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Erin Burnett Outfront

Russian Commander's Warning: "We Have Nuclear Weapons For That"; Putin Ally Belarus, Which Borders Ukraine, Announces Military Drills; DOJ Has Tried to Access GOP Congressman's Text Messages; Elon Musk Sends Out White Rabbit Tweet, Many Think He's Pushing QAnon; New Video In To OUTFRONT: New Surge Of Migrants Crossing Into U.S.; Bankman-Fried Denied Bail. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 13, 2022 - 19:00   ET




Russia's only way to win: going nuclear. That is what a Russian commander is saying on state television tonight as Ukraine is on the verge of getting the most sophisticated air defense system on the planet. A major development tonight.

Plus, Elon Musk reportedly not paying rent for Twitter offices. This as he's flirting with QAnon symbols. What is the world's -- one of the world's richest and most powerful people doing?

And new video tonight of the unprecedented number of migrants along the U.S./Mexico border. I'll talk to a reporter who was there and says it's one of the biggest surges she's seen. What's causing it?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, we have nukes for that. That is defeating NATO. It is a direct threat from a Russian commander broadcast on Russian state TV. He says Russia cannot win the war he clearly believes it is fighting without nukes.


ALEXANDER KHODAKOVSKY, DONETSK MILITIA COMMANDER (through translator): We realize that our resources, of course, have their limits, and the next spiral of escalation can only be won, nuclear. And we don't have the resources to defeat the NATO bloc with conventional means. But we have nuclear weapons for that.


BURNETT: Defeating the NATO bloc with nuclear weapons, that commander's cavalier certainty about nuclear weapons is chilling.

And it comes as the war is now on the verge of a dangerous new phase. CNN is learning the United States is now finalizing plans to send the most sophisticated air defense systems on the planet to Ukraine. We're talking about the U.S. Patriot missiles that Ukraine, frankly, has been pounding the table asking for since the war began. The system can take down tactical ballistic missiles, cruise type missiles, aircraft as well.

Now, for Russia, Patriot missiles have been positioned at a red line. The former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned NATO against providing with them, saying that if NATO did that, the Western alliance would immediately become a legitimate target of Russian-armed forces. Those are powerful words. And based on Medvedev's words, Putin clearly views this move as an escalation.

All of these news coming in as air raid sirens blared across all of Ukraine today. That familiar now haunting sound as Putin ramps up his air assault with crucial help from his close ally Belarus.

And tonight there is word of snap Belarusian military drills along the Ukraine border. The country's defense ministry announcing what it's calling a sudden inspection of combat readiness. The military equipment is also on the move in Belarus.

And, remember, it is a country where Putin pulls the strings. Just four days ago, here he is appearing alongside Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. That is at an economic summit. And now, today, the Belarusian military is building two river crossings along the Nemen and Berezina Rivers.

A big question is whether this is more saber-rattling or actually something more in light of the escalation. It is unclear at this hour. But what is clear is that Putin's military situation, as it is, is growing evermore tenuous. I wanted to play for you an intercepted call. And this one is between two Russian soldiers somewhere in eastern Russia where temperatures right now are hovering at zero degrees Farenheit. Listen to this.


RUSSIAN SOLDIER 1: Hi! How are you?

RUSSIAN SOLDIER 2: Yeah, we're here at the shooting grounds. We're freezing, really. We're training, digging fox holes. (EXPLETIVE DELETED), it's minus 15 degrees Celsius, damn it.

About 60 percent of us are (EXPLETIVE DELETED) helpless going around the shooting grounds losing their weapons, helmets, and their ammo cartridges.

We all have to take a hazmat suit with us. What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) do we need that for? It's minus 15 degrees Celsius, damn it. We had to use the gas masks yesterday. It was minus 12 degrees. We tried our best, damn it.

They wanted us to -- (EXPLETIVE DELETED), damn it, they forced us to put on our gas masks outdoors, damn it.


BURNETT: Just incredible insight into Russia's training, what's actually happening right now, and it comes in the context of Russia suffering another setback on the battlefield.


A crucial bridge used by Putin's forces to transport military equipment into illegally annexed territory has been heavily damaged. That's what you're looking at on your screen taken down by what we understand to be 45 pounds of explosives.

