Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Law Enforcement Concerned Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theories Spread On Telegram App Could Incite More Violence; NYT: Trump Telling Allies He Expects He Will Be Reinstated By August; Private Investigator Hired To Find, Serve Rep. Mo Brooks With Lawsuit Claiming He Incited Jan. 6 Insurrection; George P. Bush Announcing He Is Running For Texas Attorney General; Israel's Opposition Parties Strike Deal, Netanyahu Set To Exit; Top WHO Scientist Says Lab Leak Theory Is "On The Table". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 02, 2021 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Indeed, it is. Alexandra Field in New York, thank you very much. And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, new concerns tonight that Trump and his allies are fueling more violence giving supporters hope that the former president will be reinstated in the next couple months. Is a popular messaging app the newest way the dangerous conspiracy theories are spreading?

Plus, where is Congressman Mo Brooks? An attorney for Congressman Eric Swalwell has been trying to serve him with a lawsuit regarding the insurrection but to no avail. A private investigator is even involved, so where is Mo Brooks and what's he worried about?

And breaking news, a deal struck in Israel paving the way for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's exit after 12 years. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, Trump's lies fueling new fears of violence. CNN learning there are growing concerns among law enforcement officials that QAnon's new favorite messaging and social media app could be inspiring new attacks in the wake of the January 6th insurrection. That app called Telegram is currently a hotbed of dangerous conspiracy theories and lies about the election, including the ridiculous idea.

It's hard to kind of come up with what would be the right adjective for idea, ridiculous works, but this is the idea that Trump is going to be president again by August. Yes. There's another way to describe that, an absurd fantasy.

But it's also on the former President's mind because according to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who is going to be with me in just a moment, Trump is telling people he will be reinstated by August, echoing the dangerously deranged ideas of some of his loyalists.


SIDNEY POWELL, ATTORNEY WHO CHALLENGED 2020 ELECTION RESULTS: It should be that he can simply be reinstated that a new inauguration date is set and Biden is told to move out of the White House and President Trump should be moved back in.

MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MY PILLOW: All the evidence I have everything is going to go before the Supreme Court and the election of 2020 is going bye-bye.


LINDELL: Donald Trump will be back in office in August.


BURNETT: OK. So what did I say? Absurd fantasy. Dangerously terrain. Well, that may be the reality. But the problem is, is that perception matters and Trump appears to be not only buying the false message, but of course spreading it to the delight of some of his supporters across the country.

And tonight, Trump is actually now laser-focused on what he sees as a path to his reinstatement, which is the sham election audit going on in Arizona. There's already been three, so another audit. This is according to Haberman. He's focused in on Arizona.

And even now there are more states now trying to follow Arizona's path. Today, three Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers actually traveled to Arizona to meet with lawmakers pushing for the audit to get a tour of the Fairgrounds Arena. Fairgrounds Arena, how appropriate, where the audit is taking place as Trump is cheering it all on from the sidelines.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's see what they find. I wouldn't be surprised if they found thousands and thousands and thousands of votes, so we're going to watch that very closely and after that you watch Pennsylvania and you watch Georgia and you're going to watch Michigan and Wisconsin and you're watching New Hampshire. They found a lot of votes up in New Hampshire just now (inaudible) because this was a rigged election.


BURNETT: Pennsylvania's Attorney General is going to join me in just a moment, tweeting tonight, "The Pennsylvania lawmakers visiting Arizona sham election audit today are a danger to voters in both our states. In fact, these Pennsylvania GOP conspiracy theorists would rather travel across the country in service of the Big Lie than tell the truth to Pennsylvanians. I think that says it all."

Our Donie O'Sullivan is OUTFRONT live in New York tonight. And Donie, you have been talking to a lot of Trump supporters. You've been looking very closely at what's happening on Telegram which is that social media app I referenced just a moment ago. Tell me about it and why law enforcement is now so concerned.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Erin. I mean, this idea that Trump will be somehow reinstated in office over the summer is a fantasy, but fears that it could all lead to real world violence are very, very real. Have a watch.



TRUMP: I'm saying before 2022 something has to be done.


O'SULLIVAN(voice over): Former President Donald Trump may have been banned from sites like Facebook and Twitter, but his interviews with right-wing media where he continues to repeat the big lie are giving some of his supporters the false hope that the 2020 election could still be overturned.



