Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Exclusive: Trump Special Counsel Subpoenas Mark Meadows; Haley: I See A "Strong" And "Proud" America, Not "Weak And Woke"; Report: Russia Re-Educating Ukrainian Kids It Is Holding In Camps. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 15, 2023 - 21:00   ET



HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: But I'll take the billion either way.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Is it wise to take the lump sum?

ENTEN: Absolutely.


ENTEN: Because then you can invest it, in different ways, right? So, if you're a good investor, you can invest in different ways.

COOPER: Right.

ENTEN: It depends, how much inflation.

COOPER: But if you are going to go crazy, and blow it all, then it's probably not a good idea.

ENTEN: Correct. Depends how good are you with your money, Anderson. Ask yourself that question. It's a question I ask myself every night!

COOPER: All right. Harry Enten, thanks very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COOPER: News continues. ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT starts now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, on multiple stories.

CNN learning exclusively that Mark Meadows has been subpoenaed by the DOJ, Meadows, one of the highest-ranking Trump aides to be subpoenaed. This is the Trump Special Counsel, we are learning, is locked in multiple court battles. The details, next.

And a battle brewing, in Texas, tonight, after university professors were asked to give a statement, on their commitment to diversity, before they're hired. It's a story you'll see first OUTFRONT.

Plus, Russia, abducting thousands of Ukrainian children, in a massive re-education effort, it's a damning new report, saying some of them are up for adoption, others being trained now, to join the Military.

Let's go OUTFRONT.


BURNETT: And good evening. Welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT. I am Erin Burnett.

And we begin with the Breaking News tonight, Trump's former Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, subpoenaed by the Special Counsel, investigating the former President's attempt, to cling to power.

Now of course, remember, Meadows helped lay the groundwork, for Trump's election lies, which ultimately fueled the outrage, and violence that we all saw, on January 6th. He was literally by Trump's side, during the Insurrection itself.

Now, much more on that in just a moment. Because, there are so much breaking developments here tonight.

We also have other Breaking News, this hour, from the Justice Department. We are learning that the Special Counsel, investigating Trump, is locked now in at least eight secret court battles. The Special Counsel, Jack Smith, trying to uncover what he believes are some of the most closely-held details, about Trump's actions, after the 2020 election, and also of his handling of classified material.

And, on top of that news, there's also this, related to Biden's handling of classified material. The FBI, tonight, reviewing material, found during two searches that we have just found out about, at the University of Delaware.

So, all of this developing here, in these late hours of the evening.

Let's begin with Evan Perez.

And Evan, so much here to keep track of, in the news, literally this past hour and two--


BURNETT: --breaking one after the other.

Let's start with Mark Meadows. What more are you learning there?

PEREZ: Well, Meadows is being asked for documents, and for possible testimony. And of course, Erin, you know he's key in two parts of this investigation that is now being led by Jack Smith, the Special Counsel.

Obviously, he knows a lot about, the way the documents that were found in Mar-a-Lago, the classified documents. He knows a lot about the process though, that involved there, as the former President was shutting down, or was leaving the former - the White House. And, of course, he was, as you said, a key witness, in some of the activities, as the President was trying to overturn the 2020 election. BURNETT: Yes.

PEREZ: So, you can see why Jack Smith would want to talk to him, on both of those investigations.

And we know that Meadows had previously turned over documents that he had already given to the January 6 committee. And they anticipated, Meadows and his lawyers, anticipated that the Justice Department would come back, to ask for more. And now, they have.


PEREZ: So, the question is what happens now? Is he going to provide that testimony? Or does it produce a clash over Executive privilege? Because, obviously, Mark Meadows is, one of the closest aides, and most high-ranking aides, of the former President.

BURNETT: All right. So, that is an important step here, when we hear the subpoena. And it certainly shows, sort of the intensity, and the pace, of what we're seeing here, with the Special Counsel.

PEREZ: Right.

BURNETT: Also, though, the eight secret court battles, or at least eight, as you've been reporting, Evan, that the Special Counsel is engaged in, that that's a lot. Obviously, he thinks all of those things matter. What more do you know about them?

PEREZ: Right. And Meadows is likely to become another one of those, Erin, because the Special Counsel is fighting these battles, with Donald Trump, who is, and his allies, who are fighting tooth and nail, over every one of the subpoenas, trying to figure out ways, to shield some of their testimony, some of the documents that the Special Counsel is trying to get.

And the unusual thing is this is not how it normally works, when an investigation is still ongoing. But you're talking about a notoriously litigious person, Donald Trump.


PEREZ: And so, we know of at least eight of these court battles that are going on, under seal, before the judge, who oversees the grand jury.

A couple of them, we learned just this week, Evan Corcoran, one of Trump's lawyers, who is being asked to provide additional testimony, despite the fact obviously that he's a lawyer, and he's trying to shield it under attorney-client privilege.

