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Erin Burnett Outfront

Capitol Police Warn Of Uptick In Violent Rhetoric Ahead Of D.C. Rally Intended To Show Support For Insurrectionists; Proud Boys Leader Pushes Turnout; Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) Discusses About The Rally That's Likely To Happen In Support Of Insurrectionists; Biden To Talk Mandates And Testing During Speech Tomorrow; Report: FBI Upping Probe Into Threats Against Election Officials; Obama Urges California Voters To Reject Recall In New Ad. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 08, 2021 - 19:00   ET





Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Capitol Police calling for all hands on deck as an internal memo warns about an uptick in violent rhetoric ahead of another right-wing rally on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.

Plus, a Florida judge deals Gov. Ron DeSantis another major loss, shooting down his ban on mask mandates in schools again.

And the FBI reportedly stepping up its investigation into death threats against Georgia election workers. I'll talk to one county election director. Hear the chilling messages he's getting just for doing his job. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, all hands on deck. Capitol Police are calling on all officers to be prepared for an upcoming right-wing rally on the Capitol grounds. This comes as CNN obtains an internal Capitol Police memo warning of an alarming uptick in violent rhetoric surrounding the rally, which will be September 18th. It's a rally that is in support specifically of the January 6th insurrectionists. And the violent rhetoric includes images used by white supremacist.

Now, the memo also details some other things including that one leader of the extremist Proud Boys group is encouraging followers to attend the rally. Speaker Nancy Pelosi tonight for one is sounding the alarm and demanding security briefings.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We intend to have the integrity of the Capitol be intact. These people are coming back to praise the people who were out to kill, out to kill members of Congress.


BURNETT: America, of course, watched in horror. We all did together on January 6th as Trump supporters stormed the Capitol into hanging people trying to overturn what Trump's own Homeland Security Department called the most secure election in U.S. history. And now, there's a second rally to support those very same people.

A new rally being fueled yet again by Trump's allies. Trump's allies are in this, of course, and they are now saying the convicted January 6th rioters are actually political prisoners.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): These January 6th defendants are being treated like political prisoners of war.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): They're being treated worse there than the blood thirsty terrorists at Guantanamo.

REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): The reason why they've taken these political prisoners is because they're trying to make an example.

REP. PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): These are not unruly or dangerous, violent criminals. These are political prisoners.


BURNETT: Not unruly or dangerous? The mob beat officers with anything they had on them, hockey stick, flagpole, a fire extinguisher, police officers died. Capitol Police memo also notes that a lot of disturbing chatter about next week's rally centers specifically around the death of Ashli Babbitt.

Ashli Babbitt was the rioter who was shot and killed while trying to climb through that broken window leading to the Speaker's lobby. Her family's attorney has even been invited to speak at the rally. The event's organizers are trying to turn Babbitt into a martyr, much like Trump has done.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Who was the person that shot an innocent, wonderful, incredible woman?

The person that shot Ashli Babbitt, boom, right through the head, just boom, there was no reason for that. And why isn't that person being opened up?

If that were on the other side, the person that did the shooting would be strung up and hung. OK?


BURNETT: Of course, again, police officers died. Melanie Zanona is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill. And Melanie, Capitol Hill Police clearly are very worried about a possible repeat of January 6th in just days.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: That's right, Erin. Law enforcement officials are growing increasingly worried about the potential for violence and unrest on this September 18th rally. And lawmakers are amplifying their warnings that the GOP's continue to brace of Donald Trump's lies about the election could lead to January 6th repeat.

An internal Capitol Police memo reviewed by CNN warns that there has been an uptick and noticeable uptick in violent rhetoric surrounding this rally. There's also been particularly heated discussions involving the shooting of Ashli Babbitt, the rioter who tried to storm the Capitol. And members of the Proud Boy have encouraged their followers to attend.

Meanwhile, counter protests are also being a plan. So this memo concludes that it's not unreasonable to plan for potential violent altercations. Now, all of this comes as Capitol security is underway and preparations are fully underway on Capitol Hill. The Capitol Police are planning to present their security plans very soon to the Capitol Police Board for approval. That means the temporary fencing could come back around the Capitol complex. And lawmakers are set to receive security briefings from the Capitol Police as well in the coming days.


That includes Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy.

Now, the good news is the event is taking place on a Saturday while the House is still in recess, so there will be far fewer people around and this event has had similar events in the past by the same group and it has not attracted as many people as they thought and it didn't turn violent.

