Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

WH: Biden Warned Putin If Russia Invades Ukraine "Things We Did Not Do In 2014, We Are Prepared To Do Now"; Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D- MD) Discusses About The Meeting Between President Biden And Putin Regarding Ukraine; Meadows Backs Out Of Cooperating With Jan 6 Panel Despite Already Providing Messages Sent During Riot, Sources Says; Nunes Quitting Congress To Run Trump's Social Media Company; IOC Doubles Down On "Silent Diplomacy" In Peng Shuai Case. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 07, 2021 - 19:00   ET


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That would be new spending. This is all on old spending.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yes. They got to do that really critically important. Jessica Dean up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much and to our viewers, thanks for watching.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, President Biden threatening Vladimir Putin as Russia could be on the verge of an invasion of Ukraine. Will it work?

Plus, former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows ending all cooperation with the January 6 Committee in his sudden about face, but not before sharing crucial documents.

And Republican lawmakers tonight trying to force out members of a bipartisan election commission after an audit found, ah, shocking, no signs of fraud. The Chair of the Commission is my guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, Biden says he's ready to act as Putin begins amassing nearly 200,000 troops on the Ukraine border. The U.S. and Russian leader speaking today for two hours and one minute amid escalating tension as Biden weighs new sanctions against Putin's inner circle.

The Kremlin, meantime, quickly releasing video of the first moments of the call.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello. Good to see you again.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: And the Biden administration quickly claiming that Russia

will be held to account in ways that it was not when President Biden was Vice President Biden and Putin annexed part of Ukraine with zero force from the U.S. Here's Biden's National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The President was crystal clear about where the United States stands. As we pursue diplomatic channels, we will also prepare for all contingencies just as we have been doing for weeks now, including through the preparation of specific responses to Russian escalation should they be required. Specific, robust, clear responses should they be required.

As President Biden looked President Putin in the eye and told him today that things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now.


BURNETT: Okay. That's a really crucial line. "Things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now." So what things is the U.S. prepared to do now exactly?

Well, we don't actually know. What we do know is that when Putin went into Ukraine in 2014, the U.S. ultimately back down. They left it at sanctions, so did Europe.

So how did Putin respond today? Well, according to the Kremlin, "In response, Vladimir Putin stressed that the responsibility should not be shifted onto the shoulders of Russia, since it is NATO that is making dangerous attempts to conquer Ukrainian territory, and is building up military potential at our borders."

Putin, obviously, verbally not backing down at all. In fact, he's building up, I mean, let's just actually look at the facts on the ground. So you're looking at satellite images. There is a massive Russian troop buildup along the Ukraine border. Russia has erected supply lines, medical units and fuel.

And the sources familiar with the latest U.S. intelligence estimates say that those fuel lines could sustain a drawn out conflict if Moscow chooses to invade. And then let's get to the number of troops. U.S. intelligence now estimates up to 175,000 Russian troops, 175,000 Russian troops amassing near the border.

I mean, to state the obvious you don't do that just to hang out. A military offensive could happen in a matter of months. Here's how the Director of the CIA, William Burns puts it.


WILLIAM BURNS, CIA DIRECTOR: We don't know that Putin has made up his mind to use force. But what we do know is that he's putting the Russian military, the Russian security services in a place where they could act in a pretty sweeping way. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And 175,000 troops, that would be sweeping. And despite everything you heard Jake Sullivan say today, source tells CNN that Senior State Department official Victoria Nuland acknowledged in a briefing to senators that U.S. options to deter an invasion from Russia are frankly fairly limited.

Because if Russia has 175,000 troops, unless America is willing to actually fight, Putin could probably just do what he wants. Because Putin knows the chances of the United States sending troops to defend Ukraine and die there are highly unlikely.

Now I'm going to speak with one senator who was inside that briefing in a moment. But the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was also asked about this today about whether the United States should make it clear to Russia here is a red line to define it very specifically and to say and if you cross that red line, the United States military will get involved. Here's his reply.


LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think in situations like this, I think conveying red lines only exacerbates the problem. I think we need to focus on finding ways to de-escalate and to reduce tensions and really get to the point of addressing what the central issues are.



BURNETT: Okay. The U.S. military obviously does not want to get involved, which leaves more sanctions as the option. In fact, U.S. allies in Europe today are admitting that's their only tool, saying they're considering new sanctions. As of now, though, that is the end of it.

