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Erin Burnett Outfront
Awaiting Vote On Holding Jeffrey Clark In Criminal Contempt; Could Be Second Trump Ally Hit With Contempt Charges; U.S. Confirms First Case Of Omicron Variant In California; 15-Year-Old Faces 24 Charges In Deadly School Shooting; Key Tennis Tournaments Pulled From China Over Peng Shuai Case. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 01, 2021 - 19:00 ET
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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yes. The disgusting comments could have really horrible, horrible consequences, endangering members of the United States House of Representatives. Lauren Fox, thank you very much for that report.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer.
Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, holding a Trump ally in contempt. The January 6 Select Committee just moments away from a vote on the charge.
Plus, a fourth student in Michigan is now dead after that school shooting. As we learn of alarming videos reportedly found on the suspect's phone.
And in a bold move, the Women's Tennis Association suspending its tournaments in China because of concerns about the safety of tennis star Peng Shuai. The man behind this very big and significant decision, the Chairman and CEO of the WTA is my guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, the January 6 Select Committee just minutes away from a vote to try to hold former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark in criminal contempt. Now, we're going to bring that to you when it happens.
Clark tried to help Trump overturn the 2020 election and stonewalled the Committee last month. If the vote passes, Clark is likely to become the second person to be held in contempt. President's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is, as you know, currently awaiting trial for a misdemeanor criminal contempt charge after he refused to cooperate with the Committee.
Now, make no mistake, Clark, like Bannon, has crucial information about Trump and possibly about his role in the insurrection. According to the Committee, so this is what we know about Clark's role, there's evidence that just days before January 6th, Clark circulated a draft letter at the Justice Department calling on Georgia to convene a special session to look into irregularities in the 2020 election, a request that was rejected by his colleagues.
Now as we wait for this hearing to start, and we do expect to hear obviously from the chairman, Bennie Thompson, also the Vice Chairman, Liz Cheney, I want to go to Ryan Nobles who's outside the hearing room. They're walking in right now. So as they do this, Ryan, tell me what you expect tonight.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, one thing we're going to be looking for tonight, Erin, is a curveball that could be thrown by Jeffrey Clark and his legal team. The Chairman of the Committee, Bennie Thompson telling me earlier today that he has sent a communication through his attorney where he has suggested that he may attempt to evoke the Fifth Amendment to prevent him from testify.
Now, Thompson told me that's not going to impact their work here tonight that they still do expect to refer a criminal contempt charge against him that will then be sent to the Department of Justice. But it just shows, Erin, the links at which Jeffrey Clark, this former Department of Justice official, has gone to attempt to avoid having any sort of communication or provide any information to the January 6 Select Committee.
BURNETT: All right. Ryan, thank you. And you hear the Chairman, Bennie Thompson, has brought the Committee to order. Let's listen.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): The Select Committee's meeting this evening to consider a report on a resolution recommending that the House of Representatives find Jeffrey Bossert Clark in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol.
Without objection, the chair is authorized to declare the Committee in recess at any time. I'll now recognize myself for an opening statement.
I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States. That's a part of the oath my colleagues and I took at the beginning of this Congress and in years past. When we were sworn in as representatives, in part of this oath, all of our staff members take every person who served this country in uniform civil servants and appointees across our government. And it's part of the oath Jeffrey Clark swore the last time he was an assistant attorney general at the United States Department of Justice of all places to support and defend the Constitution.
A year ago right now, while Mr. Clark was bound by the oath, an all- out attack on the Constitution was underway. The former president was waging a campaign to overturn the results of the election. His allies were looking for ways to get around the Constitution and keep him in power. It appears Mr. Clark was central to that effort.
The campaign of political pressure and maneuvering fail, but the assault on the rule of law didn't end, it escalated. It resulted in a violent attack on the seat of our democracy.
What the former president's inner circle couldn't achieve with liars and unsupported lawsuits, a mob of rioters tried to do by force. So to do our duty as members of this Committee, as members of this body, as legislators charged with finding truth about an attack on our democracy and sworn to support and defend the Constitution, we put Mr. Clark on our witness list as someone who was in direct contact with the former president in days leading up to the January 6th. He has information, we believe, is relevant to our investigation.
When he, unlike hundreds of others, refused to cooperate with our investigation voluntarily, we subpoenaed him on October 13th. And when he appeared for a deposition on November 5th, instead of answering our questions, his lawyer presented the Committee with a dozen pages of excuses for defying the law and refusing to comply with our subpoena. We heard the term contempt of Congress a lot in the last few weeks. We know it's serious business that can land a person in serious trouble, but it can sound a little abstract.
So if you want to know what contempt of Congress really looks like, read the transcript of Mr. Clark's deposition and his attorney's correspondence with Select Committee. Because what you find there is contempt for Congress and for the American people, contempt for the rule of law, contempt for the Constitution.
