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Erin Burnett Outfront

Biden: U.S. Has Intel Putin Has Decided To Invade Ukraine; New Report: Russia Ramping Up Battalion Tactical Groups; Biden: Based On Intel, I AM "Convinced" Putin Has Decided To Invaded Ukraine, Targeting Kyiv, But Diplomacy Still On The Table; Archives Talking To DOJ About Classified Docs Trump Took To Florida; Ex-Cop Kim Potter Convicted In Taser Mix-Up Gets 2 Years In Prison; Biden To Monitor Ukraine Crisis From White House, Nixes Travel Plans. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 18, 2022 - 19:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He never had to guess where Lyndon Johnson was coming from. He was coming from that growing up in the hill country of Texas.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The CNN Original Series LBJ: Triumph and Tragedy premieres this Sunday right here on CNN. Thanks very much for watching.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT live from Ukraine starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, President Biden says Putin has made up his mind to invade Ukraine as we're learning nearly half of Putin's forces surrounding this country are in attack position. Is there any hope for diplomacy?

Plus, explosive new images of Putin's military buildup OUTFRONT tonight showing there is significant Russian equipment already inside Ukraine.

And the National Archives reveals it's talking to the Justice Department about classified documents that Trump took the Mar-A-Lago. Is the former president's about to be in serious legal trouble? Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news on the ground here in Ukraine tonight, President Biden saying he is convinced that based on the intelligence he's received, Putin has made up his mind and will invade this country in the coming days.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As of this moment, I'm convinced he's made the decision. We have reason to believe that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To be clear, you are convinced that President Putin is going to invade, is that what you just said a few moments ago?

BIDEN: Yes, I did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What reason do you have to believe he's considering that option at all?

BIDEN: We have a significant intelligence capability.


BURNETT: This is the first time that President Biden or anyone in the United States government has said definitively that they are convinced that Putin has made his decision, it was always imminent but we don't know if he'll do it. This is the first time they've said that they're convinced he has made his decision. As for that intelligence, the President referred to, frankly both sobering and frightening because Biden says Putin is going for a massive attack.


BIDEN: We have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week, in the coming days. We believe that they will target Ukraine's capital Kyiv. A city of 2.8 million innocent people.


BURNETT: Now, Biden said that he is revealing Putin's tactics and planning as the United States knows it, because he's trying to shut down every reason that Russia may give to try to justify an invasion. Like, for example, what happened today; authorities in a region controlled by Russian-backed separatists say that a vehicle exploded outside their government headquarters. That was in eastern Ukraine in a place called the Donetsk. The self-declared leader of that region immediately blamed Ukraine for the attack.

Now this is what you need to know, our Nic Robertson is on the ground in Moscow. He's watching TV. Russian state television today kept a small box up on the screen like now you see a big box next to me and then the smaller box, okay, they kept one up all day, of women and children being evacuated from the region. Even as they aired shows about home decoration, he said that they kept that box up with those images on a loop.

That is exactly the sort of false flag operation that the United States expected. The mounting fears that a deadly invasion could happen in just days, sending the United States' stock market lower, the Dow has lost 800 points in the past two days. And tonight we also have exclusive new details about Putin's military buildup, according to Seth Jones, who I'm going to speak to you in just a moment.

I want to go through these with you. Putin now has up to 190,000 troops in and around Ukraine. And let me show you this explosive new images, this includes 105 battalion tactical groups, which consists of between 601,000 troops apiece, 500 combat aircraft and 40 combat ships. And inside one of those breakaway regions of Ukraine, Seth provided us

these exclusive images. And let me tell you, this one shows Russian armored personnel carriers and trucks at a training area, again, inside one of those separatists controlled regions of Ukraine. In that image, you see armored fighting vehicles and self propelled artillery.

And here, 27 Russian tanks along with more armored personnel carriers and trucks. And in what may be Putin's greatest show of force yet, tomorrow, the Russian President will attend military drills where ballistic and cruise missiles will be tested. These, of course, are some of Putin and Russia's most powerful and deadly weapons all on blatant display tomorrow.

