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Erin Burnett Outfront
White House Meets With Moderate House Dems About Cost Estimates Ahead Of Possible Spending Bill Vote; Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) Discusses About The Upcoming Vote On President Biden's Spending Bill; Trump Endorses Gosar One Day After He Was Censured By House For Violent Video, Removed From Committees; Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) Talks About The House Decision To Censure Rep. Gosar; Rittenhouse Jury Wraps Day 3 Of Deliberations Without Verdict; Belarus' Foreign Minister Denies Migrant Crisis Was Orchestrated. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired November 18, 2021 - 19:00 ET
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Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, the House set to vote on whether to advance Biden's massive $1.9 trillion spending bill. The vote coming after a key budget analysis found the bill would add billions of dollars to the deficit, hundreds of billions. Does Speaker Pelosi have the votes?
Plus, former President Trump throwing his support behind Congressman Paul Gosar one day after he was censured for posting a video of him attacking another member of Congress. So what does this say about the state of the Republican Party.
And a tennis star missing for nearly three weeks now after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault, the head of the Women's Tennis Association tonight demanding an investigation. He's my guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, President Biden's team meeting with key moderate Democrats tonight trying to lock in the votes for their progressive bill to pass the House of Representatives tonight. Tonight, finally passing the House this evening their Build Back Better Act, finally.
Any moment now, the House is expected to call a procedural vote which would advance the so called Build Back Better Act. For months, of course, Democrats have been at a standstill over this bill, months. Moderates most recently demanded a budget analysis by the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, and tonight they have it, so that report just came out late today. And it found that the Build Back Better Act would add $367 billion to the deficit.
Now, that assumes there's no benefit from spending more money on the IRS that would be used for enforcement to collect taxes already due and not paid. The CBO believes the IRS enforcement could help to the tune of $207 billion dollars, if that happens. They said the cost to add to the deficit would go down to still $160 billion.
But the truth about this whole thing is, this whole process is an exercise in smoke and mirrors. And I don't say that pejoratively, it's just reality. The CBO can only score and give these estimates based on the bill given to them. And no one actually knows the price of the bill.
For example, the child tax credit is only counted as existing and needing funding for one year, which obviously is not the intent in any way shape or form by Democrats. And then there's the Senate, so assume this passes tonight, that's where it goes next. And there is no saying what will happen there, because Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, last we checked, are still there.
And one thing we know is that the Democratic Senator Manchin is so far refusing to even commit to a vote, allowing the Senate to begin debate on the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You haven't made a decision on whether to vote for the bill to begin with.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): No, no, I'm still looking at everything, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KISSINGER: Kaitlan Collins begins our coverage OUTFRONT live at the White House tonight. Manu Raju also with me on Capitol Hill as this news is breaking.
So Manu, let me start with you. This is crucial, months and months, and finally we're here, procedural vote and all of a sudden they're going to push it through tonight. Moderates had said that there couldn't be a deficit by the CBO in order for them to vote for it. There is obviously a deficit projected by the CBO. Do Democrats have the votes to pass it tonight? And is there any chance of Republican support?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no chance of Republican support, but Democratic leaders are confident that they will have the votes when it does come up tonight. Now, the question is how many moderates we'll break ranks. They have a handful about five or so had demanded those numbers from the Congressional Budget Office to show that this bill would be fully financed.
Well, according to the Congressional Budget Office, it comes short. They initially said $367 billion would fall short the Congressional Budget Office said. Now they included the issue of increased tax enforcement by the IRS. If there is increased tax enforcement, they say that the actual number would be about $160 billion add to the deficit over the next 10 years.
Now behind the scenes though, the White House has been trying to shore up support, saying those numbers don't actually align with what the White House's projection is. The White House says that actually added enforcement by the IRS would raise enough to fully pay for the package and that is the argument that Democrats have been making the White House and Democratic leaders have been making behind the scenes for weeks.
