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Erin Burnett Outfront

U.S. Receives Russia's Responses To Proposal On Ukraine; Exclusive: One Of Pence's Closest Advisers Testifies To Jan 6 Panel; Marc Short Witnessed Insurrection With VP; Republicans Won't Criticize Trump Floating Pardons For Rioters; China Tries To Keep COVID Out Of Olympics With "Bubble" System. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 31, 2022 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. Tweet the show @CNNSITROOM.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Russia responds to President Biden as the President lobs a new threat at Russia amid more troops amassing at the Ukrainian border. Is the situation heading to war?

Plus, breaking news this hour, the January 6 Committee now in possession of Trump White House records, some that the National Archives say were torn up by former President Trump. Documents that we now know were actually physically taped back together.

And Trump dangles pardons for the rioters who stormed the Capitol. Did he finally cross the line for some Republicans? Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, Putin response. Russia's president has now replied to America's written response to Putin's demands. Now, the State Department tonight is tight lipped. They're saying they won't publicly discuss what Putin has put in writing.

But as Putin delivered his response, we learned something important that as he was doing that he was pumping up his military forces on the Ukraine border. According to the Biden administration, Putin is now ramping up his presence on the border, adding 30,000 more troops. That's the plan, they say over the next coming weeks, so 30,000 more troops. That'll bring it to about 160,000 troops on the Ukraine border.

These are actions that may speak at least as loudly, as Russia's UN Ambassador did today when Moscow tried to blame the U.S. for Russia's mass military buildup. It was during a Security Council meeting that Russia had tried to derail, it failed to cancel it. And in the meeting, Russia's ambassador claimed the U.S. brought pure Nazis to power in Kyiv telling America's ambassador to the U.N. in this contentious meeting, "You are almost calling for this, you want it to happen."

Incredible for this to happen in a diplomatic environment and America's ambassador to the U.N. then responded.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: You've heard from our Russian colleagues that we're calling for this meeting to make you all feel uncomfortable. Imagine how uncomfortable you would be if you had a hundred troops sitting on your border.

If Russia further invades Ukraine, none of us will be able to say we didn't see it coming and the consequences will be horrific, which is why this meeting is so important today.


BURNETT: They continually use that word horrific. They want everyone to understand the import of the largest land war in Europe since World War II if this happens. Meantime, as that was happening at the U.N., at the White House, President Biden was trying to deal with an unpleasant truth, which is that after seven years since Putin took Crimea from Ukraine, American allies in Europe have not done the one thing that was needed to be done to cut Putin's power over Ukraine and that is to stop relying on Russian energy that comes on a pipeline under Ukraine.

Russia supplies half of Germany's gas, nearly as much for the rest of Europe, the world's largest gas exporter, the United States hasn't done anything to stop that. So today, Biden was forced to try to get the number two gas supplier to help. That was a meeting he had in Washington with the emir of Qatar.

Of course, Qatar is already under contract to sell all of its gas a lot of it to Russia's ally, China. And Biden tried to put a positive spin on the overall situation saying, well, the two countries were there to talk about security in the gulf and Middle East global energy supplies, let's not worried about the whole German problem.

The President then turned his attention to Ukraine.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We continue to engage in nonstop diplomacy and to de-escalate tensions. With Russia's continuing its build of its forces around Ukraine, we are ready no matter what happens.


BURNETT: And what happens - question is the big one, NATO and the Pentagon warning that Russia's military is on the move, more troops and tanks moving into the region over the weekend. It is a dangerous escalation.

According to the administration there's evidence that it's about to get worse, there's the 30,000 additional troops that I mentioned just a moment ago. There's the tanks, the fighter jets, the short range missiles, the hospital supplies, Russia even bringing in supplies of blood. A sign it is preparing for war.

And inside Ukraine tonight, breaking news, CNN learning that Putin's plan to destabilize the country in any way possible may already be in place, police in Ukraine arresting a group of people that are accused of planning violence in the capital. The group's leader said to have strong links to Russian-backed rebels.

Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT live in Kyiv, Ukraine breaking this part of the story. Obviously, Matthew, very significant because they had been concerned about possible urban warfare and troops, Russian-backed troops already in the country. What more are you learning about this plot?


