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Erin Burnett Outfront

Ukraine Condemns Russian Missile Attack On Kyiv; Ukraine: Russian Forces Attack Kyiv During UN Sec. General Visit; U.S. Official: Russia Making "Slow" Progress In Eastern Ukraine; Ukrainian Forces Expose "Jack In The Box" Defect In Russian Tanks That Causes Their Ammo-Filled Tops To Be Blown Off; "Bad Guys": Biden Seeks To Sell Oligarchs' Assets, Give Funds To Ukraine: 140 Plus Oligarchs, Family Members Sanctioned So Far; Texas Governor Campaigns On Immigration, But Policies Could Backfire; Cawthorn's Legal Troubles, Controversies Mount Ahead Of Primary. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 28, 2022 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The new season of Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy airs this Sunday night, 9 pm Eastern and Pacific only here on CNN.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks very much for watching.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, missile strikes targeting the heart of the Ukrainian capital tonight. The U.N. Secretary General in Kyiv at the time of the attacks. Tensions high tonight as Russia is making more gains in the east.

Plus, Russian tanks with a major defects, their tops blowing off because of the so-called Jack in the Box flaw, can the Ukrainians use it to amplify an advantage?

And Congressman Madison Cawthorn speaking out about being caught with that loaded gun in an airport, the latest in a string of controversies for the youngest member of Congress, but is he still all that certain to get reelected, let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, Kyiv under attack and another potential warning shot from Russia to the west. A missile attack on Ukraine's capital while United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres was finishing visit there, causing a fire to break out in a 25-storey residential building. Ukraine says at least 10 people were wounded. And, of course, it seems to be no coincidence that the U.N. Secretary General was there and Russia fired those missiles.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin didn't rule out that Russian forces were targeting him and the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken by striking rail lines only a few hours after the two left Kyiv by train.

And this comes as Russia ramps up its warnings to the West to stop helping Ukraine. Here's Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesperson today.


MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through interpreter): In the West, they are openly calling on the Kyiv to attack Russia, including with the use of weapons received from NATO countries. I don't advise you to test our patients further.


BURNETT: A threat to the West that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top diplomat, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, seem to take even further this week. Putin saying and I quote him, "We have all the tools. We will use them if needed." Lavrov saying the danger of nuclear war is 'serious and real'. And here's what the editor in chief of Russian state television channel RT said when asked where the war could be headed.


MARGARITA SIMONYAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF RT (through interpreter): The most unbelievable outcome that all of this will end in a nuclear strike seems more probable to me than other course of events.


BURNETT: Today, though, President Biden standing firm in his support for Ukraine, pledging an extraordinary $33 billion more on immediate support and taking aim at Russia's nuclear threats to the West.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This shows the desperation that Russia is feeling about their abject failure in being able to do what they set out to do in the first instance. And so it - I think it's more of a reflection not of the truth but of their failure.

No one should be making idle comments about the use of nuclear weapons or the possibility that they'd use that. It's irresponsible.


BURNETT: Of course, it's unclear whether it will be a failure. Tonight, Putin is still causing enormous damage and making some gains in the East. A Ukrainian official in Mariupol telling CNN that the last holdout of Ukrainian forces there in that Azovstal steel complex has been hit by the heaviest Russian airstrikes yet.

The chief of the Mariupol patrol police saying there was a massive airstrike using seven Tu-22M3 followed by more than 50 airstrikes, 50. And he said a makeshift hospital at that steel plant was bombed. And we're unable to independently confirm this, but we do know to the west of Mariupol, also along the southern coast of Ukraine, there are explosions in Kherson where Ukraine acknowledges losses and Russia is moving to install its own government. Nick Paton Walsh is OUTFRONT in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine which is just north of Kherson tonight. And Nick, what is the latest on the ground?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinary scenes in Kyiv around about eight o'clock tonight in the Chechen (ph) Kirovsky District. Those five missiles, it seems, some of them hitting a residential block fair, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying this was essentially aimed at humiliating the United Nations, whose Secretary General Antonio Guterres was visiting Kyiv it seems at the time that those missiles hit.

Indeed, the Ukrainian Prime Minister saying that they heard the explosions in a meeting with the U.N. head there, a fast moving date here certainly, Erin, where the Ukrainian military saying there have been some signs of Russian progress in the east. Also in the south here, where I'm standing.

We saw ourselves how some of the positions are changing along the strategic river that runs through Ukraine.