And in fact in a closed door meeting just now broke up with two top White House officials including that top Economic Adviser Brian Deese and Louisa Terrell, who's the top legislative affairs director met with moderate Democrats, showed the White House's projections and their argument that it's paid for.
The question now, Erin, is will there be more than three moderate Democrats who might break ranks. If there are more than three, that is enough to scuttle the entire effort.
But the Democratic leadership believes they can stave off those defections, push it through the House after months of intensive negotiations. But that is just the first step, Erin, because in the Senate, Joe Manchin has made clear to me and others for months and he wants significant changes. He's not on the same timeframe. And they will have to pare back the bill significantly and push it back to the House to get it through here. So this is a big first step, potentially, tonight, but not the last step in this arduous process.
BURNETT: All right. And I want everyone to know as Manu is talking, he's on Capitol Hill, you see the vote. This is the vote tally you're seeing for the procedural vote. This procedural vote is anticipated to pass. Once it does, then they can move and they expect that they will, tonight, to a vote on the actual Build Back Better plan itself in the House.
So I want to go to Kaitlan Collins, because she's at the White House. And Kaitlan, that is where moderates had the meeting with White House officials who are trying to get them over the line. They can only afford to lose three. They're not going to get a Republican to come in and save them in any way, so where is the White House on this right now? Do they feel that they have it?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They say they're feeling hopeful. I think part of that indication is a move that they just took care at the White House where they have yet to call a lid, which essentially means once they do that you're no longer likely going to see or hear from President Biden for the rest of the day.
They're holding off on that right now after he met with those world leaders earlier today from Mexico and Canada, because they're waiting to see what happens on Capitol Hill, Erin, and how all this plays out. And, of course, they are hopeful that this will be successful in getting across the finish line tonight and then go on to be in the hands of the Senate.
But, of course, as Manu said, this is far from the last step in this process, because, of course, next they've got to put it in the hands of the Senate where big changes are expected to be made. Right off the bat, there are the concerns that you're hearing from moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin who would not even say today, whether or not he's ready to vote to proceed with the bill, to take it up and to get this process moving.
And, of course, that can hamper that timeline that you've seen from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who has said he would like to wrap all of this up by Christmas. And, of course, there are some key parts of this bill that are also still a big concern for Senate Democrats and some of them have been voicing complaints about them, including today, including from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was talking about those current provisions as they stand now for the state and local tax deductions, which the White House and other Democrats have argued could help taxpayers who live in those high cost states like New York or California, potentially New Jersey.
But the concern that you've heard from Sen. Bernie Sanders is that it amounts to a big tax break for the wealthy and that it almost exclusively benefits these high earning families. And so that's been the big concern, because, of course, the whole point of this bill, what you've heard from President Biden time and time again on the road is that it's supposed to be a boost for the middle class.
And so we actually pressed the Press Secretary Jen Psaki on this today, whether or not President Biden is comfortable with where that stands now. And essentially, they believe it's a matter of compromise that there are some moderate Democrats who say they will not vote for this bill, unless those tax deductions are included in this and so they feel like that is necessary to move forward.
So you'll see a lot of that play out on Capitol Hill as they're trying to finalize this bill once, of course, it does get to the House tonight, which is a very important step, of course.
BURNETT: Right, of course. All right, Kaitlan. Thank you very much.
And, of course, President Biden gives him a bit of a fig leaf and I think that's all because they want to keep those voters. They obviously did not do very well with them in Virginia or in New Jersey in those recent elections.
OUTFRONT now, the third ranking Democrat in the House, Majority Whip James Clyburn. And I appreciate your time tonight, sir. So President Biden's team meeting with the moderate holdouts at the White House moments ago. You heard Kaitlan talking about that.
These are the moderates who said they would not vote for a bill that added to the deficit as estimated by the CBO. And the CBO says this bill does add to the deficit to the tunes of possibly hundreds of billions of dollars. Do you have the votes to pass the spending bill tonight? Are you confident? REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Well, I'm pretty - thank you very much for having me. But I'm pretty confident that we will get to where we need to be. The fact of the matter is not only are those numbers different from the White House, there are some other rating in the House as well that seem to feel that those numbers are really, really on the conservative side.
