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Erin Burnett Outfront
Jan 6 Panel Subpoenas Former Trump Adviser Peter Navarro; Trump: "McConnell Does Not Speak For The Republican Party;" Russia Hours Away From Start Of Massive Joint Military Drills; Russia Hours Away From Start Of Massive Joint Military Drills; White House: Follow CDC Masking Rules; Supporter Says He Was Addicted To Trump, Now Calls Movement A Cult. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 09, 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 the breaking news, a close ally of Trump subpoenaed by the January 6 Select Committee after he openly talked and conspired to overturn the election and it comes as the National Archives is now asking the Justice Department to investigate Trump's handling of White House record.
Plus, preparing for war, in just hours, some of the largest war games ever will take place along Ukraine's border. Russian troops continue to pour into the region by the thousands.
And the White House at odds with a growing number of Democratic governors, when it comes to something that has become central in the United States, mask mandates in schools. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, subpoenaed. The January 6 Select Committee now wants to hear from a supremely loyal advisor to Trump, Peter Navarro. He was, you may remember, Trump's former trade adviser. The mad who had Trump's ear in the days leading up to the deadly insurrection, a person who was not shy about his plan to overturn the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER NAVARRO, FRM. TRADE ADVISER TO PRES. TRUMP: Everything I'm seeing, Liz, tells me that this election was stolen.
What I think we need to do tomorrow is appoint a special prosecutor to look at this issue. I think that Georgia race needs to be postponed to February because that place is a cesspool of activity. They ran the table on all of these dimensions of irregularities. So we need to do those things.
And I think we ought to think about seizing the voting machines. They stole this, we can prove it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Of course, they couldn't because it didn't happen. But that didn't stop Navarro from doing everything he could to try to prove that something that didn't happen happened. He released a 'report' in December of 2020. That was basically just a rehash of the baseless claims that have been repeatedly debunked by state officials of both parties and that had been tossed out of multiple courtrooms because there was absolutely no evidence at all to back any of it up.
But the report caught Trump's eye and he tweeted in December 2020, "Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud 'more than sufficient' to swing victory to Trump. A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protests in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild."
Of course, it was more than wild, it was deadly. People died. And it's the reason the January 6 Committee wants to speak to Navarro. A man who after January 6th wrote a book that mentions working with Steve Bannon to overturn the election for that purpose. A book the Committee mentions in their subpoena where they say, "In your book, you reportedly described this plan as the 'Green Bay Sweep' and stated that it was designed as the last best chance to snatch a stolen election from the Democrats' jaws of deceit." (Inaudible) who advised him on the writing style.
Tonight, Navarro responding raising the stakes, making it clear that he will not turn on Trump, saying, "As the domestic terrorists running the January 6 partisan witch hunt are well aware, President Trump has invoked executive privilege; and it is not my privilege to waive." Not surprising to hear that when you listen to what a loyal foot soldier Navarro was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAVARRO: My mission in this administration is to serve as a soldier for the greatest commander in chief ever. I'm the trade adviser and the jobs are helping the greatest president in history.
You have to understand, this is the hardest working president in history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The Navarro subpoena coming as we're learning the National Archives has asked the Justice Department to review whether Trump violated the Presidential Records Act. Paula Reid is OUTFRONT live in Washington.
And Paula, I want to start there, obviously, a violation of law is possible here and certainly we've seen documents ripped up, documents thrown away, documents not put in the right place, documents not cataloged. What more are you learning about this request from the National Archives to the Department of Justice?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, this request suggests that archives officials believe Trump may have violated laws about the handling of government documents. But at this point, it's not clear if the Justice Department will actually open an investigation.
Now, sources have repeatedly told CNN how Trump just flouted the Presidential Records Act which required him to preserve materials related to his presidency. Some of the documents even handed over to the archives, as you noted, appeared to have been taped together.
Just last night, a former White House official described to me Erin how Trump would leave the room and then after him would come a deputy from the office of the Staff Secretary pulling stuff out of the trash, pulling stuff off Trump's desk, trying to comply with his preservation requirements.
This official told me that, look, people who knew the rules, they tried to follow them. But often these retention requirements were not followed.
Now, is that illegal? Well, it is a crime to destroy government documents, but it requires that the person do so knowingly. And when it comes to Trump, we know from our sources that he was told by at least two chiefs of staff about his preservation obligations, but we also been told by other advisors that, yes, he'd tear him up, but he just expected someone to come in after him and tape things up.
So again, the question of whether this is illegal, that's still open, but given how he exploited former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, the question of hypocrisy, it seems to be pretty clear.
