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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
U.S. Believes Russian Forces Land in Ukraine; One Hundred Million in the Path of Major Winter Storm
Aired February 28, 2014 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next breaking news, signs of a Russian invasion in Ukraine tonight. President Obama warns Russia there will be costs.
Plus, a new winter storm threatens more than 100 million across America.
And a story you have to see to believe, a man declared dead in a body bag comes back alive. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. And we have a welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world tonight.
OUTFRONT, we begin with the breaking news. The United States believes that Russian troops have entered Ukraine. Ukrainian officials are accusing Russia of an armed invasion after hundreds of troops tried to take control of two airports in Crimea. Armed Russian loyalists have seized several government buildings and are patrolling the streets.
Now we have new video tonight we are going to show you. These are Russian helicopters that you are going to see flying over Crimea, which is the peninsula below the Ukraine. This video was posted on YouTube. You see those helicopters coming in the background.
The president just a short time ago addressed the nation in an unexpected statement from the White House briefing room. He said the United States is, quote, "deeply concerned by reports of Russia's military movements."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games that would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And, indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right, I want to get straight to the chief national security correspondent for us here at CNN, Jim Sciutto. Jim, what are your sources telling you tonight? I think we've got to emphasize, especially to our viewers around the world, the White House hasn't said much about this and nobody expected the president of the United States to come out and make a statement about the Ukraine. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House hasn't said much, but they were certainly worried about it and I've been hearing from a number of officials in different agencies, different parts of the government as their anxiety grew over the last 24 and 48 hours that something like this would happen.
You know, you saw it. We've all seen the public statements from U.S. officials, from Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel warning Russia not to do exactly what appears to have happened now in the Ukraine and that is, send Russian troops in. U.S. officials believe these are Russian troops.
I think over time, they are getting a better handle and confidence on the number and the extent of the troops. This is a scenario that some had warned me about. The idea that it wouldn't be a full scale George-type invasion, you know, tanks driving and trucks driving across the border.
But it would be something more subtle, black ops, Special Forces, that kind of things to give them a bit of cover and you also seeing the Russians creating some legal cover here. The ambassador to the U.N. saying that these movements fall within their bilateral agreement with the Ukrainian government.
SCIUTTO: Something that I don't think we are hearing much agreement with -
BURNETT: Nobody that we've talked to thinks that makes any sense at all.
BURNETT: All right, well, Jim Sciutto, thank you very much. We are going to back to Jim as he gets more. But I want to go straight to Crimea tonight because CNN has a reporter on the ground there. Diana Magnay is there in the southern part of the country where support for Russia is strong.
As you could see on that map, Ukraine is in yellow. The Crimean Peninsula is in red. Below there, American assessment shows that Russian military forces today landed at a Russian base in Crimea. Diana is there.
So Diana, you know, you've been reporting and I mean, it's been incredible, you've been reporting on phone lines that have been cut. It's been incredibly difficult to communicate. What exactly is happening there and what have you been able to figure out about who these troops are and what they are doing.
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is difficult to piece together what is going on and I haven't been able to definitely confirm to you that the troops that I have seen on the ground are Russian because they are trying incredibly hard to conceal their identity. They are in military fatigues. They don't have any kind of military insignia. The vehicles that they are using to get around, the number plates have been removed. When you ask them, where are you from, are you Russian, there is no reply. So they are really trying to conceal their identity. So I wouldn't be able to tell you 100 percent that they are Russian.
But the numbers and the organizers -- as you can imagine, certainly the two airports -- I was at one of the two airports that have been not taken over because operations carried on normally, but certainly were under the sort of command of these military units.
They were working alongside pro-Russian local groups who told me they didn't know who they were, they were just sort of exchanging tea and cigarettes, but it didn't really look that way. It certainly looked as though pro-Russian local forces on the ground were working together with these unidentified units who, incidentally, have surrounded the state TV station.
Apparently, according to the director general, to protect it, and we're also hearing from the main telecommunications company in Crimea that they believe that their operations have been sabotaged so there are no landline connections or telecoms from Crimea to the mainland at the moment -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Diana Magnay. We are going to go back to Diana as we can. As you can see the connection there is a bit dubious at this moment, but she's there on the ground and perhaps what she saw says more than anything else. When she asked those troops to identify where they are from, what they are doing, they refused to do so.
