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Erin Burnett Outfront

Photo Shows Ukrainian Soldier, Who Defended Mariupol Steel Plant, Emaciated After Being Released By Russians; Sources: Trump In Secret Court Fight To Keep Info From Grand Jury; Biden Lays Out Midterm Agenda Without Mentioning Record Influx Of Migrants, As Immigration Bill Remains On The Shelf; Report: Highest Number Of Workers Back In Office Since 2020. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 23, 2022 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next: Unthinkable. Before and after pictures of a Ukrainian commander just released from Russian custody, a deformed shell of his former self -- as the United States tonight warns Putin, don't dare use your nukes.

Plus, inside Trump's secret fight to block the federal grand jury investigating January 6th.

And the CEO of Airbnb, he says quiet quitting is not a fad. It's not just a thing. It's real and it's here to stay. He's my guest, let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the horror. Ukraine's ministry of defense releasing these jarring and grotesque images, this is before and after.

The soldier here is Ukrainian Mikola Dianov (ph). The image on the left is Dianov taken during the siege of the Azovstal steel plant where Ukrainian forces were held up for a few days. You see, you know, sort of the dirt and the filth on his hands, his beard was grown in, right, but that was when they were hunkered down, not getting the full food and water that they needed, right, not doing that. But there he was, fighting.

And on the right, four months later. Dianov now Starved, deformed. It is not impossible to imagine what happened to that man. Yet that picture is the reality. It is how Russia is treating human beings. You can't look at the other way when you see that.

It comes as Putin has taken a war to a whole new level. Today, running a sham election in parts of Ukraine that are kind of under Russian control. I will show you the ballot.

Just one question, the wording varies depending on the region, but it asks residents, are you in favor of succeeding from Ukraine and creating an independent state that will join the Russian federation? Down at the bottom as you can see, yes or no, check a box. That's it -- one question, one answer. Yes or no. Well, what do you think the percentage is going to be on no? The

ballots are being handed out by election workers accompanied by heavily armed Russian soldiers. Here is video of them showing up. It comes as election -- oh, hey, check the box, here is a Russian soldier making sure people vote.

I want to mention that while CNN cannot verify the location of the actual video that you are looking at here, it was uploaded today.

In a statement, President Biden says the U.S. will never recognize Russia's sham referenda. Ukraine's president calls them a farce. But the reality is, it is hugely significant because once these areas are declared Russian territory by Putin, Putin will claim the right to retaliate as those areas are taken by the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

And that word retaliate, it's not just the image you saw before and after. According to Putin's words this week, it could now be nuclear weapons. It comes as there is a telling prediction that Putin is about to flood the war zone with many hundreds of thousands more troops than the initial 300,000 that he said he would drop this week.

Here is President Zelenskyy.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The Russian army wants to call up to 1 million people. We know that they are going to take everyone without any difference.


BURNETT: A million. They said 300,000, a million. Remember, the original invasion of Ukraine, in February, was 150,000 troops. And now we are talking about possibly 1 million.

Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT live in London.

And, Matthew, obviously, you spent so much time on the ground reporting from Moscow, as well as Ukraine. What more are you learning now about those trying to avoid what appears to be a mass mobilization in Russia?


First, I can tell you that I have not seen people in Russia so, a lot of people I have spoken to, as alarmed as this in recent years, as the sort of levels of anxiety, thousands of them, we are seeing images, they are still struggling to get out of the country, to avoid being pressed into military service in what the Kremlin calls its partial mobilization.

So, that is happening still now as we speak tonight. Having said that, though, there are many thousands of people that are being called up and they are heeding that Kremlin call to arms.


CHANCE (voice-over): In the darkness, Russian men being wrenched away to fight. These are heartbreaking scenes from Uzbekistan in southern Russia where wives and mothers are hoping for a last glimpse of loved ones, are wailing in despair.

The Kremlin says this is just a partial mobilization. But rights activists tell CNN ethnic minorities in remote regions of Russia have been disproportionately called up, one way perhaps, of hiding the impact.

Across the entire country, an eruption of anger, with Putin's forest mobilizations, seeing distraught protesters risking jail, even direct conscription into the ranks to speak out. People here are simply terrified of loved ones being sent to kill, or be killed in Ukraine.