But I think that we all have all of these discussions. We'll see where people are comfortable. Some people, I am much more comfortable with White House numbers and maybe they are more comfortable with CBO.
But as you said earlier, these are estimates. I have seen people say that if the IRS is fully funded, they would save up - would earn another $1.2 trillion. Now, I've seen that and I think that's a pretty reputable group saying that. I have not seen that anywhere with CBO.
You just mentioned the numbers that they say we would earn and it's far less than that. Who is right? I don't know. All of them are creditable.
BURNETT: Well, and I guess that is the point I was making. As I said, it's in a sense it's smoke and mirrors. I didn't say it pejoratively, I said it because there's just a lot that's going to be based on estimates.
BURNETT: So, obviously, you're not going to get any Republican votes. You can only afford to lose three Democratic votes. At this point, Congressman, do you expect to lose any Democratic votes?
CLYBURN: Well, yes, that's my expectation but I expected that. Remember we're doing this rule several weeks ago and lost none. So let's hope that the same happens here. But I can think of one or two people who are wedded to the CBO numbers and we may lose them. But they may accept some of these other numbers and we won't lose anyone, we'll just have to wait and see.
BURNETT: So obviously, look, it's going to be a nail biter. Let's say you get it through the House, obviously, then it goes to the Senate and it's, at least at this point, appears clear that it either isn't going to pass or it's going to pass in a different form with some really important things to House progressives may be coming out. Are you confident that the Senate won't make changes that are unacceptable to a large portion of your progressive members?
CLYBURN: Well, I'm very confident that they will make changes. And now we'll have to wait and see what those changes are and what impact these changes will have on the bottom line. And I'm interested in whether or not people get the health care they need, the children get the childcare that they need, the seniors get the senior care that they need. I'm most interested in that.
And I think it's sort of a fallacy for us to keep talking about people going back to work and we make a noble vision for them to take care of their children, talking about people going to work and with no health care. Right now, in my state and 11 others, we have not expanded Medicaid. That means that a lot of people who work in jobs without health care don't have any healthcare and we're fixing all of that in this legislation. And I would hope it stays in. I'm not too sure that the Senate will keep it in, but if they don't keep it in, then it's going to have - I'm going to have a problem when it comes back.
BURNETT: Yes. I mean, this is obviously - although you may have a victory tonight, it's the beginning of a road, not the end.
BURNETT: Not the end of the road. I want to ask you about one other topic tonight, if I can, Congressman, because it's something you and I had talked about during the presidential process, the vice presidential selection process. Vice President Harris, her communications director announced tonight that she's leaving. Several people currently on the Vice President's staff have been reaching out to contacts looking to leave, according to sources who've gotten the calls.
And as you know, we have done a lot of reporting here, a lot of West Wing aides are exasperated by what they see as entrenched dysfunction and a lack of focus from Vice President Harris and her staff. I know that you had a lot of private conversations with President Biden who you've known very well for decades about who he would pick as his running mate. You were involved in the process. Are you at all concerned about what we're seeing now?
CLYBURN: I'm always concerned, but I read headlines that are not complimentary. Some I've seen that concern me and that concerns me. But headlines are headlines and a lot of times people say things that make headlines that they may not really mean. People leave jobs all the time.
Now, I've been a part of transitions myself at the state level and I know that within the first several months, sometimes it takes a year that people may find out this is not exactly for me. So these things didn't happen. I don't know how serious all of this is. I did hear about them several days ago. I didn't know that it has been announced, but it has been announced, so we'll see what happens. These things are not all that serious in my opinion.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Congressman Clyburn, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much. I know you got a busy night ahead of you.
CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.
BURNETT: All right. Third ranking Democrat in the House, a Majority Whip there, Congressman Clyburn getting ready for that vote.
