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Erin Burnett Outfront

Video: Russian Fighter Jet Bursts Into Flames Midair; Navalny Now Faces Terrorism Charges; Disney Sues DeSantis Over "Targeted Campaign Of Government Retaliation"; WSJ: Tucker Carlson's Vulgar Messages Helped Seal His Fate; Montana Republicans Ban Transgender Lawmaker From House Floor; Giant Panda's Return To China Symbolizes Rising Tensions With U.S. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 26, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Putin's prized supersonic jet goes down in flames, days after the Russians bombed their own city. So, what's going on?

A Ukrainian fighter on the frontlines who calls the war hell is OUTFRONT from Bakhmut.

Plus, banned. Montana House Republicans kicking out a transgender lawmaker from the House chamber after the lawmaker, Zooey Zephyr, accused them of having blood on their hands. Zephyr is OUTFRONT.

And Ya Ya, a giant panda, back right now on a flight to China from the Memphis zoo right now. Why are the Chinese so angry, so livid, at the United States about this panda?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight -- one of Putin's prized jets is gone. One of the most elite supersonic jets in Putin's air force blowing up today in midflight. You can see the jet on fire here. It takes a sudden and terrifying nosedive on Russian territory.

The jet was not shot down. This is all that is left of it. It's just a few pieces of scrap metal, and as you can see on the ground. In today's accident on Russian territory is just six days after another Russian fighter jet bombed its own city, bombed their own city. That blast left a 65-foot crater in the middle of the street in Belgorod.

These are major setbacks, you know, for what's supposed to be an elite air force and they're taking place at the same time Ukraine is ramping up for a major counteroffensive. Now, in a moment, I'm going to speak to a Ukrainian fighter on the frontlines.


ROMAN TROKHYMETS, UKRAINIAN SOLDIER: We are so close to the enemies. With my sniper (INAUDIBLE) getting ready to do some dangerous mission. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That is Roman Trokhymets. Now, you may remember, we spoke to him last month. He was recovering from an injury near Bakhmut, and he -- he fought, he went home for a few days, he is now back fighting in Bakhmut.

And those are the very front lines where Russia has been making marginal gains at immense costs. But while Russia may be down, a lot of soldiers dying, do not count Putin out at this point because tonight leaked U.S. intelligence documents obtained by "The Washington Post" revealed that Putin has enough money in the bank to fund the war for at least another year, despite the sanctions. And Putin is putting more soldiers on the ground. A top U.S. commander, General Christopher Cavoli today telling lawmakers that Putin's ground forces, quote, bigger today than it was at the start of the war. And even as they have used that method of wave after wave of soldiers now just getting machine gunned down, they still, even after all that death, have more in than they did at the beginning of the war.

Meantime, in Moscow, Putin opposition leader opposition Alexey Navalny appeared in court from his prison cell. Navalny is now facing new terrorism charges that could land him in prison for another 35 years. Navalny was told his time in solitary confinement would now be extended for the 14th time, which is a brutal punishment. Yesterday, Navalny's team posted a message from the opposition leader in which he said the prison and the inmates are governed by many factors.

But the three main ones are threats to kill, beat, rape somebody. Tobacco, food. But food? That Navalny letter continues, is never ever actually serve to him while in solitary. They show it and tell him it's expired.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT.

And, Fred, what more are you learning about these new charges against Navalny?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Erin. It seemed to come as a surprise to Navalny himself, in fact, hearing what he took part in today, what we saw via video link, that was about an unrelated case, and extremism case. And it seems as though on the sidelines of that, he found out that there were now going to be terrorism charges against him as well, and that those charges would be heard by a military court, and in secret.

Now, it's really unclear what all this is about. Certainly, Navalny's organization believes it might be because of comments that Navalny's chief of staff made. But they were made while Navalny was already serving time in that penal colony. And so, therefore, Navalny supporters obviously believe that these charges as well are absurd and trumped up.

And, you know, we did see him today via video link. However, we did not hear much of what he had to say. And here's why.



PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Moscow court was literally silencing a Kremlin critic as Alexei Navalny speaks via video link, his sound is abruptly cut off. It looks like they will limit the time for me to go through the court documents he was able to say, then the audio is muted.

