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Erin Burnett Outfront

Putin Critic Jailed For 25 Years After Publicly Criticizing Ukraine War; Grand Jury Declines To Charge Officers In Killing Of Black Man; Senate GOP Blocks Effort To Replace Feinstein On Key Committee; DeSantis' Feud With Disney Intensifies; Sudden Delay In Fox Trial Sparks Talk Of Possible Settlement; White Man Charged In Shooting Of Black Teen Who Went To Wrong Home. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 17, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, jailed for telling the truth. A top Putin critic now sentenced to 25 years in prison for criticizing Putin's war, a person who's already survived two poisoning attempts. Vladimir Kara-Murza's attorney and longtime friend is OUTFRONT.

Plus, outrage tonight. A grand jury in Ohio deciding not to charge eight officers who shot a Black man nearly four dozen times after a chase. Police say they thought he was armed.

And payback from DeSantis. The governor threatening to build a competing theme park or even a state prison right next to Disney.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, 25 years in prison just for taking on Putin. That is the shocking sentence handed down to Putin opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza. Kara-Murza's formal crime is criticizing Putin's war in Ukraine, which, of course he did, and did so bravely, just like he did on this show a year ago.


BURNETT: Putin has a pattern here. As you know, he falsely accused the U.S. of developing bioweapons in Georgia, as he invaded there. Vladimir, do you think that he is going to launch a chemical or biological attack in Ukraine at this point?

VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA, RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE AND KREMLIN CRITIC: There are absolutely no limits to what Vladimir Putin can do. I think the world is seeing this loud and clear now, as you know, it's just we're witnessing this large scale land war, this large scale war crime happening right at the heart of Europe.


BURNETT: Thirty-two days after that interview, Kara-Murza was arrested. He went back to Russia and he was arrested. This is someone who had survived two alleged poisonings already and, according to his wife, Yevgenia, the 41-year-old is now suffering from nerve damage because of these attacks. His lawyer tells us that cameras can't survive this sentence, and I'm going to speak to his lawyer and his longtime friend in just a moment.

Because Kara-Murza went back to Russia because he was not afraid to tell the truth about the war at whatever cost and tonight we are learning more about those horrific truths.

Here's a Russian fighter with the Wagner Group, speaking to a human rights organization targeting corruption and torture in Russia, listen for yourself.


EX-WAGNER FIGHTER (through translator): I don't want this war. Did you see the cigarette in my hand? With this hand, by command, I killed children. You understand? It was an order.

We were given the command to advance and kill everything in our path and set up our defense in the area. Do whatever it takes, and we went and killed everyone. There are women, men, kids, elderly folks, male and female and kids.

Now there's a little child dead, five or six years old. And I shot her.


BURNETT: It's impossible to let those words sink in any of them. You hear him? I shot her. I killed children. You understand? Was an order.

And while a man who spoke against Putin's war tonight spoke out against that is facing 25 years in prison. There are still some who are willing to even now speak out.

The front man of a popular Russian punk band just spoke out in Moscow in support of Masha Moskalyov. Now we've been following Masha's story, you may remember her. She's 13 years old, the girl who was sent to an orphanage after drawing a picture of the Ukrainian flag at school. Her father was then sentenced to two years in a penal colony because of that, an anti-war online post.

And that rock star this weekend spoke out on stage, saying even now at this point, he can no longer stay silent.


ALEXANDER IVANOV, LEAD SINGER OF RUSSIAN PUNK BAND NAIV (through translator): This Masha Moskalyova case somehow just won't let me go, maybe because my daughter is the same age as her. She is 14 and Masha is 13.

Friends, I want to urge you, Google this case. Find out what happened there and feel horrified and what happened to Masha and her family for a drawing that she made in her art class. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I'm playing here so you can hear the noises what they're chanting there. The crowd in Russian is "F the war". That's their response.

Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT.

And, Matthew, you have long covered Putin from Moscow and the crackdown on his opponents, it seems at this point is getting even worse.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESSPONDENT: Yeah, it seems like it's getting worse, Erin, almost by the day. I mean Vladimir Kara-Murza, for instance, I've known him for years, and throughout that time, he has consistently been critical of the Russian President Vladimir Putin. He sharply condemned the Ukraine war and he's spoken out against the crackdown against dissidents as well.

And now, it's just incredible to see that has been jailed for speaking out.


VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVIST: Today, the whole world sees what the Putin regime is doing to Ukraine. The cluster bombs on residential areas, the bombings of maternity wards and hospitals and schools.

