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Erin Burnett Outfront

Report: Russia Suffers Worst Day of War as Ukraine Downs 4 Aircraft; Durham Questions FBI Decision to Launch Full Trump-Russia Probe; CIA to Russian Would-Be Spies: "You're Not Powerless, Contact Us"; Florida Teacher Faces Probe for Showing Disney Movie with Gay Character. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 15, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Putin's military suffering its worst day in 50 years as CNN has exclusive new reporting about the links the CIA is going to right now to recruit Russian spies. It is a report you will see first OUTFRONT.

Plus, four years and at least six and a half million tax dollars later, Trump administration special counsel John Durham's special report, was it everything Trump promised it would be?

And a Florida teacher under investigation for playing a Disney movie that happens to include gay character. Chasten Buttigieg, a former teacher and husband of Pete Buttigieg, is my guest tonight.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, Russia's worst day of the war. In fact, it's the worst day for Putin and his prized Air Force in more than 50 years, more than 50 years.

So, here's what happened. Ukraine's anti-aircraft missile systems took down four of Putin's prized aircraft according to, which is an independent Ukrainian news outlet. Now, that's two fighter jets worth an estimated $200 million each, and two helicopters. And judging by the video we have here, it reportedly does not hear that the crew had time to eject.

Now, the worst day in more than 50 years for Putin's air force, Ukraine, so far, stopped short of taking responsibility for the attack, only saying tonight that the aircraft, quote, ran into some trouble.

Now, these attacks could be a precursor, of course, to the counteroffensive. Just today, two more strikes in the Russian occupied city of Luhansk. One was actually inside a barbershop, appeared to be targeted taking out a top official with ties to Russia.

And these are significant strikes because keep in mind, Luhansk is the city was illegally annexed by Russia at the beginning of the war, on the first day. It has been, until now, a safe zone for Russia.

So this is a game-changer in that regard. And, in Bakhmut meanwhile to the west, new video out front tonight of the intense shelling going on there.

And you can hear it, many of these firing, like Wagner fighters, according to "The Washington Post", the boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who talked about so much here, made Ukraine a jaw-dropping offer.

According to leaked U.S. intelligence documents, Prigozhin offered to hand over Putin's troop positions if Ukrainian commanders withdrew their soldiers from Bakhmut. That would've been allowed Prigozhin to declare victory and get the credit.

Now, that did not happen but it is a stunning thing, right, to give over the location of Russian troops to the Russians will be killed all en masse by Ukrainians. Prigozhin denying discussions like that took place. Ukraine's president played coy telling "The Washington Post", quote, this is a matter of intelligence. D you want me tried for treason?

Also, Zelenskyy is not denying it there. But it comes as something else happened, which is strange. The man you are looking at there is the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. And we've talked about him quite a bit. He's making it public showing it, trying to squash rumors of his failing health.

This image which was released is releasing more questions. And, of course, he is the top ally for Putin. He fell ill after visiting Moscow. In this image you see what appears to be a bandage on his left hand and rumors of his health have been growing. He looked frail last week, unable to make the short walk with Putin to the memorial of the Unknown Soldier.

This is all crucial because, of course, Belarus has been the staging ground for Putin's invasion into Ukraine.

Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT live in London.

And, Matthew, Ukraine edging closer to that long-awaited counteroffensive tonight, already it appears dealing the worst day to Putin's air force, not just of this war but in more than 50 years.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. And, Ukraine has got anything to do with it, there will be more very bad days for Putin in the weeks and months ahead. But Ukrainian counteroffensive is not quite underway yet as far as we can make out, but it is poised to take place. When it does it will be with the help of Western training, armaments, and Western weapons.

On that, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has been on a European tour for the past week. His officials tonight call it a huge success because they've got billions of dollars of military aid from Germany and more advanced weaponry from Britain and France.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHANCE (voice-over): The war in Ukraine may be at a turning point, with Ukrainian forces reporting daily advances in the city of Bakhmut, with Russian positions there apparently crumbling.

Now the extraordinary allegation carried in "The Washington Post" that this man, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian Wagner mercenary leader, offered Ukraine intelligence on Russian military positions if Kyiv withdrew its troops from Bakhmut, where Wagner has been fighting.


