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Erin Burnett Outfront
Washing Post: Trump Advisers Were Pressed For Docs As Early As May 2021; Interview With Education Secretary Miguel Cardona; L.A. Measure Requires Hotels To House Homeless Next To Paying Guests; U.S. Service Member Injured In Rocket Attacks In Syria; Missile Strikes Across Ukraine As Country Marks Independence Day; Parts Of Texas Overwhelmed By Migrant Deaths At Border. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 24, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, we just want everything back. That's in "The Washington Post" reporting tonight that the National Archives pleaded with Trump for documents as early as May of 2021. What finally convinced Trump to hand over some of the documents he took to Mar-a-Lago.
Plus, Republicans say it gives away too much. Some Democrats say it doesn't do enough. Biden student loan debt announcement under fire tonight. The nation's education secretary is OUTFRONT.
And forcing hotels to house the homeless. A controversial measure that would require hotels to offer vacant rooms to the homeless who would be staying alongside paying customers. Will it pass?
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan, in for Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, warnings ignored. More evidence tonight of just how long the National Archives fought and pleaded with Donald Trump's legal team to get documents from the former president. According to "The Washington Post," about 100 days after Trump left office, the National Archives realized documents were missing from Trump's White House.
According to an email obtained by "The Post", Gary Stern, an attorney for the Archives, emailed a Trump lawyer in May of 2021, the subject, quote, need for assistance regarding presidential records. Stern went on to write, it is also our understanding that roughly two dozen boxes of original presidential records were kept in the residence of the White House over the course of President Trump's last year in office, and have not been transferred to the archives, despite its determination by Pat Cipollone in the final days of the administration that they need to be.
Stern citing at least two high profile documents missing, letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and the letter from former President Obama to Trump. Throughout the fall then, Stern, according to the post, continued to request help in getting these documents returned. It took eight months until January of this year before Trump would return anything. But as we now know, he still held onto more.
This comes as the Department of Justice is finalizing its redactions to the highly sensitive affidavit that was used to justify this month's search at Mar-a-Lago. Those redactions are due in less than 17 hours from now. And even if a highly redacted it could still offer important details about the investigation, like information regarding conversations between Trump and federal prosecutors about returning documents.
Also tonight, President Biden is setting the record straight for the first time responding to the Mar-a-Lago search, and Trump's claims that he knew about it in advance.
(BEGIN VDIEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, how much advance notice did you have of the FBI's plan to search Mar-a-Lago?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't have any advanced notice, none, not one single bit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Evan Perez is OUTFRONT live in Washington for us tonight.
Evan, this newly revealed email from the Archives to Trump's attorneys is showing how far the archives went to get documents and how long they were working at this.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it really shows that almost from the time the former president left office, there were these efforts by the National Archives, first, as you can tell, very gently, almost pleadingly to try to get some of these documents. Of course, once they did get those documents earlier this year, Kate, we know that's when all the alarm bells went off. That's when this investigation really became a criminal investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information and potentially obstruction of justice, which is where we are.
And that's what we want to see from the -- from what the Justice Department is getting ready to file with this judge.
Now, we don't know what this judge is going to do. We know he's -- obviously he know what's in this affidavit. He's very familiar with it, and he says he's very comfortable with what he approved. We're going to see whether the Justice Department is going to at least perhaps unredact some of the things that have now become public, the things that the National Archives has released, things that the Trump campaign or the Trump legal team has made public. So at least at a minimum, those things could be unredacted as part of the release of this. Of course, we don't know how long the judge will look at this, and maybe ask the Justice Department to go a further step.
It's clear he believes that there is some transparency that is needed here, because of the unprecedented nature of this search, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Yeah, Evan, thank you.
OUTFRONT with me now is Laurence Tribe, constitutional law professor at Harvard who also consulted with House Democrats on the first Trump impeachment.
It's good to see you again, Professor.
You heard about this new "Washington Post" reporting that the Archives says about two dozen boxes of Trump's presidential records were not transferred to the Archives at the end of the president circumstances all despite the determination by his top lawyer that the documents needed to be returned. What do you make of that?
