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Erin Burnett Outfront
U.S. Sends Response To Russia's Demands; Awaiting Putin Reaction As Russia Says It Is Relocating SU-35 Fighter Jets To Belarus; Source: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer To Announce Retirement At WH Event With Biden Tomorrow; New Legal Case Threatens Madison Cawthorn's Re-Election Bid; Fed Chair Signals Interest Rate Hike, Markets Rattled; Belarus Clears The Way For Russian Aggression As Crisis Intensifies. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 26, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Indeed they are. We're going to hear much more about Justice Breyer's legacy tomorrow. He will appear with President Biden tomorrow afternoon to formally announce his retirement, looking forward to that event.
To our viewers, thanks for watching.
Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, it's Putin's call, the U.S. response to the Russian President's security demands regarding Ukraine. Is it enough for Putin to back down?
Plus, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring, paving the way for Biden to name his successor, so who's on the shortlist?
And could having any role on January 6th disqualify some Republicans including Trump from reelection? That is the legal challenge actually playing out in North Carolina tonight. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, awaiting Putin's response. Russia's president set to reply to America's written responses to Putin's demands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We make clear that there are core principles that we are committed to uphold and defend, including Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the right of states to choose their own security arrangements and alliances. The document is with them and the ball is in their court. We'll see what we do, as I've said repeatedly, whether they choose the path of diplomacy and dialogue, whether they decide to renew aggression against Ukraine, we're prepared either way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Secretary of State Antony Blinken there sticking with territorial integrity and drawing a red line on NATO. Of course, though, Putin can get what he wants on NATO in less direct ways with other concessions. Blinken's spokesperson has already indicated that there are concessions on the table, in fact, and they include - the State Department was specific yesterday, even though today they didn't put the exact list out. But yesterday they mentioned the placement of U.S. missiles and also U.S. military exercises. The State Department saying it is willing to engage in dialogue when it comes to those issues that Putin does care deeply about.
Now, on one hand, it's important to consider that Putin started all of this by putting more than 100,000 troops into position and then demanding and getting concessions from the United States to remove them. That's actually a pretty significant thing to consider on its own.
But as of tonight, the ball is once again in Putin's court and so far, all we've seen from him today is actions, not words. Today, Putin staging more military drills in the Arctic and moving more of his SU- 35 jets to Belarusian airfields. Those jets are some of Russia's most powerful, able to travel twice the speed of sound and they also carry Russia's most modern guided aircraft missiles.
And as Putin's build up continues, CNN is learning tonight that the U.S. is getting closer to moving troops into the region, now speaking with allies to deploy thousands of American boots on the ground. These troops, though, would not be heading to Ukraine. Among the countries where they could be headed; Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
Now that does bring them closer to Russia's doorstep, but again it's not Ukraine. And Biden has been categorical that they are not combat troops and that they will not fight. So how much power do they have here to scare Putin? That's another crucial question.
As it is, Russia has Ukraine surrounded on three sides, at least 127,000 troops now stationed around Ukraine's border. And as top U.S. officials have said again and again, there is no sign right now that Russia is backing down.
Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT live in Kiev, Ukraine. And Matthew, I know you've been talking to officials there again tonight as we await Putin's response to America's written list of concessions and responses. What are they telling you?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, despite those raising tensions that you just set out, there's been some pretty upbeat remarks tonight, Erin, from the Ukrainian officials that we've been in contact with.
First of all, they have told us that they're satisfied. That was the remark they use the word - they used to describe the U.S. response to Russia's demands for Ukraine, never to join NATO and for the other security demands it had, though, particularly happy with the fact that Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity had been emphasized in that U.S. response.
They called it a comprehensive well set out and well argued set of responses, which they said it would be logical for Russia to accept, the forces you mentioned, we haven't heard anything back from the Russians yet. In fact, Vladimir Putin with whom this decision about which way to go with Ukraine lies hasn't really said anything about Ukraine for the past several weeks and so it's been sort of deafening that silence coming from the Kremlin.