But look, the Capitol Hill community is still very on edge after multiple deadly incidents this year and several bomb scares and so no one is leaving anything to chance, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Melanie, thank you very much. Melanie mentioned crowd size and hold that thought, everybody, for a moment because we're going to ask the former Deputy Director of the FBI about why crowd size actually may not be what matters so much for violence.

So as I said hold that thought, but I want to go first now to Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar. He's a member of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection.

And Congressman, I appreciate your time, how worried are you that what you experienced on January 6th and what we all saw on TV, but you were there experiencing, could happen again at this rally?

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): Well, we're fearful for the capital community and that includes everyone who works in the U.S. Capitol from our brave Capitol Police officers who defended democracy to those folks who are essential to us on Capitol Hill and work each and every day. We're concerned about the safety of everyone in and around Capitol Hill.

And so we're going to take every precaution I know the committees of jurisdiction have been meeting about this and the chairs of the committee of jurisdiction, House administration has been briefed on this and you heard the clip earlier of the Speaker indicating that the legislative leaders from the Senate and the House will be invited to her office to hear the latest briefing and know that there are exercises and planning that is also underway. So the Capitol Police is well aware of this activity.

BURNETT: All right. So the organizer of this event is a person name Matt Braynard, a Trump supporter, a former campaign advisor, actually for Trump. A person who testified alongside Rudy Giuliani to allege voter fraud in Arizona that did not occur and a person who just hours ago said this to Steve Bannon about the upcoming rally.


MATT BRAYNARD, ORGANIZING SEPT. 18 "JUSTICE FOR J6" RALLY: There's no threat to anybody from our peaceful protest on behalf of the political prisoners who've been persecuted as a result of their participation in the January 6th rallies. This protest is not about elections. It's not about who won. It's not about voter fraud. It's about the abuse of these political prisoners and the scapegoating of them for this grand insurrection narrative. They're trying to call our protests on September 18th an insurrection 2.0, but my question is when was insurrection 1.0?


BURNETT: OK. So this isn't about the election. There wasn't even an insurrection on January 6th. What do you even say to that?

AGUILAR: Look, I don't know where to start, but those are clearly the Trump talking points that many, sadly, many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle had been parroting. And so this is about January 6th, this is about pushing back on the myth of January 6th. That there was nothing to see here, that these folks didn't have the intent to hurt members of Congress.

They've caused multiple deaths and like you said they grabbed everything that they could possibly grab to assault police officers. And so our job is to make sure that we don't forget that and on the January 6th Committee, we're very mindful of that, that we make sure that this never happens, again, this threat to our democracy, this assault on democracy.

And so that's why we're going to continue to do our work, we're going to continue to seek the truth. But here, obviously, next week we want to make sure that folks are safe in the Capitol Complex within Capitol community.

BURNETT: You heard Melanie reporting the fencing that surrounded the Capitol could be coming back. Obviously, when it was there, completely changed what the Capitol stood for. It was so hard for people to get in. It came down and that was a good thing. But, obviously, if it goes back up that would indicate how seriously they take this rally.

Based on the warnings that you understand from Capitol Police, do you think they should bring it back now?

AGUILAR: I'm going to leave those decisions to the U.S. Capitol Police and the Capitol Police board is the entity that's responsible and that will make the decisions, that includes the architect of the Capitol as well as the sergeant at arms. That's a little bit of an archaic structure who makes these decisions, but with the advice and consultation of the Capitol Police, that's how they arrive at these and they're going to make the decision to best protect the Capitol.

I'm confident that the new leadership is taking everything into account and working with our law enforcement partners in order to protect the Capitol building. We need to make sure that this doesn't happen again. And I think I speak on behalf of a lot of members who want to make sure that this doesn't happen and that we protect Capitol.

BURNETT: All right. I appreciate your time, Congressman Aguilar. Thank you.


And I want to go now to Andrew McCabe, the former Deputy Director of the FBI. And I have a lot I want to ask you, Director. But let me start with what we understand in the memo. They say there's been multiple instances of white supremacy imagery being used in online chats about the rally, so there's been a link there. One leader of the Proud Boys encouraging followers to show up. Do you take this seriously?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Absolutely. Absolutely, Erin. I take it very seriously if I was still sitting back at FBI headquarters. I think many of us had concerns about what the FBI thought about the intelligence and the chatter, the online social media talk that they were seeing prior to January 6th.

