Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Mariupol Steel Plant Owner: "Close To Catastrophe;" Ukrainian Teen Says Classmate Was Killed As She Tried To Escape Town Near Kyiv: "I Feel Weak Because I Cannot Do Anything;" Obama Says Disinfo Is Eroding Democracy, Cites Putin, Bannon; Obama: "People Are Dying Because Of Misinformation;" Johnny Depp Grilled In Court About Ex-Wife Texts, Drug Use; Race For U.S. Senate In Pennsylvania Heats Up, Could Determine Senate Control. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 21, 2022 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: CNN's Dianne Gallagher reporting for us from Tallahassee. Dianne, thanks very much. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, grim details are emerging tonight about the massive steel plant in Mariupol, thousands of Ukrainian troops and civilians are holed up surrounded by Russian troops. Ukraine releasing new evidence tonight that Russia may be killing Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Plus, he hid from the Russians for 30 days in a backyard shed with his family surviving only on bread. His harrowing tale is ahead.

And former President Obama is speaking out tonight, putting Vladimir Putin and Steve Bannon in the same sentence. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, close to catastrophe. Those are the words from the owner of a sprawling steel plant in Mariupol where thousands of Ukrainian troops and civilians are hiding at this hour still. Outside the walls of that complex, Putin's forces now choking off access to food, water, medicine, everything really.

And while Putin tonight says that he's no longer ordering his troops to storm the plant. He is declaring victory in the besieged city where according to President Zelenskyy 95 percent to 98 percent of the buildings have been destroyed. So put that into perspective, that's like the city of Oakland, California wiped off the map.

President Biden tonight is weighing in on who's in control of that key city in Mariupol.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's questionable whether he does control Mariupol. There is no evidence yet that Mariupol has completely fallen. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: However, there is evidence tonight to back up the claims Putin's forces are dumping truckloads of bodies into mass graves. We're going to show you what you're looking at here is new satellite images from just outside Mariupol. We're told the line near the top of your screen shows more and more graves being added from mid March to this month.

We're also learning of disturbing conversations about what's said to be the killing of Ukrainian prisoners of war. The Security Service of Ukraine releasing a purported intercepted communication from a city in eastern Ukraine. Russian soldiers can be heard saying this. "You keep the most senior among them, and let the rest go forever - so that no one will ever see them again, including relatives." Intentionally killing POWs is a war crime.

Tonight, the Biden administration is pledging another $800 million in military aid for Ukraine. That brings the total to roughly $3.4 billion since the invasion began. We're live across Ukraine this evening. I do want to start with Jim Sciutto. He's OUTFRONT in Lviv. Jim, what's the latest on the ground?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, in Mariupol, it may be true that Russian forces have pulled back from trying to storm that remaining pocket of Ukrainian forces as well as civilians in the steel plant. But as far as the city itself is concerned, despite the President's comments, officials I speak with say that for all intents and purposes, Mariupol has fallen to Russian forces. They have control of the main transportation lines, the main roads, much of the city and it's difficult to see at this point how that turns around.

It may be that those pockets remain and perhaps for some time, there's an Azov battalion inside that steel plant that has sworn that it will not give up, that they will die fighting, in effect. But as far as overall control of the city, it's difficult to see how Ukrainians pull that back. And it may be that that is the 'victory' that Vladimir Putin claims in time for the victory day parade in Moscow on May 9th.

We had reported last week that there's been a push by the Kremlin to deliver Putin something. Something that he can claim as a victory to celebrate on the Victory Day parade. And given the slow progress in the east, no expectation that those front lines are going to move quickly or substantively between now and then, Mariupol may be what he claims as his prize

And you mentioned, Kate, going into that about war crimes. When you look at Mariupol, it's yet one more city where you see that that kind of criminal behavior appears to be not just by accident but part of the plan.

BOLDUAN: Jim, thank you so much.

And even in the areas of Ukraine that the Russian army has now left, a very real danger remains. Phil Black is OUTFRONT in Kyiv. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL BLACK, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Weaving through the trees. This brave stretcher crew is carrying a delicate cargo, not the wounded, but something with the potential to seriously wound or worse. They're collecting the active munitions Russian forces left behind.



