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Erin Burnett Outfront
Russia Shakes Up Leadership, Names New Commander In War In Ukraine; More New York Republicans Call For Rep. Santos To Resign Over Lies; Sources: Biden Legal Team Finds Classified Docs At 2nd Location; 9,700+ Flights Delayed, 1,300+ Cancelled After FAA Outage; Facebook Insiders Speak Out Amid Imminent Decision On Trump Ban. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 11, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Putin's purge. The Russian president suddenly replacing the general overseeing his war in Ukraine, just as the Russians appear to be on the verge of seizing the town of Soledar. Why the major shake up?
Plus, resign. More Republicans tonight calling for Congressman George Santos to step down after he lied about his resume. But McCarthy won't show him the door. Is this a big issue for the GOP? Republican Governor Chris Sununu is OUTFRONT.
And is Trump about to get back on Facebook? Our Donie O'Sullivan has new details from Facebook insiders on how the company is making this decision. It is a story you'll see first here tonight OUTFRONT.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, Putin's mysterious shakeup. The Russian president suddenly putting in a new general to oversee his war in Ukraine. And there is a huge question tonight which is why what is this all about? Because it comes as Russia claims its forces are on the verge of seizing the town of Soledar.
CNN is there, has heard the heavy artillery fire. We're going to show you in just a moment. It is artillery fire that has decimated an entire town. Let me just show you some new before and after pictures just into our field team on the ground.
Here you can see a neighborhood with homes and apartment buildings. Let me show you now. Look at that. Nothing there. Only the outer shells of buildings remain.
And let me show you another one, homes and a school to the right. A small town, now gone. Everything has been destroyed.
And the fate of this town that you're looking at right now, Soledar is at the heart of this mysterious move in Putin's military command.
Here's what we know happened. The head of the brutal Wagner group Yevgeny Prigozhin posted a picture on telegram along with the claim that his forces, this private paramilitary group have taken control of the, quote, entire territory of Soledar.
Now you'd think that the Russian military would be happy to hear that. But, no. They denied Prigozhin's claims. A top Kremlin's spokesperson saying this morning Soledar is not yet in Russian control, that there's only a positive trend.
It is an odd, conflicting message in a time of war. It's a mystery, a sign of something much deeper. And it appears to be at the center of Putin's general shakeup, because the man that Putin has now picked to run his invasion, General Valery Gerasimov, is backed by the Russian military establishment which has failed so miserably in so many parts of this war, backed by Putin's minister of defense Sergei Shoigu.
And the man that Gerasimov he is replacing, General Sergei Surovikin, has the backing of Yevgeny Prigozhin of the Wagner Group.
So, tonight, in this play, this chess game, it is advantage Shoigu and this duel between him and Prigozhin for the ultimate power in Putin's -- military power in Putin's regime. And as they duel for power, the battle on the ground in Soledar rages, and Russians are dying, a lot of them. It is a grim death toll taking a major toll on the Russians alive still fighting.
Listen to this. Here's a new intercepted call that Ukraine's defense intelligence says is from a Russian soldier.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Well, word on the street is they're shipping us back to Russia to be reshuffled into new formations. They're saying that after that, they ship us to the Kherson area. I think that, (EXPLETIVE DELETED), if everything works out there in Russia, then I'll (EXPLETIVE DELETED) never come back. I'll try to dodge, I'll take my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) to Pechenga, for (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sake.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: I want to start with Ben Wedeman. He is OUTFRONT live in Kramatorsk.
And, Ben, you've been nearby that fierce fighting in Soledar. You have heard it. What did you see and hear?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, what we saw is that the Ukrainians still control part of Soledar. But as what we heard, the fighting is intense. What's not at all clear at this point is how much longer the Ukrainians can resist this Russian offensive.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Medics load a wounded soldier onto an ambulance. Another casualty from the embattled town of Soledar. It varies depending on the number of casualties on the front lines.
Russian forces, mostly troops from the Wagner group, the private military company, claim to have control of the entire Soledar territory.
The battle for Soledar may be in its final stages, and it doesn't appear to be going well for the Ukrainians. And if indeed the Russians do emerge victorious, the villages around it may be the next to fall.
Ukraine's helicopters still flying sorties, its forces aren't giving ground easily. One soldier says it's difficult but we're hanging in there.
Despite the fighting, Mira (ph) is staying put with her pigs and cows in her home in a nearby village.
We won't leave, she says. You can only die once. I will not abandon my house.
Her 81-year-old mother Ludmila has lived here for more than 40 years. We had a good life here, she says.
Sergei Goskov (ph), head of the Soledar military administration, I'm delivering aid, he says, and reminding people they need to evacuate before it's too late.
