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Erin Burnett Outfront

New Study Finds No Evidence Omicron Less Severe than Delta; Fauci: "Virtually No" Protection Against Omicron Without Booster; Southwest Airlines CEO Said He Didn't Think Masks "Add Much" on Planes; Then He got COVID and Now Backs Masks On Planes; Roger Stone Appears Before Jan 6 Panel, Takes the Fifth; Reports: RNC Picking Up $1.6M Tab for Trump's Legal Bills; "I was Very Distraught I Just Shot Someone"; Ex-Officer Fights Tears, Admits She did not Render Aide, Follow Other Protocols; Ohio Governor Order National Guard Into Hospital Amid Staff Shortages; Businesses Find Ways to Avoid Paying Taxes, It's Costing U.S. Billions. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 17, 2021 - 19:00   ET


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Nick Watt, CNN, Hamtramck, Michigan.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Very nice report, indeed. Nick, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, a new study finding no evidence that Omicron is less severe than the Delta variant, it comes as the pandemic is shattering more records. NFL games now being postponed. One of the nation's biggest school districts returning to virtual learning. Is this the beginning?

Plus, CNN learning who the January 6 Committee believes sent one of the messages to Trump's chief of staff about overturning the election.

And the officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright takes the stand. Her testimony highly emotional. Did it work? Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news and it is concerning news this hour. We have a new study just coming out of the U.K. that finds there is no evidence that the Omicron strain is less severe than the Delta variant. Well, this comes as Dr. Anthony Fauci today warned that the 80 percent of Americans who have not yet received their boosters are at real risk.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The data I showed indicated that particularly with Omicron, that the level of protection goes really rather low in a range that may not be as protective as we'd like, but yet when you get that boost, it goes right up there.


BURNETT: Okay. So when you look at how many Americans actually are boosted, it's about 14 percent, 15 percent. Think about that. That is a real issue. And the reality comes as cases are surging, deaths are up sharply now about 8 percent from last week and we're just at the beginning of the actual Omicron wave itself, that you don't have time for people to get that severe illness in the hospital and dying. You're already seeing deaths go up, as cases are hitting record highs.

New York City with a record number of cases in the past 24 hours. That is the most for the one-time epicenter of a pandemic in the United States since the pandemic began. And tonight, the CDC warning that America could be weeks away from record hospitalizations. This is a pretty grim forecast.

I mean, let's just be honest, right? Nobody watching this is happy about what they're hearing. It comes amid a backdrop of new cancellations and shutdowns. For the first time this season, the NFL having to postpone several games. The NHL also canceling games. New York City's famed Broadcast (ph) shutting down for the rest of the season. In a statement saying it's due to challenges from the pandemic.

And one of the nation's bigger school districts shutting its doors, that's Prince George's School District in Maryland, transitioning to virtual learning until late January for its more than 136,000 students. So that decision coming hours after the CDC rolled out new guidance to allow kids who have been exposed to COVID to stay in school.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Today, we're releasing CDC science on test to say that allows unvaccinated children to stay in school, even if they've been exposed to the virus so that they don't have to miss school while they're quarantining at home.


BURNETT: Of course, the details matter a lot. Test-to-stay. You heard Dr. Walensky refer to that. That requires a significant number of tests. And right there, that's the problem, testing's always been a problem in the United States and now tests are in short supply, because of the sudden surge in demand.

Just take a look at what it looks like in New York. I mean, anyone in New York watching this, saw this themselves in the past few days, long lines at testing centers, some people waiting hours and that scene is not just in New York with the record cases, also Florida. You see everyone in line there. Massachusetts, that's the other side of your screen. And the United States is behind its European and Asian counterparts when it comes to testing. And these are countries that could provide insight into what is about to happen in the United States. For the third day in a row, the U.K. broke its record for new cases. France's Prime Minister banning big gatherings events for New Years. Denmark, they shut down museums and theaters and cinemas.

Now, New York's governor says no decision has been made about New York's New Year's Eve celebration. But one thing is certain, the 10s of thousands of Americans who are now seriously ill are pushing hospitals in the United States to their breaking point and we are now looking at a variant that is more transmissible according to the U.K. equally as severe and the vaccines according to Dr. Fauci you have essentially should assume no protection unless you're boosted.

