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Erin Burnett Outfront

New Details On Chinese Spy Balloon Incident Under Trump; Report: Putin's Ex-Wife And Her Now-Husband Acquired Millions Of Dollars In Real Estate As Her Marriage To Putin Fell Apart; Private Russian Army Chief Challenges Zelenskyy To Dogfight. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 06, 2023 - 21:00   ET




DAVID BALOGUN, 9-YEAR-OLD HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE: I want to be an astrophysicist, and I wanted to study Black Holes and Supernova.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I'm not even sure what they are, exactly. But I have no doubt, he will do that.

David's parents say they are looking at colleges, right now. In the meantime, David is working on his Black Belt, in martial arts. We wish him the best!

News continues. ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT starts now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And now, a Special Edition of OUTFRONT.

A race against time, to, find survivors, in an earthquake that's killed more than 3,800 people. As they desperately search for survivors, the death toll is rising. And we have a live report, in just a moment.

Plus, DeSantis versus Disney, why the Florida governor cannot quit fighting the most magical place on Earth, a place so magical that he reportedly got married there!

And Putin's ex-wife, living a life of total luxury, now sanctioned by many countries, including the United States. We're going to talk to a reporter, who literally went knocking, on her mansion door. We're going to tell you what she found, what they said. And she's got the pictures to prove it.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. Welcome to all, to a Special Edition of OUTFRONT, tonight. I am Erin Burnett. And we're going to get to all of these stories, and much more.

I want to begin though, with the devastation, and desperation, unfolding, right now, as we are all watching this. 4,300 people now confirmed dead after that massive earthquake struck Turkey and Syria. I want to just say to you, an hour ago, we were talking about 3,400. This number is rising, and rising quickly. As rescue crews are digging through the rubble, they are desperately trying to find survivors.

It is freezing. It is snowing. There has been a 7.8 earthquake, which struck, earlier this morning. The aftershocks have been powerful and continued. And crews actually are able to hear the voices of people, buried alive, and have been unable to get to many of them.

Video capturing the moment, of a building, collapsing, in Turkey, as you can see, you can just imagine the human life inside.


BURNETT: Thousands of homes, we understand, have been destroyed. And again, people were inside, people were sleeping, children. And the weather, as I mentioned, is absolutely freezing. Some areas are being hit with heavy snow, and rain.

Our Nick Paton Walsh is in Ankara, Turkey, tonight.

And Nick, you've been traveling through that snow. I know it was incredibly hard, even to drive, as we see behind you.

How much hope is there, to find survivors, tonight, as these death toll numbers are tragically rising?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is the desperate hope that these horrifyingly cold and bitter conditions, might leave some people, to be able to be pulled alive, from the rubble. This earthquake, barely even 24-hours-old, and we started this morning with 600 dead.

Now, in Turkey, 2,921, the latest figures we're hearing. Some cities, particularly near Kahramanmaras, where this particular epicenter was near, hard for rescuers to get to. Gaziantep, a city that bloomed almost out of nowhere, in the past decade, because of the civil war, happening in Syria, and the refugees that flooded to it, also so heavily hit.

But down the road, behind me here, this constant stream of excavators, fire engines, ambulances, all of Turkey, almost feels, at times, on the move, to try and help the hard-hit South, where really that - and those numbers are going, sadly, to edge up, as this cold continues to bite. That's the battle, to save people, in Turkey that's been preparing for earthquakes that has a functioning government.

Across the border, into still at times war-torn Syria, and things are so much more complex, because winter will be claiming people, frankly, in the poor conditions of life, over there, already in some of the refugee camps and the poor infrastructure. The earthquake has damaged the little shelter some people had there.

And the question now is how does, aid get to them. It's politicized and awful, frankly, at the best of times, trying to get food aid in. Now, in a moment of acute crisis, they have to try and ramp that up, along with rescue efforts. The death toll is over 1,000, inside of Syria. But that sadly too, looks destined to rise, in the hours and days ahead.

I've got to tell you it is perishingly cold here for rescuers. But for those people, who were likely trapped in the rubble, as they lay in their sleep, at about 4 o'clock, yesterday, significantly more dangerous times ahead.


BURNETT: It's just horrifying to imagine, and the suffering they're going through.

All right, thank you very much Nick Paton Walsh, who is on his way there. And as you can see how difficult it is even to travel.

We have breaking news, on another major story, tonight, as well. And this is new and exclusive details, just into CNN, about a U.S. Intelligence assessment. And let me tell you about it.

So basically, this details Chinese spy balloon sightings, during the Trump presidency. We've mentioned that those balloons were here.

And it comes, as President Biden is hitting back. He is defending his decision to take down the Chinese spy balloon, after it's spent about a week, in the United States. Here's his defense.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We did the right thing, and there's not a question of weakening or strengthening, it's just the reality.


BURNETT: Talking about waiting, obviously till it was not overland.

Biden says and he's confident that America did the right thing. That has not stopped though Republicans from all different points of view from pouncing.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our enemies no longer fear us, obviously. And our friends don't respect us.

SEN. STEVE DAINES (R-MT): It's one more failure of several of this administration.