BLACK (on camera): This forest is scarred by battle. There's blackened earth and splintered trees pretty much everywhere. The Ukrainians say their rockets rain down on Russian positions here. This is what's left of a Russian weapons system. They say the battle may have lasted hours, but the cleanup will take much longer.


BLACK (voice over): Here among the natural debris lies the dangerous end of a Russian Uragan rocket.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).


BLACK (voice over): This soldier says it's filled with cluster munitions. Those weapons are banned by more than a hundred countries. This one, standing proud, shows why they must work quickly, when the soldiers last saw this damaged rocket, it was lying horizontally. Someone foolish, lucky and unqualified has lifted the warhead so it now points to the sky. The professionals carefully stretcher it away and add it to their growing collection.

That was a single 500-pound bomb and that's how you make it safe, according to this disposal team. They've got two more to go. The air- delivered bombs recovered from a downed Russian aircraft and they're going to destroy both at the same time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).


BLACK (voice over): The big ones are easy to find and you get the feeling fun to destroy. Most of the effort hunting down mines and other abandoned ordinance is painfully thorough, careful work, scanning and prodding the earth with intense focus for hours at a time. But there's urgency too, because discarded and deliberately planted weapons are harming people weeks after the Russians left this territory. This truck hit a mine north of Kyiv incinerating the driver. This

emergency vehicle also ran over something explosive, injuring eight onboard. There are many painful legacies to Russia's brief presence in this part of the country. Ukrainians are working to ensure this one doesn't endure.


BLACK (on camera): Kate, the scale of this problem is vast. President Zelenskyy has said he thinks that Ukraine is now the most mined country in the world. A commanding officer of this disposal team told us that he's working to a pretty simple formula. He says he thinks that for every year of this war, it will take another three years to clear up all the dangerous stuff that's been left behind. But they can't eradicate the risk entirely no matter how careful, how meticulous they think about 1 percent of the explosives will not be found and dealt with, which means there will always be some of it out there waiting to be disturbed for years or perhaps decades to come, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Wow. Phil, thank you so much.

OUTFRONT with us now, Matt Miller, Special Adviser to the White House National Security Council. Matt, thanks for coming in. President Biden said today in speaking about Mariupol, the way he put it is there's no evidence yet that Mariupol has completely fallen. But it is effectively surrounded, we know that. Does the U.S. think Ukraine can retake control of the rest of the city outside of this steel plant complex at this point?

MATT MILLER, SPECIAL ADVISER AT THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: One of the things, Kate, I think it's foolish to do in this war is trying to make predictions about something that is an inherently unpredictable. It's clear that the Russians are in control of large sections of Mariupol as they have been for weeks, but it's also clear that the Ukrainians in that steel works continue to defend themselves.

And if you even look at what President Putin said today, he essentially admits that they have failed in their efforts to take that steel works and now claim that they're going to blockade it. We're going to watch and see if that's actually what they do or if they continue to attack it. Another thing we've learned is not to take President Putin for his word, but to watch and see what Russia actually does.

BOLDUAN: That's for sure. I mean, I actually wanted to ask you about Putin's comments today. So the way he puts it is he scrapped plans to storm the steel plant, because he doesn't need to, instead - because he's called to the success and said ordering forces to blockade the plant, so not even a fly can get through is the way he put it. Do you think he is actually changing course, though?

MILLER: Well, we don't know and we're often asked what do we think President Putin is trying to do and we try very hard not to put ourselves in his mind or make predictions about what he might do, because we try to watch what he actually does versus what he says. Sure, he claims that they're not going to storm the plant, but this is the same president that claimed they were never going to invade Ukraine in the first place and the same president who claims that they were not trying to take Kyiv after they were defeated in the battle of Kyiv.

So we will continue to not take him for his word, but we'll watch his actions and watch the actions of Russia and we'll continue to hold them account trouble for those actions.


BOLDUAN: Do you think could it have something to do, is it a possibility in - as the council is looking - security council is looking at this that it has something to do with the May 9th celebration why he would come out to say this?

