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Erin Burnett Outfront

Use-Of-Force Training Officer: Neck Restraint Is Not Authorized If Subject Is Not Resisting, Under Control And Is Handcuffed; Attorney For Floyd's Friend Tells Judge He Intends To Invoke 5th Amendment To Avoid Testifying; Defense Suggests Officers Could Have Thought George Floyd Was Faking Being In Distress; McConnell Rips Companies For Taking Sides Over GA Voting Law; Texas Governor Abbott Bans Government-Mandated Vaccine Passports; Embattled Rep. Gaetz Raising Money Off Scandal, Probe By Feds. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 06, 2021 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You can always tweet the show @CNNSITROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, not part of the training. Another witness says what Derek Chauvin did to George Floyd was not protocol as we're learning more tonight about the man who was in the car with George Floyd the day he died.

Plus, Mitch McConnell fought for years to raise massive amounts of money from corporations but now he says corporations should be staying out of politics. This does not add up.

And Matt Gaetz fundraising off of the Justice Department's investigation into whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17- year-old. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, a pivotal day in the murder trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin. The jury hearing from a use-of-force instructor who actually trained Chauvin. During his testimony, the instructor laid out when it is OK and when it is not OK to use force. The prosecution bringing back the image of Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck to drill down the point that this was not something that Chauvin had ever been trained to do.


STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: In addition to the classroom training, you actually teach officers, show them physically how to do this sort of neck restraints?


SCHLEICHER: At this time, I'd like to republish exhibit 17. Sir, is this an MPD trained neck restraint?

MERCIL: No, sir.

SCHLEICHER: Has it ever been?

MERCIL: Not to my - neck restraint? No, sir.


BURNETT: No. Not in Minneapolis trained neck restraint and never has been. But Chauvin's defense then tried to put the conversation away from what he was not trained to do and instead to raise questions again about whether Chauvin's knee was actually on Floyd's neck.


ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Can you see in this photograph what appears to be the knee and shin placement of the officer?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

NELSON: And would you agree that it appears that the knee is placed in the center between Mr. Floyd's shoulder blades?

MERCIL: It appears to be between the shoulder blades sir, yes.


BURNETT: OK, this is all a really crucial distinction they're trying to draw here. Let's go to Omar Jimenez OUTFRONT live in Minneapolis to begin our coverage tonight. Because, Omar, when you take a look at this in the context of this trial, you now have yet another member of the Minneapolis Police Department condemning Chauvin's action today.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin, especially over the past few days, we have seen multiple senior level officers within this department testify in regards to the training that Chauvin has had saying that this is not what we do. Now, George Floyd's brother, Rodney, who's in the courtroom today said watching today it was a nail biter, it was like a movie, you don't know where things are going to go next and that's the process that we're in the middle of right now.

We only heard from law enforcement today and the vast majority of them were from the Minneapolis Police Department.



SCHLEICHER: What is proportional force?

MERCIL: Well, you want to use the least amount of force necessary to meet your objectives.


JIMENEZ (voice over): More than 20 witnesses have been called in the trial for Derek Chauvin. Many of them officers. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICOLE MCKENZIE, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE OFFICER: If you don't have a pulse on a person, you'll immediately start CPR. Just because they're speaking doesn't mean they're breathing adequately.


JIMENEZ (voice over): But week two of testimony has largely focused on training. Police Lieutenant Johnny Mercil is a use-of-force instructor with the Training Division at the Minneapolis Police Department.


SCHLEICHER: Sir, is this an MPD trained neck restraint?

MERCIL: No, sir.


JIMENEZ (voice over): Mercil admitted though there are scenarios where a knee on the neck does happen in times of aggressive resistance, but ...


SCHLEICHER: For example, the subject was under control and handcuffed, would this be authorized?

MERCIL: I would no.


JIMENEZ (voice over): The defense for Derek Chauvin pushing the Lieutenant to their central argument ...


GEORGE FLOYD: I can't breathe.


JIMENEZ (voice over): ... that George Floyd died largely from drugs and his medical history, asking about drugs and adrenaline, which the Lieutenant said can speed up the process of going unconscious from a neck restraint.


MERCIL: The higher your blood rate or your respiration and heart rate is generally the faster a neck restraint affects somebody.

SCHLEICHER: And how long based on your training and experience does it typically take to render a person unconscious using a neck restraint?