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. Well, Ukrainian officials are telling me tonight that this is the most serious attempt that they've seen to destabilize Ukraine. Basically, it was a plan which has now been foiled by the security services here to have a mass protest here in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, involving thousands of people, the protests would have involved a provocation to have drawn the police into some kind of violence against the crowd, which apparently was being paid to be there.

And that would avert the plan being it would have sparked a sort of broader unrest, not just in Kyiv. But according to the security services and the interior minister I've been speaking to tonight, they're saying there were similar protests planned all over the country, particularly in areas close to the Russian border in towns and cities there.

Now, of course, this suspicion is that Russia's hand is behind this. And tonight, the interior ministry have told me that the main organizer of this plot is somebody who has, in their words, strong links to Russian-backed rebels in the east of the country. He said to have been a member of the Vostok Battalion, the eastern battalion, which was set up in 2014, to battle government forces in the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine who is known to the authorities.

It's not conclusive proof and, of course, the authority says they're searching, interrogating, looking for evidence that would firmly link this to Russia. But it does fit with that idea that Russia behind the scenes is trying to destabilize this country.

BURNETT: Right. It certainly does and as we all know, they would - of course, they would prefer to do it without having to go to full war if they could, so it certainly fits with what we understand. Matthew, thank you very much reporting as he has been from Kyiv live tonight.

I want to go now to retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling former Army Commanding General of Europe in the 7th army and Steve Hall, the former CIA Chief of Russia operations. Thanks to both. So Steve, let me start with you. That contentious meeting at the U.N.,

the Russian ambassador there accusing the U.S. of whipping up tensions and rhetoric saying you're almost calling for this. You want it to happen. Those are the quotes. What did you make of this diplomatic brawl that we saw so in the open at the U.N. today?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. It was quite vociferous, Erin. It's sort of the Russian version of I know you are but what am I sort of kindergarten playground tactics just condemning and saying that west has it wrong, everybody's got it wrong, we have no interest, you guys are making all this up. You want this to happen.

That, of course, stands in stark contrast to all of the overhead imagery that you and other networks have been showing. It's obvious what's going on, on the other side of the border. And so for the Russian ambassador to the U.N. simply to say, no, it's not there, you guys are making this all up is ludicrous.

But I thought the American ambassador's response was very strong, which was to say, well, you'd be uncomfortable too if there were a hundred thousand troops amassed and we're just not going to let this go. So it's very interesting how firmly the Russians tried to push back, but I think it's a sign that they're a little surprised at the unity of the west in this.

BURNETT: Which is - it's very interesting, because, General, as we have been pointing out, it was 10s of thousands then it was a hundred thousand, now it's 127,000. Now, they're saying it's going up to at least 160,000 troops along the border, right? I mean, the numbers are incredible.

And the Pentagon says they've seen a build up even over the course of the weekend, so they're not stopping. President Biden today says we continue to urge diplomacy as the best way forward. But when you look at those images, Russia building up around Ukraine, we have a map, it's three sides and there's a lot of red boxes I'm going to show you. And on every one of those red boxes, there are some combination of tanks, missiles, armored vehicles, artillery, soldiers, there's air and navy bases around Ukraine.

Given what you see right now, General, do you think Biden will move Putin with diplomacy at this point?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I continue to think he will, Erin. And I'm going to say that I've looked at those kinds of photos, all of my professional career.


HERTLING: They tell you the capabilities and, in fact, what you have is a large force. But when you're trying to equate what the required force is to go into Ukraine and cause disruption, this could certainly do that. But it's not what I'm paying attention to. I'm paying attention to and you're going to hear this term repeatedly over the media now, when we're really starting to get serious because Russia has used this before. It's asymmetric warfare. It is a type of warfare that is difficult to link to the truth,

because it destabilizes the government that the enemy is attempting to influence. It has to do with cyber activities, stoke civil unrest, external support for weaker actors like Belarus, manipulation of the media, massive deception campaigns, the use of civilians and spreading false information plants within governmental agencies.


And I can go on and on what asymmetric warfare consists of and the Russians are experts at this. They have a guy at the U.N. saying, hey, don't worry about the man behind the curtain, the 120,000 soldiers you see around the border, it's the United States that's doing all this. And at the same time, you have these kinds of things going on in you in Kyiv, where people are being arrested. There are attempts to conduct protest.

So all of this is part of the Russian way of war. Steve knows this having studied the Russians for so long.


