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Erin Burnett Outfront

Russia Admits Retreat Near Bakhmut, Wagner Chief: Flanks "Crumbling"; Mexico: 10,000 Migrants Still Waiting to Cross Into El Paso; Trump, DeSantis Holding Dueling Events in Iowa Tomorrow. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 12, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Russians retreating. Video from the front lines tonight showing Putin's soldiers abandoning their posts. We'll show you this new video. Ukraine pushing Russia back from a key city. We're going to go to the front lines tonight.

And DeSantis tonight picking up nearly 40 new endorsements. I'm going to talk to one GOP donor who just met with him. Will he back him over Trump or not?

And new details tonight about the Utah mother who wrote a children's book grieving her husband, is now charged with his murder. The attorney for the victim's family is my guest.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, Russians on the run. Just look at these dramatic new pictures. Literally, they're running. This is near Bakhmut. You're looking at what appeared to be Russian forces retreating. These are about a dozen or so as they're just running along that wooded area scrambling to safety.

They're being attacked in this video from above. As I said, they are near the key city of Bakhmut. That's where Putin, of course, is essentially focused his entire force for more than eight months and now you see a hasty retreat like this.

We also have video of Russian heavily armored vehicles pulling out of the area.

In fact, the head of Russia's private army, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is openly claiming that Putin's forces are losing ground, right? It's not just the video. You have Prigozhin saying it. And he's tearing into Putin's generals to blame them.


YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, WAGNER GROUP CHIEF (through translator): The flanks are crumbling and the front line is failing. And the defense ministry's attempts to smooth over the situation somehow in the media space are leading and will lead to a global tragedy for Russia.


BURNETT: Planks are crumbling and the frontline is failing, and you're hearing that from the head of Putin's private army, not the Ukrainian side? I mean, it's pretty incredible to understand what's going on here. In a moment, we're going to take you to those front lines because this is all coming as there are more signs Ukrainian's highly anticipated counteroffensive is about to begin.

Today, massive explosions rocking the Russian occupied city of Luhansk. These pictures here are just after the strike. You see the thick black smoke billowing over Luhansk.

Keep in mind, this is a city that has not been under attack really at all over the past year. It's been occupied by Russia, and it has been solidly occupied by Russia and it has been too far for Ukraine to strike, which is one of the reasons why this strike is significant.

First, what it hit in Luhansk, it hit an important hub for Russia's military operation. And, secondly, it is not on the front line, so it could be Ukraine showing off newly acquired missiles with a longer range. The missiles, we understand, may have been launched from the Kramatorsk area, which would mean they traveled about 80 miles.

Just to be very clear, that is a bigger range than any range than any U.S. missiles that Ukraine has. But it is within the range of the so- called Storm Shadow missiles that the United Kingdom just says it's going to send to Ukraine. Those missiles can go up to 155 miles.

So if they're already in Ukrainian hands, right, it's not just announcement they're going, they're there, they're ready, they're trained, they're using them, if that is true, that puts all of Russia's occupied areas within striking distance now. That includes Crimea, where Russia, of course, has dozens of military facilities. The Russian Black Sea fleet, training grounds, fuel stations, ammunition depots apparently and even radar for air defense systems, a massive military area, a red line for Putin now in striking range.

And this strike in Luhansk coming as we're also learning of another strike in the Russian occupied area in the city of Melitopol, the blast taking out power to a number of neighborhoods.

Nic Robertson is OUTFRONT live in Eastern Ukraine tonight, along those front lines.

And, Nic, what is the latest on the ground where you are?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, this evening we have noticed missiles flying towards Bakhmut. There's also been heavy fire coming in from Russia along the Eastern Front, S-300 surface-to-air missiles hitting this town and another town not far away. Also close to relatively close to Bakhmut. Not clear what Russia is doing.

But what the Kremlin announced today, they, like Prigozhin, now admit that they are losing ground in Bakhmut. We went in there with Ukrainian forces to take a look at their gains.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Amid shell-smashed trees, Ukrainian troops figure out how to get as close to the new hard won gains around Bakhmut.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go behind me, distance five meters. He's going last.

ROBERTSON: How far from the Russian lines here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Close to 800 to 900.


What lessons here about a much anticipated bigger Ukraine counteroffensive.

