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Erin Burnett Outfront

Sources: Trump's Lawyers In Direct Talks With DOJ Officials; Jury Orders Alex Jones To Pay $4.1M To Sandy Hook Parents; Russian Court Sentenced Griner To 9 Years In Prison; U.S. Teacher Excluded From Griner, Whelan Prisoner Swap Proposal; Report: Trump Allies Launch Recall Campaign For Georgia D.A.; State Rests Its Case In Parkland Shooter's Death Penalty Trial. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 04, 2022 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, a CNN exclusive. Sources say Trump's legal team is talking with key Justice Department officials about the criminal probe into January 6th.

Plus, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, tonight ordered by a jury to pay the parents of a 6-year-old killed in the Sandy Hook massacre more than $4 million. A mass shooting that Jones once publicly claimed was a hoax.

And a reprehensible sentence. That's the response from the White House tonight after WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony, even as Biden offered Russia's most infamous prisoner to bring her home.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the CNN exclusive. We are just learning that former President Trump's legal team and the Justice Department are now in direct talks about the federal investigation into January 6th. This is a significant development because it is the first time that we actually know that they're talking, right? It shows Trump is involved in this. The two sides are speaking, as Attorney General Merrick Garland's investigation ramps up.

According to sources, these talks revolve around whether Trump would be able to shield conversations that he had while president from federal investigators. Now, keep in mind, the context on this is that we have just learned that the Justice Department was gearing up to battle former Trump officials who might try and keep their conversations with the former president from federal investigators.

I want to go straight to Katelyn Polantz. She helped break this story.

And there are so many crucial details here, Katelyn, that you have been breaking. So tell me what you can. What more are you learning about these talks? And considering they're with the former president's attorneys, with him, what does this mean for the DOJ's investigation? KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR REPORTER, CRIME AND JUSTICE: Well, Erin,

it really is significant that they're talking here, Justice Department criminal investigators looking into January 6th and Donald Trump's defense lawyers. What they're talking about is this interest Trump has to protect and keep secret if he can conversations he was having in the White House.

This all is coming after a steady drum beat of developments in this grand jury investigation out of D.C. in recent weeks. We know that prosecutors have been asking about top Trump campaign officials in their fake elector probe. We know they're searching devices of lawyers Trump was close to after the election and then two top officials from the office of the vice president went into the grand jury and would have been able to testify about most of what they witnessed except for some of those direct conversations with Trump.

So over this last week, a court fight over executive privilege has been brewing. We don't have confirmation it happened yet between Trump and the Justice Department and then we know and were able to confirm that White House counsel Pat Cipollone and one of his deputies, Pat Philbin, were receiving subpoenas going into the grand jury.

So, with all of that foundation, these direct talks come in between Trump and the Justice Department. And they're about preventing some of these grand jury witnesses from testifying about everything, where the lines are that Trump has, that he wants to draw around himself and around the presidency.

BURNETT: Certainly, it seems extremely significant, Katelyn. So the next step then is, well, this is Trump's attorneys. So he's obviously fully in the loop here. How is the former president responding to this?

POLANTZ: Well, Erin, in a lot of ways, it appears to be typical Trump in this situation. Sources are telling our reporting teams on this that Trump's lawyers have warned him indictments are possible and they're talking about defense strategies. But Trump when he's hearing this, he's asking if they really believe he would be charged with any crime. He also seems to be skeptical that these types of cases would materialize either out of the federal investigation or this grand jury investigation in Georgia.

We also know that he's not fully listening to the advice he's getting because his advisers cautioned him to stay away from people who might get swept up in the January 6th probes, that includes his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who was so central in the White House after the election as Trump wanted to unravel his loss but Meadows is still in that circle with Trump and, Erin, we understand they are still in touch.

BURNETT: All right. Katelyn Polantz, thank you very much, with all that new reporting.

So, let's go to Kim Wehle, former federal prosecutor. She's also the author of "How to Read the Constitution and Why", along with John Avlon, our senior political analyst. So, Kim, what is the significance of this and how concerning is this

as a development for former President Trump?


KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, Attorney General Merrick Garland has been very tight lipped about this investigation, but I agree with his predecessor, Eric Holder, who recently said that we are likely to see indictments of Donald Trump. So, that's kind of the big question. I do think it's coming down the pike.

Here, it sounds like the Justice Department is concerned about drawn out litigation around executive privilege. In this moment, it's Joe Biden who actually controls executive privilege. That doesn't mean it can't get teased out and, of course, the Supreme Court in United States versus Nixon held that grand jury investigations can supersede executive privilege.

So I think Donald Trump is going to lose that battle, but the fact that his lawyers are engaging in this and telling him that he better beware, indictments could come, I think it's very serious news for the president, former president, but very good news for democracy, the rule of law and the Constitution, frankly, Erin.

BURNETT: Well, obviously, significant that you're saying that you see that, that that is where this is going from your analysis.

John, sources tell CNN that Trump is talking with his advisors, his inner circle, about that issue, whether he'll be indicted. And there's no question about it, the Justice Department is clearly accelerating their investigation. Maybe they've been moving more quickly than people give them credit for.


BURNETT: They now have all the ducks up and it's boom, boom, boom, boom, right? It is getting closer and closer to Trump.

AVLON: It certainly seems to be. This reporting is significant. It establishes the fact that the Department of Justice and Trump's lawyers have been in direct contact. That is huge.

But I do think they need to be careful about saying that will necessarily lead to the indictment of the next president. You know, we're not there yet. And I think it's important we proceed with what we know.

What we do know is not only questions about privilege but also the lens seems to be focusing on the White House and people in the White House and Trump's immediate orbit's role in this. But let's just proceed with what we know. But it is historic what we're learning today without getting to the question of whether or not Donald Trump will definitely be indicted.

BURNETT: So, Kim, you know, I don't know if you remember the reporting recently on the heels of Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony about ketchup on the wall, that Trump reached out to somebody he never ordinarily reaches out to and after that Hutchinson's testimony. And we are now learning that he's ignored his lawyers' advice to avoid speaking with current and former aides who are actually embroiled in the January 6 Committee 6 investigations, specifically Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff. Trump has been instructed to cut out contact with him because, of course, Meadows could become a fact witness if he ends up being pushed to cooperate with federal investigators, right, has to choose between himself and Trump when it ultimately comes down to it.

What does it mean, Kim, for Trump legally that he is reaching out to these aides when he's been told not to?

WEHLE: It just means that these conversations that he has about potentially the events leading up to, during and after January 20th, after he left office, right, January 6th, January 20th, they would not be covered by executive privilege under any conception of that because he was no longer president. So his lawyers probably said, listen, don't talk to Mark Meadows who is at the center of all this, Cassidy Hutchison testified that he burned documents, right? There were some allegations that his team might have sought to interfere with her testimony.

So, Mark Meadows is at the center of all this. If the Justice Department gets him to sit down in front of a grand jury and really spill the beans and maybe cooperate, I think that also bodes poorly for him.


AVLON: Yeah.

WEHLE: Although I agree, of course, it's speculation. I'm just saying down the road, I think it's a fair assumption that we're going to see some indictments. If not from the Justice Department, from the Georgia probe relating to the election.

BURNETT: Right. Well, and Trump always being the one I hope there are tapes when he knows there aren't, but it's his way to get people to question whether someone's being honest. At this point in the investigation, it would seem very reasonable for a lot of people having conversations to be recording them. I'm just saying you shouldn't be talking to anybody if you're not willing to have it out there, you got to take that risk.

AVLON: Yeah.

BURNETT: John, so Trump's former impeachment lawyer Ty Cobb told me that Meadows is perfectly positioned to be the John Dean of this mess. Now, he was referring, of course, to Nixon's former White House counsel, the Watergate whistleblower. What would Meadows' cooperation with federal investigators mean for Trump?

I mean, are they -- is he going to be the person who ultimately gets this over the line and without him it doesn't get there or not? ALVON: Well, it may very well be because presumably the chief of

staff is the person who knows the most about the president's intent and state of mind in and around January 6th. You know, the John Dean parallel, Nixon is as close to parallel as we've got here. You heard the precedent of executive privilege coming up and now John Dean.