LAURENCE TRIBE, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, it was the determination by White House counsel Pat Cipollone that the documents didn't belong to the president, they had to go to the Archives. That determination was communicated to the president through Mark Meadows. That put the president on notice that these important documents, some of which turned out to have been not just secret but top secret, all ultra top secret that needed to go to the government. Because the government needed to know information contained in those documents.
Were they, because they had been in the White House residence for a while and now at a resort that had been penetrated by Chinese spies, were they in the hands of enemies of the United States? What did we need to do to protect ourselves from their potential release?
This was a matter of urgent importance to the national security, and any claim by the president that, well, I didn't know that these didn't belong to me, that's nonsense. He knew. He was warned.
And any claim that the search was some sudden surprise has gone out the window. It's clear that the government tried and tried again, through getting the cooperation of the former president, although he keeps calling himself the president as though he were still in office, they kept trying to get these things voluntarily. He claimed to have turned them over.
And then it was discovered that some of the top secret documents had been withheld. That was the point, when all alarms went off, and when it became necessary to conduct a search of Mar-a-Lago. That's where we are, and that's very serious.
BOLDUAN: Do you think, with this new reporting, do you think this takes the heat off of some of the people that were around Donald Trump and working for him around this period of time and puts more heat back on Trump himself?
TRIBE: Sure. I mean, he tries to deflect any time he can. He's like the opposite of a heat seeking missile. He's a heat deflecting missile. But in the end, it all comes back to him, and the chickens are coming home to roost. BOLDUAN: We're waiting for the justice department to submit its
recommended redactions to the Mar-a-Lago search affidavit. Assuming the judge does release something. How heavily redacted do you expect it to be?
TRIBE: You know, the judge is going to try to release something. He's made that clear. He's also made clear as of yesterday that he's now quite persuaded that the danger to the United States and to sources and methods to particular individuals out in the field would be so great, unless they were massive redactions, that what is left when that blackened Swiss cheese is released, might be utterly meaningless.
So in the end, even though the judge made clear that he's making every effort to be transparent, national security, as so often happens, is going to prevail. And I don't think we're going to learn very much until finally there is an indictment, as I hope there will be, of the former president.
BOLDUAN: We're also waiting to see Trump's legal team's next move, after a separate judge says they have until Friday to better explain now asking for a special master, among other things. How much work, after reading that filing, how much work do you think they have to do to make a convincing case to the judge?
TRIBE: They may need to go to law school. I mean, the Judge, who was a Trump appointee, was really very generous to them. She basically said, you've got to explain why you're in the wrong court, 67 miles or so from Mar-a-Lago, when, in fact, the magistrate that I appointed is the right court. You have to explain the statutes of which you are filing, the exact relief you want to get. Basically, it would get a failing grade in a first-year law school class.
And on top of that, these lawyers still haven't got it right when it comes to figuring out how to file in the state of Florida, that they are representing Donald Trump. So it's really basically Keystone cops. And it would be funny if it weren't so tragic.
BOLDUAN: Let's see what happens come Friday.
Thank you. Lawrence Tribe, it's very good to see you. Thanks for coming in, Professor.
OUTFRONT for us next --
TRIBE: Thank you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: -- Ryan Goodman, the co-editor in chief of the "Just Security" blog and the former special counsel for Defense Department, and Alyssa Farah Griffin, former White House communications director for then President Trump.
Thanks for being here, guys.
Ryan, back to "The Washington Post's" new reporting that as Lawrence Tribe was talking about, Pat Cipollone was, at the time, obviously Trump's counsel, and then in this back and forth with the National Archives, it really admits over a year ago that there were about two dozen boxes of records that should have been returned, that they -- that had not been returned.
What do you think of this?
RYAN GOODMAN, CO-EDITOR IN CHIEF, JUST SECURITY: So I think Evan is right that the initial communications we have, they're gently and pleadingly reaching out to president Trump's team to ask for the documents back. I do think it's important at what point they turn those pleading statements into a demand. After the point of a demand, then it really triggers Trump's criminal liability under the Espionage Act, because the Espionage Act is written as you have the return the documents once you receive a demand from somebody who's entitled to receive them.