The exiled mayor of Melitopol, which is what you can see is where this was, saying strategically this bridge is as important as the Kerch Bridge which, of course, was attacked and heavily damaged last month.

Will Ripley begins our coverage OUTFRONT live in Kyiv tonight.

And, Will, there are a lot of things happening. You traveled north to Ukraine's border with Belarus where Russia is once again assembling troops tonight. What did you find?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, to say there are a lot of things happening is such an accurate reflection when we had the air raid sirens going off today in Kyiv, when you have Russia suffering losses both in the east and the south. And now, to the north there is joint combat training happening between Russian soldiers and Belarusian soldiers.

Remember, Belarus allowed Russia to basically drive right across their border and start this war more than nine months ago. And tonight there is growing concern here in Kyiv that Belarus may actually join the fight with their own soldiers.


RIPLEY: We've just arrived at a Ukrainian military ford operating base near the Belarusian border where they're going to show us the fortifications that they put in place to protect against the potential Russian ground invasion.

(voice-over): A few miles away in neighboring Belarus, an ominous show of force. Russian and Belarusian troops holding joint combat drills like they did earlier this year just before the invasion.

Are you concerned about the troop buildup on the Belarusian border?

OLEKSII REZNIKOV, UKRAINE DEFENSE MINISTER: We have to be concerned because we have not friendly neighbor. But we have 2,500 kilometers not friendly borders, Belarus, Russia, and temporarily occupied territories. We have to be ready here.

RIPLEY: Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov tells CNN Ukraine is preparing in case the Russians invade from Belarus again. He says they urgently need more weapons. Antitank systems, more advance missile defense.

We are not afraid of them, says the captain, Dimitri. We don't expect them to come here, but if they do, we'll be ready.

These soldiers are constantly rehearsing, ready at a moment's notice. Do you think the Russians are going to try to come again?

Let them try, says Igor (ph).

Before the war, he repaired sewing machines. Now he drives this. How quickly can you get guys to the trenches if you need to?

It'll be very fast, he says. They started building these trenches in early April, reinforcing them ever since, getting ready for the Russians. They overpowered Ukrainian defenses at the start of the war. Six weeks and thousands of deaths nationwide later, soldiers from this battalion helped force them out.

Was there ever a point where it was overwhelming where you thought we can't do this, we can't fight them all?

I never thought like that, says Serhiy, because I know there's no way back. We have families at home. We have children.

He says that 2,500 Russian vehicles actually passed right down this road. Now, we're driving down the same road to a bridge near the border, well within Russian artillery range.

When the Russians invaded more than nine months ago, they just drove down this road and right over this bridge. But now the bridge has been rigged with explosives and these swamp lands which are frozen over, are full of mines.

When the first convoy of an estimated 30,000 Russians came in February, the Ukrainians were unprepared and outnumbered six to one.

Now, like soldiers from a century ago, they hunker down in the trenches waiting for whatever comes down the road.


RIPLEY (on camera): And tonight, Erin, here in Kyiv, they are closely monitoring a flurry of Belarusian military activity just in the last week. Today, the nation announced a new foreign minister, a new air force chief. Last week, it was counterterrorism exercises along with those joint combat drills with the Russians. Not to mention the snap military inspections, all of it raising alarm bells and crucially diverting resources potentially from the east, from the south, to the north.

Is this an attempt by Russia to try to distract Ukraine while they focus on other areas? Or could this be yet another danger facing this democracy under siege?

BURNETT: Will Ripley, thank you very much from Kyiv tonight. Amazing just to see those trenches. Again, no matter how many times you see it, you think it was relegated to history. And yet here we are.

And OUTFRONT now, Douglas London, former CIA counterterror chief for South and Southwest Asia. He's a Russian speaker who served with the CIA clandestine service for over 30 years, tracking KGB agents.


Also with me, retired Army General -- Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, who is also a former assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs.

Thanks so much to both of you.

And, General Kimmitt, let me start with you. Ukraine fortifying its northern border. I mean, those are really powerful images that Will was able to capture of those trenches. The Belarusian defense ministry in a terse statement announcing these snap millet drills. You've have all these changes in the military and intelligence structures there.