MERCIL: My experience is under 10 seconds. SCHLEICHER: Under 10 seconds?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.


JIMENEZ (voice over): Lt. Mercil is among multiple senior level officers at the Minneapolis Police Department to testify in recent days on topics like use of force and crisis intervention. The court Tuesday also focused on Chauvin's exact knee placement, which the defense argued was more on Floyd's back at points.


NELSON: Does this appear to be a prone hold that an officer may apply with his knee?




JIMENEZ (voice over): While prosecutors argued the exact placement matters less than what they argue it led to, especially since Floyd was already under control.


SCHLEICHER: You talked about the prone position in and of itself being something that can lead to positional asphyxia, is that right?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

SCHLEICHER: Could that risk be increased by the addition of body weight?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.


JIMENEZ (voice over): And later in the day, the defense returned to one of their central arguments that a loud crowd was a distraction for Chauvin.


NELSON: Does it make it more difficult to assess a patient?


NELSON: Does it make it more likely that you may miss signs that a patient is experiencing something?


NELSON: And so the distraction can actually harm the potential care of the patient.



JIMENEZ (voice over): The defense plans to bring Officer Nicole Mackenzie back as a witness. Among those the offense also wants to call Morries Hall, who was in the car with Floyd prior to his arrest. The defense wants to ask him about allegations that he supplied Floyd with drugs and that counterfeit $20 bill. But Hall's attorney says he'll invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.


JIMENEZ (on camera): And all of that with Hall in court happened this morning before or I should say not in front of a jury. The judge ruled that the defense has to now write out specific questions that he'll go through on Thursday and then make the determination if any of those questions will be allowed to be asked in front of an actual jury.

The final witness called today was a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department who's testifying as a use-of-force expert. Things ended pretty abruptly in the middle of his testimony after a sidebar discussion, so that's where we're going to pick things back up tomorrow morning with his testimony, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. I'm eager to see what that is. OK, Omar, thank you very much.

And I want to go now to Elie Honig, Legal Analyst, former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake who was Mayor when Freddie Gray died in police custody in 2015 and also was a state defense attorney for Maryland and Isaiah McKinnon, the former Police Chief for Detroit. Thanks to all.

So Elie, let me start with you. Jurors have now heard from five members of the Police Department including the police chief who have all said that Derek Chauvin was not using proper force when he restrained Floyd.

Now, that may in and of itself be enough, but they are taking it to this very specific point that Chauvin's knee was on Floyd's neck and that that specifically was against all training and protocol. Are they making an open and closed case as you hear it?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Erin, big picture of the prosecution thus far is putting on a strong, compelling, almost unequivocal case that Derek Chauvin's use of force far exceeded his training, far exceeded the use of force policy of the Minneapolis Police Department. But I think today we started to get into diminishing returns for the prosecution.

We already had heard from the senior most officer on the whole force. We already had heard from the training official. We already had heard from the Chief. It doesn't get any more credible than the Chief. Yet today, they kept calling witness after witness to say largely things that we already knew. And at a certain point that can backfire.

First of all, you have a jury. They have limited attention span. They're only going to stay with you for so long. As a prosecutor, you want to get your case in as soon as you can. And the defense lawyer is getting a chance to score points, maybe not major points, but minor points on every cross examination.

Perfect example, the emergency medical trainer that was called today. We already knew from the Chief that every police officer, of course, has an obligation to render emergency aid. But on her cross examination, Eric Nelson got her to say that well and we heard the clips from Omar just now, it's better practice if you can get the person away from the scene, clear the scene. That's the point that they're going to argue for the defense on closing.

BURNETT: For sure. And Mayor Rawlings-Blake, obviously I'm not a lawyer, but I'm saying they're making the case that he used excessive force again and again and again. And then they're making it to that very specific point about the knee on the neck.

But that knee on the neck has created the opportunity for the defense to try to create some fog, because today they came in and said OK, Chauvin's knee was on Floyd's shoulder not his neck. And last night they said that that was the case when the ambulance arrived that his knee was on the shoulder blade. And today they move that timeline back.

They seem to claim he was actually only on Floyd shoulder for the final five minutes, so they're moving that knee and creating this fog, this question about where was his knee and when was his knee? Is that fog going to be useful for them?