BURNETT: Right. Right. I mean, where he blatantly said to not preserve this as a violation of the archives' laws, so he knew exactly what they are and how they worked. So let me ask you also about Peter Navarro, Paula, because I know that you just spoke with him. What did he tell you?
REID: Navarro has been very public about his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Now, when it comes to the subpoena, I asked for his reaction and he referred to the Committee conducting this investigation is 'domestic terrorist', called the investigation into January 6th a 'partisan witch hunt'. Of course, that's one of Trump's favorite phrases to dismiss investigations.
Now, Navarro also said that any waiver of executive privilege, Erin, would have to be negotiated with the former president, his attorneys. But as you noted, Navarro has extensively described his efforts to delay the counting of electoral votes in a book. He's also described it extensively in the press.
Now he also rattled off a list of insults to former colleagues saying Pence betrayed Trump, Meadows is a fool and a coward, Cheney and Kinzinger are 'useful idiots', for Nancy Pelosi and the woke left. So it does not appear that he is going to be willing to constructively engage with a committee and would likely relish a fight on behalf of Trump.
But Erin, even if he does not cooperate, the Committee revealed today that they just spoken with over 500 witnesses as part of this investigation.
BURNETT: Five-hundred, I mean, it's a lot. The question is, is it enough? All right. Paul, thank you so much for that reporting.
I want to go now to Gloria Borger, our Chief Political Analyst along with Shan Wu, former federal prosecutor.
So Gloria, let me start with you and you hear Paula just talking to Peter Navarro, who is defiant and full of insults and demeaning comments about others. It would seem for the Committee to do this now that they need something specific from Navarro. What are you hearing?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it would seem that way or in talking to sources familiar with what the Committee usually does in these situations, it may mean that they have some information that they've gleaned from other sources that are not reflected in the letter that they said to Navarro tonight.
Their letter was specific about the stuff he said publicly that worked with over a hundred members of Congress and this was his "Green Bay Sweep', as he talked about it, how they worked to overturn the election and that Trump was aware of it on board with this strategy.
So they may have other sources that are saying more to them and they want to hear from Navarro on it. As Paula said, he's not likely to cooperate. But I think they're just making this effort because they've got stuff from other places.
BURNETT: Right. Which I guess would obviously be very significant, do they need him to make for some information or would they just simply like him to put cherries on the top. Those things can be different, Shan, because Navarro is making it clear, he mocks and disdains the Committee, he will not cooperate.
And by the way, he has decent reason to believe that the bet of non cooperation would pay off. Steve Bannon refused to cooperate. He was indicted three months ago, nothing's happened so far that we know, isn't given the Committee anything. He continues his regular life podcasting, radio show ranting, spreading conspiracy theories every day. So where does the Navarro subpoena go, Shan?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think if he doesn't comply with it at all versus complying with it, showing up and then raising his arguments. That's one thing. If he doesn't comply with it at all, they should make a referral and the Justice Department should prosecute him for contempt.
Because it's worth remembering that the prosecution for contempt isn't really to force someone to talk, that's an investigative function, it's to enforce the law and that's what the Justice Department needs to be doing. They need to be enforcing the law here.
BURNETT: So Gloria, what does this say about where we are? Paula's talking about they've talked to more than 500 people. That's a lot of people.
BURNETT: And yet, when you look at documents that may be very important that have been shredded or destroyed, it may be that you have lots of pieces that fit together, but not sort of the linchpins that you need. I mean, where are they?
BORGER: We don't know. Look, they've interviewed huge numbers of people.
Some have come in over the transom saying they want to help, others have to be subpoenaed. I think you're waiting for the Justice Department to decide what to do, for example, with meadows, former chief of staff Mark Meadows. And we don't know the count of how many documents they have that they are going through. I am sure it is enormous.
And I think that's a huge task and I think in some of those documents, you may be seeing some of the stuff that Peter Navarro has not written about. And so I think we do have a long way to go, this is an arduous task and they are trying to reconstruct, not only the 187 minutes on the day of January 6 ...
BORGER: But also the days before, and the days after and who financed this. And so it is a huge, huge job and they know they have a ticking time clock, which is the election coming up. So I think they're working as fast as they can, but it's a huge job.
BURNETT: Yes, it's huge. And as you point out, the crucial questions are what exactly did Trump know or direct. These are the things that would really move the needle from some of the fundamental things that we knew from the beginning that they're working on.
So Shan, that brings me to the other reporting, which is the documents that Trump destroyed. The National Archives has asked the Department of Justice to investigate Trump's handling of White House Records. We know Trump turned over records have been torn up. It's been reported this week that Trump would go through certain file boxes and pull things out of specific files and rip specific pieces up, many of which we understand did not get taped back together. But there was a specificity and a method to what he was doing. What does all that mean to you? How likely is it that he could be prosecuted for that?
