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Erin Burnett Outfront
"Great Day for America": Biden Touts New CDC Guidance that Vaccinated Americans No Longer Need Masks in Most Cases; CDC: Vaccinated Americans can Stop Wearing Masks in Indoors and Outdoors; Sources: Colonial Pipeline Paid Ransom to Hackers; Biden, GOP Signal Optimism After White House Meeting on Infrastructure; Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is Interviewed About Biden, GOP Meeting on Infrastructure; Gaetz Ally Plans to Plead Guilty, Cooperate with Prosecutors. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired May 13, 2021 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, a great day for America. That from President Biden after announcing fully vaccinated Americans no longer need masks. A major milestone. Is this really the beginning of the end of COVID?
Plus, a war of words. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez firing back at Marjorie Taylor Greene after Greene reportedly chased her down screaming in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.
And breaking news tonight, we're learning Colonial Pipeline paid a ransom to hackers who shut down the largest fuel pipeline in the United States. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, free. The CDC announces the biggest step towards normalcy that the United States has taken in more than a year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today is a great day for America in our long battle with Coronavirus. Just a few hours ago the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, announced that they are no longer recommending that fully vaccinated people need wear masks. I think it's a great milestone, a great day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: It is a major milestone. It is freedom for what has come to be the main symbol of this virus, the mask. So we went out today right when it happened, across the country, here's what people told us as they first heard the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am so happy, I couldn't wait. More freedom. I'm tired of ordering things online and not going into the stores, because the mask has to stay on so long.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a step in the right direction. I think a lot of people are kind of over the masks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really exciting. I mean, it's exciting for our whole staff and for our whole group and for customers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The President wasting no time. A senator who was meeting with the President today told CNN that Biden and other senators took their masks off when the new guidance was announced. First Lady Jill Biden today no mask as she arrived in West Virginia. She was asked what the guidelines mean, her response was, "We feel naked."
And it was a bipartisan celebration. It's just nice to note considering the mask have become such a divisive thing. Sen. Joe Manchin was with the First Lady who said, "We feel free." Minority Leader Mitch McConnell echoing that sentiment on the Republican side saying free at last. The Vice President Kamala Harris making this comment to Joe Biden as he walked to the Rose Garden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Sun's shining.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You've got a great smile.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: After a year, it will be nice to see people smiling. But today's announcement also being met with some skepticism, many are now asking well how does this work in a restaurant, workplace and schools, what about kids who are still forced to wear masks at every activity they do. And plenty of people are not yet ready for the step.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will still wear my masks all the time, so I don't catch the COVID.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. So, for you it's a safety thing that you want to be a hundred and 10 percent sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, the mask has defined life in America for more than a year since April 3, 2020, in fact, when the CDC first urged Americans to wear masks. It's part of our person at this point. You don't even think about you go out, it's with you. Remember at the beginning when you forget your mask all the time?
This has been life in America coast to coast for a year. The president-elect celebrating his election win and everybody on that stage with masks. When fans were allowed to return to sporting events in small numbers, there they sat most masked. Singers and celebrities masked when they were singing or walking the red carpet and, of course, masks have been the center of a bitter culture war for a year in the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We've had too much conflict, too much bitterness, too much anger, too much politicization of this issue about wearing a mask. Let's put it to rest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT live outside the White House. And Phil, this news coming out today, long time coming, many had said, look, this should have come quite a bit before. But nonetheless, it was surprising a lot of people at the White House. What are you learning?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. One of the rare, pleasant surprises.
MATTINGLY: I think the White House officials can actually get - look, I think it's interesting. We started this day and there were no remarks for the President in the Rose Garden on the schedule. The briefing from the COVID response team wasn't scheduled until 4 pm. All of that started to shift midday underscoring that the White House was becoming aware of what was a seismic shift in policy.
Obviously, yes, on the pure policy grounds, but also symbolically. And I think you saw the White House lean fully into it. Obviously, you showed the video the President walking out with no mask on. The
Vice President also not having a mask on.
Erin, just about five to 10 minutes after the briefing where CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced the shift in guidance and email went out to all White House staff saying if they were fully vaccinated, they no longer had to wear a mask on campus. It's a shift the White House is clearly embracing. It's a shift that the White House wants others to embrace as well.