OUTFRONT now Dr. Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox and Dr. Megan Ranney. She works at an ER in Rhode Island and is a professor at Brown University.


Dr. Brilliant, let me start with you. This study that just came out of the U.K. and I know a lot of people were waiting on this to try to get information about the severity of Omicron. They are reporting that they do not have any evidence from data taken across the U.K. That Omicron is less severe than Delta. What do you make of this?

LARRY BRILLIANT, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Erin, thank you for inviting me back again. So that study from Imperial College is what a lot of people have been waiting for. And the reason is that we're pretty sure we understand transmissibility. Omicron is one of the most, if not the most, transmissible virus in living memory.

But we were unsure and we're still unsure about how much morbidity, disease and hospitalizations and death will it cause, because we've only had this virus for three weeks. It's only been around for three weeks and you never see the real impact on hospitalization and, God forbid, death for three, six, eight weeks later. So we're still in that period of uncertainty.

But we did get some early information from South Africa, that it looked to be more mild because of the unique characteristics, I think, of South Africa. And what the Imperial College study does is it sort of takes that good news off the table and resets the counter, it's too early to tell but it's certainly concerning. It's very concerning.

BURNETT: Dr. Ranney, you have been talking about the struggles that you and your colleagues have been facing around the world, but around the United States. Morale at an all time low. I know you've lost so many nurses and now you're looking at this in real time. Is your hospital ready for what looks to be another massive surge of patients?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, ER DOCTOR, BROWN EMERGENCY MEDICINE: I don't think there's any hospital in the country that is ready for another surge. We're in the midst of a Delta surge right now. My hospital system has already shut down any non-emergent overnight surgeries, so things like heart surgeries, joint replacements, gallbladder removal, things that are very necessary, but not an emergency shutdown and that is before Omicron has hit.

There is no pop off fails. There is no surge capacity. There are no field hospitals right now. Many states across the country are calling in National Guard, are asking for retired nurses to come back to work to try to provide a little bit of extra capacity. But we are overwhelmed already with all the stuff that got put off for the past two years and the increasing hospitalizations from Delta, which thank God are not as bad as last year at this time, thanks to the vaccines, but it's still just too much and Omicron is going to push us further into a disaster level of care across this country.

BURNETT: Dr. Brilliant, today, the CEO of Southwest Airlines ended up positive for COVID after he had testified unmasked at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, sitting next to the CEOs of two of the other airlines. Of course, he's vaccinated but he made headlines at that hearing for saying this about mask mandates.


GARY KELLY, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CEO: I think the case is very strong that mask don't add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment. It's very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting.


BURNETT: Dr. Brilliant, tonight, of course, he's changing his tune saying he does support the federal mask mandate on airplanes. But when we look at this, the variant, the Omicron variant, that it's so much more transmissible, obviously, mask make a difference. But we don't know in what ways it is more transmissible, what type of mask all of a sudden that you're wearing may suddenly matter a whole lot more now than it did a month ago.

BRILLIANT: Erin, could I just say it's a privilege to be on with Dr. Ranney. She's a hero for me and her colleagues who are in the forefront of the emergency room care. Thank you for doing that.

I actually take my mask off when I get on an airplane, but that's because I wear two masks and double mask when I go through the airport, which I always viewed as being more dangerous. And that's because the airplanes have improved dramatically in the way in which they exchanged so much air.

But the fact that they're safer doesn't mean they're safe. And I'm afraid that when I saw all three of these CEOs, I was just brought back to the time that the CEOs of the tobacco industry stood in front of Congress and raised their hand and said nothing here to see, that they will be sorry that they said that.

BURNETT: Dr. Ranney, when Dr. Fauci today said essentially if you have only two shots, you are not protected against Omicron.

[19:10:04] There are a lot of people in that situation, as I pointed out, the vast majority of this country about, 85 percent, 86 percent or 84 percent of Americans are in that category. But one group in that category just got their second shots. Any young children, five to 12, literally are just in the past week, if they went in the first few days, fully vaccinated.

So do we have any sense of what that means for these young people who just recently got both shots? Are they essentially unvaccinated against Omicron too? Do we even know?