While some were chuckling, the situation for Alexey Navalny has become even more serious.


The court ruled Navalny only has ten days to review hundreds of documents from an extremism case against him. And his supporters say Navalny has now learned he will also be charged with terrorism.

Now, Alexey will have two large trials, his spokeswoman tweeted. First, on extremism, in total for all episodes up to 30 years, most likely it would begin before the end of May. Then, on terrorism, up to 35 years.

Navalny's health is also deteriorating in part because he is limited in the amount of food he can get in prison, his daughter told CNN.

DASHA NAVALNAYA, ALEXEY NAVALNY'S DAUGHTER: The situation has gotten so ridiculous that he buys the food, which, is, you know, oats. It's nothing -- it's nothing luxurious. And he buys the oats, the oats are brought to him, shown to him, and then are just destroyed.

PLEITGEN: Navalny supporters say it's all part of a massive crackdown against the opposition figure and his Anti-Corruption Foundation, which has been banned and declared an extremist organization in Russia, they believe, at the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Navalny has called on Russians to protest Putin's invasion of Ukraine, we are Moscow's forces are making virtually no progress and Ukraine says it is preparing for a major counteroffensive.

Yevgeny Prigozhin of Russia's Wagner private military company is saying his forces feel abandoned by the Russian army.

The Ukrainian army is fully ready to move and cut our flanks, he says. Nobody has ever cut our flanks. Although stories about preventing the Ukrainian reserves from entering Bakhmut are total crap. Not a single shot was fired by the Russian army.

While Russia's forces struggle on the battlefield in Ukraine, the attrition against the Russian opposition continues. After Alexei Navalny's hearing, he was sent straight back into solitary confinement, his supporters say.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And, Erin, also today, for the first time since the war started, the -- a Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, spoke with Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Of course, China right now trying to style themselves as negotiators in all this possible peacemakers as well. Afterwards, Zelenskyy said that all this was about promoting a just peace for Ukraine.

Well, the Chinese held back a little bit. They were saying that they want to promote that what they call dialogue and talks over all this, seems to be lopsided on the part of the Chinese.

We know, of course, that Xi Jinping is very good friends with Vladimir Putin. He's actually -- spoken with Putin five times since the war started, including that visit to Moscow, and again, now only for the first time speaking to Volodymyr Zelenskyy there.

BURNETT: Yeah, incredibly lopsided. Fred, thank you so much.

And OUTFRONT now, Roman Trokhymets. He is a Ukrainian soldier from Kyiv, right now fighting outside Bakhmut.

And, Roman, I know you just returned to Bakhmut from a brief leave and I just showed the video you posted today from the front lines. What has changed during the ten days you are on that brief leave?

ROMAN TROKHYMETS, UKRAINIAN SOLDIER FIGHTING IN BAKHMUT: I think, like, nothing generally changed. Fierce battles continue for every single meters of Ukrainian land. So, the only thing that changed is me, because I was on a little rotation. I was in paradise, and now I'm back to hell again.

BURNETT: I know you just posted a video from the trenches on your return. And I'm just going to play, Roman, a clip where you -- you know, you want people watching to see what's happening there, to see the trenches. Here it is.


TROKHYMETS: Whoa. That was crazy, about the shelling here. So, what can I say? Living in trenches is very crazy thing. And I still can't believe that I am not in Kyiv. I am here in dirty and 24/7 in very dangerous place.


BURNETT: So, we hear the gunfire as you were just sort of pending your camera, Roman. You know, we hear so much talk about the coming Ukrainian counteroffensive. Are you and your unit making preparations or have you been told anything about whether what you will be doing is changing?

TROKHYMETS: Yeah, Erin. Unfortunately, it's the same secret as for you and for us as well. So, the only guys who know about counteroffensives is president and maybe a few people more. That's all.

BURNETT: And you and I have talked in the past. You talked about wave after wave of Wagner fighters coming to basically be killed, because they knew if they turned around they would be killed for sure. [19:10:10]

Are you still seeing that fighting method being used by Russians?

TROKHYMETS: Yes, and also there are some other Russian regular army -- it's more percentage of regular Russian army on the battlefield.

BURNETT: Than it was before?

TROKHMYMETS: Yes, yes. Because we work hard, and then, after our job, the Wagner group just disappeared. Like, not fully, but in huge numbers.

