Return to Transcripts main page
Erin Burnett Outfront
Manchin Stands Firm, Wants Bipartisan Deal on Infrastructure; Manchin: "We Can't Continue to Split and Go Further Apart", Says Working Together Will Take a lot of Time, Energy, & Patience; Source: Trump Asking Advisers if He Could be Reinstated as President; "People have Told Him that It's Not True"; Sources: DOJ Investigating Whether GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz Obstructed Justice During Ongoing Sex Trafficking Probe; Biden Gets Tougher on China Amid Grab for Power. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 03, 2021 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The former CDC Director, Dr. Tom Frieden. Thanks as usual for joining us.
TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: Thank you.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching.
Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, he controls the fate of President Biden's agenda and tonight Sen. Joe Manchin is speaking to CNN about Biden's massive infrastructure bill and whether he'll bend on eliminating the filibuster.
Plus, new details tonight on Trump asking his advisors if he can somehow resume his presidency this year.
And a CNN exclusive, two Capitol Police officers are speaking out for the first time about what they witnessed on January 6th. One officer saying he thought he was going to lose his life. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, not ready to go it alone. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin not willing to jump on board with Dems. And tonight, Manchin is the one with the power holding Biden's agenda in his hands. And he's not on board with Democrats passing the infrastructure bill with no Republican support. Just listen to Manchin who just spoke out to our Manu Raju.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We need to do something in a bipartisan way. We can't continue on these types of projects because we were able to bring everything to fruition working through a bipartisan way. The Republicans didn't get everything they wanted the last time as you recall and basically, we're not going to get everything, but we can move forward. And the President has that desire and the urgency to get something big done.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're not ready to go for Democrats to do this alone on reconciliation right now.
MANCHIN: I've always been to the point where we've got to work together. You can only do so much by yourself, and we're not designed to work that way. The House is. The House is designed strictly for what they do. It comes hard at you whether it's Republicans in control or Democrats.
The Senate was never designed that way. The Senate was designed for, OK, I see that right there but we can maneuver that a little bit and we can massage it a little bit and make it a little bit better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Manchin is completely at odds with many Democrats who say they're ready to act alone if they have to. They don't care if they don't get a single Republican on board. It comes as Sen. Mitch McConnell today says he's not sure there will be a deal, which really made me a pretty simple thing which is that the only way Democrats can actually pass this major legislation is to do it alone, to push it through reconciliation which would require only a simple majority.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: If it's not sold to the Republicans will you do it without them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no choice but to move forward.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT): If Republicans want to come on board, seriously, great. If not, we're going to do it alone.
PETE BUTTIGIEG, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: I think we are getting pretty close to a fish or cut bait moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Manchin, just not there. He's saying it's got to be bipartisan. And right now, that is what power looks like. In response, Biden has offered to slash the price tag of the bill by nearly half from 1.7 trillion to $1 trillion. It wasn't the Republicans (inaudible) do that. It was Manchin's stance here.
Manchin has also made it clear he's against paying for the infrastructure bill by hiking the corporate tax rate to 28 percent as Democrats want. This is what power looks like because today CNN is learning that President Biden is now trying to find a way to pay for his plan without raising corporate taxes.
This is power and this power goes beyond infrastructure. Biden needs Manchin on board for his other priorities, including a massive bill on voting rights. That will require Manchin to go along with eliminating the filibuster, something that he has been clear on. He just told our Manu Raju he is unwilling to bend on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And you've been very clear about your desire for the Senate.
MANCHIN: I'm still very clear about that.
RAJU: And can you just say, can you just take it off the table and say you'll never reduce to 60-vote threshold on the filibuster.
MANCHIN: Let me just tell you one thing, we're going to make the Senate work the way it was intended to work. I'm totally committed to that and I'm not throwing caution to the wind. I have never desired to do that. I've listened to everybody's point of view. But the bottom line is this country has got to unite it. We can't divide it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Not going to get rid of the filibuster. A no go on what Democrats are now in chorus wanting to happen. It can't happen if he's not on board with it. All of it leading Biden earlier this week in frustration to single Manchin out along with another Democratic senator who often stands with Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hear all the folks on TV saying why didn't Biden get this done. Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, that's not actually accurate. Biden is wrong about that final point there, Manchin and Sinema have voted with the Democrats most of the time.
But the bottom line is this, they've got the power. You hear Manchin's comments tonight, frustrating a lot of Democrats.
Manu Raju is OUTFRONT tonight in Morgantown, West Virginia where you just saw him speaking to Sen. Manchin. Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT live in Washington.
