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Erin Burnett Outfront
World Leaders United In Attacks On Putin For "War Of Aggression"; Veteran Speaks Out Against Santos, Says He Took $3K Meant For Dog; U.S. Expected To Hit Debt Limit As Soon As Tomorrow; Failed GOP Candidate Makes First Court Appearance In New Mexico Shootings. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 18, 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, the world's most powerful are taking on Putin with words, slamming Russia tonight, though, from Davos -- the winter playground of the rich, and not far from many of those rich and those closest to Putin where they've enjoyed a life of luxury.
Plus, a Navy veteran is accusing Congressman George Santos of stealing thousands of dollars, that were meant to save the veteran's dying dog, the dog that saved his life. You will hear his story and the moment that he realized it was the same man accused of deceiving voters on everything from where he went to college to his religion. That veteran speaks out in an interview you'll see first OUTFRONT tonight.
And also, the chilling evidence against Brian Walshe, the husband accused of murdering and dismembering his wife in Massachusetts. Evidence authorities say includes googling, can you throw away body parts.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, the Davos deception. So the elite luxury alpine ski resort in Davos, Switzerland, is the center of the world's elite tonight, hosting right now probably still lots of parties going on, who's who in the world of money and politics. One world leader after the other there slamming Putin's invasion of Ukraine, even as the reported home of Putin's ex-wife is located just steps away from the high-end partying going on.
And it isn't just Putin's ex-wife. Switzerland is also a country where Putin's girlfriend, Alina Kabaeva, has stayed for long stretches of time, according to "The Wall Street Journal."
But world leaders were comfortable making public proclamations in a country that some close to Putin have called home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLAF SCHOLZ, CHANCELLOR OF GERMNAY: Russia has been waging an imperialist war of aggression here on our doorstep in Europe. With dreadful consequences, that Ukrainians are bearing more than anyone. Germany alone made available over 12 billion euros last year, and we will continue to support Ukraine for as long as necessary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will continue to help Ukraine in its struggle for freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And it went on and on and on. Everybody who could get that stage said similar things.
The world's elite appear to be united on this issue. But as I said, just steps away from where these speeches are being made is the reported home of Putin's ex-wife, Lyudmila Putina. You can actually see it in the background of this shot on Yahoo Finance.
And the person who pointed this out is Maria Pevchikh, head of investigations for Putin opposition leader Alexei Navalny's anticorruption foundation. In fact, that is where Putin's ex-wife shares an apartment with her now husband of more than five years. It's also the same country where, according to "The Wall Street Journal," Putin's girlfriend, the Russian Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva has enjoyed extended stays, including in a high-walled mansion near Geneva.
And we should note, it's always been hard to drill down exactly where those close to Putin live. The Kremlin doesn't comment on Putin's personal life. But his ex-wife and girlfriend are not the only two Russians close to Putin who have gone to Switzerland in search of a luxurious, comfortable life.
Russian oligarchs store massive amounts of money there, up to nearly $50 billion in assets according to Switzerland of what they're disclosing.
Now, to be fair, Switzerland has imposed sanctions on Russians but has only captured a fraction of that wealth there. It seems to be a case of saying a lot of things in Davos, and maybe doing some things that are appeared to be quite different.
And all of this is happening as the war rages on the front lines and people are dyeing in Ukraine. Helicopter carrying a number of senior Ukrainian officials including the interior minister also crashed today outside a kindergarten, a horrible tragedy, at least 14 people killed including a child. President Zelenskyy saying that even if it was an accident, the blame ultimately, of course, does lie with Putin.
Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT live in Kyiv.
And, Fred, you were at the crash site today. And what did you see and what did you hear from witnesses?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erin.
Yeah. We spoke to some eyewitnesses on the ground there. They say they saw that chopper didn't look at first as though the chopper itself was losing control. However, they did say that it was losing altitude very quickly. It then crashed first into the roof of a kindergarten, skidded across that roof, and then finally completely crashed right on the doorstep of a big residential building.
Now, as you mentioned, this is a huge tragedy for Ukraine. Some of its most important politicians, especially right now in this effort against that Russian aggression were killed in that incident but also a lot of people on the ground.
Here's what we're learning.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Widespread destruction after the helicopter for Ukraine's interior minister crashed near Kyiv, an eyewitness describing the scene to me.
I saw a helicopter that was flying towards the kindergarten, he says. It landed almost vertically. I saw an explosion. I came down to help clear the debris.
He also shot this video of the immediate aftermath.
