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Erin Burnett Outfront

Biden Shifts Admin's Messaging, Now Telling Federal Employees to get Vaccinated or Face Regular Testing; L.A. Hospital Admitting Most COVID Patients Since Pandemic Began; McCarthy Calls Jan 6 CMTE "A Sham" When Asked if He'll Testify; Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) is Interviewed About the Police Reform Negotiations; Former CEO Donates $3.2M to Arizona Sham Audit. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 29, 2021 - 19:00   ET



WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suni Lee has it. Simone Biles was there, cheering her on and tweeting that she herself is receiving an outpouring support that's made her realize her accomplishments. Simone's accomplishments go beyond gymnastics.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Congratulations to Suni. We're so, so proud of her.

All right. Will, thank you very much.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Biden's message to the American public, "You don't have to die," as he gives federal employees a choice get vaccinated or get tested. Did the President go far enough? Is the nationwide mandate what's really needed right now?

Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell is speaking out after his gripping testimony before the January 6th Committee. What does he say to those who mocked and insulted him for having the courage to speak the truth?

Plus, the former CEO of now the biggest donor to the Arizona sham audit and the Cyber Ninjas who are conducting it. And it's not the first time he's dabbled in conspiracy theories.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, it is literally about life and death. Those are the words from President Biden as he announced that the nation's largest employer, the federal government, will tell its employees to get a vaccine or face regular testing.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every federal government employee will be asked to attest to their vaccination status. Anyone who does not attest or is not vaccinated will be required to mask, no matter where they were, test one or two times a week to see if they've acquired COVID, socially distance and generally will not be allowed to travel for work.


BURNETT: The President also urging states to use federal funding to give a hundred dollars to anyone who gets fully vaccinated and addressing why he stopped short of a mandate for the entire country.


BIDEN: It's still a question whether the federal government can mandate the whole country, I don't know that yet.


BURNETT: All right. Look, this is way more aggressive than we've seen Biden and the administration to this point and it is a big step in the right direction as the U.S. is now averaging nearly 64,000 new cases a day. But with only 49 percent of the United States fully vaccinated, this new push could be a lot stronger, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures like not like get vaccinated or get tested but get vaccinated or get out.

I mean, that is what we're seeing from more and more private companies. List of companies mandating vaccines continues to grow; Google, Netflix, Facebook, Morgan Stanley, The Washington Post, Saks Fifth Avenue, the department store chain. Their message is stronger than that of the government. They're saying get a shot or you're not welcome in the office.

And for some companies, this goes even farther. It includes workers, of course, but also any customers. Here's Danny Meyer, the founder of the burger chain Shake Shack.


DANNY MEYER, SHAKE SHACK FOUNDER: If you really want to go unvaccinated, you can dine somewhere else and you can also go work somewhere else.


BURNETT: He's not mincing words. These business leaders aren't mincing words when it comes to mandating vaccines. But the Biden administration has, up until this point, gone out of its way to make sure that they are not accused of anything, anything that resembles the M word, mandate.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We're not counting on vaccine mandates at all.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: But I think you won't see is a requirement from the federal government to have people get vaccinated.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You don't want to mandate and try and force anyone to take a vaccine.


BURNETT: Well, everyone who I just showed, though, in those sound bites has said and knows that in order to end the pandemic, the answer is vaccines.


WALENSKY: We need more people to get vaccinated to stop this pandemic.

MURTHY: The vaccinations remain the bedrock of ending this pandemic.

FAUCI: The end game of this all, George, is going to be to get people vaccinated.


BURNETT: Well, they couldn't be any more clear on that and the U.S. has a long way to go on vaccinations. Experts say 85 percent or more Americans need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity with variants like Delta and like I said only 49 percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated.

Many of the unvaccinated right now are Republicans. Most polling shows only 50 percent to 60 percent of Republicans are vaccinated compared to 80 percent to 90 percent of Democrats. And according to the last Kaiser poll, 38 percent of those who refuse to get the vaccine say it's because they don't trust the government.

And why would they when they hear comments like this on a daily basis from elected Republicans?


REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): I'm not vaccinated and until there's some science ...