So, I actually called John Dean before coming on to see what he thought of the parallel. And here's what he said: look, you know, it is -- there are parallels to the extent that John Dean flipped when he thought he was being set up to be the fall guy. And there have been suggestions that maybe he'll try to blame it on Meadows or Eastland -- Eastman and that is an issue.

The difference is, though, is Dean was sincere. Tapes showed that he had been opposing a lot of the worst impulses inside the White House and it was a young enough man where he could remake his life.

The constraints of Meadows are different, it seems to me, in fundamental ways. First of all, he seems to be a go along, get along kind of guy. Second of all, the impact of the partisan economy in corrupting people is profound. You know, Mark Meadows' retirement plan effectively is to monetize his role as chief of staff and being a good soldier to Donald Trump and the party.

And that's a constraining factor that's very different than what folks in the Nixon White House faced, just as the existence of hyperpartisan media is also a different factor than folks in the Nixon administration placed into (ph).

BURNETT: Absolutely. John, Kim, thank you both very much.

AVLON: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, pay up. A jury has just decided that Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist, must be pay more than $4 million to the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook massacre.

Plus, WNBA star Brittney Griner sentenced today to nine years in a Russian penal colony. Now that she's been convicted, will Biden offer even more in terms of a prisoner swap?

And walls riddled with bullet holes and the floors still smeared with blood. What the jury in the Parkland school shooting trial witnessed today, as they returned to the scene of the crime.



BURNETT: New tonight, a jury ordering conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, to pay $4.1 million in damages for lying about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and calling it a hoax.

Now, it is a far cry from what the parents sought, which was $150 million. These are the parents of a six-year-old, Jesse Lewis, one of the 20 children and six adults killed in the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Now, Jones repeatedly claimed that the shooting was staged. But when it finally came, now, right, ten years later, till the trial, he said he now believe it to be 100 percent real.

Donie O'Sullivan is OUTFRONT.

And, Donie, look, we don't know at this verdict was going to come. Obviously, it came really just before we came to air. $4 million, an award the family had asked for $150 million. What -- how are they're responding to the news?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin, of course it seems like a drop in the bucket. We've heard, in this case, how much money Alex Jones has made down through the years, tens of millions of dollars through his companies.

The parents of Jesse Lewis, responding tonight saying, that they are thrilled, actually, with the results and look forward to putting Mr. Jones money to good use. But, of course, again, it is a very far away from what they initially asked for.

BURNETT: So, explain where we are because you've got this, but this is not the end, right? I understand the jury comes back tomorrow and they will be talking about the punitive damages that Jones may owe if the court finds his behavior especially offensive. Can you put that into English, and tell me what that means in light of this for $4 million we found about out today?

O'SULLIVAN: So, what we could learn is that Jones may have to pay up a lot more and given, we have seen, you know, so much evidence in this trial of how malicious, you know, so much of this behavior was in the effect that it had on families and Jesse's parents in that same statement from their lawyer tonight said that, you know, Jones will not sleep easy tonight.

And look, I think it's also important to point out that, you know, Jones is that the nexus of so much in this country right now, and the place that is countries in. I think this trial really showed that. We saw that the real effect that these conspiracy theories and lies have on families like those, the parents of the Sandy Hook children, and then also, of course, the role that Jones played in relation to January 6th, and now, of course, interest in the context of his cell phone.

So you can really see, from the political, to the very personal, the effects and corrosive nature of conspiracy theories.

BURNETT: And, certainly, obviously, he's trying to declare bankruptcy, you talk about all the money he's learned, it's unclear whether payout will actually even be versus what the jury is now awarded, never mind what happens tomorrow. But there are other legal cases facing Jones, right? O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, and I mean, look, I think somebody pointed out

during the trial that speech is free, but there should be a cost to lies. Jones has more legal fights ahead of him, but we've also seen on his show, on his network online, that he's not stepping away. His enterprise is not stepping away from still kind of spinning all of this B.S.

