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Erin Burnett Outfront

NYT: Boehner Says Trump "Incited That Bloody Insurrection"; Trump Endorses Lawmaker Who Touted His Big Election Lie; Expert: Chauvin Used "Deadly Force" By Placing Knee On Neck; Defense Argues Floyd Was Resisting Arrest When He Said "I Can't Breathe" As Officers Tried To Get Him In Car; Interview With Georgia Secretary Of State Brad Raffensperger; Sources: Rep Matt Gaetz Sought A Preemptive Pardon, But The Request Was Never Seriously Considered; CDC Chief: U.K. Variant Now The Dominant COVID Strain In U.S. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 07, 2021 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, a Capitol riot suspect ready to flip on the Proud Boys and cooperate with the DOJ as the former House Speaker, Republican John Boehner says Trump incited the insurrection perpetrated, Boehner says, by Trump's BS.

Plus, the defense in the trial of Officer Derek Chauvin claiming those famous words of George Floyd I can't breathe were Floyd's way of resisting arrest. A Floyd family attorney is OUTFRONT.

And Matt Gaetz sought a pardon from Trump. Would you do that if you hadn't done anything wrong? Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, an accused Capitol rioter flips. CNN now learning that one of the people charged after storming the U.S. Capitol has agreed to help the Justice Department in its case against the Proud Boys' leadership. It's a significant move and according to an attorney familiar with the case, it could lead, ready for this, to more severe charges against those allegedly involved in the insurrection.

Well, that comes with great implication for anybody who could possibly be blamed for the insurrection. OK. This is where the former Republican House Speaker John Boehner enters, because he is squarely placing the blame on Trump for the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

According to excerpts from his new book obtained by The New York Times, Boehner writes, he never mince his words, "Trump incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons, perpetuated by the BS he'd been shoveling since he lost a fair election the previous November."

Like I said, Boehner says it like it is, he doesn't mince words. It's a stunning charge, though, from the former Republican House Speaker.

Boehner then goes on to say, I quote him again, "Some of the people involved did not surprise me in the least. The legislative terrorism that I'd witnessed as speaker had now encouraged actual terrorism."

Again, let's just be clear the significance of this, the former Republican Speaker calling the insurrection itself actual terrorism brought on by members of his own party. People he served with like Congressman Mo Brooks.


REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): That our ancestors sacrifice their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes and sometimes their lives to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you, are you willing to do the same? Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass?


BURNETT: And that's what they did. That is Mo Brooks. The same man that Trump endorsed today for U.S. Senate seat and what you just saw Mo Brooks saying was what he said to that Trump crowd on insurrection day in the Washington mall on insurrection day.

So Trump says today about Mo Brooks, "Few Republicans have as much COURAGE," caps, "and FIGHT," caps, "as Alabama congressman Mo Brooks. Brooks is fighting for voter integrity like few others."

Let's just be honest, the only thing Brooks has had the courage to fight for is Trump's big lie. That would not be voter integrity. But Trump is not the only one trying to whitewash the events of that insurrection day. Tucker Carlson is now trying to gaslight his viewers into thinking the insurrection was no big deal.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: They didn't have guns, but a lot of them had extremely dangerous ideas. They talked about the Constitution and something called their rights. Some of them made openly seditious claims. They insisted, for example, that the last election was not entirely fair.


BURNETT: Dangerous ideas like the Constitution or their rights? Did you watch what happened that day? Those are not the ideas they were talking about.


CROWD: Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.








UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nancy. Oh, Nancy. Nancy. Where are you, Nancy? We're looking for you, Nancy?


BURNETT: And it wasn't just talk, they had a noose that they put near Capitol grounds. And by the way (inaudible) they didn't have guns, the only thing dangerous was their ideas. A police officer was killed, 140 other officers were injured, cracked ribs, smashed spinal discs, officers hit with baseball bats, flagpoles and pipes.

An officer lost an eye, another reporter lost the tip of their right index finger and yet now we're hearing they didn't have guns. All their extremely dangerous things were ideas like the Constitution. Are you kidding me?


All of this happened because the big lie that the election somehow wasn't fair. John Boehner calls them BS. He's right on that. I can't believe there continues to be a need to repeat such basic fact as this, that the election was fair.


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

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, (R) GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: We have not seen any widespread voter fraud.


BURNETT: And remember what Attorney General Bill Barr told The Associated Press, "We have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election." To use Boehner's words, what Trump and his sycophants are pushing is BS. And months later, three months later, they're still pushing it, trying to cloak it in some - the only dangerous thing that they were there talking about was the Constitution. Jim Acosta is OUTFRONT live in Washington. Jim, you of course covered

Trump for four years in the White House and his campaign before that. And after everything that happened on January 16th - 6th, I'm sorry, by his actions today, he comes out and endorses Mo Brooks. It's clear that he has not learned any lessons from it.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: No, of course, Erin. He has not learned any lessons. He doesn't think he needs to learn any lessons and the insurrection on January 6th has propagandists across the Republican Party now. That's very clear from what you just laid out a few moments ago.