CHANCE (voice-over): It was this speech before the Arizona state house that Russian prosecutors used as part of their case against Vladimir Kara-Murza.

Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine just a few weeks earlier, and the veteran Kremlin critic, like so many others, was incensed.

KARA-MURZA: The war crimes, these are war crimes.

CHANCE: Less than a month later, Kara-Murza was arrested in Moscow, accused of discrediting the Russian army. He was later also charged with the much more serious offense of treason.

In a court in Moscow, Kara-Murza stood motionless as he was sentenced to 25 years in jail. Outside, there was international outcry.

LYNNE TRACY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Criminalization of criticism of government action is a sign of weakness, not strength. We support the right of Mr. Kara-Murza and every Russian citizen to have a voice in the direction of their country.

CHANCE: More than 40 other foreign diplomats were at the sentencing, too. While in Britain, where Kara-Murza is a dual citizen, the Russian ambassador was summoned over what was called a politically motivated conviction. It would by no means be Russia's first.

The country's most high profile opposition figure, Alexey Navalny, is already serving an 11-1/2-year sentence amid renewed concerns for his health behind bars.

Another prominent Russian opposition leader Ilya Yashin was recently sentenced to 8-1/2 years in jail for criticizing the Ukraine war. This will all end soon, he shouted out in court. But there's no real reason for optimism.

In fact, the Russian crackdown on free speech is getting worse. Only last month, U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich of "The Wall Street Journal" in Russia was arrested for espionage. The paper vehemently denies the charges against him, but it all sends a chilling Kremlin message aimed at silencing the voices against it.


CHANCE (on camera): Well, Erin, tonight, the Russian foreign ministry is slamming international criticism of the Kara-Murza case, but, you know, criticizing the United States in particular for meddling in the internal affairs of Russia, but the fact that has been sent down for so long underlines the lengths to which the Kremlin will now go to, you know, lock up and silence those that it sees as a political threat -- Erin.

BURNETT: Matthew Chance, thank you very much, live from Moscow tonight.

OUTFRONT now, Vladimir Kara-Murza's defense attorney Vadim Prokhorov.

And, Vadim, I appreciate your time tonight. I know you were just with Kara-Murza 10 days ago. Were you surprised today by the length of the sentence handed down?

VADIM PROKHOROV, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA: So, unfortunately, it was not a great surprise. It's absolutely -- just all of this criminal case, just from the beginning, had nothing to do with justice. It was unlawfully initiated, unlawfully investigated, unlawfully judged, and so on. So, there is nothing to do with justice. But at the same time it was not so great surprise because we thought that the task, the main goal of the board of judges was to convict him to the maximum penalties as they can. It was not surprise for us, but from the other side, it's absolutely terrible and absolutely unfair and it's a way for a very, very bad future for Russia, unfortunately.


BURNETT: Vadim, 25 years too many. I mean, it is -- it is impossible to truly imagine what that means. How long do you believe Kara-Murza will actually be in prison?

PROKHOROV: The problem is that Kara-Murza is really sick, unfortunately. He has a disease as a consequence of his two poisonings in '15 and in '17. Everybody knows that there are two strong poisonings of Mr. Kara-Murza made by KGB agents and his health after that is quite, quite poor.

So we worry about his health. We worry about his life. It's a question of life and death, and in fact, unfortunately, it's a death penalty. BURNETT: Vadim, I know you've spent a lot of time with him. You were

with him as I mentioned just 10 days ago, and I know you've been spending time with his wife, Yevgenia, today. Obviously, they have three children. She's now raising them alone. How is she doing?

PROKHOROV: So I think it's better to ask her -- the main thing for Vladimir is to see his beloved spouse and is children. Most of his dreams, most of his thoughts are about this one. When I visited him during the last year in Moscow pre-trial detention center, we often discuss, we often speak of them, about his family, about his children. And much more couple of days ago, the chairman of the board of judges has declined his request to make a call to his three children.

So unfortunately, that kind of psychological pressure on Vladimir unfortunately is a real torture.

BURNETT: Vadim, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us everything that you can in the midst of this. Thanks.

PROKHOROV: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT now, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan. He is also a friend of Vladimir Kara-Murza.

And, Ambassador, I appreciate your time.

Twenty-five years for Kara-Murza and you heard -- you heard Vadim his layer tell me that this had nothing to do with justice. What does this sentence tell you about Putin's state of mind right now?

JOHN SULLIVAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, thanks, Erin. It's great to be with you again.

