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Erin Burnett Outfront
Possible Trump Arrest Timing Unclear, Could Be As Soon As Tomorrow; Pence Discourages Protests If Trump Is Arrested; Ukraine: Russia Fired On Bakhmut 178 Times Over Past 24 Hours; Russia Struggles To Take Bakhmut As Putin Hosts Xi In Moscow; Tucker Carlson's Private Text Messages Shown At Dominion Hearing; Saudis Release U.S. Citizen Imprisoned For Critical Tweets. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 21, 2023 - 19:00 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, blow up the country. That's one Republican's dire warning if Trump is indicted, which could happen as early as tomorrow.
This as OUTFRONT legal expert Ryan Goodman says the D.A. must indict. And he is here to explain exactly why to you.
Plus, Ron DeSantis in a new interview calls Trump attacks background noise, predicts he can beat Biden. This, of course, from a man who has not declared that he's even running.
And a judge tearing into Fox News, accusing the network of knowingly providing false information as Tucker Carlson's private texts were shown in a court. We're going to show you what Tucker Carlson said.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, blow up our country. Those are the words of a GOP senator who warns an indictment against the former President Trump, which could come as early as tomorrow, would be disastrous for America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It's going to blow up our country, and this is a bunch of B.S.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, in just a few hours, the grand jury in New York investigating the $130,000 payment that Trump's fixer Michael Cohen made to Stormy Daniels, the adult film star, will meet. The grand jury's going to together again. And that is when they could vote on whether to indict a former president of the United States for the first time.
There are 23 of them on that grand jury. It takes a simple majority. You don't have to have unanimity, just a majority in order to get that indictment.
But it is not only Lindsey Graham who's out there warning of doom. A lot of top legal experts say it would be a big mistake for the District Attorney Alvin Bragg to indict Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON SALE, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: We don't want to be prosecuting Donald Trump for a matter we wouldn't prosecute someone else for.
JONATHAN TURLEY, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I'm afraid this has all of the markings of a political prosecution. It's hard to escape that conclusion. I mean, previous prosecutors rejected this claim, decided not to move on it, including the department of justice.
SOL WISENBERG, FORMER DEPUTY TO WHITEWATER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL KEN STARR: Would a case like this be brought against anybody else whether he or she be former president, or a regular citizen? And the answer -- the answer is no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I should note Jonathan Turley there, the second person you saw spoke was a witness for Trump during his first impeachment trial. But there are lawyers -- a lot of them have been saying that, but there is another way of looking at this.
And OUTFRONT legal analyst Ryan Goodman, the former Defense Department special counsel, the editor of the legal blog "Just Security" says that if Bragg is following precedent, then he must indict. So, Goodman's going to explain all of this to you in just a moment.
But, of course, on top of all this, as we all know and as Lindsey Graham's words show, this is more than a legal question. It is, in every sense, political, too. All of the players here are politicians. The district attorney Alvin Bragg is a Democrat, elected by the voters of New York. Trump, of course, is obviously one of the most polarizing political figures in American history.
And his fellow Republicans have been wasting no time in the political basis here coming to his defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-ND): I can tell you from my experience if the defendant wasn't Donald Trump, this wouldn't be brought by a D.A. That's just the truth.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): It's obvious that this is a sham.
REP. MICHAEL WALTZ (R-FL): It just reeks of a politicized investigation.
REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART (R-FL): I hope that this rogue left-wing prosecutor does not go forward with something that we are used to seeing in places like Putin's Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Okay. So those were all the Republicans getting in line, backing the Republican-declared nominee, the former president.
But what's interesting about this is it's not just Republicans. There are some prominent Democrats who say that this is not a slam dunk.
Senator Joe Manchin just moments ago telling reporters that people need to be careful when it comes to potentially indicting Trump, warning that an indictment would only help Trump politically. Manchin saying, it just emboldens him. He's the type of person that's sometimes emboldened by outrageous things. When I think a court system is it perceived to be used for something different, it could have a completely reverse effect.
And Senator Mark Kelly with this warning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK KELLY (D-AZ): I would hope that if they brought charges that they have a strong case, because this is unprecedented. And, you know, there are certainly risks involved here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Well, let's get straight now to Ryan Goodman. He's OUTFRONT, along with our senior legal analyst Laura Coates and Gordon Heddell, former assistant director of the Secret Service.
So, thanks very much to all of you. Ryan, let me start with you. You heard three top lawyers say what other lawyers have been saying that they don't believe Trump should be indicted here.
But you have gone through history. You have gone through precedent. You have come to a different conclusion.
RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPT. OF DEFENSE: That's right. I think it's actually an empirical question. So, what we did is we surveyed the last 15 years of all the district attorney offices across New York and saw how many times they brought this particular charge, falsifying business records.
And the conclusion is, essentially, if the person's last name was not Trump, he would be charged.
Just to give you a few examples, these are different district attorneys' offices in 2010, a woman goes into the Lord & Taylor store. She applies for a false store credit by returning merchandise that she did not purchase and then uses that store credit to walk out of the store with additional merchandise. She's convicted.
2015, another district attorney, just as examples, a married couple has a fire, and they claimed that one of their sofas cost $5,000, when actually they paid in cash under $2,000. They're convicted of falsifying business records.
Another example, 2022, an individual teacher is indicted because she sent a false COVID card that she made out to the department of education.
Another 2022 one is a repair owner in the Bronx, files false income tax and then claims $60,000. He should've paid $60,000 that he did not pay in taxes. He is indicted.
It just happens time and again. It's commonplace to charge this kind of a crime. If the evidence is there, it's very compelling how does a prosecutor turn away from that treating everybody equally under the law would mean you bring an indictment if you have the evidence.
BURNETT: If you have the evidence and I know, of course, we don't know exactly what evidence they have. You're not making a point in that, but you're saying if you believe you have it, that the precedent would show that.
Laura, what do you think would you read through that?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, when you look at this, there has been somebody who has been charged under the common nucleus of facts, Michael Cohen, they have investigated this, but it was for a different and a federal charge. So the idea of just bypassing what the fed decided to do or did not do when you had a change in administration, of course, right? You had Bill Barr who became the attorney general who really frowned upon what he perceived as a political prosecution in the courts as opposed to the actual substantive issue. That's number one.
Number two, we're talking around the issue of prosecutorial discretion.
Think about it as if you're driving down the highway. Most people probably are speeding, and the cops are seeing you as well. They decide who to pull over. And they decide that based on who might be the most egregious or beyond, here, this might not fall in the egregious category compared to January 6th and beyond, but the prosecutor has the ability to bring a case if a crime has been committed without regard to the other things that may have happened around it.
And this Alvin Bragg, he doesn't have to follow what DOJ is doing, Erin, or what the Fulton county person. And, in many respects, the fact that he's getting a lot of criticism on this based on his timing, one could look at Attorney General Merrick Garland and Fani Willis and say why have they not gone yet?
BURNETT: Right, and that a crucial question. The speeding analogy, I want to return to that in a moment. But first, how much of a heads up -- and I was saying, look, the grand jury, the 23 individuals there are going to meet tomorrow, simple majority is all that's needed so that indictment could come down tomorrow, could take a few more days, we don't know.
But how much of a heads up would the Secret Service get if Trump is going to be indicted? For example, if it's going to happen tomorrow, does the secret service already know?
GORDON HEDDELL, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, SECRET SERVICE: Yeah, Erin, that's a good question. But here's the thing. You're talking about one of the most professional organizations in our government.
The Secret Service, I can assure you, is well ahead of this. They've probably been -- in fact, I know they've been talking to their law enforcement counterparts at both federal and state levels. And they know at least a little bit about what's going to happen, how they're going to handle it, and what to do in a case of different options that could come up. You can count on that.
BURNETT: So, Ryan, the speeding car analogy, it actually says so much when Laura brings this up. There are all kinds of reasons why somebody is picked and not somebody else. All of these things play into it in that particular situation.
And that just brings me to the point that the political layers here, you can't separate it out. You've got an elected Democrat as the district attorney. You've got a former Republican president polarizing Trump.
So does all of this raise the bar, granted subjectively, for how serious the charges need to be to bring an indictment?
GOODMAN: So, in some sense, it shouldn't raise the bar in that everybody's supposed to be treated the same, the U.S. Supreme Court and the United States v. Nixon and Clinton v. Paula Jones has said the president is not above the law, must be treated the same way. Recently, Mar-a-Lago, a conservative three-Republican appointee panel in the 11th circuit, said the president doesn't get special treatment. So that's the principle.
But, at the same time, we do need to be concerned that the legal system is not used as a weapon. And if somebody is the former president, that raises the concern that we don't want to see prosecutors going after what might look like the leader of the political opposition.
So I do think that the prosecutors might have to satisfy themselves. We have overwhelming evidence. And all the cases that I gave as examples that this is more egregious than even the average case. And I do think that this is more egregious. We're not just talking about a few thousand dollars.