The chopper crashed at the foot of this residential building. As you can see, there's lots of parts strewn around everywhere. It completely burned out, killing everyone inside, and several people on the ground.
Among the dead, Ukraine's Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, his deputy Yevhen Yenin, and State Secretary Yurii Lubkovych.
The deputy minister's wife in tears as she reached the scene. Especially tragic, a child was also among several people killed on the ground as the aircraft hit a kindergarten just as parents were dropping their kids off.
Two boys describe how they tried to help.
Here they passed injured children over the fence, this boy says, mostly they had bruises and scratches. Put bandages on them, wrote down their names and surnames and found their parents.
The chopper, a Eurocopter Super Puma. Ukrainian authorities have launched an investigation into the possible causes of the crash.
YURII IHNAT, UKRAINIAN AIR FORCES SPOKESPERSON (through translator): Various factors, radio communications and the technical condition of the helicopter needs to be examined. This will take at least several weeks.
PLEITGEN: Denys Monastyrsky was one of Ukraine's most important officials. We traveled with him to the Chernobyl nuclear plant shortly after Russian forces withdrew from there. Monastyrsky frequently visited the front lines to help boost morale.
DENYS MONASTYRSKY, UKRAINE INTERIOR MINSTER: They have such a strong fighting spirit and are ready for any scenario. We heard the shells exploding but no one is afraid as everyone is ready.
PLEITGEN: Ukrainian forces are currently facing a major Russian onslaught in the eastern part of the country near Bakhmut and Soledar. And dozens were killed when a massive Russian missile hit a residential building in Dnipro. And now Ukraine is also mourning the loss of more than a dozen people including some of the country's top officials.
PLEITGEN (on camera): And, Erin, the authorities here say that the investigation to what exactly happened could take several weeks. There's obviously several leads that they are following -- possible mechanical failure on the helicopter, pilot error is also something they're looking into as well.
One of the things we have to mention is that there was pretty thick fog when that chopper was taken down. But, of course, this is a huge tragedy for Ukraine. Denys Monastyrsky, as we just saw there, one of the top officials and, of course, especially right now as the police forces here are so important in Ukraine, and also the emergency services after some of those big Russian strikes during those cleanup and rescue operations, a huge blow to this country that is already being tested so much, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Fred, thank you very much from Ukraine tonight.
And let's go now to the retired army colonel, Jon Sweet. He's a former chief of the intelligence engagement division at the U.S./European Command.
And also with me tonight, retired Army Major General James "Spider" Marks.
So, General Marks, let's start with Switzerland. As I did at the top of the program here, you've got all these people, they're eager to say something, but, of course, the irony that they're standing in a place where in the background of the pictures, you're seeing a home of someone incredibly close to Vladimir Putin.
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the hypocrisy of that type of gathering is very obvious. But we need to keep in mind that there are multiple elements of power that any nation can use to try to achieve its national security objectives, whatever they are. And that's diplomacy, economics, military and information.
So the economic piece is as important as the military piece. The challenge that we have right now is we're focusing in Davos, you have to get beyond the parties, you have to get beyond the hypocrisy, you have to get beyond the fact that Putin his paramour lives over there with his ex-wife. I find that incredibly -- I'm not a marriage counselor, but I find that incredibly unbelievable that those two gals are getting along.
But the point is, is the focus needs to be on those nations that have chosen not to participate in the sanctions. And most of the world have not participated in the sanctions against Russia. You've got India and certainly you have China. I doubt China's going to jump on that bandwagon.
But the United States has an opportunity, and this gathering in Davos has an opportunity to look India in the eye and say what's up with you guys. They have a very cozy relationship with Putin. They have about 1.4 billion folks, and they need what Russia has. And so they're buying willingly and openly from Russia. That's what needs to be addressed.
BURNETT: Right. Well, that's funding it, and I think it's so crucial the way you put it.
You look at the population of the planet. You got, you know, more than half are not on board with stopping this.
Colonel Sweet, you know, when we look at where this is right now in the economic portion of it, what does Ukraine need the most right now?
Today, the Ukrainian defense minister and the aftermath of that horrible helicopter tragedy that affected the government pleaded specifically for more battle tanks. They said that's what we need, and we need more battle thanks.
And I know obviously, there are many things here if we're talking about this. But he said they are crucial. How important are they?
COL. JON SWEET (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Those things are import, but it's important for one aspect of the comet operation, and that's the maneuver aspect. And they need more than tanks because tanks are part of combined arms team. You're looking for tanks. You're looking for armored personnel carriers. You're looking for artillery. And if possible, you want to have air support.
