Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

U.S. To Designate Wagner Group, A Private Russian Army Known For Brutal Tactics, As A "Transnational Criminal Organization"; Trump, Biden White House On Debt Limit: Do Not Cut Medicare, Social Security; GOP Rep. Santos Denies Claims He Performed As A Drag Queen; Report: Idaho Murder Suspect Visited Workplace Of 2 Slain Students; Alec Baldwin Intends To Finish Production. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 20, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next: the U.S. going after the Wagner group. The private Russian military force claiming another victory of Ukraine tonight. The man behind that group's growing more powerful by the day.

Plus, George Santos's double life. New pictures of the embattled Republican congressman performing as a drag queen in Brazil. The pictures Santos denies are him.

And the Idaho murder suspect reportedly visiting a restaurant where to the victims work, just weeks before they were stabbed to death. What did he do there?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, President Biden makes promise -- a promise to Ukraine, to give whatever it needs.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ukraine's going to get all the help they need.


BURNETT: All the help they need. It comes as the U.S. today targets private Russian military force, the Wagner Group, designating it a trans criminal organization.

And the Wagner Group is what is leading Putin's war right now. Right now, making the only known progress on the battlefield for Putin. That means the man running, Russia's most powerful armies making a name for himself.

Here is Yevgeny Prigozhin, publicly declaring that his men are the ones who captured a town just outside the key city of Bakhmut.


YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, WAGNER CHIEF: We can safely say that the settlement of Klishchiivka, which is one of the most important suburbs of Bakhmut, has been completely taken under the control of Wagner PMC units. Exclusively by Wagner PMC units. Klishchiivka has been liberated.


BURNETT: It's incredible, exclusively by Wagner. Wagner is not the Russian defense. It's not the Russian military. It's a separate group, and emphasizing this word exclusively that it was he and not they, and he's taking it even further than that. He's been openly criticizing the official military leaders.


PRIGOZHIN: I've had the deepest combat experience for eight years now, in many ways vastly superior to the experience of those who have been in the service of the defense ministry, for decades.


BURNETT: It's incredible, right, and what's most incredible about all of that, a lot of opportunities to be flying with that and maybe that's why Russian politicians are happy to back Prigozhin, in a sort of Prigozhin versus the Russian military institution. Just look at this picture, from prominent Russian lawmaker, Sergey Mironov.

So, you see him there holding a sledgehammer. It is a Wagner sledgehammer. It's a very provocative picture, because Wagner boasts about having the sledgehammer as their official symbol. So, why, why because this election was used to murder a Wagner group fighter who tried to flee the battlefield last year, now look at him, they're brandishing it.

And while Russia's military suffers from a lack of pretty much everything, as basic of ammunition when it comes to fighting. Prigozhin has -- appears to be getting more weapons, so they're completely on supply chain, look at these pictures. I'm going to show you this.

These we understand to be images of what appeared to be Russian rail cars, traveling to North Korea, picking up infantry rockets and missiles, weapons that according to the United States then went straight to Prigozhin's and Wagner fighters in Ukraine. And the concern tonight is that North Korea might deliver even more lethal military equipment to Prigozhin specifically.

Ben Wedeman is OUTFRONT live in Kramatorsk, Ukraine.

And, Ben, you're there on the ground in Bakhmut today, where some of the fiercest fighting is taking place. You hear Prigozhin claiming victory in a suburb of Bakhmut, what did you see and hear?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we've been going to Bakhmut fairly regularly for the past two and a half weeks or so. And what we've been seeing is the fighting is just getting more and more intense. And that the Russian news around Bakhmut is tightening.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): In the trenches outside Bakhmut, a mortar crew is at work, hoping to repel Russian forces on the verge of encircling the city. Drone footage shows the impact on the rounds on enemy positions. The refrain among these troops, we need more.


SPAS, UKRANIAN ARMY: Speaks about tense, tense, tense. Yes, of course, they're the most powerful for our time on the field. But now, it's 21st century, we need not only -- we need ammunition.

WEDEMAN: Around Bakhmut, slowly and steadily, the Russians are gaining ground.

Thursday, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group, claimed his troops and only his troops took the village of Klishchiivka, just south of the city.

In a dugout, this officer nicknamed Koleso explains Wagner's tactics.