But I think getting back to whether Donald Trump has learned lessons, I mean, look at the Mo Brooks' endorsement. This is somebody who was speaking there on January 6th as you were just pointing out. But I talked to a Trump advisor, an ally of the former president earlier today who said this is a mistake for Trump to endorse, Mo Brooks. It's going to remind people of what happened on January 6th.

But let's go back to the Boehner book that you were just talking about, Erin. I think it's a perfect illustration of what's going on. Yes, the former Speaker tears into Donald Trump, says he's responsible for the insurrection on January 6th. But I talked to a GOP operative who I think put it very well earlier today, the Republican Party is not listening to John Boehner. The Republican Party is listening to Donald Trump.

A Trump adviser Jason Miller put out a statement earlier today describing Boehner as a swamp creature and if you need more evidence that the party is listening to Trump, look what's going to take place this weekend down at Mar-A-Lago. Donald Trump is going to speak at the RNC donor retreat.

It is going to happen at Mar-A-Lago this Saturday evening. He is going to be alongside many other leading figures inside the Republican Party. And it's just another shining example, disturbing example, Erin, that much of the Republican Party has not backed away from Donald Trump. They are enabling Donald Trump.

So no, he has not learned any lessons from January 6th, because much of the party is making sure of that, Erin.

BURNETT: Right. And then they're behind him. All right. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

So I want to go straight now to Matthew Dowd, Chief Strategist for the Bush-Cheney Presidential Campaign of '04 and Kathleen Belew, Author of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America. So thank you both for being with me.

Matt, let me just start with you. Boehner said that Trump costs Republicans the Senate in 2020, which shouldn't be a controversial thing just ask any Republican in Georgia. Now, Trump is endorsing a candidate in a Senate primary race that's a year away. And not just any candidate, but a candidate who was there with him on the podium, on the day as that day of the insurrection spreading the big lie, how significant is this?

MATTHEW DOWD, CHIEF STRATEGIST FOR THE BUSH-CHENEY 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, to me and I know you'll talk to Kathleen somewhat about this, but to me there's a huge problem and it's Donald Trump just represents an effect of the problem not the cause of the problem in this. And I wouldn't say Donald Trump was a proximate cause of the election losses and the trouble of the Republican Party is it.

But really it's a much bigger thing, which is the Republican Party today, this is the first time in American history where the white supremacy movement of America which showed its face on insurrection day on January 6th has fully taken over one of the legacy parties in America. This is the first time. We've had others. We've had George Wallace in the Independent Party. We've had the Know Nothing movement. We've had elements of the south which had white supremacy in a part of the confederacy.

But never have we before but one party been completely taken over and why? It's because that's where the voiders (ph) are. And I unfortunately have to say America has many great things, but the soil of America, part of the soil of America, this is in the soil of America. And what was different today is we have one legacy party that's completely adopted it, which is a minority of the country but it is powerful, along with one major cable network.

And we've never had that before in America. We've had elements of it. We've had pockets of it, but we've never had it before and that's the difficult spot we're in as a country today.

BURNETT: So Kathleen, let me ask you because as Matthew brings up, the cable network, Tucker Carlson is a smart guy with a giant platform and a large audience, so I don't know why he would say something counterfactual like he did but this is revisionist history right but he's putting out.


There's nothing dangerous about these people. Gosh, they didn't even have guns. They just had some ideas. I mean, it's false. How dangerous is all this?

KATHLEEN BELEW, AUTHOR, "BRING THE WAR HOME: THE WHITE POWER MOVEMENT": It's incredibly dangerous. And I think this is a particularly bold revision that comes not very long after an event that we all watched that it's hard to make the argument that they had no guns, that this wasn't intended as a violent action.

Some of the people referenced in this particular repainting of the events are people who had quite a few guns that they stashed in backpacks outside the Capitol building and that they had in arsenals at their homes. People who had zip ties who were on their way to very likely kidnap and harm legislators.

And now we have news today that these groups are beginning to turn on each other, that we're going to begin to get information that will let us see what history has indicated is very likely, which is that these groups are interconnected, that the assault on the Capitol was pre- planned and that it was an attack on our democracy. We know that that's what they were doing, because that's what they've been doing for decades, if not generations. And we know that although January 6th was not intended as a mass casualty attack by white power groups and others, that will be the next step.

So we don't have time for this revisionist history. It's critical that we act now.