What do you think this could be?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, I certainly don't think it's going to be an invasion from Belarus the way that the Russians invaded from Belarus. But we didn't think the Russians were going to invade either. Logically, because of the size of the Belarusian army, I think the best it can do is draw forces away from the south and away from the center of Ukraine to lighten up the lines along the front lines.

I think it's important to remember that when the Ukrainians did their counterattack during October, they actually fainted, they actually looked like they were going from the south, but their main effort was in the north. So this actually could be a faint so that the Russians could actually increase their fight in the south.

But as for an attack by Belarus, I just don't see it making any sense at all.

BURNETT: So, Doug, the context here of course is that the clock is ticking, right? That the temperatures are below freezing, well below freezing, and the clock is ticking. An independent Russian news outlet, you know, we were playing that conversation a moment ago, right?

But an independent news outlet is reporting that the wives of mobilized Russian troops are complaining. And they're complaining their husbands are getting really sick from the poor conditions that they are living under, in this case at a Siberian training camp. They are living in tents heated by wood-burning stoves. Temperatures are well below zero, any medicine that they have they brought themselves and that they are not being properly trained.

I mean, it goes on and on, right? This is in the "Baikal Times". This is in the Russian paper.

And then one of the wives says, Douglas, and this is the thing that really stuck out to me, quote, we believe that all this is needed for a just cause. We are proud of the guys, we don't blame the authorities. So even with all this, even with that call we heard, they take all that anger and frustration, the absurdity of their situation and they don't turn on Putin.

What does that tell you?

DOUGLAS LONDON, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM CHIEF FOR SOUTH AND SOUTHWEST ASIA: First of all, good evening, Erin. It's not surprising. It's been consistent with what glimpses we've seen of Russian society, that they'll complain about the mechanics of what's going on in the war, but they seem to buy into Putin's narrative that Ukraine represents a significant threat, an existential threat perhaps, it's Nazified.

And you don't really see a lot of popular disenchantment about fighting Ukraine. You see more just complaints about how the Russians are fighting. And you also see a great effort to deflect any criticism directly from Putin and putting it on the Apparatchiks, you know, the bureaucracy in the army.

BURNETT: Uh-huh, which gives him more latitude.

And General Kimmitt, as Russia continues to bombard Ukrainian cities, right, you hear those air raid sirens across the country, barrages of missiles come in now with some regularity here. CNN is exclusively reporting that the Biden administration is preparing to send the patriot defense system, the most sophisticated air defense systems on the planet. That is the long-range patriot missile system.

What would that mean to Ukraine's ability to fight off Russia's air attacks, putting aside that Russia has said that that would be a legitimate reason to target NATO itself by Russia? What would it do for Ukraine's defenses?

KIMMITT: Well, you do two things. Number one, it would significantly alter the ability of the Russians to send cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles into Ukraine. But more important, it would bolster the civilian population inside Ukraine right now.

Let's be very clear. Putin is no longer targeting the Ukrainian military. He's targeting the Ukrainian people, their infrastructure, their electricity. He is taking the fight to the people.

So putting the Patriot missiles in, in my view, is a wise movement because this deflects and mitigates but does not eliminate Putin's ability to take his war to the people inside of Ukraine.

BURNETT: Doug, last night I spoke with the recently departed U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan. So this is somebody who recently saw Putin up close. He was in that role for more than two years under Presidents Trump and Biden. And he was with Putin directly personally in that time.

So I asked him about the speculation that we all see about Putin's health. We're showing pictures of him now so you can see a difference if you just look at a picture in the past two years, there is a difference, and the ambassador told me that Putin looks, quote, puffy.


As someone who follows Russia and Putin so closely, do you agree with that?

LONDON: You know, it's hard to speculate from what we see in the outside. Identifying illnesses and the state of health among national leaders, particularly those of our rivals like Putin is a major intelligence requirement for the community. And I would tell you the CIA has vastly creative ways of trying to get tissue samples and such to try to get a better look.

But, otherwise, you're extrapolating from data. What does it mean? What are the consequences? If Putin is ill, does it mean he becomes more desperate? Does it mean that we can look forward to a change in regime, and would the change in regime be any better?