REP. BRIAN MAST (R-FL): The only reason that the Administration started to care about it was because the American people heard about it. SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): The humiliation, this week, was inflicted by the Chinese Communist, on the President.

Again, we should have shot down this balloon, over the Aleutians, as opposed to letting it float all across Middle America, on its merry way.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): The message embedded in this, to the world, is "We can fly a balloon, over airspace, of the United States of America, and they won't be able to do anything about it to stop us."


BURNETT: All right, the outrage? Universal. The reason? Specific.

But now, we are learning more about Chinese balloon incidents that have been documented, under the Trump administration.

So Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT live, at the White House. These are breaking details.

So Phil, what do you know now?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erin. One of the big questions has been the Biden administration's contention that several balloons traversed, at least parts of the United States, during the Trump administration.

Senior Trump administration National Security officials saying they have no knowledge of these actually happening.

And we're actually getting a sense of what the Biden administration is talking about. And this comes, from our colleague, Zach Cohen, who reports, according to a Military Intelligence assessment, from April of 2022, it lays out how, in 2019, when Donald Trump was President of the United States, there was a balloon, a Chinese-operated balloon that crossed over Hawaii, and through Florida, at one point, as an example of one of these, basically issues, occurring prior to this administration.

And this is part of an Intelligence process that White House National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, alluded to, earlier today, saying that when the Biden administration came in, and made collection of Intelligence, related to China, a central focal point, they were able to track back, and pick up signals, of what they may have missed beforehand.

This, and apparently at least two other occasions, are two of those examples. Those examples driving a Biden administration approach that, as you noted, has been questioned by Republicans, but officials maintain was the right course of action, over the course of the last week.


BIDEN: I told them to shoot it down. MATTINGLY (voice-over): For President Biden, a definitive statement.


BIDEN: On Wednesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the recommendation from them--

BIDEN: They said to me, "Let's wait till the safest place to do it."

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Coming less than 30 minutes, after this moment.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): An F-22 fighter jet blowing a Chinese spy balloon, out of the sky, and into the Atlantic Ocean, on Saturday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: China should not be permitted to do this. It's unfortunate that the balloon was permitted, to go all the way, across the United States.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But doing little to deflate the growing political backlash, after days of the balloon traveling across the U.S.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): He allowed a full week, for the Chinese, to conduct spying operations, over the United States.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Even as White House officials explicitly echo, what Biden appeared to implicitly hint at, on Saturday.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Was that a reflection perhaps and frustration in terms of the political attacks you guys have gotten from Republicans?

JEAN-PIERRE: What China did was unacceptable. We protected civilians, and we gained more Intel while protecting our own sensitive information.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): U.S. officials revealing this isn't the first time a Chinese spy balloon has entered U.S. airspace

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: During the Trump administration, as you said, there were multiple instances, where these surveillance balloons traversed American airspace, and American territory.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Republican lawmakers, identifying Florida, and Texas, as two locations balloons had briefly floated through.

Yet, top Trump officials said that was news to them! MARK ESPER, FORMER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DEFENSE SECRETARY: I don't ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): As Biden administration officials acknowledged they discovered the incursions, after former President Trump left office.

And now, offering this.

JEAN-PIERRE: We are ready to brief key officials to let them know what - you know, what the intelligence community was able to figure out.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And highlight the rationale for waiting to shoot the balloon down, until it was over open water.

SULLIVAN: The military used every asset at their disposal to collect against the balloon, to determine what it was carrying, to learn more about its tradecraft and its capabilities.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): For now, White House officials urging calm, and Biden minimizing the effect, on a bilateral relationship, already rife with tension.

BIDEN: We've made it clear to China what we're going to do. They understand our position. We're not going to back off. We did the right thing, and there's not a question of weakening or strengthening, it's just the reality.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Even as he brushed off the critical question the top officials have grappled with for more than a week.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Why the Chinese would commit such a brazen act of floating a balloon across the entire continental United States?

BIDEN: They're the Chinese.


MATTINGLY: The President laughing off my question, earlier today. But it remains a central question for administration officials, as they weigh what this means, for the bilateral relationship, going forward.


One thing officials say they don't have any questions over was their ability to mitigate the Chinese surveillance balloon's ability, to collect Intelligence, even as it loitered over critical sites, including ICBM, and nuclear testing sites, officials saying that they were able to ensure that there were no activities, and no unencrypted communications, going out, during that process.

Obviously, a lot more to learn, though, as they collect this information, from the Atlantic Ocean, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. Phil Mattingly, from the White House.

All right, my panel is here with me.

And, Congressman Kinzinger, let me start with you.


BURNETT: Because there's the political side of this that we're going to talk about. And then, of course, there's the practical spy craft of it. And you know, a lot about this. This whole thing about there were ones in the past, flying all the way, from Hawaii to Florida? Last I checked, that's a pretty - that's pretty much end to end.

KINZINGER: It's big, yes.

BURNETT: So, now they're finding out that that happened in the past. Does that make sense to you?

