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Erin Burnett Outfront
Ukraine Intercepts Call Of Russian Fighter: "We're So Unprepared"; Pentagon: Russia Will Not "Dictate" What U.S. Provides To Ukraine; Ex-Trump White House Attorney Predicts January 6 Committee Will Issue Trump Criminal Referral; El Paso Mayor: 2,000 Migrants Crossing A Day, Could Double To 5,000; Elon Musk's Twitter Suspends Account Of Rival Social Network; China Spins Worst COVID Surge, State Media Touts Xi's Leadership; Prince Harry And Meghan Reveal Bitter Split From Royal Family. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 15, 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, a Russian soldier unhinged, reeling against Putin's war. New intercepted audio tonight revealing chaos and resentment. We'll play it for you as Ukraine warns that Putin once again is about to target Kyiv.
Plus, flooding the zone. The Biden administration sending thousands of workers to the border, which one predicts will be a disaster when the border policy ends in just days.
And showdown tonight. Elon Musk taking on a college student tracking his private jet. Has Musk gone too far or not? I'll talk to the congressman who represents Silicon Valley.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, stupid, twisted, no prep at all -- those are the words of a Russian soldier calling to his father, intercepted by Ukrainian intelligence. It reveals the chaos and resentment that is building and building inside Putin's forces.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSSIAN SOLDIER (through translator): I'll tell you what, it's stupid, damn it. Our comms are (EXPLETIVE DELETED) terrible.
We are really up (EXPLETIVE DELETED) creek here. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) creek. It's really twisted. We are so unprepared, no prep at all.
How many special forces guys are sitting on their asses in Voronezh, St. Petersburg and Moscow, (EXPLETIVE DELETED)? Mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED), it's probably 100,000. They are all afraid of coming here. They are afraid, for (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sake. Yet they sent us instead, the untrained.
(END AUDIO CLIP) BURNETT: It's incredible to just hear all that laid out. Despite the frustration, despite the untrained troops, though, Putin is not letting up, and the war is raging every day.
I mean, here, just look at this new video from the Luhansk region, a fireball that reaches 100 feet into the air. So far, no one taking responsibility for that particular attack. It's taking place as the Ukrainian top military commander says he is now preparing for a new Russian offensive, and onslaught. He says it could be 200,000 fighters strong, one that could target the capital of Kyiv in just weeks.
The top general telling "The Economist" magazine, they, the Russian forces, are 100 percent being prepared. They start not in the Donbas but in the direction of Kyiv and the direction of Belarus. I do not rule out the southern direction as well.
All right. Just to pause for a second here with these numbers, because I feel like it's important to put it into context. Russia has already lost about 100,000 men in this war, which should be, and terms of numbers, two thirds of the original force that Putin used to invade Ukraine. So 200,000 more men, it's a stunning number, especially if they are, as you just heard that soldier say, the great untrained.
But this is something influential members of Putin's inner circle have been pushing and pushing for. It is also something Putin pundits on state television have been calling for.
You can see here Russian official pointing to Kyiv and the surrounding area on that map, right, so they're on the television set. They're walking over it. What he is saying there, quote, we need all of it, everything.
The bellicose threats coming as a Russian official warns the United States could soon end up facing Russia directly if President Biden delivers the Patriot defense systems to Ukraine.
Tonight, the United States says that those words will not stop the Pentagon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to allow comments from Russia to dictate the security assistance that we provide to Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Not going to allow them to dictate. In fact, CNN is learning details tonight about the plans to deliver those Patriot missiles to Ukraine, and we're going to have more on that from our Phil Mattingly at the White House. He's been reporting new details on this to share with you.
But first, Will Ripley is OUTFRONT in Kyiv.
And, Will, when you hear this, you know, that the Ukrainians are saying a possible force of up to 20,000 people could be preparing for another invasion there, what is the situation where you are tonight?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, Ukrainian officials here in Kyiv are signaling tonight that they believe a major Russian offensive could be on the horizon. The head of Ukraine's armed forces speaking with "The Economist", saying that he believes Russia has an estimated reserve of up to 1.5 million people and also saying that the Russians could be preparing some 200,000 fresh troops.
Now, there is no credible intelligence that he is citing in "The Economist" article to back that up. We do know that the Ukrainians, just like the Russians, have become very good at using information for their advantage, sometimes deliberate misinformation.
