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In Wake of Democrat Victories in Georgia, Republicans Pass Voting Restrictions; Interview with Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO); President Biden Blames Former President Trump for a Variety of Issues His Administration is Scrambling to Address; Police Chief: Gun Used By Suspect Purchased Legally; Without Evidence, Former CDC Chief Says He Thinks COVID Began In A Chinese Lab And Earlier Than Believed; Top Biden Domestic Policy Adviser Discusses Atlanta-Area Killings. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 26, 2021 - 20:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: She was an amazing and kindhearted woman, according to her son. We all grieve with the families and loved ones of these two women and all the victims of these horrible shootings.

And coming up tonight at nine, don't miss CNN's Special Town Hall "Afraid: Fear in America's Communities of Color."

Anderson starts now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, laws built on a lie. Part of an attack on democracy fueled by that lie and assault on the Capitol in the name of that lie and the liars now lying about that.

John Berman here in for Anderson. When the program ended last night, Georgia's Republican Governor just signed sweeping voter restrictions into law which could heavily burden black voters in Democratic strongholds.

One provision adds insult to the injury of already limited polling access in long lines by making it a crime to give food or even water to people on those lines, waiting hours often in the hot sun to vote.

President Biden weighed in late today calling the law an atrocity.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There weren't any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency.

They passed a law saying you can't provide water for people standing in line while they're waiting to vote. You don't need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive designed to keep people from voting.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Outside the signing ceremony last night, police arrested

Georgia State Representative Park Cannon who was knocking on the door trying to get in. She is now facing two felony charges, well, it certainly says something as does this photo which came out today.

Take a hard look. For the black lawmaker just outside the door, that's the Governor in front of a painting of an old Georgia slave plantation, the Callaway Plantation to be precise, is now a historical site. This is the painting. It's the backdrop both literally and symbolically to a law that Georgia's Governor, a member of what used to be admired as the Party of Lincoln said today had nothing to do with restricting voter access.


GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Well, it wasn't a voting rights bill. It was an election security bill that actually increases early voting opportunities on the weekend here in Georgia, and also requires a photo ID for absentee by mail just like when you vote in-person and it continues to, I think, will allow Georgia to have secure, accessible, and fair elections in Georgia.


BERMAN: Keeping them honest, the Governor was very selective in which provisions he mentioned. He neglected to say the law permits unlimited challenges to voter eligibility. It also limits ballot drop boxes to inside polling locations during daytime regular hours.

One state lawmaker who represents a majority-minority district outside Atlanta telling "The New York Times" the number of drop boxes in her district will now shrink from 33 to just nine.

The Governor also said nothing about the "let them go hungry and thirsty" clause. It is what he did say however, that gets to the heart of things. His claim that this is all about election security.

In making it, he is suggesting there have been problems with past elections in Georgia such as say, the 2020 vote, you know the one he certified, the one his own officials, two Trump supporting Republicans signed off on while also in great detail refuting the false stories behind being told about voting irregularities and fraud.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: I know there are people that are convinced the election was fraught with problems. But the evidence, the actual evidence, the facts tell us a different story.

GABRIEL STERLING, SENIOR STATE ELECTION OFFICIAL: And now we'll move on to what I'm going to call disinformation Monday. Ware County. There are no seized machines in Ware County, not true. Did not happen.

Another one, Jen Jordan and Elena Perry did not get on a plane to go count votes in Pennsylvania. Okay. So there is no algorithm, the five million ballot hand count proves

there's no algorithm switching votes.

RAFFENSPERGER: In the outside of your envelope. We verified that signature. So your signature was matched twice. We had safe, secure, honest elections and the results are disappointing if you are a Republican, but those are the results.


BERMAN: We should note that Georgia's Secretary of State, whom you just heard there did speak out today in support of the new law saying, quote: "There is no rational argument against requiring state ID for absentee ballots."

Then again, given what you've just heard him say about the success of signatures matching, one might ask, why are tougher measures necessary at all?

Republican lawmakers and all, but a handful of states nationwide are now pushing similar steps. And their justification is the same, that there's something wrong with how we conduct elections, which is unfounded at best. At worst, it is part of a lie that goes back decades in a practice dating back to the Jim Crow South and reconstruction.