There's also been some positive remarks, though, coming on the other strand of the diplomatic front. There have been meetings between Ukraine and Russia directly along with France and Germany to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine, which is essentially run by Russian- backed rebels at the moment. The two sides have come together for the first time in a long time.
They've talked about reinforcing the ceasefire that was agreed last year. And Ukrainian officials saying the very fact that these talks are happening again. There are more talk scheduled for a couple of weeks from now, is a positive sign.
So while we're still getting this military buildup in the region on the part of Russia and possibly soon with the United States as well, the Ukrainians are trying to put a positive spin on it, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Matthew Chance live, again, from Kiev tonight.
I want to go now to the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, Retired General Philip Breedlove. And I appreciate your time, General, very much and your perspective here. So we know that U.S. gave a series of written responses to Russia's demands today. So what is Putin's next move now? Does he counter those responses formally? How does this happen? Or is military action the next move?
GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE (RET.), FORMER SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER EUROPE, NATO: Well, first of all, Erin, thanks for having me on tonight. And what we see across the last several days is what we'll see more of. Mr. Putin continues to bring forces, different enabling forces from hospital operations to others to the front, to make him more ready to take action, if he has.
And all of this serves the secondary motive of continuing to up the ante, keep upping the pressure to try to get those concessions that he seeks.
BURNETT: So General, we know Putin knows the United States is never going to publicly come out and say, oh, okay, forget about everything we said for the past 10 years, Ukraine can never join NATO, we give in. That's not going to happen and Putin knows that's not going to happen. He wants to get there via other ways. But what is his endgame here, General, do you think?
BREEDLOVE: Well, first of all, we empathize with support and we'll continue to work to support our Ukrainian brothers and sisters. But really, it's bigger than even them. They are the tool, the battleground now in a bigger game. If you look closely at the two documents that Mr. Putin passed to us and sort of said take it or leave it, sign it or I'm going to go into Ukraine, those documents were bigger than Ukraine and they're all about rewriting the security architecture of Eastern Europe.
Remember that Mr. Putin said not long ago that the greatest calamity of our time was the collapse of the Warsaw Pact.
BREEDLOVE: And now he's trying to rebuild those structures that look an awful lot like that, Warsaw Pact.
BURNETT: So today, General, CNN learned that the U.S. and other allies are in discussions to deploy thousands more troops to Eastern European countries. Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said that this is building up tension. Russia is 'observing' these actions of the United States with profound concern, careful with their words here.
But let me ask you, General, what you think of these moves? Given that the United States has categorically said they're not going to engage in combat over Ukraine and given that the head of NATO has said categorically that they're not engaging in combat on the part of Ukraine, does this troop buildup - what does it do to Putin?
BREEDLOVE: Well, I continue to be amazed that people are worried about or Mr. Putin is complaining about us alerting these troops. We haven't moved any of them yet.
BURNETT: That's fair, yes.
BREEDLOVE: He only (inaudible) them, and every day he's moving more troops to the front. So this argument that he's having about being really worried about us accelerating the problems, is really an internal message, I think, to his troops that makes absolutely no sense to the exterior audience that when he's got over 120,000 and increasing them that we are worrying him by merely alerting 8,000.
BREEDLOVE: And so I think that's kind of a false argument and I'm so glad you corrected yourself. At the top of the hour, you said these weren't combat troops. These are combat troops. But you're correct, you said it correctly the second time. We don't intend to put those boots on the ground in Ukraine. But they will (inaudible) ...
BURNETT: Right. Well, President Biden has made it clear he doesn't want them to engage in combat. He has taken that off the table.
BREEDLOVE: That's correct. But they are combat capable troops, some of our very best.
BURNETT: Yes. All right. Well, General, I appreciate your time. And thank you very much.
When we talk about the military options here, obviously, the thing when you take combat off the table that has been on the table has been punishing sanctions. That's what the United States has consistently said again and again. And in order for the U.S. and NATO to have any teeth against Putin, all NATO allies have to be on board with those sanctions, especially the big leaders of NATO enter Germany.
So far, Germany's commitment to standing up to Russia is unclear. Today, they did agree to send 5,000 helmets to Ukraine. That's a token in the sense of so far they have categorically refused to export any weapons to the region as something which the United States has done and other NATO Allies has also done.
