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Erin Burnett Outfront

House Passes Bill To Form Jan. 6 Commission; McConnell Opposes Bill, Putting It In Jeopardy In The Senate; Interview With Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL); Interview With Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS); CNN: NY A.G. Opens Criminal Tax Probe Into Trump Org. CFO; Texas Governor Bans Mask Mandates In Public Schools; Interview With U.S. Secretary Of Education Miguel Cardona; Rockets Fired From Gaza As Hamas Officials Say Ceasefire "Imminent, Possibly Within 24 Hours". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 19, 2021 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It now goes to the Senate. We'll see what happens there.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Erin Burnett continues our breaking coverage right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight we have breaking news. The House passing a bill to create a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, 35 Republicans breaking from their party despite heavy personal lobbying by House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy himself who we have just learned called anyone that he heard was going to vote for the commission to try to get them to vote no.

A source telling CNN, "Kevin is pulling out all the stops." And the majority of the 175 Republicans went ahead, caved, carried out Trump's orders, McCarthy's orders and voted against the bipartisan commission. The former president calling the investigation a quote Democrat trap, adding that he hopes Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy are listening.

Well, they sure were and they took action. McCarthy obviously was one of the 175 Republicans to vote no, even though Democrats gave the Minority Leader what he wanted.

So back in February, Kevin McCarthy started getting upset about this, he sent the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a letter and she released the letter. So it had McCarthy's specific asks for this commission. He wanted an even split of Republicans and Democrats, equal subpoena power and no pre-determined findings or conclusion.

Pelosi made all of those changes, so McCarthy got every single thing that he specifically asked for but it did not matter. McCarthy voted no because obviously this is not about uncovering why that awful day happened, it is now just as simple as this. It's a loyalty test for Republicans to Trump and most are falling in line. Just listen to Sen. Mitch McConnell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I've made the decision to oppose the

House Democrat's slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January the 6th.


BURNETT: Well, again, just to repeat the people on the commission half Democrat or Republican, equal subpoena power, yes, yes, all that. Oh, and by the way, as McConnell knows, the commission was negotiated by a Republican.

And by the way, McConnell wasn't always against studying the events of January the 6th, as he puts it, because the day after the insurrection, he released a statement, and it reads in part, "Yesterday represented a massive failure of institutions, protocols, and planning that are supposed to protect the first branch of our federal government. A painstaking investigation and thorough review must now take place."

Painstaking investigation. We go from that to none at all. This is quite incredible and what happened to the man who was so incensed by what happened on the Capitol on January 6th that he gave the most impassioned speech of his political career after Trump was acquitted in the Senate in his second impeachment trial.


McConnell: Former President Trump's actions preceded the riot for a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty. There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it.


BURNETT: Well, in his opposition now to an investigation from both McConnell and McCarthy, it comes as more and more Republicans are questioning the very facts, the very existence of January 6th. Republicans like Congressman Andrew Clyde.


REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): If you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.


BURNETT: A normal tourist visit. OK. So let's just pause here, Clyde said that. So let's show you Clyde. This is an image of Clyde on the day of the insurrection, helping to block the door. Block the door to the chamber from what he now calls tourists. And as the mob grew more aggressive, here's Clyde on the far left, pressed up against the wall, appearing to be screaming as security guards pull their guns on what he now claims are people that could be confused with tourists.

I mean, this is incredible. Does he not think anyone was going to see this video? Even today, the FBI is releasing what you see on your screen now new video from January 6th, you can see Trump supporters attacking police officers, throwing a crutch at them, screaming expletives.

And tonight about 40 to 50 members of the Capitol Police releasing a statement that reads in part, "We members of the United States Capitol Police write this letter to express our profound disappointment with the recent comments from both chambers' minority leaders expressing no need for a January 6th Commission."


Adding, "It is inconceivable that some of the members we protect, would downplay the events of January 6th."

These officers calling out those 175 Republicans, including McCarthy and soon to be McConnell in the Senate. Two men who, by the way, we have this new video, police being attacked by these Trump supporters. Well, McConnell and McCarthy, I don't know, what do they not care? I mean, at least publicly, they have expressed their support for the police.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): It's been a rough couple years for men and women in blue. The Republican Conference want to do not only say thank you, we want to be a part of it and be with you.

MCCONNELL: The past year has seen a difficult job of law enforcement become even harder. They battle the challenges of a historic pandemic. In many places, they've grappled with increased violent crime rates and unrest.


