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Erin Burnett Outfront

Biden Refuses To Assert Executive Privilege On Trump's Behalf, Won't Withhold Trump Docs From Jan 6 Committee; Jan 6 Committee To "Swiftly Consider" Criminal Contempt For Bannon As He Defies Subpoena At "Direction" Of Trump; Laundrie Atty. Won't Say Whether Parents Will Take Polygraph; Police: Parents' Behavior Was "Odd" After He Went Missing; Lifelong Republican Leaves Party, Running For Oklahoma Governor As Democrat; Trump Pressures Texas Governor Abbott To Conduct Statewide Audit. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 08, 2021 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, President Biden rejecting Trump's request to keep dozens of documents from the January 6 Committee as one of Trump's closest confidant thumbed his nose at Congress and the law.

Plus, the parents of Brian Laundrie have not taken a polygraph test and their attorney refuses to say if they will take one in the future as police describe one of their first interactions with the Laundrie family as odd.

And a lifelong Republican leaves the GOP and announced that she's joining the Democratic Party to challenge Oklahoma's Governor, so what was the final straw? She's my guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, denied. President Biden flat out rejecting Trump's request to withhold White House records from the January 6 Committee. It's a major blow to the former president who will no doubt fight this in court, because he is still trying to assert executive privilege to keep documents and a lot of other information secret from the Committee.

But the Biden White House tonight saying, "Congress is examining an assault on our Constitution and democratic institutions provoked and fanned by those sworn to protect them, and the conduct under investigation extends far beyond typical deliberations concerning the proper discharge of the President's constitutional responsibilities. The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield, from Congress to the public, information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself."

It's a logical argument and it opens the door for what could be a treasure trove of information about what was going on behind closed doors inside the White House on January 6th. The initial request from the Select Committee includes things like documents and comments made by Trump and others from his inner circle on January 6th, it goes on and on here. I mean, there's pages and pages and pages of it of what they wanted; calendars, schedules, pictures, videos from that day.

They want anything that was said about then-Vice President Pence as rioters were storming the Capitol and I'm still thumbing through that list of information. And they want information about things like Trump's mental health, more on that in a moment. It's all information Trump doesn't want anyone to know.

In a letter to the National Archives, he has requested specifically that 45 documents not be released. But it's not like he says, oh, hey, the document about mental health and - no, no, no, what's in those specific documents appears to still be a mystery. Trump vowing that he will 'take all necessary and appropriate steps to defend the office of the presidency'. Of course, his definition of the office of the presidency was much more like a monarchy.

We have Kaitlan Collins and Evan Perez standing by with the breaking details here. I want to start first with you, Kaitlan. You're outside the White House tonight. What else is the Biden administration telling you about their logic and why they have decided they will not defend the executive privilege of the former executive?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it's a bold move by this White House and it's something that they said that they have been discussing for the last month since they first got this request from the National Archives. And this is a decision that was made by the White House Counsel's Office, the Office of Legal Counsel and the Justice Department into going into this request.

And they say, simply at the end of the day that this is an extraordinary set of circumstances because, of course, executive privilege is something that is very sensitive to any White House and any president, because whatever they do affects precedent going forward for other presidents that come after them.

But they say that blocking these documents as former President Trump wants this White House to do is not in the best interest of the United States. And they say they're not justified for any of these documents to do so. And so they say they will cooperate, they will help the Committee get these documents once they go through this process.

And Erin, simply put the way that they are framing is because of the nature of this investigation. They say it is so sensitive and that President Biden has made clear he wants this committee to be able to get a full accounting of what happened inside the White House on January 6th, so something like this doesn't happen again.

And, of course, we know there's been kind of this black hole of information over what exactly was going on in the West Wing that day, because of the activities of the President's top aides then and so they say here these are extraordinary circumstances. Of course, we have seen former President Trump also sent his own letter to the National Archives today saying that there are about 40 to 45 documents in this initial request which, of course, is what the White House is talking about when they say they will not assert executive privilege over this that he believes will fall under that. So that is going to be a special request that they will then have to review. And we should note that in this letter from former President Trump to the National Archives, he says, "Should the Committee," referencing the Committee investigating January 6th, "persist in seeking other privileged information, I will take all necessary and appropriate steps to defend the office of the presidency." Essentially Erin, setting us up for a showdown between these two White Houses.