I want to emphasize, this is the not the first time Russia has invaded a former Soviet state. In 2008, Vladimir Putin sent military troops in the Republic of Georgia. That led to a conflict that left hundreds dead.
Mikheil Saakashvili is a former president of the Republic of Georgia. He just landed here in New York from Kiev this afternoon. He's been meeting with leaders in Ukraine speaking to Ukrainian public. He joins me with former military intelligence officer, Colonel Cedrick Leighton and military analyst, General "Spider" Marks.
All right, great to have all of you with us. But President Saakashvili, let me start with you. You were just in Kiev. You've been there all week. What do you see on the ground? Are you surprised to hear this at all?
MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA: No, I'm not surprised. Actually, Georgia was invaded by a large-scale Russian army. I was warning prior to the invasion. Georgia will come and then the new Ukraine will come. Putin is following his blueprint all the way through and actually coincidentally it happened both times during the times of the Olympic.
First, it was the Beijing Olympics and now it's the Sochi Olympics and actually the blueprint is exactly the same as they applied in Georgia. Same scale, so-called unidentified troops of the Russian army and we've seen them and we know them very well. We know their handwriting.
It's exactly the same thing and we are talking right now about full- scale legally and technically full-scale military invasion. That's all it is. They will gradually build it up. It's not based on some mass scale. Putin is not even disguising it anymore. We are talking about 21st Century invasion of 45 million people country as a response to a Democratic revolution that fled to Russia.
BURNETT: As you're speaking, this news is just coming in. The House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers has just put out a statement that's very significant for people watching around the world tonight. Quote, "It appears the Russian military now controls the Crimean Peninsula. This aggression is not only a threat not only to Ukraine, but to regional peace and stability."
Russia's latest action is not an indicator of Vladimir Putin's interests and allies around the world. Another development there that this is not just a few hundred troops or if it is they control the Crimean Peninsula.
Let me bring you in on this, General Marks, what does that mean? Does that change the game here? What does that mean for the United States where the president has just said today that there will be consequences?
MAJOR GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RETIRED): Erin, the real issue here is that Crimea is a part of the Ukraine. The citizens of Crimea enjoy no additional sovereignty rights beyond what Ukraine would. Although, the Crimea tends to lend itself and its support and lean in the direction of Russia. That's irrelevant.
MARKS: That's irrelevant in this case because they are citizens of the Ukraine, we need to call it what it is, which is an invasion of one sovereign nation of another, irrespective of how Putin has done it, either at a lower level and now with the threat of some additional forces.
BURNETT: So Colonel Leighton, what does this mean though for the United States? It says that there are going to be costs and consequences if the Crimea Peninsula, which is part of Ukraine has now been invaded and is now controlled by Vladimir Putin.
COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RETIRED), FORMER MILITARY INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: I think, Erin, it's going to be a situation where if the United States wants to stand out to the Russian invasion of the Crimea, then they are going to have to do something and there could be such a thing as embargo against Russian oil, against Russian natural gas.
There would have significant effects on Europe that would have to be coordinated with NATO. But those are some of the things that we could do short of military force in a case like this. BURNETT: So President Saakashvili, how bad could this get? When you were president of Georgia, hundreds of people were killed, tanks came in, troops came in. I mean, is this just the beginning for Ukraine?
SAAKASHVILI: I think it's just the beginning. Actually last time, some people were trying to argue that it's irresponsible behavior of Georgia. What would you say this time? I mean, this is a pattern and Vladimir Putin is following his pattern no matter who does what.
Actually, the reality is that it's reminiscent of what happens in the 21st Century, very much like the land by then Nazi Germany and then of course this time exactly the way how European powers said for Poland, the United States, the United Kingdom and by the way, also Russia, together pledged to guarantee territorial integrity in 1994 when Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons.
So there's an obligation that the western powers who have for this not to happen. Now Russia blatantly violated the treaty obligations that the western powers for this not to happen. Now Russia blatantly violated the zone treaty obligations. So basically we are talking -- I mean, all the way through, western powers have been repeating, there is no more cold war.
But first of all, there was always cold war for Putin all those time. Now we are really getting to really, really hot war in Europe and this is an exceptional circumstances and what I'm talking about, there's a draft that makes it easy to integrate other country's territory into Russia. This is unheard of it. We are talking about Europe, 21st Century.