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, FORMER DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Any fog, any confusion, any doubt is a win for the defense. We can watch the video a million times. We can hear from countless experts. All the defense has to do is convince one juror to have doubts and we are seeing the beginning steps of that doubt in the testimony today.


BURNETT: So Chief, let me ask you, we heard today from an officer, this is what Elie mentioned who provides first aid training at the Minneapolis Police Department. We see her there.

Both sides questioned her about this issue about a crowd of bystanders. We know that defense is trying to make a thing of this that the bystanders were in their face and distracting and the officers weren't able to focus and provide medical aid or anything else, because they were distracted. So let me play this exchange.


NELSON: Does it make it more difficult to assess a patient?


NELSON: Does it make it more likely that you may miss signs that a patient is experiencing something?


NELSON: And so the distraction can actually harm the potential care of the patient.


SCHLEICHER: Do the activities of a group of onlookers excuse a police officer from the duty to render emergency medical aid to a subject who needs it?

MACKENZIE: Only if they were physically getting themselves involved.


BURNETT: So Chief, we know this point is one of the keys to Chauvin's defense, that he was distracted, that the crowd was in the face, jumping in, cell phone video, yelling, did that argument - I mean, she was actually a witness for the prosecution here and seem to actually make an argument for the defense.

ISAIAH MCKINNON, FORMER DETROIT POLICE CHIEF: They're trying to get you to believe you didn't see what you saw or that those four police officers, you had three officers who are holding him down and one with his knee on his neck. Another who was addressing the crowd.

And so they're trying to tell you that this crowd was being unruly, they were threatening to the officers. Let's look at Chauvin's face. That's not the case at all. I can tell you specifically, I was almost killed by a Detroit police officer in 1967. That's the same look that I saw on the face of that officer.

I was beat up when I was 14 by an officer. The same look. It's just amazing when you see this or I see this. My god, no, no, they're trying to deflect to get you to think that these kinds of things are not happening.

BURNETT: So Elie, the point that Chief just raises, the look on Chauvin's face. Over and over again, the jury has seen the image of Chauvin with his hand in his pocket, sunglasses on his head, we've all seen this as he kneels on Floyd's neck, but this has been in the courtroom again and again and again. So this image, the defense has tried to explain, OK, so here's how they tried to do that today.


NELSON: Some of the techniques that the Minneapolis Police Department trains both veterans and recruits would be to have a confidence about them, right?


NELSON: Right.

YANG: Yes, sir.

NELSON: They should speak slowly and softly?

YANG: Yes, sir.

NELSON: They should avoid staring or eye contact?

YANG: Yes, sir.


BURNETT: So Elie, they obviously clearly felt they needed to address his demeanor.

HONIG: Yes. What they're trying to do here, Erin, is head off this argument that he's cold blooded, that he's unfeeling. Because when you see him and when you hear his voice, he sounds like he's basically undisturbed whatsoever by what just happened to George Floyd.

What the Chief just said before, what he's feeling when he was looking at Derek Chauvin's face, the things that reminded him of, I assure you the jury is getting the same impression from what they've seen of Derek Chauvin so far. So the defense is trying to head that off.

BURNETT: Chief McKinnon one other point we heard from the defense today is that sometimes people lie in order to get to an officer to let them go. I can't breathe or something, because they're just trying to have the officer let them up. Let me just play that moment for you.


NELSON: When you've arrested people, have you had people plead with you not to arrest them?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

NELSON: Have you had people say they were having a medical emergency?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

NELSON: Have you had people say I can't breathe?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

NELSON: And do you - were there circumstances during the course of your career as a patrol officer where you didn't believe that that person was having a medical emergency?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.


BURNETT: So Chief, what did you make of that, that maybe Chauvin thought Floyd was lying when he was shouting out repeatedly I can't breathe? MCKINNON: In all of the years I've been around even when I was Chief

when I made arrest, I never had anyone told me, yes, I did it. But police officers know that someone's going to try and lie to get out of going to jail. No one wants to go to jail.

The thing is as a trained and fair police officer who's compassionate to people, you try to understand, look, I know you're going to lie to me, but I'm going to take you to jail. And how you take them to jail is the bottom line or bottom question that we have to deal with. And to me, this is one of those situations where we say this was not the way to do it.


BURNETT: Yes. I mean, Mayor Rawlings-Blake, let me ask you, of course I mentioned everyone watching knows you from coverage over the years, including when you were Mayor of Baltimore at the time of Freddie Gray's death.

