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Erin Burnett Outfront

Sen. Johnson Downplays Comments About "Fake" Trump Protesters Being Behind Capitol Riot After FBI Chief Debunks Claim; Trump- Appointed FBI Chief Debunks Claims Pushed By Trump Allies: No Evidence Rioters Were "Fake Trump Protesters" Or Antifa; TX Drops Mask Mandate, Will Fully Reopen, Defying CDC Warnings; Capitol Increasing Security Due To QAnon's March 4 Theory; Growing Number Of New York Democrats Want Cuomo To Resign. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 02, 2021 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. Tweet the show @CNNSITROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Trump's handpicked FBI Director destroying the conspiracy theory saying there is no evidence Antifa or fake Trump supporters were behind the insurrection. Will this put an end to the lies?

Plus, a lot of breaking news on COVID at this hour, Biden announcing the U.S. will have enough vaccines for every American adult by May as Texas ends its mass requirement in bold defiance of the CDC.

And more breaking news this hour, the White House pulling Neera Tanden's nomination. The first Biden cabinet failure. Did it come down to her tweets? Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT this evening, the FBI Director takes down Trump. Today Christopher Wray testifying before Congress, driving a stake through the heart of the conspiracy theories that Trump and his allies continue to push about the deadly insurrection.

Conspiracy theory number one, which Trump even said that day, it wasn't actually Trump supporters who were behind the attack.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): Based on your investigation so far, do you have any evidence that the Capitol attack was organized by "fake Trump protesters"?

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We have not seen evidence of that.


CUOMO: at this stage. SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Is there any evidence at all that it was

organized or planned or carried out by groups like Antifa or Black Lives Matter?

WRAY: We have not seen any evidence to that effect thus far in the investigation?

COONS: And is there any doubt that the people who stormed the Capitol included white supremacists and other far right extremist organizations?

WRAY: There's no doubt that it included individuals that we would call militia violent extremists and then, in some instances, individuals that were racially motivated violent extremists who advocate for the superiority of the white race.


BURNETT: We have not seen evidence of that. No evidence that there were fake protesters, meaning, that what you are about to hear from a sitting U.S. senator from the Michigan Senate majority leader and from right wing media is all a known lie.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): A very few didn't share the jovial, friendly, earnest demeanor of the great majority. Some obviously didn't fit in.

And he describes four different types of people; plainclothes militants, agents provocateurs, fake Trump protesters, and then a disciplined uniform column of attackers. I think these are the people that probably planned this.

SEN. MIKE SHIRKEY (R-MI): UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That wasn't Trump people.


SHIRKEY: That wasn't Trump people.


SHIRKEY: No. That's been a hoax from day one. That was all pre- arranged.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were likely not all Trump supporters, it's probably not Trump supporters.

TODD HERMAN, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: It's probably not Trump supporters who would do that.


BURNETT: Well, except it was. It was Trump supporters from start to finish. And Wray shutting down Republican attempts to rewrite history, confirming what we all saw with our own eyes that day, that it was a Trump supporting mob incited by the president who stormed the Capitol. Now, conspiracy theory number two, is that Antifa specifically was

behind the attack. So here again, an exchange today with the FBI Director Christopher Wray.


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Is there any evidence at all that it was organized or planned or carried out by groups like Antifa or Black Lives Matter?

WRAY: We have not seen any evidence to that effect thus far in the investigation.

COONS: And is there any ...


BURNETT: Remember that this is Trump's appointed FBI Director who is just speaking the truth, knocking down the lies that Trump himself, by the way, has put out there. He even claimed them on the day of the attack. Remember that phone call to the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy when he said that it must be Antifa or whatever and Kevin McCarthy goes, no, these are your supporters.

And this whole line about Antifa is something that because Trump has pushed and continues to push, his supporters have also been pushing since then.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were masquerading as Trump supporters and in fact were members of the violent terrorist group Antifa.

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): There is some indication that fascist Antifa elements were involved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have many credible reports that Antifa was very much involved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think a lot of it is the Antifa folks.

MIKE LINDELL, MY PILLOW CEO: There were probably some undercover Antifa that dressed as Trump people.


BURNETT: No. Just to be clear, the last person that you heard from is the CEO of my pillow, someone Trump has turned to again and again for advice. But all those sycophantic talking points that you just heard from people who either had no idea what they were saying and were just making it up so the President would hear what they wanted to hear or knew they were lying at the time, who knows, but it's all untrue.