BURNETT: So Matt, let me ask you because you talk about what fringe is in charge of the Republican Party. So Boehner has come out and placed the blame solely on President Trump and the Republican Party has been taken over by whack jobs. OK. Now, let me just give you a statistic here that I don't know if a lot of people saw today.

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene says her reelection campaign has raised $3.2 million in her first three months of office. She's embraced conspiracy theories, indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians, was even removed from her committees. This is, just to be clear, $3.2 million is more than four times what the far left wing star AOC raised in her first three months.

So Matthew, when you look at that, does money talk? Does it tell you everything you need to know about where the power center is, "center" in quotes is for the GOP?

DOWD: Well, I think money and it's not like money represents where the base of the party is. I think it's the idea that there's this establishment Republicans pointing out like in some way that there's these whack jobs that don't represent the Republican Party. They represent the Republican Party as it stands today, that's who the Republican Party is.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, my guess is, is far more popular in the National Republican Party, if you did a poll than Boehner is. That's where the Republican Party is. It's not just a pocket of people and a few here and a few there, it is the base of the Republican Party. And I want to add onto something Kathleen said ...


DOWD: ... which is this isn't the first time where a lie has been produced in the aftermath of something we all saw within our own eyes in the aftermath of this and that it's somehow being spun into some mythic status that we all know with our own eyes and ears happened.

It happened after the Civil War. We all know what happened and what the Civil War was about, it was about slavery and it was about reuniting the country and abolishing slavery. But what happened after the Civil War?

The same elements that are rooted in the same thing started their own narrative, which was this lost cause narrative that it wasn't about slavery, it was about states' rights, it was about southern traditions. And that narrative played out for more than a hundred years, that narrative surfaced again in the midst of civil rights and so it's not the first time.

What I think Republicans who care still care have to understand the days of pointing out and say those people don't represent it. That's the Republican Party. And I would put some of this on Boehner. This didn't start in 2016. This started long before Donald Trump showed up on the scene and Boehner did nothing about it as it grew.

BURNETT: And let me ask you about that, Kathleen, because you got Boehner coming out now, whatever you Trump was shoveling this load of BS. Well, it comes out now. Was this fringe takeover of the Republican Party inevitable sort of that we could have seen it happening from the beginning of the tea party or could someone like Boehner have actually made a difference if he had spoken out sooner?

BELEW: That's a great question and historians like to talk a lot about contingency, which is just the idea that events are never predetermined. Like there are always has and taken near misses in our own recent history and in our distant history. But none of this is dead, the lost cause narrative is very much alive.

We saw a confederate flag in the Capitol building on January 6th. The Confederate flag is no longer a heritage symbol that's just in part of our country that has to do with this law and history, which as you indicated is very complex, even in its most sort of benign versions. But we're now dealing with a kind of politics that's incredibly fragmented, where that flag symbolizes something to people who don't have any relationship with the lost cause.


And now we're talking about a kind of fragmentation that's shaping not only the fringe and extremist groups as it did in an earlier period, but is now arched in our national politics and international media. And this is of grave concern to all of us.

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

And next, the dispute over what George Floyd said to police on the day of his death.


ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Does it sound like he says 'I ate too many drugs'? Listen again.


GEORGE FLOYD: (Inaudible) ...


BURNETT: And Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on how he could stand up to Trump during the election and still support the voter law that was based on Trump's lies.

And hospitalization numbers in COVID cases trending in the wrong direction as the CDC announces the highly contagious variant first found in the U.K. is now the dominant strain in the United States.



BURNETT: Tonight, deadly force. An expert witness taking the stand in the Derek Chauvin trial testify that the former officer should have known the pressure of his bodyweight could lead to George Floyd's death. This comes as the defense argues that Floyd was actually resisting arrest when he told officers I can't breathe. Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): So far, nine Minneapolis current or former police officers including the Chief have testified for the prosecution. On Wednesday, a prosecution expert on the use of force from the Los Angeles Police Department testified.



STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Sir, do you have an opinion, to a degree of reasonable professional certainty, whether the force used, as shown in exhibit 254, whether that force being applied then for the restraint period, which you've defined as nine minutes and 29 seconds would constitute deadly force?


SCHLEICHER: And what is that opinion?

STIGER: That it would.


SIDNER(voice over): Sgt. Jody Stiger was also asked about the crowd shouting at police as they restrained Floyd.


SCHLEICHER: It would be possible for a group, a loud group, to distract the defendant from being attentive to George Floyd, is that right?


SCHLEICHER: Do you believe that occurred?

STIGER: No, I do not.

SCHLEICHER: And why is that?

STIGER: Because in the body worn video, you can hear Mr. Floyd displaying his discomfort, and pain and you can also hear the defendant responding to him.


