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Erin Burnett Outfront

Biden Breaks Silence On Classified Docs As New Details Emerge; McCarthy Vows To Kick Some Dems Off Committees; Fierce Fighting Underway In Eastern Ukrainian City Of Soledar; OutFront Obtains Migrant Photos Given To Biden During Border Visit; Death Toll Rises, 34M Under Flood Watches As Storm Pounds California; Satellite Images Of China Show Crowded Crematoriums As COVID Rages. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 10, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. President Biden breaking his silence about the 10 classified documents found in his old office, documents about Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom. So, how did the documents end up in that office, and why?

Plus, new interceptive audio into OUTFRONT tonight of a Russian soldier talking about the real Russian death toll, and one of the biggest battles in Ukraine, as fighting around a key city intensifies tonight. We're live in Ukraine.

And what did the El Paso mayor show President Biden when he visited the border? It was a book with 62 pictures that he took himself of the border crisis ravaging the city. The mayor is my guest. We'll show his pictures first here OUTFRONT.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, Biden breaking his silence. The president finally speaking out tonight, addressing the classified documents found in his former office. Here he is moments ago at a summit with other world leaders in Mexico.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People know that I take classified documents, classified information seriously. When my lawyers were clearing out my office at the University of Pennsylvania, they set up an office for me, a secure office in the capital, when I -- for four years after being vice president, I was a professor at Penn. They found some documents in a box -- you know, a locked cabinet, or at least the closet.

And as soon as they did, they realize there were several classified documents in that box. And they did what they should've done. They immediately called the archives, and immediately called the archives, turned them over to the archives, and I was briefed about this discovery and surprised to learn that there were any government records that were taken there to that office.

But I don't know what's in the documents. I've -- my lawyers have not suggested that I ask what documents they were. I've turned over the boxes, they've turned over the boxes to the Archives, and we're cooperating fully, cooperating fully with the review, in which I hope will be finished soon, and there will be more detail at that time.


BURNETT: All right. Obviously, the emphasis here on fully cooperating. They've been fully transparent here. There are questions that remain, including why those documents read his former office, as he says he doesn't know who had access to them. We don't know that, why didn't the White House disclose this information when the documents were returned to the National Archives, right? That was back in November, and it happens to have been six days before the midterm elections.

Okay. Here's what we know about them. According to a source, there were ten classified documents, including U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials found at Biden's former office in Washington. These documents included topics of Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom. The dates were between 2014 and 2016, all of which, of course, were when Biden was vice president.

They were found in three or four boxes, but also contained unclassified papers. So, they were sort of mixed together. The new GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Turner sent a letter to the director of national intelligence today, requesting an immediate review and damage assessment. And already, other Republicans are expressing outrage.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice, they have to be held accountable. If they don't treat Joe Biden exactly the same way that they're treating President Trump.


BURNETT: OK. Evan Perez is OUTFRONT in Washington.

And, Evan, what more are you learning tonight about these specific documents?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, the initial process at the Justice Department was a review conducted by the U.S. attorney in Chicago, John Lausch, that part is concluded. The attorney general has been briefed, senior leaders of the Justice Department have been briefed by Mr. Lausch on the basic findings that they have.

And so now, the decision rests with the attorney general as to what to do next. Among those options, of course, you heard the calls from Republicans that they want to see exactly what happened with Donald Trump happened here. So, one of those options could be for the attorney general to bring in a special counsel to do a full investigation, a full blown investigation, which is not yet what this is.

You can bet that if that doesn't happen, you're going to hear a lot more from Republicans. I think that's one of the things that the Justice Department certainly is going to have to wait as they make a decision on this. As Jamie Gangel has reported, this is a much more limited incident, right? We're talking about 10 documents, the cooperation as described by the White House is in stark contrast to what we saw in the Trump investigation, where you had what the Justice Department says have been obstruction, and an effort for months to turn over documents.


So, there are differences between the two cases. That said, you know what's going to happen with the politics in this city. And that's the reason why, the attorney general is still weighing what to do next.

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

And, of course, you know, we should point out, when the National Archives came to Trump, they asked for these documents, right? They were given some but not all, asked again, multiple subpoenas. It all been handed over here, look yourself. So sorry. The Trump situation wouldn't even be a story, right? So, it's very different.

But joining me now, Alyssa Farah Griffin, former Trump White House director of strategic communications; Ryan Goodman, former special counsel of the Defense Department; the former Baltimore mayor, Democrat Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, also an attorney; and John Avlon, our senior political analyst.

