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Erin Burnett Outfront
Chinese Embassy Official Warns Of "War" With U.S. Over Taiwan; Senate To Hold Major Vote This Weekend On Package That Includes Largest Climate Investment In U.S. History; Biden Touts Strong Jobs Report Amid Recession Fears; Jury Awards $45.2 Million In Punitive Damages In Alex Jones Case; Biden: "Hopeful" Brittney Griner Will Be Released From Russia; NASA Halts Spacewalks After Water Leaked Into Astronaut's Helmet. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 05, 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, China retaliates, warning the U.S. of potential war as it carries out a new military exercises dangerously close to Taiwan. Will Speaker Pelosi's trip backfire big- time?
Plus, Biden's agenda gets a big boost as it appears, right now, his budget packages on track to pass. One senator held it up until she got what she wanted.
And Alex Jones just ordered to pay $45 million in punitive damages to the family of a Sandy Hook victim. What does this now mean for the conspiracy theorist?
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, China talks war. A top official of the Chinese embassy in Washington saying today, quote, Taiwan is one of the very few issues that might take China and the United States to conflict or even a war.
This coming soon after the White House summoned China's ambassador to condemn China's military activities near Taiwan. Activities, of course, that have gone into overdrive since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the island this week.
Today, 68 Chinese aircraft, 13 Chinese warships conducted activities around the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan says 49 of those jets entered its air defense identification zone. And Chinese -- China releasing this video showcasing military readiness. They're showing lines of uniformed troops at the ready.
Look, this is the latest military propaganda video released by China. Yesterday, they put up this one, a rocket launch toward Taiwan Strait. They've been conducting live fire exercises and they show multiple conventional missile launches. Right before Pelosi visited Taiwan, China released this video, and it showcasing its military might and claiming it will, quote, bury incoming enemies. They are showing off their warships, their fighter jets, their weapons, their troops.
All of this as China today announces it is suspending talks with the United States on a whole range of critical issues. And the United States is taking this very seriously, announcing that the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and it's escorts will stay in the region to monitor the situation. A long planned U.S. missile test has been rescheduled.
And now, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is issuing this warning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: These provocative actions are a significant escalation. They've taken dangerous acts to a new level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Selina Wang begins our coverage. She's OUTFRONT in Beijing tonight.
And, Selina, obviously, this is escalating and it has done so very quickly to this point. What is China telling its people about these escalations?
SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, there has been a huge outpouring of propaganda around China's response and the message here is that the U.S. manufactured this crisis by failing to stop Pelosi from traveling to Taiwan. So, they claim these escalations are completely justified.
And as you just referenced, state media is playing up how strong and unprecedented the military responses with these dramatic videos of the military drills that China is calling a blockade simulation. This signal there China is sending to its people but to the world is that it calls the shot in the Taiwan Straits. And its powerful, modernizing military could choke up time one for the rest of the world that any moment.
But for many here in China, this is still not enough. Many users, in fact, on social media have been mocking China's response saying that it did not live up to the extreme to hype up threats China had made ahead of the visit by Pelosi. But China's punishment is still increasing, its punishment of Taiwan and the U.S. are continuing to escalate. China announced it's suspending cooperation with the U.S. on a whole range of important issues, including talks on defense, anti- drugs, illegal immigration, and potentially, most importantly, climate change. Climate change has been one of the only areas where the U.S. and China have been talking despite recent tensions. Now, even that window for dialogue is being cut off.
When I speak to military experts about these recent drills, they say it's part of Beijing's long term coercion, a lot of it could not have been planned last minute. These are large scale military drills that were planned financed of any word of Pelosi visiting. But by picking all of them to Pelosi's visit, it whips up this patriotism and nationalism here at home. It's a shifting peoples attention away from all of the problems here, including growing unemployment and an economy suffering from China's ongoing zero COVID policies -- Erin.
BURNETT: Selina, thank you very much, live from Beijing.
I want to go to James Clapper now, the former director of national intelligence.