HERTLING: It's exactly the same thing they've done in places like Georgia, like Syria, like Moldova and I can name 10 other places where they use the same kind of approach.

BURNETT: And, of course, in many instances, they've been very successful at achieving their goals. So it's sort of look at all the troops, look at all the troops, look at all the troops, oh, they didn't go in.


BURNETT: But wait a minute, did they get what they want? And I suppose that's the game he's playing. Steve, when it comes to what the Biden ministration then does, though, to try to fight against this, they now say they've identified members of Putin's inner circle first sanctions. Here's the Press Secretary.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The individuals we've identified are in or near the inner circle of the Kremlin and play a role in government decision making. We have developed specific sanctions packages for both Russian elites and their family members.


BURNETT: Are sanctions to those 'in or near' Putin's inner circle enough to stop Putin from invading?

HALL: Well, we'll see, Erin. I think the only person that really knows that is Putin. The idea behind sanctioning those that are in or close to the inner circle is not a bad one. If anybody's going to be able to change Putin's mind or make him think twice, it's not the man on the street, he doesn't care about Russians, you can simply repress them.

The oligarchs are a little bit more difficult, because he's given them a lot of money and a lot of power. So it's worth giving it a shot. But I think it's also worth noting that in the past, such sanctions have not been particularly effective.

Now, they're also talking about other sort of super sanctions, if you will. They're talking about maybe kicking Russia off the swift protocols, which are going to help banks internationally pay other.


HALL: They're talking about stopping maybe technology shipments to Russia. Those things, I think, Putin will probably take a little bit more seriously. With personal sanctions, individual sanctions in the past, I mean, it's unpleasant for him, but I think they're prepared to say, yes, we can overcome that. They always have in the past.

BURNETT: Yes. So I'm glad you mentioned the swift, because I know it's, obviously, a fancy acronym for banking transactions, but it would have incredible impact in Russia to be completely alienated from the system, so that one is, obviously, could potentially be very significant.

General, let me ask you about one other thing, though, because I know you're talking about how you think Putin may be working other ways as well. He is working other ways as well, whether it'd be cyber or rebel-backed groups. But he did also put supplies of blood near Ukraine's borders, not an easy thing to do and it's U.S. intelligence saying that he did it. So what does that tell you about the level of seriousness that he has on this?

HERTLING: Well, firstly, Erin, when I first heard that report, I personally thought this is another attempted propaganda of ceding information, hey, they must really be serious if they have supplies of blood there. And truthfully, that occurs with any military operations when you bring medical units forward. So I'm just not sure what that entails, because it's something ...

BURNETT: So do you think the U.S. played into their hand by putting it out? I mean, it was a U.S. Pentagon headline?

HERTLING: I think, yes, they did truthfully. I'm going to say that, because it's just another faction of any kind of military buildup. Would it be as important to say, hey, they suddenly have a bunch of tank moving trucks that can move around the battlefield. Well, yes, that's certainly an indicator of what the plans are.

Medical equipment is part of any kind of combined arms operation. But here's one thing I would say, Erin, there's 120,000 troops surrounding Ukraine right now, Russian troops. When the United States went into Iraq, there were close to 160,000 U.S. forces in that campaign. And that's a much smaller country with a smaller number of populace than Ukraine has.

So what I might suggest is when you're talking about Ukraine, and Russian forces, if you're just comparing the two, you have to also entail what are the NATO troop buildup? What is the potential for NATO to counter this kind of Russian attack? What kind of forces does Ukraine have? And is it going to be as Gen. Milley said the other day, is this going to be horrific?

Yes, it is. If Russian decides to put a ground force in Ukraine, it will be very painful for both sides. And I would almost suggest it's going to be more painful for the Russian side.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate your time.

And next, the breaking news, we have new details tonight about some of the Trump White House documents handed over to the January 6 Committee. The National Archives said some of them have been ripped up by Trump himself and needed to be taped back together.


Plus, Trump dangles pardons for insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol, tonight Republicans respond.

And the Winter Olympics now just days away and we have an inside look for you tonight of what China is trying to hide as it goes to great lengths great lengths to keep COVID out.



BURNETT: Tonight exclusive reporting, we are learning that Marc Short, the former chief of staff to Vice President Pence testified at length last week with the January 6 Select Committee. Short, of course, is one of Pence's closest, longest serving advisors and he was with the Vice President at the Capitol during the insurrection.

