Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Trump Rants About January 6 Panel But Does Not Deny Pressuring Pence; Putin Claims U.S. "Forced" Russia To Invade Ukraine; Video Appears To Show Missing Americans Detained; Montana Governor Was In Italy As Flooding Slammed State; U.S.'s First "Guardians" Undergo Basic Training For Space Force. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 17, 2022 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Donald Trump lashing out at the January 6th committee with lies. This as the committee struggles with lining up some key witnesses.

And new video of the missing Americans who are fighting in Ukraine. Tonight, I'm going to speak to the mother of one of the missing soldiers.

Plus, he wasn't in Montana when record floods shout down Yellowstone National Park. Where was the governor?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, Trump takes on the January 6 committee, ranting about the committee's hearings for a significant portion of an hour and a half speech today, making it clear that he is spending a lot of time watching everything the committee says and does.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: There's no clearer example of the menacing spirit that has devoured the American left and disgraceful performance being staged by the unselect committee. The unselect's entire sham presentation is based on video that has been deceptively edited. They're taking six, eight, and nine-hour depositions and they're putting up five-second clips. This guy Luttig, whoever the hell Luttig is, a former judge, he was saying Pence had no choice.


BURNETT: Not actually what he said at all.

Look, here's the thing. Trump's days of having the world stop to listen to a 90-minute ranting, roving speech are over. Not even Fox News took his speech live. Now, that didn't stop Trump, who spent time denying he called Mike Pence a wimp. He actually spent time even though to make sure the record's clear on this, his own former special assistant told the committee that he did call Pence a wimp and testified to this under oath.


TRUMP: I never called Mike Pence a wimp. Mike Pence had a chance to be great. He had a chance to be frankly historic. But just like Bill Barr and the rest of these weak people, Mike -- and I say it sadly because I like him -- but Mike did not have the courage to act.


BURNETT: So he says he never called pence a wimp and then goes on to well, essentially call him a wimp, but look, Trump wasn't done there. What he did in those 90 minutes was continue to push his big election lie.


TRUMP: You know, they have a thing called disinformation. You can say something doesn't matter like "2,000 Mules" -- did anybody see that? Can't be disputed. These are government tapes where they're stuffing ballot boxes to put it crudely. They're stuffing ballot boxes on government tapes.

And what did they say? They go, oh, that was debunked. That was debunked. Oh, okay. Most people say, oh, it was? I didn't know that.

Oh. These are tapes. One, two, guy's looking up at the camera. Let's see, what's the camera? Oh, there it is.


BURNETT: OK. I held (ph) it back because I just want to be clear because people you know, hear this, it gets in the ether, that movie "2,000 Mules" has been debunked by every reliable fact checker out there. And here's what Trump's own attorney general, Bill Barr, said about it.


BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: When I went into this and would you know, tell him how crazy some of these allegations were, there was never, there was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were. My opinion then and my opinion now is that the election was not stolen by fraud. And I haven't seen anything since the election that changes my mind on that, including the "2,000 Mules" movie.



BURNETT: Bursting into laughter there, but even Trump's beloved Fox News knows that "2,000 Mules" is wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Look at the "2,000 Mules" documentary that has come out. Look at how many mass mail out ballots there were across the United States for which we have no security.

FOX NEWS ANCHOR: OK, and that has been looked at and fact checked by multiple outlets including "Reuters", who had debunked that as any sort of proof that there's widespread voter fraud.


BURNETT: It is what it is. But it didn't stop the 90 minutes today from former president. And tonight, we're learning that Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and George elections boss, Gabe Sterling, will testify publicly at the next committee hearing set for Tuesday.


You know, they've also made it clear these claims do not add up and that are false.

And, Manu, what more are you learning about what the committee has on tap for next week as they're getting into what is supposed to be the final few public hearings?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, they're really going to try to drill down into how Donald Trump and his allies tried to use the power of his government to try to pressure state officials to overturn Joe Biden's victory in those key states and also how he tried to force the Justice Department to listen to him and try to use the power of the justice department to lean on some of these officials locally to do what he wanted, which is to simply disregard the will of the electorate and install him for a second term in office.