All right, let me ask you -- top official at the Chinese embassy says today that Taiwan is one of the very few issues that could take China and the United States to conflict or even a war. Obviously, these are words. These are big words, and we are now seeing a lot of action.
Could this turn into a war?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it could, Erin. Hopefully, cool heads are going to prevail here.
I think what is important here is to remember something about the Chinese psyche, at least, in my mind. That is the Chinese are still recovering from what they call their hundred years of humiliation. That's the period of western exploitation before the Chinese communist party became rulers and China in 1949. So, everything they do is, I believe, impaled by domestic comparatives. And the previous segment, I think, bears that out. This is a big deal at home.
And in the wake of Speaker Pelosi's trip, of course, the Chinese feel compelled for the sake of their psyche, their psychology, their security to put on a military exhibition which, hopefully, will not result in a serious, inadvertent incident. All of this against the backdrop of the forthcoming party Congress in which Xi -- President Xi Jinping will be indicted for a third term, probably for life.
So, he has to show a position of strength. So, could it lead to war? Well, sure. It is a high probability now than it was a week ago.
BURNETT: I mean, obviously, understand what you are stating, the reality here, but it's pretty stunning situation we find ourselves in. And, you know, you look at these videos China is pushing out, warships are all out, the USS Ronald Reagan is now there, right? How high here is the risk of a miscalculation?
CLAPPER: That's exactly right. That is what you always worry about in a situation like this where there will be an advert and collision by U.S. and Chinese ship, or worse, a midair collision which has happened before between Chinese and U.S. aircraft. And that's the kind of potentially incendiary situation that could rapidly escalate out of control.
Now, I believe the Chinese have planned out this, what I will call, military exhibition and because I don't believe they really want war with the United States anymore than we do with them. It's the inadvertent situation, the inadvertent incident that goes incendiary very quickly, out of control, which neither side wants, that is, I think, of concern to, certainly, the United States, to Taiwan, undoubtedly, and, for that matter, allies in the region.
BURNETT: So, Director, obviously, White House officials have privately tried to warn Pelosi not to go, but they stopped short of telling her that she couldn't, right? Now we have this ratcheting up tensions.
When you look at this, do you think the United States was prepared? Was ready, at all, for the ramifications of Pelosi's trip, and what comes next?
CLAPPER: Actually, I don't, unfortunately. I am not sure we were prepared for this. We are left, now, with imploring the Chinese to cool it, and not much else. I think if we were really concerned about this, if we're preparing for war, well, there is an aid package on -- in the Senate right now, which the Senate won't -- appears now, won't get to until after the recess. This is business as usual, at least in the Congress, with respect to our support to Taiwan.
So, yeah, my answer is no, I'm not sure we were prepared for the implications of the trip. Again, I understand the speaker's motivations here, and her commitment to democracy, over autocracy, et cetera.
But I'm not sure we as a collective enterprise, we're prepared for the implications of the visit.
BURNETT: Director, thank you very much for your blunt assessment tonight. I appreciate it.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, Democrats' budget bill on track to pass, but it isn't ending tax giveaways for some very, very rich people. Why do they get a break that Democrats are giving them?
Plus, this is one of the most significant weeks of Biden's presidency. He had witnessed on domestic and international fronts. But does that mean anything in terms of voters who are giving him very low job marks?
And $45.2 million, that's the amount a jury awarded Sandy Hook parents to punish their tormentor, Alex Jones.
BURNETT: Tonight, hours away from Senate Democrats starting debate on what would be a major legislative victory for President Biden. It's what Democrats are now calling the Inflation Reduction Act, sort of, Build Back Better has gone through many modifications, this is where they are now. It does include the largest investment in energy and climate programs in U.S. history. It also extends expiring health care subsidies and allows Medicare prescription drug prices for the first time.
Democrats, though, are still waiting to find out if they could even pass this with a single party line vote.
Manu Raju is OUTFRONT.
