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Erin Burnett Outfront

Dow Plunges Has Worst Day Of Year Amid Russia Invasion Fears; Biden Bluntly Warns Attack Likely In "Next Several Days"; U.S.: Russia Plans To Fabricate Justification For War; CNN Gets Close Look At Russian Military Drills In Belarus; Military Drills Underway As Belarus Reaffirms Support For Russia; Judge Orders Trump And His Children To Be Deposed By NY AG; Judge Orders Trump And His Children To Be Deposed By NY AG; McCarthy Endorses Trump-Backed Republican Running Against Cheney; Russian Skater At Center Of Doping Controversy Places 4th. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 17, 2022 - 19:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: CNN's Selina Wang reporting from Beijing. Thanks for watching.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT live from Ukraine starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, a mass grave, a staged drone strike, even an attack using chemical weapons, America's top diplomat lays out very specific scenarios Putin could use to justify a war.

Plus, the war over money crushing Ukraine's economy already. Tonight I'll talk to the CEO of one of the largest tech companies in Ukraine. We're going to find out something you probably never knew about an industry that could help save Ukraine.

And new legal trouble tonight for the Trumps. A judge now ordering the former president and two of his children to testify in New York's investigation. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight live on the ground in Ukraine, breaking news, the concerns about a possible war here sending the Dow down more than 600 points. It is the worst single day for the Dow so far this year and it was the specific details from the U.S. government that rattled the market.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken laying out a possible Russian invasion saying it could start with a false flag from Russia like a chemical weapons attack or a terror attack, saying Putin would use this to justify war to the Russian people. And then Blinken says comes the onslaught.


ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Russian missiles and bombs will drop across Ukraine. Communications will be jammed. Cyber attacks will shut down key Ukrainian institutions. After that, Russian tanks and soldiers will advance on key targets that have already been identified and mapped out in detailed plans. We believe these targets include Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million people.


BURNETT: Blinken announcing that dire speech at the last second after the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, asked him to address the UN Security Council at this 'crucial moment'. The ambassador will be my guest coming up.

But this all comes as there is new evidence tonight of Russia's military buildup. Officials say almost half of Russia's forces around Ukraine are now within 30 miles of the border. Biden and the Secretary of Defense believe Putin is ready for war.


LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We see them fly in more combat and support aircraft. We see them sharpen their readiness in the Black Sea. We even see them stocking up their blood supplies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, how high is the threat of a Russian invasion right now?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's very high. It's very high because they have not moved any of their troops out, they've moved more troops in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think he is going to go through with this, Sir? Is your sense that this is going to happen now?

BIDEN: Yes. My sense is it will happen in the next several days.


BURNETT: Now, again, to say such a thing is pretty stunning. Biden did go on to say there's still a diplomatic path, but so far, to be frank, meetings between Russia and the United States have done nothing to stop the buildup. That's the reality. Tonight, adding to the tensions a preschool in eastern Ukraine was hit by shelling, 20 kids were in the building. No one seriously injured or killed, but the images, the images upped the ante.

The incident happening in an area where Ukrainians have been fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014, 14,000 people have died in the fighting there. This ongoing war with Russia is very much a part of daily life here.

I went to a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church here in Lviv, crowded in the middle of the day. There are memorials to the men who died fighting the Russians in Eastern Ukraine, in the Donbas. It's a sobering sight. Person after person after person all dead, displayed prominently as you enter the church. And next to one of the memorials, I want to show you this, really

jarring site in a church. A pile of shrapnel with a prayer, the prayer of the warrior. It reads in part, "Be here, my God, with me, in the middle of the world, in the middle of pain, saved from death from the bullet of the enemy, be why watchmen, God, my guard." I read this because I hope it makes clear how much war with Russia is a part of life here.

Matthew Chance is live tonight in Kyiv about 300 miles east of where I am tonight. And Matthew, I know you have new information tonight from officials there. Tell me what you're learning.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. Senior Ukrainian officials telling me they've now been briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence, suggesting there could be an attack of some kind from Russia within the next couple of days.


That's what the intelligence from U.S. is assessing.

And that, of course, totally tallied to what President Biden is saying and what U.S. Secretary of State is saying publicly. And so it shows that a strategic decision has been taken by U.S. officials to reveal the assessments. They would normally just keep private in the public sphere as well.

