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Erin Burnett Outfront
January 6 Panel Assesses "Deluge Of New Evidence"; Washington Post: Feds Probing January 6 Issue Subpoenas In Multiple States; Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) Is Interviewed On January 6 Investigations; Georgia Voters Reject More Trump-Backed Candidates; Russian Forces Massing For Renewed Assault On Kharkiv; Families Of Americans Detained Abroad Frustrated With Biden; Sen. Johnson Aware Of Texts On Fake Electors, Calls It "A Non-Story". Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 22, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, a deluge of evidence that's what a member of the January 6th committee says it now has. This is the DOJ reportedly drops multiple subpoenas in its investigation in fake electors.
Plus, a bad sign for Trump? Two candidates he endorsed were blown out in last night's primaries. As another candidate, Dr. Oz, erases mention of Trump from his campaign website. Just how tight is Trump's grip on the GOP?
And anger mounting as the families of Americans captured in Ukraine demand Biden to do more. I'm going to talk to the fiance of one of the Americans who is being held tonight.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
BURNETT: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, ramping up. The Justice Department is ratcheting up its investigation into January 6th. According to "The Washington post" tonight, federal agents issued subpoenas on people in at least two states, part of a growing probe into how Trump supporters tried to use fake electors to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
At least one subpoena was delivered to the home of a Georgia lawyer, a lawyer who allegedly signed documents claiming to be a Trump elector according to "The Post". Of course, there were no Trump electors because he didn't win that state. But this was the fake elector scheme.
Would-be Trump electors, we understand, in Michigan were also reportedly subpoenaed. So, we're talking Georgia and Michigan right now.
And you'll remember, we learned in yesterday's hearing that Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin allegedly tried to get a list of fake electors from his home state and from Michigan to Vice President Mike Pence just minutes before the joint session of Congress on January 6th. That was being done so Pence could use that slate of electors to stay that Trump won those states and use that to overturn the election.
Johnson today, however, was still dodging questions about it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: How much did you know about what your chief of staff was doing with the alternate slate of electors?
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I'm on the phone right now.
REPORTER: No, you're not. I can see your phone. I can see your screen.
JOHNSON: We got handed an envelope that was supposed to go to the vice president, I know, so we called up the vice president. He didn't want it, we didn't deliver it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Okay. Johnson with not much to say.
But this is a man who has had a lot to say when it came to pushing lies about the election. We're going to have much more on that and his role coming up.
But the context here is that the January 6th Select Committee has obtained what one member of the committee calls that deluge of new evidence. And we're finding out that because of that, hearings are now going to continue into July because of the new evidence. Theoretically, this was going to be ending in the next few days. But now, no, this is going to be continuing after congressional recess in July.
According to Congressman Raskin, this evidence includes new documents from the national archives, tips that have been flooding in.
Remember, Chairman Bennie Thompson keeps saying, if you know something, if you say something, call. Well, people have. It's flooded in
And in addition, hours of raw footage from a documentary filmmaker who had access to Trump and his family in the days before and after the insurrection itself. And tonight, we have new images from that filmmaker. These are obtained by CBS, and you can see the access he had, interviewing both Ivanka Trump and then President Trump.
The evidence presented so far at the hearings has impacted at least one moderate Republican. That is Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska, who tells our Manu Raju, he's had enough of Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DON BACON (R-NE): When it comes to primary, I will not be supporting him. I'll be looking for a better candidate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That's the bottom line. Not supporting, looking for better candidates.
Well, Manu Raju is OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill.
And, Manu, look, you know, this is -- I know it's been sort of in flux, the dates, the times. But it's been incredibly in flux as this now deluge of new information has come in. What are you learning about the committee's plans now?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right. We had expected that the committee's hearings would wrap up next week, a couple more after tomorrow's hearing that will focus on pressure on Justice Department officials.
But there has been new evidence they say that they are still sorting through. This British filmmaker who provided the committee with footage, including interviews that he conducted with Ivanka Trump, people in the Trump inner circle. Donald Trump himself, both at Mar-a- Lago, as well as the White House. He's participating behind closed doors, talking to this committee tomorrow.
Now, they have also put together a tips line. And tips have been, according to the committee, flooding in. And they're trying to track down whether those tips have any merit. And they're also getting new documents from the National Archives, all of which has led the committee to reassess exactly how it wants to present its evidence in the months ahead.