Now, Tuesday's hearing will feature testimony from Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state. His top deputy, Gabe Sterling. They were involved with conversations at the White House in the aftermath of the 2020 election as Trump was ratcheting up that pressure campaign, including a conversation in which Trump told Raffensperger to quote, find the votes, and essentially overturn the election.

But it won't just focus on Georgia. We're told several other states will also be part of the testimony on Tuesday. Now, in Thursday's hearing, we expect to hear from Jeffrey Rosen, who is the acting attorney general under Trump in those final days of the Trump administration. Also Rich Donoghue, former acting deputy attorney general. They actually stood up and resisted Trump's pressure campaign, but we'll hear from them about how that played out behind the scenes.

We will not hear from one individual who was also important as part of those talks. That was Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel. He is not going to appear, we're told, but he has participated privately in those closed depositions and we expect to hear more of those video depositions. And, Erin, in a key development today, there had been some sparring

between the Justice Department, which is having its own investigation, and the select committee on Capitol Hill, which, of course, we have been seeing lot of their findings so far. The Justice Department had wanted to select committee to turn over its witness transcripts, something they have resisted doing because they said they're moving forward in their own probe.

But earlier today, the committee put out a statement saying they will not be an obstacle in providing this information to the Justice Department and do not want to delay any effort by the Justice Department to pursue potential prosecutions. So a possible movement there on that front as the committee moves forward with more hearings next week.

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

And obviously those transcripts had been, had been, as you point out, a stumbling block, so that could be a significant movement there to provide that to DOJ, so Attorney General Garland can make a decision on whether there will be charges.

OUTFRONT now, Elie Honig, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, former Republican Congresswoman Mia Love, and Chris Cillizza, our politics reporter and editor at large.

So, Elie, you heard Manu there. And, you know, what's interesting is that they've got these final hearings next week and yet the January 6th committee is still actually trying to nail down a witness list for an upcoming hearing that will focus on Trump's efforts to use the Justice Department to back up his false election fraud claims.

So they were going to have a hearing on that very important topic, right? Last Wednesday. Sorry, this past Wednesday. Two days ago, but then they had to postpone it to next week.

So how important is this specific topic to the committee's overall story?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Erin, the DOJ part of this story is absolutely crucial because what we learned already from the committee was Donald Trump and his people were absolutely desperate to find anybody who would validate their election lies but they failed at every turn. Dozens of courts refused to do it. Barr's own -- Trump's own attorney general, Bill Barr, refused to do it. Donald Trump's own lawyers and advisers refused to do it.

And so, as a sort of last gas, they tried to get the ultimate imprimatur, the U.S. Department of Justice, to sign on to this lie of election fraud. And Trump's inside guy at DOJ, Jeffrey Clark, who was a bit of a charlatan, pretending to be a prosecutor, wrote up a fraudulent letter, a draft letter that said hey, we at DOJ have found evidence of significant election fraud in Georgia.

Now, thankfully, the witnesses we're going to hear from next week refused to send that letter. But if they had done so, that might have given the election lies some sort of foothold. That would have been a huge development.

BURNETT: Right, it would absolutely. And we should be clear, of course, that the Republicans in charge of the Georgia election did audit after audit and investigated every claim of fraud that was brought to them and found none that would have moved the election.

So, Chris, one thing that was clear from Trump's hour and a half speech today in which he was, you know, kind of all over the map, but it was that he is watching these committee hearings and he is watching them basically word for word.


CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE & POLITICS REPORTER: Yeah. I just one quick thing, Erin, on his speech. I watched a bunch of it. You know, it's sort of like you know, you go to a Billy Joel concert and you start yelling you want to hear "Piano Man" right at the start.

It's a greatest hits compilation is what he's doing now. So much of the stuff we've heard before.

But yeah, you know, I think the broader issue here for Donald Trump is he cares. He can't get away from caring. Television is the medium by which he consumes information. It's always been the case.