I think the way the indicators are for this event that they are taking that very seriously and they should. It's always hard to sift out that sort of talk to determine what are actual operational plans and what are just comments from people, where they're trying to mouth off and say something stupid.

But you look to those symbols of white supremacy, you look to those indicators of violence, you look to see where that's coming from if it's coming from people who you know have engaged in operational activity in the past and that definitely elevates your concern about that sort of stuff. So it's good to see and I'm taking it seriously.

BURNETT: So the memo does talk about this chatter increasing after the officer who fatally shot Babbitt identified himself and he spoke out publicly about why he felt compelled to shoot. Here he is.


LT. MICHAEL BYRD, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I had been yelling and screaming as loud as I was, "Please stop. Get back. Get back. Stop." You're ultimately hoping that your commands will be complied with and unfortunately they were not. She was posing a threat to the United States House of Representatives.


BURNETT: This is a man who's been repeatedly attacked by foreign President Trump for doing his job, accusing him even though he was cleared in full investigation, accusing him of being a murderer. So now some are calling this upcoming rally the justice for Ashli Babbitt rally. When you put all that together, how worried are you that police specifically may be the target of violence?

MCCABE: Well, there's no question Erin, that the organizers of this rally and those who are reflecting back to the Ashli Babbitt situation and trying to pose her some kind of a martyr, they're doing that because they know that that narrative really resonates with this community of extremists. They know that those kind of claims and talk about this officer really is a motivating point for extremists who are really focused on anti-government grievance and what they perceive as government overreach.

So they're doing it to light that crowd on fire. And the concern for the police, the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police is to be prepared if that fire ignites.

BURNETT: So I mentioned to hold that thought on how many people attend and I know - I mean, who knows how many you're going to get, there has been an indication there could be 500, but the memo notes that recent events organized by the same group had significantly lower attendance than expected. So you might say, OK, well, if it says 500 and you get 100, OK, not going to be a big deal. But you don't share that feeling. You say a crowd much smaller than 500 even could be a big problem, tell me why.

MCCABE: Because there's really two elements to this that concern me, it's quantity and quality. Quantity, absolutely crowd size is a very important thing. We saw that on January 6th. The defenses on the capital, as minimal as they were, were completely overwhelmed just by sheer numbers.

But the other factor here is quality. I'll take a quiet, peaceful crowd of 500 over a crowd of 100 hardcore, right-wing, white supremacist extremist any day. Those folks even if gathered in smaller numbers, if they are intent on acting, if they are inclined to engage in violence, that could portend a much bigger problem for 30 professional. So there's really two factors that you have to consider there.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Director McCabe, thank you. I appreciate it.

MCCABE: Thanks, Erin. BURNETT: And next President Biden expected to push for new vaccine

mandates and testing in a speech tomorrow, major speech as they're billing it. But just how far could he actually go?

Plus, we returned to one town in America where the vaccination rate is low, incredibly low, 27 percent. How come?


ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Why do you not want to vaccinate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ain't thinking that shit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like people trying to push a shot on me or something else, because I'm bull-headed (inaudible) ...


BURNETT: And the FBI reportedly stepping up its investigation into death threats targeting election officials. I'm going to talk to one Georgia official who received this message.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time's running out, Richard. We're coming after you.




BURNETT: Tonight, an urgent plea from the Governor of Minnesota as COVID cases surge there ahead of the school year.


GOV. TIM WALZ (D) MINNESOTA: These little ones don't have the choice to take the vaccine. It's up to us. We will not let them push each other on the slides. We will not let them get on the zip line. We asked them not to run on the playground. For goodness sakes, we're adults and we know what protects them. So it shouldn't be that hard to say the science says put them in a mask.


BURNETT: This comes as a Judge in Florida rules against Gov. Ron DeSantis, again, allowing schools in that State to go ahead and implement mask mandates despite DeSantis' opposition.

OUTFRONT now Dr. Jonathan Reiner who advised the White House medical team under President George W. Bush. So Dr. Reiner, I want to start with that. A judge stepping in to allow mask mandates in Florida schools, going against Gov. DeSantis. The Governor of Minnesota begging parents to give their children masks and yet this is all not just scientific, but also it really should be common sense 18 months into the pandemic.

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Right. And what we've seen in recent weeks is just a massive explosion in the number of pediatric cases. In the last week there are almost a quarter million kids contract COVID. And as we heard in the introduction to this piece, kids are sitting ducks.