There's also Scott Perry, the Representative, from Pennsylvania. The Justice Department is trying to get access to his cell phone.

There's a number of others going on behind-the-scenes, Special Counsel is saying, "Look, because of the intense public interest in this, we need to keep these secret," which is kind of a bizarre argument, to be making.

BURNETT: All right, Evan, thank you very much.

And as all of this is developing, late in the night, let's just go straight to our panel.

And let's begin with you Ryan, on the legal part of it.


Meadows obviously, right, had given some information, to the Committee, had not obviously gone with the full testimony. Now, here we are subpoenaed. I want to just put this in the context of there had been a debate, recently, because Meadows has been very quiet, as to whether he was cooperating.

Does this put that to bed, meaning he wasn't, and now, we're at this point?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: It sounds like there's a breakdown, and then he maybe was not cooperating, and then also maybe puts to bed or at least reduces the likelihood that he himself is a target of the investigation. The Justice Department is less likely to subpoena somebody, who's a target.

On the other hand, Jack Smith is actually a very aggressive prosecutor. So, maybe he is going after somebody, who's a target.

BURNETT: So, it doesn't even take that fully off the table, which could be significant.


BURNETT: What does it ultimately mean, when he claims, as it was clear, from what Evan's saying, he'll claim Executive privilege? Does that stand up? How long does that drag out?

GOODMAN: So, I think, if Jack Smith wants Mark Meadows' testimony, Jack Smith will get Mark Meadows' testimony. I think if he does Executive privilege, it's a loser. There's a unanimous, unambiguous Supreme Court case, with a sitting president, let alone a former Chief of Staff, that United States v. Nixon.

The judge, in this case, CNN has reported has already decided against Executive privilege, with the White House Counsel, Deputy White House Counsel. That's done.

The Supreme Court had an opportunity to grant Executive privilege, on the documents that the January 6 committee wanted. And they did not. And those are the same kinds of arguments, Executive privilege for documents that included Mark Meadows' correspondence?


GOODMAN: It's just that's a dead - there's no way that that will not - that Jack Smith will not succeed, on that one.

BURNETT: All right, so we've said, all road leads to Mark Meadows. And they do, right? I mean, you have him involved, on the call, to Brad Raffensperger; going down and visiting Georgia election offices; in the meeting, in the Oval Office, with people talking about, finding ways, to undermine the election results; all of that.

And then, of course, Cassidy Hutchinson, to the January 6 committee said this, Scott.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE AIDE: And I remember Pat saying to him something to the effect of, "The rioters have gotten to the Capitol, Mark. We need to go down and see the President now."

And Mark looked up at him, and said, "He doesn't want to do anything, Pat."

And Pat said something to the effect of - and very clearly had said this to Mark - something to the effect of, "Mark, something needs to be done or people are going to die and the blood is going to be on your effing hands."


BURNETT: The "Mark" is Mark Meadows.

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO MITCH MCCONNELL, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, obviously, what he has to say is enormously important, to finding out, if crimes were committed here.

I mean, I still think we all sort of know what happened, generally. But when you get down to the core, of what was on Trump's mind, that day, and, and war crimes committed, who apart from Meadows, is going to have better information?

As I was listening to you, by the way, Erin, read your monolog, about everything going on, tonight, I was thinking, "This is a really good commercial for both political parties to get new nominees." You've got Trump stuff, that's all over the place, Biden documents.

And all of this is unfolding, while the presidential campaign is unfolding. And if indictments are to come, and things are to fall, in any of these investigations, it's going to happen, over the next few months, while the American people get to know their--


JENNINGS: --these new presidential candidates. So, I think the political implications here, regarding the timing of all this, are really serious, given that the campaign is on.

BURNETT: And I want to ask Ryan, about the timing. But first, Maggie, I mean, you've got Trump, fighting. Obviously Pence has been subpoenaed. And he's fighting that. He's using Executive privilege. Pence actually is a different argument. But he's fighting it. Now, he's got to fight Meadows. Plus, he has everything else going on, that he's fighting, as he's technically a candidate.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, I actually think, as interesting as these subpoenas are? And they're aggressive. And they're very important, to note and report.

I still think the most important thing that has happened that we know of in the last - that's been reported in the last 24 hours, and I'm not saying this eclipse our (ph) reporting, but is the story that we broke, last night, about the fact that the Justice Department's trying to compel testimony, from one of Trump's own lawyers. I think that is a huge threat to Trump, potentially, if the judge grants it.

And so, you have these myriad threats. You have this.


HABERMAN: Meadows, I assume, will try to invoke Executive privilege, because Meadows sort of half-cooperated with the J6 committee, gave them their roadmap, by turning over so many of these texts.


HABERMAN: But then wouldn't speak to them. We have no idea what else he's been doing with them. This is not the first subpoena that he has gotten in this J6 case, from the DOJ. This is at least the second one that we know of. And so, there was one earlier, last year, for documents.