Remember early when he was running for president in 2016, he was asked where do you get your information on the military and foreign policy? He said mostly from watching the shows. Okay?

So this is the lens that he sees the world through. He released a 12- page statement, really more of a screen to be honest, earlier in the week. I mean, I went through it. It may have taken some time off of my life because I went through it, the whole thing. There's just so much in there that's just been repeated over and over and over again, that is supply not true, including the stuff about the 2,000 mules.

But I think he can't help but be interested. It's about him. He's always interested in anything that has to do with him. It's on television. He's always interested in anything that's on television.

So even though probably the best thing that could happen, you know they say the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. Donald Trump can't even feign indifference when it comes to what's going on in the January 6th Committee.

BURNETT: And the question is what are these hearings doing? And they are setting a historical record.

But I wonder, Congresswoman Love, if they are accomplishing more than that. Start with this. We spoke with a number of attendees a t the conference where Trump delivered that 90-minute speech today.

Now, of course, this is not surprising, the people that would go watch him give a 90-minute speech are not watching the hearings. Here they are.


REPORTER: Have you been watch any of the January 6 hearings on television?


REPORTER: And why not?

MERCZYNSK: Because it's a sham event. It's a kangaroo court. You can't have a fair hearing when you have it filled with Trump hating fake Republicans and all Democrats who hate Trump, too.


BURNETT: Congresswoman, that is the Trump base. They're not going to -- they're not going to change their minds. They're here to hear him speak. I get that.

But I wonder what you think the hearings are accomplishing in terms of other Republicans? Is it changing any other Republican minds about what happened, the significance of it? Or is it making it so that more Republicans who think what happened was not okay now will speak out?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think first of all, I have seen and I think that what we have seen the tantrum that Trump is throwing would suggest that he's having mixed success on endorsements across the country suggesting that his influence still exists in those die hard, Trump supporter no matter what circles of the GOP. But that continues to wane broadly.

I have found that -- I certainly have found that the January 6th Commission really sheds some light into exactly -- especially yesterday, exactly what Mike Pence was going through, who was a die hard supporter and he made the mistake of crossing Trump -- according to Trump -- made the mistake of crossing him and not doing what he wanted him to do 100 percent.

And can you imagine the amount of pressure that he had on him when you've got a crowd screaming, hang Mike Pence. It was just, it was just baffling to me to see, to even hear that he would -- he didn't want to be seen leaving the Capitol because he didn't want anyone to see him leaving while everybody else was still there.

Yeah. You find out a whole lot, but not -- certainly, it doesn't change my mind about what I knew from the beginning that Donald Trump started this and he could have ended it, and he just watched it happened.

BURNETT: So, Elie, you know, on this specific point, and I know it may sound trivial to some, Trump comes in today and spends time denying calling Pence a wimp, OK? So, that's what he chose to do today. He chose to have some of the things that came up in the hearing, denied that he called Pence a wimp, even though it had been said under oath that he did.

You know, one of the people who talked about that was his body man who he certainly does know. Trump criticized the one-sided nature of it all. Look, is he doing a good job discrediting the witnesses and raising questions even though what he's saying is wrong? Is he successfully raising questions for others, Elie?

HONIG: Well, Erin, let me say this. I think it's dead wrong for Donald Trump to suggest that any of the evidence is doctored as he does in that clip.

He is correct, however, that this is a one-sided presentation. Now that's largely because Kevin McCarthy has boycotted this process, but yes, there's no defense lawyer present.


There's no defense witnesses. There's no cross-examination. I think that's fair to keep in mind.

But in terms of his efforts to address the actual substantive evidence, they're ridiculous. They're just regurgitation of discredited conspiracy theories. I mean, the "2,000 Mules" thing, I hesitate to even say it, it's so ridiculous.

But, look, I wrote a book about Bill Barr. I watched many, many hours of Bill Barr. I don't think I've seen him actually laugh. But in that clip where he's talking about "2,000 Mules", he guffaws out in the open. That's how ridiculous it is.

