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Erin Burnett Outfront
Viktor Bout Says He Would "Volunteer" In Putin's War If He Could; New Video Appears To Show Russian Combat Instructor Pleading For More Equipment; Special Counsel Subpoenas Georgia Elections Chief In January 6 Probe; Fauci: Responding To Musk Would Be Like "Cesspool Of Interaction"; U.S. Makes "Major" Breakthrough In Nuclear Fusion Energy; American College Student Missing While Studying Abroad In France. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 12, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Putin's guy, one of the world's most notorious weapons dealers who was just freed in exchange for Brittney Griner, leaving no doubts about his loyalty to Putin and his war tonight.
This new video into OUTFRONT shows a Russian combat training instructor complaining of no equipment, no protection, and a tourniquet to stem the bleeding.
Plus, first, OUTFRONT, Dr. Anthony Fauci responds to Elon Musk's call for Fauci to be prosecuted. We have the new audio.
And a major scientific breakthrough. A nuclear fusion could be a game- changer. One of America's top physicists will be my guest this hour.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, Putin's man. Viktor Bout, one of the world's most notorious arms dealers freed in a prisoner swap with the WNBA star Brittney Griner, making public his loyalty lies with Vladimir Putin. Today, joining the pro-Putin ultra nationalist party after proclaiming his full support for Putin's war in Ukraine.
This is just the latest in what has become a public victory lap for the so-called "merchant of death", a victory lap that Putin is gladly broadcasting all across Russian state media.
In fact, it's been only four days since Bout's release, and he's not retiring to be with his family. Here he is, speaking out on Putin's decision to invade Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIKTOR BOUT, RUSSIAN ARMS DEALER (through translator): Like any Russian person, I honestly did not understand why we didn't do it sooner. I am entirely in support of it. If I had an opportunity and the necessary skills, I would definitely go in as a volunteer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He would have done it sooner, he's got skills, and now he's got the opportunity and he's willing to volunteer, he says, which is what Putin needs more than anything right now in Ukraine. In fact, the woman who spent her career tracking Bout for the United States government, along with a investigate reporter, both have told me that Bout has the goods that Putin needs to fight the war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He will be ready for Putin to deploy him, especially in Ukraine and Africa and other war zones.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But also his contacts, especially in places like Africa. These contacts and this kind of experience might be extremely helpful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, here is why Africa is key, we know Putin has long been courting African countries to stand with him in this war. We know that the Wagner group, Putin's brutal private army is growing in influence in Ukraine and has been setting its recruitment sights on Africa. So many Russians dying in this war, they need people to fight, and they're finding them in Africa.
In fact, over the weekend, 23-year-old from Zambia was flown home after being killed on the frontlines in Ukraine. A Russian network-run by the Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin aired video of a farewell ceremony for him.
And we want to show you something in this video, because what you're looking at here is what's known as the Wagner chapel, they have their own chapel. And according to our Sebastian Shukla, this chapel is inside a secretive location connected to the Wagner Group. In fact, CNN attempted to gain access to this chapel in 2019, but was denied entry because it was so secretive.
Prigozhin's Wagner group and Bout, both experts are using Africa for guns, for fighters, and for wealth. As for bout, he's just joining Putin's party tonight and offering to help him with Ukraine publicly, he is also parroting Putin on another topic Putin cares so deeply about, in fact, obsesses about. So much so that he included it in his Ukraine annexation speech this fall. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOUT (through translator): Can you imagine that in American schools, they are now teaching first graders, six and seven year olds that there are 72 genders? Not just gays or whatever, which is fine, but 72.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If the Western elites believe that they can have their people and their societies embrace what I believe are strange and trendy ideas like dozens of genders, or gay pride parades, so be it. Let them do as they please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Bout is Putin's man from start until now.
Will Ripley is OUTFRONT live in Kyiv tonight to begin our coverage.
And, Will, Viktor Bout could certainly be a part of Putin's plans in Ukraine, right?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, when it comes to procuring weapons and he is someone who hates the West, who has called LGBTQ issues the death and the suicide of civilization. He kept a portrait of Putin in his prison cell and he has connections, he has connections all over the world.
