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Erin Burnett Outfront

New Video Of Russian Soldier On Front Line: "Our Tank Is Burning"; MyPillow Ads Still Airing On Fox Even As CEO Pushes False Claims; Rail Workers At Site Of Toxic Train Wreck Say They Are Sick; Rail Workers At Site Of Toxic Wreck Say They Are Sick And Are Experiencing Migraine And Nausea Days After Derailment; 160+ Residents Visit Clinic For Health Issues Tied To Derailment. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 01, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Russian soldiers calling their commanders incompetent. A remarkable statement and it's new video just into OUTFRONT tonight.

This as a former deputy of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny faces nearly 20 years behind bars. That sham trial starting today.

Plus, the CEO of MyPillow still propping up Fox with his ads, even as today he tweeted out election lies, today. So how much money has Mike Lindell poured into the fox empire? It's a story you'll see first OUTFRONT.

And a chilling discovery. The FBI arresting a man for trying to bring an explosive onto a plane. The explosives were said to be lining or hidden in the lining of his suitcase.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, taking it directly to Putin. Russian soldiers whose comrades are dying en masse are tonight appealing directly to the Russian president for help.


RUSSIAN SOLDIER (through translator): Our command has replenished our unit with new mobilized six times now. This is evidence of the incompetence of our superiors and of the whole unit. Please help. There is nowhere else to turn.


BURNETT: Just to break that down, these mobilized men are saying that their unit has been replenished six times. Think about all that death. It is horrific. And what is most significant about this appeal is that they directly, as mobilized men, are calling their commanders incompetent and directing that entire thing not just at Telegram for a random post, directly to Putin for him to see it. And it comes as we have another video of another Russian soldier as a soldier is calling the situation on the ground in Eastern Ukraine a Cluster-F.


RUSSIAN SOLDIER (through translator): Our tank is burning over there. Big greetings straight to everyone from the front line. First-hand evidence of what's happening here. It is a cluster (EXPLETIVE DELETED). But we are pushing, holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Glory to Russia.


BURNETT: These damning videos coming as inside Russia itself, the brutal Wagner Group is purportedly turning to students from Moscow in order to fill its ranks. And we understand that the students are in tenth grade. I want to emphasize the significance of the fact that these boys are in Moscow, which is the region that has sent the least fighters to the front line, the region that has been kept the most isolated from the effects of the war, where more elite live.

This is the video of what's believed to be a Wagner fighter, his face is covered, he's in a classroom, and he's lecturing students on so- called contract service.

Now, the students were forced to fill out, we understand, this survey, showing it to you on the screen. It asks for their personal information, also the contact information of their parents. It also asks, do you have any relatives who are living in hostile countries, and what is your level of physical fitness, do you possess any basic military skills. Those are elaborated as tactical first aid or shooting.

Now, I want to mention, CNN can't independently verify the claims, but this push for more recruits for the Wagner Group comes as Putin is continuing to crack down on dissent.

Today, a former top deputy of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny appeared in a Russian courtroom. Her name is Liliya Chanysheva. She's already been in jail for a year and faces another 18 years if convicted after opening a regional headquarters for Navalny's anticorruption foundation. That foundation has uncovered example after example after example of corruption from Putin and his inner circle.

In a moment, I'm going to speak to Anna Veduta. She is the vice president of Alexei Navalny's anticorruption foundation. She can't go back to her home in Russia or she'll be arrested upon her arrival.

I want to begin, though, with Fred Pleitgen. He is OUTFRONT live in Moscow tonight.

And, Fred, both Russia and Ukraine now are -- it's the focus, the obsession, the day-to-day death on this fight in Bakhmut. What is the latest there?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest, Erin, is that the city is apparently getting absolutely pulverized. It's one of the things that the Ukrainian commanders on the ground are saying. They're fighting back hard, but the Russians are bringing in some really heavy weaponry and military aviation as well. They say the city is just being absolutely ground down in pretty much all places in that city. Now, the Russians are saying that they're making progress, and they say their aim right now is to try and encircle Bakhmut.

Here's what we're learning.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Russia's view of what's currently the most bloody battle in Ukraine, state media releasing video of Moscow's troops pitting a Ukrainian armored vehicle in Bakhmut, the city devastated by months of relentless fighting.