BURNETT: Well, one case of grappling with unrest, McConnell and McCarthy voting to not ever find out what really happened. Turning their backs on some of the officers who were victims of that unrest that was incited by Trump. And just take it from the family of an officer, Howard Liebengood, he died by suicide after responding to the riot.

They say, "We believe a thorough, non-partisan investigation into the root causes of and the response to the January 6th Riot is essential for our nation to move forward.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill tonight. So Manu, we've seen how this went in the House. The Senate will need 10 Republican votes to pass this, what are the chances right now that happening?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, at the moment it appears pretty slim and that's because the Senate Republican leaders have come out strongly against this. Mitch McConnell, as you mentioned, others raising concerns about the politics of a long investigation, something that could come out as the party is trying to fight, to battle back and win control of the Senate Majority and the House Majority as well.

The concern expressed by Republicans like senator john Thune of South Dakota is that this could be used as a political weapon of sorts against their party when they want to focus on the economy instead. One Republican, John Cornyn, a member of the Republican leadership, told me that he is concerned that Democrats' goal, in his view, is to keep this investigation going on and on, which is one reason why you're seeing the opposition being overwhelming on the Republican side.

Now, just what happened in the House here, 35 Republicans did break ranks in that vote that the bill was approved by 252 to 275 vote. Of those 35 Republicans, 10 of those actually were the ones who voted to impeach Donald Trump for inciting that January 6th insurrection.

Others are part of the bipartisan problem solvers caucus, some moderate Republicans, including ones in difficult races like Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa, another Republican Rodney Davis. He's a top Republican in the House Administration Committee voted for this as well.

But that's still a fraction of the House Republican conference. Of course, 210 members represent that conference. So overwhelmingly you're seeing an effort here to try to scuttle this and they could potentially win and defeat this bill where it moves onto the Senate next in this 50-50 chamber where 10 Republicans are needed to break ranks, high hurdle right now, Erin.

BURNETT: It certainly is. All right. Thank you very much, Manu.

And I want to go OUTFRONT now to Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez. He voted in favor of forming the January 6th Commission. So Congressman, obviously, you were in the vast minority of your own party, one of 35 Republicans who voted against what your leadership wanted against what Donald Trump wanted. Why did you vote in favor of the commission anyway, Congressman?

REP. CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL): Well, I got to set the record straight, our Leader McCarthy never called me, he never tried to change my vote. That's one of the good things about or one of the great things about our leader. He allows us to vote our conscience.

And so the reason that I voted for it is because when I saw the events of January 6th being the former Mayor of Miami-Dade County, former sheriff, I saw a breakdown in communications. I saw a breakdown in coordination in anticipation and I want to get to the bottom of how our security forces allowed a breach of the people's house, the Capitol.

BURNETT: And just to be clear here, the Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, obviously, we do know he made calls to several of your colleagues, but you're saying he did not actually call you and get you to try to change your vote.

GIMENEZ: That's correct. BURNETT: So let me ask you, we understand that McCarthy was in the

back of the chamber during the vote. He was watching very closely, obviously, leadership was there. They want to know. They want to know who votes which way. We know Trump wants to know who votes which way. He'll be happy to call each of you out individually when that moment comes.

Are you at all afraid? Are you afraid of bucking former President Trump's view, your party's leadership view?

GIMENEZ: No. I mean, look, that's one of the great things about our party and the leader in particular, I've been able to break ranks with my party on a number of issues unlike the Democrats who don't break ranks at all.


They are the most partisan group that I've seen or I've heard of in my generation. And so they've only had two Democrats actually break ranks in the five months that we've been here. And so apparently, Nancy Pelosi doesn't like any of her Democrats to break ranks with her.

My leader, on the other hand, allows us to have free independent thought. And so I really admire him for that.

BURNETT: Liz Cheney may beg to differ with you.

GIMENEZ: Well, I guess you do, but I'm inside and you're not. And so I know what goes on inside my party, you don't.

BURNETT: No, I didn't say I did.


BURNETT: I said Liz Cheney was kicked out of leadership for her points of view on calling the election for being lie.

GIMENEZ: No. No, not actually.

BURNETT: Yes, she was.


BURNETT: Yes, she was.

GIMENEZ: No, she wasn't. No, she was not. She was actually called out because she kept talking about it. We need to talk about what's going on right now with the Biden administration, the inflation, the high gas price, the $6 trillion

BURNETT: But I thought you voted for this because you did want to talk about what happened on January 6th and gets to the bottom of it.