TRUMP: Stay tuned for Arizona. A lot of people are watching Arizona. We need two states.


O'SULLIVAN (voice over): The former president pointing to a highly criticized Republican-led audit in Arizona as one way to overturn the election.


TRUMP: It's going to be a very interesting time in our country.


TRUMP: It's going to be a very interesting time. You understand what that means because it will be - I mean, how do you govern when you lost? How do you govern when you lost? So ...


O'SULLIVAN (voice over): On the social media site Telegram comments like these are sparking excitement among his supporters. "Trump knows what happens. Biden administration will be removed." "We the People will take action." "He just told us things are about to get very ugly all over America. These thugs aren't going to take this news very well. Be prepared."

Telegram has become popular among some Trump supporters and QAnon followers since companies like Facebook began to crack down more on misinformation.


JOHN SCOTT-RAILTON, SENIOR RESEARCHER, CITIZEN LAB: Telegram is both an encrypted chat app and something of a social network. It's been around for years. And more recently, MAGA, QAnon and others have gravitated towards this as a platform moving towards it as they move away from Facebook and other major platforms like Twitter.

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): And there's very little rules on Telegram, right?

SCOTT-RAILTON: Telegram is built around trying to resist monitoring and censorship, which means that many groups gravitate towards it for those very reasons.


O'SULLIVAN (voice over): There are groups on Telegram with 10s of thousands of members dedicated to the QAnon conspiracy theory. And the platform is now a source of concern among law enforcement to fear in the wake of January 6th, it could incite further violence. Three congressional sources tell CNN's Jamie Gangel.


TRUMP: A lot of the success of the country is really going to have to do with immediacy because by the time we get to 2022, they're going to have everything done the way they're putting things through Congress. McConnell can't stop anybody. He can't stop anybody. If something doesn't happen fast, this is before 22 ...


O'SULLIVAN (voice over): The reaction on Telegram, "He doesn't have to wait until 2024 people, he's coming back this year, everything is going to be reversed," says one user. "It's a great day when we started seeing evidence of the plan coming together. He just told us it won't be long now," says another.

And last weekend when Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn appeared to suggest there should be a military coup here in the United States, one prominent QAnon peddler who has more than 70,000 followers on Telegram wrote, "General Flynn says the quiet part out loud." Flynn later the night he had suggested a coup.


SCOTT-RAILTON: It is very concerning for people who tracked ISIS to watch the growth and excitement around Telegram in the far extreme right, because a lot of us asked this question, oh, no, are we back in a situation where this is going to be a really difficult problem to address?

(END VIDEO CLIP) O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Former Republican Congressman Denver

Riggleman who has a background in the military and intelligence says he fears the conversations happening online now could lead to future violence.


DENVER RIGGLEMAN, (R) FORMER REPRESENTATIVE OF VIRGINIA: You're seeing the same thing that happened over years and years with foreign terrorist organizations. It's the same type of methodology. All the things that you see that radicalized people based on the fact that this is a war between good and evil. And if there's a war between good and evil and there's no middle ground, you're willing to do things other people aren't to make sure that you win and that's when you see radicalized violence.



O'SULLIVAN (on camera): And Erin, Telegram did not respond to CNN's request for comments. A couple of things to point out here, our colleague, Evan Perez, speaking to other law enforcement officials say there are concerns not just about Telegram, but about the general conversation both online and offline around this whole idea of overturning the 2020 election.

And, of course, it's important to mention that a lot of Trump supporters, QAnon followers gravitate to these new platforms like Telegram since Facebook and Twitter belatedly began cracking down on misinformation. So this is a whole new challenge. How do you speech - how do you handle should I say speech like this on platforms that are not the big Silicon Valley giants.

And finally, of course, as you can see what those comments there on Telegram, the followers on these platforms hang on every single word the former president says.

BURNETT: Yes. All right. Donie, thank you very much, a powerful reporting. And I want to go now, as promised, to Maggie, Maggie Haberman of The New York Times.

So Maggie, I mentioned your reporting that Trump is telling people he will be reinstated by August which, of course, it's a pretty stunning thing when anyone sees that, when I saw your tweet I thought oh my goodness. I mean, how invested in this is Trump right now, Maggie?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: So Erin, this is always the question that people have asked about him over the course of his presidency and during the course of both of his campaigns for president.