CHANCE: Prigozhin has vehemently denied it releasing an audio statement accusing comrades in Moscow of trying to discredit him.

Even Ukraine has dismissed any talk with its bitter enemy.

The senior Ukrainian official telling CNN that if Prigozhin had been backed channeling without the knowledge of the Kremlin, he would not be alive today.

But these are fraught times for friends of the Kremlin. One of its backers, Alexander Lukashenko of neighboring Belarus here at the victory day parade in Moscow last week is rumored to have been taken ill. Later appearing looking uneasy at a wreath laying city at his capital of Minsk.

An official in Belarus told CNN he is, quote, absolutely fine.

And now, new video said to be of Lukashenko at work inspecting air defenses but rumors are bound about the health of this aging Kremlin - backed leader.

Meanwhile, a senior Ukrainian official is calling President Zelenskyy's European tour a huge success. This, the latest leg with the British prime minister and his country residence where attack drones and air defense systems were pledged.

RISHI SUNAK, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I look forward to us discussing what more we can do for your country.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, you support already a lot for us.

CHANCE: With British cruise missiles already delivered to Ukraine, Britain is now at the forefront of providing long-range weapons. There was no promise of game-changing F-16 fighter jets from any European power. Still, the senior Ukrainian official tells CNN that in time, Ukraine will get the planes, the tanks, and the long-range weapons it needs to win this war.


CHANCE (on camera): Well, Erin, that is contingent on Western support for Ukraine including its continued provision of arms holding up, particularly from the United States, because even with the latest European contribution to the Ukrainian war effort, it is still the U.S. that's the biggest most important military backer for the country -- Erin.

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

And I want to go now to retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges because he's the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe, and also the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan.

I appreciate you both very much.

So, General Hodges, I want to start with the worst day for the Russian air force since 1970, more than 50 years, certainly of this war, four Russian aircraft downed over Russian territory this weekend.

What impact does this have, General?

LT. GENERAL BEN HODGES, FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL OF U.S. ARMY EUROPE: Well, to lose four aircraft in one day would certainly send shockwaves through the aviation community of the Russian federation forces just like it would anybody.

I'm interested in how this happened. It seems that Ukraine may have been able to infiltrate capabilities in there still not entirely confirmed how it happened but if they were able to do that, that would really demonstrate a level of sophistication that will worry the Russians.

But it is important that Russia and not be allowed to have sanctuary to launch strikes and murder innocent Ukrainian people. So the Ukrainians are going to continue to take action with this thing.

BURNETT: And obviously, to emphasize on Russian territory where this happened.

Ambassador Sullivan, Putin's lowest-most loyal ally, you heard Matthew reporting on the Belarusian President Lukashenko. You know, he said Belarusian air defense units were placed on high alert after the downing of those Russian aircraft. He is there every step of the way for Putin. Belarus's role as ally is crucial.

And he is the dictator there. There has been some speculation about his health, though. Two photos today it appears he has a bandage on his left wrist. He obviously -- it appears fell ill in Moscow. If something were wrong with him, if he was no longer in power, what would do what would that do to Putin, Ambassador?

JOHN SULLIVAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: It's a big problem for him. As you mentioned, President Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with a hard authoritarian hand for almost 30 years. He was a vital supporter of Putin's war against Ukraine. He's the one foreign leader that Putin meets with more than anybody else. I think he has met with him something like 14 times since the war started. So his most important ally.

BURNETT: So, General Hodges, you know, most important ally but he had to leave that meeting in Moscow, it appeared, to take ill there. And he is Putin's closest ally. [19:10:01]

I'm curious, General, though, because you seem to think that the downfall of Lukashenko could actually give Putin something that he wants, possibly an excuse to end the war in Ukraine?

HODGES: Well, I see it as an opportunity, if he is looking around for an excuse to get out of this war that he is losing terribly in Ukraine, he could, I mean, the Kremlin is pretty good at manufacturing fairytales to explain what it is they are doing. So in order to justify why they might have to avoid getting crushed in Ukraine to actually withdraw you could almost envision a scenario where saving Belarus would be the excuse.