They attack at night, first wave is less trained, but we need to use lots of ammunition against them, he says. The next wave of troops has night vision, better trained, and better equipped.

Tactics seemingly from a different day and age, inflicting mounting casualties on Ukrainian forces.

This soldier was critically wounded when as armored personnel carrier was struck by Russian fire.

Much of Bakhmut is now a ghost town, the sound of shelling, the danger constant.

We're inside this tunnel inside Bakhmut, taking cover because there's incoming rounds just nearby.

The few civilians left resigned to their fate.

People die from strikes everywhere in Kyiv, and Dnipro, says Valentino. If that's your destiny, death will meet you anywhere.

On a hill above the city, the Soviet Era T-72 tank fires into the distance. It's sound and fury perhaps not enough to turn the tide.


WEDEMAN (on camera): And that tank, T-72 tank is more than 50 years old. We've seen other artillery for instance, that dates back to 1950, older than me. And this is why the Ukrainians are so insistent that they need modern weapons to fight the Russians. And we heard the deputy defense minister of Ukraine say today, that

Ukrainians are disappointed with the German hesitance to provide them with these Leopard 2 tanks. They say they need these weapons, they need them now -- Erin.

BURNETT: Yeah, amazing how many of those ancient by any measure of modern warfare, weapons. They want those precision munitions. They want all of it.

Thank you so much, Ben Wedeman.

And now, retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton and Peter Rough, who just wrote an extensive article about Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. He's director of the Hudson Institute Center on Europe and Asia.

Colonel Leighton, let me start with you. When you hear Ben talking about Bakhmut where he spent so much time and saying Russia is slowly and steadily gaining ground. You know, you hear Prigozhin today claiming that he exclusively took a suburb of village south of the city of Bakhmut.

How significant is the Russian performance here? I mean, we understood, you know, Soledar, it was very clear was a marginal to no strategic importance. Bakhmut is different.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yeah, it sure is, Erin. The key thing here is that although Bakhmut is not the center of great industry, or the center of military base, it is a stride one of the main highways that feeds and eastern Ukraine. And so, because of that, and also because of the symbolic nature that both sides have really made of this -- of this town. The idea here for the Russians is to capture it at any price.

They don't really care what they're capturing. The main fact is that they're capturing something. And so, Bakhmut has become a symbol of both the Russians and for the Ukrainians. For the Ukrainians, it's basically a symbol of resistance. For the Russians, it's a symbol they hope of their victory in the future, in the weeks to come.

BURNETT: Right, to have any kind of victory, and, of course, within Russia, you got the Russian military and you got the Wagner group led by Yevgeny Prigozhin. So, you got this war going on inside Russia's military operation.

And, Peter, you know, we hear Prigozhin claiming that the Wagner Group is exclusively liberated the support of Bakhmut. Those are the words he used, of course, to take full credit. And I want to play more of what he said in this new video.


PRIGOZHIN: The Armed Forces of Ukraine were clearly and harmoniously. We have a lot to learn from. Them but in any case, the units of PMC Wagner are moving forward, meter by meter.



BURNETT: So, they're moving forward meter by meter. He's claiming full credit. But in there, something significant. We have a lot to learn from the armed forces of Ukraine were clearly and harmoniously, he's complimenting them. What is his goal here?

PETER ROUGH, FORMERLY AT G.W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF STRATEGIC INITIATIVES: Well, I think Yevgeny Prigozhin is obviously an oligarch, and a kleptocrat, which is what the modern Russia passes for a businessman. But he doesn't just have pecuniary interest, which has long been speculated, but -- says he wants to capture these parts of Ukraine because of the salt lines or the gypsum mines, lucrative parts of Ukraine and its vast resources.

Now by stepping out in recent weeks also for example claiming credit for the Internet Research Agency which he established in Russia's second city St. Petersburg from which Western intelligence claims that the Russians have been discord in Western societies. On top of that, he's also bragged about Wagner deployments in Africa, where, for example, in Mali, they have attempted to push out the French, or in Syria where the openly challenged United States in combat.