So, John, let me start with you and what we heard from President Biden. It's the first time we heard from him about this.

You know, what do you think about this, was it satisfying?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It was carefully written. I mean, you know, when he said, first of all I was surprised to find out, that speaks to presumably intent. He didn't know the documents were there. There is no kind of cover-up, presumably, this was all some kind of accident.

He also emphasized the fact that they cooperated immediately. That's an important distinction.


AVLON: But there are a lot more unanswered questions, one of which is why they did not come forward for the first. I think that the administration and Biden need to really embrace that radical transparency about this in order to depoliticize it as much as possible, and we need to find out what the actual contents where. It's absolutely appropriate to follow the same principles you would, regardless of politics. It's also imperative that we do not let politics for people trying to

play politics with this, muddy the waters, or end up playing the ref with regard to what's the right course of action. It should across -- above board and impartial.

BURNETT: That's right.

Now, Alyssa, the point of what John is referencing here, of course, these documents were discovered back in November, about a week before the midterm elections. They called the National Archives, but they did not disclose in, okay?

And that does raise questions about the political timing. I mean, let's just call it like it is.

AVLON: Uh-huh.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, listen, this is -- this is a gift to the Trump camp, the people I'm hearing from who are still in Trump world, that were saying this basically makes our case for us. They, you know, he was standing by politics by not becoming transparent, and coming right out with this.

But it also speaks to the case of trying to make with prior presidents handling classified information, or in this case, the vice president. That said, the worst possible outcome for the country would be if we -- that the takeaway from this is lower the penalty for mishandling classified information.

It should be depoliticized, to John's point, the facts need to be played out. There's a lot of unknowns there. And we need to see where this goes.

The two cases are apples and oranges, but in a politically divided time, each side is going to hear what they say to it.

BURNETT: Right, and as you say, apples and oranges, and that's the important part to draw the distinction and the nuance. But to say that just because this made have been accidental, and they cooperated, there's no -- nothing, let's just move along here, wouldn't be -- it wouldn't be right either.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake, you know, the attorney general obviously signed the U.S. attorney in Chicago to this holdover from the Trump administration, did so to be impartial, right, look who I'm putting in charger of it. So, where do you think we are in that?

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, FORMER DEFENSE ATTORNEY: All I can say is that when I first saw the news, the Democrats had such a great week with the debacle with Kevin McCarthy. So, when I saw that news, I was like, oh, Uncle Joe. I'm like, no, not with the papers.

But, you know, listen, I was there for 20 years. When it is time for me to go, I didn't pack those -- my documents. So, it is understandable that when he says, he was surprised, he didn't know that they were in there. Merrick Garland is doing the best that he can to present to the

American public an impartial assessment of what happened. I can say that what we've seen is totally different than what we saw from Trump. There is no hiding in the dark in Mar-a-Lago, it was -- look what we found, here it is, and not just these ten, but take everything and let us know if we missed anything. That's what we want to see from our elected person officials. That's what responsibility looks like.

BURNETT: So, when you try to depoliticize this, Ryan. You look at it from the law, okay, having classified documents is a problem, and that should be the same for anyone. But intent matters, so obviously, when you look here, what you talk about, right, they found them, they called the National Archives. Let's put again, aside the lack of disclosure to the public, a week before the midterms out of this conversation.

Three hundred documents of Trump's classified, 60 top secret. Biden has ten in all, right? He called right away, as I said. He cooperated.

Trump defied the National Archives. He defied subpoena one, subpoena two, and ends up with an FBI search, right? The situations are completely different. From a legal perspective, what does that mean?

RYAN GOODMAN, JUST SECURITY: So, like you're saying, intent is key. If Trump will fully retain the information, which all evidence points to that over several months, and in fact, try to conceal it from the government, from the FBI.

BURNETT: And he directed the employee after there had been a search to move boxes.


So --

GOODMAN: Move boxes out of the storage facility, directing another lawyer to lie or make a false statement to the National Archives, that there were no more documents, in his position when they were. That's about intent.

Did he have knowledge about the documents himself? Did he intend to conceal them? That's the problem for him.

For Biden, if it points -- if it turns out to be true that he was surprised, and that he had no knowledge of the documents, then it's kind of case closed. Of course, we'll see how the --

BURNETT: So, from a legal perspective, it would be fair to do -- to do nothing, there would be no penalty for that?