And the question is always is this real or is this just something he is saying and the answer is I don't know whether he genuinely believes it. Sometimes when people talk to him, they think he does. Sometimes he seems to be a little more aware that there actually is no mechanism for what he is talking about. There is no mechanism in the constitution for a president to be 'reinstated' as he is describing.

People have tried explaining to him even if the election results did somehow get overturned, he would not end up becoming president. But he is, again, but he is listening to Mike Lindell and other allies, the CEO of My Pillow, who have been offering him this timeline just based on these controversial audits in Arizona, and Trump has been trying to gin them up in other states.

The reason this matters is - it's a little different when a former president who all polls show if he wanted to run as of today, as of - with nothing else happening, he would be the nominee again. He has indicated to a lot of people that he is going to run again and this is all taking place, Erin, and this is really important to note, as he is facing the threat of a possible indictment from the Manhattan District Attorney.

All of that being put together, he is saying things that his supporters will take seriously from him in a way that others will not and he has been trying to get other people to put in writing that the election really was stolen. He has been trying to get more people to espouse this view, so all of this is a potentially dangerous combination.

BURNETT: I mean, incredibly, and as you point out, a lot of people do genuinely believe it. Just because Twitter says you can't put it here, OK, that's fine, it's like hear no evil see no evil, right? Well, it's happening over there. It's happening on Telegram. People are seeing it. People are hearing it. Maybe not the people who just want to pretend it isn't happening.

To that point, Maggie, of course, as we all know, Twitter used to be the president's way of communicating. But now he's not on Twitter and not on Facebook. Twenty-nine days ago, he started his own blog, which he shut down today. And an advisor of Trump's tells The Washington Post Maggie that Trump didn't like that it was being mocked that it had so few readers, which of course is fitting with his personality. How much of a blow to his ego is this issue with being able to communicate?

HABERMAN: I think it speaks, Erin, to a larger issue and I have similar reporting that he has told people that he was aggravated by the media coverage of really what was a blog, especially because Fox News initially declared it as a platform that he was on. It was not a platform, it's just a website which many other people have owned similar websites, including former elected officials over the years.

But I think it just speaks to his broader frustration that he does not have the voice that he wants had as he did on Twitter, as he did on Facebook to reach people. Whether he gets reinstated on Facebook ultimately is an open question. Twitter that is not going to change as far as we know.

But I think that he is aware that he can't do what he was able to do in the White House where he had this tremendous consolidation of power, both in terms of being on social media and being in the Oval Office and he used it to his advantage. I do want to just go back to something you just said, though, about how people think if it's not taking place on Twitter that therefore it's not happening.

There are these whole other media ecosystems where things are happening and I keep harkening back to what a Republican strategist said to The Washington Post shortly after the election last year, which was what's the harm in letting him blow off some steam. We saw what happened over the course of 10 weeks.


HABERMAN: And so I think that if people want to pretend this isn't happening, I understand that there are a lot of folks who - on the left - who just would like him to just go away. There is a whole media environment where he has not been had his platform taken away and there is a whole other conversation happening there.

BURNETT: So how important I know from your reporting, you're saying he - Arizona is now crucial to this path to reinstatement that he's putting out there that some of his supporters believe. How important is Arizona?

HABERMAN: I mean, Arizona is what he's going to see. And to be clear, Erin, this audit has been widely derided by elected officials who have said there really is nothing valid here. That having been said, what he will then do, most likely, depending what it says or it raises the possibility that he will take it and say, see, look what this shows, if it shows something in his favor and he will use that to rile up his supporters.

It's Arizona. It is his efforts to get audits in other states which really have not worked I think the way he had hoped. And then there are lawsuits. I think one lawsuit in particular in Georgia, according to people I spoke to where there are questions being raised by plaintiffs about votes in Fulton County and whether it could have an impact on the election. And so I think those are what he is focusing on.

But again, the things that he's saying are not things that could - there is no path for being reinstated as President. It's just not how this works.

BURNETT: No. I know it's amazing that you have to keep saying that, but it is yet so crucial for people to understand. Maggie, thank you very much for sharing all of your reporting.

HABERMAN: Thanks, Erin.


