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Erin Burnett Outfront

FBI: Dental Records Confirm Brian Laundrie's Remains Found at Reserve; Police: Notebook Found has not been Opened; FBI Identifies Human Remains as Brian Laundrie; Police won't Comment on Whether a Weapon was Found; Trump Ally Bannon Found in Criminal Contempt: Referral Now at U.S. Atty's Office; New Jan. 6 Video Shows Disturbing Assault; Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) Discusses About Merrick Garland's Stand on Prosecuting Steve Bannon; GOP Governor At Odds With Republicans On Employer Vaccine Mandates; Dems Struggle To Close Deal As Sinema Digs In, Opposes Tax Hikes; Biden Agenda Looms Larger Over Virginia Governor's Race. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 21, 2021 - 19:00   ET


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Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next the breaking news, the FBI announces moments ago that the human remains found in a Florida nature reserve are those of Brian Laundrie.

Plus, the full House of Representatives votes to hold Steve Bannon in contempt. Now, all eyes are on the Attorney General. Will Merrick Garland prosecute Bannon?

And President Joe Biden about to face voters in CNN Town Hall. Anderson Cooper is getting ready for that town hall right now and he'll join me next. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, we are less than one hour away from CNN town hall with President Biden and Anderson Cooper will join me in just a moment for a preview. You can see that live location there in Baltimore, Maryland.

But first we have breaking news, the FBI just confirming the human remains found in that Florida nature reserve are indeed those of 23- year-old Brian Laundrie. The news coming in exactly one month after we learned that Laundrie's fiancee, Gabby Petito, was murdered in Wyoming where the two were on a cross country road trip by strangulation.

And tonight, we're also learning about a crucial piece of evidence that could shed light on how Petito died. A notebook that was discovered near Laundrie's remains, we are learning tonight is possibly salvageable, according to a source. Leyla Santiago is OUTFRONT live in North Port, Florida tonight. And Leyla, I know you had a chance to speak to an official with the

North Port Police just moments ago and you've learned about new details about what they found near Brian Laundrie's remains. What did you find out?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erin. We've learned that those belongings and the remains were found at about a 45-minute walk from this entrance to the Carlton Reserve where we are right now. The FBI has confirmed that it was dental records that allowed them to confirm that those remains belong to Brian Laundrie.


SANTIAGO (voice over): Tonight, the FBI has confirmed that skeletal remains found in the Carlton Reserve are those of Brian Laundrie. The FBI confirming in a tweet a comparison of dental records on Thursday confirmed that the human remains found at the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve and the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park Wednesday are those of Brian Laundrie.


JOSH TAYLOR, SPOKESMAN, NORTH PORT POLICE: Certainly the clothing that was there as well, it's consistent what we believe he's wearing.


SANTIAGO (voice over): The Laundries were informed this evening when police visited the house. Their attorney putting out a statement on their behalf saying, "Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the remains found yesterday in the reserve or indeed Brian's. We have no further comment at this time and we ask that you respect the Laundrie's privacy at this time."

Investigators continue to process items found near the remains, items believed to belong to Brian Laundrie, including a backpack and a notebook.


TAYLOR: The notebook to my understanding has not been opened. That will need to be processed. We want to make sure that that's handled as carefully as possible.


SANTIAGO (voice over): Also today, North Port Police pushing back on the account the Laundrie's attorney gave to CNN Wednesday night about how quickly Brian disappeared.


STEVEN BERTOLINO, LAUNDRIE FAMILY ATTORNEY: Let the record be clear. The Laundries reported Brian did not come home the night he went out for the hike. I actually reported that to the FBI personally. On Friday the 17th, the FBI called me, we didn't call them. They called me and said we have a tip that Brian was seen in Tampa and we want to see if he's in the house.

On Friday, when the FBI came to the Laundrie residents, we then said, yes, we will fill out a missing person's report. That got twisted as though the family waited until Friday to report him missing which is not how it happened.


SANTIAGO (voice over): Today, North Port Police Department Spokesperson Josh Taylor telling CNN that's not true.


TAYLOR: If we had that information, there's a million things we would have done differently. I mean, you can look at our actions very publicly that don't coincide with that information at all.


SANTIAGO (voice over): For example, he says, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison publicly called out the Laundrie attorney on Twitter Wednesday, September 15th saying, "Mr. Steven Bertolino, esq., the North Port Police needs your help in finding Gabby Petito. Please call us to arrange a conversation with Brian Laundrie. Two people left on a trip and one person returned."