And I've got two kids of conscription age, says this protester in Moscow. I brought them up alone, and I do not want to lose them, she cries. And for what? Asked her friend. Just so they can kill the sons of other mothers, she answers.

There are growing concerns, too, that Kremlin is violating its own pledge that only reservists with military experience will be called up. But men like Artyum (ph), a coal miner in Siberia, who recorded himself on the military bus taking him away insists he has never served. It was officially summoned like many other workers to join up during his shift.

I just didn't know what to do, he says. Thousands of Russian men are fighting age and are desperate to avoid that fate. Coming into trains like this one to neighboring Kazakhstan, or driving to the nearest border crossing. Cheap flights have quickly sold out. Everyone is on the run from Russia, this woman weighs says, and endless cars, now making for the exits, escaping the trauma of being sent to Putin's war.


CHANCE (on camera): All right. Well, Erin, there is more controversy tonight in Russia, referring to how many people are going to be called up in this mobilization. It's not just Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine is saying it's a million local media in Russia is quoting their sources saying that that's bigger than they have been told as well. The Kremlin says that's lies. But we will see.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Matthew Chance, powerful piece.

And now, Christo Grozev, executive director and lead Russian investigator at Bellingcat, which is uncovered so much of the truth of what's happening here in Putin's war, and retired Army Lt. General Mark Hertling, the former commanding general for Europe and the Seventh Army.

Thanks to both of you. So, Christo, just watching that powerful piece by Matthew Chance, you know, we heard others disproportionate call up of certain ethnic minorities, clearly, the numbers do not seem to be 300,000 reservists. The Russian state media themselves are saying 1 million.

What more are you learning is really happening with the mobilization?

CHRISTO GROZEV, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR & LEAD RUSSIA INVESTIGATOR, BELLINGCAT: Well, one thing that we see is indeed, the disproportionate recruitment of people that are from ethnic minorities. We see that it would take the average of Moscow being -- what we have evidence is 30,000 people will be called up in this wave of globalization in Moscow. That is about 1 percent of the state of 300,000.

But if you look at what percentage of the people are being called up in Buryatia or Dagestan, that is about five times more than in Moscow. Yet, part of that can be explained with the fact that because of the poor nature of those regions, a lot more people have sort of prior military experience, because they needed a job. But in any case, this leads to a disproportionate attack on minorities in terms of who is going to die in the first wave of this mobilization.

The second thing that we are finding is, obviously, the complete randomness and chaos of the recruitment process, the mobilization process. Clearly, this was not something that was prepared well. We can account for a lot of incompetence and the Russian army based on what you saw in the first six, seven months of the war.

But this is really incompetent. They're bringing in people who are -- one person was 63 years old, and he was brought in to be mobilized. Clearly, outside of any range of being allowed by law -- somebody who had body damage, somebody who had a missing limb was recruited, or attempted to mobilize. So, clearly, they had some incomplete random information, which leads to a conclusion that Putin did not really prepare for this mobilization.

This mobilization, as you can see, as Matthew said, it is causing a major social explosion. Putin was doing everything possible to avoid that. But --

BURNETT: That's what he has. I think those words are powerful, a social explosion. You know, it seems to indicate that Putin did this quickly, he did it with his back against the wall. Clearly, they are not prepared, right? There's this -- this is going to be -- the images that are coming in of how they're mobilizing and where they are sleeping, and everything are -- this is insane. No professional would do it this way.

It comes as we are hearing more and more threats of nukes from Putin, and CNN is reporting that the U.S. has privately urged Russia not to use nukes. Does that warning mean anything?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It does, Erin. If I may, I will comment on what Mr. Grozev just said first.


HERTLING: You used the word chaotic, dysfunctional, insane. And I will say, how we not heard all three of those words in what Mr. Putin and his military have done so far in this campaign? It's a recurring theme. Watching these pictures as just -- it is unbelievable to me.

I knew it was going to be bad, again, I will say we did not know it was going to be this bad. This is horrific. One of two lessons I have learned as a soldier, Erin, there was a time where our unit was asked to stay three months longer in Iraq.

I was sent back to Germany to talk to the spouses, and the family members of the soldiers that had to stay beyond their 12-month tour. It was horrible for me to do it. But it was something that I learned, later on, don't ever piss off wives or mothers. What Putin has done is piss off 300,000 wives or mothers. This is not going to end well.

