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Erin Burnett Outfront

Zelenskyy: Defending and Protecting Ukraine "A Struggle for Life"; U.S. Official: Russian Attacking Ukraine from Three Combat Zones But Appears to be Several Days Behind Schedule in the East; Biden on U.S. Marine Vet Killing Fighting in Ukraine: "It is Very Sad. He Left a Little Baby Behind"; CNN Obtains New Texts: Hannity Says "Lunatics" Hurting Trump; China Defends Harsh COVID Strategy, Calls It a "Magic Weapon". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 29, 2022 - 19:00   ET



JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Trump wouldn't help people to leave, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Very excellent reporting as usual.

GANGEL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Jamie Gangel reporting for us. Thank you for that exclusive. I appreciate it 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.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news on multiple fronts, Putin forces making key gains tonight, tension is high and the steel plant under siege with thousands of people inside.

And the mother of the first American known to be killed fighting in Ukraine speaks out moments ago to CNN.

Plus, he risked his own life to save his fellow Ukrainians, helping evacuate 200 people, turning his nightclub into a bomb shelter and tonight we'll talk to us.

And Shanghai's extreme COVID locked down now turning into a witch hunt, neighbors turning against each other. Our reporter part of the only American television crew inside that lockdown will share with you the growing despair. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, we begin with breaking news and a struggle for life. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Putin is now doing everything he can to destroy any sign of life in eastern Ukraine.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through interpreter): The occupiers are doing everything to destroy any life in this area. Therefore, the defense of our land, the protection of our people is literally a struggle for life.


BURNETT: And there are signs that Russia is making progress in the east of Ukraine and now attacking the region on three fronts from the north, from the eastern Donbas region, which borders Russia and from the south. They're targeting Ukrainian infrastructure, power plants, rail network, that of course has served as the vital supply line for Ukrainian forces and for humanitarian aid.

But despite the advances, the Pentagon says Putin's fight in the east is still not going according to plan. It is said to be behind schedule and Russia is running short of a whole lot of things, tanks, people, but also precision missiles, instead now relying on less sophisticated, so called dumb bombs, which of course can inflict incredible civilian damage.

Russia also flooding the region with more conscripts instead of professional fighters, people who just signed up to serve, not signed up people who are required to serve for one year limited training now being put on the front lines. And as of tonight, we understand there now as many as 92,000 Russians fighting in the east of Ukraine, which is up by 7,000 in just the past week.

And tonight, more evidence of mass civilian graves, President Zelenskyy's office says they have found another grave in Bucha. So far, authorities recovering nearly 1,000 bodies in and around the region. This would double that.

And today, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby getting emotional as he went after Putin, using language, frankly, that we have not heard from the Pentagon until tonight.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: It's hard to look at what he's doing in Ukraine, what his forces are doing in Ukraine, and think that any ethical moral individual could justify that. It's difficult to look at the - sorry, it's difficult to look at some of the images and imagine that any well-thinking serious mature leader would do that. So I can't talk to a psychology, but I think we can all speak to his depravity.


BURNETT: The Pentagon saying that the horrific images that we've seen evidence of innocent civilians bound, tortured, executed, sometimes literally tossed out with the trash are beyond what America's top military officials expected.


KIRBY: I don't think we fully appreciated the degree to which he would visit that kind of violence and cruelty and, as I said, depravity on innocent people.


BURNETT: Those comments come as there is a new and frankly a desperate attempt, a last-ditch attempt to try to get the thousands of Ukrainians holed up in that steel plant in Mariupol out. The need to evacuate is growing more urgent. There obviously is - there's not water, there's not food, any supplies of those are incredibly limited at this point. And Russia was accused of dropping bombs on a makeshift hospital that had been used inside that complex.

The Mayor now saying more than 600 people there now injured. Keep in mind that when you look at Mariupol, and this is just one city that's become so emblematic of the tragedy of Ukraine.


There have been more than 20,000 people killed in that port city according to Ukrainian officials. More than 20,000 people killed already. Scott McLean is OUTFRONT. He is in Ukraine tonight. Scott, it is truly a race of time right now in Mariupol.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, and it's difficult to envision how exactly the standoff at the steel plant might end. Even if diplomacy succeeds in getting the civilians out from under that plant and likely will not save the soldiers who are there who say they will not surrender.

It has to end at some point though, because they're running out of food. They're running out of water and also ammunition.