So I think that's one part of it that we see. And the other part is how far back this goes. It's been a struggle pulling teeth to get the documents, which contradicts the filing that the Trump team put in, saying we invited them to Mar-a-Lago to get the documents. It shows quite the opposite and it's only eight months and 13 months later in June when they finally come again knocking to get documents that have not been released to them.
BOLDUAN: Yeah, Alyssa, "The Post" reports that two documents were known to be missing at the time that were noted were letters from Kim Jong-un and a letter from president Obama to Trump. Also reporting that president Trump was -- the way they put it, was a pack rat who had been overseeing his collection of White House records. Does that track with the Donald Trump you worked for?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It does track. I know, especially the Kim Jong-un letters, he prized -- those were prized possessions to him. He actually ended up sharing some of the content of them with Bob Woodward for his book.
I mean, two things here, the former president doesn't fundamentally understand that presidential documents are American documents. They don't belong to him, they belong to the American public.
But secondarily, to Ryan's reporting, this contradicts the notion that he was caught off guard and this was a surprise raid. They have been asking for these documents for some time. But I would also note this, the Kim Jong-un letters, while it sounds silly and the press referred to them as love letters, there's a possibility they could be diplomatically sensitive. Obviously, the United States and North Korea don't have diplomatic relations.
So we don't know in the public how old those letters were obtained. They could have come through third party intermediaries and by having them out and not protected that could expose sources and methods.
BURNETT: That's interesting. Also, Trump reportedly only decided to return some of the documents after he was warned that the National Archives would be forced to notify congress. Does it surprise you it was that threat that swayed Trump? GRIFFIN: I think so. I get the sense, especially from just this ad
hoc filing that you're seeing from his attorneys, that he thought it was going to be able to get away with this, and he was not taking the Archives seriously in these requests.
The one thing I want to note, though, is the most important aspect of this, in my mind, and for I think how the public is going to view it, is these classified documents. If you actually in fact, as you have seen reported, have special access programs included, TS/SCI materials, that's what even I think Republicans and my party are going to say okay, eventually that is damning. That is damaging.
If it turns out to be oh, we're fighting over a letter from Obama, Republicans are going to reject that outright and I think a lot of the public will be. But that's not what the reporting indicates.
BURNETT: And wait to see until we see it. I think you're spot on with that assessment.
And, Ryan, tomorrow is deadline day for the Justice Department to offer up these proposed redactions to the search affidavit. What did you expect is going to happen tomorrow?
GOODMAN: So, I think tomorrow, you might see nothing, because they'll have to file it under seal, because they're saying this is what is secretive. So I think it will be a while before we determine or see what the judge has to say about it.
I also agree with professor tribe that, in a sense, the judge already said that he approves of the Justice Department's view, a large set of category of issues that just should be redacted. But at the same time, the public might be left with something, because the judge recognizes a very important public interest with all of these media companies asking for some information.
BURNETT: I also think there's something to just seeing the process is working appropriately. Even if it does look like blacked out Swiss cheese, seeing the reason behind all of it, that level of transparency is important to see as so many people are watching this process so closely.
It's good to see you, Ryan. Thank you. Alyssa, thank you so much. It's good to see you.
GRIFFIN: Thank you.
BURNETT: OUTFRONT next, millions of Americans are about to get a break on their college debt. But President Biden is facing pretty fierce criticism from both parties about this. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is next.
Plus, the death toll is rising after a strike on a crowded strain station in Ukraine as Russia is accused of ramping up its attacks. Air raid sires are now being heard in Kyiv. We're live on the ground tonight, six months since the start of the invasion.
And the grim reality on the border right now. A morgue that is filled to capacity, because migrants aren't making it to the U.S. alive.
BOLDUAN: Tonight, President Biden making a big announcement and taking criticism from both parties over his student debt plan. Republicans saying he's deserting the middle class. Some Democrats arguing it doesn't go far enough. The NAACP accusing Biden of abandoning Black Americans.
Biden today even acknowledged he's not making everyone happy with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, I understand not everyone -- not everything I'm announcing today is going to make everybody happy. Something is too much. Something is too little. But I believe my plan is responsible and fair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Here are the details. Borrowers will get $10,000 in loan forgiveness. That number goes up to $20,000 if you had a Pell Grant. This applies to people making less than $125,000 a year.
