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Erin Burnett Outfront

Vote To Advance Voting Rights Bill Fails As McConnell Says "Nothing Is Broken" With System Despite GOP's State-Level Bill Blitz; Schumer Says McConnell Is Using "Language And The Logic Of Southern Senators In The '60s" To Block Voting Rights Bill; Interview With Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT); MI GOP Calls For Audit, Claims Computer "Manipulated" Votes; Soon: Polls Close In New York City Mayoral Primary; Record Job Openings In U.S., Not Enough Workers To Fill Them. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 22, 2021 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Dr. Myron Rolle, as usual thanks so much for joining us.

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"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, the sweeping federal Voting Rights Bill dead tonight as Sen. Mitch McConnell says there's nothing to fix and he's OK with dangerous shenanigans like the Arizona election audit.

Plus, Dr. Anthony Fauci says the Delta variant is the greatest threat to progress against COVID in the United States of America. We're learning tonight it may account for one in five infections across the U.S. Dr. Sanjay Gupta with new reporting tonight.

And the billionaires' race to space, Richard Branson versus Jeff Bezos. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, the Democrats' voting bill is dead. The Voting Rights Bill which would have been the most far- reaching federal election overhaul in decades killed before there was even a debate on this crucial issue. Democrats needed 60 votes to move the bill ahead. They only had 50, which would have been enough if Democrats agreed to gut the filibuster rules. But a handful of Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema are dead set against that.

And with zero Republicans backing the bill, its fate is sealed. Leading the opposition for Republican, Sen. Mitch McConnell who says nothing is wrong with America's voting system.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): There's nothing broken around the

country. The system upheld very well during intense stress in the latter part of the previous Congress.


BURNETT: That was a reference to January 6th. Now, let's just point out one thing. He is right, the 2020 election was free and fair if that's what he was saying. The most so in history according to Donald J. Trump's election cyber security chief. But to say nothing is broken, that is not true. Just look around the country right now. McConnell knows it's not true.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you OK with states like Arizona, that's conducting its own audit to throw into question Joe Biden's victory there?

MCCONNELL: I'm OK with the states sorting this sort of stuff out and so regardless of what may be happening in some state, there's no rationale for federal intervention. They'll figure it all out. They'll go to court.


BURNETT: Of course, (inaudible) these courts and figure it out. A third of this country still believe the election was rigged and Trump is president. Look, the sham audit in Maricopa County, Arizona is illegitimate and that is what happens when things are broken. Let's be clear. Some Republicans in Arizona though are standing up to the lies of that audit too.


STEPHEN RICHER, (R) MARICOPA COUNTY RECORDER: Just stop indulging this, stop giving space for lies.

MIKE BROOMHEAD, CONSERVATIVE ARIZONA TALK RADIO HOST: They have allowed it to turn into a very biased audit where they're speaking only to the people that already believed ahead of time that the election was stolen and they haven't really produced any evidence to the contrary.


BURNETT: The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, four out of its five members are Republican, unanimously oppose that audit saying it's time to end this for the good of the Senate, for the good of the country and for the good of the Democratic institutions that define us as Americans. The audit is being conducted by a group called the Cyber Ninjas.

They have been scrutinizing ballots for traces of bamboo fibers, cheese dust. That audit has been going on for 60 days. It's way, way, way overdue off of any promise. Arizona has not 'sorted this stuff out' as Trump supporters and QAnon followers are clinging to every development. They're ready. They're ready for the date. They're ready for this to come out. Trump is pouring gasoline on the fire.


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


BURNETT: So the former President makes all this stuff up, just completely makes it up. He's still saying it's a rigged election. But McConnell says nothing is broken. Nothing is broken when it comes to the American Democratic system.


MCCONNELL: There's nothing broken around the country.


BURNETT: It's actually also news what he said if you believe him to many members of his own party who echo Trump's belief that the election was rigged, who believe Trump should be reinstated. Republicans who in fact are passing laws to fix what they say is a broken system.

According to the Brennan Center, 14 states already have passed laws making it harder for Americans to vote and there are 61 more bills right now moving through state legislatures. All right. Now moments ago, Sen. Chuck Schumer using incredibly strong language to call out McConnell.



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If senators 60 years ago held that the federal government should never intervene to protect voting rights, this body would have never passed the Voting Rights Act. The Republican leader uses the language and the logic of the southern senators in the '60s who defended states rights and it is an indefensible position. For any senator, any senator, let alone the minority leader to hold.