Of course, I don't -- I don't know that but what I would really look at is that the people of Belarus would see the opportunity to finally throw off the yoke of Kremlin suppression as well as from their own president.

BURNETT: All right. And, of course, we should note, right, there are opposition leaders in Belarus. One of them is serving a 17-year prison sentence, it is a mirror image of Russia in so many ways.

Ambassador, I want to ask you about the intelligence leak that I mentioned regarding Prigozhin. And this is from "The Washington Post" saying that in the leaked information from that young man in Massachusetts, that Prigozhin backchanneled to Ukraine, offered information about Russian troop positions so that the Ukrainians could kill them and he could then take over Bakhmut. That would be the exchange, and get the credit for it.

True or not, let's just start with how is this news impacting Putin possibly?

SULLIVAN: Well, it certainly I think would shake leaders confidence in this criminal that they have put in charge of this mercenary brigade. Prigozhin is not a military leader. And the Wagner Group is a transnational criminal organization so designated by the United States.

This is not a military leadership. This is a criminal gang. To the extent that Putin has relied on people like this, he's paying the price now with Prigozhin possibly doing this and then at a minimum saying things like the Russian minister of defense and the chief of the general staff that they are traitors and cowards.

BURNETT: General, when you look at the state of the war right now on the ground. You just heard Zelenskyy, right, you just heard him there thanking the British prime minister for the support, right, and you are getting those Shadow cruise missiles from the U.K. to give them more distance. You are getting the aid that you are getting extremely significant aide from both the U.K. and Germany.

Do you think that the tide is going to change here or not?

HODGES: Yeah. I think we are looking at the beginning of a major moment and shift. This didn't happen by accident Ukrainian staff and President Zelenskyy, and frankly all 50 nations that support Ukraine have been working very hard for the last few months.

But it really was the Ukrainian forces that have managed to put together a large armor formations that has been training and preparing while other Ukrainian forces held Bakhmut and allowed Russian forces to believe themselves there. And then when you put that against all these other good news that's been happening, you do have the sense that we could be very close to Ukraine achieving catastrophic success.

I think this counteroffensive has three conditions. Number one, are the Ukrainians ready? Number two, have they degraded the Russians enough? And number three, is the ground ready?

When those three conditions are set, I think General Zaluzhnyi will turn to his president and say, we're ready to go.

BURNETT: Right, the ground is not so soft. Thank you both so very much. I appreciate it.

And next, new reporting on the CIA's new strategy to recruit Russian spies. We have the exclusive recruitment videos, and it is a story you'll see first here OUTFRONT.

Plus, after four years and millions of taxpayer dollars, the Durham report about the FBI's Russia investigation is out. So was it any thing Trump promised it would be?

And then, two staffers who worked for Democratic Congressman Gerry Connell are now in the hospital, they were attacked by a man with a metal baseball bat at work, came in to their office.

Congressman Connell, tonight, is responding.



BURNETT: New tonight, the Trump administration's handpicked special counsel concluding after a four year investigation, four-year investigation, that the FBI should never have launched a full blown investigation into connections between Trump's campaign and Russia during the 2016 elections. Full investigation being the operative words.

Special counsel John Durham did not recommend any official changes to FBI policy. He only proposed a new bipartisan FBI position on politically sensitive investigations.

Now, just to be clear, over these past 40 years, the Durham probe cost taxpayers at least six and a half million dollars. What has come out of it is one minor conviction, former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to altering an email used to obtain a surveillance warrant on Trump campaign, Carter Page, during the investigation. The other two cases that Durham took to trial ended in acquittals.

I want to begin with our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez OUTFRONT.

All right. Evan, tell us about the report, the size, the length, the scope and what you learn from it?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, 300 pages from John Durham out for four years really summarizes what he thinks that the FBI should never have really gone the extra step of opening a full investigation.

He says there was plenty of reason for them to do a preliminary or even an assessment which was much lower level investigation by the FBI but he says that the FBI repeatedly ignored exculpatory information that would have maybe explained a lot of the things, the suspicions they had about Trump and his campaign.

I'll read you just a part of what he says here. He says based on the review of Crossfire Hurricane and related intelligence activities, we conclude that the department and the FBI failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law in connection with certain events and activities described in this report.