FLOYD: My stomach hurts.


FLOYD: My neck hurts.

CHAUVIN: Uh-huh.

FLOYD: Everything hurt. I need some water or something. Please. Please. I can't breathe, officer.



SIDNER (voice over): Stiger testified about the medical complication he learned of as an officer himself when putting pressure on someone's body who's lying on their stomach.


SCHLEICHER: How long have the dangers of positional asphyxia been known?

STIGER: At least 20 years.


SIDNER (voice over): He also testified that body camera video showed Chauvin using pain compliance even after Floyd stop resisting.


STIGER: Pain compliance is a technique that officers use to get a subject to comply with their commands.


SIDNER (voice over): In cross-examination, Chauvin's attorney question Stiger's expertise.


NELSON: Have you ever previously testified in any court or in any state or in federal court as an expert on the police use of force?

STIGER: No, I have not.


SIDNER (voice over): Eric Nelson argued the crowd was distracting Chauvin. He brought in the issue of Floyd's drug use, intimating he took drugs during the arrest.


FLOYD: I'm sorry. I'm sorry.


NELSON: Does it sound like he says 'I ate too many drugs'? Listen again.

FLOYD: (Inaudible) ...

STIGER: I can't make that out, no.


SIDNER (voice over): The next state witness, Special Agent James Reyerson, who investigated Floyd's death. At first he agreed with Nelson.


NELSON: Did it appear that Mr. Floyd said I ate too many drugs?



SIDNER (voice over): But when asked again by prosecutors, disputed Nelson's interpretation.


REYERSON: I believe Mr. Floyd was saying, I ain't do no drugs.


SIDNER (voice over): A BCA forensic scientist testified she tested a pill found in the squad car weeks after Floyd was pulled from it.


MCKENZIE ANDERSON, FORENSIC SCIENTIST, MINNESOTA BUREAU OF CRIMINAL APPREHENSION: The swab collected from that pill, I obtained a single source male DNA profile that matches George Floyd.



SIDNER (on camera): Now, the defense made a point of questioning several of the witnesses about those pills that were found inside not only the squad car, but also inside the SUV where George Floyd was first taken from. And we heard from a chemist that tested some of those pills and she said that there were levels of fentanyl in some of the pills and levels of methamphetamine.

Though, she said the levels of fentanyl were low in some of those pills and the methamphetamine as well, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Sara, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

And I want to go straight to Tony Romanucci, as promised. One of the attorneys for the Floyd family. And Tony, I appreciate your coming on again.


BURNETT: So the defense arguing today that when Floyd first yelled out I can't breathe, that it was a form of resisting arrest. So the suggestion was that this is just something people do and people say to bargain with officers to let them go. What was your reaction when you heard that argument?

ROMANUCCI: Well, and that's all it is, it's an argument. It doesn't take away from the fact that the use of force here was excessive and it turned out to be deadly. Whether or not George was trying to get out of the situation he was in doesn't take away from the fact that Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for such a period of time as to cause his death.

We know that he died from positional asphyxia. Everything else, including the drug use, that's just the defense. That's just something a distraction in order for us to take the jury's attention away from what happened here.

BURNETT: Which I think it's significant how you answered that question and how you walk that line. I do. I wonder what it'll mean for the jury. I mean, today, we heard prosecutors directly addressed a point, another point, Tony, that the defense has been making repeatedly.

And you've seen this, this whole question about Chauvin's knee, that they've been trying to move it at different times, that maybe it was on his shoulder blade when the ambulance arrived, not his neck and maybe at another point it was on his shoulder blade, not exactly on his neck, so here's what they said today.


SCHLEICHER: Is the risk related to the pressure on the neck or the pressure on the body?


STIGER: The pressure on the body, any additional pressure on the body complicates breathing more so than if there was no pressure at all.

SCHLEICHER: And so the placement of the knees even if there can be shifting between the neck, the base of the neck, the point is that both of the defendant's knees were on Mr. Floyd's body during the entirety of the restraint period, is that right?



BURNETT: So Tony, that was the prosecution. I'm not a lawyer, but what that sounds like they're trying to say is maybe admitting that the jury may have questions about Chauvin's knee not being on the neck the whole time and they're trying to make the point, well, if it wasn't on there the whole time, it doesn't matter, because this is still how he died.

Why do you think they felt that they needed to do that? Did they do a good job? Do you think that that indicates there could be a fog on this crucial question with the jury? How do you interpret this?

ROMANUCCI: I think we need to interpret it in totality here. If you look at the testimony from Friday into Monday, it really was watershed testimony in policing in America, I think, because you had police officers from within the department in which the officer is being accused of saying that the use of force was never trained that way, it wouldn't have been tolerated and that it certainly was excessive and caused - and could cause death.

