Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

CNN Exclusive Audio Shows Giuliani Pressuring Ukrainian Officials To Probe Biden In Exchange For Aid; Giuliani Voicemail, E- mails Reveal He Pushed Trump's Big Lie On Arizona Officials; VP Harris To Undocumented Migrants: "Do Not Come" To U.S.; Interview With Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC); Classified Report Warned COVID Might Have Leaked From Wuhan Lab; Outrage Grows After Judge Compares AR-15 To Swiss Army Knife; U.S. Recovers Millions In Cryptocurrency Paid To Pipeline Hackers. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 07, 2021 - 19:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: They will never stop pushing to stop gun violence because they simply -- they can't, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It was so, so powerful, Kate. Thank you so much for that report. This programming note, to our viewers be sure to tune in at 8 pm Eastern for an Anderson Cooper 360 Special Report. Former President Barack Obama talks fatherhood, leadership and legacy only here on CNN.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Rudy Giuliani caught on tape exclusive new audio shedding new light on Giuliani's blatant attempt to meddle in the election, along with new evidence tonight of Giuliani spreading Trump's big lie.

Plus, Kamala Harris on her first foreign trip not mincing words a very blunt message from the Vice President tonight.

And a California Judge comparing the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife as he overturns a ban on assault weapons. The Attorney General who's not backing down from this fight is my guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, Rudy Giuliani caught on tape. We have obtained audio and emails of Rudy Giuliani doing Trump's bidding on several fronts. I want to begin with a CNN exclusive. This is audio of a phone call between Giuliani and Ukrainian officials ahead of the 2020 election where Giuliani says point blank that if Ukraine launches an investigation into Joe Biden, he, Giuliani, will talk to Trump and get him to put 'misunderstandings aside'.

Keep in mind at the time the biggest misunderstanding was that the U.S. had halted that crucial military aid to Ukraine. Here's Giuliani.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: If he could say something like that, on his own, in conversation, it would go a long way. It would go a long way the president to solve the problems.


BURNETT: To solve the problems. Do what we ask and we can solve the problems. Giuliani's dealings with Ukraine, of course, are now part of an ongoing investigation at the Department of Justice. An investigation that involved a raid of his home and office were 18 communication devices were confiscated.

And this isn't all tonight, we more evidence of Giuliani helping Trump spread the big election lie. In one voicemail, the man, of course, once known as America's mayor, tells a top election official in Arizona to get 'this thing fixed up'.


GIULIANI: Bill, it's Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's lawyer, if you get a chance would you please give me a call. Maybe we can get this thing fixed up.


BURNETT: Brazen attempts by Rudy Giuliani to interfere in both the election abroad and in the United States. This thing fixed up, of course, referring to Trump not agreeing with the vote count in Arizona. A lot to get to tonight.

I want to begin with Kyung Lah who's OUTFRONT in Los Angeles and Matthew Chance is in London with the reporting on Ukraine.

Kyung, when you obtained the audio recording of Giuliani pressuring an Arizona election official, it's pretty stunning to hear it. I know that's not all though because you've gotten a hold of emails that show just how far Giuliani went to spread Trump's big lie.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. These emails come from an advocacy group that worked through the Freedom of Information Act to obtain anything about the Arizona audit. And these emails reveal that there was a personal call. There were personal meetings all with a goal to enhance and kick off this Arizona audit.



CROWD: Stop the steal. Stop the steal. Stop the steal.


LAH (voice over): Late November 2020 just weeks after the election, Donald Trump supporters rallied outside of Phoenix hotel.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.


LAH (voice over): Inside ...


GIULIANI: It change the nature of an election.


LAH (voice over): Then Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani spreading the lie to Republican state leaders that there was election fraud in Arizona. But Giuliani didn't stop here.


LAH (on camera): Good morning, Sen. Fann.

SEN. KAREN FANN (R-AZ): Good morning.


LAH (voice over): He had already reached out to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann. Fann is the elusive leader behind the so-called audit of Maricopa County's ballots, despite two previous audit showing no widespread fraud. Two weeks ago, Fann told me why she's pushing for the ballot review.


FANN: And this is not about President Trump, this is not about overturning the electorate or anything else.


LAH (voice over): But her own emails tell another story.


AUSTIN EVERS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN OVERSIGHT: This was a partisan charade from the very beginning.


