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Erin Burnett Outfront
WH Scrambles For New Approach On Handling Unidentified Objects; Sources: DeSantis Preparing Political Operation For 2024 Presidential Campaign As Trump Steps Up Attacks; Police: Suspect On Foot After Shots Fired At Michigan State University. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired February 13, 2023 - 21:00 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, new reporting, into OUTFRONT, from inside the White House, on how the President is responding, behind closed doors, to the unidentified objects, flying over the U.S. Will he share the details, with the American public?
Plus, Governor Ron DeSantis, inching closer, to a 2024 announcement, one major donor telling CNN, tonight, "I like Trump, but DeSantis will be the nominee," calling the choice between the two, quote, "Awkward." We have new details on DeSantis' planning, this hour.
And she worked for Russia state television. Then, she protested Putin's war, on live TV. And tonight, she's OUTFRONT. You'll see that interview this hour.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. Welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT, tonight.
Critical electronics, from China's spy balloon, are now in the hands of the FBI. We are learning that now. And we understand that this has been recovered, along with a, quote, "Significant portion" of the balloon, off the coast of South Carolina. Now, this is according to the latest that we have from a U.S. Defense official.
And it comes, as we're learning new details, about the rush, inside the West Wing, to better understand, and therefore better respond, to the growing number of unidentified objects that have now been shot down, over North America.
It's sort of a strange sentence that maybe a week ago, you wouldn't imagine me saying, a bunch of objects, shot down over North America, by U.S. fighter jets! This is where we are. Now, there's four, in eight days.
And one former senior U.S. official tells our Phil Mattingly, "We can't shoot down everything."
OK, more on this in just a moment, because it comes in the context of the National Security Council's John Kirby saying today that the U.S. knows very little about the other three objects, including whether they were equipped with sensitive security equipment, or not.
This all leads to a lot of questions, tonight. We're going to tackle them, in just a moment.
But first, I want to begin with Phil Mattingly, who is OUTFRONT live, outside the White House, tonight.
Phil, you've been talking to all your sources there. And what are you learning now?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, White House officials, U.S. officials generally acknowledged that there are just so many unanswered questions, about the three objects that were shot down, over three days.
However, if you want a window, into this moment, inside the West Wing, should watch just how quickly the gears of government are being kicked into gear, to try and address the longer-term issues here. It underscores just how unprepared U.S. officials were, for this moment.
You mentioned it. That sentence that you read is something that not just most Americans couldn't imagine a week ago, White House officials, though they have been keenly aware of the idea of unidentified objects, there have been briefings on them, in the classified session, for the President, specifically, even a report that they would be having to grapple with it, in this moment.
And I think that's why you saw today, John Kirby also announce that there would be the implementation of a task force of sorts, an interagency team, led by National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, that would draw on really the entirety of the government, to try and figure out, not just why this is happening now, but what the broader policy response should be.
As you noted, that former senior U.S. official saying, "We can't shoot down everything all the time," also went on to say, we need a policy response here. And we clearly don't have one yet, because we simply haven't seen this before.
Now, what that policy response will be, officials say, they want to move quickly on that. As they've noted publicly, they've widened the aperture, in terms of the radar. They may be picking up these objects, these three objects, because of that, which means more may be coming in the future.
MATTINGLY: And that means they need a broader policy response, in terms of when to engage with U.S. fighters, as they have, over the course of the last several days, what new thresholds would be.
As they wait, Erin, for the information to come, from the collection efforts, for those three objects, this broader policy process, this broader effort, across the government, the FAA, the--
BURNETT: Yes. MATTINGLY: --Department of Homeland Security Intelligence agencies, underscores just how serious this moment is, inside the Administration, and just how little they knew before this point. I think that more than anything else is a great window, into this moment in time. You don't really ever see the government move this quickly, on this broad an issue--
MATTINGLY: --to try and get their hands around something. And I think when you talk to White House officials, they acknowledge, with all these unanswered questions, over the near-term, the longer-term is just as important. And that's why you've seen the Biden administration, at the direction of the President, really laser- focused on that right now.
BURNETT: All right, Phil Mattingly, thank you so much, with the new reporting, from the White House.
And everyone here is here with me.
Major Lyons, let me start with you.
The former senior U.S. official, telling Phil Mattingly, quote, "We can't shoot down everything all the time?"
And I guess I'm sort of stating the obvious here, but sometimes it needs to be stated. Two weeks ago, there were things floating, over the U.S., and we weren't shooting them down. Either, we didn't see them, or we didn't want to. Now, all the sudden, what are you going to do, just shoot everything? I mean, it feels unprepared.
MAJ. MIKE LYONS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Yes. All quiet, on the Northern Front, today. As of right now, nothing shot down today.
I think that's exactly what they're doing, though. They're increasing that aperture. And their concern is false positives, because we would be scrambling F-22s, and F-16s, all the time, for potentially bird formations, or all kinds of other things. These are radar equipment that has its imperfections.
LYONS: If anything, it's tells us we have to reinvest in that infrastructure, get better over-the-horizon technology, both near- term, and long-term, with regards to this kind of situation.
BURNETT: And look, Congressman, here's the issue. There is a reality, here, which is that this wouldn't have happened, if the balloon, the Chinese spy balloon, had not become public, right, if everyone didn't know about it, right?
MONDAIRE JONES, (D) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Yes.
BURNETT: This sort of forced us, increasingly, into this position.
A senior administration official, again, telling Phil, "This is not something people need to panic about, or a crisis that would require the President to go out right now. What they need to know is the President is taking this seriously and receiving briefings from advisors."
Is that enough, right now?
JONES: Look, if this were an episode, of "The X-Files," which is my favorite TV show, it would be intriguing.
But instead, people are rightfully concerned, to say the least.
JONES: I think there needs to be a policy response, when it comes to how to deal with these unidentified objects, flying across the continental United States. The American people deserve predictability.
And, I think, our adversaries, or potential adversaries, need to know how we're going to deal with this, moving forward, if they were to send another spy balloon, for example, in the case of the first of four unidentified objects.