Ukraine has excelled and maneuvered. They have outmaneuvered Russia very well during a counteroffensive earlier. And quite frankly, Russia does not defend well. As an example of how they have had to withdraw -- one from Kyiv, but from the outskirts of Kyiv, but other concern -- some of the fighting that went on in the Donbas.
The other thing that Ukraine really needs is more of an offensive capability. And they need to be able to extend operational reach beyond the borders of Ukraine and into Russia and into Belarus. And they need to be able to strike back at the launch point of cruise missiles and drones. And they need to be the able to affect the battle before the battle comes to them.
BURNETT: All right. And when you talk about -- that's what is desperately needed, Ukraine says, right now, all of that capability.
So, General Marks, Putin meantime today was at an industrial plant. Today he said the people that worked there, military industrial workers, might be exempt from the upcoming spring draft, in -- which is -- he literally said, and I will quote him, as for conscripts who are called up for military service, considering that the defense industry is currently overwhelmed and taking into account the fact that you work in three shifts, and the products are in high demand, we are looking at the possibility of granting a deferment. That is a pretty clear admission of a lot of problems.
MARKS: Completely acknowledging that he is short on his stockpiles. He has to address his industrial base. And also, he is giving a strong incentive to all of the folks that are in that industry that I am not going to throw you into that fight and it's a fight because you have your high eyes wide open. It's a fight because you have your brothers that are losing dramatically when they engage with Ukrainians.
So, truly what Putin is saying, look, I'm going to mobilize more troops, I'm going to try to mobilize my industrial base, and he's going to continue to surround himself with a bunch of yes men so he does not get any of the bad news.
BURNETT: All right, thank you both, I appreciate it.
MARKS: Thank you, Erin.
SWEET: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, an interview we'll see first OUTFRONT, a veteran accusing Congressman George Santos of stealing thousands of dollars that were donated to save his dying dog. You will hear his story, next.
Plus, a war of words over America's death. The treasury secretary is warning that the United States now hours away from hitting its debt ceiling. Republican Andy Biggs, though, says that they will not raise the debt ceiling.
And the failed Republican candidate who police say try to harm for Democratic officials, even paying in working with others to carry out attacks -- shooting attacks -- makes his first court appearance, as we learned he cased the homes of three officials.
BURNETT: In an interview you'll see first OUTFRONT, a New Jersey veteran is speaking out against embattled Republican Congressman George Santos, claiming the congressman promised to help his service dog get life-saving surgery in 2016.
But after about $3,000 of donations poured in, the Navy veteran says Santos stopped replying to his calls, to his texts. The veteran never saw a dime. His dog passed away months later. And the fundraiser was set up under a charity group that Santos
actually mentioned on his campaign website. You see it here. In a paragraph that has since been deleted, it claimed that he rescued 2,400 dogs and 280 cats.
Santos also touted the charity in this interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I mean, we had a great organization. We were able to save animals, dogs, cats, horses. I mean, at one point, I stuck in eight baby jumping goats in my car.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: There is no record of this group in the IRS database, nor is there one among the registered charities in New York or Florida.
And the website GoFundMe where this fundraiser was posted said that the organizer failed to respond to all their inquiries about where the funds went, never gave any proof of anything and so they banned Santos' account from the site.
This comes in the context of Santos' apparent lies on everything from this charity to where he went to college, where he worked, even his claims that his grandparents fled the Holocaust, and it goes on and on.
The House Republican leadership continues to stand by Santos tonight, putting him on two committees just this week.
OUTFRONT now, Rich Osthoff, the Navy veteran who was making the claims about Santos, and Michael Boll, the founder of the New Jersey Veterans Network, who tried to intervene and get the money from Santos.
So, look, I'm so glad to speak to both of you.
And, Rich, you served in the U.S. Navy. I know your service dog Sapphire was your savior and so much -- so important in your life. She's here. You wanted to bring her.
RICH OSTHOFF, NAVY VETERAN: I had to bring her, yeah. It's my baby right there. It's all I have left of her.
BURNETT: And, you know, when George Santos who at the time I guess you knew him as Anthony Devolder when he was going to help you just to save her. She was suffering from cancer at the time. What did he promise that he was going to do for Sapphire?
OSTHOFF: He was going to use his charity, his 501k, Pets of Friends United, to raise funds over GoFundMe. He said he was very respected. He was very -- he had -- he had his feelers out. And with his charity, it would help me very much to get the money in a sooner amount of time than later.
BURNETT: You were homeless at the time. OSTHOFF: I was homeless at the time. I had broken an ankle really
bad, couldn't work for a year and a half. So, I couldn't pay my rent and I was evicted.