The U.S. has been putting Javelin defense systems and other support into Ukraine.
Now, part of the reason for Germany's reticence is historical and a big part of it is its dependence on Russian gas, 50 percent to 75 percent of Germany's gas currently comes from Russia.
OUTFRONT now is Toby Rice, he's President and Chief Executive Officer of EQT, the largest natural gas producer in the United States. And I appreciate your time. So let me just ask you, Germany relies on Russia for gas, we know that. This has been true for years. The risks and challenges of that have been true for years and yet nothing has really changed. Is there any other immediate alternative in place that you know of that Germany could get its energy - its gas from?
TOBY RICE, CEO AND PRESIDENT OF EQT, U.S.'S LARGEST NATURAL GAS PRODUCER: Yes, absolutely, it's the United States and United States LNG industry, powered by American shale is a solution that could prevent this type of crisis that we're seeing over there in Europe from happening. Everything that we're seeing over there really started by being born out of an energy crisis.
At first, we saw the first phase of an energy shortage and the skyrocketing energy prices that create tremendous pain and suffering for residents of those nations. And when these nations give up their energy security, bad things happen, like these soaring prices. The next thing that happens, phase two, is industry shutdown, economies grind to a halt. And then unfortunately, stage three, is where you start seeing military conflict, either from the nations that are looking to secure their energy security or in cases where the people that provide energy and have tremendous power over those countries look to exert that power and exert their influence in the region.
And certainly, Putin has the power, where over 40 percent of the energy supply to Europe comes from Russia. And this is what happens when nations give up their energy security and it's really unfortunate and it's a terrible thing to happen. It's even more disheartening to know that this could have been completely prevented had the United States natural gas industry been able to do more, to provide more U.S. LNG to our allies in Europe.
BURNETT: Well, and of course, the U.S., people should be aware, is now the largest producer of natural gas. Is the Biden administration talking to you at all, to your industry about getting involved here so that Germany would be able to be fully on board with punishing sanctions because, guess what, there's American natural gas waiting here at your port?
RICE: Yes. It's encouraging to hear Biden talk about U.S. LNG, that's great. I hope that he understands in addition to talking about putting 8,000 troops on the frontlines of Ukraine, we should be talking about activating the 800,000 roughnecks, the millions of pipe fitters, the boilermakers here in the United States to create the U.S. LNG and secure the energy supply for the people in Europe. And that is going to have a tremendous effect and it's going to be a way to do it peacefully.
BURNETT: The Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren has accused your industry of corporate greed amidst record prices and said, basically, why would you want to export when prices are so high at home and Americans are hurting. Is President Biden on board with that point of view with limiting your ability to export to Europe at this time?
RICE: Yes. I mean, the facts on pricing are pretty clear. I think it's what we told Sen. Warren is that natural gas prices have never been cheap, have never been lower for people in the United States compared to what people are paying around the world. Our issue isn't about the resource. We have the resource, we have the desire to do more. Our problem is we face - we need more pipeline infrastructure to connect our low cost gas to these markets.
And just to put this in perspective, in the United States, here in Pennsylvania with gas prices around $3.50. And New York, where you face some pipeline challenges, gas prices are $10. In Elizabeth Warren's home state in Massachusetts, even further pipeline infrastructure challenges, gas prices are $20 and now we look international gas prices are over $30.
So it's not about the resource and our ability to help, it's about getting connected to this infrastructure that we critically need and it's all things that we've done before, we just need some more cooperation to build this infrastructure that not only the U.S. needs to lower energy prices here in the United States, but also provide energy security to the world.
BURNETT: Right, and to Europe, which right now is looking at the U.S. or looking at Qatar and nobody seems to have any extra gas for them. Thank you so much, Toby, I appreciate your time.
RICE: You got it. Thanks.
BURNETT: And next, President Biden gets his first chance to fill a seat on the Supreme Court, so who will he pick to replace Justice Stephen Breyer?
Plus, why a group of lawyers who have comments like this will disqualify some Republicans for running for reelection.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): The Democrats, with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans, hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice. (END VIDEO CLIP)
And Fed preparing to take a major step to tame surging prices.
