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Erin Burnett Outfront

Biden Holds Three Meetings With Democrats Amid Deep Divisions Over Agenda; Interview With Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV); G.O.P. Candidates Who Peddle False Claims Running To Lead Elections; Florida Governor Names Skeptic Of COVID Measures As New Surgeon General; Search For Gabby Petito's Fiance Ends For The Day. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 22, 2021 - 19:00   ET




ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUT FRONT, next, Biden's entire agenda on the line, and he is all in to save it from collapse, meeting tonight with key members of Congress, can Biden make a deal?

Plus Trump stacking the deck, now pushing supporters of his big lie to become the top election officials in crucial swing states.

And we're standing by for decision by the F.D.A. on whether to authorize booster shots for some Americans. The former F.D.A. Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb is my guest.

Let's go OUT FRONT.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUT FRONT tonight, the breaking news. President Biden all in as he attempts to save his domestic agenda from imploding. The President holding three lengthy meetings with top Democratic leaders plus progressives and moderate Democrats.

The two wings of the party, tonight, still at serious odds. So far, neither budging. At issue is a vote in just five days on a bipartisan infrastructure bill. The moderates support that bill, they want to get it passed stat. It's a bipartisan bill. The progressives though want action on a separate triple the size $3.5 trillion tax and spending plan that touches on everything from immigration to climate change to healthcare.

And they say that they will not support the much smaller bipartisan infrastructure bill without that spending bill first. Even as moderate say, no way that price tag is way too high. They're far apart, and the stakes could not be higher for President Biden.

Not only is his first term agenda on the line, his party, which let's just be clear here, they got the White House, they got the Senate, and they got the House, and they still aren't able to pass legislation. It failed to make headway on key promises. Police reform as of tonight is dead. Negotiators coming out and saying

it, officially throwing in the towel despite this promise. Biden said quote, "We can do it. We can enact rational police reform." That's a quote from the President, but that is now formally dead as of tonight.

Voting rights. Another core part of the President's domestic agenda going nowhere, despite Biden saying this again, I quote him, "We must also fight for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore and expand protections and prevent voter suppression." And yet, where is all of that voting rights? It's nowhere.

And what about comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, that was another core part of the domestic agenda? Going nowhere, despite Biden saying this, I quote him again, "We have to tackle the immigration problem, which we're working really hard to get done in a humane and serious way."

Now, to be fair, Biden does need Republicans to pass these major pieces of legislation, but even Biden, who has prided himself on compromise, he is right in saying, look, the fact that I've been in the Senate for decades is a strength not a weakness because I can get deals done.

And yet, he has not been able to get what he wants through Congress, and it is taking a toll. According to a new Gallup poll, Biden's approval rating has hit a new low, 43 percent. Fifty three percent, the clear majority disapprove of President Biden's job.

Phil Mattingly is OUT FRONT live at the White House tonight, and Phil, has President Biden gotten any closer to bridging the gap between these moderate and progressive Democrats?

I mean, this is a real schism in the party, which controls the Senate, controls the House, controls the White House, and can't get on the same page with its own party.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've really been witnessing kind of an intra-party war over the course of the last several weeks, which is exactly why President Biden stepped in. He has been engaged in almost five hours of non-stop meetings with nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers, really representing every ideological side of the Democratic caucuses in the House and in the Senate.

Now, Erin, I was texting back and forth with a lawmaker who met with the President earlier, who told me that the meeting that he had was a quote, "absolute necessity," I said, does this mean that things are closer to reaching some type of outcome, some type of deal? He responded, "We'll see over the course of the next several days."

And the point that this lawmaker was making was that basically the President was sitting down not mingling the two kind of poles of this fight together. They were meeting separately, moderates in one meeting, progressives in another meeting, but basically, for everybody to lay out where they stood. They went in detail through the different planks of the different

pieces of legislation here. There was a robust discussion about the $3.5 trillion top line that progressives want on that second economic and climate package.

No, there was no deal struck. No, it's not clear whether or not this will help get things across the finish line, but one of the messages I'm told by several lawmakers the President wanted to convey was the necessity in getting this done, the necessity in taking down the temperature to some degree and getting everybody in the room to actually have negotiations, something that had more or less broken down over the course of the last several days.

Erin, you hit on a key point. There is a very compressed time window right now given that House Democratic vote scheduled for September 27th, just next week. But one thing that the President left several lawmakers with that I've spoken to tonight was this, failure is not an option and I think that's something that the President wanted to convey, White House officials have been trying to convey over the course of the last several days that yes, there are very real divides and very real differences about the size and scale of programs, the size and scale of the overall package.


MATTINGLY: But when it comes to Democrats, what they pledged to do in the campaign and 2020, what they pledged to do with the majorities in the Senate, the House, and holding the White House was that they pledged to deliver. And this is the moment to do just that, and whether they agree or disagree on the specifics of certain policies, they need to figure out a way to unify and come together.

