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Erin Burnett Outfront

Moments Away: First Exit Polls in CA's Recall Election; Trump Calls CA "Rigged"; Biden: GOP Candidate "Trump Clone"; New Calls for Gen. Milley to Resign After Bombshell Revelation; "Trump Now All But Manic": Top U.S. General was Certain "Trump had Gone into Serious Mental Decline" After Election, Book Says; Interview with Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 14, 2021 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next the breaking news, the first exit polls in the California Governor recall action are coming into CNN now. Will Gov. Gavin Newsom keep his job, it's become a national race, and do Donald Trump help him if he succeeds?

Plus, more breaking news, calls for the Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley to resign tonight after a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa says Milley was so concerned Trump would start a war with China that he took matters into his own hands. That's not the only time Milley tried to take charge.

And the likely next mayor of New York says it's time to stop being anti-business and demonizing the wealthy. So what does he think of that AOC address, you know the tax the rich one? Eric Adams is my guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, we are about to get the first exit polls for California's crucial recall election. It's going to be our very first glimpse into what voters are actually doing today and into whether Gov. Gavin Newsom can keep his job. Now, one man who has actually been helping Newsom is Donald Trump.

Newsom along with an army of top Democrats, including President Biden and the Vice President Kamala Harris have done all they can to turn this recall into a referendum on Trump instead of Newsom, tying him to the leading Republican contender Larry Elder.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The leading Republican running for governor is a closest thing to a Trump clone that I've ever seen in your State. He's the clone of Donald Trump.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D) CALIFORNIA: We have someone on the other side of this that's to the right of Donald Trump.


BURNETT: And Trump himself is not staying out of the fray today, trying to preempt the possible Republican loss with more unfounded clone - claims, sorry, clones, claims of voter fraud, rigged election. You know the terminology.

The former president releasing a statement saying, "People don't realize that, despite the Rigged voting in California (I call it the 'Swarming Ballots'), I got 1.5 million more votes in 2020 than I did in 2016. The place is so Rigged, however, that a guy who can't even bring water into their State, which I got federal approval to do (that is the hard part), will probably win."


BURNETT: And Larry Elder much like Trump is already crying foul.


LARRY ELDER, (R) CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: We have lawyers all set up already to go to file lawsuits in a timely fashion. They're going to cheat, we know that.


BURNETT: Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT live in Sacramento tonight. She has covered this recall election from the very beginning as regular viewers know.

So Kyung, the candidates are making their closing arguments right now. You're obviously hours away from polls closing, exit polls coming out here any seconds. What are you hearing?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know the campaign you just heard Larry Elder is ending his campaign on that baseless claim. He's also trying to say that Gov. Newsom has been an abject failure, trying to make the recall about the man who is on the ballot, Gov. Newsom.

But what the Governor has been able to do is to sort of reframe that argument, saying that Larry Elder is the reason the Democrats need to vote. And you heard the Governor, you heard President Biden, essentially framing him as a mini Trump, the California remix, if you will, of Donald Trump.

And the Democrats here believe that that has largely worked, frightening Democrats with the idea that this blue state, the direction of it could radically change by talking about health measures, by talking about masks and vaccines and some of the larger national Democratic principles. Going into tonight with just hours left for people to cast their ballots, what you're hearing from Team Newsom is confidence. They believe they have the wind at their back. They are very sure that this process of nationalizing this race has indeed worked, Erin. BURNETT: All right. Kyung, thank you very much.

And now let's go to John King at the magic wall. So, John, obviously, you look at an incredibly Democratic state, but this is a complex question. Where are you watching? What counties? What data the most closely tonight?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a complex question, Erin, because it's a quirky recall. But Kyung makes the overwhelmingly important point. The math here is so lopsided in the Democrats favor. This would be huge where it can be different.

So what are we looking for? Number one, this is not Gavin Newsom versus anybody on the first question, it's keep Newsom or recall Newsom. No, keep Newsom, that's the blue. That's what Gavin Newsom was (inaudible) California to stay blue, if you will. The answer is no. Yes is the recall question.

So where do we look? Let's go back to the 2018 election which reinforces Kyung's point. California is overwhelmingly Democratic. This would be a tsunami, more than a tsunami for Gavin Newsom to be recalled. So look at the map. He won with 62 percent of the vote.

John Cox who's one of the Republicans on question two tonight was his Republican opponent back then. So where do we look tonight? Well, the secret of politics, right, Erin? You look where the people are. And the number one populous county is Los Angeles. Gavin Newsom needs Democrats to turn out.


That's why so many high profile Democrats came. That's why he tried to make this about Elder and about Trump, not about him. We will see in Los Angeles County, can Gavin Newsom, will no, be anywhere near, will it be anywhere near a 72-28 split? If it's anywhere close to that, Gavin Newsom is fine. He will not be recalled.