Now, looking ahead to tomorrow, the focus will be heavily on what Donald Trump did to pressure his Justice Department to lean on states, in particular to change their electoral results, and how those Republican Justice Department officials stood up to the president.
We're going to hear from Jeffrey Rosen, who was the former acting attorney general, as well as Rich Donoghue, who is the former acting deputy attorney, and Steven Angle (ph) who's also senior member of the Justice Department, all expected to testify.
And, Erin, this all comes as the current Justice Department is pushing the committee to provide more information about all the witness interviews they've done, more than 1,000 witnesses. And Bennie Thompson saying earlier today that they are beginning to do just that, and they plan to do more of that in July, even as the Justice Department wants it to move faster -- Erin.
BURNETT: Manu, thank you.
And I want to go now to "Washington Post" reporter Josh Dawsey.
And, Josh, you broke the story about the Justice Department issuing subpoenas related to the fake elector scheme. I mentioned Georgia and Michigan.
Obviously, you know, the big question is, question states, how many people, and what are you able to tell us about who received these subpoenas today?
JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So we know that a Trump campaign official who led election operations in Arizona received one of these subpoenas this morning. We also know a Georgia lawyer who served as an elector there. We also know officials in Michigan who worked on that issue there, putting together these fake electors, received subpoenas today. So we know at least three different states where there has -- have been activity.
Based on what our recruiting will indicate is that you can expect far more of these. That the Department of Justice is ratcheting up this probe and is looking at all these various states. And there's dozens and dozens, I think more than 80 folks who served as these electors.
I mean, you also have, you know, the Trump officials who orchestrated each of these states. You have RNC officials who are involved. You had a whole, you know, smorgasbord of lawyers who were involved. So you can really see this investigation -- I don't know how it will conclude, I think it's way too soon to know, but you can see, you know, north of 100 people being questioned by the end.
BURNETT: I mean, that's incredible. So, north of 100 possibly by the end. So, what does this tell you about where the Justice Department is, you know, the size and scope?
And I guess as part of this, Josh, just to make sure I understand where your reporting is, it's been north of 100 people given subpoenas already or sort --
DAWSEY: No, I'm saying there are more than 100 people who could be involved in this totally. So I don't know if there's been that many subpoenas given already, I want to make that clear. We've only reported, you know, some already. But what we have seen is that this has continued to grow.
What we don't quite know is what the Justice Department is interested in. I mean, they've certainly shown interest in this. We know that a grand jury in Washington is also examining some of the fund-raising behind, you know, the rally, and looking at the money, that kind of came into the rally.
And then there are lots of other places where the committee has, you know, publicly and privately expressed -- they would like to see more enthusiasm from the Department of Justice, and we just don't know. I think Merrick Garland has said, repeatedly, they're going to follow the facts where they lay, and that's actually gotten a lot of criticism I think from the left, who said they wished he would be more aggressive or some criticism of this.
DAWSEY: But so far, there's a lot of public bread crumbs for us to see.
BURNETT: And, Josh, do you know why? I mean, obviously, we're in the middle of the hearings or somewhere in the process going on with the January 6th committee. But all of a sudden, we're finding out about these subpoenas, as if the DOJ is just sort of getting in action. Now that may be just that we're finding out about it --
BURNETT: Yeah, go ahead.
DAWSEY: I believe we learned about these today because they were served today.
DAWSEY: I mean, our understanding is that a lot of these people got their subpoenas this morning. So it seems like that after looking at various components of this, they have gotten around to the point where they are subpoenaing a wider circle of net. I mean, if you look at prosecutors, how often they do this things, they've got to decide who to subpoena based on other parts of the investigation, various things that are happening behind the scenes that we don't know.
So, I think we're finding out about this today, because it happened recently, but I don't know precisely why that is.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Josh, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Obviously, important reporting, and thank you for joining me.
I want to go now to Elie Honig, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York.
Elie, just to give some, you know, analysis, to Josh's reporting. So, he's saying -- you know, obviously, this could result in north of 100 people being involved. But their reporting is that, you know, a handful of people served today.
So, it's not just that they're finding out about it now, is that it's literally happening now from the DOJ, as opposed to a month or two months ago or other things that this could have happened -- all these people's names and roles are known to the DOJ.