The whole threat of nuclear weapons, you know, that's something that has to be addressed, because it is horrific to even threaten to use those weapons, and I think the administration's handling that in the right way, to issue warnings, deterrence, and maybe some nuanced approaches on what might happen if Mr. Putin decides to do another insane thing.

BURNETT: Christo, you know, when we look at the before and after image, I can't imagine why the Russians would -- Putin would even released soldiers in that case. I mean, the deformed, tortured, starved, I mean, these are pictures out of Auschwitz is what we are essentially looking at. You have been Joe locating, specifically tracking war crimes, what are you seeing?

GROZEV: First of all, I have to say that my own feeling is that after, when this war is over, the whole international law on war crimes will have to be re-written, because the Russians are coming up with new ways that have not even been foreseen in the existing legislation. And part of that is because of the views of so many uncharted private armies that actually don't believe --

BURNETT: Wagner Group and others.

GROZEV: Wagner -- not only Wagner, Wagner is one of five, and there may be more, they are recruiting people from jails, from prisons, who were given a chance to literally get out of jail free card if they die on the battlefield.

So, all of this is almost unseen before. What we see, this very moment, we counted more than 1,500 incidents of civilian harm. The large -- large majority of that comes from Russian indiscriminate shelling, targeting residential areas, torture, execution, summary executions, and that's just -- I mean, it's hard to go through those pieces of evidence and be objective when you have all of that.

BURNETT: It is. And, General, let me again show the side by side pictures of the Ukrainian soldier before and after, in Azovstal, and then after.

General, what do you see when you look at this picture? I mean, it brings, honestly, you choked up when you look at that. I mean -- yeah.

HERTLING: Yeah. As Christo just said, there are two specific articles of the Geneva Convention. One addresses the attack against civilians. Another other one addresses the treatment of the prisoners of war.

You know, with all the evidence that we've seen thus far, of the attacks against civilians, the killing of civilians, the hands bound behind backs, the murder with bullets through the head, those people can't talk. Corpses don't talk. But now what we have is a prisoner of war who is obviously in very about conditions, who has returned from that fight, they can testify.

BURNETT: General, why do you think they released him? What's the reason they would release and allow someone to speak out? That's the one thing I'm confounded by.

HERTLING: Well, yeah, it surprised me, too, Erin, to be honest. As I've read unclassified reports, it was because Putin wanted back certain prisoners from the Ukrainians. He was able to see that individual name, that who was a critically important element of Putin's campaigns, and he has a lot of information.

So, he was evidently willing to give back these prisoners that he has treated so badly. And remember, part of the Azovstal fighters were in a barrack that was thermobarically bombed.


HERTLING: And there were 30 individuals killed. So this individual that comes back is a living memorial to his brothers in arms. And he is going to be able to talk about the treatment he received, plus probably some other things that he sought in a prisoner war camp.


BURNETT: General Hertling, thank you very much.

Mr. Grozev, thank you very much.

And next, new details about Trump's secret court battle to keep his former aides from sharing information about January 6th with the federal grand jury.

Plus, an emotional moment. Two Americans captured in Ukraine arrived back on American soil this afternoon.

And one of the biggest mysteries in the world, U.S. government officials in several countries suffering from a debilitating illness. The symptoms: vertigo, memory loss. So what's causing it? Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates.


BURNETT: A CNN exclusive, Donald Trump's secret court fight. Trump's legal team in a major battle to block a federal grand jury in D.C. from getting information from Trump's inner circle about the events surrounding January 6th.

Now, this is according to people familiar with the matter, which marks Trump's most aggressive steps yet to assert executive and attorney/client privilege to keep witnesses from cooperating with a criminal investigation, with the DOJ probe.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT.

And, Evan, until today and until your reporting, no one knew about this legal battle. It was under seal, no one knew about it. What else do you know about it?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the former president is trying to build a firewall around some of his inner circle. People who were around him, obviously, in those weeks after the election as he was trying to find a way to remain in office despite losing the election.


And the Justice Department is trying to get testimony, and they're trying to compel some of that testimony from people who've already gone to the grand jury, who have asserted his claims of executive and attorney/client privilege. And this is now what is a judge here in Washington is going to have to decide.