WU: Well, the likelihood really depends on the temperament of Garland's Justice Department. But the Justice Department in the past has and should continue to take these kinds of referrals from other federal agency very seriously. And again, it's part of their job to enforce the law to look at this, as Paul's reporting indicated, there's an intent, the question, that doesn't seem too hard to make, in this case, that intent requirement.
So they need to take that seriously and I think it's rather ironic about Navarro, asking way back when in this nonsense about the special prosecutor. Frankly, we need a special prosecutor to look at his high level investigations of these insiders, what Trump was doing. Because at the lower level, the actual attackers, that's got DOJ pretty busy and it's got the U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C., my old office is pretty busy, they may need a special team for a deeper dive.
BURNETT: It's an important point. I mean, you've got hundreds of people right now going through the justice system for what they actually did on that day in terms of violence. Thank you very much both. Appreciate it.
WU: Good to see you.
BURNETT: And next two leaders with two completely different takes on January 6. The divide between Trump and Mitch McConnell is now the divide in America's Republican Party.
Plus, we take you to Ukraine, where miles from the border, Russia is about to begin what will be one of their largest joint military exercises ever. You'll see.
And he was a devout Trump supporter participated in January 6th and his story you'll see only on OUTFRONT, he's actually starting to have a change of heart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So after January the 6th, I came here and I kept mumbling. I felt like I just got out of a cult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: New tonight, Trump slams Mitch McConnell, after the Senate Minority Leader said January 6th was a violent insurrection designed to, his words, prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election.
Trump slamming McConnell tonight saying in part, "Mitch McConnell does not speak for the Republican Party, and does not represent the views of the vast majority of its voters. He did nothing to fight for his constituents and stop the most fraudulent election in American history. If Mitch would have fought for the election, like the Democrats would have if in the same position, we would not be discussing any of the above today, and our country would be STRONG and PROUD instead of weak and embarrassed." OUTFRONT now, Dan Eberhart, a major and longtime GOP donor. All right.
Dan, I appreciate your time. So let's just start with where we are here. I know who you want to be speaking for, the Republican Party, but in your true heart of hearts, when you look at it, who do you believe actually is speaking for the Republican Party right now, Sen. McConnell or Donald Trump?
DAN EBERHART, GOP DONOR: Well, in a lot of ways, I think Donald Trump is actually speaking for the Republican Party, but I think maybe Mitch McConnell should be, given Trump's quote there. Look, the point is we want to win elections in the primary, we also want to win elections in the general. And I think this continued focus on looking in the rearview mirror, looking in the past is not where we're going. It is not what's best for the Republican Party and I think Mitch McConnell in his heart of hearts knows that focusing on 2022 and 2024 is the path the Republicans need to be focusing on.
BURNETT: So it comes as we're learning, Dan, that the former Vice President Pence did actually not initially intend to publicly say Trump was wrong about - to say that Pence could overturn the election. Obviously, that's what he said in his speech and he literally said Donald Trump is wrong.
But apparently he wasn't planning to go quite that far, two people close to Pence are saying that the reason he had actually did that was because Trump made a couple of very critical and nasty statements about Pence and those were the final straw. Then Pence said, all right, you know what, I'm going to come out much stronger here.
And then after pence actually did it, right, he did it because Trump pushed him over the line, but he hadn't been planning to and then Republican lawmakers and donor surprised Pence, because they started to call him. He got all these phone calls about it, saying great job from people that publicly aren't saying that. Is that what you're hearing in GOP circles?
EBERHART: Yes. I've talked to a couple of people that were - well, I've talked to many people that were kind of like let their hair down, breathe a sigh of relief, really appreciated Pence's courage in saying those words. And I know two people specifically that he reached out to Mike Pence directly to thank him for that.
But I think to me the whole thing goes to - Pence has been backed up into a corner many, many times and has a stiff upper lip or been silent or been pro Trump every single time. So to see the little bit of relenting of the tape, a little bit of opening the door, the little bit of opening the window here shows that to me there's life in the democracy, there's life in Republican Party post Trump despite what people think, again despite the massiveness of Trump.
BURNETT: So in this context, I got to ask you a thing that really stood out to me, Dan, I don't know if you saw this, but the retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg said something. He, of course, was Pence's former national security adviser. So he comes out today in response to another aide to both Trump and Pence in the White House, Alyssa Farah Griffin who's now a CNN contributor.
She tweeted, "Put me squarely in the Pence-McConnell camp. Certain denunciation must be unequivocal." So Kellogg sees that and he responds to the tweet. And his response is and I quote him, "As midterms draw close to 2024 looms, large choices will have to be made and lines will be drawn. For me, it is Trump."
