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Erin Burnett Outfront

Jury Deliberations In Rittenhouse Trial To Begin Tomorrow; Teen Now Faces 5 Charges In Addition To Lesser Offenses; Bannon Lashes Out After Appearing In Court For First Time On Contempt Charges: "They Took On The Wrong Guy This Time"; Biden Signs Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill: "We Focused On Getting Things Done," Not On "Getting Everything We Want;" Biden Signs Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill; NYC Joins California, Colorado In Expanding Booster Eligibility To All Adults; Now: Biden Meeting With Chinese President Amid Rising Tensions. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired November 15, 2021 - 19:00   ET


PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It looked like Dante's Inferno and there were plenty of reasons for Rittenhouse to think he might be killed.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The deliberations begin tomorrow. We'll watch and see what happens.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT the breaking news, the jury deliberations beginning tomorrow in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse, the armed teenager who killed two people injuring a third. Was it self- defense? We're about to hear a jury's verdict.

Plus, President Trump's advisor, defender and supporter defiant after his court appearance on criminal contempt charges. Steve Bannon calling it the misdemeanor from hell.

And President Biden set for a high stakes meeting with the President of China set to begin momentarily this hour. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, it is in the hands of the jury. The closing arguments just wrapping up in the past couple of minutes here in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. The judge just sending the jurors home, they're on their way, telling them that deliberations will begin nine o'clock tomorrow morning.

Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT live from Kenosha, Wisconsin. Sara, you are in that courthouse today and literally we are three minutes from that jury being told to go home, all 18 jurors even though 12 of them will be sort of picked randomly tomorrow to be the ones to make that verdict. But you were there today, it was a very long day. What stood out to you the most in the closing arguments? SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They were very strong. The

prosecution put together a narrative starting from the beginning and going piece by piece through all of this. He really went after Kyle Rittenhouse saying that this person was the aggressor, this person decided to bring a gun to what he called a fistfight and this person was a mass murderer that people were trying to chase after and stop.

As for the defense, they turned it all around saying he, Kyle Rittenhouse, was the person who was being attacked and simply had to defend himself.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone injured, straight ahead.



SIDNER(voice over): Was Kyle Rittenhouse practicing vigilante justice or self-defense?


THOMAS BINGER, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Now you've heard the evidence and it's time to search for the truth.


SIDNER(voice over): The 18-year-old's fate now hinges on that question as attorneys make their final arguments to the jury starting with the prosecution.


BINGER: A lot of murder cases were in here trying to convince a jury that the defendant killed somebody, that's not in dispute here. That's the easy part. The question is, does it get a pass.


SIDNER(voice over): Rittenhouse killed two men and named a third last summer during the unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was seen on the streets with an AR-15 style rifle, a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher claiming to be an EMT.


BINGER: ... and putting the fire extinguisher on the ground and then raising the gun.


SIDNER(voice over): Prosecutors opened with graphic videos of the moments Rittenhouse shot and killed his victims starting with Joseph Rosenbaum.


BINGER: You can see from this video that Mr. Rosenbaum is not even within arm's reach the defendant when the first shot goes off. Whatever thread he might have posed, it's over, and the defendant doesn't stop after that first shot. He tracks Mr. Rosenbaum's body all the way down, firing three more shots.


SIDNER(voice over): But the defense painted Rosenbaum as an attacker in pursuit of Rittenhouse that night.


MARK RICHARDS, KYLE RITTENHOUSE ATTORNEY: He was a bad man. He was there. He was causing trouble. He was a rioter. And my client had to deal with him that night alone.


SIDNER(voice over): His defense continued claiming prosecutors unfairly portrayed Rittenhouse as an active shooter who had to be stopped.


RICHARDS: Kyle was not an active shooter. That is a buzzword that the State wants to latch on to because it excuses the actions of that mob.


SIDNER(voice over): The prosecutors countered saying his actions were far from self-defense.


BINGER: You lose the right to self-defense when you're the one who brought the gun, when you're the one creating the danger.


SIDNER(voice over): Rittenhouse now faces five charges in addition to lesser offenses connected to the case the Judge allowed today. He has pleaded not guilty to all. The six misdemeanor possession of a weapon under age was dropped after the gun size was found too large to qualify for that charge.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it not a short-barreled shotgun or a short- barreled rifle, yes.

SCHROEDER: Either by barrel or by overall length?


SCHROEDER: All right. And then count - six is dismissed.