And where I am tonight, people are now preparing for what many still believe is unbelievable, but is a real possibility of war. Today we went to a class, teens now are learning how to prepare for battle injuries if there are street warfare. Again, a jarring military gear amongst young teens after school, AK-47, battle gear, a bunch of teenagers. Today with 16-year-old Anna's first class, she started with learning how to tie a tourniquet and she told me that she's doing it because she wants to defend her country if the war comes here.



ANNA, UKRAINIAN STUDENT: I worried about Ukraine, about the situation, about dangers. Almost all Lviv people are Ukraine patriots.

BURNETT: Ukraine patriots.

ANNA: Patriots, yes.

BURNETT: Are you worried and do you feel a bit afraid?

ANNA: Yes, because I want to live in Ukraine in Lviv without the war with Russia.


BURNETT: You'll hear more from the young people here tonight. But first, I want to go to Matthew Chance. He's live tonight in Kyiv. Which, of course, you heard President Biden say they do anticipate an attack on here in the coming days.

Matthew, I know you have new information tonight from officials there. What was their reaction to Biden's stark, blunt and dramatic words tonight?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, the impression I got from the officials that I've spoken to this evening here in Kyiv is that they were a little surprised by the phrasing that President Biden used and the certainty that he had that the Russian leader, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, had made that decision, which we've all been debating what he would do, but that decision to invade Ukraine possibly in the next few days. Here's what the an aide to the Ukrainian President, Mikhail Pogilac

(ph), told CNN a few moments ago. "It is impossible in our opinion to say with certainty what is going on in the thoughts of the Russian leader." And so obviously some blue water between what President Biden was saying in his conviction that a decision have been taken and what the Ukrainian presidential advisor is saying about what they think is going on in Putin's mind. They still don't know whether he's made the decision.

He didn't want to disagree or agree with him. He said, obviously, these remarks by President Biden were based on intelligence. He said we should all pay attention to the more important meaning of the words of the U.S. President who said that there was still a chance for diplomacy, and we in Ukraine intend to use that chance.

And so Ukrainians are still determined to try and find a peaceful way out of this crisis. They have not resolved to the idea that Vladimir Putin has decided to commit those 10s of thousands of forces that you just described to a military incursion into this country.

There is some concern, though, and President Biden expressed this and White House officials have talked about it as well, about the fact that Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, is set to a travel to Germany tomorrow, to the Munich Security Conference. Ukraine officials telling me tonight that that travel situation will be reviewed in the morning, Erin.

BURNETT: Wow. So it's truly minute by minute, although when you talk about daylight between the Ukrainians and the Americans, I think we all hope tonight that it is the Ukrainians and their optimism that end up carrying the day. Matthew Chance, thank you very much.

And let me go now to Seth Jones, Director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and retired Army Major General James 'Spider' Marks who is currently Head of Geopolitical Strategy at Academy Securities, I'm sorry, and John Sipher, former CIA Deputy Chief of Russian Operations.

So Seth, let me start with you. I went through these exclusive images that you had. President Biden said today he believes, he is convinced that Putin has made a decision to invade Ukraine. It's not imminent, but it depends what he thinks. He thinks he's made the decision, it is a move. I know you've been studying these satellite images closely, when you look through them, the troop movements, the buildup, what stands out to you the most?

SETH JONES, DIRECTOR, INTL. SECURITY PROGRAM AT CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, I think what stands out to me the most, Erin, is that he has the capabilities to do that. Now, he has the ground forces in place, both around Ukraine and Belarus and in Russia. Inside of Ukraine itself, we saw the satellite image that you just showed, that southwest of Luhansk in a training center, those are main battle tanks and towed artillery and other key elements of a ground invasion.

We've been tracking the aircraft, the 500 or so aircraft within striking distance and then we've also been tracking the 40 plus combat ships that the Russians have in the Black Sea. So I think what we can say with authority is that they have the capabilities in places that they would need them if they decide to strike.

BURNETT: Yes. Right. So, Gen. Marks, let me get to that. When you look at the images Seth shared with us, that this Russian training area he's referring to, which is inside a Russian controlled, but nonetheless breakaway region of Ukraine, 27 tanks self-propelled artillery, armored personnel carriers. You hear Biden says he believes Putin has made a decision.