You heard the President, he acknowledged that not everybody is necessarily going to be on board with this right away. But that's OK from the White House perspective. One thing they want to focus on, though, and you heard the President allude to this in his remarks today, that perhaps this may actually help get more people vaccinated. That wasn't why the guidance was shifted, according to the CDC but the White House hopes there's a tail effect here. That as they continue to push towards the markers they've laid out, 70 percent of U.S. adults with at least one vaccination by July 4th that these incentives have been such a key part of a shift over the course of the last couple of weeks for the White House to reach out to those who are hesitant or haven't made up their minds yet, that this, the fact that you won't have to wear a mask inside or outside may help them in that process, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Phil. Incentives run the gamut, free French fries at Shake Shack in New York, a million bucks in Ohio. Which one do you pick?
OUTFRONT now Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health. And Doctor, look, I really appreciate your time. Look, this is a huge step in the fight against this virus and a lot of people see it as the end. The, OK, we're good here. Is that the way to see it?
DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Well, it is a great day and let's celebrate it. And the fact that it's being celebrated across party lines is also really good as your remarks pointed out. Yes, it is an amazing step forward. It says we are on the right path that people who are fully immunized and that means two weeks after your second dose, if it was Moderna or Pfizer or two weeks after your J&J dose, that means you can take your mask off indoors as well as outdoors as long as federal state and local tribal territorial rules allow that. You got to be sure that that fits in with other rules.
But as far as CDC is concerned, we've arrived at that point for people who are immunized, which is now a lot of us. So yes, we should all feel really good about this. But we're not at the end of this story. There's still a lot of people who haven't gotten that first shot. I hope this will encourage them to see this as a wonderful opportunity to be liberated as I now am. I got no mask on. I'm smiling. I'm looking at other people's faces I haven't seen in a while.
This is something we all were hoping for and we are here. But we got to get here together, which means get everybody on board with signing up, rolling up your sleeves. If you haven't done that yet, you're going to want to do it now.
BURNETT: So Phil Mattingly said the White House was not aware that the CDC was going to announce this today, Dr. Collins. The Rose Garden address wasn't even on the schedule. Does it surprise you that they didn't get an advance warning?
COLLINS: Well, and apparently was the case that the CDC was making this decision and didn't want to have any big sort of leaking happen. So this is sometimes the way things go and it's clearly electrified the country and the White House played a pretty good role in that by changing their schedule and having the President and the Vice President come right on out without their masks into the Rose Garden to indicate in a very photogenic way what's happened now.
BURNETT: So let me ask you, the CDC obviously has been under pressure, as you know, Doctor, for weeks to ease these mandates. And they're still going to require masks on public transportation like planes and trains. How come?
COLLINS: Well, again, I think in circumstances where people are packed close together and you don't know the status of immunization of everybody, it is still the better part of being cautious to wear masks on those planes and trains and buses. Once we get a further along with an even higher degree of immunization and the viral infections, which are still 30,000 a day really continue to drop down. We'll be able to relax those as well like this is a big step today.
BURNETT: So let me ask you about this though, because once you tell people they can drop their masks if they're vaccinated, plenty of people are going to do it who aren't vaccinated. I know that you're hoping it's an incentive for them to get vaccinated, but there's no way to verify a person's vaccine status that some of this is going to happen.
So Doctor, do you think we're at a point where obviously you're comfortable with that risk like that's going to happen and it's OK.
COLLINS: Well, those are people who are putting themselves at risk. We know the value scenes are so effective that fully vaccinated people, even if they are mixing and mingling with people who haven't done that are at relatively low risk of getting infected.
And so we think it's the right thing to do to give them that kind of freedom. But I really would appeal to people who are listening who just haven't quite gotten around to it, that this is part of the responsibility we all have to trying to get to where we need to be. And if you're going to be concerned that you don't know how to find a place, just take out your phone, go 438-829 and punch in your zip code and you will get three places that have vaccines ready to go as soon as a minute.
BURNETT: And you know what, OK, so speaking of a minute, I pass a mass vaccination site every single day, Doctor. I'm sure you do, too. BUT I pass it and I can look in it. And for all intents and purposes, no one is ever there.