TAYLOR: We received no response. I mean, I think most people would find it appropriate to get a response saying, well, he's missing. That didn't happen.


SANTIAGO (voice over): As to why he thinks the lawyer is saying this now ...


TAYLOR: Well, he's protecting his clients.




SANTIAGO (on camera): And the attorney for Gabby Petito's family released a statement saying in part this evening they are grieving the loss of their beautiful daughter. Gabby's family will make a statement at the appropriate time and when they are emotionally ready, Erin. Some answers tonight, but still a lot of questions as to what exactly happened here remain unanswered.

BURNETT: Leyla, thank you very much. So I want to go now to Jim Clemente, former FBI profiler who's worked on many high profile cases like the D.C. Sniper case and the death of JonBenet Ramsey and Mark O'Mara, Criminal Defense Attorney and former prosecutor who defended George Zimmerman. All right. Thanks very much to both of you.

So Jim, obviously, viewers know you've been on this show talking about this manhunt for more than a month. Tonight, that's coming to an end, Brian Laundrie confirmed dead at the Florida nature reserve. Now, we heard Leyla talk about how she's learned the remains are 'skeletal' and that they were only able to identify him from dental records. So what does that tell you about how or when he died?

JIM CLEMENTE, RETIRED FBI PROFILER: Well, certainly skeletal remains under those conditions could have, well, he could have been there for the entire month. He could have been dead for that entire time. It doesn't necessarily mean that, but what it does mean is that it's going to be much more difficult to make a good solid determination as to the cause and manner of death, unless there's some kind of major serious trauma to the skull that can be identified, there might not be a way to determine how he died. Because if he drowned, for example, there wouldn't be any evidence of that on his skeleton.

BURNETT: In a skeletal way. Right. And this is actually really crucial, Mark, I mean for the Petito family, for people to understand what happened here. And when Leyla spoke to North Port Police, she learned about the skeletal remains, as I just said, the spokesperson was silent, though when she asked about whether any weapons were found near Laundrie's remains. It doesn't mean there were and they're not being direct. Who knows what it means?

But look, you've represented a lot of high profile victims and perpetrators of crimes. So based on what you know now, how do you think he may have died?

MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, FMR. PROSECUTOR: Well, it sounds like he took the Mustang out to the park and somewhere around the 11th, 12th, 14th of September he went out there and he committed suicide. That is the most reasonable explanation for where we are. He went through the trauma of whatever happened with him and Gabby, which ended up murdered.

Then whatever he told the family, they take them off to Fort De Soto then he comes back. It makes sense that he went out to his, I don't know, special or favorite place and that's where he ended his own life, whether or not there was a gun or some other way it does seem like he took his own life in a place that he wanted to be and he probably did it at a point in time where the Laundrie family had no idea that he was going to or what was happening with him from that first day he took the Mustang out all the way forward.

BURNETT: So Jim, here's the thing, we know he's dead, but we, again, we don't know whether it was by animal or by suicide or just by time and water comes up, we just don't know. So in other words, what I'm getting at is we don't know whether he intended to try to escape, go here briefly and then when things calm down, get out. We just don't know.

We do know, though, that he had traveled across the country alone without Gabby after she died by strangulation when it was just the two of them. We know he used her ATM card to get money. We know that he presented himself as being alone and hitchhiking to people he met.

So we don't know if he intended to escape or flee from the nature reserve, but we do have that record. Will the FBI ever be able to answer the question of whether he intended to flee?

CLEMENTE: Well, that's a very difficult question. But the answer may be in that document, in that manual or notebook that was found. And if that notebook contained, for example, information that could have been admissions, it could be projecting blame or rationalization, all that information could help in the determination. But the interviews of the family members are probably going to be critical in this.

BURNETT: Yes. So Mark, we understand the source has told CNN that Brian Laundrie is no book that was found near his remains is 'possibly salvageable'. Now, they say though that it was outside of his dry bag. I mean, he had real camping gear, the dry bag, but it was outside of that. And so they're trying to dry it out before opening it up. So I mean, basic things here like whether pages stuck together, whether what kind of ink was used, did it bleed, I mean, we can all imagine part of the issue here. But how difficult will it be to process this piece of evidence?

