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Erin Burnett Outfront

Biden Targets Unvaccinated with Rules for Biz with 100 plus Workers, Federal Workers, Head Start Programs, Health Care Staff; Biden: Fauci: U.S. Needs to Decline to 10K Daily Cases; DOJ Sues Texas Over Abortion Law; Trump Gears Up for Boxing Commentary Gig on Sept. 11, Previews Role by Saying He'd Like to Fight Biden. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 09, 2021 - 19:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. Lucy, thanks very much. And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Biden telling the unvaccinated your refusal is costing all of us. The President announcing sweeping measures requiring vaccines for government and private workers, but will it be enough?

Plus, we take you inside the dangerous online world where conspiracy theories about the COVID vaccine run rampant. I'm going to talk to the people spreading the lies.

And Trump gearing up for his ringside commentary for a boxing match on 9/11 announcing tonight who he'd like to take on. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, taking on the unvaccinated. President Biden announcing sweeping moves to break through to the 10s of millions of Americans who refuse to get vaccinated, nearly a hundred million. Telling them their time is up.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. We've made vaccinations free, safe and convenient. The vaccine is FDA approval. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin and your refusal has cost all of us.


BURNETT: And the cost is staggering. As of tonight, about 1,500 people are dying right now. With a free vaccine that would prevent those deaths, 1,500 people are dying a day and 151,000 Americans are becoming infected a day. And Biden's ire not just directed at the unvaccinated but also at those in positions of power who continued to lie and to spread conspiracy theories about vaccines. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: There are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19, instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they're ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities. This is totally unacceptable.


BURNETT: Biden announcing a plan of attack and inching closer to a national mandate. He's now requiring all businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are either vaccinated or tested once a week. The fines for each incident of non-compliance can be about $14,000.

Now, when it comes to federal workers, Biden confident he's on even stronger grounds so there he is requiring all federal workers to be vaccinated. There is no option for testing. It's the same for health care workers who work at facilities that receive federal funds. When it comes to unions, the President calling on all governors to require vaccinations for teachers and staff.

Now, today's speech comes 99 days after Biden's stood before the American people and promised a summer of joy and celebration.


BIDEN: America is headed into the summer dramatically different from last year's summer: a summer of freedom, a summer of joy, a summer of get-togethers and celebrations. An all-American summer that this country deserves after a long, long, dark winter that we've all endured.


BURNETT: That joy though turned to great frustration, because, well, the vaccines didn't - people didn't take them enough and there became all these ridiculous mask wars. And then all this ended up with overcrowded hospitals full of unvaccinated patients and as I said, 1,500 people a day still dying who don't need to die.

The question tonight is whether Biden's words and his actions will have an impact or whether it's too little too late. Right now 53 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. Now, remember, the United States at one point had one of the best vaccine rollouts in the world. Back in February in the United States, there were more vaccinations than any country being carried out. Okay, that was then this is now.

Now when it comes to the percentage of the population fully vaccinated, I'll show you, for the list, here's one, Gibraltar. I don't know how they're at 116 percent, but you get the picture. We're going down. We're going down. We're going down. We're going down. We're at number 55, 53.4 percent behind Cambodia.

And Biden's struggle to convince Americans to get vaccinated is against daunting numbers. COVID deaths since August 1st have gone up 300 percent. And Dr. Anthony Fauci now says the United States needs to get the daily average of new cases below 10,000. Again, just to give you the context, it's 151,000 right now, so he says he needs to get down to 10,000 new infections a day, before Americans can start feeling comfortable. Right now just to be clear, 151,000 versus 10,000, you're talking about 15 times higher than what's acceptable.

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT live outside the White House to begin our coverage tonight. And Jeff, these vaccine orders from the president, all right, there's still that testing option in there, but this is a very big change from where the administration very publicly was just recently.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORREPONDENT: Erin, it is a significant change, really it follows the arc of what this administration has done over the last several months.


But a big change from just a couple months ago this summer when the President simply did not feel it was his obligation or responsibility to impose mandates on private businesses or even federal government workers. But this has been something that's been a bit of a crescendo since he made the decision to require workers to either get vaccinated or test weekly. Now, that was amplified today requiring federal workers people under his purview.