GOODMAN: That's right. So, it's -- I don't even just compare it like what's the Biden situation to the Trump situation. It's what the Biden situation --

BURNETT: Right, just what's the Biden situation, absolutely.

GOODMAN: -- when the DOJ does prosecute these cases. They would not prosecute a case like this if there is no intent.

For Trump, they would not prosecute a case like that, because it's egregious in terms of the severity, of his knowledge and his personal involvement and packing some of these boxes and concealing some of the other boxes. That's the kind of true comparison I think that the DOJ will actually go through as part of its analysis.

BURNETT: Right. Now, again, John, now you hit the politics of it, right? And, obviously, you know, we'd all like to say they don't matter. Of course, they do matter, and to that point, how important is it that when they did find it out, you know, they probably viewed it as, look, this is an accident. Why should we disclose this and muddy the water on the midterms? It's going to be used against us. They would be right in that, and yet they did not say anything when they knew.

AVLON: Look, six days before election is a high bar, but we're now two months after that. What if they've been doing in the previous two months? That's a legitimate question.


AVLON: Again, incredibly important to determine what are the contents of these memos, and if they reflect positively or negatively on any interest for Biden in any way.


AVLON: But I think it -- that's what makes it incredibly important, to be radically transparent, to bend over backwards to be impartial, to follow the course of action like having a Trump older, U.S. attorney to review the documents. If indeed this was all a complete accident, then a special counsel would come to that conclusion as well. But radical transparency, bending over backwards to show that this is being handled impartially, I think that's key to creating credibility around it.

BURNETT: Right. Mayor, so what should happen from here then?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: You know, to your point about radical transparency, I think it is hard to be radically transparent when you are across the table from radicals, you know, that you can't trust to take this information in a balance way. So, what should happen is we should hear what the person assigned to look at this has to say about it.

And, you know, this is a Trump hold over. I don't think he's going to be doing Biden any favors. Should there be criminal prosecution? I don't think so based on what we know now. Should there be something? So, we are being more careful with these documents, moving forward, I think he needs to make that commitment to us.

BURNETT: And -- go ahead, Alyssa.

GRIFFIN: Well, to be clear, the fact pattern is not good for Biden, but we're comparing it to such a bad fact pattern with Trump. I want to keep that in mind because at the end of the day, we know something that is top secret, means that it poses great risk to national security. The fact that we're in this moment where we are not going back there, but Hillary Clinton mishandling classified information, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden, we need to kind of get our leaders so that they do not put national security at risk through handling documents willy-nilly handling classified information.

BURNETT: All right. So -- and you take that point and that's crucial. What does Merrick Garland do, though, vis-a-vis Trump? They come to the conclusion, and we don't know what we don't know right now, but that this was accidental, Biden didn't know, he was surprised, it was a mistake, okay. Trump was none of the above, but does this tie Merrick Garland in his mind, these hands behind his back on indicting Trump in any way because of the political overtones?

GOODMAN: I always think that the Justice Department does take into account public perception at some level. So, for example, if the public is aware that there is rampant illegality around January 6th, and then the Justice Department does not think, they take that into account.

So, I do think they have a political problem in the sense of the public perception, but if they just follow what they'll -- what I think Garland will do, what he's promised to do, is compared like cases alike, and I think the outcome is fairly clear that Trump will potentially face serious consequences.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. I appreciate it.

And next, payback, Speaker McCarthy says he is kicking Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell off the intelligence committee and Ilhan Omar will be blocked from the committee she was on. Well, why?

Plus, new intercepted audio into OUTFRONT tonight. This tonight that you'll hear as a Russian soldier learning about the real Russian death toll and bloodiest battle of the war so far. You're going to hear it first OUTFRONT.

And, breaking news, the death toll rising tonight in California, some cars are literally being completely swallowed whole, entire homes submerged in water.



BURNETT: Tonight, McCarthy's revenge. The new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy promising to block Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the Intelligence Committee, a committee that Swalwell has served on for eight years and Schiff for 15. Of course, most recently, as everybody in this country knows, as chairman, right, and so many important investigations.

