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Ethics Cmte: Allegations Against Gaetz "Merit Continued Review"; Fauci: It Was "Painful" To Correct Trump On COVID; Melinda French Gates: Women Must Turn Out In November. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 18, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: We just got a rare and rather unusual statement from the House Ethics Committee about its investigation into Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz. While the three-year probe into possible sexual misconduct and drug use, among other things, is still going strong, it looks like he may be off the hook for bribery and sharing inappropriate images or videos on the House floor.

I want to read you part of the statement that just came out. "There has been a significant and unusual amount of public reporting on the committee's activities this Congress. Much of that reporting has been inaccurate. Based on its review to date, the committee has determined that certain of the allegations merit continued review.

During the course of its investigation, the committee has also identified additional allegations that merit review. Accordingly, the committee is reviewing allegations that Representative Matt Gaetz may have engaged in sexual misconduct and illicit drug use, accepted improper gifts, dispensed special privileges and favors to individuals with whom he had a personal relationship, and sought to obstruct government investigations of his conduct."

I'm going to go to CNN Congressional Reporter, Annie Grayer, who has been covering this. Annie, first, I just want to say that we don't hear from the Ethics Committee very much while they are doing a probe. They usually announce it, and they close it, and nothing in between. That's why this is so rare. Explain to our viewers what prompted this statement.

ANNIE GRAYER, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, the committee, Dana, kind of lays out what prompted this. And there's been a lot of reporting around this investigation is a very high profile case. There are a lot of eyeballs on it and people are eager to see what's going on behind the scenes as the committee's been investigating the congressman for over a couple years now.

But yesterday, Congressman Gaetz put out a statement himself making claims about the investigation and calling it frivolous. So this could be, Dana, the committee's attempt to set the record straight here. And it really lays out an investigative roadmap of where the committee has been, what allegations around the congressman they're no longer looking into and what allegations they're going to be focused on.

As you mentioned from their statement, it includes allegations of sexual misconduct against the congressman. Now, Congressman Gaetz denies any wrongdoing here. He has -- he claims that this is all because he tried to -- he ousted Kevin McCarthy last year and that this whole investigation is payback for that. Kevin McCarthy has denied that and there's no evidence of this.

But the investigations, Dana, into Congressman Gaetz have been sprawling for many years now. The Department of Justice investigated Gates for a number of years, and closed their criminal investigation last year without bringing any charges. But Ethics Committee's statement today shows that they still have a lot of work to do investigating the congressman, and for the first time, we're really getting into a window -- getting a window into where this work has been and where it's going.

BASH: Yes, he certainly seemed to invite this unusual statement with his -- with Gaetz's own statement yesterday. Also, I think that if it's been going on for three years, the investigation preceded the ousting of Kevin McCarthy. But, you know, math isn't my strong suit.

Annie, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

And coming up, the doctors are in. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is talking to Dr. Anthony Fauci about his five decades in public health and all the hate and political drama that came with it. That's next.



BASH: Stick with the science, that's been Dr. Anthony Fauci's mantra throughout his more than five decades in public health. Sometimes it led people to call him an American hero. Others, it made him -- they demonized him and threatened him for doing his job.

CNN's Sanjay Gupta spoke to Dr. Fauci about his new book, a memoir of his time in government. Sanjay, thank you so much. It's always great to see you.


BASH: Seven presidents. He advised seven presidents, usually behind the scenes, then Donald Trump came along, then the COVID pandemic came along. What did he tell you about that time?

GUPTA: Well, it was very different than the previous, you know, 50 years or so that he'd been doing this. And, you know, even though he's been behind the scenes a lot, you remember anthrax and Zika and Ebola and H1N1. You heard about Dr. Fauci. He was out there talking about these things. But these press briefings during the COVID pandemic, even going back to the spring of 2020, all of a sudden, things felt very different.

There was a collision between politics and science, which had existed before, to be fair, but much stronger collision this time. He talked about a specific episode in March of 2020.


GUPTA: You talk about this interesting press briefing that you did. This is in March of 2020. And you had to correct the record, even if the president was talking. And first of all, how challenging is it?


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, FORMER CHIEF WHITE HOUSE MEDICAL ADVISER: I said to myself, I have a responsibility to preserve my own personal integrity and a responsibility to the American public, regardless of what administration. I've been responsible to the American public when I first came here half a century ago, and I'm responsible to the American public now.

