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Erin Burnett Outfront

Biden Warns Of A "Winter Of Severe Illness And Death For The Unvaccinated" That Will "Overwhelm" Hospitals; 5 GOP Candidates Evasive When Asked Whether Biden Won 2020; Jan 6 Panel Subpoenas Retired Colonel Who Circulated PowerPoint Doc On Way To Undermine Election Outcome; Biden Admits Build Back Better Will Miss Christmas Deadline; Manchin Admits Build Back Better Will Miss Christmas Deadline; Defense Calls First Witnesses In Potter Trial, Ex-Cop To Testify. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 16, 2021 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Army Sgt. Earl Plumlee was the only living recipient at the ceremony today honored for his actions in Afghanistan in 2013.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Biden's warning for the unvaccinated, it could be a winter of severe illness and death. Cases and hospitalizations both exploding tonight, so just how bad will this get?

Plus, the January 6 Select Committee issuing a new subpoena tonight, this time to a retired colonel who was pushing a presentation on how to overturn the election.

And Democrats tonight turning on their own as frustration anger mounts over Sen. Joe Manchin who is holding up Biden's sweeping multi- trillion dollar spending bill. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, a COVID death every minute. This is where we are tonight. About every 60 seconds, another American is dying of COVID. That is the grim reality we are in the United States. COVID, again, tightening its grip on the country.

Today, President Biden meeting with his top health officials and he had this warning about the highly contagious Omicron variant.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's here now and it's spreading and it's going to increase. For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for the unvaccinated - for themselves, their families and the hospitals they'll soon overwhelm.


BURNETT: It is a sobering warning and cases are increasing incredibly fast in vaccinated and unvaccinated. Take New York City, a number of those testing positive doubled from December 9th to the 12th, doubled in three days. The Mayor's Health Advisor tweeting, "We've never seen this before in New York City."

And the rush of new cases is having a devastating impact already on the nation's way overburdened health care system. Hospitalizations are up 40 percent from just one month ago. The country is now averaging, I said, about a death a minute. That's more than 1,300 people dying a day. And this is just the beginning of this wait, the spike has city states and businesses scrambling.

In New York, the bank Citigroup telling its employees once again, work from home. A number of Broadway shows being cancelled because of breakthrough infections among the casts and a growing number of universities moving their finals online. Now, you've got another list, Princeton, NYU, Middlebury College in Vermont.

And the data that's coming out of the United Kingdom is alarming. Incredibly alarming because they're a few weeks ahead on this and the question is whether it foreshadows what's happening in the U.S. Today, the United Kingdom reporting a record number of cases 88,376, which is the highest number of cases since the pandemic began in the U.K. The outbreak there growing so fast that today the Queen cancelled her pre- Christmas family lunch.

This onslaught comes as we are still learning about just how effective the vaccines even are against this new variant. Just today, a CDC advisory panel voted to recommend Pfizer and Moderna vaccines over Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, which they now say is a two shot vaccine, not a one shot. They're concerned about side effects. And that's really significant because you're looking at 16 million Americans who got the Johnson & Johnson shot.

But one thing we do know is that hospitals are already hurting. Just listen to one doctor describing the physical and emotional toll the surge is having.


DR. SHIRLEE XIE, HOSPITALIST, HENNEPIN HEALTHCARE, MINNEAPOLIS-BASED SYSTEM: We are exhausted, and heartbroken and terrified. Many of us are starting to feel helpless, because we've been living this crisis for so long.


BURNETT: We're going to speak to that doctor in just a moment. I want to begin with Phil Mattingly, OUTFRONT live at the White House.

And Phil, so what is the sense of urgency and severity at the White House tonight about the threat of the variant?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think it's palpable and you could hear it in a message from the President that was as stark as it was simple. The idea of severe illness and death coming for the unvaccinated in the weeks and months ahead. And as you noted, Erin, it's not because the Omicron variant has already become the dominant variant. Much of this is coming from the Delta variant and a winter surge. But the real concern right now is that this is only going to kind of build in the weeks ahead. I don't think there's any question about that being the reality.

And while there's certainly some hope that the rush of boosters over the course of the last couple of weeks will continue and there is no question when you talk to administration officials, that those boosters will provide significant protection in the weeks and months ahead. The real question now is how can you ramp it up even faster, particularly in the wake of concerns about hospitals being overwhelmed.

