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Erin Burnett Outfront

U.S. Could Run Out Of Cash By June 1, Talks Planned, Sides Dig In; New Video: Russian Train Burning, Derailed In Alleged IED Attack; New Details About Suspect On The Run In Texas Massacre; Dem Voters Mixed On Biden's Age: "Isn't An Issue" Versus "He Is Old"; U.S. Surgeon General: 1 In 2 Americans Experiencing Loneliness; Island 4 Miles From China Could Become Front Line In A Conflict. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 01, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, running out of cash. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warning Washington it has just 31 days to pay America's bills or risk an economic catastrophe. But tonight, the two sides could not be further apart.

Plus, a bold attack inside Russia today. A freight train carrying crucial supplies blown off its tracks. Is this the beginning of Ukrainian counteroffensive?

And, Americans are lonely and isolated, and it is now a full blown health crisis. That's what the surgeon general is saying tonight as he opens up about his own struggles. He's my guest.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, out of cash. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, issuing a stark warning tonight that the United States will run out of money as early as June 1st if Congress doesn't raise or suspend the debt ceiling.

In a statement she writes: After reviewing recent federal tax receipts, our best estimate is that we will be unable to continue to satisfy all of the government's obligations by early June, and potentially, wait for it, as early as June 1st, if Congress does not raise or suspend the debt limit before that time.

And right now, the White House and Congress couldn't be further away from a deal. The White House wants to raise that debt limit with absolutely no strings attached. The Republicans in the House, of course, say the only do it have deep spending cuts are attached. And, there are only eight days, eight days, when the House and Senate will be in session at the same time this month.

So, if Congress does not act, Yellen is warning of widespread economic catastrophe. We talked about some of this. These are the risks of some of these happening, of debt ceilings not being raised. Social security checks don't go out, veterans payments don't go out, federal employee payments don't go up. That's just the beginning. That's the tip of the iceberg.

Moody's also recently warning that defaulting on America's debt could kill millions of American jobs.

So, will all of this force the White House and Republicans to talk to each other?

Well, CNN is learning that Biden is calling the top four congressional leaders to the White House to talk about raising the debt ceiling. But that meeting isn't happening until eight days from now, May 9th. So, we're really pushing it here. Speaker McCarthy is not even in Washington right now. So, he couldn't even do it, he's in Israel. So, will they be able to get something done before time is up?

And there are other things causing pressure here. Yellen's warning coming on a day when yet a now their bank is taking over, proving that Silicon Valley Bank situation was not alone. Another bank, rescued before completely collapsed. I'm talking about First Republic. Branches in many states, including New York and California, that bank was auctioned off to JPMorgan Chase, the third bank to go under in less than two months.

Now, we're live at the White House and on Capitol Hill tonight.

I want to begin with Phil Mattingly.

And, Phil, is the White House concerned at this point, at this deadline that Janet Yellen is putting out? This is just weeks away. There are only in session together eight days between now and the end of the month. Does the White House think this can get done?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think when you talk to White House officials, they are concerned at this point in time, it's folks who have been a little too sanguine about the potential for this actually happening, right? I think some of that is based off the course of the last 11 years, of having these fights seemingly year after year, and always ending up some way shape or form, with a resolution that just dodges the absolute catastrophe right before the deadline.

I think, given how intractable the two positions are at this moment in time, the White House insistence they're not moving off of, despite the president's call of the top four leaders earlier today. That there be no conditions attached to any claim ceiling debt ceiling increase, that this stare down has the very real potential to not just approach the edge, but go right over it. That was the driving force, especially given the fact that Secretary Janet Yellen's letter went out to congressional leaders today, behind the president's phone calls earlier today.

This meeting on proposed, for May 9th, with the top four leaders and the president, is designed to shake up the dynamic. Add to the urgency of the moment, and start conversations to try to find some pathway out of things.

Now, interestingly, Erin, what was made very clear, this is not a shift in their position. The president's position is unlike past fights, and most likely because of those past fights. They do not want to negotiate on this issue. They don't want to add anything onto a debt ceiling increase. They want to stop that idea of what they have referred to as hostage taking. Not just for now, but pretty much forever, given the potential catastrophe that comes with it.

However, in this meeting, they're also proposing to provide some type of form or better understanding of longer term fiscal negotiations, of fiscal discussions related to spending talks going forward. Trying to formalize, the president has long said he's open to, but Republicans have not been willing to engage on given the fact they've passed their own legislation. Whether or not that actually works is an open question. But with the letter and the proposal for a meeting, it underscores that this urgency, this moment, it's time to take it seriously.