BURNETT: Breaking news, President Biden and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer scheduled to appear together at the White House tomorrow. Breyer plans to announce his retirement formally. He's been on the court for nearly 30 years. This gives President Biden his first opportunity to nominate a justice to the court while Democrats still control Congress. Biden declining to weigh in on Breyer's coming retirement when asked about it earlier today though by reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There has been no announcement for Justice Breyer. Let him make whatever statement he is going to make and I'll be happy to talk about it later.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The nomination to replace Breyer, a liberal vote on the court sets up a seismic political battle in Washington ahead of the midterm elections.
Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT from the White House tonight. So Kaitlan, what more do you know about tomorrow's event at the White House? Obviously, the President has known about Breyer's impending retirement before we all found out about it. He's have a little time to think about who he might nominate, what is his thinking?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is something he has been thinking about for a long time, Erin, ever since he was a candidate on the campaign trail making that promise to put the first black woman on the Supreme Court if he got an opportunity like this one, like the one that we believe Justice Breyer is going to present to the President tomorrow when they make this formal announcement that he is retiring, he is stepping down from the court.
And they say timing is everything. That statement is never more true than when it comes to the Supreme Court and this has prompted a sigh of relief from Democrats who are worried about Republicans taking over the Senate majority come the midterms this November. And so this is certainly welcome from the White House, but they are being very hesitant here and declining to say anything publicly about this until the official announcement has come down from Justice Breyer, who we will see here at the White House tomorrow, I'm told, with President Biden, of course, that would likely be the official announcement. And so we'll wait to see that, but, yes, Justice Breyer did tell the White House, he conveyed to the White House last week that he did have the intention to step down. I am told that was not something he said to President Biden directly, but the White House was aware, maybe just a few people, that this was coming.
And so, of course, the big question is what does this fight look like going forward after President Biden makes his pick, his Chief of Staff, Ron Klein is someone who has been involved in several Supreme Court nominations before. President Biden himself was the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will be running this.
And we do know that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has privately conveyed he would like to see Democrats move as quickly almost as Republicans did with Amy Coney Barrett who, of course, was confirmed just 30 days after former President Trump nominated her and confirmed ultimately just days before the 2020 election. They're going to be looking to move at a timetable like that one, Erin. So this could move pretty quickly, of course, once Justice Breyer has formally announced and President Biden has made his replacement pick.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Kaitlan. So I want to go now to Robert Barnes. He's a Washington Post Reporter who's covered the Supreme Court for more than 15 years, Dana Bash, our Chief Political Correspondent and Norm Eisen, a personal friend of Breyer's, who helped prepare President Obama's Supreme Court nominees for their confirmation hearings when he worked in the White House Counsel's Office.
So Robert, let me start with you. In all of your time covering the court in obviously the past months and recent years here as Trump has nominated a nominee after nominee. Justice Breyer has been the target of a pressure campaign from progressives to retire while Democrats control the Senate, while they have the White House. What role did all of this pressure play in his decision timing?
ROBERT BARNES, SUPREME COURT REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, Justice Breyer has been on the court for a long time, but he was in politics, too. He's a former Senate aide to Sen. Kennedy and so he understands the politics of this, I think, as well as anyone else. He didn't want to leave at the end of last term, lots of big cases coming up, but I think that everyone sort of knew and expected that he saw what had happened with Justice Ginsburg, when she didn't retire at a time that President Obama could have named her replacement and that he was not likely to let that happen again.
BURNETT: So Dana, the vacancy now has this massive political battle ahead. The midterms are coming. This is now going to be front and center. Republicans are likely by many of the analyses out there to take back the Senate. So Kaitlan mentioned Justice Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed in just 30 days, zoomed, speed, other confirmations took two to three times as long.
So how quickly can Senate Democrats move through the confirmation process, Dana? And is there anything Republicans can do to really stop this long enough to get to the midterms? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll take that last question first. No. There's nothing that Republicans can do to stop this if the Democrats have all of their Democratic senators on board with whomever the nominee is. They can even lose one, because you need a simple majority and that's all the Democrats have in the Senate, if you include - if there is a tie needed, if you include the vice president.