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): I've just made my own personal decision that I'm not getting vaccinated.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I'm talking to doctors who have, since day one, been concerned about vaccinating people who've already had COVID, because you die, not of COVID, you die of the immune system overreaction to COVID.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): Don't come knocking on my door with your Fauci ouchie, you leave us the hell alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: So not only do some lawmakers claim they don't want to get

vaccinated, many of those lawmakers also have no desire to slow the spread. Today they're holding a press conference on the steps of the Capitol to accuse the President and the House Speaker of 'punishing Americans with a mask requirement'.

Perhaps if more Republican leaders had stood up to the misinformation before it spiraled out of control, things would be different now. Biden today praising McConnell after the Senate Minority Leader bought ads on more than 100 radio stations with this message.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): As a young boy, I faced a different disease: I contracted polio. Back then it took decades for us to develop a vaccine. This time, it took less than a year for us to develop three highly effective COVID vaccines. It's nothing short of a modern medical miracle. Every American should take advantage of this miracle and get vaccinated. It's the only way we're going to defeat COVID.


BURNETT: An important message from someone who had polio. Just imagine how much good that that kind of a loud public message could have done eight months ago when the vaccine was first approved. But when 33 percent of those non-vaccinated say they will definitely not get the shot, nothing is going to change their minds, certainly not a hundred bucks, no matter who pushes the message or what incentives are offered. Has the damage already been done?

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT live outside the White House tonight. And Jeff, the President taking on the unvaccinated in a more aggressive way, signaling there could be even stricter requirements going forward if there isn't more progress even as they're far short of what many private companies are doing already.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORREPONDENT: Erin, hearing President Biden today, there is no doubt we have not heard him really speak like this since the very beginning of the pandemic when he was first taking office saying look, I'm going to tell it straight to the American people. And he actually acknowledged the fact that the cases are going to rise. We have not heard him say that either.

So if you look at what's happened in the month of July when he stood on the South Lawn here at the White House and essentially celebrated independence from COVID, there's been a steady crescendo going forward to what we heard today. And a couple important points of that speech, by mandating not, using that word and stopping far short of it, but by requiring federal employees. They believe that they are giving more latitude to private sector companies.

That's the feedback that they were getting from companies that they wanted to see the government do something. Erin, I thought very interestingly, we heard the President say for the first time, he asked the Justice Department to look into the legality of requiring vaccines. And he left open the possibility, he didn't rule out that the government cannot mandate vaccines for everyone. He said we'll still look into that.

Now, that's highly unlikely for this White House to offer a blanket mandate. It would be challenged, et cetera. But what he did today was essentially try and shake the conscience of the country. I'm told this would have been a primetime speech, had it not been for the Olympics. This is a message that they wanted to get out urgently because they know even if people get shots right now, we're still talking six weeks or so before anyone is fully vaccinated.

So the combination of the Federal workforce, also the military, a very key point today urging his defense secretary to study this, those are two of the key problems. Erin, the question is, is anyone still listening to him at all? Perhaps the Delta variant is the biggest argument of all. The people are simply might be afraid of this and afraid of catching it, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.

And I want to go out front now to Dr. Mark McClellan, former FDA Commissioner and also an Independent Director on Johnson & Johnson's Board. So Dr. McClellan, I appreciate your time. Thanks for coming on.

So private companies are starting to say in mass get vaxed or get out and they're being very clear about it. President Biden is now saying all federal employees must get vaccinated or get regular testing. It is well short of that. It's obviously as far as they think they can go right now, but do you think that message goes far enough?

DR. MARK MCCLELLAN, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: I do think this message is going to make a difference, Erin, not just the President but as you mentioned, businesses around the country, governors are taking further steps and that's because we've got this more contagious variant. And there are enough Americans who aren't vaccinated and aren't immune that we're seeing these surges in cases for workplaces, like some of the retailers that you mentioned and as well as for hospitals, healthcare organizations.

We need these steps in order to protect people who are working there and patients, customers, everyone else, this is part of getting back towards normal with these very effective vaccines.

BURNETT: So I want to play something President Biden said today that suggested actually, Doctor, that stricter requirements could be on the way.