I was living in a tent on the side of Route 9, a highway in New Jersey, with my dog.
And she had already had that growth growing. It was getting bigger and bigger by the minute it seemed. I finally decided to take her to the vet to see what they could do, to take (ph) -- had it remove, and they gave me a $3,000 quote.
I was homeless. I didn't have any means to pay for that at all. So one of the vet techs in the place said, hey, I know this guy, he runs a charity, and he saves a lot of animals. She was, like, do you want me to hook you up with him?
So she took pictures of me and Sapphire. She sent them to Anthony Devolder. And the GoFundMe started.
It was up and running. I put it on my Facebook page. My friends and family donated to it. They shared it.
I had a lot of my Navy buddies that I hadn't heard from in years actually give me hundreds towards it. There were some other donors that I didn't ever recognize their names or anything. They might've been through his organization. They might have been friends of friends, for all I know.
So we raised $3,000 in two months, maybe three months. It was six years ago. And as soon as the money came through, I was, like, great. We're --
BURNETT: You could save your dog.
OSTHOFF: We could get her right in, and get this done.
Mr. Devolder did not -- Santos decided that he did not want me to use my local vet. He wanted me to use his vets in Long Island or Queens. I don't remember which borough or town it was in. And that was the only way he was going to get it happen.
So we took him to -- we took the dog to the vet, and the vet said, well, we believe this is two vascular, it's inoperable, but we'd like to go and have her -- have an ultrasound, so we can see if we can do anything with it.
I don't drive, I was homeless, and I paid a ride. I paid a friend to bring me up there.
BURNETT: To his vet?
OSTHOFF: To his vet. I paid the tolls, the gas, lunches. And Devolder was supposed to pay
me back for that. I even was dumb enough to give him my bank account and my routing number because he said he was going to put the money right into my account. It never happened. That was when I started smelling something fishy.
BURNETT: And so at one point, at this point, Michael, you get involved to try to help him get the money.
MICHAEL BOLL, PRESIDENT, NEW JERSEY VETERANS NETWORK: Absolutely.
BURNETT: And so, what -- you had conversations with Santos. Again, at this time you knew him as Anthony Devolder.
BOLL: Anthony, yes. I knew him as Anthony.
BURNETT: OK. What were those like?
BOLL: My goal was just to speak to a charity, to another charity. The last thing in my mind -- that crossed my mind was that it was going to be a problem.
BURNETT: Right, so you weren't like this is fraud at the time.
BOLL: No. I actually called Rich up --
BURNETT: You're thinking, I'm just going to solve this and get him his money.
BOLL: I called up Rich and said to him, say, listen, this shouldn't be a problem. It's probably a misunderstanding at best. Relax, let me just speak to him and we'll work it out.
And when I called him, my intentions were just to settle this really quickly and move on.
But the problem was is that when I spoke to him on the phone, he was not listening to what I was saying. He already made up his mind. I said to him, can you please give the money back to the people, or there's a veterinarian in Rich's area that we can give the money to and put it into like a fund where he could use it from time to time. It's not your money to keep.
And he just wasn't hearing it. I called Rich back horrified. I was really upset because this is Rich's life line. I work with veterans every day. And dogs save people's lives, you know? And he needed this dog every day to be in his life.
And I felt horrible to tell him that I failed him because of feeling that Mr. Devolder at the time was going to do the right thing and he did not.
BURNETT: And you never got a dollar of the money?
OSTHOFF: Never got anything.
BURNETT: And obviously she died?
OSTHOFF: She died about four months after this all went down. There was a string of texts between me and Devolder. I talked to him one time on the phone.
And in one of the texts, I was so upset about that. I knew I wasn't going to get the money at that point. I knew there was something going on. I was, like, I know that you mined my dog and my friends and families' hearts to raise money for yourself. And he told me that was the most offensive, horrible thing anybody had ever said to him.
And that I think was the breaking point where he decided he was not going to give me the money or where he could actually break away from me. He knew I wasn't going to call him back anywhere.
He was off the hook. He wanted to create a problem, a wedge between us.
BURNETT: And that was it.
OSTHOFF: That was it.
BURNETT: So can I ask you now, this happens and -- in your life. Your -- this was your life line. She is gone.
OSTHOFF: That dog saved my life at least two times. When I first got out of the service, I was depressed. I was having nightmares. Bad, bad memories about some things that happened. Not war-related but other things that the military does to you.