So, Manu, it's as if this was a done deal, now it is could they even get it through? Where are we right now?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, right now, the Democrats believe they have all 50 of their members in line after intensive negotiations over the last several days with Senator Kyrsten Sinema who ultimately cut a deal with Democratic leaders after raising objections to some key tax provisions that are part of the deal. Instead, they move in a different direction, including an excise tax on company stock buybacks, help make up the shortfall that is a result of her demands.
But because of their deal that she got behind as well as the support from Senator Joe Manchin, the two key holdouts, from Manchin in particular, who pared back the president's initial Build Back Better plan, they believe they have the support to push this through. But there are still some key hurdles in the hours ahead, including one from the Senate parliamentarian who still have to decide whether or not these key provisions in the bill with the test under the budget rules to allow this bill to be approved by a simple majority.
That is significant because in a 50/50 Senate, in a typical legislative process, 60 senators could require -- require a bill to overcome a filibuster. Because of the budget rules, they could pass this by Democratic votes alone. The Senate parliamentarian released a greenlight on that first. That's one big hurdle.
Another big hurdle? The voting. That's going to happen all weekend long. And Republicans plan to push forward a series of controversial amendments aimed at, essentially, muddying up this bill, paring back this bill, and trying to get Democrats to defect on some key issues, try to make it harder to get this bill out.
Democrats are hoping that could maintain unity as this bill goes through the legislative gauntlet over the next two days, and keep their party in line to get it out of the Senate, and at that point, Erin, if they do that, the House will come back next Friday to give this final approval after more than a year of internal wrangling. The party is on the cusp of a major legislative victory -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much.
So, one of the reasons it's been delayed and become controversial is that one of the pay force in this bill is now gone, one of the things that would pay for the more than 300 billion and spending. And the pay for that's gone was what Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema demanded in exchange for her vote. The tax increased that she would not support is closing the carried interest loophole.
Now, this is something we have been talking about on this show for a decade. It is a loophole, but both Democrats and Republicans have pounded the table to close. And here's why -- carried interest loophole boils down to this, small group of very wealthy people who manage other people's money get to pay about half the top tax rate on their income. So, instead of 37 percent, they pay 20 percent. That is how it goes. Day in, day out, year in, year out.
Critics of Senator Sinema say she opposes closing the loophole because of money. According to Open Secrets, she's received $2.2 million in contributions over the past five years from the investment firms whose employees benefit the most of this loophole, like private equity firm KKR, and investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Look, one blunt and honest billionaire, hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, called this loophole what it is, tweeting, the carried interest loophole is a stain on the tax code. It is an embarrassment, and it should end now.
And like I said, this disgust is bipartisan. President Biden has called to close a loophole many times. White House statement couldn't be more clear, quote: The president calling on Congress to close the carried interest loophole.
And, by the way, it's not just Biden. Here are both his predecessors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: The carried interest deduction, you have a lot of other deductions, that frankly, it's a joke. It's tremendous amount of money and it's money that they really don't need.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: We've lost the balance between work and wealth. I will close the carried interest loophole.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Obama failed, Trump failed, and now it looks like Biden is going to fail, too.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He is the chair of Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committee.
And, Senator Brown, there's a lot to talk to you about. But I want to start with this one, because you've pounded the table on this for years. You've introduced legislation to get rid of the carried interest loophole. It gets in this bill.
And now, Senator Sinema is single-handedly responsible for keeping it, for keeping it intact, keeping the loophole operating.
What do you say to Senator Sinema?
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): Well, so are the Republicans, key in keeping the loophole in there. But to me, we've replaced it. I can -- will continue to try to eliminate carried interest loophole. That's very important.
But we've replaced it with something much better that brings in more revenue, and frankly, stops bad behavior, or, at least -- at least diminishes bad behavior. That is that we are taxing stock buybacks.
Stock buybacks are ways that corporations when -- particularly after their huge Trump tax giveaway to largest companies in the country, corporations do these stock buybacks to raise their stock prices, and in which the executives, instead of spending that money on what would matter on lowering prices, on opening new facilities, on hiring or paying workers more, hiring new workers, they do none of that because of these stock buybacks.