WALSH (voice over): If Moscow had any surprises left in this war, it is along here. The other side of the river has been Russia's for weeks. But here, the western side is caught in the fast changing landscape of this week's push.


WALSH (on camera): That's the prize over there, the Dnieper River up past which on the left side bank here, the Russians are trying to push, wanting control of both sides of that vital part of Ukraine.


WALSH (voice over): Here at Novovorontsovka, we are told there are a handful of Russian tanks just over a kilometer away on its outskirts, pushing, probing but ultimately kept at bay by Ukrainian forces that still hold the town. Resilience here embodied in Lyudmila (ph) under the threat of rocket fire, planting onions.

"I'm here until victory," she said.


LYUDMILA: (Foreign language).

WALSH (on camera): (Inaudible) have gone. It's just her and her mother. (Foreign language).

LYUDMILA: (Foreign language).

WALSH (on camera): Okay. I think her old mother and her are staying here.

LYUDMILA: (Foreign language). WALSH (on camera): Her mother says, she's not going anywhere and

she's not going to leave her alone.

LYUDMILA: (Foreign language).

WALSH (off camera): All her windows are blown out she says.


WALSH (voice over): Ukrainian forces who don't want their positions filmed are dotted around the town as to other signs of innocent lives lost here. Rockets peeking out from under the water and this boat in which 14 civilians tried to flee Russian occupation on April the 7th, four of them died when Moscow's troops opened fire when it was 70 meters out.

Yet still the desperate keep fleeing. This morning, these women left behind their men to defend their homes near Novovorontsovka.

WALSH (voice over): "We ran, ran early in the morning," said Luda (ph). "They didn't let us out. We're shields for them. They don't let us out by foot or by bicycle. We go in the fields. We ran."

"Our soldiers were two kilometers away," Nadej (ph) add, "and we ran to them."

"Well, they need the Russians tank," she said, take cars, they draw Zeds on everything. As their new unwanted guests demanded milk and food at gunpoint, they had a glimpse of their warped mindset.

"They say they've come to liberate us," Luda (ph). "These aggressives, that's what they told us. They say America is fighting here, but using the hands of Ukrainians to do it," that's what they say. Another claim to be fueled by the violence of the long war with separatists in the east.

"In general, the Donetsk militants say," she said, "you have been bombing us for eight years. Now we bomb you."

Across the fields, loathing and artillery swallow whole once happy worlds.


WALSH (on camera): Now, we have been hearing that in the important strategic city of Kherson to the south of where we reported there that recently installed pro-Russian officials in an occupied town are going to introduce the ruble as the currency there from a matter of days from now. It will entirely be the only currency usable there within a matter of months.

We've also heard those recently installed officials saying how they seek to stop that area going back 'to its Nazi past', reference to the kind of ludicrous rhetoric justifying the Russian unprovoked invasion here to de-Nazify all of Ukraine. And also too, those officials saying that they will not, in fact, now be a referendum in Kherson as many had thought would be the case yesterday. They're simply going to focus on what they call economic development, obviously, a city that they've unprovokedly invaded and caused great turmoil in, Erin.

BURNETT: Incredible damage, economic damage. Thank you very much, Nick Paton Walsh.

And I want to go now to retired U.S. Army Major General James 'Spider' Marks and Phillips O'Brien, Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of St. Andrews. And I'm so glad to have both of you back.

So Gen. Marks, let me start with you with the strikes tonight in Kyiv. It seems obvious it's no coincidence. But what do you make of it? They do it while the U.N. Secretary General's on the ground. It's five strikes. It doesn't appear at this point to be any clear reason to explain why they struck where they struck, but it did include residential areas. What do you read into it?

JAMES MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, what it tells you is, look, President Putin is not going to do an about face and depart Ukraine. What Russia wants to do as a matter of routine is to remind Ukrainians like they need to be reminded that Russia still is very much an occupier and has designs on Ukraine that go well beyond what we're seeing just now and they have the capacity.


They've got the long range strike capacity. They can do it with their fighters and they can do it with cruise missiles, different types of artillery shells and they can go after stationary targets.

Look, these are not difficult targets to hit, right?


MARKS: And that's what they've been doing as a matter of routine, so it's simply is a reminder. We're here. We know where you are. We know what you're up to and don't forget about us.

BURNETT: So Professor O'Brien, everyone should know you are a must follow person in terms of knowing every single thing that's happening with the troop movements and the equipment and what's being used, what's being destroyed. So in that context, 60 percent of the howitzers that the United States committed to sending to Ukraine are now there. They're now in Ukraine.