Manu, let me just start with you since you had a chance to speak to Sen. Manchin, what more did he tell you?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's making it very clear that he is not ready to buck Republicans in the 50-50 Senate and that is so significant, because getting legislation through will require either Joe Manchin changing his position on either trying to get an infrastructure package done along straight party line, something they can do, presumably, through the budget process that allows them to avoid a Republican-led filibuster. He is not ready to do that. He says talks need to continue. They've been going on for months. A
lot of Democrats say let's give up. He also is not ready to abandon the filibuster to get a major voting legislation through the Senate. He opposes the Democratic plan, but he also is working on a narrower piece of legislation aimed to bolster voting rights and access.
But even if 10 Republicans don't agree with that, he is not on board with the idea of changing the filibuster rules to allow that voting legislation to move forward. But he made clear that he really wants two sides to work together. The question is will he change his mind? He's making it clear he's not.
BURNETT: Yes, making it very clear in his interview (inaudible) ...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: (Inaudible) you have the Mitch McConnell wants to work with you. Last week he blocked the commission bill, and he could have - and you're saying that he will want to work with you.
MANCHIN: (Inaudible) that either. I'm not saying that one is dead either. I was very disappointed. I think it was wrong what he did, and I've said that. He knows how I feel about that, and they look at this truly as a political. I did not look at it political from that standpoint. I look at it as our country coming back together. It was totally everything they asked for. It was totally bipartisan.
I think Nancy Pelosi was very gracious in what she had offered, basically making it totally bipartisan. Chuck Schumer said, OK, I'll do the same. They were able to come to a disagreement. They were able to have the same staffing levels. Everything was done in the most bipartisan way. And for him ...
RAJU: (Inaudible) blocked it because of the filibuster.
MANCHIN: Well, one person blocked it on that, but the bottom line is we have seven people, 60-vote, seven would, we need three more, let's give it another shot.
RAJU: (Inaudible) you can say you'll never produce a 60-vote threshold.
MANCHIN: (Inaudible) going to make the place work. We're going to make the (inaudible) ...
RAJU: You're not taking that off the table then.
MANCHIN: We're making it work. We'll make the place work.
RAJU: So, you're not taking - reducing the 60-vote threshold off the table.
Manchin: (Inaudible) we're going to make the place work. I don't know what else I can tell you and you can't make it work unless the minority has input. You can't disregard a person that's not in the majority. The Senate was never designed that way and I've said this, if you wanted the workings of the Senate, why do we have two senators for every state? Small and large. What did our founding father, what are they thinking of? They wanted the participation for the smaller, the minority.
And the state back then of Delaware, Rhode Island was a very small state compared to New York and Virginia. So he wanted that input and we want that input. We'll make it work.
RAJU: I know you got to go in one second, but you're also just in the center of so many issues in Washington. In your - one of the issues is you're working on trying to get a voting rights bill passed with Lisa Murkowski. Look, let me finish the question, there's no sign that there's actually going to be 60 votes to get that done.
Some of your Democratic colleagues say Joe Manchin should agree for an exemption, allow voting rights to pass on a simple majority, change the Senate filibuster (inaudible) do that. Would you be open to that?
MANCHIN: (Inaudible) everybody how well did the 2013 nuclear option work when in 2017 they came back and took it off the Supreme Court. That's all. What goes around comes around, so let's work together. Let's find a pathway forward.
RAJU: So, you wouldn't do that, an exemption.
MANCHIN: Let's find a pathway forward.
RAJU: Last question, Joe Biden this week he said that you vote more with Republicans than Democrats.
MANCHIN: I think that's taken totally out of content. I spoke to the White House. I think that was totally out of content.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So that key point there he's saying that what comes around goes around, that is the warning that he has been giving to the left for months saying that if we do change the filibuster rules, ultimately Republicans will be back in the majority and then they will do whatever they want which is why that he is holding firm despite relentless pressure. But of course, that means, Erin, that Joe Biden's agenda hinges on the support of one man and one man is saying work with Republicans, Erin.
BURNETT: Yes. I mean, it is incredible and incredible to hear him stand up not backing down there in his conversation with you, Manu. Incredible, like getting the price tag cut in half to try to get him on board. All right. Thank you very much, Manu.
So, I want to go now to the White House and Jeff Zeleny. So, Jeff, Sen. Manchin speaks and the White House listens. How closely are they watching Sen. Manchin's every word right now?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORREPONDENT: Erin, there are watching him very closely, but President Biden, perhaps the closest of all. But one thing is key, President Biden would likely have not been surprised by anything that we just heard from Sen. Manchin because he knows that this is part of the process, and they have to run out the full tape here.