HABERMAN: So, I'm not sure where this all goes. But yes, we have - this is an unheard of situation, where there is somebody who is net - was the first candidate declared, in this race, running, with this crush of investigations, taking place? It is impossible to compartmentalize, and not see how one has to deal with the other.

BURNETT: Right. And when you say "Crush," I mean it's a crush, right?


BURNETT: You've got Georgia. You've got classified documents. You have--


BURNETT: --DOJ. You've got New York.


BURNETT: I mean you have all of it. And it's all very serious, and it's all very real.


Mondaire, I just want to mention here, the Biden situation, tonight, is that they searched the University of Delaware, where he had donated a whole lot of papers. They had a lot of stuff. Nothing, at this point, seems to be classified. And they had said "Go ahead, and search," right, so they were very open to it?


BURNETT: Again, I don't want to say there is no classified. But, at this point, doesn't appear that there's going to be any classified information there. But you got a Special Counsel there as well, even though the classified documents situation, of course, is quite different than Trump.

JONES: You do have a Special Counsel. And people will quibble with whether the appointment of a Special Counsel was appropriate. I think it's a reasonable thing that Merrick Garland did, in this case, just to avoid the appearance, of any kind of loyalty between the Attorney General - from the Attorney General to the President.

But critically, this is a President, who has cooperated every step of the way. And I think when you look at the polling, even on this subject, the American people generally understand that this is a different situation, of the Biden documents, and the way he's treated this, are a fundamentally different situation, from the way that Donald Trump, for example, has treated these documents.

I would put even Mike Pence, as far as what we've know, as far as what has been reported, in the same category--


JONES: --as Joe Biden, who's been cooperating.

BURNETT: And, of course, no Special Counsel yet, in that situation.

And to this question, though, in this unprecedented moment, Maggie said with this crush of issues that Trump is facing, special counsels? So, when do we know? I mean, and this is actually clogging the whole pipes, for the entire presidential race, right? Because if Trump is indicted, what does that mean? What does that mean for DeSantis, right? It is in everybody's calculation.

Are we going to find this out imminently, when you look at what Jack Smith is doing? When do you get an indictment or not, on classified documents? When do you get an indictment or not, on the January 6?

GOODMAN: So, putting together the "Times" reporting that Jack Smith wants to kind of make a decision, by this summer, to avoid these conflict zones?

BURNETT: That seems like a long way away. But yes, I mean, yes, I mean.

GOODMAN: Within the next few months. BURNETT: Yes, yes.

GOODMAN: Let's put it that way.

BURNETT: Yes, yes.

GOODMAN: Then he makes a decision, at that point. He also has to deal with these eight secret battles. But some of them, I think, will be resolved quickly, like Executive privilege.

And then, on others, he might just say, "Look, we have to go. We're not going to wait for Scott Perry's phone."

And he has to make a very big call, because I do not think he's going to be able to get Mike Pence's testimony, on some crucial matters, by then. That's going to be litigated.

BURNETT: Separation of powers.

GOODMAN: That's right.


HABERMAN: We also don't know whether Merrick Garland will sign off, on whatever recommendation Jack Smith makes, if Jack Smith recommends, indicting, which is adds another layer to this.

BURNETT: It is incredible and unprecedented that--

JENNINGS: I mean--

BURNETT: --people, deciding to run. Everyone's waiting on this, and no one's knows what they're even waiting on. And this is it. This is American politics.

JENNINGS: I mean, by this summer, you'll have Trump, but four, five, six other candidates, all running, around the country, campaigning.


JENNINGS: And this could show up, in the night leading (ph)--

BURNETT: It's - that's amazing.

JENNINGS: I mean it will really roil the campaign, in ways I don't think we quite know yet.


All right, all stay with me. Thank you.

And next, a controversial professor from Idaho, he is controversial because of things like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCOTT YENOR, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY: Young men must be respectable, and responsible, to inspire young women, to be secure, with feminine goals of homemaking, and having children.


BURNETT: OK. Why is he getting a whole lot of support, from Governor Ron DeSantis and, his wife, Casey?

Plus, sickening new allegations, of Russia kidnapping and brainwashing thousands of Ukrainian children, some just babies, when abducted. New details ahead.

And the outrage, in Ohio, after a train derailment led to catastrophe. The train company, tonight, backing out of a town hall, saying they're receiving threats.



BURNETT: Tonight, the current frontrunners, for both parties, in 2024, facing questions, about their age and fitness for Office. Obviously, I'm talking about the two men, on your screen, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, because it's just hours after Nikki Haley suggested that both of them are too old to be president.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America is not past our prime. It's just that our politicians are past theirs.

In the America I see, the permanent politician will finally retire.


HALEY: Will have term limits for Congress.


HALEY: And mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75- years-old!


BURNETT: Let's go straight to Phil Mattingly. He's at the White House.

