Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

White House Not Ruling Out Theory COVID Originated In Wuhan Lab As Intel Report Reveals Lab Staffers Were Hospitalized In 2019; House GOP Leadership Silent As Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Doubles Down On Comparing Mask Mandate To Holocaust; Arizona Ballot Audit Resumes, Observer Says "It's Worse Than You Think"; Major Cities Across The Country Experiencing Rise In Crime; Anti-Semitic Attacks On The Rise In U.S. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 24, 2021 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It's a horrible situation indeed. All right. Matthew, thank you very, very much. Matthew Chance reporting for us.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. Tweet the show @CNNSITROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, the White House not rolling out the theory that COVID-19 came from a lab leak. This as another top doctor says there's more evidence for the theory. Could what we've been told about how the deadly pandemic started be wrong.

Plus, top Republicans silent on Marjorie Taylor Greene Taylor Greene's appalling Holocaust remarks. Why and what are they afraid of?

And after George Floyd's death, cities diverted funds from police. But now, crime is on the rise. Is there a connection? The Los Angeles Police Chief is my guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, not ruling it out. The White House today given the opportunity to bat down growing questions that the pandemic originally began as a leak from a Chinese lab, they did not rule it out. This as a prominent scientist is also giving more credence to that same theory. Here's the former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FMR. FDA COMMISSIONER: We haven't found the intermediate host. We found no evidence of this virus in an animal anywhere. We haven't found the true source of the virus. The question for a lot of people is going to be when are too many coincidences too much, when does it just seem that there's too many things suggesting that this could have come out of a lab. And right now there's more and more circumstantial evidence certainly.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: The idea that this virus could have come out of a lab flies in the face of what the world was led to believe for so long that it wasn't an accident from a lab, but rather it was a natural occurrence initially spreading through wet market, selling fresh produce and live animals. If there is truth to this lovely theory, it would be a massive cover up.

This comes as CNN is confirming a new U.S. intelligence report that found several researchers at China's Wuhan lab became ill enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care according to The Wall Street Journal which first broke the story. The details go beyond what the Trump administration was saying that researchers became sick with 'symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses'.

If it was COVID, that wouldn't mean their infections happened weeks before China reported its first case on December 8th. Now, China is pushing back on this new reporting the director of the Wuhan lab calling it a 'complete lie'. But even Dr. Anthony Fauci appears to be more open to the theory.


KATIE SANDERS, MANAGING EDITOR, POLITIFACT: Are you still confident that it developed naturally?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRES. BIDEN: No, I'm not convinced about that. I think that we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we find out to the best of our ability exactly what happened.


BOLDUAN: And former CDC Director, Robert Redfield, who is a virologist, previously told Dr. Sanjay Gupta that he clearly thinks the pandemic could have started as a lab leak in China.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory escaped.


BOLDUAN: So here's some of what we do know, U.S. embassy officials reportedly visited a lab in Wuhan in 2018, according to The Washington Post's Josh Rogin, who sent back two warnings, official warnings. According to Rogin, "The first cable," Josh writes, "which I obtained, also warns that the lab's work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic."

And according to Rogin, the cables also state that during interactions with the scientists at the WIV lab, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high containment laboratory, he writes.

Now in a moment I'm going to speak to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Josh Rogin and The Wall Street Journal reporter who broke the story about the illnesses and how serious they were. Today the White House was asked about this new reporting and whether the White House is pressing China for more information.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are and we have repeatedly called for the WHO to support an expert-driven evaluation of the pandemic's origins that is free from interference or politicization.


BOLDUAN: But why is the U.S. relying on the WHO when you will remember this is the same organization that praised China's 'transparency' in its handling of the pandemic earlier on and it's also the same organization that the White House once said produced a report on this very topic that 'represents a partial and incomplete picture'.


So why the White House is so quick now to delegate this work the WHO? That doesn't entirely make sense. If the world doesn't find out the truth about how this deadly pandemic began, is there really any hope of preventing the next one? Our White House Reporter covering National Security, Natasha Bertrand, she's OUTFRONT tonight live with us in Washington.