SIDNER(voice over): A blow to the prosecution on what could have been their easiest win, after eight days of testimony and more than 30 witnesses, acquittal, of course, remains on the table. Both sides with clear arguments, leaving the jury to decide who's right.


SIDNER(on camera): And we know that the jury will start deliberating tomorrow morning. They were paying very close attention at the beginning when the prosecutor and the defense went to give their closing arguments. But as the rebuttal came along, this has been a very long day, the court observers inside notice one juror having trouble staying awake.


And they seemed to be a little less attentive as rebuttal was going on, but during the closing arguments, they were paying attention and they had to watch some really brutal and difficult video, especially watching the death of Joseph Rosenbaum as it happened on camera.

BURNETT: All right. Sara, thank you very much. All right. I want to go to Elie Honig now, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, former defense attorney and the former Mayor of Baltimore.

So Elie, let's just talk about where we are right now, because right as we're coming to air, two minutes before we come on, the Judge says, okay, you can go home, to the jury. Don't watch anything. Don't look at anything. Just hold in there a little longer. What do you make of them going home? By the way, 18 of them are going home and coming back tomorrow? It's going to be picked randomly, which 12 actually are the jury?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. This is what you'd expect, Erin. This was a long, stressful, dramatic day. I think normally, in this situation, a judge would say, jury, go home. Get a good night sleep. Clear your head and then we'll start tomorrow.

The jury deliberations that we're about to see are going to be fascinating. Now, you and I and the viewers are going to be largely in the dark. One of the great unknowns of our jury system is what goes on back there.

They've been given their legal instructions, but how they go about it, all we're going to know in here, they're going to send out notes periodically and we're going to maybe get insights.

BURNETT: Why are they asking this? So why are they asking ... HONIG: Yes, what does that mean, we're going to be doing a lot of tea

leaf reading in the next coming days. And eventually, they may read a verdict. But one thing that's really important to note, they will be deciding on each of these five counts individually separately. So they might find guilty on some counts, not guilty and others. It's not all guilty are all not guilty.

BURNETT: Right. So you could look at one individual's shooting and say acquitted and another and say no, that doesn't add up.

HONIG: Exactly.

BURNETT: So Mayor Rawlings-Blake, when you look at where we are today and you hear Sara's reporting, strong arguments but yet at some point it was long and people started to get a little tired and a little bored, some of the jurors, from what she saw in that courtroom. How do you view today?

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, FORMER MAYOR OF BALTIMORE: I think the defense made a decent case. I think the prosecution has tried to portray Kyle Rittenhouse as an active shooter. But then it opens the door to this question, if he was an active shooter, why were just these three individuals shot?

And the jurors, they're going to be in that room and they're going to try to make sense of this. And I think that the defense has raised a good question.

BURNETT: So let's play this. The defense in their closing arguments, Elie, as the Mayor is referring to focusing specifically on the self- defense claim that they're making. It's interesting what she's saying, if it wasn't self-defense, if he was an active shooter, there could have been a lot more people dead. That wasn't the case and specifically talking about Joseph Rosenbaum, so here's part of that.


RICHARDS: This case is not a game. It is my client's life. We don't play fast and loose with the facts, pretending that Mr. Rosenbaum was citizen A, number one guy. He was a bad man. He was there. He was causing trouble. He was a rioter and my client had to deal with him that night alone.


BURNETT: How'd that play?

HONIG: So I agree with the Mayor. I think that the defense by and large, put on a strong self-defense case. This is one of the stronger self-defense cases you will see. And it's important to understand this is tough for the prosecution under the law itself. The key phrase that guides all of our trials beyond a reasonable doubt. When I was prosecutor, we always had to prove everything beyond a reasonable doubt.

And if the defense raises self-defense as they've done here, the prosecutor has to disprove that beyond reasonable doubt. So if you were watching this today thinking, well, that's a good point for the prosecution. Well, that's a good point for the defense like the one they just made. That's not going to be beyond a reasonable doubt and the self-defense defense will succeed in that case.

BURNETT: So Mayor Rawlings-Blake, the jury, the Judge, first of all, they're going home after this long day, 18 of them. Again, he said don't consume media or don't look at anything tonight. And read the instructions to the jury, okay, I just want to go through this.