Here, mercenaries from the Wagner private military company show off a destroyed U.S.-made M777 howitzer, while Wagner foot soldiers posed in a Bakhmut suburb.

Even as they acknowledged they're on the back foot, the Ukrainians vow to fight on. We won't give up Bakhmut, the soldier says. We will hold on until the very last. Glory to Ukraine, death to the enemies.

And Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin in an audio message acknowledges the Ukrainians aren't budging.

YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, WAGNRE BOSS (through translator): The Ukrainian army is throwing extra reserves into Bakhmut and trying to hold the town with all their strength. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are fiercely repelling attacks. Bloodshed increases every day.

PLEITGEN: Wagner mercenaries are the spearhead of the invasion groups. Prigozhin claims they're making progress but often lack the ammunition to advance.

PRIGOZHIN: I will say that a system needs to be worked out. I hope that this system will start functioning soon and we will be getting ammunition regularly.

PLEITGEN: The U.S. and Ukraine say the attrition rate among Wagner's assault groups, often made up of prisoners recruited from Russian jails, is as high as 80 percent. But Prigozhin's media channel is now trying to convey how Wagner is actually helping the convicts.

In this film, a former inmate thanks the mercenary group.

FORMER INMATE (through translator): Wagner gave me freedom and hope. Hope that we have a chance. There are many guys who are ready to give their lives for their motherland and hope that our society is still not fully rotten.

PLEITGEN: Ukraine says fighters like these are often little more than cannon fodder. Ukraine's president vowing to hold on even as the Russians say it's only a matter of time before they take Bakhmut.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Russia does not count people at all, sending them to constant assault on our positions. The intensity of the fighting is only increasing.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And, Erin, tonight, an official from the Russian controlled area, the Donetsk People's Republican, around where Bakhmut is, he's claiming that even some of the toughest Ukrainian units are apparently suffering heavy casualties and some of them have had to be rotated out. Of course, the Ukrainians are saying they're trying to hold on, and they certainly say at this point in time they have no plans to retreat from Bakhmut, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Fred Pleitgen, from Moscow tonight.

And on the back of that reporting, let's go straight to Cedric Leighton, retired air force colonel. And I appreciate your time.

So, you heard the Ukrainian soldier in Fred's reporting there saying we won't give up Bakhmut. We will hold on to it until the very last.

Now, this was a town of 70,000, was, obviously it's uninhabited now, essentially. But you heard Fred, they're not going to stop fighting for it. Is it worth it at this point for Ukraine, right? I mean, obviously, it is possible to lose a battle and win a war.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITTARY ANALYST: Yeah, absolutely, Erin. And I think that's what the Ukrainians need to think about. So, to answer your question, it is not worth it right now any more for the Ukrainians to hold onto Bakhmut at this point in time. They've made their point, they have decimated a large number of Russian forces, and they now need to go and basically live to fight another day.

It is very important for them to preserve as much of their army as they possibly can, especially if they want to mount an offensive in the spring.

BURNETT: So, obviously, that would be a significant decision, and they're not there yet, but I think it's important to hear your call for that. I want to show in the context of, as you talk about, the Russians -- part of the reason they have been able to get to where they are in Bakhmut is they just throw wave after wave of soldiers. You heard that one talking that their unit has been replenished six times. And now, we've got that video. This is of a Wagner fighter at that school in Moscow.

Now, we haven't been able to verify this. But these are boys being recruited to fight. And it's in Moscow, the region that at least up to this point has been the least touched by this war. What does that signal to you?

LEIGHTON: So, to me, what that means, Erin, is that they are desperate to get more personnel, and they're thinking for a future war. They're thinking for the long term. So either one of two things is going to happen -- these boys in Moscow are going to be recruited into the Wagner Group, and at least some of them will be. And the idea is in two years' time when they will be 18 two or three years' time, they will be ready to replenish the forces that will be decimated in the intervening area.

So this is a very important move on their part and very interesting that they're doing this in Moscow because they think that they will need that population to replenish the forces that have come from the provinces, from other parts of Russia, and it's very significant that they are doing this at this point.

BURNETT: Yeah, as you point out, perhaps running out of people that they can use from those provinces.


Thank you very much, Colonel.