Erin, the bottom line is that, you know, John Durham was looking for what he thought and what people in the Trump administration believed was a conspiracy by the deep state to go after the former President.


What he finds is really, you know, confirmation bias, not political bias. A bunch of people, especially some of the counter intelligence officials who were predisposed, he says, to suspect things about Trump and we're, did not look at some of the exculpatory evidence that may have answered some of their questions.

So as you pointed out, after all of this, he did not -- did not find any additional new crimes to prosecute and didn't really find any changes he thinks the FBI needs to make at this point -- Erin.

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

Given that the key headlines here, Ryan Goodman, our legal expert, joins me now.

So, Ryan, you know, as you heard Evan say, the conclusion, right, no crime -- no further crimes and no recommendations. Three hundred pages, you've had a chance to go through it. How would you sum up?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: It's a bit of a dud in the sense that Mr. Durham was supposed to be looking for violations of law or crimes and he has found none. In the sense that he did try to bring two charges, they ended in very embarrassing acquittals and then he brought the one charge that was also a small plea deal.

There are no criminal referrals. He is not saying that there is something else out there. He is done. He doesn't really find anything like what Evan described, which is confirmation bias, in his view. BURNETT: In his view, right.

GOODMAN: In his view, I think others would very much disagree with that, the idea that they found additional information that should have taken him off of the path of the investigation and that they were still confirming, in their minds, that they still had something towards collusion or conspiracy and didn't take into account the countervailing evidence.

BURNETT: So Trump has, of course, repeatedly hyped up the door him investigation. He said in an interview with fox digital it would be quote the crime of the century. He said it was such a big event nobody has seen anything like it. He's referring to the 300 page report, 295, put a pin in that. He's never missed a chance to talk about this investigation, never.

And here he is another time.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: This is was an attempted overthrow and a lot of people were in on it. And they got caught. They got caught red-handed and I look forward to the Durham report which is coming out in the not too distant future. He's got his own information which is this information plus, plus, plus.


BURNETT: Information plus, plus, plus, attempted overthrow, crime of the century. Did you see any of that?

GOODMAN: Definitely, Mr. Durham did not find any of that. Point blank, I have to imagine that those who were looking for had to have been very disappointed in what the report found. It was good for the country, this was not a politicized investigation.

BURNET: Right. So, now, I mentioned the 295-page report, it was not 295 pages, it was 300. But you read them all because on page 295, when you see Durham say, yes, there should have been investigation launched even with his point of view, he does reach that conclusion, but he just -- it's a different type of investigation.

GOODMAN: That's right. So, the inspector general at the Department of Justice actually testified about this back in 2019, I think it was, but it was years ago and he said, look, I did determine as the inspector general that they could have opened a full investigation, there's no political investigation, there's no bias.

It's true that John Durham has strangely spoken out about an ongoing investigation that he has and said that he doesn't agree with me, but he actually does agree that that could have been be a preliminary investigation which is a policy difference internal to the FBI as to how much authority they are given.

But the inspector general just said that authority comes with a lot for law enforcement. So the difference is quite semantic at a pretty basic level and even Durham is saying they had enough to open a preliminary investigation.

BURNETT: But that's what I think is very crucial, right, that you're talking, okay, one can discuss how much power should you have an investigation. Amidst all of this, the fundamental conclusion is you are saying is he still felt there wasn't enough to launch some sort of investigation.

GOODMAN: Absolutely. It would be an incorrect headline to say that he thought that they should not have opened an investigation. He felt they could, just a different type of investigation, one step below a full investigation.

BURNETT: I think it's important. This context matters so much. Thank you so much for sharing.

All right. And next, a story you will see first OUTFRONT. The CIA's new strategy to recruit Russian spies with dramatic new videos. Why the U.S. believes these videos will work right now.

Plus, Martha Stewart making history as "Sports Illustrated's" newest swimsuit cover model.



BURNETT: Tonight, CNN learning exclusively about a new CIA campaign and this was is aimed at recruiting Russians to spy for the United States.