Thirty-six pages long are the juror instructions. That's a lot. It's a lot for any human being. What do you think that means for this jury, when they're getting handed 36 pages of deliberation instructions?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Erin, I've been on a jury and what I know is that being in the jury room, jurors don't want to clean up anybody's mess. And the Judge's instructions were messy. The prosecution case was messy in many areas where they would put on witnesses that were helping the defense.

And then the defense case, I mean, the defense closing was a little disjointed. The jurors are going to feel like you're laying this mess all in our lap and you want us to make sense of it. And I think that's what where you start to build the case for reasonable doubt.


BURNETT: So let's talk about this, Elie, because you mentioned on this issue of reasonable doubt how hard it is for the prosecution to prove it was not self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the Judge did allow lesser charges.

Now, threw out one of the misdemeanor weapons charge was another fail for the prosecution, but you've pointed out that some of these lesser charges, i.e. not first degree murder, could still carry 80 years in prison.

HONIG: Yes. Getting that instruction on the lesser included charges was a very important win, I believe, in this case for the prosecution. Because these jurors, we weren't able to physically see them on the camera and so easy to forget. They're just human beings, 18 human beings soon to be 12.

Imagine trying to get 12 people to agree on anything, what pizza toppings do you want, unanimously. And so what jurors look to do a lot of times is compromise. And if you give them away, you say, okay, maybe we're not going to convict this person on first degree intentional homicide.

BURNETT: And you guys don't want to acquit, so let's meet at ...

HONIG: Exactly, half of you want to acquit, half of you want to find him guilty in first degree ...

BURNETT: Now, do they know if they're looking at a secondary charge that it could carry 80 years? HONIG: No. The jury is not told here's the penalty for these charges.

BURNETT: Interesting. Okay. And that could be very significant. You talk about compromise, they may see something as a compromise that they wouldn't see that way if they knew that, but they don't know that, which could be very significant.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake, what's your prediction for what happens here? How long deliberations go? Again, they're going to meet tomorrow morning at 9 am. They're going to pick out a random and a hat, who are the 12, and then we're going to go. And what do you think happens then?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I think this is probably one lottery that these jurors do not want to win. I do not envy them at all. I would say I don't anticipate them deliberating for long. Even though the charge was serious, this was not a very long trial. The evidence is going to be fresh in their mind.

And some key things that the prosecution said today will be fresh in their mind. The prosecutor said that a reasonable person wouldn't be out there at night past curfew, but yet you have the footage, the video footage of hundreds of people out there. They're asking this jury to pick who's wrong out of a melee.

So I just don't see them deliberating for an extended period of time and I think the more serious charges will - I predict he'll be acquitted on the more serious charges.

BURNETT: It's pretty incredible to watch. It really is. It's riveted this country. Thank you both so very much and tomorrow morning again, 9 am, they will be back.

OUTFRONT next, President Trump's former right-hand man on the attack after he turned himself into authorities on contempt charges.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.


BURNETT: So what exactly does Steve Bannon mean misdemeanor from hell?

Plus, President Biden signs the bipartisan infrastructure bill with Democrats and Republicans in attendance. It was a win for the President, but can he repeat it?

And is it time for COVID to stop running all of our lives. My guest is a medical doctor who believes in masks and vaccines, but he says it's time to move on.


BURNETT: Tonight, Steve Bannon in federal court for the first time after surrendering to the FBI. The former advisor to President Trump was charged after refusing to comply with subpoenas from the January 6 Select Committee. He'll be back in court Thursday for his arraignment.

Bannon striking a defiant tone, to say the least, after leaving court with his new lawyer who also happens to have been one of Donald Trump's impeachment attorneys.


BANNON: This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. Joe Biden ordered Merrick Garland to prosecute me from the White House lawn when he got off Marine One. And we're going to do, we're going to go on the offense. We're tired of playing defense. We're going to go on the offense on this and standby. By the way, by the way, by the way, you should understand Nancy Pelosi has taken on Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, she ought to ask Hillary Clinton how that turned out for them, okay. We're going on the offense.


BURNETT: Evan Perez is OUTFRONT. And Evan, obviously, Bannon making it incredibly clear, no intention of complying with that subpoena and he is going on offense. So where does it go from here?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, this is going to be probably at least a year of trial process.


PEREZ: Right. And so for this Committee, Erin, which wants this information, they need this information as part of their investigation, it's not clear that they can do this again with any of the other witnesses. So right now, they're looking at this and the spectacle that Steve Bannon is creating here, the fact that he's going to be obviously facing perhaps up to a year in prison, if he gets convicted on this. They're hoping that that induces some of the other members of the Trump orbit to come in and at least try to find an accommodation to talk to them and provide the information.