BURNETT: And it is amazing, though, that we don't have that, John, at this point, right? I mean, it's not as if this was the first spy balloon.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BURNETT: Just to state the obvious, I mean, I'm not just saying it, because it's obvious. I'm saying it because they've looked at past radar, and determined that--
AVLON: Because it's true.
BURNETT: --in there were other spy balloons.
JONES: And because of a shared value.
AVLON: Yes, no, but look, I mean, clearly, the threshold has changed, in terms of the U.S. posture, the U.S. response.
I think the key questions are, first of all, these last three incidents, what are they, getting the information out to the American people as soon as possible, because it's not sustainable, to simply call them unidentified flying objects.
The second issue, specifically with the--
BURNETT: Right. AVLON: --first Chinese balloon, as massive as it was, what were they getting? What were the Chinese getting information-wise that is not available from, say, satellite imagery, which is highly - what new technologies might have been tested? Those are really important questions that we need answers to, because China has been getting bolder and bolder, about violating U.S. sovereignty.
AVLON: And, on multiple fronts. And this is just the latest example of that.
BURNETT: And Alyssa, here's the thing. This, at least as far as we know, certainly started back, in the Trump administration, right? Now, it's one of - some of these things that they have now identified, in retrospect, were balloons were flying then. Secretary of Defense Esper said he didn't know, right? They weren't aware.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Well, and that's what I've been struck by. And this came up - when I was at the Pentagon, we were not aware of it. Secretary Esper was not. And it signals to me that potentially an adversary is exploiting something that we were not monitoring, at least with regard to the first, what we now know is a PCR-attached (ph) balloon.
BURNETT: The one, the size of three buses.
FARAH GRIFFIN: The large one.
FARAH GRIFFIN: What's interesting is that there's a lot to explore here. But the other three, even if, let's say, it's a weather balloon, it's flying in commercial airspace, or at least the height that a commercial aircraft would.
FARAH GRIFFIN: That's a danger in and of itself. And how do we not have the capabilities to be able to monitor that better? I think that the President needs to get more information, but at some point needs to brief the public.
The fear of the unknown is tremendous. And John and I have talked about this.
When the first balloon went over the U.S., it tore the country apart, for about 24 hours. The right, "Shoot it down," the left, "Don't touch it." And it has anything exposed to our adversaries that the best thing you could do is just fly something in the sky, and tear us apart, from within. So, the more facts we have, the better, and the President needs to get out front.
BURNETT: So, let me just ask you here, Major. The House Intelligence Committee held hearings, on UFOs, couple years ago. The Senate had an Intelligence report, from 2020, 2.5 years ago, right? It was in June. Here we are, in February.
And they said, this was in their report, "The Committee remains concerned that there is no unified, comprehensive process within the Federal Government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena," which I guess they thought was somehow better than UFOs, "despite the potential threat... the Committee finds that the information sharing and coordination across the Intelligence Community has been inconsistent, and this issue has lacked attention from senior leaders."
Well, clearly, all these hearings, and nobody seems to have done anything!
LYONS: Yes, doesn't look like the rose got pinned on anybody to do it. And it's obviously the Military's mission. The question is it the Air Force, or Navy or somebody, depending on where the situation arises.
But there's got to be better communication within Inter-Services, with regards to this, because nothing is unidentified. It might be unidentified on a radar, which is just a piece of equipment.
LYONS: But until a pilot gets up there, puts eyes on it, or maybe in the future, where a drone gets up there, puts a camera on it, until you actually can see what actually is up there, it really doesn't matter.
BURNETT: And, by the way, Mitt Romney, tonight, John said, there's no way and - I'm sorry, Marco Rubio, tonight, said, "There's no way an F- 35 or an F-22 is going to go out there and not basically film it."
BURNETT: He said, literally, they're going to put their iPhone out there, and take a picture, this is what I'm about to shoot down.
Do you think that that we're going to get images here, of this stuff, up close?
AVLON: Eventually. But I don't think the professionals, flying those planes are going leave behind--
BURNETT: I was about to say I don't--
AVLON: --the information.
BURNETT: I kind of actually would be surprised--
BURNETT: --if those guys would take out their iPhone, and do it. But I would expect there to be footage of some sort, right? AVLON: Yes. And the question is the footage we've seen in these previous UFO inquiries, how much of this were foreign adversaries, flying the surveillance planes? This is one of the many questions that need to be answered.
You mentioned Mitt Romney. And one of the things he said, out of a recent briefing, is that he actually supported Biden's decision, right?
The people were saying, Biden should have shot in over, over Montana, let's say. That was apparently, according to CNN reporting, Biden's initial instinct.
And then the Military said "No. Wait for it to pass over, so there's no - minimal damage to anyone on the ground."
And also, Biden focused on "Let's retrieve the data. Let's get the information, so we know what we're targeting."
BURNETT: Gave them time to observe it.
BURNETT: It was the argument.
JONES: Which was a response, I appreciated, from Mitt Romney, because the fact is, to Alyssa's point--
JONES: --it shouldn't be so easy to divide this country.
JONES: There should not have been political responses to this. There should have been a response, in support of a White House that was acting, at the urging, and at the recommendation, of the U.S. Intelligence Community, and the Military. That is what this should always have been by way of response.
FARAH GRIFFIN: And can I say one thing?
FARAH GRIFFIN: I spoke to Chuck Schumer, earlier today. And he mentioned that he would be in favor, of a bipartisan investigation, into just to look into the origins.
BURNETT: That's right, yes.
FARAH GRIFFIN: And I think that's an incredibly important starting point, because well some, this may be, again, weather phenomena. Some may be technology that our adversaries have that we are not aware of it. LYONS: Yes.
FARAH GRIFFIN: And that's something we have to get our arms around sooner, rather than later.
BURNETT: Well, and Major this, I guess, is the real question. You sit here, as just a regular person, which you aren't, but we all are, in our own ways.