Russia is also upping up so much as it can, its battalion groups. They've gotten 92 tactical battalion groups in Ukraine up from 85 last week. Obviously, a lot of their battalion groups became inoperable after the - what happened in Kyiv, so it's unclear what battalion group actually mean, something you've pointed out. So when you look at this, the equipment's that's there, the soldiers that are there, which side is in a better position right now?

PHILLIPS O'BRIEN, PROFESSOR OF STRATEGIC STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS: Well, the Russians have actually sent, it seems, most of the Kyiv forces or a great number of the Kyiv forces all the way around back into Ukraine to fight in Donbas.

Now, they did that quite quickly. In one hand, you could say, okay, they've got a lot of force there. They certainly have much more force in Ukraine in the Donbas fighting now than they did two weeks ago. The issue they have are these troops have already fought in Kyiv. They've been exhausted in Kyiv.

And what the Pentagon said today and what we seem to see is they are moving very, very slowly. That they get to the front line. They don't like to get too far from their supplies. The Pentagon said a lot, logistically they're being very cautious. They can't actually advance too slowly incrementally, so they seem to be blasting away and trying to advance sort of steadily if they can.

The problem they are going to face is that the Russian forces in Ukraine, in a sense, aren't going to improve. They're not going to get better equipment. The Ukrainians are getting better equipment. Now, it's going to take them time to integrate it and it's going to take them time to use it.


O'BRIEN: But the longer the Ukrainians hold, the better their ability to resist will improve.

BURNETT: So Gen. Marks, can you put some specificity around this? President Biden pledges $33 billion to Ukraine today and that's only for five months, right? It's an extraordinary amount of money, right, so - compared to anything. So that's - I'm not trying to question that, but to the point that Phillips just made, how quickly does that transform into weaponry, getting where it needs to go, being used by people who know how to use it and are able to effectively deploy it?

MARKS: Right. It works on both sides. Look, we've got a narrow window where the continual flow of logistics that goes directly into the hands of the war fighters needs to increase its pace and that's happening that. The procedures are in place and they are going to continue to move those in a facilitated way.

The handoff to the Ukrainian forces has been in place for a while, so we know where to go, where to hand them off and then there's some immediate training as necessary. On the Russian side, as Dr. O'Brien indicated, look, they may have numbers but it's all about readiness levels. They are taking units and they are cobbling them together to be prepared to engage.

And as you said, they're staying very, very close to their logistics because they've demonstrated that when they separate themselves from their logistics minds, even though they have inferior lines at this point in the Donbas, they really get slaughtered by the Ukrainians in a whole bunch of very creative ways.

So it's a matter of Ukrainian readiness, Ukrainian capabilities vis-a- vis what the Russians are capable of doing and not being able to do.

BURNETT: So Professor O'Brien, it is clear from what President Biden is saying that he does not, at this moment, take the very loud and clear and now repeated Russian threats of nuclear action from the foreign minister or from Putin himself from television hosts, who are puppets of the government.

He doesn't take that seriously right now. The U.S. government doesn't. I've heard that from a former Secretary of Defense. They believe that that is saber rattling. Do you think that that's right?

O'BRIEN: Well, it certainly is astonishing because Russian language has become apocalyptic in the last few days. I mean, Russian TV, Russian government have been talking about nuclear war as a likelihood. They never did that during the Cold War, the Soviet Union didn't talk about that.

So the Russian language has really become quite frightening. And what's interesting is when they do that the Biden administration said, we're going to make a historic package of military weapons to Ukraine, deal with it. So one hopes that they have pretty good intelligence that the Russian government is saber rattling, but it's a sign of their confidence and it's also a sign that they believe that Russian forces in Ukraine are not in the best of shape.


And the more you can get to Ukraine, the more that you will give the Ukrainians a chance to get a very positive result.

BURNETT: Thank you both ...

MARKS: Erin, can I ...

BURNETT: Yes, go ahead. Go ahead, General. Yes.

MARKS: ... (inaudible) very, very quickly, exactly what Dr. O'Brien said is if the Russian forces do not achieve success now in the Donbas, you now increase the risk of the likelihood of the use of a theater level nuke, because Putin is not going to accept that defeat and theater level nukes are part of his arrows in the quiver as opposed to how we view the use of nukes.