Some of these witnesses like Mark Meadows, people who worked in the White House are incredibly important. They possess a lot of information and I think they would want that, they prefer to get that than to go to the alternative, which is to try to get a prosecution, which really closes the door on any kind of information coming from those witnesses.

And so that's part of the issue here that you see is developing for this Committee.

BURNETT: All right. So Evan, stay with me. I just want to bring David Gregory into the conversation as well, our Political Analyst. So David, Bannon was saying repeatedly, we're going to go on the offense, vowing this will be the misdemeanor from hell for President Biden and Attorney General Garland.

He streamed his arrival to court live on his podcast. Didn't need our cameras come in there. He streamed it live himself. He doesn't - obviously, he's projecting a complete lack of fear and defiance. In fact, he seems to be kind of reveling in it.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's no question. I mean, it was kind of really similar to one of the seasons of homeland where there you have a figure like him who's a media figure on the right who is going to use this as a soapbox and is going to use this charge against him as a soapbox and a spectacle.

And as Evan points out, there's a lot of legal maneuvering to be done here over the indictment. There's also questions about the kind of the novel legal question about access to what he knows and to those discussions. That will take time, but the politics won't wait.


And the spectacle won't wait and that's what Bannon is seizing on. He use this not only to taunt the President and Attorney General Garland and Pelosi and all of that, but to make a broader argument that I think was more indirect, which is that they, the liberals, are coming for us, the conservatives or those Trump supporters. That's what the message that he wants to send.

And there's another piece of this too, which is there's a longer game beyond the legal questions involved. And that's the political question, because Democrats will face a time when Republicans in Congress or a Republican administration with an attorney general who might see fit to indict somebody for not complying with a subpoena to Congress of the committee.

And so there will be a reverberation and so the accusations of politicizing the Justice Department will be revived once again.

BURNETT: Oh, yes.

GREGORY: But I can assure you, knowing this attorney general that he's taken a position here. He's not going to listen to Joe Biden. Joe Biden is not going to direct him to indict anybody.

BURNETT: No. No. Garland made that extremely clear.

And Evan, Bannon have a lot more to say after leaving the court. Let me just play a little bit more.

PEREZ: Right.


BANNON: Well, I'm never going to back down and they took on the wrong guy this time. If the administrative state wants to take me on, bring it, because we're here to fight this and we're going to go on offense. You stand by, you see how we're going to go on offense.


BURNETT: Okay. So it's, obviously, as we pointed out, not the normal way this is done, but this is how he's going to do it. He's a media figure.


BURNETT: But Evan, talk to me about the judge, the judge in this case, specifically, Carl Nichols, how this plays with him.

PEREZ: Yes. He's a Trump-appointee. And from what everyone I've talked to, he has a good reputation. But one of the interesting things about him, Erin, is the fact that he for years was at the Justice Department where he dealt with these exact issues. These issues of executive privilege.

He was involved in a big case in the late 2000s end of the Bush administration, the House was subpoenaing Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten to try to get information on the firings of U.S. attorneys at the time in that scandal. And he was the one defending against the House subpoenas.

So he's got a lot of experience in this and it's going to be interesting to see how this works. The final thing I'd say is judges don't like this kind of spectacle outside the courthouse. So it's going to be interesting to see how he deals with that, especially because Bannon is a media figure, he's a podcaster and he's going to argue, this is how I make my living, how you can't shut me down.

And so we'll see how the judge manages outside the sideshow that will come with this case.

BURNETT: So Evan is laying out that it could take a year here, which would obviously put you past the midterms into the point where maybe the committee couldn't do anything with anything even if they win here.

PEREZ: They won't exist, probably.


PEREZ: Right.

BURNETT: Won't even exist. And so David, that brings me the political point you raised, which is how Bannon handles this could impact how others choose to cooperate or not. And obviously, right now, Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff is refusing to cooperate. Jonathan Karl writes in his new book that he - Meadows, the detailed memo to a top aide on New Year's Eve for Vice President Pence on how to overturn the election.

He is now in danger of being found in contempt by Congress. Obviously, though, David, he's got stronger claims to executive privilege than Steve Bannon because he worked for President Trump at the time. But what happens here? He's looking at what happens to Bannon to decide whether he's going to cooperate. If he chooses to not cooperate and this goes on a year there, that's kind of crucial for this committee, because Meadows actually knows a lot.