No child under 12 years old in the United States can get vaccinated now and not all teachers in the room are vaccinated, so kids are really highly susceptible so we need to mask them up. Places like Texas I've seen in recent weeks 50,000 kids contract the virus, school districts all over the country had to close, so masking just seems to be common sense.


BURNETT: Well, I was amazed and appalled that only 72 percent of the teachers in New York City are fully vaccinated. It was shocking to me, frankly, that it is so low.

So President Biden is preparing to address much of this in a major speech tomorrow, Doctor. And so apparently he's going to present a six point plan to end the pandemic, which is more points than probably most of us are going to be able to really digest. But he's going to go through detail that hasn't been put out there, including mask mandates or vaccines, testing. But he's still going to not endorse a federal vaccine passport, do you think that is a mistake?

REINER: Yes, it's a big mistake. At the very onset of this administration, very outset, the administration vocally passed on some sort of official documentation of vaccination status. They just thought that that would unduly politicize vaccinations. But what we found now is a really strong need to have an official way to document vaccination, businesses want it. Airlines should want it.

We need a way that can't be just sort of easily counterfeit with a simple card. We need a national way. Imagine if you got vaccinated and were issued a QR code that you can show to any business or employer that wanted to know that you were vaccinated, but we don't have that, we should have that.

BURNETT: So today, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan authorized booster shots for anyone over 65 years old in a care facility. And he said, the reality here, he's quote, "For several weeks now, states have had to operate without clear guidance from the federal government regarding booster shots. The guidance we've received has been confusing and contradictory. But all of the evidence makes it abundantly clear that we cannot afford to delay."

I mean, what is going on here? The White House confirmed to Kaitlan Collins tonight that President Biden hasn't gotten his booster, even though obviously he's 78 years old and he got a second dose eight months ago, so he's in exactly the category of people that they said should be getting another shot. So if you were advising the President, what would you tell him?

REINER: If I were advising the President, I would have already boosted him. The data is pretty clear. Over a period of after about six months, the efficacy of these vaccines wanes and probably the group at biggest risk for an adverse outcome are the elderly. Prior to vaccinations, that was the largest number of deaths in the United States were in the elderly, about 80 percent of all deaths occurred in people over the age of 65 years old and the President fits into this category.

We need to start boosting the elderly in this country. Israel is doing it and Israel has shown data that suggests that you can increase the efficacy against Delta from where it is now about 40 percent after two shots to 86 percent in the elderly. And really there's really no time to waste. There needs to be more of a sense of urgency in getting these booster shots out to the highest risk people in this country and I believe the elderly are the people at highest risk.

BURNETT: Yes. Thank you very much, Dr. Reiner.

And next we're going to take you to a town where vaccination rates are low, incredibly low. And conspiracy theories about the vaccine are, of course, incredibly high.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) of my president, I ain't taking your medicine. I'll take what they gave him, but I'm not taking yours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He took the vaccine though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) I don't know that.


BURNETT: Plus, former President Obama campaigning tonight in California's recall election.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your vote could be the difference between protecting our kids and putting them at risk.




BURNETT: Tonight, it's almost like a plague. CNN revisiting the Ozarks, one of the major hotspots where COVID is burning through towns of unvaccinated Americans. Our Elle Reeve speaking with vaccine skeptics there about their staunch refusal to get vaccinated even amidst what they are experiencing which is a deadly surge.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The spike is a little shocking. It's really raging here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody is scared. Everybody is coming down with it. It's almost like a plague.

CHERYL WETTON, HUSBAND DIED OF COVID-19: I have both shots of the vaccine and people just acted like it doesn't help. It bothers me sometimes that people just act like COVID is the big joke. I always want to say, "Well, why don't you just come right up here to the cemetery and I'll show you my husband's grave and I can show you it's no joke."


REEVE(voice-over): Over the five days we spent in Carter County, Missouri, it felt like COVID was closing in around us. The positivity rate kept climbing and is now 32 percent. Some people we wanted to interview told us they just been exposed or were too sick to talk.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a chicken feather, hold that in your hand.


REEVE(voice-over): We first came to Van Buren in October 2020 when COVID was starting to surge in rural America. When we heard that one of the diners we'd interviewed people in had closed for COVID, we wanted to come back and see what had changed. By the end of this spring, many thought COVID was over, but in the past few weeks it's raged through town. The vaccination rate is very low with only 27 percent fully vaccinated.