MILLER: Look, I don't know. I will say they have, from the beginning of this, wanted to have victories and been unable to show tangible results that would yield those victories. It's certainly possible that he wants some victory by May 9th. But look, they wanted this entire war to be over by now. Their initial plan was to take Kyiv in just a few days, to take the entire country in just a few weeks and they failed in all of those objectives so far.

So whether they want to have some victory by May 9th, that's impossible to tell. But I will say, their initial goals, the initial victories that they wanted to have, they have failed completely in those objectives.

BOLDUAN: These new satellite images that we showed at the top of the show, showing a large mass grave outside Mariupol from Maxar Technologies and they say that it holds the - what they see as 200 burial plots and we know that Zelenskyy says what's happened there is going to turn out to be worse than Bucha, do you think that's correct? Do you think that's right?

MILLER: Look, I think everywhere that we see the Russian military withdraw, we see more and more evidence of war crimes, not just in Bucha, but all around the country. And that is why we're doing two things to hold the Russian military and the Russian leadership accountable.

Number one, we are documenting these atrocities. We are working with our Ukrainian partners and our other allies and partners to gather evidence of atrocities, to gather evidence of war crimes and make those, that evidence available to the appropriate prosecutorial bodies.

And number two, we will continue to flow weapons into Ukraine, so that Ukrainian military and the Ukrainian people can defend themselves against the Russian military. You saw the President announced today an additional $800 million in security assistance. That's dozens of new howitzer artillery systems, 144,000 of artillery shells, new drones that the Ukrainian military can use.

So we're going to continue to get security systems in this country, so that Ukrainians can defend themselves against the army that's committing these atrocities and attempt to repel them from the country as they repel them from Kyiv.

BOLDUAN: And I spoke to an advisor to Zelenskyy just today and he said that they are happy that the pace of the weapons are coming in. They're really coming in now and they're very, of course, happy and appreciative of what's being sent over. No doubt about that.

At the same time, CNN, Matt, reported this week that U.S. intelligence has very little ability to track the weapons once they cross into Ukraine. Once they crossed the border. How concerned are you that these weapons could be falling into enemy hands?

MILLER: Look, we're not concerned, it's not our job to track the weapons once they get into Ukraine. It's the Ukrainian military's job to make to make the decisions about where those weapons can best be deployed. Our job is to get them into the region.

BOLDUAN: There are ways you could drop them though, if you wanted to.

MILLER: Our job is to get them into the region as quickly as possible and then turn them over to the Ukrainian military so they can deploy them. It's up for the Ukrainian military to decide whether these weapons should be best deployed in the north as they were at the beginning of the conflict, in the south, in the east as they're now preparing to do with these artillery systems that we're providing them.

So our job is to get it to them as quickly as possible and then let them make the decisions about where they should best be deployed around the country.

BOLDUAN: It's clearly a risk but I guess it sounds like it's a risk at this moment considering what the other option is a risk the administration is willing to take.

MILLER: Look, our job, like I said, is just to get them in and let them - let the Ukrainian military always - obviously, always in conflict there is risk of material falling from one side into the other. You've seen the Ukrainians capture a significant amount of Russian tanks and other Russian material. But we're confident that the systems we're getting into Ukraine, they know how to use and they're using them to great effect. We see the evidence of it on the battlefield. You see it all every day when you see the javelins that have been put to use to destroy Russian tanks and destroy Russian armored personnel carriers. And we think you'll see the same evidence of the artillery systems that we're getting into the country now.

BOLDUAN: Matt Miller, thank you very much.

MILLER: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, the incredible story of how a Ukrainian teenager and his family survived the Russian assault hiding in a backyard shed for 30 days, eating nothing but bread. Plus, Russian opposition leader and Putin Nemesis Alexey Navalny, he

says that the Russians killed a man in Ukraine simply because his name - his last name was also Navalny.

And actor Johnny Depp is graphic messages about his ex-wife read in court.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Depp, you said, I will (inaudible) her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead.