So when you look at that testimony, the jury should look beyond any of these other distractions and key in on Chief Arradondo who, like I said, never seen before in this country and set an example for policing in America on this, cracking the blue line and the code of silence here by coming out and speaking against one of his own officers.

BURNETT: So let me ask you one other point, the expert witness from the LAPD today was asked about Floyd's initial resistance when officers were trying to get him into the squad car and whether there were more severe ways that Chauvin could have responded than he actually did. Here's the exchange.


NELSON: Officer Chauvin theoretically, based on what he saw, active resistance, he could have come up and dry stunned him or tased him. That would be within the active resistance struggling use of force continuum?


NELSON: He didn't do that, right?

STIGER: No, he did not.

NELSON: Because sometimes an officer has to back down in their use-of- force, right?

STIGER: In certain situations, yes.


BURNETT: So they're trying to say Chauvin actually held back on the use of force. Your response to that?

ROMANUCCI: I don't buy it. Again, it's another distraction, Erin. Because the death came when Chauvin was kneeling on him and the other officers were also kneeling on his back, causing him not to breathe, cutting off his circulation, cutting off his breathing, cutting off his airway.

The fact that Chauvin didn't use a certain amount of force in order to subdue George before that has nothing to do with what caused his death. He didn't die when they were trying to subdue him when he was inside the car. He died when he was on the street and they tortured him not only with the knee on the neck and the knees on the back, but also with small joint manipulation.

This was a nine minute and 29-second torture, a slow death, that never should have happened. That knee never should have been on his neck or near it.

BURNETT: All right. Tony, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

ROMANUCCI: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, President Trump still attacking the Georgia Secretary of State five months after the election. Well, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is OUTFRONT next.

Plus, Congressman Matt Gaetz has had Trump's back even getting engaged at Mar-A-Lago. So does Trump still have his back?



BURNETT: New tonight, no charges. Park Cannon, the Democratic lawmaker in Georgia -- you may remember her from these images, she was arrested while protesting in the state's controversial election law -- will not be prosecuted. Now, this is according to her attorney.

This comes as a Democratic mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, issues an executive order to, quote, mitigate the impact of the law, which imposes voter identification requirements, new ones for absentee ballots, limits the use a ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to give out water or food to voters who are waiting in line.

OUTFRONT now, the Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

And, Secretary, so much to talk to you about and I appreciate your time.

So, I want to start with Mayor Bottoms because she's not going to be the last mayor in your state who says she's going to counter the effects of this law. Do you think any efforts like hers will have any impact?

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: It's the obligation of every elected official to follow the law. So, we'll be looking at that on the upcoming elections coming up this fall, in 2021.

BURNETT: So, this election bill was signed into law, as some of the top voices on the right and as you know are still giving air to the falsehood, the lie that the election was stolen from Trump, they're still doing this five months later.

So, just in case you haven't seen things over the past few days, Secretary, here's Trump himself, and then less than 24 hours ago, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at the numbers, the numbers were vastly in favor of us and the presidential election. It was disgraceful that they were able to get away with it. The Supreme Court didn't have the courage to do what they had to do.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: They didn't have guns, but a lot of them had extremely dangerous ideas. They talk about the Constitution, something called their rights. Some of them made openly seditious claims. The insisted, for example, that the last election was not entirely fair.


BURNETT: So, Mr. Secretary, you said that the election was fair, was fair in Georgia, that's the fact.

What do you say to Trump and to others -- both of these, as I said Trump was 10 days ago, Tucker Carlson was last night -- to people, they and others who are still saying that the lie about the election being stolen or somehow not being fair is true?


RAFFENSPERGER: Well, in Georgia, we had a fair and honest election. It didn't turn out the way my party wanted it to turn out. I was disappointed also. But at the end of the day, President Trump came up short.

But that two months or three months of disinformation, misinformation really took a shot to the confidence in elections. And therefore, whatever we can do to restore confidence is a very important.

I think one of those aspects is making sure that we have strong objective measures of voter identification for absentee ballots. So, I support the measure. These drivers license number and your birthday, day, month, year. It becomes very objective, instead of subjective like signature match.

BURNETT: OK. So, a couple of points from that. Let me start with this.

You were, of course, one of the loudest Republican voices in the country to push back against Trump and his life that the election was stolen, right? I'll never forget how you stood up to the president himself when he tried to pressure you and other officials in your state to overturn the election results.

Let me just remind people of part of your conversation with the president.


TRUMP: The people of Georgia are angry. The people of the country are angry. And there's nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you've recalculated.

RAFFENSPERGER: Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong. We talk to the congressmen and they were surprised. But they -- I guess there's a person named Mr. Braynard that came to these meetings and presented data, and he said that there was dead people, I believe it was upward of 5,000.