Natasha, you've been talking to your sources and learning that the Biden administration is not ruling this theory out.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: They're not, Kate. And the Intelligence Community has been investigating this lab leak theory for well over a year now. This is something that they've been trying to get to the bottom of because as you've said, it is so important to figure out how this actually did spread to prevent the next pandemic from emerging.

So what we do know is that they've homed in on one major theory, which is that it did occur naturally and it's important to note that that doesn't necessarily rule out the lab leak theory. What we're told is that there is a conflation happening between the lab leak theory and this idea that the Chinese may have created this in a lab with some kind of bio weapon.

These labs in China were studying coronaviruses on bats. The leading theory right now or one of the leading theories is that because of this research, there was an accident and it spread that way.

Now, another leading theory obviously is the wet market theory that it spread from an animal to a human in a more natural setting, but the animal that supposedly spread that to the human still has not been identified, so there's no definitive evidence for that. There's also no definitive evidence that the researchers who got sick in November of 2019 actually had Coronavirus, only that they had symptoms consistent with it.

So right now the Intelligence Community continues to have very low confidence in how this pandemic actually started and they're continuing to investigate. Now, the Biden administration, of course, has delegated a lot of this to the who and has thrown a lot of diplomatic weight behind that probe because they want it to be a fulsome international investigation that has full access to Chinese facilities, for example, Chinese scientists, but the Intelligence Community is studying this extensively.

BOLDUAN: It's very interesting and great contacts that you had there that even if it did come from a lab, it doesn't also prescribe intent of what happened actually with it. Good to see you, Natasha. Thank you very much.

Out front now the reporter who broke the story that three Wuhan lab researchers were treated in hospital in November 2019, The Wall Street Journal National Security Correspondent Michael Gordon and Washington Post Columnist Josh Rogin, who as I mentioned, has done a lot of reporting on this. He's also the author of Chaos Under Heaven. Thanks for being here, guys.

Michael, in your reporting, I found interesting that as you were speaking with current and former officials about this, they were a bit split on what this intelligence report really means. How important also this intelligence is? How strong it is? How significant it is? Talk to me about what your sources are telling you.

MICHAEL GORDON, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, where we started out on this along with my colleagues is there was a January 15th statement that State Department issued that said the U.S. US government has reason to believe that several researchers in the lab fell ill prior to the known outbreak.

So what I did along with my colleagues was try to find out what is the underlying intel behind this public statement which the Biden administration has never repudiated, has never asserted is incorrect.

And what we were told is that there's intelligence information that three of the researchers, not several, went to the hospital. They may not have been kept there, but they went to the hospital in November 2019, which is slightly before the early December known outbreak of COVID-19 which is very interesting circumstantial evidence.

As for the weight that's given it, there are some people - well, Jen Psaki today in the White House said that this intelligence information provided to the U.S. government emanated from a foreign partner and needs to be more fully corroborated. There are people who worked with the Trump administration who say that actually there is additional information that lends more substance to this.

So what's significant is the number of researchers, the month that they went and the fact that they went to a hospital. It's circumstantial evidence, it's not conclusive, but it points in direction of the lab theory.

BOLDUAN: It is more information, which is important when we're talking about this global pandemic, Michael. It's good. It is great reporting.

Josh, and no matter what is known or not by U.S. officials, quite frankly right now, you think China is definitely hiding things here. Talk us through this.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. With some great reporting by The Wall Street Journal, as Michael said, it does add some circumstantial evidence to the pile of circumstantial evidence that points to the still yet unproven theory hypothesis that the lab might have been involved. But I think it's important to understand the context here.

The Intelligence Community has been looking for a year but they don't really know either way because there's an intelligence gap. In other words, they don't know.


In other words, they missed it. Like they weren't pointed at these labs and so they don't really know what they're dealing with. They're trying to figure out after the fact that they're not doing a particularly great job of it. Michael is exactly right that there is more underlying intelligence there and that they should and must release.

What are these researchers doing? Three-sec researchers. Well, were they the ones working on the risky Coronavirus research on bats?