There is no evidence and you heard it from Director Wray himself to support what team Trump continues to say about who the rioters were. And today for what feels like the 100th time, the FBI had to state this for the record.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): To be crystal clear on this, as FBI Director, that these would be federal crimes, you're aware of no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, correct?

WRAY: We are not aware of any widespread evidence of voter fraud much less that would have affected the outcome in the presidential election.



BURNETT: OK. So you could believe him. You could believe all of the courts. You could believe all of the secretaries of state across this country. You could believe all of the people who run the voting systems. You could believe the former Attorney General Bill Barr. You could believe anybody who knows anything and you would know that there was no widespread fraud that impacted the election.

But you wouldn't know it if you listen to the Republican Party at their detached from reality gathering this weekend.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We did even better in the second election than we did in the first. You know I won the first and we won the second.

DONALD TRUMP JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: Seventeen percent of the 80 million that voted for Joe Biden.

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.

T. W. SHANNON, PRESIDENT/CEO OF CHICKASAW COMMUNITY BANK: The reason that people stormed the Capitol was because they felt hopeless because of a rigged election.


BURNETT: "And we won the second." If anybody thought, anybody would learn their lesson or change their tune, again, you're disabused of that notion. Manu Raju is OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill.

So Manu, you just spoke with Sen. Ron Johnson and I just showed him there among the first sound bites saying that the people behind the insurrection would have been the provocateurs and the fake Trump protesters. What's he telling you now?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he said that he never said himself that fake Trump supporters were behind the January 6th riot or that they were involved in organizing it or Antifa was directly involved in organizing it in any way.

He said that he was just citing purported eyewitness, firsthand account of an individual who said that he's witnessed what happened on January 6th and wrote an article about it for a conservative publication that Johnson later cited at the hearing, a high profile hearing about what happened on January 6th and submitted that to the record.

He told me absolutely he would submit such an article again for the record even though Christopher Wray, the FBI Director essentially dismissed the account that fake Trump protesters were behind all of this. And when I asked Ron Johnson about it, he said, "I never said that they were." He said, "I never said or implied that they were." He said, "I entered into the record an eyewitness account by a trained observer." And he said that he would do it again.

Now, this comes also as Congress' probing the aftermath of what happened on January 6th in addition to the run up to January 6th and also the impact that this is having, not just on the budget and taxpayers, but also on threats to members of Congress. In a testimony that's going to come out tomorrow from the Acting Police Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, Pittman, she says that threats have increased to members of Congress by 93 percent in the first two months of 2021 compared to the same time period in 2020.

At the same time, she says that the budget that they are going to request, Erin, the increase they're asking for is going up from $36 million increase to $107 million increase. So it just shows you the cost of taxpayers that continues from the deadly attack, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much. And I'll just point Manu was saying, he says that Ron Johnson didn't say what Ron Johnson said. Ron Johnson quoted from an article of the firsthand witness, but then he added his own thoughts. These are the people that probably plan this. So he did say that, just to be clear. He did say what he says he didn't say.

OUTFRONT now Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security and Bill Kristol, Editor-at-Large of the Bulwark.

So Bill, FBI Director Wray was very clear today in the same thing that everybody else has been clear on. But he's the director of the FBI, they're investigating this from soup to nuts. He happened to be named by Trump to his post and he is saying there is no evidence of fake Trump supporters in this crowd. No evidence of Antifa. And yet, you hear Sen. Johnson and that whole other list of people that I just played. They don't care, do they about the truth?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE OF THE BULWARK: No. They don't care and Donald Trump doesn't care. But you know what could help if the Senate Minority Leader and the House Minority Leader, McConnell and McCarthy put out a joint statement saying, for example, or the ranking members of the committee or anyone, I don't know if any Republican even said this today.

Thank you, FBI Director Wray, for being clear about this and we just want to say that we accept this. We understand this to be the case that the election was not rigged. It was not a hoax. There was not widespread voter fraud. That the January 6th assault was by Trump's supporters and was not a bunch of Antifa people dressed up as Trump supporters and it was real and it was dangerous.

Is that too much to ask the leaders in Congress and the Senate, maybe governors, others, former cabinet officials of Donald Trump to say? I mean, a lot of Trump voters are just going to believe what they want to believe no matter what.



KRISTOL: But maybe that would have a little bit of effect, but no one even thinks that that party should rise to that level of basic civic responsibility.