This will tell us, are Democrats motivated to turn out? Are Latino voters voting? Are younger voters voting? And how many Democrats, what percentage of Democrats would say, you know what, I'm tired of Gavin Newsom, I'll support the recall. L.A. County, the largest population center will give us a clue of that.

There, Erin, I'll stop after a couple, but we'll look at San Diego County, second largest of the 58 counties. We used to see more red down here. It was closer than Los Angeles County back in 2018, but 57 to 43 still if Republicans or the recall supporters, if you want to call them that, have any prayer tonight, there's no way San Diego County can't be this way.

I'll give you one more and we'll move up the map. If you look here, this is Orange County. I'm old enough to remember, Ronald Reagan, the bedrock of the Republican Party when California had a Republican Party. Well, you found it in Orange County. Look how close it was, this is still a split County, a lot of Republicans here. If this is anywhere close to split tonight on the yes or no question,

Gavin Newsom is fine. Republicans need this to be no. Recall supporters need this to be no. So those are just three of the places.

You do see a lot of red on the map here for Cox. The problem for him is most of these counties with the exception of down here, most of these counties, they're solid Republican counties, they're just not that populous, so not that many voters.

BURNETT: Right. And I guess that's the big question. I mean, part of the reason that this all became such a story is Gavin Newsom face a lot of criticism and disdain from his own party in his own State, that's how sort of this got to a point where it was in question. And part of the reason that he was able to turn that around is, is Trump's involvement in making this more national and making it about Larry Elder is another Trump as you heard Joe Biden alleged. How much is this though really about Trump?

KING: Well, Newsom tried and most California Democratic strategist and even a lot of Republicans think he succeeded in making this not just about him. Again, if you come back to here, the basic question, when the recall got on the ballot, it's keep Newsom or recall Newsom.

That's a dangerous place for any politician in this COVID environment, because everybody is frustrated. Everybody has a reason to take a stick to the pinata that is the powerful person, that is your governor. So Newsom Trumpifies (ph) it, as you say, by going after Elder. Why? Well, look, this is the 2020 race for President, it's even more lopsided in favor of Joe Biden than the governor's race in 2018.

California is becoming more and more Democratic. If this is just about Newsom, some trouble, still overwhelming Democratic numbers. But Erin, a little bit of history here, again, I've been around a little bit longer. I remember just 25 years ago, I was covering politics back in those days. California Republicans were 36 percent of the registration, now they're down to 24 percent.

So if Gavin Newsom makes this me versus Trump, D versus R, there simply aren't enough Republicans to recall him.

BURNETT: Right, it's math. All right. John King, thank you very much. And now as I promised, we are just getting the first results from exit polls out of California tonight where Gov. Gavin Newsom, obviously, is waiting to see this as these results come in later tonight.

David Chalian is OUTFRONT live from the CNN Election Center. So David, these are some crucial exit polls. What can you tell us about the turnout so far?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. Let's take a look at a couple of key demographics, Erin, in these early exit polls. These numbers will change throughout the night as we get more information from voters. But in these early exit poll results, we are seeing that the electorate today is 53 percent female, 47 percent male, that is similar to what we saw in the 2018 governor's race when Gavin Newsom won by a big margin and we know female voters have been a key focus for his campaign. so that is a good number to look at for the Newsom team.

Take a look at the breakdown by race. You see here, the electorate in this recall in these early numbers is 56 percent white. Well, in the governor's races in 2018, it was 63 percent white. Latino turnout, it's 25 percent of the electorate. Latinos make up 25 percent of the electorate today. That's up from 19 percent just three years ago in the governor's race, so it's a less white electorate in these early numbers.

Again, we've seen a key targeting of the Latino turnout from Newsom and his team. They'll probably be pleased to see that increase in Latino numbers there. And then, of course, we asked about the top issues, Erin. Coronavirus, issue number one, 31 percent of voters in these exit polls tell us that is the most important issue facing California, 22 percent say homelessness, 16 percent say the economy, 14 percent wildfires, 8 percent crime.

I'll just note here, we see partisan divides here, Democrats are much more likely to say Coronavirus is issue number one, then our Republicans and it's the complete reverse when it comes to the economy. Republicans are much more likely to call the economy issue number one.

And then finally, sort of the state of play of coronavirus.


Is it getting better, 39 percent of voters in this recall election tell us, yes, coronavirus situation in California is getting better, 30 percent say staying the same, 24 percent say it's getting worse. It is that trajectory that Gavin Newsom has been leaning into in his closing message of this campaign, Erin.

BURNETT: Right. So it sounds like it's not just that the virus was the most important thing for voters, it sounds like it's this that the getting better that he may see that as, obviously, that that is a credit to him and to his policies if he's trying to go through these numbers.