LAH (voice over): Austin Evers from watchdog group American Oversight says that after obtaining more than 500 pages of emails on the Arizona audit, just weeks after the election, Fann writes to a constituent, "I have spoken with Mayor Giuliani at least six times over the past two weeks," and mentions a private two-hour meeting with Giuliani and the Trump legal team.

She writes in another email, "The key here is rampant fraud." And has asked the Trump legal team to please file a lawsuit to halt vote certification in the state.

[19:05:08] In another email, "I have asked Rudy numerous times to provide us with

any documentation regarding irregularities or possible fraud." She tells another voter about Giuliani, "I have the full support of him and a personal call from President Trump thanking us for pushing to prove any fraud."


EVERS: The email correspondence from Senate President Fann shows that she had a pretty clear idea of where her audit was going to go. What is going on in Arizona backed by the State Senate, his disinformation. This is not a real audit.


LAH (voice over): Fann wasn't the only Arizona Republican hearing from Giuliani.


BILL GATES: I received a voicemail from Rudy Giuliani.


LAH (voice over): It was Christmas Eve, Republican Bill Gates and the other Maricopa County Board Members were fighting Karen Fann's efforts to subpoena the 2020 ballots to conduct this so-called audit.


GIULIANI: I have a few things I'd like to talk over with you. Maybe we can get this thing fixed up. You know, I really think it's a shame that Republicans sort of were both in this, kind of, situation. And I think there may be a nice way to resolve this for everybody.

LAH (on camera): Do you believe that this entire thing was always about Donald Trump?

GATES: Yes. Yes, I do. That's what this is about. This is about an effort to continue to raise doubts about the election system.



BURNETT: I mean, Kyung, it's pretty incredible. So he gets that voicemail. Did Gates ever called Giuliani back?

LAH (on camera): He did not. Bill Gates says to us, look, I'm a Maricopa County Board of Supervisor. And in the capacity of the election, he is an election official and he felt it was wholly inappropriate to return that phone call, Erin.

BURNETT: Wow. Incredible and did the right thing. Thank you so much, Kyung Lah. So that's the voicemails that Kyung's obtained, the emails from

Arizona pressuring officials there on the election. I want to go now to Matthew Chance OUTFRONT in London. Matthew, you have exclusive recording of Giuliani's phone conversation with Ukrainian officials and it is pretty stunning to hear this. Tell me what's on that tape.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's pretty stunning, you're right. I mean, look pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on then President Trump's political rivals, Joe Biden, in this case, in exchange for better diplomatic relations and perhaps more is something we already know that Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, did in 2019 on calls with Ukrainian officials.

We now have the, for the first time, the audio recordings of one of those calls. So you can hear the actual words that Giuliani uses to pressure manipulate and cajole.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) what exactly do you mean?

GIULIANI: Meaning meddling in the election.


CHANCE (voice over): It he was the call that set events in motion.


KURT VOLKER, U.S. DIPLOMAT: OK. So we should have on the line here, America's Mayor, Mayor Giuliani and we have Andriy Yermak.


CHANCE (voice over): Thrusting a reluctant Ukraine into America's divided politics. We already know through transcripts and testimony, Giuliani pressured them to announce investigations important to then President Trump. But this is the first time we've heard his actual voice.


GIULIANI: I want very much to see that our two countries are able to work together.


CHANCE (voice over): Giuliani cajoled the Ukrainian presidential advisor on the other end of the line, first promoting debunked conspiracy theories that Ukraine, not Russia was involved in U.S. election meddling in 2016 and tried to hurt the Trump campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GIULIANI: Way back, in last November, I got information from a

reliable investigator, international investigator, that there was a certain amount of activity in Ukraine during the 2016 election. That was - that involved Ukrainian officials and Ukrainian - mostly officials being asked by our embassy and possibly by other American officials. Basically, I believe that the statement was to produce dirt on then-candidate Trump and Paul Manafort.


CHANCE (voice over): By the time of the call in July 2019, Joe Biden had already emerged as the Democratic Party's front runner to challenge President Trump and digging up dirt on Biden like the unfounded allegations of corrupt dealings in Ukraine when he was Vice President had become a priority for Trump and his longtime adviser.

Throughout the roughly 40-minute call, Giuliani repeatedly pressed the Ukrainian leadership to publicly announce investigate into this too, something that would have undoubtedly benefited Trump's reelection campaign and damage candidate Biden (inaudible) how Giuliani sets out what's required.