So, keep that in mind, as you hear these remarks of Ukrainian officials saying that they believe the Russians could be preparing to move once again on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv early next year. In "The Economist", the general saying that it will either be potentially late January or sometime in February or maybe March.
That would obviously be one of the reasons why you have Ukraine solidifying defenses under northern border with Belarus. We visited there within the last week, and we showed you the trenches. These -- basically trenches that soldiers were using a century ago, trenches relegated to history, once again, being staffed around the clock. Soldiers waiting along with forest dotted with land mines to defend against a potential, another Russian invasion for Belarus.
There's also been very intense fighting on the front lines to the south and in Kherson and to the east to Donetsk. Ukrainian forces firing rockets that have hit Ukrainian targets. Russian officials claim, even though CNN cannot verify those claims, in the South. The shelling from Russia has been so intense, not only is it killing people, it has cut all of Kherson off completely from the power grid, leaving everyone who lives there, including children, senior citizens, in the dark and in the cold, which is why Ukraine badly needs, they say, these Patriot missile defense systems, that they believe could really be a game-changer, because it would allow Ukraine to shoot down Russian missiles that are fired from, example, bombers that Ukraine is not at the systems to defend against.
Now even before an official White House announcement about those Patriots, Erin, the Kremlin and the Russian embassy in D.C. have been quick to respond. The embassy saying the deployment of these systems could lead to unpredictable consequences and the Kremlin vowing that they would become a prime target for these Russian airstrikes that currently have been targeting almost exclusively the civilian power grid with devastating results and lots of suffering for millions of people across Ukraine, Erin.
TAPPER: Will Ripley, thank you very much, in Kyiv tonight.
And Phil Mattingly OUTFRONT tonight for the White House.
So, Phil, you heard what Will is saying there. The Russians warning of these unintended consequences, right? They said that would make the Patriot missiles, you know, legitimate targets for the Russians.
You have new reporting tonight about what's going on inside the White House on whether to deliver these missile systems and what they are willing to do. What have you learned?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin, concerns about potential escalation but also real concerns about the logistics and training that would go into actually getting the systems into place, where they deliver in Ukraine, have been primary reasons why despite tens of billions of dollars in military assistance, the Patriot missile systems were not considered among them. Until a short while ago, the National Security Council doing a reversal, deciding to push forward on these proposals. The Pentagon moving forward and setting this process into motion.
Now, President Biden has not signed off yet, but as one U.S. official told me earlier today, given that this has been driven by the National Security Council, that's almost performer at this point. The reason why, according to U.S. officials that I have been speaking with is quite simply the conditions on the ground.
Again, they are aware of the escalatory risk. They are aware of the logistical issues. But given the way that Russia has escalated in terms of civilian attacks on infrastructure, particularly heading into winter, there's just been a decision here that there needs to be a reciprocal response to some degree and give Ukraine as much as they possibly can to defend themselves at this point.
Now, if these weapons are signed off, these weapon systems are signed off, they will come from existing U.S. weapons stocks, according to a U.S. official, and they could probably be turned around at a fairly quick clip. The issue however has long been the training process. This is not a simple system to operate. Likely, Ukrainian forces would have to come out of the country to London systems.
That could take several months. Those plans are now currently underway. This is very clearly an effort that is moving forward, one that did not seem to be on the table just a few weeks ago, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Phil Mattingly, with that new reporting.
I want to go now to retired Army Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the former commanding general for Europe and the Seventh Army, along with Evelyn Parkas, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, also now the executive director of the McCain Institute.
General Hodges, you hear Phil, laying out a potential timeline the Biden administration is thinking of getting these Patriot missiles to Ukraine, right? This is the creme de la creme that Ukraine wants that would make a huge difference.
Russia's war of unintended consequences if Ukraine gets the missiles, Dmitry Medvedev, the former president, you know, said that this could mean a direct conflict between the U.S. and Russia. Is this all bluster or something more, General?
LT. GENERAL BEN HODGES, FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL, U.S. ARMY EUROPE & SEVENTH ARMY (RET.): Erin, thanks. This is total nonsense, coming from the Kremlin. It's an attempt to cause us to basically deter ourselves from doing what we know needs to be done. Of course, the Patriots would become a target, just like HIMARS are targets, every howitzer we get to Ukraine is a target.