Yes, the vast majority of the cases administration officials are seeing that's being reported from states and federal authorities are coming from the unvaccinated right now, that is very clearly driving things. But with the Omicron variant by administration official calculations, likely to become the dominant variant in the next couple of weeks.

The expectation right now is there is an absolute necessity to get boosters, a little bit more than 50 million Americans have gotten boosters up to this point.


The administration wants to ramp that up as soon as possible. And I think the framing right now is not just the concern about severe illness and death for the unvaccinated, but also those who haven't gotten a booster yet. If you are concerned about the economic recovery, if you are concerned about disruptions, schools and businesses closing, I think everybody right now in the country is just exhausted in just the idea of that.

Boosters are the answer. That is the message you've heard from the President. It's the message you've heard from White House officials and it's certainly going to be the message they push going forward. The belief right now, boosters are their best option, and they're hoping as many Americans as possible can get them as soon as possible, Erin.

BURNETT: Right. Of course, it's their best option. But as we all know, there's still so many questions about breakthroughs and infections and what all this means. We just, frankly, just don't know what we don't know and that is what we're staring at.

All right. Thank you very much, Phil.

I want to go now to Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and Dr. Shirlee Xie. You just saw her there. A hospitalist at Hennepin Health Care in Minneapolis. And I appreciate both of you very much for taking your precious time to be here.

Professor Osterholm, President Biden warning a winter of severe illness and death, particularly at the unvaccinated. But you say there are very clear signs that we are already in an explosive mode here across the country, just on the infection side of it, not even on the hospitalizations, which are also up 40 percent.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH & POLICY: Well, as you're hearing right now, from around the country of these outbreaks that are starting to occur with large numbers of people suddenly infected. You heard just now, as it relates to the New York data and how fast we're seeing the increase in the number of variants, the Omicron variants being detected.

And I think we're really just about to experience a viral blizzard. If you look at what's happened in South Africa, you look what's happening in Europe, I think in the next three to eight weeks, we're going to see millions of Americans are going to be infected with this virus and that will be overlaid on top of Delta and we're not yet sure exactly how that's going to work out.

BURNETT: And just to make the point, Professor Osterholm, if you have millions of people infected very quickly, even if the virus is in fact less severe, which it may or may not be, you obviously can still get a significantly higher number of dead people.

OSTERHOLM: That's absolutely true and I think one important point to note is we are learning new things. Today, we saw data from South Africa that showed that, in fact, the actual steep curve of new cases in South Africa with the variant is similar to what we saw with Beta and the Delta variants. The number of hospitalizations and the number of people who died were also similar in terms of how fast we saw those particular surges rise.

The question is going to be will we have as many cases. They may be leveling off in South Africa right now, which says this is like a big burst. And then when it happens, it comes down, hopefully, relatively quickly. That's the only thing right now that may be in our favor. But I say may, all the rest of the data we have is not.

BURNETT: Right. And even in that - in our favor, as you point out, is a lot of death, a lot of deaths, just a lot of death in a faster period of time. I mean, Dr. Xie, we just played that emotional moment where you talked about what you're facing right now. And here you are, again, steady uptick in hospitalizations in Minnesota, 40 percent of your ICU beds right now, I understand are occupied by COVID patients that is the third highest in this nation and now here you are being told a massive surge is on its way. I mean, how do you even process this?

XIE: I mean, I don't think you can. It's terrifying. Our hospitals are already completely full. I mean, there are some ICUs in the Twin Cities where a hundred percent of the beds are unvaccinated COVID patients on ventilators. And so to think about what it means for another surge or a burst of patients is, I mean, I can't even grasp what that means for us.

BURNETT: Doctor, I know your husband works at another hospital and had a young woman died from COVID this week. She was unvaccinated. What are you seeing with your patients and what are you hearing from them at this point about why?

XIE: Well, I think the same thing is true for every hospital. It's overwhelmingly unvaccinated people coming in. They are young, much younger than they were before and I don't think they really have reasons that they're unvaccinated. You ask them and some people will say that they were scared about the vaccine.

I think there's a lot of false narratives in media, which are terrifying patients. Some of them just don't have access to the vaccine. Here at Hennepin we serve a population that has very limited access to medical care. We have a lot of homeless patients. We have a lot of immigrants. And so I think it's been hard to reach those groups of people to get them vaccinated.