But its current incarnation took off just days after the former President's Inauguration when he claimed falsely of course that millions of undocumented immigrants voted for his opponent.

Then based on such lies, he set up a Voter Fraud Commission which found nothing and disbanded. And then as 2020 rolled around, he was off to the races.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make no mistake, this election was stolen from you, from me and from the country.

It's going to be a very hard thing to concede because we know there was massive fraud.

This was not a close election. You know, I say sometimes jokingly, but there's no joke about it.

It was a rigged election. You look at the different states. The election was totally rigged.

There's no way we lost Georgia. There is no way.

I've been in two elections, I won them both. And the second one, I won much bigger than the first, okay.

Because the only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged. Remember that.

Frankly, we did win this election.


BERMAN: Everything he said there and virtually everything his post- election legal team tried to claim about the election was a lie.

What's more, one of his attorneys who is being sued for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems is making those lies, the ones she told a centerpiece of her defense. She is arguing in a court filing that she should not be liable because no reasonable person would believe her election fraud claims.

Her legal precedent there being the landmark case, Chutzpah versus Sanity.

Meantime, here in the real world, Dominion today sued FOX News for $1.6 billion. The company alleging FOX purposefully aired baseless claims about Dominion rigging votes in the last election.

Now, you could file this all the way, the crack in the sex shop audition press conference, Rudy's running hairdo, all of it as theater of the absurd, except it led to lawmakers most of whom knew better or should have cynically trying to overturn the election and then to this.


GROUP: (Chanting "Stop the Steal.")


BERMAN: To stop something, the steal, which was not happening. Also "Lynch Pence" and "Get Pelosi," angry mobs drawn to Washington, stirred to violent insurrection by people feeding them lie after lie.

And now those very same liars are lying about what their election lies unleashed.

First, as you know, there was Senator Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who said he never felt scared that day because the attackers quote, "were people who love this country, who truly respect law enforcement, they would never do anything to break the law." That he says, and they weren't Antifa or members of Black Lives Matter.

Well, now hundreds of criminal charges later, the former President is saying this.


TRUMP: It was a zero threat, right from the start. It was zero threat. Look, they went in. They shouldn't have done it. Some of them went in and they're hugging and kissing the police and the guards.

You know, they had great relationships. A lot of the people were waved in and then they walked in and they walked out.


BERMAN: So to hear him say it sounds like he is talking about "Wedding Crashers," friendly wedding crashers, a little huggy-kissy with security, but no biggie.

Do you suppose the former President would say the same to those who loved Officer Brian Sicknick or the two officers who died by suicide in the wake of the attack?

Does he hate the mob chasing Officer Eugene Goodman who just wanted to plant the great big kiss on his cheek? Is that what he believes? Does he even care?

Just to make it plain, I want you to hear the former President's words again, only this time, accompanied by more real images of the actual event instead of the fantasy version he has created for himself.

Decide for yourself what to make of it.


TRUMP: It was a zero threat, right from the start. It was zero threat. Look, they went in. They shouldn't have done it. Some of them went in and they're hugging and kissing the police and the guards.

You know, they had great relationships. A lot of the people were waved in and then they walked in and they walked out.


BERMAN: A lie about an attack inspired by lies. Cops paid the price for it. Democracy took a hit and might have crumbled.

And now it's under threat in statehouses nationwide by laws inspired by the same toxic lie.

Earlier tonight, I spoke about it with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.


BERMAN: Mayor Bottoms, what does it tell you that the former President who tried to steal the election in Georgia is applauding this law and saying, it's too bad it didn't happen sooner. What does that tell you about what that law is really about?

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA, GEORGIA: That's all we need to know. Anything that the former President is celebrating is usually not a good thing for voters, the majority of the voters in the State of Georgia, and it is -- it's exhausting.

Given the record turnout that we had in this state, given that our current Governor was the Secretary of State before he became the Governor, the now Secretary of State touted the integrity of the election, and here we are.


BERMAN: So you mentioned the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who did say the election was free and fair and there was no fraud, but he also said of this law that he thinks it's fair.