So, that -- that's really an empty statement by them. And also, I think this is important for the administration to take the step to provide Patriot which even though it looks like it may only be one battery, which is eight launchers, that is a really big capability. And it signals that the administration is willing to take that next step, which I think is overdue. I am glad that they're doing it.
BURNETT: You use the word overdue, and Evelyn, here is the thing. President Zelenskyy, before the war began, asked for these. I mean, it's part of the phone conversations. They asked and asked and asked. Since the beginning of the war, it's been a daily request. Here we are in December, almost a year into this war.
Was it a mistake to wait this long, nearly 7,000 civilians have died? Multiples of that in terms of Ukrainian military. Was it a mistake for the U.S. to wait this long?
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASST. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE, EURASA: Right, Erin, it was, we should have provided these earlier, I agree 100 percent with my good friend, the general. We should have provided them last April, so April 2021, when the Russians were lining up on the border again. Of course, this war started in 2014, but at that point, the way the war was being waged by the Russians then, they were not clearly going after cities and after civilians, the way that they had done in Syria. So they were -- they were limiting their actions to military on military efforts.
But once they parade on the border in spring, in April of 2021, we knew that there was a possibility that they would want a full-on invasion, full on attack on Ukraine, including on civilian populations. At that moment, we probably should have provided the Patriot systems, and many of us, you know, General Hodges and myself, have been calling for months to deploy these units, these systems to the Ukrainians.
They deserve the right to have their civilians protected, and the Ukrainians, frankly, are fighting for us. As you know, Erin, the Russian government is not going to stop with Ukraine, and there is a lot -- you know, it's not being covered, but there's a lot of turmoil in neighboring countries like Georgia and Moldova because of Putin's ongoing aggression.
BURNETT: Right, absolutely. And now, General, in this context, the question s, what is Russia going to do next? And Ukrainians are saying that an offensive 200,000 men are being built up. It's unclear whether that was the case or if it, when? But in that context, I want to play a bit from this intercepted call
between the Russian soldier and his father. It was soldiers complaining and saying, I bet there's 100,000 well-trained guys, but they're afraid and won't go there. They're sending us. Let me play a part of it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSSIAN SOLDIER (through translator): We have little to no comms with other units. We don't even have any basic agreement about coordinates to send each other. They are just driving us like donkeys.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, General, what do you -- what do you think about this? Does Russia have the resources and capabilities for what Ukraine says could be a 200,000-man force in the context of they put 150-ish in the beginning, and 100,000 of them, about, are dead.
HODGES: Well, the short answer is, no. Of course, General Zaluzhnyi who is an exceptionally talented officer, and I have great respect for him, he has a couple of jobs to do. Number one, he's got to make sure he has everything he needs to defend his country and to be successful in their own counteroffensive, and he's got to make sure that the West is paying attention.
So, I think the way Will reported it earlier is accurate, that there is probably some -- this is an information operation aimed internally as well as externally. It would be quite a feat for the Russians to come up with 200,000 more troops that are trained, there could even know how to put on their boots are uniform, to launch an offensive in January when they have not yet demonstrated the ability to do that with the last partial mobilization.
A young man on the phone, that's an important signal. Of course, it's only one guy, but there are so many other stories coming of former -- poor morale, poor discipline, not a single one of the Russian soldiers want to be in Ukraine. Remember, half a million left Russia back in September just to avoid getting mobilized. War is a test of will, and it's clear that Ukrainians have far superior will, both on the battlefield and their population.
BURNETT: Evelyn, the State Department announcing new sanctions tonight, these are hitting one of Russia's wealthiest man, his name is Vladimir Potanin and his family.
So, this is -- he is set to be worth $26.5 billion, just to be clear, okay, and the U.S. has put a veritable giant scarlet letter on his yacht, which is just under danger feet, $200 million yacht. There are two terrariums for exotic reptiles, which is pretty sick. And I don't mean that in the complimentary since, and a swimming pool, multiple jacuzzis.
Does this move, Evelyn, does this matter? And again, in the context of the Patriot missiles, why the heck does this take so long?
FARKAS: Yeah, I mean, Erin, I don't know. We are so incremental. I will say, it's signaling and that's important. We have to signal back to the Russians, you know, that we're not done. We're going to keep, you know, putting sanctions on individuals, step by step, day by day. I wish that we would find some other way to cut off Putin's access to finances, to money faster.