BURNETT: Here's the thing about that, I just laid out some reasons why McConnell is dead wrong to dismiss the conversation about the voting system in America, to call him out for saying there's nothing broken about the system. He's wrong. But calling him a racist, which is what Schumer just did, for all intents and purposes, isn't productive and it doesn't tackle any of the serious conversations at all. It just shows more division.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill. And Manu, Republicans blocking the sweeping Voting Rights Bill. We know that. They were unanimous in doing so. But you have a handful of Senate Democrats who are opposed to eliminating the filibuster, which would have been the way to get this passed. You could have done it with a simple majority if you got rid of the filibuster, but that's not going to happen.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not. There's really no path forward to getting this bill into law. The Republicans are unanimous against it and Democrats are not on the same page about whether or not to reduce this filibuster from a 60 vote threshold down to a simple majority.

So many on the left are trying to push their members to get behind. One senator, Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii warned earlier today that if they don't change the filibuster, then their priorities will be stymied and that they could lose control of both chambers of Congress next year.

But that's not the way some Democrats like Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, others view this as well concern about changing the filibuster could ultimately undermine the institution altogether and come back to haunt them if they are in the minority.

Now, what they plan to do on this issue about voting and voting rights is they'll try to bring up the legislation again. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader said he may try to bring some version of this bill back up for another debate, but they'll almost certainly blocked again by Republicans.

In the meantime, they are trying to spotlight this issue going forward, Erin, I'm told that the Senate Rules Committee led by Democrats and Amy Klobuchar, the Chairwoman, plans to have a series of hearings in the days and weeks ahead, as well as one in Georgia, of course, the battleground states central to this issue about voting and voting rights. She plans to have a field hearing in that State. This will draw attention to the issue and Democrats want to make this an issue heading into the 2022 midterms, which is why it was important.

They believed to get the whole caucus unified, get Joe Manchin behind moving ahead to debate this proposal because they can argue, they believe that there's Republicans blocking efforts to ease access to voters' rights.

BURNETT: Right. And, of course, and I think it's so important you emphasized, it was moving forward to debate. Obviously, there were certain things in there Joe Manchin was not OK with and would not have supported it. He made that very clear. But this was a move to have those discussions.

You have more breaking news I understand though, Manu, on the investigation to the deadly insurrection on January 6th. Obviously, that failed by vote, but the House Speaker now has something else planned? RAJU: Yes. And I'm told by multiple sources who heard her remarks

today that she does plan to move ahead with creating a select committee in the House to investigate what happened in this building behind me on January 6th, the attack on this capitol. This came in the aftermath of Republicans in the Senate, filibustering legislation to create a bipartisan outside commission that would be evenly divided between the two parties.

Since then Pelosi has looked at other alternatives. She's weighed creating a Democratic-led SLED committee in the House and she has made that decision. I'm told she made it clear to her members in a meeting today. She called it a 'pursuit of truth investigation'.

So we're waiting for more details about who chaired this committee, how many members will be on it. But almost certainly, Erin, they'll have subpoena power, it will be led by Democrats, they'll have hearings and they argue they're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened here on that day, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much.

And I want to go now to Democratic Senator from Montana Jon Tester, a co-sponsor of the bill called the For the People Act. And Senator, not a single Republican voted for, obviously, and just to be clear for the bill would be for to discuss it to see if you were going to make changes or what you were going to do with it. There were also Democratic senators though, Manchin and Sinema among them, who don't want to gut the filibuster, so the bill is dead. What now?

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): Well, I think, look, there may be another run at it, so Leader Schumer may take another bite of this apple. But it is correct, Erin, the 50-50 vote was very, very discouraging. I think that in things like this and things like the January 6th commission, these should both be very, very bipartisan bills and they're not for whatever reasons I think in the commission, I think it's former President Trump that's directing the band on that one.


And, of course, on the Voting Rights Bill, it's obvious that Senator McConnell is telling everybody to vote no. In the end, I will tell you that this is not about Democrats or Republicans. It's about making sure we have a right to vote for a lawful legal citizens in his country without putting up undue obstacles. And I think if you take a look at what the legislature's have done since the 2020 election, we've seen obstacle after obstacle after obstacle being put up in a very partisan way.

BURNETT: So let me just replay what Sen. Schumer said. As you point out, Sen. McConnell has made it very clear, he's been the face of this, he's told people how to vote. All that is fair. But here's what Sen. Schumer just said about Sen. McConnell about the vote.


SCHUMER: If senators 60 years ago held that the federal government should never intervene to protect voting rights, this body would have never passed the Voting Rights Act. The Republican leader uses the language and the logic of the southern senators in the '60s who defended states rights and it is an indefensible position. For any senator, any senator, let alone the minority leader to hold.


BURNETT: Do you agree with what he said and how he said it or does using language like that very thinly veiled, calling someone a racist, and Jim Crow and evoking the 1960s, does that just make it even harder for you to try to work with Republicans?