This is the guy who was convicted of arming rebels in some of the world's bloodiest conflicts. If you talk about combining Bout with the Wagner Group, which have committed alleged war crimes around the world, they have been conducting Russia's dirty work, kind of a mercenary group doing the things that Russia doesn't want to be officially tied to.
And yet, they're doing it with Russia weapons and Russian money, well, that is really cause for growing concern here in Kyiv, and across Ukraine where Russian weapons are inflicting real suffering for millions of people, plunged into darkness by blackouts and relentless Russian attacks.
RIPLEY (voice-over): Just days before the official start of winter, Ukraine's military prepares for the deep freeze. Plunging temperatures won't stop front line fighting says Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.
OLEKSII REZNIKOV, UKRAINE DEFENSE MINISTER: And it is important, not only for Ukraine, it's important for Europe. It's important for the civilized world.
RIPLEY: Ukraine's goal? Reclaim all Russian held territory, including Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia nearly nine years ago in 2014.
The defense minister tells CNN Ukraine urgently needs more weapons from the U.S. and NATO.
Are you getting the weapons that you need right now in time?
REZNIKOV: You know, when you have a war you will not have enough. We need certainly more, especially air defense systems. It's priority number one for us.
RIPLEY: Have you been given an explanation of why the Patriot missile defense systems have not arrived yet?
REZNIKOV: It's a long discussion with our partners because it is a very sophisticated and expensive system. So, I think that Patriot also will be in our battlefield for the next stage.
RIPLEY: That next age includes protecting the power grid from Russia's ongoing assault on Ukraine's energy infrastructure. Russia fired hundreds of missiles just in the last two months. Regular Russian airstrikes with explosive drones made in Iran. Drone attacks plunged one and a half million people into darkness over the weekend.
What's your best strategy to defend against these kamikaze drone attacks from Russia?
REZNIKOV: Every day, we're trying to find the best solutions.
RIPLEY: Are drones priority for you for developing drones?
REZNIKOV: Certainly, we need drones for reconnaissance. We need drones for striking, we need anti-drone systems. So, electronic warfare, it's a very important issue for us.
RIPLEY: The defense minister won't confirm or deny Ukraine carried out drone strikes close to the Russian capital last week. These attacks inside Russia, including 500 miles from Moscow, Ukrainian drones is what Russia is claiming. Is that -- is that what happened?
REZNIKOV: It's very important, don't smoke in a dangerous place.
RIPLEY: In other words, be careful what you start. Ukraine officials gave the same coded answer after the bombing of the Crimean Bridge in October. Ukraine never officially claimed responsibility.
REZNIKOV: They are targeting our infrastructure because they cannot have success against armed forces of Ukraine.
RIPLEY: He says, Russia started this war, and Ukraine won't stop until they finish it.
RIPLEY: And tonight, there is some breaking news out of the city of Kadiivka, in the Russian occupied Luhansk region. Erin, according to Ukrainian authorities there, a huge number of Wagner Group operates, these mercenaries who are sleeping apparently in a hotel were killed in a Ukrainian missile strike. That, you can say, is proof that U.S. made weapons are crucial if they're going to gain the upper hand in this war which is now dragging on ever closer to that dreaded year mark.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Will Ripley from Kyiv.
And I want to talk more about what he just talked about, that strike on the Wagner Group.
I want to go OUFRONT now to John Sullivan, who was the U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Biden and former President Trump. And retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, who was the Army commanding general for Europe and the Seventh Army.
I appreciate both of you being with me so much.
Ambassador Sullivan, I just want to start with you. You heard Will Ripley's reporting. And now, we're learning Putin will not hold his end-of-year press conference, which is an annual thing he has done. He's also taking questions from the Russian people during that time.
It is the first time since 2013 that he isn't going to do this. So in almost ten years. You know, we're just looking at a few of them on the screen here.
It is an annual tradition.
Ambassador, what is the significance of Putin skipping it this year?
JOHN SULLIVAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, thanks, Erin. It's very good to be with you.
I think it's a sign of concern about his domestic support. He'd rather wheel out Viktor Bout and have Bout recite the script that he just -- we saw the video of him speaking. If you think that those words were his words originally, you're sadly mistaken.