CHALIAN: Yes. I mean, this is why you saw him as the Delta variant was surging towards the end of this campaign over the summer Erin, you saw Gavin Newsom leaning into his coronavirus policies, not backing away from them, because he understood that the California electorate actually was in agreement with him on key components of this coronavirus management.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, David Chalian. So those are those crucial exit poll numbers.

I want to go now to Dana Bash, our Chief Political Correspondent and Co-Anchor of STATE OF THE UNION. She also has a podcast, Total Recall: California's Political Circus about the state's only successful recall in 2003. And Mark Barabak, longtime columnist for The Los Angeles Times.

So Dana, let me just start with you going through what you're hearing from David Chalian, talking about the split by gender and what you're seeing in terms of race and ethnicity in terms of turnout, less white electorate than you saw in the governor's race last time around and the importance of coronavirus. What do you take away from these polls?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, just in terms of the ethnicity, it is really stark. We're talking about little under three years that the electorate has gotten even more Hispanic in California. That is a trend you're seeing in other states, particularly in the south Southwest and that is a broader national conversation, particularly for the Republican Party about trying to find a way to reach out to that electorate as white America is shrinking at a pretty rapid pace and so it's going to be a potential test case, even though a recall is not necessarily the same as what you see when it comes to turnout in a regular election. It could be a potential test case.

But overall, it is fascinating to watch how Gavin Newsom has nationalized a race that many people would have made just local, look what I'm doing locally. And at the end of the day or whenever it is that we get the final vote, it just might be that that will be a way for other Democrats to look at how they could run ahead in 2022.

BURNETT: So Mark, let me give you a chance to put some context on this, because Gavin Newsom is a nationally known figure, of course. But he faced some withering criticism from Democrats in California due to things like that fancy dinner at the French Laundry restaurant Napa during COVID. I mean, he was eviscerated for that. Yet he seems to have gotten Democrats back on board in a big way. How come? How did he do it?

MARK BARABAK, COLUMNIST, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, because he's turned it, as you and others have suggested, into a choice between the R jersey and the R jersey, if you will. I mean, I've had several conversations with folks, with Democrats who have been highly critical. One in particular comes to mind, someone who I know has been paused for a long time who absolutely rip Gavin at one side, down the other and ended up saying but, of course, I'm going to vote against the recall.

I mean, this became less about Gavin Newsom and more about D versus R, more about Gavin Newsom versus Larry Elder and more about Gavin Newsom versus the California coming of Donald Trump.

BURNETT: I mean, it is pretty incredible, Dana. But when you look at this from the national level and you had Vice President Kamala Harris go campaign with Gavin Newsom, you had President Biden campaign with Gov. Newsom, what are they looking at though, nationally? National Democrats, what are they looking at tonight?

BASH: They're looking at the fact that the look the difference with 2003 recall, which is the subject of my podcast, I should say, Mark Barabak is in that podcast and he is amazing. One of the main differences between then and now is that the issues that took down then Gov. Gray Davis were very California. It was the recession but it was also the car tax and rolling blackouts. What the Newsom campaign has been able to do is to take not just a

national issue, but a global issue which is the coronavirus and say look at what's happening in Texas, look what's happening in Arizona but really more importantly Florida. They have Republican governors and look at how coronavirus is taken over and you want that to happen here?

So much of the national conversation that is happening and again the global economy that's happening, he has and they, the campaign, have been able to make it about California.


BURNETT: So Mark, let me ask you, when you look at California, Biden won it by almost 30 points, the Democratic registration is two to one. But you came into this with Gavin Newsom having a lot of problems in his own party. Obviously, Larry Elder is the Republican choice and he is a Republican base candidate. He's not just being portrayed that way he is that way.

Would this be a different conversation if your Republican candidate was not a Republican base candidate and was somebody, I don't know, more like a Mitt Romney type of model or no?

BARABAK: No, I don't think so. I want to make a point to Gavin, I talked about people, Democrats weren't too happy with him. Overall, he's doing pretty well among California Democrats. But to your question, look, if it was Larry Elder or Larry Ellington (ph) or Lottie Alou (ph), Democrats going to make this about Donald Trump. They were going to make this about Donald Trump, regardless of who ran.

Larry Elder made it very easy for them to do that by being so, to use the word Trumpy. A lot of positions he's taken, they're very provocative. A lot of them are, frankly, they're way out of step with California voters. So they were always going to make this about Donald Trump in some form, in some manifestation. Larry Elder just made it really, really easy for them to do so by being so in sync with Donald Trump.

BURNETT: All right. Mark, thank you so much. Dana, thank you so much.

BASH: Thank you.

BURNETT: I hope you all listen to Dana's podcast, of course, featuring Mark. And we'll have live special coverage of the results tonight starting at 10 pm Eastern.