Well, I'd like to know that. That's something that we know that we could figure out. Now, how that fits into the bigger picture is simply that, we're not going to be able to rely on the spies and the satellites to figure this out. We're going to need a real investigation that's going to require a lot of diplomatic pressure on the Chinese government and it's not going to be able to be done by the WHO because they spent a year trying to do that and they utterly failed and they also hired scientists that had a clear conflict of interest.

So when the White House says, oh, yes, this is like foreign reporting and we're not really sure. They're being honest, they don't know. But that doesn't mean that they're absolved of the responsibility of figuring it out, because if they don't try to figure it out, nobody else will be able to and then we won't figure out how we got into this mess.

We won't figure out how to prevent the next pandemic, which is really important because the next pandemic is surely coming and it's urgent and national security and public health issue.

BOLDUAN: And Michael, you mentioned the White House, what Jen Psaki - how Jen Psaki responded to your reporting and I was curious when you heard her response to it, what you think that actually meant, because quite frankly, I'm wondering what you think the White House is really doing about this right now.

GORDON: Well, I obviously made an effort to clarify what the intent of that statement was after it was made. And it was consistent with something we wrote on our Wall Street Journal article. We said that a person familiar with the intelligence said it was provided by an international partner. It could be very important if it's fully validated, but needed additional corroboration. So we actually wrote that and she said that.

But I don't think that Jen Psaki was, in any way, repudiating the January 15th statement, which said the U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers fell ill. And that statement, I've been informed, was vetted by Biden administration officials, by the way, has been vetted by the U.S. Intelligence Community.

So the administration's never said that those assertions are incorrect. They're just more cautious on the lab theory, because the issue, unfortunately, became very politicized. But I've talked to Biden officials who say they are intrigued and actually find the lab theory plausible, because of all the Chinese efforts to cover up and withhold information.

They ask themselves why would they do this if it was simply a freak of nature, wouldn't they be doing it because somehow they had an institution that was involved.

So I think the White House is being more cautious, but they've never ruled out the lab theory. And I'm not confident we're going to get to the bottom of it, because the strategy, as Josh pointed out, is to rely on the WHO as the only mechanism that can gain access to China.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Michael, Josh, thanks so much. Great reporting. Appreciate it.

OUTFRONT with me now for more on this is Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, back in March you spoke with Dr. Redfield, the former CDC Director. And what he told you then about the origins of the virus did raise a lot of eyebrows. I want to play it for everybody.


REDFIELD: I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory escaped. Other people don't believe that. That's fine. Science will eventually figure it out. It's not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect the laboratory worker.


BOLDUAN: Sanjay, for a time it did feel like the lab leak hypothesis was treated a bit like something of a conspiracy theory. Does it seem like a real possibility now?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think so. And Kate, when I was interviewing Dr. Redfield I sort of had a surprise look on my face. It wasn't so much about what he was saying, because that theory had been out there for some time. It was more because he was the one saying it. He was the CDC Director during that time. He obviously had access to information, raw intelligence, raw data

that I didn't have access to and now he was coming out and saying something that, as you point out, had been treated as a fringe theory for so long.

So I think it's been a challenge. It's complicated, as Josh and Michael just laid out. But there are certain things that have been increasingly raising concern about this possibility. The lab workers becoming sick. We did know that. In fact, I talked to Peter Daszak who was on the WHO committee, the sort of investigative committee and they said that there are people who got sick and we didn't know how sick they were.


Peter also said at some point they were tested for antibodies. Antibodies might be a way to say, hey, look, did they have the infection in the past? And he said that he was told the antibodies were negative. Is that accurate? Was they tested too late? There's all these sorts of questions that still remain.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Do you think we will ever have a conclusive answer here or is it may be too late?

GUPTA: It's a good question. I mean, if you go back and look at SARS, reporting on SARS back in 2000 to 2003, it took two years before there was a speculated host, intermediary host, animal hosts, the civet cat. But it took many years after that to actually link it then to the horseshoe bat. So it takes, sometimes it can take a long time, if they find out for certain ever.

There are certain things if you can actually look at the raw data and find out about those antibody tests, where there are people within the lab testing positive for antibodies in November of 2019. That would be pretty definitive.