He was 25 years old, died after sustaining a neck injury when he was in police custody. In that case, there were three officers acquitted, charges dropped against three others. Do you believe that there could be a similar outcome in this trial or do you feel differently this time?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Well, it's a much different case. So I would say I don't want to prejudge the Chauvin trial. Again, we will see if the defense is able to convince one juror that they feel more comfortable calling George Floyd a person who abused drugs and maybe it was the fentanyl that killed him rather than saying that a police officer is a murder.

So it is definitely a different set of circumstances with a lot more evidence, but again, too early to judge.

BURNETT: Thank you all very much. I appreciate it.

MCKINNON: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, George Floyd's friend who was in the car with him on the day of his death wants to plead the fifth, but he has spoken out before.


MORRIES HALL, GEORGE FLOYD'S FRIEND: They broke my heart when they did Floyd like that.


BURNETT: Plus, Mitch McConnell calling corporations weighing in on the Georgia voting law 'stupid'. He says corporations should stay out of politics. Then why doesn't that apply when he spent so much time seeking their political donations?

And Texas joining Florida to ban vaccine passports? Why this may be the new wedge issue when it comes to COVID?



BURNETT: Tonight, the friend of George Floyd who was in the car with him before he died telling the judge in the Derek Chauvin trial that he intends to take the fifth.


Here's some of what the lawyer from Morries Hall who is facing allegations of possibly supplying Floyd with drugs and is also in jail on unrelated charges of domestic abuse and violating a protective order, told the court.


ADRIENNE COUSINS, PUBLIC DEFENDER FOR MORRIES HALL: There's an allegation here that Mr. Floyd ingested a controlled substance as police were removing him from the car. A car by the way that has been searched twice into my understanding drugs have been found in that car twice. This leaves Mr. Hall potentially incriminating himself into a future prosecution for third degree murder.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now the Co-Lead Counsel for the Floyd family, Chris Stewart. And Chris, I really appreciate your time.

So I wanted to give you a chance to talk about Mr. Hall. When you hear the attorney there say they have concerns about a third degree murder charge, possibly meaning concern about whatever happened that day, drug use happened that day may indeed be relevant. They're kind of raising that specter. Are you worried at all about how damaging possible testimony could be from Mr. Hall?

L. CHRIS STEWART, CO-LEAD COUNSEL FOR GEORGE FLOYD'S FAMILY: No, the only reason the defense wants Mr. Hall is for the specter just so they can know bring up drug use or anything of that nature and get away from the murder that we all watched. So I get it, it's for drama, but it's not going to be relevant to the murder of George Floyd.

BURNETT: So last month, a Court TV interviewed Hall and obviously this wasn't all about drug use or whatever else happened, he talked about George Floyd as a person and here's some of what he had to say.


HALL: At one point he said, man, this is cold, I can't believe this. And he just light the whole world. We can't believe. So just hearing him say that and so forth, man, my heart goes out to him. They broke my heart when they did Floyd like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: So is there anything if Hall does testify in any way and I

know he's trying to avoid it, but if he does, that could help humanize himself and George Floyd and add something to your case about what happened that day in the car.

STEWART: Now, I think that first week we all got a great picture of the suffering that George went through. We heard about his family how he is. He was humanized by a phenomenal job by the prosecution the first week and now we're getting to the technical witnesses, which they have to bring him.

I know a lot of people are like it's overkill, but if they didn't put them up, then people would say, oh, they were too arrogant in their case and they should have brought more witnesses, so they got to do what they got to do.

BURNETT: So I want to replay for you, Chris, one line of questioning today from the defense that stood out. Let me play it.


NELSON: When you've arrested people, have you had people plead with you not to arrest them?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

NELSON: Have you had people say they were having a medical emergency?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

NELSON: Have you had people say I can't breathe?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

NELSON: And were there circumstances during the course of your career as a patrol officer where you didn't believe that that person was having a medical emergency?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.


BURNETT: So Chris, what's your reaction to the defense clearly suggesting that officers could have been justified to just believe Floyd was faking this whole thing?

STEWART: Well, you have to understand what jury trial is about, they are mind games. That's what they're doing right now. They are literally trying magic tricks of you didn't see what you saw. Now, his knee wasn't on his neck, but that's on his neck. That's on his neck.

