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Erin Burnett Outfront
Putin Allies on Russian State TV Try to Silence Criticism of the War; Georgia Prosecutor Narrows Timeline for Charging Decisions in Trump Case; Interview with Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY). Aired 7-8p ET
Aired May 19, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, a fiery blast tears through a Russian base. A strike deep in Russian occupied territory, as Putin sets his sights on Americans, targeting 500 of them tonight, including me.
Plus, a man tells a joke about two dogs and a squirrel gets a $2 million fine and could be headed to prison. What is happening?
And police said the Utah mom accused of killing her husband and then writing a children's book about her grief went after her sister-in- law, punching her in the face while trying to get into her husband's safe. New details.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, strike on a Russian base. New video into OUTFRONT tonight, this is a fiery blast on a Russian base. You will see the mass explosion there, right?
Well, the ball of fire that you see there is inside the Russian occupied city of Mariupol. This is according to Ukrainian officials, and that base where that struck is home to at least 150 Russian soldiers.
Now, Mariupol has been an important staging ground for Russian forces, and the reason for that is it's been occupied. It's been outside Ukraine's shooting range. It's been safe from attack for months. But thanks to the powerful new missiles from the U.K., it is now in Ukraine's crosshairs.
Ukraine's military also posted a video. This is a drone. They say it only cost $1,000. They show it taking on a Russian tank, which is valued at more than $1 million.
And tonight, what could be a turning point in this war, here we are in May 2023, and the United States finally giving the go ahead for its allies to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets. This is a big development. It is what Zelenskyy has been begging for repeatedly for months, and months. He does have support from Democrats, and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile in Russia, Putin now taking new and more extreme measures against Americans. A statement on Russian's ministry of foreign affairs website reads, and I quote: U.S. citizens under personal sanctions including a ban on entry into the Russian Federation. And it goes on to list 500 people submit to that, including me.
The Russian government also issued a warning with this announcement, and it says, quote, not a single hostile attack against Russia will go without a strong reaction. That is why covering this war every night matters, and we will continue to do it, because something supremely important to all of us is happening in the Ukraine, and also inside Russia, where tonight, Putin's allies are turning on their own, and telling those who are critical of Putin's war to be quiet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): All of these panicking alarmists can stick it where the sun doesn't shine. They should calm down, once and for all.
MARGARITA SIMONYAN, HEAD OF RT (through translator): Sure, sometimes we make wonders. But who doesn't? How about we support our own and keep the criticism in your own kitchen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: We were going to have much more on that Putin crackdown in just a moment.
I first want to go to Nic Robertson, because he's OUTFRONT live, on the ground, in Eastern Ukraine.
And Nic, what is like is happening there?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, there are gains being made around Bakhmut. Not in the town itself, but in the round it, in the field and open ground. The gains we are talking about a couple hundred yards, a couple football fields. But this is not fighting a cross clean-cut grass.
This is fighting across trenches, and the Russians are falling back, but they are falling back into trenches. This is ground that's been fought over so many times that it is trench, after tranche after a trench. The going is tough, the going is hard. We've been to some of the villages about 20 miles from the front line. Life there is also hard and tough.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Twenty miles from the Bakhmut front line, a house erased from this tiny village. Its fate sealed by a random Russian rocket three days ago. Luckily, no one in it at the time.
Next door, Olena (ph) and Serhei (ph) salvaging what they can, also luckily not at home. They had evacuated hundreds of miles away to Kyiv last year, but even there they don't feel safe.
The bombers there too, Serhei says, the night before coming here we didn't sleep. Six missiles were shot down over us.
Both want to come back to the village, but flinch at the bang.
Both say yes. Olena adding I just hope they're not coming here.
But all too often, Russian munitions do. This house on the edge of the village hit three weeks ago.
Everything scorched and scattered in the ferocity of the explosion.
And over here, a piece of the drone that blew up the house. Iranian made, fired by the Russians, a Shahed. Look at all that.
Olena (ph), a 52-year-old nurse. Alisa (ph), a 16-year-old school girl both terribly burned. Mother and daughter died days later in hospital.
Nataliya (ph), a close relative, escape through a window.
I am left alone. I buried everybody, she says. Her last memories of her in-laws cannot be unseen.
I heard a thunderous explosion, and a firestorm. They were running out, windows were shattering, glass flying. Their feet were sticking to the floor, because the floor was on fire. They could not save them, she says.