O'MARA: I actually think we're going to have some luck, the FBI is going to have some luck because the technology, the forensics have really come a long way in the past 20 years or so. So I think there's going to be great information that come from that, because even if there is bleeding, bleeding amongst the ink and the pages, they've done a great job with even much older items that they find. So I think given the FBI time, they're going to find some information, whether it's worthwhile or not we'll see once we find out.


BURNETT: Right. And Jim, there's, as you point out, the family, Brian's parents. And a big question is when they're going to start answering questions about Gabby Petito, because you got to remember I want to make sure everyone here knows, Brian Laundrie was living inside their house from those two weeks after he returned without Petito in her van. Petito was his fiancee and she lived with them as a family.

So he comes home with her van and without her and two weeks go by. I mean, come on. Here's what the Laundrie his attorney said when he was asked about that.


BERTOLINO: Now's not the time to discuss that. Right now, we're going to wait for the forensic results to come in. And we may revisit this in the future.


BURNETT: So when you hear that answer, Jim, do you believe they have a story to tell? Do you believe the lawyer has any idea if they have a story to tell?

CLEMENTE: Well, it's very frustrating to have an answer like that just put it off the people that actually need to know. Hopefully, they're being more cooperative with the FBI and with the North Port Police. This is a critical part of the equivocal death investigation and the parents are key to determining how he died and whether or not this was by his own hand or accidental.

BURNETT: Mark, just a quick last question to you. Does any of this make sense as to why he would have returned alone without her weeks pass - the time on when they reported him missing, there's all kinds of disagreement on that. Anything add up to you about why the parents would behave this way?

O'MARA: Not really except he came home, he told them whatever he told them. They were traumatized by whatever. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but I do think that they have information that will not put them in jeopardy, but that the Petito family does deserve to hear and that that should be their next step.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate it.

And next, Anderson Cooper will join me from the town hall with President Joe Biden with what is ahead later on tonight.

Plus, Steve Bannon's fate now resting in the hands of the Attorney General Merrick Garland after the whole House votes to hold Bannon in contempt for refusing to cooperate with the January 6 Select Committee. So what will Garland do?

And New Hampshire's Republican Governor clashing with Republicans in his own state who are saying this about COVID vaccines.


REP. AL BALDASARO (R-NH): You see deaths in other country.

REP. KEN WEYLER (R-NH): Is there something in the shot that's going to help them control us?


BURNETT: So how is Gov. Chris Sununu countering that craziness? I'll ask him.



BURNETT: You're looking at live pictures out of Baltimore where President Biden will soon take questions from a live audience in a CNN Town Hall. Biden leaving the White House just a few moments ago to head there and the stakes, of course, tonight couldn't be higher. Our Manu Raju is reporting there are major sticking points tonight on the President's sweeping spending bill and the prospects for an agreement by the end of the week looking dire. Anderson Cooper joins me now from Baltimore where, of course,

Anderson, in moments you're going to be speaking with the President. This is obviously a crucial moment in his presidency. It has become whether they intended it to or not, it has become about this infrastructure bill, the economic bill that he wants on top of that, whether he can succeed in that and in what form. I mean, take me behind the scenes, what are you planning for tonight and looking for?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Well, I mean, certainly this is a town hall. So we have a lot of questions from the audience, from Democrats, Independents, Republicans as well. There are certainly a lot of interest in exactly where this deal is, kind of what the parameters of it are, specifically, and also what is in at this point and what is something that the President would refuse to compromise on?

Obviously, there's already been a lot of compromises. But we haven't really gotten much of a picture behind the scenes. Certainly, I think a lot of people in the audience would like to try to get to some of that tonight.

BURNETT: So Biden, obviously, as you mentioned, Anderson, there's challenges with the economic package, there's also the voting rights bill that he pushed for right now appears going nowhere in Congress, the coronavirus pandemic, China obviously has been ramping up big time.

Now, Biden, as we all know he relies on his optimism. He relies on saying he's an optimist when he's facing challenges. I mean, just listen to him here in recent weeks.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've never been more optimistic about this country than I am right now.

You know me, I'm a born optimist. I think things are going to go well.

I'm incredibly optimistic about what we're going to be able to build together.


BURNETT: I mean, optimism is great but Biden's approval rating is 44 percent right now approve, 50 percent disapprove. These are not the numbers he had months ago, obviously, Anderson. They're not the numbers he wants and they're not the numbers here the Democratic Party needs. He needs more than optimism to change this right now, doesn't he?