RANNEY: We don't. I'll say I have one kid who just completed that first vaccine series, a 10-year-old. I also have a 13-year-old who got both of her shots more than six months ago. We don't yet have any idea about boosters for that 12 to 15 year old age group. And we know very little right now about how protected they are against Omicron.

I will say Dr. Fauci's words notwithstanding with two doses of the vaccine, you are still somewhat protected from symptomatic disease and even more so from severe disease, hospitalization and death. But two shots up against Omicron pale in comparison to three shots. You really need three shots to get yourself up to the level of protection that you currently have against delta and earlier variants.

But I will say as a parent, and I know you have a kid that's not even eligible for vaccines yet. This is a tough moment. We all want our kids in school or in daycare to be doing normal kid things. It is another moment where we're within a dearth of information for parents.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I really appreciate your time.

RANNEY: Thank you.

BURNETT: Unfortunately, very sobering conversation this evening.

Well, next, Trump has never been shy when it comes to his purported wealth.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I ran and everybody knew I was a rich person.

I'm much richer than almost anybody.


BURNETT: So why doesn't he pay his legal bills? Why is the RNC, anyone who donates to it, spending all the money? More than a million dollars to pay Trump's legal fees.

Plus, emotional testimony today as the officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright took the stand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KIM POTTER, DEFENDANT: I remember yelling, taser, taser, taser and nothing happened.


BURNETT: And an OUTFRONT investigation, we're going to look at companies that have found a way to avoid paying what they owe in taxes. As we talk about tax increases, there's a lot of money being left on the table.



BURNETT: New tonight, a judge handing down the longest sentence so far to one of the January 6th rioters, Robert Scott Palmer getting more than five years behind bars for his action seen here on your screen, attacking police with a wooden plank, a pole and a fire extinguisher. This as the January 6 Committee briefly met with top Trump ally Roger Stone, who pushed the stop the steal movement aggressively.


ROGER STONE, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I did invoke my Fifth Amendment rights to every question not because I have done anything wrong but because I am fully aware of the House Democrats' long history of fabricating perjury charges. This is witch hunt 3.0.


BURNETT: Of course, we all know what the former president thinks about people who plead the Fifth.

Ryan Nobles is OUTFRONT. And we're also, Ryan, learning who the Committee believes was behind one of the text messages sent to Mark Meadows about overturning the election tonight I believe.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Erin. This is exclusive reporting from our Jake Tapper and Jamie Gangel.

And what is so interesting is the source of this text message that was part of the presentation that the Select Committee put on in terms of their criminal contempt referral of Mark Meadows. Now, originally, they made it seem as though it was a member of the House who sent this text message.

It turns out it was Rick Perry, the former Governor of Texas, and the former Energy Secretary in the Trump administration. At least the Select Committee believes it was sent from Rick Perry's phone. This was the text message as a refresher.

He said, "HERE'S an AGGRESSIVE STRATEGY: Why can't the state of Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other R controlled state houses declare this is BS, where conflicts and elections not called that night and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS." Now, Perry denies that he wrote this text, but they can't explain why it came from a phone number that is clearly his phone number. And an Erin it does speak to a broader sense here of just how far and deep this idea of overturning the election and election fraud as a concept beyond the Republican Party. Perry not considered someone who's in the same camp with Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and others, yet he too peddling these lies about the election.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Well, this new reporting comes as The New York Times and The Washington Post report that the RNC, the Republican National Committee, has agreed to pay to $1.6 million in personal legal bills for Donald Trump as he faces multiple investigations.

OUTFRONT now Dan Eberhart, a major Republican donor.

So Dan, three weeks ago, you and I spoke, you knew about $121,000 in legal fees for the former president that the RNC was going to cover. You were frustrated you said and you said it made you want to give less to the RNC. Now, you found out that they have agreed to pay $1.6 million in personal legal fees for the former president. Wow.

DAN EBERHART, GOP DONOR: Yes. Look, I think this is a freight train out of control. The president, I don't necessarily think he needs to pay for this out of his personal expenses, but he's got a campaign fund, he's got a PAC, a super PAC that has nine figures in it, more than a hundred million dollars.