I started drinking too much. I was doing reckless stuff. My father even told me he thought I had a death wish at that point. And I probably did. I was very suicidal. I would start crying for no reason.
And if I didn't have that little princess with me, I probably would've not been here to speak to you right now, at least two times. I would think about her, and I said nobody else is going to be her daddy. It's -- that's my dog. And I go and I cuddled with her and I snuggled up with her and all the bad stuff went away.
BURNETT: And at what point did you all realize that Anthony Devolder is George Santos? An elected --
OSTHOFF: A week ago.
BURNETT: A week ago?
OSTHOFF: A week ago. I started seeing his face on cable news.
BURNETT: And, obviously, you're not following politics. You're not, right? So you kind of stumbled across his face in a news story.
OSTHOFF: Right, right. I mean, I watch the news all the time. Kind of -- I love my YouTube news. But I saw his face and I knew I sort of recognized him a little bit because we had been Facebook friends while the campaign was going on.
So I knew what he looked like. And I knew his voice. That was the only thing I knew about him. I saw him on TV and I was like I got a feeling in the pit of my stomach about this guy. Who is and why do I recognize him?
And then -- that was in December, right around Christmastime. Just about a week ago, he was in the Capitol, and there was a bunch of reporters following him around asking questions. Like that's about the only thing you see of him anymore.
And one of them said, what's your name today, is it Anthony Devolder or is it George Santos?
BURNETT: Ah. So, it's -- so you had the pit in your stomach in December and then when that name was said --
BURNETT: A week ago --
BURNETT: -- then you realized.
OSTHOFF: I was sick, yeah, to see that somebody like that that could do something that dastardly could raise to such a high position in --
OSTHOFF: That shouldn't be right that. That shouldn't happen.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you. Don Lemon reached out to Santos, to George Santos, and got him to respond. You --
OSTHOFF: He told me -- he said I was fake and it didn't -- yeah, I read that.
BURNETT: Let me read it so everyone can hear it, and I want to give you each a chance to respond to it.
He said: I have no clue what he's talking about, and the crazy part is that anyone that knows me knows I'd go to hell and back for a dog and especially a veteran. So this is just more of the pile on effect. I have dozens of people reaching out to me in support, sharing their stories about their dogs and cats that I helped save and rescue.
What do you each say to that?
OSTHOFF: Prove it, show us, you know? He should show us if he has all these people that reach out to him and love what he does, and stuff. That's not -- no. No.
BOLL: Coming here and staking my name of our charity on this? I'd back Rich a hundred percent on this.
BOLL: There's no doubt in my mind that this was done and it's horrible, that this veteran has to go through this.
Veterans -- we lose 22 a day, and our charity does whatever we can to prevent that from happening and work with other people, and really rely on other charities. When a charity does something like this, another one, it just causes more problems for us to get the mission of saving our veterans' lives and it's disgusting and it's unfortunate that this happens in 2023, still to this day.
BURNETT: Well, I know it's hard for you to talk about this. And I appreciate your doing it.
And, of course, Michael, you coming as well.
OSTHOFF: I didn't want to have to go through any of this at all. Today has been just a whirl wind of people calling me and wanting to talk. And I -- I'm a very private person. I had my dogs and I really never have anybody over to my house.
BURNETT: Everyone should know you have two dogs now.
OSTHOFF: Two dogs now.
BURNETT: And, of course, Sapphire with you, too.
OSTHOFF: Yeah. She'll always be with me.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both so much.
OSTHOFF: Thank you for listening.
BOLL: Thank you for having us.
OSTHOFF: Thanks for letting us get this out there.
And ext, a dangerous game of chicken over America's debt. Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling without any strings attached. The White House -- well, they are going to the opposite extreme.
And the chilling evidence investigators uncovered that they say led them to charge the Massachusetts father, Brian Walshe, with murdering his wife, including the Google search "how long before a body starts to smell?"
BURNETT: Tonight, we are hours away from a possible crisis in America. In one day, the United States hit the so-called debt ceiling. Basically it's called a ceiling because in order to borrow more money, Congress has to authorize raising that limit in order to meet the government's financial obligations.
Now, there are gimmicks and games that prolong the process somewhat so you hit the ceiling and they can kind of finagle for a bit.
But the formal deadline is tomorrow and default will come within months if Congress doesn't take action to raise the limit. And default would be bad for the U.S. and for the global economy and for all of us. It would do all kinds of things known and unknown.
It would raise borrowing costs. It would impact Social Security payments, veterans benefits, federal employee salaries. It would impact pretty much everything.