And now turning to Putin's crackdown at home, cracking down on the dissent, as I mentioned, the trial of Liliya Chanysheva, the former top deputy to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Now, she was arrested after opening a regional headquarters for Navalny's anticorruption foundation. And now, she is facing 18 years in a Russian prison. She's been charged with, quote, establishing an extremist community, according to Radio Free Europe. She was arrested nearly 16 months ago, been in detention ever since, wasn't able to see anybody.

OUTFRONT now, Anna Veduta, the vice president of Alexei Navalny's anticorruption foundation and a former spokesperson for Navalny.

And, Anna, I very much appreciate your time. Do you believe there is any way that Liliya will avoid an 18-year sentence here?

ANNA VEDUTA, VICE PRESIDENT, NAVALNY'S ANTI-CORRUPTION FOUNDATION: Well, unfortunately, we don't have any evidence that would suggest she would avoid that because the way that she's been put into this detention center instead of being under house arrest. This is the measure which is implied when the persecutors are afraid that the person will try to escape but clearly is on the opposite.

She was always very vocal about her staying in Russia, not going anywhere, and not leaving her country, and not leaving her region. So, this only, this done (ph) -- the fact that she is not allowed, she was not allowed to talk to her parents on the phone, not to have visits with them with her parents and with her husband for the 16 months behind the bars. So, we do think that they will be harsh on her.

And this is -- why they are being so harsh on her, because she is a very talented opposition politician. She was very effective in what she was doing. She was very successful in gathering rallies against the corruption in her region. She was investigating corruption of the officials in her region. She was a very effective manager of the headquarters of the regional campaign in Ufa. BURNETT: And I know that this, of course, her situation right now is

coming ahead of Navalny -- I use the word trial with great quotation marks, is coming up as well. And he is currently in solitary confinement in a maximum security Russian penal colony. His recent tweet was, which I want to be clear to everybody when I say this, he can't tweet, it's when he's able to get a message out and someone can put that tweet out for him.

It was, the main torment of imprisonment is of course the inability to see the faces of your family, to talk to your loved ones. I haven't had any visit for eight months. And yesterday, I was told I'd be transferred to a cell-type facility for the maximum possible term of six months.

So he says he wouldn't have had a visitor then for a year. Of course, his health is suffering and now he's got this other trial. Do you believe that you'll see him out of jail alive?

VEDUTA: Of course, I believe I will see him out of jail alive. But we also understand that his sentence is a life sentence in terms that it's either his life sentence or Putin's. So as long as Putin is in the office, Navalny will not see freedom. But we do believe that we will see him free one day, and we will get Putin out of Kremlin and, of course, out of Ukraine.

BURNETT: You know, Liliya very well and I know she made the decision to stay. I know if you were to go back, you were to be arrested. You know what would await you at this point. Are there others who are still continuing to try and stay in Russia and continue this fight?

VEDUTA: Of course. There are still people who are protesting against the war right now in Russia, and there are a lot of people in political prisons who've been protesting, who've been opposing this government and this war. Of course, a lot of people decide to stay, and they do it for the reason that it's their country and they don't intend to leave it, they don't intend to leave it in the hands of these bandits in Kremlin. And they are trying to -- they are waiting for the time to be free, to make Russia free and great again.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Anna, thank you very much. I appreciate your time in coming out and speaking about your friends and your colleagues who are suffering through this, thank you.

VEDUTA: Thank you very much. Free Navalny.

BURNETT: And coming up on Friday, I'm going to host a special hour on Navalny, including an exclusive interview with his daughter Dasha. "CNN PRIMETIME": Navalny and the Cost of Standing Up to Putin" airs Friday at 9:00.

And, next, why can't Fox quit MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell who's still pushing bogus election lies even today, today online doing it? And the network is still taking his advertising dollars. We'll tell you just how much money he gives Fox.

Plus, rail workers cleaning up the toxic train derailment say they're getting sick. The White House is facing a lot of pressure to do more. The Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is OUTFRONT.

Plus, new video of the murder scene where prosecutors say Alex Murdaugh shot and killed his wife and son as the state makes its closing arguments.


CREIGHTON WATERS, PROSECUTOR: We couldn't bring you any eyewitnesses because they were murdered.




BURNETT: Tonight, grilled. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan facing mounting questions over his decision to remain on the board of Fox News parent company. This bombshell court document shows that the network knowingly pushed lies about the 2020 election.