I mean, so they're now arguing every American didn't see what they actually saw, but his knee is on his neck. So it's mind games. So they're now trying to go after every emotional attack that the prosecution made and all they need is one person to confuse or mix up something and so now their defense is ever flowing. It changes every day. Now, it's his he was on his back, not his neck.

So tomorrow who knows what it'll be, but it changes every day.

BURNETT: Do you have confidence in the verdict you'll get from the jury?

STEWART: I've got confidence in human beings. I'll never lose that. In all of the civil rights cases that I fight, I won't lose hope in human beings as a whole and I believe that this jury won't be confused by all of the games that the defense is playing.

I think that they're paying a close attention and they're noticing, wow, Mr. Chauvin is taking notes constantly giving advice to his lawyers, but he couldn't even check a pulse or listen to the other officer who said turn them over, it's not going to work.


BURNETT: Chris, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

STEWART: Any time.

BURNETT: And next, the President on baseball's decision to pull the all-star game out of Georgia as Mitch McConnell calls out corporations for being 'stupid' for taking sides.

And the U.K. pausing testing of AstraZeneca's vaccine on young people as rare cases, I'm sorry, of brain blood clots in adults who've been vaccinated with AstraZeneca are now being investigated as well.



BURNETT: Tonight, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasting corporations for taking sides in the voting law debate as Major League Baseball announces it's officially moving the All Star game to Denver from Atlanta in protest of Georgia's new voting law.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Republicans buy stock, and fly on planes and drink Coca Cola too. So what I'm saying here is I think this is quite stupid to jump in the middle of a highly controversial issue, particularly when they got their facts wrong.



BURNETT: OK. Yet, the hypocrisy is palpable for McConnell. He has spent years, a career, fighting to raise money from corporations for political causes. In fact, he filed lawsuits to allow more corporate money in politics.

And here's what he said in 2012. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Let's be very clear, no individual group in this country should have to face harassment or intimidation, or incur crippling expenses defending themselves against their own government simply because that government doesn't like the message that they're advocating.


BURNETT: Well, McConnell doesn't like the message they're advocating now, and he is, of course, the most senior Republican in Washington. He is certainly a big part of the government. So, I guess when he doesn't like the message, it's okay to intimidate the corporations.

OUTFRONT now, longtime Republican donor, Dan Eberhart. Also, he is the CEO of Canary, an oilfield services company. Also with me, of course, our Dana Bash.

So, Dan, what do you make of what McConnell is doing here?

DAN EBERHART, REPUBLICAN DONOR: Well, I think McConnell is an expert on draining corporations' coffers, and he -- but he wants these companies in the Republican side of the fence, or at the very least giving them to both parties. So, the fact that corporations are parroting Democratic talking points and siding with the Democrats has got to scare Mitch McConnell and his pocketbook to death, frankly.

BURNETT: So, Dana, McConnell was asked today whether a company should give up political donations, right, just be consistent, right? If he's saying they shouldn't play a role in politics, then, hey, how about cutting off those donations? But as Dan saying, the expert in draining corporate coffers, you said it in a more memorable way than I said it, Dan.

Let me just play McConnell for you.


MCCONNELL: I'm not talking about political contributions. Most of them contribute to both sides. They have political action committees. That's fine. It's illegal. It's appropriate. I support that.


BURNETT: So, Dan, he's got no problem with political contributions continuing to flow, but he has a problem when corporations speak out, not on his side?

EBERHART: Yeah, that's what it appears like.


BURNETT: So I go ahead, Dana, I didn't realize you names were so similar.



BASH: So, when you go back to the argument that Mitch McConnell made, because he isn't just saying this, he was and still is at the tip of the spear, the number one advocate for Citizens United, which opened the floodgates of corporate America being allowed to spend unlimited sums of money in campaigns. The argument that he made, was that it's a First Amendment right, that they should be able to speak out, to be a part of the process.

So, it's really hard to understand, they don't have the same right to speak out when they decide for their own, within their own companies, in this case, it's the MLB deciding as a company that we want to make a First Amendment statement and say, we don't like this new Georgia voting, we think it's restrictive so we're going to move.

BURNETT: So, corporations are people until --

BASH: It's just very hard to make the --


BASH: Yeah, exactly.

BURNETT: They're people when it comes to their money, but not when it comes to their point of view. I mean, right, it's completely inconsistent.