BOLDUAN: We're following breaking news, Attorney General Merrick Garland says his office is now helping Ukraine's Prosecutor General collect evidence of possible war crimes. This comes as a Ukrainian teenager is sharing his harrowing story with CNN, hiding in a back backyard shed and bunker for 30 days as Russian forces stormed the suburbs near Kyiv. Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hidden behind a row of homes in the town of Borodyanka, Ukrainian Police exhume the bodies of nine civilians killed by Russian soldiers. They're documenting evidence of war crimes. This mother stands over her son's body left in a makeshift grave.

On the other side of the graves, we notice Ivan Onufrienko staring quietly at the grave of another victim.


LAVANDERA (off camera): One of your friends is buried here?



LAVANDERA (voice over): Ivan says his friend was killed by Russian shrapnel as she tried to escape the city. The cross bearing Katya's (ph) name was made by his grandfather who dug this shallow grave because they couldn't store the bodies at the hospital.


ONUFRIENKO (through interpreter): I can't take this well when I see this. I cry but I'm not showing this. I feel weak, weak because I cannot do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LAVANDERA (voice over): Ivan is 16 years old. In two months of war

he's witnessed the innocence of childhood died before his eyes. Watching Ivan makes you wonder how a teenage mind copes with the horror in front of him. His family says to understand we must see what they experienced.

Ivan's family never left this backyard shed for more than 30 days while Russian troops occupied the city. Ivan's grandfather and father showed us how they survived on nothing but homemade bread.


LAVANDERA (on camera): So basically, they would take the grain, the raw grain and grind it down into flour or a version of flour, and then they would make their own bread in this oven and that's what they lived on for more than a month.


LAVANDERA (voice over): Five adults and four children hid in this underground bunker.


This is where Ivan heard weeks of artillery blast and cries for help, the sounds of war that will haunt survivors forever.


ONUFRIENKO (through interpreter): I slept here. My sister and my mom slept here and another family slept here too. We tried to curl up and sleep here together. Sometimes when things got really scary, our dads would come down and stay with us.


LAVANDERA (voice over): Ivan's grandfather, Serhey (ph), says he says Russian soldiers told him the family would be killed if they tried to escape. Police say more than 50 people were killed here. Many of them shot as they tried to run away. The death toll is expected to climb.


LAVANDERA (on camera): How frightening was this experience for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).

SERHEY: I can't express it.


SERHEY: It is. It is scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We never felt anything like that. SERHEY: They were hitting everything, smashing it.


LAVANDERA (voice over): Serhey is stoic as we talked about surviving the Russian siege, but there's one question that pierces his heart.


LAVANDERA (on camera): Do you worry about your grandchildren witnessing this war?

SERHEY: I don't have words for that, do you understand?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The little ones can forget, but the older ones will remember always.


LAVANDERA (voice over): Grandfather and father note their children will never be the same.


LAVANDERA (on camera): Why do you feel it was important to be here at this moment?

ONUFRIENKO (through interpreter): So people can see for themselves, the whole world should see how the Russian world comes and kill civilians for nothing.

LAVANDERA (off camera): When you get older, what do you think you'll remember about this moment in this day?

ONUFRIENKO (through interpreter): I'll remember everything. I'll remember every day and I will tell my children and my grandchildren, I will remember this all my life.


LAVANDERA (voice over): He's a teenager who refuses to look away from the raw reality of this war.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And Kate, one of the questions that this family can't answer and Ivan can't answer is how they were some of the lucky ones to be able to survive this ordeal. They heard stories in their city that as people were leaving, taking buses down the road, that Russian forces were firing at the buses of evacuees, and how they were able to survive all of this. They don't have answers to, you can tell it weighs on them significantly.

BOLDUAN: I mean, Ed, every family, every person, all of these stories, each one of them just so gut-wrenching. It's just unbelievable. Thank you, Ed, for bringing it. Thank you so much. OUTFRONT for us next, President Obama on what he still regrets today.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Was my failure to fully appreciate at the time just how susceptible we had become to lies and conspiracy theories.


BOLDUAN: We have that next.

And actor Johnny Depp is back on the stand as the jury hears the graphic text messages that he wrote about his ex-wife.