TESTER: I don't know. We didn't get one vote, so I don't know that it gets much harder than that. I can tell you that it was more than just southern states that have messed around with elections since the 2020 election. Montana did away with the same day voter registration, did away with college students' IDs as a form of ID. And all that was done simply by Republicans with Democrats opposing it right down the line. I think that's been the case in every state.

So I don't know what Chuck's language, if it makes a darn bit of difference. Chuck's got a hard job. He's doing the best he can. In the end, we need to make sure that the voting rights that so many people have fought and died for in this country are available to everybody, not just a select few and that's really what S 1 is about.

BURNETT: So you brought up ID when you mentioned college IDs in Montana, Senator. So Democratic Senator Joe Manchin voted with your party today to advance this to discuss, but he's been very clear that he wants voter ID in the bill in some way.

And to be clear, you know as well as I know that the concept of voter id has overwhelming support among the American public. The latest number that we have has 80 percent from the new Monmouth poll of all Americans, 91 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Americans. This is a pretty overwhelming majority support a requirement that voters show ID to vote.

The new bill does not have voter ID in it, so I guess my question to you is if you wanted bipartisan support and a bill that reflects what the American people say they really want, I get there's nuance and detail, but why wasn't a requirement for voter ID in it instead of sort of this feeling that we don't need voter ID?

TESTER: My understanding is that there is voter ID that's very, very broad-based voter ID that's included in S 1 more than just a very few IDs are allowed, but very broad based IDs. And if it's not in the bill, that can be negotiated in.

The problem with Montana is they had specific IDs that were not broad- based at all and I think that happened in a lot of states. And I think we had to take a look and walk in the shoes of people who are trying to vote. They don't want to spend their life trying to figure this system out. They want to make it easier.

And by the way, when I got in the state legislature over 20 years ago, we work in a bipartisan way to make voting easier. That changed about 10 years ago and for whatever reason, whether it's Citizens United or whatever, now it's a very partisan issue. And I will tell you, this bill fix things like dark money and it fix things like ID and same day registration, which I think is a step in the right direction.

BURNETT: So many of your fellow Democrats want to get rid of the filibuster, whether it's for this bill or other things. They want to get rid of it. You have been open to changes to the filibuster, but you have not flat out called for its end. Does what happened today - how do you feel today, tonight after this?

TESTER: Well, I feel very disappointed in this vote, 50-50 vote, there's no way there should have been a 50-50 vote unless it wasn't given marching orders by the leader and I think that's very unfortunate. Look, I've said it before, I'll say it again, I think the filibuster makes legislation that will pass the test of time. But I also tell you that I didn't come here to get nothing done and I didn't come here to watch the filibuster be used as a weapon to stop good legislation.

I think the legislation on the January 6th commission was good legislation, it should had bipartisan support. I think S 1 today is good legislation that should have had bipartisan support, because quite frankly I think most Montanans and most Americans want people to be able to vote so their voices are heard at the ballot box.

BURNETT: So at this point do you feel like you're going to end up in a situation where you do get rid of the filibuster even though you're concerned about the long-term repercussions?


TESTER: Look, Erin, we'll analyze that situation when it comes about and we'll make the determination then. But like I said, these are two very important pieces of legislation to me. I was here on the 6th, I watched what was happening. It was very disturbing. I've watched what has happened with elections over the last 10 years in Citizens United. We need to get more transparency into our elections. We need to make it so people can vote.

BURNETT: Another crucial bill, obviously, core part of Biden's agenda is the infrastructure plan. And right now I know you're still trying to do this on a bipartisan basis. And you met today, your group that's been doing this bipartisan group met with the White House.

I know that there may be another meeting later today even or tomorrow. Sen. Manchin actually hopes there could be a deal, which is significant, given his position on this. What can you tell me, Sen. Tester, will there be a deal tomorrow?

TESTER: I left that meeting to come talk to you, Erin, and I'll be going back to it when this is over with. I think I'm very encouraged by the negotiations. We're certainly not there yet, but I know I've said this for several days, we are very, very close and I'm hopeful we can get an agreement very, very soon. I think time is of the essence on this and I think it'd be good for the country. I think an infrastructure bill would be very, very important to get

passed so that not only businesses get a fair shot, but we can compete with China. I think both of those are really important.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Sen. Tester, certainly Americans agree with you on it. It might be not all the specifics, but they want Biden infrastructure bill. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time, sir.

TESTER: Thanks, Erin. Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. He goes back into that meeting now.

And we, next, will talk about Republicans pushing a new far-fetched theory to fuel Trump's big lie. This time it's in the state of Michigan and it has to do with a computer that Republicans claim may have manipulated the vote tally. It didn't.