DR. CHRISTOPHER COCHRAN, OZARKS HEALTHCARE: The overwhelming majority of our patients that are admitted to the hospital with clinically severe COVID are unvaccinated. I didn't realize how unvaccinated we were. I guess that's my fault. I didn't continue to push as hard as I should have to get people vaccinated, because I thought everybody was because the virus and disease was abating, but I was wrong.


It came back like a brush fire.


JIM RODEBUSH, WIFE DIED OF COVID-19: No, but it will be. I was skeptical of it until I watched all this happen.

REEVE (voice-over): Jim's wife Ruth fought cancer for 12 years but COVID killed her in eight days. He says the doctor told her not to take the vaccine because of her chemo.

When did your wife die?

RODEBUSH: July the 20th. I talked to her up until Sunday when she died and she said this is bad. She said you all need the shot. I think she's right.

REEVE: Last time we came here, the debate was over masks and it had gotten very political.

BLAND: We sit in the coffee shop and watch people walk in the door. We look at mask and we all look at each other and we go, Democrat.

REEVE: Later that fall, there was a COVID surge in the area but the health center says this wave is much worse. In Van Buren, after just two days of school this August, about 20 kids tested positive. Five days later, almost a quarter of students were under quarantine. The preschool had to close for two weeks.

People in town were gossiping who had it and where they got it and they'd all seen our last story.

RODEBUSH: Last story you did, I kind of thought it was all bull myself.

REEVE: Tell me more and tell me why.

RODEBUSH: That's the way people are here. I think people here try to take care of each other. They don't know what to talk about and talk about COVID. They need to walk through the COVID ward. That will change your mind.

REEVE: Jim admits some people are pretty set in their views.

RODEBUSH: A good friend of mine, he hasn't had the shot but everywhere he goes, if he goes anyplace, he wears a mask and he's probably one of the best guys I know, but you're not going to change anything about him. Maybe you ought to interview him.

REEVE: Would he talk to us?

RODEBUSH: Yeah, but you probably wouldn't like what he would tell you.

REEVE: That's okay, that's okay.

RODEBUSH: Let me get my phone.


RODEBUSH: Hey, I'm surrounded. I need you to come down here. I'm serious.

BLAND: What are you surrounded by?

RODEBUSH: A bunch of women. BLAND: Okay. I'll be right there.

RODEBUSH: All right. Hey, they're going to interview you.

BLAND: Oh, no, they ain't.

RODEBUSH: Yeah, yeah, come on.

BLAND: Can I sit down there by you?

REEVE: Why do you not want the vaccine?

BLAND: I ain't taking that shit. Ain't taking it. I don't like people trying to push a shot on me or something else because I'm as bull headed a fellow as you've seen.

REEVE: Last fall, COVID put Wayland in the hospital for seven days.

BLAND: I was on everything they had. Steroids, full drip, plasma from people that had COVID, drugs that they give my President Trump and they finally burned it out of me.

REEVE: What's the difference between the vaccine and the drugs you took like Regeneron?

BLAND: Well, I would have took anything. I wouldn't have mattered what it was.

REEVE: But why would you trust Regeneron and not the vaccine?

BLAND: Am I going to have to --


RODEBUSH: I don't know.

BLAND: Well, the one thing is they shafted my president. They would have had the vaccine, already had it already had it, but they wouldn't give it to him because they know damn good well he'd be reelected, they got nothing nobody could do. So they had to swindle around and scale around and keep it from him just as soon as the election was over and he got it. Me and friends, I ain't taking your medicine, not from -- I'll take what they give him but I'm not taking yours.

REEVE: He took the vaccine, though.

BLAND: He might have. I don't know that.

RODEBUSH: I think they give him the Regeneron.

REEVE: They did give him that but he did take the vaccine.

BLAND: Later on probably, yeah. I'm not saying he didn't. I don't know that. That's what pissed me off and I'm not taking it because I'm that bull headed.

REEVE: There is no evidence for Wayland's theory, but he wasn't alone in his skepticism.

Have you thought about getting your vaccine?


REEVE: Oh, really, how come?

CHITWOOD: Because I don't want to get sick.

REEVE: You think the vaccine would make you more sick?

CHITWOOD: Probably. It made my mom sick.

REEVE: Okay. You mean when she got the --

CHITWOOD: Well, she got the vaccine in February.