BURNETT: Roman, I want to play a video that you posted. And this one is very different. So, our viewers understand -- this is you coming about, finding a beautiful moment in this place you are, right, that you say is a hell. And you are speaking Ukrainian in the video I am going to play. There are subtitles though. I just want everyone to see.


TROKHYMETS (translated): The main thing is calmness, right? Beautiful sunset, and bullets flying around.


BURNETT: You said beautiful sunset, and bullets flying all around, as you are literally ducking. You are in the midst of a battle. And yet you saw the sunset. What do moments like this mean to you?

TROKHYMETS: This is exactly -- the moment between life and death because every second can be last at this moment. And I'm really glad that I can share with you such feelings and such thoughts because this is -- this is what we going through. Every single day on that battlefield -- and I think it's important that people can -- have opportunity to know, at least to see such videos, how it's happened from inside the war, how soldiers feelings in the battlefield.

BURNETT: Roman, thank you very much. I know you were in the battles last night and you will be going right back. So, thank you very much for taking the time to share what you are seeing, what you are going through with everyone.

TROKHYMETS: Okay, always welcome. Thank you for calling me back.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT now, retired Army General Mark Hertling.

And, General Hertling, in that conversation, you know, you just heard Roman talk about counteroffensive, right? That he doesn't know what's going to be required of him as a soldier. Maybe a few people do in the country. But, right, he doesn't know. How difficult, from -- when as you look at this -- is this expected counteroffensive for Ukraine going to be now?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's going difficult and challenging, Erin, because this phase of the campaign -- I'm calling it phase six -- is a different approach. What you have had thus far, and this young man has probably experienced the attacks by the Prigozhin group, the attack by the Russians --


HERTLING: Russia has been on the offensive end Ukraine has been on the defensive. When this switches -- when Ukraine goes on the offensive, it is going to take a lot of requirements for coordination, cooperation, different types of movement, the defensive lines of Russia which have, I believe, have some of the roof reinforcements have been put into -- are going to be much more heavily manned and much better prepared. They have been preparing those defensive positions since about October.

And the offense is always more difficult than a defense for most soldiers. So, what you are going to see is a change in approach, a change in dynamic. And it's just going to be different. It's a different mission set requiring more of the soldier.

BURNETT: And, you know, that reality is very important for people to understand. You know, in this context, Western intelligence, as you know, estimates that about 40,000 or 45,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in this war. It's a stunning death toll.

But what I thought -- General Cavoli said today was pretty incredible in that context. Even with that, the Russian ground forces in Ukraine right now is bigger, he says, then it was at the start of the invasion. And they say the air force and navy, despite these air force mishaps lately, these terrible mistakes they have made, have suffered minimal losses.

So, what do you take away from that, that there's more Russians on the ground now than there were at the beginning?

HERTLING: It is not a surprise to me, Erin. And as you remember, we've talked multiple times about something I call that will feel battlefield math about a year ago.


HERTLING: And when Russia entered this conflict, they had 190,000 soldiers, allegedly.


That seems like a lot. But for the mission they had, for the various mission sets they were required, that was nowhere near to being enough, troop to task requirements for the Russian soldiers.

They've realized that. They've now reinforced those positions, especially to the defensive positions, the cities, the towns. They have more soldiers there. But I would also remind you, so does Ukraine. Ukraine has also mobilized literally hundreds of thousands of people. So, this clash of an offensive against the defense is going to be felt. Now, General Cavoli also mentioned the air force and the navy.


HERTLING: And he estimated that the Russian air force has lost about 80 airplanes and they have literally got hundreds, if not thousands more, but what we have seen in the Russian air force and the Russian navy is the same kind of ineptness that their army has shown.


HERTLING: They have not coordinated. They have not trained. They are not competent on the battlefield. So, they have not use their air force forward of the line of troops. In other words, where their front lines are, they haven't flown air force beyond that because they cannot control them. And they are afraid of Ukrainian air defense.

So, yes, the assessment, the quantitative assessment, by General Cavoli is absolutely correct. It's going to be a clash -- certainly a tough fight in the next phase of this operation.