But the biggest news today, Erin, as you said, was to private businesses. Anyone with a hundred or more employees across the country under an OSHA rule. Of course, that is designed to protect workers, keep them safe. So that is what this is under.

Yes, there are almost certain to be lawsuits, Republican governors across the country, some business owners also raising questions. Also, though, some business owners we're told may actually like the cover of the government issuing this requirement here. So at the end of all of this, the White House simply is running out of levers to pull out of tools in the toolbox, so that is why this is a different stance and the White House has taken previously, they simply are trying to do everything they can to get at least some of those 80 million unvaccinated Americans vaccinated.

And the bottom line is actually the bottom line going after workers trying to make their employers forced them to do it. So we would not have expected this several months ago, even several weeks ago, but Erin this is where we are here now in September.

BURNETT: All right. Jeff, thank you very much. And I want to go now to an exclusive interview with the White House COVID Response Coordinator, Jeff Zients. And Jeff, I really appreciate your time.

So I just want to talk about what has changed here. Jen Psaki on July 25th said very clearly that the Biden administration wasn't going to do vaccine mandates. But as the weeks passed, something changed, tell me what changed. JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: First of all,

Erin, thank you for having me on the show. I think the Delta variant has proven to be more transmissible and more contagious. And at the same time, the President led with vaccine requirements about a month ago, starting at the Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country with the vaccine mandate for all health care workers, the Department of Defense followed and we're seeing it in the private sector.

Many businesses are requiring vaccination, universities, states and other institutions. And what we're seeing is that they work, they increase the rates of vaccination dramatically. And so therefore, given that we do have a group of people in this country who have decided not to get vaccinated today, we are very confident that pulling this lever of vaccination requirements, across a hundred million workers will have a big impact.

BURNETT: Okay. So when it came to what you felt you were able to do, obviously, you're not mandating the vaccine for everyone. I mean, there's this weekly testing option out there, but there's also not everyone. The Postal Service is not included. And when it comes to teachers, you're asking governors to do it.

I have to tell you, I was personally shocked the other day in New York City with these incredibly high vaccination rates, teachers who are about to teach kids who aren't vaccinated are only 72 percent vaccinated. It was shocking. But obviously, I don't know, is it the unions that you feel like you're not able to mandate it for the Postal Service or for teachers?

ZIENTS: Well, we're doing it everywhere we can, the Postal Services and independent agency. On teachers, the President is doing it where he can within the federal government, so all teachers that teach as part of the Department of Defense, school system and at the Department of Interior. We are insisting, the President is insisting on a vaccine of all teachers across the country, about 90 percent of teachers and staff at schools are vaccinated, but that should be a hundred percent.

And many states have put in place vaccine mandates for teachers and school staff and the President is calling on all governors to do the same. Our kids should be with vaccinated teachers.

The other thing that the President did today was to make sure that all teachers and educators that are part of the head start program, that's almost 300,000 educators across the country must also be vaccinated.

BURNETT: Yes. Well, it's interesting, when you get that 90 percent across the country, it makes New York look even worse. I mean, again, I'm just shocked by that. All right. A key question, though, is whether what the President said today and look, his frustration came out, Jeff, that was clear. But will it reach the 85 million Americans who as you point out, who have at this point, very clearly chosen not to get vaccinated. I want to just play for you an example of how these individuals feel. This is an exchange that our Elle Reeve had recently with an unvaccinated man in Missouri.



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 kind of 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.


BURNETT: Do you think you can break through to people who feel that this is an issue about God?

ZIENTS: So, Erin, we have seen positive prints here. In August, 14 million people, 14 million Americans across the country rolled up their sleeves and got the first shot. That compared to 10 million in July, so a 40 percent increase.

As I said earlier, vaccination requirements in the workplace work. We've seen companies like Tyson food in the first few weeks of their implementation of their vaccination requirement, their vaccination rate has gone up by 24 percent. Same thing is happening in the Department of Veteran Affairs for those health care workers.

So vaccination requirements will have a big impact and the President today with these strong actions, it impacts a hundred million people. That's two-thirds of all American workers. So we are optimistic that vaccination requirements will increase vaccination rates significantly.

BURNETT: All right. Now look, I'm going to jump to the conclusion, correct me if I'm wrong, but if you thought you could make it so that everybody is the way the federal government is, which is get the vaccine or get out, you would have done it. You put in a weekly testing option for companies. Do you think that that is going to be enough to withstand court challenges that you expect? I mean, is that why you put that get vaccinated or have a weekly testing option in there?