When I give money to the RNC, when I give money to campaigns, they're to win the next election, they're to win, the 2022 midterms in this case or beyond or the infrastructure to do that. I see this as spending money on a past candidates legal issues surrounding a campaign and that's not why I give money to the party.

Also, I think the party is supposed to be neutral and so as we creep closer to 2024, this is really way too much. This freight train needs to be stopped.


BURNETT: So yesterday, it all comes from - you actually, you nailed it, you want to pay for future elections, move forward all of this is looking in the past. But it is the past that is dominating the Republican Party right now in a lot of very, very potent ways. Yesterday I played Hugh Hewitt asking five Republican candidates for governor in Minnesota if President Biden was legitimately elected president.

Okay. I played this yesterday, which was Thursday. So it happened Wednesday night of this week, December 2021. Every single one of them, all five, refused to say, yes, that Biden was the legitimate president. It's incredible. And here's just some of what happened today, Dan, when Hugh Hewitt ask that same question to Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel in Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSH MANDEL, (R) OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: I do not believe he won. I think Trump won. I think Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, all of those states need to be fully investigated and none of them have.

HUGH HEWITT: Josh, there is no evidence for that. That has been reduced in the court of law.

MANDEL: What I'm talking about is not in a court of law, but actually doing what they did in Arizona.

HEWITT: What happened in Arizona, because I'm unaware of any serious claim that Arizona is in dispute. Arizona was audited, they found nothing.


BURNETT: Dan, it went on and on. These are current Republican candidates on the ballot.

EBERHART: Yes. Look, I think what's going on, David Drucker, In Trump's Shadow and I think that pretty much sums it up. But the problem for the party is all this kind of stuff to try to win a primary to out-MAGA the other people. We have this kind of thing going on in primaries and the Senate campaign in Ohio, the Senate campaign in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

It's all distracted to winning in 2022, in the midterms, in the general election. I think the Republicans are really the circular firing squad to out-MAGA is really creating the seeds around destruction.

Look, if you look at the historical precedents, we should have a smashing victory in the House in 2022 in the midterms and I think we're sowing the seeds around defeat here. We really need to get behind common sense candidates that acknowledge what happened.

Look, we ran a good campaign. We tried. We tried really hard. Look, I wanted Trump to win, but he lost. We've got to move on as a party so we can move forward so we can take the House back and the Senate back. And we should be focused on hitting back at Biden's policies not focused on this call to personality with Trump.

BURNETT: Right. All right. Thank you very much, Dan. I appreciate your time.

EBERHART: Thank you. Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright breaking down today. She testified in front of the jury, told her side of the story. Did she help her case by taking the stand?

And Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me on why a growing number of parents are turning to pot to help their children with autism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [19:26:42]

BURNETT: Tonight, taking the stand. Emotional Kim Potter testifying in her own defense about the traffic stop earlier this year that resulted in the death of Daunte Wright. Prosecution using the opportunity to point out several missteps that Potter made in her job that day, including her failure to communicate with other officers right after the shooting. It comes as the defense officially rests its case closing arguments will begin Monday. Adrienne Broaddus is OUTFRONT.



POTTER: I'm sorry it happened.

ERIN ELDRIDGE, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, MINNESOTA: You didn't plan to use deadly force that day, did you?


ELDRIDGE: Because you knew that deadly force was unreasonable and unwarranted in these circumstances?

POTTER: I didn't want to hurt anybody.


ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Under cross examination by the prosecution, former Minnesota Police Officer, Kim Potter, wept.


ELDRIDGE: You stopped doing your job completely. You didn't communicate what happened over the radio, right?


ELDRIDGE: You didn't make sure any officers knew what you had just done, right?


ELDRIDGE: You didn't run down the street and try to save Daunte Wright's life, did you?


ELDRIDGE: You didn't check on the other car that had been hit, did you?


ELDRIDGE: You were focused on what you had done, because you had just killed somebody. POTTER: I'm sorry it happened.


BROADDUS (voice over): Breaking down on the stand while testifying in her own defense about the day she shot and killed Daunte Wright.


POTTER: We were struggling. We were trying to keep him from driving away. It just, it just went chaotic. And then I remember yelling, "Taser. Taser. Taser." And nothing happened and then he told me I shot him.