And of course, you know, Dan, he told the January six committee key information that was very damaging to Trump. He came out and answered all the questions honestly. He said Trump personally tried to coerce Pence into overturning the election. Yet he says, for me, it is Trump, referring to 2024. What do you say to that?
EBERHART: Well, I'll say that, look, we've all got to have our courage and we've all got to have the point that breaks us and makes us want to stand up and say, look, this is enough, this is enough. We've got to start over. We've got to look other what directions the country will move on.
And I think that a lot of these people, they - look, everybody's looking for the Trump comeback. I'm looking for the Trump comeback. I think it's entirely possible and I wouldn't want to be buying in rematch right now for sure. But, but, but, all these people want to be in Trump universe and what does he value more than anything, loyalty. And they want to be in Trump's good graces should he come back into power in 2024.
And there's a world still - there's a huge percentage of the Republican Party that still thinks that, still fears that, still wants to be a part of Trump resurrection in 2024. And I guess he just put down (inaudible) ...
BURNETT: He sure did. It certainly appears clear. All right. Dan, thanks.
EBERHART: Thank you.
BURNETT: Next, Putin putting out a list of demands tonight that he wants before he would consider pulling back from Ukraine, wait till you hear what it is.
And a story you will see only OUTFRONT tonight, you're going to meet a Trump supporter who participated in January 6th and then afterwards called the Stop the Steal movement occult, so what happened? How was he able to break free from the cult and its agenda?
BURNETT: Tonight, Vladimir Putin just hours away from conducting some of Russia's largest joint military exercises since the Cold War, Putin sending his top military brass to Belarus to oversee the joint operations. This as 2,000 more Russian combat forces have now taken a position along Ukraine's border in just the past 24 hours. This troop count they said is going to be heading close to 170,000. They haven't said exactly where they are yet, but that's where it's heading in 2,000 in one day show it's still building.
And it comes as we're getting an up close look at Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines. Alex Marquardt is OUTFRONT tonight in eastern Ukraine.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Flying low over the Ukrainian countryside, this Soviet era military plane heads toward the border with Russia. We traveled here with senior Ukrainian officials and military leaders to get a sense of the mood and preparations where Russian troops are the closest, near Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. This is Avdiivka, where many of these Ukrainian troops who are mostly young men have been fighting Russian- backed forces on this cold and desolate front.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go. Go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT (voice over): They're eager to show us how they've been living and fighting here in a conflict involving Russia that has been largely forgotten, but which has taken over 14,000 lives in the past eight years, according to the United Nations. Ivan has been here the whole time. Like the other soldiers here, he says they're confident they could face a new Russian invasion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVAN: So, of course, we're ready for some bad situation and basically we wait here.
MARQUARDT (on camera): Do you think that will happen, this situation?
IVAN: I don't know believe I don't know what's in the head of the guys that's in that territory.
MARQUARDT: But for you, the war has already started.
IVAN: Of course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT (voice over): We're taken to the farthest point forward where sandbags and tires are piled high, then ...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT (on camera): So there was just a burst of what sounded like automatic gunfire. We are just 70 meters, we are told from the fighters on the other side of the frontline.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT (voice over): We're rushed away, our escort is keen for us to see what happens, but not too closely.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT (voice over): Hearing this gunfire and being so close to this front line, you can't help but think that even if diplomacy succeeds in preventing Russia from invading Ukraine, yet again, this fighting which has been raging since the last time Russia invaded, Ukraine will almost certainly continue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT (voice over): NATO leaders say that ending the fighting already happening here is a critical part of preventing further Russian aggression. With NATO, so far, refusing to send troops to Ukraine to fight, Ukraine insists it needs more help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But an important issue, what they need is additional weapons assistance from the West, from our Western allies. Financial assistance. That's what we need to make sure that we will defend not only peace in this country but peace in Europe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT (voice over): As if to punctuate their point, more gunfire rings out.
MARQUARDT (on camera): Now, Ukraine has been receiving regular shipments of weapons from amongst others, the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Just today, the U.K. sent another shipment of weapons.
But, Erin, as you heard in that piece, they say they need more. Two senior Ukrainian generals today telling me they need air defense systems, anti-aircraft weapons that could be used against Russian helicopters and planes if Russia decides to invade.
The commander of Ukraine's ground forces tells me that they had made this request clear to the Biden administration, but they have yet to get a firm answer -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Alex, thank you very much. Live from Ukraine tonight.
And I want to go now to Evelyn Farkas. She's the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia and Ukraine and Eurasia in the Obama administration.
Also with me tonight, retired Major General Spider Marks, who is ahead of geopolitical strategy now at Academy Securities.