I think that's quite significant, that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was out on the frontlines close to where Russian rebels are active in their ongoing war with a government-backed forces earlier today meeting troops there. That comes as has been a huge upsurge according to monitors of ceasefire violations in that conflict.

So in both sides, the rebels and the Ukrainian government, accusing each other of exchanging artillery fire and you saw that that preschool, that kindergarten and the devastation that was caused there, fortunately no injuries among the children. The rebels also accused the governments of firing artillery shells into residential areas on the other side of the front line.

Then there's this incredible video that was sent to me earlier this evening by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry of the impact of more artillery strikes on residential areas. The government says from the rebel side of burning building, a fuel pipe that's obviously caught fire after an artillery strike. And so you can see it's a very, very tense situation in that area in eastern Ukraine at the moment and it's easy to imagine how that can spark off into something much, much broader, much, much more dangerous, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Matthew, thank you very much.

And OUTFRONT now, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. And I really appreciate your time, Ambassador. So President Biden said today about an invasion and I quote him, "My sense is it will happen within the next several days." How convinced are you right now that Putin actually plans to attack within the next several days?

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Well, President Putin, the Russians have all of the forces on the ground that would suggest that they are prepared for the attack any day, 150,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, troops in Belarus. So everything is there to suggest that they are making preparations.

Now, when that attack will occur? I think only President Putin himself can answer that question. But we see everything that shows that the he is ready for such an attack.

BURNETT: So Democratic Senator Tim Kaine push back a bit today on President Biden's comments on an invasion in the next several days. He noted and I quote Sen. Kaine, "That's not necessarily the view held by some of our European allies." And Ambassador, I will say Ukrainians I've spoken to here, regular people, they don't believe Putin will launch a massive invasion. They're not panicking. My colleagues along the eastern border, they report the same thing. What's the disconnect?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I don't know that there's a disconnect, Erin. I think we're all seeing the same things and how it's being interpreted, may be different from others. But this is a Russian way of operating. They have put these troops on the border. We saw them do this when they invaded Crimea. We've seen them do it when they invaded other parts of Eastern Europe.

So we're making every plan and making sure we share very transparently with the world what we are seeing, how they interpret that moving forward is up to them. But we want to make sure that we're transparent about what we see and what we're analyzing taking place on the ground right now.

You know that we had a Security Council meeting today and Secretary Blinken openly asked our Russian counterpart tell us here the Security Council you do not intend to invade and they did not do that. So their intentions are very clear. When they do it will be their decision, but we need to be ready when it happens.

And if it doesn't happen, it means our diplomatic efforts have had an impact and that they are prepared to come to the negotiating table to find a solution to their security concerns.

BURNETT: So you keep using the word when and it is true, you have been incredibly detailed on what you've seen. I mean nothing if not transparent with the intelligence.


But this idea of an imminent invasion is something, as you know, Ambassador, that we have heard repeatedly over literally a month.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine.

I think when we said it was imminent, it remains imminent.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: He could move imminently at any time.

BIDEN: My sense is it will happen within the next several days.


BURNETT: Thankfully, Ambassador, nothing has happened yet. But are you at all concerned that repeating this line that it's when, that it's imminent when nothing has happened might cause people to lose faith in U.S. intelligence?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: If nothing happens, then that means a war didn't happen and that's what we are trying to prevent. Secretary Blinken said he was not there to make war. We're there to find a way forward to peace. And if us exposing what the Russians are doing is successful in stopping them from taking an action, then that's success.

If we're wrong, then that's good as well, because none of us want to see a war happen. We don't want to see thousands of people die, we don't want to see the humanitarian crisis that will come as a result of a Russian attack. So yes, we are going to continue to share with the world very openly what we're seeing and what our analysis are of the situation on the ground.

They still have 150,000 troops. They can move any day. But when they move will be a decision that only President Putin himself will make. But in the meantime, if we can get them to the negotiating table, then we feel that we have succeeded.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about that. I know Secretary Blinken has asked the Foreign Minister Lavrov to meet next week in Europe. But we also know Russia finally submitted it, it took him three weeks. But just today, I understand you receive the 11-page reply to the United States list of negotiating points. So Russia after three weeks, has replied with an 11-page document.

So Secretary Blinken today said that the United States is evaluating that document. Ambassador, it's really important, though, to understand this, his speech was quite definitive on Russia's plan to invade. But he had just the ostensibly gotten their 11 page response and he said he hadn't evaluated it, but he then he went and gave that speech.