BURNETT: So you think that the analogy you just gave is a very powerful one. You're talking about Nazi Germany going into --
SAAKASHVILI: Legally there is not much of a difference because this guy, Vladimir Putin, now goes into another big European country, its neighbor, and wants to grab piece of its territory and make this part of Russia. This has gone beyond anything that anybody could contemplate. This is really, really serious stuff.
BURNETT: Colonel Leighton, reply to what President Saakashvili is saying though. He is saying, look, that there is a treaty that it's violated. I mean, you know, the parallels here to World War II are pretty powerful. So what does the United States do if there's this treaty? Sit back and say sanctions, is that enough?
LEIGHTON: Well, it should follow the tenants of the treaty. I agree with President Saakashvili that there are certain treaty obligations that the United States and NATO have when it comes to protecting the integrity of the Ukraine. Notice though that the president did not invoke those when he spoke this afternoon at the White House nor has Secretary of State Kerry and that indicates to me that the United States is not willing to go that extra mile.
BURNETT: What would you say, Spider? Do you agree with that, the United States not willing to go that extra mile and, if so, to the parallel that President Saakashvili just gave, what does that mean happens next?
MARKS: Well, the parallel was very stark and it makes complete sense. The precedent has been set. The United States clearly will not act alone nor should it act alone. The initial steps right now should be what can take place now short of military action that would be sufficiently convincing to Putin that he needs to stop what he's doing.
We haven't demonstrated that we can do that. We certainly don't have any influence in the region, but we do have friends. We have allies. We have NATO. We have the ability to try to influence and wedge ourselves in there. Right now the concern is that we have a waning level of influence and it needs to be reasserted and it's going to be very, very difficult for the United States to do that alone, nor should it.
BURNETT: All right, we're going to hit pause on this. We are going to come back in just moment with much more of this conversation. Obviously a significant question for the United States. Former head of the CIA, someone I spoke to about this with a very stark warning. We are going to have that. President Saakashvili will weigh in.
We also have new backlash against Spike Lee. Are people now targeting his family's home because of his expletive rant on gentrification and a man in Mississippi declared dead and sent to a funeral home and then a miracle happens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I stood there and watched them put him in a body bag and zip it up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was not dead. Long story short.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: We are following breaking news tonight. The United States believes Russian land forces have arrived in Ukraine's Crimea region. That is the southern part of the country. It's a strongly pro-Russia area, but it's part of Ukraine and Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is now putting out a statement saying that Crimea has not just been invaded, it's now under the control of Putin's Russia.
Jim Acosta is at the White House. Jim, the president came out unexpectedly today, tonight, made a statement threatening to pull out of the G8 meeting, which is planned for this summer in Russia if Putin intervenes in Ukraine. Is that a threat that he'll make good on? Is that a threat Vladimir Putin cares about?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, you know, I think it's a threat that Vladimir Putin should care about, Erin. I think this is very serious with the senior administration official who told me about this earlier this evening was saying and that is basically that they are evaluating whether or not the United States would go to the G-8 Summit and what the senior official says, Erin, is that other European allies would also put this under consideration as well.
So the United States is basically saying, according to the senior administration officials that, we not only might we not go to your party in Sochi later on this June at the G-8, but we may keep our European friends from going as well. And I think that is a significant threat.
Keep in mind, Erin, President Obama canceled a bilateral meeting with Vladimir Putin last year before the G-20 Summit. Remember, he was supposed to go to Moscow and sit down with Putin before the G-20 Summit and then canceled that. This would be a significant worsening of relations between the United States and Russia.
And I think the United States -- and I think the White House is trying to communicate that. Not only saying that the G-8 might be affected, they are talking about trade and commerce between the United States and Russia being affected. Some of these things could happen organically. For example, the goodwill that Russia built up after the Sochi games. The U.S. is saying, that could be affected as well.
BURNETT: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much. Of course, just to emphasize again, there is a treaty that Russia is privy to, that the United States is privy to, to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Now Russia has violated that.
Our correspondent, Ian Lee is in Kiev tonight. Ian, we are seeing pictures of what -- these are YouTube pictures here of Russian helicopters over Ukraine. House Intelligence Committee chairman in the United States here now says Crimea is under Russian military control. You know our colleague, Diana Magnay in Crimea were having some trouble there even with the communications. What options does Ukraine have right now because where you are, in Kiev, the government is in disarray.
IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right, Erin. They are trying to react to what they are saying is Russia trying to annex the Crimea? The options they have are limited. We know that in a fire fight, a full out war, they cannot match the fire power of Russia. So what they are moving is more diplomatic moves. One of these includes going to the U.N. Security Council.
Well, Russia has a veto in that council. So it's unclear what they hope to get out there. Moscow is very concerned about the ethnic Russians in the Crimea. They have said that they have feared that they could be oppressed or discriminated against. Well, here in Kiev, the Ukrainian government has asked the E.U. to send observers here to say, listen, you can bring others to here to make sure that nothing happens to ethnic Russians in the Crimea.
Also, the Ukrainians here keep saying, we have this peace treaty, which you guys were talking about that was signed by the U.K., the United States, Russia, and Ukraine. They said they'd give up their nuclear weapons, their territorial integrity will remain and that's one thing that officials are saying, where are the people now who signed that agreement?
BURNETT: All right, Ian Lee, thank you very much. That's going to be a very big question in the White House and in Washington, D.C. I'm back now with the former president of the Republic of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, his country was invaded by Vladimir Putin in 2008 along with our military analyst, retired Major James "Spider" Marks and former military intelligence officer, Colonel Cedric Leighton.
All right, good to have all of you. Back with us, President Saakashvili, let me ask you this question. Vladimir Putin, according to House Intelligence officials here in the United States, controls the Crimea Peninsula now tonight. What will the Ukraine do about it? You've been in Kiev all week. You've been with opposition leaders. Are they able to fight back? Are they going to resist?
SAAKASHVILI: Look, Ukraine is a very, very peaceful country and these people were really trying to put the whole thing together. They really reached out to Russian speakers in Ukraine and east of Ukraine mostly joined these protests so there was no pretext for Russians try to do that.
I mean, the whole thing is that they were trying to sell this story to the west and by the way, I mentioned one has to remember that part of Germany came in to protect. Russia invaded my country to protect so- called to protect - they also suffered because they had to leave the territory because there was ethnic cleansing involving also those ethnic groups.
So Russia using brutal force, they claim to be provoked, but this claim is not valid. Now, Ukrainians, I think they were starting to bring in a new interim government. The whole thing was very going very peaceful. I met with all of the leaders. I had a long conversation. Peaceful intentions to carry out Democratic changes, open up Ukraine over to Europe.
That's exactly what Vladimir Putin cannot forgive them because if they go democratic like European and the United States, he had to act on this fall sense of protecting more people. So what Ukraine has occurred like Georgia has considerable army.
BURNETT: So they will fight back?
SAAKASHVILI: They gave up nuclear weapons, but their officers are very good and by the way, the Russian Army is Ukrainian. So it's not so clear how Russians can force those people to fight against their homeland. The point is, that's the worst thing to get to the situation where we might get real war between two big European countries, like Russia and Ukraine.
By the way, when we talk about what Americans can do, look, you don't -- even if you don't send tanks, you can certainly expel Russia from G-8. You can send back to Putin banks and corrupt officials, including Putin himself, he's the most corrupt person in the world. It can all be seized. It's doable.
When European Union and sanctions people started to attack him. So just don't send tanks and but at least send tanks to Putin's banks and accounts and other sanctions because, you know, I heard the president saying it will cost him. I've heard this said by also previous administration after the Georgia invasion. Well, did it really cost him? If it had cost him, it would not have done Ukraine. He's gone on a rampage and he will act without impunity.
BURNETT: Colonel Leighton, to what President Saakashvili, just said that there were no repercussions the other time Vladimir Putin did this. I wanted to play what the former head of CIA General Hayden just said to me. He is General Hayden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: He went into Georgia in 2008. Importantly, Erin, he really wasn't punished for that. That took place in August of 2008. By January of 2009, we have a new president and there is no time in the penalty box for Putin with the new president. It's all about reset.
BURNETT: Right. Reset, be friends.
HAYDEN: Yes. So he got to do that and really didn't suffer too many adverse consequences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: General Leighton, is what the problem is right now? Is the world now suffering from the fact that Vladimir Putin invaded Georgia and had no consequences?