BOLDUAN: President Barack Obama in a rare public appearance saying the spread of lies and conspiracy theories have led to the rise of strong men just like Vladimir Putin. Obama warning the very foundation of democracy is at risk like never before. Donie O'Sullivan is OUTFRONT.



OBAMA: People like Putin and Steve Bannon, for that matter, understand it's not necessary for people to believe disinformation in order to weaken democratic institutions. You just have to flood a country's Public Square with enough raw sewage. You just have to raise enough questions, spread enough dirt, plant enough conspiracy theorizing that citizens no longer know what to believe.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Former President Barack Obama coming to Stanford the heart of Silicon Valley Thursday with a warning about the trash that disinformation poses to American democracy, putting Putin and Steve Bannon in the same sentence and saying he underestimated in 2016 how powerful conspiracy theories had become.


OBAMA: No one in my administration was surprised that Russia was attempting to meddle in our election. What does still nag at me though was my failure to fully appreciate, at the time, just how susceptible we had become to lies and conspiracy theories.


O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Those lies and conspiracy theories still very much alive in the U.S.


OBAMA: We just saw a sitting president denied the clear results of an election and help incite a violent insurrection at the nation's capitol. Social media did not create racism or white supremacist groups. All these things existed long before the first tweet or Facebook Poke. Solving the disinformation problem won't cure all that ails our democracies or tears at the fabric of our world. But it can help tamp down divisions and let us rebuild the trust and solidarity needed.


O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Obama laid out how he believes social media algorithms designed to maximize engagement and keep people hooked are contributing to a crisis in democracy.


OBAMA: And unfortunately, it turns out that inflammatory, polarizing content attracts and engages. Other features of these platforms have compounded the problem. For example, the way content looks on your phone, as well as the veil of anonymity that platforms provide their users, a lot of times can make it impossible to tell the difference between, say, a peer-reviewed article by Dr. Anthony Fauci and a miracle cure being pitched by a huckster.


People are dying because of misinformation.


O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Obama said it is time for social-media companies to step up.

OBAMA: Tech platforms need to accept they play a unique role in how we, as a people, and people around the world, are consuming information, and that their decisions have an impact on every aspect of society. With that power, comes accountability.


O'SULLIVAN: And the former president there, calling on these platforms to be more transparent about algorithms, how content goes viral on their platforms, and why. He also spoke a little bit about possible government regulation of big tech. However, he did describe himself as almost a free-speech absolutist. So doesn't want to have the government and it would be against First Amendment, of course, to regulate speech but wants to explore different ways these platforms could be held accountable and could be regulated by the government -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Donie, thank you so much.

And now, I want to bring in David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama, and CNN senior political commentator. David, Obama said today that people are dying because of

misinformation. And it was striking, that he put Putin and Steve Bannon in the same sentence. That's not out of coincidence. Does he really think that they are on the same level when it comes to disinformation?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, I should point out that I -- I speak to President Obama from time to time. I haven't spoken for him in a decade so, you know, that question probably should be directed to him but I will tell you that in -- I read the portion of the speech -- I read -- I saw the whole speech, read the portion in which he mentioned Bannon, and I think he was speaking about how disinformation has been used to -- to undermine democracies, just pouring all kinds of divisive material into the marketplace to get people to make people distrustful, to make -- to divide people.

And in that sense, I think he would probably lump the two of them together. I don't think he was, you know, I don't think he was making a judgment about who was responsible for more deaths or -- or -- or any other scale like that.

BOLDUAN: Right. He also acknowledged, I found interesting when he was president he said he didn't appreciate how susceptible the country had become to lies and conspiracy theories. It -- it's a surprising, especially because he, himself, was a target of conspiracy theories for years. Why do you think he missed that?

AXELROD: He noted that. I think he has a fundamental confidence in the rationality of people. And felt that people -- you know, I experienced this with him in the White House, when -- when the whole birther movement grew, Donald Trump was leading that movement. And he thought it was so preposterous that anyone would assume that he wasn't born where he said he was born that he -- for the long time just didn't want to engage it and said let's not entertain this. Let's not give it more attention, until finally it became clear that, you know, a significant number of people actually were believing it.