We're talking about Putin perhaps engaging the Belarusians to attack. Now, here's a country that within two years had protest marches of hundreds of thousands of people. And you'd have to think it'd be a pretty desperate act that could actually reignite the fire in Belarus to set the stage for its opposition largely overseas to stir the emotions of folks in the country including its military.

So, health remains a critical component. But even if you know the answer, it's what does it mean to you.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

And, next, the Justice Department going after a Republican congressman's text messages as the agency is probing election interference. And these messages that we're going to talk to you about went straight to Trump's inner circle to the very top.

Plus, how bad are things at Twitter? The "New York Times" reporting tonight that Twitter hasn't paid rent in months. And that's not all.

And canned peaches hard to find on store shelves in China. We're going to tell you why and what it has to do with COVID.



BURNETT: Tonight, CNN learning the Justice Department is trying to get the text messages of a little known Republican congressman. But his conversations with the former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows could be key in the January 6th criminal investigation.

Now, we have reported that Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry pushed Meadows in texts after the election to investigate debunked conspiracy theories, including one that voting machines were hacked by China.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT.

So, Evan, what more can you tell us about what the DOJ wants from Perry and sort of, you know, how it fits in the puzzle that they appear to be trying to put together? EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, look, Erin, he is

not a well-known name. But he is sort of like the connective tissue for a lot of things that were going on inside the White House and certainly the former president's efforts to try to overturn the election results and to try to remain in power. He was trying to get a lot of these text messages that I think the Justice Department is trying to get its hands on were to Mark Meadows and to other players in this broader effort.

He said he was trying to, in text messages that we've seen from the Meadows' side, you see him trying to pass on information that he said he was getting from some cyber forensics team that he says he was in touch with. And not only was he trying to get investigations of these Chinese satellites, like one of these conspiracy theories, he also was key in the effort to replace the then acting attorney general. He wanted to get Jeffrey Clark in that role so that he could try to help the former president claim that there was fraud in the election and to find that way to remain in power.

So, Scott Perry is a big player. Justice Department has been trying to get his text messages or get access to his phone to get some of those messages and to get all the data from his phone. We don't know exactly how that is turning out. It's a secret proceeding that's going on behind closed doors.

But we know that the Justice Department believes that there's a lot of information there that could be important to this investigation.

BURNETT: Evan, thank you very much.

So let's go now to Ryan Goodman, as always, co-editor in chief of the "Just Security" legal blog, and the former special counsel at the Defense Department.

So, Ryan, you know, just because you may not be a well-known name if you're Scott Perry, as you hear Evan saying, he could be very crucial in this investigation. So, from what you see, what are the most incriminating aspects of these phone messages at this point?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: So, as Evan identified, I think that there are at least two parts of this scheme that we know are under criminal investigation, and Perry is involved in them, according to these text messages.

One of them is utilizing the justice department to try to overturn the popular vote in Georgia and elsewhere. So that's where he's coordinating with the White House chief of staff to try to get Jeffrey Clark, a lower-level official who's very loyal to Trump and also engaged in these kind of wild conspiracy theories to try to install him as attorney general and send a letter to Georgia and other states and telling them the Justice Department has decided that you should reconsider your popular vote. That's one.

And then the second one is he also seems to be directly involved in the entire scheme of false slates of electors. So that's also something that CNN had earlier reported back in April. And now, we see that the Justice Department seems very keenly interested in his phone, which will have communications not just with the chief of staff Mark Meadows but with other players he seems to be directly communicating with Jeffrey Clark, for example, as well.

BURNETT: Right. So, all of that could be really important. Now, of course, you know, Mark Meadows, in some way, obviously central to all this. But what role he's going to play in the investigation and any possible indictments or -- is kind of the great unknown.

So, what do you think this means for Meadows?

GOODMAN: I think it's trouble for Meadows. This is the kind of issue that would put a lot of pressure on him. Because I think he is much more exposed than Perry, for example, and it's the fact that Perry's communications point to Meadows. And they show that Meadows is centrally located in both of these schemes.