BURNETT: Absolutely, I think it's going to be incredible. All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan. And I want to go now to Evan. So Evan, what is the January 6 Committee - they're hoping to find these documents.


I mean look, we got this long, long list and then Trump's come out and listed 45 which, I guess, let me just ask you, that would presumably mean they're willing for some of this stuff to be put out there. But these 45 documents that, and first of all, is that true? And secondly, what do you know about the list of 45 documents that they categorically want to keep hidden?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We don't know what specific documents the former President is looking to block access to. But we know that among the things that this committee was asking for was, obviously, were call logs, they were looking for schedules from meetings with top officials that the former president was - who he was dealing with in the days before the January 6 and on the day of January 6 including some of his advisors like Rudy Giuliani who was speaking at that rally before the invasion of the Capitol.

Those are the types of documents that we know they were looking for and we know those are the types of things that the former president believes are falling under what he says is his executive privilege. Now, of course, as you guys just discussed, this is the privilege that belongs to the current president and former president trying to assert that he can go into this, he's going to have to probably file a lawsuit to try to sustain that idea, Erin.

And keep in mind like, look, we don't know whether this is something he's actually going to do. He often threatens losses and never actually - and doesn't follow through.


PEREZ: But this could be a strategy here because he's used this before, the Mueller investigation, he made sure that certain litigation happened and they never got to certain documents and certain people, so that could be the long-term play here.

BURNETT: All right. Evan, thank you very much.

And I want to go now to Elie Honig, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. And Tim Naftali, Presidential Historian.

So Elie, again, they asked originally for a whole lot of documents, so it counts to 12 under one category and then it counts to seven under the other, seven under the other, but those numbers don't correlate with documents. Number 12 is all communications relating to, the reason I'm doing this is what I'm saying is these are a lot of pages and it's a lot of information and yet they come up with a list of 45 specific documents that they hereby formally exert executive privilege over. So before we get to whether they're going to succeed at that, what does that tell you that it's 45 documents?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Erin. Looking at this like a prosecutor, my attention is drawn directly to those 45 documents. This could be a treasure trove. And here's why, first of all, this is a dispute over records held by the National Archives. When people think of archives, maybe they think of the Museum in Washington, D.C. But the archives is where the documents of the White House's internal discussions, internal deliberations are stored.

And the second thing is, the Committee here has requested thousands upon thousands of documents and the Trump former administration comes back and says we just want to block these 45 and the natural common sense question is why. When you try to hide something, it's usually for a reason.

BURNETT: Yes, it is. And again, this is a lot of requests and all doc, I'm sorry, all communications related to every one of these individuals on this page is not one document each.

So Tim, what's your perspective of this? They come up with 45 specific things. I mean, part of me is like, wow, I can't believe they'd have 45 damning documents at the National Archives, why didn't they shred them or burn them on the way out, which would have been sort of what I'd expect from them. What's the context here, Tim, on a former president trying to keep so many records secret like this? Is it a lot or a little?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: This is a big moment, because our country's definition of executive privileges is not precise and what we have seen in the past is that presidents will choose to protect the office of the presidency before, frankly, the interests of the country.

And President Biden or the Biden White House's decision not to backup a former president's exercise of executive privilege is a first in our history and it's big. And it's big, because executive privilege has been a way by which presidents have avoided not only transparency, but accountability.

I think that the Trump people have made a big mistake by isolating their opposition to only 40 documents, because when this goes to court and by the way, what governs this is the Presidential Records Act. When this goes to court, I assume Trump will go to court, he has the right under the Act, the court will have to look at those 40 documents and try to figure out why the pattern of presidential privilege allows Trump to withhold those from the public and Congress.

