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Erin Burnett Outfront

Russian Unrest Intensifies Amid Putin's Military Draft; Live Pictures: NASA About To Crash Spacecraft Into Asteroid; CNN Obtains Video Of Trump Ally Roger Stone Saying "F**k The Voting, Let's Get Right To The Violence" A Day Before 2020 Election; American Fighter, Who Was Captured By Russian-Backed Forces In Ukraine And Just Freed, Speaks Out With His Fiancee; Migrant Recruited To Help DeSantis In Martha's Vineyard Stunt Speaks Out On Camera For First Time; Floridians Warned Hurricane Could Be "Storm Of A Lifetime". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 26, 2022 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Ukraine making gains on the frontlines as Putin faces fury from his own people. A Russian opening fire on a commander. Another throwing Molotov cocktails in a recruiting station. Lines to leave Russia growing even longer tonight.

Plus, exclusive. One of the Americans just freed after being held by Russian-backed forces in Ukraine. In his first television interview, along with his fiancee right here tonight OUTFRONT.

And just minutes from now, a NASA spacecraft crashing into an asteroid. You are going to see it here live.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, up in flames. Ukraine taking out crucial Russian artillery as it pushes Russian forces further back into retreat.

This is video from Ukraine's military. The air assault taking out Russian vehicles including a tank. And we're also getting graphic video of Ukraine's counter-offensive. We are told that this video we're showing you now is from eastern Ukraine.

You can see the road here absolutely littered with burnt out tanks and bodies of what appear to be Russian soldiers.

Ukraine's punishing pushback costing Putin at home, possibly threatening the one thing he cares about most, his power. The outrage over his decision to summon at least, at least 300,000 more troops to fight is now turning to violence inside Russia.

Let me show you this video. This is from the Volgograd region, showing a man backing his car up against the front doors of a mobilization center. Then he gets out and you see what appears to be Molotov cocktails at the building, burning it down. And in Siberia, a Russian man opening fire at a military recruiting

station, injuring a commander. These are clear indications that some citizens in Russia are turning on Putin. They don't want to fight this war.

Over the past several days, we've seen more and more videos of protests actually even turning violent across Russia.

And on the Russian borders, an unprecedented sight -- mass exodus. The lines of traffic are so long, this is satellite image you're looking at right now. Satellite image. You look at this line of traffic snaking across your screen. Russians are lined up in this image for nearly ten miles, ten miles, waiting to enter Georgia.

And once they actually get to the border, look what happens. Look at that -- a sea of young man -- men, almost all of them. Every single one lined up, waiting to escape Putin's Russia. According to the State Department, they say it's a sign Putin's in trouble.


NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: These actions from President Putin signal very clearly that he knows he is losing. He is on his back heels. And he is making every attempt to intimidate those who would stand up to him.


BURNETT: He is saying on his back heels regarding Putin.

But that, of course, could also make the Russian president incredibly dangerous. The Secretary of State Antony Blinken says there may be no one in Russia right now who is willing to stand up to Putin and say no, tell him not to use nuclear weapons. And Ukraine's president says that Putin may be closer than ever to ordering a nuclear strike.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Maybe yesterday it was bluff. Now it could be a reality. I don't think he's bluffing.


BURNETT: Ben Wedeman begins our coverage tonight OUTFRONT live in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Ben, Putin's war taking a dramatic turn at home. Those images are unbelievable, those lines of people rushing to escape the violence at home. He is now trying to control more Ukrainian territory where you are through sham referendums I understand will be finished, as much as one can use that word, quote, unquote, in mere hours.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, they'll be finished tomorrow. There will be in-person voting. But the outcome is a forgone conclusion. This is a sham referendum,

and the result will be a sham as well. But it will result in the Russians declaring that this territory is officially part of the motherland, part of Russia.

But what we're seeing is that the Ukrainians are continuing to gain more territory. For instance, in the Donetsk region, where the Russians in there -- the Russian-controlled parts of Donetsk are conducting this referendum, Ukrainians are taking more ground. And here in the Kharkiv region, today, we were in a town that was just taken on Saturday evening. There is still many Russian soldiers dead in the street in that town. Lots of armor as well.

And while we were there, we were there for about an hour and a half. All we heard was outgoing fire from Ukrainian artillery. The commanders there told us that the Russians they had captured were completely demoralized. They complained of poor equipment, poor food, poor command and control, poor logistics, and the Russians have already been pushed back from that town about 15 kilometers, ten miles or so.

So the Ukrainians continued to gain a more ground, despite these sham referenda that are going on in other parts of the country -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Ben. Pretty incredible to see to go to a town, a place like that, to see all the weapons left behind. And as Ben reports, still dead Russians in the streets.