GREGORY: Or any committee that's fact-finding and I think it's really important that we understand the importance of what the committee is after. Because as Evan laid out, I mean, he'll cover the legal maneuverings as we go forward and there are important constitutional questions that I can't speak to with any knowledge.

But I do know this, it's very important to understand what those conversations were like in the days running up to January sixth, what did the President understand about what was being plotted and planned and his role in encouraging that. That's vitally important to know.

This was an attack on our democracy and on our elections. And people have to take that seriously for the sake of history. The impact on Meadows is a question for me, because it's twofold. One, he's more of an establishment guy served in Congress. He's not a flame thrower like Steve Bannon. And the intent of the Attorney General bringing this indictment was to send a very clear message that we will do it. We will take this all the way and backup Congress and that's an important precedent.

But there's the clock here. And the Republicans are looking pretty good for the midterms right now, according to political prognostications. You could just run out the clock here and then this committee, as Evan says, is no longer operating.


BURNETT: Yes. All right. Thank you both very much.

PEREZ: Thanks.

BURNETT: A lot more to come from both of you as this continues.

And next President Biden signs the infrastructure bill. Did we just witness the last gasp of bipartisan legislation?

And when will COVID no longer be a factor? My guest says maybe never, but now is the time to start moving on and living life.



BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden finally celebrating his win at the White House, signing into law his bipartisan infrastructure bill.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bill I'm about to sign into law is proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results. We can do this. We can deliver real results for real people. Too often in Washington the reason we didn't get things done is because we insisted on getting everything we want, everything.

With this law, we focus on getting things done.


BURNETT: Of course, it's significant. They could not have gotten that bipartisan bill passed through the House without Republican votes. It didn't have enough votes on the Democratic side so it's bipartisan in really important ways.


OUTFRONT now, two lawmakers who want to get the next legislation passed. They have been working incredibly hard on getting a voting rights bill passed. Stacey Abrams is a former Democratic nominee for Georgia governor and former Georgia House of Representatives minority leader, and Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

Thanks so much to both of you.

Senator, let me start with you because you were at the bill signing today and you were there with Democrats and Republicans. As I have emphasized, this was a bipartisan bill in a really meaningful way. Do you think that we will see another bipartisan signing event at the White House anytime soon?

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): I do. I mean, I think it's a matter of getting folks together that want to get to yes as we did with this infrastructure package. And I will tell you what the piece of legislation's going to be. It's going to be a toxic exposure -- piece of legislation on toxic exposure to allow the V.A. to give burn pit victims the kind of benefits that they have earned and I think that it will be a bipartisan -- it already is a bipartisan bill and I think it will get passed with a bipartisan majority.

BURNETT: So, let's talk about the voting rights that both of you have worked on together.

Leader Abrams, a new "Washington Post"/ABC poll shows 51 percent of registered voters, right now, say they would support Republicans for Congress if the election was held today. 41 percent said they'd support Democrats. That is the biggest lead for the GOP in 40 years.

And I will translate that. That's the entire history of that poll question. So, it's never been a bigger gap than now.

Are you concerned that the Democratic infighting, which hurt Democrats at the polls in Virginia, for example, a couple weeks ago could cost your party the chance to get other really important things done, like voting rights?

STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT: No. I believe that right now, we have seen the fierce understanding of how critical voting rights legislation is. We have seen all 50 Democratic senators stand up for it and vote for it repeatedly and on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, we saw Senator Murkowski, a Republican, join because she understands this isn't about which parties wins elections. It is about whether Americans get to participate in choosing the government that will lead them and that's the fight that we have to focus on. That's the fight of patriotism in 2021.

Making certain that, no matter who we pick when we vote, that every American has the freedom to vote and that we do so with the protections that we know are necessary, given the big lie and given its pervasive nature across our country.

BURNETT: And obviously, Senator Tester, this is not what you mentioned as the bipartisan piece of legislation and there is nothing that indicates that it would be in any way. Vice President Kamala Harris, who is the point person for voting rights for the Biden administration has said privately that the filibuster has to be scaled back, if you are going to be able to get voting rights through the Senate.

You obviously are a big-deciding vote on that. Are you ready to do it? Are you ready to put it aside, if that's what it takes to get voting rights through, Senator?