Now, we expect that the former president's going to fight as much as he can because these people saw everything. People like Pat Cipollone, who is a former White House counsel, people like Pat Philbin, his deputy, also in the White House counsel's office. Marc Short, Greg Jacob who are the vice presidential aides, who have already gone to the grand jury, and, of course, there's another White House lawyer who was scheduled to go in on September 2nd, Eric Herschmann, and he has been postponed as a result of this fight that is playing out in the D.C. courthouse.

We saw these lawyers emerge from the courtroom yesterday, from the courthouse yesterday. Take a look at what they were talking about.


REPORTER: Mr. Rowley, care to tell us what you are doing here today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have any comment.

REPORTER: Mr. Parlatore? Are you here for Mr. Trump or any one of your other clients?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) out representing a client, all right?

REPROTER: Well, the question is which one, sir.


(END VIDEO CLIP) PEREZ: As you can tell, Erin, not trying to -- they're under seal here, and they're under an order not to say exactly what they're there for. But we've been watching this play out over the last few weeks in court.

BURNETT: All right. So, there's also, Evan, tonight, news involving Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz. A source telling CNN that the Justice Department prosecutors have recommended against charging him in a federal sex trafficking investigation. What do you know about what's behind that decision?

PEREZ: Well, the problem for the Justice Department in this case, Erin, is the quality of the witnesses. We know that some of the witnesses have already pleaded to similar charges --


PEREZ: -- as Matt Gaetz was under investigation for.

We know that at this point, there is no final decision, but that's the biggest issue for prosecutors and investigators is when you have witnesses whose truthfulness was going to be attacked in court, that makes it very difficult to present a case. Again, no final decision has been made and probably won't be done until after the election.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Evan.

And I want to go now to Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. She's a member of the House Select Committee investigating January 6th, which will hold its next hearing on Wednesday.

So, Congresswoman, I want to get to your committee's work in just one moment. But, first, what is your interpretation of this new reporting of Evan's about Donald Trump's secret court fight to block witnesses from testifying before a federal grand jury?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, all I know about that is, you know, what I've heard in the news. The committee has no information about it. But, clearly, the ex-president attempted to overthrow the government, at least one federal judge in the Eastman case found that it was more likely than not that Mr. Eastman and Mr. Trump violated federal laws.

And, obviously, the attorney/client privilege is defeated if the consultation is in furtherance of a crime, which is what that judge found with the Eastman case.

But I don't have any information more than what you've just given. It sounds like the former president is up to his knees in trouble.

BURNETT: So,your colleague, Congressman Jamie Raskin, just said that the select committee has more to reveal specifically about Roger Stone's connection with domestic extremist groups and his involvement in January 6th, which is significant.

Raskin said, quote: He's someone who saw where things are going. You know, and there's also been these reports about a possible meeting Stone had with these extremist groups on the eve of January 6th, which could be hugely significant. There's been, obviously, a lot of -- a lot of work done on that front, investigative work by your committee as well.

What else can you tell us?

LOFGREN: Well, you know, we don't have the contacts, the details of the communications between the ex-president and Mr. Stone. But we know that they exist. When Stone came in, he took the Fifth Amendment repeatedly.

We do know from telephone records that there was communication between the two, just as there was between the ex-president and Steve Bannon.

So, the fact that Stone had deep connections with these insurrectionist groups, I think it's significant.

BURNETT: Very much so. And you're saying so you do know that there were contacts after those meetings, and I'm putting in the word after, you didn't, but after those meetings.

LOFGREN: I didn't say after.


BURNETT: No, I know, that's why I'm admitting, I'm putting in that word. But were those known communications between Trump and Stone after the meetings even though you don't know what was in the communications?


LOFGREN: Well, I can't get into that. As you know, the rules don't permit us into the committee to go into the details.

I'll just say this: we know that Stone and the ex-president had communications. We know that the ex-president, Mr. Bannon, had communications. We can show Stone's close connection with these extremist groups who played a big part in the violence on January 6th.

BURNETT: So, I spoke the other day, Congresswoman, to the CEO of Airbnb. And he told me that after January 6, he saw a huge surge of bookings on Airbnb for the inauguration, huge surge, right, led him to believe there could be more violence at President Biden's inauguration, caused him to do this.