He thinks that cries of voter suppression from those on the left ring hollow. Those were his exact words. He also said, quote, "These narratives are lazy, biased and political as they are demonstrably wrong."

He notes -- he thinks that voter ID isn't voter suppression. He thinks that for the first time, drop boxes are now written into law. So what do you say to him?

BOTTOMS: Well, there are several things. I would love for him to explain what's lazy about offering an 80-year-old woman a bottle of water as she waits in the summer heat to vote in Georgia? Because that's what happened in our June primary.

Our primary was held June 9th, in the dead of summer in Georgia. There were lines outside of doors. People waited for hours. So we can't offer them a bottle of water? And he calls that lazy.

It wasn't lazy when Governor Kemp went and used the drop box while he was being quarantined to cast his ballot. Was that lazy? Or is it now lazy because Democrats won in Georgia?

It is ridiculous. It is unnecessary. And it is an affront to the legacy of John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, C.T. Vivian and so many others who we lost in 2020, who laid down their lives to give people the right to vote in this state and across this country.

BERMAN: What message do you think it sends when Governor Kemp signed the bill? He did in his office surrounded by white men with that painting, which we think is the Callaway Plantation hanging above them?

BOTTOMS: Well, clearly, the imagery has not been lost on the nation. And this bill has so many layers of issues in it, and many of them disproportionately impact minority voters.

So when you talk about this bill, and now the need suddenly to have to have a copy of your ID to vote by absentee ballot, think of all of the poor people and perhaps elderly people who don't have printers in their homes. Where are they supposed to go and make a copy of their ID?

And this is not an issue, it has not been an issue in this state for any number of years, right up until Democrats won this state last year.

And so, you know, we are where we are. I do hope that there will be relief that will be given to us by Congress, that there will also be an opportunity for us to overturn this in the court.

But then there's the opportunity for us who are able to still show up and stand in the long lines that we see quite often across the state, there's an opportunity for us to still show up and vote in record numbers so that we can make meaningful change across the state.

BERMAN: You talked about the recourse that you have. Yes, there is a bill in Congress right now. The House has passed it and the Senate is considering it.

But as you well know, it doesn't have the votes to pass in the Senate as things stand now. The President, he is on your side. He has called the Georgia Law, Jim Crow in the 21st Century. He said the Justice Department is looking into it.

But absent any Federal intervention of the courts, which I'm not sure you should count on, given the makeup of the Supreme Court, you know, what else can you do?

BOTTOMS: We can still show up and vote in the same way that Ambassador Young reminded us recently of a 74 percent voter turnout, when there was one day of voting in the midst of a very bad storm in Georgia. We have to stand up and vote and we've got to stand up and vote and we've got to bring people to the polls with us to stand in the gap for those voters whose votes will be suppressed.

So I think this will be a rallying cry for people across this state. And I just caution the rest of America, understand that these same type of laws and this effort to suppress the vote won't stop in Georgia.

We're going to see it happening in states across this country. So, we all need to be vigilant and be aware of what's happening.

BERMAN: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, we appreciate your time. Thank you so much for being with us tonight.

BOTTOMS: Thank you for having me.


BERMAN: A rebuttal now to the former President's depiction of the insurrection. It comes from Democratic Congressman and former Army Ranger, Jason Crow, who was pinned down, along with other lawmakers and staffers inside the House Gallery.

We also spoke just before air.


BERMAN: Congressman Crow, what do you think of the former President's comments that the rioters, his supporters were quote, "zero threat on January 6th."


REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Well, that's perfectly predictable for President Trump. I mean, he obviously wants to sweep this under the rug. He has always denied that this was a problem or he had any role in it, and I expect that we'll continue to see this.

And, you know, unfortunately, the issue is less Donald Trump doing this because we would expect that out of Donald Trump, it's more his enablers and those in Congress who continue to do it and try to downplay the significance of the attack. Obviously, the deaths and the murders that occurred as a result of it.

BERMAN: Yes, I mean, the Secret Service agents guarding then Vice President Mike Pence and his family certainly didn't think the rioters were zero threat.

I mean, how insulting are the former President's comments to law enforcement, the likes of which we're seeing here now assaulted, overrun, beaten on that day? And obviously, the family of fallen Officer Brian Sicknick?