So I'm wondering, has the United States essentially already dismissed Russia's reply and accepted that diplomacy has failed?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Absolutely not. We are going to continue to aggressively lean in on diplomacy and hopefully succeed with a diplomatic solution. So we receive their response today. We're analyzing that response and we hope we are sitting across the table from them next week to have a discussion on a way forward with their concerns on the table, our concerns on the table and a way forward. That does not lead to a confrontation.

BURNETT: All right. Ambassador, thank you so much. I appreciate your time tonight.

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Thank you very much, Erin.

BURNETT: Next, we're going to take you inside Belarus so that you can see firsthand the Russian forces that are now amassed along the northern border here.

And our own Fred Pleitgen challenges the Belarusian President, the strongman on his actions backing Putin. You'll see that.

Plus, a major legal setback for Trump and two of his children. A judge now ordering them to testify in New York's investigation into their business. And Kevin McCarthy tonight turning on one of his own, now officially endorsing a Republican who's running against a member of Congress from his own party.



BURNETT: Tonight, CNN getting an up close look at Russian military exercises in Belarus. That's where roughly 30,000 Russian troops have been gathering along the Ukraine border. Belarus and its dictator are crucial to any plan by Putin to invade this country in mass. Fred Pleitgen actually spoke to the Belarusian strongman president today and he's OUTFRONT.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For the first time, we're getting a close up view of some of the Russian forces the U.S. says are threatening Ukraine, conducting massive live fire drills with the Belarusian military inside Belarus.

The U.S. says it fears this could be one of the places from which an attack on Ukraine could be launched. Belarusian strongman and staunch Putin ally, Alexander Lukashenko, was combative when I confronted him with the allegations.


ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT (through interpreter): Do you still believe we're going to attack Ukraine from here or have you already overcome this mental block?

PLEITGEN (on camera): It's not about what I believe, it's about what the United States says. The United States says there's a very real threat of an attack from Russian territory or Belarusian territory towards Ukraine.

LUKASHENKO (through interpreter): We have an agreement between Belarus and Russia. We have practically formed here the United Russia Belarus group, a united army that is, you might say and this is our official position. Please take it into account as we are taking into account your position.


PLEITGEN (voice over): The drills are called Allied Resolve 2022 and officially at the Russian and Belarusian military standoff enemy's attacking them. It involves 10s of thousands of troops, including both countries air forces and Russia's dangerous Iskander missile system that could easily hit Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, about 250 miles or 400 kilometers from here.

The big question where will all these Russian troops go when this exercise ends?


PLEITGEN (on camera): Both Minsk and Moscow say all Russian forces are going to leave Belarus once these massive exercises are finished. But the U.S. and its allies are still skeptical and they say they'll believe withdrawal is happening once they see it.



PLEITGEN (voice over): The Biden administration says there are now more than 150,000 Russian troops near Ukraine's borders and that an attack will probably happen within days. Lukashenko ripping into the U.S.'s assessment.


LUKASHENKO (through interpreter): You accuse Belarus and Russia that we were to invade Ukraine yesterday, we didn't. So your intelligence and billions of dollars that you're spending on it are useless, at least admit this.


PLEITGEN (voice over): Russia says it has no intention of attacking Ukraine, but today also warned if security demands it has made to the U.S. are not met, there will be an answer using, as Moscow puts it, military technical measures.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And Erin, while both the Russians and the Belarusian say that those Russian troops are going to be leaving Belarus after those exercises finish on Sunday, there is a big caveat there because Lukashenko was also asked, well, how long exactly is that withdrawal going to take. And he said, look, I could take a couple of days, it could take a month, it could take longer, essentially he's saying Belarus would be willing to host Russian troops for as long as Vladimir Putin wants and that, of course, is something that also makes that situation there on that border, just so very dangerous and also the fact that the quickest way for Russian troops, should they invade Ukraine to get to Kyiv would actually be the route via Belarus. It's not very far at all, Erin.

BURNETT: For sure. Thank you very much. It's fantastic that you were able to speak to Lukashenko.

OUTFRONT now, Steve Hall, the former CIA Chief of Russia Operations, now a National Security Analyst for us here at CNN.

Steve, the Belarusian strongman, Lukashenko, is really important here, okay, obviously. What do you make of what you just heard from him?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, first of all, kudos to Fred. Lukashenko is not the kind of guy who is used to being confronted by journalists. Usually it doesn't end well for Belarusian journalists who do that sort of thing. It's also important to remember that Lukashenko is essentially a lapdog of Putin.