That's the Kremlin speaking through Bout. He's useful to them as a mouthpiece. Putin doesn't want to go out and spend hours before journalists, even state media, and risk getting asked difficult and embarrassing questions.
BURNETT: Yeah. Which, you know, we saw for the first time some in state media asking him about the shortages on the front lines, who do we believe, them or you? And he says, you don't believe anybody but me.
And, General Hertling, to that point and to the ambassador's point about Bout being the mouthpiece, I wanted to share some new video for you all and everyone watching of what appears to be a Russian combat training instructor for the 247th Regiment in Stavropol pleading to a regional governor, pleading for more equipment and supplies.
Let me play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSIAN COMBAT TRAINING INSTRUCTOR (through translator): Your fighters that you sent to us here in Stavropol Krai are almost completely naked. They have no medical kits, and they have just one tourniquet.
Any one of you, come over here.
As you can see, they have almost no protection, and just two plates. They don't have any thermal underwear. The boys are freezing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And, General, we can't authenticate this video, but I just will be clear -- it is in line with previous reports, videos, phone calls of Russian troops complaining about unbelievably inadequate and unacceptable supply situations for modern military.
So, is this part of what we're seeing right now? Is there any way for Russian forces to succeed on the ground with the conditions that we just heard outlined there?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Short answer, Erin -- no, absolutely not.
Here's -- here's what you have to consider. Those new trainees that are coming in after being mobilized are prepared to be trained. They're also prepared to be equipped. That's individual training. They teach them things like rifle marksmanship and first aid and how to move in small units and things like that.
But that's just the first step, and that takes weeks. After that, it takes months to have them learn what's called combined arms operations -- tanks working with infantry, working with armor, working with engineers. It literally takes months of training.
There was a NATO report submitted today that said the earliest, if everything goes right that, Russia can get mobilized troops on the front lines is May. That's months away, and that's considering that they had everything they need.
The fact that those soldiers don't even have tourniquets, Band-Aids -- I mean, you showed a neurosurgeon in Ukraine operating on a brain the other night in a combat support hospital. These guys don't even have tourniquets to wear on their uniforms. So that means they probably don't have medics, they don't have first aid stations, they don't have support hospitals, all of those -- all of those things contribute to making a modern army, and Russia continues to fail miserably.
BURNETT: I'm actually having a flashback to about a year ago when we started reporting for the first time on how they were accumulating blood supplies on the front lines. Well, it looks like maybe they did that, but they didn't do anything else.
BURNETT: Ambassador, there has been so much speculation about Putin's health. We've all seen it. It's impossible to confirm. It's why we don't talk about it a lot.
But you've been in the room with him as recently as last year, more recently than pretty much anyone. So, what, if any, changes do you see in him since then and over the time you knew him? When you look at all these reports and you see him out there, what do you see?
SULLIVAN: Well, thanks, Erin. First of all, when I've been with him in person, he has looked the
picture of health. And that's certainly the assessment -- there is no assessment by the U.S. government that he has serious health problems. You've heard my former colleague CIA Director Bill Burns say the problem with Putin's health is that it's too good.
SULLIVAN: What I've witnessed, however, in Moscow over the last -- since this so-called special military operation began, is that Putin does look stressed, puffy, overtired -- sort of the way I look now after having been through a war myself there behind enemy lines in Moscow.
I get it. It's a lot of stress, and I think that's what he's feeling.
We don't believe -- the United States doesn't believe, as Director Burns said, that he's got some serious medical issue that is going to take him out of the picture.
BURNETT: No, no, certainly not. But I do find it interesting what you're saying. You're not buying into any of those theories, and I don't want to repeat them all. But you are -- to you, it does seem fair that he does look tired, and -- I mean, the word puffy, because it does feel accurate. Some of those picture where people go into other theories, he seems puffy.
SULLIVAN: Absolutely. And there are times where I think when his rhetoric gets ahead of him and where he wants to go. And I think that's a sign of fatigue. He really wants to be a person who is in control, very carefully modulated. And there have been occasions when his rhetoric has gotten a little out in front.
And I think that's just a sign of fatigue, which is understandable given the stress that the man is under with the catastrophic blunder he made by starting this war on the European continent.