All right. Welcome back to both. So, General Marks, when you hear that Ukrainian soldier on the front
lines speaking to Alex said, for you the war has already started. The soldier's replay, of course.
Do you see Putin ending this, General, without taking more Ukrainian territory?
RETIRED MAJ. GEN. SPIDER MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Not at all. I think there is a possibility for a negotiated settlement. I am not saying when the conditions are right ripe for that. But Putin is certainly not going to walk away without a win.
So I would see some type of further incursion if you will into the Donbas region as a minimum for Putin to say, okay, now let's have a conversation about what the next step is.
BURNETT: Of course, you know, in doing that, definitionally that is violating the United States red line, this incursion. You're back to this fundamental problem.
Evelyn, an administration official tells CNN that in the past 24 hours, Russia has added about 2,000 combat forces to border areas near Ukraine. That number is going up and up. I don't have the exact count right now, but they have said they expect 3,000 more to come in. You know, these numbers are getting up, 150,000, 170,000 in terms of estimates of who will be there, if not now, then soon.
Two thousand in just one day. Two weeks ago, you told me you thought an invasion was 80 percent likely. Given what we are seeing day in, day out, how do you feel now?
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASST. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE & EURASIA: Well, Erin, I think you made the case. Nothing has changed, in fact, Vladimir Putin escalated the situation. But I'm going to stand firm at 80 percent and when I say you know an incursion or invasion, any type of military operation against Ukraine.
I would agree with the general that is most likely that Vladimir Putin will go and try to seize the territory in the Donbas. That is the territory where the war has been ongoing and over 13,000 people have lost their lives, where your contributor, your correspondent was reporting from. And that's, he could use that as leverage to try to force an agreement on the Ukrainians.
There has been this so-called Minsk process that the French and the Germans have been spearheading. It's going nowhere because it's not a very fair process to the Ukrainians. But the Russians could decide to kind of tip the scales their way by seizing that territory.
I am afraid to say, I do hope for negotiation. I think there is a possibility. But it's still more likely than not that they will use their forces.
BURNETT: You know, it's all very sobering. You do have to judge on acts at some point, right, actions is not just standing there, it's adding and adding and General Marks are now hours away from these massive military exercises, which both sides are holding up at the same time. Obviously, that has its own potential parallel attached it to.
But how closely are you watching the exercises, themselves, what they do, what happens?
MARKS: Erin, the thing you see with this deployment of this size, first of all, it has all the combined elements that you would see in a combined arms team. That is you got heavy armor, you got artillery, which the Russians use in abundance, artillery, rockets, in logistics. You also have a joint force. You now have naval forces in the Black Sea.
So when you look at this capability, what it tells you is, Putin has the capability to execute an invasion tonight, to be determined what it looks like in size and scope. But he's got the capability. Bear in mind that if he wanted to completely absorb all of Ukraine, number one, that would be a ghastly engagement. It would take a heck of a lot of time.
But he'd need a force of about 800,000. He doesn't have the size in his militarily. You look at that time size of Ukraine, he'd need a much larger force than he has presently arrayed. So it lends itself to a limited incursion. Still, it's an incursion.
BURNETT: That is significant context. Evelyn, Russia put out this list of conditions it says, must do these in order to have any kind of de-escalation, deliveries to Ukraine must be halted.
Western military advisors and instructors removed from Ukraine, all joint military exercises between Ukraine and NATO must end. All previously delivered shipments of foreign weaponry to Kyiv must be taken out of the Ukrainian territory. OK, that one on its own, that's not going to happen.
So, are these demands anything that could be met even logistically?
FARKAS: Okay. Erin, I am rolling my eyes. It's absurd. I mean, they're asking for unilateral disarmament. They're asking the Ukrainians, don't defend your territory, just roll over, and play dead, and you the rest of the world, let us have our way with a de- militarized Ukraine.
It's untenable. I mean, it's -- but it goes to show that you they can't really be serious about negotiating if these are the kind of demands that they're making.
BURNETT: Yeah. It's pretty stunning, as you said, right, get all the weapons out and we'll sit there with a few hundred soldiers on the borders and watch nicely.
Thank you both very much. I appreciate your perspective.
FARKAS: Thank you. BURNETT: And next, more blue states ending their mask mandates. But
the White House is saying, no, it's too soon.
Plus a story you will see only OUTFRONT tonight, a Trump supporter who after January 6th called the stop the steal movement a cult after being there January 6th. So what happens when we follow him back to a Trump rally?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a drug because I'm going to get one of these patriotic t-shirts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, the White House says students and teachers should follow CDC guidelines to wear masks in the classroom. There is a growing number of Democratic governors announce plans to well go the other way, drop mandates for schools.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: If you are a parent, a teacher, a student living in a state where that is no longer recommended, should you still follow the CDC guidelines?