He's also a firsthand witness to crucial events the Committee is investigating, including how former President Trump pressured Pence to not certify the election. It comes as Trump openly said yesterday that Pence should have overturned the election, not said the truth about the election, he actually said overturn it.

Trump said in part, "Unfortunately, he didn't exercise that power. He could have overturned the election." That's what he said.

Ryan Nobles is OUTFRONT. And Ryan, what more are you learning about Marc Short's testimony to the Select Committee, what he said, how open he was, how long it went, what do you know?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do know that it was a pretty lengthy meeting, Erin.


We don't know exactly how long it went, but we know that it happened in-person which has been a bit of a departure for the January 6 Select Committee after those Omicron cases started surging, they move to more virtual depositions, but this one took place in-person. And we know that Marc Short did appear under subpoena, so he was compelled to testify by this Committee.

But what exactly he revealed and what he talked about, we don't know yet. We do know that he's handed over some documents to the Committee. And that, for the most part, some of these allies of Mike Pence have been willing to come forward and tell their side of the story, something that we haven't necessarily seen from a lot of these Trump allies.

In addition to Marc Short, we also know Keith Kellogg, his National Security adviser, who was also a key player in the West Wing in the days leading up to and on January 6th has testified as well. So we know the Committee is very interested in the role that Mike Pence played in all of this, the fact that his key allies are willing to come in and talk is significant.


NOBLES: Of course, the big question remains, Erin, will the former vice president himself appear before the Committee.

BURNETT: I mean, it is such a crucial question. I also have to ask you about something that I alluded to going into the commercial because it's just unbelievable. Your new reporting about the Committee getting White House documents that were ripped up and taped back together. I don't know what people find more shocking, the ripping up or the actual retrieval and taping back together aspect of the story. It's all incredible. Tell me what you know.

NOBLES: Yes. We learned of this story late last week and we're just able to confirm it today. The National Archives in a statement confirming that some of the documents that they received from the Trump White House that were of interest to the January 6 Select Committee came to them ripped up, shred it up and they were forced to tape them back up before they were given to have the January 6 Select Committee.

Now, we don't know exactly which documents these are, but we do know that the former President Donald Trump had a habit of tearing up documents that in some cases former White House staffers had to take back together. This was a practice that went back to as late as 2018.

So it is significant that this was something that continued right up until the end of the Trump administration and it has now become a part of the January 6th investigation. Erin?

BURNETT: Pretty incredible and especially, just to be clear, anyone who's in that office knows exactly what the rules are, to be true to your office to preserve documents. Thank you very much for your reporting, Ryan.

I want to bring in now Elie Honig, former federal prosecutor and our Senior Legal Analyst, sorry, along with Dana Bash, Co-Anchor of STATE OF THE UNION and our Chief Political Correspondent. So Elie, so much to talk about here. We start with Marc Short,

obviously he's integral, he was there. He heard, he saw and according to Ryan, he shared extensively now with the Committee.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Erin. The perfect witness for the Committee has a rare combination of two attributes. One, it has to be a person who was powerful enough, well connected enough that he was in the room when the key conversations were happening. And two, it has to be a person who has that access and power but is not blindly Trump loyal. And Marc Short, it seems, may meet both of those criteria.

There's a real rift forming here. It's obvious between the Pence people and the Trump people. The Trump people have been very resistant to come forward. We know the Committee already has gotten valuable information from the Pence people because Gen. Keith Kellogg has given information that the Committee has quoted in its filings that he's put out here for the public, where he's given details about key conversations planning this coup attempt.

The other thing is the Committee has to start thinking about who its witnesses are going to be for the live hearings. And I think they need to think about whether someone like Marc Short might make an effective person to put in front of the public and explain what he saw.

BURNETT: So Dana, Trump is, again, publicly blasting Pence for not overturning the election as part of all this. Obviously, Trump is not trying to keep Pence close to him, if you look at that statement. But even before that shocking statement from Trump this weekend, Pence said something very revealing last week, here's the exchange.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When's the last time you talked to former President Trump? You guys good?

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We talked last summer and I've said many times that it was difficult, January 6 was difficult. It was a tragic day in the life of the nation. I know I did my duty under the Constitution of the United States.