KINZINGER: It can, because so they probably have historical data of what kind of radar returns they've gotten. Seeing a balloon, on a radar is not actually that easy. Because you think, keep in mind, the balloon itself, that material is not going to reflect back anything on the radar.


KINZINGER: What you'll get is the contraption that's holding this, basically line of three buses, in essence. And if you're looking at that, on a radar, may not make sense. What you're seeing may not make sense, the fact that it's at 60,000 feet, 70,000 feet may not.

And so, they may now have seen what the signature of this one was, take that signature, and compare it to past historical data, and say, "Oh, we've got that"--

BURNETT: "That thing that we thought was the UFO?"

KINZINGER: Right, yes.

BURNETT: "Literally was maybe a balloon."


BURNETT: OK. So, now - that makes sense, then, OK.


BURNETT: So then, you're politically, in this point of view, Van, where we have to deal with the fact that that they didn't know. They didn't know.

And you have Trump coming out. What does Trump say today? "The Chinese would never have floated the Blimp ("Balloon") over the United States if I were President!!!" Turns out not only did they float one, they flew at least three from, it sounds like how the Congressman was laying it out, at least three. So this is--


BURNETT: This is a thing!

V. JONES: Well, listen, it turns out that, to your point, we don't have a perfect ability, to understand everything that's happening, at 60,000 feet, 100,000 feet.

And this should bring us together to figure out "OK, why are they doing this? What's the gain? And what can we do about it?" Instead, it's turned into the same kind of stuff that we always had with everybody mad at each other, throwing bananas at each other, and saying mean stuff.

Here's what I know for sure.


V. JONES: Part of this is we're just mammals! You see something. And it seems like it's real because you can see it. There are much bigger threats. TikTok is a bigger threat to national security, than this daggone balloon, I promise you. But we're going to be fixated on this.

And it has hurt us because I would rather, right now, tonight, to be talking about Blinken, over in China, right now, talking about Taiwan, talking about Russia, talking about the Ukraine - talking about Ukraine.


V. JONES: But instead we're talking about a damn balloon!

BURNETT: Which, by the way, just to say, Congressman, Blinken's visit was going to be crucial, right? This was the first time in decades you'd had a Secretary of State, who was going to meet the leader of China.


BURNETT: And now, that is not happening.

M. JONES: Look, I mean, China poses, still to this day, a larger threat to the United States than Russia ever could, right?

And so, this is really unfortunate, in terms of the timing of this. I too, am really distraught by the politicization of national security issues. You would think that there would be at least that sacred space in our politics. We got people who--

BURNETT: What planet are you living in, talking about sacred space in U.S. politics? M. JONES: These are--

V. JONES: He's a young man, young man.

M. JONES: These are aspirational--

BURNETT: You're above 65,000 feet, right now, don't you?

M. JONES: I still believe in the future of this country.

V. JONES: That's good.



FARAH GRIFFIN: Take the other side on this? I did feel like there was a little politicking, from the Biden White House, on this. They declassified this information that they found, about the prior incursions, in the Trump administration.

I was the Pentagon press secretary, in 2019, under Mark Esper. We were never briefed on that. And this was not a Pentagon that was weak on China. We reoriented the entire national security strategy, around countering China.

So, to just declassify that and sprinkle it out there, it almost feels like "Yes, but it happened there."

To Mondaire's point, the takeaway is exactly the same, though. On critical national security issues, we should be able to come together. And, once again, we're retreating to our--

BURNETT: Right. But to be clear, here, on the practicality of what we're talking about, because we saw in Phil's piece, Secretary of Defense - then-Secretary of Defense, Esper, right? And he's saying, "No one ever came in my office and told me about this," and you're saying no one ever told you? I'm not presuming there's a cover-up. I'm presuming they didn't know till now.

KINZINGER: No. They didn't know.

BURNETT: So, do you think that she has a point that there is a politicization for this now?

KINZINGER: Certainly. And I think this is where - I mean, we have got to stop, to Mondaire's point. You get two, your points tonight. We have got to stop politicization of foreign policy. This has to end, at the water's edge.

Look, when I was in Congress, it was politicized when we killed Soleimani, which actually was a great shot, and a really smart thing to do, in Iran. Now, I see a lot of my former colleagues, politicizing this balloon. Look, they should have shot it down over the Aleutian Islands. They should have. However, they're also we may find out now that they were collecting information, on it, as they have said. They may have been able to jam the signals, and it may work out to our advantage. We don't know that yet.

But I think to jump out and say "Impeach Biden?" You have every right to disagree with it. And I disagreed with the decision.

BURNETT: They jumped us and - jumping all the way to impeach

KINZINGER: See, people jump to impeach.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Can we go real quick to impeach--


V. JONES: Let me just - let me just say another thing too.



V. JONES: We assume that China is this kind of perfect genius set of people that never makes a mistake.

This is possibly just a mess up, on their part. In other words, I'm not sure that they wouldn't have rather had the Blinken summit, as well. If you look at what China said, China actually expressed regret. When does China express regret about anything? So.

BURNETT: Well it sounds like this one came down a little--

V. JONES: It came too--

BURNETT: Maybe they got caught in the--

V. JONES: So--

BURNETT: You know how the stratosphere came down?