BURNETT: Right, of course, as we all understand, right, quantities not necessarily quantity and we have seen that it is not in this case. They still have more quantity than many may have thought.

All right. Thank you so much, General Hertling. As always, I appreciate you.

HERTLING: Pleasure. Thank you, Erin.

And next, Disney now suing Governor Ron DeSantis, a longtime Republican lawyer says Disney could very well win. He's my guest and he'll explain.

Plus, Montana Republicans voting tonight to ban a transgender lawmaker from the House chamber after she publicly criticized them, saying they have, quote, blood on their hands. Zooey Zephyr speaks out about the ban for the first time here tonight.

And new details about Tucker Carlson firing -- his vulgar comments about a top executive at the company apparently sealing his fate. A "Wall Street Journal" reporter with the scoop is OUTFRONT.


BURNETT: Tonight, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claims his, quote, kerfuffle with Disney is actually helping other CEOs in the country. In an interview released the same day, the entertainment giant filed a lawsuit against him. Here he is.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: When we had the kerfuffle with Disney, that actually helped a lot of CEOs around the country because they could go into their board. They could say, look, we don't want to be the next Disney. We've got to stay out of this stuff, and we've got to focus on the task at hand.


BURNETT: Disney's lawsuit, filed today is the biggest escalation in a yearlong bitter fight. It started when Disney took a stand against legislation which restricts teaching about gender and sexuality in Florida schools, something that was very relevant to many Disney employees.

The company is accusing DeSantis of, quote, a targeted campaign of government retaliation, orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney's protected speech.

OUTFRONT now, Ben Ginsberg, a longtime Republican lawyer.

So, Ben, this has been going on, and it's now become a centerpiece of the presidential campaign season in the Republican primary. I mean, DeSantis hasn't declared formally. But is now the heart of the whole thing.

Disney, in this lawsuit, is seeking to block DeSantis's handpicked oversight board from taking power over Disneyworld, right? Taking power over the land that surrounds Walt Disneyworld in Florida.

Does Disney have a strong case?

BEN GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN ELECTION LAWYER: I think Disney have a strong case. And it is interesting that it comes in this political season. What is particularly interesting about it is that Governor DeSantis is taking a position that is the opposite of small government, free market capitalism that has always undergirded Republican and conservative thought.

And so, in a sense this is a bridge too far. In punishing with this legislation, a company that disagrees with him, is a fundamental violation of first amendment principles. Disney, I think, was smart to include contracts clause and taking clause charges, and people protection and due process means they did not really have a right to present their case.

And it seems, at this stage, like a real overreach and, while it is fighting the woke company, that is different from this kind of government intrusion and government punishment of one company that disagrees with the government power.

BURNETT: And, you know, you mentioned DeSantis and the woke company, right? That's his word. That's what he does. And he thinks it works for him, right?

Every time he mentions Disney, he talks about it as a woke company. He's done it again and again over the past year, specifically noting Disney's opposition to the bill that he signed.

Just listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) DESANTIS: Disney came out against something that was really just about protecting young kids.

I said, we run the state of Florida. We don't subcontract out leadership to a woke company based in California in a state of Florida. We're signing the bill. And I don't care what Disney says.

Disney is not going to have its own government anymore. Disney is going to live under the same laws as everybody else. And Disney is going to pay its fair share of taxes.


BURNETT: The tapes, obviously, are incredibly extensive. Do any of these things hurt him?

GINSBERG: Oh, I think it probably does hurt him. I mean, once you get in a court of law, it's going to become clear that, in fact, Disney does pay over a billion dollars a year in taxes. And, in fact, it is legitimate to raise the point of special tax districts in Florida. There are a number of entities that have them. The Daytona Speedway, for example, is a special tax district.

The problem with the case from the DeSantis standpoint is that it's singled out for government punishment, the one company that disagreed with him publicly. And that gets to the free speech rights.

BURNETT: Yeah, it's going to be fascinating to see because he can't back down now, right? It is now legal. It is now the core of the Republican presidential primary.

Thanks so much, Ben Ginsberg. Appreciate it.



BURNETT: And next, house Republicans in Montana tonight banning a transgender lawmaker from the floor after she told Republican colleagues that they would have, quote, blood on their hands. That lawmaker, Zooey Zephyr, is my guest, and she speaking out about the ban for the first time right here.