BIDEN: I think you're going to see some institutions doing that, like you're going to fly abroad you're going to have to have proof. You're not just going to be able to say I got tested.


BURNETT: I have to say, Doctor, having flown, it is amazing that people who are not vaccinated are allowed to fly.


I mean, it is this weird anomaly. Do you think that that is what's going to happen here for travel, for getting on a plane?

MCCLELLAN: Yes, short of the vaccine requirement, we are seeing for international travel requirements for getting negative COVID-19 tests and what the President announced for the federal government is short of a mandate, you're right. But it does give people a choice and it does take account of the consequences of not being vaccinated. It requires regular testing, mask, distancing, other steps.

And I do see more businesses, airlines, et cetera, may be doing something like that. It's short of a mandate for everyone to get vaccinated. It respects choice, but it recognizes that choices have consequences for those around us.

BURNETT: So all of this raises the urgency here to get the vaccines fully approved by the FDA and this is something, of course, you know intimately. One FDA official told us they're working as quickly as possible to get it done. OK.

Senior Biden advisor tells us the White House is watching this obsessively which I'm sure is completely accurate. Because the reality of it is, Doctor, that business leaders and governors say this is going to make a huge difference in their ability to mandate the vaccine. Listen to them.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D) NEW YORK: Once the vaccine is finally approved, then the state has more legal authority to mandate the vaccine.

KEN LANGONE, THE HOME DEPOT: you get the FDA to say it's final, it's approved and I can guarantee you all the places I'm involved in, if you don't get vaccinated, you will get fired.


BURNETT: That was Ken Langone, Home Depot. So do you believe that the FDA needs to be moving more quickly to full approval?

MCCLELLAN: I think the FDA is moving very quickly. The normal deadline for an even an accelerated approval like this would be early 2022. FDA is going to be done way, way before then. But Erin, for the reasons that you said, FDA, that people want to have confidence, FDA is not cutting any corners on this. So it's like working 24/7 but doing the full load.

I do want to make clear though that emergency authorization, what we have now is not, it's not experimental authorization. So the FDA is going to be using the same evidence that has already been incorporated or showing that these vaccines are very safe and effective. It's just taking extra steps like making sure the vaccines can sit in a freezer for a year safely, other things that are for normal times. This is not normal times, Erin.

BURNETT: Right. So you're saying that there really is no difference between emergency and actual authorization when it comes to safety or efficacy?

MCCLELLAN: That's right. And all of the information, all of these very large clinical trials, data on millions and millions of people is already being incorporated and being updated in the guidance that the FDA puts out, that the Centers for Disease Control puts out, all of that is being taken account of so people have a lot of confidence even now.

BURNETT: So Israel announced it's rolling out a third dose of the COVID vaccine to people over the age of 60. I'm talking about Pfizer. And I know you're on the Board of J&J and there are separate questions there. But I want to ask you about Pfizer, because they say a third dose increases antibodies more than 10-fold against the Delta variant.

They warn that they're seeing efficacy waning after six months. They have said it's a terrible disaster if we don't start talking boosters. But that is not the stance of the U.S. government President Biden is saying no American needs a booster now. Why do you think the government is so against a third shot right now, despite everything we're learning about the variant, despite the fact that it's not just Israel, there are other countries where they are already moving to provide those boosters?

MCCLELLAN: Well, the government is working with Pfizer on getting the data submitted so that there can be an authorization and we need all that data on safety and effectiveness, so there can be an authorization for a booster. Erin, I think that's going to come pretty soon within the next few months, maybe sooner than that if we see worrisome trends.

But what we're seeing in countries other than Israel, where there has been this decline in the protection of the vaccines against milder cases, not so much against severe cases, is that more people can transmit, more people can get mild illnesses. We haven't seen that so much in other countries like studies in England, we haven't seen very many breakthrough cases that are serious here, but I do think this is coming.

Right now though, the most important thing is for people who aren't vaccinated to get vaccinated. That's what will prevent the severe cases and deaths. That's what will really prevent all the spread that we're living through right now.

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

MCCLELLAN: Good to be with you.

BURNETT: All right. And next, a hospital in Louisiana filled with unvaccinated coronavirus patients, some still in denial that they even have COVID.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have patients that denied it they have COVID

all the way up until intubation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do they think they have?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They think that they have a cold.