V. JONES: Exactly. They--

BURNETT: Over New Hampshire?

V. JONES: It's global warming!

BURNETT: Maybe there's - maybe the weather was involved. It brought it a little lower.

M. JONES: They regret they got caught, but not that they were actually spying.


V. JONES: Well we-- BURNETT: I'm going to say somehow I'm right about that.

V. JONES: That--

BURNETT: Not Washington is involved.

V. JONES: I just want to say, we don't know enough to be as certain as we are--

KINZINGER: That's right.

V. JONES: --to be as divided as we are. This seems to be a new phenomenon for us. And we need to be able to come together, and figure out what's going on.

I'm not convinced that China did this, to make Biden look bad. Somebody might be getting beheaded, right now, for all we know over this. And the reality is that--


V. JONES: --we don't know enough.

BURNETT: Right. And, by the way, is that's not even a joke. That is--

V. JONES: That's what I'm saying.


FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, and just real quick, a lot of these Republicans jumped the gun, before actually getting briefings. They have not briefed the House yet. I believe that the Gang of Eight has been briefed.


FARAH GRIFFIN: But get the facts first.



M. JONES: And what we do know is that the U.S. Military advised the shooting down of this precisely when the Administration did it. And so, if the President is just following the advice of the U.S. Military, then I don't think he should be faulted for that.

BURNETT: All right. Well, all of you stay with me, please.

Because, next, the battle between Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, and Disney, is heating up again. And this is extremely significant, in light of a poll I'm going to share with you. What you should know about the feud between the possible presidential candidate, and the largest private employer, in the State of Florida.

Plus, a dare from the air, the head of the Wagner Group's direct message, to President Zelenskyy, a duel.

And Vladimir Putin's ex-wife, is she closer to her former husband than we know? As the West tries to put the financial squeeze, on Moscow, a reporter, who visited her lavish homes, is out front, door-to-door. She's going to bring the receipts, to show you.



BURNETT: Tonight, DeSantis versus Disney. The Florida governor is proudly taking on Disney, where he also reportedly married his wife, Casey, back in 2009.

Today, Republican lawmakers, in Florida, introducing a bill, and this bill would give DeSantis, the ability, to handpick the five people, who will govern the area that surrounds Disney's Orlando area theme parks.

Goodbye Disney controlling it!

It's the latest escalation in the governor's year-long feud against the State's largest employer.

Why? Well, Leyla Santiago explains part, in this report.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reedy Creek is a 25,000 acre independent special district that essentially allows Disney, to operate its own government, around its Orlando area theme parks. It's been here, for more than half a century. Has its own fire department, building department, even runs its own utilities.

Now, that is all set to change.

VISCILLA (ph), RESIDENT: People that don't live in this area don't understand what this is going to do to us. Why do I need to get entangled in some contest, you know, some presidential campaign that the governor is running?

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Widely seen as a potential GOP presidential candidate, Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, signed into law, a bill that'll get rid of Reedy Creek's special status.

Critics say it was retaliation, for Disney, the State's largest single-site employer, speaking out against a law, dubbed "Don't Say Gay," which limits how sexual orientation and gender identity are taught in classrooms.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We shouldn't let one company have their own set of rules, compared to everybody else.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Viscilla (ph) calls it political theater that will cost him.

VISCILLA (ph): Disney puts on a great show. And sometimes, our politicians try to put on a better show.

Quite honestly, I don't want to be paying their debt. I don't want to be paying their billion-dollar bond.


BURNETT: All right, everyone is back with me.

Van, here's the thing. DeSantis has clearly taken this on, right? It's a cultural issue, right? He's the - "Don't Say Gay," doesn't like their policies, this has been a thing. But then, he's going to, you know, you kind of get that victory such that he got it. And then, all of a sudden, there comes the reality here, which is money.

Disney currently, for all of the Disney parks, which is two full counties, right Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Typhoon Lagoon, Animal Kingdom, right, all of it, they pay for fire, ambulance, water, utilities, sewage, infrastructure and roads. Last I checked, these are usually things paid for by a government.

V. JONES: Yes.

BURNETT: So, if you're looking at a billion or $2 billion (ph), or whatever it is, all of a sudden Disney's not paying it.

V. JONES: Yes.

BURNETT: Well, what about Florida's taxes that are supposedly so low?

V. JONES: Yes. Well, look, there's so many things that are wrong here.

First, you have to remember, I thought the whole point of the Republican Party is freedom, free enterprise. This is, Xi Jinping, would love this idea that the government is going to step in, and start punishing companies that don't go along, with the party line.

This is Chinese Communist Party tactics, being put forward, by DeSantis. And yet, somehow, he is the right-wing guy. He's a conservative guy. He's a hero of the Right. I don't understand why this is good. It's good politics? It's not good politics. And also, it's very, very scary. If this guy winds up, in the White House, what is he going to do to every other American businesses that don't go along with him?

BURNETT: Go ahead, Alyssa.

FARAH GRIFFIN: It's - I would say this. It's good politics to play to the base. It's terrible for a general election, and ever working - being able to reach Independents.