And you say, "Wait a minute! We have the greatest Military intelligence apparatus in the world." So, we think and so China says we have. And yet, we didn't seem to know about this. And it raises questions, about how great that apparatus is. I think that's why people feel a bit unsettled.
LYONS: Well, I think we knew about the balloon coming from China. I think that's a given. The question is how did we respond to it? And we obviously spotted over Montana. We let it come across the country. For all those reasons that Alyssa pointed out--
BURNETT: No, but I'm saying we didn't know until - I mean, they didn't know about the prior things that had been reported as UFOs--
BURNETT: --that only in retrospect that they say.
BURNETT: So there's - that's I think the--
LYONS: Probably that's got caught up in the Military bureaucracy, or the Military chain of command.
LYONS: This is a staff officer, sitting on the coastline, looking at a radar, someplace, and seeing an anomaly, and then reporting it up to somebody. And then, by the time it gets to the NORAD level, might have gotten somebody that said, "That really is nothing," or "Nothing's going to happen."
JONES: I would just say as someone who has had to vote on gargantuan Military budgets, on consecutive occasions?
JONES: It is appalling to me that we would not have learned until relatively recently, I think, last year, in the spring that this happened at least three times, under Donald Trump's administration. What are we doing with all of the money that Congress is appropriating to our Defense? BURNETT: Well this is the question, right? I mean, yes that is a fair question.
AVLON: It is. And I think, rather than looking at the Democrat or Republican administration of it, the question is, why was that information not being made more available, floated up the chain of command, so to speak? And so the American people had awareness that perhaps the Military was aware of spy balloons, flying over the United States, and was treating it in a way, "Let's wait and see and follow it," point of view, which is not sufficient?
FARAH GRIFFIN: And just--
FARAH GRIFFIN: Real quick, when I was at the Pentagon, this saying to me (ph) that's open source, obviously, we, at one point, were briefed on Russian submarines that came into U.S. territorial waters. That's something that we immediately briefed down, and reacted to, and responded to, with a proportional response. This is something that never even made it to a place, where it was briefed, to a level--
FARAH GRIFFIN: --that we were prepared to react, to prepare to give the White House responses to. That's sort of scary, that something as significant as a massive surveillance balloon never made it to the President's desk.
BURNETT: Yes. I mean, certainly is, right? Whether it didn't get there, or it wasn't seen, I mean, these are the big questions that we still don't know.
LYONS: Yes. That's on the Military, I think.
LYONS: The Military's got to do a better job with that.
BURNETT: Right. And we all do need those answers.
All right, all thanks, stay with me.
Because next, we have new reporting, into OUTFRONT. Governor Ron DeSantis, you'll see some fresh reporting here, on where he is on a 2024 run, and it appears quite close. One major donor predicting tonight that DeSantis will be the nominee. Well, that's wishful thinking by that person! Who knows! We'll see.
Plus, the Russian journalist, who stood up to Vladimir Putin, and protested his war, on live television. She joins me tonight. She's going to tell you how her and her young daughter escaped Moscow. It's an incredible story, and whether she regrets anything about her public stand, against Putin. And the hits just keep on coming for Congressman George Santos. Big questions, being raised tonight, by a "New York Times" investigation that found more than $365,000, in unexplained and undocumented expenses. At least one of his donors is now talking with the Justice Department.
BURNETT: New tonight, Ron DeSantis, getting ready, to take on Donald Trump. Two people, close to the, Governor, telling CNN's Steve Contorno that behind-the-scenes he is preparing a political operation for 2024 campaign. And the top advisers, to DeSantis, are also in the early stages of launching what could be a Super PAC, to help him do that.
Top donors telling CNN it can't happen soon enough. One saying, quote, "It's awkward for many of us who genuinely like President Trump but believe Governor DeSantis should be our party's nominee. Trump can't beat Biden. We've seen that already."
Comes as "The New York Times" reports, DeSantis is also debating how and when to respond more directly, to growing attacks, and criticism, from Trump, some of which, of course, has been deeply personal and nasty.
Everyone is back with me.
And Astead Herndon also joins the conversation now.
OK, so here we are. Just to set the stage here, Astead?
ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes.
BURNETT: No president in American history has come from Florida. And now, you might have two 2024 candidates, in fact, by polls, the only two that registered, right now.
BURNETT: Others are hypothetical. But kind of a third for Trump, a third for DeSantis, and then that's it.
And here we are. It's a pretty incredible moment.
HERNDON: It is. And I think Florida has seen a political transition of its own to see the governor, and Donald Trump, kind of rise above the class that we once thought was going to come out of Florida.
But this is Ron DeSantis, making a name out of himself, on a lot of different levels. I want to shout out the article, from Nate Cohn, and detailed at the "Times" today. He talked about how Ron DeSantis is way further than someone like Governor Scott Walker, who was polling at something like 7 percent. When you look at the polling, he's up there closer, to the Rudy Giulianis, who were rising, who were rising, in the 2008 primary.
HERNDON: Now, we know that that person did not win. But it is a level of name recognition.
BURNETT: So, about to say, it might not be president.
HERNDON: No. No, no, no, no, no, no, I was saying that. But that is a still a level of name recognition that puts him in a--
HERNDON: --different type of category--
AVLON: It does.
HERNDON: --than a lot of 2024 others.
BURNETT: OK. Totally fair.
Now, Alyssa, the thing for DeSantis--
HERNDON: "Hear me out! Hear me out!"
BURNETT: You're like, "Let me finish my sentence."
OK, is that DeSantis has so far not responded to Trump's criticism, some of which recently have been very personal, putting pictures of him up with high school students, and stuff like that when he was in his 20s.
But every time DeSantis is responding to Trump, he does it without using his name. Here's how he's done it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd like to know what you think about Trump's big announcement and some of the less-than-flattering comments he's made, about you.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Well, you know, one of the things I've learned, like, and learned in this job is when you're doing - when you're leading, when you're getting things done, yes, you take incoming fire.
I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard, from last Tuesday night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump has criticized you a number of times in the past couple of days on a number of different issues, one of them being COVID in the state. DESANTIS: Well, look, what I would just say is this. I roll out of bed. I have people attacking me from all angles.