Now, increasingly, by pushing out, it's become much more than just a kleptocrat oligarch, if you will. He's becoming a political military figure. And clearly, he's aiming at the power structure in Moscow, he's doing that in two respects. One through the open comments which is taking, the second through sleepy produced videos that the Concorde Group, which is his public relations outfit, has been releasing of him visiting the frontlines, cutting a strong figure, leading his troops, so to speak, towards combat, all of that suggest transformation. And a move towards power in Moscow.

BURNETT: Well, significantly, when you talk about the business interest. He's got his own PR group. It's a person who has mercenaries running around that he gets from prisons. It's important people to understand the context of the depth here.

So, Colonel Leighton, when you look where this is going and you look at Prigozhin's forces, 50,000 or so, although we know, you know, 80 percent of those maybe prisoners according to "Washington Post", and Putin's military itself, can Ukraine win against that combined manpower?

LEIGHTON: Well, if Ukraine doesn't get the help from the west it needs, and if it doesn't have a way of replenishing its manpower, then it's going to be a pretty tough for Ukraine to actually pull out a decisive victory. What they'll need to do is they'll need to have greater attacked used more innovative tactics. They've done a lot of good things so far in this war.

But, of course, the Russians are watching. As Prigozhin said, he's learning from the Ukrainians. As you mentioned, it was a compliment. But it's also a warning that they're paying attention and they're going to use what the Ukrainians do against them as much as they can. BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Colonel Leighton, Peter

Rough, thank you so much for your time. I hope everyone reads your latest article Yevgeny Prigozhin, because this comes as Russia continues to threaten new invasion from Ukraine's massive northern border, which is with Belarus.

Russia and Belarus today conducted joint military drills. And it comes as Belarus's governments holding Putinesque sham trials against political enemies, even putting an empty cage out at this trial, a cage that was supposed to hold Belarus's exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

She's being tried in absentia on charges including high treason and conspiracy to seize power. She wasn't, though, even given a copy of the charges, and I spoke to her earlier.

We began our conversation about asking her about the trial against her.


SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, BELARUS OPPOSITION LEADER ON TRIAL IN ABSENTIA: Of course, this trial will not change anything for me personally, and four other and our movement. We understand that any trials, latest trials have nothing to do with justice in Belarus. Of course, all this charge as you mentioned, are ridiculous.

You know, in contrast to Lukashenko, we did everything according to law. And this will wait and this (INAUDIBLE) seized the power and unleashed terror. Overall, you know, according to all those charges, it's about 11 of them. According their so-called judge, I might be sentenced to 12 -- 20 years in jail.

But we should understand that this trial is also one of regime's (INAUDIBLE) and it must be documented. And I need material of these accusations to protect myself in international courts after this.

BURNETT: Absolutely. And you mentioned that the sentence that they can give you in absentia, of course, is 12 to 20 years, I know that, you know, your husband, and also political prisoner in Belarus, he is currently is serving an 18-year sentence, it started in December of 2021. High security penal colony, I understand, Sviatlana, he openly ran against and criticized the current president, Alexander Lukashenko.


So, Belarus recently brought new criminal charges against your husband and I know you and I have talked here, as you have indefatigably taken the world stage to fight for democracy in Belarus, you have two children you are raising and you've talked about how they still wait for their father, their daddy every day.

Do they still have that hope, that they'll see him again?

TSIKHANOUSKAYA: Of course. Look, I don't even have doubts that our family will rejoin, we will feel -- we will live in Belarus and my children will meet their old friends in my country. So, of course, it might take time but we not only like losing hope, we're sure that this will happen.

Of course, they can build scenarios how it could change. But I'm sure that the inspiration of these people, with the energy, you know, with support of our pro-democratic allies, we'll be able to get rid of this regime in our country.

BURNETT: According to the Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, he's a regular guest on the show with his reporting. And he was talking about Dimitry, the former president of Russia, the current deputy head of the Russian Security Council. He was pointing out that Medvedev recently wrote this, and I quote him, in times of war, there have always been other special rules and silent groups of perfectly inconspicuous people who effectively execute them.

Soldatov told me this is an open call for the use of assassins to deal with Russians overseas. How worried are you about your safety right now, the safety of others who speak out?

TSIKHANOUSKAYA: I think everyone who's opposing the regime in dangerous situation because the regimes are usually cruel towards those who are opposing them. You know, the world have to know about countries where regime is ruling and have to try at least to protect people who are in danger.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Appreciate your time.



