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Erin Burnett Outfront
Jan 6 Panel Says It Has Info "Suggesting" Trump's WH Counsel May Have Concluded Trump's Order To Pence Was "Illegal"; Biden Clarifies: "Heavy Price" If Any Russian Units Cross Into Ukraine; Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) Discusses About The Ukraine's Request To Counter Russian Invasion; Manchin On Build Back Better: Will "Be Starting From Scratch"; Olympics Visitors Face Strict Rules As China Aims To Keep COVID Out. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 20, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Trump's legal problems mounting. A Georgia prosecutors zeroing in on the president investigating his pressure on the State's top election official to overturn the election as the January 6 Select Committee zeroes in on Ivanka Trump asking her to sit down for an interview in a letter that is revealing some incredible new details.
Plus, President Biden tries to clean up comments he made world leaders say gives Putin the green light to invade Ukraine. Tonight, we're going to take you there live.
And Biden, opening the door to a scale back Build Back Better bill, but how much can you scale it back and have it be building back better? Will Democrats go along? Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight closing in on Trump. Big blows to the former president tonight. First, closer to criminal charges in Georgia. The Fulton County DA writing tonight her office found "possible criminal disruptions and has opened an investigation into any coordinated attempts to unlawfully alter the outcome of the 2020 elections."
The operative word there, criminal. And tonight, the Georgia prosecutor requesting a special grand jury to force witnesses to testify. All of this investigation centers around the Trump phone call with Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And Georgia just one of the hits Trump is taking tonight, the January 6th Committee taking a huge step today. They sent this eight-page letter to Ivanka Trump, full of never seen texts and details. And a lot of the revelations in this letter come from the man I'm about to show you, Keith Kellogg, then the Vice President Mike Pence is National Security adviser. You see him there. He was in the room with Ivanka Trump and the former President Donald Trump on the morning of January 6th.
According to the Committee and what we found out today, he provided a firsthand account of a phone call that he and Ivanka saw, observed in the room before between Trump and Mike Pence, the vice president that morning and his testimony is cited in the letter. The Committee asks Kellogg and I quote, another report of this phone call is that Trump said, "Mike, it's not right. You can do this. I'm counting on you to do it. If you don't do it, I picked the wrong man four years ago. You're going to wimp out."
"Do you remember anything like that?" The Committee asked Kellogg. Kellogg responds, "Words like that, yes." And according to the Committee, Kellogg testified that at the end of this call between Trump and Pence, Ivanka Trump turned to me quoting the letter and said, "'Mike Pence is a good man.' I said, 'Yes, he is.'"
Well, here's something else we didn't know in this letter. They talk in here about a text from someone outside the White House, urging Team Trump to do something, anything. We hadn't seen this before. The text reads, "Is someone getting to POTUS? He has to tell protesters to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed."
The response from a White House staffer, "I've been trying for the last 30 minutes. Literally stormed in outer oval to get him to put up the first one." Referring to the first tweet. "It's completely insane."
BURNETT: Well, around that time, again, according to Kellogg's testimony, as recounted here in the letter, the White House was relying on it to be Ivanka, Ivanka to be the one to get through to her father.
The letter says the Committee asked Kellogg, "He didn't say yes to Mark Meadows or Kayleigh McEnany or Keith Kellogg, but he might say yes to his daughter?" Kellogg answers, "Exactly right." She was the one that all eyes turned to that day.
And then there's this, the Committee is saying here that they want to know more about what Ivanka knows about this video. Do you remember the video? The one that was done hours into the whole thing at 4:17 on January 6th, this one?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This was a fraudulent election. But we can't play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You're very special.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Okay. We all remember that. It came hours into the whole thing. We learned today from this letter, something crucial, and that is that Trump filmed multiple takes of that video, and that those multiple takes are in existence. And in take after take Trump did not say go home.
And take after take he did not call off his supporters who were attacking the Capitol. What he did do was call the insurrectionists very special. Did not say go home. We now know multiple takes are there that happened and they exist. And the news tonight from Georgia and from the January 6 Select Committee in Washington is adding to a building crisis for Trump this week.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court allowed more than 700 documents from Trump's White House to be sent to the January 6 Select Committee. And in New York, the Attorney General, Letitia James, revealed her investigation into The Trump Organization she says has the goods, has uncovered a number of 'misleading statements and omissions' in financial statements.
It's important to note the James' investigation is civil, but it is running parallel to a criminal investigation led by Manhattan's DA looking at some of the same conduct.