Svetlana says she will heed his call. Everyone is tired, she tells me. We can't take it any longer.
As Soledar burns, there is little time to waste.
WEDEMAN: And as dire as the situation is in Soledar itself, what we saw is that in the surrounding villages, there are a lot of Ukrainian troops. They don't seem to be particularly alarmed that the Russians are about to come. They're well dug in. Their morale seems to be good. They seem to be well-supplied.
And as we were leaving that area, we saw more Ukrainian reinforcements coming in, perhaps to launch a counterattack or perhaps to provide cover for an organized retreat from Soledar itself -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Ben Wedeman, on the ground near Soledar tonight.
And OUTFRONT now, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.
And, General, I appreciate your time. You know, when we were showing those before and after pictures, one thing that I hope stands out to people is the size of Soledar. This is a small town. This is not a big city. It is a small town. It is a town obviously almost entirely destroyed, I would go as far as to say it is completely destroyed in terms of being able to live there.
Is there strategic advantage to controlling it?
LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: There is no strategic advantage to this. This is a personality class within Russia. The Ukrainians realize that in order to take back territory in the Donbas, they cannot allow any further advances by the Russian army, or in this case the Wagner Group under Prigozhin.
But one of the lessons they teach you in the war college, Erin, and it's true in any organization, personalities matter. And when you have the kind of clash of personalities you see in the Russian army with Gerasimov, Surovikin, Prigozhin, Mr. Putin, they are having problems getting advances all along the front that they sought to obtain from the beginning of this war.
Soledar is not a strategically important town. Bakhmut to the south of Soledar is also not strategically important. The Ukrainians have defense all around those areas. They don't want to give up an inch of ground. So they are going to fight.
And, truthfully, this may become a tactical victory. Prigozhin's Wagner troops may eventually gain the town of Soledar. But if they do, it may be a tactical pyrrhic victory and it's a strategic success for Ukraine holding for so long, much like Mariupol.
BURNETT: So, Putin, to your point about the personalities here, announcing his fourth general in less than a year to oversee the war in Ukraine specifically, which obviously is not a good record. But the man who is now in charge, Gerasimov, actually was the person running the Russian military over the past decade, a military which we have all seen its performance on the battlefield.
So what do you think of this, that Gerasimov now suddenly being entrusted with this top command and replacing Surovikin?
HERTLING: It is a bizarre move, Erin. You know, it would be equivalent of taking the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Milley, in the United States and putting him at the front lines of an operational campaign. He has been at the forefront of the Russian military. That's not just army, that's navy, air force, naval, infantry, all those things.
So it may be a foretelling of an attempt at future attacks in different areas of operations with navy and air forces. But I believe it's -- again, it's a personality-driven move. It is in fact a demotion for Gerasimov, someone who's been in Moscow for the last 10 years, and it's also a demotion of Surovikin who was given command in the front the Russians and didn't do all that well.
So it's troubling to me and it's confusing to me why Mr. Putin did this other than potentially to place blame on Gerasimov who's considered an insider in the Kremlin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, General Hertling.
And OUTFRONT now, Christo Grozev, lead Russia investigator for Bellingcat who identified the Russians involved in poisoning Putin opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Christo was just placed on Russia's wanted list.
So, Christo, let me just start there. This is just happening here over these past days. Why do you think Russia and Putin now have just put you on the wanted list?
CHRISTO GROZEV, LEAD RUSSIA INVESTIGATOR AT BELLINGCAT: Well, New Year, new priorities, but I don't know. The answer is there's no explanation. We have not been able to get any answers to the charges, what it says on the most wanted announcement is he's been put on this list for a violation of a Russian law.
It's completely anonymous. There's no way for me to defend myself from an anonymous charge. The lawyers can't find out. The Bulgarian government and Bulgarian citizens have been asking Russia to explain why and they are not giving the answer.
I think it's a fatwa of some sort. I mean, it's like a message that to other journalists as well that don't come and meddle into -- don't do investigations into Russia.
BURNETT: And yet you continue to bravely do it and continue your investigations. And you more than anyone know at what possible cost.
GROZEV: Yeah, we investigated a series of assassinations done by the Russian state. And one of them is the attempted assassination of Navalny. But many other opposition leaders were targeted by the same security services in Russia, some of them with a fatal outcome.
BURNETT: So, Navalny right now, I will ask you about that. He is -- you've got new details surrounding his poisoning. What are they?
GROZEV: Well, it's more details to the picture we took together with CNN we painted two years ago almost.