I want to bring in Andrei Soldatov, a Russian investigative journalist who specializes in Russia's intelligence services, and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Thanks to both of you.

So, Andrei, you know, you hear about that. It's just very sobering. We cannot lose, you know, the feeling here for the value of human life. You know, soldiers still dead in the streets as the Ukrainians are advancing.

You heard Ben talk about the demoralization that the Russian troops are reporting, and those are the troops on the front lines. We saw those images of protests and active violence in response to Putin's mobilization order at home.

But when I say at home, and I'll show you on the map, these are happening far away from major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, right? They're happening in much more provincial capitals.

So, Andrei, does that mean anything? Does that mean Putin is safe from true (ph) unrest or a coup because we're not seeing this in Moscow?

ANDREI SOLDATOV, FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF AGENTA.RA.RU; SITE BLOCKED IN RUSSIA: Well, it is a big problem for Vladimir Putin because these regions stand to be especially in the beginning of the war quite enthusiastic about the war. Dagestan is a very hard place to live, and well, the military was one of the jobs lots of male -- of men in this region were willing to take. And at the beginning of the war, they were happy to go to the war.

But now, they understood that it's not just some sort of adventure. And look at this women, they are so angry because they -- finally they realized that their relatives, their sons, their fathers could be killed. And that is why it's so dangerous, because Dagestan, well, has been known for years, if not decades, as a very troubled place in Russia.


SOLDATOV: We saw lots of terrorist attacks there, lots of things.

BURNETT: Yes, absolutely.

So, Colonel, when you see the images that Ben had in that town of the Russian military equipment, right, this has happened throughout the war. But it seems now and obviously I'm going this off of pictures and reports. But it seems that there's been even an increase in the Russian military equipment that has been destroyed or that the Ukrainians have successfully taken from the battlefield.

Today, a Russian tank unit was wiped out in Eastern Ukraine. And these are the images I'm showing right now. And then we're also hearing about these reports of poor antiquated rusty equipment being given to Russian soldiers, both on the front and these mobilized troops.

We can't confirm this video from a Ukrainian official independently. But look at this rusty Kalashnikov that they is what is being handed out now to these Russian conscripts in this mobilization.

Colonel, what do you think is the true state of Russia's military equipment?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's pretty clear, Erin, that these Russian military equipment that they're giving to front line soldiers is completely inadequate for the job. And just from a pure logistical standpoint, this is one of the worst equipped armies that I've ever laid eyes on. It is something that is really incredible to behold when you see a whole battalion going through this, a whole platoon at the lowest tactical level really not making it because the equipment they were given is completely useless.

And the Ukrainians are basically making mince meat out of them because not only do they have bad morale, but they can't fight back.

BURNETT: So, Andrei, you're talking about how you think what we're seeing in the provinces, it could be a great threat. And I know you believe the next two weeks in this war are crucial.

Edward Snowden, everyone knows his name, the one who gained notoriety for leaking information about American surveillance programs, today, we find out today, right after years of living there, he's now formally granted Russian citizenship. It took him two years to get it. It happened today in the midst of all of this.

Why do you think that happened now, and what happens in these next two weeks?

SOLDATOV: It looks like the Kremlin is getting very desperate. There is a narrative here they're getting and they want to change it. They want to promote this image that Russia is still a country where you want to live and even go to live.

And, of course, it doesn't work. We already have lots of my competitors talking about and joking about Snowden, who should be drafted into the Russian army and sent to the battlefield. So, it backfired immediately.


BURNETT: And in these next two week, does -- is this -- how crucial is this for Putin and his grasp on power?

SOLDATOV: Well, the problem is that lots of people in Russia now expect that tomorrow, they might some decision of closing the borders after the referendas. And that might provoke big unrest. Just imagine all these men standing in these lines and waiting to cross the border. And if somebody would tell them that now, there is no way into Georgia or Kazakhstan, what could happen?

So lots of people are just uncertain about their future. But in two weeks, it will be quite clear which side is winning, because, of course, this mobilization is also a great intimidation tool. Nobody is safe. At the same time, lots of people are really, really angry.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Andrei. I appreciate it.

Colonel, please stay with me, because my next story here is something I know you know a lot about. We are monitoring a live situation right now. It's actually a major collision in space. So let me tell you about it. This is a live image on your screen.

NASA is about to intentionally crash a spacecraft into an asteroid. They're going to do it on live television. We're literally in the last minute. The asteroid named Dimorphos. You're calling at it on your screen.