It says a lot about his state of mind in the state of fear and paranoia. What Vladimir did was speak truth, was criticized the government and its aggressive war in Ukraine. That's it. His words alone and he has a 25-year sentence.

If you look at other charges that the Russian government has bought against foreigners that they accused of espionage, directly undermining the national security of Russia, they've gotten shorter sentences. Twenty-five years is an extraordinary sentence for someone exercising what is supposed to be is right in Russia to speak his mind freely, which he obviously doesn't have. Neither he nor any Russian has that right anymore.

BURNETT: No and Kara-Murza's attorney told me as you heard that, unfortunately, it's a death penalty. That's how he sees the 25-year sentence given Kara-Murza's health after those poisonings that they said he endured in recent years.

Ambassador, does cameras to have any chance of being released while Vladimir Putin is still in power?

SULLIVAN: I think this sentence in the way he's been treated is an indication of how threatening he is to President Putin and to the Kremlin. The more articulate he is, the more courageous he is, the more threatening he is.

So he's not going to be allowed to speak freely, while President Putin and his special military while he's in office, and his special military operation is ongoing.

BURNETT: So, Ambassador, I want to play again the chance that that punk concert in Moscow this weekend. The lead singer of the band was speaking out against the treatment of the -- you know, the father imprisoned for the anti-war post and his child who was sent to an orphanage.

So as he finishes speaking, the crowd begins chanting. And then it continues on and on, and they're chanting, "F the war". And I guess, Ambassador. I'm stating the obvious here, but it's important sometimes to do that -- anybody who chanted as we hear it right was seen and heard by others around them, right? It wasn't done silently. It wasn't even done online behind some sort of like a firewall, right? They did it. Other people saw them.

Does their willingness to do that, to say F the war like that say anything to you?

SULLIVAN: Well, I think it's a -- it's a particular manifestation of how egregious this case is that you refer to, Erin, of this young child drawing a picture in school, and she's separated from her father. Her father's arrested.

It shows the lengths to which the government is seeking to suppress their dissent. So those chants are as much about the Kremlin crackdown as they are about the war that Putin unleashed that has gone terribly from Russia's perspective.

BURNETT: Ambassador, one quick question before you go. You mentioned others, you know, just for espionage, Americans, right? "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich is one of those, charged with that while doing his job as a reporter. The current U.S. ambassador in Moscow saw him for the first time today, describing him as he is in good health and remain strong.

Now, obviously, I understand diplomacy, sometimes you say what you need to say. But the question for you, ambassador is, is there anything that Putin would do -- to exchange, to release Evan Gershkovich?

SULLIVAN: Certainly, but the problem we have, Erin, is that he is charged with espionage, by the way, a crime of which Paul Whelan was convicted and sentenced to 16 years, perhaps 25.

But the Russians won't trade Evan until he's been convicted. And he confesses to the crime of which he is convicted. So, we're looking at a long process here. I'm afraid to try to get him out.

BURNETT: Ambassador, thank you very much. I appreciate your time, as always.

SULLIVAN: Thanks, Erin. And next, to call for peaceful protests after an Ohio grand jury

decided not to indict eight officers. They shot a Black man nearly four dozen times in a chase. Public schools are closed in Akron, Ohio, tomorrow. They're concerned. We're going to tell you about that is that story develops.

Plus, Republicans say they're not going to bail out Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein who is asking for one of her colleagues to temporarily replace her. She has already missed 58 votes. Her absences right now holding up 12 of Biden's judicial nominees.

And the high stakes $1.6 billion defamation trial against Fox News begins tomorrow after a last minute delay. Will it go ahead?



BURNETT: Tonight, calls for justice for Jayland Walker after an Ohio grand jury declined to indict eight officers in his shooting death. Walker was unarmed when he was shot more than four dozen times after a car chase, four dozen times. The Ohio attorney general saying police believe the 25-year-old was still armed at the time because he fired a shot from his car after refusing to pull over.

The shooting last summer ignited weeks of unrest. Tonight, the city of Akron is bracing for more protests. Public schools are already closed for tomorrow.

And Athena Jones is OUTFRONT with me now.

So, Athena, we now have body cam footage. Can you walk us through this? You know what exactly happened? What the attorney general says happened. You know, in this incident where the grand jury's not indicting, and, of course, as you're going to do this, I do warn anyone watching that this is obviously very graphic and difficult to see.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. It's hard to watch and it's hard to listen to. It's not every day that you see someone getting shot. It was 46 times -- 46 gunshot wounds that Jayland Walker did.