The ultimate test will not be in these five hours of meetings, it will be in the days ahead as they try and hammer out those differences. But it is clear from lawmakers I'm talking to that the President at least started to put them on that path. What they do with that, it's still an open question -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Phil. Of course. I mean, look, these are huge philosophical, ideological differences, and there are moral differences. I think some of these lawmakers feel.

OUT FRONT now, Democratic Congressman Steven Horsford of Nevada, a member of the House Budget Committee. And I know, of course, you were one of the moderates who met with Biden today. So I appreciate your time, Congressman.

So you know, in your meeting and President Biden, obviously, as you know, we are talking about five hours of these meetings back to back, met with moderates, like yourself, wrapped up a final meeting with progressive lawmakers tonight who at this point appear to be holding firm against voting for that bipartisan infrastructure bill that is set for a vote on Monday, unless they get their much bigger spending package first. What did President Biden say to you?

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD (D-NV): Well, thank you, Erin for having me on. And you know, what I will first say is this Congress with the leadership of President Biden is committed to delivering for the American people.

We delivered with the American Rescue Plan. These have been unprecedented times with the pandemic and a recession that has disproportionately hit every community, but states like mine in Nevada, where we saw high unemployment back in July of 2020 and we are as committed now to passing the President's Build Back Better agenda, as well as the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

The President, as you said, said that we can get this done and we will work together. I don't think that there's as much disagreement as people want to frame because what we are in agreement on is delivering for the American people, the American family, the American worker, and American small businesses who desperately need an economic recovery plan, because this is a once in a generational opportunity for us to really move our country forward and to build back better, as the President says.

BURNETT: So I want to play for you, Congressman, what the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said right after her meeting with President Biden today. Listen to this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I will not be talking about that right now. We don't -- we are on schedule. That's all I will say. And we're calm and everybody is good and our work is almost done. So, we're in good shape.


BURNETT: So you know, this is this promise, right, that there's going to be this vote on the package that I know, you support the bipartisan deal that passed the Senate as well. Should the Speaker move the vote, even if progressives are going to vote against it and shoot it down? Fifty of them, of course, are threatening to vote no.

HORSFORD: Well, I think ongoing conversations are happening through today and over the course of the next few days. But that's a false choice. We need to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better agenda. This is part of what I shared with the President. Why? Because I support the bipartisan infrastructure bill, but it does not include investment in workforce development and skills training. It doesn't include childcare funding, one of the barriers that working families, particularly women, experience in being able to return to the workforce.

It doesn't include the extension of the child tax credit, which is a cut for the majority of middle class families. In my district, 97 percent of families with children receive that child tax cut, which is about $3,000.00 per child per family, and it doesn't include paid leave and so many other elements.

And so, yes, we need the bipartisan infrastructure deal, but we also need to pass human infrastructure that invest in our people, and we can do both.

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

And I want to go now to Dana Bash, our chief political correspondent and co-anchor of course of "State of the Union." I mean, Dana, what's pretty incredible here, and I know the congressman is, you know, there's some nicer words being thrown around after these meetings with the President today.

But you've covered Congress a long time. You've seen lawmakers take a lot of bills to the brink. But this really feels in some ways a little bit different, doesn't it? I mean, this is a schism. It doesn't just seem like it's policy that they are disagreeing on, it really is, as I maybe use too strong a word, but this is a moral issue for some of them.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there are really, really big differences. The closest I think that I can remember that the Democratic Party has come to where they are now is right before they ended up passing Obamacare. And that was, again, a Democratic President, Democrats in charge of the House and the Senate, and it took a very long time and there was a lot of intra-party fighting.

The difference between then and now is light years when it comes to where the party is, and that -- by that I mean, that it is true that for the most part, the progressive agenda, the things that Bernie Sanders has been talking about for decades and made a popular within the party when he ran first in 2008, and then in 2020 was the idea that he that -- there's a social safety net that matters, and that has, for the most part taken hold.

Having said that, there still are a lot fewer, but there are a number of moderates, and in a party, and in a Congress where the margins are so, so narrow, Erin, just three seats in the House, no room to spare in the Senate, those differences matter, because each side is dug in and using its leverage.

And so the question is whether the President after five hours of meetings that Phil talked about today, is going to find a way to bring them together, only he can do that at this point.

Bur And you're right, well, and of course, a lot of them have been very definitive about what they're going to do. It would have to be going directly against their own word and their own promises to their voters on both sides of this.