And next, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying he plans to reward his colleagues Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene if Republicans win the House. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): They'll have committees that may have better committee assignments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus, the juror in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial with a request to the Judge after three days of deliberations, a very specific one involving this.
And for three weeks, a tennis star missing in China after accusing a top official of sexual assault. Chinese state media claiming she's resting at home. But she's nowhere to be heard, nowhere to be seen, the Women's Tennis Association who's been trying to reach her is my guest.
BURNETT: New tonight, former President Trump endorsing Congressman Paul Gosar a day after Gosar was censured and stripped of his committee assignments for posting an anime video of him killing another member of Congress. Trump making no mention of that saying, "Congressman Paul Gosar has been a loyal supporter of our America First Agenda, and even more importantly, the U.S.A."
OUTFRONT now Republican Congressman Nancy Mace of South Carolina. And Congressman, I really appreciate having you back on the show. Thanks so much.
REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Of course, thank you for having me.
BURNETT: All right. So let's start with this, I know you didn't vote to censure Gosar. You didn't like the precedent of it. In fact, only two Republicans did vote for that. You've been clear about the video though, you called it, that he posted, you called it disgusting. You warned, your words, that someone is going to get hurt. Now you have President Trump coming out and endorsing Gosar and his behavior, his record, what do you say to that?
MACE: Well, I just learned about that on your program, of course. What Congressman Gosar did and I understand tonight that after the machinations of that vote, that he then retweeted the same video. And I find it reprehensible. It's disgusting. I stand by my condemnation. I have condemned both Republicans and Democrats alike.
I've been a victim of political violence, someone will get hurt. I had someone spray paint my House this summer. My car was keyed last year. Congressman Gosar owes AOC an apology, quite frankly. This kind of rhetoric that we keep seeing over and over again and it's the far right and far left fringes of our society and of elected officials, it's damaging to our kids' future in our country and it really has to stop.
And we need strong people with strong mind, strong backs who are willing to stand up against it. The vote on censure was actually more than that. It was to strip him of his committees as well. That's been done only one other time in Congress. I follow something called the Constitution and the Constitution says we're supposed to follow the House rules on these kinds of things. That means that the ethics committee and the OCE must be involved. There should be an investigation.
And if we're going to do this, then we should apply the Constitution and the House rules equally across the board and be unequivocal about it and that's where I took issue with it. If it were a strict censure vote, you would have seen I believe more Republicans hop on board.
BURNETT: Okay. Right, which I would presume. You're laying out your reasons, that it would have included you if it was strict. Let me ask you about something else, though, because Trump is praising Congressman Gosar, of course. He's obviously attacked you. He issued a statement about you over the weekend, Congressman, urging, "Good and SMART," all caps, "America First Republican Patriots" to primary, you specifically as well as other Republicans who he thinks have not been loyal to him.
So what's your response to Trump coming after you like this and now urging someone to run against you in a primary?
MACE: Right. Well, I represent a swing district in Charleston, South Carolina. I promised to follow the Constitution. I promise to represent my district, my state and my country and those three will always come first. I supported President Trump in 2016 when there were 16 other Republican candidates on the stage, I support him and 2020. I support many of his policies today.
But I promise to represent my district, which is different from many districts across the country, even from other districts in South Carolina.
MACE: I promise to represent my state and my nation. And every vote that I take, every issue that I take up reflects that in my belief and in my oath to the Constitution. And I'm proud of the votes I've taken. I work very hard. I work extremely hard for Republicans and Democrats in my district.
I just unveiled a remarkable piece of legislation on Monday called the States Reform Act which takes a bipartisan approach to cannabis reform across the country and is getting accolades from everyone from conservative and Republican groups to places like center left normal has endorsed this bill.
And so the times that we see our country, and today, the divisiveness both within both parties and against Republicans and Democrats alike, I'm trying to show leadership in very difficult times, because I'm a single mom. I got to go back home to my kids every night and explain why we're doing what we're doing today.