We're talking about hush money payments in an election and that also leads to state tax crimes potentially with Michael Cohen. That's bigger than a lot of the other cases that have been prosecuted.
BURNETT: So, Laura, in this moment, as we're waiting right, what's this grand jury going to do? What Alvin Bragg is going to do and then the grand jury, which I guess there is a snowball's chance in hell that it doesn't go how he wants. But, you know, they each, there are two actors here that has some agency.
So, last night I played him briefly at the top of the show, he was speaking after Bob Costello who had formerly advised Michael Cohen, came out and testified yesterday in front of the grand jury and was speaking about his reputation and character which were both highly regarded. So here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Do you think there is any chance that Alvin Bragg does not indict Donald Trump at this point?
JON SALE, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: I do think there is a chance. And I think beyond a reasonable doubt that Bob Costello's testimony tips the scale in favor of not bringing this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is it possible that a majority of the 23-member grand jury does not vote to indict President Trump? Of course, and keep in mind you're in New York.
COATES: Sure. It is possible. Juries are unpredictable. This is not a voir dire jury in a jury trial that you're getting a little bit of a sense of how they might decide cases. But you're looking at more than the indictment.
If you're Alvin Bragg at the vote tally, you want to be sure because the burden here is the probable cause, it is very different from beyond a reasonable doubt. So if at the probable cause hearing, I have, say, 12 of 23 who say, yep, we're the majority.
BURNETT: That doesn't look so good.
COATES: Doesn't look good, that means 11 people, if my math is correct, and it is, that are saying to me you don't even have probable cause, so by the time I go to our trial, am I going to be confident? But if the tally is in a very different direction, that's much more encouraging to go forward with the prosecution.
BURNETT: Does this raise the bar? I know you only need a simple majority but he essentially needs unanimity, given the political realities.
GOODMAN: I'm not sure if he needs unanimity, but he needs an overwhelming majority.
BURNETT: An overwhelming majority.
So, Gordon, there's also a question of course about where Trump will be, right? Supposedly, he was going to travel to New York, this would be prearranged for the surrender and then almost certainly released. Do you think that that's already been agreed to? And if he doesn't do that, if he says he's not going to do that, he is just going to stay in Florida and defy what happens then?
HEDDELL: Erin, I think both the state and even federal authorities are talking about this as to what would happen if he does turn himself in and if he doesn't. If he decides in Florida that he's changed his mind, that becomes an issue to be resolved by both New York and Florida legal authorities, not the Secret Service.
However, the Secret Service and its law enforcement counterparts are going to be talking to each other. They're going to be talking about how do we handle this, if it becomes a problem, if it becomes dangerous in any respect, if it becomes difficult logistically. So they have options. They have a plan, they have options, and they have a good knowledge of what they're going to do if he does not turn himself in.
But one thing the Secret Service, there are two things they're going to, and you can count on this. One is they are going to protect this former president, okay? Congress gave them statutory authority to do that.
And the second thing, they are not going to break the law. So, they're going to do their jobs, they're going to do it professionally. I think they're already talking about these scenarios. But they're going to take care of business first, protect the former president and, number two, work with law enforcement to make sure that all of this takes place in a proper way.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much all of you. Really thought provoking here in these final hours and days before this hugely historically significant decision, whichever way it goes, is made.
And next, Mike Pence pushing back against Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I would discourage Americans from engaging in protests if in fact the former president is indicted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Former Congressman Peter Meijer who lost his election after voting to impeach Trump over January 6 is OUTFRONT next.
Plus, new video tonight of Russian forces under attack as Putin ramps up his assault on the key city of Bakhmut. There have been more than 175 strikes in the past 24 hours. We're going to tell you exactly what's happening there.
And a Colorado dentist accused of poisoning his wife. Tonight police say he was searching online for how to poison someone without getting caught.
[19:18:40] BURNETT: Tonight, former Vice President Pence trying to calm Trump supporters in the event that the former president is arrested.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: The Constitution provides the right to peaceably assemble. But I think in this instance I would discourage Americans from engaging in protests if in fact the former president is indicted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Pence's words come after Trump urged his supporters to act if he's charged, telling them, quote, protest, take our nation back. Of course, words that echo words he said prior to January 6th.
OUTFRONT now, former Republican Congressman Peter Meijer of Michigan.
I should note, of course, that he lost his primary election after being one of ten house Republicans who voted to impeach Trump following the January 6th insurrection.
Congressman Meijer, so you did what you felt was the right thing to do, and you paid the price for it. So, I know you believe that a possible indictment of Trump would be a massive political gift to him in the Republican primary specifically. Tell me why.