BURNETT: Professor Osterholm, as this is happening, we've seen a lot of people leave the critical care nursing industry, just completely exhausted emotionally, physically. The trauma of what they've gone through. So you have fewer people working there than you had before and you're about to have a surge that's as big as you've ever had, ICUs are full.

So in that capacity, you have the possibility for something really awful to happen. But I want to just lay on top of that the rules right now, which are that, according to the CDC, and they just put this out tonight, they said vaccinations aren't enough to slow the spread right now and that they want more testing and all of those things. But what they also said was that everyone who is infected, vaccinated or unvaccinated, needs to isolate for 10 days. Okay.

That makes sense, except for if it's spreading so widely that everybody is going to get it, including some people who don't get symptoms. If nobody is allowed to go to work for 10 days, hospitals could have a crisis, so could a whole lot of other crucial places, right?

OSTERHOLM: Yes. In fact, what you have here right now is a potential perfect storm. I've been very concerned about the fact that we could easily see a quarter, a third of our healthcare workers quickly becoming cases themselves. This virus is not going to eliminate its transmission to those who are healthcare workers. It's going to keep going.

And so what we have to really do right now is figure out what is our plan, what is our emergency plan for a combination of increasing number of cases and decreasing number of healthcare workers. And part of that is due to the fact that they too, are infected. This, I think, is a huge challenge over the course of the next three to eight weeks.

BURNETT: Dr. Xie, how worried are you about this, about staffing shortages, in light of what you're already facing?

XIE: I mean, I think it's the reality. It's not if we are going to get infected, it's when we're going to get infected. And so I know that we're already at a staffing crisis. I mean, I don't know what we're going to do. I think that we have prepared, we have backfill systems in place for when this round of physicians get sick, this round of physician comes in and we're just going to have to keep doing that, I think. I don't know.

BURNETT: Well, Dr. Xie, my thoughts are with you. It's just it's terrifying, it's tragic. Thank you so much for even taking the time to share this. It's so important for people to hear it and understand it from you who are there on the front line. Dr. Osterholm, as always, I so much appreciate your perspective and expertise on this. Thank you.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the simple question, did Joe Biden win the election? Why couldn't Republican candidates for governor in Minnesota last night answer that question?



PAUL GAZELKA, (R) MINNESOTA GOV. CANDIDATE: What I would say is that I don't think the election was fair.


BURNETT: That was last night.

Plus, anger boiling over inside the Democratic Party as a key part to Biden's agenda is now in serious jeopardy.

And the officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright after mistakenly grabbing her gun instead of her taser is preparing to take the stand.


JUDGE REGINA CHU, MINNESOTA JUDICIAL BRANCH: Ms. Potter, do you still want to testify or have you changed your mind?

KIM POTTER, DEFENDANT: Yes, Your Honor, I will testify.




BURNETT: New tonight, the January 6 Select Committee issuing a subpoena to a retired colonel who spread a 38-page PowerPoint document on how to overturn the election. The same document that Mark Meadows shared with the Committee. That Colonel Phil Waldron told The New York Times he didn't share the document directly with Meadows, but it's possible that someone on his team did.

And he reportedly says he spoke with Meadows, maybe eight to 10 times and visited the White House on multiple occasions after the 2020 election. But Trump's big lie about the election fraud that helped incite the deadly riot on January 6th is still completely in control of the Republican Party.

I mean, I wanted to show you last night, last night's Republican debate for Minnesota Governor. This was last night, once again, just so how this has taken over the GOP. So here is moderator Hugh Hewitt, he asks all five candidates on stage a very simple question to answer. But here is just some of what we heard in the long rambling answers.


HUGH HEWITT: In your opinion, did President Biden win a constitutional majority of the Electoral College? If yes, how definitive is your conclusion, and if no, could you please explain which states you think are in dispute?

JENSEN: I can't (inaudible) I don't know. And I think that you have to take that attitude towards 2020.

NEIL SHAH, (R), MINNESOTA GOV. CANDIDATE: I grew up in a suburb of Chicago. And I can't tell you the last time Chicago has had a perfectly free and fair election, so this is not a new problem. It is not unique to 2020.