So, this will decrease the number of stock buybacks, this tax on them, but it will also bring into the Treasury about five times as much money as the carried interest, closing the carried interest loophole. Again, we still should close it. But this is, in fact, better. And I'm thrilled it's part of it in.
BROWN: Senator Wyden and I, the chairman of the committee, have been working on this forever.
BURNETT: So, look, and important. You're saying it's five times bigger, and obviously stock buybacks have surged, and companies often do it, right? They buy back stock, fewer shares outstanding, price goes up, award those shares to executives. That's the path you're talking about.
But one more point on the carried interest loophole because I simply, Senator, have not understood why it has remained open.
I mean, let's take a look at Stephen Schwarzman as an example, the chairman and CEO of Blackstone, which is one of the biggest private equity firms on the planet. He is the 37th richest person on the planet, according to Forbes.
He has a real time worth of $31 billion. Last year, he got $150 million in carried interest earnings, right? And he paid half the tax on that that he would have if you had closed the loophole.
I ask you, Senator, because Trump tried to close it and failed, and Obama failed, and now, Biden is going to fail. What is it that makes senators go along with that argument, including Senator Sinema in your own party?
I mean, this is what -- this is what she said, okay, if you put this back in, I'll be on board with this bill. What is the argument that is working?
BROWN: Well, you point out your opinion of why she did that. The fact is, the other 49 Democrats, all of us wanted the carried interest loophole closed. But I'm neither going to defend the carried interest loophole nor defend -- I mean, President Trump could have closed today in his big tax bill. He clearly, in the end, didn't want to. So, I think, if it's Republicans, their biggest contributors come to
them and say, don't do this, and they don't do it. Forty-nine of the Democrats --
BURNETT: This is true, Senator. But the only reason -- the only reason that it's not going to close, right now, is because of a Democrat, Senator Sinema.
BROWN: Because of one Democrat. So, I'm not --
BURNETT: Right, but it is because of one Democrat.
BROWN: Sure, I don't disagree with that. But that's one Democrat. You have 50 Republicans and one Democrat. They want to keep that tax break for the Stephen Schwarzman billionaire class. That's unfortunate. I wish it weren't that way.
But I'm thrilled we are going to -- we're finally going to go after stock buybacks which will, number one, bring in, as I said, four times the amount of money, maybe closer to five times the amount of money. And at the same time will mean fewer companies do that if we raise it to 2 percent instead of one and use that money for invest -- to invest in housing, which we dearly need in this country, desperately need.
It would -- it would encourage -- it would discourage even more companies from doing it, so that's really the discussion we should be having, in my mind. That's what I will continue to fight for as Democrats, almost every Democrat, will continue to work to close that loophole you talk about.
BURNETT: So, the bill, obviously, has been a product of a year of back and forth. I know, look, it's not through here. You've got Manu saying, right -- I mean, there are imaginations and things that are going to happen all weekend.
But, you know, you've got some core things in here from the original discussions -- energy and climate programs, extending expiring health care subsidies, Medicare negotiating those prescription drug prices.
Obviously, there are some crucial things in there that President Biden and Democrats, including yourself, championed. Extending -- extended enhanced child tax credit is not in there. Paid family and sick leave are not in there.
You just wrote an op-ed. You urged Democrats to once become the party of American workers.
Senator, does this bill do enough, in your view, and are you sure it's in the can, that you've got it by the end of the weekend?
BROWN: Well, Manu, I have known for years and talked to him, and watched him, on the air, and talked him, and he's -- he is a very good analyst. He is a little more pessimistic than I am because we're going to pass this by late Sunday night, early Monday morning. I'm very confident of that.
And the reason this is really pro-worker is it takes on three of those powerful interest groups in Washington, that three interest groups, frankly, that have contributed more to inflation than anyone else -- the oil companies, the drug companies, and Wall Street.
It takes an oil companies because it will reduce the price of gas, as we incent and invest in clean energy, it takes on the drug companies, because for the first time after 20 years of trying, we're actually going to negotiate drug prices directly with the drug makers, the way Canada does, and the way the Veterans Administration does, in bringing drug prices down 50 percent in many cases, especially helping people that are -- that take, that have diabetes for the insulin.