CROW: Yes, you know, when I heard those comments, I actually was thinking about a couple of the officers that I've actually grown pretty close to over the last couple of years. One of whom I called of the day after the attack and asked him how he was doing.

He was on one of the riot teams, the riot controlled teams and he told me about how he had fought for hours, literally fighting back for hours until eventually he was overrun, and just laid on the ground separated from his team, and he thought he was going to be killed.

Instead, he was beaten for about 20 or 30 minutes. He was covered in bruises from head to toe. The very next day, he was back at work, limping around Capitol Hill, doing his job.

So he certainly doesn't think that those folks were no threat, that those rioters were no threat. And obviously, the family of Officer Sicknick and all the others.

I was there. I saw the danger that we were all in. You know, they erected gallows with a noose right outside of the Capitol. This is a big problem. And obviously, the President is going to continue to do what he does. But the enablers and people in Congress need to stop.

BERMAN: Well, talk to me about the enablers. I mean, I was trying to think of a historical precedent here of a former President of the United States who would spent his post White House years defending an insurrection. The only one I come up with is like John Tyler, who ended up siding with the Confederacy in the Civil War.

I mean, that's the level that we're talking about here.

CROW: Yes, I mean, you look at what other Presidents spend their time doing, you know, philanthropy. You have President Carter building homes for homeless folks. You have George W. Bush painting -- you know, paintings of disabled, wounded veterans, and then you have Donald Trump trying to legitimize an insurrection in a riot and the murder that occurred as a result of it.

You know, the contrast couldn't be any more stark. And you know, this isn't just an issue of historical integrity, right. I mean, I think it is important that we have a historical record of this and I've actually introduced the Capitol Remembrance Act, alongside my friend, Susan Wild to make sure that we are memorializing the deaths, and having a proper record of the attack.

But even more so, there's an ongoing threat to this. If we downplay it, if we normalize and if we say this isn't a big issue, the problem is, is we have these anti-government groups, these extremists who remain a severe national security threat to us, and it makes it harder for us to address that threat in the way that we need to.

BERMAN: Will you still work with these Republicans who continue to back the former President and his big lie?

CROW: Well, I look at it this way. There's a broad spectrum of my G.O.P. colleagues. You know, you have the folks, the extreme folks, you know, the Mo Brooks, the Andy -- the Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Andy Biggs of the world, you know, those folks, I'm just not going to work with them because I'm not going to normalize that extremism. I'm not going to normalize violent rhetoric and stuff that's a threat to democracy as I see it.

Then you have you on the other end of the spectrum, the Adam Kinzinger of the world that are really standing up and trying to do the right thing and rebuild the Republican Party, and you know, in it's the older image, and then there's a lot of people that fall somewhere in between.

So I'm really dealing with this on a case by case basis, but it's hard. I mean, I don't think there's any Member of Congress, certainly on my side of the aisle that isn't struggling with how to deal with that right now.

BERMAN: Congressman Jason Crow, thank you for your time tonight. Thank you.

CROW: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Next, President Biden's decision to start naming and blaming the former President and the question of how long voters will let him do it.

And later, new developments in the Boulder mass shooting. What we're learning about how the alleged killer got his gun.



BERMAN: Joe Biden has pleasantly surprised some Democratic political professionals for what he is getting done and how little he is doing to distract from it.

Part of that discipline has been not focusing excessive attention on his predecessor not even saying his name, mostly. Then there was his first press conference yesterday.


BIDEN: Trump administration.





President Trump.




BERMAN: Joining us now Catherine Lucey, White House reporter with "The Wall Street Journal," also CNN political commentator and Democratic political strategist, Paul Begala.

Catherine, I want to start with you. You know, you were at the press conference yesterday. Were you surprised that President Biden mentioned the former President as many times as he did? I mean, this was a White House in transition that was bragging about the fact that he wouldn't even say Trump's name.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": I should quickly clarify I was not -- I was covering the press conference yesterday. I was not at it. A colleague of mine was in attendance and did a great job.