Jamie Gangel is OUTFRONT live in Washington to begin our coverage. And Jamie, I know you have been talking to your sources about this letter, these eight pages and we find a whole lot of new information in here. What more are you learning about what they want from Ivanka Trump?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, I don't think we've ever seen a letter like this from the committee. And it's really worth people going online and reading the footnotes, because it gives you a clue, more than a clue, a roadmap to how much the committee already has.
My sources tell me that you'll see it in here it says documents on file with the Select Committee. What does that mean? This is testimony, witnesses, this has nothing to do with the National Archives. They haven't even really gone through that yet. So what do we know from this letter?
We've heard before that Ivanka went to the Oval Office multiple times to try to get her father to say something to stop the riot. That's been reported before. But what this letter reveals very, very pointed questions that they have for Ivanka Trump and it's based on, to your point about Keith Kellogg, new texts, new testimony, not just from Keith Kellogg who's considered a Trump loyalists, but from former press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany. Those are brand new texts the Committee now has that we've never seen before, very specific topics.
They want to ask Ivanka Trump about her father's state of mind. They want to know why he didn't go down the hall to the briefing room to make a statement to call off the riot. And one of the things that I've never heard before that I think is really an explosive headline is that Ivanka Trump, on the morning of January 6th, was in the Oval Office and she heard her father on the phone pressuring Mike Pence. She is a firsthand witness to Trump trying to get Pence to overturn the election.
BURNETT: All right. So Jamie, please stay with me. I want to bring in Dana Bash now, our Chief Political Correspondent and Co-Anchor of the STATE OF THE UNION, along with Elie Honig, the former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
So Dana, you hear this reporting, you've read the letter, you hear Jamie's reporting. We know that Ivanka and her husband, Jared, have always played a coy game. They want credit with being the closest advisors to the President. They want to be the one to benefit in every way that that entails, but then they quickly distance themselves when things are tough or uncomfortable. They're the normal ones that can go to the normal social events.
The truth holds though, Dana, nobody knows more than Ivanka Trump does about Donald Trump's thoughts, his feelings, his intentions, his mind that day and after.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. And as Jamie was just reporting, you cannot overstate how much influence the former president's daughter/senior advisor had on her father, not just in personal terms as a daughter, but much more importantly for four years as a senior advisor.
And that is why people would go to her when they wanted to try to get to her father on days that were not January 6, on four years leading up to that day. But on that day, clearly, from what we are hearing from this letter, there was even more pressure on her to be the person to finally get to her father and it's really noteworthy that there was actual testimony from somebody, as Jamie said, is was a Trump loyalist explaining that dynamic. It doesn't say anything about whether Ivanka Trump will actually come, because we have to emphasize that she was asked to come voluntarily.
But I just want to add one other note, we have reported months ago about the disconnect, intentional disconnect by Jared and Ivanka Kushner in order to distance themselves from him politically. You talked about the normalcy trying to be normal.
I'm told that that is still the case. They're still family, they still spend time together, but on politics, they're trying to stay away still one year later. BURNETT: Right. And I know trying to build business relationships
with people certainly in the Middle East, money involved for them as well.
Elie, in the letter, I want to hone in on this part here about this phone call between the president, the vice president that Ivanka Trump was there for. The Committee writes, "Testimony obtained by the Select Committee indicates that members of the White House staff requested your assistance on multiple occasions to intervene in an attempt to persuade President Trump to address the ongoing lawlessness and violence. Published reports indicate that Sen. Lindsey Graham called you during this period, pleading that the President 'asked people to leave'. In his sworn testimony, General Keith Kellogg explained that White House staff wanted the President to take immediate action to quell the unrest. The President was, according to one account, 'stubborn', and staff recognized you may be the only person who could persuade him to act. Testimony also suggests that you agreed to talk to the President, but had to make multiple efforts to persuade President Trump to act.
So Elie, that talking about going into the Oval Office and as I mentioned also the phone call that she was therefore, in all of this, we see, yes, text from Kayleigh McEnany. There's a lot of new stuff in here, Elie, but it does seem to rely very heavily on unseen details by us from General Kellogg. What is the strategy behind that having to rely on him?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Erin. I think what the Committee is doing here is they're showing Ivanka Trump and they're showing all of us we already know an awful lot about what was going on inside the White House before, during and after January 6th, and you, Ivanka Trump, were a crucial player in all of this. As that excerpt you just read shows even very powerful, well-placed people recognize that Ivanka Trump was really the only person capable of even trying to talk sense to her father, not particularly successful on January 6th, but that's how crucial she was.