GROZEV: We found out more details that showed the effort that the Russian government went into to destroy the evidence of what they had just done. There are more people that were sent to clean up after the poisoning.
And also what we find out is more evidence that they were trying to do something to the other people around Alexei Navalny. For example, Maria Pevchikh who is the lead investigator --
BURNETT: Yes. Of course, we know her, yes.
GROZEV: I mean, we see members of the security services going to her hotel a couple of days before the poisoning and we're still trying to find out why. But there's more, more granular details as to exactly how they ran the operation. We'll publish them soon. BURNETT: So, let me ask you about Putin and the news we have today that we're talking about, this new commander for Ukraine, General Gerasimov, of course, a name that many have become familiar with. But he is a person that the Wagner group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has disparaged publicly, right? A real split there, Prigozhin with huge ambition, and now suddenly the person who hasn't, you know, has sort of been his nemesis on this is getting this big promotion.
What does this mean?
GROZEV: Well, it means a couple of things. One thing it mean that's by promoting the chief of staff of the army to the position of a field commander, essentially running the show, you can't any more call this a non-war. You can't call it a special operation. It's a real war, and it's come out finally.
Second thing is that Putin has been between two powers -- he's in the middle of a power struggle. And Prigozhin actually showed his teeth. He showed that he wants a piece of the action, wants to be in power.
But Putin ultimately had to take the side of the anti-Prigozhin establishment, which is the military establishment team, the Shoigu team, the Gerasimov team. And now you see both sides are now upset with this outcome. And Pigozhin is going to do something, I think, more to claim power.
BURNETT: More dramatic to try to claim power. So we should be watching that?
GROZEV: Yeah, in the next couple of days I think there will be more lashing out by him.
BURNETT: Well -- all right. We'll watch this next hours.
And another story that we've been following closely here is the plight of the former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili now in prison in Georgia, which of course is a country that Putin had invaded obviously and is now run by a pro-Putin government.
We have some images of him now in prison, extremely frail. It's quite disturbing to see him. And I spoke with his son and his lawyer recently. They said that they had DNA of his brought to U.S. medical facility, tested his hair and nail samples. Here's what they said about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those tests along with some of the blood testing results that we've received revealed heavy metals, arsenic, mercury, among others. So that is what told us that he was being poisoned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I understand he's reached out to you as best he could from prison. What did he say to you? GROZEV: Well, he reached out publicly on Facebook message, and he
asked for help in investigating his own poisoning because he doesn't trust his own government, his own authorities to do that properly.
It's a very unusual appeal, obviously. And we'll do our best to address that.
So far, we're appealing to the Georgia government is reaching out to us and do this in a collaborative fashion. But if they don't do that, we'll do it on our own. We can do it without collaboration.
BURNETT: You certainly. But this -- what you hear here is consistent with other things that you've seen.
GROZEV: It is. There is motive, and there is symptoms that are consistent. We have to find if there is a possibility by travel, the right type of people, the right profile of specialists. That may take a few weeks or a few months to discover. But we are going to look at this.
It's not certain that Russia did this. But there's enough evidence for this to be looked at very, very carefully.
BURNETT: All right. Christo, thank you very much.
GROZEV: Thank you.
BURNETT: And, Christo's incredible reporting on who poisoned Alexei Navalny is featured in the CNN film "Navalny," which airs on CNN this Saturday night at 9:00 Eastern. If you haven't seen it, it is phenomenal and worth your time.
And, next, Congressman George Santos doubling down despite another member of his own party calling him to step down about lying about his resume and more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Will you step down?
REPORTER: Will you resign?
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I will not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus, breaking news this hour, a second batch of classified documents from Biden's time as vice president have been found, these in another location. What are we learning about these documents tonight? We'll tell you everything we know.
And Congresswoman Katie Porter, she showed us exactly how she felt about 15 rounds to vote to elect McCarthy as speaker. And now she's announced a run for the Senate. She's OUTFRONT. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BURNETT: Tonight, defiant. Newly sworn-in Republican Congressman George Santos, who fabricated many key parts of his resume and life story, is refusing to resign. This comes now despite growing calls today from fellow Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Will you step down?
REPORTER: Will you resign?
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I will not.
REPORTER: Republicans are calling you a disgrace. You will not resign? Why won't you --
SANTOS: Excuse us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Santos is on defense over the long list of lies that he told about his history and his background before he was elected. Now these included basic things where he went to high school, where he went to college, also where he worked, his religion, even that he founded a nonprofit for animals, his mother's passing.
Look, there's no record of these claims of his resume. And other statements of his that are facing scrutiny including saying his ancestors fled the Holocaust, saying that his mother survived the 9/11 terror attacks. Santos has also been charged with embezzlement in Brazil for allegedly using a stolen checkbook back in 2011.