And I have to do a better job, all of us have to set a better example for our kids and our country moving forward. If we're going to get through the crisis of COVID and through the divisiveness and the violence we've seen over the last few years.
So I want to ask you about Steve Bannon. Again, as you talk about your votes, you did vote to hold Steve Bannon criminal contempt. You weren't alone in that among Republicans, you did have some colleagues who did that with you. Nine House Republicans, small minority, but nine and you did so very clearly.
Bannon's attorneys have made it clear, the latest reporting here is that they're going to try to slow down the criminal case against Bannon as much as they can. They want to take out every second of time to identify documents and witnesses for the defense. And obviously, they could drag this out till the committee is disbanded, who knows exactly what happens.
Justice Department says this is a straightforward case. It's very simple. Forget what you think about what he's trying to do. He's denying the will of Congress. Congress has asked him to provide this information. He has refused to do so. How do you see it?
MACE: Well, we do have a judicial branch, and everyone deserves the right to due process, whether they're Republican or Democrat. And so that process will be respected, I assume, in the court of law and we'll see how it plays out. In some cases, we see these things adjudicated very quickly, because of the kinds of cases that they are.
It'll be up to the courts to decide whether or not how quickly this thing moves forward or not. But there are three different branches of government for a reason there and, again, when I took that vote and I thought I explained it pretty well to folks around the country that this was about protecting the power of Congress and subpoena power.
MACE: You don't get to just say no and thumb your nose at Congress, when we call you to testify.
This has been done over and over again by Republicans and Democrats as recently as Benghazi. It's the biggest case that I can be reminded of and I want to make sure that we protect that power going forward and in the future, no matter who's in the White House or no matter who's in the majority in either chamber of Congress.
BURNETT: All right, Congresswoman Mace, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
MACE: Thank you. BURNETT: And next, the jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial deliberating for three days now, 23 hours and still no verdict. So does that tell us something really important?
And China, totally avoiding answering any questions about the whereabouts of a tennis star. A top in the world in doubles who vanished after accusing a top Chinese official of rape.
The CEO of the Women's Tennis Association is demanding an investigation. He's my guest.
BURNETT: Tonight, the jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial just concluding its third day of deliberations, going home for the night after about seven hours of deliberating. In total, that brings jury deliberation time in this trial to about 23 hours and no verdict. And for the first day, the jury did not ask the Judge any questions during their deliberations, no questions today.
But at the end of the day, one juror did ask if she could take the jury instructions home. This is the instructions.
Omar Jimenez is OUTFRONT at the courthouse.
So, Omar, tell me what you know about this juror's request.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin. It's a lot of instructions, one. But this juror that made this request as the day was wrapping and the judge asked if any of these jurors had any questions. Of course, she raised her hand. Usually the instructions, the 36 page ones that serve -- are meant to serve as a guide for these jurors through some of these major concepts and some of the charges as well.
The defense, though, had an issue with the potential of these instructions going home. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm afraid it's going to be the old dictionary game and they start defining words and things like that, the outside research. That's my concern.
BRUCE SCHROEDER, JUDGE: Well, actually, no, they could do that at home without having the paperwork. Instead they have the wonderful, concise, jury instructions that I have to say, I don't know about you guys, but I watch a little TV in the morning and in the evening. And some of the greatest legal minds in the country, I'm delighted to say, agree with us that the instructions are very confusing.
(END VIDEO CLIP) JIMENEZ: Now, the judge eventually granted that juror's request not just for her but for all of the jurors. His only stipulations is that she and everyone else not talk about this case, which he's consistently said over the course of this, but also that they can't bring their notes home. All of this comes after three days and over 20 hours of deliberations.
As the day wrapped today, no jurors appeared to be visibly upset or tense. But still, no verdict -- Erin.
BURNETT: Yeah, still no verdict, right.
And thank you, Omar. I guess there is something to be said for they asked. I guess you could take pictures with your phone of the things and bring it home. They asked, they did it the right way. They are handling themselves completely above board.