This is very real and happening very soon.

BURNETT: Phil, thank you very much.

So I want to go to Manu Raju, because he's on Capitol Hill. And, Manu, coming into this meeting, and this announcement from Yellen today, you've been speaking to lawmakers.

Do they think that this will get done in time?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is really uncertain, Erin. And I just spoke to a number of senators from both parties, they're painting a grim picture. Senate Republicans are making very clear, they are not going to undercut Kevin McCarthy. They're not going to agree to any deal does not have his explicit blessing.

And Democrats are telling me they will not agree to any spending cut, a spending cut deal, that is tied to raising the debt ceiling.


SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): What they're saying is they're going to default on the debt.

RAJU: So should you guys just find a middle ground between the two?

TESTER: What is the middle ground?

RAJU: A deal with spending cuts tied to a debt ceiling increase.

TESTER: I think that's -- I think it's a big mistake. I think it's a big mistake.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): This deal has got to be between Biden and McCarthy, or their respective teams because there's no other way that something get 60 votes in the Senate. The pressure is mounting and intensifying, and it should. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Yeah, in that last comment coming from Senator John Thune, the number two Republican that had been speculation that perhaps the Senate GOP could come in and cut a late deal with Democrats and try to push something through that could get 60 votes in the Senate. But John Thune telling me right there, he's the number two Republican, someone who counts the votes in the Senate, saying there would not be 60 votes, which is what's needed, meaning at least nine Republicans to advance any bill, it does not have the support of Kevin McCarthy, and McCarthy making very clear earlier today in Israel, that he is not going to go forward with any bill that does not include some spending cuts.

So Erin, how this gets evolved is on anyone's guess. But this is the biggest concern of a potential default that we have seen in the past dozen years. Default was averted in 2011, unclear if it will be diverted now.

BURNETT: Manu, thank you very much. There you had it. The biggest risk in a dozen years, here for full-blown default.

And I want to go now to CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon with me, as well as economic analyst, Jim Bianco.

So, Jim, when you hear this today, Janet Yellen saying the treasury secretary that there's not the tax receipts to drag this on much more. How significant is it?

JIM BIANCO, ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, it's significant on two levels. I mean, the first one is, the tax receipts came in much weaker than expected. That's confirming like the GDP report that we saw last week, that the economy is not doing great. It's not a recession, but it's definitely heading in the wrong direction right now. It's not too late to turn it around. But things are not going well.

But I will take a bit of a positive news out of this, they are talking. At least we've got that part going. For the last several months, they weren't even doing that.

So, there is hope on Wall Street here that this is the first step in a process that will lead to a resolution of this issue.

BURNETT: Of course, Wall Street, John, they'll hold out that hope, because they've been right in the past.

But as Manu said, this may be different than the past dozen years. And what happened again and again. I will point out, back since then, 2011, 4,288 days since the United States lost its top credit rating from S&P.


BURNETT: Okay? When you -- you know, lose your credit rating, your credit store goes down, you pay more an interest. That's how it works.

AVLON: Yeah.

BURNETT: So once we lost it, 4,288 days have gone by and we haven't done anything to get it back.

AVLON: That's right. And, look, you know, the taxpayers, bond holders, those are the pick folks who keep paying for this division and dysfunction in Congress. It's got to be said, as Congress tricycles towards this debt ceiling --

BURNETT: Tricycles.

AVLON: -- again, yeah, this is sandbox politics. This is something that only happens when Democrats are president, right? It's important to remember that just Republicans raise the debt ceiling three times when Donald Trump was president, in bipartisan coalitions.

We are the only nation in the world that does this to ourselves. It makes democracy look self defeated in the eyes to some of our strategic competitors, which is the really big game.

So this is acting too sanguine, as Phil said, yeah. I think people have been way too sanguine given the polarization of this country.

BURNETT: And, Jim, to this point, you re-tweeted something today that I thought that was interesting. You re-tweeted a tweet that said. Second largest bank failure ever, then you said, highest spend fund rate since 2007, lowest volatility rating based on the S&P index since late 2021.

You're pointing at a confluence of several things that add up to what?

BIANCO: That, you know, the markets are, you know, in a period of uncertainty. I know that's an overused term, but right now, between what's happening with the banks and what is concerning about what's happening in the bond market, it's not in a position of strength that you could throw on another issue like the debt ceiling and say, well, the markets will just -- this will be water of a ducks back.

No, it won't. This will be something that could metastasize into a bigger problem. Already start with markets that are in a position that they're in right now.