OK, Phil, shot over the bow, for both Trump and Biden, both of whom are in that age category. What is the White House saying about this?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, nothing, which I think is as much a reflection of their view of the candidate, in the very early stage of the Republican primary, as it is, the implicit attack itself. Now, when you talk to White House officials, you talk to President Biden's political advisers, as they ramp up, for the campaign, they are closely watching Republican candidates, or potential Republican candidates. The Democratic National Committee is keeping research, and opposition research books, on pretty much everybody, who could possibly run. So, it's not that they're ignoring the potential field or the field that's developed, up to this point.

But they also understand that it is a long pathway forward. Former President Trump is still very much in the race, and will likely do much of the counter-attacking, for them, on this particular issue.


MATTINGLY: And to some degree, he's the President of the United States. I think, when you talk to officials here, as they try and game out the months ahead, particularly in this, the year of 2023, what they're more focused on than anything else, is the fact that the President, both has an agenda that he's passed, that he's enacted into law, that he can talk about, that he can campaign on, that he can really focus on, over the course of the next several months.

But also that they believe that lays out a very clear path forward that he can talk about, if and when, we expect very much to be when, he decides to launch a campaign.


MATTINGLY: Now, Erin, it's worth noting, that does not mean that they're not aware that age is clearly an issue. They see the public polling. They understand that they've got private polling as well.

He's the oldest president in U.S. history, now. He would be two years older, two years from now. To finish a second term, he would be 86. They get all of that. And they understand that there are very real concerns, not just among some Democrats, but also amongst the American people.

And, I think, to some degree, when you talk to them about this issue, they say two things.

One, they believe that record of the first two years, combined with the belief that his experience, his time, here in Washington, the amount of time, he's spent, working on these issues, is part of what drove that record.

But also the fact that they believe the experience, as they look at a Republican primary, they believe, will be both chaotic and, in their words, somewhat extreme--


MATTINGLY: --will end up winning the day. That's a calculation that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be borne out. But that's their view of things, right now.

Still, they know it's an issue. And I should note, the President is going to get his annual physical, tomorrow morning.


BURNETT: That's right. Tomorrow morning, he is going to do that.

OK, thank you very much, Phil.

So, everyone's back with me. S.E. Cupp also joining us.

So, S.E., the point that Phil was just making? And Nikki Haley's put it out there, because it's out there, and it's being talked about, and certainly being talked about, among Democrats.


BURNETT: But she was making the point to Trump as well.

CUPP: Yes.

BURNETT: Biden already is the oldest president, as Phil just said. At the end of his term, he'll be 82. So, the only trails behind him are Reagan, at 77, and Donald Trump, who is 74, right? So, Donald Trump is turning 77, in June, right?

CUPP: Yes.

BURNETT: So, they're both OK. I mean, you got a few years apart. But this is where we stand.

And Nikki Haley comes out, and says, mental competency test.

CUPP: Yes, listen, I was not mad at this. I was not mad at the end of the permanent politician term limits. And I'm not mad at her, identifying a correct problem, which is that we've had a lot of older politicians, and leaders, who are a bit, I think, past the prime, and we'd like some fresh blood, and new faces.

The problem with this theme of hers is that her generational differences, are as of yet unknown, because everything she talked about, sounded very much like Trumpism, Trump-lite, Trump without the bad words and the ad hominem.

Is she bringing a generational difference in terms of policies? Is she going to try to broaden the Republican base, and win new kinds of Republican voters?

Where does she stand on guns, for example? Is she going to carry the ages-old fetishization of black guns that the NRA has espoused, for decades? Or meet young voters, and many gun owners, by the way, where they are today, which is calling for commonsense gun reform?

What about her is generationally different, other than her age? If it's just her age? Well, that's identity politics.


CUPP: And I'm pretty sure Republicans would call that "Woke!"

BURNETT: Well, and Mondaire, if it's just about age, ages, I mean, is age what determines mental competency in?

JONES: Look, no, it doesn't. Look, I think that mental competency tests, as unconstitutional as they may be, by the way, are a nice thing, in theory. And they should be applied across ages, right? I mean, some of the younger Republicans, in Congress, for example, would fail mental competency exams.

CUPP: Just the Republicans?

JONES: Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, people who are inciting violence, at the Capitol, for example?

I welcome the conversation about anyone on the Democratic side, who compares to those people.

I think she's leaning into generational stuff, because she's uncomfortable taking Trump directly on policy. And I don't think, in a Republican primary, the generational argument is as compelling, especially when you're not offering a difference.

Where are you on climate science? Where are you on guns, for example?

CUPP: Tech and innovation.

JONES: Absolutely.

CUPP: I mean, lots of issues, I think, you're right, that appeal to voters, beyond just "This is someone young."

JONES: But, in a general election, I do think leaning in to the generational difference--

CUPP: Yes.

JONES: --which will be done for her optically, frankly--

CUPP: Yes.

JONES: --in these debates, would be a more compelling argument.