All right. I want to go now to Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, former Democratic mayor of Baltimore and a former defense attorney who obviously -- Mayor, you've been with me throughout this. So let me just start with this juror's request that Omar is going through to take home the jury instructions.
Now, you and I have talked a lot about them. Nice to hear the judge acknowledging they're confusing. They're 36 pages long. What do you make of that request?
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, FORMER DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I put myself in the place of these jurors. They have been there for almost 24 hours. And these are people who under normal circumstances wouldn't even speak to each other. So you have 12 strangers in a room trying to come up with a unanimous decision. And I have to say, after almost 24 hours, it's deal time. I think she asked for the jury instructions so they can reach a compromised verdict.
BURNETT: So, that's really significant, right? As you point out, you know, almost 24 hours of deliberating. That's three days of being locked -- you know, business days locked in a room -- locked proverbially in a room together.
Today was the first day the jury didn't ask any other questions. No questions, not for more video, nothing, like we've seen in the past couple of days. Only for this.
So, is that part of why you think they are trying to, I suppose, think through it overnight and come to a decision tomorrow?
RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I think so. Again, these are 12 people who are just like you and i, trying to prepare for Thanksgiving. It's the weekend coming up. I think sometimes we forget that these are just regular people who decided to do the right thing and to show up for jury duty and be objective and to follow the rules. But they have lives. They want to get back to them.
So I would not be surprised. That's why the defense raised the objection, because they know by this point in deliberations, it's compromise time.
BURNETT: Right. So this is very significant, right, because there's self-defense and there's murder and then there is compromise. But the thing about compromise is that lesser charges were allowed to be considered. But, Mayor, I think it's important for everyone to understand, as we understand it, they're then given the lesser charges but lesser charges may appear to be a compromise to them. They are not given the sentencing range for those charges.
So a seemingly compromise or lesser charge could still be 30, 40 years behind bars, right?
RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Oh, absolutely. When I say compromise, I don't mean that it's a deal for Rittenhouse, I mean it's a deal for the jurors who they want to do the right thing. When you -- when you pledge, when you swear in as a juror, people take it seriously. They want to do the right thing but they don't want to do it forever.
BURNETT: Right, right. You get to a point where you've got to make a choice.
Thank you very much. I appreciate it, Mayor.
RAWLINGS-BLAKE: My pleasure.
BURNETT: And next, calls for an investigation. Tennis star now missing, totally missing after accusing a Chinese leader of sexual assault, of rape. The CEO of the Women's Tennis Association is next.
And you've seen the heartbreaking images, migrants starving and freezing. Tonight in a CNN exclusive, our Matthew Chance confronts the foreign minister of Belarus about whether they are using children as pawns in a deadly game of retaliation.
BURNETT: New tonight, President Biden confirming that he is considering a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing over human rights abuses. This as China continues to stonewall on missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, one of the top ranked double players in the world. She's been missing nearly three weeks after accusing a former vice premier of sexual assault. A government spokesman today saying, quote, this is not a diplomatic issue. When asked if he knew anything about her whereabouts, although we understand as I speak about this, CNN goes to black in China because they don't want it broadcast.
This comes one day after Chinese state media reported on an alleged email from Peng which said in part, quote, the news in that release, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true. I am not missing nor am I unsafe. I have been resting at home and everything is fine. Tennis icon Serena Williams among those not taking that statement at
face value. She tweeted in part, quote, I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she's safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we should not stay silent.
Well, OUTFRONT now is Steve Simon. He is not saying silent. He's the chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association.
Steve, thank you so much for speaking out on this issue. You know it takes a lot to do that, right? You can't see CNN as we talk about this and obviously there are repercussions for you and for tennis as well, but you're speaking out.
Do you have any reason to believe that that email from Peng Shuai where she retracts her allegations and none of it is true and she's home and resting and everything is fine, do you have any reason to believe that that is an email from her and that it's true?