The Ohio Attorney General David Yost said that these -- this is grand jury found these police officers were justified. But take a look at what you're going to see here and that is the Jayland Walker's vehicle, 2005 Buick slowly coming to a stop, he jumps out of the car and there's a foot pursuit. Ah that the attorney general said that he was wearing a ski mask. It's hard to see, but they were able to review more than 50 videos from all sorts of different angles.

So you're going to see him in a ski mask and then ignoring multiple commands to stop and then officers attempted to use non-lethal force or Tasers, which didn't work, and they ended up shooting him when they thought he was reaching for a weapon. So take a look.


JONES: And again, Jayland Walker had 46 gunshot wounds. But this grand jury found these officers acted or they were legally justified in firing because at least at one point, Jayland Walker fired a shot towards police. That is what the attorney general said, and they believed that at that moment in time when he was running from that car, he's still had his weapon on him. They later found that recently purchased handgun in the front seat, but they this grand jury found that they acted appropriately -- Erin.

BURNETT: Of course, Athena, you know, gun or no gun, obviously, when you hear that a barrage of bullets. It raises so many questions and there is concern there'll be unrest in Akron and across the country tonight. I know they've closed public schools already there tomorrow.

So, what kind of measures are in place?

JONES: That's right. Well, in addition to closing all of Akron's public schools, they have also shut down the municipal court, the city hall I should say, and the municipal court houses, and that is a place where the city council holds meetings. So they're now going to be holding any meetings I have to have virtually and those buildings are being shut down just to help protect the public.

People will still be able to access city services, but they're trying to suspend public access to these buildings to try to limit the unrest -- Erin.

BURENTT: All right. Thank you very much, Athena.

I want to go now to Paul Martin, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor.

So, Paul, you know, grand jury says officers were legally justified when they opened fire on Jayland Walker. We just watched that video and it's not what you see so much as what you hear, right, when all the sun and the gunshots just erupt. I don't know what other word there is for it. It is really hard to hear.

So when, when -- what's your reaction to what the grand jury did not do today, right? They chose not to indict.

PAUL MARTIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, the amount of bullets that were fired. It's disturbing to everyone into the late person. You would think. You know, why would they have to fire so many shots, but you have to understand police officers in this day during this time, they're carrying high capacity semi-automatic weapons.


And so when they take out their weapons and they fire it, they're not shooting one round, just one after another. They're shooting barrages of rounds. I'm not surprised by the no true bill, meaning that the grand jury

refused to find that there was sufficient evidence to move forward because you have to remember, a high burden for the prosecution to overcome justification of a police officer. Once a police officer says they believe that an imminent threat for their own life or the life of another is that -- is that threatening -- is that that risk, and that their actions are reasonable, then they are justified in their actions.

Here, we have a situation where Mr. Walker refused commands. He fired the weapon prior to the chase. And then they did try to use nonlethal means to control him and then, unfortunately, when he made a gesture or movement --

BURNETT: Across body, yeah.


BURNETT: So, it sounds like it's so what you're saying is that once they reach the conclusion that force is justified, the sort of magnitude of the force, right? What we hear there, you say the late person just that that's not what significant, it's the force itself. So I guess it sounds like you're not surprised by what they found.

One thing I'm curious about that, Paul, are -- what does this say about police or police training here? I mean that they -- that they all erupted at shooting at once and that the nonlethal attempts failed. It would seem that should not have failed.

MARTIN: It should not have failed. And, of course, better training that maybe for a civil proceeding, maybe not -- not a criminal proceeding. But you also have to realize in this situation, there's something that causes that happens in the midst of these gun fires where police officers are firing because they are hearing firing coming at them, and it really is the other brother officers that are firing, which causes them to fire even further.

And so, this is not a unusual phenomenon, the amount of shots. It's unfortunate. It's definitely disturbing to hear. But whether it's criminal is another question.

BURNETT: Right, right. Well, your perspective on this and, you know, taking the calm view matters a lot. Thank you so much, Paul. I always appreciate speaking to you.

MARTIN: Thank you for having me.

BURNETT: All right. And next, an arrest warrant out for an 85-year- old White man who allegedly shot a Black teenager twice after he showed up at his house by mistake, thinking that he was there just to pick up his younger brothers.

Plus, payback. Ron DeSantis threatening to build a prison next to Disneyworld after the Florida governor gotten outplayed.