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

And next, Brittney Griner, the WNBA star, found guilty today in Moscow, sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison, in some sort of a penal colony. Of course, by any measure, this is unjust for the crime. But could today's sentence mean that Biden offers Putin even more for Russia's most wanted prisoner in exchange?

And new calls for the State Department to help bring home Marc Fogel, another American you may not have heard of right now is serving a 14- year sentence in a hard labor colony, after being convicted of minor drug possession charges. His sister is OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: Moments ago, 42 seconds of silence for Brittney Griner at tonight's Phoenix Mercury game. The WNBA star wears the number 42. She was sentenced today to nine years in a Russian prison, after pleading guilty to drug charges. Griner staring straight ahead, as her verdict was read, sentence for her life now. It is a shocking one, coming after Biden actually had offered Russia's most well-known prisoner in the U.S. in exchange for Griner's freedom. Putin didn't take it.

Earlier, though, Griner was emotional.


BRITTNEY GRINER, AMERICAN DETAINED IN RUSSIA: I had no intent on breaking any Russian laws. I had no intent, I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime. I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling, that it does not end my life here.


BURNETT: Today's sentence comes after Griner's arrest more than five months ago at Moscow's main international airport. Customs officials say they discovered vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage. She maintains she accidentally put them in her suitcase and that she has a prescription for medical marijuana.

President Biden releasing a statement today that reads, in part: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately.

OUTFRONT now, Kylie Atwood at the State Department.

And, Kylie, you know, you have broken so much news on this and, you know, Biden's offer of the most well-known Russian prisoner, of arms dealer, Viktor Bout, to try to get Griner back. That has not resulted in anything thus far.

What more are you learning about what the Biden administration will do next?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well, no doubt, Erin, that today's sentencing puts more pressure on those negotiations, right? I think there are a few factors to consider here.


First of which, the Biden administration officials have always believed that a sentencing was necessary in order for a prisoner swap to actually come to fruition. So, they may view this as a positive moment in the direction towards a prisoner swap, because Russia could come back to the table with some serious counter proposals, given that the Biden administration said, their previous counterproposal wasn't a serious one. But you also have to consider the fact that President Putin may view Brittney Griner as having leverage over the United States. This is not exactly a great moment in terms of U.S., Russia relations. So they may not be willing to come back to the table seriously right now.

What the White House has said thus far is they aren't willing to detail where President Biden stands in terms of if he's willing to put more on the table to put a new president or swab on the table. But the Biden administration faces increasing pressure from the family, from the teammates, from the supporters, of Brittney Griner, with one congresswoman saying today that the Biden administration has more cards in the deck and essentially urging them to put a more formidable, put a heavier proposal on the table to the Russians.

So, they are facing all of these pressures and we will watch to see how this unfolds over the next few weeks, now that this critical sentencing of nine years is in -- Erin.

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

Let's go now to the Democratic Congressman Colin Allred because he's not just a member of the foreign affairs committee, but he's been working with the State Department specifically on Brittney Griner and getting her home.

So I really appreciate your time.

I mean, look, you knew there is going to be a verdict. You know, did you -- did you think it was going to be this? Were you at all surprised today?

REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX): Not surprised. But still heartbroken because it was heartbreaking to see Brittney in distress and to really see the toll that this process has taken on her.

But in many ways, Erin, it is actually a positive. I know this is hard to understand for some folks, it is actually a positive that we've gotten to this point already. Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan had to wait much longer before they got their trials, and their sentencing.

And it is true that from the beginning, we believe that it wasn't until the sentencing was actually finished that the Russians would actually negotiate with us in good faith.

So, it is actually moving forward, as depressing as today is, seeing a nine-year sentence for such a minor thing that in most cases in Russia would only result in a fine. It is actually, in some ways, a positive that it's happened so quickly.

BURNETT: All right. So that's important to explain. But where we are is that the Biden administration offered to exchange both Griner and Paul Whelan, who you mentioned, for Viktor Bout, right? The infamous arms dealer, the most well-known, you know, publicly Russian prisoner, right? Nicolas Cage played him in a movie.