They have to actually try to get a bipartisan agreement. This is not for show. This is not political theater. This is not some running out the clock. This is what is key to try to get the infrastructure bill right now that's on the table pass. That's why Shelley Moore Capito, the Republican senator from West Virginia, coming back to the White House to have a phone call tomorrow with the President. And we'll see how serious they are on negotiating. But this is something that they need to play out.
Now, we heard Senator Manchin leave the possibility open for what happens if negotiations completely fail, so we don't know that, and he does generally vote with this White House. But the reality is Democratic senators and Democrats across Washington can be angry. They can be fuming. They can be furious at Sen. Manchin.
But the reality is that's who they have. Without him they would have 49 senators, and this would be an entirely different conversation. So they should have won more seats and other races last year if they wanted to avoid this problem, but this is the scenario. But the relationship, Erin, I am told by talking to people in the White House between President Biden and Joe Manchin, the two Joe's as we call them a lot is critical here going forward.
We do not know that if these bipartisan negotiations fail that President Biden will really use that good relationship to try and get the agenda through. Again, important to remember that Sen. Manchin votes with President Biden virtually all the time. We'll see if he does coming up on these big agenda items, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.
And I want to go now to Scott Jennings, former Senior Adviser to Mitch McConnell and former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush. And Karen Finney, former Communications Director at the Democratic National Committee.
And Karen just had major surgery and I'm just so glad and thrilled that you're back with us, Karen, just your bravery in all of this. So let me start with you, Karen. You know Manchin from your days at the DNC. He tells Manu, "We need to do something in a bipartisan way."
At some point, what do you think happens here? Does he let this move forward, go ahead and get on board with the rest of the Democrats and do it without Republican support or not?
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, thank you so much, Erin. It's wonderful to be here. Here's the thing about Joe Manchin, it's very simple. Joe Manchin is about West Virginia. So the way this is going to play out is how do you make sure that Joe Manchin gets a deal that he can sell back home in West Virginia and I think that's very doable. Look at what happened with the COVID relief package. Manchin was a tough negotiator, but he got a lot for West Virginia.
So, I think Democrats have to just remember, we may be frustrated but as Jeff pointed out, this is what we have to deal with. And we have to remember, his motivation is very much focused on delivering for West Virginia. So make it in his interest to vote for this package.
BURNETT: So, Scott, as Karen points out, making it his interest, that's what's going to speak to Joe Manchin. McConnell meanwhile on the other side, who obviously you've worked with so well, you speak to all the time, is pulling the strings on the GOP side, even though obviously he may not be the face of the negotiations right now. So, since you do really have talk to him all the time, what is he thinking about all of this and about Manchin?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, number one, I'd like to echo what you said to Karen. It's good to see you back in the chair, buddy. And I'm glad to hear your voice tonight.
Number two, I think Karen made a great point about West Virginia and what would sell back home in West Virginia is what the Republicans want to do. And I think where Senator McConnell is on it is that if he thought Joe Biden had the votes to raise taxes and spend $5 trillion, he'd already be doing it. But the fact is they don't have the votes and so he's having to talk to the Republicans about getting something rational here, 1 trillion in spending, it's already been authorized by Congress, not new money so we don't add to the inflationary pressures, and spending money on actual roads, bridges and highways and stuff that West Virginians, Kentuckians and other people could say, yes that sounds like infrastructure to me.
This is not the best way to do it. It is the only way to do it and I think if a deal is to come together, it's got to be in some kind of configuration, where Republicans come on board because the fracture on the left right now, the House Ag Committee Chairman is not happy. The New York Democrats are not happy over the salt issues. The progressives are not happy about negotiating with the Republicans.
BURNETT: Yes, no one's ...
JENNINGS: Biden's got more fractures than McConnell does and so where he is on it is, hey, we can get a $1 trillion deal that works for Joe, that works for me.
BURNETT: Go ahead, Karen.
FINNEY: But, well, I just think it's important to remember, Manchin has also said he does not agree with the Republican (inaudible).
He does not agree with raising gas taxes on people. So, in terms of negotiating, the negotiating that Biden is doing is important because it sends a message to Manchin, hey, I'm trying to deal. You want bipartisanship, I'm trying. We're trying to take the time. I'm trying to meet people more than halfway. That's what Manchin has said he wants. But let's not misconstrue what Manchin has said he's for. Manchin has
also said he supports the 25 percent increase and last I've read in the corporate tax. He doesn't agree with 28 percent, but he's more open to a number of proposals that I think we need to give him a little bit of credit for.