BURNETT: Right. So Elie, can I ask you? This is a crucial question actually, because why would you pick 45? It isn't the whole point, but it's either the principle of executive privilege or it isn't.


So either none of this should be available, although some of it is call logs and entry logs which they didn't even keep, but some of this stuff would be generally a matter of public record. But shouldn't they have gone all or nothing?

HONIG: There's two reasons that I think they're trying to narrow this. One is these are the documents that they're really afraid of coming out and these are the ones they want to fight for. The other thing is sometimes when lawyers invoke any privilege, whether it's executive privilege, attorney-client privilege, anything like that, sometimes you want to be as targeted as possible.

So you can tell the court, we're not just exerting a blanket privilege over thousands of thousands of documents. These are the ones that we think fit the legal definition, internal deliberations that need to be kept secret for some legitimate reason.

BURNETT: So Tim, let me just ask you this issue that you raise, which is that this has never been done before in history and by that I'm referring to the Biden administration's decision to not assert privilege on behalf of the former executive. That's the precedent, as you point out.

I mean, I'm just randomly looking here at page 12 of the original document request at the top, all documents and communications related to the mental stability of Donald Trump or his fitness for office. I raised that and the point here is that you are setting a precedent.

NAFTALI: Yes, you are. By the way what's unprecedented here is not supporting an exercise of privilege asked for by the former president. There have been many White House's that haven't exerted executive privilege over in former presidential records. But that's because the former president's state didn't exert privilege.

Yes. This is a big deal. But look, one of the problems in our system is that we do not have transparency with regard to presidential health, so this is a real test and it's about time our courts weighed in.

BURNETT: So Elie, how do you think this goes? Who wins here in court?

HONIG: I think Trump loses ultimately. As Tim said, we don't have a definitive answer on this question from the courts. But if you look at the purpose of executive privilege, it's designed to protect the institution, not an individual. And there is precedent, by the way, for a current president exercising executive privilege over a prior president. I'm sure Tim knows 2001 George W. Bush was the one who exercised executive privilege over request for Bill Clinton, his predecessor's documents, but Clinton didn't object and I think that's the point ...

BURNETT: That's the point, yes. HONIG: ...Tim was making. But I think the real object here, Erin, is to get this into courts and to gum up the works and to play the delay game. So it's going to be on Congress and it's going to be on the courts to act very quickly here so they don't fall into that trap.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

And next, this happened today, the President's former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon defied Congress, ignoring the subpoena by the Select Committee, so what will it take to get Bannon to talk?

Plus, CNN learning tonight that the parents of Gabby Petito's fiancee, Brian Laundrie, have not taken a polygraph test yet as police confirmed that they were actually surveilling Laundrie before he disappeared, so how did he vanished?

And Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott, all of a sudden moving forward with an audit of his state's 2020 election results, even though Trump won the State. How come?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump said jump, the governor said how high.




BURNETT: Tonight, former Trump Adviser Steve Bannon refusing to cooperate with the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. Bannon's lawyer writing in a letter to the Committee and I quote, "The executive privileges belong to President Trump and we must accept his direction and honor his invocation of executive privilege."

The Committee responding, "We will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral."

It comes as we're learning that Trump's former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Pentagon aide Kash Patel are 'so far engaging' with the Committee.

OUTFRONT tonight, former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent. So Congressman, I think that's interesting. I mean, there were some who thought all of these individuals would completely defy the subpoena and the fact that you have someone important like Kash Patel and Mark Meadows so far engaging could be significant. But what about Bannon who is very central to so much of this, how important is it for the Committee to hear from him?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's extraordinarily important for the Committee to hear from him and I think it's beyond outrageous that a private citizen is trying to claim that a former president could invoke executive privilege over conversations with a private citizen, one who had been fired by President Trump.

So I think Congress has to assert itself, they must refer this whole matter to the Department of Justice and hold them in criminal contempt. I was a chairman of a committee, the Ethics Committee and I was involved with issuing subpoenas and I'll tell you what, if somebody defied one of our poenas brazenly, it would have taken in New York a minute to refer this thing over to the Department of Justice.