Our Alex Marquardt obtaining remarkable video from the CIA with their message intended to lure Russians and turn them against Putin. It is a story you will see first OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): Is this the life I dreamed of? The path I chose?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Questions being asked in Russian in a new dramatic video by the CIA just released to try to recruit more Russian spies by appealing to Russians patriotism, frustrations, and the oppression they face under the Putin regime.

CIA officials told CNN in an exclusive interview that the war in Ukraine has created an unprecedented opportunity that they want to capitalize on to recruit new Russian assets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disaffection with the war will continue to gnaw away at the Russian leadership, beneath the steady die of state propaganda and practiced repression.

MARQUARDT: In the past year of the war, the CIA has been encouraging Russian valuable information to contact them quietly, securely, and anonymously through a portal on the dark web. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were looking around the world for Russians who

were as disgusted with Putin as we are, because we are open for business.

MARQUARDT: Instructions have been posted on the CIA's social media accounts. This new video, after making an emotional pitch to Russian videos, to viewers, details how to do that. Using a web browser called Tor. You are not powerless, it says, contact us in a safe way.


The CIA recruitment video was first posted Monday evening on Telegram, a social media app that was highly popular among Russians who can't easily access unfiltered news or other social media sites.

JAMES OLSON, FORMER CHIEF OF CIA COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: I call it hanging out this shingle. You're spreading the word far and wide that U.S. counterintelligence is open for business and we have deep pockets. If you want to strike back against this man you hate, Vladimir Putin, you have an opportunity now to do it safely.

MARQUARDT: CIA officials told CNN they hope the video will resonate beyond intelligence and security officials. People who may not realize they have sensitive information to share, working, for example, in cyber, tech, finance, and other fields. They may think contacting the CIA is too difficult or dangerous. The CIA telling CNN they want to demystify that.

OLSON: We need all people through the Russian economy to cooperate with us. We need to know what's going on in this adversary country.

MARQUARDT: There is no direct mention of Putin or Ukraine, nor CIA officials insist, is it meant to fuel unrest in Russia. Rather, they tell CNN, these are timeless themes that they hope will drive Russians into the arms of the CIA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): This will always be my Russia. I will endure. My family will endure. We will live with dignity. Thanks to my actions.


MARQUARDT (on camera): In terms of what the CIA has already seen in their efforts to recruit new Russian spies during this war, they say they have been successful, one CIA official told me in his words there's contact coming in.

Now, Erin, they won't give any numbers or say where these Russians work, but the CIA says they would not be rolling out this new video if they hadn't already had some success.

We should also note that the FBI has tried recruiting Russian spies right here in Washington with ads specifically targeted at people coming and going from the Russian embassy, an effort that the embassy called ridiculous -- Erin.

BURNETT: Alex, thank you very much.

It is important in that context, just a note to everybody, there a lot of Russians who are coming and going out of the United States, that is still the reality.

All right. OUTFRONT now, Alina Polyakova. She's a Russian foreign expert and the president and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis.

So, Alina, as you hear these recruitment videos which, just to be clear, going out on Telegram as Alex is reporting, that is a place where Russians spend a lot of time but is the social media the predominant social media in Russia.

So, what do you hear when you hear these videos and the appeal that they are making to retain your dignity, take care of your family?

Chasten Buttigieg: I mean, hearing the Russian language that's being spoken in these videos just now I think it's absolutely brilliant, honestly.

There are so many Russians that will never hear from who are disappointed with the future that they see ahead of them which is a very bleak future under President Putin and we will never hear them talk about this publicly because people in Russia are really deeply afraid of the kind of punishment that comes with saying anything in public.

You know, let's remember this is a country that will throw you in jail for holding up a white sheet of paper with no words on it. So, I think this is an absolutely brilliant boy ploy by the CIA to see if we can get some informants, average people, to cooperate with the United States.

BURNETT: And now, Alina, you heard what Alex is reporting. He's saying the CIA knows in a sense that there's a return on investment, that they're doing this because they have contacts already coming in.

Do you think, to this point about the risks that the Russians you are speaking to who are inside Russia who may see this, that this dark web browser that going to Tor, that this is something that people would take enough people, I guess, would take a risk on?

POLYAKOVA: Look, it's very hard to strike the right tone. The kind of message that we just heard in the segment is not going to appeal to everyone. Some people are going to laugh it off, but presumably they get things out of cooperating with the intelligence services. They might get some payments, they might get security.