GIMENEZ: I do. I absolutely - well, I want the commission to find out what were the security breakdowns of what happened on January 6th and it should never happen again. We should never have the security breaks down that we had on January 6th that caused the people's house to be breached. That's what I'm looking for.

And I'm also very happy that our ranking member, Katko, was able to do a bipartisan and get some concessions from the Democrats. That's why I voted for this, because it is a split (inaudible) ...

BURNETT: Are you disappointed in your leadership though for not wanting to get to the bottom of this like you do for not wanting answers like you do?

GIMENEZ: Look, that's the great thing about our party, we have differences of opinion. My leader has his own opinion. He allows us to have ours and so no I'm not disappointed in him at all. I think he's a great leader. I think he's going to be a great speaker of the House in about a year and a half.

BURNETT: So Trump as you now made January 6th, Congressman, all about overturning the election. And his lie, because that's what it is, his lie that Biden was not the legitimate winner. You just have to hear him from his very own mouth talk about that day, that vote and what he thought that vote to certify the election clearly signified. Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.


BURNETT: So don't certify, he becomes the president. I know on that day, Congressman, you voted against certifying the results of the election in two states.

GIMENEZ: In two states.

BURNETT: Now, those two states would not have changed the ultimate outcome of the election.

GIMENEZ: That's correct.

BURNETT: You have said Biden is the legitimate president of this country.

GIMENEZ: Yes. Yes.

BURNETT: But you know that 67 percent of people, according to the latest CBS poll of Republicans, I'm sorry, do not believe Joe Biden is the legitimate winner of the 2020 election. Do you have any regrets about how your vote fed into what Trump was saying? He linked those things together, his lie, that that could be contributing to Republicans refusing to accept a legitimate president.

GIMENEZ: Absolutely. I have no regrets of my votes on that day. I voted not to impeach the president, because I didn't think he incited the events that happen. I know for a fact that I saw people in my hotel room that were saying they were going to do something at two o'clock and that happened at nine o'clock in the morning.

And I also know and I still believe that Arizona and Pennsylvania, the election laws were violated and that the legislature who is the rightful place where these laws are made, those laws were violated and that's the reason why I voted not to certify Arizona and Pennsylvania, which would not have to overturn the election and so President Biden is the rightful President of the United States.

It's not it but it's dissimilar to what happened in 2005 when a number of Democrats actually voted not to certify Ohio, which would have overturn the election results. And so this is not something that hasn't happened in the past. And so I vote my conscience, I felt that it was unconstitutional and that's why I voted the way I did. And I will not and I do not have any regrets about the way that I voted.

BURNETT: All right. Congressman, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

GIMENEZ: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And now, the co-sponsor of the bill to create the January 6th commission, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Democrat Bennie Thompson.

So, Congressman, I know there's a lot, obviously, of what a Congressman Gimenez says that you would take great issue with, but he did vote for this commission. He was one of only 35 Republicans to do so. And in doing so, he's at risk.

He's at risk. His political future is at risk by a vote like that. What do you say to those 35 Republicans who actually got on board and buck their own leadership and bucked President Trump and voted for your bill?

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Well, first of all, they took a principled vote. The people who voted on the Republican side, they were there. They saw what went on and you can't, in reality, whitewash the events. It was an insurrection. It was a riot, whatever you want to call it.


But it was not the orderly operation of the United States Capitol. And so for those individuals who voted to get to the facts, we met Republicans at every point to try to make this situation bipartisan. As you already spoke to, Leader McCarthy, we, word for word, accepted what he wanted, because we just want to get to the facts. The public deserves the fact. Congress deserves the fact.

And again, we have to protect the United States Capitol, the citadel of democracy in this country. And to see the actions of January 6th, it's heartbreaking. And so we have to get to it. I think my ranking member, John Katko, for being an honorable person in this process.

He took a lot of heat, but he said, I support it because it's the right thing to do. I spent 20 years prosecuting criminals and said this act that occurred on January 6th need a full and thorough review.

BURNETT: And it does and by the way that's what originally Mitch McConnell said. He said, I quote him, "A painstaking investigation and thorough review must now take place. And yet now he's made clear that he's going to vote against this in the Senate, obviously do everything possible to get his Republican caucus on board to do the same thing. Do you think there's any chance this bill passes the Senate, Chairman?

THOMPSON: Well, I'm optimistic that it will pass. People say we wouldn't get more than 20 votes in the House from Republicans. We got 35. I'm optimistic on the Senate side. If senators allow and not arm twist to go the other way, we'll get it.

But again, every time I see the pictures, every time I talk to groups, they asked me how did this happen in the greatest country in the world that people attacked our government. We're not tenable in dictatorship, we are a democracy.