BURNETT: Tonight, the Democrats Dianne Feinstein problem. A growing number of Senate Republicans are saying on the record that they will not help Democrats by temporarily replacing Senator Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee.

Now, she is 89 years old and has been facing calls from her own party to resign fully. She's been away from the Senate for seven weeks after being hospitalized for shingles, and her return remains unclear.

So far, this matters in very real ways. Feinstein's absence from the Judiciary Committee has held up 12 of President Biden's judicial nominees. They need her vote. And she has missed all in 58 votes.

Now, Feinstein asked Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to temporarily replaced around the Judiciary Committee. But in order to do that, Democrats need Republicans to buy in, and they are not budging.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): Never, not once have we allowed temporary substitutes on committees and now is not the time to start. Republicans are not going to break this precedent in order to bail out Senator Schumer or the Biden administration's most controversial nominees.


BURNETT: Manu Raju is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill tonight.

And, Manu, this is really getting a lot going here on senators as they're returning to the hill from a recess. So what more are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. This is a hugely significant issue because if Senator Feinstein is not able to return, and Republicans don't agree to replace her with any Democrat on the committee, the Republicans essentially have veto power over Joe Biden's judicial nominees, especially the ones who go along party lines.

If all Republicans vote against anybody judicial nominee, that means that there will not any -- these nominees cannot move forward. You mentioned there are 12. But the longer she stays away, the longer that could -- more nominees could build up.

And I'm hearing more and more concerns from Democrats themselves, including some House Democrats today, who indicated to me that they believe Feinstein should resign.


REP. JAMAAL BOWNMAN (D-NY): Yes. You know, she's had very long and stellar career, you know, but missing that many votes, you know, stopping us -- it stops us from moving forward with judge nominations. REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I think this is something that

is -- it is, unfortunately, something that the -- I think it is appropriate to consider in this sense (ph).


RAJU: Now, so far, not a single Republican senator has come out in support of the idea of allowing Senator Feinstein to be replaced by another Democrat. You do need all -- you need 60 senators to do just that, which is why you're hearing more and more concerns from Democrats, saying, if there's not any sort of resolution to this, that Feinstein needs to make the decision to resign. The 89-year-old Democrat has indicated that to Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, that she plans to come back soon, but it is unclear what soon means, Erin.

And the majority leader himself, not yet saying whether he believes that Feinstein should resign and Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat who does chair the Senate judiciary committee, telling to stopping just short today in asking if he believes Feinstein resigned, just wants her to get back soon. Otherwise, a big part of Biden's agenda could get stymied -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Absolutely, when you talk about the real world implications of this, right? Their judicial nominees just not going through.

All right. Also tonight, Ron DeSantis looking for payback, the Florida governor threatening to build a prison or a competing theme park next to Disneyworld, also threatening to raise Disney's taxes. All of this after Disney's attempt to thwart a takeover by DeSantis.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Come to think of it, now, people are like -- well, there's -- what should we do with this land? And so you know, it's like, okay, kids -- I mean, people have said, you know, maybe -- maybe have another, maybe create a state park. Maybe try to do more amusement parks.


Someone even said, like, maybe you need another state prison. Who knows? I mean, I just think that the possibilities are endless.


BURNETT: State prison next to a theme park for children, just the latest in a series of threats by DeSantis against Disney. DeSantis has waged war against ever since the company took a stand against the new state law in Florida, which limited classroom instruction on issues related to sexuality.

OUTFRONT now, New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu, who is considering a 2024 bid himself. So, Governor, you've been clear repeatedly -- you and I have talked

about this, right, that taking on a private company for their decisions on what they speak out on and how they run themselves is just not something you agree with. You disagree with Governor DeSantis on this, but now, he's not threatening just to take the land about Disney and raise their taxes. He's putting out their ideas like a new state prison.

Your reaction?

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, yeah. Look, I think everyone's going to make the joke that, you know, Disney is going to have a new -- a new ride right next door that they can -- they can enhance with the new prison, right, or something.

Look, I -- this has gone from kind of going after a headline to something that is devolved into an issue and it convolutes the entire Republican message. I just don't think -- it's not good for the -- for Governor DeSantis. I don't think it's good for the Republican Party.

We tend to -- I think we have a great product as Republicans with limited government, limited government and local control and low taxes, individual responsibility. But that gets all muddled up with our messaging. We're horrible at selling our message.

And so, I'm just trying to make the party bigger. I want independents. I want young voters to get on board. I want all these disenfranchised for us to get back.

This does not help the team and I just want the team to be able to win in November 2024.