And one thing the committee is doing that I think has been really effective is they are using Trump's own people to make a case against him. Look, it's one thing to hear Adam Schiff, Jamie Raskin get up there and say things about him. It's quite another thing to hear Bill Barr and Eric Herschmann and Ivanka Trump and Jason Miller say damaging things to Donald Trump.

BURNETT: Right. And that I think is part of what is upsets him so much, right? I mean, just to see that. It's humiliating.

So, Chris, South Carolina Senate Republican Tim Scott was actually at the same conference Trump was at today and I want to play something he said.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Give me my mean tweets and $2 a gallon gas.


BURNETT: Chris, you know there's something very significant in that, right? And that, which raises questions for 2024.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE & POLITICS REPORTER: Yeah. I mean, I continue to think, Erin, that the question of Donald Trump running for president in 2024 is a when, not if, question. When is he going to announce? Is it going to be before the 2022 midterm elections? Which would be very untraditionally and sort of in its way very Trumpy or is he going to announce shortly after? Tim Scott has said before that he would endorse Donald Trump if he ran

again. I think it is striking that the first black Republican since 1979 in the U.S. Senate, someone who has cut an interesting swath in the senate -- someone who is, yes, a conservative but also has shown willingness to work across the aisle on policing and other issues. That he would be so blunt about the fact that well, no, it's not going to be me. I'm going to be for Donald Trump.

I do think it speaks to yes, there is a pocket of folks -- and we can probably name them on one hand -- but there's a pocket of folks in Republican elected officials circles who have either broken with Donald Trump or shown a willingness to break with them.


CILLIZZA: That group is shrinking. Tom Rice losing in South Carolina this week is an example of that. The vast majority of Republicans are on the Trump train, both now and I think for 2024.

BURNETT: Congresswoman Love?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I can't emphasize enough how much Americans just want a serious adult in the room that will fix our economic problems -- gas prices, labor shortage, inflation.

And I -- Tim Scott is a very dear friend of mine. I would say that he would want the same thing and I know, he would -- maybe he should just jump in the race, I don't know. But most GOP members really don't want to go back and have, and repeat, the Donald Trump era, especially of the mean tweets, but more importantly, an attack from one branch of government to another.


LOVE: We've seen that in history and we don't want to see it again.

BURNETT: Right, which is something, of course, Tim Scott just completely, you know, avoided, right? It's a lot more than mean tweets. And that's I think the whole point, which everybody knew, but we have certainly been confronted with, over the past week in these ongoing hearings.

Thank you all so very much.

And next, Vladimir Putin lashes out at the West and threatens this. America's dominance as a world power is coming to an end, he says.

Plus, new video appears to show two missing Americans who had volunteered to fight for Ukraine detained at an unknown location. So who's holding them? We're going to speak to the mother of one of them.

And as President Biden prepares for his trip to Saudi Arabia, government authorities seize children's rainbow colored toys including crayons. We'll tell you what happened.


BURNETT: Tonight, Vladimir Putin lashing out, accusing the U.S. of blaming all its troubles on Russia and warning the, quote, era of the unipolar world is over.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT in St. Petersburg.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin laid out his plans to counter U.S.-led sanctions. Putin making clear Russia will not back down from what they call the special military operation. All goals of the military operation will be accomplished, he said. Putin also claiming Russia was forced to invade because the U.S. was bringing Ukraine into its orbit.

Russia's decision to conduct a special military operation was forced, he said, difficult of course, but forced and necessary. Putin then threatening the U.S. moment as the world's top power is coming to an end.

When they won the Cold War, the U.S. declared themselves God's own representatives on earth, he says. People who have no responsibilities only interests. They have declared those interests sacred.

The U.S. and its allies reject any notion of fueling the conflict in Ukraine and have hit Moscow with massive sanctions, but Putin says the measures aren't working.

The calculation was clear to crush the Russian economy with a swoop, he says, obviously it didn't work. The U.S. accuses Russia of worsening world hunger by blockading Ukrainian ports and causing a massive spike in gas prices. Putin again blaming the West.