The actual number were two. Two. Two people voted. And so, that's wrong.


BURNETT: OK. So, you took him on directly. The law that you have in Georgia, you're giving reason you support it. But it also takes you on directly. It removes you as chairman, and a voting member of the Georgia state election board. And it now gives that power to the state legislature to appoint the majority of the election board.

Now, I want just make people understand how significant this may be, because when you stood up the president and said those things were false, there were people in your state, in fact on your state legislature, who, six of them, called for a special session to overturn the results of the 2020 election and do exactly the Trump wanted.

This new bill would give those -- that legislature the right to put whoever they want in your position, somebody who wouldn't stand up for the truth. Isn't that a problem?

RAFFENSPERGER: I believe so. It's one part of a bill that I object too strenuously. The reason is the secretary of state is chair of the state election board since at least 1960, over 60 years. It didn't matter if it was a Democrat or Republican secretary of state, that's how it was.

When the fact they're doing is putting an unelected person in charge of that, a very powerful position that could actually fire a county election director, and how is going to be any accountability? I'm accountable to the voters. And having me as the chair of the election state board ensures that the voters have accountability. Now, we have no one to hold accountable.

Unelected boards should not have that, you know, amount of power. I think it's a very dangerous precedent that they're setting right now.

BURNETT: So, they're -- you're saying that's a dangerous precedent that's in the bill. There's something else in there I wanted to ask you about. A lieutenant governor of your state, obviously, Jeff Duncan, also a Republican, he told me the other day that he was concerned about the laws banning distribution of food and water at polling places. Here's how he said it.


JEFF DUNCAN (R), GEORGE LT. GOVERNOR: You know, there's two sides to the water and food in line. I understand the technicalities of it. I just thought the timing was insensitive and not timely.


BURNETT: So he says it's insensitive and not timely. Do you agree?

RAFFENSPERGER: I agree with his position, it wasn't explained well.

The reason that the general simply did that is that we had many people, many political parties and their campaigns were actually approaching the 150-foot zone around the precincts which are no politicking, no electioneering. They're handing out water, they're handing out snacks. But at the same time, they're also doing electioneering. And that's why the general assembly did that.

But it wasn't probably put out there and explained properly. That was the genesis of that, and it's now incorporated into the law. There will be no electioneering. But the county election officials, the precinct workers can't hand out water, and that's where it can be done in a nonpartisan way.

BURNETT: Okay, so as all this is happening and you're talking about the damage that was done, with everything that Trump and others said about the lie, and I just want to make sure that I keep emphasizing the point. That they are still saying, Trump is now still out there attacking you. He's attacking you personally. He's attacking the law.

So, he's put out a new statement and it says, quote, Georgia's election reform laws are far too weak and soft to ensure real ballot integrity. Governor Brian Kemp and Georgia secretary of state should have eliminated, no excuse, widespread mass mail-in voting, gotten rid of the dangerous and unsecure drop boxes, and should have kept an expanded signature verification to do the matches against the historical voter file among other things. Hope the RINOs are happy.


Interesting he's now for signature verification, which, of course, he had said would be evidence of widespread fraud himself many times. But, Mr. Secretary, what do you say to former President Trump, in the context of the fact that the vast majority of your party still believes what he says?

RAFFENSPERGER: The state of Georgia has been sued by the Republican Party and the Democrat Party over signature match. So, I find his comment interesting. His very own party sued the secretary of state's office on signature match.

We are moving away from that. It is a subjective method of doing voter identification. Now, we're moving to an objective means. And this is what's being used in both blue states and red states. It's a bipartisan measure.

And so, it's the best way we believe of moving forward. So that's something I support.

BURNETT: Can I ask you one question before you go, Mr. Secretary? This is something I want to ask you because I've heard that phone call between you and the president so many times when he says, I believe it was upward to 5,000 dead people, right? And you paused, OK, because in that pause, you're thinking about how to respond, is what I'm thinking you're thinking.

And you say the actual number was two, two. Two people that were dead that voted. So that's wrong.

What went through your mind in that instant when he repeated that completely false thing and you're thinking, what do I say right now?

RAFFENSPERGER: Well, I had to get back to the actual facts, and that is there are two people that have died, someone voted in their place. That was the correct number.

All the numbers that President Trump said and his team said, we wrote a letter to Congress that was received on January 6. They were probably busy with some other issues that day and didn't get a chance to read it.

But it was a point by point rebuttal over the 12 pages, and it's posted on the secretary of state's website, a point by point rebuttal.

None of their facts are correct. In fact, finally, Sidney Powell's lawyer admitted as much in one of their filings recently.