And the thing with Ron DeSantis, because I personally think he's overhyped, as somebody who could be a GOP front-runner, is the fact that he's not battle-tested, either on a national level, or even frankly, in the media. He doesn't sit down, and do interviews.

I would love to genuinely hear his answer on why we shouldn't teach AP Black history, like that would be something I'd be very curious to hear, because I think he's conflating it with critical race theory, and other things, and just kind of playing fast-and-loose, to score the cheap political points.

This, by the way, to Van's point, is the definition of crony capitalism.

M. JONES: Yes.

FARAH GRIFFIN: And antithetical to conservatism.

V. JONES: Yes.


FARAH GRIFFIN: Which is, the Trump takeover for party.

BURNETT: And I do note, just as a point of transparency, you work for ABC, which is also happens to be owned by Disney.

Sorry, go ahead.

KINZINGER: Yes. I mean, the interesting thing about Ron DeSantis is he was part of shutting down the government, the whole time I was in Congress that he was there, over these different spending issues, and everything.

Congress Ron, back in the day, would always be against any government intrusion, in corporation. I mean, that's like - that's what Republicans get criticized for, right? We're too hands-off on corporations?


This is just literally playing outrage-of-the-day politics. It is great in a - trust me, it is great in a primary. I don't know what it's going to do to him, in the general election. But this violates everything that a conservative has ever stood for. And I don't think you can be for the government, state or federal coming in, and doing that.

BURNETT: And interesting that you're saying he didn't used to be that way. And again, what I'm pointing out is here--


BURNETT: --I've seen estimates, the property taxes, around there in Florida, could go up by 20 percent, to pay for this, right? When rubber meets the road, it's not as easy.

But Mondaire, he also - so, Disney to him is a cultural issue, as Alyssa points out.

Other cultural issues, he's taking out, there's a complaint obtained by the Floridian - of the Liquor Board of Florida, suing the Orlando Philharmonic-- M. JONES: The drag story hour.

BURNETT: Over "A Drag Queen Christmas."

Now, "Drag Queen Christmas" has been going on for eight years. DeSantis, we checked, has complained other years. But he's complaining that young children were there, and all ages were welcome.

We've got a picture from the complaint, just to give everyone a sense of it. It's pretty blurry. You can't totally see. But it's 9 o'clock. And so, we thought it was, at least people get a sense of it.

Now, Mondaire, is this a winning issue to do this, and say, "Look, this is a problem that 6-year-olds were there?"

M. JONES: Look, every day, this governor does something I am surprised by the extent to which people describe him as formidable, in a general election.

I mean, he's going to have to explain why he has banned AP African American Studies, to your point, Alyssa.

He's going to have to explain why he's attacking young LGBTQ people, who already experience thoughts of suicide, at multiple times a rate, as their cisgender heterosexual counterparts.


M. JONES: Included in that attack is this now attack on story hour, a drag queen story hour.

These are issues that I thought we had resolved, as a nation, whether we will teach Black History, whether we will acknowledge the mere existence of LGBTQ+ people.


M. JONES: And he's going to have real difficulty with white suburban voters who, I think, the Republican Party is going to need to court, aggressively, in the general election.

BURNETT: Well, one question, Van, let me put this to you. Drag queen story hour, it doesn't happen like - this is not a big thing, OK?

But to the extent that it is something that comes up? There are a lot of parents, who may not be Republican, or right-wing Republican, whoever, who might be uncomfortable with that. Is it a smart issue to pick it to, in other words, so that you as a Democrat are put in the position of defending why 6-year-olds should be allowed to go to drag queens?

V. JONES: It's cynical, and it's a kind of cynical thing that a bully does. It speaks poorly to his character. I don't think that the biggest threat to American children is some drag queen thing.

BURNETT: Yes. V. JONES: We got American kids going to bed hungry, you got American kids, who don't know, what's going to happen to them tomorrow. And tell you - but you pick on somebody, and you take their pain, and you use that for your own benefit? It's a character issue for him. And I think it's wrong.

M. JONES: If Ron DeSantis were worried about the safety of young children, in the State of Florida, he would not be making it easier for now to do permitless carry, right, in a spate of mass shootings all throughout this country. Instead, he's focused on things that are going to divide this country, in the hope that it will somehow allow him, to outflank Donald Trump, in a Republican primary.


M. JONES: That remains to be seen. It's plausible.

KINZINGER: But the one thing you do have to take into account is, are parents allowed to have input in their kids' education here? Is this something that kids, this drag queen story hour? And I don't know all the details of it. Are kids being basically put in front of that without parents having input, or parents being surprised at what that is? That, I have a problem with.

V. JONES: Sure.

KINZINGER: What I don't have a problem with is people doing things that they have a right and freedom to do. And I thought that's what--

BURNETT: People have a choice.

KINZINGER: People have a choice.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, and that's the difference. Therein lies the difference of actual conservatives. If I - I'm not comfortable, with the idea of a 6-year-old being at a drag show. I love drag. I'm 33. So, let's not ban it. Let's not have the heavy hand of the State coming in, make a decision, for parents. This seems like Conservatism 101. Let the parent opt into what they want their kids to have exposure to.