What I would just say is that verdict has been rendered by the people of the State of Florida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FARAH GRIFFIN: He can't put off taking on Trump, directly. I think this is actually a savvy approach now, for DeSantis, before he gets into focus on "I'm not busy attacking fellow Republicans," like the former President is. That's probably the starkest contrast he can create with Donald Trump. He's running on a very similar lane. Really, his only argument different than Trump is "I don't come with the baggage." He's running on the anti-wokeism, the culture wars.
FARAH GRIFFIN: Very similar tone and tenor to Donald Trump, not really trying to wrap his arm around Independents and Moderates. But he's going to have to respond to him, at some point. And the attacks are only going to get uglier. There's been reporting of workshop names that Trump's looking at.
FARAH GRIFFIN: And Trump is going to come back in a bigger, more vocal way than he is, right now. He's still not on mainstream social media. He's going to be front and center again. DeSantis won't be able to ignore him. And I think it's going to be a fight to watch.
HERNDON: Look, I have another contrast he makes with Trump, is a kind of governance approach, the more calm version of Trumpism.
When you talk to Republican voters, they mention that that the rolling set of scandals was not something that they were - there was something they were willing to take with Donald Trump. There's not something they prefer was coming out of the White House. So, Ron DeSantis is also laying a subtle contrast that you can get the Trump policy without the Trump ruckus.
BURNETT: Right, right, OK.
And so, you mentioned the names. Now, I know. But "Meatball Ron" apparently is one of them. I mean, they're testing them. But this is the thing. I mean, the "Meatball Ron"--
AVLON: This is sandbox politics.
BURNETT: --"Shutdown Ron," which I can just say that's terrible, because that's not the national perception of Florida.
BURNETT: Quite the opposite. Of course, perhaps the best one is "Ron DeSanctimonious," which he has used.
AVLON: That was his initial instinct.
BURNETT: That was his initial instinct. But when you look at the polls, OK? You look at the polls here. You've got DeSantis-Trump, as I said, 33 percent-33 percent, if you look at DeSantis-Trump, in a GOP primary. But double-digit lead, when it's a one-on-one race.
Hold on, we can show that double-digit lead. There you go.
AVLON: Yes. That's extraordinary. And of course, that's what DeSantis wants. Right now, he's got the best of both worlds. He can focus on being governor. He has virtually basically an undeclared candidacy. And he wants it to be seen as a two-person race. Now, soon enough, we'll have other candidates actually get in.
AVLON: But for the time being, DeSantis can basically clear the field, focus on being governor, and say, "Look, you got a candidate, who can own the labs, like Trump, but without the baggage, and with state- governing experience, who won a 20-point margin reelection." That's his best stat. That's why in that clip, you just showed, he keeps coming back to it, because that's his best argument.
BURNETT: Right. Now, you point out, he's got name recognition. And he does, right? But as the field gets bigger, and people get to know him better, that's going to be the glint question.
And of course, Congressman, you've got Tim Scott, now likely to get in, we understand, going to hold a Black History Month event, in Thursday, in South Carolina. And you've got Nikki Haley, from South Carolina, also about to announce.
Can anybody breakthrough?
JONES: Look, I think in a crowded field, Donald Trump prevails easily. And I think the polling bears that out. It happened in the last contested primary, back in 2016. We saw that, in real-time. And I just don't know what people are doing, other than potentially vying for a VP slot.
But I will also say, as someone, who has run for office, in the past, like polling is a snapshot in time.
JONES: So, what looks to be the case?
BURNETT: This even that anymore. I mean, there's a lot of questions raised about it. I mean, I'm not trying to be all, you know?
FARAH GRIFFIN: Yes.
BURNETT: But there are.
JONES: About the veracity of polling, yes.
BURNETT: Yes, about the veracity of polling.
JONES: Fair enough. I mean, Ron DeSantis, is doing so well, that I'd like to think that it's not a glitch, for now.
JONES: In terms of the way Republican voters are thinking.
Side note, as a Democrat, I look forward to seeing this food fight, between Donald Trump, and Ron DeSantis, who I think is easily, as extreme as Donald Trump is, but yes, somehow more palatable to Republican voters.
AVLON: But look, I mean, Nikki Haley seems set to announce, this week. The man, she appointed to the Senate, Tim Scott may follow soon after.
AVLON: And they're the first folks, who are announcing, in the pool, versus Donald Trump. The question will be how do they approach it? Do they basically run as the trial balloon, to be someone's VP, which is the surest-fire way to lose?
Or do they really plant a flag and say, "Look, I'm going to run as a candidate of generational change, optimistic about the American Dream," and be willing to take it to Donald Trump, where it counts.
You can't back down. You can't shimmy. You can't hope that he's going to--
AVLON: --offer you as benediction for a VP, next go-round. And that's going to be one of the real tests, of their campaigns.
FARAH GRIFFIN: Do--
BURNETT: Yes, go ahead.
FARAH GRIFFIN: Go ahead. Keep in mind that we are in a hyper-primary moment.
FARAH GRIFFIN: This is so early on Bobby Jindal was probably the front-runner, this time, several years ago.
FARAH GRIFFIN: So, a lot could change. And we've got folks, who are running, to the base of the baseline. That works very well to generate national media attention, which leads to name recognition, and donors. But as more folks get in, and it starts to force people to challenge--
FARAH GRIFFIN: --"OK, what's your actual vision? What are your actual policies? What are we doing beyond like don't go broke and woke," or whatever, like it has to get beyond a hashtag, at a point, with the exception of Donald Trump, who blew--
FARAH GRIFFIN: --every political rule out of the water.
BURNETT: And well, this is the real question for Nikki Haley, and Tim Scott, both of whom have struggled with this, OK, in their own ways. How do you do that in the GOP, right?
BURNETT: You're going to talk about being the - it's this is an anti- woke party at its base, right? That is DeSantis, and Trump.