BURNETT: Oh, this is only perceived (ph), yes.

JENNINGS: You're raising the term, identity politics. I've been thinking about this, since watching her speech, today, because she actually invoked it.

CUPP: Yes.

JENNINGS: She said, "May the best woman win." Now, I don't believe in identity politics.

CUPP: Right.

JENNINGS: But then, also she leaned in on the identity of people, who are older than 75-years-old versus younger than 75.

So, this is one of the things about her that people have always perceived. She always is trying to have it both ways, on a lot of issues. "I want to be the identity politics Republican, but I don't want you to think that I am." I thought that was a strange, frankly thing to say, right after having invoked, "May the best woman win."

BURNETT: Well, then the other thing she did, Maggie--


BURNETT: --was lean in on woke, right, which is a favored word, now, among the GOP. And, in fact, both the declared and yet undeclared likely candidates, for the GOP nomination, have all, all spoken out on this issue.

Here's Haley and others.


HALEY: I see a strong America, because I see a proud America. Strong and proud, not weak and woke.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We will never surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die!


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): I think he's absolutely right, that the wokeness is really invading this culture in a very negative way.


BURNETT: They love it. Woke!

HABERMAN: I mean, it's a buzzword, and it works very well with a certain group of Republican voters. And so, you're going to hear Nikki Haley say it. You're obviously, if Ron DeSantis runs, which there's every indication he's going to, you're going to hear him say it a lot.

It is, actually, to Scott's point, it's actually speaking against identity politics. Except the reality is Republicans actually really do like identity politics, and focus on them, in a number of ways. And you will see that too. I think this is not going to be going away.

What I'm mostly interested in, is why Nikki Haley is focusing on this age issue? Because it's one of the only ways she can separate from Donald Trump, safely. Otherwise, there's not much more that she can say, because she's not really dividing, from him. And she served under him. And so, the thing that she can say that is the safest is that he's old. And that's just not disputable.


BURNETT: Well, no, not disputable, all right.

Now, on the woke issue, Governor DeSantis, as you point out, right, he says it all the time.

So, now, I want to enter this story. First lady Casey DeSantis recently tweeted, "Thrilled to welcome Scott Yenor from the Claremont Institute to his new home in Tallahassee. Protecting Americans from infringing woke ideology is important work, and we are grateful Scott and the Claremont Institute picked Florida to continue their mission."

So, Claremont is a conservative think tank, Scott. Yenor came from Boise State. He was a controversial professor there.

And this is just one speech he gave in 2021. So this is just one little speech. Here are a few little things he said.

Here he is.


YENOR: Today, America is destroying family life. How? Feminism and sexual liberation theories, above all. Our independent women seek their purpose in life in mid-level bureaucratic jobs like human resource management, environmental protection and marketing. They are more medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome than women need to be.

Young men must be respectable and responsible to inspire young women to be secure with feminine goals of homemaking, and having children.

Every effort must be made not to recruit women into engineering, but rather to recruit and demand more of men who become engineers. Ditto for med school, and the law, and every trade.


BURNETT: Well, I can only pray that Casey DeSantis didn't know about that! I mean, I say that facetiously. I mean, obviously, they know his politics, in general.

But you got to own that!

JENNINGS: Yes. I don't know what this guy is going to be doing, on a daily basis.

CUPP: Right.

JENNINGS: I would hope it's not giving some variation of that speech, for Ron DeSantis' sake.

I would also just say to my wife, who's at home, tonight, accountant, raising our four kids, while I'm sitting here? Thank you so much, for being able to be a professional, and a mom, and do all the things that he says are mutually exclusive. So thank you!

HABERMAN: So that's--

CUPP: Well, he doesn't have to worry. I'm not going into engineering anytime soon! Thankfully, for everyone.

HABERMAN: I mean, that sounded like identity politics to me, right?

CUPP: Right.


HABERMAN: "Men should do this. Women should do this." I'm just--


CUPP: Well it's--

HABERMAN: I agree with Scott. I don't know what he's going to be doing. I don't know what his actual involvement is. But those are the kinds of things that people who don't like DeSantis are going to point to, to try to make DeSantis, own it.

BURNETT: Right. And it wasn't just DeSantis.

HABERMAN: No, his wife.

BURNETT: I mean, Casey DeSantis--


BURNETT: --is the one who tweeted that out, right?


BURNETT: And she's - it's not like, oh, it's just "Hey, Casey, can you do this?" She would look into it, before she did it. She knew who he was.

JONES: And someone, with his views, is now going to be helping to craft policy, for the State of Florida, right? So, even if he's not giving those speeches, we know what his mindset is, and what his lens is, when it comes to a range of things. And this is just really problematic.

I do think it's identity politics. I think it's identity politics, when other people are doing it, but not when the perpetrator of identity politics is doing it, when it becomes problematic.

BURNETT: I mean, I just have to say, S.E., I mean, I hear that, I was like, "Forget, someone's fault (ph)." I'm amazed and appalled to even hear those words.