GIULIANI: And all we need, all we need from the president is to say: I'm gonna put an honest prosecutor in charge, he's gonna investigate and dig up the evidence, that presently exists and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election and then the Biden thing has to be run out.

I don't know if it's true or not. I mean, I see him bragging about it on television. And to me as a lawyer, to me as a lawyer, it sounds like a bribe. Somebody is Ukraine's gotta take that seriously.


CHANCE (voice over): In Ukrainian presidential office, they took it very seriously. Then as now the country was fighting a desperate war against Russian-backed rebels in its east and heavily depended on U.S. weapons and military aid to hold its ground, including millions of dollars that had been frozen by the Trump administration while Giuliani pursued this political investigation.

Mindful of the need for a strong relationship with Washington, the Ukrainian presidential advisor on the call tried to assure Giuliani investigations he wanted would be looked at.


ANDRIY YERMAK: And we'll be ready this day immediately communicated to coordinate, to work and investigate everything, which you listed.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHANCE (voice over): But privately Ukrainian officials say they were

alarmed at being sucked into American politics, especially when Giuliani repeatedly suggested compliance would open the door to closer U.S.-Ukrainian ties even a presidential meeting undermining the former U.S. president's assertions that he never sought political favors from Ukraine to secure U.S. support, so called quid pro quo.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo.


CHANCE (voice over): Now we can hear Giuliani set out his offer.


GIULIANI: So if he could make some statements at the right time. That he supports a fair, honest law enforcement system. And that these investigations go, wherever they have to go. Gonna be run by honest people. That would clear the air really well.

And I think it would make it possible for me to come and make it possible, I think, for me to talk to the president and see what I can do about making sure that whatever misunderstandings are put aside. And maybe even, I kinda think that this could be a good thing for having a much better relationship where we really understand each other.

IGOR NOVIKOV, FORMER ADVISER TO UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ZELENSKY: To my factual knowledge, they approached numerous ...


CHANCE (voice over): One former Ukrainian official who was listening in on the call understood all too well. He spoke to CNN last month of his outrage as he heard Giuliani tried to force a deal that in his words threatened Ukraine's national security.


NOVIKOV: Let me remind you, we're a country fighting an active war with Russia for many years. So anything to do with swapping favors within our bilateral relationship in exchange for trying to get us involved into U.S. domestic politics is just wrong on many levels morally, ethically and probably even legally.


CHANCE (voice over): By call's end, the Ukrainian's side seem to understand exactly what President Zelensky of Ukraine was expected to do, to keep Washington on the side. And on the call, at least, they agreed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) YERMAK: I'm sure that Zelensky will say that, yeah.

VOLKER: Yeah, good. Second to that ...

GIULIANI: Well, that would, believe me, Andriy, that would be good for all of us.


CHANCE (voice over): Giuliani has denied any wrongdoing in Ukraine and says he was just trying to help his personal client, Trump. It was, of course, this and other aggressive attempts to coax Ukraine, vigorously denied by then-administration officials that led to former President Trump's first impeachment in which he was eventually acquitted by the U.S. Senate. It's hard to know if actually hearing Giuliani relentlessly pressing Ukraine like this ...


GIULIANI: If he could say something like that, on his own, in conversation, it would go a long way. I would go a long way with the President to solve the problems.


CHANCE (voice over): ... would have in any way influenced the outcome of impeachment vote.


CHANCE (on camera): Erin, the Ukrainians never did announce any investigation into election meddling or, of course, into Joe Biden.


And they paid a price for it because even though the Trump White House did eventually unfreeze the money meant to provide assistance to their military, President Zelensky of Ukraine never got the invitation to the White House that were for him was very symbolically important. That changed tonight, by the way, that's just the latest news, the President of Ukraine saying that he has now been invited for a presidential visit to the to Washington in July by President Biden.

BURNETT: All right. Matthew, thank you very much for all of that reporting. And as I said, Matthew obtaining that exclusive audio.

I want to go now to Elie Honig, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York along with our own Gloria Borger, our Chief Political Analyst.

So Elie, can we start with a recording of Giuliani pressuring Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens, Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, this audio that Matthew was just playing some of? How important is the recording?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Erin. So this incident, the pressuring of Ukraine has sort of receded into history in a way that it shouldn't have, because this was the subject of an impeachment. But this recording should remind us there are still potential crimes here. DOJ under Donald Trump, under Bill Barr paper this over and covered this up, they refuse to even open an investigation into potential crimes.