Also, you can look at the genetic markers of the virus that first infected people and see if it matches the genetic markers of the viruses that were being studied in that lab. I don't know that these make things conclusive, but I think as Dr. Gottlieb was saying, it changes the preponderance of evidence more towards the lab theory.

BOLDUAN: Yes. It's good to see you, Sanjay. Thank you.

GUPTA: You too.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, the top three house Republicans ignoring CNNs request to comment on Marjorie Taylor Greene's vile remarks comparing a mask mandate to the Holocaust. When is enough enough?

Plus, Arizona resuming its sham audit of the 2020 election. I'm going to talk to a former top election official who was in the room during the audit for warning tonight about what she saw.

And an alarming surge of anti-Semitic attacks now being reported across the country, including one in Times Square where a man was kicked, punched, hit with flagpoles and crutches and now President Biden is responding.



BOLDUAN: Tonight, silence. The top three Republicans in the House Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, Elise Stefanik not responding to multiple requests by CNN to weigh in on Marjorie Taylor Greene comparing the mask requirements in Congress to what the Jews suffered in the Holocaust. It's gross and grossly inaccurate, of course, but here's exactly what she said.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): We can look back in a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star and they were definitely treated like second class citizens so much so that they were put in trains and take into gas chambers in Nazi Germany and this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.


BOLDUAN: And Greene, of course, did not back down when pressed about the growing outrage over what she said.


GREENE: I think any rational Jewish person didn't like what happened in Nazi Germany and any rational Jewish person doesn't like what's happening with overbearing mask mandates.


BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT with me now, Bill Kristol, he's the Editor-at-Large for the Bulwark and CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash. I consider these three wonderful people, rational Jewish people as well.

Bill, at this point, it is not surprising Republican leaders are silent on this. But what would you have liked to have heard from them?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE OF THE BULWARK: Hi, Kate. Hi, Dana. I'm sorry to be with you on such a disgusting issue, depressing thing, really. I mean, having a member of the United States Congress say what she said or refuses to apologize or explain what she meant to say, if you could give such a credible explanation.

And then the leader of her party in Congress, Kevin McCarthy says nothing, doesn't say she's no longer welcome in the Republican conference or that he's rebuked or called her to explain that she shouldn't make total not just irresponsible for sort of stomach churning really statements like that.

They haven't said they won't support her for reelection. They've said nothing and they've done nothing. And so Marjorie Taylor Greene is Marjorie Taylor Greene. But for Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, Elise Stefanik, Elise Stefanik was awfully outspoken about a ton of issues just a week or two ago wasn't she. Arizona recounts and a bunch of other things. But this, she can't one sentence. She can't say one sentence about how reprehensible what Marjorie Taylor Greene said was.

BOLDUAN: And Dana, I mean, most rank and file White House Republicans are silent here as well. But there are a few exceptions, Liz Cheney called the Greene's comments evil lunacy and Adam Kinzinger calling it 'absolute sickness'. Peter Meijer actually said pretty much a combination of the two, very similar and said the same to you on Sunday State of the Union.

It's the same Republicans willing to call out Trump's big election lie who are speaking up. The same Republicans who blame Trump for inciting the deadly insurrection and voting to impeach that are speaking up now. Why is it the same Republicans even though Greene's comments have nothing to do with Trump this time?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Because these are the Republicans who have decided their calculation is to go with their conscience and not their political future. Because all three of those Republicans you talked about, very well might get primaried and kicked out of Congress by voters in the Republican base.

That is not something that Kevin McCarthy and other members of the Republican leadership, who are left in the Republican leadership, are interested in doing. And that is why, so far, they have been silent. It's not because they agree with her.

It's not because they're anti-Semitic at all. It's because she has the political power right now because she is loud, she is outrageous and she is raising small dollar donations by the unbelievable amounts that's even hard to wrap your mind around and that is where the, again, the sort of the political power right now is in the house.