BURNETT: Nikki Haley, and Tim Scott are, they don't look that way.
BURNETT: So, can they play this game differently?
HERNDON: A lot of Republicans have kind of told themselves that it was Donald Trump, who was dictating those views, to the base.
HERNDON: But that is going to be borne out, in this Republican primary.
HERNDON: Independent of Donald Trump, they are going to have to answer those questions about wokeness--
HERNDON: --about the culture wars, as we sometimes call them. And Ron DeSantis, and Republican voters, will be pushing them, to the right. It's going to be up to them, to really try to find that. And this is where Ron DeSantis has another benefit for waiting, because he can kind of see how those litmus tests develop.
HERNDON: Among the other candidate. AVLON: Yes, but I think they could be in uniquely strong positions, to condemn the sort of wokeness and the culture wars, while representing a more diverse America, and affirm the virtue of the American Dream.
BURNETT: Big-tent GOP, which is that - right.
AVLON: In a way that could be very powerful.
BURNETT: Their pick.
AVLON: And appealing.
BURNETT: All right.
AVLON: Watch it.
BURNETT: Thank you all very much.
And next, Breaking News, we're just getting reports of a shooting at Michigan State University. Everyone, on campus, right now being, told, to shelter in place. We have the details, next.
Plus, my new interview, with the, Russian journalist, who risked her life, to speak out, against the war, on Ukraine.
BURNETT: We're following some Breaking News out of Michigan. There are reports of a shooting, at Michigan State University, in Lansing. University Police also saying the suspect is, right now, on foot. The University advising everyone to be secure in place, immediately.
Now, we're right now gathering more information, and we're going to bring it to you as soon as we get it. So, we're monitoring this for you. And we'll be coming back to it, in just a moment, as we get more.
I also want to update you, on the new major Russian offensive, inside Ukraine. And that is the warning we're getting, tonight, from the Secretary-General of NATO, who says Russia has accepted that the thousands of new soldiers it's sending to battle will suffer an incredibly high casualty rate.
Ukrainian Military, tonight, says such large numbers of Russian soldiers are being wounded that they have had to seize a maternity hospital, and a children's hospital, in Eastern Ukraine, to even treat their own troops, the ones that they are treating.
David McKenzie is OUTFRONT, to detail, the recent Russian losses, in Eastern Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russian units, pushing forward, again and again, only to be obliterated by Ukrainian artillery, mines and drones.
CNN analysis, of multiple videos, taken over the past fortnight, show the Russians lost at least 30 tanks, and armored personnel carriers, in this area alone, and it seems several hundred soldiers. These units seem without leadership or tactics. As Russian soldiers scramble to take cover, they are mercilessly cut down, Russian tanks and fighting vehicles, coring straight into well-placed minefields.
At one point, the lifeless body, of a Russian soldier, gets entangled, in tank tracks.
These satellite images, provided to CNN, show the intense bombardment, of the tree lines, where Russian army tried and failed to take cover, and a landscape littered with destroyed machines.
President Putin's only comment, on the fighting here.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
MCKENZIE (voice-over): "The Marine infantry are maintaining the operation just fine," he says, "This very moment, they are fighting heroically."
The U.K. says that Russians are losing soldiers, at the highest rate, since the start of the war.
Even Russian Military bloggers are venting their anger, at the tactics and commanders. "Only morons attack head-on in the same heavily fortified place," writes one. Another, demanding the General in-charge be put on trial.
MCKENZIE (on camera): If you see the tactics the Russians are using, does it look like they know what they're doing, in that particular part of the front?
KATERYNA STEPANENKO, RUSSIA ANALYST, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: It really doesn't. It's absolutely absurd that they've committed, and they've tried to advance, in a mechanized column that makes it a very vulnerable target.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): Still, it's part of an offensive that NATO's Secretary-General thinks is now getting underway, in earnest.
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: Because we see now what Russia does now - President Putin do now - is to send in thousands and thousands of more troops, accepting a very high rate of casualty, taking big losses, but putting pressure on the Ukrainians.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): In Vuhledar, Ukraine's defenses are standing firm, even as Russia resorts to using what appear to be thermobaric weapons. But there are growing concerns that Ukrainian units are running critically short, of artillery ammunition. STOLTENBERG: The current rate of Ukraine's ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production. This puts our defense industries under strain.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): Now, another problem, for the Ukrainians, Elon Musk's SpaceX, restricting use of Starlink satellite technology, in their key drone program. Musk, saying on Twitter, "We will not enable escalation of conflict that may lead to World War Three."
The Ukrainians' use of drones has given them, an important edge, in this complex, an edge that's badly needed, as Russians make up, for what they lack in quality, through raw overwhelming force.
MCKENZIE: To the north of Vuhledar, it does seem like Russian elite troops, and Wagner mercenaries are having more success, pushing back Ukrainian forces. This is something that Ukrainians are denying, flatly. But it's not the kind of gains that at this point in the conflict that Putin would have wanted.
BURNETT: Thank you so much, David, reporting live, from Kyiv, tonight.
And also tonight, it's been 11 months, since Russian journalist, Marina Ovsyannikova, interrupted a live news broadcast, by holding up a "No War" sign.
(VIDEO - EX-RUSSIAN STATE TV JOURNALIST, MARINA OVSYANNIKOVA, INTERRUPTING LIVE NEWS BROADCAST, HOLDING UP A "NO WAR" SIGN)
BURNETT: You remember this moment. It was an act of courage that upended her life. She was interrogated, fined 120,000 rubles, placed under house arrest, and threatened with up to 10 years in jail.
Then, in October, Russian authorities lost track of her. Marina made a harrowing late-night escape, to France, with her 11-year-old daughter.
OUTFRONT now, Marina Ovsyannikova.
And I so much appreciate your time, Marina. I know you were in dire straits. Because of your courage, you were at great risk. You were told, if you didn't leave Moscow immediately, you would be, quote, "Broken," in prison.
You managed to escape, late one night, with your 11-year-old daughter. Tell me about that. How did you make it to safety?
