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Erin Burnett Outfront
Biden-Putin Talks Expected To Last 4-5 Hours; Biden Hours Away From Showdown With Putin As Tension Rises Over Key Issues: Cyber Attacks, Arms Control, Navalny; Twenty-One In GOP Vote No On Congressional Gold Medal For Jan. 6 Officers; Interview With Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA); E-mails Reveal Trump And Allies Pushed DOJ To Investigate Ridiculous Voter Fraud Claims; Interview With New York City Mayoral Candidate Maya Wiley (D). Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 15, 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: Nick Watt reporting for us. Thank you very much. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer. I'll be back tomorrow morning starting at 6 am Eastern for a CNN special coverage of the Biden-Putin summit.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, President Biden just hours away from meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin. We'll talk to one Russia expert who helped prepare Biden for the high stakes summit.
Plus, breaking news, 21 Republicans voting against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to officers who responded to the deadly January 6th attack, why? Why?
And Trump's former chief of staff pressured the DOJ to investigate a conspiracy theory that Italy use military technology and satellites to change votes in the United States. Italy. That's when you thought you'd heard it all. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, face off. President Biden about to stare down Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva and the stakes could not be higher, America's relationship with Russia has not been this bad since the Cold War. At that time, Ronald Reagan met with Mikhail Gorbachev also in Geneva. Thirty-six years later, the odds of a breakthrough may be slim because Biden and Putin have a long, long list of grievances and in the crucial days leading up to the meeting, both leaders have been talking tough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORREPONDENT: Is that still your belief, sir, that he is a killer?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The answer is, I believe he has in the past essentially acknowledged that he was. We will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities. We talked about Russia's aggressive acts. I'm heading to the G7, then to the NATO Ministerial and then to meet
with Mr. Putin to let him know what I want him to know.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA: Mr. Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual. President Biden, of course, is radically different from Trump.
We have been accused of all kinds of things; election interference, cyber attacks and so on and so forth. And not once, not once, not one time did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof, just unfounded accusations and yet you believe that we're acting aggressively and somehow you're not just looking at that, pot calling the kettle black.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That's a pretty bitter back and forth and it is a far cry from the Putin love fest from Biden's predecessor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In terms of leadership, he's getting an A.
Putin called me brilliant, I like it.
We have a very, very good relationship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Trump cozied up to Putin verbally, but Biden totally different tone and totally different words on the Russian President. I want to get to Phil Mattingly who's traveling with President Biden in Geneva. And Phil, this meeting is a big test for President Biden and he's embracing it, going out with the first big trip and the first - the biggest test he could, he knows this is important.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He's aware of it, Erin, and in part it's a driving force behind why this sit down is happening at all. Keep in mind, the President has had a carefully calibrated approach to Russia since he set foot in office. Yes, there were certainly sanctions slapped on the country when it pertained to election meddling and other hacking efforts. But there were also efforts to work with President Putin on arms control.
And you're going to see a similar approach from President Biden when he sits down with President Putin and it's kind of how this meeting goes. It'll be the first signal whether or not the President's approach is actually working at this point in time, trying to find areas of agreement. Areas like arm control. Areas, like perhaps, Afghanistan or the Iran nuclear deal while making clear if continued efforts on cyber attacks continue to occur. The President will absolutely respond in kind.
I think the most interesting element going into this meeting is kind of the structure of how things will play out, that U.S. officials say they believe it'll be about four to five hours. There right now are set two different meetings, one meeting that will have President Putin and President Biden as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State. And then they will expand the delegation out for a second meeting.
But U.S. officials, Erin, also made clear, despite the intensive negotiations about how this would be structured in this 18th-century villa. There's also flexibility built in, perhaps the leaders could meet one-on-one, perhaps they could have breakout sessions. Anything is possible. The meeting may actually go longer than four or five hours and I think that will be the initial signal as to whether anything is moving in the right direction.
Now, U.S. officials have made clear they don't have high expectations for a major breakthrough at this point in time. What they want is stability and predictability, whether or not they'll at least get a signal that that's possible in the weeks and months ahead. That more than anything else is what they're hoping for when they sit down with President Putin tomorrow, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Phil, thank you very much.
I want to go straight now to Angela Stent because she met with President Biden in preparation for this summit with Putin and she's also a former National Intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council.
So, Angela, I really appreciate your time. As you talk to Biden to prepare him, you're looking at Putin in power for two decades, iron fist. He's met with the past four U.S. presidents. What was the most important thing that you thought President Biden needed to know to prepare for this meeting tomorrow?