The plan also extends the COVID era student loan payment pause through the end of this year.
OUTFRONT now, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.
Secretary, thank you for being here this evening.
So, we heard the president acknowledge that not everybody is happy with this plan. So what -- what are you saying to people to convince them that this is worth it?
MIGUEL CARDONA, EDUCATION SECRETARY: You know, it's not hard to convince. Forty-three million people across the country are going to benefit for what was mentioned today. Forty percent of those people, 20 million people, are going to learn -- learn today that their total debt is canceled. You know, that's going to help them get back on their feet.
So I'm proud of this. The president campaigned on $10,000. Today, he delivered $20,000 for Pell recipients. And that's not all. I think -- you know, what doesn't get as much attention, Kate, but I think that's really important, we're improving income-driven repayment.
So for generation to come, folks aren't going to be tethered down by college loan debt. We're fixing a broken system. BOLDUAN: That aspect was a definitely a broken system. But just,
fundamentally, if this is a good thing, you'd think there'd be -- Washington would say it's a good thing, or maybe not considering what you think of Washington. But if this is such a good thing, why are so many people upset about it?
CARDONA: Look, the people that I'm talking to are thrilled. I talked to a teacher yesterday who said, this is going to help me. Now I can help my daughter go to college.
I've gotten communication from folks all over the country saying we needed this, thank you.
You know, I think what the president was referring to earlier, but it reminds, a lot of reopening. You know, I had people telling me, don't open schools, it's unsafe. I have other people saying, if you don't open it, you're doing a disservice to students.
We're delivering for the American people based on what we know to be true. We cannot have folks worse off now than they were before the pandemic because of the pandemic. And the president delivered today.
BOLDUAN: So the average cost to attend a four-year college, full time, per year has gone up something like 180 percent over the last 40 years. The numbers are astonishing.
"The New York Times" also noted at something I think that is important here for people to understand, the amount that people owe in federal loans taken out for college is more than they owe on car loans, credit cards or any consumer debt other than mortgages.
And here's the thing: this plan that is being offered is just a band- aid. Why focus on band-aids instead of running head on into the root of the problem which is the cost of higher education?
CARDONA: Absolutely. Now, I think it's a band-aid if we're only focusing on the loan forgiveness. I'm just as proud of the income- driven repayment. I'm just as proud that the president is fighting to double Pell. And I'm just as proud of our efforts to increase accountability in higher education here.
Absolutely right, Kate. It's gotten out of control. So we're calling out those colleges that don't provide a good return on the investment. We're taking away the privilege of accreditation of some institutions that are letting for-profit institutions take advantage of first generation college students. I'm just as proud of the work that we're doing to revamp a very broken system.
Look at what we've done with public service loan forgiveness. We are on track to improve a broken system so more Americans have access to a higher education.
BOLDUAN: I hear you. But some of what you laid out isn't necessarily approved yet, isn't necessarily going to be in place. It's some of what the president says he's still going to fight on to do from here on out. CARDONA: Yeah.
BOLDUAN: So then you have Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, he called the plan a slap in the face and astonishingly unfair to working Americans.
But some Democrats agree there, like Tim Ryan of Ohio. He's opposed for the same reason.
I want to play what the president said, his response when he was asked about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Is it unfair to people who paid their student loans or chose not to take out loans?
BIDEN: Is it fair to people who, in fact, do not own multibillion dollar businesses if they see one of these guys getting all the tax breaks? Is that fair? What do you think?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Answering your question with another question is not really answering your question.
So, to you, how is this fair to people who paid their student loans or fair to people who chose not go to college but will now be helping to foot the bill to pay for this?
CARDONA: Ninety percent of the money will go to people making under $75,000.
And in terms of folks who already paid their loans, we recognize -- everyone knows someone that's still tethered in debt. And that person might not have their loan, but they might have their child's loan. So, that might help them. Plus, the income-driven repayment is going to be a game changer to lessen loan payments.
We are fixing a broken system. It's not a band-aid. You know, as we share more information, I think people are going to realize what's in the details. We're fighting for increased Pell.
And you mentioned some of these things still have to be approved. Before today's announcement, we approved $32 billion in loan forgiveness. We've gone after those institutions like Corinthian, ITT, DeVry.