So I think that, for his purposes, it's the kind of pressure that would force somebody in ordinary circumstances to potentially flip and cooperate with the Justice Department. And I think he very well might be doing that, and this would just be further evidence that the Justice Department would be able to have that would corroborate information from Meadows or tell Meadows, look, we have the goods. So it's kind of time to turn over to us, if he hasn't done that already.


BURNETT: Yeah, and certainly all -- I mean, certainly, when you hear the special counsel coming in, every single "I" appears to now being dotted, and "T" crossed, as we've been saying with great alacrity.

Thank you very much. I appreciate it, Ryan.

GOODMAN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And, next, Twitter's new owner Elon Musk now flirting with QAnon as he reportedly embarks on a new financial path, which includes not paying the rent. We're going to explain the special report.

And El Paso warning of a federal crisis as immigrants by the thousands are illegally crossing into the United States. I'm going to speak with the journalist there who is there witnessing this firsthand. Wait until you see what she was able to film.


BURNETT: Tonight, Elon Musk, "The New York Times" reporting tonight that Twitter has stopped paying rent on its offices in San Francisco or in fact its global offices. And, in fact, is considering not paying severances packages to former employees. Musk tonight also refusing to pay a nearly $200,000 bill for private charter flights made the week of his Twitter takeover.


It comes as Musk shared this tweet. Let me show it to you. It says: "Follow", and then a rabbit-faced emoji. Now, that is a known QAnon symbol.

Vanessa Yurkevich is OUTFRONT with more on Elon Musk and how he became one of the world's biggest lightning rods.


DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: Ladies and gentlemen, make some noise for the richest man in the world.


VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Elon Musk met with boos and some cheers on stage with Dave Chappelle, a mirror of what his first two months at Twitter's helm have been like. Revered by some, despised by others.

A tweet about prosecuting Anthony Fauci drew backlash. He's reinstated many previously banned accounts like former President Donald Trump that violated Twitter's rules. And he fired thousands of employees reportedly threatening to sue the ones who remained if they leaked confidential information.

But those who followed Musk's career say they're not surprised.

MAYE MUSK, ELON MUSK'S MOTHER: The approach that you're seeing in how Elon Musk governs Twitter is aligned with how he's governed his previous companies. The difference is that he's doing it more publicly in a more super-charged way.

YURKEVICH: Musk started his first tech company with his brother in the mid-1990s called Zip 2, which made online maps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We slept in our office, because we couldn't (ph) pay rent, either in an office or a house, (INAUDIBLE) through the office.

ELON MUSK, TWITTER CEO: This is definitely very cool.

YURKEVICH: Musk sold that first company in 1999 for more than $300 million and bought himself a rare McLaren supercar with his new-found fortune.

MUSK: There is gentlemen, the fastest car in the world.

YURKEVICH: Bigger money would come with Musk's next company, which eventually became PayPal. It sold in 2002 for $1.5 billion. But Musk was just getting started.

UINIDENTIFIED MALE: They said should he go into space or should he go into electric cars or solar power? And I said, well, just choose one.

MUSK: We expect to open a lot more sales into this.

YURKEVICH: Musk didn't listen to his mom.

MUSK: We expect to open a lot more sales centers (ph) into this. YURKEVICH: He revolutionized the car industry with Tesla, which he's claimed has almost gone bankrupt. Tesla, like many companies, facing a dramatic collapse in share price, down nearly 50 percent this year, challenging Musk's "richest man in the world" title.

UINIDENTIFIED MALE: Tesla was always an incredibly chaotic company in a business that runs on long-term planning. It was sort of this day- to-day sort of chaos, and lack of planning, and the plans were constantly changing.

YURKEVICH: He went on making history with SpaceX.

MUSK: We want to make space accessible to everyone.

YURKEVICH: Musk started a solar energy company and another high-tech venture Neuralink, aiming to connect humans and computers by implanting chips into people's brains.

MUSK: It's sort of like having an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, but replacing a piece of skull with a smart watch.

YURKEVICH: Initially, camera shy, Musk learned to leverage the power of publicity.


MUSK: I am?

MAYE MUSKE: I saw you on a TV show and I said, Elon, you're doing TV work. He said no one will sell me any rocket parts because they don't know who I am.

YURKEVICH: He has nine children, and even the unusual name of one child made headlines.