And Erin, you said something, I think very important earlier that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner tried to keep up this sort of duality as detached and the adults in the room. But if you look at it, they are witnesses, they are crucial witnesses and Ivanka's responsive statement that came out today in response to this letter I found to be so disingenuous because her representative said, "Well, Ivanka didn't speak at the rally and she's opposed to police violence and disrespect of the police."
I mean, first of all, she tweeted originally, that the people who stormed the Capitol were great patriots. She deleted that. But second of all, if she really believed that, she would testify. She's not above this because she's the former president's daughter. She has crucial evidence and if she meant what she said, she would testify.
BURNETT: And Jamie ...
HONIG: I know she won't, but she should. BURNETT: ... yes. Well, and this is the point, Jamie, the statement
did seem to be very, I'm too good for this, it said, this is what we got from the spokesperson, "Ivanka Trump just learned that the January 6 Committee issued a public letter asking her to appear. As the Committee already knows, Ivanka did not speak at the January 6 rally. As she publicly stated that day at 3:15 pm, 'Any security breach or disrespect to our law enforcement is unacceptable. The violence must stop immediately. Please be peaceful.'"
I mean, that has absolutely nothing to do with what they're asking her to talk about. I mean, it's just like I'm going to put out a statement about something else. So what does the Committee plan to do if she doesn't say, "Okay, actually, I'm going to come answer your questions"?
GANGEL: So we've seen a history here where the Committee will invite someone and then will subpoena them. We're not there yet. Let's see what happens. Although the Committee has said that they won't rule something like that out. I think there's something else very important about this letter, and about Ivanka Trump, and Keith Kellogg and Kayleigh McEnany.
Once again, what we're seeing here is that the Committee has information from Trump's inner circle. These are people he thinks are loyal to him. And they are telling the committee firsthand fact witnesses what was going on. That is not good for Donald Trump.
BURNETT: And Dana, that's not the only thing. In the past couple of days, you have this news. You have the Georgia news. You have the Supreme Court completely shutting Trump down on his efforts to withhold 700 documents on the Committee. That grand jury and criminal charges in Georgia, the New York Attorney General, right she says she's got the goods on Trump and his children lying, each of them by name to obtain loans and insurance. There's a parallel criminal investigation going on.
And this is happening, Dana, as Trump's back out doing rallies, doing interviews, clearly wanting to jump back into the presidential race, it seems. Does it any of this impact what he does?
BASH: Absolutely, it could. People who are around him and have known him for a long time have told me over and over again, there are two things that would keep him from running again. Number one, his health, if he had a health issue. And number two, if he were in serious legal jeopardy.
Now, we have seen him, depending on the level of real legal jeopardy, tried to deflect and actually use it to his political benefit. So we have to see, but there's no question that all of the things that you just described, are not good for the former president, for lots of reasons, for legal reasons, for historical reasons and for political reasons.
But I think that what Jamie said about the fact witnesses and the people around the president, former president, is so important because they were relying only on that to get to where they are today. Now, the Supreme Court, which we don't need to remind people, but it's worth saying, included in the Supreme Court are three Trump appointees. They all said or at least the majority said that it's okay to give his records to this Committee.
BASH: That means that there's so much more information that they're going to see, and we now know that they already have a good deal.
BURNETT: Right. And as Jamie said, they haven't even had a chance to go through all that and as you point out, all three of the justices appointed by Trump did vote against his case in that - in this specific instance.
So Elie, one thing I've got to ask you about Georgia, because I mentioned it, obviously today, the developments there. The DA investigating former President Trump's efforts to overturn the election in Georgia specifically, has now requested a special grand jury in the letter, the word criminal is invoked. What does this signal?
HONIG: Well, Erin, it tells me the DA is getting serious down in Fulton County, Georgia. Now, it does not mean there will certainly be an indictment. It does not mean the DA will even ask a grand jury eventually, for an indictment. But this gives the DA crucial tools that, frankly, I don't know why it took her a year to get to this point, but we'll leave that to the side.
Now through this grand jury, the district attorney has the ability to issue subpoenas. She says in her letter requesting it, key witnesses have declined to talk to me voluntarily, including she mentions Brad Raffensperger. So I need subpoenas, that is a crucial tool that any prosecutor uses.