BURNETT: Plus, Kevin McCarthy refusing to say he'll testify before the January 6th Committee about his conversations with Trump, calling the committee a sham.

Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, who testified before that Committee is my guest.

And tonight, CNN learning one of President Biden's top legislative priorities, police reform is now hanging by a thread.



BURNETT: Tonight, 'there's nowhere safe'. That's the warning tonight from a Doctor at a Louisiana hospital currently admitting more coronavirus patients now than during any other point of the pandemic thus far. And while many regret not getting the vaccine, others are still in denial they even have COVID. Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.


MARQUEZ(voice over): Aimee Matzen struggles to breathe.


MARQUEZ(on camera): What does it feel like to have COVID?

AIMEE MATZEN, LOUISIANA COVID-19 PATIENT: Exhausting, extremely frustrating, tiring and the fact that I am here now, I am furious with myself.


MATZEN: Because I was not vaccinated.


MARQUEZ(voice over): Not anti-vaccine, she says she just didn't get around to it.


The 44-year-old is now one of dozens of COVID-19 patients in Baton Rouge's Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. Her oxygen low, her Doctor says she might need a ventilator.


MATZEN: I just don't want anyone else winding up like me, especially when the vaccine is so easy to get now.


MARQUEZ(voice over): The Delta variant now prevalent in the Bayou State, not only is it enormously infectious ...


DR. CATHERINE O'NEAL, CHIEF MEDICAL OFC. OF OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER IN LOUSIANA: The Delta variant is far more contagious, right? But that viral load doesn't just mean that I'm going to spread it to more people, it also means that when I inhale somebody else's breath, I am getting a massive amount of virus.


MARQUEZ(voice over): It is spreading everywhere in cities and rural areas.


O'NEAL: There's nowhere safe. If you're interacting in this community, you should be vaccinated and you should have a mask on because we are inundated with COVID.


MARQUEZ(voice over): Ronnie Smith (ph), 47, says he thinks he got it from a friend outdoors, outdoors, at a barbecue. He was planning to get the vaccine when COVID-19 got him.


RONNIE SMITH: About two days after the event, it just like I went down on the floor and I couldn't get up.


MARQUEZ(voice over): Nurses here say they've watched the number of critically ill patients grow rapidly. Some anti-vaccination patients still in denial COVID-19 is real.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people insist that we're lying to them about their COVID positive diagnosis.

MARQUEZ(off camera): Even sick people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even sick people.

MARQUEZ(off camera): Who need oxygen, who might be on their way to death ...


MARQUEZ(off camera): ... are still denying they have COVID?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I have patients that denied that they have COVID all the way up until intubation.

MARQUEZ(off camera): What do they think they have?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They think that they have a cold.


MARQUEZ(voice over): Pearson Baker (ph), only 21, has a kidney condition. Her Doctor has advised against getting vaccinated for now. She thinks she picked up the coronavirus while in a screened in porch across the room from someone else who had it.


MARQUEZ(off camera): What does that tell you about how easy it is to pick this variant up?

PEARSON BAKER: Yes. It just kind of sucks because people like myself with an auto immune disease, you can't really go anywhere now because everybody is getting sick and it just doesn't matter what you do.


MARQUEZ(voice over): Laurie Douglas has been in nursing for 35 years. The last year her hardest, frustration with sickness, death and the unvaccinated at boiling point.


LAURIE DOUGLAS, NURSE, OUR LADY OF THE LAKES REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: Sometimes praying isn't enough and yell at Jesus if I need to. It's head shaking, teeth grinding, knees tight standing up just wanting to scream from the hilltops, frustrating.



BURNETT: So Miguel, the hospital you visited said they've had more COVID patients in the past 24 hours than in any other 24-hour period throughout the pandemic. I mean, that's incredible. So it seemed like things are likely to get even worse than what you just showed us.

MARQUEZ(on camera): Oh, I mean, the short answer is yes. Ochsner, we didn't go to Ochsner, but Ochsner, the largest health system in the State, they've seen a 700 percent increase in the last month in patients treated. It is going to get worse. They have the bed space in many cases, hospitals across the entire region. They don't have the staff to adequately give proper service to everybody who is coming in and they just keep coming.