ZIENTS: No. The Department of Labor has a responsibility through OSHA to protect workers, to make sure they're not in grave danger or in simple terms they're not at risk and they are with unvaccinated workers in the workplace. So this is part of their responsibility, part of their legal authority to put in place this requirement that workers are either vaccinated or tested at least once per week and that applies to all employers greater than 100 employees.

BURNETT: Right. I understand. But why put the weekly testing option in when I know you didn't for the federal government?

ZIENTS: Well, if you go to a place like health care, which I mentioned earlier, we started with the Veteran Affairs hospitals, today the President use the power of the payer of Medicare and Medicaid to 50,000 health care facilities and for those 17 million workers, they are now required to be vaccinated.

So I think requirements for vaccination certainly makes sense in the federal government, in health care settings and the Department of Labor's requirement that people either are vaccinated or tested a minimum once per week we think will lead to a lot more vaccinations. It's not convenient for most to get tested once per week and the vaccines are safe, they're effective, they're free, they're readily available and they protect you and they protect your family and your community and your workplace.

BURNETT: So as I mentioned, 1,500 people are dying a day that don't need to die. They're dying because, in almost every case, they didn't get the vaccine. And obviously it takes a while for those numbers to come down even if you succeed at what you're trying to do.

Dr. Fauci says he wants to get below 10,000 - well below, I'm sorry, he said well below 10,000 new infections a day before he starts feeling comfortable. And right now the number is closer to 160,000 per day. When you look at the numbers you're looking at, Jeff, how long is it until this country is well below 10,000 infections a day?

ZIENTS: I think, Erin, you've captured it well. This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. We need people to get vaccinated. Those numbers will come down as fast as we can get more and more people vaccinated. And we're very confident with the strong actions the President has taken that we are going to accelerate our path out of this pandemic.

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

ZIENTS: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, the breaking news, the nation's second largest school districts in Los Angeles just went further here. They are voting to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all students 12 and over. They've already done it for teachers. So will other schools follow suit?

Plus, we'll take you inside the army of social media users continuing to spread things that are false.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: When you get that notification from Facebook that says your post is false, how does that feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To my language, it pisses me off.


BURNETT: And Biden's Department of Justice taking on Texas' controversial new abortion law. But can the DOJ win in court?



BURNETT: Breaking news, the Los Angeles Unified School District just voting moments ago to mandate the COVID vaccine for all students 12 and up attending in-person classes. Now, this is a big deal because Los Angeles has been leading on this. They are the second largest school district in the nation with more than 600,000 students and they are the first major school district across the country to do this. In fact, they have led on the vaccination thing, certainly over New York, which is the largest district in many significant ways.

OUTFRONT now Dr. Jonathan Reiner, CNN Medical Analyst who advised the George W. Bush White House and Catherine Rampell, Columnist for The Washington Post and our Economics Commentator here at CNN.

So Dr. Reiner, first how significant is this decision from L.A. which as I point out has led on this when it comes to teacher mandates and now anyone over 12 and should New York with a, as the mayor said the other day, still almost 30 percent of teachers unvaccinated be following suit?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Hi, Erin. I think it's an important milestone and I hope it sets a precedent for school districts around the United States. Right now, every day, about 25 percent of the infections in the United States are in kids and we have two tools to protect kids. We have masks and for kids who are over 12 we have vaccines.

But only about 50 percent of adolescents in the United States right now have been vaccinated and this will go a long way to protecting children in those age groups and to protect their siblings at home and other vulnerable people at home. So I think it's a big step and I hope it's emulated by New York.


The other piece of that is to get all the teachers vaccinated. And as you said, New York City which only has about 72 percent of its teachers vaccinated is requiring teachers to be vaccinated this fall. That's a big step also. We can protect kids through making sure that all staff is vaccinated, all children are vaccinated and all kids who can't be vaccinated are masked. These are just key basic elements.

BURNETT: That's going to be fascinating to see, as it hits that data that requirement in New York what happens and, obviously, there's the more existential question of what it says about people who are teaching, who have chosen, it takes that mandate to actually get them to get vaccinated.