ANGELA STENT, AUTHOR, "PUTIN'S WORLD: RUSSIA AGAINST THE WEST AND WITH THE REST": Well, first of all, I would say thank you for having me on your show. It's kind of usual for presidents to gather groups of experts before they go on trips and discuss issues with them. President Biden has had a lot of experience with Russia as a senator, as the vice president and now as the President.
And I think what the administration is trying to do, as they've said, is to establish these guardrails. Is it possible for him to meet with President Putin and to have enough of an agreement to deescalate all the tensions so that Russia isn't constantly a problem for the U.S. and so that the Biden administration could get on with its most important task in foreign policy which, of course, is China. And I think President Biden wants to remove Russia as a toxic domestic issue as it was during the Trump administration.
BURNETT: Which, of course, all of this I get the goals, but maybe much easier said than done. I mean, Angela, what does Putin want out of this summit?
STENT: So I mean, for Putin it's very important that he's going to be sitting down with the newest U.S. President as a great power and acknowledgement of how important Russia is. I think he wants two things that President Biden wants. I think they both want to restore diplomatic relations. We don't have ambassadors or embassies that are at a skeleton staff. You need to have a normal diplomatic process going on.
And then secondly, they both do want to agree to start these strategic stability talks, that is to talk about the issue that unites the two countries most with the world's two nuclear superpowers. We hold the fate of the world in our hands and to try and talk about further arms control where can we deescalate tensions around the globe, are there mechanisms channels we can create to avoid unexpected clashes and I think both of them want that.
STENT: And if they can come out of this summit with that, then I would say that's a success.
BURNETT: I mean, because here's what I'm curious about, Angela, and I know that there's translations. Putin speaking just but not well, so there's translators, there's a lot of people. So I say that only to indicate when you're meeting with someone an hour with a translator, it's a lot of the time spent translating. But this meeting was slated to last four to five hours and our Phil Mattingly was reporting it could go even longer. That is a long time.
It's a much longer time than you would have if all you were going to do is go out and be like boom, boom, boom and the other guy says that back and then you're done. I mean, you have to have some sort of meaningful contact or conversation in that amount of time, right?
STENT: Oh, I think you definitely do. And I've just seen the list now of everything that our people say is going to be discussed if they get through half of them, it would probably take them more than four hours. I think it's also to try and establish a personal connection. It doesn't have to be a good personal connection, but at least a base from which lower-level officials can then talk.
In this relationship between the United States and Russia, the leaders are disproportionately important because of the very tense state of the relationship. And I think if at least they can come out having agreed on this baseline to go forward, then it will have accomplished something.
BURNETT: All right. Angela, thank you very much. I appreciate your time. As I said Angela Stent was helping prepare Biden and his team for this meeting.
So let's go to Clarissa Ward now. She's our Chief International Correspondent reported extensively from Russia. She's in Geneva tonight for the summit. And John Sipher back with me, the former CIA Deputy Chief of Russian operations.
So Clarissa, four to five hours, possibly going longer. How important is this meeting to Putin? CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's
very important to him in terms of the optics as Angela just elucidated. Any time President Putin is standing next to the President of the United States of America, it is a public relations boost for him. It really cements his position as being a major player on the international stage.
I think that if you look at the commentary inside Russia from Kremlin- aligned think tanks, et cetera, they are definitely trying to measure everyone's expectations, not dissimilar from the Biden team as well, trying to make sure that everyone understands that the sort of best case scenario here is that certain guardrails are put in place whereby perhaps a further degradation of the relationship could be avoided.
But for President Putin, I think he's happy to be standing on that stage, happy that he wasn't the one who asked for the opportunity to stand next to President Biden and I'm sure he will find opportunities in that press conference to assert himself.
BURNETT: Oh, for sure, it's a great point. And John, we hear about the Reagan-Gorbachev comparison a lot lately. But obviously, in many ways, this is nothing like that.
For one, Gorbachev broke up with the Soviet Union. Putin wants Russia to go back to being a Soviet Union. And if anyone had any doubt about how he sees his role in history and what he sees as Russia's goal, here's a clip from an interview he gave to the Financial Times just a couple of years ago, the questioner is Lionel Barber.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIONEL BARBER, FORMER EDITOR OF THE FINANCIAL TIMES: You've seen many world leaders. Who do you most admire? And then I have one last follow-up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For eighteen years.
PUTIN: Peter the Great.
BARBER: He's not around now.
PUTIN: He will live as long as his cause is alive just as the cause of each of us. We will live until our course is alive. If you mean any present-day leaders from various different countries and states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: John, of course, anyone who's read Robert Massie's great book knows what Peter the Great is known for, expanding the Russian Empire. Peter the Great he laughs. You've seen many world leaders, who do you most admire. He picks the guy who has been dead hundreds of years. He will live as long as his cause is alive. This is how Putin sees the world.