The spacecraft is NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft. That's a lot. Call it DART.

And Dimorphos poses no threat to Earth tonight, but the goal for NASA is to see if they can push the asteroid off course. So, it's something they can do in the future to prevent or from Armageddon. It is the first time NASA is attempting a test like this.

So, let's go straight to Kristin Fisher at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. She is in Maryland where mission control is. Colonel Leighton is also with me because he's worked closely with NASA on -- and has a good understanding here of the situation.

So, Kristin, we've got this live image on the screen. You're there in the control room. This is a first, an unprecedented event. Tell us what we're looking at.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we are now exactly two minutes and fifty-eight seconds to impact. And what you're seeing right now on your screen is all live images from a camera that is mounted on the DART spacecraft.

And for a mission this complicated and consequential, what's about to happen is actually quite simple. NASA is going to take this multimillion-dollar spacecraft and just slam it into an asteroid. Not the asteroid, the biggest one right in front of you on your screen that big asteroid at the center of your screen just to the left, that is Didymos that is what the DART spacecraft has been targeting for the better part of ten months while it's been in space. Its target is that smaller asteroid, Dimorphos.

And so, this spacecraft is traveling at a speed of 4 miles per second, not per hour, four miles per second. That's about 14,000 miles per hour. And, Erin, it is going to in two minutes slam into that smaller asteroid on the right, Dimorphos.

You're going toe watch as it fills your screen. And then when it hit, it's just going to go black. Complete loss of signal. One of the only times that you're going see a NASA mission control room hopefully cheer at the destruction of a spacecraft and the loss of signal, Erin.

BURNETT: Right, right. To have something go to black, the last thing you would want on any ordinary mission. But this is no ordinary mission, Colonel.

FISHER: Right.

BURNETT: So, Kristin explaining. So, we're looking at the smaller dot there. That is Dimorphos. I guess these two asteroids sort of go together. Dimorphos is the one that's going to slam into.

It's about the size I understand, Colonel, of Egypt's great pyramid. The spacecraft is equivalent to the size of a refrigerator. And you're in the vast vacuum of space here.

How is NASA -- I mean, how amazing is it that NASA could pull this off?

LEIGHTON: Well, this is incredibly amazing. This is really the first time, Erin, that we are using things that we've talked about in science fiction, you know, things that we see in movies, and in TV series that is really designed to protect the environment and the planet itself.

You know, you go back to the time of the dinosaurs, and you -- the theory is that dinosaurs were made extinct because of an asteroid or a series of asteroids hitting the Earth. There was a case in Russia in the early -- late 19th century, early 20th century where we actually had an asteroid hit Siberia that resulted in a lot of destruction of territory there. Luckily not very populated territory, but still, the danger is definitely there. And it's something that even though the probability is low, it's one

of those low probability-high impact things that could happen. So with this experiment, we're looking at NASA potentially being able to protect our planet from asteroids of the future.

BURNETT: And we're watching here as the spacecraft DART approaches Dimorphos. You can see it getting closer and closer. We're just here in the final few seconds, 14,000 miles an hour is what you're watching. The camera that we're watching is traveling 14,000 miles an hour on DART, the spacecraft, the refrigerator-sized spacecraft that's going slam into dimorphos here.


We're just literally a few seconds away. So I understand, Kristin, as it gets closer, we're going see it get closer and closer. I hear a lot of talking behind you. We're going to see an explosion and go to black?


FISHER: That's right, Erin. It's going to happen any second now and we're going to see big cheers go up in the mission control which is right here. You just got some other folks here cheering.

But this is it, the moment, DART hitting the dimorphos asteroid. Right now, wow, look at the detail that you can see.

BURNETT: It is amazing. It looks like a --

FISHER: So, those are rocks on the surface of dimorphos of some kind. Big cheers going up here inside the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Erin you think about how much time and energy the people in this room have -- how much time and effort they've put into this being a success. And there, I think you can see the crowd cheering down in mission control, probably the only time that you're going to cheer for a loss of a spacecraft, Erin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have impact in the name of planetary defense.

BURNETT: In the name of planetary defense. And now, I -- okay, pretty amazing to see it. I mean, this sounds like the -- obviously celebration in that room. I mean, talk about threading a needle, Kristin. I mean, you just said, you're talking about they just sent from earth an object the size of a refrigerator into an object the size of the great pyramid in the middle of space at 14,000 miles an hour. And they -- they hit it.

FISHER: It's unbelievable. So, now, Erin, the next big challenge, NASA has completed its first big objective. They've proven that they can do this. They've proven that they can take this spacecraft and slam it into an asteroid.