MIKE MURPHY, (R), MINNESOTA GOV. CANDIDATE: I do believe there was voter fraud at a massive scale across this country. Can I pinpoint the evidence down and everything? No, absolutely not. I'm not privy to the scheme.

GAZELKA: What I would say is that I don't think the election was fair, but I do think we have the results that we have. Each state does their own deal. I'm not a big fan of how that all played out.

HEWITT: Sen. Benson, a follow up, did President Biden win?

SEN. MICHELLE BENSON, (R), MINNESOTA GOV. CANDIDATE: He was certified by Congress as having won the Electoral College.


BURNETT: He was certified. She couldn't bring yourself to say yes and that follow up from Hugh Hewitt came after she went on and on and on about all the cheating out there.

All they had to say and should have said was yes. That was it. That's the answer. Remember that Associated Press analysis that we told you about last night, that they found that in six key swing states, there were 473 potential cases of voter fraud out of 25 million votes.

And a recent CNN poll shows that Trump's big lie is destroying faith in future elections, just 40 percent of Republicans now say they believe the 2020 midterms will even be fair.

OUTFRONT now, John Kasich, two-term Republican Governor of Ohio. Of course, he also served in Congress. Gov. Kasich, that last night from Hugh Hewitt I found stunning. He asked the basic question, five Republican governors - for governor in Minnesota last night, 24 hours ago, none of them would say that Joe Biden was the free and fair elected legitimately President of the United States. This is incredible.

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, here's the thing they're either - it's probably all about power, okay.


They just want to win so badly that they'll say anything, Erin. I think that's the first thing.

But here's the second thing. Maybe they believe it. There's this narrative out here now. Look, a lot of people, the narrative is, oh, no, no, no, no, Trump won the election, Biden didn't win the election. And no matter what the evidence is, just like January 6th. Well, we all saw what happened and at the time everybody was horrified, but now it's sort of like, well, it really didn't happen.

And by the way, it doesn't fit my narrative and my narrative says that Trump's a great guy and so no matter what you tell me, I'm not changing, because I am locked into my narrative. I'm locked into my group and my silo and I ain't changing.

Now, some people do. But unfortunately it's kind of almost like the psychosis where I don't want to be cut out of my group and I just have to go along. And no matter what you tell me, I think Trump is great and that's a lot of what's happening in the country with these Republicans that support him.

BURNETT: And well, now you've got the January 6 Committee, the subpoena to the retired colonel that I just talked about. He's the one who was spreading that 38l-page PowerPoint.


BURNETT: I'm sorry. That was all about how to overturn the election. Okay. It turns out in this, he's saying he spoke to Mark Meadows personally eight to 10 times. He went to the White House multiple times. I mean, this is somebody who had the ears and the attention of the President of the United States' chief of staff.

KASICH: The chief of staff is such a powerful position. There have been so many great ones. But for the chief of staff to be entertaining this guy, basically what he was saying is, the election was rigged, it was unfair and there's no way we can let Joe Biden become president.

Frankly, we look at some of those Republican Congressman and they were plotting and scheming too, saying, well, that Pence had the authority to not count electors. And I think that was what was behind what this guy's argument was in the White House. It was complete nonsense.

Now, if you go and tell people who are diehard Trumpers and I don't want to run them down, but I will tell you this, if you tell them this stuff, they just disregard it. They'll say it's either not true or it's not the case.


KASICH: And again, it's because they have a narrative in their mind and they're sticking to it no matter what the facts are, Erin. It's scary, though, isn't it? I mean the people could get that caught up ...

BURNETT: Well, it's scary for wanting a democracy in a two-party system, because if 40 percent of Republicans think that the midterms are going to be unfair and therefore don't vote, I mean, it's cascading people's voices that aren't heard. I mean, it's awful. We saw it in Georgia.

You tell people that things are rigged and then they don't participate. So I want to ask you about somebody from your state, Jim Jordan, a congressman top Trump ally from your State. He forwarded the text message to Mark Meadows the day before the insurrection. That text message was pushing a plan for Pence to overturn the election and not certify. Here's what Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger who sits on the Select Committee investigating is now saying.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I certainly believe and again, this is not based on anything I know through the Committee yet. But I certainly believe members of Congress knew what was going to happen. Some members knew. I certainly believe some members instigated this.


BURNETT: Do you believe that?