But this is working. I mean, the Russian economy is suffering. But not as much as the Ukrainian economy and that's what's really so tragic and so unfair.
BURNETT: Evelyn, thank you very much. General Hodges, thank you very much.
And next, the moment of truth. Trump's former White House counsel tells OUTFRONT there's no doubt Trump will be criminally referred to the DOJ for prosecution by the January 6th committee.
The big question tonight, will a referral make an indictment more likely from the DOJ?
Plus, we're going to go to the border where the U.S. will send thousands of reinforcements to deal with what could be an unprecedented surge of migrants? That surge now just days away.
And a modern day royal mess. Giving history a run for its money, as Harry tears into his brother, William.
BURNETT: Tonight, crunch time for the January 6 committee. Members meeting today making edits to a final report, preparing to make an announcement about criminal referrals to the Justice Department for prosecution.
Now, let's be clear. Those referrals could include the former president of the United States, Donald Trump. Something that Trump's former White House lawyer Ty Cobb tells OUTFRONT he is confident will happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Do you have any doubt that the committee will have a criminal referral for Trump himself?
TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I do not. Clearly, the evidence they have put forward justifies them to make criminal referral.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFORNT now, Ryan Goodman, co-editor in chief of the Just Security legal blog, former special counsel at the Defense Department. So, Ryan, what crimes do you think the committee will refer to the
Justice Department? I guess I put a plural on crime.
RYAN GOODMAN, CO-EDITOR IN CHIEF, JUST SECURITY: Right. So the committee's mapped out multiple schemes and several of them are criminal. I think the top one would be use of the false slate of electors and that might therefore drawing not just Trump, but Giuliani and Meadows as big fish as well. And then the other ones are pressuring Mike Pence to violate his duties to try to overturn the 2020 election then use of the Justice Department to send false statements to Georgia and other states saying the Justice Department believes there to be fraud and they should reverse their popular votes.
BURNETT: OK. So that's at least three.
BURNETT: Do you believe Trump himself will be criminally referred for those things?
GOODMAN: Yes. I think -- I'd be shocked if Trump is not at the top of that list and referred for all three.
BURNETT: OK. So, does this influence the DOJ? I mean, I know in some sense, it does. They've got a special counsel now, but does it influence them in any way in terms of their likelihood of indicting on the timing versus another or in addition or in the timing?
GOODMAN: So, I think that at some level, some people who say it's purely symbolic are right to some extent, but the defense counsel for these individuals, you'd never want a world in which Congress has referred your client to the Justice Department. So, I think that's because it does put some forms of pressure in the Justice Department. They don't have to formally assess it, but they care about public perception. They care about the rule of law.
Attorney General Garland cares whether or not the American public sees rampant violations in their congressional referral and then nothing happens. I think those are the ways in which it might put a thumb on the scale in the sense of now we all see these injustices. A sober referral has been made by this committee after all of the body of work they've put into it and produced for the American public. That's got to make a difference.
BURNETT: And they're going to provide their back up reasoning for this, right? You refer on ABC, it's going to have -- it's going to the goods, the footnotes.
BURNETT: So one thing we have not had is the transcripts. And the chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson, has said the DOJ is going to have to wait to get those transcripts, even though the DOJ asked, right? All the interviews, right, it would have helped them. They'd had to do this grand jury, having this information. It may have helped them prepare, decide who to ask.
What was the strategy behind holding this back? By the way, since what? Was it may?
GOODMAN: It doesn't make sense. One of the areas I think the committee is subject to criticism is holding this information back from the Justice Department that's been asking for it. It could be incriminating information that the Justice Department needs. It could exculpatory information, all sorts of thing. If it's now going to be released in which other witnesses in these future trials will also see this information at the same time, that's a big surprise for the Justice Department. I'm sure they would have wanted this.
So why does it keep it? There was a lot of tension between the Justice Department and committee over the lack of enforcement of contempt charges. Maybe that's it, but it makes for a bigger day on Monday and that might be part of the explanation behind it.
BURNETT: All right. Well, we'll watch to see there. Thank you very much, Ryan Goodman.
And, next, the Homeland Security Department is so concerned about the crush of migrants at the southern border that they're hiring thousands of extra workers as a Trump expulsion policy, which Biden had continued, ends. We are live at the border.