MUSK: I mean, it's just X, the letter X, and then the A.E. is like pronounced ash.

YURKEVICH: His eccentric ways have landed him in serious trouble. A joke tweet about taking Tesla private led to an SEC investigation and a lawsuit.

STEVEN PEIKIN, CO-DIRECTOR, SEC DIVISION OF ENFORCEMENT: Musk tweets and blog posts misled investors into believing that it was virtually certain that he could take Tesla private.

YURKEVICH: Musk settled with the SEC, and this year, he bought the very company that landed him in legal hot water, purchasing Twitter for $44 billion.

MUSK: If Twitter was not steered in a good direction, it would be a danger for the future of civilization. So that's why I bought it.

YURKEVICH: Musk has been criticized for allowing hate speech back on to Twitter, something he denies. REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We can't be surprised because musk has let

go of so many of the people that might be responsible for moderating and taking that content off line.

YURKEVICH: Despite the backlash against him, Musk insists he's always had the best motives.

MUSK: I love humanity, and I think that we should fight for a good future for humanity.


YURKEVICH: And it's already a chaotic and confusing start to the week at Twitter. But those who have covered him for many years since the beginning of his career say that this is quite normal for Musk, that he usually gets into businesses he doesn't really know a lot about, that Tesla was run and is run chaotically, and now so is Twitter.

If you remember just weeks ago when Elon Musk took over Twitter, he rolled out a blue verification checkmark process that went horribly wrong.


People were creating fake accounts, impersonating big companies. He's tried to roll that out again this week to some confusion. But, Erin, he says that he bought Twitter to save humanity. Right now, the way he's running this business and platform is spreading a lot of misinformation, so perhaps doing the exact opposite of that -- Erin.

BURNETT: Vanessa, thank you very much. A lot of -- a lot of misinformation, and it's running rampant.

I want to go OUTFRONT now to Mike Rothschild who is the author of "The Storm is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult and Conspiracy Theory of Everything."

So, Mike, actually on Twitter where I watch your comments, you've been talking a lot about this. And QAnon followers tonight are celebrating a tweet from musk. The tweet says "follow" and features a rabbit emoji. When I looked into it, I saw your comments.

The white rabbit, of course, has been a signal for QAnon followers. Musk says, oh, no, this tweet is just a reference to a scene in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." And you just happened to tweet that out at that time.

You studied QAnon extensively. What do you think?

MIKE ROTHSCHILD, JOURNALIST: Well, I can tell you that the white rabbit from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" is an extremely violent white rabbit. So I'm not sure if that's what he wants to be associated with. A lot of people have taken it as a reference to "The Matrix". A lot of people have taken it as a reference to "Alice in Wonderland", which "The Matrix" was referencing. But it's not so much important what he intended it to be. Because we

have no idea what he intended. What is important is how people are interpreting it. And whatever he meant when he sent this, a lot of QAnon believers and a lot of conspiracy believers are taking this as him tipping his hat to QAnon, tipping his hat to their ideas, and signaling in a very quiet way, hey, I'm one of you, you're just like me, we're going to do this together.

BURNETT: Right. And of course there's also been a frog tweet that some perceived as a signal to white supremacists. There's been these sort of these hints. "The Washington Post" is reporting that Musk has claimed child sex abuse material was a severe problem on Twitter.

And he tweets a lot about this, that this was a huge problem, and that he's fixed it. He's implied the company's former head of trust and safety had a permissive view of sexual activity by minors. Now, look, we've seen this by QAnon, mike, in the context of falsely claiming that an elite cabal of Democrats are running child sex abuse networks, right? We saw that -- that ended in violence of course in a pizza shop in Washington, D.C.

Do you see a connection between that by QAnon and what we're seeing Musk do now when he talks about child sex abuse and Twitter management?

ROTHSCHILD: Right. And child sex material was and is a huge problem on Twitter and on all social media. It really should be one of the top priorities to be removed by any company. But spotlighting his former head of trust and safety's dissertation from 12 years ago and taking it completely out of context, that doesn't help remove that material. What it does do is put a really, really big target on this person's back.