But, yes, certainly, we saw a shift here from the President. At the CNN Town Hall not long ago, he basically referred to former President Trump as the other guy and his White House has been very message disciplined so far.

We've seen them really find focus on their COVID response, on what they're trying to do to revive the economy, deal with the health issues related to the pandemic.


LUCEY: And they are really trying to keep the focus on that in the early days. But what you saw yesterday was the President taking for the first time, a big range of questions on a lot of issues.

And a number of issues have been encroaching on their message on COVID. I mean, among them, most notably, immigration and the issues with the surge of migrants at the border. And that was where you saw him put the most blame on his predecessor.

He really said he inherited these problems from Trump. That he was trying to fix what he had -- you know, he had when he came into office and that this was something that was going to take time for him.

He also did, you know, get asked a number of questions about Trump, obviously, and so you heard him aghast about whether he would, you know, be running against him in 2024. And he seemed to, you know, joke a little bit about that. You know, at one point, he sort of said, come on.

But, yes, certainly, this was more than we have heard him mention his predecessor than in the past.

BERMAN: So Paul, obviously, every President has knocked his predecessor in one way or another, especially Presidents from different parties. But, you know, Biden worked hard not to give the former President oxygen. So why do it now if he wants to move on? Why dwell on the last few years?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the greatest political strategist who wasn't named Carville was Henny Youngman, the old comic. When you asked him, how's your wife? He'd say, compared to what? So how is Biden? Well, compared to what?

And the desire -- the need even to blame your predecessor is much more pronounced when you defeated your predecessor, right? Ronald Reagan blamed Jimmy Carter for everything for eight years. Democrats blamed poor Herbert Hoover for 50 years after FDR beat him in 1932.

So Biden won because the country rejected Trump. And I also think this is a way for him to hold his very broad Democratic coalition together, which actually is not just Democrats. He got a lot of anti-Trump Republican votes.

And he wants to remind, I think those folks that he inherited a big mess caused by the former guy, as Catherine correctly pointed out he used to call him. So I think it's a very -- I think, it's a smart thing.

I wouldn't do it every day. I think he's been remarkably good. He was supposed to be a gaffe machine, Joe Biden, he has been a disciplined machine. And I think that this performance yesterday was also very disciplined and intentional.

BERMAN: On the subject of the border, and Catherine, as you note, that is where it was really most pronounced. How long do you think that President Biden can blame the Trump administration for this? And at what point will they have to take ownership for it?

LUCEY: You're right, that really was where it was the most pronounced and Paul is correct. I mean, the blame game is certainly not a new game for a new President, and it's not surprising that they would be noting this, particularly because immigration and the border was such a signature issue and focus for former President Trump.

But that said, you know, the President and his team, they know that looking ahead to the midterm elections, they have to get points on the board. They have to right some of these situations. They have to, on both immigration, but also on COVID, on the pandemic, on the economy, that they are going to have to be seen as handling these situations, and that voters are not going to still be looking at him running against Trump in 20 -- in the next round of elections.

So they do really have to, you know, move forward. And I think they are aware that they have to be shown as handling these.

BERMAN: Paul, there is only one President at a time, as you well know, as you probably once said.

BEGALA: Yes, and that is our President, Joe Biden. I think he has got a perfect right to contrast himself.

I talked to a very senior Democrat in a state where Trump had won and then Joe Biden flipped it. And I said, what do you think Democrats ought to be doing? He said, bragging and blaming, and lots of both. I think it's a good strategy.

BERMAN: It is interesting, Paul, what you said, I wonder if you can expand on it a little bit, because I hadn't quite thought of it like that, which is that Trump is the Democratic coalition, and in a way. Right now, Trump is what galvanizes or brings them all together. Is that a comfortable place to be? Is that something that can last?

BEGALA: It is a challenging place. Oh, my gosh, I don't know anybody but Joe -- President Biden, who could pull it off. You have a party -- in the Senate, his party swings from Joe Manchin to Bernie Sanders. I mean that will give you the bends, man.

And one thing that unites them is that, you've got -- you know, Biden won by getting -- the broad coalition was people who didn't like Trump and people who hated Trump. So I think keeping him in the mix can be useful.