And just in tonight, Elon Musk's commitment to free speech on Twitter apparently no longer extends to the accounts of emerging competitors.
BURNETT: Tonight, flooding the zone. The Department of Homeland Security planning to send thousands of employees to the border, as it braces for what one DHS official could be a disaster in six days. That is when the Trump era border policy known as Title 42 will end. But as we have got new video here, it shows people bundled up. It's cold there now, lining up to make their journey to the U.S. undeterred.
Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT with more.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For nearly three month, Jason Biguez (ph) and his wife Joleima (ph) have waited for this moment, taking the final steps across the Rio Grande into the United States.
Did you think reaching this point was going to be to emotional?
He says they never thought the journey from Venezuela would be so painful.
I tell her I can see the emotion in her face and the sense of relief that she's entering the United States with her two sons. With that, they step across the river.
The family says they could not wait any longer to see what could happen with the lifting of the Title 42 public health rule which has kept 2.5 million migrants from requesting asylum in the United States.
Jason and Joleima are now part of the current surge of migrants entering El Paso. Officials say about 2,500 people per day are crossing. The migrants send the night in a long, orderly line in the shadow of a barbed wire covered border wall.
Here, they wait to be called in by border patrol agents. They are then escorted to a processing facility to find out if they'll be deported or allowed to stay in the U.S. as their immigration case moves through the courts.
MAYOR OSCAR LEESER (D), EL PASO, TEXAS: It's a Band-aid to really a bigger problem.
LAVANDERA: El Paso's mayor says if Title 42 is lifted next week, the number of migrants crossing into the city could jump to 5,000 per day.
Already, shelters are out of space an immigration processing facilities are overcapacity. Despite this, the mayor says he doesn't see a need declare the situation a state of emergency.
LEESER: I can tell you the only thing that I am 100 percent sure today is that we will be prepared on December 21st, that if it is lifted, the community and city of El Paso will be prepared.
LAVANDERA: At the river, hundreds are still waiting to get into the U.S. and the lines show no signs of slowing down. Before they crossed, Jason and Zuleima said they will wait in the frigid cold as long as it takes to get past the wall.
I asked them what they will think if that happens.
We're going to thank god it's going to be a new life for us.
LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Erin, it is expected to be another frigid night temperatures in the 30s and this is the scene that continues to play out as the shelters here in El Paso over capacity. One family from Ecuador has been sleeping here since Monday night so this will be their fourth night on these streets as they're waiting for their bus to get out of El Paso, which is on Saturday.
So they have two more nights to endure here on the streets -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Ed, from El Paso.
I want to go now to Peter Svarzbein. He is a nonpartisan city representative in El Paso. Representative, I appreciate your time. So, obviously, you're just
minutes away from Juarez, right? You are on the north of the border. We just heard from two of the migrants in Ed's piece. They're going to wait as long as it takes to get into the United States.
They're two of 2,500 migrants crossing into the border each day. No end in sight. Your mayor now says that could jump to 5,000 a day in the next few days.
Do you feel ready for what is about to happen?
PETER SVARZBEIN, MAYOR PRO TEMPORE, EL PASTO, TX: So, first and foremost, I think it's important to understand a little bit about El Paso. El Paso is one of those warm and welcoming cities for people from across the world. In fact, I'm the first in my family to have been born in the United States. I'm the son of Latino immigrants, the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, and my parents chose El Paso because it understood that the border is blessing and not a threat to those of our countries.
What we're seeing here now goes beyond our borders, goes beyond something bigger than any one city can take care of. And these are issues that are affecting our entire hemisphere and I'm confident that the Office of Emergency Management in the city of El Paso can deal with this. Currently, 2500 is a lot. There are expectations of up to 5,000 people here.
And what we really need is to make sure that we have communication and collaboration across multiple entities. It's not just up for the city of El Paso to do it alone or the country. But we need federal, state, and --
BURNETT: So on that front, you know, Ed's talking about and your mayor's talked about, a lot of your shelters are already full. It's one thing to be welcoming and another thing to have 5,000 people per day coming into your city.
So, what is -- or let me just put it this way -- how significant is what those two people Ed was talking to at the end of his piece there, they were waiting to get on a bus to go north. How many of those 5,000 people a day are you hoping to put on buses to send to other places in the country where they may have relatives or other connections but you're going to be able to bus them away?