So Catherine, this whole move comes out of L.A. as President Biden just announced that employees and American companies will have to be vaccinated or get tested once a week and that's a big or but it's there for any company over a hundred employees. Here's part of his reason why.


BIDEN: My job as president is to protect all Americans. The bottom line, we're going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers. We're going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.


BURNETT: So Catherine, are all companies going to welcome this new rule on vaccines? I mean, does it give them cover or will some truly resent it?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR: I'm sure that some will resent it and some will fight it, but I think that there will be a lot of firms that are frankly grateful that they can have government there playing bad cop. There are a number of companies that have already mandated vaccines and kudos to them, they include my employer and your employer as well.

BURNETT: That's right.

RAMPELL: That's great. The problem is that the firms that have been mandating vaccination by and large are mandating it for people who are already vaccinated. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, companies are basically reflecting back the existing preferences and behaviors of their own workforces and their own customers, because this is a really polarizing thing, a very controversial thing.

They're worried about alienating workers. But they want their workers to get vaccinated. In fact, there are some companies that have mandates for white collar workers, Wal-Mart is one of these, but not for their frontline blue collar workers, the people who are less likely just based on the statistics available to get vaccinated.

So I think it's really helpful for government to be there to be the fall guy, essentially. There's employers can say, look, if it were up to me, you could do whatever you want. But I'm sorry, big bad government is on my case and says you have to get the shot.

BURNETT: Right. And certainly hope like when you talk about something like Wal-Mart that this will save lives, frontline workers are the people who are exposed in the line of their work more than the white collar workers at Wal-Mart, so a mandate could save lives there.

Dr. Reiner, President Biden now took it further on federal employees. He had had a testing option there. He's now removed that. They have to get vaccinated, that's it, full stop. So do you think he went far enough? I mean, when you look at the penalties here and really their ability to fire people, of course, it'll get challenged in court. I mean, where do you think he is right now?

REINER: First of all, I love the tone. Seventy-five percent of Americans have gotten at least one shot, 75 percent of adults. But the pandemic is being perpetuated by the 25 percent of Americans who are refusing to do the right thing now. And the President said, we've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin and actions have consequences.

I love the speech. I wish he had gone further. I wanted the President to restrict travel this holiday season to people who've been vaccinated, air bus and train travel. I also think that if we're going to start to really get businesses to embrace vaccine mandates, then we should have a standard digital way verifiable way, a way that can't really be counterfeited to document vaccine status like a digital passport. I wanted the President to push that forward as well.

BURNETT: Yes. And well, Catherine, so let's just take a look at the airlines because Dr. Reiner mentions travel. United Airlines has made a mandate, get vaccinated or you're out. Delta did not. Instead, Delta announced the 200 monthly fee for the unvaccinated and Delta seems to say - they're indicating that's working directionally, the 20 percent of its unvaccinated employees got the shot since that announcement of fines. So is that going to work? I mean, 20 percent is 20 percent, not a hundred percent and united is sensibly going to be a hundred percent.

RAMPELL: I think all of these companies should be requiring vaccination for their employees. And again, if they're not willing to do it because they're worried people will quit or whatever, I understand it's a tight labor market. Then the government should step in. The federal government has authority here, in fact, to require vaccination for federal air travel so - or domestic air travel, I should say.


So why not? I think it's a good thing that Delta has put this penalty on its workers, but it won't be sufficient.

BURNETT: No. I think you raise the right question, why not? Anything that they can actually do, they should be doing.

Thank you both very much. I appreciate your time.

And next, social media companies claim they're cracking down on misinformation flooding their sites. But as you will see, right after this, their attempts to set the record straight are failing.


O'SULLIVAN: And you read the Fact-Check?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, and it's more baloney.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes, for the most part.


BURNETT: Plus, Biden's Department of Justice takes on to strip new abortion law in Texas, but can Texas be stopped.



BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden with anger taking on lies about the COVID vaccines as he tries to get the 85 million eligible Americans who are still not vaccinated to get vaccinated.


BIDEN: I know there's a lot of confusion and misinformation. But the world's leading scientists confirm that if you're a fully vaccinated, you're risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is very low.


These pandemic politics are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die.


BURNETT: Fifteen hundred of them dying a day. They don't need to be dying.