Faced with specific questions, he refused to offer any specific claim of privilege that could shield him from answering. Instead, he hid, again and again and again. Behind his attorney's 12-page letter and vague claims of privilege. Then he said, I'm quoting, "I think that we are done," and he walked out.
Mr. Clark's former superiors at the Justice Department didn't hide. Mr. Rosen, Mr. Donoghue, they answered the Select Committee's questions for hours about the various topics we'd like to address with Mr. Clark. Many others have done the same. And there's nothing as extraordinary about Congress seeking the testimony of a former executive branch official. Even the former White House Chief of Staff is now cooperating with our investigation.
As permitted by House rules, I considered Mr. Clark's objections and rejected them. The Select Committee provided him the opportunity to return to the deposition and he refused to do so. I want to note that around eight o'clock last evening, Mr. Clark's attorney sent a letter to the Committee, another in a long series of long letters stating that Mr. Clark now intends to assert his Fifth Amendment privilege against incriminating himself in this process.
He offers no specific basis for that assertion. He offers no fact that will allow the Committee to consider it. Of course, Mr. Clark had the opportunity to assert this privilege any other in response to questions we intended to ask him at the November 5th deposition. He declined to do so. He walked out.
This is, in my view, a last ditch attempt to delay the Select Committee's proceedings. However, a Fifth Amendment privilege assertion is a weighty one. Even though Mr. Clark previously had the opportunity to make these claims on the record, the Select Committee will provide him another chance to do so. I am informed Mr. Clark's attorney that I am willing to convene another deposition of which Mr. Clark can assert that privilege on a question by question basis, which is what the law requires someone who asserts the privilege against self incrimination.
We have just learned that Mr. Clark has agreed to appear again to continue his deposition. However, we will proceed tonight with considering the contempt request as this is just the first step of the contempt process. We just want the facts and we need witnesses to cooperate with the legal obligation and provide us with information about what led to the January 6 attack.
Mr. Clark still has that opportunity and I hope he takes advantage of it. But we will not allow anyone to run out the clock, and we will insist that he must appear on this Saturday. Without objection, the correspondence will all be made part of the record.
As with Mr. Bannon, the Select Committee has no desire to be placed in this situation, but Mr. Clark has left us no other choice. He chose this path. He knew what consequences he might face if he did so. This Committee and this House must insist on accountability in the face of that sort of defiance. We must honor the oath we took to support and defend the Constitution.
We all take that oath very seriously. I'm sure that most public servants do, because if that oath loses meaning, if it is reduced to empty words, then democracy and rule of law in this country, we are in serious trouble. I urge my colleagues to support adoption of the report recommending that the House of Representatives cite Jeffrey Clark for contempt of Congress and refer him for prosecution by the Department of Justice. And I now recognize a distinguished leader on the Select Committee, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, for any opening comments she care to offer.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Jeffrey Clark was an assistant attorney general, a Trump appointee at the Department of Justice. According to multiple sources, Mr. Clark was asked by then-President Trump to take over the role of Attorney General, in part so he could issue a series of letters, falsely suggesting that the Department of Justice believed the presidential election may have been stolen.
Of course, this happened after the department had repeatedly informed President Trump that his allegations of a stolen election were not true and were not supported by the evidence. And this happened after dozens of courts had ruled against President Trump and his election fraud claims. And this happened after the Electoral College certified the results of the election as our Constitution requires.
We are a nation of laws and our Justice Department has a solemn obligation to truth and justice. Imagine what would have happened if all the Trump appointed leaders at the Justice Department had supported Clark, and had corruptly issued those false letters. Imagine what January 6th would have been then, an even more profound constitutional crisis.
But Mr. Clark was not appointed and his letter was not issued, because a group of honorable public servants, each holding high level positions in the Department of Justice understood that they were bound by higher oaths to our Constitution. They did not yield even to the president who appointed them. They faced down President Trump in the Oval Office and forcefully told him no, they would not allow the Department of Justice to be turned into an arm of President Trump's campaign to overturn the presidential election.
These leaders told him they would resign and virtually all other high level Trump appointees at the department would resign as well. According to multiple accounts, the President's White House counsel also threatened to resign.
Important details regarding all of these events remain unknown. How did this plan with Mr. Clark originate? Who else was involved? How did it progress so far? The American people are entitled to all of these answers and we need the full story in order to legislate effectively.
But so far, Mr. Clark has refused to provide these answers. As the chairman indicated, in the last hour, Mr. Clark's attorney has told us that Mr. Clark would be willing to appear at another deposition and that he plans to assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self- incrimination.
If Mr. Clark believes that answering questions about his discussions with President Trump and others in November and December of 2020, and January of 2021 could incriminate him and he therefore wishes to invoke privilege on that basis, the Committee would certainly consider that. We will not finalize this contempt process if Mr. Clark genuinely cures his failure to comply with the subpoena this Saturday.
It is important to note, however, that Mr. Clark is not excused from testifying simply because President Trump is trying to hide behind inapplicable claims of executive privilege. And, of course, Mr. Clark is refusing to answer questions that are not conceivably subject to any executive or other privilege claim.