Also on the target list, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. McCarthy blocking her from the Foreign Affairs Committee, and she has been on that committee since 2019. Now, of course, McCarthy said a year ago that Schiff, Swalwell, and

Omar would pay the price for House Democratic leaders kicking Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar off their committees. Greene for promoting conspiracy theories and endorsing political violence, and Gosar for a video depicting him killing Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Now, McCarthy has the unilateral authority as speaker to block Intel Committee appointments, although the full House would vote have to vote to block Omar's assignment.

OUTFRONT now, Congressman Mike Quigley, a Democrat who has been serving on the House Intelligence Committee for almost a decade. He hopes to keep his assignment.

So, Congressman, let me start with where -- where you are right now. Do you think that McCarthy will be successful in stripping all three of your Democratic colleagues of their committee assignments?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Well, he certainly has the capabilities, unilaterally, as you said, could do it on the Intel Committee. We'll see what the House does, with the full House does.

It needs to be said, the Intel Committee is a very different. You can argue that it is important of a committee as we have. It has oversight over the intelligence community that keeps us safe. So, what he's talking about is throwing people off who have some of the most institutional memory about those national security matters, because he doesn't like them.

They don't like Adam Schiff, not because he stood up to President Trump, but because he was so good at it. Frankly, I had a ringside seat. They don't have anybody that can compete with him legally, in leadership, and clearly, in messaging.


BURNETT: And, you know, look, McCarthy has been promising, as you know, Congressman, retribution ever since the Democrats stripped Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from their committees.

Here's what he told "Breitbart News".


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The Democrats have created a new thing where they're picking and choosing who could be on the committee. Never in the history have you had the majority tell the minority who could be on the committee, but this new standard, which Democrats voted for --


BURNETT: Did -- were you at all surprised, though, when he actually did it? Especially pertaining to Adam Schiff, who, of course, was the chairman of that committee, the face of it? QUIGLEY: You know, I guess I'm not surprised. I don't know what

promises he made among the others to get his gavel. But it's unfortunate.

These are false equivalencies. I think he recognizes that in his heart. They know that, look, Eric Swalwell, as much as President Trump hated him, if there was anything they could've used against him, and the FBI said he did nothing wrong, they would've used it. So, there is nothing there except for a false equivalence, going after people that you don't like who were particularly effective at their jobs.

In the end, the Intelligence Committee will do it out as this goes forward two of its most effective members.

BURNETT: All right. You are, of course -- well, I know you're hoping to remain on that committee. Have you heard anything from him? Are you confident that you will continue to serve?

QUIGLEY: This is a select committee, and so I serve there to the maximum, unless there is a waiver. I guess the final waiver has to be signed by the speaker of the House, and so I guess I leave it up to him and the fact that I've done my job well. I guess if he doesn't like me, he won't do that, but again, this isn't doing it for the right reasons.

BURNETT: I want to ask you before we go, since, obviously, you have so much information on intelligence about the classified documents found in one of President Biden's private offices from his time in VP.

The new Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Turner, has requested from the DNI a damage assessment, he says, of the documents found. He says that there's, quote, potential violations of law.

Congressman, do you leave open the possibility that President Biden broke the law?

QUIGLEY: Look, all these mishandling cases matter. No one is above the law. The investigation is warranted. I was heartened by the fact that the U.S. attorney for my hometown, Chicago, was elected to do the initial analysis. Let that investigation take place. We are doing what the Republicans did, and that is that if there is something wrong, here it needs to be investigated.

But all indications are that there is an extraordinary difference in magnitude and scope, and clearly the level of cooperation, and as prosecutors traditionally have handled these cases, the intent matters. How these things matter -- disloyalty to the United States, and all of the measures they look at, almost all of them do apply to former President Trump, and none of them seem to apply at this point to President Biden. But let's let the investigation take its course.

BURNETT: Yeah, it certainly seems to be a huge difference in magnitude and motivation. Thank you very much, Congressman. I appreciate your time.

QUIGLEY: Anytime, thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the bloodiest battle of the war underway right now in Ukraine. Russia is officially reporting fewer than 100 deaths from Ukrainian strike. But a new intercepted phone call into OUTFRONT tells a different story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He personally dragged the bodies out of Makiivka. He says that there are 610 dead.


BURNETT: And first OUTFRONT, the mayor of El Paso meeting with President Biden during his first trip to the border as president. We will talk to him about what they discussed, and he will show you the photos that he showed the president.



BURNETT: Tonight, in Soledar, no one counts the dead. That's what one Ukrainian soldier in Soledar tells CNN about the ferocious fighting there. It is a town in eastern Ukraine, and it is now a sight of intense battles on the frontline.