STEVE SIMON, CHAIRMAN & CEO, WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION: Well, thanks, Erin. Thanks for having me.
I actually agree. I'm struggling with the email and I still have very strong concerns about Peng Shuai. For a person to come forth with the type of allegations and the detail into those allegations that she set forth in her November 2nd post, those are significant. And for us to see an email that basically denied that that happened and said it didn't and that all is great, I'm just struggling to agree to that and don't believe that's the truth at all.
BURNETT: Yeah. I mean, you know, she knew what was at stake when she said what she said. She knows that. I know that you have been trying for weeks to make contact with her. How often have you tried to reach out to her? How -- I mean when people are trying to find her right now and she's just not responding, tell me how that is going down.
SIMON: Yeah. We've had direct conversation with the Chinese Tennis Association. They have assured us that she's fine and without any danger or harm in Beijing. We have reached out to her on every phone number an email address and other forms of contact. There's so many digital approaches to contact people these days that we have. And to date we still have not been able to get a response.
The email she sent me yesterday, which I did receive, I immediately responded to it and I still have not had a response back from that email to her. When I saw it come out on the -- obviously the Chinese state media elements in Europe, it became very clear to us that this was a staged statement of some type, whether she was coerced into writing it, someone wrote it for her, we don't know.
But at this point, I don't think there's any validity in it and we won't be comfortable until we have a chance to speak with her directly and make sure that she knows that we're worried about her, that we have the ability to provide support to whatever level she wants, and that these allegations definitely need to be investigated fully, properly, and without any level of censorship. BURNETT: Yeah. And as I say, I just think it's really important here,
she knew what was at stake by saying what she said. She knows that there are many people in China who have gone missing or she knew the risk she was taking.
You have been demanding proof that she is okay, a probe into her sexual assault allegations as you've just said. But, Steve, at the beginning when I said it takes courage for you to speak out, I meant it. There's a lot of people who do business with China who look the other way on a lot of things, okay? There's a lot of people.
You have threatened to take your business elsewhere if China does not give you answers. That would mean pulling ten events out of China that you have scheduled for next year, including what you call your crown jewel, the WTA finals which China is slated to host through 2028 as part of a ten-year deal. When you announced that deal, you called it a $1 billion commitment to the WTA.
So this is real in every way for you. How serious are you about this threat?
SIMON: Well, if anyone wants to question our fortitude behind a statement like that, they can certainly try to. We're at a crossroads with our relationship, obviously, with China and operating our business over there.
There's no question about it.
It's something that's actually very sad, because we have some amazing relationships over there and have developed some unbelievable programs. They're really introducing the sport to a lot of young Chinese players that want to become the next Li Na, the next Peng Shuai and all of those types of things so it's very exciting. We've had a lot of success over there.
You know, I think that when you look at this, though, there's too many times in our world today when we get into issues like this that we let business, politics, money, dictate what's right and what's wrong. And as you reflected earlier, when we have a young person who has the fortitude to step up and make these allegations, knowing full well what the results of that are going to be, for us to not support that and demand justice as we go through it, you know, we have to start as a world making decisions that are based upon right and wrong, period.
And we can't compromise that. We're definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it, because this is certainly -- this is bigger than the business.
BURNETT: I applaud it. It's incredible that you say these things.
One final question for you, Steve. Have you been able to speak to anyone? Does she have family there? Are they safe? Have you been able to talk to anyone close to her? SIMON: We haven't been able to talk to anybody and that's been the
challenge and that's our concern. I'm sure she's very scared. Obviously, she's scared for her family, she's scared for her friends, and I'm sure she's going through a lot of emotions as to if she's getting word of what's going on.
Most of the time people that are in that situation become very, I want to say for lack of a better word, guilty that they're bringing on all these issues and that tennis could leave China.
So I think she's probably fighting a lot of different emotions and that's part of the reason we're so concerned about her.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I really appreciate you taking the time. Thank you for speaking out. I hope you are heard loudly and clearly, as you will be tonight in China, even though they put this to black whole we spoke. Thank you.