And next more breaking news, Trump just responding to the explosive allegations in a new book about the final days of his presidency, including a report that the Joint Chiefs Chairman, Mark Milley, called China twice because he was so concerned Trump would start a war with China.

Plus, I'll speak to the Republican Governor of Arkansas tonight, a State that has vaccine mandates for students. So why is he against Biden's vaccine requirements for businesses?

And the heavy favorite in the race for New York City mayor is vowing to bring back the city's wealthiest New Yorkers who fled the state during the pandemic. But how does he plan to get them back? I'll ask Eric Adams.



BURNETT: Breaking news, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley facing calls to resign or be fired over bombshell revelations in a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. According to the book, Milley was so afraid that then-President Trump would start a war with China in the final weeks of his presidency that he made two secret phone calls to his Chinese counterpart to assure that there would not be a war.

One of Milley's calls came just two days after the January 6th insurrection, because he was convinced Trump suffered a mental decline after losing the election. The book says he shared on a call with how Speaker Pelosi. Pelosi said in part about Trump, "You know he's crazy. He's been crazy for a long time." To which Chairman Milley responds, "Madam Speaker, I agree with you on everything."

OUTFRONT now Isaac Stanley-Becker, The Washington Post, who has read an advanced copy of the book. So Isaac, thanks for coming on.

So to hear the Joint Chiefs Chairman say that the sitting president was suffering from mental decline, that's alarming. So let's just start with why was Milley so convinced this was the case.

ISAAC STANLEY-BECKER, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, simply put, Erin, he was convinced of this because he had been in the room with Trump. And as my colleagues Bob Woodward and Robert Costa report, he had seen as he had berated aided in scenes that they say resemble the movie the Full Metal Jacket. He had watched this. He had cocooned himself into this alternative universe of election related conspiracy theories and he had watched as he had signed his name to these slapdash memos, including one that would have withdrawn all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by January 15th without going through the proper chain of command.

So as you say, he believed that the election was a turning point for the president and that he had suffered a severe mental decline in the wake of that.

BURNETT: All right. So that's significant and let me just add to that from what we understand and since you've read it, you tell me what it says. They report that it wasn't just Chairman Milley who had concerns about Trump and Trump impulsively taking military action.

According to the book, his hand-picked CIA Director Gina Haspel was so concerned about Trump attacking Iran that she warned Milley and let me just quote from the book quoting her, "This is a highly dangerous situation. We are going to lash out for his ego?" What else do they report here? STANLEY-BECKER: The book goes inside some pretty remarkable moments,

some conversations that took place about Iran and options in dealing with that country in November. And it describes how top administration officials, CIA Director Haspel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were alarmed because not only did the President refused to rule out striking Iran, he seemed curious about the possibility.

And the CIA director proceeds to call Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and say what's going to happen here, are we going to lash out and strike Iran because of the president's ego, it was not the way that she was used to making foreign policy of dealing with these decisions kind of will he or won't he depending on his mood on a given day.

BURNETT: And there's so much here, Isaac, another point is the book has a new detail on former Vice President Pence's deliberations over whether or not to help Trump overthrow the election. There are some who want to believe that Pence didn't want anything to do with this. He just wanted to go in and do the right thing.

That's not what the book seems to say here. It says he actually called former vice president Dan Quayle to ask for advice. And Dan Quayle tells him, "Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away."

Now, apparently according to the book, Pence push back. Quayle was adamant but Pence was pushing. He was trying to find a way here. And then when Pence ultimately goes, okay, and he goes back and tells Trump, I can't do anything except open the envelope. Trump says to him, "You don't understand, Mike. You can do this. I don't want to be your friend anymore if you don't do this."

So you've read it. Do you see Pence's call to Quayle truly as a way that Pence was looking to help Trump to overturn the election?

STANLEY-BECKER: I think the book really adds new pieces to this puzzle of how the vice president was thinking through this decision and how he might have arrived at a different decision. He calls up Dan Quayle, as you say, former Vice President, fellow Indiana Republican and says, aren't there any ways, what about a delay given these legal challenges, he's really thinking through his options.


So Quayle is very firm and ultimately Pence comes down in agreement with him and sticks firm in this meeting with Trump in the Oval Office on January 5th, even as the president is saying, can't you do this, wouldn't it be cool to have the power to do this. But what's remarkable about this conversation with Quayle that's revealed in the book is that it does indeed show the former vice president thinking through and seeking out ways to receive (ph) to Trump's demands.

BURNETT: Which is pretty stunning and as we all know, not really necessarily the way this has been spun all the way or understood, so it truly does add a lot to it. All right. Isaac, thank you very much. I really appreciate your sharing that with me. And I want to go now to Max Boot, Council on Foreign Relations Senior

Fellow and retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, who is the former Army Commanding General of Europe and the Seventh Army.