BURNETT: And yet, Juliette, it's amazing because Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader to whom Bill's referring, at the time, Majority Leader, talk to Trump during the riot. He's like they're banging down my door. They're breaking my windows. And Trump goes, "Oh, they're Antifa." And he goes, "No, these are your supporters." It was quote. That's what he said. He's never disputed it.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. I think the MAGA flag was the dead giveaway, the Trump flag and the MAGA hats. So why do people lie? And this is where Wray's testimony, I thought, got really interesting. This wasn't about answering hypothetical questions that Sen. Johnson has. Sen. Johnson knows what the answer is.

What was amazing and important about Wray's testimony was later on when he says, you can focus on the conspiracies, you can focus on the lies, you can focus on the crazies, but this is fundamentally a racist white supremacy movement. That the violence that the FBI is worried about is about racism and about targeting minorities.

And so why aren't Republicans accepting that and that, to me, is clear, which is the Republican lie is based not on the fact that they don't like people voting, they don't like African-Americans voting. They don't like Hispanic Americans voting that they voted in Phoenix or in Georgia.

And what you see is a line from Charlottesville to the January insurrection to now over 200 bills in Republican state legislatures to deny voting essentially. That is why they're perpetuating the lie. It is not for 2020, it's for 2022 and they are promoting the violence through the promotion of the lie.

BURNETT: And Bill, you also have Wray saying what we know to be true. We know to be the fact but saying it again, no evidence of widespread voter fraud and then he put the emphasis on its emphasis on much less anything that would have changed the outcome of the election. I think it's important to emphasize the way you said that much less anything that would have changed the outcome. Bill Barr said it. We know this from every court. We know it from

every secretary of state as I just went through. And yet you just had Trump on stage in Florida say, we won. He's still putting it out there. He won.

KRISTOL: And you had Kevin McCarthy who as you said in real time knew what was happening later on going along with trying to overturn the election, visiting Trump at Mar-A-Lago and saying not a peep now when his colleagues continue to perpetrate the lies. The lie is very dangerous for reasons that Juliette said, but also for deep reasons of democratic citizenship.

I mean, you're just convincing 10s of millions of people that the system is rigged, that there was widespread fraud, that you're opening further conspiracy theories. It's in the service of a certain ideology, obviously, as well.

So yes, I mean, again, there's a failure of commission by the people who perpetrate the fraud. There's a failure of omission by the Republican leaders who don't stand up and say, wait a second, that is wrong. Christopher Wray is right. Chris Wray is right and we've got to stop doing this. It's really dangerous.

BURNETT: It scary, because, I mean, I know there are people providing that leadership, it's just not the people - you need other people to do it. McConnell thinks that that speech he gave, which was powerful speech is going to be enough, but it isn't.

Bill, I just want to ask you one more thing quickly before we go, the White House pulling the nomination of Neera Tanden to leave the Office of Management and Budget. And I know you know her, you've been very vocal that you thought that it was not right, the heat that she took for her tweets and her nomination overall. They've now pulled it, so that's going to be a failure for that nomination. Is it the right thing to do?

KRISTOL: I mean, if they don't have the votes, they don't have the vote. She would have been a good OMB director. I think it's ironic that the entire Republican Party is against someone who would have been a tougher OMB Director, little more resistant to big government liberal spending programs, I would say, than whoever is not likely to get the job. But she'll still be in the administration and life will go on, I suppose.

I do think it's not an accident that they went after her. I mean, she's not the most liberal person who's been nominated, yet somehow she took the brunt of the assault. Why exactly was that?

BURNETT: Well, and you know what, I'll leave it there. But I'll just note quickly to our viewers, you have Republicans allied with people like Bernie Sanders. They didn't like her, Bernie Sanders and the progressives, because she was, they thought, too conservative to imbed with Wall Street. So it makes the point you made, it wasn't as if Republicans went after the most progressive person that they were putting forth.

Thank you both so much as always.

And next, the breaking news, the White House pushing back against Texas. Texas now the biggest state to drop its mask mandate. Why right now?

Plus, officials increasing security at the Capitol as QAnon supporters cling to a new conspiracy theory.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On March 4th, Trump will be reinstated as President.


BURNETT: And should schools rethink Dr. Seuss?


Well, my guest says next, but she's going to explain why she thinks it's not cancel culture.



BURNETT: Breaking news, White House officials criticizing Texas over its sudden decision to fully reopen and drop the state's mask mandate in full defiance of the CDC's dire warnings as the case count across the country has plateaued. It was plunging and now not anymore. And it comes as President Biden makes a major announcement tonight on the vaccine front saying there'll be enough vaccines for every American adult by the end of May.