BURNETT: That's true. As you point out, he has said he'd go to 25, although not all the way to 28.
FINNEY: Right. That's right.
BURNETT: But Scott at the same time, what's the feeling from McConnell? We all know where McConnell stands on this. But it's Joe Manchin who has gotten President - the last time when Biden came right with his COVID relief bill, it was the Democrats went with my way or the highway and they passed it and that was it and they got what they wanted. But now you have Joe Manchin is the one who's actually forced Joe Biden to cut the price tag on this by almost 50 percent to cut it in half. That's pretty stunning. Does Mitch McConnell on any level, Scott, sit back and go, wow, is this guy is doing all my dirty work?
JENNINGS: Well, I think he sits back and he's glad that Joe Manchin is trying to stand up for the Senate and for the place of the Senate in our legislative functioning here. I mean, Joe Manchin standing up for the filibuster. He's standing up for what's best for his constituents. I mean, he's actually participating in what used to be called the world's greatest deliberative body and flexing those muscles.
So, I think when Mitch McConnell sees that there are rational Democrats like Joe Manchin who are trying to drag this thing into something that many, many Republicans could support, he's happy about that. Again, this isn't the best way. It's the only way to do it because I just think there's so many Democrats that have so many problems with what Biden initially laid out, that they're going to have to get some Republican support.
And if Manchin is the key to dragging this White House back to where the Republicans want it, 1 trillion, and by the way on the pay for, vital. If they spend the money that's already appropriated, the stimulus money that's already been printed, that is going to bring home a lot of Republican support, I think. So if Manchin gets on board with that, I think that would be a step in the right direction.
So, whether he's doing dirty work or not, I would call it he's doing good work because he's putting this bill in a place that can actually pass.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate both of your time very much. And Karen, I just hope anybody who hasn't read it, read your op-ed, just your incredible story, your true courageousness. So I hope they will do so if they haven't. Thank you both very much. I appreciate you.
And next, just in to CNN, a source telling us that President Trump has been asking advisors if he can return to the White House this year. Our Jim Acosta is next with new reporting. Plus, a CNN exclusive, two Capitol Police officers are breaking their
silence about what they witnessed during the deadly insurrection.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They kept saying Trump send me. We won't listen to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz who's under investigation for whether he had sexual contact with an underage girl could now be in even more legal trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: This just in, former President Donald Trump has been asking advisors if he could somehow reassume the presidency this year, despite losing the election to now President Joe Biden. A well-placed source familiar with the conversation tells our Jim Acosta tonight that Trump has been hearing the same far-fetched suggestions from conservative commentators and allies and has then internalized that and gone to ask others, "What do you think of this? What do you think of this theory?"
So Jim Acosta is OUTFRONT. Jim, it's just really - I know it's like La La Land, but this is bizarre that we're even having this conversation. How seriously is Trump believing this insane theory?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: It's insane. It's very disturbing, Erin, but he believes it. He thinks that there are some chance that he could somehow be reinstated as President somehow this year and what he's been doing over the last several weeks is reaching out to advisors, reaching out to allies and they've basically been trying to talk them off the ledge, Erin.
What Trump has been asking, I'm told by one source, a well-placed source familiar with these conversations, he's been asking what do you think of this theory. And what this one advisor told me is that he's been told it's not true. Now this advisor who is familiar with these conversations went on to say that it doesn't appear that Trump really believes that he could somehow be reinstated or assume the presidency later on this year, but this source went on to say, listen, Trump is listening to all kinds of things these days and he is trying to grasp at straws to see if there's some way that he can get back into the White House. And this source went on to describe these conversations as 'very dangerous'.
And so Erin, it does seem that the former president is not letting this lie. He is reaching out to people and people at this point are trying to talk him back into the real world, which is, of course, where he has not been residing lately, because he has been believing and investing in these far-fetched ideas.
BURNETT: Well, you also, I know, have been looking into what's the driver of him believing in this. I mean, it's a very specific echo chamber. And one of the people who's been making these arguments is the CEO of My Pillow, Mike Lindell, who has kind of now becomes some sort of a confidant to the former president that he's been out there saying he's got all this proof of mass election fraud, which of course is false. Here's part of what we heard, all of us, when he actually talked about this with Jimmy Kimmel recently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, ABC "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Let's be honest, your website doesn't even really work so well, why would you think that you have broken this code of all people.
MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MY PILLOW: It wasn't me that broke it. They brought it to me and this (inaudible) ...
KIMMEL: But these people are not ...
LINDELL: ... the only reason they did, Jimmy, is because I have the voice.
Knowing what I have now, if they were to put Donald Trump back in on December 14th and knowing what I have right now, I would still be sounding the alarm going, you guys, these machines, they were hacked and we have to do something in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So Jim, what happened after that interview?
ACOSTA: So apparently after that interview, I talked to Mike Lindell about this just today and he said that after the interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Donald Trump reached out to Mike Lindell and told him what a great job he did on Jimmy Kimmel. Lindell went on to say that they haven't spoken about this outlandish conspiracy theories that somehow Trump could be reinstated as President of the United States.
But Erin, there is such a huge danger in all of this, because this is the same kind of crazy talk that provoked the January 6th insurrection. And so as long as Donald Trump is talking about these, he's got a speech this weekend down in North Carolina, as long as he's talking about this, I think there is the potential for more violence election-related, conspiracy theory-related violence in this country. Trump is still stoking this from exile.
But as the source was telling me earlier today, there are advisors around him trying to talk him out of thinking like this, because it is just so damn crazy, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Jim, thank you very much. And I want to go now to the Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of State,
Veronica Degraffenreid. And Secretary, look, you're dealing with some of this in your own state, people - there are some Republicans who are trying to follow the lines of Arizona, have some sort of a sham audit. Let me give you a chance first to react to what Jim Acosta is reporting.
The former President Trump is having these conversations with advisors about whether he could be reinstated as president this year conversations that a source who's having them with the president described to Jim is dangerous.
VERONICA DEGRAFFENREID, PENNSYLVANIA ACTING SECRETARY OF STATE: Right. So, yes, I didn't quite hear everything that Jim said, but I can tell you that in Pennsylvania for the 2020 general election, our counties and I trust our counties, they had two audits. Two audits of the 2020 general election and we believe we know that the election last year in Pennsylvania was absolutely fair. It was safe. It was accurate.
BURNETT: So The Washington Post is talking about the My Pillow CEO. They're reporting that he's just one of the people who has Trump's ear and has been fueling Trump's push for audits in Arizona and elsewhere, including your state. The post says the list of other people who are now talking to the forum president, one American news host Christina Bobb who's been covering the Arizona audit and Pennsylvania Republican State Senator Doug Mastriano in your own state, which basically means that Trump is hearing this sort of thing, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDELL: We're in a race against time, everyone. We need this election pulled down. We need our great President Donald Trump back in and that's coming.
CHRISTINA BOBB, OAN HOST: It's becoming glaringly apparent that Donald Trump absolutely crushed Joe Biden in the election. The American people resoundingly choose Donald J. Trump and Democrats are trying to steal it.
SEN. DOUG MASTRIANO (R-PA): Half of the nation believes that this election was stolen from President Trump and I agree with that and that's a fact. I believe he won the state and we're going to prove it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. This is this is all totally false. This is totally false. It's incredible that it's actually going out there. It's incredible, I think, that in at least some of those cases we just heard, the people saying it believe it. Secretary, what are you doing to fight back against baseless claims like this?
DEGRAFFENREID: So I mean the fact is, is that the 2020 general election is over. I mean, I believe strongly, certainly that our county election officials, the administration and most of the members of the General Assembly, in fact, both Republican and Democrats know that the 2020 general election certainly for purposes of Pennsylvania, we're done. That election has been certified. Candidates are serving. We are moving on. We are absolutely focused on advancing voter rights and expanding opportunities for people to vote here in Pennsylvania and that is absolutely going to be our focus going forward.
BURNETT: Well, I think it's really important that you point out Republicans as well, because I've talked to Republicans in your state, some of whom have received death threats, but they are completely on the page with you. There was a winner and it's been checked and double checked and triple checked and everybody knows that winner was Joe Biden in your state. And Republicans know that and respect that as well, but not all of them and I mentioned State Senator Mastriano because he just went to Arizona to observe this audit, which I put in air quotes, because they've already had multiple audits and this one is different. It is not a full or real audit.
But he's saying in your state, go ahead, let's have a similar audit. Pick a few counties and put people's minds at rest is his quote.
What do you say to him when he tries to kind of go, well, just pick a few counties, how unreasonable is that?