Finally, let me make a larger point as well. President Trump continues to make the same false claims about a stolen election with which he has misled millions of Americans. These are the same claims he knows provoked violence in the past. He has recently suggested that he wants to debate members of this Committee.
This committee's investigation into the violent assault on our Capitol on January 6th is not a game. When this committee convenes hearings, witnesses will be called to testify under oath. Any communications Mr. Trump has with this committee will be under oath. And if he persists in lying then, he will be accountable under the laws of this great nation and subject to criminal penalties for every false word he speaks. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
REP. THOMPSON: The lady yields back. Pursuant to notice, I now call up the report on a resolution recommending that the House of Representatives find Jeffrey Bossert Clark in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol. The report was circulated in advance and printed copies are available. The clerk shall designate the report.
CLERK: Report on a resolution recommending that the House of Representatives find Jeffrey Bossert Clark in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol.
REP. THOMPSON: Without objection, the report will be considered as read and open to amendment at any point. If there's no further debate, I now recognize the gentlewoman from Wyoming, Liz Cheney for a motion.
REP. CHENEY: Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee favorably report to the House the Committee's report on a resolution recommending that the House of Representatives find Jeffrey Bossert Clark in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol.
REP. THOMPSON: The question is on the motion to favorably report to the House. Those in favor say aye.
REP. THOMPSON: Those opposes say no. In the opinion of the chairs the ayes have it.
REP. CHENEY: Mr. Chairman, I request a recorded vote.
REP. THOMPSON: A recorded vote is requested. The Clerk will call the roll.
CLERK: Ms. Cheney?
REP. CHENEY: Aye.
CLERK: Ms. Cheney, aye.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Aye.
CLERK: Ms. Lofgren, aye.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Aye.
CLERK: Mr. Schiff, aye.
REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): Aye. CLERK: Mr. Aguilar, aye.
REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): Aye.
CLERK: Mrs. Murphy, aye.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Aye.
CLERK: Mr. Raskin, aye.
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): Aye.
CLERK: Mrs. Luria, aye.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Aye.
CLERK: Mr. Kinzinger, aye.
REP. THOMPSON: Has the Chair recorded?
CLERK: Mr. Chairman, you are not recorded.
REP. THOMPSON: Chair votes aye.
CLERK: Mr. Chairman, aye.
REP. THOMPSON: The clerk will report the vote.
CLERK: Mr. Chairman, on this vote, there are nine ayes and zero nos.
REP. THOMPSON: The motion is agreed to. The Vice Chair is recognized.
REP. CHENEY: Mr. Chairman, pursuant to Clause 2(l) of Rule 11, I request that members have two calendar days in which to file with the clerk of the Committee supplemental or additional views on the measure ordered reported by the Committee tonight.
REP. THOMPSON: So ordered. Without objection, staff is authorized to make any necessary technical and conforming changes to the report to reflect the actions of the Committee. If there being no further business, without objection, the Committee stands adjourned.
BURNETT: And that was it, a unanimous vote for contempt for Mr. Clark, the former Justice Department official. But some unexpected turns in there including that he's going to be allowed to come in and has agreed to come in for a deposition this Saturday essentially to plead the Fifth. Let's go to Ryan Nobles back with me on Capitol Hill.
Ryan, explain what just happened, because obviously, the reason he's held in contempt is because he appeared on November 5th and tried to exert executive privilege and refused to answer any questions. That's why they're holding him in contempt. He could have pled the fifth then, but he didn't. So tell me what's happening.
NOBLES: Yes. That's right, Erin. And we tease this out before the Committee hearing started, we had learned that there was this communication between the Committee and Clark's attorney, where they were suggesting that Clark was ready to assert his Fifth Amendment privilege. And what you see the Committee doing here is not just accepting a letter from his lawyer as enough proof that that's exactly what he's doing, that they are willing to give him the opportunity to formally assert his Fifth Amendment privilege to not incriminate himself.
But in order to do that, he actually has to come back, sit in front of the Committee, be asked very specific questions, and then say that he's not going to answer those questions, because it may incriminate him and that he is using his Fifth Amendment right under the Constitution to do that.
This is a pretty dramatic shift in the way that this conversation was going over the past 24 hours. This looked to be an open and shut case, as you mentioned, Erin, Clark had multiple opportunities to comply and cooperate with the Committee. He even came in for a deposition and you heard the chairman Bennie Thompson talk about what happened there that he essentially refused to answer any questions and then look the Committee, a staff and members in the eye and said, "I think we're done here," and then just walked out.
At that time, as you point out, he could have asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege then and chose not to do it. So this is significant on a number of levels, because he would be the first subpoena target, the first witness to use the Fifth Amendment as a way to not answer questions. The big question and I just want to make this last point, Erin. Now, what does the Committee do in terms of whether or not the full House votes on this resolution
That was something that we thought could happen as soon as tomorrow. Do they hold off on bringing it to the full house until this situation with this deposition happens this weekend, That's still an open question that we need to get an answer to. But nonetheless, the Committee is still moving forward with reporting out this criminal contempt referral of Jeffrey Clark.