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT. So Jeff, look, right now this is a major push by the White House to get vaccines to the public and this date has sort of been a moving target, right end of the summer, end of the spring, now end of May. So that would be much earlier than a lot of people thought. What else did Biden say?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORREPONDENT: Erin, it's a full two months earlier than President Biden just said a couple weeks ago and that is because they are seeing more vaccination supply being rolled out, of course, with this Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well as the merging with Merck, one of its rivals to produce this together. That is going to get more vaccination in the supply later this summer.

But the President said he does believe there will be a supply, enough supply to get a vaccination to every American by the end of May.


That doesn't mean every American will get a shot by then. That is because there's a challenge to get those vaccines in the arms of many Americans because of hesitancy by some and simply they're having a hard time finding enough people to vaccinate Americans. But it certainly is a dramatically sped up accelerated movement of the supply.

Also, the President said he thinks every educator is a frontline essential worker. They should have their first dose by the end of March, the end of this month. That is a dramatic change as well and part of this ongoing effort from the White House to push back against some teachers unions who have been dragging their feet, quite frankly, in opening schools.

So he's directing states to put teachers at the head of the line as well, Erin.

BURNETT: So Jeff, I also want to ask you about this late breaking news about Neera Tanden. The White House pulling her nomination to be OMB Director. That nomination derailed in part over Tanden's past tweets. What more can you tell us?

ZELENY: Well, look, the White House had been fighting this. This has been apparent for a little more than a week, but the White House has been pushing this trying to find every last vote and they were trying to get senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican Senator of Alaska, to support this. She was undecided, we're told still, but there was also some questions on the Democratic side, Budget Chair Bernie Sanders had not said if he would support her nomination.

So the White House officially decided to back away from this, because the writing, quite frankly, was on the wall. They had spent a lot of time in Capitol on this and they need that Capitol right now to be put into the COVID a relief bill. That's where the focus is this week. There are many concerns about the variety of the Democrats from progressives to moderates over this COVID package.

I'm told they did not want to be distracted by this Neera Tanden nomination, which was going nowhere. So they want to focus now on this COVID relief bill, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff.

And I want to bring in now, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, advised the White House medical team under President George W. Bush. Let me just ask you, Dr. Reiner, when I mentioned we'd all been hearing case counts going down and now that is no longer the case. They have plateaued. There are some who've been deeply concerned that the variants could cause another surge. Time will tell. But the plunge has stopped, we're plateauing.

And that is, at the same time, that the governors in Texas and Mississippi are lifting mask mandates and allowing businesses to open at full capacity. Is this a mistake or not?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Oh, this is a gigantic mistake. In Texas, for instance, they have a test positivity rate of 13.5 percent compare that to the overall rate in the United States of 4.4 percent. They had 54,000 cases last week, that's 12 percent of all the cases in the United States. They also had more than 10 percent of the deaths in the United States. The state, by the way, has 8 percent of the population in this

country, so they are not doing well. So this is obviously a political ploy on the part of the governor who is just coming out of a horrible winter storm, under intense criticism for the state's performance in a state where basically millions of people were freezing in the dark. And now, in an attempt to appease the public, do something that he thinks they want. He's going to endanger the lives of millions of Texans.

This is his mission accomplished moment and it's not a good one. We've seen this movie and it doesn't turn out well.

BURNETT: One of the concerns that we've heard about that people said about rolling, not just whether there could potentially be another surge, but also whether these vaccines work, it's going to be new variants and how quickly they roll out. So I take you back to Texas, the largest city in the state, Houston, the first city in the United States now, according to the latest study, to record every major variant. The more transmissible strains, the ones that we can vaccine efficacy, every single variant.

This is according to Houston Methodist Hospital. This is, in Texas, a study. OK. Add that context into this, the whole point we've been told is to do these things to prevent these variants from developing in such a way they can evade vaccines. Well, now the place we're seeing all the variants is the very place that they're taking away all the restrictions.

REINER: Right. They're going to drop masks. So I work in the District of Columbia where the test positivity rate is now 2.8 percent. Every single person on the street is wearing a mask. That's why the test positivity rate is 2.8 percent. So what's going to happen to the amount of virus in Texas, when you take away the mask mandate? It's going to rise.

We saw this. We saw this when states opened early in April, opened too early. That was the summer surge. This is not the time to do this.

BURNETT: And what about the vaccine? They're now moving it up two months, which is great. Everyone can get one in May, except they don't have enough people to administer them. So having enough is not the same thing as everyone being able to get one. How do we jump over that final hurdle? So indeed and, again, there's a big question mark with the whole variants. I understand that. But just on the vaccines, how do we actually say we have enough to get into people's arms in May?