Even higher prices, threatening famine in the poorest countries and this will be entirely on the conscious of the U.S. administration and the Euro bureaucracy, he said.

As Western countries pull out of Moscow in droves, Moscow is trying to reorient its economy. A top Russian senator saying he believes Russia's invasion of Ukraine prevented a larger war with NATO, even as Russia's own losses mount.

KONSTANTIN KOSACHEV, RUSSIAN SENATOR: We are all aware about the losses which take place now, but I can assure that they have managed to prevent a huge war, probably a third world war.


PLEITGEN: And Vladimir Putin says the operation in Ukraine will continue until Russia feels it has achieved its aims.


BURNETT: And Fred Pleitgen joins me now from St. Petersburg where, of course, Fred, Putin delivered that speech.

You know, here he is more than 100 days into the war, Fred, clearly saying that he believes he can make Russia the world's dominant power.

PLEITGEN: Yeah, that seemed what he was indicating. I think it's important to show the air in which the speech took place, Erin, because Vladimir Putin started ripping into the U.S. and is its allies the moment that he took the stage, the moment that he started speaking. He talked about this moment that the U.S. had become really arrogant and one of the things that stood out was Putin talking about the West and the rest. The rest of the world and seemingly saying that Russia was essentially the leader of the rest of the world and that Russia would then challenge the United States and try to bring the rest of the world against the U.S.

Is that realistic? Very difficult to say. The Russians have some big economic problems, but what we saw today was a seriously combative Russian president, Erin.

BURNETT: Combative and, of course, with those word, you know, obviously saying something that let's just say China wouldn't want to hear put in that framework either.

Thank you very much, Fred Pleitgen, live from Russia tonight.

And next, Americans missing in Ukraine seen for the first time on video. I'll speak to the mother of one of the American soldiers.

And Montana's governor finally surfaces as parts of the state are completely devastated by historic flooding. The utter totally geography of the state has changed. Why did it take so long for him to admit he had been in Italy?



BURNETT: Tonight, new video surfacing on pro Russian channels appearing to show missing Americans, Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh and Alex Drueke. CNN is choosing not to broadcast these videos because the men are under duress. It comes after this video was released yesterday, showing them in the back of the truck with their hands behind their backs.

In the new videos, they are not in their truck. They appear to be detained at an unknown location and it is not clear who is detaining them.

They had been fighting as volunteers with Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv before they were captured. I'm going to speak to Alex's mother in just a moment.

Right now, though, I want to go to Sam Kiley who was in Kharkiv just miles way from where her son was last seen. He spoke exclusively with an American who is fighting with Alex and Andy just before they went missing. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These two American fighters have their hands bound behind them. They're dressed in uniforms not their own and they may well have been captured by the very Russians that they've been fighting. This as far as it goes is good news for the comrade who last saw a T-72 tank open fire on his two friends.

Does that give you any kind of cause for hope?

PIP, FORMER U.S. SERVICEMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. I wish I could say with 100 percent certainty that it's not a fake, but I'm -- I have a lot of hope that it's them.

KILEY: A former U.S. serviceman, he was in the same battle as Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh when they went missing in action. He fears Russian reprisals in Ukraine and wants his identity and voice hidden. He uses the code name, Pip. But for the first time on TV, he described what part on June 9th.

PIP: The team was sent out on a mission on the 9th and showed up in areas of operations an a full scale Russian armored assault was underway. A hasty defense was set up. Two anti tank teams were set up. Alex and Andy fired an RPG at the BPM that was coming through the woods and destroyed it. A T-72 then turned and fired upon them. Drove a few more meters forward and hit the anti tank mine that our Ukrainian officer placed.

We suspect they were knocked out by either the T-72 tank shooting at them or the blast of the mine.

KILEY: So far, Russian officials have denied any knowledge of the missing Americans. Two Britons both with UK and Ukrainian citizenships were recently sentenced to death on charges of being mercenaries by a so-called court in the Russian-backed rebel area of Ukraine that calls itself the Donetsk People's Republic. They were long standing members of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Wayne and Drueke had served alongside Pip in a three-month team since April.