And general, you have laid out for me that a full invasion of this country and Biden is talking about attacking the capital, a city of 3 million people, attacking the heart of this country, a massive invasion, would take not just the troops it requires to win, but to occupy and the Putin does not have that number of troops around the borders.

But when you look at what these images show, you listen to what President Biden is saying, where do you think we are? Is there any likelihood that Putin changes his mind?

JAMES MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I don't think Putin is going to change his mind. How the President got into Putin's head is clearly based on intelligence that our incredible intelligence community has provided and that analysis has come to the commander-in-chief and he is now convinced that still doesn't mean he's reading Putin's mind. Putin has an intention here and we think we know what that looks like and that is to exercise influence and control over the political situation in Ukraine.

We all look at it as the necessary step to do that requires a military invasion. Look, he has established this incredible force around Ukraine. He has threatened Ukraine and Putin is looking for concessions. So what could happen? When you look at that imagery of the Donbas, it's incredibly compelling to me, because the Russians have had forces supporting the separatists and in that area for years, so those railheads exist, roads exist and network exists to support that and that's been ongoing.

So what has happened now is you've now seen the movement of forces into the Donbas to increase that presence now by a factor of, what, 0.5x, 1x, I don't know. Now has increasing presence, where he can now jump into those equalities and say, look, Donetsk and Luhansk regions now belong to me, I've settled this problem and I'm going to have some elections and, guess what, everybody's going to vote for Russian presence here.

Pretty elegant, I mean, as a military guy, for me to use the word elegant is quite a stretch. But this is an incredibly elegant move, not dissimilar to what happened (inaudible) ...

BURNETT: So John, let me ask you, you hear President Biden's words that he's being convinced that Putin has decided to invade Ukraine as a fait accompli, it's done, we're not going back here, is based on significant intelligence capability. You heard the Ukrainians tell Matthew Chance carefully did not contradict. It wasn't the sort of like didn't take umbrage as they have recently. They simply said that they were surprised and didn't see it that way. How do you see it when you put this together? What do you read into significant intelligence capability and the Ukrainians not seeming to be quite on the same page even now?

JOHN SIPHER, FORMER CIA DEPUTY CHIEF OF RUSSIAN OPERATIONS: Well, when the President of the United States says he has intelligence that says that Putin has made a choice. I believe him. He is speaking to one person and that's Vladimir Putin, he's trying to impact Putin's calculus. He thinks Putin's made a decision, but he hasn't moved yet, therefore, he wants to essentially call out his allies, call out his efforts to play games and sort of come up with provocations to attack.

So the President of the United States is not going to ruin his credibility by providing sort of half-baked or poor analysis here, because Putin is the one that's going to make the calculus. If Putin says, oh, clearly, President Biden doesn't know what he's saying. It's going to really put us in a weak position and the President's not going to let himself do that.

Now, what the Ukrainians are saying here, this is a crisis situation, there's a lot of people on the ground there. People are talking to different people there. They're not used to getting attacked, but they've been under stress for years. They had part of their country taken, they've got constant cyber attacks, they got to worry about people making runs on banks, leaving the country, they got to worry about hospital space for people, for people (inaudible), they have a lot of things going here.

So then saying I don't have the information or I don't see it, I wouldn't over worry about that. That's the kind of thing that happened in these kind of crisis situations. The thing to focus on is what the President of the United States says, what he's trying to do to deter Putin and what happens in the coming days.

BURNETT: So, Seth, a senior U.S. official today said that the U.S. has briefed the Ukrainian military on the newest assessment. I guess, Seth, when you look at the images you're seeing, how dependent on the west, on the United States is Ukraine right now?

JONES: I think Ukraine is very dependent on the west to survive if the Russians do move further than just the Luhansk and Donetsk areas. If they decide to move west or if they decide to move on Kyiv, it's hard for me to see the Ukrainians surviving over the long run without some kind of Western assistance. Now, what it could look like is what we saw in the 1980s in Afghanistan. That is CIA, U.S. Department of Defense support to resistance efforts against Ukraine, against Russian forces in the country, that's feasible.