What she could save were the pets. The cats come running out, as she takes us back to the house.
You can see the whiskers on the cat there they're all burnt. She is struggling with survivor's guilt.
I spoke to my relatives before I buried her daughter, and before she died, Nataliya says.
She was at the hospital. She told me, it's not your fault, it's just random. I'm just happy she forgave me, and her son forgave me, and my soul is calm.
She loved to go someplace safer but promised her relatives she look after the pets. More days, risking Russia's ugly roulette.
ROBERTSON (on camera): That's why the Ukrainians want these F-16s. That's why President Zelenskyy and said it's a historic moment that President Biden says he'll support a coalition of nations that would give Ukrainian fighter pilots training on the F-16s, they will find ways to get F-16s.
Several European nations, the Dutch, the Danish, the Norwegians, they all have F-16s.
So it does seem that these planes will be coming to Ukraine's aid. But, they are not going to make a difference in the next few days, or weeks, or perhaps even months. But it is what the people we were talking to in this village would like to see coming over the horizon to their rescue -- Erin.
BURNETT: And a reminder of, of course, what the war is all about.
Nic, thank you very much, from the ground in Eastern Ukraine.
OUTFRONT now, Roman Badanin. He is a Russian journalist, the founder and editor in chief of the investigative journalism site Proekt, which has been targeted by the Russian government. He left Russia after facing the threat of a prison sentence.
Julia Davis is also with me tonight, a Russian media analyst. She is the creator of "The Russian Media Monitor", and also a columnist for "The Daily Beast", and she has been sanctioned by Russia.
I appreciate both of you very much, and especially having you together.
So, Roman, Putin has stepped up targeting his enemies and many people, right? There is various lists out there. You could face a prison sentence, but now I understand Putin isn't stopping there. You broke the news this week that he may have poisoned more enemies who are actually not even, Roman, in Russia right now. The poisonings are outside of Russia, and you are hearing there could be more to come?
ROMAN BADANIN, INDEPENDENT RUSSIAN JOURNALIST: Yes, so what we have established, just a start with, we've established at least four cases. At least three of them happened in Europe. Of the presumable poisonings, or break-ins into the apartments of, let's say, prominent critics of the Putin regimes.
So, in their view, I mean, in view of the Kremlin, they all are legitimate targets. So, and I really believe that it's just the beginning of a bigger story which is unfolding right now, because it's the right moment for the Kremlin to go for the people who are ready to flee the country, to flee Russia, and to leak the secrets they kept so far.
BURNETT: Right, so the very word about them? Even return to this is some sort of elimination list, essentially. And in fact, you may be on it.
BADANIN: Well, it looks reasonable. It looks reasonable.
Well, I mean, so we have a lot of security protocols, but we are not 100 percent safe to travel into Europe back and forth between the U.S. and Europe. So it's always a challenge, it's always a stretch, and, of course, it makes me nervous, it makes my family nervous, it makes my teammates nervous. So --
BURNETT: And that's the chilling effect of it. I mean, it's terrible, and terrifying.
And, Julia, we talk about the elimination list, obviously, that Romans mentioning, that new sanctions list that I'm on.
And the name spanned the gamut. They've got former President Barack Obama now on it. Late night comics Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel are also on it.
Is this -- what is the purpose of this for Putin? Is it -- is it specific to inside Russia, to people -- to the audience there?
JULIA DAVIS, ANALYST OF RUSSIAN MEDIA; SANCTIONED BY RUSSIA: Not only. The way we are watching them, Erin, they are watching what we do as well. So ending up on this list is a recognition that our opposition to Putin's genocidal invasion of the Ukraine is considered significant enough to be noted, and included on that list. So, high praise indeed.
Of course, it's also designed for domestic audiences to make it look like they are doing something even though it's largely symbolic and I very much doubt that any of the people on this list we're planning to travel to Russia anyway.
BURNETT: So, Roman, I'm going to get to that explosion that we saw. The blast in Russian occupied Mariupol, right? That now is possible only because of, it appears, those new U.K. longer range missiles.
But Biden, we understand President Biden, has told the allies at the G7 that the U.S. now supports training Ukrainian fighters on F-16 jets. That may sonic a small thing, it's a huge thing, right? Indicates a move that the U.S. has steadfastly refused to do this until now.
I know you've been speaking with sources in the sort of Russian elite there. How is this news on new weapons impacting Putin?