Catherine is right. The most important thing is he does a good job. He's got to actually put points on the board as Catherine said, but there's nothing wrong with taking a shot at the former guy once in a while.

BERMAN: Infrastructure and blame Trump, fits on a bumper sticker. Paul Begala and Catherine Lucey, thank you both very much for being with us.

Next, an update from Boulder on the gun used in the mass shooting on Monday as authorities continue to trace the suspect's movements in search for a motive.



BERMAN: The police chief in Boulder said today that the gun used in Monday's mass shooting at a grocery store was purchased legally. This says the Boulder Police Department said the officer who was among those killed in the rampage Officer Talley let a contact team of officers into the store within 30 seconds of arriving on the scene.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in Boulder tonight. Kyung, what more are we learning about the investigation tonight?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you mentioned that 30 seconds how quickly they entered the store. The police department detailed exactly how that first contact happened that Officer Talley led in that first contact team and immediately they took on gunfire that Officer Talley was fatally shot then by the suspect, and that the suspect kept firing until officers took him into custody. But because those police officers were taking on all that gunfire, no one else in the store was shot or killed.

And we are also learning from the gun store that this gunman purchased the gun six days ago -- six days before the shooting, but that this gun was legally purchased and that he passed a background tests that the background check was conducted by the gun shop and there simply was nothing that prevented him from purchasing this weapon John.

BERMAN: Important to note. What are investigators saying about the alleged shooters motive?


LAH: You know that is something that the police chief here called haunting, that it was haunting investigators, because they just don't know yet and they don't know if they will ever know. Some of the questions that they have, why did he pick this store? It is 30 minutes from his home. Why did he pick Monday? Why did he choose to do it this way? They just don't know yet.

BERMAN: So, the district attorney were also told plans on filing more charges against the shooter. What kind of charges?

LAH: Well, I mentioned how police officers were taking on all that gunfire. Well, because of that the prosecutors feel that they will be able to put on additional attempted murder charges. So far, this suspect is facing 10 counts of murder and an 11 charge of attempted murder by firing on one of the police officers. They anticipate additional charges in the next two weeks. John.

BERMAN: Kyung Lah as always, thank you so much for your reporting.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, one of the eight people killed last week in the spa related killings was remembered at her funeral today. She was the 49-year-old owner of one of those spas, Xiaojie Tan. Her ex-husband said she moved to the United States from China 10 years ago and he said her family abroad would like her now adult daughter to live in China because he said they don't think it's safe here anymore.

Just ahead, a controversial theory about the origins of the coronavirus now publicly endorsed by the former director of the CDC. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us to discuss with Dr. Robert Redfield told him in a new one-hour special that is airing Sunday night.


[20:40:38] BERMAN: Former CDC director Robert Redfield has created a huge stir for endorsing a controversial theory about the origins of the coronavirus when President Biden did not appear to want to touch when asked about it today. The comments come in a new CNN special report airing Sunday night.

And joining us now Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And Sanjay, I want to get right to it because honestly, it's extraordinary. This is a clip of your interview with Dr. Redfield.


ROBERT REDFIELD, FMR CDC DIRECTOR: If I was to guess this virus started transmitting somewhere in September, October in Wuhan.


REDFIELD: That's my own view. It's an only opinion. I'm allowed to have opinions now. You know, I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen and Wuhan was from a laboratory, you know, escaped out. Other people don't believe that that's fine science will eventually figure it out. It's not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on a laboratory to infect a laboratory worker.

GUPTA (voice-over): It is also not unusual for that type of research to be occurring in Wuhan. The city is a widely known center for viral studies in China, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has experimented extensively with bat coronaviruses.

(on-camera): It is a remarkable conversation. I feel like we're having here because you are the former CDC director and you were the director at the time this was all happening.

(voice-over): For the first time, the former CDC director is stating publicly that he believes this pandemic started months earlier than we knew. And that it originated not at a wet market, but inside a lab in China.

(on-camera): These are two significant things to say Dr. Redfield.

REDFIELD: That's not implying any intentionality. You know, it's my opinion. Right. But I am a virologist, I have spent my life in virology. I do not believe this somehow came from a bat to a human hand at that moment in time, the virus that came to the human became one of the most infectious viruses that we know in humanity for human to human transmission.