It could be to support Ukrainian conventional operations fighting Russian forces. So what this assistance could include may vary, it may vary and

include economic assistance and humanitarian assistance. But I just don't see Ukraine really be able to hold out for too long without some continuing Western support.

BURNETT: No. No. I mean, even though there would certainly be insurgents, that would be guerrillas, I mean, it'd would be horrific as the White House has said, that the human suffering and the death would be horrific, but in terms of just a raw military battle, for sure.

Gen. Marks, Putin said today that the Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, would be with him tomorrow during a very important military exercise, nuclear weapons, top Russian missiles on display, what message is Putin sending and what specifically do you make of the time of it?

MARKS: Yes. I think this is really very interesting. Look, we're seeing a lot of media coverage of what's taking place in Belarus, less so other than through imagery, what's taking place on the border with Ukraine and then separately in Donbas. So what I think might be happening is Putin is up with Lukashenko. They're conducting this exercise. They're present where this exercise takes place.

Putin does not want to be president on the ground, excuse me, when he drops the flag to execute the invasion of Ukraine, regardless of what it looks like. So he's up in Belarus with Lukashenko, the world is focusing in on him, every camera is snapping, every video is now of Lukashenko and Putin.

BURNETT: And that's when you do it.

MARKS: And, oh, by the way, guess what happen, those forces down in the Donbas have now (inaudible) their tanks and their SP artillery and now they're starting to expand their presence down there.

BURNETT: John, I met earlier with the U.S. acting Ambassador to Ukraine, very few American diplomats. They evacuated, obviously, the embassy. But I did get to speak to the acting ambassador and I want to play something she said.


BURNETT: Do you know how many Americans are left here in Ukraine?

KRISTINA KVIEN, ACTING UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: We don't know the exact number, because we don't require that they tell us when they leave. We started out with somewhere between six and 7,000. We're hoping that with our messaging over the last couple of weeks said a number of those have left.

BURNETT: And the messaging is if anything, I would imagine, even more strident than it was before.

KVIEN: Our message to American citizens in Ukraine is to leave now. You can't rely on the possibility of being able to be rescued, because we don't know what the security situation would be. It could be very fraught, it could be that there is no air ability for us to move around by air and therefore it would be very, very difficult for us to get to people. So our advice is to leave now, because you cannot rely on someone being able to reach you if the situation worsens.


BURNETT: John, will the U.S. leave Americans behind?

SIPHER: Well, honestly, we don't have the capability to take care of all Americans there and the best thing they can do is communicate to Americans that it's time to go now. Now, frankly, I think it's a big mistake for the embassy to move out of Kyiv. The people that the embassy needs to talk to in a crisis situation, they're on Kyiv, they're not in Lviv, and we all know that what is like now trying to deal with people over Zoom in this type of things.

We need to be able to get to people quickly in Kyiv. Yes. I mean, if Americans are there, a lot of them live there. There's a lot of Ukrainian Americans that are there and other things, they have to make their choices. Hopefully, Russia is a professional military and they're going to go after Ukrainian military - hopefully, I shouldn't say it. I don't want it to happen. But if they do, the civilians are protected. When we attacked Iraq, that was journalists in hotels and all types of things and they can be relatively safe.

BURNETT: Right. Well, we'll see. Of course, we saw what the Russians did last time along that border when that jet full of innocent people was shut down. Thank you all three very much. I appreciate your time.

And next we're going to take you to eastern Ukraine where, frankly, you've had eight years of that ongoing war, 14,000 people dead. That's what we've been seeing there here tonight.


RUSLAN KUSTOVOIT (through interpreter): Putin is a pathetic small man. Everyone is ready to tear Russians with their own hands.


BURNETT: Plus, the National Archives revealing it's talking to the Justice Department about the boxes of documents with classified information that Trump took to Mar-A-Lago. Could Trump be prosecuted?

And outrage after a judge sentenced this former police officer Kim Potter to two years for shooting and killing Daunte Wright when she fired her gun instead of her taser.