And by the way, these are prosecutorial subpoenas. These are not congressional subpoenas. Nobody messes around with these. If you get one of these, you have to testify in front of a grand jury and if you don't you will be brought in to do so.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.
And next, more breaking news, President Biden trying to clean up remarks about Russia. And right now Ukrainian officials tell CNN he must do more. We are live on the ground in Ukraine with the latest with our Matthew Chance.
Plus, Sen. Joe Manchin speaking out, saying Build Back Better anything about that, it's got to start from scratch.
And the idea of an election police unit picking up steam in Georgia after taking a cue from Florida.
BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden 'must do more'. That is what a senior Ukrainian official just told our Matthew Chance about U.S.' efforts to deter a Russian invasion of Ukraine. The official making clear that the threat of new sanctions, even the incredibly severe ones the U.S. is threatening is not enough, especially in the wake of President Biden saying a minor incursion by Russian troops into Ukrainian territory could lead to well, nothing or a much lesser response, that some kind of incursion is okay. Today Biden tried to clean up those comments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been absolutely clear with President Putin. He has no misunderstanding if any, any assembled Russian units move across Ukrainian border, that is an invasion. But it will be met with severe and coordinated economic response. Russia will pay a heavy price.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT from Kiev. And Matthew, obviously, this has really roiled the waters there. What more are you hearing from Ukrainian sources tonight?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's really stirred things up. And you don't often see a kind of public spat between these two allies, the Ukrainian leadership that depends so heavily on the United States for political, diplomatic and military support. But those comments by President Biden really kind of causing the simmering frustrations in the relationship that were kept very much behind the scenes to sort of come out a bit more into, in some instances, boil over.
One Ukraine official spoke to me tonight about how the United States must really ramp up its efforts to deter a Russian invasion, because he said that ongoing threat that the United States is making to impose crushing sanctions on Russia, if it invades is simply not having the deterrent effect that is necessary. They want immediate sanctions imposed ahead of any Russian invasion, like for instance, stopping the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from working in order to really punish Russia for its aggression and for its stance against Ukraine.
Also, a lot of complaints behind the scenes here in Kiev amongst officials about what they call the slow pace of U.S. military aid to this country. I know that's been stepped up, hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid from United States to Ukraine has already been forthcoming. But Ukrainians say they want heavy weaponry. They want anti-aircraft facilities. They want anti-missile batteries.
Here's what the official said to me, "We want patriots. If we've got patriots, then we stand a chance of holding back a Russian invasion. If we haven't got patriots," the anti-missile defense systems, of course, "then we don't we don't stand a chance."
And so, these are just some of the frustrations that we're being briefed on, I've been briefed on behind the scenes in this sort of ongoing sort of moment of tension, perhaps, call it between the United States and its ally, Ukraine.
BURNETT: All right. Matthew, thank you very much.
And I want to go now on the back of Matthew's reporting to Democratic Congressman Adam Smith, because he is the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee and just received a classified briefing on Ukraine.
So let me just start by asking you then a chance to respond to what Matthew just reported, that they say patriots. If we get patriot anti- missile defense systems, we're okay. If we don't, we won't. It comes down to that. Are you for doing that?
REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): Well, I don't think that's militarily accurate in terms of if they had patriots, they could stop the Russian invasion. But I think what's clear from the reporting is Ukraine is in an incredibly difficult situation and dangerous situation, and they want help.
And I think we need to be clear about our support for them. And I think there are more weapons that we can provide to them, and we can work with our allies to provide them. I completely agree with the Ukrainian government. We need to send a clearer signal that we will help them. They'll fort a Russian invasion and make it a very high cost effort for Putin, more needs to be done. I don't agree that a few Patriot missile batteries are the decisive factor at this point.
BURNETT: So that which is, I think, important that you lay that out. The Ukrainian intelligence reports that Matthew Chance has obtained, they say 127,000 Russian troops are near the border with several 10s of thousands more ready. Seth Jones with CSIS showed some pictures with us that showed hundreds of battle tanks, self-propelled howitzers, multiple rocket launch systems, short range ballistic missile systems, all of that, in these pictures right within striking distance of Ukraine and the Capitol.
I know you're limited with what you can share, Chairman, but are you more or less worried tonight about a Russian invasion after your briefing?
SMITH: Well, we're more without question. I mean, there is a sense and you've reported on it widely, it's nothing classified, that Putin is seemingly more each day inclined to invade. Now, it's also very clear, no set decision has been made. But the threat is growing. And I think our response and the forcefulness of our response needs to take that into account.