So, why now?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Erin, it could be just a coincidence, but we can't ignore the fact that just yesterday, we heard a presentation from the committee, a quite compelling presentation, laying out in detail how this fake elector scheme worked.
Maybe DOJ is already there. But, look, we got a pretty full presentation yesterday from the committee that gave details, specifics, and it could be that DOJ is trying to catch up. Josh made a really important point. There is an element of game theory
here as a prosecutor. You look at the large group like this and you think, where can we insert ourselves? Who is somebody on the inside who we might be able to flip to turn into a cooperator so that we can build cases against other people.
And ideally as a prosecutor, you want to build up towards more powerful people.
BURNETT: OK. So, Josh pointing out that this could end up involving north of 100 people. Obviously, that is not the number of subpoenas right now. Right now, they know of a handful.
BURNETT: But, if you're talking about fake electors, AND people involved in that, that quickly mushrooms, okay? So, Elie, why are they subpoenaing these people? Are they key players or are they pawns in a broader chessboard?
HONIG: Well, I think they're somewhere in the middle of those two things, Erin. I think DOJ sees them as witnesses. It is long-standing DOJ policy, you do not subpoena somebody who you see as a target -- meaning somebody who you believe you are likely to charge. You subpoena somebody who you see as a witness.
What's changing now is DOJ has been looking at this electors scheme, according to public reporting for a while. But they've been doing voluntary interviews with people who refused to go along with it. What's changing now is, as Josh reported, these are people who were a part of it on the inside.
And I do want to note, Erin, these subpoenas have real teeth. We've gotten used to these congressional subpoenas where they're sort of brushed off without consequence. When you get a DOJ subpoena, you can take the Fifth, you can comply, or you can get locked up. And that's it.
BURNETT: So, the committee, you know, you point out, again, the timing, right? At least the way we see it. We understand things are served this morning. The hearing happened, it'd been yesterday. I'm just wondering whether you think the hearings are actually impacting the DOJ's speed and intent?
HONIG: Well, we know DOJ is watching. Merrick Garland has said that and that's a good thing. In ideal world, normally, DOJ is way out ahead of Congress. It is backwards to me. It's hard to understand how Congress could be so far ahead of where DOJ appears to be.
Now, part of that is the credit to the committee. They have done a remarkable job. They've found all sorts of really important and damning documents and interviews.
On the other hand, DOJ has every institutional advantage in building a case. Like I just said, they have much more powerful subpoenas. DOJ can issue search warrants. Congress can't do that. DOJ can do wiretaps. Congress can't do that. DOJ can have the threat of jail time to flip people. Congress can't do that.
So, it's a sign that DOJ is making progress, Erin, but to me, they are still leading from behind, and that's not ideal.
BURNETT: Something, obviously, doesn't quite add up about all of that.
All right. Elie, thank you very much.
And next, I'm going to speak to a member of the January 6th Select Committee, Congressman Zoe Lofgren. She says the committee has received a, quote, mountain of new evidence. So, what is it?
Plus, Trump was front and center in Mehmet Oz's Republican primary. But now that Oz is in the general election, it appears he no longer -- well, Trump seems to be erased?
And Russia claims it has destroyed America's howitzers in Ukraine, as Ukraine may have endured its worst week on the battlefield since the fall of Mariupol.
BURNETT: Tonight, members of the House January 6 committee, taking additional security prosecutions, amid heightened concerned over their safety. The nonprofit group Advance Democracy found calls for violence against committee members on right-wing social media platforms. Users are openly calling for the execution of committee members, particularly, Congresswoman Liz Cheney.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger really details the threat he received, saying that they would, quote, execute him and his family.
OUTFRONT now, a member of the January 6 Committee, Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.
And, Congresswoman, I appreciate your time.
Unfortunately, I need to start with those threats, threats of execution, particularly to Congresswoman Cheney and Congressman Kinzinger. Pretty horrifying.
How concerned are you about your safety and that of your committee members?
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, I did see the horrible letter that was sent to Adam's wife threatening to kill her, him, and their five- month-old baby. Really, I mean, how can you even conceive of such a thing?
But I do think that, you know, appropriate steps are being taken to keep everyone in the Capitol safe. I don't think it's necessarily in the best interest of safety to discuss the particular details of it. But I think all of us are certainly prepared to do a job that has been assigned to us.