You can see here how the ground is drying out, how wet it was before, how hard it would be for the armored vehicles to get through. The battlefield is changing. Now summers coming. And that's everything for the counteroffensive.

So, we have to go a bit faster here, because they take a lot of incoming fire here.

If not for the war, it would be a lovely walk. A little cover here from shelling.


ROBERTSON: We have a drone?


ROBERTSON: Just coming here, we've heard a drone above, we've got some cover in here, hopefully, they won't see us down here, getting closer and closer to the Russian lines.

This trench, one of several and a new minefield position to block Russian troops about 600 meters away from a counterattack out of sight. North and south of here, more Ukrainian troops advancing, building on the recent gains here.

Ukraine's Western allies say that shaping operations for the big counteroffensive are already underway. Commanders here won't say if this is part of that counteroffensive. But the gains they've had around Bakhmut are a huge morale boost for Ukrainian troops.

How does it feel to be in the battle now and to actually after all this time take more territory?

HONZA, COMBAT MEDIC: I love it actually. I love it because I'm with my family, with guys that are my family.

ROBERTSON: But success, not all that's binding appetite for victory. Mounting Russian atrocities fueling anger.

HONZA: We all just want to take our territory back, and kill maximum possible Russians we can.

ROBERTSON: Do you think the Russians understand that?

HONZA: No, I don't think so. They're going to get killed, all of them.

ROBERTSON: It's going to be a tough fight for you then.

HONZA: Yeah, also. But we're ready for this. It's our land.

ROBERTSON: As we leave, there are more explosions.

Then this --


ROBERTSON: We don't ask, we just run. And keep running.

We hear drones, so we're running.

They've got their armor troop transporter ready.

Yeah, getting back in now, drones overhead, more artillery coming.

It's ancient Soviet equipment. More modern NATO armor busy elsewhere on the battlefield.


ROBERTSON (on camera): And that's where the fight is tonight. That armor that's busy on the battlefield. And we've seen a lot of it in this area. So there's a lot more for the Ukrainians to put into this fight if they want to. They are trying to push, if you will, sort of north and south of that area they've already taken to extend their front line. And so far, it seems to be working.

But commanders here are very tight-lipped about how much success they can have. And they know that it took the Russians months to fight through Bakhmut. They don't believe themselves that they necessarily want to take the whole city back. Will they try to take it back? Will they go around it? Is this part of the bigger counteroffensive?

At the moment, we don't know. The bit we do know, that fight in and around Bakhmut is underway tonight.

BURNETT: All right. Nic, thank you very much. Just incredible to see you walking there, see those trenches.

I want to bring in Bill Browder now. He's a longtime Putin critic who is wanted in Russia, was once the country's largest foreign investor. Also the author of "Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder and Surviving Vladimir Putin's Wrath."

So, Bill, it's good to see you again. You hear Yevgeny Prigozhin, the front line is failing, the flanks are crumbling. The Russians are admitting that they have lost ground near Bakhmut. What do you think this is going to Putin's mindset right now, that these admissions are actually happening?

BILL BROWDER, LONGTIME PUTIN CRITIC, WANTED IN RUSSIA: I think Putin must be sitting in his bunker furious and frustrated and not knowing what to do, because none of this, in his mind, none of this should have ever happened. He thought he was going to win this war in three days, that the Ukrainian -- that Zelenskyy would hop on an American helicopter and the war would be over.

And here he is more than a year afterwards, he's lost more than 200,000 troops. The tanks have all been destroyed. They're running, you know, from Bakhmut, his generals were fighting with each other. This is just a quagmire of massive proportions for him. He's not a happy man.


BURNETT: And here's the thing, the infighting that we've seen, right, the Wagner chief, when he says the front lines are failing, he also went on to blame the former military generals, right? He controls the private army. So, the Kremlin tries to deny that there is this fight going on.

But Dmitry Peskov basically admitted it today, the spokesperson for Putin. He said that it was an emotional situation, that there's unity among the forces.

I'm sure you don't buy that. I'm curious if you do. But also, what do you make of his admission that there's a situation, an emotional situation even going on?

BROWDER: Well, it's undeniable. I mean, there are these videos floating around out there where you have this monstrous man Prigozhin, like, wagging his finger in front of dead bodies. You can't deny it.

And, by the way, so the Russians always lie. They couldn't lie about this in front of everyone's face. It must be a hundred times worse than even what we can see on television if they're admitting it.