BURNETT: And next, Trump agreeing with Biden today. They both say, leave Social Security and Medicare alone in the debt ceiling fight. Republicans like to listen to Trump on a lot of things like maybe the election. But will they listen to him on this?

Plus, new pictures of Republican George Santos appearing in drag while in Brazil, according to another performer. How does that square with Santos' staunchly conservative views of the LGBTQ community?

And Alec Baldwin still planning to finish making the movie "Rust", despite facing manslaughter charges in the fatal shooting on his set.



BURNETT: Tonight, Biden and Trump agree, both are slamming Republican efforts to link Social Security and Medicare reforms to the vote to raise the nation's debt ceiling, a debt ceiling that the United States, of course, reached yesterday.

And Trump spoke out with a clear warning today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare, or Social Security. Save Social Security. Don't destroy it.


BURNETT: And the White House saying, and I quote, House Republicans should think very high before they spend months telling the American people that they want to reverse the best unemployment rate in 50 years in order to slash Medicare and Social Security.

Now, of course, all of this is referring to Republicans insisting on spending cuts and efforts to link Social Security and Medicare reforms to raising the debt ceiling.

OUTFRONT now, Mick Mulvaney, the former OMBA director for President Trump, who also was in Congress in 2011 when the debt ceiling debate led to the country's top notch credit rating being downgraded, and we've never gotten it back, and Karen Finney, former DNC communications director.

So, Mick, let me start with you.

You know, should Republicans, in this case, listen to Trump on this and stay away from Social Security and Medicare?

MICK MULVANEY, FORMER ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF UNDER TRUMP: Yeah, Erin, it's great to be here. We have that introduction. We actually had our debt lowered because we didn't have a way to pay off the debt, but that argument is ten years old now.

So, let's talk about what's happening now. Look, Social Security and Medicare are a lot of different things. I think Trump is saying the same thing he said to me when I was budget officer, which is don't touch old age retirement and don't touch main line Medicare. Social Security and Medicare are a lot more than that. Social Security has disability components, that I don't think people know that they're paying to.

Medicare pays for a lot of doctors, trainings, and education for folks in the health care area that they didn't think that's what their Medicare pay.

BURNETT: So, you agree with the GOP, who want to link them? I mean, are you going that far as long as it doesn't go to payments going to these disability or whatever, you agree with that, or no?

MULVANEY: Yeah, I think you can solve it. You can do both things that Trump just said. What he said was don't cut it, save it.

And look, back in the 1980s, the last time we save Social Security, we made changes that didn't kick on -- didn't kick in on people until 30 years later. You can fix Social Security without cutting benefits to anyone who's getting it today or anybody who's anywhere near retirement.

It's difficult to have those discussions because it's so easy to demagogue this issue. I know the Democrats are doing to the Republicans and to a certain extent, Trump did it to them today as well.

BURNETT: Well, he certainly did.

Now, Karen, this comes though as Republicans are saying that they want these -- they're calling them reforms. The White House is saying they're not going to negotiate at all. President Biden does plan to meet with the House Speaker McCarthy and other congressional leaders. But he says raising the debt ceiling is not negotiable, absolutely not negotiable.

But it's interesting, it doesn't go with the narrative he's given. Here he is when he was a candidate. I did a 2019 town hall with him. Here's what he said.


JOE BIDEN, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We got a lot done by pure compromise. Remember, every time we got in trouble and can get something passed to the House or Senate, who got sent up to the Hill? I've been convinced the Republicans that increase taxes on the wealthy the first time ever by $600 billion. On New Years Eve day with more about to go under in terms of reneging on the national debt. This is something I've done. I can do it again.



BURNETT: So his whole point was I negotiate. And on this, absolutely nonnegotiable. Is he wrong to rule out a negotiation now?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, he's 100 percent right. Two things -- number one, he was referring to the last time that Republicans put us on -- you know, played brinkmanship and we know there was a lot of fiscal pain, economic pain in the aftermath of 2011 and 2013.

Number two, he learned a lesson that apparently McCarthy has not. If you give this MAGA extremist wing the Republican Party an inch, they will take 15 rounds to make a decision. So, I think -- I've talked to a friend who's on Wall Street, folks on Wall Street today, they actually prefer that the president is taking a strong stance trying to head off sort of what we've seen in the past with this brinksmanship.