PETER MEIJER (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: It's very clear. And as someone who has seen their share of Democratic meddling in Republican primaries, this is an easy way to rally the base and to show that, despite maybe the former president's slipping influence within the Republican Party, at least in the eyes of Democrats, he's still a threat.
He's still the person to go after.
And I think that centering we're going to continue to see. I mean, the Democrats spent about half million in my primary to boost my kind of further right challenger. This is a great example of a way in which they are trying to, again, kind of elevate the candidate that they think has the least chance of success in the general, which is, frankly, former President Trump.
BURNETT: So, Speaker McCarthy also dismissed this possible indictment of Trump as political, okay, the indictment itself. And I just wanted to play for you what he told our Manu Raju, because he has a specific argument. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This was personal money. This wasn't trying to hide. This was seven years ago, statute of limitation. And I think in your heart of hearts you know too that you think this is just political. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And just to be clear, of course, the statute of limitations expires in May, which is why the District Attorney Bragg is getting up against a wall here. Because there is a statute of limitations, it has not yet expired. But we're on the proverbial eve of that.
What do you make, though, of McCarthy's attempts to downplay this? Do you think that that's right?
MEIJER: Well, I think it's very clear, no one should be above the law. But no one should also be beneath it. I think one of the frustrations here is that we are talking about a former president. And you can set Donald Trump aside. The standard that is going to be set for indictment will apply to any former president down the line if that's a Texas Republican D.A. going after Joe Biden over some, you know, tangential tie to Burisma.
MEIJER: If what the district attorney here in Manhattan is proposing goes through, we are in new territory, we are setting a precedent.
Now, specifically with regards to Speaker McCarthy, you know, I think it is inarguable that this is political. One of your former panelists was talking about that fact as well. You're talking about a former president that is inherently political.
And I think it's also, frankly, inarguable that if Donald Trump wasn't a former president, these charges would not be being brought. These charges wouldn't be being brought now. Until you have to in the eyes of the law take the personality out of this.
BURNETT: Okay. Which I understand your point. I don't know if you just heard Ryan Goodman. He's going through and giving examples in New York law where people, for more petty crime of maybe a thousand dollars at Lord & Taylor have been indicted and convicted of crimes, you know, making the argument that if you were to treat Trump like everybody else, you would go ahead and indict.
Of course, when you (AUDIO GAP) politics of this, I guess what you're saying is perhaps nobody would've even looked this hard or tried to find this if he weren't the former president.
Is that -- is that the argument that you're making, or am I summarizing it incorrectly?
MEIJER: No. I think it's the fact that there is that level of scrutiny. And, again, I think it's important to note what the actual charge we're probably talking about. I mean, it's essentially a likely misdemeanor I think to get it to the felony level requires some burdens of proof that I think are arguably will not be established in terms of intent and getting the records around the former president's intent.
So, essentially, we're talking an accounting misdemeanor from seven years ago. I mean, it's -- we can -- we can have a separate discussion on the Fulton D.A. grand jury in other parts of potential criminal liability that a former president may be facing.
BURNETT: Yeah, it's fair.
MEIJER: But if this is where we're now saying we're going to break the precedent or cross the Rubicon of having a former president indicted over a misdemeanor accounting charge from seven years ago, I mean, we're just treading into very dangerous ground going forward. I think it's important that those are involved in this understand what the future's going to look like here.
BURNETT: And what do you think about the calls to protest? Obviously the former president is telling people take our country back, protest. The former Vice President Mike Pence said that's your right. But in this case I think it's not a good idea to do it. Just let the process play out. What do you think?
MEIJER: Yeah. I'm certain we'll see some shows of support here or there.
I will say one bizarre silver lining of some of the conspiracies around what happened on January 6th and this belief that it was a fed- surrection, that it was federal agent who's provoked it as sort of a false flag psyop, one of the benefits of that is there's tremendous suspicion in kind of a further right conservative circles that any protest that they attend will essentially be exercised in entrapment.
So, I've seen a number of folks on the right, including Marjorie Taylor Greene actively rebutting and downplaying and saying, guys, don't do this, don't protest, especially, goodness, you know, are you going to have a massive rally in Manhattan? I think the NYPD are probably going to approach it slightly differently than the United States Capitol police did on January 6th.
BURNETT: Certainly so. And with -- also with the benefit of hindsight.
All right, thank you very much, Congressman. I appreciate your time.
And I want to go now to David Axelrod. He's the former senior adviser to President Obama, of course, our senior political commentator as well.