TESTER: Well first of all, I think what Stacey said is absolutely correct we need to make sure if we are going to have a democracy, we have everybody who legally can vote have the opportunity to vote, and there shouldn't be discrimination along the way. This is a very, very, very important piece of legislation.

Look, the filibuster has been weaponized, Erin, and I think there is ways we can go back to the good, old days with the filibuster that will take a lot of the ability to weaponize the filibuster out. And that's why I say we should take a look at to move forward.

But make no mistake about it. Voting rights is fundamental to our democracy and it's one of the most important things we do for our country and, that is, vote for our elected leaders. If we prevent people from voting, and we have seen it happen in Republican legislatures all over this country, including Montana, including Georgia. If we allow that kind of discrimination to happen, then shame on us. We need to get this bill passed.

BURNETT: And so, Senator, just -- I don't want to be technical and I know that it is important to be technical in many senses but it sounds like what you are saying is there is a way to peel back the filibuster for the purpose of the voting rights?

TESTER: Yeah, what I am saying is that we could go back to the talking filibuster. We could go back to a way that would require the Republicans -- the minority party -- to put up 41 votes. There are a lot of different proposals out there that we could utilize to get this bill passed.

BURNETT: So Leader Abrams, I want to ask you, you have been so vocal on this and very passionate. You have put your, you know, your heart and your soul and your face behind it.

Tonight, the White House is defending the vice president after CNN reported that key West Wing -- sorry -- aides are exasperated by what they see as entrenched dysfunction and a lack of focus by the Vice President Harris and her staff.

Does this concern you at all in the context of getting voting rights through, considering she is the person from the White House who is the point person?

ABRAMS: Vice President Harris, President Biden, Leader Schumer have all been part of the fight to expand access to voting rights and that is a unifying issue. And I think that the attempt to focus on internecine battles distracts us from the battle we should all be fighting, which is the fight to protect our democracy.


We are in peril and this is not hyperbole. We have watched democracies fall into authoritarianism, you know, in my adulthood. And it's happened because of small incursions that turned into massive subversions of our democracy. It begins by telling people that their right to vote should not be equal, that it should be discriminated against if you are young, if you are a person of color, if you are differently-abled.

And we know that unless we protect the right to vote, unless we call our senators at 833-465-7142 -- unless we tell them that we demand, as a majority in the nation does, that we demand freedom to vote and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, this books a moot issue. This books an academic argument because if our democracy falls, the rest of it is irrelevant.

BURNETT: So, Leader, let many ask you. A few of the insiders who spoke with CNN about the problems between the vice president and the West Wing believe that she is being well prepared for whichever role she might have going forward. Look. This is a crucial point because there is a lot of talk about who else might run if Biden does not seek re-election.

And today, "Politico" wrote about you. They mentioned you I want to quote how they wrote it. If she runs and wins the governor's mansion in Georgia next year, Democratic operatives expect her to at least consider a White House bid.

Is that something you would consider?

ABRAMS: My focus, my consideration, my efforts, my energy is being poured into making certain that we pass the Freedom to Vote Act, that we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and that we can have a conversation about elections after we do the work of protecting the democracy that undergirds those contests.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate both of you very much. Senator Tester, Leader Abrams, thank you.

TESTER: Thank you.

ABRAMS: Thank you so much. BURNETT: And next, learning to live with the threat of COVID. My next

guest, a doctor, says it's time to get back to normal.

And breaking news. President Biden about to meet with China's leader, literally, in just the next few minutes here. Tensions between the two sides, incredibly high. Just how bad are relations between the two superpowers?



BURNETT: Tonight, New York City deviating from CDC guidance, opening up COVID booster shots to anyone over the age of 18 who wants one. This comes, after governors in at least four states have taken steps to expand access to boosters, including Colorado and New Mexico where there is a major COVID surge right now.

Colorado surpassing 1,500 COVID patients in hospitals for the first time this year.

OUTFRONT now, Dr. Robert Wachter. He is chair of the Department of Medicine at UC-San Francisco.

Doctor, obviously, we have talked through this -- through this virus.

Let me ask you about, you know, as we see these COVID hot spots continuing to pop up. And we are now basically two years into the pandemic. You are saying it's time for people to stop organizing their lives around COVID, and to start resuming normal activities. Tell us why.