DEGRAFFENREID: Well, I will say to all citizens of Pennsylvania, quite frankly, again, our counties have moved on. The ballots from the election have been put away, and so as a matter of fact, counties just had an election on May 18th here in Pennsylvania.
So we have placed the 2020 election behind us for purposes of certification, and we are working on administering future elections, the one that we just had on May 18th, and the one in future elections to come.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Secretary Degraffenreid, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
DEGRAFFENREID: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, the CNN exclusive, a chilling, personal account from two police officers, speaking up now for the very first time, who were there on January 6, trying to defend the U.S. Capitol on the day of the riots.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Did you ever think this might be a life or death situation for you?
POLICE OFFICER: I remember specifically thinking it when I was on the floor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus, Biden now getting tough on China, taking a Trump policy and making it even more restrictive. Is the move good or too little too late? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BURNETT: Tonight, a CNN exclusive. Two Capitol Police officers speaking out for the first time, sharing the trauma they experienced on January 6. One says he thought he was going to lose his life, as he fought against the rioters for hours.
And six months after the insurrection, their emotions are still raw tonight.
Whitney Wild is OUTFRONT with the exclusive interviews.
WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: What was the worst thing they called you?
AQUILINO GONELL, UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE: Traitor.
WILD: Why was that the worst thing?
GONELL: Because I serve my country. I want overseas to protect our homeland from foreign threats. But yet here I am battling them in our own Capitol.
WILD (voice-over): United States Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. at 12 years old in 1991, deployed to Iraq in 2003, and then joined Capitol police in 2008. He is speaking publicly for the first time about January 6, when he fought rioters trying to stop the certification of Joe Biden's presidency.
GONELL: I got hurt. I got hurt. I would do it again if I have to. That's my job.
WILD: Sergeant Gonell led members of the department's civil disturbance unit. For hours, they battled insurrectionists attacking the Capitol. This video shows his fight on the west front.
GONELL: They kept saying, Trump send me, we won't listen to you. We are here to take over the Capitol. We are here to hang Mike Pence.
They thought we were there for them. And we weren't. So they turned against us. It was very scary. Because I thought I was going to lose my life right there.
WILD: Some of the most horrific video shows him steps from Police Officer Daniel Hodges, caught in a doorway.
GONELL: I could hear my fellow officers screaming, the agony in some of them. All I could think was, we can't let these people in. There is going to be a slaughter inside.
WILD: Rioters beat Sergeant Gonell so badly, they cut his hand and he needed foot surgery. While he fended off the attack outside, Officer Byron Evans locked down areas inside the Capitol and evacuated senators.
Did you ever think this might be a life or death situation for you?
BYRON EVANS, UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE: I remember specifically thinking it when I was on the floor. I remember thinking like, Byron, this is the day. All those times you have given thought on what you would do, you're doing it.
WILD: For hours, Evans and the senators watched the riot on TV from a secured location.
EVANS: I just remember the anger I felt when I saw those images, busting windows, climbing the walls and stuff like that. It was an audible gasp in the room.
WILD: Around 6:00, the riot had calmed enough that Sergeant Gonell could tell his wife he had survived.
GONELL: I started texting my wife. And all I said to her, I'm okay. I'll see you whenever.
WILD: Congress resumed certifying the Electoral College votes that night. Gonell arrived back home around 3:00 a.m. January 7, but found little relief.
GONELL: When I came in, she wanted to hug me. And I told her no, because I was covered -- I was covered in pepper spray, my hands were bleeding, still. And I couldn't even sleep. I took a shower and instead of helping that, re-inflamed the chemicals.
WILD: It soaked through your clothes?
GONELL: Yes. I took a bath with milk. That helped.
WILD: Just hours later, he and Officer Evans and hundreds more officers still reeling from the worst attack in two centuries, headed back to work.
GONELL: I did give my wife a hug. I started crying.
GONELL: That didn't (ph) happen, I didn't think I would be able to see them.
I went to my son's bed and gave him a hug. He was asleep still. Gave him a big kiss. And I started crying.
It's like five, ten minutes, hug -- I just cry. She kept telling me it's going to be okay. I'm like, no, I got to go back to work. I got to go back to work.
WILD: For him, the riot is hardly in the rear view.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The motion is not agreed to.
WILD: Failure of a bill to establish a commission to investigate the causes of the insurrection left him devastated, but gave him a reason to speak out.
GONELL: It hurts me that the country that I love, that I came in, that I have sacrificed so much don't care about us, and they don't.
WILD (on camera): Highlighting just how angry he was, Erin, he came forward on his own in his personal capacity and not on behalf of the department -- Erin.