There's also reports tonight that on the Republican side, the Minority Whip, Steve Scalise is telling Republicans to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Republicans in the Senate got over the finish line. So now, you know, you're in a situation where the Democrats may not even be able to get the one thing that they thought was a sure thing. BASH: Right. And remember, just for context, I know you know this,

but it's good to remind our viewers because we're talking about a lot of different policies here and bills. The infrastructure bill is something that Mitch McConnell voted for, along with, you know, what -- about a dozen of his Republican colleagues in the Senate.

And now you have the House leadership, the Republican leadership saying, you should not vote for this, and I've been communicating with some House Republicans who have been thinking about voting, yes, who said it matters. It matters that their leadership is saying do not do this.

So it is just one more data point and something that we have been experiencing and we have seen, certainly this week, which is how tribal things are. Certainly, the Democratic Party is trying to figure out where they want to go. But beyond that, when you have a debt ceiling and now this infrastructure bill, it makes it so much harder when it's very difficult for the two sides to come together even on things like infrastructure, where I can tell you that Chamber of Commerce Republicans, business Republicans, they're not so happy about this, because they think that infrastructure means jobs.

Bur Right. Right. And when -- you know, getting into the just the very narrow definition of it, it is something that is, you know, wide agreement on its need among voters, among Democrats and Republicans.

Thanks so much Dana.

And next, Trump and his allies pushing for backers of the big lie to run for Secretary of State in key states. It's sort of happening under the radar, but it really matters, right, because they call the balls and the strikes. They call the elections, they certify them.

Reuters spoke to many of the candidates, only two of them actually would say that Joe Biden is the fairly elected President of United States. I'm going to speak to the reporter behind that eye opening headline.

Plus a doctor who caught Trump's attention now touring the country and spreading lies about COVID.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Asymptomatic spread is not a thing.


BURNETT: How does she still have a medical license?

And the search for Gabby Petito's fiance intensifying, underwater dive teams tonight now joining the hunt. Where is Brian Laundrie?


[20:17:46] BURNETT: Tonight, Trump stacks the deck in his favor as he mulls

another run for the White House. The former President now pushing backers of the big lie as candidates in the next election in key states.

In some eye opening reporting, Reuters looks at the 15 declared Republican candidates running for Secretary of State in the crucial swing states of -- look at your map and I'll read them out -- Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan and Wisconsin. These are the people. Okay, whoever has the Secretary of State job, that is who oversees the election in their state. They are the ones who certify it.

And in these states, they are all in states that Biden won in 2020, and what Reuters found should concern every person who cares about facts.

Of the 15 candidates, 10 either believe Trump's lie that the election was stolen or have called for their state's results to be invalidated or investigated further, which is the same thing by another name. Just listen to some of them.


REP. JODY HICE (R-GA): I'm not convinced at all not for one second am I convinced that Joe Biden won the State of Georgia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We already know that there is fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump won Michigan.


BURNETT: Okay, this is all just completely like -- it's not sane. Okay, but just to be clear, Trump has already endorsed each of the three candidates that I just played. And the five key states where the backers of Trump's election lie are running had Secretaries of State in 2020 and this is really important to say, all of the states and Secretaries of State in 2020 bravely stood up to Trump, as he called out lies in those states.

Like, for example, the Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger of Georgia.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: People said that there were thousands of dead people that voted, it was less than a handful. They also told us that over 66,000 under age voters voted, there was zero. They talked about unregistered voters voting. There were none of that.

President Trump came up short in Georgia.


BURNETT: He is a lifelong Republican. He said he voted for Trump. He stood up for the facts. Trump lost Georgia and Nevada's Republican Secretary of State said and I quote, "These concerns do not amount to evidentiary support for the contention that the 2020 general election was plagued by widespread voter fraud."

Look, if it weren't for a handful of brave Secretaries of State who stood up for the truth, Democrat and Republican, we might be having a very different conversation right now. Imagine if those three people that I played had actually been in the job.


BURNETT: It's not over, because many signs point to another Trump run. Just listen to reporters, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, who spent months covering and reporting on Trump for their new book, "Peril."


ROBERT COSTA, CO-AUTHOR, "PERIL": This is someone who wants back into the presidency, and he believes the Republican Party is still very much in his grip. It's President Trump, who really wants back based on our own reporting.

BOB WOODWARD, CO-AUTHOR "PERIL": And if I may say, once back, and if you get into the question, which is important -- to do what? And the answer is to be Donald Trump.


BURNETT: So how does he get back? Now, get supporters of his big lie to become the next generation of top key election officials in key states, right, the people who call the winner, right? Like that guy in Georgia who said that Trump one as opposed to the guy who did the election in Georgia, who actually counted it, recounted it, and recounted it and audit after audit, after audit and ran all these things down and came to the incontrovertible fact that Biden won.

OUT FRONT now, the reporter who broke the story for Reuters, Nathan Layne.