BURNETT: All right, well, it's going to be interesting to see, because obviously DeSantis has made it very clear, right? That is not where he stands when it comes to all of these issues. Big choice in the Republican Party.

All right, thanks very much to all.

And next, the bizarre challenge by the chief of the Russian private army, the Wagner Group, which is directly to President Zelenskyy, of Ukraine.

Plus, what kind of financial secrets could Vladimir Putin's ex-wife know? We're going to talk to the journalist, who went overseas, around Europe, to investigate, ended up at one of her lavish homes. And she's going to show you the pictures, next. [21:30:00]


BURNETT: Tonight, life of luxury, new details about Russian President Vladimir Putin's mysterious ex-wife. She was married to Putin, for 30 years.

"Politico" reporting the Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, and her current husband, now own two luxury apartments, in southern Spain, short walk from the beach, several swimming pools, on site. Looks pretty nice!

"Politico" also reporting there's a villa, in France that her now- husband purchased, the same year her divorce with Putin was announced. And then, there's a property in Davos, Switzerland that he purchased in 2015. That's the year they got married.

All of this leading to questions about where all that money came from, and why that couple has not been sanctioned, by the U.S. or the EU. Lyudmila and Putin, again, married for 30 years, two grown daughters together, grandchildren, they share grandchildren.

OUTFRONT now, Leonie Kijewski, the "Politico" Correspondent, who has done extensive reporting, on Putin's ex-wife's properties.

And Leonie, thank you so much for your time. And you've done so much reporting. As I said, you've got the receipts here, to show us, and the pictures.

Lyudmila is one of the closest people to Putin, in the world, maybe an ex-wife, right, but 30 years, of marriage, children together, grandchildren together, a life together.

And you traveled, across Europe, to visit these properties. Tell me about the Spanish apartment. You knocked on the door, and what happened?

LEONIE KIJEWSKI, POLITICO REPORTER: Yes. So, I visited together with a local journalist, Quasi Batista (ph). And we had been knocking on different doors, in the apartment complex, before, because it wasn't quite clear which door it actually was. But then, eventually neighbors told us.

And we did not expect that someone would actually open the door, because they're so secretive, usually.

But this business partner, this alleged business partner, called Vladimir, he opened the door, and actually offered to show it to us, and said, the couple is willing to sell it. And so, that was the first time we ever heard that they're considering selling it.

Unfortunately, the next day, he pulled out, and claimed it was a misunderstanding. But it just gave us an indication that they are willing to sell their properties.

BURNETT: So, let's just go through some of the timeline here that's very interesting.

Putin, and his wife, 30 years married, they announced their divorce, during a press conference, in 2013.

In 2014, Putin was asked about his relationship status. And just to give an indication? You're married to someone for 30 years. You've got two children, a life together. Here's what he said.



VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): First, I need to marry off my ex-wife, Lyudmila Aleksandrovna. And after that, I can worry about myself.



BURNETT: Says he needs to marry her off. The following year, Leonie, she does get married, to her now-husband.

Do you think it's possible Putin was passing these massive amounts of money? And, by the way, probably massive amounts, we don't even know about that - just give everyone the Panama Papers. To them?

KIJEWSKI: Certainly possible. And it's what the Navalny Foundation and Anti-Corruption Foundation is alleging.

There is no certain proof of this. But it does seem likely, because she has, in her declared income, and always year (ph) income essentially, of her own. So, it is quite unlikely that she could afford these properties, by her own, if she had not received any money.

She did get the ownership of a massive building, near the Kremlin, which generates a lot of income, for her, in rent. So, that would be one of the sources of her income that she got from essentially being married off, after the divorce from Putin.

BURNETT: Right. And as you say, this couple has no known income of their own.

But you're also talking about your reporting, the house in Davos that I know, we could literally see, in pictures, from people's live shots, as reporters, where it was, in the distance. You could see that house. Biarritz, other places, how many did you even find out about?

KIJEWSKI: Yes. So, we found out about four. And those are - there have been investigations before, into the property. And so, I checked them out. There're, as you said before, there're two, in Spain, one in Davos, in Switzerland, and one in Biarritz, in France.

But there could be many more, because these are just places that investigations have shown they have properties. But, in Europe, a lot of European countries don't have public registers, of properties. So, they could have apartments, in Germany and, in Portugal, and Sweden, that we just don't know about.

BURNETT: This is incredible. In a sense, as you say, it's so amazing what you found out, and yet, obviously, in so many ways, the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to just the unknown, massive amounts of money. Of course, when it comes to Putin, who knows? Tens and tens of billions!

Thank you so much, Leonie, for sharing that with us, and all the photos, as well.

KIJEWSKI: Thank you for having me.

BURNETT: All right.

And next, will tensions fall now that this Chinese spy balloon is down? OUTFRONT, a key lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee.

Plus, are words leading to violence? Why the artist, formerly known as Kanye West, is topping one chart that very few would admire.