And as Maggie points out, the audit, I should put quotes around it in Arizona, it is a sham audit. They've had multiple audits. The Republicans who are overseeing the process and oversee the vote counting have all said that this is a farce and needs to stop. But nonetheless, that's where you are right now.

And I want to go to Pennsylvania's Attorney General Democrat Josh Shapiro. And I appreciate your being with me and part of the reason you're with me is because Republicans in your state are traveling out there, as I just mentioned, to Arizona to meet with the folks behind this audit.

So you fought challenges from Trump to overturn the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania which were in favor of Biden. You hear Maggie's reporting that Trump is telling people he's going to be reinstated by August? What do you make of that Attorney General?

JOSH SHAPIRO, (D) PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Look, Erin, it's been over 200 days since the 2020 election and the same thing is still true, Joe Biden won the election and Donald Trump lost. That was true across the country. It was true here in Pennsylvania.

It's also true that we have a safe, secure, free and fair election, one that was run by Republican and Democratic county officials and neighbors all across this Commonwealth and all across states in this country. That is the simple truth. The rest of this is noise. It's dangerous noise and it's doing damage to our democracy, but it's simply noise.

BURNETT: So there are some Republicans in your state who are speaking the truth. That's important to note. The City Commissioner of Philadelphia, Republican Al Schmidt, I've talked to him several times. He's told me, I quote him, "There's no evidence whatsoever the election was fraudulent." He's standing up, getting all kinds of horrible threats for even speaking the truth.

And there are other Republicans in your state who are fighting Trump's battle for him. Today, three Pennsylvania lawmakers are in Arizona, as I mentioned, to tour that facility where the audit is taking place on those Fairgrounds. What do you say to those lawmakers? They've actually traveled across the country to try to get guidance on how to do something similar in Pennsylvania.

SHAPIRO: Let's be clear, what's happening in Arizona is not an audit and I would note that you put air quotes around it before, right? I think air quotes are absolutely necessary. This is a total sham and it wouldn't overturn anything. It certainly wouldn't reinstate Donald Trump as Maggie Haberman was reporting earlier.

But notwithstanding the sham and notwithstanding this travel in this circus that surrounds Donald Trump and his enablers, what they're doing is inflicting real damage to our democracy, by continuing to peddle this big lie. They're really undermining our Constitution. They're undermining our system.

And we saw what happened in those weeks after the election, where the lie was being told over and over and over again and you could draw a direct line between not just the rhetoric that was occurring on the stump, but what was occurring in the courts of this Commonwealth and of this country, which ultimately led directly to the insurrection on January 6th. There's real damage to our democracy. There's real threats of violence as a result of folks like those

Pennsylvania lawmakers continuing to suck up to Donald Trump and to do his bidding for him and peddling this big lie instead of telling the truth to the people of Pennsylvania.

BURNETT: Attorney General Shapiro, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Congressman Eric Swalwell's attorney forced to hire a private investigator after being unable to track down Congressman Mo Brooks. They were trying to track him down to serve him with a lawsuit for his role in the deadly insurrection.

Plus, it is no secret that the Bushes loathed Trump and vice versa, except one member of the Bush family now doing everything he can to court the former president.

And the WHO says it's digging deeper into the COVID-19 lab leak theory. I'm going to talk tonight to a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State who looked into this idea, what did he find?



BURNETT: Tonight, Republican Congressman Mo Brooks is MIA. Brooks is trying to avoid being served a lawsuit from Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell according Swalwell's attorney. Swalwell is suing Brooks along with former President Trump Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump Jr., claiming they incited the insurrection on January 6th.

In a new court filings, Swalwell's attorneys say they have not been able to track down Brooks to serve the lawsuit for more than two months. They say they've even had to hire a private investigator to try to find him.

OUTFRONT now, Philip Andonian, an attorney for Congressman Eric Swalwell. And Philip, I appreciate your time.

So the Judge obviously taking this seriously, now giving you another 60 days. But do you think you'll be able to serve Brooks in that timeframe?

PHILIP ANDONIAN, ATTORNEY FOR CONGRESSMAN ERIC SWALWELL: Thanks for having me, Erin. I certainly hope so. I mean, we're obviously going to continue the efforts that we've been putting in thus far. At some point we'll have to be able to track him down. The real issue is just why we're having to go through all of this rigmarole for something that's just routine in every other civil case that's filed throughout the country.