Ukraine's military saying Russia is focusing all of its attention on taking Soledar in a brutal effort to breakthrough Ukraine's defenses. And it comes as a newly-obtained intercept from Ukraine's defense intelligence comes out, showing that they claim that this is a woman talking to a Russian soldier, and it details a much higher death toll than the 89 dead confirmed by the Russian military following that massive Ukrainian strike in Makiivka.

Now, CNN cannot independently verify the call or the casualty numbers, but listen to this. These numbers are important.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): So, basically, Alyonka's guy Sergey called.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He personally dragged the bodies out of Makiivka and (EXPLETIVE DELETED) from the second place where the hospital is, basically. He says there are 610 dead in Makiivka. Says he transported 12 KAMAZ truckloads of them out of there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Well, I told you. But you said 63.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Why then are the authorities remaining silent on this? UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Because, (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

your mother, they don't want to cause a riot.


BURNETT: Scott McLean is OUTFRONT tonight in Kyiv.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Smoke billows over the salt mines in Soledar, Eastern Ukraine. This small town is now the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in this 11- month war. Video filmed by one soldier on the front line shows the house to house style fighting troops are now locked into.

"The tank is working, did you hear?" the Ukrainian fighter says.

The streets of Soledar, littered with debris, as Wagner fighters battled for control of this strategic town. This part of the war's frontline is dominated by the private military group.

Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin even praising the bravery of the Ukrainian forces he is trying to defeat, admitting Sunday, that his men were exclusively working to capture the town, and the mines underneath Soledar and Bakhmut.

The town's walls are almost entirely demolished, according to Ukrainian officials.

Soledar, though, small in size is strategically important to the ultimate capture of Bakhmut. A way of surrounding the city from the north, and disrupting Ukrainian communication lines.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The battle for the Donbas continues, and although the occupiers have concentrated their greatest efforts on Soledar, the result of this difficult and prolonged battle will be the liberation of our entire Donbas.


MCLEAN: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday, acknowledging the extremely difficult situation in Soledar. Russia, meanwhile, is still reeling over the devastating Ukrainian strike on troops housed in Makiivka on New Year's Day.

Moscow says 89 servicemen were killed, but Ukraine says there were hundreds. Russia says it will not publish their names, claiming it will help foreign telegenic services activities against them.

As the fighting in Soledar rages on, all eyes are when and if it may fall.


MCLEAN (on camera): And CNN spoke to a soldier in Soledar today, who says that nobody knows exactly where the front lines are, because there is such a big gray area the both sides are claiming. He says Ukraine has lost a lot of troops, but they're being replaced so quickly that he can't even learn their call signs. He still figures that the Ukrainians will at some point be forced to withdraw, to move back, move out of Soledar. He just wonders why the order to retreat has not come already in order to save lives -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Scott, thank you very much.

OUTFRONT now, Dan Rice, who advises the chief of the Ukrainians armed forces.

I want to touch at a couple of points that he just made, but first that Ukrainian soldier that we mentioned fighting in Soledar. He's saying that not a single person can say how many dead there are. That's a devastating this is been. They need to backup, they, say not permanently, but because the death toll is so high.

Why is it so lethal there?

DAN RICE, ADVISES UKRAINE ARMED FORCES: It is such a kinetic environment. I mean, it's the most lethal place right now within Ukraine.

The Russians want it badly. It's not a strategic location. It is a meat grinder, and they're throwing all kinds of troops at it.

Really, one of the biggest changes for the "Foreign Affairs" broke the story for, Turkey providing dual purpose and improving munitions, cluster munitions.

BURNETT: Those cluster munitions that Ukraine has wanted from the U.S. but has done not yet gotten.

RICE: And you are way up front on this story, talking about the advantages of cluster emissions, and how it would help Ukraine with lethal munitions. And they haven't been providing them since November.

So, right now, when you see the attack in Bakhmut and in Soledar, these are Russian troops that have changed their tactics. Getting in the war, they used armor out front, followed by infantry. Our javelins were killing their armor, so they put the infantry out front.

Now the infantry is coming at the Ukrainians, instead of high explosives, which is like throwing a dart at an aunt. Now they have dual purpose.

BURNETT: One thing hits, it goes in all directions, the death toll is going to go up.