And third, it takes Wall Street on in a big way, and the way we just talked about, by taxing stock buybacks.
So, all of those things are huge victories. The drug companies never lose around here, ever, because every time they want something, every Republican goes with them, and it makes it hard to keep all the Democrats.
This time, we did. We succeeded in taking on the drug companies, the oil companies, and Wall Street. That's a huge victory for American workers.
And that's why -- I mean, if you love this country, you fight for the people to make it work. That's what we're doing this weekend, and it's really good for the country.
BURNETT: Senator, I appreciate your time.
And you heard the senator say he believes it will pass late Sunday night, early Monday morning.
Well, next, win after win for President Biden this week, but does this give him momentum with voters, including some in his party who doubt his political strength?
And nightmare scenario, astronauts in danger. NASA putting space walks on pause due to space suits that could kill them.
BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden touting a, quote, extraordinary July jobs report, showing 520,000 jobs added, way better than anyone had expected.
Still, though, Biden admits inflation is a major issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know it's hard to feel good about job creation when you already have a job, and you're dealing with rising prices, food, gas, and so much more. I get it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The jobs news capping off a series of winds for President Biden. In a little more than a week, voters in Kansas rejected an abortion ban, U.S. operation killed al-Qaeda's leader in Afghanistan after a 25-year manhunt, Senate passed a bill Biden and his team have fought hard for in a bipartisan vote. That was the bill to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the U.S. from China.
And this weekend, what Sherrod Brown was talking about, likely passage in the Senate of Biden's latest iteration of a Build Back Better bill. The question is, though, does all this add up to what Biden would need, which is a massive political turnaround in terms of the polls?
OUTFRONT now, Amy Walter, publisher and editor in chief of the Cook Political Report, and Ron Brownstein, our senior political analyst.
So, Ron, let me start with you. Biden had had a lot of bad news coming his way, and the poll numbers, approval ratings, poll numbers even among three quarters of Democrats didn't want him to run again. But now, he's got momentum, a lot of wins.
Can this changes and his party's political trajectory?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Erin, the history is it is very difficult in the near term to convert legislative success into political momentum, individually. I mean, the Republicans lost seats after the Trump tax cut in 2017, they lost seats after the Reagan tax cut in 81, Democrats, obviously, lost a lot of seats after the ACA passed in 2010.
And perhaps, the biggest example, the most productive modern Congress history, the great society Congress of 65, 66, Democrats lost about 45 seats in that midterm election, that even lost ground with seniors despite creating Medicare which had been a battle for over 30 years.
So, in the near term, it's hard to make that translation. The longer term is very different. Many of the things Democrats have done could come back to their favor by 2024. That is sort of the case in a lot of these earlier examples.
And there's one other element of this I think is politically quite important, which is this package, if you're going to pass it this weekend, it includes the biggest investment ever in dealing with climate change. And that is a big win for young voters who have very little reason to be excited about Biden or about voting, it could be an important motivator in that sense.
BURNETT: So, Amy, a key question looming over Biden, of course, in all of this is whether he will run again. Ron is obviously making the distinction between the midterms, which are very soon, and the presidential election itself. But you know, at least two Democrats in Congress may have said they don't want him to run. Others, like Democratic Congressman Carolyn Maloney have said they don't think you, will and she apologized for saying that and set it again anyway. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): Mr. President, I apologize. I want you to run, I happen to think you won't be running.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, Amy, she was saying it again. It's a messy situation for Democrats like Maloney to be in, right? And they are looking at the poll realities, which is some 75 percent of Democratic voters in the most recent CNN poll say they want someone other than Biden to be their nominee. But then you did have this long list of achievements across a lot of different areas, right? Economic, foreign policy, social policy with the Kansas abortion voting decision.
Do Biden's wins have any chance of turning this around?
AMY WALKER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT WITH AMY WALTER: So, even in places where the president is really popular, like Carolyn Maloney's own district in New York City, a poll came today, the president has an 81 percent approval rating, and only half of the voters in that district think that the president should run again.