So I think this is beyond the pale and I think Meadows is smart. Meadows and Patel are smart to at least engage with the Committee and not be so defiant.

BURNETT: So when you talk referring it to the DOJ, I mean, trying to say what could Congress do on its own, I know, for example, Congressman Ted Lieu has been trying to pass a bill that would fine people up to a hundred thousand dollars for a non-compliance with a congressional subpoena. That's a significant amount of money even for someone like Steve Bannon, but it hasn't gone anywhere.

So is there nothing that the Committee can do or that Congress can do to try to get Bannon to cooperate or really at this point know that they're sort of like unix (ph), they got to go to the DOJ.

DENT: I think they are completely dependent on DOJ. And frankly, this is the whole point of what this whole January 6th investigation was about. Congress' eroding authority, it's been eroding for many, many years pre-Trump. It's been eroding and if people like Steve Bannon are able to defy lawfully issued subpoenas, well, then this further (inaudible) we were dealing with the President of the United States, Article Two, supporting an attack on Article One on January 6th trying to stop them from engaging in their constitutional duty and crimes were committed on that day. Obviously, assaults on police officers, forcibly entering the Congress.

So I mean, there was wrongdoing that was here that occurred on that day, so I don't understand how executive privilege applies to wrongdoing. I support executive privilege, by the way for communications between the president and his or her staff, but not for wrongdoing and that's what clearly occurred here.


BURNETT: Right. And as you point out, there is no privilege for wrongdoing. You were Chair of the Ethics Committee, as you mentioned. So you had to issue a lot of subpoenas for witnesses and subjects of investigations. Did you ever deal with witnesses like this who just literally will just say, sorry, not going to do it?

DENT: No. I didn't issue a lot of subpoenas when I was chairman. We issued some. But the way the process would ordinarily work, we would try to get a person to come in voluntarily and we would authorize the issuance of subpoenas, not necessarily issuance, but just be prepared to do so in the event that help them comply, to help them come in voluntarily. And so we would often negotiate with a potential witness in an investigation to get them to come in. So sometimes just the threat of a subpoena for somebody to come in voluntarily but I never saw nobody ever defied us like this. We had a situation once with some foreign actors who misbehaved and they're overseas and we couldn't enforce the subpoena on some foreigners in a particular matter.

BURNETT: Right. But obviously, not the same with American citizens. Thank you so much, Congressman Dent. I appreciate your time tonight.

DENT: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: Next to Florida, where police are revealing new details tonight about some of their first interactions with Brian Laundrie's parents and they're now calling it like we've all been seeing it, they say their behavior is odd.

And a lifelong Republican announcing she's switching parties and taking on Oklahoma's Republican Governor because of his pandemic response. She's OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: New tonight, the parents of Brian Laundrie have no current plans to help law enforcement search for their son according to the family lawyer, who also confirms the parents have not taken a polygraph test, wouldn't comment on whether they plan to. It comes as North Port police describe the behavior of Brian's parents as 'odd' after speaking to them on the day they reported Brian missing. Athena Jones is OUTFRONT.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice over): As the search for Gabby Petito's fiance, Brian Laundrie, approaches its fourth week, no police activity visible today at the Carlton Nature Reserve where Laundrie's parents believe he went before disappearing.

Meanwhile, new details emerging about the period after Laundrie returned home in Petito's white van without Petito on September 1st and before Laundrie left his parents' home on September 13th telling them he was headed to the 25,000 acre reserve. North Port Florida Police now revealing they were watching Laundrie before he left, but were limited in what they could do because he had not been charged with a crime.


JOSH TAYLOR, SPOKESPERSON, NORTH PORT POLICE DEPT.: If you talk to a lot of people who have experience in law enforcement, the guy goes for a walk in the Carlton Reserve. He's not wanted for a crime. I mean, what are we supposed to do? We're going to go tree to tree following him back through the woods? I mean, it just wasn't there with the information we had in this case. (END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES(voice over): Petito's remains were found in Wyoming on September 19th, the coroner ruling it a homicide. Police say they never spoke with Laundrie before he left the home he and Petito shared with his parents. They did not see or speak with him during their visit on September 11th, the day Petito's parents reported her missing.