So Nathan, I really appreciate your time. And I just want to emphasize how significant your reporting is, right? Because most people are not focused in on Secretary of State races in states, and yet, these are crucial, and you have gone out and done it. You've interviewed nine of the 15 candidates for this story. Only two of them would admit to you, would tell you that Biden is the legitimate President.

I mean, okay, you might have -- people might have told you, you would hear that. But when you actually got on the phone and interviewed these people, were you surprised by what you heard?

NATHAN LAYNE, REPORTER, REUTERS: Sure. Thank you for having me, Erin. You know, I've done a fair amount of reporting over the past year in areas of the country where Trump is popular. So, you know, I knew that this was where the base was. But I was surprised. I thought we'd find more people, candidates, Republican candidates who

might try to differentiate themselves from a Hice or from a Fincham and take a more moderate line and say, you know, look, all the evidence is in, you know, Biden won. They've all been certified, it's over, let's move forward.

But I was quite surprised to find the number of people, the extent to which they were basically telling the Trump line, you know, saying either fully embracing the idea that there was rampant fraud that led to Trump's loss or nuancing it a bit, but still saying that, you know, I'm not -- I'm not convinced that Biden won and we need to do more investigation.

BURNETT: So as I said, you talked to nine of the 15 candidates. I know that you didn't speak with the three candidates who Trump endorsed, and I played sound bites from them, but I know you tried, so tell me what happened.

LAYNE: We made multiple attempts with the candidates for obvious reasons. They've got the Trump endorsement, we really wanted to, you know, hear their side of the story, see if they've changed their views at all. And really, you know, put some tough questions to them.

I don't know why they didn't want to engage. Representative Hice just did not. His campaign didn't respond to multiple e-mails. His congressional office also didn't respond. And I had a brief exchange with Mr. Fincham, but in the end, he didn't respond. And so we made multiple attempts, I can't speculate as to why, but they decided not to talk with us.

BURNETT: I mean, you point out though Trump's involvement here, it's so important, but it's also unprecedented, because as I said, most people aren't -- I'm not saying they shouldn't focus on these races, but they generally don't, okay. And a former President getting involved at this point in the cycle in Secretary of State races in multiple states is an unprecedented thing.

And I know you spoke to a Trump's former aide, Boris Epshteyn, and they are going big on this.

LAYNE: For sure, as you said, you know, this is -- these are races which are somewhat, I think, in normal years an afterthought, but as we saw in 2020 in what happened with Mr. Raffensperger, you know, these are really important races now because the election could very well hinge on who is in those positions.

But this is unprecedented. I mean, I don't think we've ever seen a former President get involved in this race, this position and backing these races at this level, ever. And it shows how much that is part of Trump's strategy.

We did speak to Mr. Epshteyn. We also spoke with David Bossie, who is a former deputy campaign adviser and his group, Presidential Coalition, interestingly, they backed Brad Raffensperger in 2018. But now they're backing Jody Hice and they put in the max for a primary contribution in June. And they said that they're going to be going after other states as well.


BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much. Nathan, I appreciate it.

LAYNE: Thank you.

BURNETT: And now I want to Jena Griswold. She is the Chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State. She's also the top elections official for the State of Colorado. I'm glad to speak with you again. So, what was your reaction, your first reaction when you hear this reporting from Nathan?

JENA GRISWOLD (D), COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, Erin, thank you for having me on. My top reaction at seeing this reporting is that President Trump is trying to make the disavowal of the 2020 elections and democracy a test for his endorsement. And to be very clear, it's very concerning.

We need to have election officials, the Chief Election Officer for states believing in fact and the will of the voter, rather than conspiracy theories and helping their favorite candidates win.

So what we are seeing, as you said, is in every swing state, a Republican run for Secretary of State who has been an author of voter suppression at the insurrection or lying about 2020, and voters will really be able to decide in 2022 whether what will happen with the future of democracy in our nation with these races.

BURNETT: You know, it's amazing, because, you know, you've got Brad Raffensperger in Georgia who has just come under such incredible pressure and bullying and demands by the President to lie. Right? And he has stood up to it. Right?

And now they're throwing the President, the former President is throwing the max against, you know, the rivals. I mean, this is -- they're going all out to win here. And 10 of the 15 declared Republican candidates for Secretary of State, according to Nathan's reporting, in these five crucial battleground states, they have either declared the 2020 election was stolen or called for their state's results to be further invalidated. I mean, to be invalidated or further investigated.

So, I mean, just you know, you could take any of the five states, right? You've got what's going on in Arizona right now. I keep mentioning Georgia. What impact could it have on U.S. elections if people who believe the big lie and say the big lie are in these crucial positions?