We've got the story covered from the White House to the ground in Ukraine. Let's begin with Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Matthew Chance is in Odessa, Ukraine. We're going to go there in a moment.

But Kaitlan, first, does the White House actually think this call made any impact on Putin when Jake Sullivan says that he looked him in the eye and said, we're prepared to do things this time we didn't do last time. How did that go?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're kind of in wait and see mode, Erin, to see what is the Russian response to this call today. Where according to White House officials, it wasn't just speeches, they were actually talking with one another.

Of course, both of them speak at length often and they were talking about the reality of the situation on the ground. And the White House's description of this is essentially President Biden laying down the gauntlet of here are the consequences of what happens if Russia does invade Ukraine as you were mentioning there. There's economic sanctions that they've said they are prepared to put in place or the alternatives if Russia does not make that move and ends up backing down from those troops. That troop buildup that you've seen on the border there.

The one thing we do know is that also Putin came to this with his own demands. But Jake Sullivan, the National Security Adviser, told us in that briefing today that President Biden did not make any kind of commitments or concessions during that meeting.

But they also did not seem to get clarity on what exactly it is that President Putin intends to do. Because they said at this point, they still don't think that the Russian leader has made a decision about whether or not he's actually going to invade Ukraine. That had been their assessment before this two hour and one minute conversation, it still seems to be their assessment afterward, based on what Jake Sullivan told me in the briefing today.

And so what we do know is they've been talking about not only the economic sanctions that could happen on this, they also talked about that Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a major energy revenue source for Russia and the consequences, essentially, if Russia does invade Ukraine, that it would not be completed. So that's a big factor as well, in addition to the fact that we should note President Biden is going to speak to Ukrainian president Zelensky on Thursday to essentially debrief him on their conversation that they had today.

But other than that, they're waiting to see what does Vladimir Putin do. Because we asked today what the White House believes the timeline here is when they'll know whether or not the message was received today and they're basically waiting to see what does Russia do in Ukraine, do they put more troops there or Erin, do they start to bring those troops back?

BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you.

So let's go to Ukraine now and our Matthew Chance who's in Odessa. So, Matthew, any chance that we start seeing a draw down in Russian troops?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good question. I guess it depends, Erin, on how deterred the Russian president feels after that conversation with President Biden, when he considers the raft of really tough sanctions that have been threatened, essentially, by the U.S. side if Russia is to step over the border once again and to launch a military attack inside Ukraine.

I think the priority, though, for this meeting, from the Russian point of view, was to communicate effectively to the American side from the Kremlin what it is that they want. And they sort of spent their whole readout, their interpretation of how the meeting went, sort of emphasizing that they considered not themselves to be the aggressors in Ukraine, but NATO to be, in their words, trying to conquer Ukrainian territory and demanding once again, President Putin of President Biden that there are legal agreements put in place to prevent the eastward expansion of the NATO military alliance and also to stop NATO deploying its sophisticated weaponry in Ukraine to threaten Russia, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Matthew Chance in Odessa tonight. I want to go now to Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen. He is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so he was inside that State Department briefing that was just for the Senate as I mentioned earlier. And I really appreciate your time, Senator.

So what's your understanding as to where we are now? I mean, is the United States naive to think that sanctions could be effective now, when they obviously, were not effective in 2014 when Putin went ahead and annexed Crimea?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, Erin, it's good to be with you. In the case of Crimea, most of the sanctions really were decided upon after the invasion and annexation of Crimea. I think it's very important to do exactly what President Biden is doing now to state very clearly in advance what the consequences will be and these are severe sanctions. We're not talking about pinprick sanctions against particular individuals.


We're talking about sectoral sanctions hitting the financial sector, cutting Russia off from the international financial system.

And so on if you're Vladimir Putin and you're also thinking about the fate of your economy, you're going to have to think very carefully before you decide to launch an invasion into Ukraine.

BURNETT: Okay. So you think that the sanctions may have teeth. Let me ask you about what I shared in our preamble here, Senator, which is that the sources we spoke to describe the State Department briefing that you were at as 'gloomy'. Was it discouraging to you? Do you feel that word is merited or no?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, no, it wasn't discouraging and I think, really, you've heard through the public discourse, really the big takeaways, which is that - and according to the CIA assessment, you just played that, Putin is establishing the option to use military force but has not made a final decision.