BURNETT: In fact, she said no sane person would have believed any of the lies she was spouting. It was one of the most incredible defenses I've heard.

All right. Well, Secretary of State Raffensperger, I appreciate your time, and thank you.

RAFFENSPERGER: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right.

And next, Matt Gaetz has spent years kissing up to the Trumps.


REP. MATT GAETZ (D-FL): These are Ivanka's favorites. She told me she liked my shoes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Can he count on their support now that he's under investigation?

And the contagious U.K. coronavirus variant is now the dominant strain in the United States, as hospitalizations are now going up.



BURNETT: Tonight, we're learning new details of the pardon embattled Congressman Matt Gaetz sought from the Trump White House. Sources tell CNN the White House never seriously considered Gaetz's request, but there was such a thing for a preemptive pardon.

And "The New York Times" reports it's unclear whether Gaetz at the time knew about the specifics investigation into whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. But I've just been wondering why somebody would ask for a blanket pardon if one had not done anything wrong, or thought there was anything out there, right? I mean, would you?

Well, anyway, in a statement, Trump says that Gaetz, one of his most vocal defenders, never asked him personally for pardon.

Ryan Nobles is OUTFRONT.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, embattled Congressman Matt Gaetz in search of support, and getting a return favor for the man he spent years defending and praising.

GAETZ: President Trump sometimes raises his voice and a ruckus, he knows that's what it takes to raise an army of patriots, who love America and will protect her.

NOBLES: In his short time in Washington, the Florida congressman has gone out of his way to attach himself to Trump, as demonstrated in the 2020 HBO documentary, "The Swamp".

GAETZ: Hey, Mr. President, it's Matt Gaetz. I don't need anything sir, just calling you to tell you did a great job today, don't let these people get you down. We're going to keep fighting for you with all we got.

TRUMP: They're crazy, Matt. You're doing fantastic.

NOBLES: Gaetz defending Trump, even when some Republicans were unwilling.

GAETZ: My fellow patriots, don't be shy and don't be sorry! Join me as we proudly represent the pro-Trump America first wing of the conservative movement.

NOBLES: The congressman so connected to the former president, he even met and then proposed to his fiance, Ginger Lucky, at Trump's Mar-a- Lago club surrounded by Trump's allies. And it's not just the former president, but his children as well. Gaetz spending a lot of time cozying up to Ivanka.

GAETZ: These are Ivanka's favorite, she told me she liked my shoes, wore them to the White House.

NOBLES: And Don Jr., like he did when he traveled to Wyoming to attack fellow Republican Liz Cheney who voted to impeach Trump after the insurrection.

GAETZ: A man who loves Wyoming, who loves to hunt and fish. How about a word for Donald Trump Jr.?

NOBLES: But while Gaetz has done everything he can to support Trump, the former president's support of him during his tumultuous time has been less than passionate. None of the Trump children have offered any public support for Gaetz. Sources telling CNN Trump himself is being advised to stay away from the Gaetz scandal.


NOBLES: And there's a open question as to Gaetz's political future, even as soon is next week, he currently has an open proxy vote. So it's not clear whether or not Gaetz will even be back in Washington when the House returns to session. And then, there's, of course, his relationship with leadership.

The House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying he wants to meet with Gaetz to talk about this investigation. Erin, so far, McCarthy's office won't say if that meeting has happened.

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

And let's go next to a COVID vaccine use around the world, linked to rare blood clots now, according to U.K. experts. But what could this mean for all of us if hundreds of millions of people aren't going to get this vaccine now?

And the White House now responding to reports that top Putin critic Alexey Navalny's health is deteriorating in a Russian prison.



BURNETT: Tonight, the CDC director warning that the variant first identified in the U.K., the variant that study suggest is more contagious and possibly associated with a higher risk of death, is now officially the dominant strain in the U.S. This comes as the numbers on COVID cases and hospitalizations are rising.

Let's look at the chart of the seven-day average of new hospitalizations since inauguration day. You can see, they are now rising for the first time since Biden took office.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is OUTFRONT.

And, Sanjay, look, we see the surge in vaccinations and yet cases are rising over the past few weeks. Hospitalizations are now starting to tick up. How do you put these two things together?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think we're at this inflection point in this race. You know, everyone has referred to this race of the vaccines against the variants. And, you know, we are seeing this play out.

I look at these numbers, you know, pretty carefully. First of all, I think we've actually known that the B.1.1.7, the U.K. variant has been dominant for sometime, I think they're just proving this now. There is a lag time in this testing.

But if you look at some these states, you know, Michigan, and Florida, and Georgia, there is obviously high rates of the B.1.1.7. You know, 75 percent in Michigan, and we've seen the numbers go up there.