Now, for a while there were some right but there's never a line, it's set up for thousands. To this point about getting people over the hurdle, I made a joke about the mayor of New York saying he's going to give people free French fries to sign up or free metro cards. But the Governor mike DeWine said he's going to give like a lotto drawing and if he draws your name and you have at least one shot, you get a million bucks and he's going to do it over a five-week timeframe.
So Doctor, when you heard that, did your jaw hit the floor in a good way?
COLLINS: Oh, I thought that was pretty creative. I mean, NIH, we fund behavioral research as well as cancer research and it's clear. People pay attention to incentives even if their chance of winning the lottery is really low. They put in their bucks box and if you could basically have a chance at a million dollars, I think some people that were a little reluctant might decide to say, sure. What are they doing in New Jersey's program, you get a shot and then you get a beer? Whatever it takes to get the reluctant people to say, yes, this is a good thing.
BURNETT: Well, I think everyone in this country wishes they lived in Ohio because beer, million dollars, I think we all know where we stand. Let me ask you, though, Doctor, on a serious note what's happening with the New York Yankees. Eight members of the Yankees have tested positive for COVID. They were all fully vaccinated. And according to the team manager, they all have the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
This people here this could be very worrisome to some people, do you have details about this situation that you can share?
COLLINS: I don't know anything specific about the ball team. We do know, of course, that the vaccines are incredibly effective, but not a hundred percent. So you are going to see people who are fully vaccinated who still get symptomatic.
By the way, if they do get sick, they tend to have rather mild illness because your immune system is already at work and so you're unlikely to end up in the hospital.
COLLINS: And this is part of the way in which vaccines work. I don't understand the cluster there. And obviously, you want to be sure that nothing went wrong with the way in which their vaccines were administered. But I'm sure somebody must be looking at that.
BURNETT: Right. Because obviously it is a cluster, to your point. Do you have any concern, Dr. Collins, at this point that they could have a specific variant to that point that invaded the vaccine?
COLLINS: Well, that is the other thing to look at. I run the National Institutes of Health. We have 40,000 people and we have occasional people who have been fully vaccinated who have a breakthrough case and we sequence their genome to see if the virus is anything unusual that might explain that. And I'm sure in New York, they're probably thinking about that, too. That would be the better part of caution, although it's unlikely to turn out to be the reason.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Doctor, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
COLLINS: It was great to talk to you, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Dr. Collins, thank you.
And next, Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Congresswoman accused of chasing down Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and shouting at her. But Greene says that's not what had happened, but there was a reporter who was standing right there who saw the whole thing go down and she's next. Plus, breaking news, CNN learning Colonial Pipeline paid a ransom to
the group behind the crippling cyberattack on the United States. What kind of precedent does that that set?
And a federal investigation appears to be closing in on Matt Gaetz. A new court filing revealing his so-called wing man will cooperate with prosecutors.
BURNETT: Tonight, Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene hits a new low. The conspiracy theorist denying a Washington Post report and the report is that she shouted at Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after chasing her through the halls of Congress and claiming she supports terrorists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I was talking to AOC saying you need to debate me about the Green New Deal. She doesn't need to file ethics violations or whatever she's doing. That's reacting like a child. Adults are able to debate policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Only that is not what two Washington Post reporters saw with their own eyes. I'm going to speak to one of them in a moment. Tonight, Ocasio-Cortez is responding saying she won't be intimidated by someone who 'supports white supremacists'.
Now, Greene does have a history of trying to intimidate her peers. Democratic Congressman Cori Bush reported in January, a maskless Greene berated her in the hallway and there was this exchange in a video posted in 2019. This is Greene confronting a young man named David Hogg, a teenager, a survivor of the Parkland High School shooting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREENE: David, why are you supporting the red flag laws? If there had been - if Scot Peterson, the Resource Officer at Parkland had done his job, then Nikolas Cruz wouldn't have killed anybody in your high school or at least protected them. Why are you supporting red flag gun laws that attack our 2nd Amendment rights? And why are you using kids as a barrier? Do you not know how to defend your stance?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Greene is a U.S. Congresswoman. She represents about 700,000 Americans and, of course, that behavior is not how anyone should behave, never mind if you're an elected official. This has quickly though become the culture for many in the Republican Party to make a name for yourself by doing something kind of dramatic or controversial and it goes viral. And it's worked for Greene.