And there are no signs right now of a deal to do this. Republicans say they want spending cuts on the table. The White House says there will be no negotiations, full stop.
Republican Congressman Andy Biggs tweeted today, quote, we cannot raise the debt ceiling. Democrats have carelessly spend our taxpayer money and devalued our currency. They have made our bed, so they must lie in it.
Of course, we all lie in this bed, Democrat, Republican, or independent, in terms of the implications and also who borrowed all the money. And the White House fired back, in part, Representative Biggs is dead wrong to actively support the ruin of millions of American livelihoods, 401k plans and small businesses, all in the name of scorched earth partisanship.
Well, this is how we start. And here is the thing. Just the threat of a default, back in 2011, led to the only credit rating downgrade in American history. It was a big deal. And it was important. And it is something that we have covered extensively, back even when the show first launched more than 11 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It has been a whole year since we lost our top-notch rating. And yet Congress is another bitter battle over government spending, just like the one that led to the downgrade a year ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That was some hair.
OK. Look, sadly more than a decade later, the debt has doubled, and this is thanks to both Republicans and Democrats spending. I'm going to lay that out for you in the moment. But the U.S. now is on the brink of disaster again.
And Phil Mattingly is at the White House.
So, Phil Mattingly, here's the reason I point that out, not just it's been a long time, but that we've been on the brink with default time after time, and suddenly, we've been able to pull back in the last second. Is that going to happen this time? PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, beyond
the cold sweat you just gave me from replaying 2011 and the days and hours I spent inside the Capitol building -- look, I think the reality when you talk to people, really, on both sides of the aisle right now is that we are at a point when it looks like we are going to get as close as we have ever gotten, most comparable, to 2011.
And I think a good window into that reality is the fact that White House officials are actually exploring trying to address the debt ceiling before House Republicans even took the majority. They did not have the votes to do it. And certainly, what they saw in the first week of House Republicans in the majority, 15 votes it took Kevin McCarthy just become speaker did not ease any concerns related to what is going to happen next, in part because part of the reason that Kevin McCarthy got votes was commitments to hold firm on spending cuts for any type of debt ceiling increase right now.
That -- all of that -- and frankly, what you played from 2011 underscores the position White House officials have taken up to this point.
They are saying no negotiations -- nobody will be coming to the table. Clean debt ceiling increase or nothing at all.
Republicans have said that's a nonstarter. But the reason why White House officials have been so steadfast on this front is twofold. Number one, a lot of them were in the Obama administration back in 2011, and remember and hold the scars from that experience.
But because of that, the idea that this is no way to govern, this is no way to go from crisis to crisis to crisis, for bills that had already been accrued, this isn't new spending, this was new spending that was already done -- this is why they have held on to that hard- line. And it's been a carefully calibrated in choreographed effort up to this point, from the Treasury Department, to the House and Senate Democrats, to the White House making very clear this is a position they are not going to move off of -- how this develops, obviously, we have several months to figure it out as we head into extraordinary measures.
But as one Democratic official when I texted me, okay, but really, when we come to the table on this kind of thing, sent me back a GIF of Michael Corleone from "The Godfather" that said, my final offer is this, nothing.
BURNETT: Yeah. All right, thank you very much.
And it's important to Phil Mattingly says. If you have a one month t bill or whatever you have in your investments just rolled out over with interest, it just requires raising the debt ceiling. So when I say this impact everybody in every way and as Phil Mattingly points out, it is not new borrowing. It -- I think, brings the scale of this home to all of us.
OUTFRONT now, David Axelrod, the former senior adviser to President Obama as well as the chief strategist for his presidential campaigns.
So, David, you hear Phil's reporting. Do you think that this time could be different? That there truly could be a default for the U.S.?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if you witnessed the antics on the floor during this election for speaker, it does give you cause for concern, because the very, very vocal, a very right sort of nihilist group had quite a bit of sway. And they exacted commitments from Kevin McCarthy in exchange for their support.
On the other hand, the reason they had sway was because his margin is so small. Remember, back in 2011, when you started covering this story, Erin, the House majority was at an all-time high for Republicans, 242 seats. This is now 222. And there is a cadre of more moderate, sort of center right Republicans who understand how irresponsible this would be.
You could, for example, have a discharge petition on the floor of the House, with Republicans and Democrats, to discharge a debt ceiling increase. There is more maneuverability here but there is no doubt that you have got people who are willing to play with fire here.
BURNETT: They certainly are. And in a sense, you know, it's different now. When you talk about the speakership -- just as an example of this partisanship -- but obviously, you have been through this yourself other times. President Obama had to face this threat multiple times.