BURNETT: So and obviously not routine here, I mean your court filing says you've had to actually even hire a private investigator. And in the filing you said this person spent many hours over many days in April and May at locations in multiple jurisdictions attempting to locate and serve Brooks to no avail. When we look back at that timeframe we saw Brooks did spend a lot of time in Alabama, he also was - we show him here - speaking on the House floor.

I'm just trying to understand what lengths have you gone to serve Brooks? Why is it so hard to hand him these papers? I mean, that's what, so everyone understands, that's what serving is, you got to go to someone's door and they open it up and hello here you go, you're served.

ANDONIAN: Right. Well, the problem here is that Mo Brooks' door is under lock and key until very recently, thanks to the interaction that he in part incited. There was just no access to the primary place that he was for much of the day.


Tracking somebody down is not - I mean, there's no magic number of times or no magic formula, it just takes persistence and luck sometimes. And it's not as though we're not claiming Brooks has been hiding in a bunker somewhere, but it takes a lot of effort. It takes hours. It takes resources to try to time things right.

And again, the point is that this is a part of the process that should not be involving even a fraction of the amount of effort that we've put in. I mean, Donald Trump, his son, Rudy Giuliani all wave service on their own accord. I mean, I think if that doesn't tell you how reasonable (inaudible) ...


ANDONIAN: ... is being, I don't know what would.

BURNETT: Well, that is pretty significant and I think it's important for people to understand that. So I know that your understanding is the court has told you they've set a deadline for Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump, Jr., as you say, accepted this without dispute, I mean, in terms of the papers to be ready for arguments at the end of July.

So if the Judge denies their motion to dismiss the case, you're going to be able to move to discovery. So what are you hoping you'll be able to learn if you get to that point, if you actually can say, here's my list of what I want?

ANDONIAN: Well, I mean, it's a long list and we are fully confident we'll get to discovery. I mean, we want to know the answers. We want to know what Donald Trump was saying, what he was thinking, who else was in his hear or who else was part of the decision making.

We know he spoke to a number of congressmen and senators that day. There were other people in his inner circle that were with him while the violence and the death was happening at the Capitol and we need to know that.

And given the Republicans' refusal to engage with the January 6th Commission, it's seemingly all the more important that we have the ability to ask people questions and look at documents and figure out what really was happening that day.

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

ANDONIAN: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: Next, George P. Bush about to make a major political announcement this hour and he's the only Bush cozying up to Trump, despite Trump's attacks on his father.


TRUMP: Jeb is an embarrassment to himself and to his family.


BURNETT: And apparently to his son.

And breaking news, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the country's longest serving leader now on the brink of out.



BURNETT: All right, this just in. You're looking at live pictures out of Austin, Texas, at any moment on that stage, George P. Bush, Jeb Bush's son who Donald Trump really bashed during the 2016 campaign you'll remember -- well, his son is about to announce he will run for Texas attorney general.

And this comes just days after George P. Bush tweeted this photo saying, quote: Great to speak with President Trump to discuss the future of Texas and how we are keeping up the fight to put America First. I appreciate the words of encouragement and support, big things coming on.

Trump then dangled the endorsement and said he likes Bush and the current Attorney General Ken Paxton who is running for reelection.

Well, it's no surprise, Paxton is a Trump favorite since he helped Trump push his big lie that the election was stolen, including a lawsuit to challenge the results in four key swing states that Trump lost, dismissed out of hand by the Supreme Court.

OUTFRONT now, Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign.

You know the Bush family obviously incredibly well here, and Texas politics as well, Matthew.

So, George P. Bush, the only member of the Bush family currently in any kind of office. He's only embracing Trump. Others in the Bush family have been much more open about their disdain for him.

What does this tell you? That George P. Bush is willing to do this? MATTHEW DOWD, CHIEF STRATEGIST, BUSH-CHENEY '04 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

Well, you know, it tells me a micro story of a macro situation going on, which is the Republican Party has become the party of Donald Trump.

And the fact that George P. Bush, who I met and knew in 2000 when he was a young 20-something-year-old, helping on the campaign, decided that you know, political office were retaining that, and bending the knee to Donald Trump, I have to say, you know, it'd be like the Starks bending their knees to the Lannisters the way that this is what unfolded.

It just tells you a complete story of the Republican Party today, that he would abandon his family in this regard and, you know, basically suck up to Donald Trump.