CHARLIE SYKES, BULWARK PODCAST: If you are on the board of directors of a company that is pumping toxic sludge, racism, disinformation, and attacks on democracy, if you don't stand up now, then when?

PAUL RYAN, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I have a responsibility to offer my opinion and perspective, and I do that. But I don't go out on TV and do it.

SYKES: Right, I understand. But do you?

RYAN: I do, I do. I offer my perspective and my opinion often. I'll just leave it at that.


BURNETT: Well, it comes as Fox continues to air ads by the election denier Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow. And he continues to push voter fraud claims. He actually did it today on Twitter.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT on why Fox and Lindell are inseparable.


MIKE LINDELL, MYPILLOW CEO: Trying to attack your country and flip the election.

This is the biggest cover-up ever.

I have the evidence.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the get-go, it was a match made in media.

Mike Lindell, the conservative entrepreneur who made a fortune selling pillows and Fox --

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: He's one of our biggest sponsors and we are grateful for that.

FOREMAN: The right-wing news empire that took his ad dollars and let him relentlessly push unfounded conspiracy theories about how the election was stolen from Donald Trump, how Dominion voting machines were part of the plot and how Dominion was allegedly trying to take him down for exposing it.


LINDELL: They hired hit groups and bouncing trolls, went after all my vendors, all these box stores to cancel me out.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Do you ever see this guy with the pillows on Fox?

FOREMAN: Lindell's mutual admiration with Trump has always been out in the open and unshakeable.

LINDELL: When I walked out of his office, I was 100 percent convinced he would be the greatest president in history.

FOREMAN: Less publicized, how much money Lindell has poured into the Fox Empire, his chief outlet for promoting Trump. In the summer of 2021, "The Wall Street Journal" said Lindell told the paper, my pillow spent almost $50 million on Fox news last year. And so far this year has shelled out about 19 million for ad time on the network.

LINDELL: I want you to get the best night's sleep of your life.

FOREMAN: In a recent court deposition made public in a legal filing, Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox Corporation, acknowledged Lindell is a very big advertiser. The man is on every night, pays us a lot of money, Murdoch said. But then he added, at first you think it's comic, but then you get bored and irritated.

What's more with Dominion denying all the accusations and suing Fox, Lindell, and others in massive defamation cases, Murdoch suggested under oath he was troubled by a Fox News star letting Lindell repeat his unfounded claims again and again without even pushing back.

LINDELL: I have the evidence. I dare people to put it on. I dare Dominion to sue me.

FOREMAN: Yet, Lindell steamed on, denying any wrongdoing in the Dominion suit against him and sounding off at Fox on his podcast and other venues for not more wholly embracing the wild theories of one of their biggest advertisers and the defeated former president he admires.

LINDELL: Fox, where are you? Where are you, Fox?


FOREMAN: We reached out to Fox and to Lindell. Fox also denies all these claims and this lawsuit from Dominion.

It's worth noting that they haven't responded yet. And more so that as the evidence emerges here, one of the things that is clearly showing up is that plenty, plenty, plenty of people in Fox knew from the beginning that what Mike Lindell was saying was simply not true. There was nothing to back it up, and yet they kept putting him and his claims on the air -- Erin.

BURNETT: Absolutely. Tom Foreman, thank you very much.

I want to go now to David Korzenik. He's a prominent media defense attorney. He's represented many news outlets, NPR, "Forbes" and "The Guardian" among them.

So, David, you think there's a powerful case here against Fox News. And I know you've had a chance to read through all of the information that's available. How do you come to that conclusion?

DAVID KORZENIK, MEDIA DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, first of all, I've tried to take a look at the basic lines of defense that Fox has attempted to establish in its motion papers. And they're relying on powerful sources of defense that most of us rely on. But I -- my feeling is after reading through those things that Dominion is going to punch through all four of those lines.

One of the things that I think is the most interesting about this case, the most teachable thing about this case is that it helps us actually understand what actually malice really means. That's something that Dominion has to prove. And it looks like they can do it.

But here's what it is and here's what it isn't. This is what's really significant. It has nothing to do with bias. It has nothing to do with financial motive. It has nothing to do with advocacy of a particular position. That's what many plaintiffs say. That's what many jurors think.

It's about a state of mind about truth and falsehood. It's saying something that you know is false, that you subjectively believe to be false, and yet broadcasting it.