Russian officials responded saying, okay, add Vadim Krasikov, a former colonel from their spy agency, to that deal as well.

Now, that's been described to us as not really a serious offer. How do you see it? And do you have any sense of where negotiations stand now?

ALLRED: Yeah. Well, I really can't confirm or deny any of the reports about what exactly was put forward in our package. I just know that it was a strong one and one that we have taken to the highest levels of Russian government, and ask them to consider.

And they have said, repeatedly, that under Russian law, they could not even consider a prisoner swap until we reach this point.

So I do think that now is the time where we'll see the negotiations in earnest, and expect, hopefully, a counteroffer of some kind.

What my colleagues and I in Congress have tried to do, working with the administration, is to make sure they know that we support their efforts to try and get Brittney and Paul Whelan home, understanding that it's going to have probably a high price.

BURNETT: Right. Now, look, I'm sure I'm not alone when I hear Russians citing rule of law and their rules, and when they're going to do things given what we're seeing -- you know, the behavior in Ukraine and other things. I mean, they say that when they want to say it.

So, to that effect, Congressman --

ALLRED: That's right.

BURNETT: -- do you feel like the U.S. has given Putin, in anyway, an upper hand by making these negotiations public, and frankly, by offering something like Viktor Bout before there was a sentence, when they -- when they knew Russia was saying, wait until after she's sentenced?

ALLRED: Well, I trust the administration. I think they made the fact of the offer, not the details, which is still -- listen, I'm not confirming that -- but the fact of the offer public. They did that, I think, to pressure Russia to make a counteroffer and to show how seriously they're taking trying to get Brittney and Paul Whelan home.

You know, we have a fundamental disconnect here, where in America, we value every single American citizen so highly that we'll do almost anything to get them home. In Russia, people are expendable and that's just true. Some are more valuable than others in Putin's Russia. And so, they are going to be using this as a way to try and get some leverage over the United States.

But I know that the equities that the Biden administration is weighing is, what can we do to get Brittney and Paul Whelan home without harming the long term national security of the United States?


They're not going to do that. But whatever they do, I think to get her home as soon as possible, that -- I think, that clock, in many ways, has really started now.

BURNETT: Congressman Allred, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

So, now, you've heard the congressman lay some of this out. Paul Kolbe, the former chief of the CIA's Central Eurasia division.

So, look, good to talk to you again.

So, you know, look, the U.S. has offered, we understand from our reporting, both Griner and Paul Whelan in exchange for Viktor Bout, right? The infamous arms dealer. Hou -- closest thing to a household name of Russian prisoners in the U.S.

Russian officials say add that former colonel in, Vadim Krasikov. He's accused of murder and he's in German custody right now.

So, how do you see this, Paul? Does Putin have the upper hand here or is that not the way to look at it?

PAUL KOLBE, FORMER CHIEF, CIA'S CENTRAL EURASIA DIVISION: No, I don't think that's a way to look at it. Look, Russia has taken political prisoners, taken hostages, for decades. It's a tried and true mechanism for them to spring their own criminals or their own spies, who have been caught and convicted.

You go back to when Colonel Abel was exchanged for Francis Gary Powers, U2 spy pilot. So there have been exchanges of prisoners for a long time. In this case, Russia is always looking to find trade bait. So they will manufacture cases, they will set people up, or they will exploit very minor crimes with extraordinary sentences.

BURNETT: You know, you hear some people say that on some level, this is personal for Putin, perhaps in part because of Ukraine, but also because who Brittney Griner is, right? A member of the LGBTQ community, an African American.

Is this in any way, I don't -- I guess using the word personal might be a little bit off, but is it personal for Putin, this particular situation, or not?

KOLBE: No, look, I don't think anything is personal for Putin. He looks at things with a cold, dead eyes. Look, they simply saw a hostage that they could take that they saw would have high publicity value, high emotive value.


KOLBE: Paul Whelan sat in jail for a number of years and we've not had the same degree of publicity. So they probably calculated pretty well. Here's an opportunity, we are going to grab it. We are going to squeeze it for everything it's worth.