BRIAN CHESKY, CEO OF AIRBNB: We canceled every reservation in D.C. for the inauguration, and we decided to still pay out the host. And so, it was a couple hundred thousand dollars and we ate the cost.

BURNETT: What did the mayor and the governors do when you called them and alerted them to the surge? CHESKY: Well, they, first of all, they said, thank you for reaching

out and they really appreciated the partnership. And we said, well, how can we help? We want to be on the right side, not the wrong side.

They said, we're very concerned with public safety. And we didn't want to contribute to a safety incident. And obviously, January 6th was really, really scary.


BURNETT: Congresswoman, I don't know if you were aware of that, that surge in bookings, their cancelations to this point. But what do you make of that, and do you think it's a matter of time before there is another January 6th-like event?

LOFGREN: Well, we were monitoring closely hotels. It was not possible to monitor Airbnb bookings.

But certainly the violence that existed on January 6th was always a potential on inauguration day itself. As I'm sure you recall, we had a very strong presence, fencing, National Guard, to make sure that the official transfer of power on the 20th was able to occur. And thank God it did.

So, all of us need to be vigilant about those who think violence has a place in our democracy. It does not.

BURNETT: Congresswoman Lofgren, thanks so much.

LOFGREN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And, next, President Biden making an important speech just weeks from the midterms, but one major issue he is not bringing up tonight.

Plus, the two Americans who were captured in Ukraine are with their families tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He did shave overnight. He had a beard yesterday! Okay, well, that's a brand-new image.




BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden making a major political speech where he talked about protecting abortion rights and passing an assault weapons ban. One word that Biden never mentioned: immigration.

It is, of course, an issue that has plagued him since taking office. And it is gaining new attention after Republican Governor Ron DeSantis flew nearly 50 migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard to make a political point about the crisis at the southern border.

Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Days after taking office, President Biden signaled a sharp turn from his predecessor on immigration.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES: This is about how America is more prosperous when we have a fair, orderly, and humane legal immigration system.

MATTINGLY: Nineteen months later, an explosive mix of legal, policy, and political disputes left Biden last week to tacitly acknowledge a work still in progress.

BIDEN: We have a process in place to manage migrants at the border. We're working to make sure it's safe and orderly and humane.

MATTINGLY: Annual border arrests surpassed 2 million this month, already a record in a single year, a record set during Biden's first year in office.

Republican governors eager to draw attention to the scale of the tumult --

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: This is a crisis now getting a little bit more attention.

MATTINGLY: -- have transported thousands of migrants to liberal U.S. enclaves, drawing a sharp rebuke from Democrats and Biden.

BIDEN: Republicans are playing politics with human beings using them as props. What they're doing is simply wrong.

MATTINGLY: But also elevating a critical political vulnerability for Democrats less than 50 days from the midterm election, with Republicans now holding a 17-point edge on immigration and a 36-point edge on border security, according to an NBC survey last week.

It's a potent political issue at the center of GOP campaign ads.

AD ANNOUNCER: This is Joe Biden's America, an invasion at our southern border.

MATTINGLY: One that has claimed victim more than two decades of major bipartisan attempts to clinch immigration reform.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I've asked for a few minutes of your time to discuss a matter of national importance, the reform of America's immigration system.

MATTINGLY: A multi-year push by Republican President George W. Bush eviscerated by his own party as talk radio drove conservative outcry.

In 2013, a bipartisan break-through moment in the Senate --

BIDEN: The bill as amended is passed.

MATTINGLY: -- destroyed by a single House Republican primary defeat where the issue loomed large.

Even Donald Trump, who built an entire campaign on anti-immigrant positions, and, of course, this --

CROWD CHANTING: Build that wall! Build the wall!

MATTINGLY: -- was on the cusp of a major breakthrough, only to kill the proposal with a single tweet.

Biden's own comprehensive immigration reform bill remains on the shelf in the Democratic controlled House and Senate. Internal administration battles have led to departures and some disillusionment for some aides and according to multiple sources, acute frustration from Biden himself, all as the makeup of migrant flows continues its own rapid shifts, posing entirely new challenges.