So, it is concerning. I know people tend to focus on, say, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 and go -- well, it's not really flowing, so there's no real urgency, that's true. But that's only a handful of technology stocks that's holding it up.

You look beyond that, you see lots of problems everywhere in financial markets.

BURNETT: And, John, Biden had said this is -- this is why people should vote for him.

AVLON: Yeah. BURNETT: Last time around he said, in situations like this, moments

like this, I can talk to both sides. He's got this meeting coming out, here we go.

But in 2019, I did a town hall with him, he said this is exactly the kind of situation of why I should be president. Here's what he said.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, one of the problems with the responsibility of the president is be able to persuade people. We've got a lot done by pure compromise. You remember, every time we got in trouble and couldn't get something passed in the House and the Senate, who got sent up to the Hill?

I even convinced the Republicans to increase taxes in the wealthier for the first time ever by $600 billion, on New Year's Eve Day, when we were about to go under in terms of reneging on a national debt. This is something I've done, I can do it again.


AVLON: This is a test of that promise.

And, look, you know, May 9th, it's good that the four congressional leaders are meeting with the president at the president's request. But, this is coming fast. May 9th doesn't take the urgency that should be had.

Look, a lot of folks said that this could be a problem and said Democrats and the Biden administration should've gotten ahead of this to take it off the table before they had unified control. Now they don't. Are there any areas where they can negotiate? Sure.

I think there's things in that proposal that have brought bipartisan support, clawing back COVID money already spent. It's a small item, but important. I think work fair is reasonable, streamlining energy regulations.

But a lot of the other stuff is either self-defeating or totally off the table when it comes to bipartisan coalitions. And it actually shouldn't be attached to the debt. But this will be a test of Biden being able to make a deal, and Mitch McConnell, being able to rein in the crazy wing of his political party.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. Thanks to Jim Bianco as well.

And next, that Russian train blown off its tracks inside Russia. The train was carrying oil, other important equipment, and we are learning new details about that and the devastating toll its war is having on Russian troops. Plus, a massive manhunt tonight is ongoing for a man who seems to have vanished without a trace, after allegedly killing five people, including a nine-year-old boy. And tonight, we're learning the suspect had been deported four times, after entering the United States illegally. And OUTFRONT speak to Democratic voters about Biden's age.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His age does scare me, because, you know, he is -- he is old.


BURNETT: I'm going to speak to one professor who spent his career studying age and leadership. And guess what? He's not worried about Biden, I'll tell you the research to show he's right.



BURNETT: Tonight, a fiery attack inside Russia with new video tonight showing a Russian freight train burning. It derailed after an IED explosion.

Now, the train, we understand, was carrying oil and construction equipment from the reports. In this video, you see what's left of those train cars.

So far, it's not clear who was behind this attack. But, recently we have seen attacks on Russian ammo depots and electricity substations. The video you're looking at now actually is a strike in a currently Russian occupied part of Ukraine.

Now, in a moment, I'm going to speak to a former special ops adviser, OUTFRONT regular Seth Jones. He can tell you exactly what he thinks these attacks show. But first, it comes as the real price Putin is paying for this war becomes clearer. U.S. intelligence, now estimating that Russia has lost a staggering number of men in just the past few months.


JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Just since December, we estimate that Russia has suffered more than 100,000 casualties, including, over 20,000 killed in action.


BURNETT: So, to do the math here, that's more than 700 Russians killed or injured every single day.

Nick Paton Walsh is OUTFRONT in Ukraine.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was hard to get much uglier, but each dawn, still, the battle for Bakhmut grinds on. Ukraine, Monday, said it had pushed Russian forces back, through an abandoned positions, months of agonizing fighting, for about a football field every day, say analysts, leaving, little standing. And Russian injured, the soldiers here said, abandoned. There was a guy laying there in the reads, he says, yelling, guys, come and help me, for three days, only 100 yards from the Russians.

Also emerging to on this, the road of life. The last way in and out of the city. News of the death of Cooper "Harris" Andrews, age 26. A former U.S. marine and firefighters from Cleveland, Ohio, who felt compelled to join Ukraine's fight.

WILLOW ANDREWS, MOTHER OF COOPER "HARRIS" ANDREWS: Cooper wanted to correct things. We had a lot of conversations about fashion. I said, Cooper, so that means you're just going over there to drive an ambulance. He said, no. You just don't believe in stuff. You like to do something about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Harris, let's make a picture for history.

WALSH: Here he is near the front line in January as part of the Foreign Legion, described as ideological to the core, and anti authoritarian. His body has yet to be recovered from Bakhmut, as the fighting is too intense. His mother recalled the last time they spoke.