We now know that he's had to leave his home. He's getting so many death threats. He's had to go into hiding. So, again, I can't tell you if Musk meant to do that, if he was indifferent to what would happen. But all I can tell you is that this is happening and this is one of the most prominent people in the world who is using his platform to indirectly or directly send death threats to one of his former employees.

BURNETT: Mike, thank you very much. I appreciate your perspective.

ROTHSCHILD: Absolutely.

BURNETT: Okay. And next, new video of illegal crossings at the Mexican border, they are surging significantly, thousands now every day. So why, again, now? And you'll see the footage.

And the alleged mastermind behind what's being called one of the largest financial frauds in U.S. history denied bail tonight.


[19:42:55] BURNETT: Tonight, a new and massive surge in crossings at the southern border. We've got new video just into OUTFRONT from El Paso photojournalist Corrie Boudreaux who was on the ground in Juarez today showing the long line of migrants waiting to be processed to the U.S. I mean, just look at that. Border Patrol officials say more than 2,400 migrants are crossing into El Paso every day, and the Biden administration is now bracing for the situation to get a lot worse later this month because that's when those Trump-era COVID restrictions are set to finally be lifted.

Now, those restrictions were used by border officials -- are you ready for this -- nearly 2.5 million times to expel migrants at the border. So, that's 2.5 million crossings that did not happen because of the restrictions that are going away. So, one El Paso official called this, quote, a true emergency for the community.

OUTFRONT now, Corrie Boudreaux, as I mentioned, the photojournalist who just took the video that we were just showing you.

And, Corrie, look, I really appreciate your time. You've been there along the border filming what you've been seeing. On Sunday, you captured these incredible images. And today, the crowd of migrants at the border today where you say new fencing has been installed.

So, tell me more about some of the crossings that you're seeing. Are you seeing similar numbers tonight?

CORRIE BOUDREAUX, PHOTOJOURNALIST: Well, the massive crossing that you saw on Sunday night, that was probably nearly a thousand people pretty much all at one time. And I have not seen a large group of that number these last two days. But the line that you see there is pretty much staying steady because as they are processing people, more people continue to arrive in smaller groups, sometimes families, sometimes maybe, like, 10 to 20 people at a time. But they are continuing to arrive steadily.

BURNETT: And when you talked to them, it would seem, are they aware of the significance of the day? Is this all about the Title 42 restrictions that Trump had put in place and Biden had continued now being lifted?


BOUDREAUX: Well, Title 42 is very complicated because it applies in different ways to different nationalities. And so, for the most part, the Venezuelans that we had been seeing arrive in September, October, they're still arriving in Juarez. But, for the most part, they have not been trying to cross because they are applying Title 42 to them.

But the ones that you see in that line are majority from Nicaragua. Also Ecuador, Peru, and some other countries. Those are countries that Title 42 is not applicable to right now.

BURNETT: So, in a sense, to your point, this makes it more complicated, it's not just that. That alone may be very different as time goes on, but it's not just that. This is something else. What is causing this right now from your reporting?

BOUDREAUX: What is causing the influx of Nicaraguans or other nationalities?

BURNETT: Yes, the influx that you're seeing overall, yeah.

BOUDREAUX: So, there is definitely always push factors in their countries. A lot of people are escaping situations of threats of violence, but also dire economic circumstances, generalized violence in their communities. And, so when -- I mean, there is definitely communication between people who arrive at the border and their families or neighbors back home.

So if they are able to come through, then, yes, they will, I think, spread that word. In other cases, there are, you know, sometimes rumors that get spread around about the border, you know, who is able to be processed and who is able not. So, sometimes that influences people coming.

From what I have talked -- from what I've heard from Venezuelans who are in Juarez, a lot of them do think that on December 21st, they will be able to come through and be processed.

BURNETT: All right. Obviously, going to be a crucial next few days and weeks. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. And thanks for sharing your images and your reporting with us.


BURNETT: And, next, Sam Bankman-Fried remains behind bars tonight. He is accused of engineering a crypto house of cards that cost investors many, monthly basis billions of dollars.

And empty streets in China even after some COVID restrictions are lifted. Why are people choosing now to stay home?