REINER: So we're going to have enough by May to vaccinate 300 million Americans. It's a gigantic accomplishment. But now we have to focus on not vaccine availability, but vaccination availability. We have to be innovative. We have to have 24-hour vaccination sites. We have to have loads and loads of vaccinators. We need better information management systems to allow people to schedule their vaccinations.

Oh, and I love, by the way, the Biden administrations announcement today that they're going to vaccinate teachers. That's a big announcement and it's a turnaround for them. I like the fact that they were willing to listen to reason on that. We get teachers back into schools. We get kids back into schools. It's a big deal.

BURNETT: All right. It's certainly is. Doctor, I appreciate your time as always. Thank you.

REINER: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, inside the QAnon conspiracy theory that's resulting in stepped up Capitol security tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump will take office as the 19th President of the United States on March 4th.


BURNETT: And New York's Governor, Andrew Cuomo, facing pressure to step down after accused of unwanted advances now by three women. Has it now become a question of when, not if he's going?



BURNETT: Tonight, acting sergeant at arms Timothy Blodgett announcing security will be heightened at the Capitol on Thursday due to a QAnon- linked conspiracy theory that former President Trump will be inaugurated as president on Thursday. Yeah, you heard me right.

Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On March 4th, Trump will be reinstated as president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm about to enlighten you. Are you ready?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then the real president, President Trump, can be inaugurated.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): QAnon followers are at it again, not able to let go of the conspiracies that have proven false time and time again. Now they have grasped on to another impossible theory.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump will take office as the 19th president of the United States on March 4th.

SIDNER: They believe in an old inauguration date in place before the passage of the 20th Amendment. It changed from March 4th to January 20th only in 1933.

What's the significance of March 4th?

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: The real inauguration will happen on march the 4th when our dear leader Donald Trump will actually be publicly inaugurated as the president.

TRAVIS VIEW, RESESARCHER & QANON EXPERT: The problem with QAnon is that it is kind of like a big tent conspiracy theory that welcomes everyone regardless of what wild conspiracy theory you happen to believe.

SIDNER: The latest conspiracy was made popular by a movement known as Sovereign Citizens. The FBI has called the movement a domestic terrorism threat.

GREENBLATT: We have many examples of shoot-outs or attacks or sovereign citizens who literally went after police officers or sheriffs.

SIDNER: That is what happened here. Members shot and killed two deputies in West Memphis. While QAnon believers don't necessarily share all sovereign citizen ideology, they use what they need.

GREENBLATT: They move the goal posts in order top wait for their reality to come to fruition.

SIDNER: QAnon followers are not monolithic. The followers can be rich or poor, educated or not, from the city or countryside, black, or white, and everything in between. We encountered this group in 2020.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do think there is a sex trafficking ring. I do think that is going on from D.C. to Hollywood. Trump has been talking about sex trafficking. That's suspicious.

SIDNER: Do you have any doubt that anything you believe about that is incorrect?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In my heart, in my gut, no, but anything is possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pedophiles in Hollywood are killing our children and using their blood for sacrifices in Hollywood. We're trying to save our children. Our children matter.

SIDNER: There is no evidence whatsoever of blood sacrifices of children in Hollywood or anywhere. There have been no mass arrests. Donald Trump has not exposed a massive ring of blood drinking pedophiles.

There is not one shred of evidence to support all of these beliefs but the believers persist -- even though President Joe Biden is already working after being fully sworn in as the legitimate U.S. president.

VIEW: They don't believe things because of actual evidence. They believe things because it excites them to be part of this grand story, so as a consequence of that really no amount of real reasoning or counterargument or debunking is very effective on them. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER (on camera): And they see Donald Trump as the hero of that story. They sometimes see themselves as the heroes as well. Speaking of Donald Trump, this is his hotel behind us here. We noticed something interesting that the rates for a stay for a night in the next couple days when QAnon followers may show up here in Washington, D.C. have nearly doubled. Don't know why that is. We have also seen hundreds of members of the National Guard in and around many of the hotels, not standing outside to guard them but you definitely see the presence here in D.C. -- Erin.

BURNETT: It's pretty incredible. Sara, thank you very much. Doubling in rates.

All right. I want to bring in Donie O'Sullivan. You all know him by now. He has been covering QAnon extensively for CNN and talking to people who believe in some of these things.