Well, now there's a new DOJ and I believe based on my experience as a federal prosecutor, there could be bribery here. We hear about quid pro quo. There could be extortion here. There could be solicitation of foreign election aid.

So the new Attorney General, the new DOJ, they have a responsibility to not let this sit, to not let this be covered up by the prior administration and to do a real criminal investigation here.

BURNETT: So I mean, it's pretty incredible, as you point out, it is, it's just proof look, we've got to see this. Hearing that Giuliani did this is very different than hearing him actually do it. Hearing those words come out of his mouth.

I mean, Gloria, we're hearing him do Trump's dirty work on the election and on Ukraine, not a once off, corrupt issue after corrupt issue, voicemail after conversation. We remember Trump's infamous phone call with the Ukrainian president where he said, "I would like you to do us a favor, though," in the context of getting the military aid. You hear Giuliani essentially doing the same thing now. He and Trump were in complete lockstep.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. They were a corrupt tag team, on this and on the big election lie. And what we just heard was the bartering of American foreign policy by somebody who actually was not in the United States government and that's Rudy Giuliani.

And the most important thing about this call, it seems to me from listening to it is that Giuliani wasn't asking to get to the bottom of anything, just as Trump wasn't. He was saying do me a favor, do us a favor though. What Giuliani was asking for was an announcement by Zelensky that he was going to look into the Biden, whatever he would call it, scandal, if that's what he want to call, because it would hurt Joe Biden in the election.

So he's trying to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and Rudy Giuliani is actually trying to do that for him when it doesn't work, the President of the United States actually does it himself on a phone call. Now, he wasn't impeached for that. But when you listen to Rudy Giuliani, if you're in an American foreign policy, if you work at the State Department, what was he doing talking about how we can work things out? You know he's talking about the weapons sale?

BURNETT: Right. I mean, it's very clear.

BORGER: Right. I mean, it's very clear. I mean, that was the context. That was what mattered. That was what defined Ukraine at the time. We all know what the code words are for.

And then, Elie, when it comes to Arizona we're now learning just how involved in pushing the sham audit Rudy Giuliani was, six phone calls, a private two-hour meeting with the Arizona official behind the sham audit. Giuliani is a former Attorney for the Southern District of New York, just to be clear, just like you. You got to look at this from the perspective of wow, just how surprised are you and how deep his involvement is here?

HONIG: Yes, Erin. Well, Rudy, has entered the phase where absolutely nothing he does surprises me. However, I do want to say this, I guess I will confess when I started as a prosecutor at the SDNY, I admired Rudy Giuliani. A lot of us did it.

This was in the early 2,000s and he was someone who had led the office two decades before in an honorable fashion and now he has just had this almost Shakespearean demise of his own doing. He's become a helpless Trump sycophant. He has become a blustering con man who repeats dangerous conspiracy theories and this is just one more example of that.

There are lawful ways to contest an election. We have laws about recounts. You can bring lawsuits. Rudy brought a lot of lawsuits and he lost them all. To go behind secret channels, to try to back channel pressure, local Republican officials to come up with ways to swing the election to overturn an election, just shows that Rudy's lost all touch and all sense of respect for our democratic process.


BURNETT: I mean, Gloria, Trump made his first public speech in months this weekend. And as part of it was still pushing the election conspiracy nonsense. Here he is this weekend.


TRUMP: That election will go down as the crime of the century and our country is being destroyed by people who perhaps have no right to destroy it. I am not the one trying to undermine American democracy. I'm the one that's trying to save it. Please remember that. We all know what happened with the election and we can never ever let that happen again.


BURNETT: I mean, Gloria, we all do know what happened with the election.


BURNETT: It was the most free and fair election in the history of this country.


BURNETT: And yet, there he is, twisting even that fundamental concept.

BORGER: Well, and he lost by 7 million votes. Look, he cannot admit to himself or to anybody else that he lost the election and this is where Rudy Giuliani feeds his mind on this because Rudy Giuliani doesn't want to admit it either. So they share conspiracy theories. They talk about Ukraine. They may be talk about Arizona, whatever it is, Rudy was out there, his big lawyer, having lost, what did they lose, 60 cases, including the Supreme Court?