BURNETT: So Dana, we talked five months ago and then he goes straight to January 6th and talks about how he did his duty and how it was such a horrible day. That's a pretty incredible thing for Mike Pence to actually do there.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: His fate is sealed in terms of history and in terms of politics, and the politics of the Republican Party and his relationship with the former president. Yes, maybe they spoke last summer, which is telling in and of itself.


BASH: But, I think, the most important thing to think about here is what you were just talking about with Elie and with Ryan, which is that Marc Short testified last week, under subpoena but yet did so and did so extensively.


There is nobody who - any of us can even think of who would be closer to the former vice president, particularly at that time than Marc Short. In all of the meetings about whether or not the then-vice president should comply with what his boss, the president, was basically ordering him to do, which is use his position, ceremonial position, overseeing the formalization of the Electoral College to overturn it, Marc Short was there. He was in that room and he was there, physically, on January 6th with the Vice President.

And so if the Committee doesn't get, have some kind of deal with Mike Pence himself, they came pretty darn close with Marc Short.

BURNETT: So Elie, let's talk about Mike Pence himself, because obviously, there's a lot of reporting on whether he will or he won't cooperate. A committee member, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren was asked last night by my colleague, Pam Brown, whether they'll ask Pence to testify, she said she's not clear. They haven't made that decision.

Obviously, there's been reporting in The New York Times that Pence had said, oh, this whole thing's political, maybe I don't want to testify. How important is he, Elie, at this point? If they can get the information from Marc Short and others, how important is Pence himself?

HONIG: Yes. In one respect, Erin, if they have the information from other people who are in the room, Marc Short or Keith Kellogg, then you have the information.

On the other hand, though, there's really no substitute for hearing about this from Mike Pence himself. I mean, imagine if Mike Pence did the courageous thing and said, I'm willing to come forward. I will tell you the truth. I agree with Dana, I think he's kidding himself, if he thinks he can keep one foot in both camp and kind of testify, but kind of appease the Trump people.

I mean, imagine if Mike Pence just show some spine and does the right thing and comes forward here. That will make a much bigger impact on the public than Marc Short as much as Marc Short has to say.

BURNETT: And Dana, a final word on the documents. The fact that they were still being ripped up at the end and that somebody actually though sent to the archives the ripped up pieces, like I said, I don't know what part of this story is more incredible.

BASH: You could just see it, Erin. It's probably why you're so gobsmacked because you can see the scene with the then-president just ripping up a document for whatever reason, either anger or to try to discard it or just because he just didn't care about the basic law that exists, never mind the president and what's right and wrong. But this is the law of the land that you have to preserve executive documents and it's just one more example of the disregard for the office and the law.

BURNETT: Thank you both very much.

And next, top Republicans just responding tonight in the past couple hours to Trump's claim that he would consider pardons for the January 6th rioters. Do they have the strength, finally, to stand up?

And China's extreme crackdown with the Olympics coming just days away.



BURNETT: New tonight, Republican senators forced to respond. Our Manu Raju speaking to some of them in the past couple of hours just as they returned back to Capitol Hill, back in session at the Senate.

So, did they call Trump out for saying he pardoned the convicted rioters who attacked them at the Capitol?


SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): If he had some specific cases that he thinks would meet a pardon criteria, that's up to him, but the reality is he's the former president.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The former president said he would pardon January 6th rioters. Do you think that's appropriate?

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Well, I saw clemency cases as governor. I had about 100 a quarter. So, what I always did was I went through every case I look at the facts of every case and that's the way I did it.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): I believe the former president has -- I never judge the appropriateness or not of his comments. I mean, that's not my role. So I think that that's his view, then that's his view.


BURNETT: Okay. So, here is what Trump exactly said which obviously should be a pretty basic thing for anyone to say not okay. Here's what the former president said.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: If I run and if I win, we will treat those people from January 6th fairly. We will treat them fairly and if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons because they are being treated so unfairly.


BURNETT: People died that day. People died.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill. Manu, these exchanges that you had making it crystal clear that there

is still a very large group of Republicans where you are in the Senate where you spoke to the three senators who simply are just not going to go there when it comes to Trump.

RAJU: Yeah, you're out of office despite having been impeached twice and despite the fact that he presided over losing both chambers of Congress while being president for four years, he still has a significant hold over the are party given the fact that the base of the Republican Party. Many Republicans simply just do not want to get on the other side of Donald Trump, very similar to what we saw with this president.