And a lot of that misinformation is spreading through social media where more than 50 percent of American adults say they get their news. Half of American adults get their news from social media.

Donie O'Sullivan is OUTFRONT.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you use social media, Facebook?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do, when I'm not in jail.

O'SULLIVAN: When you're not in jail?


O'SULLIVAN: You get put on Facebook jail?


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): For years, social media platforms have been trying with their misinformation problem. To try and curb it, Facebook has hired fact checkers who research and label false and misleading posts.

If you see a label on Facebook that marks something as false, do you believe those fact checkers?


O'SULLIVAN: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it's Mark Zuckerberg. They're controlling the narrative.

O'SULLIVAN: People who repeatedly share misinformation or break Facebook's rules can have their accounts restricted. That's known to some as Facebook jail. When you get that notification from Facebook that says, your post is false, how does that feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse my language. It pisses me off.

O'SULLIVAN: I first met Mary Quintanilla at CPAC in Texas.

MARY QUINTANILLA, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I have had some notifications with regard to maybe some of the COVID issues. They will say that's fact checked and may not be accurate. I just say, okay. Then I still post it.



O'SULLIVAN: She's a Trump supporter and skeptical of most fact checks she sees online.

There's a video that Eric Trump retweeted a few days after the election that showed Trump ballots being set on fire.

QUINTANILLA: Oh, I'd seen that video.

O'SULLIVAN: That's false. The election officials who control in Virginia those ballots said they are not real ballots. Is that not a good service that something like that gets -- when it's shown false?


O'SULLIVAN: Why not?

QUINTANILLA: Because why can't somebody say, how do we know that's not real? Aren't we smart enough to say, whose video is that?

O'SULLIVAN: Eric Trump wasn't smart enough. That video played into the idea on election week that there was this mass fraud. It played into the idea.

QUINTANILLA: No. No, no, no.

O'SULLIVAN: Mary has 3,000 friends on the platform. Most she has never met in real life. QUINTANILLA: Over the years, I have put in Facebook jail at least a

dozen times.

O'SULLIVAN: When you are is scrolling through your feed, are you seeing labels?

QUINTANILLA: Yeah. And I click on it, and it says see why.

O'SULLIVAN: And you read the fact check.

QUINTANILLA: And it's more baloney.


QUINTANILLA: Yeah, for the most part. Not everything. It's kind of like the same old same old. I mean, the problem is that you have people like myself who don't agree with their fact checking.

ALAN DUKE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, LEAD STORIES: We fact check false claims by supporters of Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden or Vice President Harris. I understand why they have the perception. It's because the majority of the content that gets fact checked tends to be created by those on what they may consider the conservative side.

O'SULLIVAN: Alan Duke is a former CNN digital reporter and now the editor and chief of "Lead Stories," one of the organizations that works with Facebook.

DUKE: On the right, they are more prolific at it. Better at creating content that goes viral. It's shared more, it's consumed more. Those are things that put them in our target. Not because of some supporting of a certain agenda.

O'SULLIVAN: So, this is one, false information, the same information was checked in another post by an independent fact checker. "Unmasked" video does not uncover the truth about the 2020 presidential election. All have been investigated and disproven.

QUINTANILLA: How do we know? Really? The audit is showing they are imitation ballots?

O'SULLIVAN: This video you shared, the fact checkers are saying it's false, I know in that one paragraph, you probably disagree with every single --

QUINTANILLA: No, we're going to disagree with the fact checkers of Facebook because they have their narrative set up with their fact checkers. Not necessarily.

O'SULLIVAN: They go through it all.

Facebook says they are non-partisan and go through a rigorous certification process.

QUINTANILLA: Facebook is a place where you share information. You can kind of pick and choose which information you think is good and which is not so great.

O'SULLIVAN: There's so much information. Are you cherry picking your facts?

QUINTANILLA: You could. I mean, whose reality is important but your own reality?

O'SULLIVAN: Shouldn't we have a shared understanding?

QUINTANILLA: You can't do it, it's impossible. It's impossible because of the bias.


BURNETT: So, Donie, you are hearing these independent fact checkers now facing personal attacks from people on the right. Tell me what they are saying.

O'SULLIVAN: That's right, Erin. I mean, it's incredible how these independent fact checkers are being villainized. You know, it's -- I go to Trump events over the past year. Folks talk about fact checkers as if they are bad people, as if fact checking is a bad thing.