CUPP: Well, I don't agree with him. It's cheap and lazy.


CUPP: Click-baity kind of stuff, although I've my own critiques of feminism, and liberalism that are not radical at all.

But I don't know what he's going to be doing. I'm not mad that he's going into a conservative think tank. And honestly, I'm not all that surprised that he might be advising on legislation that sounds very much like Ron DeSantis.

And I wonder if we'd be having the same conversation, if we found out that some progressive far-left liberal professor was going to be advising someone, like Bernie Sanders, or AOC, on anti-policing or socialism? I don't think we'd have that conversation, if that were the case.

I think we're pointing this out because it's far-right, and cringy, and fringy, and extreme. But I'm not surprised.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all.

And next Ukrainian mothers, desperate to get their young children back, from Vladimir Putin's grip. We investigate the re-education camps, across Russia, and the dangerous mission, to save thousands of children, stolen from their families.

Demands for answers, from the train company, behind the derailment, in Ohio, that has led to an environmental catastrophe, there. The company, tonight, actually canceling a town hall, with angry citizens. We'll take you there, live.



BURNETT: Tonight, a new report, accusing Russia, of abducting thousands of Ukrainian children, in a massive re-education effort, to support Putin's aims.

The report says these children are being held, in at least 43 facilities, from Russian-occupied Crimea, to the east of Russia. And it alleges that some are put up for adoption. Others are already being trained by the Russian Military.

David McKenzie is OUTFRONT, in Kyiv.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Weeks ago, we first met Tatiana Blanco (ph) in Kyiv, in a shelter, for displaced families; all of the mothers here separated from their children, by the trauma of war.

TATIANA BLANCO (ph), MOTHER (through translator): Emotions overwhelmed me, when Lilia (ph) left. When I realized what was happening, it terrified me. All I wanted were the best for my child at the time.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Her 11-year-old daughter Lilia (ph), stuck in a Russian camp, in occupied Crimea. All the lessons are in Russian.

At first glance, the retreats seem like any other summer camp. But the loyalty expected from Ukrainian children is crystal-clear. Part of what a new Yale University study calls systematic re-education efforts. But Tatiana (ph) and Lilia's (ph) story begins a year ago. Their hometown of Kherson, fell quickly, to advancing Russian troops. Within days, the occupiers began a campaign, to ratify the population, often coercing thousands of parents, like Tatiana (ph), to send their kids to the camps.

But when Ukrainian forces, took back Kherson, in November, Tatiana's (ph) daughter was on the wrong side of the frontline.

MYKOLA KULEBA, SAVE UKRAINE: We provide rescue mission for children, who were abducted, and now in Russian Federation, and in Crimea.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Mykola Kuleba, the Founder of Save Ukraine, declined to say exactly how they negotiate their entry, into enemy territory, just that the mothers can't do it on their own.

KULEBA: It's impossible to communicate with any Russians because you can ask this mothers, they don't want to give children back.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): But Tatiana (ph) was ready to take the risk.

BLANCO (ph) (through translator): I'm worried, of course. You cannot even imagine my emotions inside. It's fear and terror. It's emotional that I could see her soon. And this is a big deal for me.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): 11 mothers, and one father, putting on a brave face. But theirs is a perilous route, from Ukraine, by road, to Poland, into Russian ally, Belarus, through the Russian Federation, to occupied Crimea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We were counting every kilometer on approach. I could feel it with every cell in my body. I was very emotional, when we were closer and closer.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Save Ukraine spent many months planning this moment.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): Reuniting families, shattered by war, returning children, who just wanted to go home to Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Once I enter, to me, it was an outburst of emotions. Once we embraced, it was like a great weight lifted.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): In the end, they gave up the children, willingly.

But Save Ukraine says that hundreds, perhaps thousands remain.

"Our two countries are at war," says Tatiana (ph). But there are good people everywhere.


MCKENZIE: You saw that desperate journey, the mothers, took, to get their children back, from those Russian camps. There are many, many more, like it. The Russian Embassy in Washington, and saying that the Yale University report is absurd. They say they're just trying to keep those children safe. But in fact, there's clear evidence of indoctrination going on.


BURNETT: Thank you very much, David McKenzie, from Kyiv.

And I want to go now, to retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

General Hertling, I mean, this is what you see, in genocidal campaigns. And they're taking over children, young children, training them, for the Military, training them to be Russian, indoctrinating them. What does it say to you?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING (RET.), FORMER ARMY COMMANDING GENERAL, EUROPE AND SEVENTH ARMY, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it tells me that Russians are trying to eliminate the culture of Ukraine, and subjugate the Ukrainian population.

But more importantly, Erin, it is a war crime. It's a direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, relative to the protection of civilian persons, in a time of war. It specifically violates Protocol 1 of the Convention, which talks about women, children, civilian, medical personnel, and special protection for German - for journalists, I'm sorry.