Plus, voting underway in New York City's mayoral race. Right now it's anyone's game, so who does the current Mayor, Bill de Blasio think has the upper hand? He's OUTFRONT.

And we've been following one restaurant owner since the beginning of the pandemic.





BURNETT: He made it through. But now he can't find workers, why?



BURNETT: New tonight, Republicans pushing another far-fetched election theory to help Donald Trump's big lie that the election was full of fraud and stolen. GOP commissioners and Sheboygan County, Michigan where Trump won with 64 percent of the vote, requesting a hand recount to investigate 'whether there's any evidence that any unauthorized computer actually manipulated the actual presidential election vote tally'.

This as State Republican Representative Steve Carr, who is also running for Congress next year calls for a statewide forensic audit. Whatever adjectives you want to put in front of the word audit, it seems to be the season we're in here.

OUTFRONT now, the Democratic Secretary of State of Michigan, Jocelyn Benson. And I appreciate your taking the time to come back with me. I'm sorry that every time it appears to be I'm talking about these shenanigans, which now appear to be going on in Sheboygan County. First, let me just give you a chance to lay this out, your reaction to

this county board. This is a county, by the way, that Trump won easily. They now want a hand recount to investigate whether computer manipulated its vote totals.

JOCELYN BENSON (D), MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes. I think there's a couple of things. One, in Michigan, we've already done over 250 actual legitimate audits, at the state level, at the local level in partnership with 1,300 Republican and Democratic clerks all done by the books, all affirming that the election results for an accurate reflection of the will of the people.

So beyond that, there are laws that protect access to our ballots, the equipment to ensure that the types of shenanigans we're seeing in Arizona don't come to fruition and the clerks in the counties at the local level have the authority to do official audits through EAC- accredited vendors. And so the clerk will continue to have that authority and our job at the state is to make sure, again, that the rules and the laws are followed to protect the security and sanctity of those election materials, ballots and the machines.

BURNETT: I think it is pretty incredible and people don't realize the specificity and the scientific nature of audits and they are both specific and scientific that you say that there's been 250 of them. I just think it's important for people to understand. It's not as if this happened and you all said it's close, trust us, we got it right. It's been checked and checked and checked.

So just to be clear though, on this theory that they're putting out there now, Secretary, can you say for sure there is no evidence that this occurred, this, whatever, computer that manipulated vote tallies?

BENSON: Yes. So I mean, this has been the most scrutinized election and probably in our state's history. And we have supported that scrutiny because I have faith in the sanctity and integrity of the elections. And so that's why we did more audits than we've ever done before in our state to look into concerns and because audits are important.

But audits are a secure review of election materials and procedures to affirm the results of an election. You can't just sort of throw things together and call it an audit if it doesn't comply with certain security regulations. In fact, it's very dangerous when you do that, because it allows for misinformation to flourish.

That unnecessarily and wrongly causes citizens to doubt their democracy and that's really what this is about. It's a continuation of that effort to sow seeds of doubt, to cause chaos and confusion, to ultimately deter people from believing in our democracy.

And that's what I'm fighting against every day because people should have a rightly placed faith in their vote, making sure that it counted. And that's why legitimate audits are important, but fake audits only cause more problems and really ultimately harm our democracy. BURNETT: So look, this has been going on well before Election Day when

these seeds were planted and then after all of these talks about audits and courts. So I don't want to imply that Arizona is new, but Arizona has become the focus. And you heard me mention your State rep Steve Carr calling for a statewide forensic audit in your state. He says, oh, this isn't about overturning the election. He just wants to verify the results.

And his reason, I quote him, is 'it's the number one issue I'm hearing about from people in the community'.


Now look, this is a chicken and egg and I'm not trying to actually go there on the whole chicken and egg nature of it, Secretary. But how much of this do you think right now this kind of rise in the inaudible level is because of the Arizona audit?

BENSON: Well, certainly it's achieving the goal of those behind it, which is keeping the big lie out there as part of the narrative, keeping this confusion alive. And the representative is right, the issues facing our democracy, the attacks on democracy is the biggest issue of our time.

But we have to look at the facts and what the attacks (inaudible) are is an attempt to dismantle people's faith in the process through misinformation. That's what we have to fight against not fuel fake audits or forensic audits, which aren't really a thing in the election community, as I've said repeatedly.


BENSON: So at the same time, I'm proud to stand by the results of our election and that's why we conducted so many official, secure, transparent audits. We even live streamed one of them just to give people who are looking at the facts and focused on the facts and sincere in doing that all the evidence (inaudible) to affirm the results of the election were accurate.