And so when you go to Putin and you say get out of Crimea, you're not going to make much ground there.
JOHN SIPHER, FORMER CIA DEPUTY CHIEF OF RUSSIAN OPERATION: Well, you got to think about it. Putin was a career KGB officer who lived through the fall of his country. Oftentimes we don't pay enough attention to that. In his view, the Soviet Union fell apart because it was weak. When push came to shove, they were not brutal enough. They did not use their power and strength to keep the country together.
And so when you talk about Reagan-Gorbachev, I think Putin looks at Gorbachev is a weak leader, someone who led his country down and he's very convinced and feels very strongly that he will not do that. He will keep Russia strong.
BURNETT: So Clarissa, there's an issue here, when Putin talks about his power and who he admires, he doesn't want to talk about opposition, specifically the leading opposition, Alexei Navalny, the jailed leader. You've done extensive reporting on him. You went to Russia. You tried to track down the FSB toxins team members who were in proximity with Navalny when he was poisoned. You had been tracking him. You actually found out who these guys were and you went and knocked on one of their doors, here's what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: (Inaudible) Clarissa Ward (inaudible) with CNN. My name is Clarissa Ward. I work for CNN. Can I ask you a couple of questions? (Inaudible) Navalny? Was it your team that poisoned Navalny, please? Do you have any comment? He doesn't seem to want to talk to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Clarissa, could this topic upend the entire summit?
WARD: I don't think it will upend the entire summit because the lines have so clearly been drawn. President Putin has said that he will not indulge in any discussion about Alexei Navalny. Although, of course, he'll never actually say his name. That's part of one of his many tactics to diminish his importance.
The reality is he sees him as a threat. But he also sees this as a domestic political Russian issue and he has made it very clear that he won't bring it up or discuss it. President Biden has made it equally clear that he absolutely intends to bring up Alexei Navalny in conversation. There is not going to be any meeting of minds between the two leaders on this topic and indeed on many topics.
But I honestly think that's going to be like the appetizer, Erin. And then when they're done saying their pieces, they'll sit down for the main course, which will be trying to find those key albeit maybe small areas where they can potentially find some common ground, some strategy to cooperate, some further guarantee of dialogue.
BURNETT: So John, one thing that's interesting that Angela talked about is that you try to establish some sort of rapport and that's something that Joe Biden is very good at. And one way he does that is sort of humanizing people, connecting, talking about your family, knowing a detail about you.
And on this, this is actually kind of fascinating, so Biden talks about his family all the time, they're always with him. Putin is the polar opposite. They don't even say his daughter's names. It's like a tabloid thing to try to figure out who are his kids and who he's dating. But Oliver Stone in the propaganda interview that he did, because Stone and Putin were friendly, actually asked him about it and here's the exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PUTIN: Right now, my daughter are staying here and we agreed to have dinner after my meeting with you.
OLIVER STONE: The two daughters are married and they bring their husbands, so you meet your son-in-laws on the weekend.
PUTIN: Yes, they have their own family life and we need of course.
STONE: So are you a grandfather yet?
STONE: How do you like your grandchildren?
STONE: So are you a grandfather? Do you play with them in the garden?
PUTIN: Very seldom unfortunately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: John, I mean, it was pretty incredible. He's there with this propaganda interview with Oliver Stone, who's a fan of his, and he's not comfortable with this, but Stone asked this, he's talking about it, he's a grandfather and yes they have children, and yes he sees them on the weekends.
That's a part of Putin that he does not like to talk about. One of his daughters was recently, just a couple weeks ago, supposed to be speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, but no one in Russia will actually even say if that woman is his daughter. And now Biden is clearly going to bring this up. How does this play?
SIPHER: Well, obviously, Biden loves personal diplomacy. He knows world leaders and he's been around forever. And, of course, this isn't his first rodeo. He's dealt with Putin before, so he understands. He's been briefed by Ms. Stent and others that this is a red line for Putin. This is something he doesn't talk about, so people in Russia don't talk about his family, his divorce, his wife and his children.
And frankly, Putin's personality is important here. I think Biden has to understand it, but I don't think he can manipulate it. Frankly, Putin has been the one that's been consistent over the past 10, 15 years. The U.S. has been all over the map. We talk tough, we do reset, President Trump comes in.
But Putin's long made it clear that he's interested in a form of political warfare with the west, we're the enemy. He has not altered that stance at all despite which President we've engaged with. And there's a logic to his approach, when we pay that much attention to Russia, if there weren't these constant provocations and the power of disruption is his superpower and he's going to continue to do it and I think President Biden understands that.