MARINA OVSYANNIKOVA, PROTESTED UKRAINE WAR ON LIVE TV AS A RUSSIAN STATE TV JOURNALIST, FORMER RUSSIAN STATE TV JOURNALIST, FLED RUSSIA, AUTHOR, "NO WAR - HOW I OPPOSED THE KREMLIN PROPAGANDA" (through translator): Well it was a truly dramatic escape. Because exactly, like you said, my lawyer kept on saying, "Marina, run! Flee! You have to escape. Otherwise you will be locked up and broken in the jail."
However, I could not leave because my daughter was taken from me, and I could not leave without her. Otherwise, I would have. And would have I left without her, I would have never gotten her back. Back then, she was with her father. And then, so she left her father. And I was at that time, under the house arrest.
And we had been preparing, for the escape, for three weeks. I was doing this, with the help of the journalist, from the Reporters Without Borders.
And it was quite a drama, because we were crossing the territory, of the Russian Federation, by seven different cars. And eventually, the last car, which we were using, broke down, somewhere in the field, in the mud. And we had to cross the field by foot. And in complete sheer darkness, like there were just stars around us. And there was no GPS coverage.
Basically, the person, who was accompanying us, literally was trying to make the way, following the stars. And he would say, "Hey, Marina, look, here is the tail of the Big Dipper," and I would be just nervously laughing, thinking of "What kind of tail or what - what is the Big Dipper? And where are we?"
So finally, we managed to. Got the GPS signal, and then made a call, to the people, on the other side, of the border, and helped - and they helped us to get through. But otherwise, it was just unbearable.
BURNETT: Marina, I know it has been several months. But you now live with this fear. Do you still fear for your and your daughter's safety?
OVSYANNIKOVA (through translator): Well, frankly, I do feel danger. And however, I should say that I'm not going to stay silent. And France is a rather safe place, for me. At least this is how I feel. And I would like to also just say that I love life. And I'm not going to keep silent.
BURNETT: And it has been, Marina, nearly a year, since Putin invaded Ukraine. I know you know many, many friends, and others, who are still behind, in Russia. Do you see any changes, in support, from the Russian people, for the war?
OVSYANNIKOVA (through translator): People are just afraid because Putin, he's likes put - he's spreading out his tentacles, and the, you know, there are enforcement forces everywhere.
And people are afraid to do anything, because if they come out, with a sign "No to War," then first they'll get fined. If it's a second time that they're caught, then there'll be criminal convictions against them.
And basically, they're experiencing the same things, what it used to be during the Soviet (ph) times, the political repressions, and threats, and all kinds of punishments, just to keep people's mouths shut. BURNETT: Marina, we told viewers, about the story of the Russian journalist, Maria Ponomarenko. We understand, prosecutors are getting - looking for a nine-year prison sentence, for her, because she accurately reported on that horrific Russian strike, on the Mariupol theater, right, where women and children were sheltering.
Other Russian journalists have been detained, in recent days, as well.
What is your understanding of what's happening now, and why Putin seems to be cracking down, so hard, at this time, on journalists?
OVSYANNIKOVA (through translator): Again, it's also very important to understand that over the last 20 years, all of the independent media outlets, in Russia, were destroyed, closed in this or other way. It's either they were just closed, or they were pushed, out of the country, beyond the border of the Russian Federation.
Like, for example, if you look at Maria Ponomarenko, then, first she was imprisoned, and then after that she was put into the house arrest. But because of some personal circumstances, she couldn't be under the house arrest, and was sent back to prison, which is just horrific, because she has two underage children.
And the recent statistics that which I've just checked, prior to this interview, shows that there're already 14 journalists, imprisoned, in Russia, for their anti-war statements. And they're not just such famous journalists, like Maria, or myself. They're regional journalists.
And what's happening, what we are witnessing now, is that Putin is just trampling on freedom. He just wants to push it down, and destroy completely. And he's threatening with them really long prison terms. And for example, even if we look at Nazarov (ph), who is not in the Russian Federation, he is abroad. But just recently, he was issued a prison term of eight to nine years, something like this.
The entire situation is absolutely horrific, very anti-human. And only complete capitulation, of this Regime, can save Russia.
BURNETT: Marina, thank you so very much, for speaking out, and for talking to me. Again, greatly appreciate you.
OVSYANNIKOVA (through translator): Yes. Thank you for having me.
BURNETT: And the Breaking News, we are following, right now. We're getting a little bit more information about the shots fired, at Michigan State University, where Police are responding to a second shooting, with multiple reported injuries, at the gymnasium.
We understand, right now, there could be multiple reported injuries.
There's a suspect believed to be on foot.
And asking everyone for help, to get information about what's going on there.
Adrienne Broaddus joins me, on the phone now. I'm--
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Erin.
BURNETT: OK. I'm sorry. We have a student also.
One moment, Adrienne.
Sorry, a student, from Michigan State joining me on the phone.
I guess, could you just tell me the very latest on what you're learning?
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF NITHYA CHARLES, MSU STUDENT: We are not learning very much so far. I'm in Campbell Hall, which is on the north side of campus. So, there were shots fired, in the Union earlier. So, we're still locked down in Campbell. But we've just been hearing things about shots in IM East, down on the east side of campus, in Brody neighborhood, and in Snyder Phillips Hall, which is kind of on the east side of the North neighborhood.
BURNETT: All right. And I'm sorry, I should say, everyone know, of course your name is Nithya Charles. And I know you're sheltering in place, right now. Obviously, the story seems to be very much developing. Are there others with you? And what is your - you understand from your friends? Is everyone sheltering?
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF CHARLES: Yes. We're in like a lounge area, in our hall. There's probably about 30 people, over here. Everyone's obviously kind of stressed, but seems to be calm, right now.
BURNETT: Absolutely. Well, I'm glad you all are together. As you say, there's 30 of you. I know we can hear some of - some of you, in the background. I mean, did--
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stay close (ph).
BURNETT: Not sure if that's an announcement there.
But Nithya, did you hear any shots fired, or did anyone?