So when I walked up to the podium, I said, here it goes, Dr. Fauci, the president just said that hydroxychloroquine is, you know, the end all. And I'll say, no, I'm really sorry, but that's anecdotal and there's no information that it actually works. That was painful to me to have to do that, but there was no doubt that I had to do it.

I mean, it wasn't like, well, maybe you shouldn't, maybe you should. There was no doubt that I had to do it.


BASH: So interesting.

GUPTA: You may remember, Dana, that image of him standing at the lectern, President Trump is sort of over his right shoulder, looking down on him. What was interesting, and this comes up in the book, was that after that, they leave the briefing room. He thinks President Trump's really angry with him. They walk out, and then President Trump says, come over here, they walk into another room where there's all these TV screens, and President Trump says to him, take a look at these ratings, they're amazing.

So he wasn't, you know, Dr. Fauci did not get the impression the president was angry with him, but was more fascinated by how fascinated the American people were with what was happening with these press briefings. So it gave you a behind the scenes sort of look at two things sort of simultaneously.

BASH: Really interesting. You mentioned some of the public health emergencies, anthrax, Ebola, that did put him in public. The first time he was out in public and really ran into some of the political challenges that he had to endure for his career here in Washington was when he was trying to get his arms around the HIV/AIDS situation. You talked about that but also through the prism of raw politics.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, people, you know, this was back in the 80s and people don't -- many people don't know this about his life. But even back during the 80s with HIV/AIDS, there was, you know, this furious push. Can we find new therapeutics? Let's work on a vaccine, but also the activists. People were burning effigies of him, Dana, as you might remember, but he reflects on that very differently than what happened and what is happening during COVID. Take a listen.


FAUCI: It is as different as peanuts and watermelons. I mean, it just is very different because the activists were trying to get the attention of the authorities, the scientific authorities and the regulatory authorities, that the time proven way of approaching the development of interventions for a new disease doesn't work well for a disease that's rapidly killing themselves and their friends and their loved ones.

My interaction and my response to them, as I often get asked, is dramatically different than someone on the basis of no evidence accuses you of killing people or that scene of Marjorie Taylor Greene at the hearing. I mean, come on. That is nothing like what the activists were doing.


GUPTA: He called it good trouble, right, like John Lewis, that's what he called it back in the HIV/AIDS days versus what he's seeing now. You know, I just tell you, Dana, I've interviewed him so many times over the last couple of decades. He is 83 years old. He is sharp.

You know, we're talking a lot about age recently. It's kind of amazing. He wrote this memoir. He's a distinguished professor at Georgetown. He doesn't plan on retiring anytime soon, Dana.

BASH: Yes, you can tell how incredibly sharp he is. And you were right. You told me before the segment began that this is a very different Anthony Fauci than we've seen before --


BASH: -- just in terms of his ability to speak freely and we saw it. Thanks for bringing it to us, Sanjay. Appreciate it.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

BASH: And to hear even more of Sanjay's interview with Dr. Fauci, please listen to a new episode of "Chasing Life" wherever you get your podcasts.

And our fantastic reporters are back here. I mean, just why not? Let's play a little soundbite of that moment that Dr. Fauci was talking about. Who can forget it? But roll the tape.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection?


BASH: I mean, it's like seared into all of our minds, right?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: End of the day press conference, every day of those early days of COVID, right? And this moment stands out because of Dr. Fauci standing up and discrediting the president, fact checking him in real time at this press conference.


I was just sitting in the room last week when Fauci came before the Republicans and their oversight over the COVID pandemic. And, you know, it struck me even then that he seemed -- his responses have always been sharp and quick, but he did seem even more unencumbered in his ability to talk about these issues, to remind people that, yes, maybe there were differences.

Maybe looking back, some things could have been done differently better. But he said you have to remember the number of people who are dying every single day. We were making snap judgments to try to save lives, even if the science, we just didn't have it all at the moment.

BASH: And we have to remember that the political campaign obviously came smack in the middle of that and how much of the -- it wasn't all of the intention -- intentionality of the voters but it was there. I mean, people were -- had been in the middle of a lockdown for several months.

And just to look at the difference between then and now. Now just the question by Gallup, do you believe that COVID-19 pandemic is over? Democrats, 41 percent, Republicans, 79 percent, Independents, 63 percent. It's definitely -- I mean, people are still getting COVID. I know someone who just -- my cousin just got it yesterday, but it's definitely not the same. All encompassing, all consuming.

Thank goodness, thank goodness for that.


BASH: But when it comes to the political conversation.