BORGER: The president will never ever, ever admit that he lost the last election. That is it. I doubt Rudy Giuliani will either. And when he talks about I'm not the one endangering democracy, I mean, I think we all have to kind of scratch our heads and say, really, you're not the one, you lost all the recounts, judges across the country disagreed with you. What are you trying to do here? Are you trying to retake your old job which has been the rumor that he's thinking about that? Does that endanger democracy?

I mean, I think it's, unfortunately, it's really not laughable.

BURNETT: No, it's not.


BURNETT: All right. All right. Thank you very much, Gloria, Elie. I appreciate both of you.

And don't miss an interview tonight with former President Obama. The foreign president talking to Anderson Cooper about a wide range of topics, including this most crucial one, our democracy. The state of American democracy that is coming up at the top of the hour.

And next, Kamala Harris in her first trip overseas as Vice President has a message to migrants considering making the dangerous trek to the U.S.-Mexican border.




BURNETT: Congressman Ocasio-Cortez tonight speaking out against the Vice President's strong and firm words.

Plus, our inside look at the deadly surge of mass shootings in the United States. One judge in California overturning the state's ban on assault weapons like in the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife. The States Attorney General who's appealing that ruling is OUTFRONT.

As the FBI recovers millions from the hackers who shut down a key pipeline, OK, how did all this happen?


[19:27:04] BURNETT: New tonight, do not come. Vice President Kamala Harris

delivering that message in Guatemala to potential migrants to the United States in that country saying don't come. This is as there's a huge surge in illegal border crossings under President Biden.


HARRIS: I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border, do not come. Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border. And I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back.


BURNETT: You will be turned back. Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez taking on Harris tweeting, "This is disappointing to see. First, seeking asylum at any U.S. border is a 100 percent legal method of arrival. Second, the U.S. spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can't help set someone someone's house on fire and then blame them for fleeing."

Matt Rivers is OUTFRONT in Mexico City for us tonight. And Matt, I mean, I have to say this is really, really strong from Vice President Harris. She's in Guatemala. If you come, I believe you will be turned away, do not come. What more did Harris say?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Vice President's office, Erin, is calling this a fact-finding mission about the root causes of migration, which is really just a fancy way of saying that they're trying to figure out how to get less migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border. And clearly part of their short-term strategy is that tough talk that you heard from the Vice President there.

But the only way to really substantively solve this problem is by addressing things like chronic poverty, chronic violence, chronic corruption, the kinds of things that are actually sending people north. And I can tell you that the situation with all three of those things in Central America right now is very bad.

We just got back from a reporting trip to a poor part of Honduras. We spent five or six days there last week and I spoke to several dozen people who lived in this neighborhood.

Every single person told me they at least considered traveling to the United States or they will consider traveling and huge sections of these neighborhoods were actually empty because so many people had left, but strikingly, Erin, what we heard from these people is that they don't want to actually migrate. They look at this as a matter of survival. If they don't migrate, they cannot feed their families.

And so when you're talking about stakes at that kind of a level, I'm not sure how much the words of Vice President Harris are actually going to deter anyone from going to the United States, just like they didn't really deter people back in 2019 when Donald Trump was president, an anti-immigrant president, including with his rhetoric and yet the last time we saw a big spike in migrants at the border was during 2019.

I bring that up only to put down the point that when it comes to the number of people arriving to the border, it matters a lot more about what the conditions are like on the ground in the countries that people are migrating from than the messaging that's coming out of the White House.


BURNETT: And it's a really significant point, and one people really need to hear. Thank you so much, Matt Rivers, as I said, from Mexico City tonight.

I want to go now to Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn from South Carolina, also the House majority whip.

And, Congressman, I have a lot to talk to you about, but I wanted to start with this. Vice President Harris, in Guatemala saying, if you come I believe you will be turned away. Do not come, do not come.

What's your reaction to Vice President Harris is very loud and clear message, to illegal immigration?

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): Well, thank you very much for having me.

You know, Erin, I have always (AUDIO GAP) from real discussions about foreign issues. These foreign relations issues I do not spend a lot of time studying and I try not to speak on things that I have not researched well. And I do not know exactly what all is going into this trip.

I do know this: the American people are very concerned, about humanitarian issues, but also concerned about securing the border. And I think what she's doing is trying to carry out both of those issues in a way that the American people will find satisfactory. But I have no idea about what goes into all of it.

BURNETT: And I understand. Look, I think it's very refreshing to hear someone willing to speak on the part they know about.