COOPER: It certainly needs results. He certainly needs a whole host of things. I mean, look at the supply chain problems, inflation gas prices. There's certainly a lot of things on the plate of this administration. I think you're going to hear a lot about all of those tonight from members of our audience and trying to see exactly what if anything, he really has a plan for some of those issues maybe he won't be able to have much of an impact on from the federal level. But it's certainly something, I think, a lot of the voters here in the room tonight want to hear about.

BURNETT: For sure. All right. Anderson, thank you so much. Of course, Anderson going to be there in just moments with President Biden who is on his way from the White House right now to that theater with Anderson and our live audience. Thanks so much, Anderson, and good luck.

And next, the Department of Justice now has the referral from the House of Representatives to charge Steve Bannon with criminal contempt. What will Attorney General Merrick Garland do?

Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema facing a major backlash from members of her own party as she makes big demands, that a lot of leverage, and those demands could derail Biden's agenda.



BURNETT: Breaking news, the House of Representatives has officially delivered its referral of Steve Bannon's contempt finding to the Department of Justice. That's after the full House voted today to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress. Now, let's show you, these nine House Republicans bucked party leadership and they voted for contempt along with the Democrats.

Now, the crucial decision on what to do about Bannon's refusal to cooperate with the January 6 Committee rests on Attorney General Merrick Garland and his Department of Justice. So it is up to President Biden's Attorney General to decide whether to prosecute Bannon. And here's what Garland said when asked about Bannon today.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Department of Justice will do what it always does in such circumstances. We'll apply the facts in the law and make a decision consistent with the principles of prosecution.


BURNETT: Meanwhile, Trump weighed in today saying in a statement, "The insurrection took place in November 3, Election Day. January 6 was the protest." Well, as your daily reminder of reality facts, truth, HBO today showed violent and chilling new footage from the attack as part of its new documentary. The attack that left five people dead on January 6th. Take a look.


CROWD: (Inaudible) ...



CROWD: (Inaudible) ...


BURNETT: Well, as to Bannon's role in what you just saw there, it's crucial. He's the one who encouraged Trump to come back to Washington and go to that rally and here's what he said the day before, on January 5th.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. And tomorrow it's game day.

I've met so many people through my life said, "Man, if I was at the revolution I would be with Washington at Trenton." Well, this is for your time in history.


BURNETT: Your time in history, all hell is going to break loose, but it was just a spontaneous thing that Bannon knew absolutely nothing about. No. Well, all but nine Republicans want to look the other way, not hear more from Steve Bannon. Paula Reid is OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill.

And Paula, the DOJ now has the Bannon referral from the House. Obviously, this passed overwhelmingly with those nine Republican votes in addition to Democrats, so what happens now?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: All eyes, Erin, are on the Attorney General. Today's vote to hold Bannon in contempt gave Speaker Pelosi the power to refer Bannon for prosecution and that referral will go to the U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia. But the big decision on whether to prosecute ultimately lies with Attorney General Merrick Garland.

And coincidentally, he was here on the Hill today for a routine oversight hearing. Now, he was, of course, asked about this referral. And he just wouldn't tip his hand about how exactly he intends to handle this. He just said that the Justice Department will handle this as it handles everything else by looking at the facts and looking at the law.

Look, Erin, he's really facing significant political pressure. Committee members and even President Biden have publicly said that they want Bannon to be prosecuted even though, of course, the Justice Department is supposed to be independent of the White House.

Now, they continue, the Committee continues to negotiate with other Trump associates. It's very rare to hold anyone in contempt, to prosecute anyone for contempt, but this is meant to send a message to any other witnesses who are thinking about not cooperating. And the Committee has delayed deposition for former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Pentagon official Kash Patel, but in two weeks, they do have a deposition scheduled for former Trump administration official Dan Scavino. And today Erin, he got a sense of what happens if he defies a subpoena.

BURNETT: So there was an interesting moment today too, Paula, on the House floor during the vote on holding Bannon in contempt. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, and this was really an amazing moment, she said Congressman Jim Banks has been actually claiming in official letters signing, claiming in official letters that he is the ranking member of the January 6 Committee. He is not on the committee. I mean, how could he think he could send a letter like this and put his name on it and say he is something he isn't, what happened?