BURNETT: Breaking news, President Biden warning that Russian troops have surrounded Ukraine from Belarus in the north and the Black Sea in the south as intelligence, he says, tells him Putin has decided and he's convinced that he will, in fact, invade this country. This as Eastern Ukraine already no stranger to bloodshed against Russian- backed forces and ongoing war is desperately praying for a last minute peace. Alex Marquardt is OUTFRONT.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The old Crimea cemetery stretches across the rolling hills outside Mariupol and Eastern Ukraine. In Section 21, the Ukrainian flags whipping in the wind marked the graves of Ukrainian troops, mostly young men who have died fighting Russia-backed forces in the past eight years and often ignored conflict that has killed as many as 14,000 people, including more than 3,000 civilians.

Ruslan Kustovoit (ph) was a soldier now he fights with a right-wing nationalist group called Right Sector.


KUSTOVOIT (through interpreter): Putin is a pathetic small man. Everyone is ready to tear Russians with their own hands.


MARQUARDT (voice over): He says he knows Around 200 people who have been killed. He shows us the grave of one of them, a fallen friend now etched in stone, as well as his memory.


KUSTOVOIT (through interpreter): Too many comrades have died, too many civilians, too many children.



MARQUARDT (voice over): in the bitterly cold driving rain, Roman Peretyatko, a priest, prays at the towering grave of his friend, one of the first from here to die in the fighting. But Peretyatko quiet and understated has two sides, dividing his duties as an army chaplain in his all of green frock, which he says is his calling and tending to a civilian congregation in this small Mariupol chapel.


ROMAN PERETYATKO, PRIEST, ARCHANGEL MICHAEL CHURCH, MARIUPOL (through interpreter): We're losing our best people. The church gives people comfort. If they ask, what's going to happen next, we say it's God's will. We prepare for the worst and hope for the best.


MARQUARDT (voice over): The people of Ukraine have shown extraordinary calm in the face of this Russian threat, but it is clearly taking a toll. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through interpreter): They tell us to remain calm. We would love to live peacefully to go to work, to raise children and grandchildren. We're worried. How could we not be?



MARQUARDT (on camera): And Erin that worry can only be growing tonight after what we've seen right here in Ukraine's Donbas region. Those incidents that the U.S. and Ukraine say are staged false flag operations, the kind that Russia could use to justify an invasion of Ukraine. This city, this area could be of great interest to Vladimir Putin to connect Russia with the Crimean peninsula, which he seized the last time he invaded Ukraine, Erin?

BURNETT: Alex, thank you very much from Mariupol tonight.

And next, what could be another legal headache for Trump, the National Archives revealing tonight it's alerted the Justice Department about classified records that Trump took to Mar-A-Lago.

Plus, today I talked to a number of young people here. They're hanging out with friends. They're playing sports, but they're also preparing for war and this is why.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin like we all know that he isn't a really balanced guy, so, yes ...

BURNETT: He's a what kind of guy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He isn't a really balanced person.




BURNETT: New tonight, the National Archives revealing they're talking to the Justice Department after confirming there were classified documents in the 15 boxes that Donald Trump took from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. The archives raising other concerns about the Trump White House's recordkeeping practices including Trump ripping up documents even after being warned not to.

Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT.

And, Jessica, this information comes from multiple letters released from the archives, so tell me what more you're learning tonight.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: These letters show the archives they've been concerned for years the Trump White House wasn't properly preserving these documents, and it's not just physical papers but also online messages from social media accounts. So what we're seeing here is that the archives warned the White House council's office back in 2018 that Trump's reported practice of ripping up papers, as he was known to do, was a clear violation of the Presidential Records Act.

But despite that warning, it seemed like it continued to happen. And when the archives received documents after Trump left office, they're now saying those papers some of them were still in torn up form. Others had actually been taped back together.

So, the archives is raising this issue, also raising concerns, Erin, about the way White House staff conducted their social media presence. They're saying they didn't keep copies of deleted tweets. So, now, the Archives doesn't have access to those records.

And they're saying a lot of official business might have actually been done on unofficial electronic messaging accounts that the archives just doesn't have the records of. So with all of this, all this concerns from the archives, members of Congress they're now asking a lot of questions here. The House Oversight Chair accusing Trump of exercising what she calls a flagrant disregard for federal records laws. And then you add to that the classified material that was found at Mar-a-Lago now being discussed with the justice department. We'll see here. Experts doubt that Trump could face criminal charges.