BURNETT: It's a pretty crucial point. And, of course, I just want to remind you that every human being, it comes down to the human aspects of them and he as well, not outside the realm of humanity. Thank you both very much. I appreciate your time.
And next breaking news, 21 Republicans voting no to awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to officers who responded to the deadly insurrection. We're going to tell you who they are.
Plus, Trump's former chief of staff refusing to answer questions tonight about emails he sent pressuring the acting Attorney General to investigate voter fraud conspiracies. And breaking news tonight, Trump's longtime Chief Financial Officer could face charges as soon as this summer. This according to a report just breaking in the New York Times. So what could this mean for Trump?
BURNETT: Break breaking news, the House voted overwhelmingly for 406, I'm sorry, to 21 to award the Congressional Gold Medal to all officers who responded to the events of January 6th. OK. So then you would be forgiven for saying, OK, who voted now? Who are the 21 people who voted not to do that?
Well, here they are on your screen. They all happen to be Republicans. Many of whom continue to downplay what happened on January 6th and to push Trump's election fraud lie. Manu Raju is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill. Manu, look, this was a pretty simple thing to award and honor the heroism that everyone acknowledged occurred that day by Capitol Police. Tell me more about the people, the 21 people who actually came up and said no.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of them have not simply commented yet despite a request for comment. One of them be Andy Biggs who's the Leader of the House Freedom Caucus, which is the conservative part of the House Republican Conference. He ignored my question when I asked him why he did vote against this.
Others have been consistent in downplaying the attack, the deadly attack that occurred at the hand of the pro-Trump mob on January 6th, people like Andrew Clyde who compare that day to a 'normal tourist visit'. He was among the 21 who voted against awarding the congressional police, the U.S. Capitol Police, the Metro Police and others within the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest honor that Congress could give here.
But also others voted to overturn the electoral results or simply question the electoral results. People like Andy Harris of Maryland. So it's consistent from a number of these members. One of them, Marjorie Taylor Greene, the controversial freshman from Georgia said she did not want to characterize what happened that day as a 'insurrection', which is how the language of this proposal characterizes what happened here, even though what we saw on that day here was efforts to try to stop Joe Biden the certification of his win by Congress.
And some also too, Erin, voted against this, despite supporting a separate version of this proposal back in mid-March. One of those is Jody Hice who is a conservative from Georgia. He voted for that initial version of that bill in mid-March.
Five days later, though, he jumped into the Secretary of State race in Georgia to take on Brad Raffensperger, the incumbent Republican who Donald Trump has gone after for certifying Joe Biden victory there and Hice himself got the support of Donald Trump in that. And right here, Erin, he voted against giving this Congressional Gold Medal.
We've reached out to his office to clarify why he changed his position. So it's consistent with a lot of these lawmakers. Even some of them have shifted a bit in the past few months here, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much. I have to say I do find it stunning, those officers were there that day they defended the Capitol. Some of them seriously injured, some dead, 21 Republicans voted to not give them the Congressional Gold Medal. It's truthfully hard to understand.
I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia who's on the Oversight Committee. Congressman Connolly, what's your reaction to the 21 Republicans who voted against this Congressional Gold Medal to the officers who responded on January 6th?
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): I think this is a new low for this crowd. They voted to overturn an election, but in their vote today, they kind of sealed the deal of basically affiliating with the mob. They now are part of the insurrectionist mob. They brought enormous disrepute and dishonor on themselves in not honoring the brave men and women who defended the Capitol of the United States, everybody in it, but also defending the symbol of democracy in the world, not just here in the United States.
BURNETT: So several of the members who voted no say they take issue with the word insurrection. Today, the FBI Director testified before your committee. He also wouldn't call what happened on January 6th an insurrection. He didn't go off the dictionary definition, which of course it fits. He claimed legality. Let me just play what Director Wray said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Or for me, in my role, to use the word insurrection because it has legal meanings, very specific legal meaning that's something that I would only want to be doing in coordination with the Justice Department and the prosecutors and charges brought to that effect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So Congressman, Wray clearly citing legality not using the actual dictionary definition of the word. What's your reaction to what he said?
CONNOLLY: Well, he's being very juridical and he's kind of using the word in the narrowest legal terminology. But I think for most of us in the media, in the public and certainly here in Congress, it was what it was an insurrection, an armed insurrection pre-planned by a lot of the participants.
And so you can quibble over words and in quibbling over the words, you're contributing to the denial of what in fact happened. And I don't want to be an enabler with respect to that. It was an insurrection. Everybody could see it on television. Those of us who are here experienced it as such and I think we need to call it what it is.