BADANIN: What we know, again, based on the talks with our sources back in Russia. They follow really closely to all the news regarding the new weapons provided to the Ukraine. And all the news makes them absolutely crazy. The main topic they're interested in right now, you know?
We had a talk with one of our sources who just, you know? It took him like an hour after the announcement, I don't remember, it was an announcement about Leopard --
BURNETT: The Leopard tanks.
BADANIN: Tanks, yeah. It took him like an hour to know everything about that. He was like, you know, crazy.
BURNETT: Riled up about it? So, Julia, you talk about how close are they watching the coverage, here. You have noted a trend on Russian state TV, which is essentially Putin's propagandist telling critics inside Russia, and I'm not talking about macro critics here, critics of the war.
But critics of we need more weapons, that sort of thing, right? More specific criticism to be quiet. Let me just play some more from one of the clips that I briefly showed at the top of the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEY KURGINYAN, RUSSIAN POLITICIAN (through translator): When certain people, whom I don't want to criticize, I never criticize those who are fighting. When they say they need 80,000 shells per day, I want to say, there's nothing wrong with dreaming. I also want 80,000 shells per day, but it doesn't happen this way, understand?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. So, Julia, that seems to be directed at the Wagner Chief Prigozhin, right? Because he specifically been asking for more shells and ammunition. But when you read between the lines, and return to hear more, and more of this and Russian state media, what do you think is going on?
DAVIS: What it sounds like is that their military industrial complex is not keeping up. They were not ready for this invasion. They weren't ready for the way it was going to go. And now they're telling their people that they likely will not have enough ammo and equipment until next year.
So the situation is dire, and Prigozhin's videos are exposing that, and they would like not only him, but anyone who is criticizing it, even with the best intentions just to be quiet, because there's nothing they can do to truly remedy the situation. They simply are not prepared for the way this war is going.
BURNETT: All right. Julia, Roman, thank you both very much.
BADANIN: Thank you very much.
BURNETT: And next, the Georgia D.A. investigating Trump's efforts to overturn the election laying out the most specific timeline for a possible criminal indictment that we have heard thus far, telling judges to literally block off two weeks. What might this say about potential charges?
Plus, Democrats slamming Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene after she went after Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman, following a heated back and forth on the steps of the Capitol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Jamaal Bowman shouting at the top of his lungs, cursing, calling me a horrible -- calling me a white supremacist. That is like calling a person of color the N-word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Congressman Bowman responds tonight. And a joke about dogs and a squirrel got a comedian find nearly $2
million, and now facing possible prison time.
BURNETT: Tonight, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis offering the most specific timeline yet for potential criminal indictment related to Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. CNN obtaining an internal letter, or the D.A.'s point specifically to a couple weeks in August, asking judges to avoid scheduling trials, and in-person hearings from August 7th through August 18th.
She also orders remote workdays that month to reduce staff at the courthouse by about 70 percent amid security concerns, I'm sure they're all happy about that. By the way, I mean, you know, there are more on the work.
The D.A. sending a memo to law enforcement officials last month, warning there will be a need for heightened security and preparedness when she announces her charging decisions in this case.
So, Ryan Goodman is with me now, of course, co-editor in chief of "Just Security", former special counselor of the Defense Department.
So, okay, there is now a warning about, beware, be ready. There is getting people out of the courthouse, and there is don't schedule any in-person hearings or trials between August 7th which is Monday, on August 18th which is a Friday.
So, what does this tell you?
RYAN GOODMAN, CO-EDITOR IN CHIEF OF "JUST SECURITY": Strong indication that there will be an indictment of the former President Trump during that period, because these are security measures of a scale that it is difficult for me to conceive of any other explanation. The best explanation, it is difficult to conceive another one.
BURNETT: Okay, this is obviously very significant. Let me just ask about Trump's legal team trying to -- they are still trying to squash the case, right? They're still trying to get it to go away. A judge today denied Trump's request to submit another court filing, which would try to disqualify Fani Willis from this altogether.
The judge said: To date, the court has received well over 500 pages briefing, argument, and exhibits on the issues raised. That is plenty.
Okay. Do I read, that is plenty to give it a rest? I mean, is this to -- where do you think this goes?
GOODMAN: Yeah, I think he's expressing frustration. He's like, we're done, we're not running the clock any longer. I have enough information, at least on the written record, to decide. And so, it does suggest that this will happen quickly, and I think he
will dispatch of the petition that it won't forward. And it's kind of related to the timing of August, because it means that this is a pre- indictment motion, and a pre-indictment motion is very likely to fail. People do not have certain kinds of rights that can bring at that point.