BURNETT: So Ryan, can I ask you another question? And I don't I don't know if you know the answer. But, obviously, what we saw on November 5th, it was question after question, after question. They asked every question, and he or his lawyer, Mr. Clark, or his lawyer, Mr. MacDougal would say, I exert executive privilege, and then he got up and walked out.
So does it happen with the Fifth that every single - like did Donald Trump say X, I plead the Fifth, like is he going to have to plead the fifth 50 times?
NOBLES: So that's a great question and I was there that day. I saw Clark walk into the room. We saw him walk in and out of the room multiple times and having hushed conversations with his attorney. On that day, it didn't take very long for the Committee and Clark and his attorney to realize that they weren't making any progress before he left. I think he was only in the room for about an hour.
And it wasn't just executive privilege. He also claimed that there was some attorney-client privilege that prevented him from answering these questions. But if you read the tea leaves in Bennie Thompson statement here today, he suggests that it's not just going to be one question that they're going to ask him where he's going to say I plead the Fifth and that's the end of it, that they want to ask a number of questions before they're satisfied that he is going to plead the fifth on every point.
So this could be a lengthy process. And it's going to force Jeffrey Clark to answer some very specific questions or at least take very specific questions on the record and then say, I'm not answering that question, because it could incriminate me. It's not easy to take the Fifth Amendment, Erin, from a just a public relations standpoint.
NOBLES: And I think even the former President Donald Trump said at one time that only people who take the fifth do so because they're guilty. So this isn't an easy thing and it's a significant step that Clark has decided to take.
BURNETT: Very significant. All right. Ryan, thank you very much. It is really important to lay all this out here and before we talk to Elie Honig, our Senior Legal Analyst and our Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez.
Elie, the reason I asked this question about how many times, one thing to walk into a room and have to plead the Fifth and they get you on record doing it. That's different than just putting it in a letter. But when we look at what happened in the last - on November 5th, when he didn't plead the Fifth, when Mr. Clark instead exerted executive privilege, it was so many specific questions, did you have any interaction with this person, when did you talk about the Georgia election procedure, on and on and on, and everything was same objection, same objection, I assert privilege objection. Now, place that with I take the Fifth, I take the Fifth, I take the fifth, it's going to sound damning.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The Committee wants to make Jeffrey Clark own it. They want to hang that Fifth Amendment ...
BURNETT: Every single question.
HONIG: ... around his neck make him say it over and over, I take the Fifth, I take the Fifth, I take the Fifth. Now, here's what this means ...
HONIG: Any person, including Jeffrey Clark has a constitutional and legal right to take the Fifth if and only if they believe, if Jeffrey Clark believes that his truthful testimony might be used to prosecute him for a crime. He has that right.
HONIG: We, as members of the public have the right to say, wow, that is remarkable. What a disgrace, first of all, this guy who was a high ranking DOJ official, who's now hiding behind the Fifth. He has the right to do it. We have the right to say, yes, but now you've admitted essentially, that there was some crime here that you're worried about getting charged for and that, I think, is the political significance of this.
BURNETT: Right. I mean, hugely significant. You use the word disgrace.
Evan, I just want to follow up on that with the point that Ryan raised. The person who has made it clear that they think pleading, the Fifth indicates guilt is the person at the center of all of this, I just want to remind people of what he said. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?
When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth, so they're not prosecuted, when you have the man that set up the illegal server taking the Fifth, I think it's disgraceful.
Have you seen what's going on in front of Congress? Fifth Amendment. Fifth Amendment. Fifth Amendment. Horrible. Horrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It's like the Oracle of Delphi there, Evan. "Have you seen what's happening in front of Congress? Fifth Amendment. Fifth Amendment. Fifth Amendment." I mean, but he's putting his finger on exactly why they're going to make Jeffrey Clark do this.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And I do think that they want to go question by question. Because they need to know what questions, what specific things he is concerned about and so that's one of the things. Here's the thing, because of what role Jeffrey Clark played in those events in that two weeks or so, around January 6th, at the Justice Department where if things had gone his way, we would probably be talking about a totally set of events on January 6th.
Because of that, we now have testimony from his former bosses, Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donoghue, who explain and describe exactly what he was doing, how he was communicating with Trump, what he told them. So this Committee already has a lot of Jeffrey Clark story, what they just don't know is what more, who else was he working with, things like that, that I think they believe are key to understanding what happened.
BURNETT: And one more point on this, Elie, which is they're going to ask every single question. Now, you heard Chairman Thompson say and Vice Chair Cheney, if it is clear, you truly believe that by speaking you could engage in self incrimination of a criminal act, okay. But then he can't plead the Fifth on every single answer, otherwise that would seem to be disingenuous.