RICE: So, you're seeing the increase in the dead account for the Russians. It's 100 to 200 a day. Now, it's gone up to six or 800 a day, plus three times that wounded. It's a meat grinder, and it's foolish for Russian communities to go after target like this, with this much casualties. They don't care about their dead --

BURNETT: Even if they get Soledar, you're saying it is -- it's not a permanent change in the war, but --

RICE: They'll make it out to the people at home, as if it's a strategic victory, as if they took Kyiv. The reality is if they take Soledar, it's not going to make a big difference. But they're going to lose tens of thousands of soldiers in that effort, and the Wagner group. So, that's good riddance to them.

BURNETT: Obviously, you see this going on in eastern Ukraine. What we understand from Ukrainian officials, they're telling CNN that Russia's artillery fire is down dramatically.

RICE: Yes.

BURNETT: We know artillery has been so core to this entire conflict, 75 percent decrease in some areas, and they say that there is no clear explanation as to why. What do you think that's about?

RICE: I believe it's clearly there's one thing that you can account for, it's the HIMARS, the high mobility rocket systems. So, we're striking deep. We're going 90 kilometers into their lines, hitting every single supply depot. So, they cannot co -- they can't put supply close to the front lines to fire 25,000 artillery shells. It's just hundreds of trucks every day, and they're also coming under fire from drones.

So you're seeing the supply chain be decimated, in addition to the running out of most of their materiel. So every day --

BURNETT: So, it's a combination of them not being able to get it from point A to point B --

RICE: Correct.

BURNETT: -- and at point A where it's being produced, they don't have enough. It's both.

RICE: They're just running out. They're running out -- they're going into 40 year old artillery. They're having to beg, borrow and steal from the axis of evil, North Korea and Iran, to try to get 122 millimeter and 152 millimeter Russian made shells. So, they beg, borrow and steal, and they're going to run out at some point. They're running out of cruise missiles. They're running around a lot of things.

Turkey is the big winner here. Turkey providing this artillery shell. I think that's a great thing. I think all NATO countries should follow suit. Those that have these should follow suit. The U.S. should follow the lead.

BURNETT: The U.S. being the leader there and, of course, has not yet done so. The Biden administration has been formally requested and I know you are part of that.

RICE: That's right.

BURNETT: All right. Dan, thank you very much. RICE: Good to see you.

BURNETT: And next, first OUTFRONT, what President Biden saw when he visited the border this week. The mayor of El Paso met with him and showed him photos that he had taken himself. He's going to share those photos with you. He's my guest next.

And breaking news, the death toll in California is rising this hour. Those storms continuing to pound the state. You've got flooding, mudslides, tens of thousands now told to flee in their homes.



BURNETT: Breaking news, President Biden just wrapping up a press conference in Mexico City. He faced questions there about the surge of migrants coming into the United States.

Now, the president was touting new measures that his administration is taking to take legal means of entering the U.S. more accessible.

Here's how he put it.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This has been the greatest migration in human history. We're trying to make it easier for people to get here, opening up the capacity to get here, but then not having them to go through that God-awful process.


BURNETT: This comes as OUTFRONT obtains photos that were shown to Biden during his first trip to the border as president the other day, and these images were scanned straight from a binder that the mayor of El Paso, he put it together. He wanted the president to see the border crisis through his eyes. Now he sees it every day, and the mayor joins me now.

And, Mayor, I appreciate your time very much, and I know you had to chance to meet with President Biden privately during his trip to El Paso. And you went through this binder the you've put together that has a more than 60 photos that your office shared with us and they show all sorts of things, migrants sleeping on the streets covered in blankets, lining up for supplies.

And this is what you have lived for several months, perhaps even longer than that.


What led you to take these photos and put this book together, Mayor?

MAYOR OSCAR LEESER (D), EL PASO, TEXAS: You know, Erin, I started doing, when I go out, whether it's midnight, 1:00 in the morning, 4:00 in the morning, I go to the airport, I go to different areas. And I wanted just to take pictures of the document as I was seeing it, not ever thinking that I'd be using it and showing it to the president.

But I was very thankful that he came to El Paso. I wanted him to see what I shot through my eyes day in and day out. We saw people in the streets, at the airport, and the clashes that we have been dealing with. And he, like I said, he lifted the book, we went through every page. He really looked at it, and he saw that we are in a crisis.

We talked about the broken immigration system, and how it needs to be fixed. This is a perfect example of what it is, going on day in and day out. We've been able to continue the work and offer sheltered to these people, and continue to help people move through this city.