Do you think that's right for people like Congressman Ocasio-Cortez to becoming right out and criticizing Harris and trying to, you know, say that people coming to the border would be 100 percent legal, and, you know, obviously criticizing her for what she's saying in Guatemala?

CLYBURN: Well, as I said I don't know. I have no idea about the intricacies of all of this and I'm not going to pass a judgment. I have great faith in Kamala Harris, great admiration for Kamala Harris, and I am very pleased, to follow her leadership.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you and I think, obviously, very clear there, your respect for the vice president. I want to ask you about what's happening right now, in the Senate, in the House, with the voting rights bill.

The NAACP and civil rights groups are planning to meet with the Democratic Senator Joe Manchin this week. As you know, of course, Congressman, he vowed to oppose the voting rights bill on the table. He opposes any efforts to end the filibuster.

Manchin saying in part, quote: I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy. And for that reason, I will vote against the for the people act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.

Do you have any hope, Congressman Clyburn, that these meetings would make Senator Manchin change his mind?

CLYBURN: Well, I don't know what's Senator Manchin has referenced. Let me ask him, show me one Democrat that has voted for these suppressive bills that have passed in several states, and had been introduced in 47 states, I don't know where a single Democrat has voted for any one of them. If that's not partisanship, then tell me what is.

So, I want to know why does he thinks it so necessary for him to use his authority, his power to keep people like Ossoff and Warnock from Georgia for casting their votes for a piece of legislation they think will preserve the integrity of their elections. That's what he's doing here. If he's against the For the People Act, then he can vote against it.

But that's not what he's doing here. When he's doing here is using a traditional way of suppressing voters and for denying civil rights. I'm here in South Carolina. Strom Thurmond in 1957 set the record for filibustering in 1957 Civil Rights Act, which was not much more -- nothing more than expressing a policy.

And this is what he's trying to protect? I think Senator Manchin needs to take a hard look at what he's saying here.


CLYBURN: He's not talking about voting against For the People. He's talking about denying all the Democratic senators an opportunity to cast a vote on a very critical issue.

BURNETT: OK. So, let me -- let me understand exactly.


I know that -- obviously, your criticism is very harsh. I know you're giving your honest view.

Congressman Mondaire Jones' response to Senator Manchin was, Manchin's op-ed might well be titled, "Why I'll vote to preserve Jim Crow".

And here is Congressman Jamaal Bowman.


REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): Joe Manchin has become the new Mitch McConnell. He is doing the work of the Republican Party by being an obstructionist, just like they've been since the beginning of Biden's presidency.


BURNETT: Now, I know your feelings on this, but at some point to point out. Senator Manchin does support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which restores some major pieces of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It's something you've been instrumental in. You said passing it would be the best way to honor the life of your friend, John Lewis.

Is -- how far would you go in terms of what Manchin is doing? If he supports that, is it fair to say that he's preserving Jim Crow by not supporting the current Democratic voting bill?

CLYBURN: I would say to Senator Manchin, you've told us what you're or against. I'm going to put forth the legislation that you would like to see passed. Let us see your bill on voting rights and preserving the integrity of our democracy.

We are playing a very dangerous game here. You know, if I had not study history all of my life, maybe I wouldn't be thinking the way I think, and not feeling the way I feel. The fact of the matter is, the greatest empires in the world came down because of decadence and a lot of avoidance of issues. It's a whole theory, that Nero played his fiddle as Rome burned.

What we have is a modern day fiddling around in the Senate, and this democracy is on fire. We saw, that on January 6th. We see that in every legislature, not everyone but in several legislatures across this country.

This democracy is at the crossroads, and he better stop playing -- stop playing with this, because if you are all for preserving the integrity of this great country, you will be preserving the right people to vote. And that is what Manchin is playing with and I think he better take a hard look at what the history of this world is all about.

The greatest empire in the world failed back in 476, and this country, this world (INAUDIBLE) for the next 600 years, almost 600 years.

BURNETT: All right. Congressman Clyburn, I appreciate as always your thoughts and your perspective, putting that context on it. Thank you.

CLYBURN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, an inside look at the surge in gun violence in the United States. One federal judge in California overturning the states' ban on assault weapons, suggesting that the COVID vaccine, vaccine is a greater threat than gun violence.

And a horrifying massacre in West Africa, 132 people at least. The number will be higher, killed after militants raided their village. What the White House is saying about it, tonight.


BURNETT: Tonight, a top secret classified report from May 2020 warning the coronavirus may have leaked from a lab in Wuhan. And it's getting renewed attention.