LEIGHTON: Absolutely, Erin. Really the historical analogy can be brought back even further than the (inaudible) in London and Czechoslovakia. It can go all the way back to the Rhine Land when Hitler invaded the Rhine Land in 1936. Same exact things happened and because there were no consequences for Hitler knowledge can go back to when Hitler invaded in 1936.
Same exact thing happened because there were no consequences for Hitler, the rest is, basically as I say, history. World War II started the way it did and it became a real imbroglio for all of the western world and this could happen again in the Ukraine.
I hope it doesn't, but we have a real situation where the Russians are going to look at the excuse of protecting their ethnic minority, their kindred spirits in the Ukraine and the Crimea especially in the eastern part of the country and that is where they are going to use that excuse and they are going to try to cow tow to them when it comes to this kind of a political situation. It's a very dangerous situation right now.
BURNETT: General Marks, will this become a war? Will that become an appropriate word to use?
MARKS: I don't think it will become a war. What we're really seeing is Putin really doesn't care at all what we say or what the international community says. He's very much in tuned to what we do and demonstrate. There are a number of things, as we've discussed, economic, financial, and diplomatic that should be the precursors before any type of military action.
However, simultaneously, the United States should be in the United Nations in NATO and galvanizing an international body that is prepared to take action to isolate and to try to narrow this challenge that we have to paint it the way it is, which is an invasion of one foreign country into another.
Now, the Russians have a really strong case for the Crimea because they have an agreement with the Ukraine. That's where their black sea fleet is located.
MARKS: So Sevastopol is the only warm water port that Russia has. Every other port in Russia right now is covered with ice. So this is extremely important to me. They think they have a sphere of influence and they have rights that allows them to act with a certain degree of impunity.
SAAKASHVILI: Sevastopol is very small. It doesn't look like safeguarding their base in Sevastopol. It's much wider.
MARKS: Of course, Mr. President, what I'm suggesting is that Sevastopol is where the Black Sea fleet is located. It's a warm water port. It's significant. It's extremely important to the Russians and this is where they can conduct influence in the region.
SAAKASHVILI: The people that they brought in, they were not from Sevastopol. These were Russian regular like special troops brought in from Russia.
MARKS: Of course.
SAAKASHVILI: By military transport and the other thing we're talking about --
MARKS: We are in agreement here.
SAAKASHVILI: One thing should be known. In Georgia in 2008 after the reaction was quite late, Putin was stopped at the entrance of our capital by a huge unit who showed, but the international community outcry. George Bush sent four fleets. The initial planes were put on alert prepared for no fly zone over Georgia and that's what stopped Putin from a --
BURNETT: So that's what Obama is going to have to do.
SAAKASHVILI: There have been many different options he can consider. I'm not saying that's the situation for sure but certainly we should consider all of the options because U.S. security interests are at stake. If this war in Europe collapses now, the U.S. will be in trouble. The United States is one of the main guarantors and benefactors of this order that exists today in Europe and if it goes to hell, certainly American interests would be at great risk. BURNETT: Well, we'll leave it at that. Thank you all very much. Appreciate it. Obviously a very significant moment right now for the world, for the United States, for Russia, for Ukraine.
Still to come, a massive winter storm about to bring snow, ice, and freezing rain to more than 100 million Americans. We've got that next.
And Philip Seymour Hoffman's cause of death was just released tonight. We have the mix of drugs that were found in his system.
And back from the dead literally, this is an incredible story, a man declared dead, wakes up in a body bag at the funeral home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hallelujah. We thank him right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: March is coming in like a lion. One hundred million Americans now facing one of the biggest winter storms of the year. Snow is already falling in the Midwest as the storm marches East, it could bring a foot of snow that will result in delays and cancellations around the entire country and around the entire world.
Chad Myers is OUTFRONT.
So, Chad, what could we expect from the storm over the weekend?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, it's slamming into California right now. It looks like a big hurricane out there, although I haven't had dinner so to me, it kind of looks like a ho-ho.
It's spinning around out here to west of San Francisco, every time one of these white bands goes by, you get significant rain. And that's what we've had all day in L.A., one rain shower after another.