BURNETT: Perfect analogy of "The Game of Thrones".

So, you know, neither President Bushes voted for Trump, right? Just to state the obvious.

According to the book, "The Last Republicans", George H.W. Bush said of Trump in May 2016, and I quote the book, "I don't like him. I don't know much about him but I know he's a blowhard. And I'm not too excited about him being a leader.

OK. So, pretty clear what he thought.

And here's what other members of the Bush family said about Trump during his presidency and the primary.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories, and outright fabrication. We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism.

JEB BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His message is them and us. They're bad. We're good.

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: He sorts of makes faces and says insulting things. I think he said terrible things about women, terrible things about military. I'm sick of him.


BURNETT: So, what's the significance of this? That George P. Bush, you know, it's not just what he's doing, it's that he's going against everything that his family has stood for. Let's be honest, the very bedrock of the morals in which he was raised.

DOWD: Well, this is just another tale, and this is I think a really sad tale of -- think of all the people that criticized Donald Trump, and then instead of standing firm on their principles -- I mean, think of what Lindsey Graham said about Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio said about Donald Trump. [19:35:10]

And all these other people said about Donald Trump, and the next thing you know, you know, they're cozying up with Donald Trump in the midst of this. So, it's -- to me, the move they ought to make if it was the principled would be to leave the Republican Party, and say I'm going to give up my political ambition in the Republican because my principles are more important.

And for George P., you would think some sort of family values, or some family loyalty --


DOWD: -- would be more important than political ambition. But that's what he wants, he's going to be in a difficult race, I don't think the Bush name in Texas among Republicans I would say, is not valuable anymore, as Jeb Bush found out running for president.

BURNETT: Right. So, OK, but here's -- and just to make that point again, George P. Bush is Jeb's son, right? So, this is his son. These are the things that Donald Trump said, about George P. Bush's father during the election, just listen to a few.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Jeb is an embarrassment to himself and a family.

Jeb Bush is a total stiff.

Low energy Jeb Bush, so low. Oh! You fall asleep looking at him.


BURNETT: "Politico" says, Matthew, that one Trump confidant who discussed the race with the former president said, quote, I can tell you the president enjoys the prospect of knowing how much it kills Jeb that his son has to bend the knee and kiss the ring. Who's your daddy? Trump loves that.

DOWD: Of course, Donald Trump loves that.

BURNETT: I wouldn't -- I wouldn't support anyone who said those things about my father, I doubt most people watching would. And yet, that's what we're seeing.

DOWD: I think you're seeing, it over and over again. I think George P. is a much more sort of, intricate example of it.

Again, Ted Cruz is another example. He called Donald Trump a pathological liar and morally bankrupt, and the next thing you know, he's Donald Trump's best friend in all of this. So, I think it says a lot about the Republican Party.

But George Bush, George P. Bush had better understand that he has to overcome not only would happen with Jeb, but he has to overcome his last name in the state.

And, you know, Ken Paxton if he runs, he's been under investigation nearly his entire time in office, there is two candidates that are somewhat flawed, it's not going to be an easy race, but it really does, Erin, tell the tale of the Republican Party. Instead of candidates with principle, leaving the party and saying, I'm not part of that anymore, they stick it out. In order to stick it out, they cozy up to Donald Trump, no matter what they have to sacrifice, including family bonds and values.

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

DOWD: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, breaking news, the longest serving leader in Israeli history, Benjamin Netanyahu, well, he is about to be out, gone, done.

And did COVID originate in a lab? This question matters, and I'm going to talk to a former deputy assistant secretary of state who is in on the investigation, investigated the lab leak theory and ask him what he knows.



BURNETT: Breaking news, exit Netanyahu. A coalition of Israeli opposition parties reaching an agreement to form a new government. Meaning Israel's longest serving leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, is poised to exit.

Under the agreement, conservative politician Naftali Bennett will serve as prime minister for the first two years of a four-year term.

OUTFRONT now, Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS".

And, Fareed, look, Netanyahu, you know, he has a household name where, you know, certainly, in the United States as well. He's lead Israel for the past 12 years, the longest serving leader in Israeli history.

How significant is it that after all of what has happened with corruption allegations, and him fighting to hold power, that he finally appears to be out?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: I think at the end of the day, the Israeli public just got tired of him. But I think it's important not to over- read what has happened here, by which I mean he's gone.