BURNETT: So Democratic Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney pressed Director Wray over missed warning signs ahead of the attack and one of them that she brought up specifically was from the social media app Parler. It's very popular with members of the far right, let me just play this exchange for you, Congressman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): The system was blinking red. The Committee has obtained documents showing that social media company Parler sent the FBI evidence of planned violence in Washington, D.C. on January 6th. Parler referred this content to the FBI for investigation over 50 times.
WRAY: I do not recall hearing about this particular email, certainly not before January 6th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Congressman, obviously, Wray is telling the truth. He doesn't recall hearing about it. Parler referred the content to the FBI 50 times, 50 times talking about violence in January 6th, it never got to the Director of the FBI. How concerning is this to you?
CONNOLLY: Very concerning And I followed up that questioning with a report from the Norfolk, Virginia Field Office of the FBI the day before warning about violent insurrection here at the Capitol. And again, Director Wray claims that he never saw that nor was it ever provided that he knows of to the sergeant at arms or the Capitol Hill Police Chief at the time.
So there was a huge breakdown in the intelligence and frankly somebody at the FBI exercise bad judgment in deciding this to reach a level of gravity that merited the attention of the FBI Director himself.
BURNETT: All right. Congressman, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
CONNOLLY: My pleasure, Erin. Thank you.
BURNETT: All right. And next, new emails reveal how Trump's allies pushed the Justice Department to investigate the big lie, including, OK, prepare yourself for this one, this conspiracy theory they were looking into was whether Italy was using military technology and satellites to change votes in the United States.
And breaking news, The New York Times reporting the Chief Financial Officer of Trump Organization could be facing charges over the next two months. This is a stunning development for the former president. What could this mean for Trump?
BURNETT: New tonight, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows refusing to comment on emails, and these emails show that he pressured the Justice Department to push Trump's lie that the election was stolen and that he urged the DOJ to investigate.
The emails showing Meadows were just one of several aides, or several Trump allies that was part of this widespread effort, which also included trying to pressure then Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen an hour before Trump announced he would be replacing Bill Barr as acting attorney general. So, hey, in one hour, I'll give you this.
Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, newly released emails revealed how President Donald Trump's allies pressured then acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to investigate false allegations that the 2020 election had been stolen.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: This election was stolen.
SCHNEIDER: As Trump repeatedly made the false claims in the weeks after the election, emails show repeated efforts from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to justice officials asking them to probe questionable reports about voter fraud around the country and even a conspiracy theory floated by an ally of Rudy Giuliani that Italy was using military technology and satellites to somehow change votes.
Rosen rejected the efforts, emailing his deputy, Richard Donohue, I flatly refused, said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his witnesses and reaffirmed yet again that I will not talk to Giuliani about any of this.
When Meadows later sent Rosen a YouTube link about the Italian satellite conspiracy, Rosen forwarded it to his deputy who responded with the words "pure insanity."
The emails also show Meadows pushed DOJ to investigate fraud claims being made by Trump ally, Cleta Mitchell, the lawyer who is on that call with Trump January 2nd when he pressured Georgia officials to find him votes.
TRUMP: Look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes which is one more than we have, because we won the state.
SCHNEIDER: One day before that call, Meadows emailed Rosen saying there were allegations of signature match anomalies. In Fulton County, Georgia, asking justice officials to investigate. Rosen forwarded the email to Donohue and said, can you believe this? I'm not going to respond to the message below.
It wasn't just Meadows. The emails show Trump's assistant sent Rosen and Donohue a document claiming voter fraud in Antrim County, Michigan. And Private Attorney Kurt Olson contacted DOJ with a draft lawsuit challenging the election results and asking for a meeting. His email said I have been instructed to report back to the president this afternoon after the meeting. It doesn't appear the meeting ever happened.
Days before the January 6 insurrection, after weeks of pushing back, another DOJ official wrote in an email, it sounds like Rosen and the cause of justice won.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is on the judiciary committee and pledged an investigation into the efforts.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): They were using the power of the White House, the executive to undermine our separate but equal powers. We as a Congress cannot stand for that. You can be assured a deep investigation may result in actions that will move this to a criminal realm.
SCHNEIDER: But Republican Jim Jordan says the emails from Trump's allies were perfectly appropriate while the response wasn't.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): That is a problem. When the president -- when the chief of staff to the president of the United States asks someone in the executive branch to do something and they basically give him the finger, I think that's the problem we should be looking into. But that's not what the Democrats are going to look into.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): Now, despite Congressman Jordan's objections, the House Oversight Committee is moving forward with its inquiry. Democratic Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, Erin, she's asking for testimony from Meadows, Donohue and former DOJ Official Jeffrey Clark who reportedly met with Trump in the weeks after the election.