So, I'll give you an example, back in December 15th, we had over 2,500 people that were seeking asylum, turning themselves in, and today we had 570. The numbers have gone way down since the new administration came up with a new process.

We've seen it slow down, and we have a lot of people on the street. I wanted him to see exactly who we've been seeing day in a day out.

BURNETT: So, you also -- I'll show you pictures that you took at the airport, you mentioned taking pictures there when you had to travel. Migrants sleeping with Red Cross blankets, some on the ground. Again, these are all pictures that were putting on our screen that you showed President Biden.

What did he say when he showed him those images?

LEESER: Secretary Mayorkas has -- he said he's been -- since he's been appointed, he's been here in the border area for over 20 times. So, he knew exactly what was going on.

But, again, this is what I saw. And we are able to help these people through the airport, now we have less than 50 today.

But at one point, we had over 600 people there were sleeping, and that can change every day. One thing we've learned, we have to be adaptable day in and day out. So, we wanted to make sure that he saw what we've been going through.

A lot of these pictures were two or three weeks ago, the airport was through the holiday season. And prior to the thanksgiving holidays, flights, and we saw that happen with the airlines, flights delayed. This is what we have to deal with.

BURNETT: And I do -- and we're going to show some more here, these are pictures of course can literally from your office, we scan them straight from your book, so people are seeing your pictures as you showed the president.

Now, you showed him photos of the lines of migrants, you're pointing out that it's gone down since then, people waiting outside of the border. Now, he did visit the border, but he is facing criticism for not seeing any migrants himself. At many levels, Mayor, when it comes to, you know, him impersonally, your binder is as close as he got to seeing the true chaos that has been unfolding on the ground.

I know you mentioned that the home security secretary has been down many times, but do you wish that the president would've been able to see some of this for himself?

LEESER: You know, but the president talked to the NGOs. He talked to -- went to the people that are providing shelter, talked to the bishops, also talked to the border patrol, talked to Customs, and talked to people that are providing service, and people that are out there day in and day out. It's been very important for him to see what they needed, what type of services they're providing. You talk to El Paso, they are providing meals, they're providing over 18,000 meals to the asylum seekers. He talked to them, and talked to them about what was going on, and how he can continue to provide service.

I can tell you that the federal government has provided a lot of funding for El Paso to provide these services. So, he did spend a lot of time, and he did a lot of talking to the people, and actually providing the service to the asylum seekers.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Mayor Leeser, I really appreciate your time, and thank you very much for sharing those photos with us. It's important, you know, for everyone to be able to see them. And thank you for sharing.

LEESER: Thank you. You have a happy New Year.

BURNETT: All right. You, too.

And next, the breaking news out of California, the death toll rising, heavy rains creating total chaos on the ground. Mudslides are toppling trees, debris crashing people's homes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight hundred pound rock, it just smashed the house. It just hit the wall and blew everything up.


BURNETT: And satellite images of crowded crematoriums and funeral homes in China, as the country continues to confront the crisis, the biggest outbreak on the planet. The government says that the death toll is only 37.

We'll take you there live.



BURNETT: Tonight, at least 17 dead in California with heavy rains and wind striking the state. Nearly the entire state under flood watches. That's what the National Weather Service calls the most impressive -- inopportune word -- storm there in nearly 20 years. Cars in Los Angeles County falling into a massive sinkhole. Two

drivers dead after this tree collapsed in San Joaquin Valley. Commutes disrupted, main roads and highways completely washed over by mud.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT, and we can see the springs in California.

And, Kyung, I mean, just looking at where you're standing, all I can say is wow, what are you seen?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is -- this is a roadway, and it's covered in mud. This was the hillside above, and it just came all the way down. I've talked to people that have lived here since the '70s, and they say that they've never seen anything like this in this community, and it's all because of historic rain.


LAH (voice-over): During recent historic droughts, California prayed for rain, but not like this.

Two days of torrential rain, thunderstorms, and wind gusts are pounding California, causing mudslides, overflowing rivers, and triggering extensive flooding.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got trees down. We've got mudslides. We've got actually folks trapped in areas where we have major road failures.

LAH: At least 17 people have died as a result of the storms, after more than 18 inches of rain fell in parts of southern California. And high wind advisories were issued on the central coast.

In San Francisco, a rare hailstorm hit Ashbury. And throughout northern California --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The rain hammered here pretty bad.