It is what we've come to expect from Russia. As a former soldier, Erin, I saw many things in combat that were horrid and disgusting. But this is despicable. As a father, and a grandfather, it is evil, inhuman and unimaginable. I cannot imagine what these mothers and fathers are going through, seeing their children taken away from them, and sent to Russia.

BURNETT: I just think incredible pain, you think, with the ethnic cleansing, you may never see that child again. If you do, what they are, it is unbelievable pain.

It comes, of course, General, as we understand that Putin and the leader of Belarus, Lukashenko, will be meeting, later this week, right? Lukashenko is eager to, you know, he's offered to store nukes, for Russia, if he wants. And now, we know there's more air supply, from Russia, building up on the northern border, with Belarus and Ukraine.

How likely do you think an offensive is, from Belarus, of sort of what we're hearing from Western intelligence, is the real fear, of like a massive aerial assault, coming from Russia that we haven't really yet seen in this war?

HERTLING: I do not think a ground incursion from Belarus is likely, other than if it's Russian forces, Erin.

I do believe there's the potential for massive air attacks, from Russian air force, out of Belarus. And, in fact, about 20 minutes ago, there have been air raid sirens, going out, all over Western Ukraine, with a lot of aircraft, coming in, from Belarus, also with missiles, coming in, from the Black Sea.

So, what Russia is attempting to do is cause Ukraine, to look in multiple directions. While the Ukrainian forces are focused on the frontlines, in the East and the Southeast, and trying to block missiles that are coming into their cities, Russia is trying to give them more dangers, from different directions, to cause them, to spread out their air defenses.

So, I think that's what you're seeing, right now. And I think that's what we'll see in the next incursion of the Russian air force, coming out of Belarus.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, General Hertling, as always.

HERTLING: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, and next, an epic clash, in Texas, after a university asked prospective professors, for their statements, on diversity. Well, what did they want to hear? Is that acceptable to be part of the hiring process? It's a story, you'll see first, OUTFRONT.

And the company that owns the train, involved in the hazmat derailment, in Ohio, backs out of a chance, to answer to an angry community, tonight. So, what happened?



BURNETT: Tonight, a new battle brewing, in Texas, after prospective, biology professors, at Texas Tech University, were asked to give a statement, to their commitment to diversity. Critics say it shouldn't be part of the hiring process.

Ed Lavandera has the story that is first OUTFRONT.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You've heard politicians railing against critical race theory.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Critical race theory is bigoted. It is a lie. And it is every bit as racist as the Klansmen in white sheets.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): But now, conservative activists are embracing a new fight, against programs, known as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives. DEI is the new CRT.

DESANTIS: We want education, not indoctrination. LAVANDERA (voice-over): The debate has made its way, to Texas Tech University, in the deeply conservative city of Lubbock. A group, called the National Association of Scholars, released nearly 100 pages of documents, related to the hiring of four biology professors, at Texas Tech.

The interview process included meeting with a DEI committee, and to give a statement, on their commitment to diversity. The documents revealed critical notes, on how well the candidates understood DEI issues.

One prospective professor "Came across as a bit tokenizing of minoritized individuals." Another candidate weakness was flagged for "Poor understanding of the difference between equity and equality."


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Steve Balch is a former Texas Tech professor, and founder of the National Association of Scholars.

BALCH: My quarrel isn't with people, who think diversity, equity and inclusion are good things.


My argument, and the argument of the NAS, is turning them into dogma.

I think these efforts to meddle and engineer and mold are terribly counterproductive, and even dangerous.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Texas Tech officials find themselves in the crosshairs.

We sat down with the School's President, Lawrence Schovanec.

LAVANDERA (on camera): In the statement that the University put out, last week, it said, "We immediately withdrew this practice and initiated a review of hiring procedures across the colleges and departments. We will withdraw the use of these statements and evaluation rubrics if identified."

LAWRENCE SCHOVANEC, PRESIDENT OF TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY: We could see that this could be viewed as possibly exclusionary. And so, we wanted to step back, and review the whole process.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Do you worry that appeasing some people because they might perceive something as inappropriate sends the right message?

SCHOVANEC: I don't see this as appeasing. I think we have to respond to the concerns of people out there.

We have to be pragmatic in acknowledging issues that are being raised.

PAULETTE GRANBERRY RUSSELL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DIVERSITY OFFICERS IN HIGHER EDUCATION: It's nothing more than an effort to dismantle the work that has been done for at least the last 60-plus years.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Paulette Granberry Russell is President of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. She says, scholars and politicians are using DEI to fuel the base of conservative voters, and misrepresenting the purpose of DEI initiatives.

GRANBERRY RUSSELL: This is not a situation where some are intending to take access away, but to expand access.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Texas Tech officials are walking the tightrope, of red-meat politics, and serving a growing diverse student body.