BURNETT: So let me just ask you, because you speak from the perspective of someone in a state. Done the audit, said let's look at it. Let's be transparent. And again, I want to emphasize to your point, there are specific terms one uses for various types of audit. There's specific processes. This isn't just like a really smart person in to count and have someone else recount.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell today talked about the Arizona audit and he says he has no concern about it for this reason. Let me just play the exchange.


RAJU: Are you OK with states like Arizona that's conducting its own audit to throw into question Joe Biden's victory there?

MCCONNELL: I'm OK with the states sorting this sort of stuff out. They'll figure it all out. They'll go to court. They'll determine whether or not there's any rational basis for this. That's not unusual in this country.


BURNETT: OK. So from where you sit in this broader conversation, are you glad he's saying I'm OK with the states sorting this out, that they're not trying to big foot or are you frustrated because you wish that Congress and Washington would understand the problem that you're seeing in States?

BENSON: Well, I'm frustrated that we don't seem to be learning from our own history, which is that a healthy democracy in America requires states to work with the federal government. The federal government provides a floor under the U.S. Constitution protections for every voter in every state and then the states become laboratories of democracy to build on that. That's how democracy is supposed to work.

And it is that partnership that's breaking down, when one side absolve themselves of any responsibility to affirm their constitutional duty to protect that one person one vote principle, which is really what we saw today in abdication of that commitment, that partnership that the federal government must play, if we are to ensure democracy truly works for everyone.

BURNETT: All right. Secretary Benson, I appreciate your time as always and I thank you.

BENSON: Thanks for having me, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And next, New Yorkers still heading to the polls. It is one of the most watched mayoral races in the country, America's biggest city. I'm going to talk to New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio about what he expects once these votes are counted tonight.

Plus, Dr. Fauci now warning the highly contagious Delta variant is the quote greatest threat in the fight against COVID. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has new reporting on the highly contagious strain.



BURNETT: Tonight, polls are closing in just over an hour in New York City where voters are casting ballots, and frankly, this incredibly unpredictable race for mayor because it's ranked choice. So if one doesn't get enough, then you go to two and it's this whole complicated algorithm.

The top contenders have been across talking to voters about the issues frankly that are plaguing the United States across this country, a surge in violent crime to the post pandemic recovery and what the economy is going to look like.

Polo Sandoval is OUTFRONT live from polling station in Brooklyn.

And, Polo, what are you hearing from voters there in this final hour?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, they know that it's not just unpredictable but it's also highly consequential. It's certainly not lost on these voters here, this Democratic primary in a heavily Democratic city, that when everything is said and done, and we know who emerges the number, then that will likely be the person who will lead the city as mayor.

Now, when it comes to the issues people are thinking about when they're coming out to the polls, I've had the opportunity to speak to many voters here. They say, some are affordable housing, unemployment. But one of the big issues is that when you touched on a little while ago and that's they want this issue, this overwhelming issue of crime in the city addressed. Here's what some voters had to say earlier today.


CLAUDIA GAILLARD, BROOKLYN VOTER: There's definitely a lot of crime going on in the city but there also needs to be a lot of training for police. So, it's one of those things where it's kind of a double edged sword.

DANIEL STRUSZCZYK, BROOKLYN VOTER: I know Maya Wiley wanted to, you now, move a billion out of the police budget to some other things, that I feel would help the community.

ADAM WEIL, BROOKLYN VOTER: We are talking about the vast inequality in the city, the racial inequality in the city.


SANDOVAL: So we mentioned consequential, we mentioned unpredictable, Erin, it's also quite fluid here. It's also the first time in New York City where voters are actually voting using ranked choice voting and basically whether doing here is that there for the opportunity to rank their top favorite candidates, in order preference here. Just to put it quite simply, as one of the voters told me filling out the name of topless or the person they want to win and then including after that those that they can actually live with for the next two years.

BURNETT: All right, Polo. Thank you very much.

I want to go now to the current mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio.

And, Mayor de Blasio, the final ballots obviously being cast as you and I are talking here, you know, and this whole right choice thing has made this so fascinating for the whole country to watch, right? You know, I go for one and then if that person doesn't win, who I want 2nd, 3rd, 4th, right? Everyone is dealing with this.

Who do you think has the upper hand?

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Erin, it is so fluid, I am on the edge of my seat personally because I have been through a lot of mayoral elections in New York City, I've never seen anything like this.


It's in some ways the most amorphous, fluid election we've ever seen. And right now, I think ranked choice is one of the big X-factors. Do people actually fill out multiple choices or do a lot of people just think of it the way they would have before, put their first choice and walk out? It's really unpredictable.