Plus, panda politics. Ya Ya is her name. She's a giant panda. And you can see from this flight tracker is literally right now flying back to China from Memphis right now.

And you are going to find out why this is not an ordinary flight. This is a huge diplomatic flight. Why the Chinese up in arms about Ya Ya? And why are they blaming the United States.


BURNETT: New tonight -- CNN is learning special counsel Jack Smith wants the 90 audiotapes recorded by former Fox News producer Abby Grossberg. We know these recordings capture some of Trump's top allies at the center of the DOJ criminal investigation into January 6th, including Sidney Powell, the lawyer, and Rudy Giuliani. And they may have been a major factor in Fox's decision to settle with Dominion, the voting machine company, for the record $787.5 million.

So, this development, which is, obviously, possibly extremely significant for the DOJ and for Trump, comes amid new reporting from "The Wall Street Journal" about redacted messages in the Dominion case that reportedly helped seal Tucker Carlson's fate at Fox News. "The Journal" says Fox lawyers, quote, persuaded the court to redact from a legal filing the time Carlson called a senior Fox News executive the C-word.

OUTFRONT now is Joe Flint. He is longtime media reporter who works for "The Wall Street Journal".

So, Joe, thanks very much.

So, tell me what more you are learning about these redacted messages that Tucker Carlson sent.


JOE FLINT, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, in the course of the discovery process of the Dominion case, as you mentioned, a lot of Tucker's texts and emails were released inside the company, and ultimately to the public, many of them redacted -- and many of them showed a side of Tucker that, while known inside certain parts of the Fox News room and hierarchy, we're still a little bit surprising to a lot of people inside the company.

The language, the insults towards fellow colleagues, sexist language, vulgar language, language that could be construed as racist -- it was just a bevy of bad texts and emails.

BURNETT: You know, so, you are reporting that, just a few weeks ago, Tucker Carlson got invited to Rupert Murdoch's home in Bel Air -- you have talked about how he has a good relationship, a close relationship, with Lachlan, one of Murdoch sons.

But, according to reporting, they began to view him as uncontrollable. I mean, you know, people look at this and they say, okay, Joe -- so, he lied about the election. He said different things privately than in publicly, and on and on and on, right? But it was calling his boss's names that actually is what got him to fire him.

Is that really a fair way to summarize it?

FLINT: I would not summarize it quite that way. I think it helped seal his fate.

BURNETT: Hmm, okay.

FLINT: I do think the whole Dominion exercise was embarrassing and humiliating for Fox News. And even though Tucker was a small part of that compared to Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro, he was still -- his deposition, his email, still did -- not necessarily believe what we he was having a guest espouse on the air, and that was another problem that just hurt the image of the network.

BURNETT: I should note, all those three individuals you talk about still have jobs there. Tucker has been fired. So, who knows where things go from here. But what we haven't heard from, Joe, at this point, publicly, is Tucker Carlson, silent.

He has been -- I understand from your reporting, he's in Florida, at his home. According to tabloid photos, he's there.

So, what are you hearing about what he thinks about this?

FLINT: Well, he was really shocked. I mean, this came out of the blue for him. I know the press release said that Fox and Tucker parted ways. But he was told about ten minutes before a press release was going out. Suzanne Scott, the CEO of Fox News, called him up and said the network is exercising Article Eight of his contract, which, to put it in layman's terms, is a clause that gives the network the right to just terminate the contract for no reason. He was not fired with cause.

And he asked why, why, why? And she said, well, it's a decision of us and the people of above us, meaning the Murdochs.

BURNETT: Right. The Shakespearean in all -- in all ways.

All right. Joe, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

FLINT: Thank you.

BURNETT: And coming up, next on Anderson, more on those tapes that the former Fox News producer Abby Grossberg recorded and that the special counsel now wants. What do they say? Her attorney will be with Anderson.

And next, Montana House Republicans just ban transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr from the House chamber, after she accused him of having blood on their hands. Zephyr is OUTFRONT next.

And Ya Ya, the giant panda, right now on a flight from Memphis back to China. Why this is such a serious story, showing things that are truly ugly between the U.S. and China all over a panda.