The Republicans could slow things down the way Democrats tried to do for Amy Coney Barrett, things like not allowing for what's known as a quorum in the judiciary committees. Meaning, don't let them meet. And there are some other things that they can do on the Senate floor when it comes to that. But you're talking about hours, you're talking about days, you're not talking about a significant amount of time.
And this is so important and I was talking about the 50-51 vote threshold. That is the case on all administration nominees, all the talk about the filibuster, should we or shouldn't we get rid of it that we had and we saw play out in the Senate last week, Erin, that's about legislation.
The ship has already sailed on nominees first. The Democrats did it with lower leveled judges and administration nominees. And then Mitch McConnell did it for the Supreme Court and so all bets are off. There is no filibuster.
BURNETT: Right, which is now we can see what happens. You end up with a more polarized court as a result of getting rid of any need for consensus, by getting rid of that filibuster. I want to ask about that in a moment.
But Norm, let me ask you about who is going to replace Justice Breyer first as this process begins.
Biden was very clear throughout the campaign about who he would name to the court in specific ways. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I'm looking forward to making sure there's a black woman on the Supreme Court. Number one, I committed that if I'm elected president have an opportunity to appoint someone to the courts will be - I'll appoint the first black woman to the court, it's long overdue.
We are putting together a list of a group of African-American women who are qualified and have the experience to be in the court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And the White House said tonight, Norm, that Biden stands by that pledge. Is it a good thing for the President to be so open and blatant about the fact that being a black woman is a requirement for the job? NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Erin, the Supreme Court is the most undemocratic of our power centers in American governance because, of course, those justices are not elected. They're chosen by others who are elected. Presidents of both parties have talked about the criteria for judges and for justices.
I agree with President Biden, we're long overdue to have an African- American woman on the Supreme Court and it's appropriate that he put that issue as part of his platform before the American people. So I do think it's appropriate.
BURNETT: So Robert, let me ask you about this point about the filibuster, Democrats as Dana was laying out, they only need 51 votes to confirm whomever Biden chooses. And this is because, it used to be 60 votes, the whole point was to have someone in the judiciary, you want more consensus, you don't want someone on the far left or the far right, so you need the 60 votes.
Well, Mitch McConnell got rid of it for Supreme Court nominees as retaliation after Democrats got rid of it for lower Court nominees. So this is what's happened across the judicial system. So what does this mean, Robert? Does this take away, obviously, any pressure that Biden would have to pick someone who is seen as more of a consensus, more of a moderate choice?
BARNES: I don't think it takes away all pressure. I mean, certainly, we've seen that he's had some problems with some Democratic senators in the ranks. The administration has been quite successful in getting its judicial nominees through the Senate relatively easy, I would say, and Biden is pretty much on a record breaking pace on that.
BARNES: But it's never a done deal until you actually know who the person is.
BURNETT: Right. And, of course, sometimes you never know until they're there.
I mean, Dana, on a basic level, the court will still have a 63 conservative majority no matter who Biden chooses, no matter how far left they are or not. But as someone who presided over six Supreme Court confirmation hearings when he was chairman of the Judiciary Committee, people should remember this is on Biden's resume. He understands how this is going to play out better than almost anyone.
BASH: It's so true. He understands it. His top aides, Kaitlan, mentioned Ron Klein, he has been through countless Supreme Court nominations, both in the Counsel's Office and at Joe Biden's side on that Judiciary Committee. He understands.
Now, what he understands, if you take the Clarence Thomas situation out of it, which may be it's hard to do, he understands the old Senate, where it was a little bit different. I mean, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed by a huge bipartisan majority. So I think that what Robert was saying was that it's not a done deal, that it's going to be completely partisan. It's not just the Democrats, we'll potentially see some Republicans vote yes depending on who the nominee is.