BURNETT: All right. So, if you look at a timeline here, obviously, it's very specific. Now, I understand that a classified documents case in Mar-a-Lago could be ready to go at any day. Maybe you add espionage, Ty Cobb was making that argument, that maybe you could, he didn't you should, but maybe you could. And then, you've, of course, got obstruction related to the actual proceedings themselves on Capitol Hill. That, that. So, you've got all of that coming from the DOJ.
If she is giving this timeline, is that just -- is that making any clear prove that the DOJ is going to go beforehand?
GOODMAN: I think it makes a much more likely that the DOJ will go beforehand, because now, they have a pretty good window, they have an exact date that they know which is the mark, and I would imagine that their incentives are to go first, that they want to if they can --
BURNETT: Especially cause of the Alvin Bragg situation?
GOODMAN: Exactly, and so, it avoids that kind of situation. Again, they would like to have the narrative be about whatever it is that they want to present. They don't have the narrative, I would imagine, to be confused with some other kind of case and whatever that comes with, or whatever baggage that comes with, present their case to the public, on its own terms. Now, they have enough space to do that.
BURNETT: Right, and it seems like she is, by signaling this, in part, that you would think this is how she would do it be, publicly, as opposed to private necessarily, communications, right? That would be inappropriate.
GOODMAN: They could be coordinating, and communicating, but it seems as though this is a situation which there hasn't been as much coordination, or communication between the federal Justice Department, and the local.
BURNETT: And the state with Fani Willis.
All right, Ryan, thank you.
All right. And next, Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene taking a lot of heat for comment she made after getting into an argument with Congressman Jamal Bowman on the capitol steps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREENE: I think there's a lot of concern about Jamaal Bowman. So, and I am concerned about it. I feel threatened by him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Congressman Bowman is next.
Plus, new details and above the Utah mother who wrote a joke about grieving her husband and is now charged with his murder. Why police say she also violently attacked her late husband's sister.
BURNETT: Tonight, Democrats accusing Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of being racist for saying she feels threatened by Congressman Jamaal Bowman, who is Black.
Congresswoman Cori Bush tweeting, quote, she doesn't feel safe around a Black man is what a racist would say. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, quote: Representative Greene is the aggressor here, pushing an age-old racist trope use to target and discredit Black man.
Governor Gavin Newsom of California, everyone should call this out for what it is, blatant racism.
Now, they are all referring to these remarks by Congresswoman Greene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREENE: On the capitol steps yesterday, he was the one that approached me, even CNN reported that. Yelling, shouting, raising his voice, he has aggressive -- his physical mannerisms are aggressive. I think there's a lot of concern about Jamaal Bowman. So -- and I am concerned about it. I feel threatened by him.
I am very concerned about Jamaal Bowman, and he's someone that people should watch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: She's talking about a heated back and forth on the Capitol steps with Congressman Bowman after he shouted at Republican Congressman George Santos to resign, while Santos was speaking to reporters. Here's the moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOWMAN: You've got a kick him out! You've got -- the party has to kick him out! He's embarrassing y'all! He's embarrassing y'all!
GREENE: Biden's embarrassing --
BOWMAN: Expel him. You got to expel. Save the party. The party's hanging by a thread.
GREENE: We got to get rid of Biden. (CROSSTALK)
BOWMAN: The party's hanging -- save America! Save the children! Do something about guns!
GREENE: Right, so close the border.
BOWMAN: Invest in education.
GREENE: Close the border, save the children.
BOWMAN: The border is -- the border is what Trump left you --
GREENE: Hey, where all the migrant children? You guys lost them.
BOWMAN: We are accepting, and we love them.
GREENE: No, you've lost them.
BOWMAN: We love the migrant children.
GREENE: Jamaal, not very smart, you should pay attention.
BOWMAN: Save the party!
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): She ain't worth it, she ain't worth it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Congressman Bowman is OUTFRONT now.
So, Congressman, you've demanded Congresswoman Greene apologize for saying that you were aggressive, and that she felt threatened by you. I would assume it's safe to say that you have not received that apology.
REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): That is correct. I have not received that apology.
BURNETT: So, she also said this is not the first time that you have confronted or clashed with her. She says you cursed at her, that you called her white supremacist when you attended dueling protests outside a courthouse here in New York, when Donald Trump was indicted, when she came to New York that time.