REEVE: And she got sick on Monday with COVID -- maybe COVID?


REEVE: Is she going to get tested?

CHITWOOD: Probably not. She's staying home and I'm bringing her groceries and doing whatever I can away from her.

REEVE: Yeah.

CHITWOOD: One of her friends tested positive and she had been with him so more than likely.

BRANDON HELVEY, CARTER COUNTY RESIDENT: I'm behind right now because I was down for about a week and a half being sick and I don't care. I got it. I told everybody, hey, I had COVID. If you don't want to get around me, don't get around me. I do have it.

REEVE: So, did you have the vaccine?



REEVE: Why not?

HELVEY: There is not enough research on it. I'm not totally against the shot. If I have to take it and it will help me in the future and not hurt me, yeah, I may take it.

REEVE: Are you vaccinated?


REEVE: And why not?

WILDER: I just haven't got vaccinated.

REEVE: Okay.

WILDER: Had a lot of people around me had it. I just haven't, never got vaccinated. Around here, we're pretty country folk and it's hard to get people to do something they don't understand completely or they don't feel the need to.

REEVE: But are you in that category?

WILDER: Well, I guess. I don't really get deep with you. I believe if the Good Lord wants me right now, it doesn't matter if I take a vaccine or I don't. I know -- I know a lot of people say, well, he gave you common sense and you ought to go get the shot, but let's just, you know, just the way I look at things.

COCHRAN: I don't want to ever give anybody an excuse for doing something like not getting vaccinated, but the reasons do harken to someone who has, you know, been told they're a dumb hillbilly all their life by the rest of the country. That is not an excuse but part of the reason.

I don't know that we're oppressed or disenfranchised, I don't know if we deserve to feel that way here, but we're a flyover state. In a social situation where peer pressure is so hard, we've had a lot of trouble to try to get people vaccinated. To break out of that peer group is very hard for people.

REEVE: Has anyone wanted to get vaccinated in secret?

COCHRAN: Well, yeah. Absolutely.

REEVE: Tell me what they say?

COCHRAN: When they're in my office and say I don't want to get vaccinated and this is why. It usually at the very best a specious reason or a fallacious reason, we have set up things where we can sneak one in your arm wherever you need to do it because that's our goal.

REEVE: It's hard but not impossible. The health center said more people in Van Buren got the vaccine after two local kids in their 20s were hospitalized with COVID earlier this summer.

Last year, we talked to Brian who was pretty cavalier about COVID.

BRIAN KEATHLEY, CARTER COUNTY RESIDENT: I guess if I get it and it kills me, it's slow-walking inside singing for the family.

REEVE: What would you put on your tombstone?

KEATHLEY: Didn't wear a mask.

REEVE: It took some convincing but he agreed to talk to us again and tell us what happened since.

KEATHLEY: No one feels like they can trust the government. It not my fault nobody is wearing their mask. It's not my fault nobody is taking the vaccine. It's the government's fault.

REEVE: Did you get your vaccine?


REEVE: Please, Brian. Did you get the vaccine?

KEATHLEY: Doesn't matter whether I got the vaccine or not. Coronavirus doesn't care who you are.

REEVE: I know.

KEATHLEY: Whether you think you're a big tough guy or whether you're anything, I doesn't matter. If you get it, it can kill you.

I don't want my wife to have to wonder when they put you in a medical induced coma and stick a tube down your throat is he going to come back out of that? That's why I got a vaccine.

REEVE: Elle Reeve, CNN, Van Buren, Missouri.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thanks, Elle, for that amazing report.

And next, a Georgia election official threatened and his staff called racial slurs for doing their job. And a leading Republican contender in California's recall election cutting a campaign event short because of an attempted egging.



BURNETT: Tonight, the FBI stepping up the investigation into death threats against election workers in Fulton County, Georgia, home to Atlanta. This is according to county election director Richard Barron who says he met with investigators seeking more information about threats to him like this, and I will warn you that what you're about to hear just one of many threats that he got is disturbing.


VOICEMAIL TO RICHARD BARRON: Two hundred and thirty-four years ago the founding Caucasian fathers of America gave us a Second Amendment. Time is running out, Richard. We're coming after you and every mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) that stole this election with our Second Amendment. You will be served lead.


BURNETT: That was one of many in the flood of threats came in after former President Trump singled out Barron at a rally in December and tried to tie him to a debunked conspiracy theory they pulled out suit cases full of pro-Biden ballots while observers were allegedly evacuated during a water pipe break in Atlanta. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you just take the crime of what those Democrat workers were doing and by the way, there was no water main break.