Now, when you add all that together, none of which came out during the election itself, McCarthy stood by his man today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I try to stick by the Constitution. The voters elected him to serve. If there is a concern, it has to go through the ethics. We'll let it move through that. So he'll continue to serve. You know, in America today, you're innocent until proven guilty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: We should note, Santos, of course, has admitted to many of these lies.
Manu Raju is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill. And, Manu, despite what McCarthy says, the voters can't do anything
right now to kick Santos out of office, right? I mean, they voted based on what they were given, a lot of which was untrue. But they can't do anything about it now.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, they can't. And the only way that they could do that is if there were a special election, which means there are two options. The House could vote to expel him that would require two-thirds of the chamber. Or he could simply decide to resign. He said he is not going to resign.
One big reason why Republican leaders are not calling on him to do that, this is a Democratic district -- making Kevin McCarthy's margin in the house, which is already narrow, even tighter which is one reason why they are aligning themselves with George Santos and trying to help him weather this storm.
This could go through the ethics committee. But that is a process that will take a while. But that doesn't mean he has widespread support. There are incoming -- there are new freshman Republican members of Congress who are calling on Santos to resign, saying his lies have gone too far, including his lies about having family that escaped the Holocaust, and apparently lies about being Jewish.
BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much. I mean, it is -- it is bizarre.
OUTFRONT now, Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu.
And, Governor, okay, lots to talk to you about.
But let's just start with Speaker McCarthy says Santos should not resign, that voters have made their decision.
Now, of course, as we point out, they made their decision --
GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Yeah.
BURNETT: -- based on information which was false. So maybe -- hard to imagine --
SUNUNU: I think -- I think he should stay right in there. I can't wait to see what we'll find out next week.
Look, it's a joke. He's got to resign. Of course, he's got to resign. I mean, you just don't know what's going to come next.
When you've lost public trust, you've lost the ability to do the job. They can't kick him out, but he's got to do the right thing and resign.
But clearly, this is not an individual who has any sense of doing the right thing. So it's a joke at this point.
BURNETT: It seems that way. And McCarthy is saying, well, this is about the Constitution and innocent until proven guilty. Of course, he -- again, Santos has admitted to the lies, right?
SUNUNU: He's admitted to all the lies.
BURNETT: So, 15 rounds of voting to become speaker. He made a lot of concessions to win over these Republicans that voted for him, right, to get those final votes. Santos stood by him, by the way, for all 15 rounds.
Are you worried about how much McCarthy gave up? Are you worried that he's not going to be able to stand up to them?
SUNUNU: No. No, not at all. And, look, I think the one mistake McCarthy made was he had what is traditionally a big discussion and battle behind closed doors out front. He thought he had the votes in the beginning. And so, once that happened, it all became --
BURNETT: I wish he had it out front actually.
SUNUNU: Democrats do this as well, by the way. But they're just -- they've traditionally just kept it behind closed doors, as do Republicans.
So, you can have these internal fights. This one got very public.
The good news is this, they got something done. They got him elected. They got their rules. They're moving forward.
BURNETT: So you're not worried that he gave up too much?
SUNUNU: What -- no. What did he give up that I should be worried about?
BURNETT: Well, we don't know.
SUNUNU: Well, that's it. So, I can't --
BURNETT: That's the thing, we don't even know.
SUNUNU: Well, I can't even tell you -- yes, so I'm clearly not worried about it. I think if there was huge that he gave up, Matt Gaetz and the whole gang would be touting it to the world. So, I'm not that worried.
BURNETT: OK. So, look, well, Matt Gaetz said he got everything he wanted. He couldn't think of anything else. So, I guess I'll give --
SUNUNU: Matt Gaetz got the ability to raise a lot of money and all of them did. And that's the unfortunate part. I think they were just driving this to raise a heck of a lot of money for themselves to be obstructionist.
They clearly had no plan -- plan B. They just kept dragging this on as long as they possibly could. And then they said, okay, we've -- we've dragged this on enough.
We've raised enough money. Let's get it go.
BURNETT: So, you and I have talked about Donald Trump and you said you believe he's losing his influence over the Republican Party, that you see that happening overtime.
SUNUNU: Oh, sure. Does anyone not think that?
BURNETT: Well, Speaker McCarthy --
BURNETT: -- came out and said this about Trump's role in McCarthy's victory as speaker. So here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCARTHY: I do want to especially thank President Trump. I don't think you should doubt -- anybody should doubt his influence. He was with me from the beginning.