She's raised a staggering $3.2 million during the first quarter of the year as her party's done nothing to stop her. There's not even a comment tonight from the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
So OUTFRONT now, one of The Washington Post reporters who was there, who witnessed the entire episode between Congresswoman Greene and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, Jackie Alemany. She's the author of The Washington Post Power Up newsletter and a congressional correspondent for the Post as well. So Jackie, thanks so much.
OK. So you're there every day. You see how they interact with each other. You see Congress people at their best and worst. So tell me what happened and were you surprised by what you witnessed?
JACQUELINE ALEMANY, AUTHOR, WASHINGTON POST'S "POWER UP" NEWSLETTER: Yes, Erin. Thanks so much for having me tonight. My colleague, Marianna (ph) and I were hanging out outside of the House chamber waiting for lawmakers to come out of votes and we're really shocked by the behavior that we saw from Marjorie Taylor Greene, so much so that I honestly didn't even have the presence of mind to record the interaction because I was so taken aback and surprised by Greene's behavior in the moment.
But basically, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez walked out of the House chamber and Greene started chasing her down and shouting at her, hey, Alexandria, in order to get her attention in a very aggressive tone, far more aggressive, actually, than I think we saw in that video of her accosting David Hogg. When Ocasio-Cortez didn't stop walking, Greene picked up her pace, started chasing after her, continued to shout and asking her why she supports antifa and Black Lives Matter which she falsely referred to as terrorist groups.
BURNETT: So Congresswoman Greene denies what you saw. She denied she screamed at Ocasio-Cortez and today a reporter asked her about the way she approached Ocasio-Cortez, I just wanted to play for you and so our viewers could hear what Marjorie Taylor Greene responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREENE: ... by talking to her, talking to her. She says screaming, you know what screaming is, screaming is what people do when rockets are fired at them like Hamas terrorists are firing into Israel. That's what people do. They scream when that happens. I was talking to AOC saying you need to debate me about the Green New Deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So again, Jackie, you were there, was she in fact screaming?
ALEMANY: That is, in fact, not what happened. She was screaming. And I think it was even more shocking considering the environment that we're working in right now. As you noted, it's the halls of Congress, there's a different standard of behavior, but you also are working in an environment where lawmakers and reporters quite frankly are scared to go to work every day. They're scared to hold town halls at home because of the potential threat of political violence that we've seen occur.
This is the kind of behavior that would get you expelled from school. It's the kind of behavior you wouldn't tolerate from a child, again, let alone a member of Congress. Again, I've covered Washington for almost a decade now, I've never seen a political candidate, an elected official or a lawmaker behave in this manner.
And I think cumulatively when we're looking at the series of events that happened on Capitol Hill this week, it's the latest series of data points of a disturbing trend that I think we're seeing, which is that in some political circles, there's been an erosion of political and civil norms. And this is a pattern of behavior with Marjorie Taylor green and it's enabled by leadership.
As you noted, Leader McCarthy pretended or claimed that he hadn't seen the reports that have been on The Washington Post on page for almost 24 hours now. But MTG was unrepentant for her behavior. She's continuously lied about it, even though you had previous lawmakers also claimed that they've been threatened by this and it was almost like she was bringing a lot of the behavior that we've witnessed at Trump rallies to the halls of Congress.
I think that the rhetoric and that kind of behavior, it really varies from the January 6th insurrection in which five people died to, again, the kind of heated rhetoric that the former president really encouraged from his supporters.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jackie. Telling us exactly what she saw and the significance there. Thank you.
I want to go straight out of Michael Smerconish. And Michael, you've covered politics for a long time. So when you hear Jackie's reporting and what she saw, screaming, chasing someone down the hall. Have you ever seen a congress person behave like that to do this, to scream at someone like that in the halls of Congress?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: No and it's obviously reprehensible. The question is how did we get here because I would argue that in a bygone era, you'd not even know her name, even though she acts in an incendiary way.
SMERCONISH: She just arrived in Washington. It used to be, Erin, that you'd get elected. You'd have to get reelected, bide your time, attain seniority and here comes the key part and get something done.
And then maybe America would know who you are. But today it's a much quicker path, you say something incendiary, and people may find your behavior reprehensible, but others will reward you as you said, financially. I'll bet the person who most wishes that there was film of this incident is Marjorie Taylor Greene, because then she could tweet it out and probably raise a boatload of money from her supporters.