REID: Erin, House hearings are known for strange moments, but this was truly remarkable.


REID: Rep. Cheney entered into the record at least one letter from Banks claiming that he was a ranking member of the House Select Committee. And in these letters, he is asking for them to share information with him. In one letter provided to CNN, he sent to the Department of Interior on September 16th, he asked them to provide him with any information that they were also sending the Committee. A truly remarkable and unusual moment in a largely unusual day.

BURNETT: Yes. I mean, amazing. I guess he wants it and wants to know what they have, but to think you're not going to be busted for that and it's an outright lie and it's a misrepresentation, it's stunning. All right. Well, thanks very much, Paula. I appreciate it. Paula Reid, of course, reporting from Capitol Hill.

And let's go now to Democratic Congresswoman Cori Bush, because she's on the House Judiciary Committee and she questioned Attorney General Garland today. So I appreciate your time, Congresswoman.

So you were there in that room with Merrick Garland, did you leave the hearing today convinced that Attorney General Garland will prosecute Steve Bannon for contempt of Congress or are you unsure?

REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): All I can go by is he said that he would apply the law and so we're looking and we're waiting. The only thing that I can go by is what he said for right now. I am hopeful because we won't let up. That's the one thing about it. We won't let up in the same way that I brought forward talking about the police killings and things that people may feel like this is not - like we have other things to talk about right now, I won't let that die. I'm not going to let this go.

And so many people in that room, so many of us people across the country we need our Attorney General, we need our Justice Department to make this very plain and prosecute. There should be no immunity for Steve Bannon.


No immunity. Absolutely not. When you have the chief white supremacist advisor to the white supremacist and chief being the one to say these things and to -- what we just heard, you know, how is he able to then, you know, try to push for executive privilege? I don't even remember him being in the administration that long.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Right, of course Trump -- as you point out Trump had fired him and he was not an employee of the administration during the time he's now claiming executive privilege. Plus, as you're alluding to, there's no privilege that would exclude talking about a crime.

So, we do know, Congresswoman, that Steve Bannon could be crucial to this investigation because of some of the things that he said. He urged Trump to return to Washington for the rally.

And again, just so everyone can hear, here's what he said the day before the rally.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP ADVISOR: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.

It's not going to happen like you think it's going to happen. It's going to be quite extraordinarily different. All I can say is strap in. The war room, a posse, you have made this happen and tomorrow, it's game day. So, strap in.


BURNETT: So if the attorney general decides not to prosecute, right, because I have to put that out there because keep in mind he has not prosecuted Trump or anyone in Trump's administration for anything at this point. I know you said you're not going to relent, but does this take the teeth out of the committee?

BUSH: No, I don't believe so. I think that the committee -- the committee is looking for everything. The fact that we even have a committee after everything that transpired to try to stop the committee, I think that the people that are on that -- people that are on the committee, those that are part of the Judiciary Committee, none of us will just let this go. I think that Steve Bannon will have to -- not only Steve Bannon, but the insurrectionists, period.

I think even right now as we're seeing these sentences, some of which are three-month sentences and all of that which probably should be more as it relates to what they did. I don't believe -- I believe that at some point, there has to be a reckoning in this area, and it's up to our Justice Department to do it.

BURNETT: All right. As I mentioned, of course, Congresswoman, we're moments away from a CNN town hall with President Biden, and obviously, a huge topic tonight will be the spending bills.

So, today, Senator Joe Manchin told CNN he does not think a framework agreement can be reached tomorrow as Democratic leaders had hoped. It keeps getting delayed. Right now, the vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill which had a lot of Republican support in the Senate is scheduled for October 31st.

If there is no -- well, let's be clear, you've said you will not vote for that infrastructure spending bill without the bigger spending bill. Does that still stand as your position?

BUSH: Absolutely, it still stands. My position as well as the congressional progressive caucus, we've made it very clear that this human infrastructure bill has to be in place. I cannot tell child care workers that you don't count but we want to make sure that those that are doing our construction work do. They count more than you. I can't tell them that we don't know when this will come back around.

So you know what? We don't have anyone to take care of grandma needing to be at home. We don't have money for our schools. We don't have money -- you know, we can't say that we don't have money for climate action when we know what's happening to our planet right now.