And if I can just say very briefly it, Kate, I mean, and I can't believe I have to say this and all three of us would agree, I'm the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. My great grandparents were gassed in a concentration camp and I can tell you that I am very confident that they would have been very happy to wear a mask to protect their health and the health of other people.


And the fact that that is even a sentence that I have to utter is repulsive.

BOLDUAN: Yes, exactly. You should, 100 percent, Danna. Compare this, Bill, to another out there outrageous Republican member of Congress, well, former Republican, Steve King.

Kevin McCarthy after all the years of what Steve King has said, I do remember distinctly in 2019, Kevin McCarthy very much came out and spoke out very strongly pulled Steve King into his office over white supremacy remarks and many Republicans came out and spoke out about Steve King and we saw what eventually happened. Why is this so different from that? KRISTOL: Well, it shows how much has changed. It's not different. I mean, if anything, Marjorie Taylor Greene's comments are perhaps more offensive, but I don't want to get into competing degrees in terribly offensiveness.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

KRISTOL: But two years later it shows how much the party has changed. I mean, Dana said, I think, quite correctly that they don't think it's in their political interest. They don't want to endanger their political future. Think about that for a minute.

It would hurt your political future, if you're a Republican member of Congress apparently or leader in Congress, Republican leader in Congress, to say that a comparison of mask wearing with the Holocaust is inappropriate, unwise and offensive. That would hurt your political future. I mean, that is a correct thing to say, an accurate thing to say, but it's an astonishing thing to say about one of our two major parties.

BOLDUAN: Everything is poll-driven and they think that this staying out there isn't going to hurt them politically, and if they speak out, it would. That says everything about where we are right now. Thank you, guys, very much.

BASH: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, the same people who are pushing Trump's election lie, they're now running for office. Offices that oversee elections.


REP. JODY HICE (R-GA): Not for one second am I convinced that Joe Biden won.


BOLDUAN: Okidoki. And Los Angeles, one of many cities that diverted funds from their police department after the death of George Floyd. But now that city reporting the highest number of homicides in more than a decade, so what is driving the spike in crime?



BOLDUAN: Tonight, the sham Arizona election audit is underway once again, despite a growing number of Republicans and election officials calling for it to end. And now, Trump allies in the key swing states of Georgia, Michigan inspired by what's happening in Arizona are demanding their own audits, searching for proof for Trump's lies.

OUTFRONT with me now is Jennifer Morrell, former elections official who observed the Arizona audit at the request of the secretary of state there. Thank you for being here, Jennifer.

You were an elections official for nine years. You know this better than most and you said that this audit does not resemble anything like an election audit in any way shape or form. Why is that?


Well, to start with, we have the spinning conveyor wheels of ballots, spinning hundreds of ballots pass counters who have literally seconds to try to record the two races that they're auditing. We have untested, uncertified equipment being used to capture images of ballot, microscopic cameras looking for folds and stains and things really with no science to back it up.

There is a little quality control that's happening. Unlike an official election or an official audit where there is a solid deadline, one that has to be completed prior to an election being certified, there seems to be no deadline. So, it's just bizarre. We have no idea when it's going to end. Practices that change daily, really unlike anything I have seen.

BOLDUAN: And who knows if they're going to meet the deadline that they have, which is they are losing the least in that space because they are going slow. This is going to end at some point. They are, we assume, going to release a report at some point and I'm just curious in the end, what should people do with it when they release their report?

MORRELL: Yeah, it's really troubling. It certainly is not going to increase anybody's trust in the outcome of this election. It's 100 percent going to find some sort of anomaly, some sort of issue.

As I said, the counting process, we'll call it a recount. Certainly, it doesn't follow any of the laws that have been followed prior recounts and audits that happened in Maricopa County. It allows for discrepancies so they've built in sort of a threshold or a tolerance for discrepancies between the three counters.

The ballots, the forensic paper audit that I mentioned, the suspicious or anomalous ballots that they are going to hold a sign. We have no idea how many there are. That certainly is going to raise concerns.

Then there is the forensic data of voting equipment which has really been done secretively. And so I am absolutely certain that whatever report comes out of this is only going to further the lies.