BIDEN: What's on my watch now is Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. And the ability to send them back to those states is not rational.

MATTINGLY: Officials now scrambling to deal with 175 percent increase from the year prior in migrants from three countries with little or no U.S. relations, and a strong claim to asylum.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Citizens in those three countries are struggling under the weight and yolk of the repressive governments of those three countries. And they are trying to get out.

MATTINGLY: A reality that complicates the role of Vice President Kamala Harris whose immigration mandate has been to focus on the root causes of Central American migration.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you come to our border, you will be turned back.

MATTINGLY: Leaving Harris open to attacks from messages like this.

HARRIS: The border is secure, but we also have a broken immigration system and in particularly over the last four years before we came in and it needs to be fixed.

MATTINGLY: With the president's own home becoming a drop-off point for migrants bused from Texas.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: If they will not go to the border, we're taking the border to them.

MATTINGLY: Just the latest accelerant in the decades-long, heated political war ripping the parties further apart and away from the only area of actual agreement about the U.S. immigration system. ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I t is not built to

manage the current levels and types of migratory flows. Only Congress can fix this.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Erin, some White House officials I've talked to have watched this issue elevate and thought, to some degree, it may be considered overreach, particularly by independent voters even as it moves back into center stage.

The reality, though, is it's certainly not going to end any time soon. White House officials, Erin, are fully expecting more flights, more buses in the weeks ahead, 46 days until the midterms.

BURNETT: Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.

And, next, homebound. Two Americans who were captured fighting alongside Ukrainian forces held hostage for months are now, tonight, back home.

And Elon Musk faced a major backlash when he asked workers to go back to work full-time or quit. Well, the CEO of Airbnb says that's not the right thing and it's not the future. He's OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: Tonight, back on U.S. soil. You're looking at new pictures of the two Americans who were captured in Ukraine by Russian-backed forces taken earlier after they arrived back in America, 106 days since they went missing.

Kylie Atwood is OUTFRONT with an update on a story we've been following closely.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Pure joy. Family members of two Americans who are prisoners of war held by Russia receiving a selfie from the men finally on U.S. soil.

DIANNA SHAW, AUNT OF ALEXANDER JOHN-ROBERT DRUEKE, AMERICAN HELD BY RUSSIA: You did shave overnight. He had a beard yesterday. Okay, well, that's a brand-new image.

ATWOOD: Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, two American veterans who traveled to Ukraine to fight against the Russian invasion were captured during the battle near Kharkiv in June, by Russian-backed proxies for more than three months. Tonight, they're in New York, and these family members, Alex's aunt and Andy's soon to be mother-in-law, plan to see them tomorrow in Alabama.

SHAW: I think we're all just going to cry and cling to each other. ATWOOD: They were released as part of a swap of prisoners of war

between the Ukrainians and the Russians. While they were held, their families knew very little about the condition of their captivity.

DARLA BLACK, MOTHER OF ANDY TAI NGOC HUYNH'S FIANCEE: It was constant worry and what do we not know and what are we not hearing, what are they going through that they can't tell us?

ATWOOD: Alex and Andy first stopped in Saudi Arabia who helped to facilitate their release, staying at an apartment together while they saw U.S. diplomats and underwent medical checks.

BLACK: We know that they're speaking. They are breathing. They are ambulatory, and they sound like themselves.

SHAW: Uh-huh.

ATWOOD: The two veterans didn't know one another before they met in Ukraine. And these two women were strangers just months ago, now sharing a bond unlike any other.

SHAW: We foresee a lot of dinners, meeting in the middle and fishing trips for the guys and, you know, family reunions for all of us to get together. And we've got a wedding to plan.

ATWOOD: Andy's fiancee Joy Black telling OUTFRONT earlier this week that she would have Andy's favorite meal ready for their first night at home.

JOY BLACK, ANDY'S FIANCEE: Andy's already requested when he comes back to our house for spaghetti with meat. He's been craving it ever since he went to Ukraine.

ATWOOD: The State Department has warned U.S. citizens not to travel to Ukraine while the war rages on. But Secretary of State Tony Blinken welcomed the news of Alex and Andy's release earlier this week, thanking the Saudis for brokering the deal that also secured the release of prisoners from the UK, Morocco, Sweden and Croatia.