BURNETT: So then it's certain answers, which actually is even more damning on specific things, right? I mean, I'm not a lawyer. I'm just ...
HONIG: NO, I think that's exactly what they're going to try to do. I think they want to really nail him down on this. And by the way, big picture now, anytime anybody, Donald Trump, or anyone around him says who cares, no big deal, what happened on January 6th, you say why Jeffrey Clark take the Fifth then. We're talking about a crime here.
And I think what I would do if I was asking the questions on Saturday, if Jeffrey Clark shows up, is ask him every question I would have asked him otherwise. If he takes the fifth on his name, I mean, you can't do that, right?
HONIG: But it will be telling where he does and does not take the Fifth, because where he does well, that's where Jeff Clark believes he may have been part of a crime.
BURNETT: And that's really crucial.
So Evan, I want to ask you one other thing the Chairman said and that was he brings up Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff. And he brought him up in the context specifically of saying even the former chief of staff, he's referring to Mark Meadows is now cooperating. Can I just ask you about that, because I know Mark Meadows is providing, what is it, 6,000 or 7,000 emails. But then he goes in an interview today with Nigel Farage in the U.K. and basically says he's going to claim executive privilege. So is Mark Meadows cooperating or not?
PEREZ: Yes. And I think that interview provides a preview of what this committee is going to face with Mark Meadows because I think what they're going to face is that, depending on the question, he's going to say, I believe that's covered by executive privilege. He is not at all abandoning his position. What he's trying to do is he wants to at least come in to the Committee and sit there and hear their questions. And then one by one, stick to his position because at least this way, it puts the Committee in a sort of a different position, because if he just ignored it and just didn't ever show up, they could do what they did with Bannon. [19:30:02]
This he can say, I at least showed up but I'm relying on my lawyer who says that I'm covered by this executive privilege, which, by the way, is still being litigated.
We -- you know, we had the appeals court hearing just yesterday on this question.
So, you know, he still has, I think, a legal leg to stand on for the time being.
BURNETT: Right. And, of course, he was -- was the actual chief of staff. But, I don't know how to play it out but I guess we all know, you know, certainly saying you are taking the fifth is certainly sounds more damning in the public eye than claiming executive privilege.
PEREZ: Especially, for a former Justice Department official. It's -- it's a really incredible thing to see.
BURNETT: It -- it truly is.
All right. Thank you, both, very much.
And next, the U.S. confirms its first case of Omicron. What we're learning about that patient.
Plus, Trump's former chief of staff with a shocking charge reportedly claiming the former president tested positive for COVID three days before his first debate with Biden last year. Are you kidding me?
And the teen gunman accused of killing four classmates, now facing murder and terrorism charges as we are learning horrific, new details about what authorities say he was posting in the hours before the attack. Prosecutor in the case will be OUTFRONT.
BURNETT: Tonight, we are learning new details about the first case of the Omicron variant detected in the United States. The CDC says the person lives in San Francisco, and tested positive on Sunday after returning from South Africa six days earlier.
The patient had mild symptoms, and was fully vaccinated, had not yet received a booster. Dr. Fauci answering questions about what this means for the trajectory of the pandemic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRES. BIDEN: You really can't take anything away from a single patient. It is very -- it's -- it's -- we feel good that this patient not only had mild symptoms but actually the symptoms appear to be improving. But as we've said, there is a lot of information that is now evolving
out of countries like South Africa, that have a much larger number of individuals. They are going to have a lot of experience which we will benefit from.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Dr. Jonathan Reiner who advised the White House medical team under President George W. Bush and there is a lot to talk to you about tonight, Dr. Reiner.
But let me start with this. Person had been in the United States for six days going about their normal business. So that is concerning. However, they did have mild symptoms. However, they were fully vaccinated.
I mean, you know, you can kind of argue this no matter -- any way you want. I mean, I know we don't yet have the data. But when you look at how this has played out, what do you think?
DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, we've been expecting, you know, to see cases in the United States.
BURNETT: For sure.
REINER: So, here it is. You know, patients in the United States. So -- so we can go past this now. Look, the early report of cases, you know, coming out of south Africa, coming out of places like Israel have described a lot of these patients having, you know, relatively mild illness.
Now, again, the reports are -- are still a few and, you know, we are learning a lot. But I think, you know, there is reason to, you know, remain calm about this. There are some early reports coming out of Israel suggesting perhaps that the Pfizer vaccine and its booster might be effective against this. Again, early reports.
So again, I think what -- what's crucial for the American people to understand is that we're all learning about this variant in real-time. A lot of the concern about this variant is based on basically trying to infer function from the mutations and that's a tricky business.
REINER: And the proof will be in the pudding. So, we'll see. We'll see how cases go and -- and the big un -- unknown is whether this can even outpace delta in the United States. And that is --
BURNETT: That's right. So many questions and as they have said, you got to wait a couple weeks and I know that is the bottom line, right? You got to have data. Anecdotes, whether it be from Israel or anywhere are anecdotes.