So Gen. Hertling, let me go here to something that is getting a lot of conversation and that is Chairman Milley. And Chairman Milley calls his Chinese counterpart not once, but twice in the final weeks of Trump's presidency. So having a conversation with a Chinese counterpart to assure this Chinese general that there will not be a war. Just four days before the election, he talks to him and he says in part, the book quotes, "Gen. Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay. You and I have known each other for now five years. If we're going to attack, I'm going to call you at a time. It's not going to be a surprise."

Two days after January 6th Milley, again, calls Li and says, "We're a hundred percent steady. Everything's fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes."

Okay. People hear that, a lot of people hear that, General, and they go, whoa, this is totally wrong. I don't care what I think about Trump. This is totally wrong. Why is that a joint chief calling his counterpart in China and telling him I tell you if we were going to strike don't worry about anything, what do you say?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I say, Erin, that this is typical of high level commanders talking to counterparts both allies and foes. How do I know that because I did it. Part of the requirement of any military commander is to establish relationships with those in his theater. For the Chairman, it's very different.

The chairman travels the world. He actually meets his counterparts. I think Chairman Milley has been to China twice as the chairman and maybe again as the Chief of Staff of the Army, where you meet these kind of individuals so you can avoid miscalculations in conflict.

Now, in terms of Milley saying to General Lee, I will warn you if there's going to be a war. I would contest that. I don't think that probably happened. I think Gen. Milley was basically assuring him that the American democracy was in fine shape that we were having some trouble, some hiccups and not to be concerned. And I think that call was probably due to receiving intelligence that the Chinese were very concerned, as were many other nations about the state of American democracy at the time.

BURNETT: All right. So Max, I think Gen. Hertling had some really important context here. But former President Trump has just weighed in on these calls to China tonight. Here's part of what he just said.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If it is actually true - which is hard to believe - that he would have called China, and done these things, and was willing to advise them of an attack, or in advance of an attack - that's treason. For him to say that I was going to attack China is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."


BURNETT: So he says it's treason, Republican Senator Marco Rubio says Milley should be fired since he 'worked to actively undermine the sitting commander in chief'. What do you say to this, Max?

MAX BOOT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS SENIOR FELLOW: Well, that's absurd, hyperbolic and it's the kind of unhinged comments that made Gen. Milley so concerned about President Trump to begin with. Nothing that Gen. Milley did was remotely illegal or unethical.

Now, you could have had an issue if Trump had issued an order to actually attack China at that point, there would be a real issue of Gen. Milley would obey that order or not, but it never came to that. He was just reassuring the Chinese that we were not planning to attack them.

And he was also, I think, the area where he actually pushed his authority the furthest if Bob Woodward and Costa's reporting can be believed, is when he assembled his senior commanders and said, "Hey, if Trump gives an order to use nuclear weapons, make sure you follow all the procedures, but also keep me clued in, keep me in the loop."

Now, technically, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is not in the loop if the president gives an order to use nuclear weapons, but this was clearly a situation similar to the one that Secretary of Defense Jim Schlesinger experienced with President Nixon in 1974, where there are real concerns about the mental stability of the President and with Trump, there have been those concerns from day one.

So I think Gen. Milley did absolutely the right thing. But we should not count on generals in the future to save us from these types of scenarios and I think, in fact, Congress needs to pass legislation that will limit the President's authority for first use of nuclear weapons in order to avoid this kind of nightmare scenario.


BURNETT: So Gen. Hertling, let me ask you about the nuclear reporting in the book. In the book, it says Chairman Milley was worried Trump could, quote, go rogue after January 6 and what happened there, that he called a secret meeting two days later with military leaders not to take orders from anyone unless he was involved. And he warned, quote, no matter what you're told, you do the procedure, you do the process, and I'm part of that procedure. He then went around the room and he looked each officer in the eye and asked them to verbally confirmed that they understood.

The book saying, quote, Milley considered it an oath. Are you okay with that, General Hertling?

GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I am, for a couple reasons. Number one, we don't know who he was talking to. When they say his military -- when Woodward says his military commanders, I don't know who that is. Jamie Gangel reported earlier today, he went into the NMCC, the National Military Command Center. That's the operations room of the Pentagon.

And the military, quote, commanders that are in there are one-star generals and admirals that are shift chiefs and they run the processes that go from the president to the secretary of defense to in this case, it would be the StratCom commander, the strategic command commander, the guy that launches ballistic missiles.

So, those are kind of the individuals they would have been talking to and Milley was probably talking to one-stars saying ensure the process are worth. But I don't know that. I haven't read the book.

The other thing that I would suggest is that Milley rightfully probably called the commander of StratCom, a four-star general, and reminded him about the procedures for the launch of nuclear weapons.