We're no longer in a position where we're simply trying to dissuade him from moving down this road. He's moving down this road. So I think we need to be more aggressive about taking steps to get him to stop.
BURNETT: So let me ask you about that, because that gets to the heart of this whole issue about what type of encouragement is acceptable versus isn't right, the Biden's comments. Look, President Biden has been clear he doesn't want to send us forces into Ukraine. He has said that publicly.
So far, no signs that the sanctions thus threatened or deterring Putin as you just laid out, but the big thing we learned last night is it appeared NATO is not united in how to respond, because one diplomat from NATO told CNN about the minor incursion comment from Biden, that there's some truth there. There's some truth there.
BURNETT: Did President Biden simply say what the reality is, which is that if you don't have NATO on board, and you're up on board with sanctions and some incursions are okay, and others aren't to them, there's not so much the U.S. can do?
SMITH: No. It's not true. I mean, it is it is accurate to say that the various NATO countries are not necessarily in the same place. It is not accurate to say that absent all of the NATO countries being 100 percent on board, there is anything we can do. There is a lot that the U.S. can do. There is a lot that we can do with the allies and NATO who support us in terms of how aggressive those economic sanctions are.
They have not been as aggressive as they could be in terms of outright canceling Nord Stream 2 which we can certainly put pressure on Germany to do, which we could put sanctions in place that would effectively do and we could provide ...
BURNETT: Even if we believe, though, that Germany would do that, I mean, that would really hurt them.
SMITH: ... well, that's why I just said, either we persuade Germany to do it or we can impose the sanctions that would make it happen anyway. So there are options there.
And then the last point is on the weaponry that could be provided to Ukraine. Because it's certainly this is about Ukraine, but understand what Putin is doing here, I've read a lot of reporting about, well, why is Putin doing this, it's hard to figure out. Putin has been very clear for going on over 15 years now, he wants to reconstitute the Soviet empire. He considers its destruction, a great tragedy.
And Ukraine is but one step in that, whatever one feels about Ukraine and I feel it is very much worth helping to protect, this is about more than that. So if we can provide weapons so that even if Putin does invade, it is a very costly invasion that makes it clear to Putin and Russia that it was not a smart thing to do. That too is important.
That's why providing the weaponry, providing aggressive economic sanctions is important. But I think the President made it clear this morning and I wish he had made it clear yesterday, there is no like minor incursion that's okay. What the Russians did in Crimea, what they did in the eastern Ukraine in 2014, that wasn't okay. And any further step, no matter how small into Ukraine is something we will not support and not let pass. [19:30:03]
BURNETT: All right. Chairman, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
SMITH: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, a blow to President Biden's agenda tonight from Senator Joe Manchin. He says Build Back Better, if there are negotiations, they have to start from scratch.
Is the White House even prepared to do that?
Secretary Pete Buttigieg is next.
And a Republican candidate for governor in Georgia now echoing Florida's Ron DeSantis calling for an election police force.
BURNETT: New, tonight, Senator Joe Manchin signaling a very tough road ahead as the White House vows to pass, quote, big chunks of President Biden's domestic agenda during his second year in office. Nancy Pelosi panned that but so did Manchin, telling CNN when asked about the future of Build Back Better, and I quote, Senator Manchin: I'm open to start with a clean sheet of paper. We'll just be starting from scratch whenever we start on that.
Manu Raju is OUFRONT live from Capitol Hill.
And, Manu, you spoke to Senator Manchin about all this today. Look, he full well understands that when all of this fell apart he had indicated he was on board with several things already in there.
And that the kind of perception was, well, if we come back to the negotiating table, we're starting pretty far along. He clearly wanted to tell you something very different today.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, he made it very clear they're going to start over here. In fact, remember last month, he offered the White House $1.8 trillion, had a whole wide range of things, indicating he could support. Ultimately, those talks fell apart over Manchin's refusal to accept an expansion of the child tax credit which has since expired at the end of the year.
Well, Manchin says that the $1.8 trillion offer he had is no longer on the table, saying they need to negotiate essentially from the start and he also told me he has not spoken to the president about this issue in detail, not engaged in negotiations about this since late last month, and also setting a very high bar to all of this. He says in order to move forward, they need to get inflation under control and also COVID under control.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RAJU: Is a trillion dollars -- is that still too -- is that too much money for you?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I really don't know. The main thing we need to do is take care of the inflation. Get your financial house in order. Get a tax code that works.