I'll tase you. Taser. Taser. Taser.


BROADDUS (voice over): Back in April, her life shifted in second.


POTTER: I just shot him.

EARL GRAY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: If you actually remember what you said I guess is my question, not with help from a video.

POTTER: I don't remember what I said.


BROADDUS (voice over): But in officer's body camera capturing her response.


POTTER: No, just let me kill myself, Mike.

MIKE (PH): No. No.


BROADDUS (voice over): Potter testifying today she never fired her gun or Taser in the field before this incident.


ELDRIDGE: You have drawn your Taser and not fired it in your 26-year career.



BROADDUS (voice over): The prosecution continuing to challenge.


ELDRIDGE: You never saw a weapon on Mr. Wright, did you?


ELDRIDGE: Never saw a gun?


ELDRIDGE: He never threw a punch.



BROADDUS (voice over): The prosecutor also focusing in on her taser training and decades of experience.


ELDRIDGE: These items look different, don't they?


ELDRIDGE: The taser is yellow, right?


ELDRIDGE: The firearm is black, correct?


ELDRIDGE: And you've been trained on taser since 2002, correct?



BROADDUS (voice over): Fodders defense attorney asking about the aftermath of the shooting. Potter testified she sold her family home and moved out of the state.


GRAY: Have you been in therapy.


GRAY: You still work as a police officer there?



GRAY: Why did you quit?

POTTER: There was so much bad things happening, I didn't want my co- workers and I didn't want anything bad to happen to the city.


BROADDUS (voice over): Potter is facing first and second-degree manslaughter charges. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.



BROADDUS (on camera): Daunte Wright's family releasing a statement calling this killing, quote, preventable as they prepare to spend their first Christmas without him.

Kim Potter, in agony as she watched that body-camera video following the traffic stop she says she never would have initiated had she been on patrol alone that day.

Potter testified it was a car freshener, similar to this one, in the shape of a tree that led to the stop. In Minnesota, it's illegal for drivers to have anything obstruct their view -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Adrienne, thank you very much.

I want to go now to Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, former defense attorney, former mayor of Baltimore.

And, Mayor Rawlings-Blake, obviously, you have been with me all through this trial but also other recent high-profile trials, including that of Kyle Rittenhouse, who also took the stand.

And you have talked about how risky it is when a defendant takes the stand, right? You didn't -- competent did not expect this to happen there. It did. And today, yet again, happens again. Kim Potter takes the stand. What did you think?

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), FORMER BALTIMORE MAYOR: I was shocked at her -- the -- the entirety of her testimony. When I look at her reaction after the incident, the way she just broke down. She was devastated. You could see it. You could feel it.

And so much of her testimony today, I think, really fell flat. I -- I think she let the prosecutor get under her skin a bit. And she didn't and really show herself to be as sympathetic as I think that she could. You know, you talked about the Rittenhouse trial. He seemed like he was totally prepared for that testimony and it was like Potter didn't even get briefed or, you know, to practice her testimony before she went on today.

BURNETT: So, you know, I -- obviously, you know, she -- I -- I -- I'm so interested from a legal perspective, how -- how you feel that way. She was incredibly emotional, she was devastated as you say.

They did, though, you know, call out all sorts of inconsistencies, missteps she made in her job after the shooting, right? Not making the call, not radioing in. Here is some of the other things pointed out. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIN ELDRIDGE, ASSISTANT MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: You agree as a police officer, you have the duty to render aid and communicate information to other officers, right?


ELDRIDGE: And it's part of your job to assist those who are hurt or injured, true?


ELDRIDGE: But you didn't do any of those things on April 11th, did you?



BURNETT: So, Mayor, how do you interpret that? It seems the reason she didn't do those things was she completely lost control because she was -- she was -- she was so consecutive devastated, right? She was talking about shooting herself.

And yet, she didn't do those things and those are -- those are part of her responsibility. How does that play to -- to a jury?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: It's really hard to hear. Um, it was hard to see the incident play out and it was hard to hear those questions because, you know, had she done a better job testifying, I think the jury could have seen that she just totally lost it. That she did something that she never thought that she would do or have to do in a thousand years and the worst possible thing happened.