Despite what the two men have been through, their family members say they have no regrets about supporting the Ukrainians.

SHAW: He wanted to get it known that they totally are proud of going there. They love the Ukrainian people. They really want people to understand that Ukraine needs our support. They need the support of all Democratic nations. They need democracies to come together and push Putin back.


ATWOOD (on camera): Now, of course, U.S. officials are welcoming the release of Alex and Andy. But, unfortunately, it doesn't seem like this swap for these prisoners of war that was brokered by the Turks and the Saudis is at all impacting what are these ongoing negotiations to try and get home those Americans who are wrongfully detained in Russia, because those are talks that are happening directly between the United States and Russia.

And so far, they haven't gone anywhere.

BURNETT: Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.

All right. Thank you so much, Kylie Atwood.

And, next, quiet quitting?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about refusing to go above and beyond at work.


BURNETT: The CEO of Airbnb says it's not a fad. He's OUTFRONT.

And U.S. officials around the globe with debilitating sicknesses, some with long-lasting symptoms, dementia-like memory loss. And U.S. intelligence can't figure out why. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates.



BURNETT: Tonight, new data showing the highest number of workers are back in the office since early 2020, as more companies are cracking down on work-from-home policies. An average of 48 percent of the pre- pandemic workforce commuted to their physical office last week.

Well, earlier, I spoke to the CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, about this.


BURNETT: So, Brian, last week, the numbers came in that said almost half of the pre-pandemic workforce is back in the office. This is according to Kastle Systems. They basically track those, you know, security card buzz-ins that we all do when we come in the office every day.

You're still operating from a work from anywhere policy. No change in pay for any of your 6,000 employees --


BURNETT: -- depending on where they work. Are you making any changes to that?

CHESKY: No. I mean, I still think that flexibility is here to stay. A year ago we talked, and I said, after compensation, flexibility will be the most important benefit to employees. I think that's here to stay.

Now, after two years of all of us being apart, I think a lot of people do want to come back to the office and connect with one another. But I don't think they want to come back five days a week. I don't

think people miss the commutes. And I think the very best talent is going to be everywhere.

So, the most successful companies are going to be the ones that attract talent from the widest pool of people around the world.

BURNETT: OK. So, as you know, Elon Musk disagrees with you --


BURNETT: -- and in a pretty aggressive manner. He is reportedly getting detailed spreadsheets on employee attendance and says, if you don't spend a minimum of 40 hours a week in the physical office, resign.

Now, CNBC reports that they've lost some top employees over this.

What do you make of that approach?

CHESKY: Well, they're in hardware and manufacturing so that might make sense for them.


But I kind of feel like the way to understand the future is to look to young people, to young companies. And if you do, the trend line is unmistakable, that the next generation of workers want to have flexibility, they want to control where they work, how they work, what time they work. And we are going to be competing for the very best people.

And I think companies that are hauling people back to the office are going to have less talent because they're to limit their talent pool to a commuting radius around their office.

So, we're trying to lean into the future. I don't think, by the way, the future is purely remote. I think occasionally you want to get employees back.

BURNETT: It's a hybrid of some sort.

CHESKY: It's a hybrid, and I don't think hybrid is three days a week.

Like we chose one week a quarter. You can live wherever you want. You can live in any of 170 countries on Airbnb for 90 days at to time. If you move anywhere within your country, we don't change your pay.

And by the way, the last two years working remote have been the most productive two years in our history. We did an IPO on Zoom and it was pretty successful.

BURNETT: Well, and it's amazing what you say -- young people, people who, you know, don't have children and those other issues -- oh, only people with kids will take advantage of this.

It's not true. Even kids in urban areas who are in their early 20s are happy with the hybrid, at least in so much of what they see.

CHESKY: I think this is where the world is going.


CHESKY: I think -- take Gen-Z, that generation, a lot of those people aren't going to even live in just one country. They're not going to just work around the country. They're going to move to different countries.

You're going to have -- this is a whole different generation that we're going to see.

BURNETT: So, we are also hearing the concept now of quiet quitting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about refusing to go above and beyond at work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The purpose of quietly quitting is separate yourself from the stress of your job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Workers are taking back their time and their extra time and their mental space to allow for more than just work in their lives.