We're not -- we're full steam ahead, making sure we're fixing a broken system.
You know this, 98 percent of people that applied for public service loan forgiveness -- we're talking teachers, police officers, you know, nurses, were denied before President Biden took office. To date, we've provided over $10 billion in loan forgiveness for public servants, people who chose to serve their communities.
So it's more than a band-aid. We're fixing decades of neglect in this administration. In just a year and a half, we've done a lot and we're going to continue to fight for borrowers and for our students.
BOLDUAN: And you can see from some of their reaction, you're going to have a fight.
It's good to see you, though. Thank you so much for coming on, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. I appreciate your time.
CARDONA: Thank you. Thank you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, it's a controversial plan to address homelessness, requiring hotels to give vacant rooms to those on the street, and staying next to paying customers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's insane. It isn't going to solve the problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Plus, we have breaking news. Several rockets targeting coalition bases in Syria, and we are now learning at least one American service member has been injured. We have details coming up.
BOLDUAN: Tonight, L.A.'s hotel industry is sounding the alarm on a new proposal to address the city's growing homelessness crisis. If passed, the plan would require every hotel in Los Angeles to offer vacant rooms to homeless people, staying alongside paying guests. But many hotel managers and local politicians say this is not the answer.
Nick Watt is OUTFRONT.
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Los Angeles County, more than 60,000 people are homeless on the average night. And, more than 20,000 hotel rooms lie empty on the average night.
See where this might be going?
STUART WALDMAN, PRESIDENT, VALLEY INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE ASSOCIATION: It's insane. It isn't going to solve the problem.
KURT PETERSEN, CO-PRESIDENT, UNITE HERE LOCAL 11: We think this is one part of the solution. By no means that we think this solves the homelessness crisis. But do hotels have a role to play? Of course they do.
WATT: So, the union he leads which reps hotel workers gathered enough signatures and Angelinos will vote on a bill that would force every hotel in town to report vacancies at 2:00 p.m. every day, then welcome homeless people into those vacant rooms.
MANOJ PATEL, MANAGER, MOTEL 6: Honestly, would you check into a hotel knowing that the chance of your neighbor to the left or right is a homeless individual?
WATT: Manoj Patel voluntarily rents some rooms to homeless people who are vetted and paid for by a local church. But he's against this bill that would make that mandatory.
PATEL: We barely are surviving, number one. Number two, we have to think of the safety of our staff. And number three, we're not professionally or any other ways equipped with any of the supporting mechanism that the homeless guest would require.
WATT: What services would be provided remains unclear. Also unclear, the funding and hotels would be paid fair market rate.
PETERSEN: It's up to the city. I mean, they did it during Project Roomkey.
WATT: The pandemic era program winding down that inspired this bill by placing more than 10,000 people in hotels that volunteered.
Shawn Bigdeli among them.
SEAN BIGDELI, RECIPIENT, PROJECT ROOMKEY: Well, first of all, it's a blessing. It's a great room. The technology is not up to par, but what technology do you have in a tent?
WATT: This bill would force developers to replace housing demolished to make way for new hotels and hotel permits would be introduced. As well as making every hotel from a Super 8 to the Biltmore accept homeless people as guests.
BIGDELI: I don't think it's a good idea.
WATT: Why not?
BIGDELI: Maybe for some, but there's a lot of people with untreated mental health. And some people do some damage to these poor buildings, man.
WATT: This happened in Manoj Patel's motel.
PATEL: She marked all walls, curtains she burned, thank god there was no fire. Even marked the ceiling.
WATT: Opponents of housing the homeless fear this, and fear tourists could be put off from even coming to L.A.
WALDMAN: I wouldn't want my kids around people that I'm not sure about. I wouldn't want to be an elevator with somebody who's clearly having a mental break. The idea that you can intermingle homeless folks with paying normal guests just doesn't work out. PETERSEN: We don't want to go into the segregated South, but that's
the language that they're talking about. There's a certain class of people less than humans, animals they almost describe them, to be honest with you. They don't seem to understand who the un-housed are. We're talking about seniors, students, working people. That's who the voucher program would benefit the most.