Authorities visited the home again on September 17, when Laundrie's parents reported him missing but refuse to answer questions about Petito's whereabouts, behavior police described as odd. Police did not see or speak with Brian during that visit. Police also confirming they do not have the cell phones Laundrie or Petito used during their cross country trip.

CNN previously reported Laundrie bought a new cell phone from an AT&T store in North Port on September 4th and they left it behind on September 13th. Laundrie has not been charged in connection with Petito's death, but he is suspected of using a debit card Petito's family says belonged to her to access over $1,000 after her death. A federal warrant has been issued for his arrest.

In an interview with Fox News that aired Thursday, Petito's family pleading with Laundrie to turn himself in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People want to know how I'm feeling and that's - I'm feeling - I'm upset. I want to - just turn yourself in. That's all I wanted. It's just getting more and more frustrating as days go on.



JONES(on camera): Petito's parents call Brian Laundrie the missing piece of the puzzle and many think his parents could be doing more to help find him. Today a plane flew over the Laundrie home with a sign reading 'end the silence'. Erin?

BURNETT: Athena, thank you very much.

I want to bring Chris Swecker now, former Assistant Director for the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division. He ran the FBI Charlotte office when the Atlanta Olympic bomber was caught in North Carolina ending a five year manhunt. So Chris, let me start with Brian Laundrie's parents.

We now know they haven't taken a polygraph. Their lawyer won't comment on whether they ever will. And now police are describing the parents' behavior is 'odd' after they reported Brian missing. And look everything we've heard about them as people watching this and covering this, it has been at the least odd. It just smells all off, doesn't it?

CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER ASST. DIRECTOR, FBI CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: Highly suspicious and I think for the investigators, the local investigators to say that this behavior was odd, I think they're telegraphing to us that it was highly suspicious that they were uncooperative from day one, lawyered up on Brian's behalf and on their own behalf and stonewalled the investigation from day one.

So I think there's three investigations going on here. There's a fugitive investigation. I think there's an investigation as to whether there's been obstruction or harboring and there's an investigation of the homicide of Gabby Petito. So it's going to be interesting to see how investigations two and three come out, because I'm certain they're going to catch Brian Laundrie.

BURNETT: And when you say you're certain they're going to catch him, that means you believe that he is alive and not dead in that nature preserve.

SWECKER: Yes. Let me back up on that. They'll catch him if he is alive. I think that when you see investigators searching in the Florida wilderness out there in that park area. I don't think they're looking for a live person.


And I don't think a live person could -- could be in there the length of time that he would have had to have been in there. I mean, the mosquitoes alone would have carried him away.

BURNETT: Right. Right. So on that, I mean, you know, I know you've spent time training down there in the Everglades. A rancher who worked in that area for 30 years said there's no way anyone could survive in there for that long. A source seconding what you are saying.

But it's yet the only place that we have seen them looking.

SWECKER: Well, that's what's visible to us. I mean, there have been -- that's -- that's where the parents pointed them. And that's, I think that's where a lot of tips and leads have been pointing them.

But when you -- when you -- you know, you start opening up to the general public, everybody wants their 15 minutes of fame. Every little campsite becomes a suspicious Brian Laundrie campsite. So they -- the investigators have to go out there and look.

BURNETT: So North Port police have told CNN that they were surveilling Brian before he disappeared. Yet, he left home to hike in nearby nature reserve. And police did not start looking for him until his parents reported him missing four days later.

So, if police were actually following Brian, how was he able to get away so easily?

SWECKER: I don't -- I don't know when their surveillance started, and I don't -- I -- surveillance is a term of art. I suspect given the resources of that very small department, that their surveillance was very loose. If -- if -- if at all. I mean, I -- I don't think that they were on him 24/7. I mean, in the FBI, if we had a surveillance going on, we'd have five

cars and an airplane up. I don't think they had that resource, nor do I think they were on it right away.