BURNETT: Right. Right. And try the theater level tactical nukes and I know they have more than 2,000 even of those tactical warheads. Thank you both very much.

And next, the Russians are fighting a war with defective tanks, turrets are exploding and sometimes flying multiple stories high. It's been called the Jack in the Box effect and it is - had deadly consequences on the equipment and on the troop toll.

Plus, Biden vowing to tighten the grip on oligarchs, but are the sanctions having any impact on Putin and is the United States even targeting the right people for that to occur?

Also, tonight, the Governor of Texas making a political point by busing all those migrants to Washington. He's also added detailed inspections of trucks at the border, is it working? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wished he would sit down and reconsider what he's doing. I think it hurts the Republican Party.




BURNETT: Tonight, U.S. officials acknowledging the Russians are making progress in eastern Ukraine, seeing evidence of improvement in Russian military operations. There are also though important setbacks for Putin's forces.

New images have been surfacing of Russian tanks and one thing between - in common between all of them is that the turrets, the tops are blown off. Some of them blasted as high as a two storey building. It's a defect that has been called the Jack in the Box effect and it has been deadly for the Russian crews inside. Oren Liebermann is OUTFRONT from the Pentagon.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Near the city of Kyiv, a Russian tank flaw laid bare, the turrets separated from the body of the tank. A problem seen in other destroyed tanks as well. It's a design flaw in Russian tanks that Ukrainian forces have exploited.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the turret is penetrated and all our weapons penetrate the Russian turrets so - without problem particularly the Javelin from the top where armors are the thinnest, but that exposed ammunition will cook off immediately. It will go high order and the whole exposed ammunition program inside the turret will blow.


LIEBERMANN (voice over): Russia's invasion of Ukraine has revealed to the U.S. and the world many problems within one of the world's largest militaries. The Kremlin has tried to hide its losses from its own people, but Ukraine's messaging since the war began has cranked out videos of Russian armor being destroyed. The U.K. estimates Russia has lost as many as 580 tanks since fighting began.


LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The Russians had - have significant mechanized capability. But as you look at the techniques and tactics, procedures that they used, they were not very effective. And so you question the training, the leadership at the noncommissioned level, noncommissioned officer level and their ability to provide basic logistics to a force that size. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LIEBERMANN (voice over): Russian forces are now focusing on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine where a senior U.S. defense official says they've made some progress. They're trying to fix many of the problems that plagued the early invasion using their advantage in firepower and trying to coordinate air and ground attacks.

But officials say they don't appear to have learned those lessons yet. The performance of Vladimir Putin's military has surprised the U.S.


AVRIL HAINES, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We did not do as well in terms of predicting the military challenges that he has encountered with his own military.


LIEBERMANN (voice over): With the war now in its third month, no one's talking anymore about this ending quickly. Russia is attempting to regroup with a new goal in mind in southeast Ukraine. With us and western support, Ukraine is bracing for a long, brutal fight that the Biden administration has framed as much bigger than about one country.


BURNETT: And Oren, watching that, defense officials, they've talked at length about some of the serious problems the Russians faced as the invasion began, these tanks at the heart of that. But is there any way to measure at this point to what extent Russia has been able to solve any of these problems?

LIEBERMANN (on camera): So the U.S. is very careful with its wording here, the Pentagon included in that. The U.S. has seen some evidence that they're trying to better integrate their air and ground attacks. That wasn't integrated or coordinated at all, suffering from a lack of communication, a lack of logistics and sustainment.

But a lot of those problems still exist. The U.S. is still seeing those issues in southeast Ukraine and there are many who think they can't really be fixed this quickly with the turnaround from Kyiv in northern Ukraine to the Donbas region in southeast Ukraine. One of the hardest issues to fix is morale and that's where they still see Russian forces suffering greatly.

BURNETT: Yes. We talked about so many of those forces from the north already redeployed to the south. There's nothing that can change that situation. Thank you so much, Oren.

And next, hundreds of Russian oligarchs and officials have been sanctioned about the war in Ukraine and more is coming. But is any of it impacting Putin? My next guest explains why the answer is no.

And he says he's tough on immigration, but are Texas Governor Greg Abbott's hard line policies possibly making things worse? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's causing a second crisis on top of the crisis we already have at the border.




BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden ramping up efforts to ensure that Russian oligarchs and other top Putin allies pay the price over Putin's invasion of Ukraine.


BIDEN: We're going to seize their yachts, their luxury homes and other ill-begotten gains. These are bad guys.