But I just don't know if her testimony really -- that really rang true today.

BURNETT: All right. Well, we are going to see what happens because of course closing statements Monday and it will go to the jury and we will see.

Mayor, thanks so much.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, we take you inside a hospital that's already facing a crushing surge of COVID cases. That's before the omicron cases come in. The situation is so bad in this particular hospital, the Department of Defense is stepping in.

And the OUTFRONT investigation tonight. Companies across the country have found a way to avoid paying what they should be paying -- what they owe in taxes. So as we talk about raising taxes, better not be leaving that money on the table. We will tell you how they are doing it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BURNETT: Tonight, Ohio's governor deploying more than 1,000 members of the National Guard to hospitals as COVID tears through the Midwest. Just north of Michigan, COVID hospitalizations spiking more than 40 percent in the past month, before omicron.

Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT.


LISSA MADDOX, COVID UNIT NURSE, BEAUMONT HOSPITAL: It's been a lot worse lately but we do what we can.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The hours at work for nurses like Lissa Maddox seem never ending.

MADDOX: Unfortunately, I am not a superhero or -- I'm just a nurse.

CARROLL: Maddox is a COVID nurse working on eighth north team. Eighth floor, North Tower, at Beaumont hospital in Dearborn, Michigan.

She's worked here since she graduated from nursing school only about a year and a half ago. Lately, the COVID unit here is seeing more and more patients, all while there are few nurses to care for them.

MADDOX: There's been days where I have been like I don't know how much longer I can do this and I'm brand new, you know? But then at the same time, it's very rewarding what we do.

CARROLL: The new wave of COVID-19 is flooding Michigan's healthcare system. Overwhelming doctors and nurses admissions to hospitals statewide have risen 43 percent over the past month.

Currently, there are more than 100 people being treated for COVID-19 at Beaumont Hospital. By comparison, in July, hospitalized COVID patients were only in the single digits.

The influx of patients has taxed this hospital so much so, the Department of Defense dispatched a joint task force support unit to help.

LT. COL. THERESA NOWAK, ARMY NURSE CORPS OFFICER: I mean, the pace is very, very fast. Um, the need is -- is -- is constant.

CARROLL: Theresa Nowak is a lieutenant colonel based out of Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.


She is part of a mobile team that includes 14 critical care nurses, four doctors, and two respiratory therapists now working at Beaumont. The team has worked at hospitals in 13 states since August. The situation so critical here, just a few minutes into our interview, staff had to rush into help a distressed patient.

Tell us what's happening behind us here.

NOWAK: So if there is a patient that needs acute care -- maybe, a change in heart rate, a change in respiratory rate. Then generally, care comes that have critical care experience, they come in and help -- help with care for that patient.

I have been for almost 17 years and if you asked me five years ago, would I be embedding in a civilian hospital to help provide care? I would have -- I would've been like, no, you have got to be kidding me.

CARROLL: What is not surprising to the strike team or to hospital staff? People needing critical care are overwhelmingly unvaccinated. Beaumont Health says 443 out of the 583 COVID patients it is caring for statewide are unvaccinated. The vast majority of those in its ICU and on ventilators, also, unvaccinated.

Sara Pristavu is a recovering COVID patient. She says her vaccination status is private. She and her father, who also has COVID, were admitted on Sunday.

SARA PRISTAVU, COVID-19 PATIENT: I hope he is okay. He's not too far from me here. I'm not allowed to see him because of the quarantining. It's been a roller coaster. Sorry. It is been a roller coaster, but now, I feel a lot better.

CARROLL: Pristavu says she needed oxygen when she arrived but no longer and she credits those working the COVID unit here, both civilian and military, with helping to save her life.

And as for urgent pleas from those in the medical field for more people to get vaccinated? She says this.

What do you see as the right thing and the wrong thing?

PRISTAVU: I really like to stay neutral.

CARROLL: Nurses like Melissa Maddox know the stress for the eighth north team may just be beginning, again.

MADDOX: Will I break in three months? Will I break in a year? Will I break in ten? I can't -- I don't have that answer for you.

Right now, I am battling this with my patients and I don't see a stop anytime soon.


