist base to boost their own profiles as well.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, certainly, right. They're not even pretending. Not even pretending to be actually compliant with the rule whether by letter or by spirit. So Manu, obviously this boat on the COVID relief bill is going to be pretty tight. I mean, is it going to pass?

RAJU: It's going to be very close, razor thin margin. Democrats have a very narrow majority. The House Majority Whip, Jim Clyburn, who counts the votes told me that he can expect he can only lose three Democratic votes in order for this to pass because we do expect all Republicans who are attending to vote against this plan.

But he told me that he expects some Democrats, maybe one, maybe two, to vote against it as well. That means it could pass potentially by the narrowest of margins tonight. And if it does, then it goes to the Senate. That's when the Senate - they're expected to strip out that $15 minimum wage, because it does not comply with the Senate rules and the process they are employing but they'll pass this bill ultimately in the House tonight. We'll see if they can get it through the Senate on just a party line vote and the goal is to get to the President's desk by March 14th when so many jobless benefits expire, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Manu.

OUTFRONT now, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield. So I appreciate your time, Kate. So House Majority Whip, Jim Clyburn, tell CNN that Democrats can only afford to lose three votes. He does not think all of the Democrats will vote for the bill tonight, so they're going to lose some but they only have three they can lose. Are you confident you have the votes to pass this?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, we see that across the country, the American people support this bill and we are extremely hopeful that it is going to pass the House tonight. We believe that it will. Again, you've got in the latest public polling, I think it's like 76 percent of Americans believe that the American rescue plan is necessary important.

In this bill, you've got direct checks. You have $1,400 to finish the job on getting $2,000 checks directly to people who need the most. You have money to get vaccines, to get our vaccination program up and running so that Americans can get shots in arms and we can get this virus under control. So this is critically important aid that's going to crush the virus. It's going to get our economy back on track.

And we are hopeful that the House is going to pass it tonight. There is no time to waste, as your colleague just said. We're going to hit the unemployment cliff on March 14th. And so we need to extend unemployment insurance to make sure that we're not leaving people unable to pay their bills and put food on the table. There's critical aid in this bill, it's urgently important that the House pass it tonight and then the Senate move quickly on it as well so that we can get this money out the door to the people who need it.

BURNETT: So, Kate, are you aware of any Republicans whether in the House or the Senate that plan to vote for the bill?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, that'll be up to them. Again, I think they'll be the ones will have to go home to their constituents and say, I voted against direct checks. I voted against money to get our schools reopened. I voted against money to help ensure that we can get shots in arms and that we can get this virus under control.

So I think for any Republican who votes no on this package, it's going to be a tough sell for them to go home to their district and explain to their constituents why they oppose this aid. We are certainly hopeful that Republicans will vote for it. I think people across the country expect their members of Congress to vote for it. But we'll see what they decide to do. So we are hopeful that the Congress will move quickly to pass this legislation.

BURNETT: OK. So some Democrats are pretty angry about part of this, the parliamentarian, like the Senate rules interpreter made the decision that the $15 minimum wage cannot go in the bill. That was the cause, so it's out.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar today said she is 'disappointed' in the White House specifically because you are not fighting the parliamentarians decision and she tweeted replaced the parliamentarian. Do you agree with that? Should that rule be tossed out? Should you be fighting it more?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, the President was also disappointed in that outcome. He supports a $15 minimum wage. He supported it for many years. He believes it's critical and that nobody in this country should work full time and live in poverty. So he was also disappointed in the outcome, but he respects the

Senate's process. He respects the parliamentarians' process. And we're going to work now to see what the best path forward is to try to get the $15 minimum wage pass. We're going to let the Senate work on that. We're going to let the Congress work on that.

But in the meantime, the thing that we can do immediately right now to help working people all across this country is passed this package, get this aid out the door to the people who need it.


That's the thing that we can do right now to help the most people across the country.