And so, you know, he did have that experience but he still retained this belief that people could separate fact from fiction and I think what he said in his speech today was even in fall of 2016, that was -- that was his assumption more than it should have been.

BOLDUAN: A lot of lessons learned, lot of eyes opened coming from that.

I do want to ask you about something else, David, that is out there that we have been tracking. This news out of Florida. The Republican legislature there just passed two bills that are widely viewed as retribution for Disney speaking out against a law that critics dubbed the "don't say gay" law. This war against Disney, among other culture wars has been very good for Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, I mean in his polling numbers especially.

But I tonight know, if this just a Republican version of cancel call culture? Something Republicans have very clearly loved to hate about Democrats?

AXELROD: Well, they love the phrase, and they've -- they've made hay of that. But clearly, they are very hard on views they don't agree with. And in this case, I would think there would be many Republicans who would be upset about this, the idea that a governor and state legislature would tamper in a really significant way with the financial interests of a major employer, an industry in that state because they disagree with the political stance that they took.

That is antithetical to this philosophy that -- you know, of free enterprise and capitalism that Republicans generally tout.


So I would think that, even Republicans would be upset about this. Now, I understand that Governor DeSantis has -- has made some gains in the Republican Party, particularly with the activist Republican base by taking these muscular moves, but I think there's a real paradox here that Republicans are going to have sort out.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, David. Thanks for coming in.

AXELROD: Good to see you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, Alexei Navalny, Putin's nemesis, says Russian forces killed a man because his last name was also Navalny. His passport left next to his body to make the point.

Plus, actor Johnny Depp on the stand in addressing his past drug and alcohol use.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And -- and you would sometimes drink whiskey in the mornings too, right?

JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: Isn't happy hour anytime?



BOLDUAN: Killed because of his name. Alexei Navalny, a top Russian opposition leader and Putin's nemesis, tweeting Russian forces killed a Ukrainian man simply because he had the same name, posting this photo of Ilya Navalny's passport and tweeting this, quote, everything indicates they killed him because of his last name.


That's why his passport was defiantly thrown nearby.

While CNN has not yet independently verified Ilya Navalny's death, it highlights the urgency, though, behind the CNN film premiering Sunday, the story of Alexei Navalny. Here is a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin tried to kill you with Novichok, and he opened his like blue eyes wide, and looked at me and said very clear -- what the f**k? That is so stupid!

ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: Come on. Poisoned? I don't believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like, he is back. This is Alexei.

NAVALNY: Putin is supposed to be so stupid to use this Novichok.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's more than his expletives. His intonation.

NAVALNY: If you want to kill someone, just shoot him. Jesus Christ.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like real Alexei.

NAVALNY: It is impossible to believe it. It is kind of stupid. The whole idea of poisoning with a chemical weapon -- this is why this is so smart because even reasonable people, they refuse to believe like what? Come on? Poisoned? Seriously?


BOLDUAN: The Kremlin and Russia's security services, of course, deny that they played any role in Navalny's poisoning.

Still, OUTFRONT now, Odessa Rae, a producer of that film who was on ground with Alexei Navalny throughout the filming of it.

Thank you so much for coming in.

Odessa, the fact that someone if we could just start with what I said off top, the fact that someone could be killed just because they share a name with Navalny -- I mean, does that say everything you need to know about how threaten Putin is by Navalny even though Navalny's behind bars right now?

ODESSA RAE, PRODUCER, "NAVALNY": Absolutely, absolutely. And this was one of the biggest, um, things that I discovered as we were shooting, was the lengths that Putin will go to, the distance that he will go. We are seeing it now with Ukraine. Everyone thought it wouldn't happen. But we first thought that it was obviously discovering these poisoners that were following Alexei for three years before they actually tried to kill hem.

BOLDUAN: We just played that clip of him talking about the moment he realized he had been poisoned. Another major part of the film is when Navalny poses as a Russian spy and duped the Russian spy into revealing how he was poisoned. You see that, and you realize you all had one shot to get that right. I mean, did you think it would actually work as well as -- as it did?