BURNETT: Well, I mean, I will just say he knows what he's doing, right?

SUNUNU: Does he?

BURNETT: It's not that he's getting the messaging wrong. That's the message he wants to put out there.

SUNUNU: Well, I don't think there's many people that -- I don't think there's a whole lot of people that think this is that -- look, when he took on Disney, there was a symbolic motion to that. But now, this is kind of going a tit-for-tat, right, because it's not going as he had planned.

And so my message is let's focus on -- if you want to be the president. Let's focus on issues that affect this country, which are being pro-business, dealing with mental health issues dealing with the opioid crisis, the border security, all of these things that actually matter and folks will actually vote on.

BURNETT: All right. So, one of them is entitlements. And this is a big one, right? DeSantis and -- has obviously been slamming Disney at any turn. He has been ignoring Trump, tried and pointedly so. But that has just

changed, right? The PACs related to both of them have come after each other on this issue of entitlements, directly, mano-a-mano.

Here's a look at both ads. This is about entitlements.


AD ANNOUNCER: Ron DeSantis loves sticking his fingers where they don't belong, and we're not just talking about pudding. DeSantis has his dirty fingers all over senior entitlements. Tell Ron DeSantis to keep his pudding fingers off our money.

AD ANNOUNCER: Why is he spending millions attacking the Republican governor of Florida? Trump's stealing pages from the Biden-Pelosi playbook, repeating lies about Social Security. Trump should fight Democrats, not lie about Governor DeSantis.


BURNETT: I mean, who resonates more? You're glad they're finally -- they're duking it out?

SUNUNU: Well, I don't know if they're duking it out. What that ad was basically saying, hey, hey, I'm where Trump is. I mean, that's really what he was saying. Trump and I both want to don't want to do anything about Social Security. Neither does Joe Biden.

So I don't think it's a very good message for anybody. So it's kind of a -- kind of odd messaging --

BURNETT: Because you think we need to be telling people that we do have to do something about Social Security?

SUNUNU: Social Security benefits will get cut by 23 percent in eight years. That's a law. That's fact.

BURNETT: Yes. You're right.

SUNUNU: I think someone needs to stand up and say, we don't need to do that. We need to fix this thing. We need to stop these 23 percent in benefit cuts.

And anyone who's sitting back saying, yeah, we're just going to sit back and do nothing like Joe Biden wants, that's not a winning message. Let's be problem solvers. Let's help the elderly maintain their benefits. Let's be the tools of that solution.

BURNETT: Well, you're not hearing that anyone -- I mean, you're not hearing that from either Trump.

SUNUNU: No. Look, once again, whether you're talking about the abortion issue, whether you're talking about this -- the sideline type stuff. These aren't the issues that drive voters on election. And more --

BURNETT: Well, abortion does seem to drive voters, right? Look, what we saw on the --

SUNUNU: Oh, yeah, not on the Republican side. We're awful with the message.

When you see these candidates spinning themselves around the actual trying to figure out how to be ultra pro-life, but then we're going to pivot later on in the general election, it doesn't work that way.

The message, it should be really clear. The court said. States need to can be making this decision. It's a states issue. It's not a presidential issue. It's not the national --

BURNETT: But then you're cool with DeSantis saying six-week ban?

SUNUNU: Oh, I'm not cool with that at all. It's awful, awful message. Yeah. No, no, just the opposite.


BURNETT: So you're okay with the state --


SUNUNU: Look, that's the state's choice. Yeah, but I -- no, I disagree with the choice, but it is a state's choice.

But the fact that they're going to try to translate that into these national bans and all that, that's the absolute wrong thing people want to hear.

I have pro-life individuals come up to me and say, please, don't -- tell the Republican Party to stop talking about abortion. You know, remember that line every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wing.

Well, every time a Republican talks about abortion, someone runs to the Democrat Party, and we have to start understanding that the issues are inflation, border security, healthcare reform, being fiscally responsible.

BURNETT: All may be true. But if you're saying this every time it comes up, they run to the other side, that means you've got to have a message on it. So what do you say? You just come out and say, I'm going to -- think you can just leave it to the states?



BURNETT: But then you have to support what DeSantis is doing.

SUNUNU: No, I just -- well, I --


SUNUNU: I support that a state should be able to design their path, right? We shouldn't have national abortion bans. I disagree with six weeks vehemently. Of course, that's a horrible position to be.

And it's upsetting a lot of folks because a lot of Republicans are realizing it's going to hurt our message and hurt our ability to win.