BURNETT: So I want to ask you also about the Jamal Khashoggi report today. The U.S. intelligence report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the brutal dismemberment, it was released. It reads, "We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi."

The Treasury Department today, they put sanctions on the Saudi force that carried this out and the former deputy head of the Saudi general intelligence for their role in the murder. But there is no direct punishment of MbS from President Biden. Why is this? Does this send a message to the world that the U.S. will tolerate this?

BEDINGFIELD: No. Let's be clear. This was a horrific crime that can never be tolerated. President Biden has been clear that he intends to have a very different relationship with Saudi Arabia than our predecessors did, than the previous administration did, one based on transparency and accountability.

We need to build a relationship to end the war in Yemen to stem the humanitarian crisis there. We need to be able to defend against Iran and its proxies. So he's been very clear with Saudi leadership that we're going to have a very different relationship than we did under the previous administration.

And look, the fact of the release of this report today is one-step forward in that way. It is one-step toward his commitment to transparency and accountability by making this information available.

BURNETT: And I understand that. Right. And that's true. It had not been put out, so you have a very fair point in saying that. But it is not exactly what he said himself when he was a candidate running for office. Here's what he said about the Crown Prince and Jamal Khashoggi.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered and I believe in the order of the Crown Prince. And I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them. We were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are. There's very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia. They have to held accountable.


BURNETT: OK. He's not making them a pariah. What's changed?

BEDINGFIELD: He has made clear to them and our administration has made clear up and down the line that this won't be tolerated. This will not be tolerated. And we've taken steps today, you noted Treasury and State are taking steps today to sanction individuals, to sanction networks who were involved with this horrific murder.

So steps clear and important steps have been taken to dictate that this is not something that we will tolerate. And President Biden was very clear today that this is not something that we will tolerate moving forward and a relationship ...

BURNETT: But to be clear there will not be anything done specifically to the Crown Prince as the U.S. intelligence has concluded he's responsible?

BEDINGFIELD: I think that we have made clear to the Saudis that we are taking actions here. They are well aware, I assure you, they are well aware that we are taking action here. And I think you'll continue to see potential steps from our administration moving forward. The President's been very clear. This was an unacceptable crime. He put forward as he promised. He made public the information surrounding it, which in and of itself is an important step. And his government, his administration is taking steps to sanction participants in this crime. So he's been very clear that this is not something that he will tolerate.

BURNETT: Kate, thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

BEDINGFIELD: Thanks for having me, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And next as Republicans flocked to CPAC, including those members of Congress I told you about, I'm going to speak to the former chair of CPAC, longtime Republican Congressman, why he says his old party is now nothing more than a cult.

Plus, the walls around Trump. His former fixer set to meet with Manhattan DA Cy Vance for a sixth time today. Vance's former top deputy is my guest.

And Dr. Fauci says Moderna is working on a booster for the South African variant. Are we now going to have to look at getting another shot for every single variant?



BURNETT: Tonight, Donald Trump front and center at CPAC, that big annual gathering for conservatives around the country. The group still embracing the former president despite his impeachment twice and helping to incite, of course, the deadly capitol insurrection. The attack on American democracy. Speaker after speaker showering Trump with glowing praise thus far.


DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: How is it going CPAC? Or I heard someone earlier phrases a little bit better, TPAC.

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, AMERICAN TELEVISION PERSONALITY: The Republican Party is being reborn, thanks to President Trump. The party of America First. The party of President Trump.

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): President Trump did something that has never been done in our lifetime. He stood up to all of establishment Washington and said no.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): They want him to go away. Let me tell you this right now, Donald J. Trump ain't going anywhere.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now from CPAC, Michael Warren. So Michael, there is no doubt after today from what we just heard and, of course, there's the statue and stuff lest anyone be confused. This convention is all about a person, not a conservative set of ideals like it's supposed to be. It's about a person. It's about Donald Trump.