BURNETT: It's amazing. It's amazing you say that because you're totally right. I think it's so important.
All right. I want to just tell you something else that just happened, Michael. Congresswoman Liz Cheney just had an interview with Fox News. It was contentious. It was with Bret Baier. I want to play some of what she said listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Fox News especially, especially Fox News has a particular obligation to make sure people know the election wasn't stolen. Every single one of us, everyone watching this show, everybody who works at Fox, everybody who's elected to office, all of us have to love our country more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Pretty interesting, Michael. And pretty amazing that she would just - I mean, look, I know we now know she has plenty of boldness and courage, but it's a crucial message and she said it to the horse's mouth.
SMERCONISH: Well, she bearded the lion in his den and not necessarily Bret because I think he plays it much straighter than most of the others who are over there. But no one can argue otherwise then those hosts have been enablers for this entire narrative. I doubt that January 6th would have occurred, but for not only then President Trump's comments, but also all of the media mouthpieces that were egging this process on.
And you can't have it both ways, which is the way I think Kevin McCarthy is trying to have it right now which is to say, well, I'm here with the President of the United States, I'm paraphrasing, so, of course, we recognize that he was properly elected. Bottom line is Liz Cheney was fired from that gig yesterday. And across the country, you have Republican-controlled legislators instilling these changes in voting as if something went wrong in the election.
BURNETT: Yes, as if. Gosh. All right. Thank you very much. Michael Smerconish, as always, I thank you.
BURNETT: And next breaking news, we are learning a ransom was paid to the hackers who shut down a pipeline that provides half of the fuel to the entire East Coast of the United States, because fuel shortages, panics and they had to pay a ransom and high gas prices, bad jobs numbers and inflation. President Biden facing major headwinds as he tries to sell his infrastructure plan to Republicans for another $4 trillion in spending. Are people going to buy what he's selling?
BURNETT: Breaking news: CNN learning that Colonial Pipeline paid a ransom to the hackers that forced the company to shut down operations, which triggered fuel shortages, long lines at gas stations across the East Coast. That's half the fuel supply for that part of the country. One pipeline, hackers successfully shut it down.
And now we have found that the group demanded nearly $5 million. Now, it's not clear how much the company paid. But we've learned -- Evan Perez has learned that they paid something.
And, Evan, this is pretty incredible on so many levels. So tell me what you have learned about the ransom payment.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this group is -- goes by the name DarkSide, Erin, had demanded nearly $5 million in cryptocurrency, bitcoin. And we're now learning from sources that the company did pay some ransom, we don't know how much. Bloomberg first reported this story earlier today, and we've been able to confirm they did pay a ransom, which unlocked some of the decryption tools that would be able to get access to some of the information that was stolen by the hackers.
Now, we also know, according to our reporting, that the company worked with private cybersecurity experts as well as the government to try to intercept some of the information, some of the data that was being stolen, and they were able to get back to their -- to their data -- to their systems. They were able to restart their systems, even without some of that decryption tools.
So the question is, what came first, we're still not exactly sure. We do know that the company said that they've restarted the pipeline, and one of the things that I think is important to remember is that the -- what we're told is that the shutdown of the pipeline happened because the company was concerned that it could not bill customers for the fuel that they were receiving. That was part of the reason why they shut down the pipeline.
So the company obviously now that the fact that they have paid this ransom, this is something the government often discourages, and as we talked to government officials, and they told us that they were in the dark about exactly what happened.
BURNETT: Wow, that's incredible. So they discourage it, and they were in the dark, the company just went ahead and did what it was going to do.
BURNETT: Wow. All right. Evan, thank you very much.
So, I want to go to the former FBI deputy director, CNN senior law enforcement analyst, Andrew McCabe. So, Deputy Director, let me just ask you what Evan said, that law
enforcement officials say don't pay ransoms like this, for obvious reasons. And they did it. And they didn't even tell the government. They kept them in the dark and did it anyway.
So what's your reaction to that, and how bad of a message does this send basically to other hackers?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, Erin, it's a really unfortunate message, but it's not a unique one. The best assessments that we have indicate that a little over half of the victims of ransomware attacks actually pay their extortionists to get their data back or to get their data unlocked. So it's not surprising that Colonial did that in this case.