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes.
LEE: So even if the state is not requiring you wear masks in the schools?
PSAKI: This is where we would advise any Americans to follow the CDC guidelines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York. He is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which helps elect Democrats to the House.
So, this is a critical year for you and a crucial issue for you, Congressman.
So, the White House today, you got to different them credit, they're not wavering, dancing around it. They're taking a side. They're blunt. They're telling schools, listen to the CDC which says mask up, not the six governors this week who said it's safe to drop masks in schools, Democratic governors.
Do you think the White House is missing this one?
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): No. I think the president has done a tremendous job on getting shots in arms, of making sure we have better therapeutics and testing and that the vaccines are widely distributed and available.
And by the way, I think the distinction is still -- in New York at least, the governor is waiting to see, you know, what no do about school mandates. But I think the larger issue of whether there should be blanket mandates for businesses and other public areas is a step that here in New York, we feel comfortable taking because of the success of the president's policies, because of the success of responsible people doing the right thing.
And masks, of course, will continue to play a role and everyone should feel free to wear one, especially if you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable. To issue mandates is one where I think we can stop mandating it.
BURNETT: Right. Right. I understand the word "mandate" is important. But again, the question was, if you are a (president or a teacher or a student, where masks are no longer recommend, should you still wear a mask to follow the CDC guideline? The answer from Jen Psaki was categorical. Yes.
You know, which brings me to you know and we both know, governors in six states have announced they're dropping the mask mandates, they're going against the CDC. Those are the red states, they're actually not red states. They're blue states. But they're red on this map.
Nine in yellow have not dropped formally school mask mandates. But all but one are led by Democratic governors. The Republicans seized on this as you know.
The House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has picked up on this, as a big push for Republicans to take over the House, and he said this to our Manu Raju today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-KY): Kids are still wearing masks in school. You have prices continuing to rise, new inflation numbers. Those are all the challenges people are worried about each around every day. Those are the things I'm focused on here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Congressman, are you concerned about how the double standard on masks may come off?
BURNETT: Where they are required in schools for kids, not for adults in the same states that that will hurt Democrats?
MALONEY: No, no, I personally believe we are very close if not already at a place, particularly in states like New York, where you don't need a mandate in schools or anywhere else.
MALONEY: I do believe with cases dropping precipitously, with the success of vaccines. You know you are 97 times less likely to die if you are vaccinated and boosted. Where masks are very effective at protecting you even if the other person is unmasked, which means --
MALONEY: -- kids and parents can make decisions for themselves as can business owners and the rest of us.
That is a function of the people doing the responsible thing, no thanks to Kevin McCarthy by the way or folks who have fought us every step of the way on responsible measures that have brought us to this point. To this point, yes, we can move beyond mandates.
BURNETT: OK. You know, I just want to be clear, what you are saying is not what the White House is saying. It's not the CDC is saying. I know you're saying maybe they're going to get there, but they're not there right now. And --
MALONEY: Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I think there is a distinction that's important if I may. Which is that the CDC is saying that masks make sense. That's not the same thing as mandating masks. There is a difference. Masks have always made sense in certain situations.
BURNETT: Right. But they're saying that people should wear masks to schools and people should wear masks in schools. I understand your use of the word "mandate". They're telling parents --
MALONEY: But again, that's very important.
That's very important. People who have co-morbidities, immune suppressed, nervous about it should wear masks.
BURNETT: OK, that's true, but that's not the experience that kids are getting in school right now. They are required to wear masks.
MALONEY: And I think that in a state like New York, we can stop mandating it and we can leave these decisions to parents or local school boards, but the lowest level of government possible. I do think this is not a one size fits all situation any more.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you because -- I understand your plan, I'm sorry, I don't mean to cut you off. We are short on time. I do want to ask you one other question. It is this.
BURNETT: We know this is a hot button issue around people are passionate about it. So, now, if these rules really change and they change soon, it may no longer be a political story for you at the midterms. Right now, it actually is.
You know, we've done a lot of stories on it. We talked to a registered Democrat in Ohio, a mother, many others, but I just want to quote this specific woman.
She said, if you told me two years ago, I would be alienated from the Democratic Party, I would not believed it. Like why is my son who's double vaccinated and already had corona is masking 40 hours a week when no one else is our society. He's low risk. That's another thing. I think Democrats have been way too dogmatic about that.
Do you have time to earn her vote back?
MALONEY: Look, it's always the right time to do the right thing. I think that in the past, there was a place for very serious and emergency public health measures, which have made us all safer. But now the point is, in a state like New York, with case rates dropping through the floor, with effective therapeutics and testing and vaccines, with mask wearing, if you want it, there is no reason for mandates at this point.