BURNETT: And, Mick, to this point, when you are in the White House -- that ceiling comes around, you all wanted to raise it. Here's what he said then about the debt ceiling.


TRUMP: I can't imagine anybody ever even thinking of using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge. That's a very, very sacred thing in our country, debt ceiling. We can never play with it.


BURNETT: Mick, he said, I can't imagine anybody thinking of using it as a negotiating wedge. A few weeks later, you announced that you and Trump's advisers all agree, the debt ceiling hike should not be tied to any other policy proposals. You wanted a clean debt ceiling raise.

You know, this time, I saw that you tweeted, that you support the House Republicans who are insisting on spending cuts in exchange for debt ceiling deals. What's changed? Why are you okay with it this time?

MULVANEY: Well, I do. I think that if you got a situation like you have now, where the Republicans are in charge of the House and the Democrats are in charge of the Senate and the White House, doesn't just make sense that there would be some kind of compromise? Yes, all three -- if one parties in charge of all branches of government like the Democrats have been for the last couple of years that we're under Barack Obama, we were during the early days of Trump, it's not surprising that they don't reach out to the other party.

Under these circumstances with a divided government, I don't understand why there isn't more discussion. And to the MAGA wing of the party --


BURNETT: So, your issue that you have now -- sorry, Mick, I have to make sure I understand what you're saying, is you're saying that this is about politics. When there's divided, you're fine with negotiation. But not when it's all one party. So it's not actually about the debt ceiling being sacred and debt being sacred?

MULVANEY: That's how Washington works, Erin. I mean, that's how it worked for the last two years and no one seemed to complain about it. That's just how Washington has always worked.

Look, you got a situation here where you can do something like Barack Obama did back in 2011 and I think it was 2013 as well where he gave a little bit, the Democrats got a lot and we moved -- we increased the debt ceiling.

Why doesn't that model work here? Why isn't it just as unreasonable to say you're not going to do anything, like the Democrats are saying, as the Republicans have said they want everything? Keep in mind, it's not the MAGA wing of the party. Don Bacon is a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a centrist.

They are the ones who are saying that Democrats should get a little bit. Republicans should get a little bit. This narrative that blames on the extreme right I think is distracting to what's actually happening.



MULVANEY: Washington wants to get a compromise and I think they will ultimately on this.


FINNEY: Two things. Number one, that's not what the American people told us in the election, we need to remember that were just coming out of a global pandemic, that wreck the global economy. We're just started to see gas prices go down, we're starting to see inflation go down.

So, the economic anxiety that people have, is very real. The idea that Republicans in Congress, you know, this tends to happen every time as a Democratic president, Republicans find religion on the debt ceiling. And yet, the first bill that they passed, let's call it out by taking back the funds for the IRS. That is going to add $114 trillion -- sorry, billion dollars to the national deficit.

So, for them to say that this is a principled conversation about that debt is just ludicrous. This is about politics, and having a Democratic president. It's not about principle.

BURNETT: All right. We should note, of course, when it comes to piling debt on, talk about being bipartisan, there's nothing more bipartisan than borrowing money to spend it in Washington.

Thank you both very much. Appreciate your time.

And next, the secret life of George Santos, someone claiming to know Santos during his time in Brazil, providing CNN with these images of Santos and drag. What Santos responds.

Plus, did the Idaho murder suspect reach out to one of his victims before the horrific murders? New reporting tonight about a series of messages that authorities are now uncovering.



BURNETT: Tonight, new details about Republican George Santos's double life. Santos, who's lied from his education to his ancestry, and so much more, now denying reports that he once performed as a drag queen in Brazil.

CNN hasn't independently confirmed the images, which were shared by a Brazilian drag performer who identified Santos as the other person in the photo. This is from a parade in 2008.

Now, Santos is openly gay. He's voiced support for staunchly conservative policies, though, when it comes to the LGBT community.

New details adding to the ever growing controversy surrounding Santos.


REPORTER: Congressman, do you any comments on the Ethics Committee?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here, among the members of Congress, he is known as George Santos. But in Brazil, a local performer claims Santos was Kitara Ravache, that he once performed as a drag queen, something the New York congressman strongly denies, tweeting: The media continues to make outrageous claims about my life, while I'm working to deliver results. I will not be distracted nor fazed by this.