BURNETT: I mean, it is amazing they were admitting it. So we saw that huge explosion in the Russian occupied city of Luhansk. It's been too far, right? Now, suddenly, we see this. Russian military bloggers are suggesting it could be those Storm Shadow missiles that we just learned the U.K. was going to be providing.

Now, look, we don't know for sure exactly which missile it was. But, obviously, we are starting to see strikes like this.

Do you think these new capabilities from Ukraine with missiles like these storm shadows will change Putin's calculation now that they are seeing strikes in what were safely controlled Russian areas? BROWDER: It's a total game changer. So, in the early days of the war,

they would keep their ammunition dumps and all these other stuff within, say, 50 miles of the front line, and the HIMARS took them out.

So what did the Russians then said put -- took them a hundred miles out or 90 miles out.


BROWDER: And basically if -- I don't believe that the latest explosion was the British long-range missiles, because I think they need a long time to get them in there. But when the British do get them there, and that stuff goes after -- the Russians will have no place to put their stuff. They'll have no logistics. They'll have no ammunition store piles within the Ukrainian territory because anything can be hit.

And when that happens, the Ukrainians have a huge opportunity to push the Russians out.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, you know, we're going to start to see what this really means when you start seeing strikes in a place like Crimea, right, the third rail don't go there, that starts happening. We simply don't know what the reaction there could be.

Now, the context here for Putin is his domestic enemies are in prison. Obviously, Alexey Navalny said he was transferred again yesterday to a punishment cell again. His daughter told CNN recently her father's been deprived of food. So, that's happening with Alexey Navalny.


BURNETT: Your close friend Vladimir Kara-Murza, of course, we talk so much about him. He's being held tonight in terrible conditions and you've been very involved in his case. What is the latest with him?

BROWDER: Well, so he was sentenced to 25 years in jail, which is the longest sentence for any opposition, any political prisoner in Russia. He's not in good shape. He was poisoned twice. They tried to kill him in 2015 and 2017.

They used nerve agents on him. He's lost the sensation in his feet. He can no longer feel his left arm. In my opinion, the 25-year sentence is a death sentence. He might not even survive five years, certainly not 25 years.

And, so, we've got to do everything possible to get him out of that prison.

BURNETT: So the Kremlin declined today to comment on some new CNN reporting that the Biden administration is right now looking for prisoners around the world in any allied country that they could try to come up with some deal to free some people. Obviously, Kara-Murza notably was not on that list. This would have been Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan.

Do you think Putin wants to make a deal? BROWDER: Well, and Putin took Evan Gershkovich as a hostage as

basically as a trading chip for something. He -- so after Brittney Griner was swapped for Viktor Bout, Putin got a taste for the value of hostages. So they took a "Wall Street Journal" reporter that's high- value hostage-taking.

So Putin wants to do one of these deals. But he wants to humiliate us with one of these deals. He wants to get unreasonable terms for these deals. We've to be careful about all this stuff because the moment you do a deal like that, like what was done with Brittney Griner, it kind of opens up the flood gates for them to take more hostages. So, you know, where do you --

BURNETT: Right. Well, as you're saying, once Brittney Griner went home, it was go get Evan Gershkovich.

BROWDER: Right. So, what we don't want to do is give them the sense that every time they want something, they take a hostage. And, so, it's a very delicate game.

BURNETT: All right. Bill, thank you very much, always good to see you.

BROWDER: Thank you.

BURNETT: And, next, 10,000 migrants right now waiting on the Mexican side of the border with the U.S. southern border. And that's just at one city. We're going to go live along the border, next.

Plus, a new report tonight that team DeSantis believes that once the Florida governor enters the race, Republicans will drop Trump and back the Florida governor.


Is that real or wishful thinking?

A Republican donor who just met with DeSantis is OUTFRONT. I'll tell you about the meeting.

And the U.S. marine who placed a homeless man in a deadly chokehold on a New York City subway surrenders to authorities. What the victim's family is saying tonight.


BURNETT: Tonight, at least 10,000 migrants waiting in Ciudad Juarez just over the border from El Paso, Texas, with no idea of when they may be able to enter the United States. It comes as U.S. officials report very few signs of the chaos that many predicted would come with the lifting of Title 42. The mayor of El Paso saying there's not been a surge of migrants to the city during that time.