We set the gold standard what every other country in the world who would aspire to be what we are. And so it was tragic, I think Democrats and Republicans, oldest country, a debt to get to the facts to make sure that whatever this commission comes up with, we agreed to implement it.

The Senate, I hope that they see it up. This is not Democrat- Republican. It's just not. And for them to try to make it, that is absolutely wrong.

BURNETT: Well, I appreciate your time, Chairman. Thank you very much. And I know you and your Ranking Member Katko worked really hard on this and it can't be said enough that it was bipartisan. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

BURNETT: Chairman Bennie Thompson there of Homeland Security.

And next breaking news, New York's Attorney General appears to be closing in on the CFO of the Trump Organization, now opening a criminal investigation into Allen Weisselberg according to sources tonight.

Plus, more states banning public schools from acquiring students to wear masks in direct defiance of the CDC. The Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, is OUTFRONT.

And the White House says President Biden is stepping up pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a Hamas official says tonight a ceasefire is eminent.



BURNETT: Breaking news, New York Attorney General Letitia James has opened a criminal tax probe into longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. You see him on the screen. A person who's been with Trump for decades. This is according to people familiar with the investigation when they say this investigation has been going on for months.

This probe is likely to increase pressure significantly on Weisselberg to cooperate with the investigation into Trump's businesses and possibly turn on Trump himself. This is coming just one day after Attorney General James announced her Trump Organization investigation is now criminal, not just civil, a significant change there.

Kara Scannell is OUTFRONT with all of this reporting. So Kara, criminal investigation into the person who we have been told knows where all the skeletons are buried. What can you tell us about this probe into Mr. Weisselberg?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Erin. I mean, sources tell me and my colleague, Sonia Moghe, that the New York Attorney General's Office has opened a criminal investigation, a tax investigation into Allen Weisselberg. This is being run by a unit within that office that has its own criminal authority. They usually bring tax cases where they can use the Martin Act which has been used in against Wall Street figures for years.

So this unit is conducting that investigation. Now, that is a different than the development that occurred overnight where the New York Attorney General has joined the DA's his investigation into the Trump Organization. So this is a new investigation focusing on Weisselberg.

Now, it has been underway for some time and it stemmed in part from information that was provided by his former daughter in law, Jennifer Weisselberg. She has been cooperating with authorities.

Now, the question here is where will this lead? Allen Weisselberg has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but it's certainly as the pressure that is mounting against him on these two fronts, both with the DA and the now the AG joining the investigation to the Trump Organization and the AG looking into him and some of his business dealings with his children. So that's another real vulnerability point that prosecutors often use to try to leverage people to get there cooperation.


Now, we should know that Allen Weisselberg has cooperated with the Attorney General in its civil investigation to the Trump Organization. He sat for a deposition last summer, but certainly the stakes have raised a lot here in this time. I mean, the DA's office has the Trump organization's taxes at this point. So there's certainly a lot more at stake for him and at stake for the former President Trump, because he had been by his side for 40 years.

We should also note that for this story, Allen Weisselberg's attorneys did not comment. But he did also recently add a criminal defense lawyer who is specialized in tax to his team, so they certainly are gearing up for this, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Kara, thank you.

So I want to go now to our Senior Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor, Laura Coates, along with David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter, the author of The Making of Donald Trump.

So Laura, we find out about this criminal investigation into a guy 40 years working with Trump, Allen Weisselberg, how afraid should he be?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he probably not only knows where the keys to castles are, he's probably actually has made the keys to the castle. But remember, as Kara talked about, he's not been charged with the crime. He has cooperated in some respects. And, of course, everyone assumes that the if there is somebody like a Donald Trump within the organization, the goal of every prosecutor is always to go for the so called bigger fish.

But the CFO of the Trump Organization is a pretty big fish in his own right in the sense that if there is any wrongdoing that's been alleged or might be alleged in the future on the civil or criminal side, the idea that they would just use him as cooperator to get to somebody else and not pursue prosecution is probably very far from the truth here.

But remember, it's always that phrase, nothing is certain but death and taxes. And the common theme for all of this seems to be the way in which Trump Organization either through payments as benefits or otherwise was used as a way to maybe downplay payroll taxes, perhaps, or inflate or deflate assets. If he had any involvement in that or personally is liable for what he should have provided in taxes, that seems to be nature of this investigation.

It's a common theme and the thread seems to be closer and closer to the orbit of the entire Trump Organization.