On top of that now, it's raining. That could really affect turnout. Turnout seems pretty low already, that could make it worse. This one is going to be potentially a real nail-biter.

And then, here's another curveball, we're probably not going to have a final result for several weeks because of the complexity of the count you need with the system.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, that's how -- I use the word algorithm and I'm sure, you know, the mathematicians out there will say I use the wrong word but you get the concept of what I'm saying.

So, you know, it, of course, got nasty as all races do at the end, and as perhaps races certainly can in New York. In a final twist, Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia decided to campaign together. And they were trying to take advantage of the ranked choice, sort of giving the impression of -- well, you know, put me as one of the other person as two, that was sort of the concept, to try and beat the person who from the polls seem to be ahead, Eric Adams.

Now, Adams fought back and said that this was an effort to suppress black votes. Here he is.


ERIC ADAMS (D), CANDIDATE FOR NYC MAYOR: For them to come together like they're doing in the last three days, they are saying that we can't trust a person of color to be the mayor of the city of New York.


BURNETT: Do you think that's fair, Mayor de Blasio?

DE BLASIO: I would say it differently. I would say that it was a little strange in the last few days to form an alliance rather than early on in the election. Obviously, you expect alliances between people who share views, not sure these two do.

So, I think it created a certain amount of confusion. I don't think it was so much about race as it is about yes, an effort to try to win the election but in a way that certainly raised eyebrows.

BURNETT: So, two of the mayoral candidates work for you. Maya Wiley was your counsel. Kathryn Garcia was sanitation commissioner. But you didn't endorse either one, why?

DE BLASIO: I decided -- I thought about this long and hard, Erin. Look, two people I respect -- worked for me for many years. Other folks in the rest I worked very closely with, including Eric Adams, the borough president of Brooklyn where I'm from.

It just didn't make sense to me in the end. I'm going to have to work with whoever is the winner on really strong transition. Look, this passing of the baton is not like normal elections. This is the middle of a pandemic and the recover. This has a seamless transition.

So, I decided it was best to stay back, keep my views to myself, and I'm ready to work with whoever wins.

New York City is coming back strong. It's really amazing to see the energy out there, the amount of economic activity, jobs coming back.

But this next mayor is going to have their hands full with this recovery for sure.

BURNETT: So, can I ask you one question because I'm curious? You talk about the ranked choice. When you went in and voted, and I know you voted, did you do multiple choice or did you just settle for one?

DE BLASIO: Oh, I was adamant, Erin, with everyone who spoke to, including to the public. We did -- we did millions of dollars of advertising, telling people please do all five, because otherwise --

BURNETT: So you did.

DE BLASIO: -- you can actually waste your vote. If you do one and your candidate doesn't make it through one of the early rounds, your vote is dead.

If you do all 5, your vote stays alive looking for home as it were with one of the remaining candidates.

I was pleading with people to choose five. We did a pizza topping contest to teach people --

BURNETT: I remember, yes.

DE BLASIO: -- how to think about it because every New Yorker has a strong opinion on pizza toppings. They certainly know the ones they can live with. So, we tried to key in to what New Yorkers really care about.

BURNETT: All right. So, I want to ask you one other thing that you have going on right now as mayor.

The Trump Organization is suing the city of New York because you announced after the January 6th insurrection that you're going to terminate the contract for one of Trump's golf courses. Now, they're suing you, and the lawsuit says, quote: Mayor de Blasio had a pre- existing, politically-based predisposition to determinate Trump- related contracts, and the city used the events of January 6th, 2021 as a pretext to do so.

Now, of course, your dislike for Trump is no secret. What's the response of this when I say that this was just a pretext, and it's all politically motivated?

DE BLASIO: Yes, so Erin, if that's the case, why didn't I do in 2015, '16, '18? No, I don't like Donald Trump but we were doing business with the Trump Organization. But what's changed things was the president of United States incited an insurrection, a violent insurrection against the U.S. government. He was then impeached by the House of Representatives, then multiple organizations disconnected from him, including the PGA, which we were depending on to provide a tournament at that golf course.

No, this is based on objective facts not personal views. If it was about personal views, it would've been a long, long time ago, I assure you.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Mayor Blasio. I appreciate your time tonight.

DE BLASIO: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, and next, a restaurant owner we introduce you to last year finally getting back on his feet after the pandemic, but now, he's struggling to keep his business running and you'll see exactly why. Plus our Dr. Sanjay Gupta with new reporting tonight on the Delta variant that could soon make up half of COVID infections in the United States.



BURNETT: And tonight's "Inside Look", record job openings in the United States and not enough people who seem to want those jobs.