KASICH: I'm not sure that I'd go that far, Erin. I really don't know. But what I do know is that there have been a group of them that were plotting and scheming to figure out how not to elect Biden to get the electors that he needed and I understand that that text that was sent the Meadows was based on that guy who visited the White House like eight or 10 times, which is really kind of hard to believe as to whether they wanted to instigate violence or whatever.

I don't buy that but I think I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't say that about somebody that I didn't know. But what they were clearly trying to do is to say that perhaps Pence had power to do things that he, of course, did not have in an effort to try to keep the election from going to Biden. It's sad. It's ridiculous, Erin. It's just ridiculous.

And it's almost Christmas week and we got to deal with this. It's just nuts.

BURNETT: Well, Governor, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

KASICH: Okay, Erin. Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, President Biden just acknowledging a key part of his agenda will not pass this year, leaving Democrats and I quote from 'sources frustrated', disappointed with at least one member of their own party who actually is the one who stopped this.

Plus, the officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright said she plans to testify in her own defense, possibly tomorrow. It's a big deal. What will we hear?



BURNETT: Breaking news, President Biden and many Democrats will miss their Christmas deadline to pass his sweeping Build Back Better plan, but saying he is 'determined' to see the bill successfully on the floor as early as possible. Biden citing ongoing talks with key Sen. Joe Manchin, which have stalled, of course, Democrats did want this bill to pass all the way back in September. And all of this time passing is led to growing anger among Manchin's fellow Democrats.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your general feeling about where things stand - are you frustrated?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Frustrated and disappointed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, is this time to start thinking about maybe breaking up BBB into more digestible pieces? Is this (inaudible) ...

DURBIN: I don't know if that's the answer or not. And apparently, Manchin's approach to this has changed a lot. I don't know where he is today or where he will be tomorrow.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): We have one person or two people just stop everything and that is why people in our country should know that a 50-50 Senate sucks.


BURNETT: And Sen. Hirono there, of course, referring to senators Manchin and Sinema.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT. And Manu, look this is a major blow for Biden and other Democrats who want this tonight. They've wanted it since September. They did that deal to get the infrastructure bill with this sort of feeling they had a deal to get this done.


And yet they don't seem to be at all on the same page in their own party. I mean do they have faith that mansion will suddenly turn around and support this?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's really unclear at this point. There is disagreement over the structure of this bill. Joe Manchin has concerns over some of the temporary spending measures in this plan, saying it should be extended out to ten years in order to give Americans a true sense of the cost of this proposal.

One of those provisions, the child tax credit. Under this plan, it would be extended for one year. The expansion of this child tax credit would expire at the end of this year if they don't act, which adds a sense of urgency. But Manchin does not want to go along with a one- year extension, saying that it simply would not reflect what Americans would feel here.

So I just had the chance to catch up with Joe Manchin, I asked him about the pressure he is getting from Democrats to change his position on that key issue and he indicated he's not feeling any pressure.


RAJU: It seems like they're getting a lot of pressure from you on CTC, child tax credit.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Getting pressure from me?

RAJU: They're pressuring you to change your position on child tax credit.

MANCHIN: No one pressures me. I'm from West Virginia.

RAJU: Are you going to change your position on that? The way that it's in the bill, the one-year protection.

MANCHIN: I'm always for child tax credit. Always will be.



RAJU: So, at the end there, he says I will always be for the child tax credit. But what he does not say is that he supports the structure of this, what's in the current bill which is the one-year extension.

And, Erin, what he's suggesting would lead to significant either dropping this provision altogether from the bill, which Democrats don't want to do, or to rewriting it in a substantial way and that is something that could take some time, could take weeks, could take months and can they get their whole caucus behind that and the rest of the changes Joe Manchin wants in the weeks ahead is still a major question. Democrats thought this would be law by now but it's possible it might not ever become law.

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

And I want to go OUTFRONT now to Democratic Senator Chris Coons.

So, Senator Coons, do you share some of your fellow Democrats' frustrations with Senator Manchin tonight?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Well, certainly, Erin, I share a sense of frustration that we are nearing the end of this year and we don't yet have a clear path towards enactment of the Build Back Better bill. But let me be clear about what's in President Biden's statement

tonight and what I believe, having spoken to Senator Manchin just a few moments ago, as well as over recent days.