If things change, we can change back. But right now, we should free as many people from these restrictions, including people like that viewer. And if the politics fall short, the point is it's the right thing to do.
We have all been through a lot. We should not continue these extraordinary mandates one second longer than necessary. And in a state like New York, the evidence is pretty good that we can do something better.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, congressman. I appreciate your time. Good to see you.
MALONEY: Good to see you. Thank you.
BURNETT: All right. Next, meet a Trump supporter at the Capitol on January 6th. But in a story you will see only here, see why he is now calling the stop the steal movement a cult.
BURNETT: Tonight, a Trump supporter reversing course after participating in January 6th in the stop the steal rallies. He is now comparing the movement to a cult.
Elle Reeve is OUTFRONT with his story in tonight's "Inside Look".
KEITH SCOTT, TRUMP SUPPORTER: January 6th, 2021, it was greatest day of my life.
ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Why?
SCOTT: I felt like a patriot that that was standing beside our Founding Fathers, speaking up against King George. I felt like Braveheart.
REEVE (voice-over): We first met Keith Scott at a small rally on the anniversary of January 6th. He told us he spent months after the 2020 election living in his car and going to every "stop the steal" rally. Now he is carrying the huge flag calling the movement a cult. But leaving a cult, whether real or metaphorical, is messy.
SCOTT: If something was posted saying that there is a rally, like I was not in control. I was going, no matter what. How do I get caught up in this? I have never been to a Trump rally. You know, I wasn't one of those people.
REEVE: The whole crew for this interview was also at Jan 6th, we had the same question. How did so many people get to a place where they were willing to commit crimes to stop a democratic election, all while calling themselves patriots?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They maced me. They pushed me out and they maced me.
REEVE: So we spent four hours listening to every detail of Keith's political journey.
SCOTT: At the time I lived in Georgia. I get there on Election Day and there were already a couple cars in the parking lot. A record turnout that they say that there was in Fulton County, Georgia, which is the county I voted in, it didn't happen.
REEVE: Wasn't there a significant amount of early voting?
SCOTT: In that demographic, it's a poor area. It's predominantly a black area. You will never be able convince me they were sitting around watching CNN and Fox News and all these things and that's what they were most concerned about was the election and getting their ballot in. If you ask people, is Joe Biden going to get more of the Black vote than Barack Obama? People would say no and Biden supposedly did. It doesn't make any sense.
REEVE: Right, but the picture is one I'm interested in, which is, that you have skepticism about the Black vote in this election. Why is it seems to me you said you lived in a Black area and half of those people didn't pay attention to the election. Why did you think you would be able to pay attention to that and black people wouldn't?
SCOTT: I don't think that everyone is interested in politics like I am. It's not necessarily about racial lines.
REEVE: Trump himself has repeated this same trope. It's a quip, not fact.
In 2008, an estimated 95 percent of Black voters voted for Obama f. 2020, 92 percent voted for Biden.
But lies like this one were repeated until it seems like cold hard truth as Keith drove from protest to protest in stop the steal group. I'm not like trying to say are you a bad person or like you would use
a racial slur. What I'm trying to get at is you might not be sensitive to the big picture about what it looks like disputing votes only in places where most of the voters are people of color, and that people of color might take some offense to that.
SCOTT: That's not what stop the steal was about and --
REEVE: Stop the steal was the about those votes don't count? Some of those votes don't count, not your vote, but someone else's.
SCOTT: I'm not going to be painted into this narrative that you are trying to go down this rabbit hole. I'm kind of done with the racial part of this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the party of Trump.
SCOTT: I got introduced to all the people that I've never heard of that week in Georgia.
I remember Nick Fuentes being there, Alex Jones being there, Ali Alexander, the founder of Stop the Steal. I actually met the leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, he was really nice. He's not a really big guy. He's a little bigger than me.
REEVE: Here's what's interesting, is that like these small groups who have always been on the fringe sees a mass movement and they --
SCOTT: Yes, 100 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the crowd is going wild.
SCOTT: The movement was growing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is mountains of evidence. This election was a fraud on America.
SCOTT: Sidney Powell was going to come out. Everybody fell like she is the one that is going to unveil all the evidence, of election fraud. But the people that were giving evidence of election fraud is the same message we had heard a day before, weeks before, but it was like it's coming. It's going to be revealed. Like keeping us, keeping us holding on for the next breath.
REEVE: All that energies with released, January 6th. Keith saw what we saw, but he didn't take the same lesson.
SCOTT: I felt like a proud patriot on that day. It's not popular to say, but that's what I felt like. Then just some crazy fight scenes started happening.