And talking to a number of Republicans, some did not want to criticize him, side step the issue, Chuck Grassley who's running for reelection, who's a ranking Republican in the Senate Judiciary Committee and could potentially be chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the next Congress says there's speculation when asked about Donald Trump's comments, said he would pardon the January 6 rioters. Others you mentioned. Rick Scott pointed to his pardons that he gave out while he was governor and said it should be done on a case-by-case basis.

And others like Indiana Senator Mike Braun told me tonight that he didn't think much of what Donald Trump said. He said all these things he says at a rally, neither here nor there. But other things that Donald Trump did say, too, Erin, is that he said he was the vice president, Mike Pence, who at that time could have overturned the election results back on January 6th. At the time, it was clear he did not have the ability to do so and everyone on Capitol Hill said that. But even after Donald Trump made his remarks over the weekend that Pence could have done that, very few took issue with that -- Erin.

BURNETT: They don't want to talk about it at all. Manu, thank you very much.

Of course, Mike Pence now unprompted standing up for his constitutional duty saying that's what he did.

OUTFRONT now, Mia Love, former Republican congresswoman from Utah. So, Congresswoman, here we are. I'm just, you know, checking the date, January 31st, 2022 and this is still what's happening.

What's your reaction when you hear that this is still happening, that there are just still people who can't say something very basic, like, sorry, that's not okay? They just can't say it?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this is classic, first of all, for former President Donald Trump. It's lather, rinse and repeat. And honestly, he is desperate. It reeks of desperation.

He obviously wants to be relevant and frankly I -- I really think we should do everything we can to just ignore him. He has no power. He can't do anything. He can't pardon anybody.

And, you know, I can understand as a former representative, I can understand trying to side step or try to stay out of it. You don't want to be on his bad side, but I would actually say this to my former colleagues. If they are courageous enough and they're able to stand up and represent the party that's what fills the void instead of Donald Trump.

If they want people to stop saying Donald Trump is the Republican Party, they have to stand up and show what actually is the Republican Party, by saying, I am, not him. This is wrong. This is not what we represent.

BURNETT: Look, you know, so well said and here's the thing. There's a group of people. I mean, obviously Republicans like yourself, but in terms of people on Capitol Hill, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, right? She has stood up and she's vice chair of the January 6th select committee. She voted to impeach Trump.

So I wanted to ask you about something that just came out about her today. She raised more than $2 million in the final quarter of 2021. Now, Mia, that was her highest quarter ever, right?

So, for her it shows, that you know, again, what donors are giving money to doesn't necessarily reflect that there is suddenly a shift in the Republican Party. God knows we know that. Democrats have hopefully learned that themselves.

But what does that tell you?

LOVE: Well, it tells me one thing. It says that the national sentiment for Donald Trump is waning, and there are Republicans out there that support Liz Cheney. They want to show, that, hey, I believe in what you're doing or she wouldn't raise the amount of money that she's raising.

However, it doesn't really tell us very much about what's actually happening in Wyoming, and -- and, I mean, $1.9 million is incredible. She has more than five times all of her opponents combined, so -- but I think that show has to make this more about local politics, about what's happening in Wyoming.

And -- but it does tell me that she -- there are Republicans out there supporting what she's doing and I certainly am one of them. I think that her being courageous and standing up and actually this is the national security issue in making sure that we're not hurting the integrity of our elections. Liz Cheney did what she had to do for the country. And at the end of the day, whether she wins or losses, I don't think she's going to regret her decision.

BURNETT: Right. I agree with you wholeheartedly on that.

Thank you so much. I always appreciate your time.

LOVE: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And next, the Olympic Games just days away. The world is watching and China is waging a propaganda war to try to -- well, say no pandemic here. Plus, a riveting new documentary with never-before-seen footage of

Putin's top critic, Alexei Navalny after he was poisoned by Putin's government. It's an incredible film, and the director is OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: Tonight with the Olympics just four days away China is battling COVID, allegations of censorship, espionage and human rights abuses.

David Culver is OUTFRONT.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beijing counting down to the winter games. Its second Olympics taking place amidst frigid geopolitical tensions and a raging pandemic.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: This is the largest regularly scheduled peacetime gathering of the world and yet there can be no gathering.