I think it re-emphasizes for your viewers the significance of the fact that these are private sector entities, and they could be advised by the FBI not to do this because it encourages more hackers and it leads to more attacks on more people.
But at the end of the day, they make their decisions based on the bottom line and keeping their businesses going and trying to get their hands back on the information they need to continue their work.
BURNETT: So to that point, Evan was reporting that there was some information that they weren't able to unlock, right? And these part of why they paid the ransom. There was some that they could.
But I raised this question because if they weren't able to solve the problem themselves, right, that they actually -- the hackers really had them. They really had them. That also is pretty terrifying. Again, this is one pipeline that provides half the fuel for the East Coast of the United States. I mean, this proves hackers could cause tremendous damage to the country, doesn't it?
MCCABE: That is absolutely right. So, there's a couple things happened here that are significant. On Saturday, working with their private cybersecurity consultants, they were able to shut down a server in New York, and that sounds like it was probably the most beneficial thing it did. That enabled them to get some of their data back right away.
The decryption tool they got by allegedly paying the ransom, they ultimately discovered didn't really work fast enough. So the combination of all these efforts has enabled them to get some of their business back up online. But the fact is our critical infrastructure is vulnerable and will continue to be vulnerable to these sorts of attacks into the future until we get very serious about cybersecurity.
BURNETT: That's pretty terrifying, because they could literally end civilization as we know it very quickly, if you think about it on the grand scale.
Let me just ask you one other thing. President Biden said today that he will not rule out -- he stressed -- well, basically, he stressed that he doesn't think that Moscow itself was to blame, even though this group, of course, this criminal group is based in Russia.
Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We do not believe, I emphasize, we do not believe the Russian government was involved in this attack. But we do have strong reason to believe that the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Deputy Director, our Matthew Chance, reporter for CNN, lives in Moscow, has lived there a long time, reporter there, told the media the other day, there's little doubt in his mind that Putin knew about the existence of this operation because it was based in Russia, no matter who they were.
Do you agree based on what you know about this group?
MCCABE: Yeah, here's what I'll say. I think the president is being very careful, and appropriately so. I think his choice of words, what I'm hearing is, the use of the intelligence community doesn't yet have solid intelligence that puts the Kremlin's fingerprints on this particular attack. However, they know these attackers are in Russia. They know these attackers only go after targets in non-Russian speaking countries, i.e., they don't turn their focus on Russian entities.
So the Russians know who they are, they're giving them comfort, aid, and support, and they are -- they are culpable to some degree here.
BURNETT: All right. Deputy Director, thank you.
BURNETT: And next, something not -- we just don't hear any more in Washington, Republicans and Democrats are in a room together emerging hopeful that they can strike a deal. It's presumably a deal on Biden's $4 trillion infrastructure plan.
Is it wishful thinking or more?
And the feds tightening their grip on Matt Gaetz. We are learning his close associate is now formally has a deal to cooperate with prosecutors.
BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden striking a hopeful note at the start of his meeting with six Senate Republicans. They met to try to start to find compromise on his $2.3 trillion first installment infrastructure plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: This is in good faith. It's a genuine effort. I think we'll get there.
REPORTER: Will you scale down the offer, sir? Will you scale down the offer?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, guys.
BIDEN: I'm prepared to compromise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And Republicans walked out of that room without big comments, as well. Senator Mike Crapo saying, quote, we've got real negotiations under way.
But Biden is trying to sell this plan facing now significant economic headwinds, gas now averages $3 a gallon, the stock market is volatile, has plunged amid inflation fears in recent days, consumer goods prices have surged, and, of course, jobs numbers came in unbelievably weaker than had been anticipated last month.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She is the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
And, Congresswoman Jayapal, I appreciate your time.
So, I know that, you know, progressive Democrats believe that the infrastructure plan needs to be even bolder, that you can do more things and to define infrastructure in broad and important ways. President Biden though now is indicating he's prepared to compromise to attract Republican votes which would imply obviously scaling it back.
Is there any scenario under which you would support that?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): No. I mean, I think what the president has said to us and what others, the speaker and others have said is that, you know, there is some potential of doing a bipartisan bill on infrastructure, but then also doing the rest of the package as a reconciliation bill.