Of course, as for Meadows, our CNN producer Ali Main spotted him at the Capitol today. He declined to comment -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jessica.
And this comes as Republicans across the country are helping Donald Trump continue to spread the big lie that the election was stolen from him. You know, you just need to look as far as Arizona when that Trump supported audit is going on. It has become the hot spot for GOP officials across the country.
They've actually been traveling there, sort of like a pilgrimage to observe the audit, use it to make the case for audits elsewhere.
OUTFRONT right now is Stephen Richer. He is the Republican recorder of Maricopa County in Arizona and a very strong critic of this audit. And, Stephen, you know, as you and I spoke, and I know that you don't speak lightly and you've waited to speak until you feel that it is -- it is crucial to do so.
And then, as you've spoken, you've courageously stood up to this, to this lie that the president -- former president continues to push. You've defended the integrity of the election in your state. So what do you make of these emails that show just how far President Trump and his allies went to pressure the Justice Department to push this lie about the election?
STEPHEN RICHER (R), MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA RECORDER: Well, thanks for having me back, Erin. Really appreciate it.
And, you're absolutely right, that we did not want to jump into this, but when our integrity was called into question, that's when we got involved. Regarding the Department of Justice, they've been consistent. We were not breached by foreign actors. We've had foreign actors target Arizona in the past, but it seems that was not the case in 2020.
CISA has been explicit that we have no been breached by foreign actors. And whether it's Barr or whether it's Rosen, they've consistently said there was no widespread error to cause this election to go into doubt.
BURNETT: So, that's the bottom line. Those are the facts. And yet, I don't know if you just heard one of these emails, but this stood out to me.
OK. Jessica Schneider laying out this email from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, sending the acting attorney general a YouTube link about a theory, a theory, Stephen, that Italy was using military technology and satellites to change votes in the U.S. You're no stranger to conspiracy theories in your state. I'm sure you can give me a few more that would leave my jaw on the floor, but this one is pretty stunning.
How far fetched is this theory even is?
RICHER: Well, I mean, as an attorney, just like the hard working people in the DOJ, I know that's why we have a court system. And some of this stuff might sound crazy, but some of it turns out to be true. So we test it.
But all this that has gone up to the courts has failed miserably. And our election has been upheld at every single turn. We've had eight court challenges here in Maricopa County and the county has won all eight of them affirming the validity of our 2020 elections.
BURNETT: So President Trump has repeatedly praised the audit taking place in Arizona right now, despite the fact that you've already had two others, you've had those eight court challenges all just in Maricopa County.
Here is Jackson Lahmeyer, he's a Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Oklahoma, taking the pilgrimage to Arizona to the audit. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON LAHMEYER (R), OKLAHOMA SENATE CANDIDATE: This is a logistical masterpiece. It's so amazing because they're not looking for predetermined answer. They're searching for the truth.
We don't just need this here in Arizona. We need this in several other states like Georgia. We need this in Pennsylvania, and Michigan, because what happened in 2020, it can never happen again.
You know, in Oklahoma, 77 of our 77 counties supported President Trump. We believe that that was a stolen election. In fact, I believe it was a stolen election.
So we are supporting this effort right here because we want to find out what really happened in 2020.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Stephen, what would you say to him if you were sitting there talking to him, trying to explain the truth?
RICHER: I would say, one, thanks for visiting Arizona. The summer is not our high tourism season, so thank you for visiting.
In more seriousness, if only what he was saying was the truth, if only what he was saying about there not being a predetermined result and this being professional was the truth. We're not anti audit. We're anti this audit.
We're not -- we think this is being done in an unprofessional manner by conspiracy theorists who already stated their opinions regarding the 2020 elections. If you were designing an audit from scratch that had to win wine spread support across the Arizona electorate, this isn't how you would design it. I think Republicans are starting to realize that.
We've had a popular conservative radio pundit come out against it, former governor Jan Brewer come out against it. So, look, we're not anti-audit. We're not anti-checks. We're not anti-making sure everything is on the up and up. But this isn't that.
BURNETT: No, it isn't. Of course, you've been -- you've been pro-truth and spoken out courageously.
Again, Stephen, I appreciate it. I appreciate you talking to me and I thank you.
RICHER: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
BURNETT: And next, the breaking news. "The New York Times" reporting the Trump organization chief financial officer could face charges as soon as this summer. This is a crucial development. What sort of charges could he be facing?