Alan Duke, who you heard in the piece, he has received death threats, voicemails on his phone threatening him, safety of his family.

BURNETT: Donie, thank you so much.

Next, the Justice Department preparing to take on the controversial abortion law in Texas. Is the law on the DOJ side or is this going to change abortion in America?

And Trump promoting a boxing event on 9/11 and who he wants to fight.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: If I had to box somebody?

HOST: Anybody.

TRUMP: I think probably my easiest fight would be Joe Biden.



BURNETT: Tonight, the Department of Justice suing the state of Texas over its new law which bans abortions after six weeks, even in cases of rape and incest.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The obvious and expressly acknowledged intention of this statutory scheme is to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights. This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans, whatever their politics or party, should fear.



BURNETT: OUTFRONT now Elie Honig, CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

So, look, the Biden administration going all in on this issue of abortion rights. There are some who hoped, well, you know, Texas did this but it's an anomaly, it won't stand there.

Does this mean the Texas law is going away or no?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Not necessarily, Erin, by any means. What it means is that we are in for a major legal battle. And realistically, Biden's Justice Department has a serious uphill battle here. What's so unusual about this Texas is that it flagrantly contradicts Roe versus Wade, which has been the law in this country for 48 years. Roe versus Wade says a state cannot pass a law that unduly restricts a woman's right to a restriction. The Texas law, forget about unduly restrict, makes it essentially impossible.

So, you would think, how could they succeed? But the answer is, the Supreme Court may use this case or another case coming up soon to change Roe versus Wade, which they can do. It's a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court. The case has to go through the district court, first, then the Court of Appeals. But sitting back there is the Supreme Court and they have the power to change Roe versus Wade.

BURNETT: All right. So, the Supreme Court does have a case on the books right now that will take up this issue of abortion rights. This is out of Mississippi. Trump appointees, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh are on the record saying Roe versus Wade is, quote-unquote, precedent. But it is not what they say. It's what they will do.

Is Roe v. Wade actually at the moment that it goes down?

HONIG: So, there's no question that Roe versus Wade is precedent. Both Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett were asked this at their confirmation. They said, yes, it's precedent. I mean, that's a fact. That's like saying two plus two is four. But then the follow-up question for them is, in what circumstances will you overturn precedent? We got into sort of mealy-mouth legalese.

But you know the real answer to that is, Erin, whenever they feel like it. The Supreme Court, whenever they have five votes, it's a 6-3 majority. It's going to take two conservative justices to join with the liberals to keep Roe versus Wade on the book as a practical matter.

BURNETT: Right. So, you have a chance of a Texas law banning abortion after six weeks, even in rape and incest, from becoming the law of the land in a sense. HONIG: Yeah. I mean, it could be the vehicle that overturns Roe versus

Wade. We heard garland say this is an attempt to nullify the Constitution. In the brief, the Justice Department says this openly defies Constitution. And that is true, but what it seeps s seems they are d launching a full frontal attack on Roe versus Wade, both in the Texas law and the Mississippi law. It's almost a race up to the courthouse, who can get to the Supreme Court first and take advantage of this moment when there's that powerful 6-3 conservative majority.

BURNETT: All right. Elie, thank you.

And next, Trump pushing a boxing match he will attend on September 11th while boasting about taking on Biden in the ring.


TRUMP: He one said, oh, I'd like to take him behind the barn, he'd be in big trouble.


BURNETT: And we take you to a hospital where COVID patients are tonight getting younger and sicker and harder to treat.



BURNETT: Tonight, former President Trump wants to go one on one with President Biden in a boxing ring. Trump making the comments while calling in to promote the boxing match he and his son will do ringside commentary for Saturday night. Saturday night is the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.


HOST: If you had to box somebody Saturday night, who would it be and what would the fight look like?

TRUMP: Well, if I had to pick somebody in the world, not only a professional boxer, because I'll take a pass on those professional boxers, that could be a very dangerous subject, but if you said if I had to box somebody?

HOST: Anybody.

TRUMP: I think probably my easiest fight would be Joe Biden because it would be over very, very quickly, very, very quickly. He once said, oh, I'd like to take him behind the barn, he would be in big trouble. I think Biden would be down within the first few seconds.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Michael Eric Dyson, distinguished university professor of African-American studies at Vanderbilt University, and also author of the upcoming book, "Entertaining Race: Performing Blackness in America."