MCLEAN (voice over): These are Russian troops making a break for cover in the streets near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. One of them is shot along the way. His fellow soldier attempts to pull them to safety amidst heavy fire. When Ukrainian deputy commander says that Russia is not only bombarding the plant from the sky, but now also attacking from the ground.


SVIATOSLAV PALAMAR, DEPUTY COMMANDER OF THE AZOV REGIMENT (through interpreter): As of today, there have been attempts to storm the territory of Azovstal. This is infantry. This is enemy military equipment, but those attempts have been beaten off as of this hour.


MCLEAN (voice over): Sviatoslav Palamar, Deputy Commander of the Azov Regiment which is leading the fight from the plant says that recent bombing left some sellers and bunkers cut off by rubble. He's not sure if there are survivors trapped inside. He says bombing also hit a field hospital turning the number of wounded soldiers to more than 500. City mayor puts the number of injured at more than 600.


MCLEAN (on camera): How many do you think will survive the next day or two?

PALAMAR (through interpreter): I'm not going to say how long we could be here, but I'm going to say that we're doing everything we can to stabilize them.


MCLEAN (voice over): With the soldiers in the plant are hundreds of civilians, mostly elderly, women and children they say as young as four months old. Ukrainian officials say are also running low on food and water. Thursday, the UN Secretary General arrived in Kyiv determined to broker a deal to safely evacuate civilians from the plant after securing an agreement in principle from Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Friday morning, the lens keys office announced an operation to evacuate civilians was planned for Friday, but no other details. Palamar said a convoy was in route but had yet to arrive. He is also hoping for a deal to allow soldiers to get out though perhaps it's a long shot.


MCLEAN (on camera): Would you rather die fighting then surrender yourself to the Russians?

PALAMAR (through interpreter): We are not considering the terms of surrender. We are waiting only for guarantees of exit from the territory of the plant. That is if there is no choice but captivity, we will not surrender.


MCLEAN (voice over): Petro Andryushchenko, an advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol says getting soldiers evacuated safely would take an international intervention or a divine one.


PETRO ANDRYUSHCHENKO, ADVISOR TO THE MAYOR OF MARIUPOL: I really want something like miracle. It look like a Pope has to sit to the main bus from Zaporizhzhia and driving to Azovstal to take to the bus our soldier and get back.

MCLEAN (on camera): You don't think that it makes sense for the soldiers at the steel plant just to surrender themselves to the Russians?


MCLEAN: That might be the best thing to do.



MCLEAN (on camera): And Erin, remember that Mariupol officials say that they have found three mass graves outside of the city where Russians have been enlisting civilians to help them dig. The mayor's advisor you saw there said that they've spoken to some of those people who've been doing the digging and they say their reward, well, it's very little to carrots, six strands of spaghetti per person per day, while 40 People share just a single loaf of bread and about a gallon and a half of water.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Scott. Six strands of spaghetti, that is - I mean, certainly makes you think of other times in history, doesn't it?

OUTFRONT now Seth Jones, Director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton who is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Col. Leighton, pretty shocking to hear that as described by Scott and it is obviously - it evokes a very different time in history and how human beings were treated in camps and gulags. In that report, Scott talks about the Azovstal steel plant, which is that hole of resistance under the ground now - under that plant in Mariupol and that's what's left in terms of resistance there, civilians as well as those who are still fighting.


How does that siege end?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I'm afraid not very well, Erin. This - Scott's report really evoked, as you said, periods of history that we would rather not revisit, but this is a situation where the Russians aren't willing to give any quarter, they're not willing to do what is right under humanitarian rules and under humanitarian conventions.

And that very fact is, I think, going to, unfortunately, make it very difficult to get the civilians out, and almost impossible to get the Ukrainian military members out. This is not only a tragedy, but also speaks to the heroism of the Ukrainian soldiers that they've stayed and done this in this cavernous facility underneath the Azovstal plant.

But it is also, I think, something that has to stay in the minds of everyone here who has looked at the Ukrainian situation to see this utter brutality. And I think what we're looking at here is something that is going to go down in history as one of the major seizures of, at least, the last hundred years but possibly of all time.

BURNETT: All right. Seth, that is stunning when you think about what's happening there right now, that there are human beings alive and struggling for life and that they're being sieged and besieged, right? Putin had said he would stop attacking there. There's still have been bombs landing and many shots fired artillery. How does this end, Seth?