So, thank you, President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SUNUNU: Yeah, the former president did a great job closing in those 20 votes the first 15 times -- or he didn't.
Look, I get what he's trying to do there. He's trying to walk a line and all of that sort of thing. Look, as a party -- and he can do that, that's fine. But I'm just telling you, as a party, clearly, we're moving on.
And Donald Trump is a voice of the party. He has an influence in the party, there's no doubt about it. But it ain't getting any better, right?
So, that's why you're going to see more people jump into the race. He announced he was running for president at his weakest political point. He then made a bunch of horrible missteps with, you know, having dinner with Kanye or Ye, whatever we're calling him now, and the white supremacist.
I mean, the fact that the former president actually said, I didn't know who I was having dinner with. You're the former president. How'd he get into your house, right?
So, that kind -- that kind of nonsense I think people go, ugh, you know, this is just another story of the week from the former president. I just don't think that influence is going up.
You're going to have other candidates get in the race. It's going to be exciting, for the right reasons. BURNETT: All right. So, when we look ahead to 2024, you mentioned,
Trump's announced. You haven't ruled it out. Your fellow governor in Florida, Ron DeSantis, hasn't ruled it out. There's others who are going to get in.
Ron DeSantis as of now -- look, he's got a record in his state -- but there's one thing he seems to be emphasizing. And it is this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: I view the wokeness as a form of cultural Marxism.
This wokeness will destroy this country if we let it run unabated.
Unfortunately, the woke mind virus has infected a lot of institutions in our country.
We fight the woke in the legislature. We fight the woke in the schools. We fight the woke in the corporations.
We will never surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is that effective? I mean, there are many in your party using that. It touches on a cultural trend, that this is a very big focus.
SUNUNU: So, I got to tell you, I think he's absolutely right that the wokeness is really invading this culture in a very negative way. Now, where we might disagree is, should the government come in and fix woke?
Well, the government is never useful at coming in and fixing a cultural issue. I think we have to attack it in America. But I'm a free market guy. I don't think the government should be here trying to fix everything.
If a business wants to be woke, I don't agree with it. I completely disagree with it. But it's not up for the government to come in and punish a business or penalize a business, because now you're setting a precedent for Democrats to come in. And when they take the reins of leadership to penalize a business for being too conservative, that's crossing a very, very slippery slope.
So, I think Ron is good governor. I think -- you know, we agree on a lot, but we have very different styles. And this issue, we both very much agree that we have to push back on this woke stuff crossing a lot of different boundaries. In public institutions, absolutely, that's my charge in terms of managing government.
But when you start penalizing individuals or businesses, I think the free market will take care of that. If people don't like what Disney's doing, they're going to stop going to Disney. If people don't like what Blackrock or Bank of America is doing, they're going to stop utilizing those types of services.
Let the free market rein. I'm more of a conservative, principled free market guy I think than Ron is. But he's trying to get some headlines and he's doing a good job of it. God bless him.
BURNETT: Disney seems to be raising prices and still selling out. So --
BURNETT: So, it doesn't appear to be moving that --
SUNUNU: Well, that's just it.
BURNETT: All right. Governor Sununu, thank you very much. Good to see you and to see you here in person.
And next, the breaking news, President Biden's legal team has found another batch of classified documents and in a different location. So, what we know about it we'll share with you after this.
Plus, the airline still trying to get back on track after a crucial pilot notification system failed, and it grounded thousands of flights around this country. What could cause such a massive outage in the United States?
BURNETT: Breaking news, more classified documents from Biden's time as vice president, found these at a second location. They were found during a search conducted after other classified documents were found in Biden's office former -- in Biden's former office, I'm sorry, back in November, just before the midterm election.
Evan Perez is OUTFRONT in Washington.
And, Evan, obviously, they -- it was not a headline they would've wanted, what more are you learning about the second batch of documents?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, it's not a welcome headline, Erin, especially as the Justice Department, Merrick Garland, the attorney general, is weighing next steps, whether to launch a full criminal investigation of this issue, whether to, perhaps, even though the direction of special counsel to do an investigation, those are the amounts of things that could happen next.
And what we know from this is that the Biden aides did a broader surge with these initial documents, and they turned over to the National Archives. Of course, we know that there were 10 classified documents who were found there. We don't know how many documents of classification levels were found
in this batch, but obviously what this does is it raises more questions. Are there other documents? Certainly, there are other questions that you hear is the Justice Department in the FBI to have, which is, you know, are there other, possible, classified documents and other locations? Because we know, obviously, it's been a number of years, since Joe Biden left the presidency.
So, we don't know whether there's additional searches being done, but that certainly among the things that the Justice Department will be considering as to whether or not to launch a fuller investigation, Erin.