REEVE: Did you think are we the bad guys?
SCOTT: I thought this doesn't end well. REEVE: What made you realize this was a cult? This is deeply immoral
behavior. It is not patriotic either.
SCOTT: So after January the 6th, I came here, I kept mumbling, I felt like I just got out of a cult.
REEVE: What makes him frustrated is that though he calls it a cult, he still believes much of the cult's propaganda and still excuses its actions. Because our crew was in the middle of the violence, it's hard not to have Keith say it's association and it was wrong. Which isn't fair, no one with power said they were sorry.
SCOTT: It was a lot of self analysis to get over the trauma of January 6th, itself, and the things that I saw on both sides.
REEVE: I do not understand how you can pick sides, it seems like a really clear side.
SCOTT: The things that I saw were bad, regardless of which side are you on is what I'm saying. There is nothing illegal about watching a fight that's happening. That's not -- that's not illegal.
REEVE: You were part of a mob that's storming the Capitol. In some sense, it is illegal. It's immoral.
SCOTT: But I wasn't doing anything wrong.
REEVE: You were a part of the crowd. Your very presence was giving them support.
SCOTT: You're a part of the crowd as well.
REEVE: I was a journalist. They're screaming in my face.
SCOTT: I was a citizen there I think we are getting side tracked.
REEVE: I think actually this is at the heart of the question. This is the problem of a mob. It absolves people of their moral culpability, like I was just one person.
SCOTT: I want to be clear the people that actually had you know physical confrontations with police officers, they should be held accountable for that.
REEVE: Do you think the leaders who made these promises, that they couldn't keep, that there would be evidence that would change the results of the election, do you think they bear responsibility for the mob that stormed the Capitol?
SCOTT: No, I don't. They created have a grassroots movement, stop the steal. I realize I had been addicted to the politics. I created this reverence for the leaders of stop the steal. I felt I was, which is more than ironic looking back, helping prevent a second civil war.
REEVE: He is writing a book that he says people got addicted to Trump the way he did. We followed him around to see if he can get through. SCOTT: How are you doing, patriot?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, how are you doing, man?
SCOTT: Good. I know you don't remember me. I saw you several times last year. Right now, it's like a drug, because I'm going to get one of these patriotic t-shirts.
REEVE: Keith was nervous he'd get yelled at and rejected by the people who were once his allies, and that is what happened.
SCOTT: I was at the Capitol on January 6th and my book is about all the stuff that I saw at Stop the Steal rally, then how --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you get contacted by the FBI?
SCOTT: Not yet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You plead the Fifth.
SCOTT: I get that a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it's true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN?
SCOTT: Yeah, yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I have nothing -- I mean, that is the definition of fake news, I don't care about your book and I prefer to you go away.
REEVE: How'd that go?
REEVE: Are they in the cult?
SCOTT: So, first of all, just their demeanor and the way that by my flag and by CNN, how they were just completely triggered. I guess I feel like I'm going to take incoming fire from both sides as the marketing continues.
REEVE: And you just switched from the cult to being a grifter.
SCOTT: I'm losing money by doing this, honestly, I can have a great business career doing something else. I don't have this big political message that I'm trying to promote. I'm not out here trying to make a bunch of money. I mean, I make money, that's cool.
I've taken a year of my life writing this book.
REEVE: If you are not here no make a political point, what's your -- what's your point at all?
SCOTT: My point is I'm doing this to look out for people. I met people on my Stop the Steal journey that lost their job because they were going to go to the rally no matter what. People that were estranged from their family, whether it's politics or something else, don't get so caught off that are you not making your own decisions anymore.
BURNETT: Elle, it's so stupendous, it was so insightful and, of course, you know, you present that in such a way we could see your frustration, too. So tell me, you have someone that says, it's a cult. I'm not going to be in it anymore. But I still believe in the tenets of the cult.
I mean, did you learn more about why the idea that the election was stolen still has a hold over somebody, they would say, well, it's a cult, but I believe in the core belief of the cult?
REEVE: There is a lot of social pressure. Polls show a majority of Republicans view the election was stolen even if they didn't take it to this extreme. Keith told us that he felt he mattered and he was a part of history and made a ton of friends while doing it.
So when we followed him to a Trump rally, you could tell on his face that he knew by questioning these beliefs even just a little bit, that he wasn't a part of the group anymore. He was sad about it.
BURNETT: Yeah, that was sort of an amazing moment. I mean, how did that feel watching that happen? A
REEVE: I mean, I kind of actually liked him having to feel what we feel in these rallies, to be on the other side and to see what it's like.
BURNETT: Yeah. Well, fantastic, and thank you so very much for sharing it with us. Elle, thank you.
It's time now for "AC360."