Plus, tonight's inside look, New Yorkers picking a new mayor. With days until the election, it's anyone's race. I'm going to talk to one of the leading progressive candidates Maya Wiley who has the backing of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
BURNETT: Breaking news: One of Donald Trump's top executives at the Trump organization could face criminal charges as soon as this summer. "The New York Times" just reporting that the Manhattan district attorney's criminal tax probe into Allen Weisselberg, the long-time chief financial officer of the Trump world appears to be in its final stages. This would be a major development. An indictment would mark the first criminal charges related to the financial fraud investigation into Trump and the Trump organization.
OUTFRONT now, Elie Honig, CNN senior legal analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
So, Eli, we're finding out here that the charges could come as soon as this summer. If Allen Weisselberg does face charges, as I said, this is the first indictment that would happen, and it's a powerful indictment, right? A guy who's worked with Trump for decades and knows everything there is to know about the finances.
How big of a deal would this be for Donald Trump?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, Erin, this is a huge make- or-break moment. In fact, we are on the brink of, right now, two make- or-break decisions.
First of all, prosecutors are going to need to sit down, assess all their evidence and decide do we have enough evidence to indict Allen Weisselberg. If so, then the big decision is does Allen Weisselberg flip?
And make no mistake, whether he flips is going to mean everything for this investigation. He's the exact right person to target to try to flip. He's in the inner circle. He's the only person not named Trump who is in the inner circle of the Trump Org. If they flip him, he can open up a universe of evidence. That's going to be a huge moment.
BURNETT: And, of course, his ex-daughter-in-law has been very clear talking to me that he would flip to protect his family and to avoid a prison sentence.
So, what does it tell you, Elie, about the pace of this investigation, right? I mean, we know that Cy Vance who is going to leading this up, right, he's going to be leaving office by November and was expected to make a charging decision. But this is as soon as this summer.
It appears -- it appears to possibly change the timeline here and accelerate it. What's the significance of that?
HONIG: Yeah, it tells me that prosecutors are moving quickly, and they have to, Erin, because like you said, Cy Vance is out of there at the end of the year. The grand jury is only empanelled really until the end of the year. That can be extended or sort of drawn back.
But they need to move quickly. And the decision whether Allen Weisselberg will cooperate, I can tell you, nobody can predict that. I've seen many people faced with this dilemma. It is a complex personal decision. It depends on the strength of the evidence. It depends on how much jail time they're facing.
And, bottom line, Erin, it depends on loyalty. Who is Weisselberg loyal to? Was he loyal enough to the Trump Org, to take a risk if he's charged, of possibly going to jail or is he going to do whatever he has to do to try to save himself?
BURNETT: Well, I would imagine. Amazing to me anybody in this situation who wouldn't try to save themselves, but your point is well- taken, Elie.
What is this reporting, though, this new reporting from "The New York Times," tell you about what types of charges Weisselberg could be facing, especially when you're getting into this issue of prison time?
HONIG: Yeah. So, prosecutors seem to be looking to make tax charges against Allen Weisselberg. The basic gist is that he was paid by the Trump Organization, not directly in a paycheck, like but in the Trump organization paying for tuition, for cars, for apartments. Now, that can be a lot of income. And normally, that kind of income is taxable.
So, if they were doing this to try to get around the taxes, to try to beat having to pay taxes, that could be a tax fraud charge.
Now, a lot is going to depend on the amount here because tax fraud charges can be as minor as a misdemeanor under New York state law, meaning nobody is going to flip on a misdemeanor. You don't go to jail. Or they could be as serious as up to seven years per year of tax fraud. So, he could be looking at very little time or very serious time. That's going to be a huge factor when he's deciding whether to flip.
BURNETT: All right. Elie, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
HONIG: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, New York City's mayoral race, the biggest city in the United States, centered on police and crime, surged in crime, as the city struggles to get a handle on violence. Candidate Maya Wiley, who says she'll cut the police department's budget in the face of a crime surge, is OUTFRONT.
BURNETT: Tonight, a major milestone in New York, as all state's coronavirus restrictions are lifted. Now, New York City will shift its focus on recovering from the pandemic which will largely fall on the city's next mayor. And with just one week until the primary election, it is still anybody's contest.
Now, we've spoken to two of the candidates, Eric Adams and Andrew Yang, over the past few days, and we're interviewing the top contenders of this rank choice voting race, which makes it incredibly hard to predict who will be the mayor of America's largest city.
OUTFRONT now in tonight's "Inside Look", New York City mayoral candidate Maya Wiley. She's been endorsed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and she also served as legal counsel to the current mayor, Bill de Blasio.