GRISWOLD: Well, it can have a huge impact, frankly. There's a lot of executive authority within the Secretary of State's positions. That's why our executive authority has been under attack in places like Georgia and Arizona because we can do things like add drop boxes. We can do things like set up automatic voter registration, expand vote by mail. Republicans, in extreme states have done things also to help suppress

the vote, leading the charge to take away Americans freedoms, leading the charge to take away access. But imagine if in a state like Arizona or Colorado, where you have proponents of the big lie pushing fake audits, if the Secretary of State would spread those lies, imagine if you had a situation in Colorado where we had a local county election officials become an insider threat by leaking sensitive information. What if the Secretary of State refused to act?

So the effects are rippling. We need to make sure that the people who oversee elections believe in democracy and the will of the people, and that's the fundamental question facing the nation right now. Do we believe that Americans get to choose their elected officials? Democratic Secretaries of State say yes; extreme Republicans are on the opposite side of that question.

BURNETT: Secretary Griswold, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

And I want everyone to know, there is another Republican Secretary of State tonight who is standing up for the truth, in this case, standing up to the My Pillow CEO who has come out with all these kind of bizarre conspiracy theories about Bluetooth technology and hacking in Alabama.

Republican Secretary of State John Merrill says Lindell's claim is not true. And Lindell, I'm sorry, not even possible from a technological standpoint. I mean, so you do have people trying to stand up and do the right thing, but it is just a question of how loud their voices are going to be, whether people are going to listen.

OUT FRONT now, Ron DeSantis tapping a new State Surgeon General, and it's a doctor that sounds a lot like the Florida Governor.

Plus, CNN tracks down a doctor touted by Trump that's now crossing the country spreading alarming lies about COVID and vaccines.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: SARS-CoV-2 is lethal virtually only when the patient is at or exceeded their life expectancy.




ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tonight, Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis announcing the state's new surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a person who like DeSantis has criticized mask wearing, vaccines, and lockdowns.

Ladapo writing in an op-ed in fact just last week that masks had, quote, at best, a modest effect on viral transmission. And that vaccine mandates won't stop COVID spread. This comes at a time when Florida recorded the most deaths and second

most cases over the last two weeks. DeSantis is saying this about his new surgeon general.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We feel that -- that Joe is just the right guy for the job.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner and author of the new book "Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic."

Dr. Gottlieb, I really appreciate your time tonight.

So in your book, you write about the fights over public health measures like the one I just referenced. And one of the things you say, and I am quoting you, debate and division over some of these actions were understandable. But over others, like the wearing of masks, such rancor was inexcusable. We couldn't even agree on the easy stuff.

And yet, here you are in Florida given where they are with -- with COVID cases and deaths, you now have a surgeon general saying masks have at best a modest effect on viral transmission, vaccine mandates won't stop COVID spread.

What do you make of DeSantis elevating someone with these views?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Well, look, I'm not surprised that the governor picked someone with his world view on these issues.


The new surgeon general has strong medical credentials and I hope he takes an open mind to -- to his position in evaluating these things on behalf of the residents of Florida. The reality is there is a lot of interventions that can have some impact, maybe a marginal impact but some impact. But if there are otherwise less costly interventions that are going to allow us to go about most of our normal activities without much interruption, we ought to reach for those interventions.

And things like masks are something we can do easily. We know they have an impact. People can debate how impactful they are but if you are wearing a high-quality mask, KN95 mask, level-three procedure mask, it is going to afford you a measure of protection. There is pretty good literature right now looking at flu and COVID demonstrating that the masks can provide a measure of protection. And in an environment where there aren't a lot of other easy things that we can do, the masks become a very important tool.

BURNETT: Well, I hope -- I hope that he will listen to -- to you and the facts and the studies. I mean, he is a medical doctor. Now, the surgeon general there.

"The New York Times" is just reporting that the FDA has authorized booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for those who are 65 or older and those at high risk. Of course, you said on the -- the board of Pfizer. You know the situation well.

Do you think the FDA will do booster shots for those under 65? As President Biden has made very clear, Dr. Gottlieb, that he wants.

GOTTLIEB: Yes. So their -- the approval or the authorization that the FDA just issued -- and I just caught the headline, I had some awareness of it -- also scopes in people who are at high risk of severe outcome from COVID which can include an occupational exposure.

Tomorrow, ACIP, the advisory committee that the CDC is going to meet and interpret, the FDA authorization tonight, and we'll see what kind of recommendations they make around that, because that could be quite broad. It could include a lot of people who are at high risk from a bad outcome from COVID because they are more likely to come into contact with the disease that they are working in occupations where they are put at risk of contracting the illness, as well.

So CDC is going to get an opportunity. I suspect, what's going to happen is we will continue to collect data on this cohort, 65 and over, and other people who are made eligible. And eventually, the agency may walk down the authorization to younger age cohorts depending what they learn from the data set here in the United States.