SCHOVANEC: This University has grown and thrived because we've been able to recruit and support a diverse student population. We're totally committed to supporting a diverse campus community.


BURNETT: So, Ed, this is, DEI has really become a - it's kind of a code word, right, on both the left and the right. Those words mean very different things, to different people.

What are politicians, in Texas, saying about DEI, which of course is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?

LAVANDERA: Well, as you can imagine, conservative Texas Republicans latching on to this. Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, put out a letter, to State agencies, last week, reminding everyone that using DEI in hiring is illegal.

Texas Tech officials insist that there was nothing illegal, about the hiring process, done there, at the biology department.

And State lawmakers were questioning the Texas Chancellor, saying they were confused, and concerned, about all of this.

And that's what DEI supporters are worried about that this will be distorted, in much the same way that critical race theory was as well.

BURNETT: All right, Ed, thank you very much.

And next, one of the many questions, families are asking, tonight, "Are my kids safe?" That's what they're asking, in the State of Ohio, nearly two weeks, after the toxic train disaster.



BURNETT: Tonight, outrage in Ohio, residents in East Palestine, demanding answers, about the safety of the air and water, after a toxic train accident.

A Norfolk Southern train, carrying hazardous materials, crashed, igniting this inferno that burned for days.

Representatives, from the company, backing out of a meeting, tonight, they are citing threats.

Jason Carroll was there, and he's OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody that came here we expected (inaudible) lot more than what we're getting right now.



JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Frustration, anger and unanswered questions, in East Palestine, Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here for answers. The Railroad did us wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are my kids safe? Are the people safe? Is the future of this community safe?

CARROLL (voice-over): Not present, at this community meeting, a representative that many wanted to hear from.

In the 11th hour, Norfolk Southern Railroad, the company responsible for the toxic train derailment, sent a statement, saying, in part, "We know that many are rightfully angry and frustrated right now. Unfortunately, after consulting with community leaders, we have become increasingly concerned about the growing physical threat to our employees. With that in mind, Norfolk Southern will not be in attendance this evening."

Cleanup efforts are underway. The Governor, telling residents, Wednesday, the municipal water is safe to drink.

His statement comes, after new test results, from the State environmental protection agency, found no detection of contaminants. Officials say the toxic spill was largely contained, the day after the derailment, and that tests have shown the air quality is safe.

And while State officials say municipal water is safe to drink, they are still suggesting those with private wells, get their water tested.

CARROLL (on camera): In the back of your property, back here, they found dead fish?

KATHY REESE (ph), OHIO RESIDENT: Yes, they saw dead fish.

CARROLL (voice-over): Kathy Reese (ph) says she has been drinking bottled water, instead of well water, ever since she started spotting dead fish, in the creek, following the derailment. She says, she's still waiting, for the State, to come and test her well water.

REESE (ph): Air-wise, I feel OK. Water-wise, no. I'm - no. There's just too many chemicals and stuff that were spilled that they still don't want to identify completely.

CARROLL (voice-over): An Ohio Department of Natural Resources official, estimate some 3,500 fish, in the State, have died, following the train derailment.

These people saw the flames, from their homes, and worried their neighborhood, still may not be safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't recommend you put anything in the ground. I mean, vegetables, or tomatoes, or anything, this year, because we don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think they're going to do enough.

CARROLL (voice-over): And some residents say, they have been frustrated, by what they describe as a lack of communication, with officials, on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We pass all of the creeks, and there's crew after crew, with white hoses, and black coats, is all through the creeks. They're not telling us why. And this is got - this is daily. I'm driving my children to school past all of this, and they're asking me questions that I don't have answers to.

CARROLL (voice-over): We found getting information just as challenging.

CARROLL (on camera): We're just trying to get a sense of what those pumps are? Can just someone just?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Norfolk Southern can tell you everything. That's the hotline. They can tell you everything.


CARROLL (on camera): You realize people are calling this number, and no one is getting back to them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just told to direct people to that number.

CARROLL (voice-over): The Governor, asked by reporters, Tuesday, if he would feel comfortable, living in East Palestine.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): I think that I would be drinking the bottled water. And I would be continuing to find out what the tests were showing, as far as the air. I would be alert, and concerned. But I think I would probably be back in my house.

CARROLL (voice-over): But residents, like Kathy Reese (ph), say they are left with few choices.

REESE (ph): Just, I guess, pray, and drink a bottle of water, until we know for sure what's going on.


CARROLL: And she is still drinking bottled water.

And Erin, as things wrapped up here, the folks that we spoke to, as they left, still feeling frustrated, still feel like a lot of their questions have not been answered, especially about testing of well water, how long the EPA will be on the ground, testing things.

Well tomorrow, the EPA Administrator, Michael Regan, is heading in, from Washington, D.C. He'll be on the ground, to assess everything that's going on here.


BURNETT: Jason, thank you very much.

And thanks to all of you for joining us.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Alisyn Camerota is next.