My big concern with that, Erin, is number one, this is urgent. We can't wait for Republicans to deliver, and forgive me if I'm skeptical that Mitch McConnell, who said 100 percent of the Republican focus in the Senate is to stop the president's agenda from moving forward.
JAYAPAL: I'm not sure that there's really going to be a deal.
But even if there were, for us, for many in our caucus, I think what we would want to know is that the reconciliation bill is moving at the same time as any other bill. It's going to be unlikely that we would vote for a smaller package if we don't know that the reconciliation bill is already agreed to and moving at the same time. And so, you know how hard it is to pass bills. We believe the best solution is really to still go with one bill and to get everything done.
The American people support this. Republicans in Congress should, as well. But it's very -- everything the president has outlined is extremely popular with the American people -- Democrats, independents, and Republicans.
BURNETT: So, on this front, though, the Republicans, of course, they talk about spending. They want some infrastructure, they say, although your point about McConnell is fair.
But they say you guys are all -- you just want to spend way too much money. They say that Democrat spending in the COVID relief bill has already been hurting hiring, just as one example of what they say. Ohio, Arizona, Georgia are just the latest of 16 states, they all have Republican governors, but they are now -- they want to get rid of the federal unemployment benefits early for the pandemic.
They say they can't get people to work. It's preventing people from going back. So, they're basically saying they don't want your money, even though it's being given to them, they're going to send it back.
What does that say to you?
JAYAPAL: Well, they're not exactly saying that. Many of them are going back to their districts and touting everything that we passed in the American Rescue Plan for money for small businesses, to, you know, a whole bunch of other things that were in there, the child tax credit even.
So, you know, I think that what they're saying about unemployment is just ridiculous. If you look at the numbers, it's just very, very clear that hiring in those lowest wage sectors actually went up. That was the place where you might have seen, you know, people were staying home because of the unemployment assistance. That's where you might have seen that going down.
That's not what we see. What we see is women in the -- not going back -- I mean, there's no employment for women. That number actually dropped in terms of women in the workforce.
BURNETT: Right, 64,000 drop there.
JAYAPAL: That's right.
BURNETT: But to this point people not going back, right -- I mean, we're seeing it across the country. Yes, it's anecdotal, but it's in Democratic states. It's in Republican states. We've all seen the signs.
I mean, here's just a few people we've spoken to, business owners, in three Democratic states -- New York, California, and New Mexico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're basically making too much on unemployment. It's easy to kick back and get a check every month and not have to do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're doing better with unemployment than actually going out to work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're supposed to go hire people to retain them, but at the same time, you're paying unemployment, it creates a conflict of interest, so to speak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amount of money that people were making on unemployment right now, quite honestly, is more than what we were paying before.
REPORTER: Do you feel like you're competing with unemployment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Those aren't politicians. Obviously, they're just regular people trying to hire. Is it possible that they're right?
JAYAPAL: I don't think so, Erin, because, again, if you look at the numbers, what you see is that people for the most part -- now, in some states, probably not those states, but there might be some states where Kansas, for example, where, you know, you have a minimum wage of $7.25, hasn't been raised in ten years. We can't blame people if they don't want to go back. But that is a tiny anecdotal piece that may be there.
The vast majority of what we see is that people aren't going back to work for a lot of other considerations. Women aren't going back to work because they don't have child care, and they can't afford to go back to work when their kids aren't fully back in school yet.
The economy is still building as a result of a year of really inattention and lack of ability from the government to support many of the things that needed to be done. The president's American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan will help us to get back there.
But it really is, if you dig into the unemployment numbers, you just do not see any of the signs that would be there if it was an issue of unemployment being a problem.
BURNETT: All right. Congresswoman Jayapal, thanks very much. I appreciate your time.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, Matt Gaetz's close ally who's accused of sex trafficking of a minor looks like he's about to turn on the Republican congressman. How much trouble could Matt Gaetz really be in?
Plus, a tiger seen wandering through a neighborhood in Houston four days ago is still missing. Where is it?
BURNETT: Tonight, the nightmare scenario for Matt Gaetz is now reality. A new court filing revealing Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector with close ties to him will cooperate with the federal probe into Gaetz as part of a plea deal, a probe where investigators are examining whether Gaetz broke federal sex trafficking frustration and public corruption laws or whether he had sex with a minor.