Get COVID out of the way. Then we'll be on -- we'll be on. We'll be rolling.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, amid all this, he has faced enormous criticism from many in his party including the independent from Vermont Bernie Sanders who says that him and Kyrsten Sinema are undermining Joe Biden's agenda.
And when I asked Manchin about that accusation, he said, I'm not a Washington Democrat. So the base they have is a different base than I have -- Erin.
BURNETT: Wow. Again, these words are all chosen to be -- carry the barbs that they carry.
Manu, thank you very much.
And I want to go OUTFRONT now to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
And, Secretary, I really appreciate your time tonight.
So, Senator Manchin, you know, he knew what he was doing today when he said this, right? I'm open to start with a clean sheet of paper. We'll just be starting from scratch.
Were you surprised by that? Are you okay with that?
PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Look, you know, as somebody who is working a lot with the transportation bill that did pass, one thing I remember is how many ups and downs there were in that process, times that we were close to a deal, back to the drawing board.
And what I've noticed as I go around the country talking about the bridges we're going to fix and roads we're going to build is nobody is asking me whether the version that passed was closer to 2.0 or 3.0 or how many times we started with a clean sheet of paper. People just care about the impact on them.
And I think it's going to be the same with Build Back Better. Look, we know these are good policies that the American people correctly believe are going to make them better off over all, whether talking about fighting inflation, lowering the cost of insulin, lowering the cost of being in the work force by getting people child care they can afford, getting people pre-K child tax credit, things we have to do for our climate, you name it. But these are really important policies that are going to make Americans better off, help deal with the fact there is a lot of upward pressure on prices right now.
BURNETT: Yeah. BUTTIGIEG: And for that reason, we continue to believe that they're going to pass. What form it's in, what legislative vehicle it's in, the ups and downs and twists and turns on Capitol Hill, that's going to continue to I'm sure be a long, drawn out story. But at the end of the day, these are good policies that have to get done and we're going to keep pushing for it.
BURNETT: So, I know you attended a meeting at the White House today with President Biden's infrastructure task force. And that's the group, you know, you're working with to implement the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package. Obviously, that is something that both Obama and Trump failed to do. Biden did do it and he's touted it as his biggest achievement thus far.
But as we all, whether it'd be, you know, voting rights or Build Back Better, it's just part of his agenda. What gives you the confidence that you're going to get Build Back Better considering what it has been through? I mean, it's been battered. I understand your point about making sausage is ugly, but this has been particularly ugly.
BUTTIGIEG: I don't remember how many times they said the transportation bill was dead, too.
Look, you look at the last year, this is the one-year mark for this presidency.
BUTTIGIEG: And you look at where we started at. You know, a year ago in terms of the public health situation, you know, less than 1 percent of Americans vaccinated. Now, more than 200 million Americans protected.
Is the job done? Of course not. We are dealing with this variant and a lot more. But look how far we've come.
The economy in grave danger, and now, unemployment below 4 percent, unemployment claims lowest level since the '60s. Does that mean the job is done? Of course not. We are looking at inflation and other issues but extraordinary progress.
And the same thing with this bill. The president inherited a deeply frighteningly divided country and it remains so in many ways and yet this bill not only passed, it passed with bipartisan support. I was there with Democrats and Republicans who voted for it on the south lawn of the White House with the president.
BUTTIGIEG: That's what gives me confidence. The fact that in one year, this president was able to achieve things that would define the entire term of most American presidencies --
BURNETT: So --
BUTTIGIEG: -- tells me that I don't know exactly how or what shape it'll take or what day it'll happen but more really good achievements are coming this year.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you one other thing obviously that is top of mind right now and that is the 5G fiasco going on.
Verizon and AT&T which does own CNN's parent company have announced a delay in launching 5G service near some airports. By the way, you got 5G in a lot of other countries so we're lagging on it anyway. Airlines were warning there could be dire consequences.
But, you know, Secretary, the FAA has been sounding an alarm on the problem with this bandwidth and where it is on the spectrum vis-a-vis radar since at least 2015. They were saying, watch, watch, watch.
Okay. That was Obama. Then comes in Trump. Federal government goes ahead anyway. They wanted the money and sold the spectrum for $81 billion to AT&T, and the other telecom companies.
Isn't this a failure of the U.S. government? I mean, why did they sell something that they weren't going to then allow to be utilized safely?