The report from a government backed research facility offered early support for the possibility of a lab leak, at a time when that theory was considered politically taboo.

Natasha Bertrand is OUTFRONT. She's our White House reporter covering national security.

And, Natasha, you have obviously new reporting here, what's in this classified document and the political fallout around us. Tell me everything you can.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, so this document gave renewed significance on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers questioned why they didn't have access to it sooner. This document was released by researchers at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California, in May 2020. And what it says is that it's possible that this pandemic emerged from a laboratory, gives credence to this lab leak theory.

It also said at the time that it was possible that came from animals. But the main significance of this document is that it was an early indicator that researchers perhaps had evidence that this maybe did come from a lab. And so, lawmakers now using this document as a way to get further briefings on the Department of Energy.

They're requesting more documents from the National Institute of Health, from the State Department, trying to get to the bottom of what these researchers saw, so early on, that allow them to come to this conclusion, that this was a plausible theory.

Again, this document does not say conclusively one way or another, what -- how the virus originated but it's a key piece of evidence now that certain lawmakers are looking at on the Hill to say, why didn't we see this inner. Perhaps there's more evidence here that scientists have, and, of course, the labs moving forward are going to be key to President Biden's review of the origins of COVID.

BURNETT: Which are now going to become crucial, one of the most -- you know, significant foreign policy issues of this presidency, Natasha.

And also, as that happens, there are still the crucial threats posed to around the world by Islamic militants, and a massacre now tonight in Burkina Faso. Militants killing at least 132 civilians.

And, Natasha, of course, knows those numbers are going to go higher, raiding a village in a part of the country seeing an increase in violence from militant Islamic groups. And I reported there from near the Bali border, right along in Burkina Faso, where those groups have been very active, the rise of those groups, including al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb. This is not a new problem, but attacks have risen sharply this year,

people are dying, the dangerous is rising.


I know you have new reporting on this tonight, Natasha. What are you learning?

BERTRAND: That's right, Erin.

So, the White House condemned these attacks in the strongest possible terms. And what they describe in a new statement as the senseless killing of civilians, including children. And they say: We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the victims, of this heinous attack. And we call for those responsible to be held accountable for these atrocities. A National Security Council spokesperson telling us that tonight, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Natasha, thank you very much for your reporting, I appreciate it.

BERTRAND: Thank you.

BURNETT: Next, tonight's inside look at violence across America. One judge, in California, overturning the state's ban on assault weapons. Overturning the ban, likening the AR-15 to a Swiss army knife. States attorney general who is appealing the ruling is next.

Plus, the FBI recovers millions from the hackers who shut down a key U.S. pipeline. This is an incredible development. How did they do it?


BURNETT: Tonight's inside look, violence across America. At least 10 men shooting, stick in place and 10 different states, this weekend. The mass shootings coming after a federal judge overturned California's three decades old ban on assault weapons, ruling that a ban on assault weapons violates the Second Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego saying in part, quote: Like the Swiss Army Knife, a popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon, and homeland defense equipment.


Firearms deemed as assault teams are fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles.

It's a pretty incredible thing to even repeat. What he did not say is that AR-15 style rifles have. They are designed for mass killings of human beings. They're used in Aurora, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in American history, and Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And I could go on, and on, and on.

OUTFRONT now, the Democratic attorney general of California, Rob Bonta, who is appealing the ruling.

Attorney General, thank you for coming on.

This is your first interview since the judge's ruling. So, when you first heard the judges ruling, and the judge comes out and says, like the Swiss army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination -- what did you think?

ROB BONTA (D), CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Erin, that hurt. You know, obviously, it came out on Gun Violence Awareness Day, not long after we are even continuing to suffer and be in pain and anguish about a mass shooting here in San Jose, and, clearly, an assault weapon is different than a Swiss army knife that has tweezers, and a nail file, and a bottle opener, and a ruler.

And so, you know, the first sentence and the first paragraph made us very concerned about the rest of the ruling. It was a 94-page ruling, and, you know, we think it's very out of step with the rest of federal law. We have pledged and will appeal it, and seek a remedy at the next level.

BURNETT: It's just incredible. A Swiss army knife, right, is useful to solving problems and survival, and AR-15 as useful in terms of mass slaughter of human beings. It's one of the most disgusting analogies.