But Labor Department reported an unprecedented 9.3 million job openings in April, but employees are still struggling to get workers. One story we've been covering since the very beginning of this pandemic is the story of a restaurant owner in L.A., says he's spending thousands of dollars to recruit people, still not getting enough applications.

OUTFRONT now is Tom Sopit. You know him. He is owner of the restaurant Employees Only in Los Angeles.

And, Tom, in terms of where you are right now, I mean, look, you know, people are back, things are reopening, I know that is transformational for you. But you've got to be able to get people to do the jobs.

How is the recruitment struggle impacting you right now?

TOM SOPIT, OWNER, EMPLOYEES ONLY: It's been really difficult. We've spent thousands of dollars on recruitment ads, just trying to get people through the doors before we put up an ad, we used to get 30, 40 resumes. Now we put up an ad, get 5, 6, 7 resumes. So it's a prolonged process. BURNETT: So, you know, we hear about companies now offering these

unprecedented perks to workers hiring bonuses, wage increases, help with student loan payments.


I mean, there's all sorts of creative things going on out there.

A lot of them are happening from big companies, from chains, right? You are a small business. You are trying to operate a restaurant. Is it -- is it even possible as a small business owner to compete with that?

SOPIT: Not really, because a lot of these bigger hotel chains and groups are able to add incentives, such as signing bonuses, just elevated pay, even medical insurance, and this is something a small business cannot afford. Our margins are already as thin as possible.

So, you know, we can't really compete at that level. We can't offer those same benefits as much as we want to. So, it's -- it's been a struggle for us.

BURNETT: All right. So, let's talk about how this could be fixed. Right now, in your state, California, nearly a million people still filing for unemployment. The state is continuing to offer enhanced unemployment benefits. So people who are filing for unemployment get an extra $300 their COVID relief funds weekly.

Obviously, there's been a lot of states across this country that have decided to end these enhanced benefits because they aren't set to expire until September.

Do you think that ending those now would be the best thing to do to get people back into the economy? I mean, is really what's holding people back?

SOPIT: I think it's part of the problem. You know, definitely, the additional $300 that people are getting right now, on top of the $400, that's more than minimum wage. They could just sit at home and make more money than they were before, especially for the lower wage positions.

And the other issue is for a Los Angeles specific, we are a transient city. So, a lot of people that moved out of the state have not really come back yet. All the aspiring actors and singers, they're just -- they make up a good majority of our workforce and hospitality. So, those are the two major problems that we're facing at the moment.

BURNETT: So, I began by saying it's great to see you because now you are talking about how to fully get employees and these are serious challenges. But I remember the first time I saw you, it was in march of 2020, and the world was in a very terrifying place. You didn't know whether your business would survive the shut down, you're trying to figure out how you live through this, you are so worried, your wife, your 2-year-old daughter.

Here is what you told our Kyung Lah on that day.



SOPIT: I'm concerned. Yeah. All we can do is help each other.


BURNETT: You know, when you hear yourself and you see your own tears, you remember that emotion. The fear and helplessness that you felt. How do you feel now? Do you feel you've really made it to the other side?

SOPIT: I think we are getting there. But you know, a year and a half ago, I was at a moment where I'm like, we are about to close down our business. I am about to lay off 40 plus employees and these are people I talk to and hang out with almost every day, and it was a really sad moment for me.

Now fast forward to today, we brought everybody back. We are doing better than ever. We are trying to open the indoors as well. We are essentially twice the size of our original restaurant. So, now, we need more people.

So, now, we have just a different challenge. But I'm definitely more grateful to be on this side.

BURNETT: I'm sure. Well, it's nice to talk to you and to see your smile.

SOPIT: Thank you. Great seeing you, too.

BURNETT: All right.

And next, Dr. Fauci with a very sober warning tonight about the highly contagious delta variant. Why he is calling the greatest threat.

And Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, two billionaires battling it out in a race to space.



BURNETT: Tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci calling the highly contagious Delta variant the greatest threat to the American attempt to eliminate COVID-19. That variant now spreading so rapidly in the United States that it's expected to become the dominant strain in the next few weeks, maybe even two.

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been reporting on this Delta strain all day and has some new reporting on this and he joins me now.

So, you know, Sanjay, we saw it. You know, it was -- it was just a few percentage points, we are saying it'll keep doubling and doubling, and now, here we are, looking at, you know, they say 50 percent of COVID infections in the United States in the next few weeks. Dr. Fauci says it's already at 20 percent of the samples they are testing and poses the greatest threat out there right now.

So, how serious is this variant?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a lot more transmissible, we know this. Sixty percent more transmissible than the U.K. variant, which was 50 percent more transmissible than the strain before that.