And a Texas-based aid organization saying it has assisted only one bus load of people, fewer than even last week.

David Culver is OUTFRONT. He's in Ciudad Juarez. And, David, you have been there in the weeks leading up to this and

now here we are after the rule expired. What more can you tell us?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, we are seeing a rapid acceleration in the processing of the migrants, at least at this portion of the border wall. It's always better, though, to see this from above.

Let me show you from the drone as we take you a little bit closer. And what you're going to notice there are three big dumpsters.


They are full of clothes, people's personal belongings. Those are what the migrants have tossed in that they can't bring with them to the processing, of going with the claims asylum request that they're moving forward with. And then you're obviously going to see some tents that are closer to the gate, and that's where a handful of migrants remain yet to be processed.

In fact, tonight, as you look down, you can see the number of law enforcement and Texas National Guard, well, far greater than the number of migrants left to be processed. That's a big change from how this day started.


CULVER (voice-over): Sunrise over the U.S. southern border, we watch as U.S. officials process a dwindling number of migrants technically already on U.S. soil, though not yet through the border wall, Title 42 no longer, Title 8 now back in full effect, giving these migrants the right to claim asylum. But those who fail to qualify risk being banned from entering the U.S. for at least five years.

On this spot days earlier, more than a thousand migrants camped out. Most of them had illegally crossed the barbed wire and battled brutal conditions, the night's cold and the day's scorching sun and heat, water and food, scarce. Those arriving Friday disappointed and turned away.

These migrants who had tried to cross into the U.S. but now here they are realizing that Texas National Guard, Texas state troopers, along with CBP will not let them through the barbed wire fencing any longer. And so they're coming back to the Mexico side.

In Ciudad Juarez alone, Mexico's foreign minister estimates some 10,000 migrants are still waiting to cross. Many of them living in sidewalk encampments and shelters like this one where we find a familiar face.

We recognize him from being on the train. He said from that train they came here to the shelter.

Two days before, we met Jose Mesa. His 15-year-old daughter Daisy, and 23-year-old son Roberto on board a freight train carrying migrants into Ciudad Juarez. The Mesa family fled Honduras. Roberto left behind two kids who got sick along the journey. The family now staying in this church-run shelter.

He is saying that as of now, they just want to take a beat, if you will, pause a little bit because they're noticing a lot of people are trying to cross and, yet, a lot of people are coming back. I said, what are you going to do the meantime? He said, wait.

Simon Campos from Venezuela has been in Mexico for eight months. Three weeks ago he tried to enter the U.S. under Title 42 but was immediately expelled. He, like so many, saying the same thing, they want to do it legally, they want to do it the right way, but ultimately he says he's going to leave it in God's hands.

The shelter director says most here want to cross legally and spend their mornings trying to get an asylum appointment.

He said they've seen this coming now going back at least six months. And he said the reality as he sees it is the U.S. hasn't been very prepared for this moment.

Seventy-seven people including families with little kids staying here for now. Pastor Javier says that's down from when we visited late last year when some 150 crammed in. But he expects migrants will continue to come.

Driving back to the desert landscape along the border wall, down a sandy and rocky road, we find more activity across the river. One by one, U.S. officials call for the remaining group of single men, the migrants toss excess clothing in a dumpster and spread their hands against a fence.

U.S. law enforcement searched them. They then board a bus. Some will continue into the U.S., others likely to be sent back to this side of the river, Mexico.

Determined to find another way across.


BURNETT: It is amazing to see that. I mean, I know you're talking about some people turning around. But one man that you talked to said he's going to wait there until things calm down.

And how would that work, and how many other people do you sense are going to do that, are just going to wait and bide their time?

CULVER: Right. So that's a pretty widely held approach, who are among the 10,000 here and are not yet trying to go across. They assume that perhaps the ways that the U.S. is set up to go across legally might work for them. Sure, it may take some time, they're willing to give it a few weeks.

But after that, Erin, I think we're going to come to a point where they're frustrated if they haven't gotten approved and they're going to figure out other way as cross. They are determined to do so and they say they'll do it the legal way, the right way, or undetected and get over. [19:25:01]

BURNETT: Well, obviously, as you point out, this is going to be something that isn't a one-day thing. We're going to see this over the next few weeks here and coming into the summer.

CULVER: Right.

BURNETT: Thank you so much.