But, Erin, I'll tell you, if you look across the country, about 65,000 cases, it's a bit but it's mostly flat, as compared to last week. Hospitalizations as you mentioned, 2.67 percent up, but not as much.


But the death rate is 21 percent down, which is good.

Now, that's a lagging thing. So, there maybe an uptick there as well, but I don't think we're going to see the proportional deaths, the proportional hospitals to the cases.

Now, one thing I think is really important when it comes to this dominant variant, whether you've been infected in the past and have antibodies because of that, or you've been vaccinated, in both cases, it offers pretty good immunity against this particular variant. So, that's -- I think that's going to be helpful.

BURNETT: Right, right, and for this one. And, of course, there's all these other variants, and you know, we don't know what we don't know. But, you know, I want to say putting that aside but I don't ask you about one critical thing today. And this is the AstraZeneca vaccine.

So European drug regulators confirmed a link between the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine, and rare blood clots. These are exceedingly, exceedingly rare, but they've confirmed the link. And now the U.K. is saying people under 30 don't get that vaccine, get a different one.

Here is the thing though, Sanjay, AstraZeneca was going to deliver 3 billion doses by the end of this year. Seventy countries it's already authorized in. I mean, this is the vaccine for Europe, for India, for the Philippines.

I mean, this is massive that -- what kind of impact does this have?

GUPTA: I'm worried about this, Erin. You know, this is a concerning for all the reasons you're mentioning, which is the optics haven't been good. This is a trial that was halted, they've been in these concerns about blood clots. You remember, there was a concern that caused the halting of the trial out of the U.K. There is a question of misrepresenting data, is another sort of issue that's come out.

It's rare as you pointed out. Twenty-five million people got vaccinated, 86 people developed these blood clots. Seventy-eight percent of them developed it in the brain. You know, the rest developed in the abdomen. But 18 people died, again, out of those 25 million.

At first, they said it doesn't seem like there's a connection. Now, the European Medical Agency says, well, we think that there maybe some sort of a connection here but the benefits still outweigh the risks, so they're still recommending the vaccine. U.K. regulatory authority said, we are still recommending it unless you're under the age of 30, which I thought was really interesting.

I want you to show you the graph really quick if I can, Erin, from the study. Basically, we are trying to authorize this thing, it's always risk versus reward. In this case, if you look at the top line, they say for people who are younger, 20 to 29 or 30 to 39, the risk and the benefit is kind of very similar. That's why the U.K. folks said, hey, no, we're not going to recommend this for people under the age of 30.

So that's where we are, and I think it's going to have an impact on this vaccine around the world.

BURNETT: Certainly has the people's willingness to take, which is, you know, crucial when you talk about variants and things spreading.

All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

BURNETT: And also new tonight, the White House saying it's disturbed, quote, by reports that the health of top Putin opponent, Alexey Navalny, is deteriorating, while he serves time in a brutal penal colony in Russia. Navalny's lawyer saying he's now dealing with two hernias, a lost of feeling in both hands. Now the White House is sending this message to Moscow.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We urge Russian authorities to take all necessary actions to ensure his safety and health, so long as he is in prison the Russian government is responsible for his health and well-being.


BURNETT: The press secretary went on to demand that Russian authorities released Navalny immediately, no sign of anything occurring.

Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT.

And, Matthew has been covering this. You've been to the penal colony itself. Look, Navalny's health sounds pretty dire.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it does. There's a couple of things that stand out to me has been most concerning. First of all, I mean, he's come with these sort of minor health issues which we keep on itemizing. But there's a general background picture there, which is really concerning.

He was poisoned with a military grade nerve agent last August. So there's a possibility that -- I mean, obviously, he'll need a medical professional to look at him and look at this. There's a possibility this could be linked with some kind of neurological damage. That's the concern that has been expressed by people close to Alexey Navalny, his legal team, his medical team, his supporters.

So, that's one of the reasons why they want, you know, a specialist to go into that penal colony, to give him a thorough examination.

The other thing I think that is really concerning, it's that the Kremlin and the Russian authorities in general don't appear to be taking his medical condition seriously at all. First of all, they're downplaying it. You know, releasing video on state television, you know, showing him walking across the dormitory, showing him sleep sleeping soundly his bed at night wears previously you complain to be woken every night, and that was subject tantamount to torture he said.

So, there's a campaign on Russian state media to say, look, it's not as bad as Navalny is making out. It's being exaggerated. I think that's very concerning as well, that the authorities are just not taking it seriously -- Erin.

BURENTT: All right. Matthew, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

And, of course, you know, everything Matthew says is so crucial when you think of two of the doctors who work at the hospital where Navalny was originally treated for that poisoning have died since then, and now -- and, now, he is here with his very severe illness.

All right. Thanks for joining us.

Anderson starts now.