BURNETT: So, your chairman, Bennie Thompson, said today that the committee will delay its next round of hearings into July. And I know the dates have sort of been changing, but we have been told that it would sort of wrap up next week.
And now, that's changed, right? It's going into July, until after recess. You have described the new evidence that's come in as a "mountain", that's your word. Congressman Raskin used the word "deluge", to describe the new evidence.
So, is all a bit relevant? I mean, what are you able to tell us about the new information that you have, Congresswoman?
LOFGREN: Well, there is so much that we haven't had a chance to go through all of it. We do know some of it, we've been fighting to get for a long time. Some of it is brand new, and we need to go through it. And that's going to be, you know, a major effort in the next several weeks.
So, it's important that we do this job well. And that means plowing through all of this evidence so that we can present what's relevant to the public, as part of our effort to find and disclose the truth.
BURNETT: So, Chairman Thompson says as part of the new evidence, he has reviewed some of the documentary footage of Trump and his family from before and after January six, from that British filmmaker.
And, you know, we have some video -- some photos, I'm sorry, of the video that CBS obtained. So, this is, you know, Trump and the filmmaker, and that is one of -- the filmmaker doing an interview with Trump, also interviewed his daughter and others.
Thompson has called the video important. Are you able to shed any light on it, Congresswoman? Have you seen any of the footage yourself?
LOFGREN: No, I have not had a chance to look at it today. I was too busy reading transcripts. But I'm sure I will see it either today or tomorrow.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you in terms of the evidence that's come in, one thing I think stood out to so many of us was Chairman Thompson saying at the hearings, hey, if you know anything, call. You know, sort of like a hotline, call the FBI.
It sort of stood out. It was a little unusual -- and I'm curious, I know you said you don't know everything that's in it. But, you know, do you think there are gems in there, of just -- you know, people who because of that appeal to the public --
BURNETT: -- actual give you something crucial? LOFGREN: We actually -- this is not the first time we've invited
members of the public to come forward with information. We have on our website the tip line. And, you know, some of them are not worthwhile, but some of them are. And we've been able to follow up and learn some things from things that members of the public have told us. So, yes, it's been very helpful.
BURNETT: So, in terms of that documentary footage itself -- I'm just curious, how did you find out about this footage? I mean, it's amazing nobody knew about it. I understand that there are some senior members of the Trump administration who didn't know about it. And I'm thinking, come on, how could that be?
You know, how did it -- how did it even come to your attention?
LOFGREN: Well, we are full of surprises, aren't we?
LOFGREN: I'll just say that we will roll out the relevant portions in an orderly way. And one of the things that we are being very careful is that, obviously, if you have a huge amount of video or even text messages, that you can't play them all in a two-hour hearing, but we want to make sure that we're fairly presenting what we have found and we will take every step to make sure that a fair representation of what is there is in fact presented in the end.
I think the chairman has indicated that almost everything that we have accumulated with some small exceptions for -- you know, where there is a security issue with the witness will be made available.
BURNETT: Congresswoman, obviously, tomorrow's hearing, we understand, is going to focus on the DOJ and Trump's efforts to get the DOJ involved in his scheme to overturn the election.
Chairman Thompson said that there will be conversations about pardons in tomorrow's hearings.
What can you tell us?
LOFGREN: That's right.
Well, I'll let you watch the hearing. It starts at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. But there is information about people who sought pardons. And, you know, ordinarily, innocent people don't seek pardons. So, stay tuned for tomorrow.
BURNETT: Well, and some people don't seek pardons ordinarily. I believe someone who has publicly agreed with you on that is the former president, himself, speaking about pardons.
LOFGREN: Correct, correct.
BURNETT: Congresswoman Lofgren, I appreciate your time, thank you so much.
LOFGREN: You bet. Take care.
BURNETT: You too.
And next, Trump suffers two major blows and yesterday's primaries as a key supporter questions whether Trump has lost touch with his base. Is Trump support actually trying to slip, that strong base, any movement?
Plus, Ukraine possibly enduring its worst week since the fall of Mariupol. And tonight, we will take you to the front lines that Ukrainians are now calling a meat grinder.