It's not surprising that they've come out with this so-called counter offer, if that's accurate, looking to spring convicted murderers. This guy, Krasikov, was a bicycle assassin who gunned down political asylee in Germany, in broad daylight, in the middle of a park. No moral cohorts (ph).

BURNETT: So, when does this happen? They dragged it out for years, does this happen sooner than that?

KOLBE: I have no idea. But it certainly could drag out for years. Look at how long Whelan has been sitting in prison. Look at how long Khodorkovsky (ph) sat that in prison. Look at how long Navalny is going to sit in prison.


KOLBE: They are perfectly happy to have that play out. When they get to the right point, when they feel that they could cut a deal, when they reached that tipping point, then they may do it, when Putin perceives it to his advantage.

But I think, echoing the words of a congressman, it's important to note that U.S. does look after its own citizens and will -- despite how unseemly it might seem -- how an equivalent is to trade this, we are looking out for the best of our own citizens. I simply say, don't go to Russia. You will be vulnerable.

BURNETT: Yeah. All right. Paul, thank you very much. I appreciate your perspective.

And next, I'm going to speak to the sister of Marc Fogel, who was sentenced to 14 years in a Russian penal colony recently. He, too, was arrested with a small amount of medical marijuana. But he's not in on this exchange list. Her reaction to Griner's sentence.

And new reporting on an effort by Trump's allies to oust the Georgia D.A., leading that investigation into Trump's efforts to overturn the election.


[19:38:15] BURNETT: Tonight, the hometown paper of an American held prisoner in Russia is calling on the Biden administration to do more to get him back. Marc Fogel is a 61-year-old teacher from the Pittsburgh area. He was recently sentence to 14 years in a hard labor camp for possession of medical marijuana -- 14 years in a hard labor camp.

Like Brittney Griner, Fogel was arrested when he arrived in Russia with half an ounce of marijuana was found in his luggage.

An editorial in today's "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" urges the Biden administration to treat his case with the same urgency as Griner and Paul Whelan's, saying, quote: While the U.S. State Department treats them as wrongfully detained, it does not treat Mr. Fogel that way, although he was arguably imprisoned for less reason than they were. The State Department has yet to explain why it treats the cases so differently. If it does so, Fogel may miss out on any potential horse trading that could bring him home from Russian prison with the other two.

Anne Fogel is OUTFRONT now. She is Marc's sister.

And, Anne, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about your brother.

I mean, you know, the story is incredible. He's detained under extremely similar circumstances as those of Brittney Griner.

So, first, what's your reaction? She gets a nine-year sentence in a penal colony. Your brothers now starting a 14-year sentence in a hard labor camp.

ANNE FOGEL, SISTER OF MARC FOGEL: Well, you can see how completely out of whack the sentencing is to the crime, especially when you are looking at the fellow that they are trying to trade for him, who shot a man in broad daylight. It's some -- it's so -- it's so demoralizing that the Russians are taking it to this extreme.


And, of course --

BURNETT: Anne, I know you've said that you felt Marc was given basically what amounts to a death sentence. And, you know, I just want to ask, what's it been like for you to hear the U.S. government talk about Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan? I'm sure you want them to come home to, of course, but they're talking about them, they're putting those names on the table to try to put out a deal, but they're not mentioning your brother's name.

FOGEL: It's really -- it's very hard to hear that. And I have not given up hope. I'm really -- I have -- I have a lot of faith that they are working some other deal, that they are going to pull some card out of their sleeve at this point. To leave him there would be really inhumane and I know that that's not how our country works.

They really can't leave him behind. He's 61. He's in there for bringing medical marijuana in for a very chronicle -- chronic pain condition that he has.

After he -- after he was sentenced, he fell at the detention center that he was at, and he was sent to a hospital detention center, and he was there up until this week. And he's miraculously been cured, and he doesn't need treatment.

Of course, we know that that's not true. And we -- we're just trying to bring his story to light. He can't be there, he cannot stay there. And they have to bring him home with the other two.

This is -- this is the package for someone like Viktor Bout. There should be -- there should be more gusto given by the government. We need more gusto for this, better negotiating.