BURNETT: And, General Hertling, in that war, he has become increasingly reliant on people like Mr. Prigozhin, the Wagner Group. And you heard Will's reporting on that. That, of course, is the brutal mercenary group considered, you know, Putin's sort of off-the-book troops.
And I want to talk about that explosion Will mentioned. The aftermath of an explosion at what Ukraine says is the group's headquarters in the occupied city of Luhansk that we understand the reporting is that there could be huge losses there.
What are you hearing, and how significant of a strike is this, General?
MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yeah, my contacts in Ukraine, Erin, are telling me that it was a good strike. It's also a precision strike. And a lot goes into that, not only the strike itself but the intelligence behind it -- finding out where these soldiers are barracked, where they're living, where the headquarters are, where the ammunition dumps are.
And Ukraine has been very effective with the precision weapons the U.S. and the Western forces have given them, which striking those forces.
And, remember, too, Erin, the Wagner -- the so-called Wagner Group is the same group in 2018 that lost 300 soldiers in Syria when they tried to attack U.S. forces. It was a massacre.
These guys are mercenaries. They are individual soldiers who are more like criminals than they are like soldiers. And they don't know how to conduct operations. They certainly know how to shoot weapons and commit war crimes, but they're not very good soldiers.
So they will continue to blunder through some things, and that creates the kind of catastrophe where a couple of hundred of them are killed in a hotel in the Luhansk province.
BURNETT: Yeah. And, of course, as we know, more and more of them are actually criminals being recruited directly from prisons in Russia and elsewhere.
Thank you both so very much. I really appreciate the insight.
SULLIVAN: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETTT: And, next, the DOJ special counsel ramping up its criminal investigation into January 6th. Tonight, a subpoena coming out, and we'll tell you what it's about.
Plus, first OUTFRONT, Dr. Anthony Fauci takes on Elon Musk after Musk came out and called for Fauci to be prosecuted, blaming him for, quote, millions of deaths.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: If you get drawn into that -- and I have to be honest -- that cesspool of interaction, it's -- there's no value added to that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: And an American college student studying abroad in France vanished. Why his family tonight says they fear the worst.
BURNETT: Tonight, subpoenaed. The DOJ special counsel has subpoenaed the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in its January 6th investigation. Sources telling CNN tonight that the criminal probe under the special counsel Jack Smith is focusing on Trump's state of mind after the 2020 election, which, of course, is when Trump said this in that infamous call with Raffensperger.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Evan Perez is OUTFRONT.
And, Evan, of course, Brad Raffensperger, who just won re-election easily, has written a book about that call. He's put the transcript of that call out. He's testified to the January 6th Committee. He has been very open in sharing what he knows. So what is the special counsel asking him for turn over now?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the first time it appears that the Justice Department, the criminal investigation that the Justice Department has been doing now for some time is actually going directly to Raffensperger to ask him for documents. He's being ordered to turn over documents by December 29th in lieu of any testimony.
What we've seen, Erin, in these cases, is that in addition to documents, often the prosecutors will come back and ask for testimony to the grand jury. That hasn't happened yet.
But we know that obviously, you know, that part of the call that you just played is a key part of what the Justice Department and what the special counsel is investigating, which is this effort by the former president to enlist a number of people to find a way for him to remain in office and to prevent the transfer of power to the winner of the 2020 election, which was Joe Biden. And one of the things that you see in the copy of the subpoena that "The Washington Post" posted in their website, they're asking for communications with people like John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell.
But more importantly, they're asking for communications directly with the former president. And that tells you a lot about what the focus of this investigation is.
BURNETT: All right, Evan, thank you very much.
So, now, let's go to Ryan Goodman, the co-editor in chief of the "Just Security" legal blog, and, of course, as you know, the former special counsel at the Defense Department.
So, Ryan, Raffensperger, of course, is a key witness when you look at this. Trump directly asked him to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. But, as I said, he's been very open about everything he knows. He wrote a book about it, right? He's been willing to talk.