ANDREWS: I asked, Cooper, because I'm like Cooper's mom, like is there anything I can try and get to you or send you? Cooper said, yes. Can you send me hot sauce and chopsticks?

So I have 1,000 chopsticks in my house, because I was trying to get chopsticks for everyone. And I have all these little packets of hot sauce that I was going to send to Cooper.

WALSH: Over the past weeks, graphic battle footage has emerged, showing what it's like when Russians get into Ukrainian trench network.


Here, a soldier races into cover. But soon, a shell hits. They're all miraculously okay, but the attack has started.

Watch, and you see a Russian approach and throw a grenade. He misses. And they go on to shoot down Russian's advancing meters from them.

Shells continue to land. The attack persists for over ten minutes. But the brutal fight for Bakhmut goes on and on.


WALSH (on camera): Erin, almost hard to keep track what's happening in Bakhmut. A matter of weeks ago, the Russians saying they nearly had taken control. And now, Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin suggesting Russia is not giving him enough artillery shells to hold on and the Ukrainians thinking they're taking back some of those Russian positions. Back and forth, constantly, to some degree, despite the shocking loss

of life that one U.S. official suggested today may have been 10,000 casualties dead and wounded since December alone. A staggering figure, it is essentially a sideshow. The main focus on the counter offensive, must likely here in the south and potentially beginning to get underway, so much resting upon it -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Nick, from Ukraine tonight.

And as promised now, I want to go to Seth Jones. He's the director of the international security program at CSIS, and also was a former adviser to the commanding general of American Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan.

So, Seth, that Russian freight train that we saw today blown up. That was an IED attack. And we've seen a number of these sorts of attacks on Russian infrastructure just over these past few weeks. What do you read into that?

SETH JONES, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, Erin, what it looks like the Ukrainians are doing is targeting Russian logistics hubs. This is critical in general, but also critical before a major offensive operation.

You want to destroy as much of the petroleum, oil, lubricants, the fuel that Russian forces will need. You want to destroy their arms. You want to destroy their rail heads, which they used to move that material. These are all signs of the Ukrainians getting really serious on Russian logistics.

BURNETT: And, Seth, I know you've been talking to sources involved in the Ukrainian counteroffensive. And you've been looking at some new satellite imagery that is not yet been released publicly. But you've been able to look at it. And in it, you've been able to see what the Russians are doing. What they're doing to prepare for what they expect in this counteroffensive.

What do you see there?

JONES: Well, Erin, what this looks like is the trench networks before World War II, and then existed during World War I. We see extensive Russian dragon's teeth. These are pyramid shaped tongue concrete slabs that are used for anti-tank operations. Deep trenches, berms, particularly in key areas like just north of Crimea, really, the largest kinds of trench networks and berms that we've seen since World War II in Europe.

These are all Russian preparations to try to slow down Ukrainian advances, as part of an offensive.

BURNETT: Sounds like a brutal, brutal war coming. What about what Nick mentioned, this, you know, Biden administrations estimate at, you heard John Kirby saying that Russia suffered more than 100,000 casualties since December, right? That comes out to about 700 killed or wounded per day. That is -- that is a big increase. 25, 30 percent increase from what

was a very high estimated number in the fall. What do you think of it? Is it real?

JONES: Our estimates are very similar to that, Erin. I think it's important to note that the Russians and they've talked about it on this program, have lost more soldiers in Ukraine, this is another example of this, then they've lost in all wars combined since 1945.

The second issue is Russian offensive operations. They can't do these kinds of things effectively. We just haven't seen a lot of improvement in Russian ground operations. So, they are struggling badly.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Seth Jones. As always, I appreciate it.

JONES: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the massive manhunt for a suspected killer. Now, expanding. Agents along America's southern border are told to be on alert for a man police say killed his neighbors, execution style.

Plus, America is now suffering from an epidemic of loneliness and isolation. And this may ring to many of you watching. It's increasing the risk of premature death as much as smoking daily. It is stunning. How did we get here?

The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is my guest.



BURNETT: New tonight, a massive manhunt tonight for a Texas man accused of killing five of his neighbors, including a nine-year-old boy. More than 200 members of law enforcement searching for Francisco Oropeza. They admit seems to have vanished without a trace.

This, as we are learning tonight that the suspect was deported at least four times after entering the U.S. illegally. This is according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Josh Campbell is OUTFRONT.


JAMES SMITH, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: He is a threat to the community. We need the community's help.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A massive manhunt in southeast Texas for a man law enforcement says gunned down five of his neighbors, including, a nine-year-old boy.