So, no, I stand against voting for the bipartisan infrastructure package if there is no -- if the Build Back Better Act is not -- if we don't have that. They have to go together.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much, Congresswoman Bush. Thanks.

BUSH: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Republican Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire at odds with some in his own party over the COVID vaccine mandates. He's my guest next.

And Democrats are running into a problem when it comes to raising taxes, only the problem is not a Republican but one of their own, and she may be about to win.

And President Biden and the First Lady Jill Biden just arriving in Baltimore for tonight's town hall right here on CNN.



BURNETT: You're looking at live pictures out of Baltimore, and we are now about just 15 or so minutes away from CNN's town hall with President Biden, who landed there just moments ago. Topping his to do list tonight is trying to sell his sweeping economic agenda that Democrats have been scrambling on amidst themselves to reach a deal on this week. Biden also sure to talk about Democrats' push for a voting rights bill and the mask and vaccine mandates to fight COVID.

So, I want to go to the Republican Governor Chris Sununu.

And, Governor, I want to start our conversation on this point, because you've been very clear that you believe that any private business should be allowed to do what a private business wants. So if a private business wants to mandate the vaccine for its employees, they should be able to do so without you telling them that they can't. Of course, that's different than some of your Republican governor colleagues, right?

Governor DeSantis, Governor Abbott, they don't just disagree with the whole concepts of mandates. They think businesses should be prohibited from mandating it. They're trying to prohibit businesses from doing what they want to do.

What do you say to them?

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, look, I think some other governors are kind of getting caught up in the moment. Again, I'm very anti-government in implementing any vaccine mandate because one of the things you have to appreciate and the person that has to do it more than anyone is myself, is that there are limitations to our power as an executive. I think there are limitations to the president's power or the governor's power to force businesses to either vaccinate or not vaccinate.

So you don't say, well, we're anti -- as a conservative Republican, I don't believe government should be controlling businesses. And some of these other governors just have to remember, we have to be consistent, we have to remember what we're about, a free market and free businesses.

If a business wants to mandate the vaccine, that's their right. If they don't want to mandate the vaccine, it's their right. It's not the governor's place to get a -- or an executive, the president's place to get involved in that.


And that's why we're going to sue the Biden administration over this OSHA mandate, this rule that they're going to wing up and try to force all these businesses in because it's got to be their choice.

BURNETT: So, okay, here's the thing. You have -- obviously, you're very pro-vaccine yourself in terms of telling people to get it and have clashed with Republican lawmakers in your state about COVID. They're not the only ones saying really, really bizarre stuff, but they have been saying some really, really bizarre stuff.

Here's what some of them have said about the vaccine.


STATE REP. AL BALDASARO (R-NH): I see studies of blood clots in other countries. I see deaths in other countries. I will not play Russian roulette with my health.

STATE REP. KEN WEYLER (R-NH): They want everybody to have the shot. Why? Are they getting paid off by big pharma? Is there something in the shot that's going to help them control us? There's lots of things that I'm reading that make me very suspicious.


BURNETT: Okay. That same lawmaker, governor, shared with his colleagues a so-called vaccine death report which said studies on doses of the vaccine showed that, quote, and I want our viewers to hear this. This is what he said. In both vials there was a living organism with tentacles. This creature moves around, lifts itself up and even seems to be self-aware.

Okay. This is just a terrifying thing out of a horror movie. It's completely concocted.

SUNUNU: Right.

BURNETT: But he meant it, right? How do you push a vaccine that saves lives when you have stuff like that coming out from elected officials?

SUNUNU: Look, Erin, when crazy comes knocking at the door, you've got to slam it shut. That's all there is to it. I don't care what party you're from.

You know, one of the reasons New Hampshire has been so successful with managing this pandemic, whether it's keeping the economy flexible or driving folks and at one time we had the highest vaccine rate in the country is because we're super transparent and we do everything on data. I stood up there in front of the New Hampshire citizens every single day answering every question we could showing the data, the trends.

And that's the public trust that has to be built with that transparency. So there's absolutely no place for the misinformation, crazy conspiracy theories and nonsense. I don't care what party you're from, we're going to push back on it every time because we have a big job to do.

COVID is going to get worse as we hit this fall and winter surge. There's no doubt about it. We need folks to get vaccinated. We need them to get their boosters. We need to get testing available. I've got a lot on my plate. I don't need crazy getting in the way.