It appears to be just one of the names Santos has used over the years.

GREGORY MOREY-PARKER, SANTOS'S FORMER ROOMMATE: I've always known him as Anthony Devolder. I've never known him as George Santos.

JIMENEZ: And that's his former roommate.

MOREY-PARKER: I don't understand that he go one by one to everyone in his district and literally pull the wool over their eyes, like how --

JIMENEZ: But it's not just the name, or alleged activity in his free time. It's the stories he tells, which appear to be just that, including one about 9/11.

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I get emotional, my parents were both down there the day of the attacks. Fortunately, none of them passed.

My mom was a 9/11 survivor. She was on the south tower, and she made it out.

JIMENEZ: His mom was actually in Brazil at the time, according to immigration records. And on a 2003 form, she said she hadn't been to the U.S. since 1999.


Santos also claimed his grandparents survived the Holocaust, and fled Europe to escape Jewish persecution. That's false, genealogy record show.

During his campaign, he claimed he worked at Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs, later admitting that that wasn't true. While running for Congress on Long Island, he claimed he graduated from Baruch College and NYU, he now admits he didn't.

REPORTER: What's your reaction to members of your --

JIMENEZ: Despite all of these lies, George Santos is now a freshman congressman. He's been named to low level committees by the slim GOP majority. And there are no immediate signs Republican leadership will stop him from walking the halls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He hasn't committed a crime. He hasn't been indicted on anything at this point. And in this country, you're innocent until proven guilty.

JIMENEZ: Leaving those he's deceived to sit and watch, like two military veterans who say Santos promised to raise funds for lifesaving surgery for one of their dogs in 2016. But that instead, he took off with the money. The dog later died.

RICH OSTHOFF, NAVY VETERAN: The 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 things that happen. Not more related, but other things that the military does to you.

JIMENEZ: Santos denies this ever happened. He told CNN in a statement in part, anyone that knows me knows I go to hell and back for a dog, and especially a veteran.


JIMENEZ (on camera): And the veterans' response to Santos was, he said he'd go to hell and back, well, then, quote, go to hell, George.

Now, as you can imagine, there are a lot of investigations swirling around Santos, they complaint has been filed against him with the Federal Election Commission, federal prosecutors are looking into finances, law enforcement in Brazil say the intended to reinstate charges connected to a stolen checkbook back in 08. He's called them distractions here, but we've got a lot of distractions here -- Erin.

BURNETT: Yeah. Thank you very much, Omar.

And Harry Enten is with me now.

So, Harry, look, scandal and some of this is whether it's pathological lying. Some of it, of course, is criminal. If it happened, it's pure out criminal.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, though, still refuses to call in Santos to resign. He gave him to two committee assignments. Why?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Well, he has a slim majority, and if George Santos resigns, then that will trigger a special election. And we know from the past presidential vote. In New York's third congressional district, that Joe Biden won there. He won there rather easily. Won there, you can see on your screen right now by eight points over Donald Trump back in 2020.

And the fact is, is that district also voted for Hillary Clinton as well. So, he's afraid of losing a seat and thereby having his slow majority become even slimmer. It's all about politics.

BURNETT: All about politics. Now, when you look at that, you say had George Santos get in that district, you'd say, okay there's a special election. Democrats are going to win it. Not so fast?

ENTEN: Not so fast. So if you look at the 2022 election that took place in the third congressional district, right, obviously, Santos won, but guess who also won, Lee Zeldin, a gubernatorial Republican -- BURNETT: Twelve points.

ENTEN: -- won by 12 points. And the U.S. Senate race, Joe Pinion, look at that, four point win over Chuck Schumer.

So, Santos was kind of line with the average Republican in that seat. So fact is when you look at the 2020 presidential election, that might give you a one look. But when you look at the 2022 election I think Republicans could in fact when a special election in that seat.

BURNETT: It's amazing, you see a real shift from Democrats to Republicans. But in that district, we certainly see it. So, before I let you go, the OUTFRONT outlier of the night?