BURNETT: Tonight, two big defeats for Trump in two key congressional primary runoffs in Georgia. Donald Trump's candidates of choice, Jake Evans and Vernon Jones, both lost and it wasn't even close. Those were blowouts, 33 and 49 percent margins.
And in Pennsylvania, Trump-endorsed Mehmet Oz is now trying to distance himself apparently from Trump now that he is running in the general election. These pictures speak for themselves.
On the left, Trump front and center in Oz's Twitter page before the primary. Now we're in the general, hmm, something got erased out of there.
Take a look at the picture on the right, no Donald Trump. Also missing that he was, quote, endorsed by Trump.
But perhaps the biggest warning sign for Trump now is Amy Kremer, the cofounder of Women for Trump, a group that also helped organize the Stop the Steal rally on January 6th. Well, she tells "Politico", in part, quote, Donald Trump is disconnected from the base. It's time for us in the movement to get back to basics, back to our first principles. We were here long before President Trump came along and we're going to be here long afterward.
OUTFRONT now: Eric Erickson, a leading conservative voice and expert on Georgia politics, also the host of "The Erick Erickson Show"; and Xochitl Hinojosa, former DNC communications director.
Thanks so much to both of you.
So, Erick, I want to start with what we saw in these primaries last night. As I said, these were not just, you know, defeat for Trump. These were blowouts in terms of the primaries, these margins. Based on what you see, based on what you're hearing from your listeners, do you think Trump is disconnected from the base of the GOP?
ERICK ERICKSON, HOST, "THE ERICK ERICKSON SHOW": Yes, I very much do. Look, in Georgia, every single candidate that all Trump supported lost except for two and those two would've won without Trump. Herschel Walker, of course, with Burt Jones, lieutenant governor nominee for Republicans. He had a lot of money, outspent his opponent. President Trump, whether you look at what happened with Mo Brooks in
Alabama or you look at his endorsement of Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania or what happened in Georgia, he seems to be focusing so much on 2020 and not the future. A lot of his base is ready to move on.
I think it's notable that NBC News before the 2020 election told Republicans, are you with Trump or the GOP? The overwhelming majority said Trump. And now, it's about 45 percent say that.
BURNETT: Well, that obviously is a big shift.
So, Xochitl, last night, there were four Republican candidates for New York governor in a debate, right? It was a Newsmax debate. They were asked a very simple question. The question was this: how would they describe themselves politically? On a scale from Pence to Trump.
Here is how they answered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY WILSON (R), NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know how to answer that. I'm a limited government conservative in all respects.
ANDREW GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Giuliani. Trump and Giuliani.
LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: No matter what the two names are that you mentioned, it's important to always be my own man.
ROB ASTORINO (R), NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm an Astorino conservative. I've proven that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And, of course, the person, Xochitl, who said "Trump and Giuliani" is Giuliani's son.
So, what you saw there were the three other candidates refusing to use the word Trump. They would not call themselves a Trump Republican. They would not call themselves a Trump conservative. What does that tell you?
XOCHITL HINOJOSA, FORMER DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, they also did speak out against Trump and you've seen a Republican Party, and it's been a Republican Party who refuses to speak out against Trump time and time again.
I think the reality is, is that many in the Republican Party still seek Trump's approval and they will continue to do that. But the reality is you're going to a general election, you can't necessarily win by Trump by your side. And so, I think the Republican Party is a Republican Party in crisis
because the reality is, as we look ahead towards 2024, is that Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. He brought people within the RNC, within their membership, within the state parties all across the country. And those are his loyal paper and he has a loyal base and they understand that. And that's why they won't speak out against him.
But at the same time, they also understand that he is toxic and while the Republican Party wants to move away from him, he is not going anywhere anytime soon.
BURNETT: Well, Erick, one person who it does not appear is now looking for the approval of Donald Trump is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. There are reports that he doesn't -- isn't seeking a Trump -- does not want a Trump endorsement for reelection. And, of course, anybody with even a passing interest in politics in America has run across a Ron DeSantis profile in the past two weeks. It's impossible to avoid the guy, right? He's everywhere. The other storyline, he may be the one Republican able to beat Donald Trump.
How real do you think this is, Erick?
ERICKSON: Well, look, I think it's very real. This actually reminds me, just -- for students of history, if you go back to 1998 when Bill Clinton was president, the Republicans were looking at this guy, you know, in Texas who is running for reelection. There were lots of major prominent contenders to be leader of the Republican Party.