BURNETT: That's the craziest thing I've ever seen.

All right. Your state is known for its independence, okay? And I say this because I know, governor, in fact about 46 percent of voters in the 2020 election in your state were independents, 46 percent.

Now, Biden won 62 percent of them. But the latest CNN poll shows his approval with independents nationwide has dropped really sharply in the past few months -- 51 percent in April, now 45 percent. Disapproval among independents has gone from 43 percent to 55 percent. That is a big jump, OK?

Why do you think independent voters have turned so sharply on President Biden?

SUNUNU: They're smart. Look, American voters are very intelligent. They watch the issues. They don't just get caught up in the fight, right?

We tend to see this extreme right and extreme left grab the microphones and drive all this debate. But most of us live in -- 80 percent in the middle. We see what the open southern border has done, the mess that Afghanistan has left and the fact that someone is trying to spend $3.5 trillion that our kids and grandkids and grandkids --


BURNETT: So you don't think they wish that he could get the bill through, that it's the inaction, you think it's the concept itself?

SUNUNU: Oh, goodness, no, no. There are very few Americans that are excited about spending $3.5 trillion. If you're excited about spending $3.5 trillion on more bigger and bloated government, then you're really not understanding the repercussions of that, because, look, I'm a fiscal conservative, I'm a governor, which means I have to live with a balanced budget.


SUNUNU: And I think one of the most important responsibilities we have as an executive is managing other people's money. If you do it right and balance your budget, all good things come from that. I'll be critical of Republicans and Democrats who haven't done -- in Washington, who have not done a good job of that over the years.

BURNETT: Well, that's pretty much every single one of them.

SUNUNU: But you have to get that straight.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Governor.

SUNUNU: Absolutely. Yeah. You bet.

BURNETT: All right. I appreciate your time, Governor. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.


BURNETT: And next, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat, facing big- time liberal backlash over her calls for no tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for Biden's spending plan.

And the Virginia governor's race neck in neck as both parties are scrambling to get their voters to the polls early, but Trump's big lie is complicating matters for Republicans.

And live pictures of the stage where President Joe Biden will face voters in CNN's town hall beginning in just a few minutes.



BURNETT: Tonight, Democrats in Congress appear to be caving to the demands of moderate Senator Kirsten Sinema of Arizona. A top Democrat saying he believes tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations won't be used to pay for Biden's spending bill after Sinema opposed including them. This is, of course, the same spending bill that was significantly cut to, well, who knows, maybe $1.9 trillion after Sinema balked at the initial $3.5 trillion which was down from the wish of $6.5 trillion price tag.

Sinema is notching some big wins even though she's tight-lipped to reporters about always laying out where exactly she stands.


REPORTER: Any comment on your stance on anything, Senator?


BURNETT: That was today. Nothing to say. Not afraid to have nothing to say.

OUTFRONT now, Dana Bash, co-anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION" and our chief political correspondent.

I mean, Dana, you know, Sinema has drawn immense contempt from progressives recently but she wields a lot of power. She has been getting her way. Maybe these tax hikes will be eliminated. Senator Durbin says that is likely.

She has power. It makes many in her own party incredibly angry, but she has notched big wins.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, especially this one. I know you have probably witnessed during the election -- the midterm elections, the presidential election, the primary season for Democrats, this notion of increasing taxes on corporations, giving -- making them pay their fair messaging around that got wild applause.


But there is one person who has never been for it, and that is Kyrsten Sinema, and that's according to people around her. She is somebody who is more of a Republican in that sense. Maybe on some of the other issues like climate, et cetera, she is more in line with the progressives. But on the fiscal issues like taxes she is not.

So that's one of the things I'm going to be fascinated to see in the town hall tonight, Erin, is how the president addresses that but also how he addresses what will come in its place because they promise that this will cost the American taxpayer zero, that they will -- whatever they spend, they will get back in revenue raises.

BURNETT: Right, right. Well, of course those were all tax increases. Sinema was one of eight Democrats to vote against the $15 minimum wage from the federal government earlier this year. And the thumbs down signaling her opposition, which is, of course, a common gesture among senators as they vote. That provoked an outcry from liberals. Not long after that happened, Dana, of course, as you know, Sinema

posted a picture of herself on Instagram wearing a ring that said "F off" on it.