And next, Ron DeSantis about to rally supporters. He is poised to finally join the presidential race in just weeks. I'm going to speak to a longtime Republican donor who just met with DeSantis. Will he back the Florida governor?

Plus, a former marine surrendering to face a criminal charge after putting a homeless man in a deadly chokehold on a New York City subway. The victim's family, though, is demanding more.


BURNETT: Tonight, Trump versus DeSantis. The rivals holding dueling events in Iowa tomorrow. It comes as "Politico's" Jonathan Martin reports team DeSantis feels confident that once the Florida governor enters the race, Republicans will start ditching Trump.

One Texas Republican bundler saying, quote, a major donor network has walked from Trump. They're looking for new leadership. And 85 percent of them are waiting for DeSantis.

Okay, well, I'm going to speak to a Republican donor who just met with DeSantis in just a moment. You see him here, Dan Eberhart.

But, first, Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT with this report.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Donald Trump is already looking ahead to the general election and a second term.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Let's just win it again and straighten out our country.

ZELENY: But before any of that, he must first get through a Republican primary and a fresh field of challengers, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Is this Trump country or what?

ZELENY: After circling one another for months, the two rivals are headed toward a showdown tomorrow in Iowa where Republicans will kick off voting in the presidential contest early next year.

DESANTIS: We must reject the culture of losing that has infected our party. [19:30:04]

ZELENY: DeSantis is poised to finally join the race in early June, advisers tell CNN, on a pledge to help the GOP start winning again.

DESANTIS: But if we let the election be about anything else and let Biden skate by with no accountability, Republicans will lose.

ZELENY: The question is whether he can prove he's the right man for the job. Since his maiden voyage in Iowa two months ago, lofty expectations for his candidacy have leveled off. And Trump has consolidated early support from many Republicans as he works to take command of the race.

TRUMP: I'm leading Desanctimonious by a lot. I think he ought to just relax and take it easy and think about the future because right now, his future's not looking so good.

ZELENY: Republican voters will have the final say, of course, at the end, not the beginning of the race, that is still taking shape.

Yet, already a new season of attack ads is underway, with allies of Trump and DeSantis engaged in an extraordinary exchange of insults and accusations.

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, like cutting Medicare.

ZELENY: At issue is a debate over reforming Social Security and Medicare, emerging once again as a central issue and scare tactic in the 2024 campaign.

AD ANNOUNCER: Trump should fight Democrats, not lie about Governor DeSantis. What happened to Donald Trump?

ZELENY: After signing a flurry of new laws at the end of Florida's legislative session, DeSantis is holding up his deeply conservative record on education, abortion, and more, delighting supporters and alarming critics.

DESANTIS: Bold leadership and an assertive agenda can beat the left. And we have beaten the left.

ZELENY: For many Republicans, the Florida governor has stood as a beacon of hope for those who admire Trump but are eager to move on. It challenges whether he can become the candidate many Republicans have been waiting for.


ZELENY (on camera): And DeSantis does face that urgent challenge of trying to make the case that he is still very much in this race, even though he is not formally announced and we are at the beginning stages. Erin, that is something to keep in mind here. This race is really still taking shape. But he is going to try and

make that argument by rolling out the endorsements of some 37 Iowa lawmakers on Saturday when he's visiting the state making two stops. Donald Trump, for his part, we are told, is also going to have a slew of endorsements tomorrow.

But, Erin, all you need to know about the dynamic between the two men here is the fact that Donald Trump announced his trip after he learned that Ron DeSantis would be in Iowa. So he clearly wants to troll him or bracket him or maybe keep his eye on him -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Jeff, thank you very much.

So let's go now to longtime Republican donor David Eberhart, and David Axelrod, CNN senior political commentator and the former senior adviser to President Obama.

So, Dan, you're with me here in person, but I know you just met with Governor DeSantis in Florida.


BURNETT: As you've been looking to make a decision here. So, what did you think? What did you take away from being with him?

EBERHART: Look, I think he's accomplished an awful lot as governor of Florida. And I think he seems close to ready to do this, very close, ready to do this. And I think the Republican Party and ultimately the country needs, you know, better leadership, fresh leadership, and a new direction. I think he's the guy to do it.

BURNETT: All right. So you didn't walk away saying he wouldn't meet my eyes. You felt that -- it was a good meeting?