So let me just ask you, because you have been talking to QAnon followers since long before the insurrection, right? So in that context is the language you're hearing for them now about March 4th similar in any way to the language that you heard from them before January 6th?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Yeah, Erin, I would say a lot of the rhetoric is getting more dangerous. This whole idea of march 4th came about after the inauguration of Joe Biden because you'll remember in the days leading up to the inauguration QAnon followers were convinced that Trump was going to declare martial law and the inauguration would not happen.

Obviously, the inauguration did happen and then they began focusing on the March 4th day.


And this is all tied to QAnon followers' sort of obsession that the military is on their side, that that the military is on Trump's side. And I've heard from QAnon supporters in the past few weeks who have been looking at what is happening in Myanmar, where there's been a deadly military coup and they're saying they hope that happens here in the United States of America. That's just how perverse this is.

BURNETT: It is perverse and incredibly difficult to understand because some of the basic tenets of their beliefs, these blood drinking parties, it is just completely farcical and it's very hard to understand.

But to that point, Donie, I know some QAnon supporters are at a turning point. There seems to be a bit of splintering after the inauguration, right, some who are going all in on this March 4th, others who aren't. What happens after March 4th do you think? And the coup that they predict doesn't happen?

O'SULLIVAN: Yeah. So, we'll probably see happen and you spoke to Ashley Vanderbilt a few weeks ago, she's the South Carolina mom who believed in QAnon until inauguration day and was convinced there was going to be a military martial law and when she saw the inauguration take place, it was actually these messages about March 4th that she said, no. I've had enough. I'll stop believing.

So, some people may actually stop believing after tomorrow and some QAnon followers have already said they don't believe that anything is going to happen on Thursday I should say on March 4th.

But what is going to happen to a lot of folks? I spoke to one woman in California a few days ago last week and I said are you going to feel foolish on March 5th if Trump is not president and bind is still president? She said that wasn't Trump's plan then. They'll quickly move to know another date, another plan.

This is all, Erin, it all comes back to the main lie, the main conspiracy theory that Trump is pushing which is that in some way the election was stolen. That is still what keeps so much of this alive.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Donie. I should point out to everybody that he said it again this weekend. He said he won. He said he won the second presidential election just this weekend.

OUTFRONT next, "The New York Times" reporting New York Governor Cuomo is quickly losing allies, three women now having accused him of unwanted advances. Is Cuomo's time as governor coming to an end?

The company that controls Dr. Seuss's works is pulling six of his books. Is it cancel culture? Well, my next guest will explain why like so many things, this is not that simple.



BURNETT: New tonight, a growing number of New York Democrats calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign or be removed from office. The crisis around the governor is growing after a third woman has come forward detailing unwanted advances by Cuomo.

OUTFRONT now, Jesse McKinley, who broke the story on Cuomo's second and third accusers. He is "The New York Times" Albany bureau chief.

And our Abby Philip, our anchor and senior political correspondent.

So, thanks to both.

So, Jesse, you've been breaking so much news on this.

The first member of New York's congressional delegation, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, has now called for Cuomo's resignation. You've got six state lawmakers calling now for impeachment proceedings. You -- I don't know what you're working on right now, whether there's going to be even more accusers coming out here.

But when you put it all together, has this become a matter of when Cuomo resigns, not if?

JESSE MCKINLEY, ALBANY BUREAU CHIEF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think we're kind of on a razor's edge at this point. I think it could actually break either way.

I think in Albany in the halls of power in the state Capitol there is anger, there is upset, and there are a growing number of lawmakers who are very upset about this and would consider impeachment or resignation. I don't think they quite have the numbers at this point to kind of push Governor Cuomo to a resignation.

But once again, as you pointed out, if other allegations are made credible or if other women come forward, I think the calculus could change and it could change in a hurry.

BURNETT: So, to that point, Abby, it took three weeks for former Democratic Senator Al Franken to resign following the first allegation of sexual misconduct against him, pictures appearing of him on a comedy trip that he took overseas. What happened there seems to be haunting Democrats now, right? They went to the purist zero tolerance policy.

So, here is Senator Dick Durbin today when he was asked whether Governor Cuomo should resign.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): It's a troubling situation but I have been through this before with other colleagues and I just have to say, the investigation should be completed and should be -- as quickly as possible and credibility given to the charges.