SVARZBEIN: So, again, you know, the city of El Paso has been dealing with this issue since 2017. The vast majority of people that are coming through and requesting asylum through our borders here in El Paso have sponsored families. They have families in other cities that they're trying to get to, cities that will be able to support them. Families that will be able to support them, so most of them are not in El Paso for more than 24, 48, possibly 72 hours.
So, really, it's a question of how do we help them on their process of claiming asylum, a very difficult process in our country.
BURNETT: Right, but what you're saying is a lot of people are coming to cities where, let's be honest, I live in one of them, they are not ready.
BURNETT: They are not ready and they have not be ready for months as those buses have been coming in. So it is a national issue.
One final question to you if I can. A new DHS memo shows plans to impose consequences for unlawful entry. They say they're going to target smugglers.
Do you think that will make any kind of difference or not?
SVARZBEIN: So, again, I think that we need to be looking at an all hands on deck approach here. We know we need comprehensive immigration reform. We know we have millions of undocumented immigrants in this community that have been working hard in our country for decades.
We also know that the way that our asylum system works needs to be revamped and we also know, too, that there's more we could do to support these countries that are going through a lot of different changes, whether that's combating transnational criminal groups or combating climate change. There's more we need to do together to work together across borders.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Representative Svarzbein. I appreciate your time tonight.
SVARZBEIN: Thank you.
BURNETT: And, next, Elon Musk, this is just in, shutting down the Twitter account of the competitor, Mastodon, after he suspended the account of a college student tracking his private jet. So, is he going too far or not? I'll speak to the congressman who represents Silicon Valley.
And Chinese state media declaring President Xi Jinping the people's leader with insightful judgment, even as COVID cases skyrocket and the country is in panic. We're live again in Beijing.
BURNETT: Just in, Elon Musk's Twitter suspending the account of an emerging competitor called Mastodon. The move comes after the Mastodon account said people could follow Elon Jet, which is an account which was tracking Musk's private plan and was doing it on Mastodon because Musk has suspended Elon Jet on Twitter.
Now, if you're on either one of these sites, you totally get this. If not, rewind and play it again. It comes just a month after Musk wrote, quote, my commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane even though that is a direct personal safety risk.
[19:40:04] Now, the person who ran Elon Jet is a 20-year-old college student. He is the one tracking Musk's jet and he now says others should be worried.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK SWEENEY, SUSPENDED FROM TWITTER FOR RUNNING: It's completely unbelievable from the first message to him. I just thought it would end and it keeps going on and on. I thought after, especially my commitment to free speech that I'd be fine, but he's changed his view.
Whoever the owner is, it doesn't matter. They can ban what they don't like. I mean, not just me, they're banning other flight tracking people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California. He represents Silicon Valley, where as of now, is where Twitter still is. We'll see, right?
OK. So, this Twitter account tracking the jet, this is one account. I want to start bigger than that one account. But I do want to ask you about that.
But, first, the bigger picture. Are you concerned about what this means for what Twitter under Elon Musk will look like? That he's new realizing he has the power. He is the god of Twitter. He can decide every account here and there and who gets to speak and who doesn't.
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Yes, I am concerned. I mean, he gets to make the rules and it doesn't seem consistent. I mean, look, I've been defending the idea of free speech and that we shouldn't have censored the "New York Post," but you can't then sensor someone who's tracking private flights.
So I hope they'll reconsider it, but the bigger issue is there has to be some independent body. They can't be just Elon Musk making the decisions of which account to suspend and which account to have on.
BURNETT: Right. I mean, that's the thing. They've come out with all these revelations, they say, who is deciding what at Twitter. Maybe there were some mistakes, but at least there was a system you could go through and look at it in retrospect as opposed to just one person's brain, and what they want to do.
Now, on the Elon Jet, the last tweet before that account was suspended showed Musk's jet taking off from Oakland on Monday, landing in Los Angeles 48 minutes later. Another day, he flags a jet taking off from Reno to Oakland. This is very detailed. So, everywhere Elon goes was on Twitter.
He ran accounts like Bezos jet. We know who that was tracking. Celeb jets. Other celebrities, where they were going.
KHANNA: Right. BURNETT: OK. Sweeney says this is all publicly available. But publicly available is different than easily accessible.