Let me just play what she said so you can respond. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I will tell you what's on video, is Jamaal Bowman shouting at the top of his lungs, cursing -- calling me a horrible -- calling me a white supremacist, which I take great offense to. That is like calling a person of color the N-word, which should never happen. Calling me a white supremacist is equal to that, and that is wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What do you say to that, Congressman?
BOWMAN: Well, first of all, I never used any profanity toward her, number one. Number two, she spoke as a keynote speaker at a white supremacist conference. That's why she was referred to in that manner -- in addition to her taking a picture with an AR-15 standing next to a picture of the Squad, targeting members of the Squad who are mostly women of color, and much of her rhetoric, vitriol, and anti-Muslim language.
What you saw on the Capitol steps was two colleagues laughing at each other as we shared differing ideas about what needs to be done in our democracy. For us to go from that to her the next morning saying that, you know, my mannerisms are aggressive, and that she feels threatened by me -- first of all, if she feels threatened by me, I'm going to do everything in my power to say as far away from her as possible, because I don't want her or anyone else to feel threatened.
But the racial trope that that is, and how it has lived in America historically, whenever a White woman says a Black man is threatening of them, that Black man becomes a target, and sometimes killed, i.e., Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, and many others.
BURNETT: So, you know, I mean, obviously, we're watching some of this play as you talk. I mean, you guys did get, you know, I would say more heated. But you are laughing, you are talking, you are exchanging with each other. It is surprising to have someone say what she said afterward.
So let me now just go what your fellow Democrats went and said those words, where they say, it's racist.
Do you agree with them? Are you -- you know, are you comfortable to come out and just use that word as they were?
BOWMAN: Of course. Yeah, of course. It's racist. Absolutely.
But it's also reckless and dangerous. And this is why we have to teach American history accurately, and make sure that comprehensive African American history is a part of that curriculum, because hopefully, through education, members like Marjorie Taylor Greene and people like Ron DeSantis won't continue to attack Black history, attack Black people, and use racist tropes.
It's the same thing in other communities, there has to be an education across culture so that we can build bridges and open doors as opposed to the things that continue to divide us, and lead to violence.
BOWMAN: And so, that's where I'm trying to move. That's the work that most of us are trying to do in Washington.
BURNETT: So just to talk about one thing that happened prior to this, I understand, which is that you had shouted at Congressman Santos to resign. He was talking to reporters, and you said he should resign.
Let me just play that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): No, I did not, I allowed -- look, I allowed the process to play itself out.
BOWMAN: Kick him now! Kick him out! He's got to go!
Resign! Save yourself! Have some dignity!
SANTOS: Like I said, if I could -- if I could understand you over my colleagues screaming here, the reality is --
BOWMAN: Have some dignity! Have some dignity! New Yorkers need better! You got to go, man. Come on, son! Come on, son!
SANTOS: How's your ethics -- your ethics play going? Aren't you in ethics (INAUDIBLE)? Come on.
Look, I can't continue to address you guys because there's a deranged member here. So, I'm going to walk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Congressman, when you look at that, do you have any regrets for doing that? For yelling at him in that way?
BOWMAN: No! Come on now! Come on now. CNN, you all are tripping, now.
Listen, that was -- first of all, he should resign or be expelled because of the laws that he has been accused of breaking, the violations, and lying to his constituents. That's number one.
But number two, is heckling like -- like a horrible, evil thing? Is teasing someone, is friendly banter a horrible, evil thing? Like come on, y'all.
Like let's -- everybody needs to lighten up and understand that one, in a healthy democracy, dialogue and debate is essential, number one. Number two, why even frame the question in that way, because it feeds into the trope that as a Black man, I'm not allowed to use my voice. (CROSSTALK)
BURNETT: Well, no, I mean, I'm just wondering dialogue -- no, I actually -- I disagree.
BOWMAN: Listen --
BURNETT: I think it's a fair question, and here's why -- dialogue and debate, I hear you. Wanting him to resign, I hear you.
BOWMAN: Why would I feel -- why would I feel embarrassed by that?
BURNETT: But yelling at him to resign when he's talking at reporters is in terms of decorum and behavior a different thing, which is fine if you think it's okay, but I do think it's a fair question.
BOWMAN: What do you mean by -- so hold on a second. So, when we talk about decorum, okay, he allegedly falsified campaign finance documents, and stole from people, all right?