ENTEN: OK. So, I can't help but look forward to the 2024 presidential race. If you look at how many candidates are getting regularly polled right now, it's about ten, right? And so, the outliers in fact the 2024 race, because we're looking right there. There's ten candidates who are regularly polled. Joe Biden and nine Republicans.

But look at how many candidates have run in the past few cycles. Look at this. You will see that 27 in 2020, 22 in 2016, 13 in 2012, 22 in 2008. This could be the smallest, in fact, field of candidates running for president at least one I could vote.

BURENTT: That would be incredible, you don't think of it that way, as you say, I remember. Does anyone remember when we had to do it back- to-back nights of debates, there was so many people we couldn't get them on the stage. I remember that.

All right. Thank you very much, Harry.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the Idaho murder suspect reportedly visiting the restaurant where two of the victims worked just weeks before the killings. What a former employer remembers about the murder suspect.

And Alec Baldwin vowing to finish the troubled movie "Rust", going ahead with it, even as he faces charges of involuntary manslaughter.



BURNETT: Tonight, the suspect in the murders of four Idaho college students, Bryan Kohberger, we are finding out, reportedly visited a restaurant where two of the victims worked. And he did it just weeks before they were killed.

Madison Mogen and Xana Kernodle were both servers at the Mad Greek restaurant, which is near the University of Idaho. A new report from "People" says a former employee saw Kohberger ordered food there at least twice. It comes amid questions about ties between the suspect and the four students that he is accused of so horrifically and brutally murdering. OUTFRONT now, Steve Helling. He is "People's" senior crime writer and

he broke this story.

So, Steve, I appreciate you taking time to explain here what you have learned from your reporting.

I know you spoke to this former employee who worked with Madison and Xana at the restaurant. So how do they remember Bryan Kohberger? And what do they know about him?

STEVE HELLING, SENIOR CRIME WRITER, PEOPLE: Well, the interesting thing about Bryan Kohberger is that he's the type of guy who doesn't normally make an impact. But the reason why they remembered this -- him was because he had such specific dietary requirements that he had, and he wanted to make sure (INAUDIBLE)

BURNETT: All right. We're trying to get his audio back, everybody. Yes, I wasn't sure. Sometimes I'm not sure if it's me or everybody. So, we're just watching the courtroom with his appearance while we try to get his audio back up here for Steve with Kohberger's appearing in report.


Steve is also going to talk about some of his reporting here about an Instagram account. We haven't been able to confirm this, but Steve and "People" have reported that there was an Instagram account that authorities believe belonged to Kohberger that sent a series of messages to one of the victims and did that just weeks before the attack.

In Steve article he has an investigative source this says basically it was just him saying, hey, how are you, but he did it again and again, kept dropping into her direct messages, as Steve reports it, saying that and saying that and then not, and then not -- she never responded.

All right. We're going to keep working on getting that back. As we do that, I'm going to go to another story, we're going to try to come back to this to give you these details, but I also an update on another story we are following tonight, the legal story of CNN and Alec Baldwin.

We're learning he is still planning to finish making the movie "Rust", and it comes despite him facing charges for the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of that film.

Baldwin maintains he wasn't aware the gun had a live round. He's vowed to fight these charges.

Let's go to Nick Watt, OUTFRONT.


NICK WATT, CNN NATINAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This morning, Hilaria Baldwin appeared to create a diversion. HILARIA BALDWIN, WIFE OF ACTOR ALEC BALDWIN: Guys, you're hurting me.

WATT: While husband Alex slipped out of their Manhattan apartment.

This afternoon, the press pack caught coming home. He is not talking.

Baldwin's lawyers say he was blindsided by the criminal charges.

Baldwin himself told CNN just a few months ago --

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: They're not -- they're not going to charge anybody in my mind. Criminal charges are things you avoid unless you know you can make a case.

WATT: Baldwin was a producer on "Rust" and an actor. He was pointing the gun, not knowing it was loaded, towards cinematographer Halyna Hutchins when it went off, killing her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's been charged with both. He was the actor that pulled the trigger, so certainly he is charged as an actor.

WATT: Baldwin denies he pulled the trigger and an actor charged for an accident on set is raising some eyebrows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actors cannot be expected and are not expected to do final safety checks.

BALDWIN: My job is not to concentrate on whether the gun is safe. We have people there for that.

WATT: Like the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter along with Baldwin.