BURNETT: You know, have they talked to you? Are they talking to you about, you know, why they haven't formally classified him as wrongfully detained yet, which is, you know, technically something they need to do to engage in these sort of prisoner swap for him? I mean, have they -- have they been responsive or explained anything to you?

FOGEL: They have -- they have not really explained anything at all, other than the fact that my brother perhaps did not check a box that he should have when it came to this and giving information to family. We're really unclear on why we're not getting better information. We've had nothing, really.

And we have --

BURNETT: Anne, I hope that --


FOGEL: -- amazing outpouring of support from his students and from his colleagues. It's been amazing. There's a petition, I think there are over 12,000 signatures on it at this point.

They need to listen, they need to listen. This is an amazing person who has put so much more in than -- into American diplomacy, that he's never going to get credit for. He's been teaching American and international (ph) children for 35 years. So, we need them to pay attention.

BURNETT: Anne, I hope that they will. I hope that they'll hear you. Obviously, this is such a difficult moment, but a crucial moment, and hopefully one that can draw attention to your brother, in addition to Paul and Brittney. Thank you so much.

FOGEL: Thank you so much. We really appreciate the opportunity to share this story.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I'm glad to talk to you.

And next, the investigation that could be former President Trump's biggest legal threat heating up. Trump's allies are now pushing to recall the district attorney leading it. It is a long shot, but this is an important story.

Plus, jurors touring the scene of a high school massacre in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead, as the state rests its case against the shooter.



BURNETT: New tonight, team Trump's latest target. "Yahoo News" Michael Isikoff reporting that allies for former President Trump in Georgia are now putting a campaign to recall Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. She is, of course, leading the probe into Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 Georgia election. The organizers admit that the recall campaign, which Trump is reportedly aware of is a long shot, they don't care because their goal is to politicize this and damage Willis. You'll see the quote.

Keep in mind that many legal experts believe that this criminal investigation in Georgia could be the single biggest legal threat to Trump, could lead to criminal charges. One of them thinks this is the biggest threat is former White House lawyer, Ty Cobb, who told us, quote, the Georgia case, under the control of Fulton County district attorney, appears to pose a serious threat of indictment to the former president.

Keep in mind, Ty Cobb is Trump's former defense attorney.

And Michael Isikoff is now OUTFRONT with his reporting.

So, Michael, let's just start first with Fani Willis, the DA, right? She's been very aggressive on her investigation when it comes to the pace it has moved rapidly. You've got a grand jury, says she's looking to wrap up by next month. So, that puts a taking time clock on what team Trump is trying to do. What are they, exactly trying to do?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: What they are trying to do is muddy the water. And, you know, the argument is Fani Willis is a Democratic district attorney, she has targeted Donald Trump. This is political, that's the argument from Trump allies.

And so, game on, we are going to politicize this. We are going to make this a political issue. We are going to make the argument that Fani Willis is ignoring crime in Atlanta, escalating murder rates, violence on the rise, and instead focusing on Donald Trump. So they are going to argue that this is a -- this is disqualifying on its face, Fani Willis should be replaced.

As you point out in your introduction, this is a long shot.


Georgia recall law is exceedingly stringent and you need 30 percent of all the registered voters in the relevant jurisdiction, in Fulton county, that's 800,000 voters, 300,000 would be needed to sign those signatures. That's a pretty steep call for the recall folks.

But I don't think they are really thinking about getting this on the ballot. This is all about politics, muddying the water, and making the argument that somehow, the investigation is political and that it is a legitimate.

BURNETT: And, I mean, from your reporting, right, they would consider that a win. Which is incredible to say this, right? That if you further degrade peoples' belief in the rule of law and institutions in this country, they consider that a win. I just want to maybe transit this a little bit differently.

But they are telling you this directly. It's not that you are coming here and sort of paraphrasing.


BURNETT: One top Georgia Republican said to you, quote, the purpose is to politicize it, right? The literal quote to you was, the purpose is to politicize this. You, Willis, want to make this a political game, we'll make this about politics.

I mean, they admitted to you, Michael.