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF CHARLES: I did not hear shots fired. But some of my co-workers, who are in the Union building with me, heard definitely suspicious noises. And I know our facility staff, who was in the building, at the time, did hear shots fired, yes.
BURNETT: Did hear shots fired. All right, well, Nithya please stay safe there with - OK.
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF CHARLES: Thank you.
BURNETT: All right. All right. Thank you.
Adrienne Broaddus is also with me. Adrienne, you just heard Nithya say that she's sheltering with about 30 people that some of those, she was with, at the Student Union, did hear suspicious sounds, she said, including some shots fired. What is the latest you're learning?
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF BROADDUS: Well, the most recent information we have is from Michigan State University Police, as well as Public Safety. And they're saying that the IM East is being secured. And officials believe there's only one suspect, at this time.
For those, who may be familiar, with the campus, on Michigan State's campus, I am east of what was known to me, as the gymnasium. It's where we would go for parties.
This first happened, according to Michigan State Police, is that there were shots fired around what they called, I don't want to say this incorrectly, but near Berkeley Hall, and that was on East Lansing campus. Berkeley Hall is not a dorm, for those of you, who may not be familiar. It's a place, where students go for classes.
What led to this alleged shooting? We still don't know.
But as that student just said, she's in a room, with about 30 people, and they are taking the advice of Police, and sheltering in place.
Berkeley Hall is more so on the north side of campus. So, if you've ever driven, through East Lansing, it's on the back-end of what I would call Grand River, the furthest direction from the west side of the university.
BURNETT: All right, Adrienne, stay with me, as you get more information.
I know Nithya Charles is still with me, sheltering.
And Nithya, you hear what Adrienne's talking about that they understand there's one suspect, talking about Berkeley Hall, and the gymnasium. Does this fit with what you're hearing and learning?
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF CHARLES: Yes. Yes. Hearing a lot of different things, in different directions. I think people are nervous. But definitely hearing about Berkeley Hall and IM East, as some of the key places.
BURNETT: Now Nithya, are you getting updates, regularly? How are campus officials communicating with you? I know you're there with 30 people. Have they told you how long you may have to shelter, or any other information?
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF CHARLES: We were in the Union building when this originally happened, and we were escorted out by the Police. However, we haven't heard anything since then. We have a few people, listening through, like Police broadcast channels. But no official word, from Police, to the people in our building yet. BURNETT: And no official word from Police. But did I understand you correctly that there were some Police, to escort you, at the beginning, and to the - where you are?
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF CHARLES: Yes, that's correct.
BURNETT: OK, which is certainly very good to hear.
How are you feeling, right now, and everyone with you, Nithya?
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF CHARLES: It's hard to feel good about a situation like this. I think everyone's very stressed and emotional, but doing our best to remain calm.
BURNETT: And how long, Nithya, have you been there, in that room that you're in now, the lounge?
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF CHARLES: I would say we've probably been in some sort of lockdown for about an hour and 15 minutes now.
BURNETT: Wow! One hour and 15 minutes, a long time.
And just to be clear, they haven't given you any indication on how much longer?
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF CHARLES: That's correct.
BURNETT: Adrienne, I know, you're there as well.
And we were very grateful, to Nithya, for first, still being able to speak to us.
But obviously, that's some important context, as you're reporting this that they've already been sheltering in place, for about an hour and 15 minutes.
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF BROADDUS: Yes. And just for clarity, we are en route to the campus. I'm just familiar with Michigan State, because it's where I did my undergrad. I spent four years of life there. And one thing, I do remember, about the campus, I always felt safe. I always felt secure. You would constantly see MSU Police driving, encircling campus.
Now, a lot has changed since I graduated. And where we heard about the first shots coming from at Berkeley Hall, it has since changed, and it has somewhat merged. It's home to the College of Social Sciences. And it's also where a lot of the students, who are studying public policy, and other social issues, attend and have their classes.
I spoke with a few friends of mine, who are all also graduates from MSU. And they were saying yes, they don't remember much activity, in that area, when we were on campus. However, they know--
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF BROADDUS: --they went there, for multiple classes. And like any other college or university--
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF BROADDUS: --unless you have classes, throughout the day, some are in the early morning?
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF BROADDUS: Some are night classes. And they've really gone away from those virtual classes that we saw during COVID.
BURNETT: Right, absolutely.
And in a moment, I'm going to be joined by the former Philadelphia Police Commissioner, former D.C. Police Chief, Charles Ramsey.
First, Nithya, if you're still there, have you been able to speak to some of your friends, in other areas of campus? Do you under - are they also under lockdown, as far as you understand? Is it campus-wide?
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF CHARLES: I have not spoken to many people on campus. I know most people are just staying inside, kind of locking the doors, especially those living closer to campus. But that's all I'm aware of.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very, very much Nithya. Please stay in touch with us, as you get more. I hope you stay safe, and that this will hopefully resolve very safely, for all of you.
ON THE PHONE: VOICE OF CHARLES: Sure, thank you.
BURNETT: Governor Gretchen Whitmer has just tweeted, spoken publicly, saying she's been briefed on the shooting, at Michigan State University.
I quote her tweet. "The Michigan State Police along with MSU Police, local law enforcement and first responders are on the ground. Let's wrap our arms around the Spartan community tonight. We will keep everyone updated as we learn more."
And Chief Ramsey is with me now.
Chief, obviously, there's a lot we don't know.
You can see the Governor, raising the question here of what she knows.
You hear from Nithya, the student we're speaking to. She says she's been under lockdown, for an hour and 15 minutes, and that sort of at the Student Union that there were some there, who heard suspicious sounds and that - and others, gunshots.
Right now, we understand two shooting scenes, multiple reported injuries, but a lot to be found out, at this point.
Chief? CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER, FORMER D.C. POLICE CHIEF, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, because right now we don't even know the nature of the injuries. Was it a result of people running from something?
RAMSEY: Are these gunshot wounds? So, all this is information that will be trickling in, over time. Right now, the Police are actively looking to try to find the individual responsible, for the shots fired.