And here, you have this big -- in single stories that may be more complicated. But here you have a long series of broadcasts, all of which promote and propagate a particular point of view, a particular fact, and it is done at the same time that they believe it to be false.

BURNETT: Right. And they were doing it. They were doing it on their own on an individual basis, but also let me take Mike Lindell, right? And so, it's interesting, you say profit motive actually isn't even the driving factor here. Seventy million bucks in that time.

But the point you're saying is that as Tucker Carlson privately was saying he knew it to be a load of B.S. and knew it to be false, he put Mike Lindell on his show and allowed him to say those falsehoods and then repeated them himself. KORZENIK: And endorsed it, yeah, and endorsed it, and promoted it.

And that's the problem that they face. They may be able to eliminate some of the statements as opinion.


They may be able to eliminate some of them as fair reports of a public proceeding or a public official. You can do that. And you're protected in New York, very comfortably.

They're not going to succeed with a neutral reportage. There's nothing neutral about the way in which they presented it.


KORZENIK: It's an important defense that we're all trying to protect and develop. It's not well-recognized in New York. I want to see it succeed. This case is going to hurt that effort. But we'll still manage to push that through.

And as far as actual malice, they're going to try to slice and dice it if they can and separate Murdoch's statements from, you know, from the anchors' statements. It's not going to succeed. It was a top-down effort to make sure -- I know our readers don't believe -- our listeners don't believe -- do believe it, we don't, but we're going to say it.

BURNETT: And that's clear. I mean, the preponderance of evidence is very clear.

All right. Well, thank you so much, David. I appreciate your expertise.

And next, the Biden administration under pressure as workers cleaning up that toxic train derailment say that they're getting sick, and those who live nearby, of course, are afraid for their safety.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The soil at the farm, can we plant, can we not plant? Will anybody buy it if we do plant?


BURNETT: Plus, returning to the scene of the crime. Cameras are there just as the jury visits the place where prosecutors say Alex Murdaugh killed his wife and son.


BURNETT: New tonight, rail workers at the site of the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, are sick. Now, this is according to a rail workers union letter saying that, "Many employees reported that they continue to experience migraines and nausea, days after the derailment." It comes as tests in the area show unusually high levels of chemicals, and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine warns that 30,000 truckloads of waste will need to be removed. Think about that. 30,000 truckloads. Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT in East Palestine with more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I definitely think we're on a good path.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nearly a month since the derailment, toxic chemical spill and fire, a small Ohio town of East Palestine and the surrounding area in recovery mode, the community still struggling to its feet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is definitely lots of questions that still remain to be answered.


MARQUEZ: Possible answers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA now opening a full-time community resource center in downtown East Palestine.


MICHAEL REGAN, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I understand that we have to earn the community's trust. There is a trauma here in this community. We understand that and we want to be transparent and responsive.


MARQUEZ: Officials at every level trying to reassure residents here that their concerns are being heard and addressed.


GOVERNOR MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: This is a very elaborate process. It's going - they're going about it methodically but quickly. I mean, this operation here is a 24/7 operation.


MARQUEZ: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine making yet another visit today to East Palestine, getting a first-hand look at the derailment site and the cleanup process.


DEWINE: The whole goal here is to make this community safe, and it can't happen overnight. You can't get all this stuff out of here overnight.


MARQUEZ: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also recently visited, after President Biden faced mounting criticism for not coming himself. But, despite all the attempts to show the work being done to make East Palestine safe, residents remain worried.


ELOISE HARMON, EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT: I have a part ownership and a farm. So, I'm concerned about that, the soil at the farm. Can we plant? Can we not plant? Will anybody buy it if we do plant?


MARQUEZ: More than 160 residents from the affected area have come to the health assessment clinic set up to specifically address lingering health issues, stemming from the derailment in subsequent controlled explosion and release. The EPA is vowing to continue to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for effects of the accident.


REGAN: In no way, shape, form or fashion, would Norfolk Southern get off the hook for the mess that they've created.


MARQUEZ: The railroad company has distributed $6.5 million in payments to affected residents so far, that number, though, dwarfed by the $7.5 billion the company had earmarked for shareholder buybacks in the latest financial report filed just hours before the derailment. Norfolk Southern has not responded to CNN on whether it expects to change its shareholder repurchase plans in the wake of the derailment.