They started to flirt with this governor down there named George Bush who galvanized the field and by 2000, everyone knew he was going to be a nominee.
Ron DeSantis is starting to have that feel. I mean, when you look at, Donald Trump had his polls -- released a poll yesterday showing DeSantis losing to Charlie Crist. No poll shows this except for Trump's.
That to me suggest that even Trump is a little bit worried about this and then today a poll out of New Hampshire for the very first time shows Ron DeSantis in a race-winning even with Donald Trump in the race. There's clear momentum for DeSantis right now.
BURNETT: So, Xochitl, you know, you hear Erick compared the DeSantis buzz to George W. Bush before he won two terms in the White House. You got to think about some context, DeSantis is 36 younger than Joe Biden, right? And many in your own party have raised concerns about Biden's age.
How concerned are you if DeSantis momentum is real and lasts and becomes the nominee versus Biden?
HINOJOSA: Well, I think the reality is that he needs to get to a primary. I think you're going to be very, very messy primary. I think people thought the Democrats were going to have a messy primary last time around. Well, Republicans will with this factor. So, I'm not necessarily worried about it yet, they come from the same
cloth. They have the same record. They stand for the same things. And Democrats will define DeSantis in that way as they would Trump.
I think the Republican Party needs to figure out whether they are the party of Trump and DeSantis, or whether they are the party of Larry Hogan and a more moderate. If they decide to pick Trump and DeSantis, I think it's going to be very hard for them to win.
Regardless, it will be a close race moving forward. Every presidential campaign is close, but the reality is that they do have records. And you will have a Democratic Party that tries to tie both Trump and DeSantis together.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both so very much. I appreciate your time and your perspective.
ERICKSON: Thank you.
BURNETT: All right. And next, a setback for Ukraine. Crucial U.S. military aid is said to be destroyed as part of the country are right now being pummeled by Putin's forces. This is a crucial moment in Ukraine.
Plus, Russia claims it has no idea where the two Americans captured in Ukraine are being held. Does the fiancee of one of the men believe Putin at all?
BURNETT: Russia tonight claiming it has destroyed American howitzers in Ukraine. Officials saying the army used high precision artillery strikes to block the howitzers that they say were made in the USA. These are weapons desperately needed as Ukraine attempts to turn the tide of the war.
As the key city of Kharkiv braces for another major onslaught, Sam Kiley is OUTFRONT on the ground.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prayers on return to her bombed out home.
OLENA, KHARKIV RESIDENT (through translator): I hope and believe with all my heart that light will conquer darkness, that peace will triumph over evil.
KILEY: It's a distant prospect because here, Ukrainians say that Russian forces are amassing for new assault on their hometown. She fled the last Russian attacks in April when this area, Saltivka, bore the brunt. Thousands of people were driven from their homes in this northeastern
suburb of Kharkiv. Hundreds across the city were killed in missile strikes that did this kind of damage to whole apartment blocks. The remains of some of those missiles are still scattered in the rubble here. It still smells of death.
Kharkiv is under constant and intense shelling and ending a lull after Russian forces were driven back several weeks ago. This college dorm was hit on a day when 15 people were killed in and around the city.
On the front line, it's easy to see why Russia calls one of its rocket systems Grad. It means hail.
Many Ukrainian fighters raise private funds to buy civilian drones. It's that a Russian soldier and here's the tiny aircraft, he shows potentially fatal curiosity. Less than 100 yards sometime separates the enemies on the outskirts of Kharkiv's north. Ukrainian forces call conventional trench warfare like this the meat grinder.
Loki has been fighting in those same dugouts.
LOKI, SPECIAL UNIT ODIN: The main disadvantage and everyone knows it, and it's the only one I will tell is the raw numbers. There are just too many of the forces and stuff.
KILEY: Ukrainian intelligence officers forecast for Kharkiv is a new threat of hail.
ANDRII MOGYLA, UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES: On this picture, you can see well hidden vehicles, and they are placing them almost -- we have firing positions of two self-propelled artillery, and the fire and control unit right here. They actually tell us that they are going to prepare another invasion of Kharkiv.
KILEY: Do you have an estimate when that might happen?
MOGYLA: I can't be 100 percent sure, but I am kind of confident. So in a week, I would say.