So, states can make -- can and should make their own decisions. There shouldn't be any national discussion.

BURNETT: One other thing I want to ask you about because I don't know that you've spoken about it. Mitt Romney tonight weighed in on recent reports about the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, right? That he didn't disclose all these gifts that he had received, vacations, house purchases, whatever it might have been, from Harlan Crow, GOP megadonor. Romney says, quote: If the reports are accurate, it stinks.

Do you agree?

SUNUNU: Well, yeah, I was actually surprised. Look, I can't -- nobody can buy me a cup of coffee in the state of New Hampshire. I have to pay for everything. So, we're super careful about our disclosures and our gifts and everything.

I think everyone, like many things lately are shocked that there isn't a better system in place in terms of the transparency and all that. I don't know if they need laws are violated. Doesn't seem like that, at least. But yeah, it's kind of odd that you don't have to disclose this for, you know -- again, not an elected official, but a public officials.

BURNETT: Do you think this merits a full investigation?

SUNUNU: Well, if some wants to investigate it, sure, but I'm not sure, is there any -- I'm not sure if anyone is out, alleging that any laws have been broken.

BURNETT: All right.


BURNETT: Well, thank you very much, Governor. Appreciate your time. It's always good to talk to you.

SUNUNU: Always, always great to be here.

BURNETT: All right. And next, $1.6 billion Fox News defamation trial, it begins tomorrow. It's supposed to start today, last minute delay. We have new images tonight of a tent that was just put up in order to shield some of the big names that could be about to come in and testify, the tent to hide the drones.

And the 16-year-old Black teenager who was shot while trying to pick up his siblings, released from the hospital after taking a bullet to the head, and the White man accused of shooting him, is charged tonight with two felonies.



BURNETT: Tonight, a tent now up at the courthouse where the Fox News defamation trial is set to begin tomorrow, a tent likely for the purpose of shielding high profile figures, including Rupert Murdoch, Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, who are expected to take the stand at some point in the six-week trial.

This all comes after last minute delay sparked questions about whether a settlement is in the works, which, you know, often happens in the very, very final minutes before case goes to trial.

The judge in the court, saying, quote, things happen. This is not unusual. But "The Wall Street Journal", which, of course, happens to be owned by Fox Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch, is reporting that box is making a late push to settle this out of court.

OUTFRONT now, RonNell Andersen Jones, professor of law at the University of Utah and a First Amendment expert.

And, Professor, I really appreciate your time.

So does Fox have a real chance of settling this at this very final hour to avoid the public testimony of its top anchors?

RONNELL ANDERSEN JONES, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH LAW PROFESSOR: Well, there are some big signals that it's trying to do so. Whether Dominion will be motivated to do so, I think, is another matter altogether. Fox experienced a pretty significant bruising at the hands of the judge in the pretrial motions and hearings that happened late last week, faced some sanctions for misrepresentations about evidence and lost the opportunity to present a couple of key defenses that it was hoping to present to the jury.

So it may well be that Fox is significantly motivated. Dominion may not be as motivated. One thing that we've definitely seen about Dominion over the arc of this case is that it is quite interested in litigating this case in a public facing way, trying to use this case as a tool for correcting the wider public record on election denialism, so unless it can get I think probably acknowledgements or apologies. It might not be interested in going that route.

BURNETT: Right, right. I understand and you know that they may think they can get much more of what they want, financially and otherwise by not settling.

I know that you've been going through so many of the details here. One thing that stands out to you, Professor, is some evidence that came to light in recent days from fired Fox News producer Abby Grossberg, including an audio clip that she recorded a conversation in November 2020, where you hear Rudy Giuliani tell the Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo that he cannot prove claims against Dominion.

Here's what Abby recorded.


MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NFEWS HOST: What about this software, this Dominion software?

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP ATTORNEY: That's a little harder --

BARTIROMO: -- troubling.

GIULIANI: -- to tell you, right, it's being -- it's being analyzed right now.

BARTIROMO: And then this Dominion software, does Nancy Pelosi have an interest in it?

GIULIANI: Yeah, I've read that. I can't prove that.



BURNETT: Now that was obviously a conversation that they had right off camera.

Grossberg's attorney tells OUTFRONT. She is in talks with Dominion to testify against Fox and has more evidence that she could turn over.

Do you think she could be key to this case?