BURNETT: Yes, Trump Organization and, of course, David that is the Trump family. I mean, Weisselberg and the Trump family go back to the 1970s, 40 years, as we know. We've been told the former Trump employee told CNN, Allen knows where all of the financial bodies are buried, perhaps at the least.

Trump's former longtime attorney Jay Goldberg, David, once told me in terms of the money trail, I'm quoting Jay here, "In terms of the money trail, Donald can be hurt, I believe a great deal by Allen Weisselberg."

So what do you think, David? Does Weisselberg stay loyal here no matter what or does he turn on Trump?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, AUTHOR, "THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP": Well, the trick for prosecutors here is to persuade Allen Weisselberg that if he doesn't cooperate, he's going to die in prison. And what do you want to do? You want to turn on this man who you have been completely obedient to for 40 years and his father before that or do you want to go to prison. And whether Allen Weisselberg can separate himself from Donald Trump

at this point, because he's so closely connected with him, and has been so browbeaten by Donald and staying around, that's really the crucial question here. It's entirely possible you could see both Donald and Allen on trial together under the Martin Act for tax fraud.

New York State, of course, has a little RICO Act and I've long thought that that's also another likely charge to be brought, because you only have to show three criminal acts to qualify for that. And finding three criminal acts of the Trump Organization is about as hard as finding a traffic light in midtown Manhattan.

BURNETT: Laura, I don't mean to laugh at that, I get the analogy. Laura, though, I also want to ask you about the context here. You see you got this criminal investigation into the Chief Financial Officer, a person who worked with Trump for 40 years. Then you have the Attorney General's investigation into Trump Org now criminal.

Now, we've been covering it for a while, civil, civil, civil will all of a sudden now criminal, so tell me why that's so important. What might have changed to make that jump which appears to be so significant?

COATES: Well, that's in part the big question as to why now. Now, we're all learning about the criminal action and criminal investigation. We don't know when the Trump Org was informed of the criminal investigation at this point in time and how long they've known about it. But the question is what has changed, is there an introduction of new information or is it the level and aggregate of what the conduct has been.

Oftentimes, you look at the overall scope of what has been done and what is being alleged or investigated. You can go from the civil liability where you're talking about financial penalties in the most part to the civil world and the deprivation of liberty and prison time depending upon the scope of conduct, the egregious nature of the conduct and whether it was systematic over time in particular.


Now, without having seen all the information without looking at, one way to go towards the criminal investigation, has us believe in that at this point in time for an educated guess, that they're talking about the aggregate, let alone -- maybe there's a smoking gun. But probably the aggregate and the nature of the actual behavior to show that there was an intent to not only thumb their nose at tax laws, but perhaps it's a systemic -- to systematically try to evade or break the law, that's when it goes.

BURNETT: Which is incredibly significant. So, David, Trump is responding to Attorney General Letitia James' announcement, right, that the probe is now criminal, into his Trump Org. Trump says, quote, it's nothing -- I'm sorry, it's nothing more than a, quote, continuation of the greatest political witch hunt in the history of the United States. He then went on to say: They failed to stop in Washington, so they

turn it over to New York to do their dirty work. This is what I've been going through for years, I have built a great company, employed thousands of people and all I do is get unfairly attacked and abused by a corrupt political system.

So, look, politically this will work with certain people. It is the same playbook he is used to attack investigations in the past.

David, will it work this time?

JOHNSTON: No, I don't think so. I mean, Roy Cohn taught Donald Trump, always attack law enforcement. Donald has been very successful at. He bet four grand juries as a young man. He has avoided all sorts of investigations that Wayne Barrett and I and others who know Donald well, have thought should have been undertaken.

But here, because he made himself in the public spotlight in a new way by running for, it's becoming president. His crimes are not going to be something where prosecutor say, well, there's a lot of white-collar crime, we don't think we need to go after this guy. There is an extensive record here, Erin. I mean, let's not forget, his own lawyer said that Donald forged one of his tax returns, he said that under oath.

BURNETT: Yeah, I mean, it is -- it is incredible to think what could happen here after so many decades.

All right. Thank you both very much, David, Laura.

And next, should vaccines be required for kids, kids to go to school? The U.S. education secretary is OUTFRONT.

Plus, the man who pointed his gun at black protesters last summer is now using that incident to justify a run for Senate.


MARK MCCLOSKEY, ATTORNEY: God came knocking on my door last summer, disguised as an angry mob and it really did wake me up.




BURNETT: Tonight, Republicans in the Utah State House just passed a bill barring mask requirements in public schools and universities. That is in direct defiance of CDC guidelines.