Here is what he said back in 2011.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Republican House members have essentially said that the only way they will vote to prevent America's first ever default is if the rest of us agreed to their deep spending cuts only approach. For the first time in history, our country's AAA credit rating would be downgraded, leaving investors around the world to wonder whether the United States is still a good bet.
Defaulting on our obligations is a reckless and irresponsible outcome to this debate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Here is the thing, David, of course, the downgrade came. The country moved on, right? And then, just to make a point, obviously, it was not just Democrats who kept borrowing money and increasing the debt, right? It was Republicans.
Just look at the numbers here. Eight years of President Obama, public debt goes up $9.3 trillion. Four years of president Trump, it goes up $7.9 trillion. President Biden already has already increased by $3.6 trillion.
It just seems like everybody is perfectly happy to borrow money and to spend money. AXELROD: Well, first of all, you know, it is interesting that some of
the people who are moralizing about the debt ceiling and debt now were fairly quiet during the four years of President Trump. They raise the debt ceiling three times during that period. And he contributed quite a bit to the overall federal debt during that period. And in fairness, to him, part of it was the pandemic measures that had to be taken.
But the point is, if I am president of the United States and I want to be responsible, I do not want a gun pointed at my head every time the debt ceiling comes up, to have a small group of people exact sacrifices that are not good for the country -- it is a bad policy.
It happened in 2011, ultimately. That sort of voided the thing. And the downgrade happened, by the way, after the deal came because the credit agencies were worried about this very thing.
They didn't want this kind of brinkmanship in perpetuity.
BURNETT: Right. That's, of course, where we are.
Thank you very much, David Axelrod, as always.
AXELROD: It's good to see you.
BURNETT: All right. And next, shocking new evidence against the Massachusetts father charged with murdering his wife. Prosecutors say his Google searches included ten ways to disclose dispose a dead body, if you need to, for real.
And a New Mexico Republican accused of plotting to shut up the homes of his Democratic rivals today made his first appearance in court. We are learning so much more about his actions in the days before the alleged attacks.
BURNETT: Tonight, prosecutors revealing the disturbing new evidence that led them to charge Brian Walshe with murdering and dismembering his wife.
Walshe appearing in court today pleading not guilty. Ana Walshe was last seen alive on New Year's Day. And that same day, prosecutors say that her husband Googled things like, how long before a body starts to smell. How long for someone to be missing to inherit. Can you throw away body parts. These searches on his child's iPad.
Brynn Gingras is OUTFRONT.
LYNN BELAND, ASSISTANT D.A., NORFOLK, MASSACHUSETTS: Can you be charged with murder without a body?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's just one of many chilling Google searches.
BELAND: Ten ways to dispose, dispose of a dead body if you really need to.
GINGRAS: Massachusetts prosecutors say Brian Walshe thoroughly researched online how to dispose of a body after killing his wife Ana on New Year's.
BELAND: It is believed that Brian Walshe dismembered Ana Walshe and discarded her boy.
GINGRAS: Prosecutors laid out their case against the 47-year-old Cohasset man in stunning detail, alleging in the early morning hours of January 1st Walshe went on an Internet search frenzy using his son's iPad, asking Google questions like, "How long before a body starts to smell?" Three minutes later, "How to stop a body from deposing." and more.
BELAND: How long for someone to be missing to inherit? Can you throw away body parts? What does formaldehyde do? How long does DNA last? Can identification be made on partial remains?
GINGRAS: Days later prosecutors say surveillance video shows a man fitting Walshe's description visiting various dumpsters.
BELAND: He walks to the dumpster carrying garbage bags. He's leaning and it appears to be heavy as he has to heft it into the dumpster.
GINGRAS: Prosecutors revealing more of what investigators uncovered at a garbage transfer site more than a week ago. Ten trash bags filled with items covered in apparent blood stains. Some with traces of the couple's DNA. Also finding Ana's personal belongings.
BELAND: Hunter boots, Prada purse, a COVID-19 vaccine card in the name of Ana Walshe. The purse and boots were described as what Ana was last seen in.
GINGRAS: Walshe appeared largely stoic as prosecutors piled on the evidence. He's charged with murder and improper transport of a body after already being behind bars on a charge of misleading investigators searching for his wife.
As for motive, prosecutors argue divorce, something else Walshe allegedly researched.
BELAND: On December 27th, defendant Googled, "what's the best state to divorce".
GINGRAS: He's pleaded not guilty to the charges, with his attorney saying in a statement, it is easy to charge a crime and even easier to say a person committed that crime. It is a much more difficult thing to prove it, which we will see if the prosecution can do.