So does it cross the line or does Elon have a point that putting his private jet and everywhere it goes that he's changed his mind and says it's a threat?
KHANNA: Well, they put out my personal e-mail. So, I --
BURNETT: Well, that's true. They did not.
KHANNA: You know, so I don't think -- that's a personal information.
But I think that if you're going to believe in the First Amendment principle, you've got to be consistent and having public information out there, as long as it's not an imminent threat to safety, should be on there.
Now, if he is saying go and take some action against Elon Musk or someone, that's different. That's a threat to safety. And I would agree that that shouldn't be on there.
I just looked before coming on the show. Aaron Rupar has been banned. Aaron Rupar criticizes me all the time. He takes my clips and distorts them.
BURNETT: Right, I follow him.
KHANNA: But, you know, I mean, you can't ban that. So I think what this whole Twitter is showing is that we don't have thoughtful decision making and we have concentration of power in who's deciding what is speech.
BURNETT: Right. And also I think one thing that's showing is there are no easy answers. It's easy to say I don't like how it's done. It's different to do it yourself and to take that mantle on.
Now, one thing that Musk has been doing, though, is tweeting things that are -- they are things recognized by the QAnon community, OK? It's unclear why he's doing it, but the white rabbit, he tweeted follow then the little picture of a white rabbit.
Now I admit, I first saw that and was thinking, what the heck is this? Well, the white rabbit has been linked to the movement over the past four years and forums immediately picked this up. He's dismissed these allegations and said it was about something else.
But a journalist who was an expert on QAnon that I talked to, Mike Rothschild, he says followers saw this as tipping the hat. Look, Elon gets us. He's with us.
What do you think about stuff like that?
KHANNA: Well, I don't -- I don't know why he's doing that. I mean, look, this is someone who actually has innovated with Tesla. He's innovated with SpaceX. Why he's getting in back-and-forths on QAnon and suspending accounts on Twitter, it seems a total waste of time. He should not be making the decisions on this.
And it's concerning. I mean, it's concerning that he's putting this stuff out there. The tweet and Fauci and prosecuting Fauci.
KHANNA: Whatever -- look, it's one thing to say, OK, you have the first --
BURNETT: My pronouns prosecute/Fauci, right?
KHANNA: Yeah. I mean, it's one thing to say that you have the First Amendment right, but when you are one of the world's leading innovators, you also have some responsibility and I just don't think it's becoming. It's not a good look for him and I'd tell him that in person.
BURNETT: Right. And you're telling him -- telling him now. And, obviously, you are the congressperson who represents his district.
Ro Khanna, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
KHANNA: Thank you. Appreciate it.
BURNETT: All right. And next, Chinese state media piling on the praise tonight for the leader, Xi Jinping, in what they call his insight into combating COVID, but that insight now has China buckling under an explosion of new cases. We're live with Selina again in Beijing.
And Harry and Meghan tearing the bandage off of wounds in the royal family or inflicting new ones, hearing who they're blaming for the couple's miscarriage.
BURNETT: Tonight, China's spinning its latest COVID surge. State media today touting President Xi's, quote, insightful leadership as the country faces an unprecedented wave of infections after Xi abruptly dropped the zero COVID restrictions in recent weeks after the protests.
One official in Beijing says emergency calls are now six times their normal average.
Selina Wang is OUTFRONT once again, live from Beijing.
And, Selina, just how far are Xi and the government going to spin this complete about-face in terms of policy?
SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, the spin from the Chinese government is that everything is fine, that China's COVID policy was a success and it is still a success.
But it is stunning to see this dramatic U-turn that propaganda has taken, from declaring an all-out people's war on COVID to suddenly now telling people, look, your health is now in your own hands.
So, you're seeing a lot of these types of state media headlines like these. I'll just read a few. So, "The People's Daily" says: Start by wearing a mask, and be the first person responsible for your health.
Then in "Xinhua News", in the fight against the epidemic, everyone is responsible for their own health.
And other articles are going through the last three years, praising zero COVID and hailing this pivot as an achievement, including a particular commentary from the people's daily that has gone viral. Let me read a few key lines.
So it says, quote, the virus has weakened, but we have become stronger. Chairman Xi's insightful judgment, scientific, and firm decisions show his reliability as a people's leader. It pointed out the way and provided crucial guidance for us to win this people's battle, total battle and precise battle against COVID.