BURNETT: So, Abby, what are we seeing here now? I mean, obviously, I think -- there were many of them regretted moving so quickly on Franken. Is that why now there is this whole let's have an investigation, let's have an investigation? What's going on?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I think Democrats are trying to balance two things which is, one, that yeah, there were a lot of Democrats within the base actually who felt that Franken was pushed out unfairly or too soon, especially given the context of the allegations against former President Donald Trump that are, you know, in the dozens of accusers.

But at the same time they have to give credence to these accusers. You know, there have been so many Republicans who Democrats have said for example on the Supreme Court that ought not to be on the court because of allegations. So, they can't just dismiss it.

I think you're going to see Democrats like Dick Durbin holding on to this investigation, buying some time with it, and saying, this is how we're going to establish some form of process around this so that we don't have to be in the position to make a judgment about whether he should stay or go. You're going to see I think a lot more Democrats hanging on for as long as they can -- unless, of course, as Jesse points out, there are more people who come forward. I think that is really the thing that we don't know yet.

And if there are a lot more women who come forward, it kind of changes the calculus of all of this.

BURNETT: It absolutely will. And, of course, I'm sure, Jesse, you'll be the first to hear that and share that.

But to the point that Abby is making -- look, Governor Cuomo did a lot of things in terms of policy against sexual harassment.


He vocally supported -- vocally, obviously not his personal practice, it appears -- but vocally supported the #metoo movement. Here he is.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: You had thousands of women stand up and show the courage to come forward with the #metoo movement and speak about the sexual harassment that is endemic in our society.

And change should come to this nation's policy vis-a-vis sexual harassment against women, which is chronic, long term, and endemic. And it has to stop, and we're going to do our part.

And I have tremendous respect for the women who have the courage to come forward. But it says to the nation, once the problem is revealed, do something about it.


BURNETT: OK, Jesse, so -- all right, you can look at that, roll your eyes, and laugh and say what a hypocrite, blah, blah, blah. Yes. Of course, you could do that.

Does that help him though with lawmakers who say, OK, but he did a lot of things so he can find a way out of this, or does he need to do exactly what he said once the problem is revealed do something about it, as in "get out and see you later"?

MCKINLEY: Yeah, I don't know that speeches from a couple years ago are going to save him right now. You know, I think past action is not going to be -- is not going to be the type of thing. They're like oh, well but he did say all this nice stuff about #metoo movement.

I think the political quandary that Mr. Cuomo is in right now is about current action. You know, the apology he gave on Sunday probably fell short for a lot of people. I think the explanations have fallen short.

Keep in mind, Erin, he hasn't been seen in public in almost a week, he hasn't given an interview, hasn't taken questions from the media. So, there's a lot of open questions that are going on right now about these allegations that we've documented and that have come out prior to that with Lindsey Boylan and what-have-you. So, until those questions are answered satisfactorily for lawmakers

and voters and residents of the state, I think this problem could persist for a while.

BURNETT: Like Trump, Governor Cuomo is someone who would take every camera he could get, right? Loved to call in to shows, loved to do everything. Now, suddenly silent.

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

And next, are some Dr. Seuss books still appropriate for school kids and do you think the whole thing has gone too far?

Well, my next guest does think schools should rethink this. It is thoughtful not just this black and white cancel culture thing. So, you'll want to hear it.

Plus, a year into the pandemic, we're going to look back at how life has changed. What happened a year ago tonight could very well change the course of history.



BURNETT: Tonight, conservatives blaming cancel culture after Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced six of the famed author's books would no longer be published because of offensive imagery.


CHARLIE KIRK, FOUNDER, TURNING POINT USA: The post-modernist almost academic left, they are not satisfied until almost every single piece of literature, film, or pop culture is eliminated if there might be one thing that could be found potentially wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the woke culture today, Dr. Seuss gets cancelled, Shakespeare gets cancelled, Tom Sawyer (ph) -- Huckleberry Finn gets cancelled. Every past that can't match the woke standards of liberals today, so everything is going to be cancelled.



Well, let's show you the sorts of images we are talking about. Again, Dr. Seuss Enterprise is making this decision. This is from one of the books that will no longer be published called "If I Ran the Zoo".

OUTFRONT now, Charis Granger-Mbugua who's a longtime English teacher and wrote an op-ed for "The Atlanta Journal Constitution" called, "Why schools should rethink Dr. Seuss.

And you're so thoughtful about this and I know there's this tendency to sort of, you know, it's either cancel culture or isn't. And you've just been so careful about it. You talked about how you received a collection of Dr. Seuss books for your soon to be born son. You thought it would be a great addition to his book collection. I mean, I even remember how my mother wasn't into Dr. Seuss, frankly, at all, but when I graduated, I got the book "The Places You'll Go," right? And I appreciated it.