And as far as the lockdown? It will remain in effect until they either apprehend the individual, or they know that that person is no longer on campus, and no longer a threat, to the campus community. But that could take some time before they know that.
BURNETT: Right. And we understand, at least - again, I just want to emphasize to everybody. We know what we know now. And as we get more, or as information changes, we'll share it.
But we understand that the suspect is on foot. So, Chief, what does that mean? I mean, just to - people can see roads here, right? And this is a big campus. This is a lot of space.
BURNETT: Someone on foot, in the dark? That raises a lot of questions, about where they could be, or how they could be getting away, or what they could be doing next.
RAMSEY: Yes, not easy to find, if they're on foot. And it is nighttime. So, that adds to the problem that the officers have, trying to locate the individual.
That's why it's important that students pay attention to the alerts, and actually shelter in place. Do not let anyone in that you do not know. Just stay where you are, sit tight, until they get - until they're able to resolve this one way or the other.
But more information will be coming in. But right now, they just don't have a lot to tell you, other than there's an active manhunt, underway, on Michigan State University's campus. And we don't even know the extent of injuries that have taken place, right now.
BURNETT: Yes. And--
RAMSEY: So, there's just too many questions.
BURNETT: Chief, one other detail that Nithya Charles, the student I was speaking to shared, right? She's sheltering, right now, with 30 other students, in the lounge. Was that they have been - they were escorted, in there, originally, by Police. They've been there for an hour and 15 minutes. What does that say to you that this much time has elapsed, and at least, as far as we understand it, they still don't know, who this individual is, or the extent of any injuries or anything yet?
RAMSEY: Well, I mean, this is still a situation that's just evolving.
RAMSEY: I mean, an hour and 15 minutes, yes, I mean, it probably feels like it's an entire day, when you're under that kind of stress.
RAMSEY: But that could go on for much longer period of time, because until they find this person, and they're confident that there's only one person, and that person is no longer a threat to the campus, that lockdown is going to remain in effect. And so, people shouldn't focus on the time. Just focus on staying safe--
RAMSEY: --and staying where you are, and don't let anyone in that you do not know.
BURNETT: All right, Chief, please stay with me.
I want to bring in Shimon Prokupecz, now, our Justice reporter.
Shimon, what are you hearing, from your sources, about this?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so, this all started, around 8:30 or so, at night (ph), obviously, just about an hour and a half ago or so. And Police were responding, initially, to the cafeteria area, when on these reports, of an active shooter.
And, right now, what's going on there? It's a very active scene. I mean, you are seeing some officers, standing around there. But what's going on is that they're looking for this alleged shooter, for this gunman. That is something that, right now, is top priority.
They've been going through the school, through each room, through other areas of the school, making sure that there were no other victims. We don't know exactly how many victims there are at this time, and what the injuries are, to some of them. We know that several people have been injured. But as we've been reporting here, we don't know the nature of those injuries.
But I can tell you, in just listening to what's going on there the Police have been organized, what you see in these active-shooter situations.
PROKUPECZ: Having teams go in, through each floor, floor by floor, going through, looking for other potential victims, through the stairs, in the basement, of the school, and these other areas.
And also, what Police are dealing with our other 911 calls of people saying that they see a man, who appears to match the gunman, or some suspicious activity.
So, there's a lot of running around, right now, certainly there, by the Police, as they're trying to get to this gunman that they believe has fled, is on foot, somewhere. So, that is the top priority, right now, there, as the Police continue to address this situation--
PROKUPECZ: --and look for this shooter.
BURNETT: So Shimon, we understand obviously, one suspect, on foot, they believe has, fled. They're trying to understand what damage was done, what shooting injuries, all of those questions. Do they feel confident that there was one shooter? Or is that also still something that we don't know at this point?
PROKUPECZ: At this point, I think they believe that there's only one shooter.
Erin, often in times, in these situations, you always get people, who think they see another shooter, or often time, there are initial reports that say there are multiple shooters, when in the end, we always learn that it winds up being just one.
But, right now, they believe they are only looking for one shooter that there was only one shooter. There have been reports of people, armed with rifles, and other kinds of weapons, in the area. But again, that could just be the Police officers--
PROKUPECZ: --who are all responding. I mean, the response is just, as you can imagine, massive, in a situation like this.
PROKUPECZ: All the local law enforcement there, from every jurisdiction that's close by, is responding.
But to answer your question, they do believe it's only one gunman at this point.
BURNETT: At this time.
BURNETT: And so, Chief Ramsey, what does that say to you? I would imagine they try to get a - cordon off the entire university.
RAMSEY: Yes, right.
[21:55:00] BURNETT: But I mean it's a lot of space. But you're going to be dealing with a place that I would assume also had an incredible amount of surveillance cameras?
RAMSEY: Well, yes, there are a lot of video cameras, around, right now, in all these campuses. And Michigan State's no different. They'll try to establish some sort of a perimeter, to try to at least if the person is still on campus, to contain it somehow.
As Shimon mentioned, they'll be searching buildings. So, there's a lot of Police activity going on, right now. And they may know more than what they're saying, in terms of--
RAMSEY: --what's actually taking place. This could be a known shooter. It could be someone, who a student recognized, or something. We just don't know. Don't want to speculate too much.
But right now, they're just trying to find the individual responsible, for the shots fired. That's number one.
RAMSEY: That's the first thing they have to do.
RAMSEY: And that's where all the focus is.
BURNETT: Clearly, the most crucial thing to prevent any more injury.
And Shimon, just to be clear, we don't yet know anything about the nature of the injuries reported?
PROKUPECZ: No. We don't. I think also what's interesting here, Erin, is the timing. It's late there. There must have been some event or something going on at the school that would have brought people to, inside the school, at this hour. I just think that to me, is certainly something that is striking, the time.
PROKUPECZ: And so, right - so now they're just looking for this gunman, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you both so very much.
And our Breaking News coverage is going to continue, after this, with "CNN TONIGHT" and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. This is "CNN TONIGHT".