BOLDUAN: Well, and President Trump is trying to raise expectations of this, what's going to be happening. I mean, he said recently, would not be surprised if they find thousands and thousands and thousands of votes talking about this. It's going to undermine confidence. But how dangerous is this?

MORRELL: Oh, it's incredibly dangerous. It is one of the most reckless things I have seen. We have essentially given up the private partisan organization with no experience in elections, no experience in audits, and we have handed over ballots and voter data to allow them to conduct on elections.

And let's be clear, this is an election that was done by individuals in Maricopa County with years of knowledge, years of experience, election officials who raised their hand and took an oath to uphold the laws of Arizona and to uphold the Constitution. Election officials have spent years training and preparing best practices to meet the cybersecurity concerns that we faced.


Certainly, this group has none of that. So it's a dangerous precedent to do it in the first place. It is going to result in more confusions, I think, for voters, more conspiracy theories, and just lead us down I think a dark path with this refusal to have a peaceful transition of power.

BOLDUAN: It is really sad but we are -- I mean, it's just unfolding right before. Thank you very much, Jennifer. We really appreciate your time.

I want to go now to CNN political analyst, John Avlon, for more on this.

John, it's not just in Arizona, it's becoming almost contagious. You got demands in other states now for more audits, more looks, more rechecks.

Beyond any report that comes out. What do you think the damage is being done here?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's an undermining of our democracy. It's nothing less than an attempt by hyper-partisan buyers into the big lie to lay the seeds to set the pretext to try to overturn the next election. To the extent that some of these folks think of themselves as patriots, understand that people who are propagating this big lie are taking direct date at our democracy and the Constitution. What is happening is incredibly dangerous and we need to recognize it for what it is, and to treat it as such.

And another trend that we are seeing is people who push these voter fraud claims and push these lies, they are now running for state positions that have power over the elections. Politico has highlighted four of them that are running for secretary of state and let's play some of what they have said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not convinced at all, not for one second, am I convinced that Joe Biden won the state of Georgia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are having clear convincing evidence that our election is a fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to learn what happened in this past election because it was atrocious and we got to get to the bottom of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not a majority. No, this is fraud and it needs to be investigated.


BOLDUAN: I mean, John, what does this mean for future elections if people like this are running it?

AVLON: These folks are, let's be clear, lying, they are promoting conspiracy theories and now they are trying to run the next elections. They talk about fraud. They are engaging in fraud. There is every reason to believe they will try to propagate that if they are in charge of the elections.

Look, we need to be making our elections in America nonpartisan, not more partisan. But that's what these folks are trying to do. Running in some cases against Republicans who had the honor and the fidelity and Constitution and rule of law to put partisan pressure a sigh to administer a selection focused on facts, but that's the real sin of bucking the big lie right here. So, the game is very clear and it's not again because it's our democracy.

These folks are trying to put themselves in position of power to run the next elections and then they will presumably try to bend those elections to their own partisan ends. They are setting the stage for a constitutional crisis coming up. This is a threat to our democracy and we need to absolutely recognize this for what it is.

BOLDUAN: It's like getting worse, not better after the disaster that we saw play out after the 2020 election. Thanks, John. It's good to see you.

AVLON: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, cities across the country are facing a dramatic spike in crime. Is it a result of diverting funds from police?

And an alarming spike in anti-Semitic attacks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see out of the corner my eye somebody chasing me with their arm back like they want to punch me.




BOLDUAN: Tomorrow marks one year since George Floyd was murdered, one year since he was pinned down by Minneapolis police officers for 9 minutes and 29 seconds until his last breath. Floyd's death sparked massive protests across the country and sparked calls to defund the police.

Major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, they took action. Just look at your screen, diverting funds away from police budgets in their response and now some of the cities are facing an alarming rise in violent crime.

Just look. Look at that.

OUTFRONT with me now, let's talk about this, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore.

Chief, thanks for coming in.

So let's talk about -- Los Angeles specifically reported I think it was 355 homicides in 2020, the highest in more than a decade. And you're on track to pass that this year. What do you think is driving this?