So, what people want here in not only East Palestine but East of here where that toxic plume into Pennsylvania, where that toxic plume went after that fire is a sense of, when they're going to be beyond all of this? They want to know when their kids can play outside in the grass again, because that plume settled chemicals throughout the area. They want to know when it's going to be safe to swim in their ponds, play in the streams, and go fishing again, all the things that they love to do here. They feel that they're not getting enough information and certainly not enough testing to know when they will be on the other side of this. Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Miguel, thank you very much, from East Palestine.

And, I want to go now to the Democratic Senator from Ohio, Sherrod Brown, who just unveiled a bipartisan bill with Ohio's Republican Senator J. D. Vance, along with others in response to this disaster. They want to prevent future train derailments, and it is a move of bipartisanship. And, Senator, I want to ask you about it in just a moment. But, first, we've got this developing news about the union saying that rail workers at the site of the train derailment are now sick, symptoms include migraine and nausea. Do you know anything about this, and do you think this is the tip of the iceberg for what many people there could suffer?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO; INTRODUCED RAILWAY SAFETY ACT: I don't think we know. We do know that people, some people, haven't gotten into - back into their homes. We do know that they haven't tested many water wells. We do - I talked to Melissa Smith, small business owner in East Palestine who has a farm four miles away, not too different from the lady who interviewed, who has 25, 30 beef cattle, and she is hearing from her regular customers that they're unsure now if they want to buy that meat.

So, we - that's why - I mean, you keep in mind, this is - Norfolk Southern has benefited for years by their executives, by stock buybacks. They've laid off a third of their workforce in the last 10 years, meaning, they're not doing the track inspections. They're almost cursory inspections. Instead of having enough employees to do that, they want only one person on the trains and the locomotives that are pulling 150 cars.


They want scale back to that because they - it's all about their bottom line, and they go to Wall Street every quarter, and Wall Street likes what they do, and they show all the cuts they're making on employees and safety and all that, and they're going to be held responsible. But, we've got to make sure that we look at people's health today and people's health five years down the road too.

BURNETT: Right. And, as you point out, we don't know what we don't know, and that's what's so terrifying about it. And, this industry has been going through a seismic shift towards automation, as you point out right, one person on a train like that. Your bill does something that what we just don't ever see these days. You and J. D. Vance are working together. This is bipartisan. I would imagine there is very little you agree on, but you reign on this together. How exactly does this bill - how would it stop another East Palestine?

BROWN: Well, it would stop. It would be mitigate the damage and maybe even stop it by having - first of all, something Governor DeWine been upset about, rightfully is, he can't bring these trains into a state without disclosing you have hazardous materials. You've got to make sure that we're looking at minimum staff on those trains bracing that number. We want to make sure that fines, and these fines are pennies in their profits, fines that the railroad authorities, federal authorities or state authorities can levy against these rail companies. So, they don't even - they don't weigh, just factor that in as a cost of doing business. Those have got to be that much more severe.

We just - when safety measures generally on the tracks, they don't have enough employees to do the kind of inspection. And, here is the way I want this to work here. And, I - Senator Tester from Montana and I teamed up, he is the Chair of the Veterans Committee, on something called the PACT Act where we are making sure that we know those veterans, who as soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were exposed to these massive burn pits, if they developed one of 23 illnesses, they get immediate care from the VA.

We want to look at this the same way if people develop a bronchial or illness or a cancer that two years, five years from now, they're going to get the kind of help that they need. And, Norfolk Southern is paying for it because this was created by their greed and their ineptness and their incompetence, and they are going to pay every cent of the damage - pay people back for the damage they caused.

BURNETT: When we look at the national response to this, the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg admits that he has regrets that he didn't address the situation sooner. House Republicans are now pushing a resolution demanding his resignation, and Congressman Waltz who introduces it says in part, "From failing to immediately respond to last month's major economic, environmental, and humanitarian disaster in East Palestine to neglecting his duties during a historic supply chain crisis, commercial flight crisis, rail workers strike, and so much more, Buttigieg has endangered and failed the American people time and time again." Of course, there have been five near misses now we understand, documented in American airports so far this year. Senator, do you still have confidence in Secretary Buttigieg?