Belarus is a vassal state of Russia and so Lukashenko is on a very short leash. He knows that. His job is to essentially make louder to support Russia and to support Putin as best he can. His own position in his own country depends on it. There is no doubt as he himself said, that the integration between Belarusian military forces and Russian military forces is very tight. It's very close. It's almost like it's the same army.

So if there's going to be any attack, military attack that involves the Belarusian state and Russian troops coming from it, it's already very well integrated.

BURNETT: This is a crucial point, so I'll just show everyone the border again of Ukraine and Belarus. The Belarusian Front is crucial for Putin. Anywhere you're going to come in this country from east to west all the way past Kyiv. You're looking at Belarus.

Can Putin count on Lukashenko 100 percent all-in for a full scale invasion from the north of this country from Belarus?

HALL: Two points there, I think, Erin, first absolutely. Lukashenko is going to do exactly what he's told because his position in power depends upon it. There is no meaningful resistance in Belarus against his government because his KGB, which is still called the KGB pushes down and just simply kills people if they go against him.

So the support for Putin is pretty much complete from the Belarusian angle. But the other thing I think you have to remember is that the northern approach in Kyiv is very close to that border would be important if he were going to do a full blown invasion of Ukraine. If he were going to do something smaller, such as just an Eastern incursion, perhaps into the Donbas region, the Belarusians, of course, become a little bit less important.

BURNETT: Right, absolutely. You wouldn't need it at all. It could be for show because you're planning something else. These are the big questions. So let me ask you one other point, though, because yesterday our viewers may remember Steve. We showed all of you watching images of a bridge, satellite images and picked it up a bridge that had been constructed right on the other side of the Belarusian border from Ukraine. It had essentially been constructed overnight, and it was just a few miles from the border. Sources now tell CNN that 24 hours later, right, so it's built

overnight, 24 hours later, after we see it, it's now gone again, poof, gone overnight. What do you think happened?

HALL: I think what's happening is that the Russians and Putin are continuing to message by showing that they have these capabilities. They know very well there's commercial overhead that we've all seen that CNN is using to show what's going on. But, of course, the Western intelligence services have much better intelligence and they can see these things as well. Putin knows that he's basically projecting power by saying, look, I can do this if I want to. Of course, it's great for him because it's also got deniability. He can say, I'm not necessarily preparing to invade, I'm doing maneuvers inside my own borders.


I'm doing training and that deniability is always very important to Moscow to be able to say no, we're not necessarily doing it.

BURNETT: Yes. Thank you so much, Steve, for your insight as always it's so important for us.

HALL: Sure.

BURNETT: Thank you.

And next, a judge tonight ordering Trump and two of his children to testify after saying New York's Attorney General uncovered 'copious evidence of possible financial fraud'.

Plus, in Texas, there are 143 Republican congressional candidates, 143. Houston Chronicle reached out to every single one of them and wait until you hear how many actually said that Biden won the election.



BURNETT: New tonight, a New York judge ruling that Donald Trump and two of his children; Donald Jr. and Ivanka must sit for depositions within 21 days. This is part of an investigation into The Trump Organization. The judge rejecting attempts by Trump and his lawyers to block the subpoenas for their testimony, calling their arguments 'audacious and preposterous', something of a George Orwell book. The ruling is a victory for the New York Attorney General Letitia James and her in investigation into whether Trump misled lenders, insurers, others in financial statements.


Paula Reid is OUTFRONT. And Paula it was a contentious hearing and it didn't go Trump's way.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. An hour's long contentious hearing today and this fiery opinion this afternoon from a judge who ruled the state attorney general has a clear right to interview the principles of a business she has been investigating after she finds, quote, copious evidence of potential crimes.

Now, Erin, Trump's lawyers tried to argue this investigation was politically motivated. They had pointed to statements that the New York attorney general made when campaigning for the job, but the judge rejected that. He said, first of all, Trump is no stranger to the New York attorney general's office, he noted that Trump had to enter into substantial settlements following investigations into his foundation and his university.

He also said the attorney general has the same First Amendment right that Donald Trump had on the campaign trail to make these kinds of statements and he also noted that this investigation, Erin, it doesn't start, didn't originate with personal animosity from the attorney general, it originated from statements that came from long-time Trump associate Michael Cohen who suggested Trumps were, quote, cooking the books.