You know, these are things that Russians, many Russians are really craving right now so there is a certain appeal there. Is it going to reach a large number of people? We don't know. But I think the CIA is probably counting for the fact that, okay, even if it reaches a few dozen who take the necessary steps and feel comfortable doing that, that's already a win. BURNETT: And, Alina, one further question. Alex was talking about the

FBI people trying to recruit people coming and going from the Russian embassy. It does make you realize, there are a lot of people who do find ways to come and go from Russia in and out of the United States. They are here completely legally. They're able to do that.

There are Russians also coming go from other places in large numbers, places in the United Arab Emirates, for example. Do you think that there's been success in recruiting among that group?


POLYAKOVA: Again, it's hard to know. We don't know what the intelligence agencies are doing, they're not going to share that kind of information with us. But of course there are many Russians who are still coming to the United States as tourists. It's not easy to get a tourist visa for most Russians but those who have the money and the wealth to travel, to go to a different country besides Russia to get their visas, basically impossible to get a visa to the United States in Russia today.

But, look, if you have a visa to go to Germany or Estonia, it's probably not that hard for you if you are willing to wait it out. So I think there is certainly huge opportunities here. We know that many Russians, especially those that are more well-off who are in the middle class, you know, who want a different life for themselves are going to come to the West and they want to live like Westerners. They don't want to live in an oppressive society with a bleak future.

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

POLYAKOVA: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, a Democratic congressman staff today was attacked by a man with a metal baseball bat. It's absolutely terrifying. Two people are now hospitalized, and tonight, we have some new details about the suspect in the shocking attack.

Plus, a fifth grade teacher now at the center of Florida's culture wars for showing a Disney movie that has a character who is gay. Chasten Buttigieg, a former teacher and the husband of Pete Buttigieg, has something to say about this story, and you'll see him OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: Tonight, attacked. Two staff members for Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly are in the hospital after being attacked with a metal baseball bat that's inside the congressman's office in Virginia. Fairfax police in Virginia arrested and charged this 49- year-old man with the attack. Connolly says the suspect had asked for him before attacking his staff with a, quote, out of control rage.

It comes amidst a series of incidents, members of Congress, their staff, their family members have been attacked in recent months. Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT. She is at Connolly's district office

where the attack took place.

Jessica, this is truly terrifying. You are in a suburban quiet normal office environment. To imagine something like this it does defy the imagination. What more are you learning tonight?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it happened just behind me, Erin. Tonight our team actually caught up with the suspect's father. He says the suspect has been suffering from schizophrenia. He hasn't taken his medication in the past three months.

Plus, our team learned that just last year the suspect was actually arrested for assaulting a law enforcement officer. Charges, though, were ultimately dropped. Tonight, though, that suspect is being held without bond. So, authorities have released his name, he is 49 year old Xuan Kha Tran Pham.

And authorities say just before 11:00, he went into this district office of Congressman Gerry Connolly. He attacked with a metal bet two staffers. One was a senior aide who was hit in the head, one was actually an intern and this was her first day on the job. They both went to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Now, as for the congressman, he was at an event, a ribbon-cutting event. He wasn't here. But he did say that this was a rage-filled attack. He says the suspect shattered some glass in the conference room, broke several computers, and tonight that suspect is being held without bond, Erin.

BURNETT: So, Jessica, this comes seven months, just about, after then Speaker Pelosi's husband Paul Pelosi was brutally attacked, right, by that assailant who broke into his home. Have Capitol police said anything tonight about ensuring the security of lawmakers? Others have faced threats and attacks as well.

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, there have been several attacks. U.S. Capitol police, they are launching a joint investigation with Fairfax City police but they are using this as well to really highlight the threats against lawmakers and staffers and they are putting it this way.

They are saying that the threats have grown exponentially and they are pointing specifically to testimony just last month from the U.S. capitol police chief Tom Manger saying that in the last six years alone, threats have gone up against lawmakers and their staffers, Erin, 400 percent. So, obviously, a big problem that the capitol police are looking to tackle.