EBERHART: Yeah. I think it was a good meeting. And I think he's very engaged and very affable, and, you know, in a good place to do this.

BURNETT: All right. So, David, do you agree with the DeSantis -- his group is telling Jonathan Martin that when DeSantis jumps in the race, donors and voters are going to ditch Trump, right? So, forget all these bad things we've been hearing about DeSantis lately, they think this will change. Do you think that's true?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not exactly. No, I think Trump has a very implacable base. How big it is, is the subject of debate.

In Iowa, I spoke to an Iowa Republican today who said he thought in Iowa, it was somewhere between 33 and 40 percent. What DeSantis wants to do is coalesce the rest of it, you know, behind him. And that's a challenge.

And I don't think it's just going to float at him, you know, like turning on a light switch. In presidential politics, you have to earn those things. And the thing that he's going to find challenging I think is that unlike any other office you run for, you get like 360- degree scan. People really look at you as a human being. And that's going to be a test. He's going to be at a picnic in Iowa tomorrow.

And the way he interacts with people there may be as important as any speech he makes. It's not just about saying here are my legislative accomplishments, and there are other candidates out there who are trying to win the hearts and minds of these candidates.


So, he's got work to do to coalesce all of the non-Trump voters behind him, especially at a time when he's really tacking to the right trying to offer himself as kind of Trump without the crazy.

BURNETT: Right. So, Dan, you're excited to back him, a GOP donor. Billionaire GOP donor John Catsimatidis says he won't back DeSantis in part because he won't return his phone calls. He says he literally won't return his phone calls. Here he is.


JOHN CATSIMATIDIS, BILLIONAIRE GOP DONOR: I have a lot of Florida friends who helped him get elected and he hasn't returned any of their calls. And it's just -- look, he is who he is, he's a good American, but his people skills are very, very bad. And one friend of mine said he was sitting next to him at dinner, he never said one word.


BURNETT: Cats doesn't mince words. But Steve Schwarzman, the co- founder of Blackstone, megadonor, met with DeSantis left unconvinced, his team's word, that he can win the White House.

Does any of this give you pause? Because obviously you've reached a very different conclusion.

EBERHART: Yeah, look, you know, I've seen him in person, I've seen in action. I saw him in the 2018 campaign. I think he's an affable person. You know, he's made me laugh a couple times.

But he's a serious person. And I think that, you know --

BURNETT: I'm sort of laughing, he's made you laugh a couple times.

EBERHART: Yeah. So, I mean, that's not someone that kind of fits this description. But, to me, the ultimate thing or the most important thing is this is a two-person race and this is going to be between Trump and Governor DeSantis, and, you know, Republican primary voters have -- it's the real world, there's two people to choose from in the Republican world. I think, in my opinion, voters are going to want to move forward, not backwards.

BURNETT: All right. So let me ask you, David, about the retail politics of this. You're talking about how crucial you think this Iowa visit is, that this is hearts and minds, this is what really matters.

You know, another GOP strategist said to "Vanity Fair", he doesn't do the warm and fuzzies well. David, do you need to do the warm and fuzzies well? I know Trump

infamously didn't want to hold a baby, right? But he had other things that entranced people, and then, obviously, he did become more physical with people over time.

AXELROD: Yeah, yeah. He didn't do particularly well in Iowa. But, listen, we spent -- Barack Obama spent 87 days in Iowa before the Iowa caucuses. And really became familiar with the people of the state, knew people all over the state, knew their families, had connections with them, and so on.

You know, that's not DeSantis' style. What Dan's talking about is what the DeSantis plan really calls for. And, by the way, I thought it was really interesting that they're so concerned about this growing story that DeSantis is slipping that they invited Jonathan Martin into their inner sanctum to kind of show him the leg and make it clear that they have a plan.

The plan is exactly what Dan said, which is this is a two-person race. It's either him or Trump, and Trump is a disaster in a general election for the party. And so, you got to jump on board.

I don't know if it's going to be that easy. And that will require the other candidates to fade away, and it will require DeSantis, yes, to develop relationships with voters in these early states and prove that he is a whole person and not just an ambitious political cutout.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both very much. I mean, this is going to be fascinating to see here, of course, as we await that formal announcement.

Well, next, a former U.S. Marine turns himself in. He put another New York subway passenger in a deadly chokehold. More on what prosecutors are saying, tonight.