RAE: Absolutely not. Honestly, we -- this idea was actually proposed -- I think, on one of the first days of us shooting with Alexei. And Alexei came up with this idea, like, why don't we just try and call them since we have the numbers? Because Chris (ph) was so good in uncovering this investigation.

So we planned this phone call day and actually the phone call took place in an Airbnb Daniel and I were staying in the Black Forest because it was during COVID. We couldn't rent studio space or anything like that. So I got this big Airbnb and -- and we set up this table, and we -- we -- everyone came over at 4:30 in the morning because we wanted to catch these killers like just as they were waking up, before they had time to think too much, or check in with their bosses. You know? Which was 7:00 a.m., Russia, we started the call and we absolutely didn't wait.

The first calls went through and he was like, Alexei, but nothing came of it. And then this call started. And it -- it -- you don't see it in the film but it actually went on for 50 minutes, almost an hour. And, you know, Daniel was just like trying to hold the camera still and Nikki, our other DP, a well and me in the kitchen like -- and -- and when it ended, we knew like I don't speak Russian. But we obviously knew some crazy had gone down and Chris was like we got confession.

And immediately, we were all like freaked out and running around, like call the German police. We need backup! We thought like FSB has three brain cells, they would -- they would be busting through the doors, and herding us to try to take the footage. So, yes, it was definitely one of the craziest moments of my life.

BOLDUAN: I mean, absolutely. Just having you retell it, again, is -- is so compelling to watch. The entire film is truly remarkable. Really nice meet you. Thanks for coming in.

RAE: Thank you so much for having me.

BOLDUAN: Appreciate it. You can all watch the CNN film "Navalny," this Sunday night at 9:00, right here on CNN.

OUTFRONT next, actor Johnny Depp grilled in court about graphic text messages and outbursts caught on tape.

Plus, Dr. Oz, TV doctor turned Pennsylvania Senate candidate, going after Biden's poll numbers, and tying himself to Donald Trump any way he can. But will it work in one of the closest-watched races in America?



BOLDUAN: Tonight, actor Johnny Depp just wrapping his third day on the stand telling the jury about his past drug use, and facing questions about graphic text messages he sent about his wife Amber Heard. Depp is suing Heard for millions for defamation over an op-ed that she wrote about her experiences with domestic violence.

Stephanie Elam is OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you would sometimes drink whiskey in the mornings, too, right?

DEPP: Isn't happy hour any time?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Johnny Depp amusing the courtroom --

DEPP: Here's your crazy, all your crazy

ELAM: -- even as the defense drills down on his past drug and alcohol use.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of your good friends that you have taken drugs with before is Marilyn Manson, right?

DEPP: We have had cocaine together maybe a couple of times.

ELAM: The defense showing this photo of Depp in Boston while making the film "Black Mask". Depp claimed he was asleep. The defense claimed an email between Depp and a nurse proves otherwise.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After she's telling you that she's watching "Black Mask" for the third time in a row, you write, I was high as a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) when I made that film. Ha ha ha.

ELAM: The defense casting Depp as full of anger.

The testimony turning even more crude when the defense used Depp's messages to a friend to show his rage toward Heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After you said, let's drown her before we burn her, Mr. Depp, you said, I will (EXPLETIVE DELETED) her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she's dead.

ELAM: But yesterday, Depp claimed Heard was the aggressor, even severing his finger, which she denies.

DEPP: She threw the large bottle, and it made contact.

ELAM: The defense showing writings from Depp in paint and blood from his severed finger and an email where Depp alludes to cutting the finger himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have chopped off my left middle finger as a reminder that I should never cut my finger off again.

DEPP: It was a pathetic attempt at humor. My apologies.

ELAM: Depp's 50 million defamation suit against his ex-wife is in response to Heard's 2018 op-ed in "The Washington Post" about surviving domestic abuse. While she never mentioned Depp, he asserts it got him boosted from his

role in Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" series. The defense implied there was abuse by Depp in the marriage, playing this audio after an alleged fight.

DEPP: I headbutted you in the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) forhead. That doesn't break a nose.

There was not an intentional head butt.

ELAM: Depp denies he ever struck any woman.