BUTTIGIEG: I do think once we have a little -- more calm around the situation, we're going to look back and ask ourselves some questions about how we handle these issues. They are really unsexy and really important issues. They sound super technical, but getting them right is critically important on issues like aviation safety and for our economy as a whole.
But I'll tell you, right now, our focus is on making sure that we handle this with a minimum of disruption. You got 5G beginning to be activated around the country. There are buffer zones around the airports to be sure they're safe.
I want to emphasize, by the way, that the FAA will not allow anything unsafe to go forward which is exactly why we had this sense of urgency around this issue.
But now, I'll tell you, there is a remarkable level of collaboration going on with the cell phone companies that have voluntarily agreed to delay the activation of some of these towers with the equipment manufacturers making the altimeters, which is what the worry is that cell phone signals --
BUTTIGIEG: -- could interfere with, and with the airlines with so much at stake in flight making sure they don't get delayed or diverted because of directives from a safety concern. There is remarkable collaboration going on right now to really minimize -- and you look at what we avoided in terms of what could have happened with the delays and disruptions.
And, obviously, our focus is making sure that process is a success then we can zoom out and ask ourselves broader questions about how we handled these issues. Telecommunications is so important, advancing it is important. They're going to continue to have these processes of making spectrum available and trying to get us that fast Internet that we all want, just like we all want and need a safe aviation system for everybody.
BURNETT: All right. Secretary, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you. Good to be with.
BURNETT: All right.
And next, the White House doing damage control tonight after Biden appeared to cast doubt on the upcoming midterm elections. And we're going to take you inside Beijing to see the incredible lengths that China is going to, to keeping COVID from impacting the Olympics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Officials have told the residents, if they see one of the vehicles that's part of the Olympic convoys get into a crash, to stay away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, Republican candidate for governor in Georgia, David Perdue, an enthusiastic supporter of the big lie, calling for the creation of an election police force in his state. He says to investigate election crime and fraud and arrest anyone found guilty of such offenses, an election police force.
Well, that comes as Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis is asking his state legislature to set aside millions of dollars for a similar police force to investigate election fraud. And answer directly to the governor.
OUTFRONT now, David Becker, an election security expert with more than 20 years of experience.
You know, there is something jarring about election police force. It just sort of brings a lot of historical moments to mind I think for many.
But how concerned are you about these proposed election police forces, David?
DAVID BECKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NONPARTISAN CENTER FOR ELECTION INNOVATION & RESEARCH: Well, I'm significantly concerned for a couple reasons. First of all, we have a very good idea of how much voter fraud actually exists and the amount is not zero but it's not much greater than zero.
And Florida and Georgia are great examples of that. Election officials in both those states, Republicans and Democrats, do a very good job of protecting against voter fraud. And if those rare cases where it does happen, prosecuting that voter fraud. Even right-leaning groups who promoted the idea of voter fraud like the Heritage Foundation, the Bush Justice Department, even Trump's Voter Fraud Commission that he installed, have not been able to demonstrate any significant amount of fraud.
There is a handful of cases when it happens. It is detected. It is prosecuted. And so, these are unnecessary police forces that are probably more directed at the election officials who did an outstanding job in 2020 rather than at any actual threats to election integrity.
BURNETT: And as you point out, you know, 0.001 percent of the ballots cast, right, in these usually states, the AP analysis, and as you pointed out, Republican secretaries of state, Democratic secretaries of state, they all -- they all agree on this, right? They all have investigated it.
And that context is really important, because, you know, today, you got the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki having to clarify twice that President Biden, she says, was not intending to cast doubt on the upcoming midterm elections when he said this after being asked whether those elections would be legitimate if Congress does not pass his voting rights legislation.
Here's what he said.
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JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not saying it isn't going to be legit, the increase and the prospect of being illegitimate is a direct proportion to us not being able to get these reforms passed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That was a word sandwich.
David, you know, at a time when lies have been used to sow doubt over U.S. elections, were you disappointed Biden did not just clearly black and white very simply state that U.S. elections are free and fair?
BECKER: Well, I'm glad the White House clarified the position today.
BECKER: And it is a fact that democracy is incredibly fragile right now, mainly because of the efforts to delegitimize elections and democracy by the losing presidential candidate in the last and a circle of grifters that surround him.
We need to stand up for our elections because the election officials around this country, Republicans, Democrats, at the state level and local level have done a remarkable job. We are more professional now in the administration of elections than ever before. The 2020 election was the most secure, transparent and verified election than before.