BURNETT: All right. So the average number of daily cases in the U.S. has been trending down. It's actually the lowest level it's been at in a month and I mention that because you actually predicted this in July. Here you are.


GOTTLIEB: The delta variant's going to move its way through the country over the course of August and September, maybe into October. The peak of this epidemic would really be sometime around the end of September.


BURNETT: And that's where we are, right? I mean, because we are at 2,000 plus deaths a day, right? So you are at the peak death but cases are trending down.

So where do you think we are now in terms of the peak? And -- and if you think that this is soon to be perhaps in the rear-view mirror in terms of delta now, are you now worried Dr. Gottlieb about other variants that could emerge and become dominant?

GOTTLIEB: Well, look. This has been a highly regionalized epidemic all the way through. There was one point in the winter time when we had a con fluent epidemic across the United States but otherwise, it's been very regionalized. The South had a very dense, delta wave of infection. It's coming down right now and that's what's driving the national average. They are -- they are dropping very quickly.

But you are seeing cases pick up in the Midwest, states like Indiana, Kentucky, even Ohio, the Pacific Northwest. The question remains what kind of epidemic delta wave is the northeast going to see? Is the Northeast somewhat impervious because they have a high rate of prior infection so there is immunity in the population and also higher rates of vaccination? Or will they see some spread?

I happen to believe there is going to be a pickup in cases in the Northeast that were not entirely impervious from this. And so, you are going to see the delta variant course its way through different parts of the country. Now, that said, this is probably the last major wave of infection to sweep the nation, barring something really unexpected happening where you get a variant that pierces the immunity that we have from vaccination and from prior infection.

And this is going to start to transition to a more endemic virus where it becomes a constant threat but not the really severe, pervasive threat it is right now as we are in the throes of this epidemic wave of delta.

BURNETT: So, one thing that, you know, everyone seems to talk about now, Dr. Gottlieb, OK, if I am vaccinated, can I really go back to normal life? And -- and what you are talking about, about it being endemic, plays into that. But a real big part of what plays into that from what I hear is people wanting to know if the vaccine protects them from long COVID, right? Am I going to have permanent heart issues? Is it going to shorten my life span? Am I going to have nervous system issues? Brain shrinkage, right? All these fears people have.

So, my friend, Piers Morgan, a news broadcaster tweeted yesterday and I quote him: Has anyone had long COVID symptoms for ten weeks or more and then fully recovered? If so, what did you do to get over it? It's getting very irritating.

I say this because Piers is fully vaccinated, got COVID as you may be aware and has ended up with this long COVID despite being fully vaccinated.


This is what people are afraid of. There is a study out of the U.K. that shows that being fully vaccinated reduces, by half, the odds of getting long COVID. It's just one study, though. Where are you on this, Dr. Gottlieb?

GOTTLIEB: Well, look, it's an unclear question right now. There is a number of studies that suggest that if you are vaccinated and you develop an infection, you are less likely to have long-term sequellae persistent symptoms. You are also less likely to develop a symptomatic infection if you are vaccinated.

I think the other thing that's driving a lot of concern among people who are vaccinated is the fact that the children aren't vaccinated. So when I talk to a lot of individuals, they have confidence that since they are vaccinated, they're unlikely to develop a very severe infection, that they are unlikely to be hospitalized from COVID. The vaccines have proven very effective at preventing severe disease.

What they are concerned about is developing a mild infection or an asymptomatic infection and bringing it back into their house where there may be vulnerable people. And so, I think we have to have a better handle on how many breakthrough infections are happening, whether or not people are as likely to be contagious if they are vaccinated and have a breakthrough infection. The answer is probably not. The period in which you are infectious if you have been vaccinated and develop a breakthrough infection is probably much shorter so you shed virus for a shorter period of time.

But these are the critical questions we need to answer. And CDC, so far, isn't collecting the kind of information we need on a systematic basis to really answer these questions. The answers we are getting is out of Israel where they doing a much better job collecting data as well as the U.K.

BURNETT: Can I just ask you a quick follow to that? Israel seems to be six weeks or two months ahead of us on pretty much anything. They say do this and we hear from the U.S. community -- no, no, no, and then six weeks later, we do it. What are they -- what are they doing better?

GOTTLIEB: Collecting data. They are collecting data across their entire population, analyzing it much better than us.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Dr. Gottlieb. I appreciate your time. It's great to talk to you.

And next, CNN tracks down an influential doctor who still has her license and is spreading dangerous lies about COVID and vaccines.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dr. Gold, Nick Watt with CNN. Can we speak to you for a couple minutes?



BURNETT: Plus, underwater dive teams have joined the search for Gabby Petito's fiance. It has been eight days since he was last seen. So, where do think they Brian Laundrie is?