So we should be focusing all our time and effort as the President is on deterring that, making clear in advance the extreme sanction is part of it, but also making it clear that we're going to act in concert with our allies. As you know, Erin, that's much more effective now that multiplier effect and that is why the President's been busy calling European allies both in advance of his call with Putin and afterwards.

BURNETT: So if you have 175,000 troops there and I understand your point about the sanctions. But if the sanctions don't do what you think they're going to do, is NATO going to do anything or are you willing to put American troops' lives on the line to defend Ukraine?

VAN HOLLEN: What the President has said is that we will provide military assistance to Ukraine. We've already been providing military assistance, but obviously that would be beefed up. But with respect to U.S. troops on the ground, that obviously is a very different decision.

And so I think the President has taken the right course here in letting Putin know that the consequences will be severe. And also should emphasize and I think maybe they should be making this clear that the Nord Stream 2 sanctions would automatically snap back under these circumstances. And that would be another very important message, I believe, sent to Putin.

BURNETT: Sen. Van Hollen, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: So I want to go now to retired Army Maj. Gen. James "Spider" Marks. And General, I appreciate your time. So you hear our reporting and you hear Sen. Van Hollen. A hundred seventy-five thousand troops and the numbers are going up. We'll see if there is any sort of a draw down, what's your view? Can Putin be stopped at this point?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, it can - of course, he can be stopped. I mean, the United States and its NATO partners have immense power and so there are kinetic ways to do that. And having 175,000 troops on the border or thereabouts comprised essentially of two cores that are poised to pour into Ukraine doesn't necessarily mean they're just going to fall forward, that the presence, therefore is inevitably going to end up in invasion.

However, having said that, I think that Putin is walking a very, very clear line here and that he has a presence, he knows that the United States did not act before. I don't get the narrative that he sees an eastward expansion of NATO into Ukraine.

Ukraine has a right to its own independence and its sovereignty and chose back in the early '90s not to be a part of an expanding NATO. There's a whole bunch of other nations that did expand into NATO. But we have 16 members of NATO and then suddenly, we now have 30.

So we told both Bush 41 and Clinton before him told Putin back then look, we're not going to expand NATO and we did. So there's every reason for NATO to feel - I mean, for Putin to feel a little bit out of sorts and suspect of what the intentions are of NATO. But the forces are there, they're real, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's inevitable.

BURNETT: So we know other countries are watching this. What does the United States do? It's not obviously just Russia. You've got China? The U.S. announcing that boycott diplomatically of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, because of ongoing human rights abuses in China, including genocide, an issue brought to the forefront by the apparent silencing of the Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai after she accused a communist leader of rape.

But, of course, general, not one single American ally has joined that boycott, not a single one. So China is sitting there and watching this and seeing us allies not get on board with a diplomatic boycott, and they're looking at Taiwan drooling and they're looking at what's going on with Ukraine. How important is what's happening in Russia for what happens with Taiwan?


MARKS: Well, incredibly important and there is a connection clearly. But the United States has an agreement with Taiwan, the Taiwan Relations Act that obligates the United States to have a relationship with Taiwan simultaneously with the PRC.

Now, President Biden let the cat out of the bag when he stated emphatically, of course, the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan, which I think, frankly, was a mistake, because we wanted that strategic ambiguity to hover over all that.

So there are some connections, but there are some significant differences. The key here is that NATO, we need to shore up our relationships and our leadership position in NATO. The President, I think, is trying to do that with France, and Germany, and Italy and the U.K., certainly. But the challenge that we see is that sanctions alone, unless they are incredibly draconian is not - those sanctions will not necessarily affect Putin.


MARKS: The problem is this, Putin enjoys tremendous support internally but if the oligarchs who he relies on for support are starting to feel the pain, then there may be some success in terms of Putin choosing not to invade Ukraine. But fundamentally, the United States right now should be increasing its foreign military sales, they should be doing that with anti-tank and defensive type counter mobility type weapon systems that send a very clear signal that the United States is in, not all in but in to the defense and the sovereignty of Ukraine and then Putin needs to then take a pause.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Gen. Marks. I appreciate your time. And next, the January 6th Commission says former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has one last chance to cooperate with the investigation or else. This as we are learning details of what he did share.

Plus, GOP Congressman Devin Nunes calling it quits to work in the real halls of Republican power, the offices of Donald J. Trump.