And, David, what's your reaction to Congressman Meijer as he thinks through this and comes to the conclusion as someone who is not a supporter of the former president in any way, shape, or form, voted for his impeachment, in fact, that he thinks this indictment is not the right thing?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I agree with him in part. I thought it was, and he is a friend of mine, I should note. He's just a fellow at my Institute of Politics. So -- but the argument that Democrats are bringing this case in order
to create sympathy for the president and boost his support among Republicans I think gives Democrats far more credit than they deserve. I think that, of all the cases that have been investigated here, all the probes that are ongoing, this is the least convincing one. Certainly, if you're thinking about cases that have heft, that have meaning, and that can be brought and won. If you're going to go after the president of the United States, you better have a case that is serious and that is winnable.
And so, I don't think anybody would say this is the strongest of these cases. And, as such, I agree with Peter that when you're dealing with the president of the United States, that ought to enter into the discussion.
BURNETT: So, Meijer may decide to run for an open Senate seat in Michigan. Excuse me, David. You spent time with him recently. What do you think about how he's walking that line?
AXELROD: I think he is in the same position many other Republicans are. Peter Meijer did a courageous thing by voting for impeachment. It costs him his congressional seat. Now, he wants to run for the U.S. Senate in a state, Michigan, where the party has gone way far right. In fact, an election denier who is running for chair and supported by Trump was beaten by someone to the right of him.
And, so, Peter is trying to navigate that. And so he has to signify in some ways that he is sympathetic to some of the concerns of the base. This is an opportunity to do it. And this particular case, I would have liked to hear him expound on some of these other cases, because having voted for impeachment, certainly he must think there's merit to the case in Georgia, to the case that the special counsel is looking at relative to the insurrection.
And, you know, the danger here, this is my concern about this case in New York is that if this is viewed as a politically motivated as frivolous, any time you have to use the word novel theory and porn star in the same sentence, it raises questions, okay? So, and it potentially taints the other cases.
Today, Kevin McCarthy was saying, you know, it starts here and it's going to go from here to -- and that's what Trump and his supporters want to do. They want to use this case to taint the other cases that are, in my view, far more serious and go to the heart of democracy.
BURNETT: One final question, David. Governor Ron DeSantis dismissing the, quote, Desanctimonious, a nickname given to him by the former president, saying he can't even spell it, and he's not sure what it means, which, of course, is certainly not true.
You can call me whatever you want, just as long as you also call me a winner because that's what we've been able to do in Florida.
DeSantis is calling a possible indictment of Trump political. But he's also taunting. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: I don't know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I just -- I can't speak to that.
(END VIDEO CLPI)
BURNETT: So, he said hush money and porn star twice before he defended Trump. What do you make of the defense?
AXELROD: Right. The defense -- he is walking the same mine field in some ways as Peter Meijer. He's trying to satisfy the base and separate himself a little from Trump.
But I think there is an argument that he and other Republicans can make, should make, which is there is so much noise around Donald Trump, there is such a circus around Donald Trump that no matter how much you like what he may have done as president, it's just a big, big burden to take into an election. And I think this issue about whether he can win is going to become much larger as time goes on here.
BURNETT: Yeah. All right. David Axelrod, thank you very much.
And next, Putin wining and dining Xi Jinping, putting out the luxury and the opulence as the fighting ramps up in Ukraine.
Plus, new reporting on Putin's surprise trip to Mariupol. Many Ukrainians doubted that it was even Putin in their country. The analysis is next.
Plus, Tucker Carlson's enraged texts revealed in court as a judge challenges Fox News in its defense in the $1.6 billion defamation case.
BURNETT: Tonight, new video into OUTFRONT of Russian forces under siege. They're highlighted here on your screen.
Russia, of course, has sent waves of forces to try to capture Bakhmut. In the past 24 hours, we understand there have been 178 strikes on the area. Ukraine, though, still as of now holding the line. You see the carnage of this particular strike on the left side of your screen, right? This is what's happening on the ground.
A Russian soldier dragging his comrade to safety, but then on the other side of your screen, the show, the opulence, everything is fine, everything is normal in Moscow for Putin and the Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
The Russian president wining and dining Xi Jinping, serving up an opulent state dinner and meeting today again with the communist leader for three more hours of talks. And outside the walls of the Kremlin, Putin is now shutting down
anyone who tries to talk about what's happening in Ukraine. Just today, a Nobel prize winning Russian human rights group said one of its leaders was arrested in Moscow.