BURNETT: No, it doesn't seem like it. I mean, I think we all know that they weren't. But -- but when I mention the Atlanta Olympic bomber and your role running that. Five years and a manhunt. Do you believe that they will find Brian Laundrie, dead or alive?

SWECKER If he is alive, I'm certain they'll find him. I mean, he is a very visible public person. His photo is everywhere.

And even in the era of COVID where people are wearing masks, the system will pick him up somewhere. If -- if he is alive and he's moving about, he will get caught. I don't put him in the category of the Olympic bomber who spent five years up in the woods in the forest because he was a very experienced outdoorsman. He had pre-prepared locations, cabins to stay in. Much different situation.

I don't put Brian Laundrie in that category as -- as an outdoorsman. So I expect him to get picked up if he is alive.

BURNETT: All right, Chris, thank you.

SWECKER: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, a lifelong Republican taking a shot at the governor's mansion in Oklahoma, only she's doing it as a Democrat. She's next.

And Trump won Texas. So why is that state's Republican governor moving forward with an audit of the 2020 results on Trump's request?



BURNETT: New tonight, a lifelong Republican official in Oklahoma saying good-bye to the GOP. Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma's top public education official, announcing she is joining the Democratic Party and she will then run against the Republican Governor Kevin Stitt. She claims Stitt is, quote, running Oklahoma into the ground.

Here is part of her first campaign ad.


JOY HOFMEISTER (D), CANDIDATE FOR OK GOV.: I faced down extremism, partisanship, ineffective leadership, and Governor Stitt. When it came to keeping our children safe, I took on that fight. When it came to supporting our teachers, I led the way. And when it came to fighting for our public schools, especially our rural schools, I was there.


BURNETT: And state superintendent of public instruction, Hofmeister, is OUTFRONT.

So, Superintendent, lifelong Republican and I know a proud one throughout your life. And now, making a decision not just to leave your party but join the Democratic one. Why?

HOFMEISTER: Well first of all, thank you, Erin, for having me. And, you know, this has not been a swift decision, but one where I've had a lot of personal reflection, watching the leadership here in -- our governor's office, where really, Governor Stitt has hijacked the Republican Party here in Oklahoma.

And the extremism and divisive partisanship has really left a lot of Oklahomans behind, and I think there's too much to fight for to simply let that go.

BURNETT: So, former President Trump and Governor Stitt have had a lot of praise for each other. Here's just so everyone can hear for themselves.


GOV. KEVIN STITT (R), OKLAHOMA: Kevin Stitt, newly-elected governor of Oklahoma, and excited to be here and was wonderful getting a phone call from you after our primary victory.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: That was a great victory.

STITT: Thank you.

TRUMP: Great job.

We're glad to be joined, as well, by a man that I've gotten to know. He's done an incredible job with COVID and with everything else he touches, Governor Kevin Stitt.

STITT: I was so proud that 7:04, they called the state of Oklahoma for my president and your president, Donald J. Trump.


BURNETT: So, obviously, a lot of mutual admiration between the two of them. The point there that Governor Stitt makes, though, called the election at 7:04. Trump did win your state by 33 percentage points. Carried every county.

Yet, despite all that, you're going against the governor and you are doing it as a Democrat. So -- so, why? What's the strategy in do you think you can win?

HOFMEISTER: Absolutely. There is a great interest right now in representing all of Oklahoma. We have had a governor with infective ineffective leadership, one who is dividing neighbor against neighbor, even family against family.

[11:40:08] And the mismanagement of COVID and the pandemic has really left too many Oklahomans to bear that cost with 10,000 lives lost and our children who are bearing the tissue -- the brunt of that with -- the brunt of that with incredible loss of learning when it comes to the dysfunction that they experienced.

BURNETT: So, you know, because when you talk about extremism, obviously, in the polarization. Certainly, in the past. Now, almost two years, right? That has been centered much of it in COVID. And you say one of the main reasons you're running is because of how Governor Stitt has tackled the COVID pandemic.