So, Maya, really appreciate your time.
And, you know, with the news today of New York moving to the next stage of recovering from the pandemic, Mayor de Blasio says there will be no more remote learning come September for New York City public school students. Six hundred thousand students, though, chose remote learning this year and some parents are pushing back against the plan.
One tells "The New York Times" and I quote this parent: The idea that we could be choosing home-schooling or charters is offensive to me. How could the city essentially force us back, force us to make a choice that is not acceptable to us?
This certainly complicates the metrics here. What do you say to those parents who want a permanent remote option of some sort?
MAYA WILEY (D), NEW YORK CITY MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Well, look, first of all, let's just acknowledge that it was a horrible year for teachers, for students, for parents, and there was far too little clarity and consistency about how the city was going to handle education.
And what we've seen and learned, and this is so important, is that the vaccine penetration is important. It's been working, and I believe we have to follow both the public health experts and what they tell us is safe and make sure that we're communicating to parents.
So, we know from public health experts that we did not see a lot of spread of coronavirus in schools. In fact, it had very low rates.
WILEY: And a pretty good way of responding to it.
So, what we have to do is make sure that we are being as informative as we can to our parents, ensuring that our kids who want to come back to school come back and actually use this summer to do that work and make sure that there are reasonable options for people who have reasonable concerns.
BURNETT: All right. So, open to reasonable options.
So, I want to ask you about something else, you know, that mirrors what many people across the country are seeing but certainly here in the biggest city. Those stunning pictures out of Washington Square Park in downtown Manhattan where police have been trying to get a handle on huge gatherings of hundreds of people every weekend, along with drug use in that park.
According to "The New York Post", two people were knifed, a man was robbed, a cook was assaulted at a nearby diner, and that was all this past weekend.
Here is how Mayor Bill de Blasio responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: We've had a number of nights where things went pretty smoothly. We've had a few nights where they didn't. But its' going to, I think, lead to a natural outcome here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: As mayor, would you act or would you wait for a, quote, natural outcome here?
WILEY: Well, as mayor, I will act, and I'll tell you exactly how I will act.
One, make sure that the New York City Police Department is doing the job of policing. That means it is perfectly appropriate to have police presence so that if a crime is being committed, the police can respond quickly and appropriately.
But look, this is also a critical issue that is a mental health crisis. It's a homelessness crisis. It's a substance abuse crisis. It is a mental health crisis. And we spent $3 billion a year in this city to house people in congregate shelters that they don't want to be in without support services that actually address the problem.
I'm going to have outreach workers proactively going into parks, going into subways, doing the outreach to get folks into services and supportive housing and actually solve the problem before one occurs and before there's any violence. That's the balance approach. It's a smart approach and we need to do it in the city.
BURNETT: So, you were very clear, you would act and you believe there should be a police presence. You were clear that they could respond quickly to a crime if it was happening.
But I know your final debate is coming up here, and you are facing some backlash for a moment from the last debate when you wouldn't clearly say whether you would take guns away from police officers or not.
So, I want to play that moment again first for our viewers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBATE MODERATOR: So, will you take the guns away from the NYPD?
WILEY: I am not prepared to make that decision in a debate. I am going to have a civilian commissioner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Here is what your opponent Eric Adams said to me the next day about what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I was really disappointed when I heard her hesitate on the answer, will you take guns away from police officers, while we're experiencing an uptick in gun violence, 10-year-old children are shot and killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So I know you've been clarifying your position but can you answer? I mean, it's a really crucial question for New Yorkers.
BURNETT: I mean, would you take guns away from police officers or not?
WILEY: Erin, I have answered this question. Let me be very clear because it's important to be clear.
No, I would not. And this has never been anything that I have ever suggested, and no progressive that I know of in this race and no candidate. It simply is not the conservation in this race.
My policing platform is on my website at MayaWileyForMayor.com.
WILEY: You will see no preference to that.
But let's really be clear what we're talking about, because part of what I was trying to keep us focused on in this debate is the actual choice we are facing in this election, which is one where we either get smart about policing, make sure there's true accountability and make sure we're investing in the kinds of community programs. Including in Far Rockaway, where we had that horrific shooting and awful death of a 10-year-old boy where the violence interrupters who have been successful at preventing the gun being shot in the first place were asking for social workers, for trauma informed health services.
That's the call we have to answer to balance both smart policing and investing in communities and creating the relationship we need.
BURNETT: Maya Wiley, thank you very much. I appreciate your time, of course, heading into this crucial race.
We will continue talking to the top candidates in the race. Kathryn Garcia will join me on Thursday.
Thanks for joining us.
Anderson starts now.