And the International Olympic Committee choosing what it calls silent diplomacy in the case of China and Peng Shuai. What is the IOC thinking?



BURNETT: New tonight, the January 6 Committee firing a warning shot after Trump's former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said he would no longer appear for a deposition tomorrow or cooperate with the Committee anymore.

Chairman Thompson saying in a statement tonight, "If indeed Mr. Meadows refuses to appear, the Select Committee will be left no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr. Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution." It comes as we are learning about the crucial evidence Meadows already handed over to the Committee before ending all cooperation today. Jamie Gangel is OUTFRONT. She's breaking all of this.

And, I mean, Jamie, it is pretty incredible, so let's start with your new reporting. What is included in what Meadows did hand over, the roughly 6,000 pages of documents, what's in there as far as you know?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So let's remember this was voluntary, no claim of privilege. We are told by the Committee that in those documents, Meadows has handed over include messages sent and received during the riot; texts, emails, calls while the events of the insurrection were actually going on January 6.

Committee member Zoe Lofgren told us earlier today, the records include, "Volumes of material including real time communication."

So look, Erin, we don't know yet the details of who Meadows was communicating with that day. But we do know a lot of people had Meadows' cell phone. So think about it, White House officials, rally organizers, Trump loyalists, members of Congress, all should be aware that if they were communicating with Meadows, texting, emailing on January 6th, the Committee may already have those documents.

I just want to add one thing, if Donald Trump is as mad about Mark Meadows' book as we're hearing, he's going to be furious when he realizes that Meadows handed over all these records with no claim of privilege, Erin.

BURNETT: Which is stunning as to why now all of a sudden, he's not cooperating, not showing up. It's seems so nonsensical. But you do have some exclusive reporting on the January 6 Committee and the phone records because you mentioned the crucial nature of whether it's texts or phone calls with Mark Meadows who would have been sort of a centerpiece of the web here. But that they subpoenaed phone records of more than 100 other people, who does that include?

GANGEL: So what we know is the Committee sent out more than 100 requests for call detail records. They've already received a substantial number back. The records, just to be clear, they do not include the content of the call. They're not recordings or the substance of the text, but it's who called who, who texted whom, when did they place the call, for how long.

This potentially gives the Committee the ability to draw a web of communication before, during and after the January 6th riot, Erin.

BURNETT: It's so important, right?

GANGEL: Right.

BURNETT: You can establish the web, having the map is as crucial ...

GANGEL: Absolutely.

BURNETT: ... as knowing what was said. Okay. Jamie, thank you very much.

So I want to go on the back of Jamie's reporting to Shan Wu, former federal prosecutor and Dana Bash, of course, our Chief Political Correspondent, Co-Anchor of STATE OF THE UNION.

So Shan, I'm just trying to understand here, Jamie is laying this out. They get messages from Mark Meadows that he sent and received during the riot, 6,000 pages, okay. And he does all this without anybody forcing him to do anything. He's like, here you go, doesn't claim executive privilege and now all of a sudden, he says nope, not going to - don't want to - not going to say anything, not going to be deposed, no more. What in the world could his game be, Shan?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I suspect he and his legal team are worried about those subpoenas that have been issued for the phone records and text records. He's worried about a perjury trap being created for him because when he disclosed those documents voluntarily, as Jamie reported, that's voluntary. He can cherry pick what he's giving over and I would bet that he is giving over things to make him look pretty good.

Now, though, he doesn't know what other people may be saying.


There may be people that he didn't disclose that he spoke to, so he's worried about that and he's afraid of being ambushed and so they're backing out now that they know there's ways that he could be impeached or confronted with material that may not be what he led them to believe it showed.

BURNETT: Which is pretty interesting and I think really important what you say. Like he's not going to claim executive privilege, he hands over his cherry picked list. Now, all of a sudden, you realize, oh, they might have a whole lot more than that and you don't know what they know.

So Dana, Meadows, maybe he thought that would be enough and that would make them go away. I mean, that would seem to be a little insane for him to think such thing. But it's a big blow to Chairman Thompson who made a big announcement one week ago today.

We were all sitting here on the show. They had that contempt vote. And he said specifically that the ex-chief of staff was cooperating and now no, not at all. I mean, how big a blow is this to the Committee?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a big blow to the Committee. The one thing that Chance's analysis makes so much sense from a legal point of view, but from a political point of view and from a personal relationship point of view, there's another really important factor here, Erin, and that is the book that Mark Meadows wrote.