PIP: As far as I'm aware, we're paid about the same if not exactly the same as the Ukrainian soldier on the front and money is certainly not my motivation for being here and it's not Andy's and it's Alex's either.

KILEY: Ukraine has been appealing for urgent supplies of ammunition and heavy weapons. It's also recruited large numbers, the details are kept secret, of volunteers into its international legion.

So, what advice would you give finally for anybody thinking of wanting to join the legion?

PIP: Oh, wow, well, if you have no military background, if you don't have any combat experience, if you expect to come here with air support, intense helicopter support, then stay home because that is not the case. It is the Russian army. And they have massive amounts of artillery. They have massive amounts of armor and the Ukrainians are giving it their damnedest.

KILEY: Did you make the right call?

PIP: I'll admit to questioning once in a while, but I think, yes.

KILEY: For those captured by Russia, that answer may no longer be quite so positive.


KILEY (on camera): Now, Erin, a third American has been confirmed as being missing. He was missing since April. Grady Kurpasi's whereabouts is unknown. There have been no photographs of him in captivity posted on many Telegram channels are the sort we'd just seen. Or indeed reports of whether or not he's actually even still alive, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Sam Kiley.

And I want to go now to Bunny Drueke. She is the mother of Alex Drueke, one of the Americans missing in Ukraine.


And, Bunny, I'm so sorry you're going through this incredibly stressful time -- just total uncertainty and fear. I know there's that new video tonight airing on pro-Russian channels that appears to show Alex detained, where he identifies his name, his age, his hometown in Alabama. We are not going to broadcast that video, but I know that you have seen it.

What was your reaction?

BUNNY DRUEKE, MOTHER OF ALEXANDER DRUEKE, AMERICAN MISSING IN UKRAINE: Well, of course, it has not been verified, but looking at it, the person moves like Alex does. He gestures like Alex does, and I recognized Alex's voice. It's very distinct. It's rigid. It's deep, it's a baritone voice that we laugh -- we told him he needed to be a broadcaster of some kind.

So, I feel 99.9 percent sure that it's Alex, but we're waiting for the State Department to confirm it.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you about. I know you have been speaking to the State Department daily and I know you spoke with them today. Do you have any idea when they think is video was taken or of where your son could be?

DRUEKE: If so, they have not shared that information with us. All they said was that they expected to verify that it's authenticity soon.

BURNETT: Soon, of course, and you as his mother, you hear him and you know. So let me ask you about where they are as the State Department though,

I know yesterday, they said they had not reached out to Russian officials. The U.S. department said this and they said they didn't do it because they didn't have a quote, credible reason to believe that Alex is in Russian custody.

So have you gotten any update on that and do you feel that the U.S. government is trying to get your son back?

DRUEKE: Oh, I have every confidence that the U.S. government is trying to get Alex and Andy. We've spoken to many people. We've been in touch with Senator Richard Shelby's office. They check in daily with us.

We check our representative's office, checks in with us every day. The State Department keeps us informed all through the day. I have every confidence in that.

As Coach Saban tells the Crimson Tide fans, trust the process. And that's what we're doing.

BURNETT: And I know you just heard Sam Kiley speak to another man who was with Alex before he went missing, so they were together. So, you know, you hear him telling that story and that's someone who was with your son near Kharkiv when they came under heavy fire from those two Russian tanks. So in those final moments before he was taken, that man was with him.

How does it feel to know someone was with him in those crucial moments and to hear him speak?

DRUEKE: It feels awesome just to know that he was there. He saw Alex makes me feel very comforted.

BURNETT: What would you say to Alex if you were able to talk to him tonight?

DRUEKE: I would tell him I'm doing exactly what he told me to do back when he first went to Iraq with the U.S. Army. And he reminded me of it again before he went to Ukraine.

He said, mom, I expect you to be brave, to do everything that you can, and trust that I am doing what I believe is right. And I'll tell him I'm doing the best I can.