The other concern is that they're not even close to the end of this wave yet. Some hospitals in the region think it's the end of September before they see the crest of this wave. Then you're looking at fall and winter and the whole of the possibility of a new surge, Erin.

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

OUTFRONT next, Kevin McCarthy seems to be having a change of heart when it comes to testifying before the January 6th Select Committee.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think if they had the five members that we, the Republicans want to put on there, we'd gladly go.


BURNETT: Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell who wiped away tears when he testified before that committee is next.

Plus, the former CEO of donating millions to the Cyber Ninjas who are conducting Arizona sham audit.



BURNETT: Tonight, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy refusing to say whether he will testify in front of the January 6th Select Committee about his phone call with former President Trump that day.


MCCARTHY: I think if they had the five members that we, the Republicans want to put on there, we'd gladly go. We don't see - we see it just as a sham. It's not something that's serious.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell speaking out after his testimony before the January 6th Select Committee. Here's some of the very, very powerful testimony, Aquilino, that you gave.


SGT. AQUILINO GONELL, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I too was being crushed by the rioters. I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, "This is how I'm going to die, defending this entrance." It wasn't until nearly 4:30 PM, after giving CPR to one of the rioters who breached the Capitol in an effort to save her life, that I finally had a chance to let my own family know he was alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Sgt. Gonell, it was an incredibly emotional, I know for you,

hard for all of us to watch you and your courage in speaking about your experience. You're in some of these videos that we're looking at here, crushed by the crowd. You fought the riders in hand to hand combat, beaten with a flagpole. You thought you were going to die and you've talked about that.

So now Kevin McCarthy says he's not going to testify, calling the Committee itself a sham. What's your even response to that to call that Committee, this search to the truth a sham?

GONELL: Well, first of all, I can't make any political statement, that's for the committee to decide whether this is a sham or not. But I know my injuries.


My fellow officers' injuries and the trauma. We didn't ask for this to happen to us. We didn't ask for all those people to come to the Capitol and assault us. Some of them in the crowd were even saying, we're doing this for you. So let me get this straight, you're attacking me because I want you to attack me while I'm defending myself? That's not a sham, that's being assaulted.

And for those people who continue to say this is a sham, this is devastating for us, demoralizing. However, we are still going to continue to do our job without thinking too much about politics.

The other day, we still have a job to do. And I know if I were still working and I would be on restricted duties, I would still be protecting those same members who are saying the same thing. But the other day, my experience and the experience from the other officers, some of us who are still suffering from those injuries more than six months later. And needing further rehabilitation and surgeries down the road, especially me next month possibly. Those are still real for us, the trauma, the blows, the surgery, the physical therapy twice a week or three times a week. As many times as we need to.

Those are not a sham. The sham is not acknowledging somewhat actually happened, which was an attack on our democracy and on our democratic process. Think about this, if this is not when the vice president was inside the chambers, and that's when the security, when you have the entire chain of command down the presidency, then what is the national security stake in here?

Because had those people gotten their hands on the nuclear codes or nuclear case that the vice president had at that time, what would have happened? You have somebody attacking your own vice president on the attempted murder, coup, insurrection. So, it's baffled my mind how they are treating this, like it was nothing. It was not that critical and severe of an attack.

BURNETT: You know, I have been moved by you and hearing you speak. I know that all Americans who watched you testify the other day were moved by what you had to say. There was an opinion columnist for "The Washington Post" who wrote: Barbarians who ransacked the Capitol on January 6 called Aquilino Gonell a traitor and told him he's not even an American. But Gonell is a bigger patriot than Donald Trump and all the insurrectionists incited by the then-president combined.

Very powerful wording. You have also, though, Sergeant, been a target for some from right wing media. I will play this so everyone can hear.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Maybe word for best use of an exaggeration in a supporting role, the winner is Aquilino Gonell, who thinks the pen is literally mightier than the sword.

GONELL: We had all these items and things that were thrown at us and attacked -- and used to attack us. Those are weapons. No matter if it is a pen, the way they were using these items, it was to hurt officers.