CARROLL: And, Erin, after spending so much time here at Beaumont, I can tell you how dedicated the doctors and their nurses are here and how grateful they are to have that military here -- team here to help them out, and plug in where help is needed. And in terms of how long that team is actually going to be here, probably about a month, it could be even a little longer depending upon the need. And then, after that, of course, they will move on to another hospital where there is more need -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Jason, thank you so much. And so many yeses, of course, with omicron virus spreading so quickly. These sort of lags, it would go one place and you are have time and then the other. Are we even going to have that this time? It doesn't look that way.

Next, we have a shocking investigation. You will see how companies have found a way to avoid paying taxes that they already owe. And it is costing the United States billions and billions and billions of dollars.

And Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me on what some parents are calling a miracle, using marijuana to help their children with autism.



BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden's Build Back Better plan stalled amid questions about how to pay for the many programs in the bill. And there is a lot of talk about increasing taxes in Washington. But that may miss a big and crucial point. And that is, that some businesses are right now not paying the federal government what they owe. Not any way, shape, or form.

In short, they are ripping the rest of us off and they're costing the United States tens of billions of dollars every single year.

Here is Nick Watt with an OUTFRONT investigation.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The owner of a chain of Thai restaurants was sentenced recently in L.A. to probation, community service, and some hefty restitution. Why? He charged his customers sales tax and kept it. How? With something called a sales suppression device, aka a "zapper".

Up in Washington state, Mike Chertude sniffs them out.

MIKE CHERTUDE, WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE: So in this case, you got two combos here.

WATT: Two combo meals on the customer's receipt, but in the restaurant's tax return? Only one combo.

CHERTUDE: This combo --

WATT: Disappeared.

CHERTUDE: -- is gone.

WATT: Zappers work like this. Let's say you sell 100 pad Thais. Software on a simple memory stick plugged into the register can erase, zap any trace of, say, 50 of them. So, you keep the sales tax you collected on those vanished pad Thai

orders. Plus, you save on other state and federal taxes because all that income just disappeared from your books.

The IRS told us zappers can be and are used in restaurants, bars, liquor stores, golf courses, movie theaters. Cash transactions are easiest to erase.

ROBERT CHICOINE, TAX ATTORNEY: It's almost like tracks in the snow. And what happens after the tracks are made? The snow melts.

WATT: No one knows just how much tax revenue is zapped, lost in the U.S. but this academic extrapolated using data from investigations overseas, plus some informed guesswork.

RICHARD ANSWORTH, ADJUNCT LAW PROFESSOR, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: The number comes out to close to $21 billion lost in tax, every year, for the last 10 or 15 years.

WATT: Enough to buy breakfast for every school kid in America every day of the school year or roughly 260 fighter jets.


ANSWORTH: The person who should be upset with this is you because you paid your 6 percent, 9 percent, 10 percent sales tax and the government didn't get the money.

WATT: In Washington state, in one of the first and biggest zapper cases ever prosecuted in the U.S., the Zapper salesman was jailed and a restaurant owner was accused of hiding zapping nearly a million dollars of taxable takings.

CHICOINE: She admitted she made a mistake.

CHERTUDE: If you are convicted in order to operate, you have to have some type of electronic monitoring.

CHICOINE: She agreed to be monitored for five years, and do this at her expense.

WATT: So I just bought us lunch from Yo Ling Wong's restaurant and now that the state is monitoring everything she does, that he had be able to tell if my sauted rice somehow disappeared.

Now, down in the South Pacific paradise of Fiji, the finance minister mandates nearly every register have monitoring software installed. At the same time, he cut the tax rate.

ANSWORTH: Now, that guy -- that guy's got big ones because he doesn't know if this is going to work. End of the year, revenue went up by 20 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for paying your taxes.

WATT: Would we ever mandate something similar here in the U.S.? ANSWORTH: We should be willing to do it.

CHICOINE: Imagine what kind of uproar might occur if they tried to do it. I believe a state is waiting for somebody to say we are going to mandate this so that they are not the first.


WATT (on camera): And, you know, one of the most telling things about this issue is no one knows how big a problem it really is. We just heard that $21 billion a year estimate. Some say that's too high. Some say that's too low. And like any tech or cybercrime, it's kind of cat and mouse.