All of these things are under -- and I disagree with Max a little bit on this because they are under the purview of the chairman to ensure targeting is consistent with contingency operations and legal requirements are consistent. That's his job as the primary military advisor to both the president and the secretary of defense.

I didn't see any -- I haven't heard anything about the book that said Milley countermanded the president's orders or was prepared to do that. He was ensuring all of his staff, all of this subordinates knew the proper way to approach any kind of potential launch procedures because when that comes to fruition, if it ever does, that's a confusing situation and a requirement for unbattered action and no questions asked.

So, I think that's what General Milley was probably doing.

BURNETT: An irreversible act, of course, once it is -- once it starts.

Max, thank you. General, thank you.

And next, new details on the expletive laced phone call between Trump and Steve Bannon that persuaded then President Trump to return to Washington and attend the January 6th rally.

Plus, administration said to be considering a mandate that could change travel as Americans know it.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Requiring vaccination for travel is something that is on the table for discussion.




BURNETT: Breaking news, the moment for reckoning. That's a quote. That is what former White House adviser Steve Bannon apparently told then President Trump the day January 6th would be. That is according to the new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. It reveals that Bannon played a crucial role in the events leading up to the riot and a crucial role in Trump's thinking.

On December 30, the book says that Bannon urged Trump to make a, quote, dramatic return to Washington from Mar-a-Lago, saying about January 6th, quote, people are going to go. What the F is going on here? We're going to bury Biden on January 6, F-ing bury hip.

And that was the tone of the call. Well, that got Trump back on a plane back to D.C. and there he was that day.

OUTFRONT now, John Kasich, the former two-term Republican governor of Ohio.

Governor, a lot to talk to you about here. Let me start with the Steve Bannon reporting here, that he was crucial in convincing Trump to return to D.C. Remember when everybody said, oh, he's in Mar-a-Lago, he might not even come back, right? He comes back for January 6th. The book says, after Bannon tells me it was the moment of reckoning, that we're going to bury Biden, this is your moment.

How much blame do you think that Bannon now bears for what happened that day?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, Erin, this whole book and all the revelations you've been covering here in the last half an hour are just stunning. Ultimately, the guy who has to bear the brunt of this is Donald Trump and other people who, you know, corroborated or cooperated with him, shame on them.

And that's why I'm in support of this commission, January 6th commission, to get to the bottom of this and find out who played what role. But the more I hear about this book, frankly, I guess nothing should surprise you, but the more I hear about it, the more shocked I am.

And also, the stories in here about Republican politicians wanting to figure out how to keep Trump inside the circle here so they could take advantage of him and they can be in a position to win the House and Senate. And those people who think that way reminds me of that scripture, Erin, that says, you know, you inherit the earth and lose your soul. If Republicans think they need to win the House by continuing to cooperate with this negativity and demagoguery out of Donald Trump and these attacks, then they're likely to win the House but to lose their soul in the process.

BURNETT: So, one person, you know, who comes to mind, as you say, this is Kevin McCarthy, right, the House minority leader and he played a crucial role on January 6th, right, when he's talking to Trump and Trump says that these are Antifa and McCarthy says who the F you're talking to? These are your people, right? And explicitly then says that Trump is responsible and completely changes his tune later.

According to the book, the night before Biden's inauguration, so after January 6th, Kevin McCarthy talks to Trump and says, I don't know what's happened to you in the last two months. You're not the same as you were for the last four years. Then McCarthy repeatedly pleads with Trump to call Biden saying, quote, you've done good things and want that to be your legacy. Call Joe Biden.

McCarthy continues, quote, do it for me.


You got to call him. Call Joe Biden.

Trump never did it. Trump didn't show up at the inauguration.

What do you make of that conversation?

KASICH: Well, that's one good thing that appears that McCarthy was trying to do, trying to talk Trump into conceding this election. But then as we go forward, we see the fact that he sort of reverses himself publicly and I think what all these Republican leaders are trying to say is we need Donald Trump for the midterm election. So whatever it takes to get him to continue to work with us, we're going to do because he's got the energy.

That comes about, Erin, for one simple reason. The Republicans don't have the energy, the Republicans, any energy they may have is based on fear of continuing governing by Democrats or the fact that there is so much negativity out there they get motivated by negative rather than positive.

It could work in the short term but over time, I don't believe, Erin, that just being negative is going to get you anywhere and help you to build any collision that will help our country.

BURNETT: So, Governor, let me ask you about Chairman Milley and the report in the book, right, he had two conversations with his counterpart in China, one in November and one in January. And that he says, don't worry, basically, we're going to be fine here. We're not going to attack you and I would let you know before hand if we were.

You know, you heard General Hertling say I don't believe he said that but otherwise doesn't seem to have an issue of what he said.

What's your view of General Milley's behavior if it happened how the book says?