SIMON: Well, thank you very much for having us. Thanks for carrying the story. I think it's very important that the voices of women need to be respected and not censored and not dictated to.
BURNETT: Yes, indeed. Thank you.
And next, a CNN exclusive. Our Matthew Chance confronts the foreign minister of Belarus about the humanitarian crisis unfolding along his border.
Plus, a woman in a coma with COVID. Her family told she would not make it. As they were planning her funeral, ordered the headstone, she did what doctors said was impossible.
BURNETT: Tonight, the G7 accusing Belarus of orchestrating a, quote, aggressive and exploitative campaign among migrants at the Belarus border, but in an exclusive interview with CNN, the Belarusian foreign minister denied his country is orchestrating the crisis.
Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESOPNDENT (voice-over): At the airport in Minsk, the first repatriation flight waits to board, the passengers mostly Iraqi Kurds didn't make it to Europe, but at least their ordeal in Belarus is at an end.
This is the nightmare they left behind. Officials confirmed this forest camp on the polish border is now empty. The shocking images of desperate migrants languishing in the cold here have left their mark.
Now for the first time, CNN is able to hold a senior Belarusian official to account. VLADIMIR MAKEI, BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: And to see how they
suffer, it's very difficult for a normal human being. We are not interested in having this situation here in Belarus.
CHANCE: You say you don't want to see these scene, but you're accused, Belarus is accused of orchestrating this whole crisis, of encouraging these migrants to come here and of directing them towards that border. You created these scenes.
MAKEI: Yes. We have heard a lot of accusations that it was Belarus. This is false assessment of the situation.
CHANCE: Also false according to the foreign minister, U.S. and European allegations that Russia, which recently flew the strategic bomber flights over Belarus in support is really behind the crisis, encouraging its ally to distract the West while preparing military plans elsewhere in Ukraine.
MAKEI: I got to this migrant crisis, I can definitely say Russia has nothing to do with it.
CHANCE: But it was President Putin, he tells me, who set up telephone calls between the German and Belarusian leaders this week, helping to diffuse the crisis and it needed diffusing.
This was the scene when angry migrants tried to force their way to Europe past Polish border guards. The refusal of Belarus to intervene fueled rumors they encouraged these attacks.
The European Union says that Belarus has created this crisis to punish them in revenge for the sanctions that the EU is imposed against Belarus for its crackdown on the opposition. How do you answer that allegation?
MAKEI: It's -- it's -- it's lie. It's an absolute lie. Belarus has shown the dark side of the European democracy and you've scene yourself what happened at the border within the last two our three days.
CHANCE: It's shown the strength of European unity, too, the now remaining migrants in Belarus are being housed in this giant, heated warehouse back from the volatile border, but with Europe refusing to back down, it's Belarus that must now keep them or send them home.
CHANCE (on camera): Well, Erin, we've also learned tonight that the government of Belarus, of Alexander Lukashenko has been pushing the European Union to open humanitarian corridor possibly directly to Germany to send the migrants there, but that's been categorically rejected both by Berlin and the European union. And so, for the moment, the migrants are either being deported or they'll stay where they are. Erin. BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Matthew Chance, who has been there day in and day out on this story. Thank you so much, live from Belarus tonight.
And next, a woman in a coma with COVID. Her family told she wasn't going to make it. Planned her funeral and then on the day she was going off life support, she woke up.
BURNETT: Tonight, a woman with COVID defying doctors by waking up from a coma on the exact day her family was going to take her off life support. Sixty-nine-year-old Bettina Lerman went into a coma after being placed on a ventilator after COVID. Her family was told she would not make it. They planned her funeral, gave her belongings away and bought her tombstone and started to grieve.
And then on the day she was to have died, Bettina woke up. It's incredible. Her son tells us that his mother is slowly improving and she says she will be vaccinated as soon as she recovers. That is a miracle of a story.
And thanks so much for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.