So, the correlation between liking him and wanting him to run reelection, those aren't necessarily going together. I think the big issue for Democrats isn't so much about to see going to look like at the end of 2024, but what is the president going to look like at the end of a second term, when he would, obviously, be in his 80s?
And, look, I think a lot of others who went out and supported then candidate Biden in 2020, many of them went in there, consciously or not, thinking this was going to be a one term deal. He didn't really think that this was going to be something they were going to be pondering about whether he would run for reelection or not.
Now, the midterm elections, where individual members of Congress, those who sit in swing districts, they are taking the opportunity to separate themself from a president who, as Ron points, out still has pretty low approval ratings and don't expect even to win the successes the administration has had this week to see much of a bump in his overall approval ratings.
So, it's the dance that many members in swing districts have to make in most midterm elections. Look, let's see what happens at the end of the midterm. Let's see what the results look like. If it's better than expected for Democrats, that could give a little bit of a boost to Biden.
At the same time, the issue of his age isn't going to go away regardless of how much success the administration has.
BURNETT: So, Ron, there is the Biden side of things, right? The wins and perception of him in the party, whether that changes.
Then, on the Republican side, this plays significantly as well, right? Tonight, we've officially projected Kari Lake, Trump-backed election denier, has won Arizona's Republican primary for governor. She joins the other Trump endorsed election deniers who want Arizona's Republican primaries for senate, secretary of state, and attorney general.
That is Arizona, Ron, right? Election deniers one key primary races in other crucial states Trump narrowly lost -- Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. So, the question is what this means for Democrats?
The Republican base, riles them up, that's great for the Republican base. But moderate Republicans, independents, they may look elsewhere. Will those election denier victories help Democrats in the general election, and the midterms?
BROWNSTEIN: I think they will in almost all cases. A critical, at least, with independent voters who usually vote Republican. Republicans have made this much tougher on themselves then this midterm needed to be by nominating candidates who, in many ways, doubled down on all of the rhetoric and messaging, and policies that have driven away white collar suburban voters around the country, from the GOP, and the Trump era, who might have been open to coming back because they were dissatisfied with Biden, or inflation.
You know, many of these same candidates, or election deniers, are also very I think -- very severe positions on abortion with no exceptions.
One place I will be watching, Erin, as a miniature of all this, what does Doug Ducey do, the governor of Arizona? He certified that 2020 election as fair and clear of fraud. He now has an entire ticket of Republican nominees who are saying either that he is lying or that he is naive, and he essentially presided over a corrupt election.
Is he going to come out and endorse those candidates? And I think he is a perfect miniature of the roughly 20, 25 percent of GOP voters who don't accept Trump's lies about the election. Are they going to say, yeah, I'll vote for a Republican because the Democrat is worse? Or are they going to say, Kari Lake and Tudor Dixon and Mark Finchem are good (INAUDIBLE)
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate it.
And next, the late breaking news, a $42.5 million victory for Sandy Hook parents. A jury hitting Alex Jones, who repeatedly lied about children massacred at the school, with a massive, massive amount of money.
And now that Brittney Griner has been sentenced to a Russian penal colony, Vladimir Putin may be ready to negotiate a deal for the release. But where is Griner tonight?
[19:41:55] BURNETT: New tonight, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones just ordered by a jury to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to the parents of Jesse Lewis, a six-year-old who died in the Sandy Hook shooting massacre.
Just yesterday, the same jury ordering Jones to pay more than $4 million in compensatory damages for falsely claiming that the massacre, which 26 people, including 20 children were murdered, was a hoax.
Miguel Marquez joins me now.
Miguel, you've been covering this entire trial. So, you have the compensatory damages yesterday, and now these punitive award is massive. What are the chances this family sees the combined total of what was awarded by this jury, which is $49 million?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, probably not very good at this point. In Texas, they have a law that caps punitive damages, and lawyers for Mr. Jones have already said they are going to follow that route and say that under the law, only $750,000 per plaintiffs, two plaintiffs in this case. So, about $1.5 million in punitive damages is what they expect.