Oleg spoke out just before he was questioned by police.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER (through translator): Why are they detaining you?
OLEG ORLOV, CO-CHAIRMAN, MEMORIAL HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENCE CENTER (through translator): It's related to accusations against me that I support Nazism, an idiotic idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I want to begin with Ivan Watson. He's OUTFRONT live in Kharkiv, on the ground tonight.
Ivan, what is the latest there?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, tonight, we've heard of the Russian war planes over the Black Sea firing missiles at the southern port city of Odesa. The Ukrainian military says that their air defense shot some of these down, but at least one of the projectiles got through, has caused some injuries, damaged a three-story building, we're hearing from the Ukrainian military.
In the meantime, the focus of the fighting is still this small Ukrainian city in the southeast that the Russian and Ukrainian militaries, they've basically been fighting this deadly grudge match since the summer, pounding each other, killing each other day and night, day and night. The leader of this Wagner mercenary group from Russia that's been at the forefront of that battle claims to control about 70 percent of it after months of fighting, the Ukrainians say they still control some of the city center, a major in the Ukrainian military says. The key is to still maintain control of one road out that the Ukrainians still have of this partially encircled city that is so essential for evacuating the wounded, for bringing in supplies.
There's another small Ukrainian town to the south of that that is also the scene of intense fighting. These areas on the eastern front is where so many people have been losing their lives week after week after week in this terrible war -- Erin.
BURNETT: It's absolutely terrible but, of course, so important what you're saying is the Russians are now trying again that assault on Odesa.
Thank you so much, Ivan.
And, so, just how valuable is what's going on in Moscow? That's Xi's visit to Putin.
Selina Wang is OUTFRONT.
SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russia's Vladimir Putin rolling out the red carpet for his, quote, dear friend, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, greeting each other for their second day of meetings in Moscow.
Despite skepticism from the west that the visit is more about supporting Russia and furthering Beijing's own self-interests, Putin and Xi signing an economic deal, deepening their partnership, and calling for an end to actions that increase tensions in the prolonged war in Ukraine.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Of course, we did not ignore the situation around Ukraine. We believe that many of the points on the peace plan put forward by China are consistent with Russian approaches and can be taken as the basis of a peaceful settlement when the West and Kyiv are ready for it. But this readiness is not observed on their side.
WANG: Since the war began, Russia has become far more dependent on China. China has been propping up Russia's economy amid western sanctions by purchasing its energy, replacing western suppliers in electronics, cars, and aircraft, and providing an alternative to the U.S. dollar.
In Russia, there is some cynicism about Beijing's motives, on a Russian state TV talk show, this military pundit said, China can have only one ally, China itself. China can only have one set of interests, pro-Chinese ones. Chinese foreign policy is utterly devoid of altruism.
But Chinese state media is in overdrive, touting the benefits of the Russia/China relationship, and its all positive comments on China's heavily censored social media. This one says, cooperation and win/win, the next one says, long live China/Russia friendship. Disagreements, if any, are censored.
By meeting with Putin, Xi wants to highlight his role as a global statesman that can offer an alternative to the current world order.
WANG (on camera): And, Erin, the real tangible outcome from this meeting is Beijing deepening ties in Russia in ways that benefits itself, the economic agreement they signed. That's going to likely give China even more leverage on its relationship.
Chinese policy in all of this is a bit contradictory, but it really boils down to publicly declaring neutrality, supporting Putin, but paying no price. That's why analysts I speak to say it's unlikely China would provide weapons because they do not want to pay a price for this relationship -- Erin. BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Selina.
And let's go now to Roman Badanin. He is a Russian journalist, the founder and editor in chief of the investigative journalism site Proekt, which has been targeted by the Russian government. He left Russia facing the threat of a prison sentence.
Roman, I'm glad to talk to you again.
A moment ago, I mentioned the Nobel Peace Prize-winning group in Russia, one of its leaders taken in for questioning today, released on bail for allegedly discrediting the Russian armed forces. And we've heard about a number of similar arrests recently.
Is Putin getting more aggressive at this time in cracking down?
ROMAN BADANIN, INDEPENDENT RUSSIAN JOURNALIST: Yes, it's absolutely correct. In my view, the Kremlin has clearly launched a brutal campaign against so-called internal enemies. And unfortunately, I'm afraid we will soon see very bad news of this kind from Russia.
BURNETT: More bad news on this. I mean, these stories are obviously horrible as they cross and the prison sentences being handed out.
I also know, Roman, you've been doing some reporting on Putin's trip to the Russian occupied city of Mariupol over the weekend, right, where he was -- just looking at those buildings, that's not what Mariupol looks like.