BURNETT: Biden vowing that the money from those assets will now go to Ukraine to help the country rebuild, which is significant, right? That's not just freezing the assets and maybe you get them back later. That is sorry, they're gone and we're using them for something else.

So more than 140 oligarchs and their family members have been sanctioned so far by the United States as well as more than 400 Russian government officials. Hundreds of millions of dollars in assets of Russian elites in U.S. bank accounts are currently frozen. Dozens of yachts have been seized by the U.S. and its allies.

And keep in mind, these are people who are really sophisticated, right? So the fact that they still had hundreds of millions of dollars easily seizable should say something to you right there.

Arlette Saenz is OUTFRONT at the White House. And Arlette, is the White House worried at all that Putin could view these new actions as an escalation or do they not have that concern at all?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Erin, the White House made the strategic calculation that the benefits outweigh the risk of these types of actions. And today, President Biden said that the U.S. is prepared for any scenario if Russian President Vladimir Putin does try to create a more direct confrontation between Russia with the U.S. and its allies.

But today, President Biden making clear that they are looking for more ways to punish those Russian oligarchs that he described as bad guys and he asked - is asking Congress to pass legislation that would essentially expands the federal government's authority for seizing the assets of these sanctioned oligarchy, things like yachts, planes and luxury homes.

The U.S., of course, has been working with allies on those efforts, but there are some gaps in current U.S. law and he is hoping that something passed through Congress would essentially allow that process to be a bit more streamlined. The ultimate goal here, the White House is hoping that they can liquidate these assets.


And then give those proceeds directly to Ukraine as they are preparing for a long drawn out war that will require much more and military assistance, humanitarian and economic assistance as well.

So, there are certainly these logistical aspects of this trying to get aid to Ukraine but also symbolic of this move the president is trying to make targeting those assets of Russian oligarch and see using them in turn to help Ukrainians.

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

Yeah, interesting to see how this will go, everybody thinks about this precedent-wise, remember the pallets of cash given to the Iranians, because -- well, it had been their money, the U.S. had had it, right, didn't for something else. But that is indeed what apparently is going to happen here.

OUTFRONT now, Alina Polyakova, president and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis.

So, Alina, I raise that example because it appears to be quite significant, just on the face of it, that they're now saying that they're going to ahead and take these assets, liquidate them and use the money. They're not going to just freeze it and see what happens and maybe you get it back later. This is a whole other level.

Is -- how significant is that?

ALINA POLYAKOVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS EXPERT, CENTER FOR EUROPEAN POLICY ANALYSIS CEO: Well, it's significant in a sense that this takes U.S. policy one step further in our ability to not just hold on to these assets but to actually be able to liquidate them and return the money to Ukraine and help support Ukraine's reconstruction, hopefully, after the war is over.

I think what this really signals is that the administration doesn't see a moment anywhere in the future where there could be some sanctions relief because obviously once you liquidate the assets there's no return from that so they're seeing this very much as a long-term endeavor they're going to be in for a long time.

BURNETT: Yeah, I mean, that appears what's so significant about it, back to Iran, a long time, they still kept the money so this is very different. Some of the statistics, Alina, I went through, the 140 oligarchs sanctioned, 400 government officials, hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. bank accounts, just a tiny drop in the bucket of Russian money, because they would know that money is discoverable, dozens of yachts seized around the world.

Has any of this had an impact on those individuals, caused anybody to change loyalty to Putin?

POLYAKOVA: No, unfortunately, Mr. Putin shielded himself incredibly well from any sort of dissent among those that are close to him, these very closely-connected oligarchs who are now being affected by some of these seizures and the reason I say that is because Mr. Putin hold as huge amount of leverage over these people. They owe everything they have to him and they know what the consequences will be if they turn against him. It could be imprisonment -- certainly, Mr. Putin has done that. It could be something far worse.

In fact, the last couple of weeks, we've seen a lot of mysterious circumstances under which some less-known but very wealthy people in Russia have committed suicide, died from heart attacks, under very strange and mysterious consequences. And many suspect, of course, you know, this is really the hand of the Kremlin. And this is a signal to these people, you turn against Putin and this is how you're going to end up.

BURNETT: Well, past is precedent, right? I mean, those examples you provide could indeed be something incredibly sinister.

So, you know, there's obviously been all this talk this week, "The Wall Street Journal" reporting the U.S. was ready to hit Alina Kabaeva, the rumored girlfriend of Vladimir Putin, but whom he may have several children, with sanctions.