BOWMAN: That is a despicable act.
BOWMAN: We should be outraged by that.
When I was yelling at Representative Massie about guns killing children, we should be outraged by that.
Listen, raising my voice is a sign of passion, and intensity. It's not a sign of anger, or hate, or rage or anything that should make anyone feel uncomfortable.
The majority of support that I hear from my district, is people are excited that, finally, elected officials are expressing passion, and expressing discontent and rage for the things that aren't moving in Washington. Washington takes 1,000 years to move on common sense legislation, like gun control.
And that frustrates the American people.
The American people want to see action, and they appreciate passion. We should all be passionate about things but being respectful and loving at the same time, which is exactly who I am and is exactly what I wanted to do.
BURNETT: I get it, and I don't want to keep belaboring the point, but I mean, I'm saying, you know, talking over someone and yelling, heckling them when they're talking to reporters is not exactly respectful. I understand you stand by it, I get it, but I would take issue with it being respectful.
BOWMAN: All right.
BURNETT: But I understand -- I understand. You know, I respect your point of view. And appreciate your taking the time to talk to me.
BOWMAN: Of course, it's good to be with you. Thanks for having me.
BURNETT: All right. You, too. Thank you. And I enjoy the conversation.
BURNETT: All right. And also, in Washington, the Biden administration reportedly may halt plans to move Space Command's headquarters from Colorado to Alabama. Officials telling NBC News it is not connected to Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville's unprecedented one-man blockade of more than 200 military nominees.
Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville is digging in.
SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): I'm standing up for the rule of law.
SERFATY: As Democrats are ratcheting up the alarms.
SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): This will be worse, and worse, and worse because temporary commanders are extensions. We'll reach a point where the individual officer will say, I can't stay anymore.
SERFATY: The high stakes standoff has only grown in the last five months, with now more than 200 nominations at a standstill, over Tuberville's refusal to drop his hold on a typically very routine process of approving military promotions in the Senate, all over his opposition to the Pentagon's unrelated abortion policy.
TUBERVILLE: It's not about abortion, per se. It's about taxpayer- funded abortion.
SERFATY: The Defense Department policy, which officially went into effect in February, expand access and support for service members and their dependents choosing to get an abortion, providing travel expenses if they are stationed in states that ban, or restrict abortions, and allowing paid leave to do so.
TUBERVILLE: If Democrats want me to drop my hold, then the answer is very simple. I have laid out two conditions for me to end the holds, either follow the law, or change the law.
SERFATY: With Tuberville vowing to keep it up until the Pentagon overturns the policy on abortions.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): What the heck is happening in America? SERFARTY: This has set off Democrats.
SCHUMER: Leader McConnell can not allow members of this conference to make a mockery of our military and of the Senate, the way Senator Tuberville has done.
SERFATY: And military officials.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin calling Tuberville's actions irresponsible, that threaten national security.
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: That will have, over time, I think, a significant degradation and readiness, incapability, morale --
SERFATY: And arguing the unprecedented move puts three and four star generals in limbo in critical areas like the Pacific, the Middle East, and the U.S. military representative to NATO, as the war rages in the Ukraine.
LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We certainly don't want to begin losing people because we can't promote.
MILLEY: It drags the uniformed military right in the middle of a political argument.
SERFATY: As the stalemate continues, questions rising about the fate of the relocation of the Space Command headquarters, from Colorado to Tuberville's state of Alabama.
TUBERVILLE: I want to challenge President Joe Biden, come to Huntsville, see with your own eyes what this is the best place for Space Command.
SERFATY: Amid reports that the coveted headquarters may longer be moving to Huntsville, Alabama.
TUBERVILLE: Put politics aside and do what's right for the country.
SERFATY (on camera): And there are no signs that Senator Tuberville will back down at all of this and give his consent for these nominations to move forward. Majority Leader Schumer could get around all of this by bringing up each of the 200 nominations to the floor individually for their own vote rather than in mass like it's typically done. But that is a very time-consuming process, it could take days and weeks of the Senate's time -- Erin.
BURNETT: Sunlen, thank you.
And next, what's happening in China? China is doling out a $2 million fine to a comedian. The comedian made a joke about two dogs and a squirrel. Why did that upset China's Xi Jinping much that the comedian now has to go to prison? And shocking new details emerging tonight about the Utah mother who
wrote that children's book about grieving her husband just before she was charged with his murder. We will see the links the couple went to hide the money from each other.