BURNETT: Just incredible -- incredibly moving, just to hear, and I think for people to understand from your reporting, months go by, people's lives have been ravaged and changed forever, as you were able to show in that powerful interview.
You know, I know you had a chance to speak to these officers for three hours, and to hear everything they went through, with what they're dealing with now psychologically. And I just wanted to may a little bit more of what one of the officers told you about why, why he chose to speak out to you now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GONELL: The lack of remorse for what they have been feeding to people, lies. For five years, he's been telling people of what to do, for five years -- five years and a half. And why would we be surprised when they do what you told them to do?
I've been quiet since it happened on January 6. I haven't told anybody that I was going to do this. But after today, I can. It hurts me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So in your conversation, you know, what else did they tell you about why he felt he needed to come forward, that he needed to tell his story?
WILD: Well, in the aftermath of hearing so many people say it wasn't that bad, that it was just a tour, that, you know, all of the other phrases and words that people have used, including lawmakers, to down play the severity of the riot, he just couldn't listen to it anymore. And then, finally, the thing that really pushed him over the edge was watching this bill fail. He just said, I can't stay silent any more, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Well, it is so powerful to hear his words. Thank you very much.
And OUTFRONT next, Matt Gaetz's legal troubles may be getting worse. We're now learning he's under investigation for potential obstruction of justice.
And the Pentagon reportedly conducting U.S. versus China war games. And in this game, the U.S. lost. What can the U.S. do?
BURNETT: Tonight, the Justice Department is investigating Matt Gaetz for potential obstruction of Justice, as part of a probe that includes allegations he had sexual contact with an underage girl.
A source telling CNN investigators were told of Gaetz and an associate allegedly discussing a plan to talk about the ongoing sex crimes investigation in October 2020, with Gaetz's ex-girlfriend, who is now cooperating with the probe.
Congressman Gaetz denies any wrongdoing, and his spokesman tells CNN, quote: Congressman Gaetz pursues justice, he doesn't obstruct it. After two months, there's still not a single on record accusation of misconduct, and now, the story is changing yet again.
OUTFRONT now, former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general under President Clinton, Harry Litman.
So, Harry, you know, when you look at the information that we now have, does it sound like Congressman Gaetz may have tried to obstruct justice here?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It does. A lot of what we have, Erin, is somewhat sketchy and underdeveloped, but there's one episode that is really emerging. It's a phone call in October 2020. The phone call is initiated by Gaetz's former girlfriend, whose relationship with him dates to 2017, when he allegedly had sex with a minor.
She starts this phone call. It's to the previous minor, now 20, and that minor's roommate. And Gaetz suddenly appears on the phone, he jumps in midway through.
Do which know what was said on the call? No. Do we know it was an attempt to get stories straight? Well, there's an indication, one strong indication is the former girlfriend is seeking immunity.
She believes she may be on the hook for obstruction based on what she spoke to the former minor about, and she thinks maybe the phone call was even taped. And she's now trying to get immunity, which is to say a promise of not being prosecuted from the Department of Justice in return for telling all that she knows.
This was, by the way, before Gaetz's investigation was public, but after Greenberg had already pleaded to some of this conduct.
BURNETT: All right. And Joel Greenberg, of course, is now going to be sentenced in august for his crimes. So it is incredible, though, when you think about, as you point out. She's asking for immunity, what the implications about she thinks may have happened there in terms of obstruction of justice. So, the legal troubles mount for Matt Gaetz.
I want to ask you one other thing, Harry, while I have you. This literally has just happened. Vice President Mike Pence is at a dinner right now, I believe in New Hampshire. He just made some very frank remarks. In fact, nothing like he's said before on the riots, and specifically, about his conversations with the former President Trump about January 6.
So this just happened at a dinner in New Hampshire. Let me play the vice president for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: January 6th was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol. But thanks to the swift action of the Capitol Police and federal law enforcement, violence was quelled. The Capitol was secured.
And that same day, we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don't know if we'll ever see eye to eye on that day. But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: For the former vice president, this is a pretty incredible thing to say, harry. He's talking about the dark day, he's talking about the violence. He's saying they did their duty.
LITMAN: It really is.
BURNETT: And then saying that they'll never see eye to eye on this. It's pretty stunning.
LITMAN: It is pretty stunning.
And remember, as your previous interviewee so movingly said, the officers -- there were people out there wanting to kill, to hang Pence because, in fact, he was doing what he was just boasting about, actually applying the law and reconvening the Congress.