BURNETT: What is your reaction to someone who would move to belittle what you did?

GONELL: This is the first time I see that comment coming from this particular person.


GONELL: To watch her trash, because that's what it is, a commentator that would trash somebody who, in my opinion, wasn't there. So unless you were there in that crowd, being attacked by the rioters, by the insurrectionists, the terrorists, you would not know, and you will never know, you never serve this country.

My devotion for the country is bigger than the vitriol that she's puking out, because that's not news. That's not worthy of saying if you were as somebody serious. But that person never served and never serve the country, will never raise her hand like I did so many times.

And yes, I got emotional. But I got emotional because it hurt me that my patriotism is bigger, is bigger than people who are born in this country.


And I have put my life on the line, not one time but multiple times, and they fail, and they continue to fail to see the sacrifices that not only I did, but all the other immigrants that were defending the Capitol that day and all the contributions that immigrants do each day in this country.

BURNETT: Sergeant, can I ask you, because you mentioned that you may have to have another surgery. Obviously, you know, you have physical therapy. I mean, your physical wounds and scars from this are ongoing. And, of course, mental as well. You said during your testimony the other day that January 6, and I quote you, Sergeant, continues to be a constant trauma for us literally every day. GONELL: Yes.

BURNETT: Are you getting the support that you need?

GONELL: I had my own mental therapist, the same one that I use when I was suffering from PTSD from my military service. I went back to the same group. I do have also support in another state. She came to my house one day and I continue to talk to her on a regular basis.

My first lieutenant, my first line supervisor, he calls me relatively every other day or every week. So he keeps in touch with me. The department also has offers for counseling. So, I have also my family as well, which are a huge support for me, because I went through this trauma, I went through this.

And now, we have to live with someone like that person that was criticizing me for defending the Capitol, even though the same people who are in that building, the people who were attacking that building and us, they did not go in there to say -- and do this and say, are you a Democrat, independent or Republican? They were yelling, we are going to kill every single one of them, because they see some of them as a traitor, as a disgrace --


GONELL: -- because they wanted to stop the steal.

Now, that particular person, it bothers me, because this is coming from somebody who never raised her hand to become a soldier, a marine, or some were in the military, or as a law enforcement.

And out of the comfort of her home and her studio, she has the audacity to belittle my sacrifice for this country when she herself has not done so.

BURNETT: Sergeant Gonell, I appreciate your time. I thank you.

GONELL: Thank you for having me.

BURNETT: And next, the clock is ticking on one of Biden's top priorities, police reform. We are learning it is now hanging by a thread. Can Democrats get it done?

And the former CEO of giving millions to Cyber Ninjas to conduct Arizona's sham audit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one thing we can never ever accept is to put up with a rigged election.



[19:42:29] BURNETT: New tonight, hanging by a thread. One of Joe Biden's top priorities, police reform, appears stalled just days before a deadline set by congressional negotiators. As CNN reports, that both sides appear no closer to an agreement than they were five weeks ago when they announced a framework for a deal. "

OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass of California. She is the lead police reform negotiator for House Democrats.

And, Congresswoman Bass, I appreciate your time tonight.

I know that this has been the work of months you've been talking to your fellow negotiators, two deadlines for a deal have been missed, but you've still been working. August recess now looming in just days.

Is a police reform deal in serious jeopardy of dying?

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): I don't think it's in serious jeopardy, but of course I'm concerned about it, because we're going on break. As you know, the House goes on break tomorrow. But the Senate will be in next week. I know my colleagues in the Senate have been meeting on a daily basis. I know I hopefully will see Senator Scott tomorrow, I saw Senator Booker yesterday.

So the work goes on. Of course, I am frustrated. I wish this would have happened a long time ago. But until the two senators say it is over, it is not over. And you know how long -- you know that we can talk about legislation for a long time before it actually occurs.

BURNETT: Yes. That's definitely true. Now, you mentioned Senator Tim Scott, the chief Republican negotiator. We talked to our own Manu Raju last week about the potential for a deal and said, quote, if we're having the same conversations next week, then it's dead.

OK. That was a week ago. You're telling me you just spoke with him yesterday. Has the conversation changed, the conversation that you had with the senator?