SETH JONES, DIRECTOR, INTL. SECURITY PROGRAM AT CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, this is starting to look more and more like World War II-style and World War I-style siege warfare, and we're seeing frontlines emerge, Erin. Even over the last 24 to 48 hours we're seeing three major pushes by the Russians with a total of about 92 battalion tactical groups. One is in Izyum, where there are reports now of Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the army staff, leading Russian combat operations.

The Russians are now putting their top generals, both Aleksandr Dvornikov, who was the chief of Russian operations in Syria in 2015 and '16 and did actually a fairly successful job in helping retake territory. And now apparently Gerasimov getting more directly involved. Then we've got the Eastern Donbas front and then down in Mariupol, but they are putting elements of the western, eastern, central and southern military districts, including elements of the fifth combined arms army, they're throwing a lot at this war effort right now and we're seeing a little bit of progress in retaking territory, but it is a very bloody trench, like fight that we're seeing now in Ukraine.

BURNETT: I mean, you talk about the amount being put in and the return they're getting for it when they evaluated militarily. There is incredible loss coming for very small gains, but they are gains.

And Col. Leighton, when you look at the map, you do see Ukraine success story and holding back, obviously, their success in Kyiv. There are many, many instances of success and fighting in the face of - with incredible fortitude, but you do have one major concern. What is it, Colonel?

LEIGHTON: So my main concern, Erin, is that the Ukrainians are able to stay the course during the time period from now until they get the aid that's been promised them in President Biden's aid package, the $33 billion aid package, I think it's very important for them to be able to hang on.

But the main concern that I have tactically is that they not get surrounded by the Russian forces, as Seth mentioned, they're coming from those three directions: the north, the east and the south and that's going to be very dangerous. The Ukrainians cannot afford to have their army surrounded by the Russians.

BURNETT: And Seth, this also comes, this fear along with the issues the Russians are facing, right, which are logistical supply, both of have manpower but also of power itself, right, whether that be tanks or artillery or all the things that they have lost incredible amounts of. On that list as missiles, precision missiles and a senior defense official we understand is saying and the U.S. is saying they're short on those missile defenses that they have, that they just don't have enough of these precision missiles, they can't even make them because they - of sanctions. They don't have access to the metals that they need. How big of an issue is this for Russia? JONES: Well, it's concerning in two respects. One is that the entire Russian campaign right now that Russians often call this a reconnaissance strike complex and it relies on a lot of standoff weapons artillery, cruise missiles, we've seen also submarine launched cruise missiles, caliber cruise missiles and then standoff missiles from - and rockets from aircraft, both fixed-wing fighters and then bombers.

The problem with - when you get less high precision weapons is there's more indiscriminate killing of Ukrainians.


So one problem is going to be they will resort to more dumb bombs that will kill a range of individuals. And the second issue is, they're not going to be able to keep this up for a prolonged period of time without ammunition.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

And next, Willie Joseph Kansel, the first American killed fighting with Ukrainian forces leaving behind a wife and a seven month old baby in Tennessee. His mother speaking to CNN just moments ago, you'll hear what she said.

Plus, let's meet the man who is risking his own life to help evacuate fellow Ukrainians, 200 so far from the heart of Mariupol. The video of his rescue missions is horrible.


MYKHAILO PURYSHEV: Is everything okay?


BURNETT: And he's going back.

And at least five prominent Russian businessmen, Russia claims that they've all died by suicide just since the war began. What really happened?



BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden weighing in on the first American killed fighting alongside Ukrainian forces. Biden calling the death of Willie Joseph Kansel very sad adding that he left a little baby behind.

Willie Joseph Kansel was only 22 years old. He was a former Marine who was working as a private contractor. His mother says he volunteered for the mission. Oren Liebermann just spoke to Kansel's mother and he's OUTFRONT.

[19:20:02] OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For Willie Joseph Kansel, this wasn't his war. The 22-year-old had already served his country in the Marines. But after Russia invaded Ukraine, Kansel's family says he felt the need to leave Tennessee and join the fight.


REBECCA CABRERA, MOTHER OF AMERICAN KILLED IN UKRAINE: Even before he left to go to Ukraine, he was proud because he wanted to do the right thing and fight alongside the underdogs and help them with things that he thought was important.