But, Dan, you're from Georgia. So, this just happened. So, you probably haven't seen it yet. Former President Trump just put out a statement and he's slamming the Republican governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, he's always looking for excuse to do that, for the wins that Trump says Democrats got in the new law. Trump says, quote, Kemp also caved to the radical left wing woke mob who threatened to call him racist if he got rid of weekend voting. Well, he kept, and they still called him racist.

Now, obviously, Dana, there's nuance in the law. Now, I'm not trying to get into that discussion. It's more the question of Trump weighing on this saying, boycott the MLB, slamming Kemp, taken a side. Is he doing more harm than good by making himself such a central player?

EBERHART: Well, I think clearly to go back to two minutes ago, McConnell is going for more nuanced language, a shot across the bow. Trump is going for the full frontal assault, and he seems to consistently want a war within the -- a civil war within the GOP, in the state of Georgia, which I think is harmful for all.

Trump is trying to stay relevant and to stir up a mess here. I think that this law has got a little bit of good stuff, for folks, for voters of Georgia, and a lot of bad stuff, it really should have been more thought through before it was passed. But Kemp stood behind it.

But Trump is really trying to weigh in and stay relevant. It's really going to cause a lot of chaos, a lot of economic harm to Georgia the way I see it.

Look, as a Georgian, as somebody from Georgia, and as somebody that wants the Atlanta and the metro area to do well, you know, we need to keep the all-star game in Atlanta. We need to not have, boycotts we need to have more business in Atlanta. This law is drawing the wrong kind of attention to the state of Georgia.

BURNETT: Dana, President Biden said today --


BASH: Just real quick, I'm sure you'd agree with me, that the other part of the Trump statement was trying to keep the Governor Kemp from having any political benefit among Republicans with this law, because it is personal.


Trump really despises that governor, because he blames them as you saw in part of that statement for his loss in Georgia.

BURNETT: I mean, it is incredible, Dan, anything to takedown Brian Kemp, right? It's a personal vendetta. To Dana's point, it's personal..

EBERHART: Yeah, the president really wants to see Doug Collins or some other very high profile person in Georgia to take on Brian Kemp in the primary. He's really trying to keep that path open and alive by trying to keep Brian Kemp's numbers down in the Republican Party in the state of Georgia. And that's where the kind of the subtext of what's going on here.

BURNETT: All right, thank you both. I appreciate it.


BASH: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, partisan battle lines being drawn when it comes to vaccine passports, but why?

And Congressman Matt Gaetz is now fund-raising off the fact that there is an investigation, and having sex with an underage girl.


BURNETT: Tonight, the Republican push to ban vaccine passports. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, has issued an executive order banning state agencies and businesses that receive state funding from acquiring vaccine passports, or proof you've gotten a vaccine for COVID.

He follows the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who issued a similar order last week.

[19:40:00] OUTFRONT now, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist who advised the White House medical team under President George W. Bush.

So, Dr. Reiner, these passports, surprisingly, are becoming a political issue. There is a lot to talk about here. You do support them. So, how come?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Because their economic expansion tool. Let's think about this way -- many businesses really require large volumes of people to make money. Think about the Broadway theater industry, a Broadway show cannot make money unless the house is filled. How do you fill a Broadway theater during a pandemic? You need to make sure that everyone in the theater has been vaccinated, hence, a vaccine passport.

I've already received emails from celebrity cruises. They're planning vaccine-only cruises. How do you prove that? With a vaccine passport.

You know, the Texas Rangers yesterday packed 40,000 people into that stadium, not knowing who was sitting next to you. The safe way to do that is to have vaccine passports. It's the way -- think of it as a -- not as a political talisman. Think about as an economic expansion tool.

BURNETT: So, you know, putting aside any questions, I get your point but how you do it, RFID, or whatever, make sure there's no fraud. I mentioned to Republican governors, right. They're arguing its invasion of privacy, I know there are many corporations who say they won't actually require.

But it's interesting, Dr. Reiner, that the White House said that Americans, it's not going to ask for Americans to be required to carry a passport like this. So, even though it seems to be a political wedge issue, you actually have Biden on the same side as Abbott, generally speaking.

What do you say to that?

REINER: I say the White House is wrong, I can't practice in my hospital without being vaccinated, every year for influenza. It's an important public health tool. If we want to open this country, we have to ensure public safety.