BURNETT: Tonight, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the notorious private Wagner army, recording a video, from a Russian fighter jet, and claiming to have bombed Eastern Ukraine. Prigozhin challenging President Zelenskyy, to a dogfight, in the sky, saying if Zelenskyy wins, he can keep the eastern city of Bakhmut.

This comes, as intense fighting continues, around Bakhmut, tens - lots of people are dying, dying horrible deaths, a Ukrainian commander describing the city as an unwinnable fortress. Thousands of Russian soldiers have died there, Ukrainians have died there.

Democratic congressman, Jim Himes, of Connecticut is out front. He is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

And Congressman, you're being briefed regularly. So, you know the very latest about Prigozhin's growing influence, in Moscow.

The former U.S. Commanding General for Europe, earlier tonight, told me that if Prigozhin went up in a MiG, above Ukraine, he'd be shot down and killed. So, why is he engaging in this propaganda, in a fighter jet, and frankly, seemingly childishly suggesting that he and President Zelenskyy have an air duel?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Well, it's all understandable in the context of what it is he's trying to do. He's basically trying to displace the Russian military hierarchy, right?


HIMES: So, this is the whole point, by the way, about his fight in Bakhmut, which is not a terribly important military prize. But he's saying, "Look, we, you know, Russia hasn't had a lot of wins. And the one win," arguably, it's not done yet, "but the one win arguably that Russia has is under me, not under the Ministry of Defense, not under all these four-star generals. It's under me."

So, it's very much a power play, inside the Kremlin, which by the way, I mean, it's just, you wouldn't anticipate that a frat boy would challenge enemies, to a dogfight. But that's the nature of the testosterone-fueled conflicts, inside the Kremlin.

BURNETT: It's just really amazing, right? I mean, on a day, where you see - we have a video, of a Russian, running, his entire body on fire, that one of the most senior people, in charge of the battle there, would be making mockery of a dogfight. It is hard to get your head around it.

So, the other day, I talked to a Russian officer, the senior-most officer, who's spoken out. He fought on the front lines, for several months. He said he witnessed torture there. He's detailed it. He's talked about it. He was in an anti-mine unit. He's defected now, and he's seeking asylum in the United States.

So, Congressman, I actually talked to him, when he was in Mexico. He's approached Border guards. He's now formally seeking asylum. And here's some of what he told me.


KONSTANTIN YEFREMOV, FORMER RUSSIAN SENIOR LIEUTENANT, FLED MILITARY (through translator): I ask the Ukrainian people for forgiveness that I came to their land with a gun in my hand.

I believe that the United States of America is the country of democracy, where human rights are upheld.


BURNETT: Congressman, should the U.S. entertain his asylum plea, or one from any Russian soldiers, who defect from the military?

HIMES: Yes, Erin, I don't know a lot of details about the particular case. But I will point out that this is a really difficult and challenging area.

You can't have a situation, where war criminals, and an awful lot of mid-level and senior officers, in the Russian military, are war criminals, where they decide that their get-out-of-jail-free-card is to defect, and come to the United States, right?


So, I wish I could tell you there was a simple answer to this. But we obviously encourage defections. It's not bad to see senior members in the Russian military decide that they no longer want to be in the fight.

But at the end of the day?


HIMES: The war criminals will need to be held accountable. And so, it's going to be a challenge for us, to figure out, who should get asylum, and who needs to be held accountable, for their war crimes?

BURNETT: Right, right. And certainly, all of that out in the public, in a way that, it wasn't when, Otto Von Braun (ph) - I mean, I'm just thinking of other situations of foreign history that we can all think of.

I want to ask you also about China, if I can, Congressman. We're learning more about the three Chinese spy balloon incidents that went undetected, during the Trump administration. One of them at least was, in 2019, balloon seen over Florida and Texas, one transited from Hawaii, all the way down to Florida. And we're just finding out about them now.

What can you tell us about that? Is that, because after they saw this one, they were able to say, "Oh, now we know what this looks like. Now, we can see things that we thought were UFOs, or UAPs," as the term may be, "now, were actually balloons?"

HIMES: Yes. So, I can't get too deep into the details. But I can tell you this, which is that it's almost impossible, to fly something, the size of one of these balloons, because they're truly massive, right? This is not what you see at the county fair.

These things are truly massive. They're eminently visible, as we know, from the civilians, who saw them, with the naked eye, in Montana. So, it should come as a surprise to nobody, that we actually know a fair amount about the history of Chinese piling these balloons.

Now, who knew what inside the Trump administration? It's not clear to me, right now, what the answer to that question is.

But it is important that people understand that this is not a radically new technology that we were completely unaware of. And, by the way, the opportunity to observe, we'll have a whole conversation inside the Congress, about whether the Biden administration was clear enough, and transparent enough, with what was happening.

But the opportunity to advise one of these things up - to observe one of these things, up close and personal, is a huge counterintelligence win, for the United States.

BURNETT: All right. Congressman Himes, thanks so much. I appreciate your time.

HIMES: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, hate in America, from fliers left by cowards, to the ugly statements of a celebrity, all of which may be fueling the rise of anti-Semitism. A special report, next.