BURNETT: Tonight, an influential COVID skeptic who spreads vaccine misinformation far and wide and pushes a conspiracy that the pandemic was a, quote, pretext to take down the U.S. Also, happens to be a licensed medical doctor and an indicted January 6th insurrectionist. Yep. Nick Watt is OUTFRONT.


WATT (voice-over): She wears a white coat but not a face mask. Struts to a Ted Nugent tune in a promo video, tours the country making false claims about the coronavirus.

DR. SIMONE GOLD, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Asymptomatic spread is not a thing.

WATT: And about the vaccines.

GOLD: All the vaccine candidates have problems. They're all using the spike proteins, but the spike proteins themselves are what we doctors call pathogenic, meaning they are disease causing.

WATT: that is not true, Dr. Paul Offit, member of the FDA vaccine advisory committee, told CNN. But Dr. Simone Gold is a licensed emergency room physician, so people listen to her.

PROFESSOR ARTHUR CAPLAN, NYU GROSSMAN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: There are two huge impacts when a doctor lies in the middle of a plague. One, other critics, doubters quickly point out that they are doctors, suggesting that their opinions are somehow mainstream or common. The other is that they have trust on the part of the public.

WATT: And the CDC says the unvaccinated are 11-times more likely to be killed by COVID-19.

But Dr. Gold claims she's saving lives, leading a civil rights crusade against vaccine mandates.

GOLD: With the tyranny of medical apartheid nipping at our heels, rise up, rise up, rise up! Yes.

WATT: She actually likens herself to Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks.

And just rolled up to a rally in San Francisco like a tardy rock star draped in the flag, claiming our leaders are the ones lying.

GOLD: The other one that really hurt our country was saying that masks work.

WATT: Gold claims she's been cancelled by big and social media. We caught up with her at that rally in San Francisco this past weekend.

Dr. Gold, Nick Watt with CNN. Can we speak to you for a couple minutes?

GOLD: CNN? No way.

WATT: It was her speech flanked by associates on the steps of the Supreme Court that catapulted Gold to fame or infamy.

GOLD: We're here because we feel as though the American people have not heard from all the expertise that's out there.

WATT: President Trump retweeted this video which social media companies later took down of them promoting unfounded cures like hydroxychloroquine. Through Gold's website, you can now connect to a third party that offers a $90 telemedicine consultation and those unfounded medicines for an additional price.

Patients with symptoms will be prioritized.

CAPLAN: That's preying on people who are desperate, trying to sell them junk when they're in dire straits.

WATT: Now, Gold has been arrested and indicted. But for this, filmed inside the Capitol during the January-6th insurrection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now this lady is making a speech.

WATT: She pleaded not guilty to all five counts, including disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building.

GOLD: At the very least, it means the government can't be saying it's safe and effective.

WATT: As of today, Gold is still a licensed doctor here in California. The state's medical board can't say if she is under investigation, citing confidentiality. But told us, publicly spreading false COVID-19 information may be considered unprofessional conduct and could be grounds for disciplinary action.

CAPLAN: I think people who spread false information or undermine trust in vaccination at the present time are spreading misinformation that is dangerous, that cost lives. And I think their licenses should be revoked.


WATT (on camera): And that, I'm told is a slow and deliberate process in any state. And, you know, it should be. Doctors work long and hard to get that license, so it shouldn't be taken away lightly.

Now, Dr. Gold is not the only doctor in this country spreading COVID misinformation. There aren't many of them but even one doctor saying this stuff has an outsized influence -- Erin.

BURNETT: Yeah, absolutely. So many just grab onto it. Nick watt, thank you so much for your always-excellent report.

An d next, as the search intensifies for Gabby Petito's fiance, we are learning new details about Brian Laundrie's demeanor after he returned home without Gabby.

Plus, he was kidnapped from a Chicago hospital as a baby. Only to be found and reunited with his family. But as you are about to learn, that's not the whole story.


BURNETT: Tonight, police just ending their search operations for the day as they look for Gabby Petito's fiance Bryan Laundrie in Florida. It's been eight days since Laundrie's family says they last saw him. The search is intensifying as a woman claims she saw Laundrie alone on august 26th near the area where Petito's body was later found.

Leyla Santiago is OUTFRONT.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More teams joining the search for Gabby Petito's fiance, Brian Laundrie. New today, a highly specialized group of divers at the 25,000-acre Carlton wildlife reserve.

KAITLYN R. PEREZ, SPOKESWOMAN SARATOTA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: They dive down where you and I can't see anything at all and they utilize technology and other special equipment to help them get down deep into -- into really deep bodies of water.

SANTIAGO: The multiagency operation taking a methodical approach.

COMMANDER JOE FUSSELL, NORTH POINT POLICE DEPARTMENT: We are trying to cover every acre in this preserve. I tell you, these guys, our law enforcement partners. They are motivated and they are hungry to find Brian Laundrie.