BASS: Yes. The conversation is changing, and the way I can describe it without going into details is -- is that when you are negotiating something, it's important that you reach a conclusion. Considering the bill, even though the focus was only on one part of the bill, the bill is quite complex, with about 15 to 20 different pieces. And so you go through each of those pieces and work your way to a point where you agree.

So I don't believe that the conversation is the same this week as it was last week.

BURNETT: Well, that's -- hopefully, hopefully a good sign.

Look, I know a major sticking point continues to be qualified immunity. This has been around part of this since the beginning. But, basically, it's the federal doctrine that makes it hard to sue police officers, you know, individually for wrongdoing.

Senator Scott says eliminating for individual officers cannot be on the table. He's been calling that a poisoning bill.


You have said eliminating it is essential. So that would seem to be two positions that are diametrically opposed.

Do you have potential compromise on this?

BASS: I do think there is. And let me just tell you that the primary concern that I have is with accountability, because I want to stop seeing people brutalized and killed, period. An average of three people a day are involved in encounters with police that result in their death. That's over 1,000 people a year.

So that's what I want to see stopped, and I think one way to stop it is for officers to be held accountable. But I also think there's a lot of other things that we can do that will stop the brutalization and killing of people.

BURNETT: So one bipartisan deal that has been struck in the Senate is the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package. Now, Democrats in the House actually have had all sorts of objections with it.

Here are two of them.


REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): I think it's inadequate on many levels. I definitely can't support in and of itself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was written by three people who have no knowledge or expertise in transportation infrastructure. I think it needs to be substantially changed.


BURNETT: Okay. So -- and that's just -- there's more where that came from. I mean, how hard it is going to be to get this agreement through the House, Congresswoman, with a slim Democratic majority?

BASS: Well, I think it is going to be a challenge. I think we're going to need Republican votes. But, you know, really and truly on the infrastructure piece, we have to see everything that's in the bill.

Remember, the main thing that happened is that they had a vote to begin a debate.

BURNETT: Yes, yes.

BASS: We know that they came up with an agreement, but I don't believe, now maybe I'm just speaking for myself, that the members have seen bill language.

Now, I know our chair, Peter DeFazio, of course has been way more involved, but I don't know that they have shared bill language. And until you can see what is written, it's easy to make agreements verbally. But we need to see the bill language.

And any time the bill moves from one house to the next, you know that significant change takes place.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you so much. I appreciate your time, Congresswoman.

BASS: You're welcome.

BURNETT: All right. And next, the former CEO of, a major donor to the Cyber Ninjas, who, of course, are conducting Arizona's so-called audit. But he's no stranger to conspiracies, and here he is just a day before the January 6 insurrection.


PATRICK M. BYRNE, FORMER OVERSTOCK CEO: We have a lot of hope for tomorrow. There's a lot of ways this can go.


BURNETT: Well, millions of Americans could soon face eviction if Congress doesn't act in the next two days. That's ahead.



BURNETT: Cyber Ninjas, the firm leading the sham audit in Arizona, revealing tonight it has received $5.7 million in donations, and more than half of that windfall, three and a quarter million, coming from Patrick Byrne. He is the former CEO of the furniture sales company,

And, by the way, this is far from the first time he has been linked to a conspiracy theory.

Sara Murray is OUTFRONT.


BYRNE: It was fraud, it was a fraudulent election.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's Patrick Byrne, the former CEO, and the man leading the number one fundraising effort for Arizona so-called audit. Like so many aspects of the Maricopa County ballot review, the fundraising has been murky, and driven, largely, by big personalities, making loud, unfounded claims of fraud.

BYRNE: The one thing we can never, ever except, is to put up with a rigged election.

MURRAY: This week, the Cyber Ninjas firm running the audit, claim to raise more than $5 million, and thanked its top supporters in a press release. Byrne's organization, the America Project, was by far the biggest founder, putting up more than $3 million to fund the Arizona spectacle.

Among the other big donors, so America's Future, a group led by former Trump national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Voices and Votes, a group launched by right-wing one American news network personalities.

The bipartisan Maricopa County Board of supervisors, vocal critics of the audit --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A grift described as an audit.