So when you look at this, what do you think the DOJ wants in their criminal investigation to get from him now? RYAN GOODMAN, CO-EDITOR IN THE CHIEF: So, I think the DOJ probably
wants a couple things. First, it's true that he puts it in his book. But they would also want to know from him basically what he would tell to a grand jury, what he might tell to a jury, if this is ever indicted.
And the book is very devastating. He actually annotates the phone call at the back end of the book. And in it he says he felt directly pressured by Trump, both in terms of his own physical safety and also a threat of criminal coercion, criminal punishment.
So, I think he want to hear that from him.
And then subpoenaing him for all his conditions with or about Trump could also be very important because it would be contemporaneous communications probably between himself and other state officials that phone call, about the call with Lindsey Graham as well, in which Raffensperger told CNN that he felt that Graham was essentially saying to him, look hard and see how many ballots you can throw out. That's the kind of information and evidence that the special counsel wants to hear about.
BURNETT: And, obviously, it shows that Jack Smith is -- well, he's buttoning things up, he's leaving nothing on the table. And since Thanksgiving, the special counsel, that, of course, is Jack Smith, he's gotten testimony, so since Thanksgiving. So we're talking about in the past couple weeks from two former Trump White House lawyers, Trump's former speech writer, and Stephen Miller, as well as three of Trump's closest aides in the Mar-a-Lago.
But despite this, sources tell CNN that some of Trump's lawyers think that he is still unlikely to be indicted.
What does all of this tell you?
GOODMAN: It tells me that that's maybe wishful thinking on their part, that's their genuine thought. If income anything, it looks like thing is ramping up very steadily and at great pace compared to what was happening before jack smith stepped into that position. The Raffensperger subpoena, it's been over 700 days since "The Washington Post" published the full hour audio of that phone call, highly incriminating phone call, 700 days for the DOJ to finally get around to subpoena him.
When does it happen? Under Jack Smith. So I think they are pointing down the wrong way, if jack smith follows the right facts, might very well end up with an indictment pretty soon.
BURNETT: It seems like whatever he's doing, he's doing it with great alacrity. Thank you very much, Ryan.
And, next, first OUTFRONT, we have new audio tonight of Dr. Fauci responding to Elon Musk's attacks on Twitter.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
FAUCI: And if I get drawn into that -- and I have to be honest -- that cesspool of interaction.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Cesspool of interaction.
Plus, breaking news. Disgraced crypto mogul Sam Bankman-Fried has been arrested after the collapse of his FTX cryptocurrency exchange. We have the details on that, literally just as happening, next.
Plus, I'll talk to the American of Marc Fogel. He is the American teacher being held in Russia after he was arrested with half an ounce of marijuana in his luggage. Why isn't he, like Brittney Griner, free tonight?
BURNETT: First on OUTFRONT, Dr. Anthony Fauci responding tonight to Elon Musk after Musk tweeted, and I quote: My pronouns are prosecute/Fauci.
Fauci spoke to our David Axelrod in a podcast that's out on Thursday. Here is a first on OUTFRONT preview.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I don't respond to him. I don't pay any attention to him because that's merely a distraction. And if you get drawn into that, and I have to be honest, that cesspool of interaction, it's -- there's no value added to that, David. It doesn't help anything.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: It comes as Musk received boos as well as some cheers last night at a Dave Chappelle show in San Francisco, showing what a total lightning rod Musk has become. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: Elon.
ELON MUSK, TWITTER CEO: Hey, Dave.
(BOOS AND CHEERS)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I think it's generous there to say there were some cheers. There were some. But that was pretty overwhelming booing, and it seemed to -- seemed to take Musk a bit aback.
OUTFRONT now, David Axelrod, host of the "Axe Files" podcast, also former senior adviser to President Obama and our senior political commentator.
So, David, when you talk to Dr. Fauci and he talks about that cesspool of interaction --
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah.
BURNETT: -- pretty remarkable comment referring to Twitter, what else did Fauci tell you in response to Musk?
AXELROD: Well, he clearly was eager, as he said, not to engage with Musk directly. But he did say, Erin, and it was really interesting, reflecting on his over half century of work that this has been a half century of extraordinary progress in science, in public health. But when it came to the political discourse, he said there's been an erosion. And he lays a lot of it on social media.