Now, more than two days since the slayings, authorities acknowledge they have zero leads.

SMITH: We do not know where he is. We don't have any tips right now to where he may be.

CAMPBELL: According to the San Jacinto County sheriff, the suspect identified as 35-year-old Francisco Oropeza, was shooting a rifle in his yard Friday when neighbors asked him to stop because a baby was trying to sleep. Video later captured Oropeza, approaching the neighbor's house, where the sheriff says he opened fire with 15 people inside, killing the victims, quote, almost execution style.

One of the survivors, Wilson Garcia, lost his wife and son in the horrific shooting. He says he miraculously escaped after a woman in the house helped him jump from a window.

WILSON GARCIA, WIFE AND SON KILLED IN SHOOTING (through translator): We lost my nine-year-old son and my wife as well. And two people who died were protecting my two and a half -year-old daughter, and my one month old son. They protected him with a bunch of clothing, so the murderer wouldn't kill him, too. So just imagine what we're feeling now. It was horrible.

CAMPBELL: Authorities tracked Oropeza's cell phone, but found it abandoned, along with articles of clothing.

Despite his unknown whereabouts, we are learning more about his background.


A neighbor tells CNN, Oropeza, has a history of erratic behavior with firearms and like to show them off. A Mexican national, he was also deported four times between 2009 and 2016. And served jail time in 2012 for a DUI conviction, a law enforcement source tells CNN.

An $80,000 reward is now being offered for any information leading to Oropeza's capture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of five people died in my county, and that is where my heart is, and my county, protecting my people to the best of our ability.

CAMPBELL: Garcia says he is staying strong for his two surviving children, as his family indoors unspeakable tragedy.

WILSON GARCIA, WIFE AND SON KILLED IN SHOOTING (through translator): My daughter who more or less understands, it's really difficult when she comes in starts asking for her mama, and then for her brother.


BURNETT: Josh, I know your sources are josh, I know your sources are giving you so much of this information, and telling you that right now you've got line for cement on both sides of the U.S. Mexico border on alert tonight. What else are you learning about the situation?

CAMPBELL: Yeah, that's right, Erin. As those nearly 250 law enforcement officers continue to search northeast of Houston for the suspect, I'm told that the U.S. Mexico border is also a key focal point, as you mentioned, border control officers on both sides are alert. They have the suspect's photo, they've been briefed, because, of course, we know that in the past, he's crossed that border illegally at least five separate times.

So that is a concern that he could cross back into Mexico if he's not there already. It's worth also pointing out, I'm also told by a source that the U.S. government is aggressively pushing information to Mexican media outlets about this $80,000 reward. So people who may know the suspect, if they know something, they know his whereabouts, they'll pick up the phone and collect an award. Help bring him to justice.

BURNETT: It's just absolutely horrific. Josh, thank you very much -- Josh Campbell.

CAMPBELL: You bet.

BURNETT: And next, President Biden joking about his age.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You might think I don't like Rupert Murdoch. That's simply not true. How could I dislike a guy who makes me look like Harry Styles?



BURNETT: All right. I'm going to talk to a Yale professor who spent decades studying age and leadership, and you'll hear why he thinks Biden's age could actually not hurt, and maybe give him an advantage.

And Americans are lonely and isolated, the U.S. surgeon general speaking out tonight, and saying it is a health crisis, one that he has personally faced. The surgeon general will be OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden hosting the Philippines president, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., at the White House. But not holding a joint press conference with him.

In fact, Biden has held just 13 joint press conferences with other world leaders so far. Since taking office, Biden has held 24 press conferences in total, which is less fewer than his last three predecessors at this point in their presidencies. In fact, it's the fewest since Ronald Reagan who had 16.

Now, it comes as presidential hopeful on the Republican side, Nikki Haley is connecting Biden's lack of press conferences with his age and mental fitness. She writes in an op-ed, quote: Millions of Americans watch President Biden and believe he exhibits cognitive decline. He rarely takes press questions. He spends most weekends at his vacation home in Delaware.

Well, OUTFRONT spoke to Democratic voters from Pennsylvania about Biden's age. They went out and did this, our Danny Freeman today, and here's what they told him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His age isn't an issue for me. I mean, we just want somebody in there that's going to do what they have to do for the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would honestly prefer a younger, more progressive candidate, but I definitely prefer Biden over Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His age does scare me because, you know, he is -- he is old.

REPORTER: Do you think he shouldn't be running for reelection?