BURNETT: Tonight, China's extreme crackdown. A firm that represents Chinese comedian fined nearly $2 million for a joke. Li Haoshi told a story about two stray dogs he adopted the chasing a squirrel. Quote, other dogs you see would make you think they're adorable. These two dogs only reminded me of, fine style of work, capable of winning battles.
Well, the punch line part was of the communist party's slogan, that's used by President Xi Jinping to describe the country's military. So you know, there was a little bit of a stab there, but that was the joke. It was taken so seriously. The police say he insulted the military, and could face prison time, plus that $2 million fine.
So the comedian goes on social media and apologizes, saying, I'll, quote, deeply reflect and reeducate myself. For real, that was really what he said.
Xi's government did not stop there because yesterday, a Chinese woman was detained after she posted a comment online supporting Li the comedian. She said, quote, why should Li be banned? Aren't all soldier brothers just dog brothers? She used a canine emoji for the word "dog".
OUTFRONT now, Ian Bremmer, world renowned analyst, global affairs analyst and host of "Gzero World" on PBS, which is a great show.
So, okay, China has had a lot of place for many years where you can't insult military personnel? But I'd said the joke, and now he's saying that he will re-educate himself, that was exact quote, deeply reflect and reeducate himself.
This is -- this is fascinating. Why is Xi so sensitive? Why was something it to this point right now?
IAN BREMMER, EURASIA GROUP PRESIDENT & FOUNDER: It's like when the say don't feed the wild animals, because the feed one is perfectly fine, but suddenly they are all going to want, like, the point is, they show even a tiny bit of flexibility, the view is then suddenly anyone can tell a joke about the Chinese military, about a Chinese leader.
And in authoritarian country where control of information is power and political stability, they will not tolerate that.
Yeah, of course, you can read it out. You are sitting here in New York. But you know what? If you were an American CEO tweeting out that joke with exposure to the Chinese economy, they might tell you, why don't you take that down and apologize? And I suspect that you would take it down apologize.
BURNETT: Yeah, we've seen that, right, NBA, and, I mean, you know, yes.
BURNETT: Okay, so you have Ukrainian President Zelenskyy going to Japan, and he is going to join President Biden and other world leaders at the G summit this weekend. He did it Europe recently, right? He came to the United States.
But really, other than that, he stays in the Ukraine. So to go to the G7 in person, it seems to be very significant, it seems to have been a fairly last-minute decision such that we understand it to do so. What do you think that means?
BREMMER: Well, for him traveling for a week shows a level of comfort that they have political stability in their country, the counteroffensive isn't hand. But also the recognition that a big part of the reason why he is in the position he is because of the extraordinary level of support that he has managed to get from the G7. I mean, these are his biggest supporters internationally, and you are now seeing announcements from the G7 that F-16s are going to be supported. I mean, after 15 months of fighting, the gloves are completely off.
BURNETT: And that was the third rail red line for the U.S., and -- now
BREMMER: And now I will tell you, the Biden administration is expected because there's a longer red lines in terms of dealing with Putin, that whatever Putin says is a bluff, he doesn't respect weakness, he only respects strength. The economic sanctions have not done very much on the ground, but the military support for the Ukraine really has.
And if you're going to provide them F-16s, you are saying, irrespective of how much longer able to take on the counteroffensive, Ukraine will be in a military position, a military position, that the Russians will not be able to come back in one, and two, and five years time to take a second bite at that apple.
And that, that means if you're going to start negotiating, see what the Chinese --
BURNETT: Much more position of strength.
BREMMER: You have more leverage vis-a-vis the Russians. That's what's happening.
BURNETT: All right. So, Zelenskyy going to Japan, you talk about willing to be out of the country. He is coming straight from Saudi Arabia. He was attending the Arab summit there. He met with Saudi crown prince, MBS, Mohammed Bin Salman.
Look, President Biden met with the crown prince last year. . Obviously, the U.S. intelligence said that MBS approved the operation that led to the murder, and you know, brutal chopping up of Jamal Khashoggi, one of the most graphically horrific things that have ever occurred, he said that he was the one who drove that. But it appears his influence may be bigger.
BREMMER: Of course, it is. Of course, it is. Well, first of all, the level of attention of one journalist getting killed, yes, an American journalist, is so outside of this compared to all the other human rights issues that we do not focus on.