But at the last minute, the U.S. backed off saying it would be incredibly escalatory and needlessly punitive in that it wouldn't actually impact anything. Do you agree with that logic or is it at this point, time to sanction her?

POLYAKOVA: You know, it's long overdue that we hit Putin where it hurts. I mean, just look at the atrocities that the Russian military is committing on a daily basis in Ukraine -- women and children, and innocent civilians being targeted, murdered, raped, you name it.

I'm sorry, but Alina Kabaeva who lives in luxury in Switzerland, as far as we know, with Putin's own children, is enjoying things that many Ukrainians have never had access to and certainly no longer have access to now.

So, the idea that somehow sanctioning her would be an escalation, I find a little surprising.

BURNETT: Yeah. All right. Thank you very much, not mincing words. Alina, appreciate your time.

POLYAKOVA: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the Biden administration under fire from its own party, for President Biden's border policies.


REP. GREG STANTON (D-AZ): It's clear to me that the federal government is not prepared. Not even close. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn speaking out about being caught with a loaded gun at an airport. It's not the only thing he's explaining to voters. But will they let him keep his job anyway?



BURNETT: Tonight, bipartisan backlash. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas grilled on Capitol Hill amid fears that the record surge of migrants on the southern border will worsen.


STANTON: This administration did not create the problem. But managing it effectively is your responsibility. It's clear to me that the federal government is not prepared. Not even close.

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): My constituents want you impeached because they believe you committed treason.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Congressman, I have so much to say in response --

BUCK: You got a minute and 17 seconds to say it.

MAYORKAS: -- in response to what you have just said. It is so profoundly offensive on so many different levels in so many different regards. I won't ask you for an apology.

BUCK: Don't.

MAYORKAS: I won't. I'm incredibly proud of my service to this country.


BURNETT: Taking advantage of this heated rhetoric is Texas Governor Greg Abbott as he campaigns for re-election. But some of Abbott's hard-line policies at the border do appear to be backfiring.

Rosa Flores is OUTFRONT.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: Hi, Austin, Texas.

Great to be back in Odessa, Texas.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican Governor Greg Abbott has been touring Texas this election year. ABBOTT: Hi, Waco.

Hi there, McAllen.

AD ANNOUNCER: Number one.

FLORES: His platform includes being easy on business --

ABBOTT: The economy is booming.

FLORES: -- and tough on immigration.

ABBOTT: Texas is stepping up to do the federal government's job.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: My complete and total endorsement.

FLORES: But Abbott's latest hard-line immigration policies along with some political theater could be back firing.

SID MILLER (R), TEXAS COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE: I think it hurts the Republican Party.

FLORES: That's Texas agriculture commissioner, Sid Miller, a Republican.

MILLER: He's caused a second crisis on top of the crisis we already have at the border.

FLORES: Miller is talking about Abbott ordering enhanced inspections on commercial trucks coming in from Mexico earlier this month. It's all part of Abbott's Operation Lone Star, which has flooded the border with thousands of state troopers and Texas National Guard Members, the price tag so far, $3 billion.

ABBOTT: A zero tolerance policy.

FLORES: Abbott said the added truck inspections would crack down on human smuggling and drug and weapons trafficking. The Texas trucking association which had normally endorsed Abbott for governor said it was unnecessary and detrimental to business and consumers.

Did this hurt Texas trucking companies?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yeah, most certainly. As again, any delay is going to be something that a motor carrier has to account for.

FLORES: The inspections, which only lasted one week, practically paralyzed trade between Texas and Mexico. The estimated loss? Nearly $9 billion in U.S. GDP.

MILLER: It doesn't fix the immigration problem at all.

FLORES: CNN checked, of the more than 6,400 vehicles inspected at the border, the Texas Department of Public Safety found defective brakes and tires but no drugs, no weapons, no human smuggling.

While Abbott blames President Biden for the crisis, he's been a political victory lap for bussing migrants to D.C.

ABBOTT: Texas is taking unprecedented action.

FLORES: The reality is migrants are thanking him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a free government bus that goes to Washington, D.C.

FLORES: Tiffany Burl, the director of this respite center, says that in the past two weeks, an estimated 200 people who voluntarily hopped on Abbott's buses choose to do so because it's free.

Because it's free.


FLORES: And it gets them closer to their final destination, courtesy of the Texas taxpayer.