Senator Manchin has reconfirmed to President Biden his willingness to pass a bill that is at the same scale as the framework they agreed on months ago. That's roughly $1.75 trillion over a number of years. That is a significant piece of legislation, Erin.

And if we can come to final agreement on the details in a bill that provides universal pre-K, significant support for day care, more than $500 billion in investments around climate change, that is a significant piece of legislation. And in this past year, between the American rescue plan and the bipartisan infrastructure bill, we've already accomplished a lot of President Biden's legislative agenda.

So while frustrated tonight, I remain optimistic that we will get this done.

BURNETT: Now, when you listed things there, you did not include the child tax credit. I don't know if that was on purpose or not, Senator, but I mention that only in the context of, yes, $1.75 trillion is a massive piece of legislation. You're correct.

But if you're going to do it the way Manchin insists it is, and you're going to put universal pre-K and daycare and $500 billion in climate change, and you're going to do it over ten years because that's what you intend to do, you're going to have to give a lot of stuff up that's in there right now. You just are.

COONS: Well, I'll disagree. There was a framework agreement we reached months ago. Rather than focusing on what we're giving up, I want to help us focus on what we're delivering for the American people because, frankly, there is a prescription drug chapter to this that would reduce those costs. There is a passage in here, a section that would reduce the costs of day care and elder care. Those make a difference in the lives of working families.

Yes, there are some details we still have to resolve. There may still be weeks left of final negotiating before we get this to the floor.

BURNETT: But are you willing to put those in for ten years and put your pay-fors in for ten years? Are you willing to do what Senator Manchin is now saying?

And I understand he hasn't said this before, my understanding is. But he has yet -- this is a dramatic change. None of this stuff is in here for ten years. Child tax credit for one year, some of these stuff are five, some of it for six.

None of it's in there for ten. And many in your party have been very open about the fact that they intend them to be permanent.

COONS: Well, the point is if they're in the bill and expire after several years, that means we'd have to take legislative action. There may be members of my caucus who intend them to be permanent, but, you know, this is a part of the back and forth with Senator Manchin.

We would have to take legislative action in the future to extend them. It doesn't happen automatically. So I think we ought to focus on the policies that we all agree on, work out some of these differences which I view as minor in the scope of a significant piece of legislation, and get to the floor.


Look, earlier tonight on the floor of the Senate, I got to pass a piece of legislation that Senator Murkowski and I have worked on for years that will make a real difference to Americans who are living with ALS. It will give them hope. It will give them access to medication. It will give them access to experimental treatments.

We are still getting things done here. I recognize that it is easier to focus on the negatives about Senator Manchin's comments today, but there are positives. We are getting things done in the Senate and I remain optimistic, as does President Biden, that in the end, we will get this done.

BURNETT: Before we go, you're on the Foreign Relations Committee.


BURNETT: Senior Ukrainian official I'm sure you saw on Sky News overnight said "yes" when she was asked if a Russian invasion of Ukraine would lead to a third world war. Do you agree?

COONS: Well, I am very concerned that Vladimir Putin is amassing hundreds of thousands of troops right on the border with Ukraine. President Biden has made it clear that we will stand with our other European allies and do everything we can to defend Ukrainian sovereignty.

I think making it clear that we intend to impose punishing sanctions, unprecedented sanctions on Russia should they act further in the coming weeks is a strong deterrent. And I think we have to proceed here deliberately, carefully, in a bipartisan way to send a firm signal to Vladimir Putin that the West will oppose any further aggressive actions against Ukraine.

BURNETT: All right. Obviously so much more to that conversation, but I appreciate your time tonight. Senator, thank you.

COONS: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, the officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright says she plans to take the stand. She will testify. It's an incredible step.

And a so-called super volcano in Nevada. A super volcano in Nevada may hold the key to powering electric vehicles. Will opening up that mountain to mining do more harm than good?


BURNETT: Tonight, the defense's turn. Defense attorneys in the Kim Potter trial calling their first witness, a use of force expert, who said it was reasonable for Potter to pull what she thought was her Taser on Daunte Wright. This testimony directly contradicting the prosecution's use of force expert yesterday.

Now, Potter claims she mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of her Taser. She confirmed today that she still plans to testify.

Josh Campbell is OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, your honor, the state rests.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The prosecution resting its case Thursday morning in the manslaughter trial of former officer, Kim Potter.