He was a hiker and he would say there are days when you're hiking, he was on the Appalachian Trail. He said there's days when your feet are sore and your knees are aching and the weather's awful and terrain is treacherous and you have to embrace the suck because it's not going to last forever and you'll get to the top and the view is going to be worth it. It's going to be awesome.

And so I'm embracing the suck and trusting the process.

BURNETT: Well, Bunny, thank you so much for speaking to me. You're in my thoughts with your worry -- DRUEKE: Thank you. We feel all the thoughts and prayers of all the

people out there and there's such a comfort and source of strength to us and I'm sure to Alex, too. I'm sure he can feel it. He and Andy. Thank you so much for talking to us.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you, Bunny.

Next, parts of Montana ravaged by historic flooding but the governor was missing in action until now. It turns out he was in Italy.

And basic training now underway for the U.S. Space Force. CNN has an exclusive look at the newest branch of the United States military.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is still the profession of arms. This is still the United States military.


This is not space camp.



BURNETT: As historic flooding devastated Montana and forced Yellowstone National Park to be shut down, the governor for days refused to say where he was and it led to growing criticism. But now we know the answer. He was on vacation in Italy.

Nick Watt is OUTFRONT.


GOV. GREG GIANFORTE (R), MONTANA: We're open for business. We want you to come.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Finally, the governor is here.

GIANFORTE: We have basements filled with mud. We had homes washed away. We had bridges that have been washed away. But we're committed to rebuild this.

WATT: He's here days after the flood waters that slammed the state have -- well, they've already left. No one knew where the governor was all week while his people wrestled with the aftermath.

T.J. Britton's house sailed away.

T.J. BRITTON, MONTANA RESIDENT: I spent 16 years of my life there in that place.

WATT: Governor Greg Gianforte wouldn't say where he was. He was all over social media during the destructive historic high waters along the Yellowstone River that closed the national park.


We are closely monitoring the flooding in south central Montana, he tweeted Monday. Didn't say where he was monitoring the flooding from.

Turns out, it wasn't anywhere inside Montana. Questions started Tuesday morning when the lieutenant governor, not the governor, signed the state's disaster declaration. Gianforte's office told local media he left the country Saturday with his wife on a personal trip. So the day before the waters rose and he'd be back ASAP. They wouldn't say where he was citing security protocols.

The federal disaster declaration came Thursday, but still, no sign of the governor in the flesh. These floods are a big deal for Montana. Millions of dollars worth of damage, the state's north entrance to the national park will be closed for months leaving residents of the gateway town of Gardiner fearing for their future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It became this ghost town. I mean, there's nobody here.

WATT: The last time the national spotlight was so on the Treasure State might have been in 2017 when Gianforte body slammed a reporter during his congressional campaign.

GIANFORTE: I'm sick and tired of you guys.

WATT: This week's game of governor where's Waldo has echoes of Senator Ted Cruz heading to Cancun last year during a cold snap and power outages in his home state of Texas. Cruz caught heat.

Today in Montana, the post-Diluvian governor is now back in the saddle.

GIANFORTE: Montanans are resilient. We're going to get this rebuilt.


WATT: But the governor was vacationing in Italy when it was all washed away. Now, this morning, his office said that he delegated his authority to the lieutenant governor, quote, with whom he worked closely over the last four days to take swift, decisive action. I will just note there is an eight-hour time difference between Montana and Italy.

And full disclosure, Erin, tonight, I am reporting on Montana from California. I flew out this morning not long after the governor flew in -- Erin.

BURNETT: And, of course, you put a locater up to say where you were the whole time. Thank you very much. Nick Watt reporting.

And next, inside the U.S. Space Force. Seventy-one new recruits in the first ever boot camp for what's called The Guardians. And government authorities in the capital of Saudi Arabia confiscate

children's rainbow colored toys, even backpacks and crayons, because they say they're promoting homosexuality.



BURNETT: Tonight, a CNN exclusive, an inside look at the U.S. Space Force and its first ever basic training class.

Kristin Fisher saw it up close, and see her report OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurry up, Space Force. Hurry, up, let's go, let's go, let's go.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's day 38 of Space Force basic training at Joint Base San Antonio.