SANTIAGO: Police say Laundrie's parents claim they last saw him over a week ago when he told them he was heading to the reserve. A neighborhood said she saw Brian after he returned home alone in early September.

KARYN ABERTS, LAUNDRIE FAMILY'S NEIGHBOR: Saw him and the family in the neighborhood out in the front yard.

SANTIAGO: How would you describe them?

ABERTS: I thought it was just, again, a normal, you know, they were going for a walk kind of -- you know, thing. So never thought anything about it.

SANTIAGO: The initial determination for the manner of Gabby Petito's death, homicide. The FBI now asking the public for assistance. Some tips to the FBI proving valuable.

A second person says he witnessed a domestic dispute between Petito and Laundrie on August 12th, and gave a handwritten sworn statement saying in part, they were talking aggressively at each other and something seemed off. At one point, they were sort of fighting over a phone. I think the male took the female's phone. It appeared that he didn't want her in the white van. And from my point of view, something definitely didn't seem right.

Another witness, Jessica Schultz, a woman who was camping in Wyoming says in a TikTok video that she alerted the FBI when she spotted the white van used by Laundrie and Petito suspiciously parked for several days.

JESSICA SCHULTZ: So a group of friends and I were camped from the 22nd to the 29th and in that timeframe, we all independently noticed that van parked there and I noticed it particularly because I had seen it trying to park and also because it wasn't actually parked in a designated spot.

I figured they'd get booted by the people that patrol the area but the van was there for several days and nights. And it did not get booted. The weirdest part about it was, was that there was no indication that there was anybody actually at the van.


SANTIAGO (on camera): And Jessica Schultz declined to comment to CNN. The FBI also told us that they would not comment, citing privacy on this report. As for where the focus is on this search, we know that the FBI is digging through much of the evidence that was recovered earlier in the week from where the couple lived. And the search here at the Carlton reserve continues because police tell us this is the only information that they have to go off of from the family. The family telling them that this is where Brian Laundrie was headed the last time they saw him.

And, Erin, as for tonight, the search has ended. We expect them to begin again in the morning.

BURNETT: Leyla, thank you very much reporting as you can see from Venice, Florida.

OUTFRONT now, Jim Clemente, a retired FBI profiler.


So, Jim, I know, I have been talking to you throughout this horrid story, an underwater dive team now called in today for the search for Brian Laundrie who has not been seen by his family in eight days.

At this point, do you think there is any way they are not looking for a body as opposed to a live person?

JIM CLEMENTE, RETIRED FBI PROFILER: I think if he's in the preserve, I think it -- it maybe raises the chance that he might not be alive. But I don't think that it's necessarily where he is. I mean, if you look at the best predictor of human behavior being a past pattern of behavior. And you see the fact that he had sort of set up an alibi with these young ladies who had given him a ride hitchhiking.

He left the vehicle at the location where the body was later found. And he hitchhiked away from that. So, he was setting up an alibi by leaving a vehicle in one place and going in another direction.

BURNETT: So, one of Brian Laundrie's neighbors told Fox News that Laundrie seemed normal. That was the word they used after he returned home on September 1st without Petito. And she said, quote, he mowed the lawn, him and his mother went for a bike ride around the block. Everything was normal life once he came back. It seemed like nothing bothered him.

What does this tell you and add to the profile you've been building of him?

CLEMENTE: Well, if you look at his behavior, that is, if he was involved in her death. And at this point, we know of nobody else who could have been but if he was involved in her death and then he came home without her, knowing that her body was laying in that -- in the ground somewhere in the middle of nowhere. And then, he acted very normally. It just -- it seems like there's a lack of empathy there and that's a lack of empathy that I saw on the body cam of the police officers, as well.

His fiancee, who he says he loves, is in extreme distress just yards away from him and he is laughing and joking with the police officers. It seems like that could be an indicator that he doesn't have a level of normal human empathy. And that could put him somewhere on the psychopathic (INAUDIBLE).

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jim. Appreciate your time.

And next, a baby kidnapped and years later reunited with who he believes are his parents. But what really happened?


BURNETT: A man raised to believe he was kidnapped from a hospital after being born only to be found and reunited with his parents. Then, decades later, the whole thing takes another turn. He's not who he thinks he is.

The mystery is the focus of the new CNN film, "The Lost Sons."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just remember when he said it, I was like oh my gosh, are you okay? How do you feel? Do you want me to come there right now?

He is like I don't know what to think. I don't know what to feel but he -- he was upset but yet masking it, I could tell.

He's like, I can't believe it. He's like they're not the real -- he's like I don't know my birthday. He's like I don't even know where I was born or who my parents are. He's like I have no idea. He's like I don't even know how old I am.


BURNETT: Don't miss "The Lost Sons", Sunday night at 9:00.

And thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.