MURRAY: -- have accused organizers of empowering grifters, and con artists, who fund-raise hard earned money from our fellow citizens.

But, Byrne is hardly afraid of skirting controversy. He resigned from Overstock in 2019 after admitting to a relationship with Maria Butina, a Russian convicted acting as a foreign agent in the U.S.

BYRNE: It immediately turned romantic, as these things do.

MURRAY: And claiming he was somehow engaged in political espionage ploy, run by the, quote, deep state.

BYRNE: I'm not a source, I'm CI -- a confidential informant. I'm not a spy. I have a non-standard relationship with the government.

MURRAY: He went on to embrace unfounded allegations of election fraud, attending a contentious White House meeting where Trump look for ways to overturn the election results over the protest of some of his aides.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire answer to President Trump, about having had this election, and a landslide victory, stolen from him, their answer is just, take it, do nothing. It has turned into quite a brouhaha, almost turned into a fistfight.

MURRAY: Byrne also taking his protest to D.C., the day before the capital insurrection.

BYRNE: We have plenty of hope for tomorrow. There's a lots of ways this can go.

MURRAY: He has vowed to keep up his election challenges, and not just in Arizona.

BYRNE: We have a very sharp, shrewd, insiders who can -- who can -- who are making the moves that you want made.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, important for transparency, we still don't know where a lot of this is coming from, that gets funneled through these groups, and then put into the Arizona audit. But still, Byrne, in an online post, said he is proud of the fundraising he's done so far. He's soliciting even further donations. He also took a swipe at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors for

not turning over network rioters have saying, I'm not the one dodging subpoenas from the state senate -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Well, pretty incredible story there. Wow, Sara. Thank you so much.

All right. Next, 12 million Americans are behind on their rent right now. If Washington doesn't do something soon, they could be evicted. That story, next.



BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden calling on Congress to extend the eviction moratoriums, set to expire on Saturday. The moratorium, projecting, right now, nearly 12 million renters.

Nick Watt is OUTFRONT.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Las Vegas looks like a post-pandemic playground these days. Woo-hoo.

In the cold light of day, around the corner at the lead late office in the courthouse? Pain.

LESLIE, FACING EVICTION IN NEVADA: All of us lost our jobs, and it was on the Strip.

WATT: Apparently, nearly, 12 million Americans are now behind on rent, in the federal COVID era eviction ban, for now, expires on midnight, Saturday.

BARBARA BUCKLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LEGAL AID CENTER FOR SOUTHERN NEVAD: You will see nationwide, on the first eviction notices, being issued.

WATT: And here in the state of Nevada?

BUCKLEY: Seven days later, if you don't respond, you're out.

WATT: Congress has approved nearly $47 billion to help people across the country.

LESLIE, FACING EVICTION IN NEVADA: I didn't know that. And I bet, a lot of people don't know that as well.

WATT: She's right. Only about $3 billion was actually dished out through the end of June. Spreading the word is hard, and bureaucracy gets in the way.

Now, in Nevada --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot be evicted --

WATT: As soon as you apply for the federal money, you cannot be kicked out, while it's in process.

That's a state law?

BUCKLEY: That's a state law.


BUCKLEY: That every state should pass.

PROTESTER: We can't work, we can't pay.

WATT: A few other states like California will keep some of eviction protections in place.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: Anyone who was impacted by this pandemic, and cannot pay rent, 100 percent of that rent, will be paid for.

WATT: And there is one group that will benefit when the eviction band disappears.

Squeezed landlords.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have many members who have exhausted all of their savings. I do not know how long that road will be, before we can be solid again. But, certainly, on the road to it depending on whether or not July 31st, truly, is the end of the moratorium.

WATT: But lifting some state level eviction bans last summer, say researchers, lead to more than 10,000 COVID deaths.

BUCKLEY: If families are forced to go to a shelter, or double, up you risk exposure. Doing it when the delta variant is out of control is a really bad idea.

WATT: Leslie says she was evicted once already, moved in with her mom.

And now, you and your mom?

LESLIE: Yeah, are getting evicted as well.

WATT: Nick Watt, CNN, Las Vegas.


BURNETT: Thanks to Nick and thanks to you.

"AC360" starts now.