And while Abbott touts that under Operation Lone Star, he's arrested thousands of migrants for criminal trespassing, he hasn't shared this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is happening with clients that arrested under Operation Lone Star, migrants that are arrested under Operation Lone Star, is rather than being expelled immediately by federal immigration authorities, they're being brought into the country and they're being bussed away from the border.

FLORES: That's Kristen Eder (ph), an attorney who represents more than 1,000 migrants, who says Operation Lone Star has allowed migrants to get around Title 42, the Trump era pandemic rule that federal agents used to swiftly expel migrants to Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of our clients that want to request asylum had been able to do so only because they were arrested under Operation Lone Star.

FLORES: Which means Abbott's hard-line immigration policies have plenty of soft spots.


FLORES (on camera): Governor Greg Abbott's office did not respond to request for comment for this story but Governor Abbott has maintained the crisis at the border is the responsibility of President Biden and the only thing Operation Lone Star is doing is filling in the gaps of security left behind by the federal government. But some of Abbott's tactic and see tactic and rhetoric are raising concerns, says the ACLU. The ACLU has filed a complaint with U.S. DOJ, Erin, asking that the U.S. DOJ investigate Operation Lone Star for discriminatory practices -- Erin.

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

And next, guns at the airport, driving with a revoked license, talked being invited to an orgy, talk he started. So, what's next for Congressman Madison Cawthorn?

And he's first generation immigrant from South Africa. Now, he's cooking for the president of France. We're going to take you inside his kitchen at the palace.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, he's preparing an old school French dish that we both love.




BURNETT: House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson urging the TSA to punish Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn to the fullest extent possible after Cawthorn was caught with a loaded handgun at a TSA checkpoint.

I do emphasize loaded handgun to begin with, but a loaded handgun in an airport. It's just the latest controversy for the youngest member of Congress.

Diane Gallagher is OUTFRONT.


REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): So, I'm flying home from D.C. --

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congressman Madison Cawthorn on Instagram appearing to make light of his latest criminal charge.

CAWTHORN: I just went through TSA, no major alarms, nothing bad happened.

Mr. Speaker --

GALLAGHER: This week, for the second time since taking office just over a week ago, Cawthorn was stopped from carrying a gun through airport security. The TSA confirming to CNN that on Tuesday morning, agents at Charlotte Douglass International Airport detected this loaded pistol at a checkpoint. Charlotte police seized the handgun and cited the freshman congressman who they said was cooperative, with a misdemeanor charge of possession of a dangerous weapon on city property. He could also face up to nearly $14,000 in TSA fines as a repeat offender.

Cawthorn called it a, quote, flat out mistake, in his Instagram caption.

CAWTHORN: Fly safe. Make sure you don't have a gun in your bag.

GALLAGHER: The Republican representative was not charged in February 2021 when Asheville Regional Airport agents found a different gun in his carry-on bag. Cawthorn's team told "The Asheville Citizen Times" last year that he brought a gun by mistake.


His run-ins with law enforcement not limited to air travel. Cawthorn is set to appear before a judge in May on charges of driving with a revoked license. Dash cam video obtained by a coalition of North Carolina News Organizations shows the March 3rd stop for driving left of center and an expired tag where a trooper tells the youngest member of Congress --

TROOPER: Your license has a pickup order on it.

GALLAGHER: -- that his license is revoked, though the reason is unclear.

But the record that has Republicans on the hill riled up isn't his legal one. It's his pattern of controversial comments.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Madison is wrong.

GALLAGHER: By calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a thug.

CAWTHORN: Zelenskyy is a thug. Remember, the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil.

GALLAGHER: And claiming he has been invited to cocaine-fueled orgies in D.C.

CAWTHORN: Oh, hey, we're going to have a kind of a sexual get- together at one of our homes, you should come. And I'm like, what did you just asked me to come to? Then you realize that they're asking you to come to an orgy, and then they watch them do cocaine right in front of you.

GALLAGHER: That landed him a closed-door meeting with party leadership.

MCCARTHY: I just told him he's lost my trust. He's going to have to earn it back. I laid out everything that I find is unbecoming.

GALLAGHER: Members of his own party are seeking to stop him for getting a second term.

CAWTHORN: We're starting to see this coordinated drip campaign.

GALLAGHER: Next month's primary has a crowded field of GOP candidates, backed by state Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like calling Instagram famous, famous for what they post online.