BURNETT: All right. OUTFRONT now, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld. He's a professor at the Yale School of Management, and president of Yale's Chief Executive Leadership Institute. He spent much of his career studying the issue of age and leadership.

In fact, he just published an op-ed for "Time", which I've read many times. I found it fascinating. I hope you will as well, where he says age is not an issue for President Biden. And you sort of take this on at every angle.

So, Jeff, let me start, you're very clear. You do not have any concerns about President Biden's age or his fitness to be president. Obviously, many voters to. Many Democrats do. Tell me why you don't?

JEFFREY SONNENFELD, SENIOR ASSOCIATE DEAN FOR LEADERSHIP: Well, there are all kind of isms out there, ageism, sexism, and things. One of the last isms, of course, is an ageism, with racism and things. There's a cynicism and an ageism. There's no evidence that he slowed up.

People say that, but Nikki Haley just made that comment without a single shred of evidence out there in her article. Do you think Nikki Haley could hold up in a joint session of Congress for the State of the Union before the whole world watching and joust with them without a script, and come out on top? Of course not.

I don't even know if she could keep up with his bike rides or his robust exercise routines. He's a pretty hardworking guy. It's a strong day, and a strong week, a lot of intergalactic travel that he does.

BURNETT: So, as you know, you heard, some Democrats don't have a problem with his age. Others say they wish he were younger, but they'll vote for him anyway. But there are some who say his age is an issue. Some because they

really believe in mental issues, right? They believe in mental decline, physical decline. But others, for these reasons.

Here they are.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think, across the board everywhere, we need younger people to be in charge.

I feel it's too old because he'll be two disconnected with younger generations, and that is a factor.


BURNETT: Of course, that would apply to if Trump was the nominee, Trump as well, if that's going to be the standard. But what do you say to that?

SONNENFELD: Well, I just think that that's, again, nonsense and bias. Benjamin Franklin was 82 years old when he pulled together the great compromise for the constitutional convention. Konrad Adenauer was 87 years old and, brought Germany back to life after the Second World War. Averell Harriman -- and nobody else could've done that by the way. Averell Harriman in his 90s, Churchill, de Gaulle, our best states people were, in fact, people that had wisdom, and had age.

Who would you rather have? Those folks you interviewed, sadly, they're from Pennsylvania, my home state. Elizabeth Holmes? The people who destroyed Theranos with, you know -- Vivek Ramaswamy, who's gotten all this attention as the wokester jokester who, you know, ran his facts off the rails and bailed out early.

George Santos? Is that another youthful leader?


Or Lauren Boebert who is a conspiracy theories? Lindsay Lohan? Kanye West?

I mean, I don't see if these people are connecting better or unifying better. That these leaders, these celebrities are certainly more out of touch than many of the wise elder statesman we think of.

BURNETT: Now, if -- okay, now some might say, well, you know, you're older, maybe you need more rest. Maybe you take longer to make a decision. Are those things negatives?

SONNENFELD: No. Some people talk about Biden's schedule. It's an intense enough schedule. Not everybody in my line of work is on the job much before nine in the morning.

Donald Trump, 60 percent of his time was classified as executive time, which was basically in his PJs upstairs watching TV and munching on burgers. He was four times more time upstairs in the residence then he spent -- he didn't come downstairs until 11:00 ever, 307 days golfing. That's one quarter of the Trump presidency.

I think Biden's working a lot harder than that.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Jeff. It's -- you make the case, you make the argument.

Everyone, feel free to read Jeff's op-ed and see what you think.

Next, it's a silent crisis in the United States, loneliness and isolation. And it's something the U.S. surgeon general says that he struggles with as well. And he's here to talk about it next.

Plus, we're going to take you to a small island that's part of Taiwan, but only four miles from China. A place that is almost defenseless to China's navy, which is the largest in the world. It's a story you'll see first OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: Tonight, Americans are lonely and isolated. And the U.S. surgeon general is warning tonight that it is a full blown epidemic that increases the risk of premature death as much as smoking every single day.

The surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, also opens up about his own struggles with loneliness, saying that at one point, not long ago, and I quote him, I was suddenly disconnected from the colleagues with whom I spent most of my waking hours. It might not have been so bad have not made a critical mistake. I had largely neglected my friendships during my tenure, convincing myself that I had to focus on work, and I couldn't do both.

OUTFRONT now, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general.

And, you know, people hear loneliness and isolation -- first of all, I think it connects with a lot of people now just to hear it. But they may say, okay, true. But this isn't a health crisis. This isn't something like that.