BURNETT: Evan, thank you very much.
And I want to go now to the Democratic congresswoman, Katie Porter, who has announced she is running for a U.S. Senate in the state of California.
Congresswoman, I appreciate your time. I'm glad to speak to you again.
So, let's just start off with the news, because, you know, we knew you were coming on and this news comes out. More documents in another location, that's pretty much all we know right now. What's your reaction?
REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Classified documents belong in classified settings. If we are having consistent problems across parties with exiting government officials not putting those classified documents where they belong, then, I think it is something we need to take up. Oversight isn't partisanship. It's about making sure that protocols, procedures, rules, laws, that keep us all safe or being followed. So, I'm assuming that will happen in this case and I'll follow up to make sure it does.
BURNETT: So, one source close to the legal team for Trump tells CNN, quote, this is huge for us.
Now, of course, Trump hid and didn't -- he hid his documents, right? Didn't give them under subpoena, right? So, it's a different situation on the face of it.
However, do you think that this actually helps Trump? That it shows that -- Biden you know, that other people have classified documents. Does this muddy the waters?
PORTER: Trump's problems are of his own making with regard to classified documents and they are extensive. And as you note, the situations are different. I think it's important, though, to go back to the first principle, and as I said, classified documents belong in classified settings and they should be treated as such.
And if that's been a problem in this case, we should take corrective action, and I think we should take corrective action with the regard to former President Trump, whose actions of this very principle are much more extensive, much more serious, and much more grave for our country's national security.
BURNETT: Absolutely. Now, the White House declined to comment. Biden was finally asked about it. Yesterday, he was asked, he answered a third time that he was asked. Now, he didn't explain how the documents got there and why, and this is a crucial point, why it wasn't disclosed when they found the documents in November, because they found them six days before the midterm election. It didn't get disclosed until just this week.
Does that bother? Do you think Biden and the White House should be more or should have been more forthcoming?
PORTER: I think that we need to conduct appropriate oversight and I said before, oversight isn't a partisan responsibility. We have rules and laws and they should apply to everyone, regardless of party. That said, I do not have, and I don't think the American people yet have, all of the facts that they need to know.
So, I think we should be grateful that this classified information is safe, and secure, and that we ought to be looking forward to make sure that we're preventing these incidents from happening again by anyone, of either party.
BURNETT: And I just want to ask you about your announcement you're running for Senate, you're running for Senator Feinstein's seat, of course. Of course, she hasn't yet announced that she is stepping down. We did learn today that Congresswoman Barbara Lee also plans to run for that seat, she hasn't formally announced, though.
Did you have any sort of conversation with Feinstein before you announced?
PORTER: Reached out to Senator Feinstein through staff. And I'm hoping to get a chance before I declare, before I announced, and I'm hoping to get a chance to speak with her and continue to learn from her. She has been an incredible trailblazer. And the path that she has created for women in politics in California and across the country is one that I am really proud to follow in.
Senator Feinstein will make her own decision in her own time. And I have respect for that, and I know that she has respect for others who are throwing their hat in the ring and want to be the best warrior that California can have in Washington.
BURNETT: So last week, I was sitting here every day watching you sitting there every day, and we all remember watching you reading a book in the chamber because the title was "The Subtle Art of Not Giving an F." And there you were. I don't know if in that case your shirt even matched the cover of the book.
OK. Let me just ask you, though. Did you really read -- it looks like you were pretty far through in that particular picture we're showing. Did you learn anything from the book? PORTER: Yes, I did. I'm on about page 90 right now because we
eventually elected a speaker so I got to stop reading at about 2:00, 3:00 in the morning and go back to my apartment. But the book is helpful.
I think one of the things it reminds us is that there are going to be trying times. There are going to struggles and pain and problems in any life, in any industry, in any job, in any undertaking. Congress is no exception. So, as I was watching Congress struggle to elect a speaker and to begin governing, I think it was a reminder that these problems are present. Workers face them every day.
And as somebody who's working on behalf of the American people, we were having a day of struggle.
BURNETT: Certainly. All right, well, Congresswoman Porter, I appreciate your time, thank you so much.
PORTER: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next the thousands of flights canceled and delayed. Quiet skies for part of the day. Passengers stranded for hours after the system in the U.S. that provides pilots with safety information failed. What in the world happened, and what is the Biden administration saying tonight?
Plus, is former President Trump about to return to Facebook? Our Donie O'Sullivan speaks to former Facebook insiders who are shedding new light tonight on the conversations taking place inside Facebook right now about that.