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: That's right and you can hear it in those speeches and so many other speeches today here in Orlando sort of focusing on a few themes and speaking really to that audience of one, Donald Trump. Really first focusing on how the party is united around Trump, also criticizing defectors within the Republican Party and really criticizing the old guard of the party, the pre Trump old guard.

And of course, a lot of doubling down from these speakers on this idea that the election was stolen or somehow fraudulent. And look, this was a viewpoint that was embraced by the people here. This is really red meat they're throwing out to the audience.

One of the loudest standing ovations I heard earlier today was from Sen. Josh Hawley when he simply mentioned that he voted to object to counting the electoral votes on January 6th.


A huge round of applause. You can see that support among the attendees here. Even in the T-shirts that say things like Trump won and Joe Biden is not my president. The hearts of the CPAC faithful here really are with Trump.

And if I can say one thing, Erin, about that statue, I spoke with the artist who designed it, he told me he hopes that that statue ends up in the Trump Presidential Library. So we'll see if that actually comes to pass. BURNETT: OK. You left me speechless there for a second, Michael. All

right. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

But it's pretty incredible and I think the color Michael is giving is so important. They're there, Joe Biden is not my President, Trump won. Those are the T-shirts you're seeing at the leading conservative event of the year. This is where they would talk about really serious things. They talk about the fate of Israel or other really important conservative things and now you see what they're talking about. They're talking about how Trump won an election that he lost.

OUTFRONT now Mickey Edwards. He's former chair of CPAC and former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma. He left the GOP after the deadly insurrection saying it has become a cult idolizing a ruler, a trasher of institutions, of democracy driven by falsehoods and hatreds.

I really appreciate you're taking the time, Congressman. And, you just heard some little pieces of snippets we took there from various people speaking, Rick Scott, Ted Cruz, CPAC is about Trump, Ted Cruz vows Donald Trump isn't going anywhere. You see that the person who made that statue, which is on display wants to be at the Trump presidential library. I say that because this isn't the onion, this is real life. What does this mean for the Republican Party?

MICKEY EDWARDS, FORMER CPAC CHAIR, LEFT GOP AFTER CAPITOL RIOT: Well, I think it means that the Republican Party really no longer stands for any kind of principles, conservative or otherwise. The party seems now to be completely following the lead of one man wherever he goes, which is the definition of a cult. The party's views that have matured over years and years are out the window.

Now all that matters is Trump is for this and we're for this. And that includes denying truth, denying fact, denying reality. And it's such a disconnect from what has really happened in the world. The fact that in the election they're saying Trump did not win. Well, judges in more than 60 courts said that, in fact ...


EDWARDS: ... he won. They had Republican judges. They had judges appointed by the by President Trump. The Supreme Court unanimously, including the three people he had put on the Supreme Court, found that they had no merit in their complaints. And they don't hear it, they don't see it, the people at CPAC are living in an alternate reality in which facts don't matter. The Constitution doesn't matter. They have no principle except whatever their leader says.

BURNETT: I mean, it really is incredible. And Michael, with all that color and reporting he had, I just thought it was pretty stunning. He talked about the incredible applause, the biggest applause of the day was for Josh Hawley when he was celebrating his vote to not certify the results of the free and fair election that this country had. Here is Sen. Hawley with his loud cheers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): I objected during the Electoral College

certification, maybe you heard about it. I did. I stood up. I stood up and I said we ought to have a debate about election integrity. I said it is the right of the people to be heard and my constituents in Missouri want to be heard on this issue.


BURNETT: What do you say to that, Mickey? Still pushing and defending Trump's big lie.

EDWARDS: Well, he is in and, of course, Hawley isn't that stupid. He believes that Trump is going to be a forest but not be a candidate. And therefore the people who are in that room and the people they represent are going to support Josh Hawley for president. That there is so much now in Congress among the Republicans that has nothing but naked ambition and fear, fear of their own voters.