BREMMER: And that -- that does matter, right? So, let's just recognize it. It's because it was a "Washington Post", it's because Bezos was angry at the kingdom --
BREMMER: -- that got the attention.
BREMMER: The Saudis are one of the world's most strategically important energy producers. They buy the largest amount of military equipment from the United States, and other countries around the world are all working with them. Not just the Russians and coordinating on OPEC plus, but the Chinese buying massive amounts -- the United States doesn't want to be the only country that isn't dealing with them, and that's why you see a lot more U.S.-Saudi relations in the coming months.
All right. Thank you very much, Ian.
And next, we're now learning the Utah mother who wrote a book about grieving after allegedly killing her husband is also accused of hitting her sister-in-law while looking to get into a safe filled with money.
Plus, the former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about to add to his quite extremely large family.
BURNETT: Tonight, new details tonight about the Utah mother who wrote a children's book about grieving her husband's death only to be charged with his murder.
Prosecutors revealing a new court filings that Kouri Richins allegedly punched her sister in law in the face and neck over access to a safe filled with her dead husband's cash.
Nick Watt is OUTFRONT. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, new insights into this marriage and its final days. Thirty-three-year-old Kouri Richins wrote a book about grief with her three boys after the sudden death of her 39-year-old husband Eric, their father. Now, she's accused of murdering him apparently with a fentanyl-laced Moscow mule cocktail. She was promoting that book just weeks before her arrest.
KOURI RICHINS, AUTHOR: It completely took us all by shock.
WATT: Prosecutors say this was a marriage filled with behind the back moves and motives that between 2015 and 2017, without Eric knowing, Kouri took out at least four insurance policies on his life, totaling nearly $2 million. And then in late January 2022, mere months before his death, Kouri filed for a new $100,000 life insurance policy on Eric Richins' life. February 4th, that policy is issued. One week later on February 11th or 12th, the defendant obtained elicit fentanyl from an acquaintance. March 4th, 2022, Eric Richins is found dead on the floor at the foot of his bed, a massive fentanyl overdose, according to the medical examiner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He told his family he thought she was trying to kill him. And, in fact, he told his family, he warned his family that if something should happen to him, she should be the first they investigated.
WATT: March 6, two days after Eric's death, the defendant arranged for a locksmith to drill Eric Richins' safe. And when Eric Richins' sister questioned her authority to do so, she became enraged and punched Eric Richins' sister in the face and neck.
Unbeknownst to Kouri, Eric had changed his will to give his sister control of his estate.
Investigators now say Kouri Richins at the time of Eric's death owed more than two and a half million dollars to a money lender, the IRS, and to him.
They say she had taken at least $100,000 from his bank accounts and spent more than $30,000 on his credit cards.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right before the murder, he was thinking more and more and more about getting a divorce.
WATT: And now details of their prenup, apparently, they had no right to each other's present or future income, property, or assets except if Eric Richins died while the two were lawfully married.
WATT (on camera): And also more details about an apparent previous attempt at that Kouri Richins made on her husband's life. We are told that on Valentine's Day '22, so just a few weeks before he ended up dying, a few days after she got a delivery of fentanyl, Kouri Richins made her husband a sandwich and placed it on the seat of the truck with a love note. He ate that sandwich, had trouble breathing, and told his friend he thought his wife was trying to kill him -- Erin.
BURNETT: It's unbelievable. All right. Nick, thank you very much.
Sandwich with a love note to kill him.
Well, coming up on "AC360," historian Doris Kearns Goodwin will weigh in on efforts to ban certain books in schools. You'll hear what she has to say, always worth listening to her, and that is tonight at 8:00.
Next, though, an announcement from former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a lot of people asking tonight, wow, how many kids does he have?
BURNETT: Tonight, the former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife, Carrie, are expecting a child, the third for the couple, and the eighth for Boris Johnson that we know of.
You see, for years, Johnson refused to acknowledge how many children he had. It was like an issue that vexed -- that's British journalism, British word, but the controversy seemed to finally die down during an interview on U.S. television.
(BEGIN VIDEO LCIP)
INTERVIEWER: Since you became prime minister, you became a father again. You have a new baby. You're expecting another baby.
BORIS JOHNSON, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, yeah, I know, I know.
INTERVIEWER: You have six kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Okay. Well, there it was. The tally now will include three children with Carrie, four children with his ex-wife, one from an extramarital affair.
So, congratulations to Boris Johnson, plus soon to be eight.
Thanks for joining us.
Anderson starts now.