BURNETT: Okay. I want to go to Richard Barron, the election's director in Fulton County, Georgia.

And, Richard, so let me just start with the meeting you had with the FBI as part of their investigation into the threats made against you and others in your office.

What do you understand about the investigation at this point?

RICHARD BARRON, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think what they are aiming to do is to look at all of the threats that were received post-November all the way through this summer. I know that not only me but other people on my staff have received threats all the way into the summer and I know that's happened around the country, as well.

BURNETT: So I want to talk about that. I mean, obviously, your tenure as Fulton County elections director has had controversy, right? You barely survive to oust you by a bipartisan county board of commissioners. But no matter what you're deal with there professionally, none of it excuses the threats you have received, like this one.


BARRON: Right.


VOICEMAIL TO RICHARD BARRON: It's quite obvious to anybody with half a brain there was a lot of fraud. I expect -- actually, I demand since y'all work for us, that y'all do something and if you don't, I guess what is it? Tar-and feather? I don't know what we do these days? Is it firing squad? Is it hanging for treason?

VOICEMAIL TO RICHARD BARRON: Oh, boy, you better run. That's all I got to say.


BURNETT: I mean, how dangerous is it right now for you to even do your job when you're getting calls like that?

BARRON: Well, I think what you have to do is just focus on going to work every day and doing what you're supposed to do and try to ignore the distractions. I know that, you know, listening to those calls now, it is a little bit easier to hear them now than it was in the thick of things between the November election and our January Senate runoff, and I think a lot of my staff that's predominantly black staff and they -- the "N" word was flying around with impunity on calls that they received almost daily for a few months.

BURNETT: Talk to me about that. You say your office is predominantly staff by African-Americans. And so, literally, what would happen? They would pick up the phone and people would be seeing these horrible racist things and from my understanding, tell me, Richard, it went further than that. People had people coming to their houses?

BARRON: Yeah, a lot of the calls dealt with motorcycle gangs on their way to our offices to shoot us all in our offices and seats. We also had a couple members of my staff were visited at home by people at night at their doorway. Another lady had her grandma visited because they thought she was there, said they were going -- they wanted to make a citizens arrest and tried to push their way into her grandmother's house.

BURNETT: So there must have been times you were truly scared for your life, for your family.

BARRON: Well, I think mostly I was more concerned with my staff because, you know, I think they're the ones that are in the trenches doing the work with regard, it was easier for me to get police protection than some of the other staff because they may live outside of the county and then it becomes more complicated to arrange for police protection and I'm -- my job requires me to live within Fulton County.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Richard. Thank you very much.

BARRON: You're welcome.

BURNETT: So, I want to go to Ben Ginsberg. He's a Republican elections lawyer with nearly four decades of experience and he just launched a legal defense network for officials like Richard Barron who have received these threats.

So, Ben, you know, you hear Richard Baron talk about the death threats he received and I played a couple of them. They were, you know, countless more where that came from. He's talking about motorcycle gangs threatening to shoot them in their seats and showing up at their homes. How does hearing stories like this affect your decision to get involved?

BEN GINSBERG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, very much. I co-chaired a presidential commission a few years ago with Bob Bauer, who is President Obama's attorney. We got to know election officials on the state and local level. They do a tremendous job in calling balls and strikes in our elections. You have to have people who call balls and strikes.

So these attempts to intimidate those election officials combined with the nationwide push that has been successful in a handful of states to criminalize the actions of election officials takes a huge cost out of the democracy, out of our systems of elections, credibility in elections.

BURNETT: So, obviously, it's not just Richard Baron as he made clear but election officials from across this country have had the courage to speak out. I've spoken to several of them, you know, they have talked about the threats that they get, right? Their families have gotten. Here are just a few.


BILL GATES (R), VICE CHAIRMAN, MARICOPA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: We receive phone calls into our offices that the board of supervisors, our staff saying our families will be slaughtered.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Seemed apparent they were casing our house to see our security measures.

AL SCHMIDT (R), PHILADELPHIA CITY COMMISSIONER: Calls to our offices reminding us that this is what the Second Amendment is for. People like us.


BURNETT: All of this motivated by Trump's big lie about the election. Now, Ben, you know, I've talked to you through this entire election situation, right? Over the past year. You have worked in elections for nearly 40 years. Have you ever seen anything like this?