BURNETT: New tonight, banned. The GOP-led Montana House banning Zooey Zephyr, the first openly transgender woman elected to that state legislature, from the chamber until the legislative session ends next week. She will still be allowed to vote remotely. But she will not be able to debate proposals or amendments in the session.

This came after Zephyr said she was silence for these comments about colleagues voting to prevent transgender children from receiving gender affirming medical care.


STATE REP. ZOOEY ZEPHYR (D), MONTANA HOUSE: If you vote yes on this bill, and yes on these amendments, I hope the next time there is an indication, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.


BURNETT: Just days after those remarks, protests broke out in the House chamber after Zephyr raised her microphone to protesters chanting, let her speak. Police in riot gear responded. Seven protesters were also arrested.

But tonight, Representative Zephyr is OUTFRONT.

And, Representative, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

And I want to give you a chance to respond first to just what's happened to you. Today, you are banned. Your colleagues bandy from the House chamber for the rest of the year's legislative session. What is your response to that?

ZEPHYR: We have a week and a half left of the session. And we will be covering important topics -- housing bills, the state's budget and every bill that goes forward for the remainder of this session. There will be 11,000 Montanans whose representative is missing, whose voices cannot be heard on those bills.

BURNETT: They are taking away your right to be on the floor. They're taking way right to take part in debate. So, all of that is gone, as you say. They are still letting you vote. I guess you have to do that remotely, though. Why do you think they are making that distinction?

ZEPHYR: So, to me, they are trying to take away the voices of Montanans and find, in their mind, a middle ground of some sort. But it's important to note that I was not elected just to vote on bills. I was elected to have the hard discussions.

BURNETT: Absolutely. Now, here's how some of your colleagues described your actions. You played the clip of what you had said. But here is how some of them described or actions before today's vote where they banned you. Here they are.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This body witnessed one of its members participating in conduct that disrupted against disturb the orderly proceedings of this body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This behavior violated the collective rights and safety of 99 other members of this body, our staff, our pages and the public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an irrefutable fact that the representative in question did indeed actively support and arguably insight the disruptive antics of demonstrators who had gathered in the house gallery. The Representative of House district 100 failed to do her duty.



BURNETT: They're saying you violated decorum in your chamber with your words about blood on their hands. They say there are consequences to your actions. So, what do you say to that?

ZEPHYR: I would say, we have had hard debates this entire session. There have been legislators on the other side screaming in their closing arguments. Legislators who have insinuated that my very existence is somehow sexualizing children, and we object, and then we move on.

But when the speaker decides to not recognize a duly elected representative, he takes away the voices of 11,000 Montanans. And then those Montanans -- demand that their representative be heard. What they are doing is standing for democracy. And I raised my mic in support of them.

BURNETT: Now, you called out some of your colleagues in the Montana Freedom Caucus at least twice, last week, Representative. They referred to you with masculine pronouns. They said -- you said it was the high disheartening to see them stoop so low as to misgender you. But it happened again.

That group came out and they said, in part, and I quote them -- Representative -- it's unfortunate that Representative Zephyr had neither the maturity nor the humility to take responsibility for his actions, and simply apologize.

Can I just ask you on a human level -- I know you have become accustomed to some of the treatment and when they do this. But when this happened today, how do you even -- how does that even make you feel? How do you handle that?

ZEPHYR: First, I want to say that it's important to note the hypocrisy of a group calling for humility and decorum while misgendering. But it's the same group that advocates for-limited government while at the same time using government to take away the health care -- lifesaving health care -- to people in my community.

And on a personal level, I don't get distracted by that. I come here to represent my constituents. And so, I will show up every day on their behalf.

BURNETT: All right, and, Representative, thank you so much. And I really appreciate your time thank you.

ZEPHYR: Thank you for having me.

BURNETT: All right, Representative Zephyr there from Montana.

And there is breaking news right now in the state of Missouri on transgender rights. At the 11th hour, a judge temporarily blocking a new state rule which would limit gender affirming care for minors and adults. It's the first of its kind in the nation targeting adults. And that rule was set to take effect tomorrow.

And Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT with the latest.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're hoping to get as many people establish for care as possible, because we're really feeling that deadline.