Now, obviously, storms don't stop when they get into California. It's going to continue into the Rocky Mountains and eventually all the way from there into the Northeast, with a snowstorm for Monday. Now, there will be snow in the Midwest for Saturday and Monday but it gets to cities in the Northeast on Monday. The red there, flash flood warnings already. There's some mudslides going on out there because of areas that have been burned.
When you burn the trees down, the trees don't hold the dirt in anymore and it becomes a mudslide. That's what we have right now, the storm moves off to the east later on tonight and into tomorrow. Here's Sunday night. We're seeing snow already into New York City.
Now, I don't know yet where this big snow is going to be and no one really does because it's still three days away. But let me tell you, there's going to be a swath of snow through the Midwest and into the Northeast that will be a foot deep. It's a wide swath. Kansas City, St. Louis. Let's pretty likely.
Now, farther off to the east, this is where we just don't know yet. Will it be New York City, models are trending towards Philadelphia, Boston, and D.C. for right now, but still at three days away, Erin, you can't tell whether this is going to go left or right just yet.
BURNETT: That's the problem I have with this winter, Chad, nobody knows. It just shows you the power of nature. But it's been amazing how little we've known. Thanks so much to Chad.
And now a story that is so bizarre you won't believe it's true but it is. A 78-year-old man in the state of Mississippi declared dead Wednesday by a coroner, hours later as his body was about to be embalmed, yes, it was at a miracle. The man started moving inside of the body bag.
David Mattingly is OUTFRONT.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Resting in comfort, 78-year-old Walter Williams was in hospice care prepared for the end of a long life in Lexington, Mississippi. He seemed to sleep peacefully away Wednesday night.
EDDIE HESTER, WILLIAMS' NEPHEW: They put him in a plastic bag, zipped him up and took him and put him in the hearse.
MATTINGLY: His family had already been grieving for hours when something happened.
SHERIFF WILLIE MARCH, HOLMES COUNTY: I asked the coroner what happened and he said there's a miracle.
MATTINGLY: Williams began kicking inside his body bag. He wasn't dead.
MARTHA LEWIS, WILLIAMS' DAUGHTER: So it was not my daddy's time. I don't know how much longer he's going to grace us and bless us with his presence, but hallelujah, we thank him right now! Right now! Thank him.
MATTINGLY: And Williams' revival couldn't have happened at a better time. He was already in the embalming room.
BYRON PORTER, PORTER AND SONS FUNERAL HOME: He was not dead, long story short.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So he missed it by how much?
PORTER: I don't know. I don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A couple minutes, maybe?
PORTER: No. No. More than that. We definitely was not going to do anything to him. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once you saw that he was alive?
PORTER: Right, that he was not deceased.
MATTINGLY: The coroner speculates that an in defibrillator implanted beneath the skin on Williams chest may have somehow jump-started his heart after he was in the body bag. Rushed back to the hospital, this lifelong farmer is described as weak but talking -- with a little more time, apparently, left in this world.
David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.
BURNETT: Pretty incredible, huh?
Well, ahead, backlash over Spike Lee's comment. Did vandals target his parents' home over Spike's expletive-filled rant against gentrification?
Plus, he's one of America's most popular retailers, J. Crew about to sell out to another country?
We'll be back.
BURNETT: Potential backlash against Spike Lee, just days after the movie director went on an expletive-filled rant on gentrification in New York City, someone vandalized his parent's home in Brooklyn. Police say "Do the Right Thing", the title of Lee's 1989 film about racial tensions, was spray-painted in his father's home. The house next door was also vandalized. The front door glass shattered.
Neighbors told CNN they believe it was in retaliation for Lee's rant that was against gentrification. Here it just -- it went on for more than seven minutes, but here's a quick clip of how it went down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPIKE LEE, FILMMAKER: So why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? Why's there more police protection in Bed Stuy and Harlem now? Why's the garbage getting picked up more regularly? We've been here?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: D.K. Smith is the man who ignited this firestorm by asking Spike Lee that question on gentrification, and he's OUTFRONT tonight. We talked about this earlier this week.
D.K., obviously, you grew up in that neighborhood, you know, where Spike Lee was. There's this vandalism at the home. The message: do the right thing. The house next door vandalized, the glass broken with the logo of his production company put up.
So, clearly, this was targeted at spike. Do you think this is in retaliation for those comments?