BURNETT: And Norm, one thing we've seen in President Trump's Supreme Court picks, he kind of thought it would be his court and do all that. They have gone against him, all three of them on some major issues, eliminating Obamacare, blocking a challenge in the 2020 election. Last week, they rooted it - they routed they ruled in favor of the Select Committee getting access to his White House papers that he had fought. I mean, there's not necessarily any guarantee that Biden's going to know how someone's going to vote.
EISEN: That's right, Erin. And Justice Breyer has been fiercely independent, according to the ire of liberals on issues like his Fourth Amendment, his search and seizure jurisprudence, so there is no guarantee. It is important, however, to work with known quantities because of the momentous nature of a Supreme Court appointment. And that is why I think Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who - we litigated that Don McGahn case when I was counsel for the impeachment. She's now been approved by a bipartisan group, all Democrats plus three Republicans.
So that's why she's the front runner.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I thank all of you very much. Thanks so much for your reporting and your perspective.
And next, a group of lawyers believe one congressman's role on January 6th should disqualify him from reelection, just categorically out. So, they do actually have a legal case, and could this affect the former president ass well?
Plus, the Fed preparing to take on the surge in prices, and it will come at an even more cost.
BURNETT: Tonight, could Donald Trump and other Republicans who pushed the big lie then incited the deadly insurrection be barred from seeking office. This is the hope of a group of lawyers who are now arguing the state of North Carolina that Congressman Madison Cawthorn should not be able to seek reelection under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
It says in part, quote: No person shall be a senator or representative in Congress or hold any office, who having previously taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.
Now, it was Cawthorn who tweeted two days before the deadly insurrection in part I quote him January 6th is fast approaching and the future of this republic hinges on the actions of a solitary few. It's time to fight.
And here's just a little of what he said on January 6th, and months later about the people arrested for storming the Capitol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): Wow, this crowd has some fight in it. The Democrats with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice.
REPORTER: What are you doing to support the 535 Americans that were held -- captured in -- from January 6th?
CAWTHORN: Political hostages.
The big problem is we don't know where all the political prisoners are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Ron Fein. He is the legal director of free speech for people, a nonpartisan interest group that is part of this challenge. So, Ron, you say this challenge against Madison Cawthorn is the first of many like it. Why do you believe this issue is so clear cut?
RON FEIN, LEGAL DIRECTOR, FREE SPEECH FOR PEOPLE: Thanks, Erin.
The 14th Amendment was created after the Civil War to make sure that it didn't happen again. And when we have members of Congress or other officials who are taking their oath to support the Constitution and then trashing it as they engage in the insurrection, the Republican Congress that passed the 14th Amendment wisely said those people should never be entrusted with public office again, and that is why we're bringing this challenge.
BURNETT: All right. So, Cwthorn's responded. He says your argument, I quote him, is asinine and insane. His lawyer tells "The New York Times", Ron, that this is quote the most frivolous case I've ever seen. What do you say to them?
FEIN: I hope they take it more seriously when they get to the proceedings before the North Carolina state board of elections, because the statute under which we've filed this challenge on behalf of 11 North Carolina voters says that now that we have provided a reasonable suspicion that Cawthorn is disqualified from office, the burden of proof shifts from Cawthorn to prove that he is qualified, and we're going to be able to subpoena witnesses and documents and take his deposition before that hearing, so I think he'd better prepare for it.
BURNETT: So, that is an important point, and also the point that this could be the beginning of many. And I just wanted to play for you just a couple of obviously the many times that Trump himself pushed the big lie ahead of the deadly insurrection that he, of course, helped incite. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: That was a rigged election. But we're still fighting it, and you'll see what's going to happen.
The Democrats are trying to steal the White House. You cannot let them.
We fight. We fight like hell, and if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I know, Ron, you say you've warned officials in all 50 states that you could challenge any attempt by Trump to run again in 2024. Obviously, those are just a few of many examples of the same sort of rhetoric and commentary.
How would this work? How would you do it?
FEIN: Well, Erin, in every state there's a separate statutory framework and a different timetable for filing candidacy challenges. They happen at different times, and they have different legal frameworks. But we along with an organization we're partnering with called our revolution are bringing this to the attention of election officials now so that when we do file those challenges, if Mr. Trump decides to run for another term in 2024, they will be prepared for it, and they won't have to confront it for the first time under the urgent time frame of litigation.