All right. Now, I got to ask you about something else. So this is the development and it is a stunning new development. I have to say there is times when you think oh, how could I possibly be surprised? Well, I am.
Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who reveals in a new book -- he's written a new book and "The Guardian" got the book. And in the book, Mark Meadows says that the then-President Trump tested positive for COVID three days before his first debate with President Biden last year, OK?
"The Guardian" reports Trump tested positive with -- with an old-model kit. And then, Trump took an antigen test, which, of course, is known to be not reliable. And that came back negative. So, Meadows says Trump said, okay, great, I am just going to take that one. I am going to ignore the other one. I am going to press on as if nothing happened. I am going to go on with my life, the debate, the Amy Coney Barrett thing, all of that.
He had the event with the Gold Star families. He had the debate prep with advisers, and remember Chris Christie was there. Got sick. Kellyanne was there. Christie in the hospital.
Goes to debate Biden. There was an honor system on testing. Obviously, they violated it.
And then, two days later, he is positive again and goes to the hospital. So, when you look at that timeline, Doctor, it is clear Trump was sick at the debate. He looked and sounded it. He knowingly put Biden -- 77 years old at the time -- at risk. It's beyond the pail.
REINER: Right. So, I mean, this is reckless in all -- all capital letters.
We knew last year that the former president had to be positive the weekend before the debate because he was really sick basically the day he turned -- he -- that he tested positive. And -- and the day supposedly that his symptoms developed. Although, now, we are hearing that he was really symptomatic the weekend before.
But it takes about a week of illness for people to get sick enough to need to be hospitalized so we had already sort of deduced he was probably positive the weekend before and now we know. We also know that somebody was the superspreader at the Amy Coney Barrett event on that Saturday and now we know it was the president of the United States.
Interestingly, the president had met with McDaniel, the head of the RNC, the day before on the 25th. And five days later, she tested positive. So almost certainly, the president infected -- infected her.
This was so reckless. The president meets with dozens or maybe hundreds of people in the course of just several days. He met with Gold Star families. He has Secret Service that -- that protect him.
He has Air Force one personnel that fly him around. Everyone that interacts with -- with that patient was exposed to the virus. Astonishing record.
Doctor, thank you very much.
REINER: My pleasure.
And next, prosecutors charging the suspected teen gunman in the Michigan school shooting as an adult. And we are learning new details tonight about how the shooting unfolded that are really hard to hear. The prosecutor in the case is next.
Plus, an important update on a story that we have been following. The Women's Tennis Association tonight suspending all tournaments in China because of concerns about tennis star Peng Shuai. The chairman and CEO of the WTA will speak OUTFRONT.
REINER: Tonight, charged as an adult. The 15-year-old suspect, Ethan Crumbley, now facing 24 charges in that deadly high school student -- school shooting, including terrorism and first-degree murder. The teen just appearing in court pleading not guilty.
A total of four students have now died from the attack because another student who had been fighting passed away this morning.
It comes, as prosecutors and the sheriff are revealing a number of details and warning signs about the gunman.
Alexandra Field is OUTFRONT.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Plea of not guilty on his behalf.
FIELD: The accused school shooter, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, now charged as an adult appearing virtually at his arraignment along with his parents and attorneys.
KAREN MCDONALD, OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTOR: This was not just an impulsive act. It was absolutely premeditated.
FIELD: The suspected gunman facing four counts of first-degree murder, a slew of weapons and assault charges, and a charge of terrorism after a five-minute shooting attack in the halls of Oxford High School.
MCDONALD: What about all the children who ran screaming, hiding under desks? What about all the children at home right now who can't eat and can't sleep and can't imagine a world where they could ever step back -- foot back in that school? Those are victims, too, and so are their families and so is the community. And the charge of terrorism reflects that. FIELD: Video from inside the high school 40 miles north of Detroit
shows the shooter armed with a semiautomatic handgun firing at victims at close range according to the Oakland County sheriff. Aiming toward their head and chests but appearing to shoot at random.
SHERIFF MICHAEL BOUCHARD, OAKLAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: We can't wrap our head around the incredible cold-blooded murder of kids.
FIELD: Seventeen-year-old Justin Shilling succumbing today to his injuries, 16-year-old Tate Myre, 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, and 17- year-old Madisyn Baldwin also killed in the shooting spree. Seven others injured, while investigators say the suspect fired off some-30 rounds. Three are still in the hospital tonight.
Two videos recovered from the suspect's cell phone show him talking about shooting and killing students at Oxford High School the night benefit the attack, according to investigators. The Oakland County sheriff's office says no law enforcement agency was aware of threats prior to the shooting.
But tonight, there are new questions about the suspect's so-called concerning behavior at school the day before and the morning of the attack.
SHERIFF MICHAEL BOUCHARD, OAKLAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: In fact, the parents were brought in the morning of the shooting and had a face-to-face meeting with the school. The content of that meeting, obviously, is part of the investigation. But we did not learn of that meeting, nor of the content of that meeting until after the shooting.