And, Michael, I'm glad to have the opportunity to speak with you. When you think about 9/11 -- I have young kids. I'm starting to try to explain it to them. You know, you tear up when you actually talk about that day. Anybody does.

Donald Trump has blown through every norm of behavior. We know that. This is 9/11. It's a sacred day. It's a somber day for Americans on the far right and far left. It unites us in that grief.

Has Trump changed the definition of acceptable, of normal, of presidential behavior this much?


Absolutely right. Here's a man who has made normal what should never be accepted. Here's a man who trampled upon the sacred deities of American civic life. Here's a man who has poured hate and offense upon those who protect the borders of this nation. I don't just mean the physical borders but psychological borders, the moral borders, national borders, democratic small D borders.

And here again, he is taking a sacred moment in the collective American consciousness, 20 years after one of the greatest terror events in the history of this nation, and trampling upon it. He is a hoaxster. He is hustler in the worst sense of the word.

He is Barnum and Bailey. He is turning politics into circus. Grace into offense.

He is turning the solemn remembrance of a day that should unite all of across an ideological spectrum into a hoaxstering, self-aggrandizing moment, and it is the exemplification of his banal and his hateful disposition toward American democracy.

BURNET: So, it comes just a day after he heaped praise on the former Confederate General Robert E. Lee after a statue of Lee was removed in Virginia. And Trump's comment there in part, Professor, was, if only we had Robert E. Lee to command our troops in Afghanistan. That disaster would have ended in a complete and total victory many years ago. What an embarrassment because we don't have the genius of a Robert E. Lee.

Now, just for facts, I should point out, Trump made the deal with the Taliban to pull U.S. forces out.

DYSON: Right.

BURNETT: But as a historian, what's your reaction to praising General Lee who lost a war, by the way, he lost a war, that was in defense of slavery?

DYSON: Number one, he lost. Number two, he is not talking about Ulysses Grant. He is not speaking about a man who vanquished this pitiable manifestation of American culture. Robert E. Lee was treasonous, a traitor to the American nation.

Perhaps Trump sees something similar to him when he stood with Vladimir Putin and suggested a person trying to undermine American democracy was a hero and the people who work for his in intelligence gathering agencies were seen to be the fall guys.

So, here's a man whose sense of priorities are mixed up.


But there's no question here, praising Robert E. Lee who ruled against the very principles of American democracy, who seceded from the nation in Virginia of the what nine or ten generals, seven or eight, he was the only one to secede, ran a slave plantation for a couple of years.

Here was a man who was investing and keeping slavery alive because it would keep his economic interests alive because his sense of American democracy meant that he was refusing the inclusion of all. E pluribus unum, out of many one. He was about himself and nothing else.

BURNETT: Yeah. And he was a brutal slave owner himself.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that Trump has called some of the families of the 13 American service members killed in the Kabul airport terror attack and that he has been invited to some of the funerals.

What would the significance be of Trump attending those funerals as a former president?

DYSON: If he attended as the former president because he was in line with the larger administration as a sense of courtesy to extend that presidential presence at some of these funerals, that would be great. If he called the State Department or the White House and said, look, I want to represent us at our best, fine. But here his trying to undermine again, subvert American democracy, normal practices and procedures, the civic life of America is being shaken to its core by a man who has no sense of propriety and no sense of dignity.

BURNETT: Dignity, such a crucial word.

Professor Dyson, thank you so much.

DYSON: Thanks for having me.

BURNETT: And next, the situation growing more and more dire tonight. The one hospital system in America, no ICU beds, no nurses, and young patients with COVID. We'll take you there next.


BURNETT: Back to our top story tonight, President Biden taking aggressive new steps to move forward on mandating COVID vaccines as the delta variant devastates areas with low vaccination rates. 1,500 people are dying a day and one of the hardest hit states right now is Kentucky where hospitalizations are up 867 percent in the past two months.

Our Miguel Marquez is out front in Kentucky.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Billy Couch (ph) didn't think much about COVID until he got it.