KILEY: This is proving to be a long war. Prayer often the last line of defense.
BURNETT: And, Sam, obviously you're live in Kharkiv tonight.
You know, talking to that soldier you were speaking to, he was talking about the disadvantage that he feels they're at just in terms of raw numbers. You know, how is the Russian advance that they have been enduring over these past weeks, impacting morale among Ukrainian forces as you see it?
KILEY: Well, Erin, I've now been talking to a lot of foreign fighters inside the Ukrainian armed forces and Ukrainian soldiers themselves over the many weeks now I've been covering this war. And there is a distinct and obvious drop in morale, no matter how much you talk up, they talk up the success of Ukraine's defense of Kharkiv, the very successful defense of Kyiv.
They are now openly talking, even the government talking about casualties of 100 to 200 dead every day. That's effectively a NATO battle group taken off the battlefield, because they would mean another 500 or so injured. Those are astronomical casualty figures. And they are to use this term, the meat grinder, because they are feeling that they are now being fixed in position that the initiative is returning to the Russians. The Russians have the mass, which means that the Ukrainians are not getting the weapons that they need to change the momentum back to their advantage.
Their advantage has always been move first, strike quickly and move away. If they get into a slugging match with the Russians, they know they could get round down almost completely, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Sam Kiley, thank you very much. Sobering but important to hear that reality tonight. Thank you so much from Kharkiv tonight.
And next, the State Department in touch with Russia about the two Americans captured in Ukraine. The fiancee of one of the missing men is next. What is she hearing from officials?
Plus, Senator Ron Johnson in the middle of the alleged fake elector scheme to overturn the election. This is far from his first controversy. Listen to Johnson railing against vaccines with conspiracy theories.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): We've heard story after story, I mean, all these athletes dropping dead on the field. But we're supposed to ignore that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, growing anger and distrust from families of American hostages being held abroad. Nineteen of those families demanding President Biden do more to bring their loved ones home.
It comes after the State Department had to apologize after the U.S. embassy in Moscow failed to connect Brittney Griner with her wife. That failure was due to a lack of staffing at the U.S. embassy.
Meanwhile, Alex Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh who were fighting in Ukraine, training Ukrainian forces, they say, are still being held tonight. Putin spokesman telling CNN he doesn't know where there are and saying that they are not protected by the Geneva Conventions. The State Department says it is in direct contact with Russia which obviously is important and significant but they said they're not getting answers. We've been checking in almost daily with Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh's
fiancee, Joy Black, about these developments and she is with me again tonight.
Joy, I appreciate you coming back on to talk about this publicly. I can only imagine how difficult this is for you just wanting Andy to be safe and to come home. I do know that you have been speaking with the State Department regularly.
Do they have any news for you today?
JOY BLACK, FIANCEE OF ANDY TAI NGOC NUYNH, AMERICAN MISSING IN UKRAINE: We're still waiting on concrete evidence for them to get back to us. But when I spoke to him today, he told us that this is a top priority for the State Department and the government. They're working very hard almost every single day.
BURNETT: So, Putin's spokesperson said to CNN that the Kremlin doesn't know where your fiance is. And, you know, I spoke with Alex Drueke's mom last night. I asked her about that, and here is what she said, Joy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUNNY DRUEKE, ALEX DRUEKE'S MOM: I would be very surprised if Russia didn't know what was going on because they indicate to the rest of the world that they are very powerful. They know a whole lot. And especially if these are Russian surrogates that are doing their bidding over there in Ukraine so they can annex all of that territory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Joy, what do you think when the Kremlin says that they don't know where they are?
BLACK: I think that it is very interesting of them to say that.
I did hear them say that and right now I just have to trust in the process, with our government. So, that's what I'm doing to try to stay positive. I do think it was very interesting that they had that to say.
BURNETT: So, today marks two weeks since you last spoke with Andy and I know that you got engaged just shortly before he left for Ukraine. Can you share a little bit more about him? You know, what made you fall in love with him? What kind of person he is so people understand the more of the man that is missing?
BLACK: Yeah. It's hard to condense him into a short answer but he's just -- he's always been so full of love and compassion -- especially when you we have such a close bond. He has always been so kind to me.