CHIEF MICHEL MOORE, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPT: Well, Kate, first of all, thanks for having us here today. I think it's an important conversation. We look at violent crime here in Los Angeles, it is actually matching what we are seeing in major cities across America. We think the drivers of it are a couple of functions, or a result of a couple of functions. One, too many guns into many hands.

The instances of gun violence which is driving increase of homicide and shooting victims, which are the two major factors that are driving this increase. We see more than 220 additional shooting victims here this year and when we see that, it's involving people with street violence, people who are involved in gangs and low-level feuds and disputes that escalated to multiple victims shootings, and persons experiencing homelessness that is an overlay with some gangs that are taking advantage of these encampments and pointed distribution for narcotics.

We think the pandemic that the isolation, the deconstructing to achieve a safer populace, you know, to protect us from this deadly virus has also created its own pandemic an increase in violence that the social institution, such as gang interventions that would be at hospitals, at bedside, dissuading victims and their families from going out in committing for their acts of violence, the retaliations. That interruption is not there and in the absence of that we see a back and forth between more infractions that we saw a decade ago.

And we do think as we exit this pandemic, that there is an opportunity here to get those, to get us back into school, to get our parks and rec centers open. To get our lives back in a new normal but a normal that preceded this increase in violence.

The staffing levels of the organization are challenging. But we're working to ensure that our staffing at each of our 21 areas.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about that if I could. Just for context for folks who are watching. I got what you said but the city council voted to boost the police budget last week, essentially restoring $150 million that were diverted last year. [19:50:09]

Do you draw a direct line between the shift in funding and the crime rate?

MOORE: Now, I think -- let me be clear I saw a report in "The New York Times" that our funding was restored to the levels of where it was a year ago and that is not accurate. We actually are -- council, which I am thankful for, I am looking to the mayor of our city, it's his budget proposal, I think he will approve it, ensure that we are able to start hiring again, so that our staffing numbers would meet what the cuts were last year.

We were reduced from 10,100-person organization to 9,750. We have fallen below that because of the pandemic and the economic pullback that occurred across America. We have fallen below 9,500 officers. This budget is going to allow us to start hiring, to start putting cops to the academy and back on the streets, gets back to the 9,750 officers. So, we will still have one -- we will still shoulder the cutbacks that were replaced on us a year ago.

The salary numbers, the money, I understand quickly over whether there is a financial increase because of the salaries, but the head count of this organization was not restored to the pre-pandemic levels. We are still hundreds of officers and civilians short of. That what we are doing is redirecting a number of less essential calls and workload to alternative services, which we support.

BOLDUAN: Right. That is part of the broader conversation. My colleague, Josh Campbell, he spoke to the cofounder of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Los Angeles today, who has been calling to redirect police funds in your city to other services like we were discussing. I want to play for you what she said.


MELINA ABDULLAH, CO-FOUNDER OF BLM, LA CHAPTER: My message to Chief Moore would be to stop pilfering the public purse, stop demanding dollars for things that you're already saying your officers are not equipped to, do you officers are not equipped to handle mental health emergencies. Let's have those dollars released so that mental health professionals can now actually do that work.


BOLDUAN: Chief, can you respond to that, please?

MOORE: Absolutely. We welcome the day in which mental health professionals, in America, in Los Angeles, are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That can do outreach and engagement to the disputes, to the crisises that occur every day across, not just the city, but across this country.

As I spoke to another reporter last week, America has got to stop being cheap when it comes to its investment and mental health services, and stop relying upon police and fire to be the 911 for those of needs. But, until that happens, until we build that capacity, we need -- unfortunately, we are called upon to fill the gap. Not just an emergency room doctors called upon, for all types of medical emergencies, because the absence of a specialist is not being there.

You may not get the best emergency room doctor, but that special need, but you will get someone who can do the best they can. Policing is the same way. But I look forward to, whether be Black Lives Matter, or any other organization, is working with them to identify, and build, actually build, not notionally, but actually put the hundreds of mental health workers into the outreach, and engagement, for those experiencing homelessness in the streets, across the 24-hour clock.

BOLDUAN: In the process of that, you are dealing with an emergency right now, with a crime you see in the city. Thank you, Chief.