They would have had to put some sort of facade on him.
At one point, he was heckled by someone off camera. I want to play that moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HECKLER: This is not true. It's all for show.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: They yell, this is not true, it's all for show, seemingly surprising to Putin's security detail.
And, of course, as you know, Roman, there's been some talk that Putin wasn't actually even there, that he was either somewhere else or was a body double, or something like that. This has been coming from, you know, official channels, right, even in Ukraine. And I know you did a lot of digging on it.
What did you find?
BADANIN: Yeah, we did some geolocation research, and we have established that Putin was indeed driving through Mariupol. And, moreover, our colleagues from other Russian media, they also identified some of the people who got the footage, and these people really live in Mariupol.
So, all this in total suggests that the visit to Mariupol, as well as the visit to Crimea and to the military base, they really took place. But the details matter.
First, the visit was very secret. For example, not a single journalist in Moscow knew about the trip. Putin simply didn't take them with him.
Second, there was a very limited list of officials traveling with Putin. This suggests that the trip was kept secret until the very last moment.
And, finally, it's important that the trip took place at night for the sake of greater safety. And it shows us that the Kremlin was really afraid of information leaks. It turns out that the Kremlin do not trust even the officials surrounding Putin.
BURNETT: Yeah. I mean, that's pretty incredible that they would think that that could be a threat to him and his safety says so much.
Thank you so much, Roman. I'm glad to talk to you again.
BADANIN: Thank you.
BURNETT: All right. And, next, a dramatic day in court. A judge grilling lawyers for Fox News and Tucker Carlson's personal texts shown in the courtroom.
Plus, chilling details emerging in the case of a Colorado dentist accused of poisoning and killing his wife, including what investigators say are Internet searches that include, quote, how many grams of pure arsenic will kill a human.
BURNETT: Tonight, Tucker Carlson's personal texts with fellow anchors Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity shown in court, as attorneys for Fox News were grilled by the judge overseeing the $1.6 billion defamation case filed by Dominion Voting Systems. The judge asking how Fox could argue it was being fair in its reporting when the network was knowingly spreading false information about the 2020 election.
Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT.
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Fraud is something that is real that just took place two weeks ago.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The on-air words of Tucker Carlson and other Fox News hosts at the center of a $1.6 billion defamation case brought by Dominion Voting Systems. Lawyers for the voting machine and software-maker telling a Delaware judge today the fix was in, arguing that Fox producers and hosts knew the claims that Dominion rigged the 2020 election were false.
Even when they continually booked guests like Sidney Powell, who perpetuated the falsehoods.
SIDNEY POWELL, ATTORNEY WHO CHALLENGED 2020 ELECTION RESULTS: The dominion voting systems, the Smartmatic technology software and the software that goes in other computerized voting systems here as well, not just Dominion, were created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chavez to make sure he never lost an election after one constitutional referendum came out the way he did not want it to come out.
SCHNEIDER: Fox News maintains it is proud of its 2020 election coverage and that it is fully protected by the First Amendment, arguing it can't be held liable for airing newsworthy allegations from public figures.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: And there are other aspects of this fraud that, at this point, I really can't reveal. This is really enough. It's enough to overturn any election.
SCHNEIDER: A judge will now determine whether to decide the case on the claims already presented to him or if the case will go to a jury trial next month.
The decision comes as a Fox News producer is suing the network for allegedly coercing her into giving misleading testimony during a deposition for the Dominion case. Abby Grossberg's lawyer saying Fox News had its lawyers misleadingly coach, manipulate and coerce Ms. Grossberg to deliver shaded and/or incomplete answers during her sworn deposition testimony.
Fox News responding that attorney/client privilege prevents it from commenting on the claims. But the producer is now on administrative leave from the network. If the defamation case goes to trial, Dominion wants to put Fox Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch on the stand as well as his CEO son Lachlan. Both have already given depositions in the case, with Rupert Murdoch acknowledging Fox News hosts endorsed election conspiracy theories and then saying, I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): Fox News is resisting efforts to put Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch on the witness stand, saying it would be a hardship for both of them to appear and would only create a media circus.
Both sides in this case will be back in court tomorrow. And if this case goes to trial, that trial would likely start some time next month -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Jessica, thank you very much. Incredible to imagine if that actually happens if they do not reach a settlement.
And don't miss what's coming up on "AC360". Trump's legal fight over hush money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Ronan Farrow, the author of "Catch and Kill", will be on the show coming up at the top of the hour.