And, of course, he's been in the middle of this. He's been -- he was targeted all throughout the pandemic for the decisions that he advised and the advice he was giving to policymakers about how he should proceed to deal with that pandemic, and to the point where he had significant security threats that required round-the-clock security, which he says in his podcast that is going to have to continue after he leaves his post at the end of this month.
So, you know, he has pretty strong feelings about the erosion of our public discourse and the role social media has played in it.
BURNETT: Well, you know, and Musk did something else, which I -- it sort of took me aback on Twitter, even amidst all of this. He was challenged, Musk was, on Twitter by the former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly.
Musk had brought up the concept of gain of function research, which is basically scientific research that causes a disease pathogen to be more infectious and potentially lethal.
And he suggested that Dr. Fauci was responsible for the deaths of, quote, millions of people.
BURNETT: I mean, as for Fauci, the quote is: he lied to Congress and funded gain of research function that killed millions of people.
For Musk to suggest that Fauci caused millions of deaths, what do you -- what do you even say to that? What does Fauci say to that?
AXELROD: Well, he did address this issue. And it has to do with a lab in Wuhan and the research that was funded by the NIH that he argues, I think pretty persuasively, actually helped detect what was -- what was going on. And there have been several studies, Erin, released this summer, independent studies that kind of -- supported Fauci's theory that this came from a wet market in China.
But he -- listen, this is a guy who, through his work on AIDS, as well as this pandemic and several others, has arguably saved tens of millions of lives. And so, you know, I think he is, as much as anything, bewildered by this. I did push him a little because he likes to use words like that. And he's mostly outraged about the impact it's had on his family. And he's -- he made that very, very clear and their personal safety and their comfort.
But he is very comfortable with the contributions that he made -- the decisions he made. He says he's ready to testify before Congress. The Republicans said they're going to call him before Congress. He said that gets the Brooklyn up in him, and he's looking forward to cooperating in any way. And he hopes that it's a constructive review and not just a political exercise.
BURNETT: Well, we'll see about that. But it's going to be interesting -- interesting to see and he's willing to testify.
Well, David, thank you very much.
I want to everyone to know -- you can hear the full podcast. They are always worth listening to every word, Axe has a gift with this, and that is on Thursday.
AXELROD: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you.
And in more breaking news, the king of crypto arrested, Sam Bankman- Fried -- excuse me -- the disgraced founder of the $32 billion crypto exchange FTX, which collapsed last month, was just taken into custody in the Bahamas. That arrest coming after prosecutors in the U.S. filed criminal charges. Bankman-Fried has been under investigation by the justice department ever since FTX collapsed on November 11th. And he was expected to testify before the House Financial Services Committee tomorrow. We will see, but that arrest obviously is significant, and the first move by regulators to hold anyone accountable for the collapse of FTX.
OUTFRONT next, the WNBA star Brittney Griner back on the court after being freed. Does her release give the family of Marc Fogel, who is also being held in Russia, hope? His sister is next.
And a major milestone in the quest for power.
BURNETT: Tonight, high priority. National security adviser Jake Sullivan says he is meeting with Russian officials this week about bringing American Paul Whelan home because it's, quote, as high a priority as the president has.
It comes as WNBA all-star Brittney Griner remains in an army medical facility night. Griner already back on the court just two days after returning to American soil after nearly ten months of imprisonment in Russia, including being in penal colony.
Griner was released on Thursday as part of a prisoner exchange, of course, for the notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout.
But there is another American being held in Russia whose history is strikingly similar to Griner's. That's the story of Marc Fogel, a teacher who taught history an elite private school in Moscow. He was arrested at an airport when he arrived in Russia with half an ounce of marijuana found in his luggage. That was it.
And his doctor confirms it was medical marijuana, prescription for chronic pain. The 61-year-old was sentenced to 14 years in prison and is now serving time in a penal colony. His sister Anne Fogel is back out front tonight.
And, Anne, I'm glad to speak with you. I'm sorry it's under the circumstances of, he's not home yet, but I'm glad to have the chance for you to tell everyone your story because we've been talking for months. The last time you and I spoke, Marc was being transferred to a penal colony. He didn't have any idea where he wasn't transit.
What is the latest that you know about Marc tonight?