BURNETT: Tonight, denied. Disgraced FTX cryptocurrency exchange founder Sam Bankman-Fried remaining in the custody tonight because a judge denied his offer to pay a quarter million in cash bail, even though he said he had no money. The judge deeming him a flight risk.

Now, Bankman-Fried was indicted on eight criminal charges, including (AUDIO GAP), misusing customer funds and campaign finance violations.

Carlos Suarez is OUTFRONT.


DAMIAN WILLIAMS, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: This is one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): FTX founder and former CEO Samuel Bankman-Fried appeared before a judge in Nassau, Bahamas, Tuesday morning, at his extradition hearing. He was arrested at his home in the Bahamas Monday night at the request of the U.S. government.

WILLIAMS: From 2019 until earlier this year, Bankman-Fried and his co-conspirators stole billions of dollars from FTX customers. He used that money for his personal benefit, including to make personal expenses and to cover expenses and debts of his huge fund, Alameda Research.

SUAREZ: He has been indicted on eight criminal charges including wire fraud, multiple counts of conspiracy and campaign finance violations. Prosecutors say he made illegal political donations in the tens of millions of dollars.

WILLIAMS: All of this dirty money was used in service of Bankman- Fried's desire to buy bipartisan influence and impact the direction of public policy in Washington.

SUAREZ: Prosecutors alleged Bankman-Fried conspired with others on numerous schemes, including diverting billions of dollars in customer assets to his hedge fund Alameda Research. In early 2022, investors valued FTX and its U.S. operations at a combined $40 billion.

GURBIR GREWAL, DIRECTOR OF ENFORCEMENT AT THE SEC: Bankman-Fried's entire bank of cards started to crumble as crypto asset prices plummeted in May of 2022, and as Alameda's lenders demanded repayment on billions of dollars in loans.

SUAREZ: The 30-year-old son of two Stanford law professors studied physics at MIT and traded at a small firm before launching FTX in 2019. It quickly became one of the leading crypto exchanges with celebrity promoters like Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, Steph Curry and Larry David.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not a trade trade. I'm trading crypto.

SUAREZ: Following an industry publication which questioned the inner working of the crypto exchange, users began withdrawing their investments from FTX at a rapid pace in November.

And then all came crashing down for Bankman-Fried and he resigned. FTX filed for bankruptcy on November 11.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: A lot of people look at you and see Bernie Madoff.

SAMUEL BANKMAN-FRIED, FTX FOUNDER: Yeah, I don't think that's who I am at all, but I understand why they're saying that. People lost money, and people lost a lot of money.

SUAREZ: Later, he was asked about his criminal liability in the matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How concerned are you about criminal liability at this point? BANKMAN-FRIED: I think the real answer is it's not -- it sounds weird

to say, but I think the real answer is that's not what I'm focusing on. It's -- there is going to be a time and place for me to sort of think about myself and my own future. But I don't think this is it. Like right now.

SUAREZ: On Monday, in a podcast on Twitter space, he said he didn't believe he would be arrested.

INTERVIEWER: Are you worried you might be detained if you stepped foot into the U.S.?


BANKMAN-FRIED: I don't believe I would be, but I haven't done a, like, deep dive into that.


SUAREZ (on camera): And so, tonight, he is going to fight extradition to the U.S., and you can understand why. If he is convicted on the charges out of New York, he faces up to 115 years in prison.

Erin, his next court hearing here in the Bahamas is scheduled for February.

BURNETT: Carlos, thank you very much.

And next, the Chinese government sounding the alarm on a superstition about peaches and COVID. We're going show you.


BURNETT: Tonight, magic medicine. You're looking at empty shelves in China. In this video, they used to be stocked with canned peaches.

Now people are hoarding canned peaches specifically because of a superstition they can offer protection from COVID. How come? Even the word tao, the mandarin pronunciation of peach is significant, some believe. It sounds like the mandarin word for escape, which is perhaps wishful thinking by China that some can escape the illness.

A writer in the state-run "China Daily" took this on, writing, quote: It's suggested that canned yellow peaches be included in medical insurance. This comes from a northern superstition that may not be well-understood by others.

All of this coming as Beijing is still a ghost town tonight, despite some lifted COVID restrictions because people are still choosing self- quarantining over fears of a COVID surge.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" begins now.