Now, the judge also rejected arguments from Trump's attorneys who said that if Trump was to sit for civil deposition, he could potentially expose himself in other ongoing criminal investigations. The judge said, look, he has a Fifth Amendment right and in fact his other son eric invoked his Fifth Amendment right 500 times during his deposition.

Now, the judge wants these depositions to be completed in the next three weeks but the Trumps are expected to appeal, Erin.

BURNETT: Wow. That's -- 500 times. But who's counting?

All right, Paula, thank you very much. I want to bring in now Shan Wu, former federal prosecutor, along with David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, whose latest book is called "The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family".

I know you've done a lot of research here, David, into the business practices.

So, Shan, let me start with you, though. The judge said he reviewed thousands of documents for this investigation. He said that the attorney general in New York, Letitia James, did uncover, quote, copious evidence of possible financial fraud, okay? That's a pretty significant thing to say, isn't it?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's very significant. Frankly, with all these different legal cases that the Trump legal team keeps losing, this one is unique because it's an example of a judge passing on what we talk about as the merits of the case. He has reviewed actual documents here and actually said that the evidence here is damning enough that if the New York A.G. didn't do anything at all, didn't have investigation, it would be a dereliction of duty. So, he's signaling loud and clear that there's fire within the smoke.

BURNETT: So, David, you've been through pretty much every deposition we know of that Trump has ever given and as you talk about sometimes, he subdued, other times very combative like during a tape deposition on Trump University defrauding students. Everyone, you may remember that. "Mother Jones" obtained the video.

Here's Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: How many more do you have? How many more names do you have?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, you're the one who wants to get through it quickly. Just answer the questions and we'll get through it quickly.

TRUMP: You're not going to get anything through quickly, you don't want to get anything through quickly. Same answer.

Let's just go to court and get through this. I'm dying to go to court on this case.


BURNETT: David, he fought hard not to do this deposition. If it happens, what can we expect?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, if I were Donald's lawyer and I'm not a lawyer, I just teach law, I would tell him to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights. The problem is that in New York, in civil case, doing that can be used to draw an adverse position on it. You can say a judge can tell a jury the refusal to answer these questions suggests that the litigant knows they've done bad things and knows that they're in trouble here on a civil level.

But Donald's facing at least two potential indictments, in Atlanta and Manhattan. And so, it's a real problem for him in terms of testifying in the Letitia James' civil case.

BURNETT: What's interesting you always say we hear Trump talk about how people who took the fifth are mobsters or don't show guilt -- well, maybe it's because he knows the New York law. He always tends to know the laws very well.

Sean, Trump says that he will appeal. Do you think this deposition will ever happen.

WU: I think the deposition will happen, if the arguments they made, which the judge rejected, are the ones they'll make on appeal. These are weak arguments, particularly laughable, the idea that Trump belongs to a protected class which is a specific term in federal laws.

[19:35:03] I mean, the only protected class they're trying to create would be one for former presidents and that's just silly.

So I think these argue wants are all very weak. I think they'll lose at the court of appeals.

Now, of course, to the points about the Fifth Amendment and any other privilege, compelling them to attend the deposition doesn't make them speak and that's part of the reason why the judge is upholding this. They can still invoke various privileges if they want at the time, but I think the depositions are going to happen.

BURNETT: So, David, why is Trump fighting so hard against giving this specific deposition?

JOHNSTON: Well, Donald doesn't want to be held accountable anywhere for anything in his whole life. Remember, this is a man who said I've never done anything in my life for which I would ask for forgiveness, but this case is troubling for him because the evidence already in the record shows numerous violations of New York state law including business records law which is a serious matter in New York state.

It exposes him to civil actions by others based on what else happens in this case. Local governments coming after him for more taxes, banks looking at his testimony and saying, you know, we made a loan to you or opened a checking account for you and you lied to us and closing off business, and there's a whole world of problems that will grow out of this for him.

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

WU: Good to see you.

BURNETT: And next, it's out there. He's doing it. House Leader Kevin McCarthy wants to get rid of Liz Cheney, tonight, endorsing the woman running against the Wyoming congresswoman. And wait until you hear what she has to say.

And a shocking loss. The figure skater at the center of doping investigation falls to fourth place after stumbling in her routine. A former two-time Olympic figure skater is my guest.