Now the big question is were they able to successfully move this asteroid off its current orbit? They're not trying to move it by a lot. This asteroid is not going to blow into a million pieces like you saw in "Armageddon."

All they're trying to do, Erin, is move it just slightly off its orbit so that if this were to happen in the future where there were an asteroid that was potentially going to wipe out all of life as we know it on planet earth, could they do this far enough in advance and knock this killer potentially asteroid off orbit and save the planet.

I mean, that's truly the technology that they are testing here. So it's going to take a few weeks before we know if they've successfully completed that objective. They do it by using ground-based telescopes that can actually see the orbit of that asteroid, see if they were able to push it off course.

But tonight, I mean, you see these celebrations going on in mission control. Just a big moment for this team proving that NASA's first planetary defense test mission is at least 50 percent of big success here.

BURNETT: And, Colonel, just to be clear here, if you had an asteroid about five times bigger than this one, it could destroy civilization as we know it, right? I mean, so -- what's at stake here is incredibly serious, if this works, right, in terms of preserving civilization.

LEIGHTON: Absolutely, Erin. The key thing here to remember is that these types of asteroids can come in various sizes. They can pose very types of threats to the planet. And by doing this test, what NASA has been able to do is they've been able to show, as we've seen just tonight, they've been able to show that they can actually do something that potentially can alter the track, as Kristin was mentioning, the orbit of these asteroids. And if they can do that, if they get the angles right, if they get everything in to make it work, that could potentially safe life as we know it.

BURNETT: Yeah, good for them to have a victory after all these delays that have been happening on Artemis.

All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate it.

And next, CNN obtaining video of Roger Stone calling for violence on the day before voters went to the polls in 2020, the day before, calling for violence.

Plus, an OUTFRONT exclusive. After being held for more than 100 days by Russian-backed forces, Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh is home and he's home with his fiancee Joy Black. You've met her many times on the show. How does it feel to be reunited? They're my guests.

And CNN talks to one man who is on the inside of Governor Ron DeSantis's operation to fly other migrants to Martha's Vineyard. I'm going to tell you exactly what he was told, by whom, and why.



BURNETT: Tonight, CNN obtaining video clips of Trump ally Roger Stone that had been handed over to the January 6th Committee. And what they show here is Stone talking about claiming victory and getting, quote, right to the violence. That's a quote. And that was just days before the 2020 election.


ROGER STONE, TRUMP ALLY: Excellent. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) the violence, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) the voting. Let's get right to the violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get right to it.

STONE: Shoot to kill. See an Antifa, shoot to kill. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) 'em. Done with this bullshit.


BURNETT: Shoot to kill, F the voting.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT.

Well, Evan, I mean, he said it. It's a pretty -- there's no -- there is no ambiguity there. And this footage is expected to be part of the January 6th committee hearing on Wednesday. What more can you tell me?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, as you said, this is a hearing that is expected to focus on the extremists that played a role in the -- in the violence on January 6th. And as you can tell, even days before the election, Roger Stone was already sort of laying the groundwork for this idea that Donald Trump won the election, even without seeing the results.

Take a listen.


STONE: Let's just hope we're celebrating. I suspect it will be -- I really do suspect it will still be up in the air. When that happens, the key thing to do is to claim victory.

Possession is 9/10 of the law. No, we won, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you. Sorry, over, we won. You're wrong. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you.


PEREZ: And, Erin, we did get a statement from Roger Stone. I'll read you all of it here.

It says: I challenge the accuracy and the authenticity of these videos and believe that they've been manipulated and selectively edited. I also point out that the filmmakers do not have the legal right to use them.


How ironic that Kim Kardashian and I are both subjected to computer manipulated videos on the same day. The excerpts you provided below prove nothing. Certainly they do not prove that I had anything to do with the events of January 6th. That being said, it clearly shows I advocated for lawful, congressional, and judicial options.

I'm not sure what Roger Stone is talking about with the Kim Kardashian -- I actually Googled this and I couldn't find anything, Erin.


PEREZ: But, you know, we expect that his association with the Proud Boys and these other groups is going to be a major focus of the hearing that's coming up.

BURNETT: All right. Evan Perez, thank you very much.

So, John Dean is with me now, the former Nixon White House counsel, here actually with me on set tonight, and Stephanie Grisham is back, former Trump White House press secretary.

So, so glad to have both of you on this.

John, let me start with you because you're with me. Unclear what that statement is that Roger Stone just put out. Nonetheless --

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He is often unclear.

BURNETT: He did say: F the voting, let's get right to the violence. So, whatever else he may or may not have said around that he said those things --

DEAN: Yes.