WATT (on camera): And so it's about 18 months until this will appear on the ballot, and expect plenty of mudslinging between now and then. Some have told us they think the union is just pushing this as a bargaining tool for leverage. The union tells us that is false. They say sure, we want to hold the hotels accountable, and we want to make sure they are playing their part in trying to solve a problem here, homelessness that, frankly, is, as you mentioned, only getting worse -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Nick. Thank you so much.
OUTFRONT for us now, Laura Lee Blake, president and CEO of the nation's largest association of hotel owners, representing more than half of the hotels in U.S. She's opposing this effort.
Thank you so much for being here, Laura Lee.
So, if voters sign onto this, what is the impact going to be on the hotels you represent?
LAURA LEE BLAKE, AAHOA PRESIDENT AND CEO, OPPOSES L.A. HOTEL BALLOT MEASURE: Yeah, thank you, Kate.
We feel that this is really an ill-advised and misguided ordinance, because it will have a devastating impact on the hotels, as well as the tourism industry across the city. The other concern is that if this passes in Los Angeles, of course, other cities across the country could also be looking at passing similar legislation.
So it's not focused just in Los Angeles. Our members across the country are watching this very closely, because of concerns of what this could mean.
BOLDUAN: And according to the latest count, there's more than 66,000 people in Los Angeles who are homeless, and they're facing a wide range of circumstances. And the union supporting this move says that thousands of its own members are actually facing eviction and need this housing, including one mom who spoke before the city council ahead of this vote.
Let me play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAMBIAN TAFT, FORMER HOUSEKEEPER: Even as a union member with a good- paying job, obviously, homeless due to a housing crisis in our city. I had to stay in two different hotels, paying out of pocket each night for me and my daughter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: If rooms are vacant, why not provide them to families like that?
BLAKE: Well, and let me explain. Our members -- and we have nearly 20,000 members across the United States who own 60 percent of all hotels, and actually in California, it's more than 61 percent.
And our hearts go out to anyone who has lost their home, who has lost a job, who is looking at living on the streets.
But hotels are not designed to be partial homeless shelters. They're -- part of the concern with this ordinance is there's nothing included that provides for what we call wrap-around services. What that means is if somebody is suffering from a physical disability, there's nothing that they would be able to receive medical care.
If they have a mental disability, there's no services there for them. If they have any sort of addiction problem, there's nothing to provide detox or rehab services. And so without the necessary wrap around services, you are -- you are bringing in potential danger, potential safety issues to the hotel, as well as to the paying guests at the hotels.
And so, it's a situation that the details, the logistics have not been covered. And there's -- it puts everyone at risk, including those -- including the unhoused residents who might be occupying some of these rooms. That's our biggest concern.
It's not an answer to the -- to the massive homelessness crisis in Los Angeles. This is not the way to go.
BOLDUAN: Let us see what the voters say. Laura Lee Blake, thank you so much for coming on.
BLAKE: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, a strike in Ukraine killing 22 people as the country marks six months oh of a war and 31 years of independence from the Soviet Union. We're on the ground tonight in Kyiv.
And a deadly journey. Migrants attempting to enter the U.S. and dying during the dangerous trek.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the back of the county cemetery, there are 16 fresh graves. There were no funerals. No family. No flowers.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BOLDUAN: We do have breaking news coming in. An American service member injured after rocket attacks targeted two military bases in northeast Syria. According to a U.S. official telling CNN, the attacks come less than 24 hours after President Biden ordered airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militants in Syria.
Oren Liebermann joins us now at the Pentagon for us this evening.
Oren, what more are you learning about this?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this played out on Wednesday evening Syrian time when Central Command said several rockets were fired at two bases in northeast Syria, used by the U.S.- led coalition to defeat ISIS, and that housed U.S. troops. At one at those sites, a U.S. service member was injured, suffering light injuries according to that U.S. official and Central Command, minor injuries and has already returned to duty.
Now, two other service members, U.S. troops that is, are being evaluated for potential minor injuries, as we wait to see how this develops and if they suffered more injuries.
Meanwhile, in response to this rocket attack on these two facilities, U.S. helicopters fired on the origin of the rocket fire. According to initial assessment, three vehicles and launching equipment that fired those rockets was destroyed, and two or three people involved in firing those rockets were also killed.