BURNETT: All right. Ron, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
FEIN: Thank you so much.
BURNETT: And next, the Fed says it's now ready to tackle inflation, and it's moving markets.
Plus, if you want to see Putin's plan for Ukraine, all you have to do is look to its neighbor, and you can see what happens when a country remains a country but, you know, is under the control of the Russian leader.
BURNETT: New tonight, the Federal Reserve rattling markets, stocks dropping dramatically -- I mean, dramatically, look at this chart -- just in the minutes after the Fed Chairman Jerome Powell began speaking this afternoon, and signaled an interest rate hike was coming. We all knew it was coming. As he spoke, boom, it went down.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I would say that the committee is of a mind to raise the federal funds rate at the March meeting, assuming that conditions are appropriate for doing so. I think there's quite a bit of room to raise interest rates without threatening the labor market.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Quite a bit of room to raise interest rates without threatening the labor market. That's terrifying to a lot of people. That means there's a lot of room to send rates higher, credit cards, mortgages, you name it. It comes as Chairman Powell is admitting though that the inflation problem has been getting worst, and it is now the highest rate in about 40 years.
OUTFRONT now, Jim Bianco, president of Bianco Research.
So, Jim, look, the expectations is the Fed is going to raise interest rates a bunch of times this year, but it comes out today with this announcement from Chairman Powell. As recent polls by Gallup show eight in 10 Americans worry inflation is going to get worse from here. Half of Americans say rising prices have caused hardship for their families, which makes sense when you think about things like milk in some cases, doubling in price.
So, is this problem going to get worse from here right now, the inflation problem?
JIM BIANCO, ECONOMIC ANALYST, BIANCO RESEARCH PRESIDENT: It's going to get worse over the next few months if you go by the official statistics and then it should peak in the spring, and we all have that expectation, and then the question is how fast does it get better after that.
And there's varying opinions about whether or not inflation is going to come down quickly or come down slowly, and I side with more of the market consensus that it's probably going to come down slower than we would like, and that's going to keep the Federal Reserve looking to try and attack the inflation problem by continuing to raise interest rates.
BURNETT: Right. And, of course, if it comes down as interest rates go up, that carries its own set of pain for -- and suffering for regular Americans. When you look at market today, so Chairman Powell starts talking at about 2:30 in the afternoon, and like I said, I want to emphasize here, the markets expected him to say there's room to raise interest rates. And yet the market started going down, even though he was theoretically said what they expected him to say. What do you make of that?
BIANCO: He did say what you were supposed to say -- what we expected, that he was going to raise interest rates, but that quote that you had at the beginning where he said that they have plenty of room to raise interest rates means that he's going to raise rates more than what he thinks. So, to give you one example, the market had been pricing in three interest rate hikes for 2022 before he spoke and five after he spoke, and so we just added two rate hikes that while he spoke, because of that idea that they've got plenty of room.
And as you pointed out, you raise the cost of money, you make it more expensive, slow down economic activity and that hurts earnings and hurts the economy. But hopefully, you're doing that in a delicate way to bring down the costs of everything, because one thing about inflation, it hits everybody. There's nobody that has avoided inflation, and it hurts people at the lower end of the spectrum because they don't have stocks or a home that can go up in value that can offset the cost of higher prices as well.
BURNETT: Yeah. Well, Jim, I really appreciate your perspective. I don't like your use of the word delicate. It makes me worried. I don't have a whole lot of confidence in any of this being delicately done. But it is a fair word. Thanks so much. I appreciate it.
BIANCO: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, Putin's roadmap to taking Ukraine. It may already be playing out, and in another country that's under the control of Russia. Wait until you see this.
And an update about a woman we first introduced you to last week. You may remember Megan battling stage 4 cancer, her surgery was rescheduled because of COVID. We have an update.
BURNETT: Tonight, Russia amassing troops in Belarus. Clearing the way for all of this for Russian troops to be, you know, in another country. A third country amassing on the border would be Putin's top ally, the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko. It appears that Belarus is a model that Putin designed for Ukraine. It's a model where Putin calls the shots and anyone pushing democratic rule pays a horrible price.
Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT with tonight's "Inside Look".
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Russia's army is encircling Ukraine. Vladimir Putin's troops now also pouring into neighboring Belarus allegedly for military exercises. All with the help of Putin's friend, Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko.
Lukashenko falsely claiming the exercises near Ukraine's border are only a reaction to Ukrainian moves.
ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT: We were not the first ones to start paying attention to our southern border. Ukrainians began to gather troops there. I don't understand why. PLEITGEN: Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has heard the lies too many times.
From her exile in Lithuania, she's been leading the opposition and speaking exclusively with CNN says the U.S. and its allies must act decisively.
SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: What's going on in Belarus with all this military drills is very concerning and those are watching this very attentively and we understand that regime now in position and maybe they could like allow use Belarus territory for Kremlin's aids.
PLEITGEN: She had Lukashenko on the ropes in 2020. A housewife and mother, she took the reins after her own husband, a politician, Siarhei Tsikhanousky, was jailed by Lukashenko.
According to the U.S. and its allies, Tsikhanouskaya beat Lukashenko in the presidential election, but he rigged the election.
What followed were peaceful protests against Lukashenko and then a brutal crackdown that jailed or exiled most of the opposition, including Tsikhanouskaya. Lukashenko managed to stay in power mostly thanks to Putin, she says, effectively making him Putin's stooge, and putting Belarus's army at the Russian president's disposal.
TSIKHANOUSKAYA: We don't know what steps we can do to keep his power not to look like loser in this situation, but he also understands that his days are over, and just prolonging all this political games to Russia.
PLEITGEN: While Tsikhanouskaya continues to fight for change in Belarus, she remains devoted to her family, openly admitting she is sometimes afraid. Especially since her husband was recently sentenced to 18 years in jail after a trial the U.S. and the eu called a sham.
TSIKHANOUSKAYA: I'm scared every day. Scared for people in Belarus, scared for my own family. You cannot choose. You have to go forward, knowing that we are you know, strong nation.
PLEITGEN: While Lukashenko has become an international pariah after essentially hijacking an EU-flagged plane to arrest an opposition blogger and unleashing a migrant crisis on the E.U.'s doorstep this past fall, he does remain in business. Not just thanks to Russia, but also China as Xi Jinping recently called for deeper economic ties despite U.S. and economic sanctions.
But Tsikhanouskaya believes allowing a massive Russian force into the country will further discredit Lukashenko.
TSIKHANOUSKAYA: This is like invisible resistance, but it is going on every day.
So I'm sure I'll go back to Belarus the same as hundreds of thousands of those in our political prisons.
PLEITGEN (on camera): And, Erin, she believes what she calls the invisible resistance is a lot stronger than people think and that Lukashenko was actually a lot weaker than people think and that change can happen in Belarus.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has clearly seen the threat of Russia possibly using Belarus as a launch pad for an attack on Ukraine. In fact, the State Department spokesman, he said that if that were to happen, Lukashenko would be in big trouble and face swift and decisive action from the U.S. -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Fred, thank you very much. It's an important report.
And next, an update on a woman we spoke to last week whose crucial cancer surgery took a backseat, got put on hold, because of other COVID patients.
BURNETT: I have good news for you about a guest on this program. We're able to tell you that Megan Beauchesne had successful cancer surgery this morning. She is recovering tonight. There she is a few hours ago. She said we could show this to you.
She told us her doctors removed the entire tumor on her lung. Megan was OUTFRONT Friday talking about how her life-saving surgery was put on hold because her hospital had too many COVID patients. Even with stage four cancer attacking her body, she was told her surgery qualified as non-urgent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGAN BEAUCHESNE, CANCER PATIENT: It gets me so riled up because this isn't an optional surgery for me. This isn't just a shoulder surgery or something like that. This is something that's actually growing inside of me. We have proof that the chemos have not worked for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Megan, I'm so, so glad for you and I know you're just waiting to go back home and hug your two children. We wish you every recovery.
"AC360" starts now.