That they are afraid of the primary voter. They don't really care about the people in Missouri or Oklahoma or wherever it is. They care about the primary voters who are beholden to Trump. And they would rather ditch the constitution, ditch all of their principles than to lose their precious seats where people call them this way, congressman, this way, senator, what can we do for you and it's a shame.

And so the real reason that I left the party finally was not Donald Trump.


It was because all of the people who were just falling in line to do whatever he said and casting aside all of the basic principles of constitutional democracy and I just could not be affiliated with that anymore.

BURNETT: Well, you led CPAC for five years.


BURNETT: So when I talk about what CPAC used to be about, it would be about ideas, it would be about issues. You would talk about conservative principles. Here's the man leading it now talking to our own Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Are you concerned about having the president back here at CPAC where he's going to continue to say that the election was stolen from him when that just isn't true?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there any illegal ballots cast in that election?

ACOSTA: I suppose there might have been. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how many? You just told me that there was

illegal voting in the last election. You don't know how many. Did you sit down with the team in - let me finish, did you sit down with a team in Nevada or Georgia in these states and ever go through the binders of information that good patriotic Americans came up with?

ACOSTA: But it's not enough to overturn the result of the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How could you know that when you don't know the number?

ACOSTA: I know Biden won by 7 million votes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) ...

ACOSTA: He got 306 electoral votes, how is it that there's just no way that that's physically possible?


BURNETT: It's not only not physically possible, it didn't happen. It just didn't happen. Even Trump's own Attorney General said it didn't happen. And they're still trying to conflate a few illegal ballots here. Five dead people in Georgia that Trump said was thousands. And Matt Schlapp is still trying to conflate in people and raise the question that the whole thing was fraudulent. What do you say? This is the guy who has the job you used to have.

EDWARDS: Well, I don't recognize - he doesn't have the job that I used to have, because when I was the Head of CPAC, it was a group that was based on conservative principles. We were strong supporters of the Constitution. We believed in free elections. We believed in democracy. These people don't believe in any of those things.

They're no different than the people who flocked to other totalitarian leaders in other countries. They're no different than they are in Hungary. They're no different than they used to be in Germany. Whatever the great leader says they do and there is no underpinning of fact, there's no underpinning of concern about the norms of a free democracy.

So no, this is not at all the same organization that I led, even though I was chairman, it had the same name. But when I was chair, Ronald Reagan - I was close to Reagan, I'd run programs, policy task forces in this campaign. I invited him to speak at CPAC, he did. Ronald Reagan could not get elected to anything by the people who were at that CPAC conference this year.

BURNETT: Incredible. All right. Well, I appreciate your time. Mickey, thank you so much.

EDWARDS: OK. Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar says she's planning to take action. She's going to punish Saudi Crown Prince after an intelligence report found he approved the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and his brutal dismemberment. Well, that's something President Biden for one is not doing tonight.

And inside the Manhattan DA's investigation into Trump's taxes. The DA's former top deputy is OUTFRONT tonight.



BURNETT: Developing tonight, Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar says she will introduce a bill to place sanctions on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after a U.S. intelligence report assessed that he personally approved the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It comes as President Biden is not doing anything to punish the crown prince directly, which, of course, is inconsistent with what Biden clearly said before he was president.


NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: If the allegations are true and that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia ordered the killing of this Saudi dissident who wrote a column for "The Washington Post," should there be consequences?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Absolutely, positively. This was a permanent American resident. I just don't know why we -- this administration seems to feel the need to coddle autocrats and dictators.


BURNETT: Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT.

You know, Kaitlan, we heard him there in that interview. We saw him at the top of the program very clearly say Saudi Arabia should be a pariah state, the crown prince should be punished directly at debate.

How different is this? This is not what Biden promised.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, because he promised directly to do what people complained that former President Trump wouldn't, and that is punish these senior Saudi officials. And of course this report that they did allow to come out that the Trump administration would not allow to be made public but the Biden administration did, directly points the finger for Jamal Khashoggi's murder at the Saudi crown Saudi crown prince.