"The Washington Post" points out that the judge also appears to suggest that the COVID vaccine is a greater threat than gun violence. So, the judge says, quote, the evidence describes so far provides that the harm of an assault rifle being used in a mass shooting is an infinitesimally rare event. More people have died from the COVID-19 vaccine than mass shootings in California.

Now, Attorney General, just to be clear, as of May 24th, the CDC says that there's no link between COVID vaccines, and death. As of last month, they were, reportedly, three deaths being investigated in connection to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, three. That's nine people killed in San Jose rail yard shooting in your state just a few weeks ago.

So, again, that's a stunning factual misstatement by the judge.

BONTA: You know, the decision in many ways was of great concern from a legal perspective, a factual perspective, and a common sense perspective. And, you know, that's why we have multiple levels of -- in our trial, in our court system, so we can appeal and seek the remedy at the appropriate level. And we will do that, and we are doing that, and, you know, it's important to continue to protect and defend the common sense gun laws of the state of California. They're there for a reason.

We have a legislature that's looking out for the lives and health of Californians, passing common sense gun laws. Because of our gun law regime in California, one of the strongest in the nation, we have one of the lowest levels of shooting fatalities in the nation. Other places like Wyoming and Alaska have much higher, three times higher than the average for the nation. BURNETT: Yeah.

BONTA: So they make a difference and we will protect and defend these laws in court.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you, though, the dean of the law school of the University of California, Erwin Chemerinsky, commented -- you know, has a warning basically for the situation in your end. He says, quote, to "The New York Times", this is an extreme gun rights reading of the Second Amendment -- he's referring to the judge's ruling, right? So, he's agreeing with you.

But then he's continues to say, but it might be where our Supreme Court wants to go. The composition of the Supreme Court has changed.

How worried are you that the Supreme Court could go against you here, Attorney General?

BONTA: We're focused on the next step, which is the appellate level and the Ninth Circuit, and we'll see where things go from there. We may never get to the Supreme Court, it may. And I don't presume to predict what the Supreme Court will do.

You know, more recent, Supreme Court decided the Heller case which made clear that there are limits to the types of guns that can be manufactured and sold and possessed, including things like machine guns and bazookas. And we think assault weapons are also an appropriate part of sensible common sense regulations.

So we're going to take it one step at a time and that starts with our appeal in the Ninth Circuit.

BURNETT: Attorney General Bonta, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.


BONTA: Thanks for having me.

BURNETT: And next, how was the FBI able to recover millions paid to the hackers who shut down a key U.S. pipeline?


BURNETT: Tonight, the FBI recovering millions of dollars in cryptocurrency, paid as ransom to hackers, whose attacks shut down a key U.S. pipeline last month. It's an incredible story.

So, the Department of Justice announced it seized more than $2 million after the CEO of Colonial Pipeline acknowledged that the company had paid $4.4 million. They got at least half of the back.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT.

I mean, Evan, this is pretty incredibly, right? They couldn't -- they couldn't intervene with the hack itself and turn it around. But once the ransom was paid, they were able to at least pull back half of it. I don't know how much of the story there is still to be told. Pretty stunning, though, this came from the FBI.

Tell me how this all happens?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESEPONDENT: Yeah, this is a rare bit of good news in what has been a pretty dark period on ransomware that companies are suffering around the country. But according to the Justice Department today, they were able to get about $2.3 million back of the more than $4 million that the hackers had demanded, that the company Colonial Pipeline CEO told "The Wall Street Journal" that they had paid.

And what appears to be the difference in this story, Erin, is the timing. The company got on the FBI, very quickly have to discover the hack and they worked with the FBI. They were able to follow the instructions that the investigators gave them and the FBI was able to track the cryptocurrency payment. This was -- they use bitcoin to make the payment to the hackers. They were able to track it to a cryptocurrency wallet, that was controlled by this group called DarkSide.

This is a group that is believed to be behind a lot of these hacks, connected to hackers who simply borrow or use their hacking tools in exchange for a portion of the profits. And so, that is the key here to what was ultimately a very good resolution for Colonial Pipeline.

There is a lot of companies that are suffering these attacks and they -- most of them never get their money back. And so, the difference here obviously, now the FBI says they're still trying to figure out who these people are behind the hack. And so, the story will continue.

BURNETT: Yeah, I mean, it's an incredible development, though.

Evan, thank you very much.

PEREZ: Sure.

BURNETT: And thanks to all you.

An "AC360" special, Barack Obama, starts now.