BROWN: Yes. I don't - there are people that want to politicize this, and that's what they're going to do in the House of Representatives. And, I don't really much care. Senator Vance and I with Senator Rubio and Senator - the new Senator from Missouri and the new Senator from Pennsylvania, and Bob Casey and I are actually working to solve this bipartisan way. That's why we've done this bipartisan bill.

I've spoken to Senator Schumer about moving this bill. I spoken to the Chair of the Commerce Committee, Senator Cantwell, and the Chair of the Subcommittee that works on this, Senator Peters from Michigan. I want to do something. They can do all the criticism and call on people to resign. People in East Palestine, it's a Republican community, but they don't care about that. They don't want politicians coming in and disrupting things. They want action. They want solutions. That's what J. D. Vance and I are doing.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Senator. Thanks so much.

BROWN: Sure. We'll do it again. Thanks, Erin. See you.

BURNETT: All right. And next, the prosecution calling Alex Murdaugh a family annihilator, during its closing arguments, as the disgraced attorney is accused of killing his wife and son.


CREIGHTON WATERS, LEAD PROSECUTOR: He fooled Maggie and Paul too, and they paid for it with their lives. Don't let him fool you too.


BURNETT: And, Congress taking a major step tonight toward banning TikTok from the United States.




BURNETT: Tonight, Alex Murdaugh was the only person with the motive, means, and opportunity to murder his wife and son, according to the prosecution making that case today, and presenting their closing arguments to the jury. They painstakingly laid out point by point the brutality of the crime and the lies that Murdaugh admitted to. It came after the jury was allowed to tour the dog kennels at the center of the trial. That's where the bodies of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh were found, the same kennels, prosecutors say, Alex Murdaugh lied about visiting during the night of the murders.

Dianne Gallagher has been covering this trial and she is OUTFRONT.


WATERS: Half the State of South Carolina asked you to return a verdict of guilty against the defendant Richard Alexander Murdaugh--


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The State of South Carolina closing out its double murder case against Alex Murdaugh.


WATERS: --because he was the threat to Maggie and Paul. He knows there is no vigilante out there.


GALLAGHER: Prosecutor Creighton Waters slamming Murdaugh as a thief and a liar who killed his wife and son to avoid a decade of financial crimes from being discovered.


WATERS: And, he fooled Maggie and Paul too, and they paid for it with their lives. Don't let him fool you too.


GALLAGHER: Waters telling the jury the gun used to kill Maggie Murdaugh has since disappeared, but that her husband would have been familiar with it.


WATERS: Family weapons were used to commit this crime--


GALLAGHER: --while recalling all the details, data, video and testimony presented to the jury over the nearly six-week trial--


WATERS: And, after an exhaustive investigation, there is only one person who had the motive, who had the means, who had the opportunity to commit these crimes. (END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: --with emotional descriptions painting the state's picture of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh's final moments on June 7, 2021.



WATERS: You heard that Maggie had no defensive wounds. You also heard Paul, that sibling from that first shot at close range shot with no indication that he detected a threat from the person who fired that weapon, and why, because it was him. Same with Maddie, because Maggie sees what happens and she comes running over there, running to her baby.


GALLAGHER: After denying he was ever at the crime scene before the murders, prosecutors say the video found on Paul's phone changed everything, forcing Murdaugh's bombshell testimony, admitting he'd been at the kennels in the minutes before the state says Paul and Maggie were killed there.


WATERS: One thing I will agree with him that he sat up there, Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we first practice TSA. How appropriate coming from that man.


GALLAGHER: Jurors getting to see that crime scene for themselves Wednesday morning. A media poll granted access after the jury tour, described the now overgrown deserted Moselle property as haunting, the last place Maggie and Paul were seen alive.


WATERS: We couldn't bring you any eyewitnesses because they were murdered.


GALLAGHER: Now, in his three-hour closing arguments, Creighton Waters presented a lot of evidence, but he also spoke to the jury about reasonable doubt and circumstantial evidence, explaining that you can still come to a guilty verdict with circumstantial evidence. Now, look, Alex Murdaugh has admitted to a lot on the stand, including lying and stealing, but he has not admitted to killing his wife and his son. Erin, he has maintained his innocence from the start on these charges. I anticipate tomorrow, when the defense begins its closing arguments, that we're going to hear a lot about reasonable doubt and circumstantial evidence.