Normally, when a pathogen goes from a zoonotic (ph) to human, it takes a while for it to figure out how to become more and more efficient in human to human transmission. I just don't think this makes biological sense.

GUPTA (on-camera): So in the lab, do you think that that process of becoming more efficient was happening? Is that what you're suggesting? REDFIELD: Yes. Let's just say I have coronavirus and I'm working on. Most of us in the lab we're trying to grow virus, we try to help make it grow better and better and better and better and better and better. So we can do experiments and figure out about it. That's the way I put it together.


BERMAN: Sanjay, this is a big deal. It's a big deal to hear this from the former CDC director. Now Dr. Redfield said he doesn't necessarily think the virus quote, escaped from the lab intentionally and he says science will eventually figure it out. But first, how could or would a virus in theory escape from the lab?

GUPTA: Well, it likely would escape with one of the lab workers either inside that person's body or even, you know, there was concern about whether it could be carried on surfaces, you know, we're not sure. But that that sort of thing does happen, John, it's happened in labs in China. It's happened in labs in the United States. There was the Tulane Primate Lab back in 2014. They were working with a particular bacteria that had sort of a lab escape.

So, this sort of thing happens. I think that this theory has been out there for some time. And I got to tell you, John, I wasn't so surprised at what Dr. Redfield said, because the theory has been out there, I was surprised that he said it. CDC director has access to raw intelligence, raw data that I've never had access to. And he came I pushed many times asked this question many times, and he really stuck to this narrative about the lab leak.

BERMAN: Well, you and I talked earlier about this today. Redfield says it's just his opinion, I don't know that the CDC director who sees stuff that we're not seeing has just an opinion on this, it would surprise me if he hasn't seen something more than we have to formulate this opinion. But, I mean did any of the others, doctors, you talk to Dr. Fauci anyone else share this opinion?

GUPTA: Well, you know, they, it's interesting, no one will come right out. And he was the most vocal and the most sort of adamant Dr. Redfield was, but no one will come right out and totally dismiss this either. They'll say the, you know, the likely theory is that it's, you know, this came from bats to humans via some intermediary host. That's what everyone sort of has said. That's the official line. The World Health Organization calls the lab leak theory, very unlikely.


But I got to tell you, John, there's a 400 page report, we just heard about this, that's going to be coming out over the next few days. And this is in part from the World Health Organization, other partners, they're going to be -- they investigated, they they're looking at this, I don't know, whether that will be conclusive or not. It may not be in the end, they may not actually arrive at any conclusion, despite the fact that it's 400 pages long.

BERMAN: We got to go to about 20 seconds Sanjay. But how would we ever know for sure? How could we know for sure?

GUPTA: It's tough. I mean, one thing you'd go back, you'd look at some of those earliest people within that lab. Did they get sick? Do they have antibodies, contact trace, do all the sort of sort of public health investigations that you'd normally do? Maybe you still don't get an answer. But that's sort of the how this investigation sort of unfolds.

BERMAN: How much of this depends on transparency from China?

GUPTA: A lot of it, John, and I think that there may not -- that may be the biggest rate limiting step here because they've got to get access to people. They've got to be able to look at those blood samples. They've got to understand I put a picture together of how early this was spreading. And how many people were being affected in that lab.

BERMAN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta. I have to say this is really interesting stuff this special will make a big difference they need to watch "COVID WAR: THE PANDEMIC DOCTOR SPEAK OUT" airs this Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. only on CNN.

Still to come, what will the Biden administration do to protect Asian- Americans who become targets? Anderson's discussion with President Biden's top domestic adviser Susan Rice when "360" continues.



BERMAN: At the top of the hour, CNN will air a special report "AFRAID: FEAR IN AMERICA'S COMMUNITIES OF COLOR." The special comes in the wake of the Atlanta area shootings, were six of the eight victims were Asians violence against Asian-Americans has been a focus of President Biden's administration even before the shootings. And one of his top domestic policy adviser, Susan Rice has been helping lead the outreach to Asian-American communities, highlighting not just the individual acts of violence, but the steps necessary to end these attacks on our fellow citizens.