It follows Texas, the Republican Governor Greg Abbott's executive order there prohibits mask mandates in its public schools. Abbott saying, quote: Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices. And South Carolina's Republican governor last week signed an order

allowing parents to let their kids attend public schools, without a mask.

OUTFRONT, the secretary of education, Miguel Cardona.

And, Secretary Cardona, I really appreciate your time.

So, South Carolina, Utah, Texas -- what's your reaction to these moves that are basically saying kids don't have to wear masks in public schools?

MIGUEL CARDONA, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: You know, since the beginning of the pandemic, I've leaned on our science and health experts to give us the right guidance and it's worked well in Connecticut when I was commissioner there, and it's working well across the country.

So, I'm going to lean on the science and lean on the health experts to give us the guidance.

BURNETT: So, you support that the CDC is now saying that kids need to wear masks, and so that's your -- you support that.

So, let me ask you about the other side of this, which is as you know, more than 200 colleges and universities now require students to be vaccinated. They said, before you come back in the fall, you got to have a vaccine. They're making a mandatory.

Now, the Pfizer vaccine is now available to kids 12 to 15. Dr. Fauci says, for younger kids, it will be by the end of the year.

Should it be a requirement that every child as soon as eligible be vaccinated in order to be in a in-person classroom?

CARDONA: We know vaccines are one of the best ways to make sure the schools are safe and communities are safe. And we know that without vaccinations, it's going to be more difficult to get schools reopened.

I'll leave the question as to whether should be required, again, to the health experts and the science experts. But what I do know, is that this past week, over 600,000 vaccines were given to students, ages 12 to 15.

So, that gives me hope, that we're going to be able to get our schools reopened for every student, every day. If not now, by the fall.

BURNETT: I mean, you know, as a public school parent, right, I know vaccines in general are required. I mean, there are certain reasons one could have, health or religion, depending on your state. But basically, there's a whole list of vaccines, they're required without them. That's the rule.

Do you think COVID will be on that list eventually?

CARDONA: You know, I'm not sure if it will. I know that we're going to continue to work with our partners at Health and Human Services to make sure that we're following the guidance that they provide at the CDC. It's certainly something that we've worked with our health partners in the past, and it's gotten us to this point, and we're going to continue to do that moving forward.

BURNETT: So, there's still a lot of kids -- and this is shocking and upsetting to many -- who are not in full-time in-person school, for the full class, right? Across this country, and there are some places where it is significantly worse than that.

Is there any excuse to do you think, Secretary Cardona, for public schools in this country to not be open for full-time, 5-day week learning, when students return in the fall?

CARDONA: Every student deserves an opportunity to be learning in the classroom, I really want in the spring, but in the fall, every student deserves an opportunity to be in the classroom full-time, all day. We have the resources in the American Rescue Plan to get the tools, and whatever is needed to make it happen.

And we have support. We are ready to roll up our sleeves and help where it's needed. We have great examples of where it's working across the country.


It is my expectation that all schools are open, full time in the fall.

Now, you know the federal government can mandate that, but it is our job to support our states, support our districts, to make sure that it does happen. Our students deserve it.

BURNETT: So, I'm going to ask you one other thing before we go, this has been getting a lot of coverage as you know, coast to coast.

The New York City Department of Education says it's going to stop testing students for a gifted and talented track. California's Education Department has drafted a framework to stop grouping kids by their math ability. Boston Public Schools suspended a selected program for high performing students, due to the pandemic and concerns over inequity in education.

Do you support this trend away from accelerated programs?

CARDONA: I support making sure that all students have access to high quality learning, high quality opportunities. I know that post- pandemic, we need to double down on our efforts to make sure we're providing not only the intervention the students need, but a quality education where students are engaged, and all students have access not only to intervention, but to acceleration as well.

BURNETT: So, you know, some people say, well, look, if you -- if you get rid of these programs, you're going to have more and more families maybe opt out of the system. Are you afraid of? I mean, when you look at this balance, do you see this fundamentally as an equity issue, as a social justice issue? Or something else? CARDONA: All students deserve an opportunity to learn at high levels,

and I don't think you can think about reopening schools with a thing about how to reimagine it. And to say that only some students have access to higher engagement, or, you know, opportunities to learn in different ways is limiting for all students.

With that said, those decisions we made out the state. We're going to support high quality education for all students. And we want to make sure the students have access to the classroom, as soon as possible, so that -- because that's where they learn best.