BURNETT: -- what's your reaction to this?

DEAN: Well, I -- his response is terribly weak. It's somebody manipulated the video and the sound. He's clearly been caught in some context. We don't have the full story. We may never get the full story from Roger. So --

BURNETT: Fair. Well, I mean, and that's probably true.

Stephanie, I want to play another clip from the week after January 6th. This is where Stone criticizes the White House counsel's office. He says the White House counsel told Trump that Trump could not preemptively pardon Stone for his role in any efforts to overturn the election. Let me play that part.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has it been pitched to the president?

STONE: Yes, it has. I believe the president's for it. The obstacles are these -- are these lily-livered, weak-kneed bureaucrats in the White House counsel's office. And now, they must be crushed because they've told the president something that's not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: I mean, Stephanie, lily-livered, they have to be crushed, let's get right to the violence, F the voting. I mean, is this just a guy who wants everybody to think he's just really cool and this crowd he's rolling with, or is this something bigger? You have a better sense of the man than many.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I actually didn't know Roger Stone that well. And usually on your show, I say this didn't surprise me.

That actually surprised me to hear him say F the voting and where's the violence, or let's get to the violence. You know, I think the thing that got me, first of all, in the first video was him saying possession is 9/10 of the law. We'll just say we won.

That was how our White House worked. You just said it. Whether it was about COVID or the border wall and how much was built, you just said it. It didn't matter if it was true, you just said it over and over and over again until your supporters believed it.

Now, that last part, that sounded to me like Donald Trump. He would get so angry at our White House counsel if -- giving him sound, solid advice. He would call them weak and pathetic and constantly say why don't I have strong lawyers? So, that really was reminiscent to me of Donald Trump.

BURNETT: So, that sounds actually bolstering the reality of what Roger Stone said.

Now, John, this comes on the say that the former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, his name comes up again. Look, we know he's central to this. We really haven't heard a lot from him lately. So, we don't know if he is cooperating or what. But his importance, we already knew it was there, is getting bigger and bigger.

So, we have text message news at CNN that shows that Meadows was briefed by a man named Phil Waldron. Phil Waldron was important. He was an operative who was trying to gain access to voting machines and voting systems in battleground states. Waldron texts Meadows right after the election, after an Arizona judge dismissed a lawsuit so they lost in court. He says: We'll focus on Georgia, but that was our lead domino that we were counting on to start the cascade. Meadows replies: pathetic.

Now, perhaps in that exchange, you now see direct -- direct communication between the chief of staff and this man. How much trouble do you think Meadows is in?

DEAN: Well, Fani Willis in Georgia may be very interested in that conversation. Maybe the feds will be interested.

I think they're just generally interested in Mark Meadows. Something happened. He was held in contempt by the January 6th Committee. He has never been prosecuted for that.

There is a reason for that. Not only does he have a good lawyer, he's got a lot of information.

BURNETT: So you think cooperation?

DEAN: It's early in the story, yes.

BURNETT: Well, and that's significant, Stephanie, because you know Meadows well from your time in the White House. How much do you think see cooperating with investigators? Do you think that's right?

DEAN: I do. I would agree with John on that. I would say, number one, Mark Meadows is always going to look out for number one. So I think he is probably cooperating. He has just disappeared.

But I actually want to take a step back and say I hope he is cooperating.


And look, you know, there is no love lost between Mark Meadows and I. But there's never, you know, bad time to do the right thing.

And so I hope he is taking -- this is for the country. It's not about saving your own behind. It's not being loyal to Donald Trump anymore.

I hope that if he's watching this, I can say to you, Mark, this is about the country, and just doing the right thing. We all got sucked into it. And you could really play a vital role in showing the country who that man was and what really, really happened on that day.

BURNETT: All right. Stephanie, thank you very much. John Dean, so nice to see you in person. Thank you. All right. Thanks both.

And next, an OUTFRONT exclusive. I'm going to speak to Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh. He's just been released after being held captive in Ukraine for more than 100 days. Andy and his fiancee Joy Black are together and they are joining us for their first interview next. I'm happy to just even see them here.

Plus, we take you inside Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's operation to fly migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard. A migrant was a key player they're speaking exclusively to CNN. You'll want to hear what he has to say.



BURNETT: Tonight, back home. After being held captive by Russian- backed forces for more than 100 days, 40-year-old Alex Drueke and 27- year-old Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh are back in their home state of Alabama, freed after a prisoner swap with Ukraine just days ago.

And you can see them going to the airport to being released, finally for the first time, seeing those that they loved after 100 days. I'm sure there were times they didn't know if they ever would, reuniting. They have been undergoing medical checks, reuniting with friends and family.