And anybody who has gotten anywhere near the former president, and has written a book, and has the potential to make money off of that or make money off of anything that has to do with him. He gets angry. Never mind what the headline has been so far, which is the revelation the Mark Meadows put in his book about how bad the former president's COVID situation really was. Never mind that he also had a positive COVID test and it opened up so many more realities that we didn't know and lies that we didn't know.

There's no question that the former president is mad, that coinciding with his pulling back from the Committee, CAN'T be a coincidence.

BURNETT: It's just pretty amazing that you write the book, you put all this stuff in there and then you're surprised that he's mad and then you're - but then the fact that you're like a scorpion eating your own tail and you run off and try to sabotage yourself at the Committee, I mean, it's amazing.

Shan, this comes though as - we'll see how it plays out with Meadows, but there's now a court date for Steve Bannon's criminal contempt of Congress charges for stonewalling the Committee as Meadows may be about to go through this. That trial is not going to begin until July 18, which is seven months from right now. So does this actually signal to Meadows and others that hey, the delay tactic actually works, by the time this is done, Congress may be Republican and sainara?

WU: I think it does signal that to them. Keep in mind that actually Bannon's team wanted an even longer delay before the trial ...

BURNETT: Fair. Fair.

WU: ... and justice was pushing for April, so the judge kind of split the baby a little bit there. But I think it does signal what people knew, which is once you go into the court system, whether it's civil or criminal, it's going to be a delay. On the other hand, it also signals to potential witnesses that this is for real that he's going to face an actual criminal trial and not everybody may have Bannon's reaction to being happy at that prospect.

BURNETT: Right. And, of course, it's expensive.

So Dana, let's talk about the book, because Meadows now doesn't want to talk about Trump to the January 6 Committee, but he's perfectly happy to do so when he thought he could write a book and make money. So you talked about what he revealed. He revealed Trump was really sick, that his oxygen levels plummeted before he was taken to the hospital with COVID.

And then Meadows goes into great detail about how bad Trump looked. Which I mean, come on, Meadows is not a stupid person. He knows that Trump cares about this more than anything else. So Trump finds out he has to go to hospital and Meadows write, "President Trump was sitting up in bed in his T-shirt. It was the first time I had seen him in anything other than a golf shirt or a suit jacket. The red streaks in the President's eyes hadn't gone away and his hair was a mess from the hours he'd spent getting Regeneron in bed."

And then Meadows comes out to say right before Trump walked out of the White House to get on the helicopter to go to Walter Reed. He had to drop his briefcase, Meadows writes, the weight was too much for him.

Okay. Meadows did not write this thinking Trump was going to be pleased, Dana.

BASH: No, he didn't. But anybody who - like that who comes out of a situation, writing a book is engaged with a publisher who wants headlines that sell books. And this is the guy who was incredibly close to and therefore all of these moments that almost no one else on the planet was.

So, of course, he's going to write something like that so that people talk about it, so potentially he sells books. And it always blows my mind, Erin, I think you're alluding to this ...

... that people do these things in general but particularly in Trump's orbit and think that it's going to be okay and that the former president is not going to get mad and he always does.


Also, not for nothing. Have you ever seen Donald Trump carry a briefcase? I haven't.


BURNETT: I mean, I don't know what that was about, right? That is a fair point.

But it is amazing, right, that they think they can re-ingratiate themselves, right? When they're -- he will hold a grudge and he will exact his revenge and that's what he has done every time, and he will do again. I don't -- amazing to think what Meadows was thinking.

All right. Thanks so much, both of you. Appreciate it.

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see you.

BURNETT: And next, Trump acolyte Devin Nunes leaving Congress to work for Trump. For a man who has had nothing but high praise for protecting and promoting him.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: And you deserve a medal. You deserve the equivalent of Pulitzer Prizes.


BURNETT: Is the International Olympic Committee siding with China over tennis star Peng Shuai?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Tonight, California Republican Devin Nunes's surprise decision to leave Congress signaling where he believes the power really lies in Washington -- with Donald Trump.


Nunes has already repeatedly defended the former president, as you are probably no doubt aware. And he is now going to take a job with Trump's new social media company, potentially passing on a very powerful position on Capitol Hill in Congress.