GINSBERG: No, never like this.


Never on such a large scale. Never designed to really stop elections officials from doing what they need to do about the casting and counting of ballots. And that goes to the peaceful transfer of power. So that these attacks on election officials plus the laws being passed in the states plus what happened on January 6th means that it really is time to tell elections officials that they do have allies, that people do have their backs.

BURNETT: So, obviously, Governor Abbott, you know, ahs signed the voting law in Texas. You write in an op-ed when you were talking about your new legal defense network that in just the past three months, several states across the country, I'm quoting you, passed laws and imposed criminal penalties for, as you say, simply doing their jobs. Three of these states, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Texas yesterday have empowered partisan poll watchers, right? That's an explicit part of the legislation. What effect is that going to have?

GINSBERG: In the polling place, which is designed to let people cast their ballots peacefully, weaponized poll watchers can cause, number one, disruption and intimidators to voters and number two distract election officials from doing their job. The really surprising thing to me in all of this is the Republicans who were passing these laws seem to have no recognition that this can be used against them as easily as they think they can use Democrats. So, that's a bad situation across the board. BURNETT: All right. Ben, thank you very much.

GINSBERG: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, Barack Obama, he is back on the campaign trail, this time trying to keep Gavin Newsom in the governor's seat.



BURNETT: Former President Obama tonight appearing a new ad defending California Governor Gavin Newsom from a recall.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Your vote could be the difference between protecting our kids and putting them at risk. Helping Californians recover or taking us backwards.


BURNETT: It comes as Vice President Kamala Harris came to Newsom's defense today, actually campaigning in the state.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT tonight in Oakland, California.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: Your whole town hero, the vice president of the United States of America, Kamala Harris.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The return of Oakland's beloved Democratic daughter is the big draw for this Bay Area crowd.


LAH: Vice President Kamala Harris energizing the progressive female base at home.

HARRIS: We fight for Dreamers. We fight for women. We fight for voting rights. And we stand as Democrats saying we are proud to do all that and more.

DANVY LE, CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC VOTER: Oh my god! I am here for Kamala. I am very excited to see her.

NINA QUICK, CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC VOTER: Having her come I think it's really going to energize people to get out the vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we fight, we win.

LAH: With less than a week to go before Election Day, the vice president is the woman leading the cavalry for California Governor Gavin Newsom. From Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar --

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Vote no on recall.

LAH: To Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, senator is saying it may be a California ballot, but this is about national women's issues.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): These fights, they're not just in Texas, Florida, South Dakota. These fights have come to California. Are you ready to fight?

LAH: This is part of the governor's strategy to nationalize the recall in this final week, drawing a sharp contrast with Republican challenger Larry Elder, and outspoken radio host with conservative views on race and gender.

NEWSOM: Racial justice is on the ballot. Social justice is on the ballot. Economic justice is on the ballot. Environmental justice is on the ballot. California, this race matters.

LAH: There is a reason Newsom is focusing on the issues impacting women in his party. In 2018, some of Newsom's most enthusiastic voters were women, helping me when the governor's mansion.

NEWSOM: Thank you, California.

LAH: Sixty-four percent of women voted for Newsom, then.

NEWSOM: Defeating this Republican recall.

LAH: In 2021, a recent poll shows 66 percent of women say they will vote to keep Newsom in office.

But Larry Elder says the Democrats focus on national issues is Newsom avoiding skate problems.

LARRY ELDER (R), CANDIDATE FOR CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: As you know, they are scared to death, which is why all these politicians from outside California are now weighing in.


BURNETT: Well, Kyung, they certainly have sent in the cavalry, Democrats have. But Larry Elder who just obviously played there, the leading GOP contender in the race, he seems like he sort of helps and hurts Newsom because he is a firebrand, he attracts a lot of attention. Where does he stand with voters right now?

LAH: Well, you know, certain voters, they love him. The GOP base draws out a lot of passion. That's what makes him so potent as a contender.

But he also throws out some hatred, and we really saw that play out today. He was at a campaign stop, a scheduled stop in Venice, California. He was going to tour homeless encampments. He was greeted by some angry people there, including a protester wearing a gorilla mask with pink hair who threw something at him. Elder -- was only minutes long when it was planned to be much longer -- Erin.

BURNETT: Yeah, it's pretty scary. All right. Kyung, thank you very much, reporting as we said live from Oakland.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.