Now, Erin, health experts would not call this a precise reopening, and a lot of people are furious over this article. Some people are call it a total lie that completely ignores the devastation of the last three years of COVID, the trauma and pain that people faced during draconian lockdowns.
But, Erin, of course, no apology, no admitting from the government that there was ever a mistake.
BURNETT: Well, I mean, it's amazing now that the whole thing, after zero COVID imposed by the government, now it's everyone on their own. And they say with a straight face. I mean, just looking back at president xi and how he doubled down every step of the way on zero COVID, in a speech before the protest, before there was any issue, he was saying, we prioritized the people and their lives above all else, tenaciously pursuing dynamic zero COVID policy.
In May, he warned anybody who questions zero COVID vowing to unswervingly adhere to the policy of zero COVID, adding our policies can stand the test of history.
How do they deal with the black and white hypocrisy here? I mean, that's all in print. It's all there.
WANG: Yeah. Well, I mean, on state media, they're ignoring the outbreak in many ways and mostly just talking about it in terms of how the government is responding, not focusing on the dramatic scale and rapid spread with focusing on announcements about how the government is increasing fever clinics, ICU capacity. But health experts, they're worried that this positive messaging is really detached from reality.
There is a new study by researchers in Hong Kong predicting that nearly one million people in China could die from COVID if the country fully reopens without a mass booster vaccination campaign, antiviral treatments and other important measures. We're already seeing strained here, Erin, but the real concern is what happens when COVID is hitting those rural areas.
BURNETT: All right. Selina Wang, thank you very much, live again from Beijing tonight.
And next, if the House of Windsor wasn't divided already, it sure is now. Harry and Meghan talking now about a, quote, terrifying shouting match with William and much more.
BURNETT: Tonight, a, quote, terrifying screaming match between Prince Harry and his brother William, a miscarriage Meghan suffered that the couple blames on the tabloids. These are some of the newest details from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Netflix series.
Anna Stewart is OUTFRONT.
MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: I was pregnant. I really wasn't sleeping.
ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the final episode of their tell-all docuseries, the Sussexes recall how Meghan suffered a miscarriage.
MEGHAN: The first morning that we woke up in our new home is when I miscarried.
STEWART: This tragic moment in the couple's story came in July 2020, having left Canada for California. British tabloid, "The Mail on Sunday" published a private letter Meghan had sent to her father.
HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: Bearing in mind the stress that caused, the lack of sleep and the timing of the pregnancy, how many weeks in she was, I can say from what I saw that miscarriage was created by what they were trying to do to her.
STEWART: Royal ladies typically bear the brunt of negative tabloid attention. Harry's mother Diana understood this all too well. More than familiar with intrusive press attention, the Sussexes point the finger at the palace press team.
HARRY: It was already clear to the media that the palace wasn't going to protect her. Once that happens, the floodgates open.
STEWART: Keenly aware of the parallels with his mother, Harry has made clear that he doesn't want history to repeat itself. The most vitriolic attention spewed from social media, which the couples say was then amplified by mainstream media.
MARKLE: You're making people want to kill me. It's not just a tabloid. It's not just some story. You are making me scared.
STEWART: The impact on Meghan's mental health was a key reason behind their departure from the UK. Their plans to step back from royal duties led to a deep rift in the family and crisis talks at Sandringham.
HARRY: The saddest part of it was this wedge created between myself and my brother.
STEWART: The two brothers, Prince William and Prince Harry, met with then Prince Charles and the late queen.
HARRY: It was terrifying to have my brother scream and shout at me and my father say things that simply weren't true, and my grandmother quietly sit there and take it all in.
STEWART: In six hours of documentary storytelling, the Sussexes have told their side of the story.
HARRY: So there was no other option at this point. I said we need to get out of here.
STEWART: The royal family aren't commenting. The tabloid press no doubt will have plenty to say.
Anna Stewart, CNN, London.
BURNETT: And coming up in about two hours, don't miss a "CNN TONIGHT" special with Alisyn Camerota, all about the royal revelations from the Harry and Meghan documentary. Alisyn hosts that starting tonight at 10:00 Eastern.
Thank you so much to all you have for joining us, in the meantime. And don't forget, OUTFRONT is always available on CNN Go.
"AC360" begins now.