I don't think he's in criminal trouble, but I think it's a real indication that he's trying to distance himself. In this way, he stands in real contrast to Kevin McCarthy and others who know the truth but somehow are continuing to pretend.
BURNETT: All right. Harry, thank you very much. I appreciate you and appreciate you being able to react to that literally as it just happened from the former vice president.
And OUTFRONT next, Joe Biden taking steps tonight to try and slow China's growing power. But will it work? Wait until you see what's happening in China.
BURNETT: Tonight's inside looking, get tough on China. Biden is doubling down on a Trump order and expanding it tonight. The order bans U.S. investment in Chinese firms connected to the Chinese military. And it comes as "Foreign Affairs" magazine reports the Pentagon has conducted war games between China and the U.S. The result, the U.S. lost.
OUTFRONT now, Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a "Washington Post" columnist.
Max, I always like having you on.
So, let me -- let me just ask you here the context. China beat COVID fast. Its economy is growing three times faster than U.S. economy right now as a result of that. Nearly 20 percent growth in one quarter, which is an absolutely stunning thing, even if they're inflating it.
On the military side, U.S. warship in the Pacific Ocean fails to intercept a medium-range ballistic missile in a test over the weekend. A simulated war game between U.S. and China shows the U.S. losing in a clash over Taiwan.
I mean, it's all pretty frightening put together. Is America weakening as China is rising?
MAX BOOT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No question, Erin, that China is getting stronger relative to us and we can no longer count on wag war -- winning a war against China and the Western Pacific as we could have done 20 years ago.
But I don't think the situation is hopeless. There are just some thins that we need to do. First and foremost, we need to get COVID under control, which is starting to happen. We are vaccinating faster than China after the horrible experience of the past year. We're finally starting to move forward.
As we vaccinate, our economy will rebound. And so our performance will not look as poor compared to China as it did last year.
But there's a lot more we need to do, including on the defense budget. I mean, we're spending over $700 billion a year, but a lot of our systems are going to be very quickly negated by China in any future conflict because they're investing in cruise missiles and ballistic missiles and cyber weapons and space weapons, all sorts of technologies designed to make our $13 billion aircraft carriers sitting ducks in the Pacific.
So we need to change what we're spending money on in defense in order to be able to compete with China, because if we don't do that and if the balance of power keeps shifting against us, that is going to create a very dangerous situation where China may feel emboldened to attack Taiwan and try to reunify by force, which would be a catastrophe.
BURNETT: Right, people don't realize a lot of our defense budget doesn't go necessarily to technology or force, right?
BOOT: A lot of it goes to personnel cost, actually, because we spent so much on our personnel and they have very cheap conscript soldiers.
BURNETT: Right. So China is not bowing to the U.S. In March during the first face to face meeting between Secretary of State Blinken and his counterparts, the foreign policy chief in China offered a blunt message, which has never been done before, and chose to do it through a translator, even though he speaks fluent English and could have just said it, chose to kind of do it in that very direct but passive aggressive way. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHINA FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF (through translator): Let me say here that in front of the Chinese side, the United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It is a remarkable statement. Has China's recovery from COVID caused them to have more of this boldness?
BOOT: Absolutely. I mean, it's reinforced the trends where they feel like they're getting stronger. They are arguably the number one economy in the world. Their military is arguably number two, so they feel much more able to stand up to the United States.
But I'll tell you, Erin, we have one trump card, so to speak, up our sleeve that they don't have, which is that the countries surrounding China are alarmed by its rise and its wolf warrior diplomacy is bruising a lot of the neighborhoods states because it is so heavy handed.
So they're actually looking to the United States as a balancer against China. And this is -- you know, if you look at China, they don't have a lot of friends. They have North Korea and that's about it because all the countries around them, whether it's India, Australia, Vietnam, Japan, they're all very concerned about the rise of China.
So we have an opportunity to knit together an alliance to contain the growth of China. And this is something Donald Trump with his unilateral America-first approach, he really screwed it up, but I think Joe Biden gets it. He understands the need to have those alliances.
And for example, he is reinvigorated the Quad, the alliance between -- not an alliance, but the meetings between India, Australia, Japan, and the United States. And so this is -- we can't stand up to China on our own, but we can work with a network of other countries to do that. BURNETT: Yeah, pretty incredible. And, of course, in all of this, the
investigations into the origins of the coronavirus itself in that Wuhan lab.
Max Boot, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
And I appreciate all of you as well.
Anderson starts now.