CULVER: What is likely to be lost is that sporting events are taking place. That's because in the years leading up, China has faced growing outside pressures and domestically its zero COVID policy is proving increasingly difficult to stick to.


CULVER: Seven years ago, Beijing won the 2022 Olympic bid, the first city to host both a Summer and Winter Games. But it came as China's relations with the West rapidly fell apart.

Under an increasingly powerful supreme ruler, Xi Jinping, China is on a drastically different path than what the West hoped -- cooperation replaced by confrontation, on multiple fronts, from a trade war to threats of an actual war in the South China Sea. In Hong Kong, Beijing quickly squashed pro democracy protests and there is now mounting pressure on Taiwan, pushing for the self-governing democracy to fall under Beijing's control.

Then there are the widespread allegations of human rights abuses. CNN traveled to the far west region of Xinjiang.

It's here that U.S. and other countries accuse China of committing genocide against its ethnic Uighur population. China has repeatedly denied that it's detained that they have tortured them and called them politically motivated lies.

But that has not silenced the West. The U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada among countries protesting through a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

CULVER: The diplomatic boycott coinciding with the case of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. The former Olympian briefly disappeared in November after she accused a retired national leader of pressuring her into sex. It just so happens to be the same official who led Beijing's bid for the 2022 Games. Amid a growing global outcry, Peng hasn't resurfaced and multiple state media reports denying she made the accusation.

Some have accused the International Olympic Committee of being complicit in China's the control over Peng's story. As its president, Thomas Bach, tried to reassure the world of Peng's wellbeing after two video calls with her.

The IOC advocating for silent diplomacy to better handle the matter. Bach now in Beijing is expected to meet with Peng soon.

But that meeting happening behind closed doors, inside the so-called Closed Loop. That's the Olympic bubble holding the athletes, the personnel, the incoming media, kept separate from the rest of China.

This as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to rise and spread across the mainland.

China facing a renewed challenge to halt this latest surge. Snap lockdowns, mass testing, contact tracing, all of it stepped up as the country works to show its superiority in containing the virus. State media containing to label the virus as an imported threat. Even dating back to the initial outbreak in Wuhan, a consistent propaganda effort to deflect blame and refocus global attention on what is supposed to be a spectacular and unifying event.

And threatening to cast a darker shadow over these games, growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine with Russian President Vladimir Putin expected to meet President Xi on the sidelines of the opening ceremony. These Olympics playing out amidst an increasingly divided world.


CULVER (on camera): And, Erin, as you and I have been talking about, there's so much going on geopolitically that's playing out. Perhaps Chinese leadership thought at least they would find a win amongst the domestic audience. The Chinese audience love an Olympic Games, especially when they are hosting. But the worsening COVID restrictions, they have kept many Chinese families separated during the Chinese New Year playing out right now, certainly here in Beijing folks are feeling physically disconnected from any sort of Olympic spirit because you've got barriers going up everywhere, Erin.

BURNETT: Yeah. I mean, the barriers are just incredible. It's like a totally different world.

Thank you so much for your reporting, David, from Beijing tonight.

And next, a captivating new documentary follows Putin's top critic as he takes on the Russian president and investigates how Alexei Navalny was poisoned. The film's director is next.

Plus, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologizes again as he tries to save his political life, but is it way too late?



BURNETT: Tonight, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening war and silencing all opposition as his top critic Alexei Navalny is at a brutal penal colony where he has been behind bars for about a year now. And it comes as a new documentary shows never before seen footage of Navalny investigating the alleged plot to poison him and you see for the first time in this documentary, his reaction when he first woke up from the poisoning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he opened his, like, blue eyes wide and looked at me and said, very clear, what the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). That is stupid!

ALEXEI NAVALNY, PUTIN CRITIC: Come on. Poisoned? I don't believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like he's back. This is Alexei.

NAVALNY: Putin is supposed to be not to stupid to use this Novichok.

If you want to kill someone, just shoot him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus Christ. Like, real Alexei.

NAVALNY: It's impossible to believe it. It's kind of stupid. The whole idea of poisoning with a chemical weapon, what the (EXPLETIVE DELETED)? That is why -- so smart because even reasonable people refuse to believe like, what? Come on, poisoned? Seriously.


BURNETT: And, of course, Putin's seen the film denying he had anything to do with Navalny's poisoning. The film is named "Navalny" and the director, Daniel Roher, is with me now.