Lawyers on the other side say it's not that clear. But all of that aside, given that Mr. Jones has tried to claim -- he's in the middle of a bankruptcy proceedings, there are two other cases he has been held liable for for defamation, one in Connecticut, another in Texas, and the claim will be he is going to try to hide his money and even the forensic economist, they had on today valued his various businesses. He has nine different companies, and valued them anywhere from $135 million to $270 million, but said that, in 2021, once these judgments started to come down against, and he started to pull money out of those companies.
So will they be able to get it? It's not very clear.
Mr. Jones's lawyers say this is a First Amendment issue, and it's already under attack.
The mother of the young man, the six year old man -- young man who died almost ten years ago at Sandy Hook says, after this was done, Mr. Jones is a bully that she was pleased to be able to look him in the eye, she was afraid to do it before she got up there. But once she looked him in the eye, she said she felt like her son who had the presence of mind to say run to the other classmates there, saving nine of their lives that day -- Erin.
BURNETT: Miguel, thank you.
I want to go to our senior legal analyst, former federal prosecutor Elie Honig.
So, Elie, Jones's lawyers objected to the jury's decision. They say Texas law caps punitive damages at $750,000 per plaintiff. So, obviously, nowhere close to the 449 million that they were awarded, but the judge has not ruled on this.
So, what now?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Right, Erin, so the plaintiffs are going to counter argue here that the law that sets the cap, the law that sets that limit is, itself, unconstitutionally. The argument is going to be the Texas state constitution guarantees everybody the inviolate right to a jury trial, and if you have a legislature passing laws that limit punitive damages, that violates that constitutional right.
Now, this argument, actually, has succeeded in a few other states around the country. The problem here, though, is twofold. First of all, the very next sentence in the Texas constitution after guaranteeing the right to a jury trial says, but the legislature can pass whatever laws it needs to regulate jury trials. I think the argument is this would be such a law. And ultimately, this has to go up to the Texas state Supreme Court which is not likely to look favorably on that kind of argument.
But the plaintiffs' lawyers have said they are going to pursue this argument, Erin.
BURNETT: So, the closing argument was emotional today. Miguel mentioned that. The parents' attorney said this to the jury. Listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WESLEY TODD BALL, ATTORNEY FOR JESSE LEWIS' PARENTS: We ask you send a very, very simple message. That is stop Alex Jones, stop the monetization of misinformation and lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Besides calling Sandy Hook a hoax, Elie, Alex Jones has claimed that sources inside NASA told him the space agency faked part of the moon landing. He said COVID isn't real, and the U.S. government is responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. Those are various things at various times that he said.
And in the course of this trial, the question, Elie, has Jones opened himself up to any other legal problems and rulings like the one he got today?
HONIG: Well, Erin, the biggest problem for Alex Jones is he appears to have lied on the stand during this trial. At one point, he testified that he had never texted anyone about the sandy hook massacre. Guess what? There are texts of Alex Jones's --
HONIG: -- where he talks about the Sandy Hook massacre. So, this trial itself was about Alex Jones's disgraceful, disgusting
lies about the massacre, and in the course of this defamation trial, he lied again on the stand. So, this is going to be a decision for Texas state prosecutors whether they want to bring a criminal perjury charge against Alex Jones as well.
BURNETT: Elie, thank you very much.
And next, Russia saying publicly it is ready to talk about a prisoner swap involving Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. But will Putin follow through?
And space suit crisis. Decades-old faulty equipment, possibly now putting astronauts' lives at risk.
BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden says he's hopeful a prisoner exchange will bring two Americans detained in Russia home. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signaling publicly for the first time a willingness to negotiate some sort of a swap. The U.S., of course, has offered, you know, the prominent Russian prisoner in the U.S., a notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, in exchange for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.
Russian opening the door to talks a day after Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian labor camp.