BURNETT: New tonight, the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsing Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney' primary challenger. McCarthy following former President Trump's lead in backing Harriet Hageman. Cheney, of course, became a top target for Trump and his allies after she voted to impeach Trump continues to serve on the January 6 committee.

Hageman who previously supported Cheney said she would trade Wyoming, she betrayed this country, she betrayed me. OUTFRONT now is Al Schmidt. He's a Republican and the former

Philadelphia city commissioner who oversaw the city's election in 2020.

Al, I have a lot to want to ask you, but I want to start with this news though.

Congresswoman Cheney in terms of what she stands for and as she votes, conservative as it comes, life-long voting Republican, her record is pristine.

What's your reaction to the GOP leader endorsing her Trump-backed opponent?

AL SCHMIDT, PRESIDENT & CEO, COMMITTEE OF SEVENTY: In fact, Congresswoman Cheney is probably more conservative than the speaker, than Kevin McCarthy when you look at it. I don't think there's anything that illustrates the absurdity of this litmus test that Republicans are being judged by right now. Even considered a RINO simply because you are telling the truth of the 2020 election and want to get to the bottom of what caused and who is behind and who participated in the insurrection of January 6th.

BURNETT: You know, it's amazing, when you talk about this litmus, because I have an example for you that is dumb founding, okay? Let me put it out there, Al.

"The Houston Chronicle" called all 143 congressional Republican candidates in Texas for the primary, every one of them, spoke to them all. Only 13 would say President Biden legitimately beat Donald Trump, just to be clear, that is 9 percent.

Even in the face of threats against you and your family, you stood up for the truth, you stood up for the reality of what happened and against the big lie. Why is this so hard, in fact, impossible for 91 percent of the candidates running in the Texas primary?

SCHMIDT: I think it's really showing the radicalization of the base of the Republican Party, of my party, when so many of them, an overwhelming majority of them, use this issue of whether 2020 election was stolen or not as a determination of whether they're going to support a candidate or not. All these candidates are clearly responding to their electorate in their primary and you see it not just in Texas, but you're seeing it across the country.

BURNETT: And across the country, in your state as well. I mean, some of the top GOP candidates in the primary race for governor are major Trump supporters. They have pushed the big lie. Here are two of them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Half of the nation believes that the election was stolen from President Trump, and I agree with that and that's a fact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here in Pennsylvania, I think we saw a buffet of election irregularities and we know there are people who are deceased who have been voting for years here in Pennsylvania.


BURNETT: Okay. So that person is going to pick who serves a secretary of state in Pennsylvania, right, who oversees the election. How concerned are you about a big lie believer being that person?

SCHMIDT: I'm very concerned about that. The governor of Pennsylvania as you said is going to choose the secretary of state responsible for overseeing our elections in Pennsylvania in the 2024 president presidential election coming up.

So, really, what's going on now in the election cycle is going to have a big impact a few years from now when the presidential election comes up. In addition, these gubernatorial candidates are claiming to be responding to their electorate, but at the same time, are feeding it with these lies that have no basis in fact whatsoever about the 2020 election.


And it's a real danger. I think one reason why, you know, it feels like 2020 is a long time ago and it was in terms of calendar days but in reality, I don't think we're going to see it until this year, the impact of 2020, the impact of having candidates embrace the lie the election was stolen because this will be the first cycle when all of those candidates are up for election or re-election.

BURNETT: Al, thank you.

SCHMIDT: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the Russian skater at the center of the doping scandal ends her Olympic quest, the gut-wrenching finish.

Plus, I'll take you to a place in Ukraine that could actually transform this country into something very different. Take a look.


BURNETT: I'm standing in the middle of an overgrown field. You can see the debris all around me. Look, there's grass pretty much everywhere you look. But people here have a dream of transforming this place. They want to basically turn it into a tech city.




BURNETT: New tonight, the Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva failing to medal after falling multiple times during her routine at the Beijing Olympics. The 15-year-old had been favored to finish first, easily favored in fact to win, after being in the top spot. But several mistakes drop her to fourth place. The medal ceremony, which the IOC had said wouldn't take place if Valieva finished in the top three after she had tested positive for a banned substance will now take place tomorrow, because she's not medaling.

OUTFRONT now, Kaitlyn Weaver, former two-time Olympic figure skater.

Kaitlyn, thanks so much. I really appreciate your perspective because, you know, you've been here and you've been in the situation.