KASICH: If it happens the way the book said, could you imagine, Erin, we have somebody like a Dr. Strangelove who is sitting on the ability to launch nuclear weapons and we have the military people around him saying we don't think the guy is stable? I mean, think about that for a second. And I think what Milley was trying to do is calm everything down and I think that's why he was going through the procedures of what you do if you get an order to launch.

And that kind of -- that's just kind of unbelievable and aren't you just shocked by it? I am. I think what Milley was trying to do is get ahead of this so there would be no slipups and excuses. I agree with the general. The general was trying to tell the folks in

China things are calm here because, you know, we're on a razor's edge in this world with people having great numbers of nuclear weapons and we know what might happen if they get launched. We celebrated 9/11 and talked about, you know, in memory of all those people, we think about what happened with those two planes. Think about the launch of a nuclear weapon.

I think Milley was acting very, very responsibly if this report was true and if true, it's stunning and something that the Congress ought to look into on a bipartisan basis if we have a fear that perhaps somebody who is a commander in chief is not in control of their faculties.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much -- Governor Kasich.

KASICH: Thank you, Erin. Always a pleasure.

BURNETT: Thank you. And next, I'll talk to the governor of Arkansas why he's calling out Biden's COVID vaccine requirements when the state requires kids to be vaccinated for chickenpox, mumps and a whole of other things.

And the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York, Eric Adams, telling New Yorkers that fled to Florida, quote, bring your butt back. Will they?



BURNETT: Tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci saying the Biden administration is still considering a vaccine mandate to travel.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Requiring vaccination for travel is something that is on the table for discussion. It has not been decided yet.


BURNETT: And that includes things like getting on airplanes. Well, it comes as on overwhelming majority of Republican governors have publicly criticized President Biden's vaccine policy and large businesses, including my next guest, who says it's, quote, counterproductive and saying it will lead to further vaccine hesitancy.

He's OUTFRONT now, the Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson.

And, Governor, I really appreciate your time.

So, I know you oppose Biden's COVID vaccine policy for big businesses right, anything over 100. He's putting in a mandate or weekly testing policy.

But I just want to cut straight to it because in Arkansas, you mandate that a child must be vaccinated against tetanus, polio, measles, chickenpox, and both Hep A and Hep B among other things.

Tell me why you think Biden's mandate is different?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: Well, that's a good point, and just because you're against a federal mandate that impacts small businesses, large businesses across the country doesn't mean that you're going to forgo every possible vaccine mandate in your state.

Historically, it's been up to the states to determine what is right for their state in terms of public health policy, in terms of vaccine policy and mandates. And sure, in Arkansas, we require certain communicable diseases to be vaccinated against in our schools. But that doesn't mean I should support a federal mandate that impacts all the businesses across the board and has a stretch of federal power that we've never seen before.

Just because General Washington did a vaccine mandate on smallpox in the troops, doesn't mean that we should apply to businesses across the country. And so, that's the distinction.

I'm not against state requirement for vaccines in the schools. We support that.

BURNETT: What about, then -- okay, if it's a state's rights issue, why not do the same thing for the COVID vaccine at your level?

HUTCHINSON: Well, because that is the -- because that's the larger point that right now, it is contrary to getting the vaccines out. It will harden the hesitancy out there, and it's not the right time. It's not the right message.

Down the road, we'll have to see where we are and whether those are appropriate calls for the states to make. No blue or red state made the call that we ought to mandate businesses to require vaccination of the employees.

And for the federal government to come in and over step each of the states and their decision making is not good policy.

Dr. Gottlieb made a very good point. He made the same point I'm making that businesses were moving toward in their industry, maybe requiring vaccines for their employees. They're going to stop that now and say, we'll just wait on OSHA to make the final determination.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about this, though. I know -- obviously, Walmart, which is the largest private employer in the country and also, of course, in Arkansas, they require corporate and regional staff to get vaccinated there.


But let me just ask you why you think then that a mandate would result in hardening people's views? I mean, for some people, sure. But on balance, if you're going to tell people get fired or get vaccinated, you're going to get some people who right now don't want to get vaccinated getting vaccinated, or you just don't think that's true?

HUTCHINSON: No, I think that the vaccinations is going to go up whether you have that employer mandate or not, because we were just -- companies like Walmart, like Tyson's in Arkansas, they're moving to get their employees vaccinated.

And so, I support fully the right of the employers to do that and we shouldn't pass laws that prohibit that. That is freedom independence of the employers based upon their workplace, and not every workplace is the same. So you've got to make common-sense judgments.

So we were moving in the right direction on our vaccines and increasing that. The question is, you know, what's the best strategy? I just disagree with the mandate from the federal government strategy. I like the decision-making that businesses were making, that states were making, that schools were making, and we're moving in the right direction. We don't need that federal mandate.