ANNE FOGEL, SISTER OF MARC FOGEL, WHO IS SERVING 14 YEARS IN RUSSIA: Marc -- thanks for having me as well. Marc is in a town called Ravensk (ph), which is north of Moscow. He is not where the other two were, not sure why that is. But that's the case. And he's allowed to make phone calls now. So we are in regular contact with him, it makes all the difference in the world. Well, almost.
BURNETT: I mean, almost, and it's a big almost. And when you see these images of Britney being released, does this give you more hope? And have you had a chance to talk to him about that?
FOGEL: I did talk to Marc about it. He is -- he is wrestling with the conflicting emotions of what that might be. Of course, everyone is happy that Brittney Griner is home. She did not deserve to be there.
We hope that her star power will continue to shed light on Marc who has still not been designated as wrongfully detained which is incredibly frustrating thing for our family.
BURNETT: And the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs is a man named Roger Carstens. He led the mission after the prisoner swap that happened on the tarmac for Griner's release.
And he told my friend Dana Bash that he spoke with Paul Whelan the day after the swap. I wanted to play for you what he told her about their conversation. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER CARSTENS, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR HOSTAGE AFFAIRS: I said Paul, you have the commitment of this president. The president is focused. The secretary of state is focused. I'm certainly focused. And we're going to bring you home.
I said, keep the faith. We're coming to get you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, the troubling part about that for you, I know, is that your brother was not mentioned. I mean, do you think the government is doing all it can to get Marc back?
FOGEL: I certainly hope so. We expect so. I'm disappointed. I can't hide that. I'm disappointed that they don't say his name. They haven't said his name yet.
It is especially difficult for my mother who is 93 years old and needs to be -- needs to hear her son's name mentioned. It's very difficult.
BURNETT: I can only imagine. And what do you want the world to know about Marc?
FOGEL: I guess I want the world to know that Marc is, like, this incredible human being, that his students all know that he is, but the broader community doesn't know.
Today is the seventh anniversary of the death of my husband, which is a very sad occasion, but I'm also remembering my brother in the situation and the fact that he flew halfway around the world to be with my kids when my husband and I were in Houston. And that's the kind of person that he is. He steps up, he does what he can.
And he gives himself over. He is -- the bias sister that I am, he is a remarkable human being, and his friends know that, and his students know that, and his family knows that. So --
BURNETT: Well, I hope --
BURNETT: I don't know if everyone watching -- I hope they will. I hope they hear you.
And thank you so much, Anne, for coming on and talking about Marc. I really appreciate it.
BURNETT: Thank you. I really appreciate it, too.
And, next, a major breakthrough tonight on fusion energy. Could this one day break the world's dependency on fossil fuels? One of America's top physicists is my guest.
Plus, an American student studying abroad in France has now been missing for over a week, and his family is now fearing the worst. You'll hear his story.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:51:06]
BURNETT: Tonight, breakthrough and a major scientific triumph. Researchers for the first time ever have created energy for what's known as a nuclear fusion reaction. When atoms collide at very high speeds, they can generate remarkable amounts of energy and heat, which is about ten times hotter than the sun's core. The big difference though, we use the word nuclear, is that this does not have the risks, the radiation, and the fallout inherent in what we all understand to be a nuclear power.
And that could lead to a new an infinite source of clean energy. It's incredible thing to even consider.
OUTFRONT now, Michio Kaku, the professor of the theoretical physics at City University of New York, and also, the author of "New York Times" bestseller, "The God Equation".
Professor, I really appreciate your time. So, just -- I guess to put this in English, how much of a game-changer, and we all like to use that word, just a quick shorthand, but how real is that word in this case?
DR. MICHIO KAKU, PROFESSOR OF THEORITICAL PHYSICS, CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK: Well, the holy grail of energy research is to put the sun in a bottle. That is apparently what they did in California at the National Invention Facility. They took 200 laser beams -- they heeded it up to, as you mentioned, many times the temperature of the core of the sun, releasing energy in the process.
So, who knows, perhaps by mid century there could be a fusion reaction in your neighborhood, clean, efficient. Fusion is the energy of Mother Nature. Mother Nature does not create a nuclear waste, meltdowns, like we have with uranium.