Investigators have yet to say whether they have found Ana's body. The mother of three disappeared on January 1st. Her employer, not husband, reported her missing on January 4th.
PAMELA BARDHI, FORMER CO-WONER OF ANA WALSHE: One message that I can say, Brian, if you did it, just come forward because the truth will always prevail and your boys deserve to know what happened.
GINGRAS (on camera): And, you know, Erin, at the end of the day, this is a family torn apart. The couple's three children remain in the custody of the state. And that former colleague of Ana's who you just heard from say this community has rallied around them. Supposedly there are applications to gain custody of those kids. Most important to them is to keep those kids together wherever they land -- Erin.
BURNETT: Thank you so much. So horrific for those children. Dear God.
All right. OUTFRONT next, the failed Republican candidate in New Mexico accused of plotting drive-by shootings at the homes of Democratic officials, denied bail. Hear what he allegedly did leading up to attacks. We've got a whole lot of new information for you on that, on those moments.
And medical authoritarianism. That's what Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is saying about COVID vaccine mandates as he pushes for permanent bans on vaccine mandates and masks.
BURNETT: Tonight, held without bond for now. The failed Republican candidate accused of orchestrating drive-by shootings at the homes of four Democratic officials in New Mexico, today made his first court appearance.
Solomon Pena is facing a long list of very serious charges and Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are on the record on Solomon Pena.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once Republican candidate now criminal defendant, Solomon Pena made his first appearance in an Albuquerque courtroom facing charges in what prosecutors call the politically motivated shootings at the homes of four local Democratic leaders.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The state filing a motion for pretrial detention.
LAH: And unsurprising turn for some of Pena's neighbors. Pena lived here on the third story of this condominium, parked outside his car affixed with political bumper stickers displaying his support of Donald Trump. We went to his condo complex where neighbors say Pena forcefully
argued with anyone who disagreed with Trump's lies about election fraud.
SHARON BODE, NEIGHBOR TO SOLOMON PENA: He didn't have conversations. He had accusations and he had a way of telling people they didn't know what they were talking about.
LAH: Always about politics.
BODEN: Always about politics, yeah.
LAH: Pena didn't just talk about Trump. He followed him out of state. Video appears to show Pena at three different Trump rallies in Washington, D.C. In one video clip, his name is stitched into his hat.
And in July 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona, CNN video captured a man who appears to be Pena in the rally crowd. Pena would later post a picture of himself as an attendee.
A year later, Pena ran for office in New Mexico as a Republican candidate for the statehouse. He lost last November by a landslide.
But Pena echoing Trump would not accept an election loss. Police say he targeted four Democrats to blame finding their addresses and confronting them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I went to the gate and that's where he was and he seemed agitated. He seemed a little aggressive. I did tell someone about it. They said, this guy is a felon.
SAM BREGMAN, BERNALILLO COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Mr. Pena, he orchestrated. He made phone calls. He basically hired people to shoot at people's houses.
LAH: Pena is a convicted felon who spent years behind bars for grand larceny. One of the men he hired say Albuquerque police may have been in the same prison at the same time. What began as a political grind quickly escalated says Albuquerque's police chief.
Text messages from Pena to the other suspects all hired guns point to a greater threat. The warrant says Solomon wanted the shootings to be more aggressive to ensure better target acquisition.
BREGMAN: People are pissed off about this. I'm pissed off about this. This goes to the heart of what we're all about in a democracy. You can't shoot guns at someone's house and just to terrorize them because they're an elected official and you have some crazy election-denying motivation behind it. That is unacceptable.
LAH (on camera): The district attorney says he is, quote, so pissed about this one he plans to prosecute this one personally himself. We did hear back from Pena's attorney who says these charges right now, Erin, are accusations as she plans to defend him through this process -- Erin.
BURNETT: Incredible disturbing. Kyung, thank you.
And next, doubling down, the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis pushing to permanently ban masks and vaccine requirements.
BURNETT: And finally tonight, as talk of a 2024 presidential run grows, the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is playing to his base, doubling down on permanently banning COVID vaccine mandates.
In a tweet, DeSantis saying the move will protect people from what he calls medical authoritarianism. Now, if the proposal passes it would extend indefinitely temporary measures that DeSantis signed in 2021 which allow Florida, the government, to fine businesses if the businesses require the COVID vaccine. It's, of course, an example of the government stepping into make the call, not individual companies, and it's a story we'll continue to watch.
Thanks for joining us.
It's time for "AC360."