But, of course this has still been discussed with the DOJ, so we'll see what happens next here -- Erin.

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

So when we talk about this classified information at Mar-a-Lago, I want to talk to Shan Wu, former federal prosecutor and counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno.

So, Shan, I know we've talked a lot about this as the story has developed, but now, you've got the archives Jessica reporting confirming the classified information was in those boxes Trump took to Mar-a-Lago. We understand it to be the highest level of classification. They confirmed they're talking to the Justice Department about it.

What do those conversations signal to you?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, they signal to me the national archives is doing their job, and now the question is will the DOJ do theirs? I think it's important to distinguish for our viewers the difference between opening the investigation versus charging much less conviction. Here, it is a normal process to open an investigation. Frankly, it would be a dereliction of duty not to investigate this because it's such an obvious potential violation.

BURNETT: So, I mentioned that, you know, we understand from the reporting these documents the highest level of classification, top secret. Trump is aware those should have never have left. We know Trump himself packed some of the boxes. He's very secretive what he put there.

I understand letters from Kim Jong-un are there. Almost all of what is in there is unknown to us, of course. So what could happen to Trump here?

WU: Well, when they look at those boxes the investigation should ask some questions to determine what should happen to him. Because what should happen to him really depends on things like were there cover sheets on those documents that said top secret, classified? Were the documents marked as such?

Because those issues go to what his knowledge would be of those contents? Also, they'll want to ask people who may have seen those documents, helped him to ask if he ever mentioned declassifying them. Because that's obviously going to be in his defense which I get to classify, declassify and that's going to be important to look at. If all that looks like he knew they were classified, they're obviously not supposed to be outside of a secure location, then it's squarely on the table for the Justice Department. Do they charge in those circumstances?

BURNETT: So I want to ask you one other thing, San, I've been wondering today. A federal judge late today ruled that civil lawsuits seeking to hold Trump accountable for the January 6th insurrection can move forward. I want to emphasize civil lawsuits. How significant is this ruling, and does it mean anything for criminal responsibility by Trump?

WU: Well, it's very significant because what the judge said was this was a question of whether they had sufficient facts pled and alleged, not proven yet. And the judge said that Trump's statements were a prima facie evidence under the statute to interfere with someone holding office, section 1985. Significantly the judge did not find that was true for Giuliani and Donald Trump Jr.

But what this means is the case will move forward into the discovery stage, and that is what Trump does not like is having to answer questions, documents being turned over. So that moves to the stage, which is making him the most vulnerable. And he will fight very hard on that stage.

BURNETT: Shan, thanks.

WU: Sure thing.

BURNETT: Next, emotions running high as the former police officer who killed Daunte Wright is sentenced to two years in prison.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, the justice system murdered him all over again.


BURNETT: Plus, President Biden's not just facing a possible war in Europe. He's also dealing with surging inflation and falling poll numbers.

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin is OUTFRONT tonight.



BURNETT: New tonight, two years behind bars. That's the sentence a judge handed down to the former police officer Kimberly Potter. It is four years less than the lowest end of the range. The sentencing guidelines were 6 to 8 1/2 years. So it is incredibly less, right, too.

Potter is seen here in this body cam video where she fatally shot 20- year-old Daunte Wright while yelling "Taser" during a traffic stop last year.

Wright's parents are outraged the sentence is so short.


KATIE BRYAN, DAUNTE WRIGHT'S MOTHER: Kim Potter murdered my son, and he died April 11th. Today, the justice system murdered him all over again.

ARBUEY WRIGHT, DAUNTE WRIGHT'S FATHER: I walk out of this courthouse feeling like people are laughing at us because this lady got a slap on the wrist, and we still every night sitting around crying waiting on my son to come home. I'm upset.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, former Democratic mayor of Baltimore and a former defense attorney. And regular viewers know, of course, she followed this entire trial with us.