It may look and sound like basic boot camp for soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen -- but these are guardians in the U.S. Space Force, the first new branch of the armed services in more than 70 years. And this is the first ever guardian-only basic training, led entirely by Space Force instructors.

MSGT. ERIC MISTROT, U.S. SPACE FORCE MILITARY TRAINING INSTRUCTOR: This is still the profession of arms. This is still the United States military. This is not space camp.

FISHER: Master Sergeant Eric Mistrot is the Space Force's first military training instructor. And he's in charge of all training for these 71 recruits over seven and a half weeks.

GUARDIAN SYRIAH HARRIS, U.S. SPACE FORCE: I come from like an Air Force family, so when Space Force was around, most people are like, what is that? That's real?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're like, what? That's a real thing? Yeah, it's a real thing.

FISHER: The biggest change between this basic training and other boot camps is in the classroom. These guardians are being taught a brand- new Space Force specific curriculum, everything from space history to space vocabulary.

MISTROT: So, if I see the word Leo, L-E-O, that stands for low earth orbit, right? You need to start thinking along these lines. That the world is bigger than what you see, that we go out 22,500 miles into orbit.

FISHER: None of these guardians are actually going to space. They'll be operating U.S. military satellites from the ground or analyzing satellites from countries like China and Russia. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not dealing with tanks or ballistics or

anything like that. You're dealing with little blips on a little computer screen.

FISHER: It's a different type of war fighter, one that has to strain their eyes and flex their mind more than their muscles, which leads to the other big difference about this basic training.

MISTROT: We want to build guardians. And what a guardian is about our core values.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What courage means to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think courage for me means being able to ask for help when you need it.

FISHER: It's a mindset made for a modern military force.

LT. COL. TARA SHEA, COMMANDER, 1ST DELTA OPERATIONS SQUADRON, USSF: Maybe you need to step away and have meditation time. Whatever it is, we want our guardians to be strong and healthy from a diversity aspect and inclusivity aspect. We want them to feel like you can express that in our service.

HARRIS: Coming here like I had a lot of people are like, you know you're going to be the only black girl there. I have two other teammates who look like me.

FISHER: But there are a lot of space nerds like yourself.

HARRIS: Oh, for sure.

FISHER: Like Star Wars, Star Trek?

HARRIS: I'm not even that kind of space nerd. Never even seen it.

FISHER: What kind of space nerd are you?

HARRIS: I used to watch live screens of the moon rotating. Just -- I'm into that type of space.

FISHER: Just the kind of nerd that the Space Force is looking for to protect and shape a new domain of warfare.

HARRIS: We need our own space force basic training because we are our own branch now. We broke away, so we need to stop being in the shadows of the Air Force.


BURNETT: It's amazing, right, to see something like this starting off, first time for the U.S. to have this. Once these, as they call them, guardians graduate from this basic training, where do they go?

[19:55:04] FISHER: Well, Erin, the reward for completing basic training is more training. But this next phase of their training is going to be much more technical. There's essentially three main tracks for these guardians: cyber, intelligence, and space operations. Each track will take them to a different military base.

And, Erin, this class of guardians, which is now graduating next week, it's really only the beginning because the Space Force is now planning to graduate more than 500 new guardians every year.

BURNETT: Wow. All right. Kristin, thank you so much for that exclusive access.

And next, Saudi authorities seizing rainbow colored pencil cases, children's toys that they say promote homosexuality, as President Biden prepares to travel there next month.


BURNETT: Finally tonight, Saudi officials seizing rainbow colored toys and clothing from shops in Riyadh, putting it all in a big pile and saying the items promote homosexuality. That is according to state-run television in Saudi Arabia. Bright colored hair accessories, pencil cases, backpacks, crayons in rainbow hues were seized in the capital, according to state TV.

It comes as pro-golfers like Phil Mickelson play for the Saudis and President Biden is set to meet with the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman next month. Biden once pledged to make MBS a pariah and hold him accountable for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The White House says Biden will bring up human rights.

Thanks for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.