Anderson spoke with Susan Rice earlier about the administration's plan for action.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST (on-camera): Ambassador Rice, I know you've expressed outrage at what happened in Atlanta, the rise in violence against Asian-Americans. Specifically though, is there much the Biden administration can actually do about it?

SUSAN RICE, BIDEN'S DOMESTIC POLICY COUNCIL DIRECTOR: Well, yes, Anderson and we have from the outset. In the first week of the administration, President Biden issued a presidential memorandum instructing his government to acknowledge and to root out anti-Asian bias and xenophobia and to combat hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, which have been on a horrific spike over the course of the last year. Fueled in part, we have to acknowledge by the hostile rhetoric of some prior leaders in the federal government.

And so, this has been a growing problem. We need to collect data more rigorously on hate crimes, and disaggregate it so that we can be clear about who is facing, what kinds of threats and attacks, the government has resources that can invest in community organizations that are working to prevent violence at the local level. And, of course, the Justice Department, which, under Attorney General Merrick Garland has taken this issue very seriously will focus on ways that it too can bring its tools to bear to fight hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

COOPER (on-camera): Are there specific laws that you're looking at or that this administration is looking at?

RICE: The House last week, finally reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which has very important provisions in it, that would protect particularly women of color, as well as all women who are facing domestic violence. What occurred in Atlanta was a horrible mix of hate crime, racism, misogyny, that disproportionately targeted Asian-American women. That is not a coincidence. It's part of a pattern of history that we have to acknowledge and combat. This was also an example of gun violence, which is all too rampant. And President Biden has long been a leader to combat gun violence.

So again, there's legislation now pending before the Senate, having recently passed the House to strengthen our background check system, and to close loopholes that enable violent offenders to obtain firearms.

COOPER (on-camera): And what do you attribute this, this violence to? I mean, I obviously as you said, there's a long history of discrimination and violence against minority communities in this country for a long time. And it's not just among Asian-Americans, obviously, communities of color as well. How much of it is, you know, your stems from the history, just our history, our system? And frankly, as you said, the rhetoric of the former administration?

RICE: Well, I think it's a combination of all of the above. But what we've had in the last year with this extraordinary spike in violence and crime, hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders has been tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been tied to anti- Asian rhetoric when the, you know, when former leaders talk about the China virus or the Wuhan flu are horrible, horrible things like that, it has a terrible, terrible impact. And that is not to be tolerated in the Biden administration we're calling that out. We're saying we will not consciously contemplate that in any way shape or form.


And another thing, Anderson, just to go back you asked about laws. You know, there is a law pending before Congress called it COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which the President has strongly endorsed and called to be swiftly enacted into law. And it responds to what we have seen spike in terms of hate crimes against Asian-Americans over the last year.

COOPER (on-camera): I read your memoir several years ago, and you write a lot about your mom. But in a New York Times piece back in 2019, you wrote an article called What My Father Taught Me About Race, and you said until his death, Dad remain bitter about segregation in the military profoundly objecting to the insult and irony of being made to fight for freedom for all but his own people, as offensive to him was the idea that blacks had to prove their worth to whites.

Your father, Emmett Rice served in the Tuskegee Airmen unit later on, became a Federal Reserve governor, he died 10 years ago when he was 91. Do you think -- what do you think he would make where we are right now in this country?

RICE: Well, I think he'd have very mixed feelings, Anderson. I think in some respects, he would be, you know, proud as he was of this country, and grateful to serve it. But I think you'd also be deeply concerned about our tremendous political polarization. And the fact that we have, in so many ways seen many demonstrations of persistent inequality and systemic racism.

And one thing about my dad that I love so much is that he always called on me, and my brother and all those he loves to do our best and to not rest on our laurels and to have high standards and high expectations. And that's what he had for this country that he loves so much, he'd be calling on all of us to do better.

COOPER (on-camera): Susan Rice, I appreciate your time. Thanks very much.

RICE: Thank you, Anderson.


BERMAN: An important discussion to continue (INAUDIBLE) with Anderson, the CNN special report "AFRAID: FEAR IN AMERICA'S COMMUNITIES OF COLOR", begins after a short break.