Now, meanwhile, the company -- the shell company that's taking Trump's new social media entity public is being investigated by federal regulators.

Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT.


TRUMP: A very courageous man. He's courageous. Congressman Devin Nunes.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He has been one of Donald Trump's closest allies and fiercest defenders in Congress.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): The president needs to know that this -- these intelligence reports are out there and I have a duty to -- to tell him that.

SERFATY: Now, Republican Congressman Devin Nunes is going all in, resigning his seat in Congress, giving up the potential for a powerful committee gavel next year to join the former president's social media startup.

TRUMP: A real warrior named Devin Nunes.

SERFATY: Trump announcing Nunes will become Trump media and technology group's CEO, calling him a fighter and a leader. Nunes saying he is humbled and honored to be entrusted with the job.

NUNES: Get off the slippery slope we have been on for a long time.

SERFATY: Nunes had been next in line to chair the influential House Ways and Means Committee if Republicans take control of the House next year.

NUNES: Be careful what you say because they are going to use these words against you.

SERFATY: But he had been facing some redistricting headwinds, the prospect of having to possibly run in a Democratic-leaning district in California if he were to run again.

NUNES: We are not here to run a show trial in an effort to impeach the president of the United States. SERFATY: Over the years, Nunes had become one of Trump's most loyal

supporters in Congress.

TRUMP: He became a hero because he found out what was going on in government, and he found out about the hoax and the witch hunt, and all of the horrible things that have gone on.

SERFATY: Backing Trump's false claims of election fraud.

TRUMP: All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen.

SERFATY: Railing against Trump's impeachment in the Russia probe.

NUNES: We still have not seen any evidence of anyone from the Trump campaign or any other campaign, for that matter, that's communicated with the Russian government.

SERFATY: And the mainstream media.

NUNES: And I felt like I had a duty and obligation to tell him because as you know, he's been taking a lot of heat in the news media.

SERFATY: His cozy relationship with the former president, elevating his clout in conservative circles. Trump even awarding Nunes the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

TRUMP: Devin Nunes, he wouldn't stop. He saw it before anybody and you deserve a medal. You deserve the equivalent of Pulitzer Prizes.

SERFATY: The move to Trump's new venture doesn't come without risk. Trump's social media platform, Truth Social, is largely still undefined and is already facing serious scrutiny. The shell company Trump plans to merge with revealing this week that they are under investigation with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


SERFATY (on camera): And a social media company that the former president is creating is reportedly trying to compete with Twitter and Facebook and Nunes is going to be leaving Congress at the end of this month, Erin, and that cuts his congressional term short by about a year.

BURNETT: That's incredible. All right. Sunlen, thank you for that report.

And, you know, when you talk about Devin Nunes, right, beginning up a leadership position, his whole career to get paid some money for some period of time, to go work for a new social media company. Donald Trump's grip on his party extends far beyond Washington.

In Wisconsin, Republican state lawmakers are trying to, quote, forcefully urge the immediate resignations of members of the state's bipartisan elections commission, including my next guest. And they're threatening criminal prosecution after alleging that those members did not conduct an impartial election in 2020, despite a Republican- ordered audit finding -- guess what -- yet again, no evidence of widespread fraud in Wisconsin.

OUTFRONT now, Ann Jacobs, the Democratic chair of Wisconsin's Bipartisan Elections Commission, which oversees the state's elections.

So, Chair Jacobs, I appreciate your time.

Let's just take a step back here. Wisconsin Republicans taking aim at you. They are calling for your immediate resignation, suggesting that you should face criminal charges. Okay? What do you say to them?

ANN JACOBS (D), WISCONSIN ELECTIONS COMMISSION CHAIR: I have a lot of words I could say. My most common words are Wisconsin's 2020 election was fair. It was accurate and it was safe. And the Wisconsin Elections Commission was part of the reason that we were able to have that election and that they need to stop these attacks on the democratic fabric of our nation.

BURNETT: So, if you and your colleagues aren't going to resign and you're not then what do you think these Republican lawmakers are trying to accomplish by -- by doing this and making these threats?

JACOBS: Well, the funny thing is they have actually told us very overtly.


Senator Ron Johnson just within the past month has said that he believes that the state legislature should have the right to override the popular vote in Wisconsin. And instead of be -- requiring that the votes that are cast by our citizens be counted and whoever wins being elected, that the state legislature should be allowed to overrule that. That's the game. That's the end game and that's what they are trying to do.