It's not an invasion of privacy, to ask people to document if they're going into a tightly packed space that they have been vaccinated. They don't have to be vaccinated but they can be prevented from engaging in that activity.

Offices around this country are going to start doing this, requiring employees to be vaccinated, and show proof of it. I would ask these governors who opposed vaccine passports, how they feel about asking foreigners come into the United States, on visits to prove that they've been vaccinated. I bet you not a single one of those governors would oppose mandating proof that foreigners have been vaccinated.

Why are we asking less from Americans? BURNETT: So, you know, on this issue, you mentioned people from

outside United States coming in. A lot of people coming from outside the United States coming in are going to have other vaccines. Okay? I'm not even talking about the Chinese vaccine. I'm talking AstraZeneca, right? Which is applying now for the U.S.

REINER: Right.

BURNETT: Has been picked as the vaccine of choice in many countries around the world, Europe, India, Philippines, you name. They have now -- they have all sorts of issues. They have paused a trial, and children and teens. The medical regulator in the U.K. is reviewing the cases of rare blood clots in adults that have caused the vaccine to be put on hold several European countries at various points of time.

How concerned are you about the AstraZeneca vaccine?

REINER: So the issue with the vaccine is not so much the number of blood clots they've had. It's relatively small number of serious blood clots, about 30 out of 15 million, which is 0.001 percent. But it's the kind of blood clots, cerebral venous thrombosis, 22 out of those 30 blood clots were cerebral venous thrombosis, which are very rare events.

So, it's the association of that rare event with that vaccine which gets people's attention.

Overall, it's very rare, but they're doing the right thing by pausing their trials to evaluate it.

BURNETT: All right. A lot of focus is going to be on that, because, you know, the more delays with that, the more you have the entire population of your continuing to lag. The big problems here for all of us.

Thank you so much, Dr. Reiner.

REINER: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, Congressman Matt Gaetz fundraising, fundraising because there's an investigation into his involvement with young women, and sex trafficking laws being broken. So, he went to speak at a Women for America first event at, of course, the Trump Doral.

And, growing concerns about the health of top Putin critic Alexey Navalny who was poisoned last year. We're live in Moscow tonight with the latest on his condition.



BURNETT: Tonight, embattled Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz now fund-raising off a federal investigation into whether he had a sexual relationship with an underage girl and whether he paid her. The Trump ally sending out this fund-raising email to supporters with a subject line they are coming for me in which he denies wrongdoing.

Still tonight, few on Capitol Hill are coming to the congressman's defense.

Jessica Dean is OUTFRONT.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to Representative Matt Gaetz and the Justice Departments investigation into allegations of sex trafficking, Republicans on Capitol Hill have been largely silent.

And House Republican leadership has not said much either.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Those are serious implications, if it comes out to be true, we would remove him if that was the case.

DEAN: McCarthy has not spoken about Gaetz's publicly since last weekend his office did not respond when asked by CNN if he had spoken with Gaetz about the allegations. Only two House Republicans have offered public support for Gaetz, Representatives Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene who like Gaetz are fierce defenders of former President Donald Trump.

Aside from these comments, Republican response on the Hill has been pretty universal in its silence, a silence former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent says sends a clear message.

CHARLIE DENT (R), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA CONGRESSMAN: The fact that many Republican house members have not spoken out against him does not hide the fact that many are gleefully experiencing feelings of schadenfreude right now.


Many of them are taking great delight in his misery.

DEAN: The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz engaged in a relationship with a 17 year old, and whether his involvement with other young women broke federal sex trafficking and prostitution laws.

Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing and claims to be the victim of an extortion plot.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): It's a horrible allegation and it's a lie.

DEAN: Gaetz has the reputation of being a man apart on Capitol Hill, better known for his stunts than for his close relationships with his colleagues. He wore a gas mask on the House floor during a vote on a COVID-19 relief package, and during the first impeachment inquiry against former President Trump, Gaetz led a group of Republicans who stormed a secure room where closed-door depositions was taking place.

Dent, who served with Gaetz, says Gaetz is now politically isolated.

DENT: He is in a situation again where he is isolated, marginalized, no friends, and that's just Republicans.

DEAN: Earlier this year, Gaetz attacked the leadership of his own party, traveling to Wyoming where he railed against Representative Liz Cheney, the third ranking Republican in the House, after she voted to impeach former President Trump.