Matt Gaetz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Greenberg, who is facing 33 federal counts, ranging from identity theft to sex trafficking of a minor, I'm sorry, will also plead guilty as part of the plea deal. Exactly what he will be pleading guilty to is not yet know, but obviously, all of this carries with it -- it could be, you know, essentially a lifetime in prison, up to that.
OUTFRONT now, Dave Aronberg. He's a state attorney for Palm Beach County in Florida, former Democratic state senator.
And, Dave, you know so much about this and the players here. And you know the system.
So we don't know the specific terms of the plea deal for Greenberg. It's under wraps. Investigators are keeping it that way. But we know that there's a deal and that is a big deal.
What does it tell you about the validity of what Greenberg has shared so far with investigators because they've been looking at this and talking to him now for quite some time?
DAVID ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY: Yeah, good evening, Erin.
You don't enter into a plea deal with an alleged child sex trafficker without believing that that person can provide substantial assistance to prosecute a bigger fish, in this case, the big fish is Matt Gaetz. We'll know more on Monday because that's when we'll know if Greenberg is given the opportunity to plead to something substantially less than he is facing. And if that plea agreement uses the term substantial assistance, well, that's a key tell to know that he is going to be used to flip on someone bigger.
Even if it doesn't use the term substantial assistance, that's what they're doing here. They're not going to enter into this plea deal with a guy like Greenberg who has such low credibility unless Greenberg has corroboration for his claims because he's a walking criminal enterprise and his word means nothing without backup.
BURNETT: So that's what's crucial, right? I mean, 33 federal counts, decades in prison is what he was potentially facing, right? So to your point, nobody's going to believe him. So if they're going to do a deal, it's because they've been able to verify that some of the things he's saying Matt Gaetz did, they've been able to find other ways, right, other than not Mr. Greenberg said, it's he said and here's evidence, right?
I mean, am I summarizing it accurately?
ARONBERG: You're correct. And we'll know more on Monday depending on what he is pleading guilty to because he gets a good deal from the feds and it's clear they're going to use him to flip on Matt Gaetz.
And he needs to have the goods. Receipts, he's got to have the Venmo receipts, he's got to have emails, text messages. Maybe they also have other people like Matt Gaetz's ex-girlfriend, because she also apparently, according to reports, was recruited from one of these sugar daddy websites. She knows a lot about these alleged -- allegations into child sex trafficking. She knows a 17-year-old who was involved in this matter.
So that's a crucial witness because a key to Matt Gaetz's defense will be to attack Joel Greenberg, put him on trial. It's harder, though, to attack his own ex-girlfriend who has no ax to grind and currently, according to reports, is working for the Florida state government.
BURNETT: Right. So, there's other -- there's other witnesses. But also, you know, he can shoot the messenger but if there's receipts, it doesn't matter who handed them to the investigators. They're there, right?
ARONBERG: Right. It's hard to contradict paper. That's why receipts are so important.
You can go after Joel Greenberg because he has 33 counts against him. He's facing up to life in prison, but a receipt is what it is.
What Greenberg's key is to be able to walk a grand jury and trial jury through the receipts, to put them into context that they're not just pieces of paper in some vacuum. You want him to be able to be the storyteller to a jury. That's why he's so important.
And the fact that he's getting a deal means to me that the child sex trafficking charge, which is the big whammy, is definitely still in play. If he was not given a deal, you would think of other things like campaign finance violations and identity theft where they may not need Greenberg. But they need him for child sex trafficking. That's why Matt Gaetz is going to have a very, very bad weekend.
BURNETT: Dave, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
ARONBERG: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, where's the tiger? That tiger that was seen roaming by the purple dumpster in Houston four days ago? Where is it?
BURNETT: Day four, the missing Bengal tiger in Houston is still missing. It's a male tiger named India. He was spotted in suburban neighborhood on Sunday and last seen with this man, Victor Hugo Cuevas, who was free on bond on an unrelated murder charge.
He denies through his lawyer that he's the tiger's owner. You can imagine the shock and alarm if you look out your window and see a tiger wearing a collar. Tigers should never be in domestic homes.
People calling 911 as a vehicle driven by Cuevas sped away just as police got there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, sir. No. Get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) inside. I don't know who the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED)oinside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Cuevas was charged with felony fleeing. The tiger is still missing. Thank you for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.