You say it is, why?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I'll be honest, Erin, and I thought that, too. You know, when I was in medical school, I did not learn about loneliness and isolation. But when I became a doctor, I started to see more of my patients were struggling with it.

And when I became surgeon general back in 2015, I started to encounter more people all across America who are struggling with loneliness. I looked into it. And I came to see two critical things. One, that loneliness is extraordinarily common, one into adults say that they have experienced loneliness.

BURNETT: Half -- half of them. MURTHY: Half. And the numbers are actually greater among kids. But

the other and critical piece is that loneliness has profound consequences for our health, both our mental health and our physical health, and that is what makes it a public health issue.

BURNETT: So, you know, you write, you write -- after my job ended, I had felt a shame to reach out to friends I had ignored. And found myself increasingly lonely and isolated, and I felt that I was the only one who felt that way.

At one -- at what point did you realize that this was not just feelings, and that also was affecting physical, physical health?

MURTHY: Well, so, it took me a while to realize I was actually struggling with loneliness. And loneliness I think is a great masquerader. It can look like different things, and some people, they become withdrawn. Others become irritable and angry.

Sometimes, we need someone around us to tell us what's actually happening. And that person for me was my wife Alice. She's the one who noticed that I was spending less and less time reaching out to people, and that I was retreating further and further. And she said, you need to build a community. We have to help figure that out together.

So, but, you know, it's hard to know sometimes. But I think that time you would get concerned is when you start feeling, experiencing a feeling of loneliness for a prolonged period of time.

If you feel lonely, you pick up a phone, call a friend, and then it goes away, or you get in a car and go see a family member. That's okay. That's loneliness acting like hunger or thirst, to signal our body senses when we need something for survival.


MURTHY: That's when it resists that it becomes harmful.

BURNETT: So, you know, a lot of people talk about this during the pandemic, right? They're coming out of this, this feeling seems to be so much accelerated. You know, the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, a professor Nicholas Christakis from Yale, he quoted him to me recently, and it really stuck out to me, because he lived in a plague that decimated Rome.

And after the plague, in the aftermath, he wrote that it was worse. The corruption of the mind is far worse than any such miasma of the air we breathe. The latter is the pestilence for living creators. The former is for human beings and affects their humanity.

Now, I took some comfort in this that maybe I'm not alone in feeling this, kind of malaise and sadness after the pandemic, when I was supposed to be feeling, you know, ebullient and happy. But to say that, you know, in other words, this is happening in Rome, we can get through it as well.

But you're saying this time is different in part because of social media.

MURTHY: So, I think what's happening is that even before the pandemic, we were experiencing a growing wave of loneliness in the United States that had been building for decades. And the pandemic put fuel on that fire --


MURTHY: -- and separated us from one another.

And loneliness has become one of the invisible costs of the pandemic, and so, I was talking to a school suit in the other day in Chicago, who told me that he's been back in school for more than a year, but he's still struggling to almost learn how to socialize again. And many of his peers feel the same.

So, we have to recognize that this is one of the cost that we've got to manage, right? And unless we do that, I think we're going to struggle for a while.

BURNETT: And you're saying the cost, though, it's the equivalent of smoking daily, which everybody knows is terrible. This is life and death.

MURTHY: Yeah, this is one of the stunning things about loneliness and isolation is that it impacts our physical health are profound. So, social disconnection is the stated with the increased risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, and increased risk of premature death. That is on par with the risk that we see with smoking daily.

So, this is really profound. And that's one of the reasons, Erin, why I'm going to be releasing this week a surgeon generals advisory on loneliness and isolation because I want to call the country's attention to this issue, and for people out there who are struggling, I want them to know that you are not alone.


BURNETT: Yeah, and I hope everyone will read this, sorry, I'm hoping everyone can see it.

But while I have you, I want to ask you about something Dr. Fauci said recently as we were talking about the pandemic. In an interview "The New York Times", and he said, he talked about masks. He said, quote, from a broad public health standpoint, at the population level, masks work at the margins, maybe 10 percent. But for an individual who religiously wears a mask, a well-fitted KN95, or N95, it's not at the margin, it really does work.

Do you see how some find this an extremely significant statement, because for most of us, we were told, it did not matter what kind of mask. Any mask was good. Our kids had to wear masks for an extra year and a half in school, and one of none of them wore them the right way. That hearing that maybe good that he's saying this, but hearing that is upsetting to a lot of people? MURTHY: I can certainly understand that for many people who are

listening closely to the messages that were coming through, and guidance as to what to do, when they recognize that sometimes guidance shifted and evolved over time, that could be disconcerting. And sometimes, the guidance does evolve over time as you learn more, and I certainly remember even though I was said I was a private citizen the first year of the pandemic, but I was watching closely.