BURNETT: Absolutely. All right. Well, thank you very much, just terrifying to even think about what they went through today. Of course in the hospital we hope they are both going to recover quickly. We do understand it's not life-threatening.

Thanks so much to Jessica. And coming up on "AC360", the former deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, gives his first reaction on the Durham report. That will come up at 8:00.

Meantime, next, a Florida teacher says she's under investigation for showing a Disney movie to her fifth grade class. At issue, one of the characters happens to be gay.

Chasten Buttigieg, former teacher and husband of Pete Buttigieg, is next.

Plus, Martha Stewart, she's a successful businesswoman, and author, and television host, and now, she is adding "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit cover to her resume.



BURNETT: Tonight, a fifth grade teacher now under investigation by Florida's Department of Education for playing the Disney movie "Strange World".

Now, this movie features a gay character.


CARTOON CHARACTER: Any suites heart waiting for you back home?

Ah, there it is. Who is it?

CARTOON CHARACTER: It's no one. Diazo, his name is Diazo.


CARTOON CHARACTER: I really like him a lot, I just don't know how to tell him.


BURNETT: That's it, that's the mention in the movie. The teacher said she chose the movie because the overall plot is related to the science lesson that she's teaching.


JENNA BARBEE, TEACHER UNDER INVESTIGATION BY FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: The LGBTQ aspect of the movie, they are harmless, it's just a talked about crush, and it's only a couple lines in total seen time of just over two minutes. Not pushing anything, just being accepting. It's what I do.


OUTFRONT now, Chasten Buttigieg. He is the husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and he has a new book out tomorrow "I Have Something to Tell You", it is for young adults.

Chasten, let me just start because this whole imbroglio about this movie, right? This is, you know, it's a two-hour movie about a lot of things. You know, not -- this isn't the plot. It's a kid who happens to have a crush on a boy.

You were a teacher, though. You taught seventh and eighth grade. So, this teacher, she's a fifth grade teacher.


BURNETT: What's your reaction when you hear now that she, a Florida teacher, is being investigated for showing this Disney movie?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, besides being disgusted, like disgusted, that this teacher is under investigation by the state, I'm thinking about what the students are learning from her investigation. So the students saw a 22-second clip where a boy says he has a crush on another boy, totally normal. And now, these students will watch their teacher in the news for weeks and weeks to come. Students right now in her class are being pulled out to be interrogated by the state.

BURNETT: By the way, a line in the movie they may not have even heard.

BUTTIGIEG: Yeah, it probably went over their heads because most young people growing up in America today, which is a great thing, are moving beyond that. They don't understand why some of these adults in positions of power are so upset about the idea of equality for all people.

BURNETT: Right, over who someone has a crush on, right?


BURNETT: It wouldn't just be relevant to them.

So the teacher says that this has now gotten to the point in the investigation, it's fascinating, you said they're interrogating the kids, she got a permission slip from every parent to play PG movies during the school year. This is a PG movie.


BURNETT: It's on a list of movies you can watch at my house, PG.

But the parent, who is also a board member, says that the teacher broke school policy because she did not get the specific movie approved by the administration and I just wanted to play the parent and her argument.


Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHANNON RODRIGUEZ, HERNANDO SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD MEMBER: Allowing movies such as this assist teachers in opening a door, and please hear me, they assist teachers in opening a door for conversations that have no place in our classrooms.


BURNETT: What do you even say to that?

BUTTIGIEG: Every movie I watched in school from preschool until 12th grade had straight characters in it. I was not indoctrinated into being straight.

This is a parent using her position of privilege and power to push an anti-LGBTQ agenda and she knows it, and many of these conversations about parents' rights in education are just a ruse to push an anti- LGBTQ agenda.

If you have a question about what's appropriate for your child to read or watch -- as a parent myself, I'm going to turn to a librarian or a highly educated teacher to make those decisions. And if a parent has a problem with that, bring that up.

But you know what this parent is doing.

BURNETT: Now, you mentioned how every single role model that you would have seen in any kind of movie or presentation was straight --


BURNETT: -- where you grew up.

Now, you -- you released a young -- you released a memoir in 2020. I'm sorry.


BURNETT: This is the young adult version you are putting out.