LIEBERMANN (voice over): Kansel's says he started working for a private military contractor shortly before the war. Kansel agreed to go fight in Ukraine. He arrived in a country still defending on multiple fronts in mid-March. Russian forces inching towards Kyiv and carrying out more strikes on western Ukraine. His mother says she was told he fought with men from different countries before he was killed in action. His body has not been recovered because of the danger. His new brothers in arms mourning his loss.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This make me feel sad and I'm grateful for his sacrifice. It's unbelievable that you are able to - that he was able to go here and put an ultimate sacrifice for my home country of Ukraine.


LIEBERMANN (voice over): Kansel leaves behind a wife and a seven- month-old baby, a family left without a father and a husband. His brother in law says he was the type to fight for what's right regardless of the outcome. He's not the only one. Ukraine's military created international legion for foreign fighters. A Ukrainian official said more than 20,000 volunteers and veterans from 52 countries wanted to join, though how many served is unclear.

The U.S. has sent billions of dollars in weapons to Ukraine to help them fight Russia, but the White House says American citizens should stay out of this fight.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We know people want to help, but we do encourage Americans to find other ways to do so rather than traveling to Ukraine to fight there. It is a war zone. It's an act of war zone and we know Americans face significant risks, but certainly we know a family is mourning, a wife is mourning and our hearts are with them.


LIEBERMANN (voice over): Kansel's mother says the call was too great, the cause too important one for which Kansel gave his life.


CABRERA: He knew they needed help and it was just something that he felt that he could help in because he had the experience and the training and the knowledge to go and help them.



LIEBERMANN (on camera): Rebecca Cabrera says it was often that she couldn't talk to her son very much. He would try to send quick messages here and there because cell phone service was so hard to come by. So every few days they would see an 'I love you' or 'I'm doing okay'. The last time she spoke with him was the Thursday before he was killed. They have found some comfort in all of the messages from friends, from those he fought with and from others about all the stories about her son. They say he was a hero. Erin.

BURNETT: Oren, thank you very much. I'm so sorry for their loss.

And next, he made six trips in and out of what was the most dangerous city in Ukraine, saved 200 people. Meet the man who is still risking his life to save others.

Plus, a CNN exclusive how text messages reveal how top Fox personality, Sean Hannity, went from staunch supporter of Trump's election lies to being fed up with the 'effing lunatics' who were election deniers.



BURNETT: Tonight, mystery Russian deaths. At least five prominent Russian businessmen have reportedly died by suicide all in the span of three months according to Russia. And three of them are said to have killed family members before reportedly taking their own lives. That's the story.

Four of them were connected to the same company, the Russian state- owned energy giant Gazprom. CNN's calls to Gazprom have gone on returned, but an associate of one of the men saying it's unlikely that he killed himself, saying the obvious telling CNN 'I think he knew something and that he posed some sort of risk'.

And also tonight, one man's brave quest to save his fellow Ukrainians. Mykhailo Puryshev, a nightclub owner from Mariupol used his own van and he organized convoys to help evacuate 200 people out of the city to safety. He returned again and again and again and used his nightclub as a bomb shelter. A shelter that countless women and children used as they waited to be evacuated. This is all video that he has shared with us.

And just to show you how dangerous his rescue missions were, this is what happened on one of his trips back into Mariupol. What we're going to show you is disturbing.


PURYSHEV: Go down below.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is everything okay?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).

PURYSHEV: Something f---king hit me in the side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something also f---king hit in the side.

PURYSHEV: Lord. Guys, this is f--ked up, f---king hell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now Mykhailo Puryshev. And Mykhailo, thank you very, very much for talking to us. Among the videos you've shared with us, Mykhailo, one - this horrible body of a woman is in the street, this is after an airstrike. And you cross the street to help. When you do that, you're met by the woman's grandchild. And I want to play that exchange again to warn our viewers that this is extremely disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Foreign language).

PURYSHEV: Are you bleeding badly?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: F---king burning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please move her, please.


PURYSHEV: Come on, grandma. Gasoline. Pull. Pull.

The foot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): Where to, man, where to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): That's it. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): You see! F**king hell!


BURNETT: It's very hard to watch this, as to see a grandchild drag his grandmother who had died from the street. What moved you, Mykhailo Puryshev, to document this, as it was happening?