But the coalition that is replacing him is very strange. Naftali Bennett is actually more right wing that Bibi Netanyahu is on, for example, the issue of giving state to the Palestinians. Bibi Netanyahu pays lip service to the idea of a two-state solution though he actively undermines it. Naftali Bennett does not even pay lip service to him. He argues that Israel should annex the entire West Bank. So, you know, it's a little bit like the Donald Trump 2020 election.

What it reflected in America was Donald Trump fatigue. But as you know, the Republicans did quite well in state and local races.


ZAKARIA: So, similarly here, I think it would be too much to read this as some kind of rejection of everything Bibi stood for. It's really just the rejection of him.

BURNETT: So, OK, so you raise two interesting points there. One, in terms of Bennett's perspective on the Palestinian issue, but the other about being sick of Netanyahu and Trump, raising Trump's name, you know, because Bibi Netanyahu fostered a very close relationship with the former President Donald Trump, even before Trump's time in the White House.

It was evident, Fareed, of course, as we know how these two always talked about each other. I mean, they sort of rose and fell together. I mean, just take a listen to this.


TRUMP: Bibi and I have known each other a long time. A smart man, great negotiator.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I want to thank President Trump for his critical help in brokering this historic accord. And I want to thank him for his revolutionary vision for peace, which is the most realistic and important formula for peace in the region.


BURNETT: We even saw, you know, Bibi Netanyahu start acting a lot more like Trump on Twitter. For example, for a while, Fareed. I mean, did it help or hurt Netanyahu to tie himself so closely to Trump?

ZAKARIA: I think it hurt him with regard to Israel's interest, because he made Israel a partisan issue when it has always -- support of it has always been bipartisan.

But I think, you know, look, there is a deep affinity between these two -- these two politicians.


And you can see it now, Erin, where Bibi Netanyahu is claiming that getting rid of him is the fraud of the century. You see where this is going. Netanyahu is claiming there is some kind of massive fraud that has been perpetrated and in a sad, strange way, this is Donald Trump's legacy to the world. The United States has become the best exponent of these kind of bogus claims that when you lose an election, you claim fraud.

BURNETT: Awful, it's awful. So, Fareed, now to the point you made about Naftali Bennett, the conservative politician who will serve as prime minister for the first two years. He's been a staunch defender, right, of Israel and every time I've talked to him, he's been very consistent on this issue to the point you made about his views on Palestinian statehood.

Here is some of what he said to me.


BURNETT: Would you ever accept that? A sovereign and independent Palestinian state?

NAFTALI BENNETT, ISRAELI LEADER: It's no secret my opinion is forming Palestinian state just a 5-minute ride from where I'm sitting right now, but in fact create a terrible situation in Israel, 100-year-long conflict between us and the Arabs.


BURNETT: It's been a consistent point of view, Fareed, as you hear him say, as you pointed out. But now this coalition he isn't, it's got a small Arab Islamist faction in it actually that obviously is completely on the other side of that point of view on the Israeli Palestinian relations.

So, what does Naftali Bennett really mean for the Israeli peace process?

ZAKARIA: It's a very good question. It's the big question. It's very difficult to honestly figure out how they are going to balance it. You have Naftali Bennett there. You have Avigdor Lieberman who is even more, by some measures, even more extreme than Bennett. He argues for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. I think what could be described as that.

But then you got Lapid who is a moderate. You have other figures there who are moderates, and as you say, there is the Israeli Arab party.

How are they going to manage all of this? Who knows? Right now, they are united in one factor. They all dislike Bibi Netanyahu, but that is likely to wear thin pretty fast.

BURNETT: Yeah, the paths diverge from there quickly.

All right. Thank you very much, Fareed, for your perspective. I am grateful to you for coming on tonight. Thanks.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, the WHO tonight says that its scientists will dig deeper into the COVID lab leak theory at long last. I'm going to talk to a former deputy assistant secretary of state who actually investigated the origins of the virus. What did he find?

And President Biden tonight going farther than he ever has when it comes to crediting Trump for COVID vaccines.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The first vaccines are authorized under a Republican president.




BURNETT: Tonight, the chief scientist at the World Health Organization telling CNN that her team will dig deeper into the theory that COVID- 19 leaked from a lab in Wuhan.