ISIKOFF: Exactly. You know, this source, who is directly involved in raising money for the recall was quite clear. And look, this is a piece of Trump's strategy, much larger than this. You know, he's also facing the potential of a district -- of a Justice Department indictment.

Now, we should point out, and you indicated that in your intro, the Willis investigation is further along than the Justice Department investigation. She's been moving much more rapidly. Rudy Giuliani is going to be appearing before a special grand jury in Fulton County next week.

Lindsey Graham has been subpoenaed for phone calls he made to Brad Raffensperger. He's challenging that. There's going to be court arguments on that coming up in the next few weeks. So, this is really heating up in Georgia.

Now, on the national stage, Trump is facing the DOJ investigation, and he is talking about announcing his run for president, potentially right after the November elections, as a way to forestall Merrick Garland indicting him. His thinking seems to be if he announces as president, it will make it that much harder for the Justice Department to indict a candidate for president at this time, a Republican candidate.

So, Trump is on both fronts doing everything he can to try to politicize this.

BURNETT: All right. Michael, thank you very much, with your reporting tonight.

And next, jurors touring the Parkland Florida high school, where 17 people were killed in 2018. What they saw were bloodstains still covering the walls.



BURNETT: Tonight, the state resting its case against Parkland School shooter, Nikolas Cruz. Jurors today, visiting the Florida school building, where he killed 17 people, now faces the death penalty.

Leyla Santiago is OUTFRONT.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 1200 building has haunted the Marjory Stoneman Douglas community for four years, a crime scene left untouched since February 2018, for this state. Today, jurors would walk through what remains after the horror unfolded within those walls.

After survivors escaped, the bloodstains, the shattered glass, Valentine's Day gifts, even random shoes, were left behind. Today, jurors side all.

IVY SCHAMIS, FORMER MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS TEACHER: I kept thinking about these kids that should not be experiencing this.

SANTIAGO: Former teacher Ivy Schamis remembers what she left in room 1214 that Valentine's Day.

SCHAMIS: There's a box of Valentine chocolates sitting on my desk with puppies on it a student brought me.

SANTIAGO: The jury will have to decide if cruise gets the death penalty or life in prison, after pleading guilty to 17 murders and 17 attempted murders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there something that you would like to tell the jury about your dad?



HIXON: I miss him.

SANTIAGO: Far more damage left behind for loved ones -- agony, an emptiness that will never go away, strains on relationships.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a void in our life that will never be filled.

SANTIAGO: For days, loved ones told the court about the realities of their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Helena was murdered on her father's birthday. SHARA KAPLAN, MOTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM, MEADOW POLLACK: To try to

articulate how it has affected me would be for me to rip my heart out and present it to you shattered into 1 million pieces.

SANTIAGO: Testimony that brought even the shooter's defense team to tears. This all comes after weeks of the prosecution making the case that this was a methodical and calculated school shooting. Prosecutors showed the jury's social media posts by the shooter months before the massacre, some reading, quote: I'm going to be a professional school shooter, and multiple posts expressing hatred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just want to kill people.

SANTIAGO: There were also Internet searches including one for, quote, good songs to play while killing people.

Revelations in a court and at the crime scene that explain to a jury what led up to the massacre that forever changed a school, and shattered lives in this community.

SCHAMIS: Just being able to say the truth of what happened in front of the shooter, like, that does not happen very often. Most of these mass shooters don't survive these shootings. I'm sorry to say I really don't have any sympathy for him. I really don't. I don't hate, I don't hate anyone, but he deserves whatever he's going to get.


SANTIAGO (on camera): And Schamis, the teacher at the end there, was teaching Holocaust lessons that they before she had to rush out. Jurors who went into a classroom likely saw what a small group of reporters saw today, a blood stained book titled, tell them we remember, or even the learning objective who went into a classroom likely saw what a who went into a classroom likely saw what a small group of reporters saw today, a blood stained book titled, tell them we remember, or even the learning objective that's still on the wall that reads, be aware of the world and its surroundings -- Erin.

BURNETT: Leyla, thank you so much.

And thanks so much to all of you for being with us.

"AC360" starts now.