MYKHAILO PURYSHEV, HELPED MORE THAN 200 PEOPLE FLEE MARIUPOL (through translator): And, frankly, just actually happened by accident, because initially I was going there and I was told by DNR that I had to do video recording of how I was getting out humanitarian aid, but then after the first air raid, which I was supposed to record and I was sending as I came out to record that hit on the hospital, and basically I ended up recording a bomb that fell where we were, where I was.

BURNETT: When you delivered food, Mykhailo, I know you had some horrible experiences. People were pouncing for the canned meat and water you were able to bring in your van, just the desperation of people just trying to get food. What went through your mind as you saw this, their anguish and their despair? People for whom a few days before or a week before, life had been normal.

PURYSHEV: Frankly, it was a shock. After giving out all of this humanitarian aid I really didn't know what to do, you know, you see the women fighting for food. It is a shock.

I tried to organize them. I tried to do something about this because I understood that there was just not enough food for all of them and no matter how hard I tried to distribute properly, the porridge or food, milk formula for children, there's still not enough. And they're all there just fighting, to one of those trips actually they nearly turned my van over and it was just a survival. I would watch and understand this is just survival happening near our vans which came with all the humanitarian aid and it was an absolutely horrible picture.

And frankly, a couple of times, I actually caught myself thinking that I do not want to come back. I do not want to see this again. And yet, I still kept coming back because I understood there wouldn't be anyone else to do this.

BURNETT: Mykhailo, you talk about your van and you used it to bring food, to save so many people. It was, though, eventually badly damaged because you came under shelling and gunfire.

When you look back and think about that, you realize you almost died in pursuit of trying to help others. How does that make you feel? How close you came yourself to dying?

PURYSHEV: In that moment, all I thought was my children. I was worried I wouldn't see them. I was worried I wouldn't see them again, after that Russian bomb. That bomb shelter, that bomb snapped something in me and in this moment, there was this, in my head, only thought I had was more people, more trips, more things to bring.

It was like this continuous soundtrack and I also remember that I was standing there and when I was driving that grandmother with her grandson and her eyes were open and there was blood on her grandson and he was looking into my face saying, she gone?


And you can never forget those eyes, you just cannot forget the dead eyes of a dead person. I cannot. And they tell me now that when I sleep, in my sleep I talk and I cry because what I feel, it hurts.

I feel pain. It is painful. It is painful that this is the 21st century, that this is happening in our country, that this is happening in my city. This is pain. This is pain of our country.

BURNETT: Mykhailo, thank you very much for sharing this with us, I can only imagine how hard that is but I know we're very grateful to hear and learn from you. Thank you.

PURYSHEV: You're welcome and I do hope this will help to finish it all quickly.

BURNETT: And next, Fox host Sean Hannity goes from Trump election lie supporter to calling out what he calls the F-ing lunatics. It's all on text, it's all there in black and white. Exclusive text messages show that complete 180.

Plus, new video revealing just how bad COVID lockdown, China's COVID lockdown has gotten. It's unbelievable what is happening right now, the world's most populist country, actually drilling holes in people's doors so that they can chain them shut.



BURNETT: Tonight, I quote, F-ing lunatics. That's a quote from Fox News host Sean Hannity. It's what he called election deniers in new text messages that we've obtained here at CNN.

Hannity texted with Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows on December 22nd, 2020, asked him how he is doing. Fighting like crazy, Meadows responded, went to DeKalb, Georgia, to review process. Very tough days but I'll keep fighting.

Hannity responded: You fighting is fine. The F-ing lunatics is not fine, they are not helping him, I'm fed up with those people.

Hannity's call up, though, is a far cry from his text messages to Meadows on Election Day. That's when Hannity texted Meadows to ask about turnout in North Carolina, 1:36 p.m. in the afternoon, he asked that. Two hours later, Meadows responds to him clearly saying: Stress every vote matters. Get out and vote, on radio.

Hannity, of course, on a radio show. Yes, sir, Hannity replied, on it. Any place in particular we need to push? Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona, Meadows replied. Adding, Nevada. Got it, everywhere, Hannity said.

Van Jones is OUTFRONT now. He's host of "Uncommon Ground" podcast and, of course, you all know him for his work on CNN. So, Van, Sean Hannity, you know, 82 messages, starts 100 percent the election is stolen what can I do to help, on and on and on, ends calling the people who are out there publicly fighting against the election lunatics. He didn't think the public would ever see those text messages though so what he said publicly and what he was doing privately are very different things.