LAH: -- the rushing river has flooded, following torrential downpours. Some residents have been without power for a week. In Santa Barbara County, mass evacuations, after that storm saturated the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was pouring, the wind was whipping.

LAH: Following years of extreme drought and fires.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the mountainside here, the debris started coming down, filling up to four feet or so. Pretty much buried the truck, and now it's starting to flow.

LAH: More than 30 million people are under flood alerts, and across southern California, flash flooding trapped drivers. Firefighters here rescued a motorist stranded in rushing waters. And mud and rockslides creating havoc for residents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A 800-pound rock just smashed the house, it just hit the wall and blew everything out.

LAH: In northern California, the rain flooded roads, and vineyards, it almost doubled the snow pack in local mountains, offering hope that these storms might somehow ease California's historic drought.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're riding through it. Yeah, it could be a lot worse.


LAH (on camera): The drought is hard to think about, especially with rain forecast towards the end of this week, and, Erin, can see how it can really be soft, the concern from the people living below it is what happens then -- Erin.

BURNETT: Unbelievable images.

All right. Kyung, thank you very much, live from Casitas Springs.

And next, the COVID outbreak in China, the world's biggest. In just one province, 87 million people tested positive. That's just what we know about, 87 million positive, overflowing crematoriums and funeral homes.

The government says that only 37 people have died since the start began. We're live in Beijing.



BURNETT: Tonight, evidence of the horrible toll of the world's biggest COVID outbreak. These satellite images of crowded crematoriums and funeral homes, revealing what is happening in China. In just one province, 89 percent of its residents are apparently infected with COVID-19, that's more than 87 million people.

But tonight, Xi Jinping's government officially says only 37 people have died from COVID, as the country reopens its borders to the world for the first time in years.

Selina Wang is once again OUTFRONT.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anticipation is in the air. Flowers in hand, they anxiously wait. This is the most exciting day in three years at China airport as the country reopens its borders.

And the moment finally arrives. These are especially meaningful reunions. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, travelers from abroad can meet their families right after getting off the plane instead of getting sent to a quarantine facility.

A mother and her son waiting for her husband, his father at the airport. They haven't seen each other in almost a year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Yes, I'm really excited. It's been too long.

WANG: He's a little shy but he says he misses his dad and the flowers are for his dad.

The family running to greet the father, his son finally getting that warm embrace.

The Beijing Capital International Airport is finally coming back to life, but as China's opening up, other countries are getting nervous. More than a dozen countries have imposed COVID-19 testing rules on travelers coming from China. Some countries like South Korea have gone a step further. It stopped issuing short-term visas from its consulates in China. In retaliation, Beijing has now suspended issuing short-term visas to South Koreans. Morocco has even banned travelers from China.

China has only officially reported a few dozen COVID deaths since reopening. But satellite images reveal a different story. These images taken in late December and early January show crowds at China's crematoriums and long lines of cars waiting outside of funeral homes in six Chinese cities.

The images appear to show that a funeral home at the outskirts of Beijing has even constructed a brand new parking area. We visited a crematorium last month showing crowds and body bags piling up in metal crates.

But the explosion in COVID cases is not stopping people from going abroad.

Where are you going to right now?


WANG: Are you excited you don't have to quarantine anymore?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: It's very good.

WANG: Countries like Thailand are eager for the economic boost welcoming the first group of Chinese tourists with flowers at the airport. And more Chinese travelers are on the way.

Immigration offices across the country are flooded with residents lining up to apply for travel documents.

Across the country, all of China's land borders have reopened. Residents cheered the historic moment, but the celebratory mood dampened by the explosive spread of COVID. The medical system was unprepared for the country's sudden U-turn away from zero COVID.

But it's a poignant moment for all of these families at the airport. After years of sacrifice during zero COVID, finally they're reunited.


WANG (on camera): So, Erin, China's reopening has come with this relief but also chaos. Beijing has stopped reporting nationwide data on COVID infections but some provinces are sharing their numbers. Around 89 percent of its residents have been infected with COVID as of last Friday. This is China's most populous province.

We're talking a population more than 98 million people. Local officials there did not disclose the death toll. It's a sensitive topic here because a high death toll, it would directly challenge the long-standing narrative that China's COVID approach is superior to the West -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Selina, thank you very much live from Beijing tonight.

And thanks so much to all of you.

"AC360" starts now.