DR. ROBERT WACHTER, CHAIR, UCSF DEPT. OF MEDICINE: Well, I guess, I wouldn't say normal activities because my normal activities in 2019 did not include wearing a mask indoors. But what I have come to believe and it's true for most of the experts is that COVID is going to be around our world for the foreseeable future -- maybe forever.

It will get a little worse. It will get a little bit better. It will be regional. There will be surges and there will be improved times but I came to an epiphany about a month ago, that if I am not doing something like visiting my family over thanksgiving over -- or over Christmas, I am probably saying to myself I am not going to do it now. I am probably not going to do it next year. I may not do it forever.

And so, with that line of thinking -- thinking, my -- my reasoning now is I am going to try to make it as safe as possible. I am fully vaccinated. I've been boosted. I will wear a mask indoors but I'm not going to forego activities based on a hope that things are going to be so much better or that COVID will go away at some point because unfortunately, I don't think the cavalry is coming.

BURNETT: So, Colorado and New Mexico are seeing a big uptake in cases right now and hospitalizations but I want to talk to you about that in a moment. But first, I want to ask you about the very different approaches to masks in both states. The governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, says he is resisting another statewide mask mandate because the rise in COVID cases is almost identical to the rise in New Mexico, which does require masks indoors right now.

So, when you look at the data, what does it tell you? I mean, is it -- is it possibly time to drop mask mandates? That masks aren't the solution right now? Or no?

WACHTER: I think the data are pretty clear that masks are helpful. They're not the be all and end all. The most important thing is to be vaccinated and if you are eligible, to get a booster and I actually think opening up the eligibility is a good call right now. But as long as there is a fair amount of COVID in our world, I think is the right call. I think the data supports the idea that you should wear a mask indoors, until the cases go down to a level that is below a threshold where there is really a lot of risk to the person standing next to you is going to breathe COVID on you.

So it's -- it's tricky. It doesn't -- all this getting back to normal doesn't mean that we ditch the masks or we forget that COVID is still killing over a thousand people a day in the United States or 80,000 cases a day in the United States. But it does mean that we -- we continue to use masks where it's prudent and I'd say, indoors, the evidence is clear.

BURNETT: All right. So -- and you mention the thousand people a day. I mean, it is pretty stunning just to think about this. What we have become accustomed to. I don't know what other word to use. It's horrible.

But, you know, at the very beginning when I said return to normal, you said well if you define normal as masks, right? There were differences in how you define today but I want to ask you sort of the bigger question because there is a big question about whether people are ready to return to normal life, right? Normal workplaces and the way that was defined before COVID.

I recently spoke to the Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. And he was pushing back against some business leaders including the CEO of Morgan Stanley, right, who are saying, everybody needs to be back in the office five days a week and, you know, woe be if you don't.


Listen to him.


BRIAN CHESKY, AIRBNB CO-FOUNDER & CEO: I don't think CEOs are going to dictate how people work in the future. I think employees will, because if a CEO says you have to go back to the office, they are going to have a choice. Do I want all the talent pool? Or just the people willing to come to my office?


BURNETT: You know, it seems, doctor, a lot of workers aren't staying home right now because they are afraid of COVID. They are actually staying home right now because they like it. They enjoy the flexibility. They do not want to return to normal if that means five day as week of commuting and all the thing that is came with that life.

So how do you walk the line between telling people it's time to go back to normal -- even though I am putting quotes around it -- after so much has changed about what they want from life?

WACHTER: Yeah, I mean, those are, I think, two different issues. One is we have discovered a different way of living our lives in the past couple years. And we shouldn't completely ditch it and go back to 2019 when -- if the virus were to go away if it is working better. I think we have learned there are ways of organizing our lives around work, for example, that hybrid workplaces can work fine. We have also learned that virtual school doesn't work very well at all.

And so, a lot of this is weighing the risks and benefits of different ways and different strategies. I guess, my main point is that COVID's going to be with us for the foreseeable future. We do need to begin thinking about making ourselves and our communities as safe as possible, while we don't wait for things to get massively better than they are now because I don't think they are going to.

How we organize our work, we have seen a different way of organizing our work and a lot of people like a hybrid-work existence and we have to see, in many cases that will be a perfectly reasonable way of doing work.

BURNETT: Yeah, it is all going to be very fascinating but I like your point. You got to go back because if not now, maybe never.

Thank you so much, Doctor. I appreciate your time.

WACHTER: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, the breaking news. Presidents Biden and Xi Jinping are meeting at this hour. Nuclear, trade, other tensions are running incredibly high. Can Biden do anything?