D.K. SMITH, QUESTIONED SPIKE LEE OVER GENTRIFICATION: I think it's necessary to give it a bigger context. You know, Spike was invited to Pride to Black History Month. Pride was one of the leading art schools in the world. It's the leading art school in the world because of the diversity and creativity and also of view points.
And so, before the question was asked to Spike, there was 90 minutes of him giving a great background on history on how he got into film, on his struggles of growing up in Brooklyn, filled with expletives because that's Spike's style. So, when you heard these outtakes, you know, and you hear it with expletives, it was a friendly, humorous, respectful exchange.
SMITH: And people that, you know, maybe heard him go off and get very impassioned about gentrification, that was just a very small part of the whole evening and certainly anybody who would retaliate or do anything like that to someone's property, they are all the way wrong.
BURNETT: They are all the way wrong but this is interesting because when we talked about this earlier in the week and you talked about that neighborhood and you talked about ways that you had been treated, you know, the whole issue, right, is that it was an African-American neighborhood, it was gentrified and you have white people moving in, the whole situation changes.
You talked about racism that you've experienced in that neighborhood.
SMITH: Yes, gentrification is a hot issue but nothing justifies defacing and vandalizing somebody's property. That's not how we roll in Brooklyn, Erin. That's really what it comes to. That's not how we roll.
SMITH: Even when we have a problem.
BURNETT: I'm just saying, I can't imagine it really surprises you in the sense of some of the stories that you've talked about that happened to you were pretty horrible.
SMITH: People get impassioned about things and that's why I thought it was important to bring some context to that evening. You know, that it wasn't just Spike breaking out and ranting. And the salty language might have you believe that.
But he told a warm story about his grandparents that was filled with the same kind of salty language. So, that kind of retaliation and vandalism, it's not just acceptable. It's not what we do in Brooklyn. It's never how we handle things and I can't speak for Spike but I'm sure he's going to be outraged by that.
BURNETT: I'm sure he's going to be outraged by that. By the way, we spoke to Spike Lee's brother and I want to play a quick clip of that. Here it is.
Oops, sorry, actually, we don't have that. But anyway, he said, Spike shouldn't make his arguments so personal. That he shouldn't let the world know where his family lives as part of this.
But as you point out, this was an event that was sort of built around the neighborhood.
But what about the broader issue here and I want to ask you this because obviously Spike Lee's parents still live in the neighborhood where you live. Spike Lee, though, has become so successful. You know, he's left the neighborhood, right? He has a $32 million mansion, I'm sorry, on the Upper East Side, among many homes.
So, how does that play? When you get all that money, you don't stay.
SMITH: You know, that's the problem that's in the black community that goes beyond Spike Lee and something that we need to address. We become very successful and we move from the suburbs, you know? We're not back in the community, we're not being leaders front and center.
I mean, you know, I have many friends who write big checks to all kinds of causes and I say, you might do better just to show up, just to show up at a mentoring event.
BURNETT: Interesting, interesting point.
SMITH: So, we really need front and center. We need role models and we need to be in the community. So, I think that's the bigger issue.
BURNETT: All right. D.K., thank you very much. Good to see you again.
And coming up, we now know the cocktail of drugs found in actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman's body when he died. We have that just came out, a late breaking news before this program. And a cab driver from Minnesota goes Hollywood and could be an Oscar winner on Sunday. A ride along, incredible story right here OUTFRONT, coming up.
BURNETT: Let's check in with Anderson with a look on what's coming up on "AC360."
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Erin. Obviously, we're closely following the breaks news out of Ukraine and Russia tonight.
Crimean TV says these are Russian helicopters flying low across Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is calling it an invasion, as you know. The just departed U.S. ambassador to Russia called the situation dire. We'll have live reports from Ukraine.
We'll also discuss what the options are for Ukraine and how our allies are responding including the U.S. Also tonight's American journey. You're going to hear from the first openly gay player in any of the major sports leagues, Jason Collins of the Brooklyn Nets. Rachel Nichols has an interview since his return to the NBA. You'll hear from him tonight on "AC360".
Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" and a lot more at the top of the hour, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Anderson, we'll be looking forward to that. We'll see you in a couple of moments.
First though the lead pirate in the thriller "Captain Phillips." His name is Barkhad Abdi. If you didn't see the movie, he plays Musi opposite Tom Hanks. He's up for best supporting actor at the Sunday's Academy's 86th awards.