They were captured back in June. At the time, they were fighting with Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv. This is a story, as you know, that we have been following closely on this show.

And OUTFRONT now, in an exclusive interview, their first joint interview since Andy came home, Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh and his fiancee Joy Black.

I am so happy to see you, Andy. You know, I know you -- we've seen -- we've seen your fiancee so many times alone in the screen. And it is wonderful to see you.

You know, she made sure that the world knew about you and that the world did everything they could to help you, that the U.S. government knew.

You're here, alive, at home. How does it feel to be back home with Joy?

ANDY TAI NGOC HUYNH, AMERICAN FIGHTER CAPTURED BY RUSSIANS IN UKRAINE AND FREED: Honestly, it's still surreal. It's going to take time to adjust. But overall, I'm very happy to be with Joy. I missed her every day when I was in captivity. Nonetheless, I'm very happy (ph).

BURNETT: And I know you say you missed her every day. She certainly -- she certainly missed you.

Joy, I just want to play the moment we see Andy arriving back in Alabama safely. I know when you saw him for the first time in New York. And I'm sure, you know, you're waiting and waiting and waiting for this moment. But then when the moment happened, it totally took you by surprise.

Tell me what -- tell me how it went down.

JOY BLACK, FINANCEE OF U.S. FIGHTER CAPTURED BY RUSSIAN-BACKED FORCES AND FREED: I was actually with Alex's mother Bunny at the time. And we were checking in to the place (INAUDIBLE). We didn't know they were there yet in the lobby. And they surprised us from behind.

Andy gave me a hug and I just started crying. I didn't know he was there. It was just a big surprise, but a happy surprise.

BURNETT: What was that like for you, Andy, when you came up behind her? And, you know, you know she's waiting for you, but she didn't know you were -- you were there at that moment?

HUYNH: You know, like, it was like -- Alex and I like, you know, we just kind of hide off in the corner, and eventually when we saw them come, we more or less snuck up. When I finally embraced her, like, and said (ph), I felt happy again.

BURNETT: You felt happy again.

So, Andy, I know that you still need to debrief U.S. officials fully on your captivity. I mean, you went through more than 100 days, an incredible trauma. And I know there's really not much you can say about it right now in the midst of all that.

Is there anything that you do want to share about what happened?

HUYNH: At this time, I'm not -- I don't know what I can or can't say without being officially debriefed.

BURNETT: Yeah. No, I understand.

And, Joy, it's -- it's got to be so hard not talking to Andy for more than 100 days. What is it like now as you try to -- you try to talk again, and you're sort of reengaging, someone you missed every day, and yet, obviously, this unbelievable thing happened?

BLACK: It's -- we're kind of taking it in our pace (ph) and kind of slow, but it's actually -- I'm glad that he's -- you know, he's still him and, you know, we didn't -- we didn't lose him there. He is still Andy.

And even though it's still kind of hard, we're still sorting through things and still readjusting (INAUDIBLE).

BURNETT: Yeah, no, and it's -- I don't even want to use the word normal because, obviously, Andy, nothing that you went through was -- was normal. And -- but it -- of course, it's going to take time.

I mean, Andy, did you have any idea that Joy was on national television pleading for your release? You know, of everything that she was doing to try to make sure everyone knew about you and how she was trying to bring you home?

HUYNH: To an extent, I didn't know. Alex was a representative for the Americans that were there, and he -- when we were able to meet up again (INAUDIBLE) what was happening, (INAUDIBLE) news front (ph), Joy and Bunny telling about us. So, I -- we knew like a small information. That's about it.

BURNETT: And, Joy, you said that Andy had a wish that you found out after he's -- you know he was coming home, that he had a rest (ph) for a -- wish, I'm sorry, for big spaghetti dinner with meat sauce and a long list of fast food. Did you get to have that spaghetti dinner?

HUYNH: Yes. We ended up having it last night?

BLACK: Last night.

HUYNH: Last night, yes. (INAUDIBLE) McDonald's, the airport was there. So, it's been (INAUDIBLE) McDonald's.


BURNETT: That's all right. I think that the most important thing was just being able to spend time together.

Well, thank you both so much. I look forward to talking to you again. And we're just really so -- as I say, Joy, to you -- so joyful that you have had this wonderful reunion. Thank you, both.

All right. And next, for the first time, we hear from a migrant who was on the inside of the operation to fly migrants to Martha's Vineyard. How he became a key player in Ron DeSantis' play.

Plus, Hurricane Ian. Forecasters are calling it the storm of a lifetime. Winds now close to 100 miles an hour. The latest on the track as it churns towards Florida.