How many Trump supporters are like Hannity? Inside they know the truth?

VAN JONES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, it's hard to know, I have a lot of friends on the right and a lot of friends on the left and there is an embarrassment factor that there are still people out there banging the drum about this stuff, and yet the fear factor for the people who know better is even bigger than the embarrassment factor so even people who run for office now are afraid to say America had a fair election. You're a traitor now if you say America had a free and fair election.

BURNETT: It's incredible, though, when you say fear factor does, right? Now that this is put out there, will be like nothing happened over there when Hannity's show comes on.

So this comes in the context of political environment we're in which is very unsettled to say the least. OK. President Biden, we're learning, is frustrated because he feels there are powers in his own party that are essentially saying don't you even think about running again, you know, and he's apparently frustrated that they're trying to run him out of office is the feeling and get him to not run for re- election,

Now to be honest, van, many Americans did assume he was going to be a one-term president and that's what he wanted to do but that was an assumption. How bad is the situation for the Democratic Party, though?

JONES: Well, look, right now, it feels like a lose-lose situation. You know, Joe Biden is a beloved human being but he's also up in years.

And so, there's a fear, hey, listen, don't forget, when Obama went into office, he looked like a young Tiger Woods in the beginning, he left looking like Morgan Freeman. I mean, that job will tear you up. That is a tough job.


JONES: So, the idea of, can this guy do the full eight years? That's the question. And I think some people aren't confident. At the same time, there is no heir apparent. There is no likely successor. It's not like there's 15 other --

BURNETT: Well, the way the party would always go, would be -- it would be Kamala Harris.

JONES: Well, sure.

BURNETT: Historically. JONES: Kamala Harris, you know, her numbers are not as strong. His numbers are not as strong. Nobody's numbers are as strong.

So, you're going to have a free for all in the middle of the last, you know, year and a half of his presidency. So, right now, it feels like a lose-lose.

But I do think that Joe Biden deserves the respect to at least get through the midterms. Listen, Democrats can hang together but hang separately, hang together with Joe Biden right now.

BURNETT: All right. So, we're here tonight, together, which I'm really happy about because I love seeing you, Van, you know, even now we couldn't see that many people.

OK. But today marks the 30th anniversary of the Rodney King beating and L.A. riots.

JONES: Isn't that crazy?

BURNETT: Well, yeah, it's amazing --

JONES: Thirty years ago tonight, L.A. went up in blood and flames.

BURNETT: OK, but you were there.

JONES: I was.

BURNETT: You were a student at Yale Law School and you were arrested that night during those riots and your documentary airing tonight which I know has been a work of passion for you.


BURNETT: It's very personal, not just because that but I mention that in this context.


I want to play a bit of it, Van.

JONES: Sure.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we're heading up the street, I saw that there are a whole hell of a lot of cops up there, ultimately where we got stopped and arrested.


JONES: We were done for. They brought out the big plastic bag and poured out plastic hand cuffs on the ground. And then the brought the city buses, empty city buses. I remember I ran up to one of the police officers and said listen, I'm a law student. This is a problem of police not letting us have our rights. (END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: Yeah.

BURNETT: So, what do you -- tonight's the big night, but I mean tell me what was kind of the best part about doing this for you?

JONES: Well, first of all, that whole week, and I was in San Francisco, not Los Angeles, the disturbances were nationwide.


JONES: But that whole week changed my life. I had seen an African- American man beaten, now we see all the time in these videos, that was the first time anybody had seen it. So you see that video which seems unjust then you see the police officers exonerated which seems unjust.

Then I'm out there as a law student just observing, I'm arrested, which felt unjust. I said, this is not liberty and justice for all. And I left jail saying, I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to fix this and I have. The past 30 years, I worked on police issues, juvenile issues, prison issues.

And the crazy thing about it is the only real difference between 30 years ago and now, is 30 years ago we had to prove to people there was a problem with policing. They didn't believe it. Now we have to prove there's a solution for it because everybody knows. That is a big change, but, man, we have still a long way to go to fix it.

BURNETT: It is incredible though you can point to a moment in your life that changed it and so many things you have done, but criminal justice reform, Van, you were just at the core of all of that and I hope no one ever forgets it.