Again, that's an initial assessment, so we'll wait to see if that's updated as more information comes in. All of this happens less than 24 hours after President Biden ordered the U.S. to carry out strikes against nine bunkers in northeast Syria, used by Iranian-backed groups for weapons storage, as well as for logistics support for their operations. Now, the U.S. says this was a proportional and deliberate response to what was -- what came last week, last Monday, where there were two attacks on separate facilities in northeast Syria.
So, Kate, what we're seeing is here is what appears to be an ongoing back and forth between the U.S. and Iranian backed forces in Syria.
BOLDUAN: Oren, thank you for that.
Also tonight, at least 22 people have been killed and more than 50 wounded in a strike on a train station in eastern Ukraine. That's according to President Zelenskyy. And an adviser to Ukraine's defense minister is saying a, quote, abnormal of attacks took place across Ukraine earlier. An escalation in fighting many feared was coming as Ukraine marks its Independence Day.
This as President Biden commits roughly $3 billion in now military aid to Ukraine, bringing America's total military assistance to $13 billion since the war began six months ago. David McKenzie is OUTFRONT in Kyiv.
And, David, you have explosions across Ukraine, including this attack on a train station. Air raid sirens being heard in Kyiv once again. What are you seeing on the ground?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this is a very troubling scene. These horrific pictures, frankly, of the train station that was hit by a pair of rocket attacks, not that long ago. And at least 22 people were killed, an 11-year-old child amongst those casualties, and of those 50 people injured. And, unfortunately, that number of injured and dead may well rise, according to the president.
This just the latest in a series of attacks and warnings, a heightened state of alert across the country especially here in the capital, because of warnings of missile strikes coming from intelligence sources both in the West and here in Ukraine.
We were out on the street. People were told to stay away but they didn't.
MCKENZIE: Well, the air raid siren is going off right now in Kyiv. But despite that, look at all these people here behind me, they're ignoring the calls of the government to stay at home, to stay out of large crowds.
But this is an important moment for Ukrainians, this is the anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union. This is also six months on from when this war began. They've lined up tanks, all along this Main Street, tanks, APCs, rocket launchers from the initial attack from Russians on Kyiv many months ago.
So, Dima (ph), what do you think about today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a great day. It's the day of independence of Ukraine. I came here to celebrate this day, but not to have fun or cheer, but to see and the independence is gained, exactly.
MCKENZIE: And you were told to stay away from big crowds, but everyone is here. Why do you think that is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, Ukrainians value life, but they value freedom even more.
MCKENZIE: For young people, who has the last six months been like?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, it was very scary, and I have no words, really. So sad.
MCKENZIE: Ukrainian officials said that Russians would have wanted their own military parade here in Kyiv, so they gave them one, Ukrainian style. And people are writing messages on the tank. This one says for Kyiv, for Donetsk, for all the regions that have seen fighting and that have been occupied by the Russians in this brutal war. This fight could go on for a long time yet.
BOLDUAN: And, David, do Ukrainian leaders worry that the international commitment to their cause is going to be fading as this war drags on, another six months plus?
MCKENZIE: They're very worried about that, Kate. I've heard that time and time again from officials. Even the president, I asked that question if this drags on, do they expect the same level of support? You know, up to $3 billion announced by the White House is coming at a very crucial time. This has been a grinding artillery war in recent weeks.
Not much movement on the front line either way. They're hoping for enough weapons from the Ukrainian point of view to push Russians back, as you hear another air raid siren going off late into the night here in Kyiv -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Yeah, absolutely. As always, David, be careful. Thank you so much for your reporting.
OUTFRONT for us next, the perilous journey to America proving deadly. One Texas funeral home left with no choice but to bury unidentified migrants. Our Rosa Flores reports from the border for us tonight.
And also, dramatic video of a super yacht worth millions sinking off Italy's coast.
BOLDUAN: Tonight, New York City is preparing for more busloads of migrants sent from the southern border by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Many are trying to escape dangerous conditions in their home countries, but they don't all survive the journey.
Tonight, we're bringing you the stark reality, a morgue that is at capacity because so many are dying as they attempted to enter the United States.