We can show you the graph here about how quickly things are progressing, and this isn't that big of a surprise. As you mentioned, every couple, weeks it's likely the percentage of cases that are Delta variant will double because it is going to out-run the other strains. I think what's important it is becoming clear, Erin, as we've talked about, it's a bright line now between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.

If you are vaccinated, you have new protection against this variant and against the U.K. or Alpha variant as well. We have real world data to look at from this and other countries around the world. It's very effective, 90 percent effective in terms of actually protecting you against getting severe disease. If you only get one shot, however, that's the far-right graph, that protection goes way down.

So, you have to sort of -- this reminds us. Remember we are talking with this earlier, should we give one shot to give as many people one shot versus two? That graph shows you why would that have not been a good idea.

BURNETT: So, you know, I want to ask you about it. Last night, we are talking about this for the government office in Manatee County where there is an outbreak in an office, to people so far dead, four hospitalized. There was one room 5 people, all got it except for the vaccinated person.

Manatee County administrator Scott Hope is the epidemiologist. He told me that 6 unvaccinated employees got in the two-week period. Like I said, the vaccinated person didn't get it. But one of the people, who now had, it had only the first shot, also hospitalized.

You know, to your point that if you are not hospitalized, I mean, if you aren't vaccinated, you are looking at four people, two of them died. And if you had one shot, that person's hospitalized as well.

GUPTA: Right. That sort of the thing, when you have a full immunity of these vaccines. What is really doing for you? It's not that you may necessarily become infected still. Even that one person with a one shot obviously got infected. It's really a question of how well it's going to prevent you from getting serious disease.

So, we know that, obviously, the fully vaccinated individuals, they are much less likely to get infected in the first place, but that critical component you are bringing up, even if you do get exposed to the virus as they clearly were, I mean, it was in the office building the virus gets inside the body, they might even test positive, breakthrough infection, but the idea that it won't be able to replicate and cause serious disease is the important point here.


I think -- I want to show you this graph about Florida, quickly, if I can, Erin. Even if you are an even unvaccinated person, moving around unvaccinated people, that's the big problem. That's the line in red.

You see the Delta variant is growing faster in those areas where it's primarily unvaccinated people. If you are an unvaccinated person living among a lot of vaccinated people, there might still have the Delta variant circulating, but you're less likely to get infected. It's all coming down to that, Erin.

BURNETT: It still comes down to that vaccine. I think the point you're making but something with this much more transmissible, it's there. It's going to find you. It's going to find you, right? That's the reality.

All right. Sanjay, thanks so much.

GUPTA: You've got it. Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And next, a new race to space, this time between two billionaires, Bezos and Branson. Big July.


BURNETT: Two billionaires battling it out over which of their companies will dominate the new frontier of space tourism.

Here is Rachel Crane.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we have liftoff.

RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The billionaire race into space is taking off. Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos competing to be the first into space with their space tourism flights.

Bezos' Blue Origin currently set to be the first stop with his historic spaceflight schedule to lift off on July 20th from West Texas on the 52nd anniversary of the moon landing. It seems the Amazon mogul leapfrogged Branson who many believe would win this race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sold, $28 million!

CRANE: And that's how much one unknown bidder is paying to be part of history, and take the 11 minute trip into space with Bezos.

JEFF BEZOS, AMAZON CEO: It's a thing I wanted to do all my life.

CRANE: The billionaire will also be joined by his brother Mark Bezos.

J. BEZOS: I want you to come with me. Would you?


J. BEZOS: I am.

CRANE: And a 4th unknown traveler. The journey is a sub-orbital flight and going 100 kilometers into space, allowing customers to have three minutes of weightlessness. And while basis Bezos is making all the headlines now, Virgin Galactic's tagline is to be the world's first commercial space line.

Does it sting a little bit that looks as if Virgin won't be, you know, the first, and that Blue Origin might win that part of this race?

RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GROUP: I will point out we've sent seven people into space and we've made five -- five new astronauts. We were the first of the space companies to get people up there. But we honestly don't see it as a race.

CRANE: Branson tweeted his congratulations to Bezos on their spaceflight plans. Virgin Galactic telling CNN while they remain on track to finish their final test runs, they have not set an official launch date.

Both space companies have had successful sub-orbital test flights over the past decade. Virgin Galactic had a set back in 2014, when it copilot was killed during a test flight of a previous model of their spacecraft.

But the company has since sold about 600 tickets at more than $200,000 each. A cost that's likely to go up.

So far, fewer than 600 people have been to space and whether it's Bezos or Branson, this first flight is short to kick off a new type of tourism. Allowing those that can stomach the price and the adrenaline rush and their own set of astronaut wings and bragging rights for life.

Rachel Crane, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: All right. Thanks to Rachel and thanks to all of you.

Anderson starts now.