So, this is really a cosmic game-changer.
BURNETT: It's incredible when you say it, Mother Nature doesn't create all the waste and fallout and toxicity that we do. How far away are we? You say mid-century. If that -- so that, obviously, 2050-ish, is that when this is in everyday life, like it actually has taken over the power scene? Or is that just sort of the next step? I mean, how far away is this from real, widespread use?
KAKU: Well, step one is to break even, that is what was done in California. Extracting as much energy out as you put, the first time in history in California. That's step two is the scale so that we have enough energy to power up and entire city. We can't do that yet.
Then stage three is to commercialize it so there is one in your neighborhood, commercialize it around the entire planet.
Just remember that the fuel for a fusion reactor is seawater. Hydrogen from seawater is the basic fuel for a fusion reactor.
So, what's there not to love? Clean, efficient, no meltdowns. We're talking about using seawater as the basic fuel, no nuclear ways to speak of.
This is clean, efficient. This is Mother Nature's way of generating energy throughout the universe.
BURNETT: Well, it's nice to feel enthusiastic and excited about something. So, that's good to hear.
Doctor, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.
KAKU: Uh-huh. My pleasure.
BURNETT: And next, new details emerging tonight about an American student who is missing tonight in France.
BURNETT: Tonight, an investigation into a missing American college student. Twenty-two-year-old Kenny DeLand is studying abroad in France and is missing. And tonight, his family says that they, in their words, fear the worst.
Melissa Bell is OUTFRONT.
CAROL LAWS, SON WENT MISSING IN FRANCE: He was looking forward to coming home for Christmas.
MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kenny DeLand Jr., a college senior from Upstate New York who studied abroad in France hasn't been towed heard from in more than two weeks according to his family.
KENNETH DELAND, SON WENT MISSIONG IN FRANCE: We are waiting, we are worried, we don't know where he is.
BELL: This is DeLand, caught on a storage security camera December 3rd in the last known footage of him. And missing persons report was filed getting local police involved when he didn't return to his host family or show up for classes.
LAWS: I haven't heard anything from him.
BELL: That store DeLand was seen at is about an hour's train ride south of the University of Grenoble Alpes, where he was studying. A Grenoble prosecutor confirmed to CNN that DeLand appeared to leave school of his own accord, adding: The young man reportedly told several people that he arrived in France underprepared and was having difficulty making friends. He also mentioned that he wanted to go to Marseille before leaving for the United States.
LAWS: I feel like I'm not receiving any information, it has been very difficult. Someone else has been stuck in the middle to the speaking for us. BELL: DeLand's school back in the U.S., St. John Fisher University,
released a statement saying that the college will continue to do all it can to assist in the investigation to find Kenneth DeLand.
But now, the 22-year-old's family is asking for the community's help.
DELAND: We don't understand why he is not reaching out to us.
BELL: His parents say they last heard from him on November 27th, and his mother is worried that he could be in danger.
LAWS: When you don't know, you just don't know. I haven't heard from him.
BELL: They set up findkendeland.com, asking the public if they see him stating, we fear the worst, and want him to be located.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kenny is a real good kid.
BELL: The State Department told CNN that it is aware of reports of U.S. citizens missing in France. We stand ready to provide appropriate assistance to U.S. systems in need and their families.
But DeLand's parents' message for their son is --
DELAND: We love you, and we hope you can --
LAWS: We're waiting to hear from you and we're waiting for you to come home.
BELL: Erin, for now, the French authority statements focusing very much on that possibility that Kenny DeLand may have gone voluntarily, pointing for instance at that photograph taken on December 3rd in that store where he appears to be well and under no particular duress. And yet his family is saying they don't buy it at all.
You need to look at what he left behind, out of his host family's house, things like his computer, his train pass, his phone charger, precisely the kind of thing that you take with you even if you are planning a short trip.
And they say it is totally out of character. They spoke -- every other day, and that painful wait for news gets worse every day he was due home, Erin, on Thursday.
BURNETT: Melissa, thank you very much. Melissa Bell live from Paris tonight.
And thanks so much to all of you for being with us.
"AC360" begins right now.