BILLY COUCH, COVID PATIENT: Don't mess around because this ain't a joke. This is not fun and games. I've been here so long I want to go home. But I can't go home because I can't breathe still yet. This is not a game at all.

MARQUEZ: In the hospital, 19 days now, the unvaccinated 42-year-old isn't sure how he picked up the virus. He toughed it out at home for eight days before being admitted.

How serious is COVID?

COUCH: It's bad to the bone. I recommend everybody wash their hands, do what they got to do, stay home, stay social distanced because it's bad. Trust me, it's bad.

MARQUEZ: Until you had it, did you think it was bad?


MARQUEZ: What did you think it was?

COUCH: I didn't pay attention to be honest. I do now, and get your shot.

MARQUEZ: Wanda Colmes (ph) manages the nursing staff in the COVID ICU at Appalachian Regional Healthcare's largest facility in Hazard, Kentucky, a nurse for 30 years, the job never tougher.

WANDA COLMES, NURSE: It's been very, very hard and I get emotional because it is our community. ICU nurses work really hard. They work very hard every day, but you can usually see a difference, so you work hard and you see a difference and that's okay. You don't care that you're tired, you've made a difference.

So, with this, they still work just as hard, harder. And it really hurts when you don't see a difference.

MARQUEZ: Just when they thought they were through the worse of the pandemic it's come roaring back, patients younger, sicker, harder to treat.

COLMES: The family, you know, it's hard for them to realize, oh, you mean, this is the end, oh, this really is the end. That's what's really hard on the nurses is the emotional part, too.

MARQUEZ: In the COVID ICU here in hazard every bed taken by those suffering from severe cases of COVID-19, every patient intubated except for one. What is this virus doing to places like hazard, Kentucky?

CAROLYN EDDINGTON, REGISTERED NURSE IN COVID-19 UNIT: It's destroying us. We're -- I mean everybody's getting it. Everybody's getting sick. Everybody's -- we're just seeing a lot right now.

MARQUEZ: Appalachian regional health care has 13 facilities across eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. Its entire system now overwhelmed by COVID.


MARQUEZ: Zero across 13 facilities?

BRAMAN: Across 13 facilities. We have zero ICU beds available. We have 35 patients waiting in our ERs for beds.

MARQUEZ: Today, Appalachian regional health care has three -- three regular beds available across its entire system. They've cleared space and made room for 200 beds that sit empty unable to staff them.

BRAMAN: We have applied for FEMA disaster medical teams at multiple of our hospitals. Our understanding is that right now Louisiana is in dire need, and so most of their teams are there. So we are on the list. And once they have availability we hope that we'll be able to get support.

MARQUEZ: The hospital system needs 170 nurses today to open up extra beds. Nurses now working longer hours and doubling up on patients just to keep up.

RIKKI CORNETT, DIRECTOR OF RESPIRATORY THERAPY: One respiratory should comfortably have four ventilator patients, but right now I have seven to eight ventilators per respiratory patients.

MARQUEZ: Here in Hazard, patients are coming in younger and sicker than nurses have ever seen.

JASON HIGGS, REGISTERED NURSE IN COVID-19 UNIT: We're seeing much younger patients than we did before. We're seeing patients from 20 years old up to 75 years old. So, it attacks everyone. It's not just limited to one age group.

JD JONES, REGISTERED NURSE IN COVID-19 UNIT: This year, it doesn't matter. I've had several patients under 20 years old.

MARQUEZ: Under 20. How sick?

JONES: Very sick actually for their age.


BURNETT: Miguel joins me now from Kentucky. I mean, Miguel, it's hard to watch that. I'm thinking about the man you were talking to at the beginning in the hospital bed. You've been in so many hospitals and he was saying he doesn't know how he got COVID.

How are these individuals getting COVID in many of these situations? Do you know?

MARQUEZ: Yeah, in most cases it is from trusted family members. He's not sure because there were so many people around him that had COVID. But in many, many cases it's somebody they trust, they know, a family member who comes into a household and infects everyone or it's a funeral or it's wedding. Sporting events as well is starting to be a major factor in spreading COVID here.

This is Perry County and it has one of -- it's a small county, rural place, nobody thought they'd get it here. It has today right now has one of the highest rates of infection in the entire country -- Erin.

BURNETT: Miguel, thank you very much.

And thanks to all of you for being with me.

"AC360" starts now.