I know you watched Valieva's performance. What went through your mind as you saw her struggle like that through routine which she obviously did perfectly so many times before in practice?

KAITLYN WEAVER, FORMER OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATER, 2014 AND 2018: The first thing that put through my mind was her heartbreak. She shouldn't have been in this position in the first place, I think she should have been removed from the event, but I've also be shocked, we never seen her make these kinds of mistakes ever. So I think the world for the first time got to see Kamila Valieva the 15-year-old girl and not necessarily only the athlete.

BURNETT: So Valieva will only be 19 at the ex-Olympics. Given this situation and this scandal now surrounding it, will she be able to recover, do you think?

WEAVER: I don't know. I can't even begin to imagine all of the steps that she needs to take to move on from this traumatic event and honestly, I don't even know or care if skating is in her future. I just look out for her as a person and it just seems unimaginable bouncing back from this and I really, I really feel for her.

BURNETT: I mean, in a world, right, where her entire world has been skating. The Russian doping scandals, Kaitlyn, are hurting the Olympics. We all know that at this point, and I wonder what your thoughts are on how it can be stopped?

WEAVER: It's systemic and this is now the third time that we're talking about this in three Olympics and Russia is already on probation. So for me, the answer is easy, we need to remove Russia. They're not stopping.

I don't think we would be in this position if the IOC had removed Russia the first time after Sochi. So I think that's a place to start, but seeing these athletes as humans also would be a great place to start as well.

BURNETT: Yeah, yeah, so well said. Kaitlyn, thank you very much, I appreciate you taking the time to be with me.

WEAVER: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, why a field filled with trash and debris may actually be the key to a much brighter future here in Ukraine.


[19:57:03] BURNETT: Tonight, how does Ukraine win? It cannot beat Russia in a military conflict, a dire scenario of street warfare and insurgency is no victory either. Victory is money in a free economy. Today, Ukraine has to pay more than 20 percent to borrow money over the next year, 20 percent interest rate. That is an economy in crisis.

So we found out what victory could look like here in Ukraine.


BURNETT (voice-over): As the power of Russia's military inches closer to Ukraine, many fear the first major strike will be digital.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Cyber attacks will shut down key Ukrainian institutions.

BURNETT: In fact, we've already seen the largest cyber attack ever on Ukrainian banks and defense websites. But online may also be the field of a Ukrainian victory.

I'm standing in the middle of an overgrown field. You can see debris all around me. Look, there's trash pretty much anywhere you look. But people here have a dream of transforming this place. They want to basically turn it into a tech city, where 1,500 people will work. There will be hotels, kindergartens, sports fields, a city in the center of Lviv and if they succeed, it will transform this country.

Transform from this, to this, because right now, Ukraine's path to NATO and the West is blocked not just by Russia but by its own oligarchs, the richest man here, Rinat Akhmetov, controls a media group with some of Ukraine's top-rated television channels. Igor Kolomoyskyi controls One Plus One media, where President Zelensky starred in the TV comedy series.

They have the billions, but it's people like Vitaly Sedler who founded his tech company Intellias 20 years ago here in Lviv, who say they can fend off the oligarchs because they trade in something way more valuable than steel and iron ore.

VITALY SEDLER, CEO OF INTELLIAS: You cannot really hijack the company. You cannot take it, right? Because the value of the company is in the people and in the knowledge. You cannot just --

BURNETT: No one can take that.

SELDER: You don't. You don't take this like you take a factory or something.

BURNETT: Intellias engineers like these develop software including navigation systems for luxury German cars. Sedler says his company is on track to grow at least 60 percent this year. He insists he isn't changing growth plans yet because of the crisis.

SEDLER: We're building a very strong middle class in the country and I believe that as time goes, the middle class have more and more political power over what's happening in the country. And this is a very good development for the country. So I am very excited about the business.

BURNETT: Excited about these men and women who may be the future of Ukraine.


BURNETT: So, Vitaly tells me he's proud of being part of creating a middle class. They didn't have a middle class here before and he points to the 300,000 tech workers here in Ukraine. He says they earn between $45,000 and $50,000 a year. That is more than six times the average income here in Ukraine. And if that can grow, it could transform this country.

Thanks so much for joining us. You can always find the latest episode of our show and our podcast, you just have to go to audio or your favorite podcast app, and search for ERIN BURNETT OUTRONT.

Thanks for watching.

"AC360" starts now.