Yet, he's not on the sanctions list that we got today. He is not directly targeted or punished or penalized in any way as a result of this. Now, they did sanction a former deputy intelligence officer. They also went after a unit of the Saudi royal guard, but nothing of the crown prince beyond specifically calling him out in this report, this really brief report we should note they released today.

And I think what you're seeing here is that it gets really tough when you make promises on the campaign trail and when you come into the presidency and you see how different that is. And that's something we've seen officials point to.

But we're told these sanctions for the crown prince were never really an option on the table. They were worried it could jeopardize U.S. military risks in Saudi Arabia. They were worried it would be too complicated to try to sanction the Saudi crown prince.

But, Erin, it is going to raise a lot of questions about how the Biden administration is going to handle the Saudis going forward, because they have said from day one since taking office they want to recalibrate that relationship, but the question is, you know, why not hold the Saudi crown prince responsible then.

BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you.

And that is the big question. I want to bring in Bob Baer now, our intelligence and security analyst, obviously former CIA operative with extensive experience across the Middle East, and Susan Glasser, CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer at "The New Yorker".


All right. I'm glad to talk to both of you about this, Bob.

So, you know, look, State Department officials telling CNN the truth which is that the Biden administration didn't want to risk upending a security relationship with the Saudis because it's too important, and we all know the reality, which is that the crown prince isn't going to go anywhere for a really, really long time. The guy is in his 30s.

So, are they basically -- do you agree with the calculation that they're now making now that they actually have the power and aren't running for the office?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Biden's run in the reality of the relationship with Saudi Arabia, and there's nothing we would have been able to do about it. We still haven't cleared up 9/11, their role in it, anybody's role in that country.

And they produce too much oil. They have to mean arms deals, too much money. And the place is a black hole. We don't understand how it's run.

And Mohammed bin Salman is an autocrat. There's no opposition to him inside the country. Any prince that could possibly remove him is under house arrest or under arrest. And Biden has figured out, hey, there's nothing we can do about this. So policy reverts back to what it's always been going back to the '60s.

BURNETT: Which, you know, I mean, Susan, let's be honest they're sanctioning lower level officials, right? They're sanctioning the unit that actually went in and did this horrific dismemberment. But ultimately, they're doing what president Trump did. They're doing business with the crown prince, right?

I mean, you just cut to the chase, isn't this the reality here? Is this consistent policy with Trump? (CROSSTALK)

BAER: Go ahead.


SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's consistent with U.S. policy over long decades I think as Bob pointed out. Donald Trump is a different matter. Donald Trump was practically acting like the defense attorney for the Saudi royal family at times during this entire mess as was his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who appears to have misrepresented in a way what the U.S. intelligence findings were at various points in this controversy.

These sanctions Trump could have imposed them, he did not. But I do think broadly speaking it shows Biden is not willing to blow up a security relationship even though he suggested on the campaign trail something different. I think you're hearing a lot of dismay from activists right now whose expectations were frankly raised by Biden's campaign trail rhetoric and by some of his early actions as president to say the U.S. was no longer going to be supporting the Saudi-led war in Yemen, for example, which is something MBS had launched and is identified with.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate your time.

And next the Manhattan D.A.'s office said to be asking about, quote, everything under the sun as they investigate Trump. The D.A.'s former top deputy is my guest.

Plus, Dr. Fauci says Moderna is now testing a booster for the variant first detected in South Africa. So could this mean we're going to need boosters for a whole lot of strains of coronavirus?



BURNETT: Tonight, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen believed to have had his sixth meeting with Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. It's causing deep concern for Donald Trump about his legal jeopardy after Vance obtained millions of pages of Trump's financial records, including his taxes.

This as sources tell CNN Vance's office is asking, quote, about everything under the sun involving Trump and three of his children, including several major properties that Donald Trump, Jr. is involved with in New York where lenders may have been misled about their value.