BURNETT: Tonight, screeching halt. More than 11,000 flights impacted across the United States after the FAA grounded all flights in the U.S. because the system that provides crucial safety information to pilots and flight crews failed. This is more than 9,700 flights delayed, at least 1,300 flights canceled at the end of the day. Travelers stranded for hours on end as the meltdown created a total bottleneck.
The FAA acknowledging that a failure in the database file caused the system's outage. They still don't know how that corruption happened or how such a thing -- I mean, just think about that, the entire country's skies were shut down, right? You think about other times that happened, 9/11. This was just a snafu?
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg telling CNN the system outage could be an indication that the FAA system is outdated and needs to be replaced. Well, that's a problem.
Harry Enten joins me now.
So, Harry, let's just start with the people impacted by this who were flying all across the country. This is unbelievable to think of the skies empty. People have gotten used to bad times at airports, and -- but this was unbelievable.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: This is unbelievable. As you were hinting at, it's just part of this sort of long train of problems that passengers have faced as they've tried to fly, right? We had Southwest, all those delays.
And what we essentially know is that passenger complaints since, let's say go back to 1998, they're up 547 percent. You look at since 2019, right, just before pre-pandemic, up over 300 percent.
The fact of the matter is, is that passengers are getting sick and tired of all of this. They do not like all these delays. What a big shocker. But this is just something that's really wearing on the airline industry at large.
BURNETT: And it is unbelievable to think -- I mean, of course, we've got so many aging infrastructure. Doesn't just mean bridges. It means the systems that actually keep planes in the air and people alive. In a sense, it's terrifying when you realize how frail it is at best. We don't know what happened here.
The reality of it is, though, is that people used to like the airline industry.
ENTEN: Yeah, this is -- this is, I think, you know, we're so used to the idea, oh, we're going to be sit on these planes, they're going to be cramped, we're not going to have any meals or our flights are going to get delayed.
But the fact is, you know, think about the glory days of flying in the sky, right? Think about like the late 1960s. I wasn't alive then, but my mother said it was nice to fly.
And the fact is, when you look at the favorable view of the airline industry, it was well into the 60s. Compare that to now, where we're more into the 20s. It's been a drop of 40 points in about 50 years. It was like we're basically losing a favorable rating of -- about a point on the favorable rating of the airline industry every single year.
BURNETT: I'm just curious. What has a 67 percent favorability in this country, a favorability right now? I mean, to imagine that they were here --
ENTEN: Doctors and nurses are pretty much the closest.-
BURNETT: OK. What keeps customers coming back?
ENTEN: Prices are so inexpensive. That's what keeps people coming back. Compare it to where we were in 1995, prices have dropped by a third.
BURNETT: Even with the recent post-pandemic search?
ENTEN: Even with the post-pandemic surge, compared to 2019, it's dropped by about 8 percent. And, you know, one of the fun things I like doing, is to find fun, interesting, cheap flights. So, you actually can fly from Trenton, New Jersey, to Atlanta -- forget this -- just $25 on Frontier, just $25.
BURNETT: Wow. This Saturday?
ENTEN: This Saturday, if you want to go. Visit the homeland down Atlanta, CNN.
BURNETT: CNN homeland.
All right. Thank you very much, Harry.
ENTEN: Thank you.
BURNETT: Trying to put a smile on what it is, you know, big picture, of course, really a disturbing thing that happened, and the lack of knowing what it was, disturbing as well.
So, next, we're going to take you inside the conversations taking place right now inside Facebook about President Trump, and whether the former president is going to be back on Facebook. It is a story that you will see first on OUTFRONT.
Plus, Buffalo Bills star Damar Hamlin home tonight, released from the hospital after collapsing on the field with the cardiac arrest nine days ago. What Hamlin's doctors are saying tonight?
BURNETT: Tonight, Mike Pence drawing a direct line between January 6th, and the violent uprising against Brazil's government. Here is what he told CBS News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: It is evidence that what happens in the United States has repercussions around the world. I have no doubt, that tragic day in January of 2021, in this country, played some role is sowing the seeds of what's taking place in Brazil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Many comparisons have been made between the two uprisings, most notably, that they were spurred by claims of election fraud. Donald Trump was kicked off social media after January 6 for stoking the events the lead to the attacks on the U.S. Capitol. And right now, Facebook is deciding whether or not he can return. It is a big decision in this country.
Donie O'Sullivan speaks to outsiders about how this decision is being made. It's a story we'll see first OUTFRONT.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Facebook has big decisions.
CRYSTAL PATTERSON, FACEBOOK'S FORMER HEAD OF GLOBAL CIVICS PARTNERSHIP: She has to go first.