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

CARDONA: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, he became an overnight celebrity with conservatives after pointing his gun to black protesters last summer. And now, he's hoping his newfound fame actually sends him to Washington for a Senate seat.

Plus, Hamas officials telling CNN a cease-fire is imminent. Is an end to the deadly violence remotely in sight?



BURNETT: Tonight, the Missouri lawyer who pointed a gun at a group of mostly black peaceful protesters last summer is running for U.S. Senate using that moment to get votes.

Mark McCloskey says he's running as a Republican to defend his citizens the same way he defended his house and family.

Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT.


MCCLOSKEY: I will never backed down.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mark McCloskey announcing his run for Senate in Missouri.

MCCLOSKEY: When angry mob came to destroy my house and kill my family, I took a stand against them. Now I'm asking for the privilege to take that stand for all of us.


SERFATY: Fully embracing the gun brandishing moment that catapulted him into the national spotlight last summer.

MCCLOSKEY: God came knocking on my door last summer disguised as an angry mob and it really did wake me up. SERFATY: Despite McCloskey's claims of an angry mob, the protesters

who appeared outside the McCloskey's house last June passing through on their way to protest outside the St. Louis mayor's home.

But the images of McCloskey and his wife pointing guns at the protesters went viral.

MCCLOSKEY: I'm not the face of anything opposing the Black Lives Matter movement. I was a person scared for my life who is protecting my wife, my home, my hearth, my livelihood.

SERFATY: The couple became overnight celebrities in conservative circles, defended by then President Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These people were standing, they're never used it, and they were legal, the weapons. Now understand somebody local that want to prosecute these people. It's a disgrace.

SERFATY: And given a primetime speaking spot at the Republican National Convention last year.

MCCLOSKEY: You've seen us on your TV screens and Twitter feeds. You know that we're not the kind of people who back down. Thankfully, neither is Donald Trump.

SERFATY: McCloskey and his wife are still facing legal trouble from the now famous incident. Each charged with a felony weapons charge and evidence tampering. They've pleaded not guilty.

Their criminal trial is set for November 1st, but Missouri's Republican governor has vowed to pardon them if they are convicted.

MCCLOSKEY: What I've learned is people out there in this country are just sick and tired of cancel culture.

SERFATY: The race to replace retiring Republican Senator Roy Blunt in Missouri is still taking shape. The McCloskey's entrance adds another high-profile candidates and what is expected to be a crowded GOP primary field.

More on that already includes former Republican Governor Eric Greitens who faced his own personal scandal.

MCCLOSKEY: When was the last time a politician defended you?

SERFATY: McCloskey, an attorney and first-time candidate is already framing himself as an outsider running in a field of politicians.

MCCLOSKEY: I've always been a Republican but I've never been a politician.


SERFATY (on camera): And one dynamic that'll be so interesting to watch in the Republican primary will be the Trump factor. Kimberly Guilfoyle, who, of course, is the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., she is actually working for the Greitens campaign. So, McCloskey may not get Trump's backing even though his attorney says the former president has reached out to him a few times over the past year.

BURNETT: Wow. All right. Sunlen, thank you very much.

Our chief political correspondent Dana Bash joins me now.

So, Dana, this is a candidate obviously who is claim to fame the household nature of his, maybe not obviously his name, but this person is the picture, right? The picture of him in front of his house. We've all seen this.


BURNETT: It seems to be a draw for a crucial block of voters. Former President Trump, obviously, it's a draw for him. He's on Fox as a guest now regularly.

What does it tell you about his candidacy?

BASH: Well, I talked to some Republican strategists about this and the white once described is he is a MAGA celebrity. And when it comes to the U.S. Senate, he is the first real MAGA celebrity, if you will, somebody who as you said became famous by being on Fox all the time after the incident that you reported on.


The question is, whether or not that is enough for someone like him especially in the kind of race where he is. Already, he's got a couple of Republican opponents to cut the nomination to be able to run for Senate from Missouri.

But, Erin, there's a number of sitting house Republicans some of whom might back Donald Trump and might be on that side of the Republican Party, but they have more experience and are well-known. So, it's a big, open question.

It kind of makes you think of Joe the Plumber. Remember him, Erin, from 2008?

BURNETT: Yeah, uh-huh.

BASH: Right, he campaigned with John McCain? He did run for Congress. He lost by 50 points. We don't know whether or not this candidate is going to be more show the plumber or whether or not he's going to prove this is a very different politics thanks to Donald Trump.