KIM POTTER, FORMER OFFICER: I shot him! Oh, my god!

CAMPBELL: Who shot and killed Daunte Wright with her gun after yelling "Taser" during a traffic stop in April. The defense slamming the government's case.

The first witness for the defense, a use of force expert testifying Brooklyn Center Police had no choice but to arrest Daunte Wright.

STEPHEN IJAMES, DEFENSE USE OF FORCE EXPERT: With a bench warrant outstanding for the driver was there in your view an obligation to arrest him, meaning Mr. Wright.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely a mandate.

CAMPBELL: And insisting user a Taser would have been justified to protect other officers.

IJAMES: Was officer potter's perceived use of a Taser consistent with contemporary and professional police training and practice?


CAMPBELL: Those comments contradicting an expert called Wednesday by the prosecution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The use of a Taser under the circumstances was unreasonable and inconsistent with generally accepted practices.

CAMPBELL: In cross-examination Thursday, the prosecution making the point that even if an officer can arrest a suspect, officers must still act appropriately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't just shoot somebody because they decided not to cooperate with being arrested. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course not.


CAMPBELL: Also testifying the former Brooklyn Center police chief who resigned just days after the fatal shooting.

GANNON: I believe one of the reasons that I was required or requested to leave the agency was because I would not immediately fire Kim Potter. There's certain things within the department that you get known for. Are you handling your calls, are you professional when you talk with people, are you doing good police reports. She was known for doing all those things.

CAMPBELL: And testifying that he saw nothing wrong with Potter's actions during her encounter with Wright.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it your opinion that not only could a Taser be used in this chaotic situation, but also a gun, is that right?

GANNON: That is correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you doing any favors for her by saying this?

GANNON: I am not.

CAMPBELL: Potter's defense attorney who throughout the trial has repeatedly interrupted prosecutors to argue his points admonished again Thursday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That wasn't a quote.

JUDGE: Okay, counsel, remember, no speaking objections. Oh, my god.


CAMPBELL: Two witnesses still remaining, including Potter herself, who will face the jury and testify in her own defense.

JUDGE: Miss Potter, do you still want to testify, or have you changed your mind?

POTTER: Yes, Your Honor, I'll testify.


CAMPBELL (on camera): And, Erin, the testimony of this former officer could come as early as tomorrow morning. It is a bold move for a defendant to take the stand, but it signals that her attorneys are likely confident enough that she will be seen by the jury as believable. Of course taking the stand also opens her up to certain risks. She will be cross-examined by a team of prosecutors who have no doubt spent months planning questions that they would ask her if only given the chance -- Erin.

BURNETT: That's right. For sure.

All right. Josh, thank you very much. Josh has been covering this trial and now, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, former defense attorney and former mayor of Baltimore who has been with us throughout this.

So the defense today, mayor, kicks off the case with a use of force expert who testifies that it was reasonable for Potter to pull what she thought was her Taser on Daunte Wright. That is the exact opposite of what we heard from the prosecution's use of force expert yesterday who said it was categorical that there was no excuse for pulling even a Taser in this specific case.

So how does a jury weigh testimony that is just diametrically, you know, opposed like this?


STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, FORMER DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think the jury is going to look at the video, and the jury is going to listen to what both of them said. You know, every time we have officers that go out to work, any traffic stop can turn -- it can be a simple traffic stop or turn into a horrible situation.

And the testimony today said, you know, this was a case where a Taser would have been required to keep the situation under control. And, you know, he was pretty believable. That coupled with the fact that the prosecution's case simply -- it seems to say she should have known better. They haven't put on much more evidence than she should have known better. So it really puts the jury in a tough spot as far as finding her guilty.

BURNETT: So she told the judge she still plans to testify. What do you think of that decision, and how significant will it be given what you just said, which is that there's -- there's real confusion here?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: There's confusion but there was no confusion about her reaction. If you take a look at the video of her reaction, she's mortified. And I think that she will be a sympathetic witness. If they ask her anything, she will probably say that she is mortified and she would wish she could take it back.

And she's not going to give them anything, I don't think, to show them that it was negligence. I think that the jury is going to have to make up their mind can an officer, a skilled officer that does training make a mistake. A horrible, tragic mistake, but a mistake.