And we were learning a lot as a country about the pandemic and you know guidance shifted accordingly. But look, one thing we all have to recognize that this pandemic has been incredibly hard for a lot of people, especially for kids, and for parents.

And, you know, you're a parent, I'm a parent. We both lived through some of these challenges, and we're still trying to help our kids through them. But one of the challenges our kids have endured is in fact greater loneliness and isolation, and my hope with our new advisories is we can lay out a pathway. And we, in fact, lay out the first framework for a national strategy to address loneliness, that gives everyone, kids and parents, families, government, and community organizations, steps they can take to build a more connected America.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Dr. Murthy. I appreciate talking to us always.

MURTHY: Good to talk to you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And next on "AC360", the battle between the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Disney escalating yet again. Now, there's a counter suit just days after Disney's lawsuit. More on that at 8:00.

But next, here, we're going to take you to a tiny island that is part of Taiwan, but less four miles from China. Some islanders there now tells CNN they feel like sitting ducks.



BURNETT: Tonight, exclusive new satellite images obtained by CNN show a never before seen, roughly 100-foot blimp developed by China's military. Experts say it could signal a significant advancement in China's airship program.

This as a heavily militarized island controlled by Taiwan, but located less than four miles from China. It's now feeling in the crosshairs.

Will Ripley is OUTFRONT from the Kinmen Islands.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the sun sets on the Taiwan Strait, the neon lights of Xiamen in southeastern China dazzled in the dusk.

CNN cameras close enough to read the glowing signs, a glimpse of mainland China on the inside.

But you may be surprised to learn, I'm not standing in mainland China. I'm here in Taiwan. On a small island sitting surprisingly close to that bustling metropolis behind me, less than four miles of water. That is all that divides this democracy from communist China.

Our 200-mile flight from Taipei to the Kinmen Island, takes about an hour. A boat can reach the mainland in minutes. Some islanders feel like sitting ducks, at the mercy of China's People's Liberation Army. The PLA launched massive military drills near Taiwan twice in the last nine months.

China calls the drills a response to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's high-profile meetings with two U.S. House speakers. Nancy Pelosi in Taipei last year, Kevin McCarthy in California, last month.

Just off the coast of Kinmen, we see Chinese sand dredgers. China is reclaiming land to build a new airport. The mainland coast, getting closer every day.

We all hope war doesn't break out here, says the chairman of the visitors association. We think it's basically impossible for our military to defend Kinmen.

But they did defend the islands more than 70 years ago. Tens of thousands of nationalist troops from Taiwan repelled the mainland's communist forces.

Things are very different today. Only a few thousand Taiwanese soldiers remain. China, now has the world's largest navy. Taiwan's outlying islands are no longer strategically valuable, and almost defenseless if the PLA decides to make a move.

Many here calling for Taiwan's military to pull out completely. We don't want Kinmen to become a battlefield again, Wu says. If there are no soldiers or military installations, we can become a demilitarized zone and attract more tourists.

He says, the handful of remaining military sites are shockingly vulnerable. Last year, civilian drones from China hovered over several island outposts. This video shows startled soldiers throwing rocks, raising questions about the military's readiness.

Taiwan says it shot down at least one unidentified civilian drone.

In so many ways, the local culture on this side and that side, almost the same. Politics, of course the big exception. But many who grew up here are calling for closer ties with communist China, they lived with the alternative. Decades of ferocious fighting right here on the front line.

These battle scarred outlying island's bore the brunt of damage during the worst decades of the cross strait conflict. From the late 1940s through the 1970s, relentless artillery attacks left behind the mountains of metal. We worry history might repeat itself, says Maestro Wu, who makes

knives from old artillery. If that happens, it will change our way of life.

Bullet riddled buildings, bomb shelters, beaches, lined with anti landing spikes. Rusty relics, waiting for the waves of change to come crashing in.


RIPLEY (on camera): The big question that is on a lot of people's minds, could these islands be the next Crimea? Well, the fact is, China could have taken them, annexed them, invaded them, whatever you want to call it, years ago, because the number of soldiers on the islands, which was at 92, 000, is now down to 3,000.

They're not doing it, Erin, some states because the local support will actually help them make, you know, those islands and example for the main island of Taiwan to consider this one country two systems alternative for Taiwan.

BURNETT: Wow. All right. Thank you so much, Will Ripley, reporting live for us tonight.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.