Frederik Pleitgen is out front in Moscow. He was in the courtroom for Griner's sentencing. You saw her, you saw that reaction, Fred. Now Russia making it clear that Putin is ready to negotiate.
How close are the two sides to a deal, do you think?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you could still take quite awhile. But it certainly seems as though there is finally some momentum on all of this.
One of the Brittney Griner's legal team have been saying all along is they believe that a verdict needed to be place and a swap could take place. And, you know, as we see now, just a day after the verdict took place, the Russians are now saying they're willing to negotiate.
Now, the Russians however are also saying they want all of this to happen behind closed doors. It's hard to overstate, Erin, how irritated the Russians were when the U.S. went public with the fact last week that they had put forward a substantial offer and today, once again, the Kremlin saying that there is a mechanism in place for the two sides to negotiate something like this. But they also say that if even some details come to light into the public, that an exchange simply cannot take place.
So, what we're looking for negotiations to take place behind closed doors and then hopefully for something to happen in the not-too- distant future, Erin.
BURNETT: Obviously, leveling that threat that any leaks would take everything off the table. You saw Griner there as she was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony and then obviously she was taken away. Do you know where she is now?
PLEITGEN: Yeah, absolutely. She's in the same detention facility that she's been in the whole time. She's not been brought to that penal colony yet. I was in touch with her legal team today right after they actually visited her. Obviously, they're saying that she's still pretty much taken aback by that verdict but she was feeling a lot better today and she's in fighting spirit.
What they're going to go right now is they're going to file an appeal against the verdict that took place and the good thing for Brittney Griner is, as long as that appeal is processed, she's going to stay in this facility just outside of Moscow and not be moved to a penal colony which is tougher and much further away from the Russian capital.
And you're looking to get that appeal through. Those appeals go pretty quickly in Russia. Unfortunately, Erin, they're not often successful.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Frederik Pleitgen from Moscow tonight.
And next, a former astronaut, calling them old clunkers. That's a nice way of putting it. They're space suits from way back in the 20th century and right now, they are threatening the lives of astronauts in space.
BURNETT: Tonight, space walks at the International Space Station are halted and the reason is concerns about the safety of decades old space suits worn by the astronauts. Decades old. NASA calling the need for new space suits critical.
Kristin Fisher is OUTFRONT.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is water coming in?
KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer was wrapping up a seven-hour long space walk outside the International Space Station when we noticed water leaking into his helmet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we should accelerate the steps to get him out of the suits here.
FISHER: They got him out but the incident was similar to what happened to an Italian astronaut back in 2013. LUCA PARMITANO, ITALIAN ASTRONAUT: I feel a lot of water on the back
of my head.
FISHER: Water from the cooling tubes inside Luca Parmitano's space suit was leaking into his helmet and he almost drowned.
PARMITANO: For a couple of minutes there I experienced what it's like to be a goldfish in a fish bowl from the point of view of the goldfish.
FISHER: It's a nightmare scenario, according to veteran space walker and former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman who became the first space suit engineer at SpaceX.
GARRETT REISMAN, FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT: Now, obviously, if you filled the helmet, you can't breathe and you can't take the helmet off. So, you're in a bad, bad place. And it got very serious.
FISHER: NASA has now stopped all space walks at the International Space Station until Matthias' faulty space suit is returned to earth later this month for an inception. Even if it's fixed, the underlying problem is that these space suits or EMUs are decades old and there's not many left.
REISMAN: That big white space suit has heritage that goes back to Apollo. So, pre-1975. The helmet is the same as the helmet we wore on the Apollo suits.
FISHER: NASA knows it's a problem.
ROBERT CABANA, NASA ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR: I think it's critical to have a suit that works for everyone.
FISHER: NASA is now partnering with two commercial companies to develop its next generation space suits but those likely will not be ready until at least 2025.
REISMAN: NASA has gotten quite good at keeping these old clunkers running. I think NASA has a really capable team that will keep these suits going as long as they have to. But the right thing is to get a new suit and the sooner the better.
FISHER: Kristin Fisher, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: It's really unbelievable.
All right. Thank you so much for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.