BURNETT: So, did you ever think anything like this could happen? I mean, the results were clear, and then there were audits. And then, there were more audits and then there were more audits. And now, here you are and the results are still clear and yet this is happening.

JACOBS: It's absolutely stunning and I think the -- the threats of criminal prosecution should be particularly troubling. This is what happens in -- in -- fascist states. This is what happens after military coups, is that the first thing you do is you get rid of the people who are tasked with enforcing the civil laws and making sure they are followed. And the best way to do that is to lock people up.

So, this is part of the game plan and it needs to stop.

BURNETT: Well, Chair Jacobs, I appreciate your time. I am glad you are giving voice to it. I'm glad that we can amplify it. Thank you.

JACOBS: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, the International Olympic Committee doubling down, defending their stance on China's silencing of tennis star Peng Shuai.

And a police officer set to go on trial for fatally shooting after saying this.


POLICE OFFICER: Taser, Taser, Taser!


BURNETT: We are going to take you inside the training -- the training that was supposed to ensure that would never happen.



BURNETT: Tonight, the International Olympic Committee defending its response to China's silencing of tennis star Peng Shuai, following the rape allegation she made against a senior communist leader.

The IOC saying it's sticking with, quote, silent diplomacy, rather than publicly saying anything to Chinese officials.


JUAN ANTONIO SAMARANCH, FORMER IOC PRESIDENT: Everybody should be concentrating on the wellbeing of Peng Shuai, and not trying to use this for any other purpose. Don't write off as silent diplomacy. It's a very powerful tool and we plan to stick to that.


BURNETT: Will Ripley has been following Peng's story for us, and he is live tonight in Hong Kong.

So, you know, will, the IOC not budging.

Is there any sign that what they call silent diplomacy is doing anything?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, no public sign, Erin. No indication that China is conducting the full investigation the Women's Tennis Association has demanded and since suspended their tournaments in China because they haven't seen any public proof that Peng Shuai is not being silenced, is not being censored. They can't communicate directly with her.

The only people who can apparently communicate directly with her other than Chinese officials are the International Olympic Committee who continue to release statements without any images, without any verifiable information from video calls they have had with her. But yet, they are asking the world to just trust that Peng Shuai is fine and that she is relaxed and everything is good.

And yet, you can see the insecurity of the Chinese government because right now, Erin, they are censoring CNN's live feed inside China.

BURNETT: Right, I mean, which is incredible. And, again, just to point out here that the IOC is buying the, quote/unquote, protraction of the allegations, which sort of defies -- defies reason.

So, let me just say something, though, will. There has been a development. At the top of the hour, we were talking about the Russia situation and how, in China, no allies had joined America in boycotting the Beijing Winter Olympics diplomatically. That has just, in the last few minutes being minutes, changed.

Australia is going to join the United States in this boycott, the only country that has done so, but still there is now one. But no business, will, has said they are pulling their Olympic sponsorship. Not a single one. I mean, how does the Chinese government view all this?

RIPLEY: Well, they have a lot of leverage against smaller countries, countries smaller than the United States, economic leverage they have used in the past to punish countries that do things even if the United States asks them.

For example, Canada. The United States had an extradition request for the Huawei CFO and she was detained in Canada. They were honoring their relationship with the United States. Two Canadian citizens were arrested and jailed and held on nation security charges and only released when this Huawei executive, this darling of the communist party, one of China's most important companies, was released.

So a country like Australia or any countries that want to consider following the U.S. in this diplomatic boycott have to keep in mind there could be retribution from China.

So we will have to see, Erin, if the list grows beyond just Australia and again diplomatic boycott. They are still sending athletes to the games, as is the U.S.

BURNETT: Right, right. I mean, just so crucial.

All right. Will, thank you very much as we continue to cover this crucial story.

And next, a police officer set to go on trial tomorrow for manslaughter after she says she mistook her gun for a Taser. How does that happen?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taser, obviously, brighter, a shorter grip. These are all purposefully done to keep an officer from potentially mixing up these two weapons systems, right?


BURNETT: Not a good week to be in Hawaii. All those people, getting away from COVID for their big break. Whoo!

We'll be right back.