Plus, troubling new details emerging about a Utah mother who wrote a children's book about grieving. She then ended up being charged with her husband's murder. The spokesperson for the victim's family is OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: Tonight, the former U.S. marine who placed a homeless man in a deadly choke hold on a New York City subway arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter. The Manhattan district attorney's office saying, defendant Daniel Penny continued holding Jordan Neely, the man who died, even after he stopped moving. Neely's family saying they were, quote, overjoyed by Penny's arrest but are demanding he be charged with murder.

Athena Jones is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Daniel Penny, surrendering to face criminal charges in the death of homeless street performer Jordan Neely.

THOMAS KENNIFF, ATTORNEY FOR DANIEL PENNY: He did so voluntarily and with the sort of dignity and integrity that is characteristic of his history of service to this grateful nation.

JONES: The 24-year-old former marine, seen in a widely circulated video holding Neely in a choke hold for several minutes on a New York subway on May 1st, now stands accused of second-degree manslaughter for recklessly causing his death. The Manhattan district attorney's office bringing the charge after numerous witness interviews, a review of photo and video footage and discussions with the medical examiner.

The prosecutor telling the court, witnesses observed Neely making threats and scaring passengers, saying, I don't mind going to jail and getting life in prison, and, I'm ready to die. Before Penny approached Neely from behind and placed him in the chokehold, taking him down to the ground.

When the train arrived at the next stop, Penny continued to hold Neely in the choke hold for several minutes. Two other men helping to restrain his arms. At some point, Mr. Neely stopped moving. The defendant continued to hold Mr. Neely for a period and then released him.

Penny's lawyers argue he risked his own life and safety to protect himself and fellow New Yorkers, resulting in the unintended and unforeseen death of Mr. Neely. Adding, they are confident penny will be absolved of any wrongdoing once all the facts are known.

Lawyers for the Neely family hailing Penny's arrest.

LENNON EDWARDS, NEELY FAMILY ATTORNEY: We're closer now to justice than we were a week ago because Daniel Penny has been arrested.

JONES: Even as they argued, he should be charged with murder.

EDWARDS: There was no attack, Mr. Neely did not attack anyone, he did not touch anyone, he did not hit anyone. But he was choked to death. And that can't stand. That can't be what we represent.

JONES: Neely had more than three dozen arrests, mostly from minor crimes including three incidents of assault on the subway. But there is no indication Penny was aware of Neely's history. The 30-year-old's killing sparked days of demonstrations in New York City, with protesters demanding Penny's arrest.

Meanwhile, a legal defense fund set up by Penny's supporters had raised more than $500,000 by Friday afternoon.

REPORTER: Daniel, did you do it?

JONES: Now, prosecutors must prove their case.


JONES (on camera): Before being released, Daniel Penny was ordered to turn over any passports he has within 48 hours. And he must seek permission from the state of New York if he wants to leave the state of New York. His next trial date -- next court date is set for July 17th. And he faces up to 15 years in prison if he's convicted -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Athena, thank you very much.

And, tonight on "AC360," what's next in this case? How does the Neely family feel about the charges? The family's attorney will be with Anderson at 8:00.

Meantime next, we are learning new details about what was taking place just before a Utah mother who wrote a book about grieving allegedly killed her husband. The spokesperson for the victim's family is next.

Plus, new details about the health of actor Jamie Foxx about mysterious medical complications sent him to the hospital.



BURNETT: Tonight, the Utah woman who wrote a children's book about grief after the death of her husband and has now been charged with his death was allegedly stealing money from him. Now, this is according to a spokesperson for the family of Kouri Richins' deceased husband. Authorities say Richins died of fentanyl overdose last year after his wife Kouri served him a Moscow mule cocktail.

She was arrested earlier this week in his killing just days after going on a local television station -- days going on a television interview to talk about grieving his death.


KOURI RICHINS, CHARGED WITH HUSBAND'S MURDER: Completely took us all by shock, and we have three little boys, 10, 9, and 6, and, you know, we kind of -- my kids and I kind of wrote this book on the different emotions and grieving processes that we've experienced.


BURNETT: Days later arrested with murdering him. It's incredible.

Greg Skordas is OUTFRONT. He's the spokesperson for the family of Eric Richins.