BURNETT: This is more targeted actually at this age grade -- seventh and eighth grade.


BURNETT: You talk about growing up as a gay child and a conservative part of northern Michigan.

And one of the things you wrote here: I started to look inward and believe something about me was twisted and deeply wrong. Like having bad wiring or a virus in an operating system, I wondered what was malfunctioning inside me. The way that gay people were described by these acquaintances as disgusting or evil cause me to question God first for making me this way. Why would he do this to me?

Now, what I find so amazing about that, and that's a powerful statement for any child, any young person could relate to --


BURNETT: -- is that you're going to states like Texas. You're going to Florida. You're going to Missouri. You're going to places where you are seeing some of these -- the state take action --


BURNETT: -- to talk about your book. And I know that's purposeful.

BUTTIGIEG: Yeah, it's really important to me because there are a lot of young Chastens out there. There are kids growing up in this country wondering whether or not they belong. Not only if they belong, but if they should stick around.

I spent 18 years of my life believing I was the only one. I didn't know that it was okay --

BURNETT: Believing you're the only one.

BUTTIGIEG: The only gay person, because we didn't talk about gay people. My parents certainly didn't have that conversation with me, how I could have benefited from a ten-second conversation with them that it's okay to be who you are, a gay, straight or otherwise. We will love you. You always have a roof over your head.

I want to go to some of these places where I know kids like -- like that teacher's classroom. There are kids in that classroom who are --

BURNETT: There was somebody that that spoke to.

BUTTIGIEG: Somebody --


BUTTIGIEG: -- many kids in Florida are wondering --


BUTTIGIEG: -- do I matter? Do I belong? And should I stick around?

BURNETT: And here's the thing: a few years ago, I did a town hall with your husband and we were together out in Las Vegas, I remember, right, because he was there with you.


BURNETT: But, you know, it's just amazing what has happened in those four years. It's not maybe what anybody would have expected.


BURNETT: We talked about some of the attacks he was facing about his sexual orientation running for president.

I just want to play one specific exchange (INAUDIBLE).



BURNETT: Rush Limbaugh made homophobic comments about you and he said that America is not ready, he doesn't think, for a gay president.

Now, then, Limbaugh, I don't know if you know, but he gave this whole story today that President Trump told him, don't apologize for saying anything you said.


The idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values -- I mean --


Sorry, but one thing about my marriage is it's never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse with him or her. So they want to debate family values, let's debate family values, I'm ready.


BURNETT: So has anything changed on this space (ph)? Do you think America is ready?

BUTTIGIEG: Oh, absolutely. But I also know that things were getting better and are still getting better because more and more people are coming to the table in good faith wanting to be on the right side of history. Oftentimes, it is the loudest voices that get the biggest microphones.

I have met people in rural Michigan and places across the country who are ready to move beyond the noise and focus on the things that matter.

BURNETT: Chasten, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time.

BUTTIGIEG: Thanks for having me.

BURNETT: The Florida teacher who is now under investigation after playing that Disney movie "Strange World" will be joining Alisyn Camerota on "CNN TONIGHT" at 10:00.

Meantime, OUTFRONT next, Martha Stewart, a woman of many talents now includes Sports Illustrated" swimsuit model.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Martha, what do you think?

[19:55:02] MARTHA STEWART, BUSINESSWOMAN: I like that picture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I would think so.



BURNETT: Tonight, Martha Stewart making history once again. This time, the 81-year-old is on the cover of "Sports Illustrated", the oldest person to ever appear on the cover, and she talked about the photo.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Martha, what do you think?

STEWART: I like that picture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I would think so.

STEWART: To be on the cover at my age was a challenge. And I think I met the challenge.


STEWART: Well, I didn't starve myself but I didn't see any bread or pasta for a couple months. And I went to Pilates every other day.


BURNETT: So the photo took place in the Dominican Republic. Now, Stewart said there were a total of ten looks. You know, what's interesting, with all the many accomplishments in her life, she began her career as a model back when she was 15 years old. Now, previously the oldest person to be on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" was Maye Musk who was 74 at the time. Martha Stewart showing that she is still making history in so many ways.

All right. The print of that magazine will be out on May 18th.

And thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" begins now.