BURNETT: Georgia police, tonight, are investigating anti-Semitic flyers, found in several Atlanta area neighborhoods. This comes after anti-Semitic flyers were found in driveways, and mailboxes, in a different suburb of Atlanta, in November.

Nick watt is OUTFRONT with details, on one factor that's fueling the rise in anti-Semitism, around the U.S.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The NYPD is looking for this man, wanted for attacking a Jewish man, in Central Park, and shouting "Kanye 24."

Kanye West, now known as Ye, had posted this, a few weeks prior. "When I wake up I'm going death con 3 On Jewish People."

WATT (on camera): The top 10 worst global anti-Semitic incidents, of last year, and you put as number one, the influencers. Why?


MALINA SAVAL, FEATURES EDITOR, VARIETY: He's got a larger reach than there are Jews in the entire world.

WATT (voice-over): #KanyeIsRight was tweeted nearly 10,000 times, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and potentially seen by more than 2 billion people.

KANYE WEST, AMERICAN RAPPER: The business people that have raped my people that just so happen to be Jewish!

WATT (voice-over): But who is actually listening to him?

Ben Jealous is a former NAACP President, and author, a civil rights activist.

BEN JEALOUS, FORMER PRESIDENT, NAACP, AUTHOR, "NEVER FORGET OUR PEOPLE WERE ALWAYS FREE": Simply put, most Black folks really don't have time, for a Black man, who rushes to Mar-a-Lago, with a white supremacist.

WATT (voice-over): He's talking about Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier, who joined Ye, for dinner, with Donald Trump.

JEALOUS: Now, where Kanye West can be helpful, perhaps, with Mr. Fuentes, is with young White men.

WATT (voice-over): "KANYE IS RIGHT ABOUT THE JEWS" was hung, above the 405 freeway by White anti-Semites.

ABRAHAM COOPER: Their 15 minutes of mainstream fame. They were gifted this amazing gift by this social influencer.

WATT (voice-over): But one recent study also claims "Young Black and Hispanic respondents express anti-Semitic attitudes at about the same rate, as White alt-right respondents," like these guys.


WATT (voice-over): However, the analysis does not reach a definitive conclusion, about why a teenager, was reportedly arrested, for dousing an old Orthodox Jewish man, on his way to pray, last summer.

On "SNL," Dave Chappelle explained that Ye was saying the quiet part out loud.

DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: He had broken the show business rules. This is a rule. You know the rules of perception. If they're Black, then it's a gang. If they're Italian, it's a mob. But if they're Jewish, it's a coincidence, and you should never speak about it.


WATT (voice-over): Let's speak about it. Jews were heavily involved in creating Hollywood, because they were barred from nearly every white- collar industry, by an anti-Semitic society.

And today?

WATT (on camera): The best estimate I can find, Times of Israel, wooly (ph), but 20 percent of managers, agents, executives in Hollywood are Jewish.

SAVAL: There's no hard facts to back up that number.

Say, we come up with the numbers and we do find out that there are a disproportionate number of Jews working in Hollywood, just for argument's sake?

WATT (on camera): Sure.

SAVAL: Just for argument's sake. So what?

WATT (voice-over): If 20 percent of Hollywood biggish wigs are Jewish, 80 percent are not.

SAVAL: So, we don't even cast Jews as Jews. So, where is the control?

In the upcoming movie, "Golda," which is about Golda Meir, OK, Helen Mirren, wonderful actress, not Jewish.

WATT (voice-over): In the fall, another Black star, Kyrie Irving, then of the Brooklyn Nets, posted a link, to an anti-Semitic movie.


WATT (voice-over): Slow to apologize. KYRIE IRVING, FORMER BROOKLYN NETS: I'm just I'm proud of my heritage and what we've been through.

WATT (voice-over): Irving was suspended.


CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER PRO BASKETBALL PLAYER: First of all, being Black in America is already hard enough. And for us to go at other ethnic groups, just makes things worse, because it's hard enough being Black.

WATT (voice-over): It is. The majority of hate crimes in America are race-related, says the FBI. And almost half of them target Black people.

JEALOUS: I've spent most of my life, leading Civil Rights institutions that were either started by Blacks, and then joined by Jews, or started by Jews, and then joined by Blacks.

ABRAHAM COOPER: I still am convinced to this day that Blacks and Jews have a natural alliance that needs to be reconnected.

JEALOUS: On both sides.

WATT (on camera): Would you agree with that?

JEALOUS: Yes. Yes. Certainly, I mean, there's always pain, on both sides.


WATT: And one thing that everybody can agree on is that hate is being spread, on social media, whoever is posting it, whoever is reading it.

And for proof of the growth, of the problem, just look to New York City. Hate crimes, up in the past five years; crimes against Jewish people way, way up. And, as the Mayor says, the way goes New York, goes the entire country.

What Kanye is saying is not new. But he's spreading it to a wide audience. He is, as they say, these days, an influencer.


BURNETT: Yes. Thank you so much, Nick Watt.

And thanks to all of you.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Alisyn Camerota, is next.