Greg, it is -- I mean, there's something about that watching that and then days later that person arrested for this crime. Kouri Richins dedicates her book, it's called "Are You With Me?" to Eric, to her husband. She talked about her grief on that local television interview as I said, days before her arrest.

What do you think this was about? Was the entire concept of the book, all of it part of a cover-up?

GREG SKORDAS, SPOKESPERSON FOR FAMILY OF ERIC RICHINS WHO WAS ALLEGEDLY KILLED BY WIFE: Oh, yes. And of course, Erin, it makes sense the best defense is a good offense, and if you're keeping the police and other family members sort of occupied on thinking that you're this good person writing a children's book, talking about your grief, they're not going to investigate the murder.

And this was a murder, and the state has filed that. It took them a year to investigate it. It was a pretty long and drawn out process, but the state has put together what looks to be a pretty compelling case against her for murder and for drug possession, which resulted in his death.

BURNETT: Now -- so court documents as you talk about do detail years of red flags, two other suspected poisoning attempts included among them. A few years ago the family is on vacation. After his wife gives him a drink, Eric becomes violently ill, calling his sister saying he believed his wife tried to kill him. That's one thing they talked about.

And then another valentine's day of last year his wife brought him a sandwich which after one bite Eric broke into hives and couldn't breathe.

These are significant things which if he thought he was being poisoned. I know that you've said he wanted to stay in this marriage for his children. Did his family know about any of this? Did they try to talk him into leaving?

SKORDAS: They did know about it, and he in fact alerted his family. And even right before the murder, he was thinking more and more about getting a divorce. He told his family that he thought she was trying to kill him, and told his family and warned his family if something should happen to him, that she should be the first person investigated.

So, I mean, I have to hand it to the man. He tried to tough it out for the three boys she just talked about. He didn't want to lose them even if it was shared visitation or something. So, working towards saving the marriage but recognizing it was falling apart and he's he struggled with that and ultimately wanted to be the best father he could be.

BURNETT: It's stunning. And do you know where are the boys now? Are they okay? Are they in good hands? Or what?

SKORDAS: Yeah, they're in very, very good hands, and with the close family member, they're together with each other, as brothers should be. The family is very comfortable with the family member taking care of them, and by all accounts, they're happy and healthy and, you know, have a good life ahead of them.

BURNETT: Final question. In terms of motive, there are claims now she was stealing money from him for years before his death, it could have been more than $100,000 possibly. This is local TV report. Do you know more about that?

SKORDAS: Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of allegations that she had changed the beneficiary on his life insurance policy, that she'd attempted to change the beneficiary on the bisale (ph) agreement, the life insurance he had with his business partner, may have forged some documents with the home they were trying to purchase in the neighboring county they were looking to flip.

And just some other things looking back made it appear that she had a very big financial motive in this and that he was better off for her financially dead than divorced.

BURNETT: Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate your time.

SKORDAS: You bet.

BURNETT: And I will say, we did reach out to an attorney for Kouri Richins who said they have no comment.

Well, next, a surprising twist in the health of actor Jamie Foxx. You remember, he'd been hospitalized after suffering what is a mysterious medical complication.



BURNETT: Tonight, the mystery deepening about the health of actor Jamie Foxx. We're learning that Foxx is now out of the hospital. According to his daughter, he's actually been out for weeks and played pickle ball yesterday.

Foxx was hospitalized a month ago in Georgia where he was filming a movie. He's suffered what's been called, quote, a medical complication, but no cause has been given.

Foxx's daughter Corinne at the time said due to quick action and great care, Foxx was on his way to recovery. But even today on Twitter, people thought he'd been in the hospital for a month. So fans have been very worried, wondering what happened and how serious it was.

It is proof, though, that Foxx has always lived a very private life despite being in the public eye. He reportedly dated actress Katie Holmes for about six years but never once confirmed that relationship on the record.

And before we go tonight, another exciting addition to the OUTFRONT family to tell you about. Our lawyer, Drew Shenkman and his wife Patti welcoming baby Emma London to their family. Emma London arrives this afternoon, weighing in at six pounds and two ounces.

Big brothers Brody and Ben are thrilled. They've got a new little baby sister. And dad says they were screaming with excitement when they got to see her for the first time.

So, Drew and Patti, congratulations. We're so happy for you and your family.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us on this Friday. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anywhere anytime on CNN Go.

Have a great weekend.

"AC360" starts now.