GAETZ: We are in a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. And I intend to win it.

DEAN: While Gaetz has acted as one of Trump's strongest defenders, the former president has so far not offered any support to the former Florida congressman. A source tells CNN Trump brought updates in a recent conversation with an ally, talking as if he was genuinely fishing about whether he should weigh in. The response was he should stay far away from the situation.


DEAN (on camera): And a senior House GOP source tells CNN tonight that Gaetz is unlikely to lose his seat on the House Judiciary Committee unless he's indicted, but because he is refuting the allegations and saying they are not true, he is able to keep that seat until or unless federal charges are filed, Erin.

One more thing to keep in mind, he's not going to face a lot of pressure at home right now to resign. He says he doesn't want to resign. He won his race in 2020 by 20 points. He won his primary by some 71 points against two other people, Erin. So, he enjoys a lot of support in his home district.


All right. Thank you very much, Jessica.

And next, our own Matthew Chance briefly detained in Russia while he was covering Alexey Navalny's deteriorating health in prison. I'm going to talk to Matthew next about what happened.



BURNETT: Tonight, top Putin critic Alexei Navalny reportedly in deteriorating health at a brutal penal colony in Russia.

Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From inside this grim penal colony where Alexei Navalny is languishing, reports are emerging of the Russian opposition figures failing health. The latest from Navalny unconfirmed by authorities is he is coughing a hard, running a high temperature, and has been moved to a sick ward on the prison grounds. A group of sympathetic doctors even gathered at the gates demanding

access to the jailed Kremlin critic who has complained of a tuberculosis outbreak behind bars.

ANASTASIYA VASILYEVA, DOCTOR AND ALLY OF KREMLIN CRITIC ALEXEY NAVALNY: I'm very troubled about his health and about what could happen with his health. I understand very clearly about some symptoms that he has now that it can lead to a very severe condition and even death.

CHANCE: But those in power are pushing back on the claims he is at death's door. This closed circuit television footage reports to show Navalny in his prison dorm after complaining of a bad back and lack of sensitivity in his legs. You can see him walking across the room and chatting to a prison guard, suggesting his poor health may have been exaggerated.

There is also this, broadcast on Russian state media, silent video of Navalny fast asleep in bed, recorded by a prison employee during an inspection. The opposition figure has described being woken every hour by guards, tantamount to torture by sleep deprivation, he says.

There has also been an extraordinary access granted to this woman, Maria Butina is the name, once a high-profile prisoner in a U.S. jail after being convicted of conspiracy to be a foreign agent. Now, a reporter on Russian television, comparing Navalny's prison conditions with her own.

You should spend time in an American jail, she screams at him off camera. At least here, it's clean, she says.

It was, of course, Navalny who was taken suddenly ill on a flight from Siberia last year, suspected nerve agent poisoning.

Amid concerns of neurological damage, the opposition leader, who was jailed after recovering and returning to Russia in January, says he is on hunger strike until he gets proper medical care.

But Russian officials are showing no sign of relenting. Navalny's wife says she just got this letter from the penal colony, requesting her husband's passport. Without it, the letter says, he cannot be treated in hospital. Russia's stubborn bureaucracy now threatening the health of its beleaguered opposition leader.


BURNETT: That's incredible footage.

I mean, Matthew, you know, you're with me now, but you are free after being detained earlier today just outside the facility that we just saw Navalny is in. Tell me what happened.

CHANCE: Yeah, perhaps I need a small taste of what it's like to be incarcerated, but I mentioned the protest outside the Navalny penal colony, couple hours drive from Moscow. Eventually, that was broken up and the police moved through to clear the area outside the gate. So they detained that woman you heard from that report, Anastasiya Vasilyeva, she was spearheading that doctors protest, demanding access to Navalny.

But also I was picked up, my cameraman was picked up, a couple of other journalists were put on the policeman and driven off to the police station. We then had our documents checked, and we were processed and then we were set free and allowed to continue with our work. But it just underlines how little patients the authorities have these days, when it comes to protests about Alexey Navalny's conditions and indeed about coverage of those protests as well -- Erin.

BURNETT: Amazing. All right. Matthew, thank you so much for that fantastic report and we're glad you're back with us.

Thanks all you for watching.

Anderson starts now.