And next, after this, investigators revealing the Colorado dentist accused of poisoning his wife, searching the internet for how to make poison and not get caught.
And an OUTFRONT update tonight. An American citizen sentenced to 16 years in a Saudi prison for tweets sent while he was in Florida has been released. It's an amazing story, but you'll hear why his family says he is still not free.
BURNETT: Tonight shocking new details about what police are calling a, quote, heinous, complex and calculated murder in Colorado. The dentist James Craig, he is a dentist in Aurora is accused of poisoning his wife Angela with arsenic. Police say they were tipped off by employees in his dental practice who suspected he was responsible for her death and then they found search history on his office computer.
Josh Campbell is OUTFRONT.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Colorado dentist now preliminarily charged with first degree murder, accused of killing his wife by poison believed to have been given to her in protein shakes.
JAMES TOLLIVER CRAIG, DENTIST: I love to make dentistry easy for people.
CAMPBELL: James Toliver Craig seen here in this video for his dental group arrested Sunday by Aurora police. His wife Angela Craig died Wednesday after being hospitalized for a third time in a month, this time complaining of severe headaches and dizziness.
The 43-year-old mother of six soon had a seizure, went on the ventilator and was declared brain dead. Her sister told investigators Angela claimed she'd been drugged by her husband before.
Authorities say a forensic analysis of a computer at his dental practice showed premeditation. In the weeks before his wife's death, an arrest warrant affidavit states Craig used an office computer to research multiple, undetectable poisons, and make internet searches including how many grams of pure arsenic will kill a human? And YouTube searches for how to make poison, and top five un undetectable poisons that show no signs of foul play.
Craig also allegedly used a new email account to order arsenic online.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's very damning evidence and then if the autopsy results show that she was poisoned, there's arsenic in there, natural question will be what other source could it have come from? CAMPBELL: Two days after the package was delivered to the Craigs'
home, Angela Craig went to the hospital complaining of dizziness and eye problems. That day, authorities say they recovered screen shots of text messages between the couple showing Angela messaging James Craig, I feel drugged.
His response, given our history, I know that must be triggering. Just for the record, I didn't drug you. I am super worried, though, you really looked pale before I left.
DR. MICHAEL TOCE, MEDICAL TOXICOLOGY: Symptoms of arsenic toxicity are generally G.I. related. Death from arsenic toxicity is typically related to problems with your heart, leading to a dysrhythmia and the heart's inability to effectively pump out blood.
CAMPBELL: Investigators says James Craig also had potassium cyanide delivered to his office before his wife's death. One of his business partners mentioning the suspicious purchase to a hospital nurse who alerted police.
Neighbors stunned by the alleged murder and arrest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just makes me sick.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doesn't seem real. Doesn't like something that he could ever do to her.
CAMPBELL (on camera): Now, Erin, as far as the motive, authorities say that in looking through the digital forensic evidence of Craig, they discovered that he was allegedly involved in a romantic relationship.
Now, we are not naming that other person. There is no indication she knew anything about this alleged murder. But authorities say they believe that based on the totality of circumstances he wanted to kill his own wife in order to start a new life with this other individual.
It's worth pointing out, we've reached out to his attorney for comment. We have not heard back. He is expected to be formally charged, Erin, later this week.
BURNETT: It's unbelievable story. An unbelievable story.
All right, thank you so much, Josh Campbell.
CAMPBELL: You bet.
BURNETT: And next an OUTFRONT update. The American citizen sentenced to 16 years in prison for writing a critical tweet about the Saudi government while in the United States has been released, but why won't the Saudis let him return to America?
BURNETT: And, finally tonight, an update to a story we have been following closely. American citizen Saad Ibrahim Almadi freed partially after nearly a year and a half in Saudi prison. He had been sentenced to 16 years for tweets he wrote while in the United States about the Saudi government.
One tweet went so far as to suggest that a street be named after the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose murder was approved by the Saudi crown prince according to U.S. intelligence, and that ended up with a 16-year prison sentence.
Well, I spoke to Almadi's son Ibrahim about his father when he was in prison and he told him about the conditions there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IBRAHIM ALMADI, SON OF SAAD IBRAHIM ALMADI: They wake them up in the middle of the night and they prevent him from sleeping. They torture him until he convicted himself that he made some tweets in order to destabilize the kingdom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: But here's the crucial bottom line, Saad remains in Saudi Arabia. He's now under a 16-year travel ban and his son tells us he is not free until he is in the United States.
Thanks so much for joining us.
"AC360" begins now.