Poppy Harlow recently caught up with the Somali actor in his hometown.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the bitter cold and snow of Minneapolis --
(on camera): Do you ever get used to the cold?
BARKHAD ABDI, ACTOR: It's hard to get used to the cold.
HARLOW (voice-over): -- emerges one of this year's biggest Hollywood sensations.
ABDI: Look at me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
ABDI: I'm the captain now.
HARLOW: Twenty-eight-year-old Barkhad Abdi ad libbed that now famous line as Musi, the lead pirate in a blockbuster "Captain Phillips" with tom hanks.
The Somali immigrant is a natural on screen, but his journey to stardom has been anything but.
(on camera): Is this the route you used to drive?
ABDI: Yes. I drive a lot.
HARLOW: Abdi he drove a town car for a living, barely able to pay his rent. He left war-torn Somalia at 7, emigrating to Yemen then Minnesota.
ABDI: I remember the war. Guns everywhere.
HARLOW: At just six years old, he lay in bed in Mogadishu, identifying guns by the sound of their shots.
COOPER: Pirates, armed Somali gun man holding an American hostage.
HARLOW: When the Maersk Alabama was hijacked in 2009, Abdi watched, stunned.
ABDI: Just shocked by this whole pirate scene.
HARLOW: He hadn't acted a day in his life. But when casting directors descended on Minneapolis, he beat out more than 800 others. He and his three friends all cast as pirates, roles of a lifetime. Back at home they remained close. He seized the ship on film, but in real life he couldn't swim.
Director Paul Greengrass kept tensions high, preventing the pirates from meeting Tom Hanks until they filmed this scene.
ABDI: Somehow to me was like this scene will determine if the movie fails or do good.
HARLOW: He remains star struck by hanks.
ABDI: I can't believe I'm making a scene with the "Forrest Gump" guy.
HARLOW (on camera): With the "Forrest Gump" guy.
(voice-over): It earned him an Oscar nod and BAFTA.
He's made the late night rounds.
CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN: When you need Somali pirates, you go to Minneapolis apparently.
HARLOW (on camera): Minnesota.
HARLOW (voice-over): And can't walk a block without being recognized.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, are you the guy from that movie?
ABDI: I was wondering if I could get a picture with you.
HARLOW (on camera): Do you ever want to be like normal and not noticed?
ABDI: You know, you want that, you want that. But I guess it comes with the territory.
I come too far. I can't give up.
HARLOW (voice-over): Abdi's success is the stuff of dreams. But for him, it's more than fame.
ABDI: It's way different for me. Last generation tells them to keep going and you can do it somehow. Come true for all of us, I guess. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's our destiny.
HARLOW (on camera): It's your destiny.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's our destiny.
HARLOW (voice-over): Destiny and determination.
Poppy Harlow, CNN, Minneapolis.
BURNETT: An endearing guy.
Well, next, the cocktail of drugs that killed Philip Seymour Hoffman. We'll have that and the other top stories we're watching on this Friday night, next.
BURNETT: Stories we're following on this Friday. We finally learned what caused actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's death. Hoffman found dead in his apartment with a needle in his arm earlier this month. Today, the New York City Medical Examiner's Office said the actor died with quote acute mixed drug intoxication including heroin, cocaine, and painkillers in his system. The death was described as an accident.
Retailer J. Crew is reportedly in talks to sell itself to a Japanese company. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting tonight J. Crew looking to sell for as much as $5 billion. The paper's source cautions the talks are in very early stages and could fall apart. But the buyer is Japan's Fast Retailing which owns brand you may be familiar with, including Theory, Uniqlo and Helmut Lang.
SeaWorld has lodged a complaint with the Labor Department, alleging the inspector sent to investigate a trainer's death in 2010 leaked information to the producers of "Blackfish." That was documentary critical of SeaWorld which has aired several times on CNN. SeaWorld alleges that the inspector had a bias, that she engaged in unethical behavior. Now, among the evidence are pictures of the inspector with the producers of the film at the Sundance Film Festival. "Blackfish" will air tonight at 11:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.
Thanks so much for joining on this Friday with all the breaking news. We're going to see you back here on Monday.
In the meantime, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.
COOPER: Erin, thanks very much.