KHARRI, MISSOURI PATIENT: I'll be doing it today.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And the clock is ticking for patients like 19-year-old Kharri, a Missouri resident crossing state lines to Kansas, because of the battle over gender-affirming care.

How long have you not felt like you?

KHARRI: Since I was 14, that's when I was like, you are not correct.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, some of the side effects of testosterone are permanent.

LAH: All patients in this Planned Parenthood clinic today are beginning gender transitions. A pop-up clinic to beat the deadline set by Missouri's attorney general in an emergency rule. Established patients could continue care once the order goes into effect, but new patients face a slew of requirements that would widely limit access. It's why Kharri is here for the state imposed deadline.

How do you view this executive order?

KHARRI: I -- I view it as someone is afraid of something, so they're trying to eradicate people.

We are terrified. I've been afraid since I was 15. It's really terrifying.

It's talk with us, like to sit there and talk with us, listen to what we're saying. We're not trying to indoctrinate anyone. We're just saying, hey, this is us.

LAH: In another exam room, 20-year-old Andi moved up a May appointment to beat the impending order.

Why is it important to you to have access to this care?

ANDI, MISSOURI PATIENT: It's a constant disconnect from my own body, my own being. I look in the mirror, I feel like an impostor, a stranger. I always have. I'm going through a personal journey now, and hopefully, I can start to feel comfortable in my own skin, and maybe feel like I recognize the person in the mirror, after I start to see these changes.

LAH: Across Missouri, advocates say, it's uncertainty and panic among patients.


LAH: Angela Huntington is a patient navigator for Planned Parenthood.

HUNTINGTON: I was just calling to confirm your appointment.

LAH: Scheduling patients across Missouri.

HUNTINGTON: I think we have a fight. I think we have a fight in front of us.

LAH: What kind of pain are you hearing on either side of the phone line?

HUNTINGTON: I've got patients calling me from all over Missouri that are just scared. They just don't know where they're going to get their care.

LAH: Especially in a shifting battleground of politics and legal orders, say the doctors and nurses.

ASHLEY MILLER, NURSE PRACTITIONER, PLANNED PARENTHOOD GREAT PLAINS: You want to believe people when they tell you who they are, or what they want for their life. And you don't want to say, well, you know, I believe you, that you are transgender, maybe we should phone your local politician to see if you agree.

It's hard not to feel like your local politician is in the room with you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, next I'm going to do is go over screen questions with you.

LAH: Kharri established gender-affirming care in this visit. Rejected by some family members, Kharri says he fled Tennessee a year ago, and is ready to move again, unsure of what happens next in Missouri.

KHARRI: I can't live in any state that won't let me be who I am, I have a 24-hour plan, well, they do this, you have to leave in those 24 hours. Like, close, pack up in the trunk kind of things. I felt like a refugee in my own state, in my own country.


LAH (on camera): So, this emergency rule was scheduled to take place just hours from now at the stroke of midnight. But this ruling that we just got from this state judge, just minutes ago, Erin, it essentially resets the clock. There is a new deadline it will be Monday evening the judge says she wants more time to consider and read through some of the briefing, some of the arguments. So, there will be a new deadline, Monday evening, when this temporary restraining order could or could not go into effect allowing this rule to go into effect, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Kyung, thank you very much. So important to hear from those young people.

And next, Ya Ya the panda, as I said, right now in the air on her way back to China from the United States. Why the Chinese tracking her so closely? Why they so curious at the United States? Why is this panda so important?

And the House just barely passing a bill for to raise the debt ceiling. Sounds promising, right? Hmm, the devil is in the details.



BURNETT: Tonight, you're looking at the flight that's carrying a giant panda from the United States back to China. So, why is this panda being tracked so closely?

Because, for the Chinese government and many citizens, Ya Ya the panda cannot get home soon enough. Angry over her chronic fur and skin condition, that makes her look thin and patching, Chinese state media and many Chinese people are accusing the United States of mistreating Ya Ya, and anti-American outrage is very serious, is getting very ugly.

Selina Wang is OUTFRONT.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once a symbol of Beijing's goodwill, now a center of angry debate in China. This panda in Memphis, Tennessee, has become the latest victim in worsening U.S. tensions.