OUTFRONT now, Dan Alonso. He was the top deputy for Cy Vance for three years. You know him really well, what he's thinking and what he's doing.

Everything under the sun -- how broad and substantial is the investigation do you think right now? DANIEL R. ALONSO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, first of all,

thanks for having me. I do know him really well, but I can't say I know what he's thinking, and I don't have any inside information about what he's doing. But to answer your question, there are a lot of indications to let us believe that it is a very substantial investigation.

So, they -- first of all they pursued this case, they pursued his tax returns from the tax accounts and not just the returns but the work papers and communications all the way to the Supreme Court twice. And now, the D.A.'s office has the returns in hand, and it is clear that they are doing a very substantial investigation of serious crimes.

BURNETT: So when Trump says oh, it's a witch hunt, you know, everything under the sun just means they're trying to find something that will stick. You're saying no way. You don't do this unless you already have enough to go onto get you there?

ALONSO: Well, hold on. I wouldn't say they already have enough to go on. I'd say they have plenty of reason to do a substantial investigation.

So, by the way, Trump's saying it's a witch hunt. Even putting aside Trump many, many defendants say that kind of thing particularly those in the political sphere when they're being investigated or when they get indicted. They'd say it's all political. We have to kind of cut through that, and think the D.A. is good at doing that, cutting through and going where the evidence leads.

BURNETT: So, we as I said where believe was the sixth meeting between Vance and Cohen. Cohen as we all know has been willing to tell everything he knows about Trump. He has told Congress he had direct knowledge that Trump falsified financial information. Here he is.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?



OCASIO-CORTEZ: And where would the committee find more information on this? Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?

COHEN: Yes. And you'd find it at the


BURNETT: So, Cohen obviously is a key person, right? He's met with Vance six times. He knows as much as there is to know, but he did plead guilty to lying to Congress. So does Vance for a problem with that? Anything Cohen says he's going to have to back up with actual black and white facts on paper. ALONSO: Yeah, I mean, look, Cohen is one witness. And obviously he has

a lot of knowledge about Trump. It sounds like he's saying the people inside the Trump Organization might have more, so I'd want to pursue what those people knew. I'd want to have those records of financial statements, those internal communications.

But Cohen could make a really good witness, and as a former prosecutor now, a defense lawyer, I can tell you that it would be not be unusual for prosecutors to put a cooperator on the witness stand who has previously lied even who has previously pled guilty to lying, right?

The question isn't whether he lied in the past. The question is whether there is enough reason to believe that he's telling the truth now. And one obvious question if they want to jump up and down and say you lied to Congress is, well, why'd you lie to Congress, what was your motivation? And the motivation was to protect Donald Trump. So it's pretty understandable and would ring hollow with a New York jury.

BURNETT: All right. Well, you're raised an interesting point, right, supposed to take in each instance, right, what someone's done in the past is not always relevant to what they're saying now I think of all different type of legal situations in which that's true.

Dan, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

And next, the feds working with Moderna on a booster shot to contain a highly contagious strain of COVID. Does this mean you might have to take multiple shots to combat every strain?

And a NASA mathematician whose story was told in the film "Hidden Figures" now honored tonight by the space agency.



BURNETT: Breaking news, the FDA voting unanimously to recommend emergency use authorization of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine. It's a single dose that could be going into people's arms as early as next week.

This as Dr. Anthony Fauci says the U.S. is working with Moderna to test a vaccine booster shot aimed at the variant first seen in South Africa. And now, even a year into the pandemic, treatments for COVID still remain limited.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports.


EDUARDO VELIZ, DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19: We couldn't talk to her. We couldn't see her.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like too many Americans over the last year, Eduardo Veliz suffered the agonizing loss of a family member, his mother-in-law last summer to COVID-19.

It's all the 44-year-old high school computer teacher could think about when he tested positive for COVID-19 in January. He simply didn't want his wife and three kids to go through that pain again.