BURNETT: Tonight, we're hearing for the first time from someone inside the effort to fly two planes full of migrants to Martha's Vineyard. A migrant speaking exclusively on camera to CNN says he feels betrayed after he himself was lured to help recruit other migrants.

Maria Santana with this exclusive report.


MARIA SANTANA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the first time to CNN, someone on the inside of the operation recruiting migrants out of San Antonio, Texas, is telling his story on camera.

The man we spoke to, himself a recently arrived migrant, describing details of working with a woman who many have said identified herself only as Perla. He says he was living on the streets of San Antonio for 28 days before Perla offered him clothes, food and money to help her secure migrants for the flight to Martha's Vineyard.


He showed us her business card, text messages, and let us listen to audio messages from Perla, revealing she was still in contact with him as recently as last week. For his safety, we are protecting his identity.

Who approached you?

MIGRANT WHO RECRUITED OTHERS (through translator): A woman. She said her name was Perla. I didn't know if that was her real name. I didn't ask either. My only intention was to help the people so they could get some stability. She took them to a hotel. At the hotel, I realized that they were being treated well. There were three meals and benefit, things such as laundry, clothes, things they didn't have the expectation of getting.

SANTANA: What did she say you had to do?

MIGRANT WHO RECRUITED OTHERS (through translator): Recruit people, help them. She said she would hire me and give me some of her cards. I distributed those cards based on the information which is that we would send them to a sanctuary place. In addition to, that until the flight would leave, we would take them to a hotel where as I explained you to, they were provided services. SANTANA: What did she say to you to tell these migrants when you

approached them? Did she give you any instructions about how to talk to them, to try to get them to get on these flights?

MIGRANT WHO RECRUITED OTHERS (through translator): She had told me that the people who were going to Massachusetts before I sent them, she had told me that they were going receive them, they were going to live, they were going to stay, they were going the help them with the language and those who had children, they were going to study.

SANTANA: These migrants, many of them say they were offered $10 McDonald's gift cards, and then they were asked to sign a consent form to get on these flights.

MIGRANT WHO RECRUITED OTHERS (through translator): They gave them to me so that I could give them to them when people wanted to be on the flight. Everything was always voluntary. No one was ever forced to do anything. When these people always said yes, I made sure they gave me their papers, the migrations papers.

SANTANA: Two planes left San Antonio on September 14, headed to Florida and ultimately to Martha's Vineyard. Once they arrived, he received a concerned phone message from one of the migrants.

MIGRANT WHO ARRIVED ON MARTHA'S VINEYARD (through translator): We're at the utopia, man, and there is nothing. And we're waiting to see if we can find a bed, because I'm going have no place to sleep there's nothing here. We're adrift here. These people didn't even know we would arrive. With that, I'm telling you everything so that you can see, bro. It's not me, it's the reality.

SANTANA: He says he messaged Perla that the migrants were nervous because nobody was there to meet them, and they were sleeping on the side of the road. He showed us what he says Perla texted back.

Tell them to call the numbers we gave them, the church. The state has to take care of them. Later that night, he says she left him an audio message saying I know they were scared at first, but now they are in a much better place, and they're going to be taken care of there like you have no idea. I know they arrived in another city, but it is within Massachusetts. Believe me, they are going to have a much better life than here or anywhere else.

He says he believed everything that Perla promised him. Over the last few days, he says she has been warning him not to talk to reporters, texting him: If a reporter calls you, don't say anything. He says he didn't know Governor Ron DeSantis was responsible for the planes to Martha's Vineyard until he saw the news, and Perla never informed him who she was working for.

MIGRANT WHO RECRUITED OTHERS (through translator): I was always aware it was benefactor who was paying for things. I repeat, I never, ever knew that it was a governor or politician. So my only will has always been to help people.

SANTANA: In the end, I asked him if he felt betrayed by all of this? MIGRANT WHO RECRUITED OTHERS (through translator): Yes, of course.

Look, look at all this where I am. First so that everyone knows that I have nothing to do with the deception. Second, that always, as I said from the beginning, my only principle has been to help people I really see as needy.


BURNETT: And, Maria, it's amazing just to hear it in his voice. Would you have that voice mail you're referring to. This is no utopia. But the choice of the word, it's almost as if that's how it had been promised.

SANTANA: Right, right.

BURNETT: What else do we know about this woman? She becomes more and more important who calls herself Perla?

SANTANA: That's really a lot of what's publicly known about her. That this woman named Perla was very much at the center of all of this. And she was the one approaching people. And she was the one recruiting people.