The couple met in 2009 on the set of "The Rum Diary" and married in 2015 before their contentious divorce the following year, with both accusing the other of abusive behavior.


ELAM (on camera): Now, the defense has shown proof that Depp had said graphic and lewd things about Heard, showing him getting violent around his ex-wife as well, but they have yet to show that he actually hit her, something that he says he's never done, Kate.

BOLDUAN: This is long from over.

Stephanie, thank you very much.

OUTFRONT next, we're going to tick you inside the race that could determine who controls the Senate.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But don't voters want some level of bipartisanship, some pragmatism to their politics?

JOHN FETTERMAN, LT. GOV. OF PENNSYLVANIA: I agree. I also want a full head of hair, but realistically, that's not going to happen right now.




BOLDUAN: Dr. Mehmet Oz, the TV doctor running in a contentious race for the open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, hammering President Biden, taking on his approval rating and touting a rally tomorrow with Donald Trump who endorsed him. Oz is facing a tough contest against a former CEO, David McCormick, and a slew of Democrats on the other side, making the Pennsylvania Senate race one of the most closely watched.

Adding to this is playing out in a battleground state that was key to President Biden's win in 2020.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT tonight.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats are facing the most daunting midterm environment in a dozen years, with Republicans favored to take the House, and the 50/50 Senate up for grabs.

But here, in the heart of Trump country, in a rural Pennsylvania county that Joe Biden lost by more than 55 points, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman is trying to buck the tide, warning voters that the Senate majority could come down to them.

FETTERMAN: Who thinks it's going to be a cake walk for Democrats in this cycle? Not one hand. Not one hand. I agree with you.

It's going to be a tough cycle for Democrats. We cannot afford to write off any part of Pennsylvania.

RAJU: Fetterman now the front runner in a three-way race ahead of the May 17th Democratic primary for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pat Toomey. A race also defined by its intense debate over what it means to be a Democrat.

On one side, Fetterman calling for the legalization of pot, backing an assault weapons ban and Medicare for all, and pushing an increase in the minimum wage, and also harshly critical of moderates like Joe Manchin for stopping a bulk of President Joe Biden's agenda.

FETTERMAN: Our party has room for diversity of thought, but if you are looking for a Joe Manchin Democrat, I am not your candidate.

RAJU: Don't voters want some level of bipartisanship, some pragmatism to their politics and not for one party going too far?

FETTERMAN: I agree. I also want a full head of hair, but realistically, that's not going to happen right now.

RAJU: Fetterman says he's within the Democratic mainstream.

FETTERMAN: I don't mean to nit-pick, but I wouldn't categorize myself as progressive. I consider myself a Democratic that's running on the same platform of ideas that every other Democrat in this race is running on. If a moderate Democrat is someone who would break with the rest of the caucus and screw up Build Back Better or the Democratic agenda, then I'm not a moderate.

RAJU: Conor Lamb, a centrist, representing a swing Pittsburgh area district in the House, has been known to buck his party, including by opposing Nancy Pelosi as speaker. But even as Lamb has aligned with Fetterman on progressive views such as gutting the filibuster, he has struggled to keep pace in fund-raising and the polls. And he's now sharpening his attacks against the front front-runner.

REP. CONOR LAMB (D-PA): I know a lot of people in our party like him, but it's an awful big risk with an election as high stakes as this.

RAJU: There's also this reality. Biden's approval rating is under water. But none of the Democrats here are running away from him yet.

FETTERMAN: We're going to embrace Joe Biden.

LAMB: I campaigned with him a lot. So, yeah, there's no -- there's no downside to that in my mind.

RAJU: One dilemma confronting Democrats, voter anger over gas prices, inflation, and frustration over Washington gridlock.

MALCOLM KENYATTA (D), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I think people are looking around, for real, and just saying, what the hell are we doing? What the hell are we doing?

RAJU: And as for the moderates bucking the Democratic agenda --

KENYATTA: I would call it full of crap.

RAJU: Manu Raju, CNN, Philadelphia.


BOLDUAN: A race to watch.

Manu, thank you so much for that.

And thank you all so much for being with us tonight. I'm Kate Bolduan.

"AC360" starts now.