MOORE: That's -- you got it. Appreciate you.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate the time. Thank you.

OUTFRONT for us next, President Biden is not responding to the growing number of hate crimes against Jews.


CALLER: Somebody, and one of the cars driving by, started to throw glass, bottles or glass, cups at the tables.


BURNETT: And also, a major sign that America is open, once again.



BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden condemning the rise in anti-Semitic attacks across the U.S., calling the act, quote, despicable, and saying they must stop. This as New York tonight is increasing police presence in Jewish neighborhoods. I do want to warn you, some of what you're about to see maybe disturbing.

Nick Watt is OUTFRONT.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Boca Raton, Florida, "Hitler was right" scrawled on the side of a van, as it passes a pro-Israel rally.

In one week, while this is happening in the Middle East, the Anti- Defamation League found more than 17,000 tweets, with variations on that horrific phrase, Hitler was right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the past, again, you have a conflict you would see some vandalism on a synagogue. We've seen sort of a blitzkrieg of anti-Jewish acts across the country. WATT: Fueled, he says, in part, by online bile, and conspiracy


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guess what? Those unhinged, conspiratorial claims lead to real world consequences against American Jews.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see out of corner my eyes, someone, you know, chasing me with their arm back, looking like they want to punch me.

WATT: He was wearing a kippah, a cap.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are being attacked for looking visibly Jewish.

WATT: Daylight, Times Square, crossroads of the world, Joseph Morgan (ph) was surrounded by a crowd he says shouted filthy due, and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Proceeded to kick me, punch me, and hit me with flagpoles, crushes. Then, towards the end of the assault, I thought they were urinating on my face, but it was just pepper spray. They pepper sprayed me for upwards of a minute.

WATT: The man seem hitting him with a crutch, now charged with a hate crime. Prosecutors say, in the cells, the man said, he has no problem doing this again.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: The NYPD is now out in force.

WATT: After this, apparently, and assault outside of a Los Angeles sushi restaurant, one man was arrested. LAPD requesting his bail be enhanced due to the crime being motivated by hate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody, and one of the cars driving by, started to throw glass bottles, or glass cups at the table.

WATT: The words "dirty Jew" were heard. Car stopped, men got out and --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Started running towards the tables, asking, indiscriminately, who is Jewish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Passions ran high, and that's okay, that's human. What is not okay is to take out innocent people, and groups of people who are dining, because of who they are.

WATT: In London, four men were arrested after anti-Semitic slogans were shouted from a pro-Palestinian convoy a week ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the things that was always amazing to Jews in Western Europe is that the United States Jews could be visibly Jewish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm now having American Jews tell me this, they are afraid to walk outside wearing a kippah, or to wear a Jew star necklace, or to just to be visibly identifiable as Jewish. Like that's chilling. (END VIDEOTAPE)


WATT (on camera): Now, the ADL told me this morning that in the past couple of weeks they have seen a 63 percent uptick in anti-Semitic incidents. So many incidents they say it's actually tough to keep track and they are also calling on social media giants, as they put it, to step up. As the ADL says, the #hitlerwasright doesn't exactly add to any conversation -- Jake.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, long before this. Thank you so much.

OUTFRONT next, this picture says it all. America is moving on from the pandemic.


BOLDUAN: They are back. I mean, not in a good way, actually -- fans, real people, at sporting events. This comes as new coronavirus cases average 25,000 a day. One of the latest since the pandemic began, and much of the country is reopening.

Take this weekend's PGA championship, for example, 10,000 spectators were allowed to watch in person each day. It looked, well, crazy, and insane, and awesome, and also like a normal year. And in the NBA, a crowd of 15,000 fans at Atlanta -- watched Atlanta beat the Knicks, Sunday, at Madison Square Garden. It was the largest indoor gathering in New York City since the pandemic began.

In baseball, the Mets tonight will no longer require fans to show proof of a negative COVID test to enter the field. So, farewell to sports bubbles, canned cheers and boos, and those weird cardboard cutouts, because those, definitely, will not be missed.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight. "AC360" starts now.