So he opposes mask mandates. He opposes mandates for the COVID vaccine. He calls them complete disregard for individual freedom and states' rights.

You also oppose those mandates. But -- but you say -- that you may not have needed a mask mandate but the Governor Stitt could have worn a mask?

HOFMEISTER: We needed a leader. We needed a leader who could have prepared Oklahomans for the pandemic. We have experienced unnecessary disruption and loss of life. It -- it is also one where I believe Governor Stitt does not represent the values of Oklahomans, which is hard work, common sense, and courage.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, superintendent, thank you very much.

And I want to everyone to know --


BURNETT: -- we did also invite Governor Stitt to join us tonight. His office said he was traveling on official business, and unable to. And of course, he is welcome to come OUTFRONT.

And OUTFRONT next, the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, doing everything he can to stay in Trump's good graces. That now includes pushing Trump's big lie in his own state, a state that Trump won.

Plus, a first look at CNN's new-original series "DIANA" and what the world never knew about her life as a child.



BURNETT: Tonight, Texas Governor Greg Abbott pushing the big lie after pressure from former President Trump, of course. The Republican governor moving ahead with an audit of the 2020 election results in Texas even though Trump easily won the state by more than 600,000 votes.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump might have won the state of Texas by more than five points in the 2020 election. But he won the state by nine points four years earlier. So, now, the former president is focused on pushing the lie that the vote in Texas was marred by fraud.

TRUMP: They say I'm being aggressive but you have to be aggressive to weed out this horrible election corruption.

LAVANDERA: In September, Trump sent Texas governor, Greg Abbott, a letter calling for the state to conduct a full-forensic audit of the election. With zero evidence, Trump writes, Texans know voter fraud occurred.

It didn't take long for Abbott to feel the pressure. On the same day, the Republican governor announced an audit in Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, and Collin counties.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Isn't it just a terrible waste of taxpayer money to have an audit in a state that everybody says went fine and that the president Trump won by 600,000 votes? And aren't you contributing to this undermining confidence in our election process?

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: Why don't we audit everything in this world but people raise their hands in concern when we audit elections which is fundamental to our democracy.

LAVANDERA: Earlier-this year, the state's election administrator told a legislative committee there were no problems with the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In spite of all the circumstances, Texas had an election that was smooth and secure.

CLAY JENKINS, DALLAS COUNTY JUDGE: President Trump said jump. The governor said how high?

LAVANDERA: Dallas County judge, Clay Jenkins, a Democrat says the audit is about undermining democracy and to justify stricter election laws that will make it harder for people to vote.

JENKINS: This is just jumping around to play into that narrative to please president Trump and to set the table for what this is really about which is passing laws to make it harder for people to vote.

LAVANDERA: Governor Abbott has denied CNN's request for an interview but has said he'd picked two Democratic counties and two Republican counties for the audit. While Dallas and Harris counties vote Democratic, Republicans have been losing ground in Tarrant and Collin counties. In 2020, Trump lost Tarrant County by half a percentage point after winning it by 8 percentage points in 2016. And in suburban Collin county, Trump's lead plummeted from 17 points in 2016 to four points in 2020.

GARY FICKES (R), TARRANT COUNTY COMMISSINER: This could be a good thing for them. Or it could blow up in their face.

LAVANDERA: Gary Fickes is a longtime county commissioner in Tarrant County and a Republican. He says he has no reason to believe there are any issues with the vote count. I guess all of this kind of begs the question is then why is the governor and some Texas Republicans willing to kind of, like, bend over backwards to appease the former president who has been pushing this idea of a big lie? Does -- do you think this all kind of feeds into this?

FICKES: I think it's all about politics. But be very surprised if we have a problem in Texas and especially in Tarrant County.


BURNETT: So, Ed, what did former President Trump think of this decision to audit four counties?