Anytime that I would feel down and self-conscious, he would always bring the backup. He would tell me that my hobbies, I'm doing great at them. And whenever when we would be getting ready to go and I would be feeling bad about myself, he would always hug me and tell me that I'm beautiful to him. He was always just the best really. And I just want him back.
BURNETT: Well, Joy, hopefully, he will be coming back and you will have news about him. I think we're all at least glad to know that the State Department is talking to you so regularly, giving you so many updates, telling you -- have they given you, you know, any sense of their conversations with the Russians or how they feel about those?
BLACK: What I've been told is that they are in contact with them although in terms of what they've been saying I think the press conference that they had recently speaks a lot to it, especially him mentioning that they are protected by the Geneva Convention and I think that the words from the Geneva Convention are very clear that they are protected by it as lawful combatants. So, I think that's good that they made that clear.
BURNETT: Joy, thank you very much for coming on, for talking and I hope that these updates are going to change. You're going to have good news about Andy. We all do. Thank you.
BLACK: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, Senator Ron Johnson, a key backer of Trump's attempt to overturn the election. And this is not the first lie that the Republican has peddled.
BURNETT: Tonight, dodging questions about fake electors, here is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responding to news that Ron Johnson's chief of staff tried to hand off an alternative slate of electors to Mike Pence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I think you have to ask Senator Johnson about that. I've been focusing on what we do here in the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Of course, Johnson has been asked and he is saying nothing to see here.
Sara Murray is OUTFRONT.
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): There's no conspiracy here. This is a complete non-story, guys.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to Senator Ron Johnson's apparent involvement in helping Donald Trump's allies try to put forward fake slates of electors --
JOHNSON: Some staff intern says the vice president needs us or whatever, I wasn't called.
MURRAY: -- the Wisconsin Republican says there's nothing to see here.
JOHNSON: We got handed an envelope that was supposed to go to the vice president, he didn't want it. We didn't deliver it. Guys, it's such a non-story.
MURRAY: Johnson's office says he didn't create fake elector slates for Michigan and Wisconsin and he didn't deliver them.
But ahead of January 6, he did embrace delaying the election certification.
JOHNSON: What we are saying is let's delay accepting a particular state's electors until we actually investigate what the issues are in that particular state.
MURRAY: Johnson's actions undermining the 2020 election among the many controversies he is weighted into, now being used as firepower by Democratic opponents as Johnson runs for a third term.
After the January 6 insurrection, Johnson condemned those who committed crimes, but said he would have been more fearful if he had faced Black Lives Matter protesters.
JOHNSON: I know those are people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, so I wasn't concerned. Now, have tables been turned and President Trump won the election, those were tens and thousands of Black Lives Matters and Antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned.
MURRAY: While many reviewed the remark is racist, Johnson has said that was not his intent. The senator often cast his controversial remarks on any number of issues as him merely asking questions, but has made headlines for his outlandish claims like dismissing climate change.
JOHNSON: I absolutely do not believe the science of a man-caused climate change is proven. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
MURRAY: And spreading misinformation about coronavirus vaccines, even baselessly suggesting athletes were dropping dead after getting the shot.
JOHNSON: We've heard story after story. I mean, all these athletes dropping dead on the field. But we're supposed to ignore that. Nothing happening here, nothing to see. This is a travesty, this is a scandal.
BURNETT: Sara, even today, you know, when Ron Johnson was answering a question about the electors and pretending that he was on the phone, saying that nothing is on your screen, nothing is on the phone. There doesn't seem to be any evidence that Johnson has backed away from any of these frankly, in so many cases, absurd claims.
MURRAY: No. I mean, he is not backing down from any of these controversies on the vaccine issue. He has said before that he wants to bring up the potential adverse effects so people are aware of them, even though there is no evidence that vaccines are causing athletes to drop dead on the field.
When it comes to the election results, a spokesperson for Johnson told me that he's concerned that in the past two elections, there have been so many Americans who've questioned the legitimacy of those results. And so, he believes that that should be inspected.
And, obviously, his Democratic opponents are seizing on these remarks and this latest controversy, a number have called him to resign.
Here is what his spokeswoman had to say about that. The senator has never considered resigning as a result of dozens of false attacks already made against him. Why would this absurd attack be any different? Erin?
BURNETT: Sara, thank you very much.
Thanks to all of you for being with us.
"AC360" starts now.