BURNETT: Now, there was a poll that came out that said, from Gallup, that said about 50 percent of U.S. employees could fall under this definition.


BURNETT: Fifty percent, this is how people define it themselves.

I mean, do you think this is a real phenomenon for employers to be worried about?

CHESKY: It seems like a real phenomenon. I think what it's describing is maybe a mass alienation amongst many workers, and I think there's a number of reasons why. I think they want flexibility but they also want purpose. They want to feel like the company they work for is aligned with their values and they want to feel like they are progressing in their career.

And I think there's a lot of trends you have to be concerned about. You need to be able to give people autonomy. You need to be able to give them like empowerment. You need to make sure they have a connection to the purpose of their work and give them flexibility.

Do all these things -- I think people do want to work. They do want to have a purpose, but the old way isn't going to work. We're not going back to 2019 anymore than we're going back to 1950. And I think we'd all be better of if we step into the future. BURNETT: All right. Brian, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

CHESKY: Thank you very much, Erin, for having me.


BURNETT: And next U.S. officials around the world struck by a sudden illness. Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates.



BURNETT: Tonight, medical mystery. U.S. government officials around the world hit by debilitating sudden illness and the intelligence community can't figure out why. Some cases are severe that they forced officials to retire, and those affected have had all sorts of terrible symptoms, including concussion-like symptoms, vertigo, severe memory loss. Suspected cases even reported near the White House.

And former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin thinks she could be one of them.


ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: It hit me like a wave where I just immediately felt disoriented and dizzy and lasted about 30 minutes. It was -- it was striking. I remember I went home that night and said to my husband, I was like, this is scary, like this happened again and I don't understand what's going on.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's really -- I mean, frightening to me as a citizen.

GRIFFIN: It's horrifying.


BURNETT: Outside the White House.

OUTFRONT now, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent.

And, Sanjay, this has been, you know, a huge mystery.

GUPTA: Yeah.

BURNETT: And you have looked into it as much as you are able to figure out what is really going on. There is a CNN special report that you have produced airing this Sunday. So what have you learned?

GUPTA: Well, I think what's been so -- it's been unlike anything I've ever covered because it's been so clear that something happened to the brains of several of these individuals in Havana. We weren't sure at the beginning. Was it actually something objective or not? We talked to the doctors who examined these patients and two things

really jumped out. One is that there's a constellation of symptoms that these people had that were objective. There were findings on the scans, findings on the exam. The doctors believed there was a concussion-like sort of scenario.

Two is the whole idea of directed energy weapons. To be honest Erin, I really knew nothing about this.


GUPTA: And again, this is my area of expertise, but the idea that you could somehow take energy somewhere along the electromagnetic spectrum. They believe microwave energy in this case, direct it from meters away, now, 10, 20, 30 meters away and possibly be targeted to a single individual, that was also something that they're very clear on. You can weaponize directed energy this way.

BURNETT: I mean, it is -- it is incredible. And it's terrifying, and obviously as a neurosurgeon, right, I mean, you're looking at something actually targeted to disrupt the brain, whether it'd be -- you know, nerve - links to the nervous system, links to memory, everything. I mean, what more -- what are the symptoms that you are seeing?

GUPTA: You know what's interesting? This is sort of a novel pattern of things. And sometimes, you know, I find we're not comfortable with novel things so we want to put it in a bucket of something that we understand, which is what doctors are doing. It most closely resembles a concussion.

The difference is there's no blow to the head. You think about a fall injury or car accident. It could be someone standing at their sink doing the dishes, and all of a sudden, they would have this terrible sort of onset of symptoms, headaches, dizziness, debilitating to the point where they can only crawl on the floor, they're nauseated, they're vomiting.

For some people, it would go away within minutes. In fact, if they just moved, the symptoms would go away. For others, including one of the initial investigators who went down there, the symptoms can last for years. So, it's very -- just like concussion some people recover right away, others take a long time.

BURNETT: Yeah. Well, it's going to be incredible and, of course, your special report on Sunday.

Sanjay, thank you very much.

GUPTA: Good to see you, Erin. Thank you.

BURNETT: And don't miss the special report, "Immaculate Concussion: The Truth Behind Havana Syndrome", this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. on CNN.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.