A lot of what we know about her comes from the migrants themselves. They describe her. They say what she told them, what she promised them. But no one has been able to publicly identify her.

And a lot of these migrants don't even know her last name. They got on a plane with this business card, first name, no company, no other information except the phone number. And she was able to convince them to do this. Now what --

BURNETT: They trusted her.

SANTANA: And they trusted her. And from what we hear from -- we hear a lot on both sides is she was either this Good Samaritan who really cared about people on the streets and wanted to get them to a better place, or she was a mastermind taking advantage of people, and probably maybe working in connection with some political operative, maybe DeSantis. But we still have a lot to learn about this mystery woman.

BURNETT: Certainly a lot to learn, although interesting as in that one text she said the state will take care of you.


I mean, knew certain things that obviously --


SANTANA: Didn't want them to speak to reporters.

BURNETT: And they didn't want to speak to reporters, which would lead you to think political, but obviously, still so many questions.


BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Maria, for that report.

And next, Hurricane Ian a category two. It's going to, they say, get stronger. The winds are going to pick up as it's moving through this very hot water, going to be a catastrophic storm. Officials telling people in parts of Florida to leave now. We have the latest on the track next.

Plus, the massive price tag for Biden's plan to relieve student debt.


BURNETT: Tonight, the storm of the lifetime. Those were the words from NASA, posting a video of Hurricane Ian from space as it intensifies and pushes north toward hit Florida.

The Tampa area right now is preparing for a potential direct hit. It would be the first direct hit to Tampa in more than 100 years. Thousands of Florida residents are under mandatory evacuation orders tonight.

Tom Sater is OUTFRONT from the CNN Weather Center.

Tom, what are seeing right now here? That picture, that satellite picture was just unbelievable.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. It really is, and when you think about it, Tampa, 1921, the last direct hit. However, this will be the first major hurricane to come this close and pass this close to Tampa since 1950.


So, a lot of people have never been through this. It's about 110, 120 miles from western Cuba, waiting for the eye to form. The warmest waters across the entire Atlantic are in this area. So, it underwent rapid intensification. It will probably do that again.

If you look at the watches and warnings are in place, it looks chaotic. But in pink are watches. And then we've upgraded this national hurricane center from a watch to a warning, including the Tampa area. That means 24, 36 hours, we'll have some hurricane conditions.

Computer plots still, you know, there's some variations here. So, things can still change and we see that all the time. The two main models, the American and European have been fluctuating. In fact, yesterday, Americans, now today sliding to the east. European, sliding westward. There'd be coming in better agreement.

So, the cone of uncertainty here still gives us a little bit of a wiggle room. But it goes from a category 4 to a 1. Pay no attention to the 4, Erin, because it's going to carry that surge equivalent to a category 4 right into the Tampa Bay area and all the tributaries and endless to the south of there.

BURNETT: Which is really amazing, because what you're saying here is that really the numbers that we're used to referencing 1, 2, 3, 4 actually aren't what's relevant here. You're looking at something catastrophic regardless.

SATER: Yeah. Absolutely. And the big problem here is -- I mean, when you look at a category one that, is talking about winds. We're still going to have a 300 mile swath of tropical storm force winds. But it's all about the surge. So, the warnings up and down the whole coast as we're really going see it spin counterclockwise.

Here's the two models again. They were in disagreement. American in red and European in blue. You can't get a better agreement. But look how it blows up.

The problem here is it's going to slow down, Erin, we thought maybe five miles per hour. Now it's maybe two or three. That means 36 to 48 hours just off in the worst possible position to throw that surge hour after hour into the bay and every inlet and it impedes the water from it receding. It acts as a dam.

So, as the waters continue to build up which we're looking at 5 to 10, you know, 10, 15 inches of rain on top of that. So we're hoping if we can get that to jog just 30 miles off to the west, we'll have a big -- relief.

BURNETT: Huge relief.

SATER: I mean, huge relief.

BURNETT: But it is interesting. Just to emphasize what the exclamation is, 5 miles an hour is slow, 2 to 3 is really slow but twice as long that would take anywhere.

SATER: You could out walk it.

BURNETT: Yeah, yeah, and just to give everyone a sense of the differences can make such a massive difference. Thanks so much, Tom.

And next, for the first time we're learning the estimated price tag of Biden's plan to cancel student debt. And it's about double what the White House told us.


BURNETT: And, finally, the massive price tag for Biden's student debt relief package, $400 billion. That is the new estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, which did an analysis. The White House has estimated it would cost $24 billion a year. To cancel up to $20,000 of student debt for certain borrowers.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.