DR. SOUMYA SWAMINATHAN, CHIEF SCIENTIST, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The hypothesis that it could have accidentally leaked from the lab was also on the table. And one needs to go back and look very carefully. There are a number of studies that are being planned


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, David Feith. He's the former deputy assistant secretary of state who investigated this lab leak theory as part of your responsibilities.

So, David, as you looked into the lab in Wuhan, obviously, a major lab study coronaviruses in Wuhan, what evidence did you see that led you to believe that this lab leak theory was viable?


What we saw when we look at this issue in the State Department was not only the general circumstantial facts of the case, including the fact COVID, after all, first broke out in Wuhan, in a city where one of the main laboratories in the world for the study of bath coronavirus is found.

It's not the natural environment where you would expect a bat coronavirus to be found. It's an urban environment, about 1000 miles away from where the bats that are known to contain the closest known viruses to the COVID-19 virus are found. And so, there were fundamental questions a whole world saw beginning in the spring of 2020 about why Wuhan, that certainly attracted a lot of attention.

But some of the facts that attracted attention inside the Trump administration, inside the State Department in the final months of the last administration were not just those circumstantial facts. There were three pieces of information in particular the U.S. government came to know.

The first is there were sick researchers inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in the autumn of 2019 and just the period before the public outbreak of COVID-19 and Wuhan. We did not know whether there is sicknesses were COVID-19, or the flu, perhaps we know they were consistent with COVID and believed it needed to be looked into much more closely.

The second fact was that they were conducting research in the months and years leading up to the outbreak, including on the closest known natural virus to COVID-19 virus. And they have not been transparent over the years about what they had been doing, and we wanted to call for greater transparency.

And the third thing is there were years of secret relationships between the Wuhan laboratory and China's military. China has a long record of nondisclosure with non-transparency with their biological weapons programs. This was a major concern.

And that's why in January, in the final days of the administration, we put out a fact sheet laying out these facts and calling for a more credible and thorough investigation that had previously been seen.

BURNETT: OK. I think it's really important that you lay all those 3 points. Let me just follow up with the third one, though, because there is a very significant distinction between a virus that is being studied leaking from a lab because people get sick inadvertently, and there's -- and it being some sort of bio weapon, whether that means it was engineered or was being studied for a purpose of bio weapon use.


In point number three, when you see the long ties between the lab and Chinese military, did you see any implications of what I just said? Or are you just noting that relationship?

FEITH: Mostly noting it. It's an important fact because it reveals a lot about the nature of science and technology in China, and the nature of international science and technology cooperation with China.

It reveals, for example, there isn't a government in the world or university or company that can be assured if they are doing science and technology exchange in China, that they're not perhaps unwittingly working at the Chinese military, and that's very important.

But, yes, to be clear we stated that as one thing that is worthy of further study.


FEITH: But, fundamentally, there is science going on that was very possibly good faith science, seeking to find, you know, vaccines or treatments for future coronaviruses. This was dangerous science of the type that takes viruses from the natural world, works with them in the laboratory to make them either more infectious or more deadly to humans.

And it's that sort of accident that we were concerned might have happened here and hoped there could be greater inquiry to try to find out, of the kind that President Biden has now called for.

BURNETT: Well, I appreciate your time, David. I think it's all really crucial and I should point, the former FDA commissioner said, the last six known outbreaks of SARS where accident a leaks out of labs in China. It's happened in the U.S. as well. This has always been a very realistic and crucial thing to get to the bottom off. And I appreciate your time so much. Thanks so much.

FEITH: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, President Biden gives Trump credit for the vaccines, for the first time, but doesn't say his name.


BURNETT: President Biden tonight going further than he's gone before in giving former President Trump credit. In a speech about COVID vaccinations, Biden tonight said this.


BIDEN: Getting the vaccine is not a partisan act. The science was done under Democratic and Republican administrations. Matter of fact, the first vaccines were authorized under a Republican president, and widely developed by a Democratic president, deployed by Democratic president.


BURNETT: Now, Biden, of course, never actually uttered Trump's name, he did admit that the vaccine development approval came under Trump. It comes as the administration has set a goal of getting 70 percent of the American population at least partially vaccinate by July 4th.

Thanks for joining us. It's time now for "AC360".