The crooks get better. The authorities get better. Boom, boom, boom, and it carries on. Erin?

BURNETT: Pretty incredible, the Fiji example, though. It's such important reporting.

Thanks so much, Nick.

WATT: Yeah.

BURNETT: And next, Dr. Sanjay Gupta with an incredible story on how medical marijuana is said to be helping some kids with autism.



BURNETT: Tonight, a growing number of parents turning to marijuana to help their children with autism. Some are calling the changes that they are seeing miraculous. In a CNN special report, "Weed 6: Marijuana and Autism", Dr. Sanjay Gupta meets with some of these family, including one where they secretly gave their daughter the drug, even though it was illegal.




GUPTA: Who -- who -- who?


GUPTA: Your family members?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. They all did. Friends.

GUPTA: Because they were worried about the reaction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Consequences. GUPTA: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was all about, well, you are going to end up in jail over this.

GUPTA: That's when they decide to have Christy (ph) film Cara (ph) having a violent fit. And Mark giving her cannabis. Mark posts the video on Facebook and it goes viral. The story makes local and national news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the front page on the Sunday paper.

GUPTA: People take notice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And somebody in our Richardson town saw it on their local news and called 9-1-1.

GUPTA: And so does child protective services.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It didn't take long.


BURNETT: So, Sanjay is with me now. So, Sanjay, just incredible story. And I know, you know, it is the subject of your documentary. Why do you think this family was willing to take such a risk by going public, right? They didn't -- they could have done this and not gone public. They chose to do that, why?

GUPTA: Well, I think the -- there was a couple things. Fundamentally, it was a choice. They realized that, you know, they were breaking the law by giving some of these strains to -- to Cara. So, it was a question of do they allow her to continue to have this self-injurious behavior? Or do they take the risk of giving her something they know has worked after they tried lots of other things? Now, they found that worked.

Do they give that to her and risk potentially her being taken away. So, that was sort of a choice and, you know, for years, they have been sort of keeping it a secret but decided if they wanted to create change, help other people potentially get access, they needed to do this.

BURNETT: So, let's get to that, because they chose to go public with it because they wanted people to know, they wanted to help others because it worked for them. That's what they felt.

So as you looked into that story and then this scientific evidence out there, you know, on a -- on a broader basis, right, anecdote is not data. Is there evidence that cannabis can help with autism?

GUPTA: Yeah. You know, so for the last ten years, we have been reporting on this, Erin. And, you know, different diseases or different issues that have been treated with cannabis and sometimes they start off anecdotal and then studies are done. We started to hear from families saying they were giving cannabis sometimes for seizure disorders and they saw symptoms of autism start to mitigate, as well.

Then, the trial started to come. We have been following a trial for a few years. Several trials out of Israel. And now, southern California.

They have to blind these studies. The families don't know what they are getting. Researchers don't know what they are giving and they are trying to take out the factor much suggestibility or placebo effect. They're -- they're really involved studies and now that data's starting to come out.

I think it is part of the reason you are hearing about this more and more, and now more than a dozen states are permitting cannabis for the use of autism.

BURNETT: Why do you think it works? And what does it explicitly do? Does it just stop with seizures or does it actually change, big picture, the way a child is able to interact with other people?

GUPTA: That is a -- that's a great question and, you know, we don't -- I don't think researchers know, for sure, the mechanism of this. We know there is all sorts of receptors for cannabis in various parts of the body, including the brain.

What exactly some of these things have in common, like refractory epilepsy. Even autism like we are talking about, other things. Is there something in common where you are -- when you bind those receptors, does it somehow treat the symptoms?

I first thought it was going to be something that was just deeply sedating like a lot of the psychotropic drugs that people often get. That really wasn't the case. When you these kids, when you sort of follow them along, you see they are actually not sedated. They are just not self-injurious anymore, at least during that time.

BURNETT: Right. And that obviously is huge. It isn't just sedation, something much more significant.

All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you as always.

And everyone, please, don't miss Sanjay's latest report "Weed 6: Marijuana and Autism," Sunday night at 8:00.

"AC360" begins now.