GALLAGHER: And they are leaning heavily on Cawthorn's slate of scandals.


GALLAGHER (on camera): So, will any of this actually matter in the May 17th primary? Well, look, North Carolina's 11th district is very red, and Cawthorn had plenty of baggage the first time they elected him, but look, he is not a newcomer this time. There are seven Republicans running against him. That is where most of the state Republican support is concentrated.

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis is actively campaigning for one of his challengers. The key is to get 30 percent plus one to avoid a runoff.

And, Erin, look, May 17 is a long-ways away, but early in person voting started today here.

BURNETT: Wow. All right. Thank you very much, Dianne, in Charlotte.

So, I want to bring in our senior data reporter Harry Enten to talk about this because you go through the numbers.

So, Diane is laying out how Thom Tillis -- you got Republicans coming out en masse for the party because they don't want Cawthorn to stay in office. What are his chances to win in the primary?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I mean, look, when was the last time you saw someone, a senator from your home state endorsing a non incumbent in the house race of your own party, that basically never happens.

Look, Donald Trump is, of course, backing Cawthorn. So, we should keep that in mind.

But if you look at the odds right now, look at the betting markets, what do you see? You see that Cawthorn basically has about a two or three chance of winning. Chuck Edwards right now, about one third chance of winning, about 35 percent.

One and third things happen a lot, right? A baseball hitter gets on base about one and three times.


ENTEN: And more on that, if you look at the betting odds history over the last month, what do you see? The last month and a half. You see that Cawthorn's chances had dropped about 20 points, from 85 percent to about 65 percent. So, the question is, has these candles actually have an impact? Certainly in the eyes of people betting, it certainly had an impact.

BURNETT: OK. And yet, the district is so red, it is so Republican, even with all Republicans against him, when he wins the primary, does he and up, that is it, he's done, he will be reelected?

ENTEN: Yeah, I think the short answer is, yeah. Diane was talking about how deeply read the district is. If you look essentially at the race raters, right, Sabato, Cook Political Report, Inside Elections, what do you see? You see solid Republicans, safe Republicans, those are the type of districts, when you have safe and solid, solid, they pretty much never go the other way, even at this point.

And, more than that, you know, look at the district and how it voted back in 2020. This was a district that voted for Donald Trump by ten percentage points. If you look at basically all the House Democrats, none of them, zero, zero, zero representatives of a district of Republicans as that.

So, basically, Cawthorn, if you want to beat him, he's going to have to beaten in a primary. It will probably be Edwards, based on the data that's available because if you get to the general election, forget about it, he's getting reelected.

BURNETT: Right. Well, and it's fascinating and you see Trump behind him, Thom Tillis not, again, it's sort of one of these testing grounds.

ENTEN: Yeah, it is another one of Trump versus the rest of the GOP. It's going to be interesting to watch. Let's see what happens.

BURNETT: Yes. All right. And as Dianne said, early voting starts today.

And next, inside the palace kitchen of President Emmanuel Macron.


BURNETT: And, finally tonight, this new CNN original series, "NOMAD WITH CARLTON MCCOY" giving you an inside look at peoples in places shaping the food and art and culture of Paris, like one chef that McCoy follows, a first generation immigrant from West Africa, who now cooks for the president of France.

McCoy, a classically trained chef himself, takes you inside the palace kitchen.


CARLTON MCCOY, CNN HOST: This is not like it or anything like that. I am here to be with someone special, Chef Francis Oge. He's a chef de partie at the palace kitchen.

FRANCIS OGE, CHEF WHO COOKS FOR FRENCH PRESIDENT MACRON: It does not work like a regular restaurant or hotel. This is the first house of France, we are like a display for the world.

MCCOY: Chef Oge is a first generation immigrant, he grew up in the suburbs but now picks for the president and his wife.

First of all, it is a pleasure to meet you. I am then fan buoying out on your Instagram. I also love very ornate classical French cuisine, it is about as classic as you can get, like food that people don't -- really not to cook anymore.

Today, he is preparing an old school French dish that we both love.

OGE: Culturally, you have a mille-feuille. MCCOY: It means 1000 leaves?

OGE: Exactly.


BURNETT: I was staring at the food, right?

Don't miss the brand new series, "NOMAD WITH CARLTON MCCOY", it premiers this Sunday at 10:00 Eastern.

And thanks for joining us. You can find the latest episode of our show on our podcast. So, go to and you favorite podcast app and just search for ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT.

"AC360" starts now.