BURNETT: Absolutely. All right. And, Dianne, thank you very much. I said Dianne has been covering this from the very beginning. And, tonight on CNN, a breakdown of the trial with Laura Coates. Don't miss CNN Primetime inside the Murdaugh murders. That will be an hour-long special tonight at nine.

And next, Congress taking a major step tonight and banning Chinese- owned TikTok from the United States, something used by millions and millions of Americans.

And, tonight, an arrest after a man allegedly packed an explosive device in his suitcase and tried to board a plane.




BURNETT: Tonight, a major step forward in banning TikTok, the House Foreign Affairs Committee tonight approving a bill giving President Biden the power to essentially ban the Chinese-owned app in the U.S. for security reasons, Congressman Mike McCaul saying, "Anyone with TikTok downloaded on their device has given the Communist National Party of China a backdoor to all their personal information. It's a spy balloon in their phone." This comes as the Chinese President Xi Jinping rolls out the red carpet for one of Putin's closest allies, the country who helped set the stage for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and has provided safe harbor and supply. Will Ripley is OUTFRONT.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: From one strong man to another, a lavish state visit in Beijing for the man many call Europe's last dictator, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko meeting behind closed doors with Chinese President Xi Jinping, two close allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, China and Belarus bolstering autocratic support for Putin, for Moscow, despite Russia's unprovoked war on Ukraine. Beijing blasting the U.S. last week for what China calls external interference in Belarus's internal affairs and illegal unilateral sanctions against the country for supporting Putin's war. Before Beijing rolled out the red carpet, Lukashenko praised China's progress.


ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, PRESIDENT OF BELARUS (TRANSLATED): Today, not a single issue in the world can be resolved without China.


RIPLEY: On the surface, they seem like unlikely allies. China's economy dwarfs that of Belarus, China's population, about 150 times bigger, but Belarus straddles a strategic hotspot bordering both Ukraine and Russia. Last year, Lukashenko allowed Putin's army to invade Ukraine through his territory. Belarusian and Russian troops expanded joint combat drills in January, casting doubt on Lukashenko's claim he won't send his soldiers into battle unless Ukraine attacks first. Tanks and trenches bolster Ukraine's northern border with Belarus. I traveled there in December, troops trained with World War One style tactics, constantly preparing for potential Russian attacks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (TRANSLATED): We are not afraid of them, says the Captain Dimitri.


RIPLEY: China's deepening ties with Putin's allies puts further strain on its U.S. relationship, tensions rising more this week, top U.S. officials accusing China of a plot to possibly send weapons to Russia, warning against what the U.S. calls lethal support.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We did very clearly warn China about the implications and consequences of going through with providing such support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a red line that both the U.S. and many other Western countries and the EU itself have drawn for China, and told China directly not to cross it.


RIPLEY: China denies planning to arm Russia, positioning itself as a potential peacekeeper, publishing a 12-point document without calling Putin's war an invasion, now entering its second year.

President Xi claims to be neutral in all of this, and yet he is widely believed to be preparing for a potential Putin visit in the coming months, and at the same time refusing to even speak by phone with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about this so-called peace plan. Instead, he is joining forces with fellow strong men like Lukashenko, another close Putin ally, as the Russian President appears determined to win this war in Ukraine at any cost. Erin.

BURNETT: Well, thank you very much.


And next, a chilling discovery, an explosive device with two fuses hidden in the lining of a suitcase. Tonight, the man who tried to get through airport security and on a plane, is in custody.


BURNETT: And finally tonight, an explosive device found inside a passenger suitcase at an American Airport, the FBI arresting Mark Muffley at an airport in Pennsylvania. According to court documents, an alarm alerted TSA agents that the bag contained explosives, and then when they looked at it, they found a circular compound packed with powder and two fuses. It was found hidden in the lining of a suitcase, the powder believed to be a mixture of flash powder and dark powder used in commercial grade fireworks.

According to investigators, the black powder and flash powder I'm "are susceptible to ignite from heat and friction, and pose a significant risk to the aircraft and passengers". It's an incredible thing, and investigators say Muffley fled the airport after being paged by airport officials. He was later arrested at his home just last night, and is due to appear in court on Thursday. Pretty incredible to think about this happening now.

Well, thank you so much for joining us, and don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT any time. You just have to go to CNN Go. In the meantime, let's hand it off now to my friend Anderson Cooper on "AC360".