So, Mayor, let me ask you, Potter was convicted of first and second degree manslaughter here. Now, the sentencing guidelines given that she had no prior criminal record were lower, right, so they were 6 to 8 1/2 years. Obviously the sentence comes in at two, so it's incredibly less.

So, can you explain how this ended up so very, very different than the sentencing guidelines?

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS BLAKE, FORMER DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The judge has a lot of latitude, and before I say that I do want to say my heart goes out to Daunte Wright's family. I mean it was heart wrenching to hear their testimony today, their witness impact statement, absolutely heart wrenching.

And I know when you go through something like this, there can be no justice except for your family member coming back. So while the sentence was significantly less than I think many people were expecting, I don't know if there's enough time behind bars that would comfort that family, and that's where my heart is really with them this evening.

But as I said before the judge does have a lot of latitude, and clearly, the judge took into account Potter's exemplary record as a police officer without any excessive force complaints, without any discourtesy complaints, no other negligent accusations while she has been serving and protecting her community.

BURNETT: So, Mayor, Daunte Wright's mother was very critical of the judge's emotion and the judge was emotional when she sentenced Potter. Let me play a little of what we did see from the judge today.


JUDGE REGINA CHU, HENNEPIN COUNTY: Officer Potter made a mistake that ended tragically. She never intended to hurt anyone. Her conduct cries out for her sentence, significantly below the guidelines.


BURNETT: When I saw that, it sort of stopped me in my tracks. It's like I didn't expect that to be something to see from a judge. I'm not saying that judgmentally. I want to understand.

How common is it to see a judge like that during sentencing?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I think it's uncommon, and I think it was really shocking because that judge has a lot of latitude with the sentencing but also when she issued that sentence. If she wasn't emotionally ready to make that statement, she could have asked for, you know, to come back at a later in the day until she collected herself. Because we see what happens when you let your emotion especially when you have a job like -- when you're the judge and you're supposed to be impartial. You're supposed to be the one who is, you know, holding all of these things in balance.


And the family left the courtroom feeling very, very slighted, very offended by her show of emotion. And it was unnecessary as far as I'm concerned because the judge could have taken the time to pull herself together until she could soberly give that sentence to Potter.

BURNETT: Yeah. All right, thank you very much. I appreciate your time, Mayor.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, a key piece of Biden's agenda stalled and his approval ratings are down at the same time as he's dealing with a possible war. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin is my guest.

Plus, I had a chance to speak to a number of young people in this city who are now getting a lesson in war.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Breaking news, President Biden nixing his travel plans for the weekend. Biden will be staying in Washington to monitor the Ukraine crisis from the White House. Tensions with Russia now escalating to levels now that mirror the Cold War.

OUTFRONT now, Doris Kerns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, and her latest book, "Leadership in Turbulent Times" is the basis for her new history channel documentary Abraham Lincoln, and it airs over three nights beginning this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern. So hope everyone watches that because it's going to be fantastic.

And, Doris, I want to ask you when you look at what's happening today, this incredibly fraught moment, President Biden facing a potential military conflict, a war in Europe, an all out assault on American democracy, a pandemic still ongoing in its effects, an economy dealing with high inflation, just how fraught is this moment for Biden?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: You could argue this is where a presidency lives in the middle of multiple crises.


And that in some extent, President Biden has already had a lot of experience having been 36 years in the Senate, 8 years as vice president and I think the assault on democracy is still the major crisis he's facing. I often think about democracy, sometimes it seems abstract but it means a system of government where people can vote for their leaders.

And at a time like this now where we're seeing voting made harder rather than easier for people, when we're seeing attempts to overturn an election that was fairly won, this is a fight that needs to be fought, to make voting right, we need to get back to what I think we had in the civil rights movement, a time of peaceful and disciplined real arguments and movement in order to make voting right and I think that's the most important thing he's facing more than anything else right now.

BURNETT: So, Doris, as someone who closely studied many of Americans president, some of the greatest, how do they sustain themselves in such a difficult moment?

KEARNS GOODWIN: I think it's really important for them to figure out how to replenish their energy in such time of crisis. Abraham Lincoln actually went to the theater more than 100 times during the civil war. He was criticized, how can you go to the theater in the middle of all this crisis. And he said if I didn't go, I would die for the anxiety.