FIELD: A search of the 15-year-old's family home has turned up some of his writings and a journal found in a backpack describes his desire to shoot up the school according to authorities. While investigators say they are still combing through a mountain of digital evidence and social media posts, including possible clues about how much experience the suspect had with weapons.
ZANDER CUMBEY, JUNIOR, OXFORD HIGH SCHOOL: I heard screams come from the hallway and the first gunshot happened.
FIELD: New video from inside the school showing the chaos and panic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said bro, red flag.
FIELD: And this moment when a knock on a classroom had students fearing that a person the sheriff now says was a first responder on the scene might have been the shooter himself outside their classroom door.
FIELD (on camera): And that 15-year-old who has now been charged as an adult has been moved from a juvenile facility to the county jail. As for the weapon used in the attack, investigators say it was purchased by the suspect's father just four days earlier. Now, authorities are saying that both parents could face charges, Erin. We're expecting a decision on that shortly.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Alex Field on the scene there in Oxford, Michigan.
I want to go now to Karen McDonald, the prosecutor for Oakland County, Michigan. You saw here briefly there in Alex's reporting.
And, Prosecutor McDonald, I know you have said it's clear to you the shooting was premeditated from everything you have learned. I know that includes two videos you recovered from the suspect's phone filmed the night before the shooting. The journal that details his, quote, desire to shoot up the school.
What -- what are you learning? It sounds like you have a lot of evidence here.
MCDONALD: We do, as indicated before, there's just -- there is a mountain of digital evidence. We haven't gone through all of it. But, in terms of the premeditation required for first-degree murder charge, this just wasn't even a close call unfortunately.
This was deliberate. This was planned, well in advance and disturbingly so. And so those charge -- those charges are appropriate.
BURNETT: You say well in advance. I just want to ask you about something else that we learned today from -- from you, which is school officials were concerned about the suspected shooter's behavior.
Now, I understand they didn't convey that to law enforcement is our understanding at this point. But they met with him the day before the shooting. They met with the suspect and his parents the day of the shooting. So, that morning, before he does this horrific act. School officials meet with him and his parents to discuss his behavior.
Do you know anything more about those meetings? What they thought was happening? I mean, you know, to call -- to call them in twice, right, as this is happening was pretty incredible.
MCDONALD: It is. I -- I do know more. I want to say I -- I can't comment on -- on all of it just because I ethically bound not to prejudice the community. And we don't want to do anything to -- to compromise this prosecution.
However, they met with the shooter the day before, the day of -- with the parents. And, there is an additional piece of evidence that hasn't been released yet but I can assure you -- it -- it was troubling. It was disturbing, and unfortunately, he was allowed to go back to class.
BURNETT: And he was allowed to go back to class. So -- so let me just ask you, the -- the -- then the layer of context here, okay, which is that the victim -- the father of the shooter purchases the handgun use in the shooting four days before the attack.
What role do you think the father or the parents had here? I mean, that -- that's also pretty incredible to hear. Did they -- was that gun intended for him? I mean, do you know?
MCDONALD: This is still under investigation. I've made it very clear that we are -- there are likely potential additional charges which we intend to -- to announce very soon. With the right of owning a gun comes responsibility, and the responsibility of a gun owner is to securely store that weapon, and to keep it out of the hands of somebody who could kill people.
And in this case, that does not seem to have happened. But again, we're still investigating that. And there are definite serious potential charges against anybody who doesn't securely and -- and responsibly possess a weapon.
BURNETT: So, Prosecutor McDonald --
MCDONALD: We -- we have to do --
BURNETT: Yeah, sorry.
MCDONALD: It -- it's tragic that this is almost -- people are -- we're desensitized to this. And at some point, we have to say it's enough. And at some point, we have to say to people who do not responsibly possess a weapon, that you're going to be held accountable.
The shooter's going to be held accountable and the -- the people who bought and improperly stored and, weren't responsible with -- with that weapon have to be held accountable. And -- and we can provide all the training and -- and, put up metal detectors and try to flag behaviors that are concerning in children.
But at the end of the day, if we don't make gun owners responsible for their ownership and possession which most people that I know who own guns do so responsibly and they're in favor of that. We all should be, because if that had been done here, we would -- four children would still be here. A community wouldn't be terrorized. And several other children injured.
BURNETT: All right. Well, prosecutor, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much. I know we'll be talking soon.
And now a very big update on a very important story we have been following, the Women's Tennis Association announcing it is immediately suspending all of its tournaments in China and Hong Kong, citing a lack of transparency by Chinese officials following the rape allegation tennis Peng Shuai made against a senior Communist Party leader.
Her social media posts making the accusation was deleted within minutes. She completely disappeared from public view.
The WTA has demanded for weeks that Peng's allegation be -- quote -- "investigated fully, fairly transparently, and without censorship."