Ya Ya arrived in America with her playmate Le Le two decades ago, as an emblem of growing bilateral friendship. But recent videos, showing the once fluffy panda, now looking skinny with scruffily fur, has sparked outrage in China, many Chinese people and animal advocates accusing the zoo of mistreatment.

Videos on Chinese social media claiming the pandas are being abused, quickly went viral against the backdrop of growing anti-American sentiment. The rumors, often fanned by state propaganda.

And meanwhile, Chinese social media users are praising these viral videos -- claiming videos of the active and playful panda prove Russia is taking excellent care, of the Chinese bear. State TV saying the pandas are helping the Russia-China relationship. Chinese and American scientists launched a joint investigation, concluding that Ya Ya has a genetic fur and skin condition, that does not impact her quality of life.

It has received excellent care, but that message is not getting through. Outside a panda exhibit at the Beijing Zoo, I ask people if they've heard of Ya Ya the panda.

This man says yes, she is abused in America. An 11-year-old boy tell me I heard the U.S. is treating the panda poorly. This man says, is in Russia taking good care of pandas? Pandas are happy over there, not like in the U.S.

And this man with his granddaughter tells me, pandas and Russia are very happy. Why? Russians and Chinese are friends. At least Russia is not sanctioning China.

Ya Ya will soon settle in this Beijing zoo. Now, China has long used its pandas as diplomatic tools. are on loan to 20 countries, the United States is not received when for ya ya at lola 20 years ago. Currently, these pandas are loaned to about 20 countries. The United States has not received one since Ya Ya and Le Le 20 years ago.

Now, these pandas are only loaned on these 12-year leases, and they cost $1 million annually.

The Memphis Zoo had already planned to send Ya Ya and Le Le backed to Beijing this spring, because their lease is expiring. But Le Le died of heart disease two months ago, at the age of 24. The average lifespan for pandas is usually under 30 years, yet that didn't stop rampant speculation, and led to an explosion of accusations about Ya Ya's treatment too, accelerating calls to bring Ya Ya back to China.

The message even featured on billboards from New York City to major cities across China. In 1972, during U.S. President Richard Nixon's historic trip to China, his wife visited pandas in Beijing.

PAT NIXON, FORMER U.S. FIRST LADY: On behalf of the people of the United States, I am pleased to be here and accept the precious gift.

WANG: Months later, China sent a pair of pandas to the national zoo in Washington, D.C., now decades later this pandas returned from the U.S. to China, symbolic, not of growing friendship, but growing animosity between two global superpowers.


WANG (on camera): So, Erin, China has not granted any panda loans in the U.S. in two decades. In contrast, last year, China sent a pair of pandas to Qatar. This is the first loan to a Middle Eastern country.

But now, after all these public anger over Ya Ya, many on Chinese social media are saying, well, maybe China no longer needs to send its national treasures to other countries, as a diplomatic tool. They are saying that now, the China is a global superpower, maybe it should end this panda diplomacy -- Erin.

BURNETT: Well, it's absolutely incredible, Selina, all those individual you talked about at the zoo talking about the Russian panda being treated so much better. It's so incredible to see all this play out, talking about pandas. Thank you so much.

And next, by the skin of his teeth, the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy scrounging just enough votes, after an incredible amount of pounding the pavement to raise the debt ceiling.


But, how many Republican arms does he have to twist just to get to a yes that doesn't get to the Senate.


BURNETT: Tonight, by the skin of his teeth, Speaker McCarthy rounding up just enough votes to pass a bill to reach that limit, as in he literally could not afford to lose one vote, but it's a fleeting victory. The bill is almost certainly be dead on arrival in the Senate. It's packed with a slew of spending cuts and unravels major elements of Biden's agenda. Yet McCarthy, knowing that he's going to have to go take to on a different bill, claiming tonight his work is done.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We've just passed the bill, it's not our job to modify, it were the only ones to lift the debt limit, to make sure this economy is not in jeopardy.


BURNETT: Well, McCarthy did pass a bill. The White House on the Senate Democrats are already rejected it, they want their debt limit to be increased without any negotiations. So, like I said, Groundhog Day.

The United States has never default on its debt, the clock is ticking though. Washington has until early June to raise the debt limit and if they don't, obviously, a financial crisis could be in the offing.

Thanks so much for joining us.

It's now time for "AC360".