And death stalker scorpions invade a city in Egypt after heavy rains send them into the streets and homes, more than 500 people stung.



BURNETT: Breaking news. President Biden sitting right now for a high- stakes virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. We are going to get some video of this coming out. This is literally happening now, right, because it's night in Washington and it is morning in Beijing.

The meeting is scheduled to last three hours. It comes amid heightened tensions between the two countries. China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. Connecting a record number of war plane incursions into Taiwan, which is making clear it intends to take, and successfully testing a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that could evade U.S. air defenses.

OUTFONT now, Max Baucus. He's the former U.S. ambassador to China in the Obama administration.

And, Ambassador, I really appreciate your time. I mean, these recent escalating tensions are pointing many to say that conflict between the U.S. and China could be inevitable. I mean, we have got satellite images, you know, China practicing firing missiles at U.S. war ships that they have literally put war ships out there. They are -- they're blowing them up.

I mean, this is stuff Americans might expect to see from, say, Iran, or North Korea. China's different. They can back up what they are -- what they're saying with action if they want. How perilous is the relationship between the U.S. and China right now, Ambassador?

MAX BAUCUS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA UNDER PRES. OBAMA: It's difficult, clearly. It's been in a free-fall since Anchorage. That was a couple months ago.

And I think this video conference today between President Xi and President Biden is critical because it's going to tend to clear the air. At least they're talking. That's a lot right there.

And if it's over three hours, the chances are that probably they are going to find some common ground. Some things to talk about that make some sense. What really counts here, frankly, is the United States to show strength. And I am talking not just about military strength. I am talking about economic strength. Getting our act together because when I talk to my Chinese friends -- and I have a good number of them -- they say that many in China think that America is in decline.

And we have to show that we're not in decline. And how do we do that? The passage of this infrastructure bill is very important. It's very critical. It's showing we are getting our act together economically. You know, it shows we -- we have to maintain that momentum.

BURNETT: So, you know, Biden has touted his close relationship with Xi, right, from back when he was vice president many times. Just for those who haven't heard him do it, here's what he often says.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have probably spent more time with Xi Jinping, I'm told, than any world leader has because I -- I had 24, 25 hours of private meetings with him when I was vice president, traveled 17,000 miles with him. I know him pretty well.


BURNETT: You know, it is interesting that context, right? Coming into this, right, China's communist party a land mark resolution. He is a leader on par with Mao, now, right?

Biden, obviously, right now, has been weakened by infighting in his own party. Low approval numbers, you talk about a perception of America in decline in China.

So how much does sort of a friendship count? I don't even know that is a fair word to even use for their relationship, but what does Biden need to do to accomplish anything tonight?

BAUCUS: Well, friendship does count but between two major parties, it's not everything. President Xi cares about China. President Biden cares about the United States. It's that simple.

Each wants to get re-elected. President Xi wants to keep his people happy. President Biden wants to keep his people happy so you have to do just what it takes to keep your people happy.

And in this case, we, Americans, want jobs, better jobs than we have. Infrastructure bill will help that. But also, we need to show that we are standing up to China.


And that means that President Biden's got to do all the things that indicate that he is doing that. However, having said that, there's been much -- too much public criticism of China by the United States in the executive branch and by Congress today. That just hardens the hardliners in China.

That shows that hardliners, hey, we can't trust America. Forget America. We're going to move toward more decoupling.

BURNETT: That's very interesting. Interesting take on it, as they have of spoken more.

Ambassador, appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

And of course, we are going to play for you the play back of that as soon as it happens.

Next, though, incredible story more than 500 people stung by deadly fat-tail scorpions.


BURNETT: Scorpions known as "deathstalkers" have stung more than 500 people in Egypt after flash floods. These are the worst floods that they have seen in Egypt in more than a decade.

Lightning lit up the sky as rare and incredibly heavy rains pounded the city of Aswan, washing hundreds, maybe thousands of the creatures that usually are in the sand left alone onto the streets and in people's homes. The source of this video is unclear but Aswan is a tourist center located on the banks the Nile. Rain is so rare that it only averages about 1/10 of an inch a year. Now, here they are, completely flooded out.

The fat-tail scorpions are about three to four inches long. Among the deadliest in the world, killing within minutes. Right now, three people are reported dead. Egyptian officials deny initial-state media reports that the deaths are from the scorpions.

Thanks for joining us.

Anderson starts now.