BURNETT: Opening statements set for tomorrow in the trial of Kim Potter. She is the veteran police officer charged with killing Daunte Wright during a traffic stop earlier this year. Potter says she mistook her gun for her Taser.

Now, trial will focus on how that could have happened. Josh Campbell takes us inside the training the officers received. I warn you some of the video you are about to watch is disturbing.


POLICE OFFICER: Taser, Taser, Taser!

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the difference between life and death. Twenty-year-old Daunte Wright killed in April after Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter grabbed the wrong weapon from her belt.

POLICE OFFICER: The officer had the intention to deploy their Taser but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet.

CAMPBELL: Potter who said she shot Wright accidentally now facing up to 15 years in prison for manslaughter, with many still asking how could this have happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a Taser. This is a Taser. But no, my nephew was killed with this -- a Glock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, good morning, Josh.

CAMPBELL: To find out how some officers are trained, we visited the Los Angeles police department, which has made its Taser policy more strict in recent years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: LAPD had a 23 percent reduction in the use of the Taser deployment. We are only going to use that Taser when the suspect's actions are violent.

CAMPBELL: Still, they are a critical tool meant to provide officers with a less-lethal way to immobilize dangerous suspects.


CAMPBELL: Officer Allison Ashnault (ph) uses this room of city mailboxes and street scenes for Taser training including how to tell them apart from real guns.

The demo pistol is red but, otherwise, identical to a black service weapon.

ASHNAULT: You hold that flat and add some live rounds in it. There is a pretty distinct difference in the weight of those two weapons.

CAMBPELL: So your service weapon, it's heavier. The grip is longer. The Taser obviously brighter, a shorter grip. These are all purposefully done to keep an officer from potentially mixing up these two weapon systems, right?

ASHNAULT: That's -- that's the idea.

CAMPBELL: But that hasn't always been the case across the country. In 2018, a Kansas officer meant to Taser a man fighting with her partner. But said she accidentally fired her gun, instead. The suspect survived and the officer's criminal case, dismissed.

In 2015, Eric Harris ran from Oklahoma police after an alleged gun sale. Volunteer Reserve Deputy Robert Bates tried to Taser him but shot him dead.


ROBERT BATES, VOLUNTEER RESERVE DEPUTY: Taser! Taser! Oh! I shot him! I'm sorry.

CAMPBELL: Bates got four years in prison for manslaughter.

ASHNAULT: All we need to do is to go ahead and pull the trigger.

CAMPBELL: The LAPD says its rigorous repetitive training is meant to increase officers' ability to react appropriately under stress.

ASHNAULT: Go ahead and press the trigger.

CAMPBELL: I could feel my heart rate go up as I was getting ready to fire. How do you train officers to keep calm, to not let the stresses of that moment impact what is about to happen?

ASHNAULT: As your partner, part of my job is to kind of calm you down, to pull you back, if necessary, to try to reduce the chance that we are getting into something without clearly thinking it through. But anytime we can, we are going to try to deescalate the situation.

CAMPBELL: How Officer Kimberly Potter responded to the stress of the moment will be front and center as opening arguments begin in her manslaughter trial this week.


CAMPBELL (on camera): Now, Erin, the death of Daunte Wright there in Minnesota obviously causing communities and police departments across the nation to focus on training for officers to ensure they can maintain self-control in these dynamic situations. But one thing is clear from our time inside the LAPD here in Los Angeles, it's not just about training, it is also about culture.

Captain John Pinto of LAPD tells me that cadets here are trained that whenever possible, they should focus on de-escalation to safely take a suspect into custody without the use of lethal force, without the use of less-than-lethal force, without any force at all -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Then, you don't -- you eliminate the -- the risk of mistake. Thanks so much. I appreciate it.

And next, Hawaii getting hammered by flooding, hurricane-force winds and snow. Hawaii.


BURNETT: Hawaii is under a state of emergency in effect through Friday after life-threatening rains and floods have battered the state. Honolulu recording nearly 8 inches of rain in one day. Monday, the wettest December day on record. Flash-flood watch up for the western islands of Hawaii, including Kauai and Oahu.

And it's not just severe rain hitting Hawaii, snow storm prompting a rare blizzard warning there, the first in more than three years. It's what's called Kona Low weather system, responsible for all the precipitation. Hawaii residents are warned damage to public and private property remains possible.

Thanks so much for joining us.

It's time now for "AC360."