JONES: Yes, I mean, a lot of us who have been following the case closely thought that she was going to be key to the case from the beginning because she's the producer of a show, that was the show on which a number of the statements about which Dominion is suing were aired. It just is a surprise turn of events that she went from being a key witness for Fox to being a key witness for Dominion because she's left Fox and because she is herself suiting Fox claiming toxic work environment. There's been a real pivot here.

And we saw from this evidence that was very 11th hour, something that Dominion complained about that she's not only going to provide additional gloss on the evidence that's already been gathered. She may well be key to connecting some dots. That dominion has to connect if we know in falsity at the corporate level and the decisions to air the specific statements about Dominion.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

RonNell Andersen Jones, professor, thanks so much.

And next, an 84-year-old White man facing two felony charges tonight after he shot a 16-year-old Black boy, the boy you see on your screen. The boy mistakenly rang his doorbell to pick up his younger siblings, and the prosecutor says tonight that there was a racial component to this.

And George Santos lied about his background. He's facing a litany of investigations. Tonight, he's announcing his reelection bid for Congress.



BURNETT: Tonight, prosecutors charging an 84-year-old White man who shot and wounded a 16-year-old Black teen. The teen had mistakenly gone to the man's home. The teenager thought that he was picking up his two younger brothers, mistakenly went to the wrong door. Police say he was shot in the head. He is expected, though, to survive miraculously.

Andrew Lester will face two felony charges and the Clay County attorney says there was, quote, a racial component to this case.

Lucy Kafanov is OUTFRONT.


ZACHARY THOMPSON, CLAY COUNTY PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: The defendant, Andrew D. Lester, is charged with the class A felony, assault in the first degree. Dependent is charged with armed criminal action.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two felony counts filed in the shooting of a Black teenager in Kansas City, Missouri, Sixteen- year-old Ralph Yarl was struck on the left side of his head and his right arm after he went to the wrong home to pick up his younger brothers Thursday evening.

He rang the doorbell at a residence just before 10 p.m. on 115th Street instead of 115th Terrace and, according to prosecutors, was shot through a glass door by Lester, an 84-year-old White man.

As the prosecutor at Clay County, I can tell you there was a racial component to the case.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, FAMILY ATTORNEY: To have Black people rang the doorbell and then have a White citizen shoot him in the head first and then shoot him a second time.


I mean, there is no way you can justify this.

KAFANOV: A neighbor after Yarl showed up on her doorstep, bleeding but alert.

The suspect in the shooting was taken into custody just before midnight, placed on a 24-hour hold released less than two hours later. Police initially saying they were working to get a victim statement and additional forensic evidence before making a decision about referring the case for prosecution. Then, today, they charged the gunmen and issued a warrant for his arrest.

THOMPSON: In Missouri, charges have to be filed within 24 hours of arrest or the defendant or suspect is released. In this case, it was clear that additional investigation needed to be done so that the case could be built on a solid foundation. KAFANOV: Yarl was hospitalized and released Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My nephew is alive is healing. It is not the story that that individual intended for us to tell.

KAFANOV: Yarl's family says he's an honor student, a leader in the marching band at his high school and hopes to attend Texas A&M University, to study chemical engineering when he graduates high school.

While protesters pray, march and demand justice, Yarl's family also asks for hope and healing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a lot to be thankful for. That right there is a lot of hate. There's right here is a lot of love.


KAFANOV (on camera): Now, the prosecuting attorney said there was no evidence that Yarl ever crossed the threshold into the home behind me. He also said that no words were apparently exchanged and that Andrew Lester shot him through a glass door with a 32 caliber revolver. Although the teenager is lucky to have survived the shooting, relatives say that life is understandably going to look a lot different now. There's a physical recovery, but also the mental and emotional trauma -- Erin.

BURNETT: All of it, unbelievable.

All right. Thank you so much, Lucy, for that report.

And coming up next on "AC360", children stolen out of Ukraine now making it back home. Nick Paton Walsh has a special report coming up at 8:00.

And next here, George Santos not letting multiple investigations, abysmal poll numbers or his own colleagues criticism stop him. He's renouncing his reelection bid tonight.


BURNETT: Tonight, already announcing he's running, it's only been five months and embattled Republican Congressman George Santos is now already officially announcing that he will run for reelection in 2020. Santos is on a criminal investigation and do his finances and, of course, is best known for his lies about everything, from where he went to college to whether he's Jewish, all of it.

Well, this news is sure to make his own Republican colleagues in Congress uneasy. Many have called for him to resign and step aside.

Our Manu Raju asked Speaker McCarthy if he supports Santos's reelection bid. McCarthy's response was to laugh.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" begins now.