O'SULLIVAN: Facebook is about to make one of its most consequential decisions in the company's history. Should it let former President Trump back on its platforms?
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: In general, I do not think it is right for a private company to censor politicians, or the news, in a democracy.
O'SULLIVAN: Facebook ban Trump after January 6th, and said it would reassess this decision in two years. Now, time is up, and Facebook says the decision is imminent.
PATTERSON: I have people say to me, like you guys will do anything for a dollar. You don't care. And quite the opposite was true. There was a lot of deliberation.
O'SULLIVAN: Crystal Patterson is a Democrat, Katie Harbath is a Republican, both had senior jobs at Facebook's offices in Washington, D.C., where they worked with politicians on using the platform.
PATTERSON: I think the decision to take Trump off the platform was overdue. We had a number of instances he posted things for any other user would have been in violation of our community standards. He did the infamous post about banning Muslims from the country. When the looting starts, the shooting starts.
O'SULLIVAN: Katie agrees it was right to ban Trump after January 6.
Did you think in that moment it was right to kick him off?
KATIE HARBATH, FACEBOOK'S FORMER PUBLIC POLICY DIRECTOR: I thought in that moment it was. In the lead-up to that moment, I was still defending keeping hip on the platform because as horrible as some of the things that he posted, I still just couldn't get myself past the point that I thought that people deserve to know what the people that are representing them have to say.
O'SULLIVAN: While Trump's social media ban was welcomed by many in the U.S., it was criticized by free speech advocates and some international politicians.
In deciding what to do now, Facebook says it is assessing the risk to public safety and risk of imminent harm and giving Trump his account back.
The barometers that Facebook has assessed in terms of figuring out if he should be allowed back on essentially what it is, is the mood, the feeling.
HARBATH: It's a judgment call. I think it's very important to recognize that both of these decisions are going to have a ton of impactful consequences and it would be foolish to think that either way is an easy decision.
O'SULLIVAN: Whatever Facebook decides will set a precedent for political speech on the platform. Elon Musk has already restored Trump's Twitter account although the former president hasn't tweeted yet.
Katie and Crystal disagree on what Facebook should do.
PATTERSON: This is actually where this mirrors a debate we'd probably have internally.
HARBATH: Looking at, is there imminent violence happening, which I think is a little different than incitement to violence. It's a nuanced type of approach. And so, I don't necessarily see that happening. You don't see other January 6ths that have necessarily happened.
PATTERSON: I recognize Katie is making a distinction between imminent and --
PATTERSON: Incitement. He is willing to use this platform to create that kind of energy and activity and I think that means he loses his privileges to have access to it.
I also think there's been no shortage of hearing from him. It's not like because he hasn't been on Facebook or Twitter that he's had any trouble getting his message out or had any trouble making sure people know how he feels about things. I don't think he's entitled to an account on there.
O'SULLIVAN: Tens of millions of Americans voted for Donald Trump. For those tens of millions of Americans are going to say, Facebook is a platform of censorship.
PATTERSON: They can still talk about Donald Trump. They can still talk about the election. They can have all that dialogue.
HARBATH: I would be more inclined to let him back and then make sure they have a very clear set of criteria about what are the thresholds that would require the company to either take down content or demote it or eventually take him off the platform again for what he is saying. I don't think it should take another January 6th level event in order to do that.
O'SULLIVAN: And, Erin, we know from speaking to folks at the company they are deliberating this right now. We're expecting to hear what they're going to do in the next few week.
But, look, many people in the U.S. back in January 2021 saw as the tech executives did a need to shut Donald Trump up. They thought he might incite more violence. But at the same time, because they were able to pull that rug from Trump, politicians, some like Angela Merkel, former chancellor of Germany and Macron in France had issues with it. They said these platforms shouldn't have as much power. So, this is going to be a decision watched really closely by world leaders around the globe.
BURNETT: Yeah, world leaders and all Americans as we see --
O'SULLIVAN: Washington, D.C.
BURNETT: All right. Donie, thank you very much.
And next nine days after suffering cardiac arrest on the field, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is out of the hospital. I'll tell you what his doctors are saying right now.
BURNETT: Finally tonight, headed home. The Buffalo Bills announcing that Damar Hamlin has been released from a hospital in Buffalo. His condition improving. The Bills tweeting a statement from his doctors which says in part and I quote it: We are confident that Damar can be deafly discharged to continue his rehabilitation at home and with the Bills.
Some remarkable recovery for anyone including a 24-year-old who just over a week ago on Monday night football was resuscitated on the field after his heart stopped.
Thanks so much for joining us.
"AC360" begins now.