He also was able to replenish himself by just telling funny stories and humorous laughing which seems crazy in the middle of crisis but some said that whistled off sadness. FDR had cocktail party nights during World War II and the rule was you couldn't talk about the war. You could talk about movies, gossip, anything as long as for a few hours, he could let his mind range free of that war.

So I think that's part of the way to sustain themselves but also sustain themselves through history, remember we've been through tough times before, the Great Depression, World War II, the early days of the revolution, and, of course, the civil war and the strength of the people and engaged citizens brought us through so I think history can provide hope in such moments of difficulty.

BURNETT: So, Doris, your new documentary, it's three-part, obviously based on your book as well but it's about Lincoln, starts Sunday at 8:00, I want to show viewers a clip of it. Here it is.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: The country is breaking apart. There's a turning point where he's going to have to take a stand.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blood will be on your hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blood is already on our hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Learn to be a commander in chief.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is willing to admit he was wrong and to change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was the right person at the right time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we let this stand one minute longer, we might as well say goodbye to the home front, union, democracy -- all of it.


BURNETT: What leadership lessons, Doris, would President Lincoln have for President Biden?

KEARNS GOODWIN: You know, some of those lessons, I think the life and losses that President Biden has already experienced were experienced by Abraham Lincoln. Through adversity, somehow, a leader learns humility and empathy, which are critical requirements I think for any kind of leader.

But I think at the same time, you can learn that Lincoln surrounded himself with a strong team of people and when that moment came for the decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, his decision and went before them and said I decided this and want you to support me and at the same time, just sort of learning from Lincoln who he was, not just what he did, you know, we think about him as saving the union and emancipating the slaves and winning the war, but most importantly was character.

Whether or not you can learn that from another leader, I'd like to believe following Lincoln's life and the journey we tried to follow in this docudrama can make you feel that sense of I want to be more like this guy, somehow there's something about him that transcends just being president and just being a leader.

BURNETT: All right, Doris, thank you so much. I hope all of you will watch Doris's documentary series "Abraham

Lincoln", starts on the History Channel on Sunday night at 8:00.

Plus, here on CNN, don't miss the original series on the life of another past leading president, Lyndon Johnson, "LBJ: TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY", you can switch over after her show Sunday at 9:00.

And OUTFRONT next tonight, hear from young people here in Ukraine who are now preparing for the possibility a war with Russia.



BURNETT: Today, I talk to young people in the city, because of COVID rules, it's very hard to get into schools. But we were able to visit this one at the end of the school day, when the younger kids were playing pick-up soccer and the older ones were practicing volleyball.

One of them is Benjamin. He is 17 and like the other high schoolers you see here, his classes focus mainly on math, physics and chemistry. He wants to go into IT, like many ambitious young people in the city and he's so excited about his future. He's just balancing that with living in a country where he's now taking a weekly class called, quote, protection of Ukraine which now focuses specifically on fighting Russia.


BENJAMIN, UKRAINIAN STUDENT: It's once a week, and our teacher made like some steps. Like we, to, that we learn more stuff, more closer to the war and stuff that we will be prepared in the case of the war.


BURNETT: Taking a class to prepare for war, a real war. And then playing volleyball, that seeming contradiction normal here and maybe this is part of why.


BENJAMIN: I don't think Russians are generally bad people. It's, yeah, just how it is. I can say that like Putin, like, we all know that he is a really, isn't a really balanced guy. So, yeah.

BURNETT: He is a what kind of guy?

BENJAMIN: He isn't really balanced person like, you know, people know him for being quite aggressive and stuff. So --

BURNETT: So you feel that way about Putin but not about the Russian people.

BENJAMIN: No, I have many friends in Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: And that is the refrain here. Ukraine and Russia are deeply tied. Putin is right about that. He's just wrong about what those ties mean. Ukrainians we met here in Lviv are fiercely patriotic and will not yield easily.

Thanks so much for joining us and reminder that this weekend, to watch new original series on the life of Lyndon Johnson, "LBJ: TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY" premieres Sunday at 9:00 Eastern.

"AC360", though, starts now.