LAVANDERA: Oh, Erin, it might be the least surprising thing we report in this story. And he wasn't happy. He sent out a second letter to the state officials here in Texas describing the move by the governor as weak. You know, there's 254 counties, in all, here in Texas. But remember, Governor Abbott is facing a primary -- two different primary opponents next year in the spring, and both of them running to the right of him.


All, clamoring for the attention and he -- Trump -- even though Trump has already endorsed Governor Abbott, everyone knows full well that could change at any moment. So great deal of attention being paid to what the former president is saying about how this audit is working here in Texas.

BURNETT: That's for sure. We know one thing, he can turn.

All right, Ed, thank you very much.

And next, she was a global superstar. Loving mother. Princess that captivated the world. But there's so much more that we never knew about Diana until now.


BURNETT: Tonight, the people's princess as she was called, Princess Diana, of course, was a fashion idol, trail blazing activist and outspoken member of the British royal family. But who was the woman behind the princess?

The all new CNN original series "DIANA" seeks to find an answer.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was always different. (INAUDIBLE) that I was going somewhere different. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was going to marry her dashing prince. Like

all the stories she'd read.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was iconic. She was box office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To dance with the princess tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If she'd like me to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pre-Diana, there was zilch interest in the royal family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think anybody has grown up in public like Diana has.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Diana provided a very public model for defiance and truthfulness.

DIANA: Isn't it normal to feel angry, and want to change the situation? I was able to recognize an inner determination to survive.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Sally Bedell Smith, she is part of the series and the author of "Diana in Search of Herself".

So, Sally, appreciate your time. So the first episode looks at Diana's childhood, and how it influenced her life, and her relationship with Prince Charles. What stands out to you about her early years and childhood?

SALLY BEDELL SMITH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there are -- there are a couple of different strands. For one thing, she was an aristocrat. I mean, she was a tippy-toppy aristocrat. Her father had worked for the Queen. Her grandmother was best friends with Prince Charles's grandmother. The Spencer family was older than the royal family.

So, it gave her a sort of sense of superiority, on one hand, and even strength. On the other hand, there was a real vane of sadness in her life because she was the third-born girl in a family where her father desperately wanted -- wanted to have a boy.

And so, that was the root of a profound insecurity that she never was ever really able to fully deal with.

BURNETT: I want to play another clip from the first episode. Here it is, Sally.


BIDISHA MAMATA: Despite their surface differences, young Diana and young Charles are actually pretty united -- the desire to feel safe, the desire to control your environment, the desire to be in a solid structure. All of that goes back to imperfect parents, unmaternal mothers, distant fathers, and the feeling of being an unwanted child.


BURNETT: Would you agree with all that? I mean, you know, when you hear that, being unwanted children?

SMITH: Yeah, well, I'm not sure Prince Charles was unwanted but Diana really felt that very keenly. And I think they had a lot of points in common sort of emotionally. They were both sent away to boarding school at age 9. Neither of them was very, very happy in that circumstance.

And they also both really wanted love and approval. And one of the tragedies, really, of their relationship is that each of them wanted that approval and that love and that support and neither of them was really able to give that to the other. What the other very, very much needed.

BURNETT: I mean, that's the irony. When you lay it out like this, that they -- they -- they had so much in common in so many ways. You know, in terms of the -- the -- their environment. How they defined themselves, their profound sadnesses.

But obviously, it was -- it was not. It was not right at all, probably from very, very early on. What went so wrong?

SMITH: Well, I think there was the 12 -- there was the 12-year age gap which was real. And also, she didn't really like many of the things that Charles liked. She didn't like hunting. She didn't like shooting. She didn't like fishing.

She didn't like going up to Balmoral, the queen's estate in Scotland where there was a lot of rain and a lot of mud. And she felt it was very gloomy. And so, they had, you know, a divergence of interests.

When they first met, he -- he was really drawn to her empathy and she was drawn to his sensitivity. But there were too many things that drove them apart.

BURNETT: Yeah. Well, Sally, thank you so much.

And to all of you, please don't miss the season premiere of the brand new original series "DIANA" this Sunday night at 9:00 right here on CNN.

Thanks for joining us. It's time now for Anderson.