NICHOLS: You know, I don't think 2024 will be a relitigation of COVID in 2020. You saw a little bit of that happen in 2022, and that partly explains, I think, DeSantis's sort of impressive results. I think a lot of that was voters, at least in Florida, appreciated his approach to COVID. We can argue, and epidemiologists can argue on whether or not that was the right approach.

What -- the question I would have for Dr. Fauci there in that, in the Sanjay Gupta interview is like, what were the close calls, right? He said it was a -- it was really easy to correct the president there, and we've all probably had that in our own lives, right?


BASH: Yes.

BARRON-LOPEZ: With the president.

NICHOLS: But he said there's no doubt in his mind what he did.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right, right.

NICHOLS: Like if I obviously misspeak right now, I suspect all three of you will correct me and correct me delicately and graciously.


NICHOLS: But what are the close ones? And that's the one -- those are the questions I have in mind.

BASH: And just real quick before we go to break. I just -- I said it's not a part of the discussion. RFK Jr. is certainly -- his candidacy is in part hangover from the steps that Donald Trump took in in 2020 agreeing to shut things down.

BARRON-LOPEZ: That's right. And he's also a vaccine denier --

BASH: Right.

BARRON-LOPEZ: -- you know, anti-vaccine person, despite the fact that, you know, how many stories did we hear in the middle of the pandemic or as we were going into the election of people on their deathbed saying, I wish I had taken the vaccine, but they didn't because of the lies that were spewed by Republicans and people like RFK Jr., that these vaccines were not effective at all in helping, you know, people have a more manageable illness if they contracted the disease.

BASH: All right, everybody --

BARRON-LOPEZ: The virus.

BASH: Thank you. Coming up, she has more than $13 billion and knows how she wants to use it. Melinda French Gates is forging her own path. She has a new plan to disrupt society and influence politics and public policy with her massive philanthropy. That's next.



BASH: "I am trying to disrupt society. I'm trying to change social norms." That's Melinda French Gates's message as she moves into a new phase of her philanthropy, rather, after leaving the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And the cover of Time Magazine puts it very simply. She'll do it her way.

She tells Time Magazine that she's more pro-choice than she thought and plans to fund abortion rights groups, something the Gates Foundation never did. It's also why she plans to vote for Joe Biden and increase her political giving. Here's what she told CBS News.


MELINDA FRENCH GATES, PHILANTHROPIST: I believe so strongly in women's rights in this country, and we have absolutely seen a rollback in the last two years. And we are not seeing good progress on maternal mortality in this country. We're not seeing good progress on women's wellbeing. So I'm stepping up my political giving alongside my charitable, because I think we can move things like paid family medical leave further if I'm doing both.


BASH: She has a net worth of $13.3 billion, according to Bloomberg. And Melinda French Gates has a lot more giving to do. Let's talk about this with all of you. This -- when you hear about big donors, obviously, we know about the Gates Foundation, and we know about the fact that she wants to give her very big bank account away.

But we think about it as a way to influence whatever company you have, whatever industry you have. What she's doing is to try to, as she says, disrupt society and to influence society, particularly for women, to make it easier for women to live in America and in the global society. And she certainly -- she said she's going to vote for Joe Biden because of reproductive rights.

But she has given to, and I'm told she will continue to give to Republicans and Democrats, depending on how they act on these issues like paid family, medical family leave.

NICHOLS: Yes, I think we know where most of the two parties aren't paid family, medical leave. I think when we tabulate all her known donations, right, because she can give to Super PACs and give to 501(c)(4s) and we'll never know how much she gives.


But I suspect when we look at -- just listening to her when she tabulates, when we tabulate how much her total giving is for the 2024 campaign, I suspect most of it will be for Democrats. I also suspect their inbox is full with Democratic solicitation for emails because she has so much money and she can influence real races with real contributions.

FOX: But I think about issues like guns, right? And there has been very little progress on gun control over the course of the last decade. But the dynamic has shifted, right? The money and influence that groups that are trying to rein in gun rights, what they have been able to do over the course of the last decade, it's impressive.

And I think that where the money is does eventually shift public policy, even if it's not overnight, even if it's not this election or the next one.

BASH: Yes. Real quick?

BARRON-LOPEZ: I just think very quickly, she's clearly focused on reproductive rights. Abortion is going to be a major factor in this election cycle, despite the poll that we saw earlier that showed that others were ahead of it in the poll (ph).

BASH: She is absolutely fascinating. I'm excited to see where this path takes her. Thank you so much.

Thank you for joining INSIDE POLITICS. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after the break.