But that has categorically not happened. Now the organization's chief of the WTA says in a statement -- quote -- "If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded, equality for women, would suffer an immense setback. I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players."
I want to go OUTFRONT now to the person behind that statement.
Steve Simon is back with me, the chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association.
And, Steve, I appreciate your time.
Look, I know this didn't come lightly to you or the WTA. You made it clear you were willing to do it, but you gave them a chance to do the right thing.
Why did you decide to do it now?
STEVE SIMON, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION: Well, thanks, Erin. Thanks for continuing to cover the story and to support the story.
I think it was pretty clear. As we chatted and shared last time we were together, if the Chinese authorities weren't going to treat these allegations seriously, and we weren't able to have direct contact with Peng, we were prepared to pull our business.
The statement, I think, reflects that what we said is true. We're planning to suspend our events until such time that the Chinese authorities do the appropriate thing.
We're going to -- we're hopeful that they will. We'd like to continue our business in the region. We have had a lot of success, and we have a lot of friends and good partners in the region.
But, as we have also said before, this is about the principles we stand for and the principles of women associated with sexual assault, which trumps everything else.
BURNETT: So, you're putting on the line a billion dollars.
And you're doing it because you believe that morals and principles are more important than money. But let me just be clear. Of the 15 companies listed as sponsors right now of the Olympic partners for the Beijing Winter Olympics, not a single one has spoken out about Peng.
I'm just putting the American companies on the screen, Airbnb, Coke, P&G, Visa, Dow, Intel. None of you have said a word.
The NBA has a huge presence in China. We have reached out to them for comment after you appeared on my program. We got no response. Have any of these organizations reached out to you, spoken to you privately, and said they support you or they're willing to step up? Or has it just been total silence?
SIMON: No, we haven't heard from the partners, obviously, involved with the Olympics and other properties involved in China.
We have heard from our partners. And they have been very supportive of us, of course. And we haven't heard a lot really since we last spoke.
I think that our position here is very, very clear. I can only imagine the range of emotions and feelings that are likely going through Peng right now. We hope that she feels that none of this is her fault, and we're very proud of her.
But this is something we can't walk away from. If we walk away from this, we're basically telling the world that not addressing sexual assault with the respect and seriousness it requires is OK because it's difficult to do. It's something that we simply cannot happen.
And it's not what we stand for as an organization.
BURNETT: The latest video or photo of Peng was released more than a week ago taken during a video call, as you know, Steve, with the president of the International Olympic Committee, which is the only outside organization to speak to her.
I know you have tried and others have tried.
I spoke yesterday about that call with the longest-serving member of the Olympic Committee. And here's what he told me:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD POUND, MEMBER, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: The consensus of all of those people on the call was that she's fine, and she's not -- she's not under any kind of coercion or confinement.
So, that's the best evidence we have at the moment. And it's certainly a long way ahead of the people who have not contacted and who just make statements.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I guess, I presume he was referring to you and others.
What do you say to that, to their response; IOC has talked to her on a video call, and she's fine, and anybody else who says otherwise is -- doesn't know what they're talking about?
SIMON: Look, Mr. Pound and those that were involved with it can certainly have their opinions.
It was great to see her. It's been great to see her in the photos and everything. It's been great to confirm that she's in Beijing, and she does not appear to be in any, physically, harm's way. And that's all terrific.
Does it change my position that the -- what we're seeing is orchestrated? No. And, again, until such time that we can get comfort that she is truly free from any type of coercion or intimidation or censorship, we're not going to be comfortable with it, as well as the investigation that we have called for.
BURNETT: And she hasn't responded to any of your repeated attempts at this point to contact her, correct?
SIMON: Not at this point in time, no.
BURNETT: One final question for Mr. Pound as well.
I mentioned that Peng had suddenly retracted her accusations, right, that she had sent an e-mail to you that was very formal and oddly phrased, and that you thought it was private. And then you saw it on Chinese state media. You heard about it there.
Here's how that exchange went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POUND: I don't know that she withdrew anything she said. What she said was taken off the -- whatever the platform was.
BURNETT: Well, she technically retracted it in an e-mail that, actually, the head of the World Tennis Association received, didn't share with anybody, but then he saw it reported in Chinese state media.
POUND: Well, I have no idea what that was.
But the people who saw her and interacted with her were as satisfied as they could be, in the circumstances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Does that surprise you, that he was unaware of the details there of that retraction?
SIMON: No. Nothing -- nothing is a surprise.
Clearly, just by her actions and her silence and what she said in her e-mails, by not saying anything about it, and just talking about wanting to keep her privacy, be with friends, et cetera, clearly reflects that we feel it's orchestrated and she's being censored in some way with respect to the issue.
BURNETT: All right, well, Steve, I really appreciate your time.
SIMON: Thank you.
BURNETT: I know you feel that you're the David in this situation, but it is -- it is incredible to see somebody standing up.
Thank you very much.
And thanks to all of you for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.