And we needed to say clearly So if you vote, your vote matters, it will count, and the result of the elections will be accurate and verifiable, and the people that take power will be the people who truly won the majority of the vote.
BURNETT: Right. That's -- that is the simple black and white stated answer.
Thank you so much, David. I appreciate you.
BECKER: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, an incredible look at Beijing and how it's handling an influx of people around the world for the upcoming Olympics. Wait until you see this. Just imagine happening in the U.S. or in Europe.
And a surprising finding tonight about a mysterious Havana syndrome. An attorney for victims, though, tonight, speaking out, does not agree with the CIA.
BURNETT: Tonight, Beijing officially opening the street lanes you see on your screen, meant to keep Olympic athletes and staff separated from the Chinese population. It is just one of the severe measures China is taking to prevent any COVID cases.
David Culver is OUTFRONT with tonight's "Inside Look".
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Traveling into Beijing may prove to be a tougher race than an Olympic competition. These Winter Games taking place in a capital city that increasingly feels like a fortress. China determined to keep out any new cases of COVID- 19, starting at the airport.
This is the terminal that's going to be used by athletes, some of the Olympic personnel and media arriving into Beijing. They've got a wall up that keeps the general population apart from everyone who's part of the Olympic arrivals.
Those coming in required to download this official app to monitor their health, inputting their information 14 days before arriving in Beijing.
While health surveillance and strict contact tracing is part of life for everyone living in China, it's making visitors uneasy. Cybersecurity researchers warn the app has serious encryption flaws, potentially compromising health data. China dismisses concerns but Team USA and athletes from other countries are being advised to bring disposable burner phones instead of their personal ones.
[19:55:09] From the airport, athletes and personnel will be taken into what organizers call the closed loop system. Not one giant bubble so much as multiple bubbles connected by dedicated shuttles.
Within the capital city, there are several hotels and venues, plus the Olympic Village that are only for credentialed participants.
The dedicated transport buses will be bringing the athletes, the personnel, the media through these gates. But for those of us who are residents outside, this is as close as we can get.
Then there are the mountain venues, on the outskirts of Beijing, connected by high speed train and highways. All of them newly built for the Winter Games. So, as to maintain the separation, even the rail cars are divided, and the close loop buses given specially marked lanes.
It is so strict that officials have told the residents, if they see one of the vehicles that's part of the Olympic convoys get into a crash to stay away. They've actually got a specialize unit of medics to respond to those incidents. It's all to keep the virus from potentially spreading.
It also keeps visiting journalists from leaving to capital city to other regions like Xinjiang or Tibet, to explore controversial topics. With the world's attention, the Olympic allows China to showcase its perceived superiority in containing the virus, especially compared with countries like the U.S.
But this will in many ways also be a tale of two cities, one curated for the Olympic arrivals and preselected group of spectators, another that is the real Beijing -- though some local Beijing residents are now in a bubble of their own. Communities locked down after cases surfaced in the city outside the Olympic boundaries -- a mounting challenge for a country that's trying to keep COVID out and yet still stage a global sporting spectacle to wow the world.
CULVER (on camera): And, Erin, that is the real channel, to portray this as an open, welcoming host city, when you're surrounded by barriers. And we're seeing more and more broadcasters and personnel just canceling their plans to come here, in part because the realization is starting to hit. China's zero COVID restrictions, they are like nothing else in the world.
And if you contract the virus, or the government officials say that you've been a close contact to a confirmed case, there is no challenging them. They can and most likely will put you in isolation -- Erin.
BURNETT: Wow. It is incredible. Just seeing your own streets -- it's unbelievable. Thank you so much, David, live from Beijing tonight.
BURNETT: And next, an attorney for victims of Havana syndrome taking on the CIA.
BURNETT: Tonight, we finally know this, for the first time about Havana syndrome. The CIA says it hasn't yet found any evidence that a nation state is behind any of the roughly 1,000 now reported episodes to Americans around the globe.
Mark Zaid, an attorney for several of the victims, some of whom suffered brain damage and more, tells me, quote: The CIA's interim conclusions are incredibly disappointing, were completely unnecessary, insulting to those suffering and highly suspect. Indeed, the preliminary assertions seemed more designed as a PR move to persuade its workforce to pursue overseas assignments as many employees were rebelling against doing so in light of the increase in perceived attacks.
And now the investigation goes on.
Thanks for watching. It's time for Anderson.