Look, everything's hanging on her vote now. But what I find fascinating about her is that it does not seem to bother her when she's the only one left and there's 100 people on the other side of the room all saying you're terrible. It doesn't seem to bother her.

BASH: It doesn't. She marches to the beat of her own drum, in so many ways. Just the fact that as you said she doesn't talk to reporters in the hallway. She doesn't -- and it's not just about us reporters. It's that she doesn't feel the need to let people know where she's coming from.

And look, right now, she's got four years until she's on the ballot again. But you can bet that -- and we know that Democrats in Arizona are saying that they are going to think long and hard about primarying her because progressives are not happy with her even though some Republicans may be in Arizona. A lot of them are.

BURNETT: Well, of course, Arizona hasn't had two Democratic senators like now since 1953. So, a state with an independent streak and a long Republican history.

Thank you very much, Dana. I appreciate it.

BASH: Thanks.

BURNETT: And next, Republicans have been railing against mail-in voting. But now, they're singing a much different tune in Virginia's very close race for governor. Plus, we are just moments away from CNN's town hall with President Biden.



BURNETT: We are moments away from the CNN town hall with President Biden. The most closely watched and deadlocked governor's race in Virginia could hinge on whether Biden can get his agenda through Congress. It comes as the president is set to campaign with the Democratic nominee, Terry McAuliffe, next Tuesday.

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT.


DEBBIE WEBER, GOP VOLUNTEER: Every day is election day.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFIARS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For more than a month now that's been true in Virginia, which is why Debbie Weber is greeting voters outside the county election office.

WEBER: Hi there. How are you? ZELENY: And fielding questions about early voting. She's a GOP

volunteer and is getting an earful from many of her fellow Republicans.

WEBER: They question the -- are these dominion voting machines? As far as I know, no, they're not. Okay? But that doesn't lessen the concern they have that voting machines in general can be tampered with.

ZELENY: That concern is unfounded. Yet this is the irony in the nail- biting Virginia governor's race, as Republicans are scrambling to urge their supporters to take advantage of early voting, after casting aspersions on it for the last year.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin have already cast their ballots early.


ZELENY: Along with more than half a million Virginians and counting. It's a critical part of both campaigns' strategies, despite deep skepticism alive and well in the GOP.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: They used COVID in order to cheat with all of these ballots and all of this early voting and late voting.

ZELENY: Fueled by former President Trump, who's still spinning conspiracy theories that come alive in conversations with Virginia Republicans like Colin Hayes.

COLIN HAYES, YOUNGKIN SUPPORTER: There's no reason to do mass early voting. I think that the -- a lot of the Democrat-run states have taken advantage of the pandemic to expand it into their favor.

ZELENY: He met Youngkin at a rally this week and plans to vote for him on the traditional Election Day, November 2nd. There's no such skepticism from Democrats. Top party officials tell CNN that McAuliffe's best chance to win is by banking such a sizable share of early votes that Youngkin can't catch up.

MCAULIFFE: Those that have not voted make me a promise you'll go vote this week. We've got to go early vote.

ZELENY: Tonight, Vice President Harris is joining McAuliffe at a campaign rally to encourage Democrats to vote early -- a message to be amplified in the days ahead with visits from President Biden and former President Obama. The Youngkin campaign has been aggressively promoting early voting, far more than most Republican candidates, trying to keep Democrats from building an insurmountable margin.

YOUNGKIN: Well, early voting's really important.

ZELENY: Is there any hesitancy that you think you have to --

YOUNGKIN: I don't think it is a -- ZELENY: It's a new thing.

YOUNGKIN: I don't think it's a skepticism. I think there's a lot of people who like going on election day and voting.

ZELENY: Outside the early voting center, Weber says she and other volunteers have been instructed to turn any suspicions about election security into part of their sales pitch.

WEBER: The early voting is encouraged. Vote early. They're making voting easy, cheating hard. That was the design, from the Republican perspective.


ZELENY: Now, the Virginia governor's race has been deeply influenced by President Biden's standing and of course that gridlocked agenda. He will be coming back here to campaign next Tuesday. Erin, the question, will he be bringing an agenda with him? Of course he'll be explaining that all tonight at the CNN town hall. But so many Democrats here are watching the White House, Erin.

BURNETT: Yeah. I mean, it's just unbelievable to watch all this come together at the same time.

Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much for your report. Thanks so much to all of you.

CNN's town hall with President Biden starts now.