So, tonight, please watch Van's special report, "The Fire Still Burns: 30 Years after the L.A. Riots". It is tonight at 11:00.

And OUTFRONT next, China's COVID lockdown, is it possible to say it's growing more extreme? Well it's possible because it's the truth. One groom forbidden to go to his own wedding venue, forced to watch his own ceremony via live stream.



BURNETT: The Chinese government defending its zero COVID policy as a, quote, magic weapon, to prevent the virus's spread and claiming the increasingly controversial policy has minimum negative impact on China's social development. But come on, the reality is different.

David Culver is OUTFRONT in Shanghai. He's part of the only American television crew living through the city's harsh lockdown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lockdown in China is like nowhere else in Earth. Here you see a man getting swab said through a COVID test through the fence. Using a megaphone, healthcare workers call for others to get tested.

The country's zero COVID strategy, turning millions into virtual prisoners across the nation.

Outside of Beijing, these residents forced to hand over their apartment keys so community workers can lock them in from the outside. For those who refuse, crews drill holes to chain the doors shut.

In northeastern Jilin province, no need for a lock, workers install steel bars to keep people leaving the building.

Right now across China, at least 27 cities under full or partial lockdown, CNN calculation estimating that directly impacts up to 180 million people, more than half the U.S. population.

For over two years now, China's COVID containment has become more extreme, fracturing everyday life.

In Shenzhen, a city not under lockdown, babies kept off the subway. The reason? They didn't have negative COVID test results, it's now mandatory for most of public life in the city, to accommodate the new rule, opened 24/7 testing sites.

A delayed test result had this groom in Xinjiang watching his own wedding ceremony live stream, not allowed to enter the venue, laughing off the insanity of it all.

China's intolerance for any new cases comes from the top. Former President Xi Jinping tasked the vice premier, Sun Chunlan, to oversee major outbreaks. In Shanghai, that means working with the city major official, communist party secretary, Li Qiang. Their orders are carried out by the municipal government which runs quarantine centers and coordinated at local levels with thousand of communities. Those local workers are the literal gatekeepers determining who goes in and out of each compound, facilitating food deliveries and managing our health information.

In addition to very regular PCR tests, each day also required to do rapid antigen tests, we then upload the results to this government app and then we take a screenshot of that and a picture of the test and we share it publicly with our community group chat so that all our neighbors can see we're negative.

The community group chats can serve as a helpful way to source food but also a space to call out neighbors, sometimes becoming a witch hunt to kick out positive cases and have them sent to quarantine centers.

PROF. DALI YANG, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: It has become quite common for local authorities basically say we have a wartime situation, therefore we have to apply emergency measures and therefore you have to simply follow orders. CULVER: It reminds some residents of the cultural revolution from the '60s and '70s a political era of political and social chaos sparked by extreme policies.

Criticism of Beijing's zero COVID strategy is not tolerated from anyone, including the son of a Chinese billionaire who was also sent to a crowded quarantine facility in Shanghai.


Wang Sicong banned from Chinese social media after criticizing the policy. His profile with 40 million followers, erased, but not everyone is silenced.

Back in Shanghai, many residents confined to their homes adding to the growing course of dissent, as COVID cases surge across China, millions now sentenced to lockdown. Their release date? Unknown.


CULVER (on camera): Erin, it's pretty incredible and extreme scenarios there, and while we're now seeing some communities ease their lockdown the vast majority of the city remains confined to their homes and this financial capital, Erin, it is far from restarting.

BURNETT: It's unbelievable as your reporting has been, as well. David, thank you so very much.

CULVER: Thanks.

BURNETT: And next, exclusive first look at the new season of CNN's popular series, "STANLEY TUCCI: SEARCHING FOR ITALY".


BURNETT: Italy, Stanley Tucci, Michelin-starred chef, something you're going to want to see and they're all featured in the season 2 launch of "SEARCHING FOR ITALY".


STANLEY TUCCI, CNN HOST: It's incredibly delicious.

Actual gold leaf, as used by renaissance artists.

Stop it.

It's delicious. It's perfectly balanced, creamy, unctuous. Wow.


BURNETT: I don't know what stands out more -- the use of the word unctuous which is amazing, or actually eating gold which I don't know, may feel a little odd.

Don't miss "SEARCHING FOR ITALY", no matter how you saw it, Sunday at 9:00 p.m. It's amazing.

"AC360" starts now.