BURNETT: Yeah, and, you know, he has, you know, taken on the Trump mantle so aggressively, right? He attacked the Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush, at the Republican National Convention. According to "The Washington Post", Bush was among the marchers who encountered McCloskey back in June near his home. She actually happened to be here.

So, here's what McCloskey said.

BASH: Uh-huh.


MCCLOSKEY: These radicals are not content with marching in the streets. They want to walk the halls of Congress, they want to take over. They want power.

This is Joe Biden's party. These are the people who would be in charge of your future, the future of your children.


BURNETT: So, is there a way to tell how much that is resonating in that race?

BASH: There isn't but there will be. It will be really interesting to see just how much that kind of message, especially if he does go up against politicians to take in the more traditional path, i.e., governor or attorney general, another candidate, or the potential members of the House who will run. We will see whether or not that will resonate.

What we do know is that, just broadly speaking, because that kind of rhetoric mirrors what Fox News viewers another conservative media consumers alike, there is definitely a sliver of people who will like that. We don't know it kind of candidate he will, what kind of operation he will have around him to try to harness that.

BURNETT: All right. Dana, thank you very much.

And next, breaking news, a barrage of rockets were just fired just now towards Israel. You see that on your screen. Two air bases among the targets, even as Hamas claimed a cease-fire was imminent.



BURNETT: Breaking news, the conflict in the Middle East entering its 11th day. Rockets just now fired from Gaza towards Israel. Israeli forces carrying out airstrikes on Hamas targets. And all of this happening as Hamas officials told CNN a cease-fire is imminent.

There's been no comment from Israel yet, but obviously the actions, we'll call that into question.

Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted the military operation in Gaza will continue as Israel's goals are reached. Despite the White House saying that Biden expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire.

Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT from the White House.

Phil, the White House has been trying to show that Biden is ramping up pressure on Netanyahu is doing what he wants to do seemingly impervious to any kind of pressure. Is there any indication Biden is having an impact?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think it's an open question right now.

Obviously, to show the pictures, that would imply no. But I think when you talk to White House officials, they want to wait and see. They made very clear that they wanted to see de-escalation over the course of the day towards a ceasefire. That leaves a lot of wiggle room for what that may mean.

But there is an urgency right now with White House officials. They understand it's in the 11th day. They understand hundreds of lives have been lost and they understand it's not just about this conflict, though that is clearly the most important thing on their mind and about the broader relationship and how the president is viewed globally.

Now, they made very clear over the course of the first nine days of this that they were taking an approach of quiet but intensive diplomacy. That has clearly shifted. The president's message not just today in the readout that the White House provided, but also people familiar with Monday's call to Prime Minister Netanyahu made clear there is a firmer tone.

I think you need to understand, too, Erin, that it's not just what is going on in the Middle East or what is going on in the United States, it's also internationally. There are U.N. resolutions the U.S. continued to block. They have tried to give the Israelis space. Now, they want to see some type of effort to lead the Israelis towards some type of resolution.

Now, it's worth nothing. They're not just working with the Israelis. They're working as regional partners as well, to try and communicate with Hamas, to try to get some type of message to create the space for some type of pause, at least ceasefire at best --


MATTINGLY: -- to sort of come to fruition. They just aren't there yet. And I think given the fact there is a shift in tone, it underscores they want something to change quickly. And whether or not that happens, well, they're going to wait and see over the course of the next 12 to 16 hours.

BURNETT: So, you know, what you're talking about, of course, Biden has been pressured by the left to do more. There is a much stronger pro- Palestinian group within the Democratic Party. They made this a human rights issue. They have been very forceful about that.

Have they had an impact in forcing his hand, in forcing him to take a stronger stance on Netanyahu?

MATTINGLY: You know, White House officials say it hasn't had a dramatic affect in their approach. They tried to stay with the approach they believe will best give them a chance for an outcome but in the call on Monday between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Biden, the person familiar with the call said yes, the issue of Congress and the Democratic Party shift on this issue did come up. There is very clear domestic pressure.

Erin, just today, a group of progressive Democrats introduced a resolution to block an arm sale, $735 million of arms to Israel. It predates the current conflict. And while it's not something that's actually going to get passed, it under scores there is a different Democratic Party when it comes to this issue.

It is a warning sign where things are going. It's something the president is not just going to have to deal with it now. It's something he's going to deal with on this issue for the entirety of his time in office.

BURNETT: Yeah, it's a huge shift, you know, for someone like him who spent a career viewing Israel from a different lens. Thank you very much, Phil Mattingly.

And thanks to all of you for joining us.

Anderson starts now.