VELIZ: I'm the sole provider, so I was very afraid of going to the hospital.

GUPTA: Eduardo was told that there was a drug that was showing incredible promise in preventing people from getting sick after being diagnosed.

You've probably never heard of it. Eduardo certainly hadn't but Dr. David Boulware has.

With everything you know now, if you got COVID, would you take this drug?


GUPTA: It's called Fluvoxamine. And it's an antidepressant. That's right, an antidepressant that decreases inflammation in the brain.

And here is the part of the reason the infectious disease doctor is so optimistic about it. Two studies, both very early. One a randomized trial, 80 patients received the drug right after being diagnosed, 72 patients received a placebo. None of the 80 patients developed shortness of breath or pneumonia. Of these receiving a placebo, six of the 72 did.

Another observational trial of 113 people that after two weeks, none of the 65 people who took the drug were hospitalized or developed any symptoms. Of the 48 people who didn't take Fluvoxamine, six were hospitalized and 29 people still had symptoms two weeks later.

Do you worry about those sorts of safety things as Fluvoxamine?

BOULWARE: This seems to be a relatively safe medicine.

GUPTA: Again, all of this very early but promising. But now consider this, the medication already exists. It is what is called a repurpose drug. But Dr. __ says getting the federal government's attention on repurpose drugs like Fluvoxamine has been difficult.

Have you been able to get funding from the NIH to conduct these sorts of trials?

BOULWARE: You know, to date, most of the trials really focused on early treatment have been by private donors.

GUPTA: Why is it hard to get federal or even governmental funding and the private sector stepping up in an emergency like this?

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Oh, I don't think that's not quite fair, actually, because if you look what's been done through this active private partnership, which is mostly funneled by the federal government and that's billions of dollars, it has taken on a lot of things that seem like long shots to see if they would work.

Fluvoxamine looks promising now but it might be where hydroxychloroquine was a year ago and it may turn out it doesn't work. So, I want to not open the door for everybody to say well just start using it. I want to say, let's test it vigorously and find out the answer and then you'll know.

GUPTA: Everyone agrees, more data is necessary and in the first six weeks of the trial, Dr. Boulware estimates that Eduardo is one of about 300 people who signed up.

BOULWARE: If we have 500 people enroll in the next week, we'd be done in two to three weeks and we have an answer.

GUPTA: Boulware worries the incentives simply aren't there to find the easy readily available and cheapest solutions.

BOULWARE: They're generic medicines and so there is no patent on them. They're really inexpensive. The treatment course is about $12.


And so, there's no big pharmaceutical company behind that.

GUPTA: Eduardo doesn't know if he was on the drug for sure but has a good feeling about it.

VELIZ: Right away, I started to feel better.


GUPTA (on camera): The whole process, Erin, is so interesting. Sometimes they will look at what is happening with COVID and try and find existing drugs that actually focus on that mechanism. Other times, they'll find people, a large population of people taking a certain drug and say wow, it appears that they're n actually getting sick with COVID, maybe that drug has a role there.

But the bottom line was the sort of the thing at the end, you know, we create new therapies. It's amazing. But like monoclonal antibodies, for example, they are 100 times more expensive than Fluvoxamine. So, that is part of why there is such interest in this.


All right. Sanjay, thank you very much.

And next, her story as a NASA mathematician was told in the film "Hidden Figures". Tonight, she's no long a hidden figure.


BURNETT: It's an honor a long time coming. NASA renaming its headquarters in Washington D.C. today for Mary W. Jackson. Jackson was on the team putting astronauts into space and making sure they made it home safely with calculations that she did by hand, human computers they were called.

She became NASA's first black female aerospace engineer in 1958. I mean, it's incredible thing to think about as a woman at a time when America was steeped in segregation as a black woman.

As a result, her contributions were often overlooked. She was passed over for promotions. Jackson died in 2005 but now her name and achievements live on.

Thanks to all of you for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT any time. Anderson starts now.