Rosa Flores is OUTFRONT at the border for us. We do want to warn you this video is graphic and might be difficult to watch.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This 22-year-old Mexican construction worker crossed into Texas with his brother last week, authorities say.
DR. CORINNE STERN, WEBB COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER: They'd been walking for three days without any food. FLORES: The patches on his body -- now, did he get medical attention?
STERN: He did.
FLORES: Signs paramedics tried to save his life.
Migrants have tried entering the U.S. southern border a record- breaking nearly 2 million times since October. And this man's tragic story is far from unique.
Webb County medical examiner, Dr. Corinne Stern, says this year is on pace to be the deadliest pace for migrants crossing into this region of Texas in recent memory.
STERN: I'm seeing an extreme increase in the number of border crossing deaths compared to other years.
FLORES: So much so, Stern recently did something she says she has never done in her 20-year career. She told officials in the 11 border counties she serves that her office is at capacity.
STERN: And so we're asking them to store them at their funeral homes until we have a space available.
FLORES: And in Maverick County, one of the deadliest counties, says Stern, a funeral home there tells CNN they're at capacity too. And with the medical examiner not taking the deceased, they are now burying unidentified migrants.
In the back of the county cemetery, there are 16 fresh graves. There were no funerals, no family, no flowers. All the graves are marked with partial crosses made out of PVC piping. All of these are migrant Jane and John Does, except for one. There's a baby John Doe.
Stern says she has 260 deceased migrants in her custody. The majority died this year from drowning or hyperthermia and are pending identification.
Despite the dangers, Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber says the arrival of migrants is not stopping, and neither are the deaths. He shows us postmortem photos, some too graphic not to completely blur, including of a child, of just some of the migrant deaths in the past seven months.
TOM SCHMERBER, MAVERICK COUNTY SHERIFF: This is a crossing area.
FLORES: And it's every day that you're finding bodies?
SCHMERBER: Every day.
FLORES: And then shows us --
A 3-year-old in this area?
SCHMERBER: In this area.
FLORES: Where a 3-year-old drowned Monday.
SCHMERBER: I was informed he was taken out, given CPR, but then he died.
FLORES: Tuesday, our cameras were there as another body was recovered from the Rio Grande, this time, a man. Yards away, dozens of migrants who had just crossed the river waited for Border Patrol, including two Cuban women in their 20s who did not want to be identified for fear it could impact their immigration cases.
How deep was the water for your daughter? She shows us it was about waist-deep and then got emotional. When asked about children dying on the very river she had just crossed.
She says it was a tough decision for her daughter's future.
Most likely, the same hopes and dreams this man had. His cut short. But Stern says he was fortunate not to die alone.
STERN: His brother stayed behind and was with him at the time Border Patrol found him.
FLORES: Which means unlike the hundreds of other unidentified migrants in her custody, he will reunite with his family soon, says Stern, and has this message for anyone thinking about crossing the border.
STERN: Politics aside, all these deaths are ruled an accident. An accident, by definition, is preventable 100 percent. Stay home.
FLORES (on camera): Now, Dr. Stern also says that there's an increasing number of children who are also dying. So much so that she has already identified six this year alone.
As for the countries where a lot of these migrants who are being found deceased in this area are coming from, she says that they're coming from countries that she has never seen before, including countries with frosty relationships with the United States, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, which makes it very difficult to get biometrics and other identifying information.
So, Kate, what she says that this means that for some of these migrants, they will go unidentified -- Kate.
FLORES: Along with so many others now as you just reported. Quite a report. Thank you, Rosa. Thank you very much. Unbelievable.
All right. Still ahead for us, OUTFRONT next, some incredible video of a multi-million dollar super yacht just sinking. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) FLORES: Finally tonight, a multi-million dollar super yacht is now sitting at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. Video from the Italian Coast Guard shows the 131-foot yacht floating on its side over the weekend, and later, that very same yacht starts taking on water before completely going under.
According to Italian officials, everyone on board was rescued thankfully, and fortunately no one was hurt. But still, quite a sight to see and quite a mess to deal with. It's still unclear what caused the yacht to sink.
Thank you so much for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan.
"AC360" starts now.