Baldwin says the first assistant director, Dave Halls, actually handed him the weapon, told him it was safe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We stand very firm that he did not have the hand of the gun to Alec Baldwin.

WATT: Halls has signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. Still unanswered, how did live ammunition even get on to the set?


WATT: So can she share that idea?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't. And the reason I can't is we have given that information to the district attorney, and they need to do their own follow-up.

WATT: Accidents like this are very, very rare. Brandon Lee, son of Bruce, was killed on the film set nearly 30 years ago, hit by a bullet fragments fire from a prop gun that should have been empty.

Criminal charges were never filed. This actor was holding the gun. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, what happened to Brandon was a tragic

accident. And it's something that I'm -- that I'm going to live with.

WATT: However, this criminal case against Alec Baldwin plays out, he will live with what happened to Halyna.

ALEC BALDWIN: The toughest part is we can never bring her back. Never. There's nothing we can do to undo that. And give anything to undo that. And we can't.


WATT (on camera): Now a civil settlement was reached with Halyna Hutchins family a couple of months ago, and part of that deal was her husband, Matthew, will act as an executive producer on "Rust" when and if it really does start shooting again.

Now, back at that time, Matthew Hutchins said he had, quote, no interest in recrimination retribution of blame but his wife's death was a tragic accident. But after the announcement of the charges, the family know says they think the charges are warranted.

Back to you.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Nick.

And next, we're going to go back to "People" senior crime reporter, he's got these new details on the Idaho murder suspect's visit to the restaurant where some of the victims work. We'll have that back for you.

And we're going to take you inside the secret bunker will one of the most notorious mob bosses was hiding during 30 years on the run, and wait until you see what was hanging on the walls.



BURNETT: All right. Now tonight, the story that I started telling you about earlier, before the technical issue. The suspect of the murders of the four Idaho college students reportedly visited a restaurant where two of them worked, just weeks before the killings.

So, Steve Helling is back with me, "People" senior crime writer.

Steve, you are just telling us about a former employee of the restaurant you spoke to about why that person remembered Bryan Kohberger. How -- why is that?

STEVE HELLING, SENIOR CRIME WRITER, PEOPLE: Because he had certain dietary requirements. He was a strict vegan, and he wanted to make sure that none of his food touched animal products. So this was obviously it's a pizza place that has vegan options that are far beyond like a pineapple pizza but actual vegan pizzas, and he was always ordering those. BURNETT: Yeah, that kind of bizarre obsession with it stood out.

All right. So, Instagram, I mentioned, after the technical, issues that you reported that there was an Instagram apart that authorities believe belonged to Kohberger. We have been able to compete in this but you have reported this. A series of messages to one of the victims saying hey, how are you? And kept doing it.

What more have you learned about that?

HELLING: None of those messages were strange. None of those messages were aggressive or threatening or anything like that. But yeah, he was trying to make some sort of contact with this person. And also he was sending notes, saying, hey, how are you?

But police believe that those actually went into another folder and she wasn't following him back. So she may not have ever seen them.

BURNETT: But it shows that he had kind of a fixation or a notice.


Now, to that point, do you know, from the employee you talked with a pizza restaurant, was he ever there when two of the young women work there, when they were working?

HELLING: He was there during a lot of the busy shifts that they would have been working. So yeah, the feeling is that he would have seen them. Whether or not they waited on him or not, this is a really collaborative place, so it could've been a situation where he had a different server but they came and re-filled his strength, or whatever.

But yes, if he was there, he would've noticed them. It looks like he was there a couple of times.

BURNETT: Yeah, and memorable, which says something, in and of itself, someone who was generally so unnoticeable. Thank you so much for sharing your reporting. Thanks for coming back.

All right. Next, it's life imitating art. You're going to see what is hanging in the hideout of one of the world's most wanted mafia bosses.


BURNETT: And, finally, new images from inside the hideout a brutal mob boss Matteo Messina Denaro, called home during his 30 years on the run in Italy. On one of the walls, this image, a poster of Marlon Brando as "The Godfather", the classic film where Rondo played Don Vito Corleone, the head of a mafia family from Sicily.

Well, Denaro, 30 years on the run, finally now being held in a maximum security prison in central Italy.

Thanks for joining us.

Anderson starts now.