And obviously, Daniel, this -- we will be lucky enough to have this air later this year on CNN as well. But, you know, this documentary coming out at a pivotal moment for the world seeing Putin. Navalny has been locked outside Moscow for about a year. Putin we now understand going to be 160,000 troops on the border of Ukraine.

What do you hope people take away from your film?

DANIEL ROHER, DIRECTOR, "NAVALNY": Well, Erin, first and foremost, thanks so much for having me on your show. I understand you have been following the story for a long time so it's wonderful to be here.

First and foremost, I want people to know the name Alexei Navalny, and I want them to understand his courage and charisma but at the same time, I want them to understand his political message which is rather simple.

Alexei Navalny envisions a Russia without Vladimir Putin. As Alexei says in the film, he envisions a Russia where rule of law, freedom of expression, and democracy are the norms. This is what he has been campaigning for, for the last ten years of his life and this is why Vladimir Putin tried to murder him with a Soviet era nerve agent called Novichok.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about this because your documentary reveals that one of the men who allegedly tried to poison Navalny is missing. After this man was duped into revealing the whole plan in a phone call, right? So, Navalny is on the call taping it. Sort of, you know, saying he is a member of Russian intelligence. Say, what's going on? What went wrong?

He released the video on his YouTube page. I am just sort of showing it here. You hear the chemist say it was applied to a pair of Navalny's underpants. He said if his plane had not made that emergency landing, everything could have gone differently, right, but Navalny would be dead.

And then, after the call ends, your documentary shows him say, quote, poor guy, they will kill him. They will kill him. He is a dead man.

What have you heard about what happened to that chemist after that call?

ROHER: Well, this is something, Erin, that I think a lot about. The chemist's name that you are speaking to is Konstantin Kudryavtsev and he was home sick, I understand, with COVID when Alexei and his colleagues called him. There is no sugarcoating it.

Kudryavtsev has disappeared. He's dropped off the face of the Earth. No one has heard from him. His family have not heard from him or seen him. His wife divorced him. In Vladimir Putin's Russia, it is not a good idea to commit such a flagrant and irresponsible breach of security, to share such sensitive information on an unsecured line.


We must remember that Vladimir Putin in his heart is a KGB man. For someone from his own spy service to do something so irresponsible, perhaps that is a faux pas that is unforgiveable. But the last thing I will add is two of the investigators in the film are trying their best to locate and find Konstantin Kudryavtsev.

BURNETT: It is incredible, right? He has all these details. He thinks he is sharing them with someone he is allowed to share them with and as you lay out, I mean, it is horrifying.

You end the film, Daniel, with Navalny's message for the Russian people in the event that he is killed, right? That he does not get out of this penal colony, that he is killed. And he says to you, quote, you are not allowed to give up. When you take a step back at everything you have learned and seen and

that case you just went through, do you think Navalny will ever get out of prison alive?

ROHER: Erin, it's a question that obviously weighs on my mind every single day. And I was asked recently whether I would ever revisit this subject, whether I would ever make a sequel about the Navalny story.

And the answer that I gave to that question is that I would love to make a sequel and the sequel that I want to make the story I want to tell is that one day in Moscow, years from now, on the inauguration of Alexei Navalny as the president of the Russian Federation as he is installed as the first Democratically elected president. If you spend time with Mr. Navalny, you learn to dream big and -- and to not be fearful and to be ambitious.

I don't know whether Alexei Navalny will make it out of that prison. I hope that he does, of course. But at the end of the day, this story is not yet over. It does not have a happy ending at this time. All we can do is hope for Alexei and spread his message.

BURNETT: Well, Daniel, I really appreciate your taking the time. And I hope that everybody will watch your documentary "Navalny." it will be coming to CNN later this year. And thank you.

And next, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is not quitting despite a scathing report about his personal lockdown activities.


BURNETT: Worse than expected. A damning report savages British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his behavior during COVID lockdown. Johnson attended alcohol-fueled party, while ordinary Brits were ordered to steer clear of groups even if it meant missing a funeral. Prime minister apologized yet again, ignoring increasingly loud calls to resign.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Mr. Speaker, I get it and I will fix it. And I want to say -- and I want to say to the people of this country, I know what the issue is. Yes, Mr. Speaker. Yes, yes.


BURNETT: Metropolitan police are currently investigating and criminal charges are now possible.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.