BURNETT: So I want to ask you one other thing before you go tonight, Governor. As someone who worked in the George W. Bush administration, I wanted to ask you about Donald Trump's personal attack against your former boss because you know it began after former President Bush alluded to the Capitol rioters during his speech on 9/11 when he said this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdainful pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit.


BURNETT: Trump immediately fired back in a statement, Governor, saying, quote, the World Trade Center came down during his watch. Bush led a failed and uninspiring presidency. He shouldn't be lecturing anybody.

Obviously, Governor, Trump prides himself on being a fighter, but is it appropriate or inappropriate for a former president to come out and speak like that about his predecessor?

HUTCHINSON: Well, it's inappropriate, but -- and it's not helpful. President Bush did the right thing. He talked about bringing a country together during the post-9/11 environment and the 20th anniversary is a good time to remind us that extremism on both sides is not helpful for bringing our country together.

And I'm very disappointed that President Trump would launch an attack on President Bush that really had his heart out there and was speaking for many Americans when he talked about we need to try to be more united in everything that we do.

BURNETT: Governor Hutchinson, I appreciate your time, I always do. Thank you.

HUTCHINSON: All right. Thank you, Erin.

And next, the heavy favorite to be the next mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, says it's time to stop attacking the wealthy. So what does he think about the dress?



BURNETT: Tonight, quote, New York will no longer be anti-business. That is the quote and the business from Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City who is the favorite to win that race in November. Adams saying, quote, this is going to be a place where we welcome business and not turn into the dysfunctional city we have been for so many years.

Not mincing words, not afraid to say what he thinks and Eric Adams joins me now.

So, I really appreciate your time, Eric.

So you said New York will no longer be, quote, anti-business if you become mayor. So what will you do differently, what specifically, that will break from the current mayor and other Democrats in your city?

ERIC ADAMS (D), NOMINEE FOR NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: What we often don't realize is that cities are made up of agencies, and there's a covenant between taxpayers and the city where the taxpayers, they pay their taxes and the agencies return with the goods and services.

We find in our city, our agencies are not in place to help businesses, in fact, they hurt them. Sometimes, it can take almost two years after building a hotel to get a sprinkler inspection done. There's no partnership between the small business services to get our restaurants open.

Con Edison, our electric supplier, can take almost a year and a half just to run an electric line. That is an unfriendly atmosphere, which are too very bureaucratic, too expensive, and too difficult to do business in the Empire State.

BURNETT: Those are pretty stunning examples, and it's shocking that they exist in the United States and certainly in what is supposed to be, you know, the financial capital of the United States.

But look, as you're trying to bring people back to the city, people who pay the lion's share of the taxes, you know, you've been sending the message New York will not be anti-business and then, of course, all the publicity today goes to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her dress that she wore to the $35,000-a-head Met Gala last night. The words "tax the rich" in red. Look, she's not the only Democrat sending that message. She just had

the platform to do it last night.

What do you think of the slogan, is "tax the rich" the right message?

ADAMS: Well, I think people should understand that in New York City, over 8 million people, 65,000 paid 51 percent of our income taxes. Because of those 65,000, we have teachers in our schools, firefighters, police officers, department of sanitation. I want the person that drives the limousine to get a good salary and the person that sits in the back of the limousine. That's the same ecosystem.

So we both want the same thing, Ocasio-Cortez, but we just have different pathways of doing it. And I'm not going to separate my city. This ecosystem is going to be the high income New Yorkers and those who are attempting to eke out a living in this amazing city.

BURNETT: So, then when you look at -- look, we know of all kinds of people who have moved to Florida who make a lot of money from New York, billionaires, millionaires. You know, look, a lot of those 65,000 people you're talking about, some of them have moved, right? You know it. You probably know exactly who their names are.

You told "The Wall Street Journal" that if you win, the day after you take office, quote, I'm taking a flight to Florida and I'm telling all those New Yorkers who live in Florida, bring your butt back to New York.

So, tell me what argument you're going to make to them. Right now, if the Democrats get what they want, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the combined state income tax and city tax for those New Yorkers will be 61.2 percent, which is definitely the highest in the nation.

So, what are you going to tell them to get them to come back to that tax environment?

ADAMS: Let me tell you what I hear all the time when I'm in Florida, the Hamptons, upstate. They say, Eric, listen, we know we have to pay our share of taxes. But we don't want to pay taxes and have an unclean, unkempt, unsafe city.

The prerequisite to prosperity for New York is public safety and justice. You have a safe city, you're going to have your New Yorkers back.

Our real estate rental properties, we're in increase. We're booming right now. People want to be here and we're going to create that environment for them to stay here.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Eric Adams. We'll see if you do bring their -- quote, bring their butts back. Thanks so much. I appreciate your time.

ADAMS: Thank you.

BURNETT: And thanks to all of you for joining us. "AC360" starts now.