BURNETT: Right, that is the crucial question. It comes down to such a human question as that. Thank you so much, mayor.

And that crucial testimony of course will be tomorrow.

So, next, a showdown and we'll take you to this incredible story, inside the battle over a piece of land, a volcano in this country, that holds the key to powering electric cars. And a major decision tonight by the administration that could affect the entire fight over abortion rights. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BURNETT: Tonight, an extinct super volcano in Nevada has the vital resource needed to power electric vehicles but there are some environmentalists who want that area to remain untouched.

And Rene Marsh is OUTFRONT with tonight's inside look.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirteen degrees and both the sun and temperature is going down in the northern desert of Nevada.

It gets pretty dark pretty fast around here.

MAX WILBERT, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST CAMPING AT THACKER PASS: It does in the winter, and the cold is pretty fierce too.

MARSH: This is where self-described radical environmentalist Max Wilbert is spending the night.

What are you doing out here?

WILBERT: Blowing up a mountain for coal mining I think is wrong. I think blowing up a mountain for lithium mining is just as wrong.

MARSH: In the Nevada desert, this site known as Thacker Pass could make the United States a player in the fast-growing market for lithium for electric vehicles. Lithium is the metal used to make batteries for electric vehicles and is critical to the clean energy transition. There's currently only one lithium lithium-producing mine in the United States, located halfway between Reno and Las Vegas.

The majority of the world's lithium is mined in Australia and South America.

Protesters have rotated in and out of this encampment for the past 11 months. They say what will become the largest federally approved lithium mining project operating in the U.S. comes at an environmental cost.

WILBERT: Producing one electric car releases something like nine tons of greenhouse gases on average. The whole issue of electric vehicles and lithium mining is tricking us into believing that we can have this modern industrial lifestyle that we all enjoy and also solve global warming.

GLENN MILLER, FORMER ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, RENO: It's not going to solve any climate change problem but it's a major contribution.

MARSH: Lithium mining in the state of Nevada has pitted environmentalists against other environmentalists. Glenn Miller, a former professor of environmental science at the University of Nevada, Reno, supports the mine. He says it will cut carbon emissions from the transportation sector, a major source of greenhouse gases.

MILLER: Radical environmentalists are going to argue that the only way to solve the climate change problem is to drive a whole lot less -- I mean, a whole lot less, and to not burn gasoline or coal. Well, that's not going to happen.

MARSH: He says not transitioning to electric vehicles is far more dangerous to humanity. The CEO for mining company Lithium Americas acknowledges operations produce some CO2, but it's offset by electric vehicles' zero tailpipe emissions.

JONATHAN EVANS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, LITHIUM AMERICAS CORP.: There's an ability here to mitigate and do things as sustainable as possible.

MARSH: Back in the desert, Wilbert is willing to risk it all to stop any mining on this site.

You're willing to -- if this project moves forward -- throw your bodies in between mining machinery to prevent it. Sounds a bit extreme.

Do you mean that?

WILBERT: Our laws haven't caught up with the reality of what's happening to our planet. And so people might have to break the law in order to change what's happening.


MARSH (on camera): The mining company lithium Americas faces legal challenges from groups who want to block the project. But the mining companies tell CNN that they hope to break ground here by early next year -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Pretty incredible just to see that and those temperatures there, too, all of it. Thanks so much to Rene.

And next, the war over abortion rights shifting tonight after a decision that could actually help women who want to end early stage pregnancies. You'll see.



BURNETT: Tonight, a major decision on abortion. The Food and Drug Administration permanently lifting a requirement that patients must pick up a pill in person to end early stage pregnancies. Translation, women can now get that pill in the mail. It's a huge thing, and it was actually just a trial run during the pandemic. It is now permanent.

The two-step abortion pill option has grown increasingly popular. About 60 percent of people chose that method within the first ten weeks of their pregnancy, and that is according to the latest data from 2017.

But the right to these pills could be in jeopardy, thanks to cases before the Supreme Court that could reverse Roe versus Wade and the right to an abortion altogether. The high court is considering a Mississippi law that goes right to the heart of that that could completely end the right to abortions. And, of course, the court is already effectively allowing Texas's effective ban on abortions.

Thanks so much for joining us. And don't forget, you can watch the show anytime on CNN Go.

It's time now for "AC360" with Anderson.