Now you feel differently, thought, about that gift for your son. Tell me why.

CHARIS GRANGER-MBUGUA, LONGTIME ENGLISH TEACHER, WROTE OP-ED, "WHY SCHOOLS SHOULD RETHINK DR. SEUSS: I do. So, I think there is a lot of learning taking place and awareness that is happening. I wasn't as aware seven years ago when I had my son about the racist images in a lot of Dr. Seuss' children's books but now that I'm more informed, I think it's worth thinking through a little more and maybe moving towards books that are more inclusive and more diverse.

There are so many other options that do exactly what Dr. Seuss books have done that aren't seeped in racist stereotypes and we can use those and help all children feel included.

BURNETT: So, six books that are no longer that are going to be published include, those who know Dr. Seuss well, "On Beyond Zebra", "The Cat's Quizzer", and "To Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street", which has an image of an Asian character raising -- wearing, I'm sorry, a clinical hat holding chopsticks and eating from a bowl.

So look, some are going to say these books could be used to teach about racism, the whole point would be, you know, you show a young child this and explain why it is racist, why this isn't appropriate. What is your response to that thinking?

GRANGER-MBUGUA: So, I think there is a time and a place for having those discussions, and I think it is important for children to become aware of our history and some of our racist past, but when children are learning to read and are beginning their love of literature, I think what's more important is that they see themselves reflected in the stories they are reading that they are able to build their self- confidence and their self-worth by seeing experiences and stories that tell what they have seen and their experiences.

And there is a place for critical analysis of Dr. Seuss' work. By no means do I think that books should be banned. I'm a former English teacher. I believe in literature and the power of books. But there is a place that we can have those discussions and look at Dr. Seuss in a critical and thoughtful and analytical way.


But when I'm thinking about my 6-year-old in first grade, or my daughter in pre-school, I want them to see books that reflect them.

I want them to know that their stories are important and that diversity is important. It should be celebrated and I don't want them to see themselves reflected as a monkeys and apes from Africa. I don't think that's appropriate. BURNETT: So, you know, it's interesting. I was reading a book about --

a book about Dr. Seuss today and learned something I did not know, Charis. I had realized how politically aware and motivated he was in a lot of his work, frankly. So, in an introduction to book about Dr. Seuss, his work during World War II, Art Spiegelman, you know, who wrote, "Maus", right, explains how Seuss' work.

And this is interesting, he writes, quote, would rail against isolationism, racism and anti-Semitism with the conviction and fervor lacking in most American editorial pages period. He says Seuss railed against Jim Crow, Charles Lindbergh and the America first policy, which is an echo of what we see now in this country.

But Seuss does speak about his regrets about his anti-Asian tropes specifically. What do you make of this? You know, far from perfect but some of what he was doing was to rail against racism?

GRANGER-MBUGUA: Yes. So, I don't think becoming antiracist is a point that you reach and then you stay there. I think this work towards becoming anti racist, this work towards learning and unlearning some things is constantly happening. So by no means do we categorize Seuss as perfect or imperfect.

He grew, perhaps, and that's good. And I think that's what we all need to be striving towards as we work towards more anti-racist curriculum, to be more aware. We recognize that while we may have had some thoughts in the past, those thoughts may change and that's a good thing. The work needs to continue.

But that's it right there. The work needs to continue. It doesn't stop.

And when we know better, we can do better and we know that Dr. Seuss had some anti racist images in his books and we can do better.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Charis, I really appreciate your time and your thoughtfulness on this. I hope everyone approaches it, however, they come out, with the same level of nuance and care. Thank you so much.


BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, what was your life like a year ago tonight, you know, before all of this, when there were six COVID deaths?


BURNETT: One year ago tonight, life was about to change but we did not know it. If you think about where you were, what you were doing on March 2nd, 2020, you may not remember but you were most likely on an airplane, eating out, out and about doing something, living your life.

COVID was a blip on the public's radar, if you thought about it, masks are something doctors wore. College basketball's March Madness was in full heat. Everything was going, ten more days of that. NBA, full. The country was deep in the presidential election.

In fact, one year ago at this very hour, I remember we took this live, Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the race, endorsing Joe Biden and we saw this whole speech and Joe Biden talking about him and his being like a son.

All of this, there were sixth U.S. deaths on that day. Soon, though, the mundane things may soon be celebrated again. There's a lot to be hopeful in the news we got today on the scene. Here is to hope.

And right now, here is Anderson.