Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Ukraine Braces for Retaliation After Drone Attack On Moscow; Debt Limit Deal On Brink Of Clearing Key Hurdle Ahead Of House Vote; Now: DeSantis Holds First 2024 Campaign Event In Iowa. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 30, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Ukraine bracing for Putin's revenge. Russia even threatening to use nukes after Moscow was attacked. The Ukrainian ambassador to the United States is OUTFRONT on who she thinks is behind the attacks inside Russia.

Plus, Governor Ron DeSantis about to hold his first major event in Iowa as a presidential candidate. He's going all in for evangelical voters. Can he peel them away from Trump this time?

And calls for a boycott against Chick-fil-A. A conservative revolt over a DEI executive.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, land, air, and sea. Ukraine bracing for an all-out assault from Putin, including potentially devastating attacks by Russian submarines. This is according to a military spokesperson.

And our Fred Pleitgen who is in Kyiv where he says they are preparing for what could be a major retaliation by Putin. And we're going to check in with Fred in just a moment.

Because that fear is coming after at least eight drones targeted wealthy Moscow neighborhoods overnight, an area where Putin himself has an estate.

This is the first time since the beginning of the invasion that civilian areas near the capital of Russia have been hit. Putin spoke out today, blaming Kyiv for the massive drone attack.

Ukraine denies responsibility for it, but one of Putin's loyalists in the Duma said that the drone attack in Moscow is leading Russia down to the nuclear line.


RUSSIAN LAWMAKER (through translator): The situation is not going away. Rather, it is escalating. Unfortunately, the response could include using all available means of the Russian armed forces. Tactical nuclear weapons won't be sheathed for much longer. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Won't be sheathed for much longer.

Well, the war is escalating no matter how you look at it. And yet again, the man leading Putin's private army, today, on the heels of all this, once again blamed Putin's own military. Listen to this.


YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, WAGNER CHIEF (through translator): Regarding the drones that fly over Moscow and in Moscow, you stinking animals. What are you doing? You are swine. Get up off your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) from the offices you've been put in to defend this country. You are the ministry of defense. You haven't done (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in terms of attacking. Why the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) would you allow these drones to come to Moscow?


BURNETT: Prigozhin talking about the most notable attack inside Russia, for sure. But it is far from the only one. Russia is right now struggling to defend its borders as well as its infrastructure. There have been a number of strikes in Russian towns near the Ukrainian border. And we've seen an increase in attacks on Russian infrastructure, including freight trains.

And we've shown some of those. But the latest is actually just today. You're looking at this. These are images of a train derailed, again, inside Russia, a train said to be carrying much-needed fuel for the military.

Now, Ukraine hasn't claimed responsibility for the train strike. They haven't claimed responsibility for any of those infrastructure strikes. But, as I said, they outright deny involvement in the Moscow drone attack.

But I do want to share with you what an adviser to Ukraine's president said, which is basically that Moscow deserves to feel the fear of living in a constant state of danger.


MYKHAILO PODOLYAK, ADVISER TO UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (through translator): Of course, we want those people who wanted to start this big European war to feel what it is like to live in a state of danger.


BURNETT: Our Fred Pleitgen, as promised, is OUTFRONT live in Kyiv tonight.

And, Fred, of course, it's the early hours of the morning. Those who are trying to sleep have the fear of what could happen here in these next minutes and hours. What is the latest there tonight? FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I

would say, Erin, that there is a great deal of concern among the citizens here in Kyiv, certainly among the leadership here in Kyiv, that there could be a massive retaliation on the part of the Kremlin, that there could be further drone and also rocket strikes as well in the coming hours. That's simply because there was so much anger on display today in Russia among the leadership, among those who are sitting in the Kremlin.

It seems as though the Russian leadership was somewhat caught off guard, and so were its propagandists. Here's what we're learning.

Kremlin-controlled media in a frenzy with special programming after Russia says its capital was attacked by Ukrainian drones.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Kremlin controlled media in a frenzy, with special programming after Russia says its capital was attacked by Ukrainian drones.

OLGA SKABEYEVA, RUSSIAN STATE TV ANCHOR (through translator): We begin with breaking news, Moscow and its region were attacked by Ukrainian army drones.


PLEITGEN: The Russians say they'd downed eight drones in total, some over an upscale district close to one of Vladimir Putin's official residences, bringing some of the UAVs off course with electronic measures, but also firing missiles to take out five of them.

The Ukrainians deny any involvement in the attack, but Russian President Vladimir Putin ripped into Kyiv, accusing Ukraine's leadership of targeting Russian civilians.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Kyiv chose the path of intimidation of Russian citizens, and attacks on residential buildings. It is a clear sign of terrorist activity.

PLEITGEN: But so far, it's been Russia attacking Ukrainian cities, and last night, Kyiv was once again under massive attack.

Russia launching a barrage of Iranian-made Shahed drones, Kyiv's air defenses trying to fend them off. One woman was killed when drone debris hit this high-rise building. Other residents left to run for cover.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We were on the eighth floor with my 4-year-old son. We first ran to the corridor, and then down the fire staircase to get outside.

PLEITGEN: As you can see, this building sustained some pretty substantial damage, and the drone attack went on for several hours last night with the drones hovering over the city center, and Ukrainian air defenses frantically trying to take them down. Ukraine's military says it shot down 29 of the 31 UAVs the Russians


Kyiv's Mayor Vitali Klitschko comforting his citizens and telling me Western air defense systems kept many people here safe.

VITALI KLITSCHKO, KYIV MAYOR: If we didn't have our defense, modern defense from our partners, we have much worse situation in our hometown, more destroyed buildings and more, it would be more civilians killed.

PLEITGEN: But Russia has already threatened massive retaliation after the drone attack on Moscow, leaving people in Kyiv and elsewhere bracing for what could be worse to come.


PLEITGEN (on camera): Of course, Erin, you are absolutely right. We are now entering those hours where strikes have been taking place over the past couple of days. That's why tonight, the president of this country, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he came out and he once again thanked all those working in air defense here in Ukraine, working to shoot down as many of those drones and missiles as possible.

But he also once again warned the citizens of Kyiv and of other places in Ukraine to heed the warnings and go into shelter when the sirens go off, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Fred, thank you very much, live from Kyiv tonight.

And OUTFRONT now, Ukraine's ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova.

And, Ambassador, I so much appreciate your time tonight.

You know, of course, some say these increasingly aggressive nightly attacks by Russia are really specifically designed to use up Ukraine's air defenses. Are you concerned that could happen?

OKSANA MARKAROVA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Erin, for having me. And good evening to all Americans.

Well, it's designed to spread horror and terror. It's designed to actually kill innocent civilians and destroy our houses. And, of course, it's designed to deplete the air defenses that we have. So, yes, all of the above, and we are concerned.

But, you know, that's why we're working with all of our friends and allies to actually get more of the air defense support so that we cannot only liberate our territories but also defend people throughout Ukraine.

BURNETT: And one part of the playing into this, of course, that could be crucial is what's happening in Moscow. I know that Ukraine has denied direct involvement in the drone attack in Moscow. But the adviser to President Zelenskyy said, and I quote, we want those people who wanted to start this big European war to feel what it is like to live in a state of danger.

Do you want to see more attacks on Moscow and inside Russia itself?

MARKAROVA: We want to see less, better none, attacks on our territory. You know, we did not start this war, we did not provoke this war. It's totally aggressive, unjustified, unprovoked war. It's Russia's war on our territory, on our land, not only shelling us with ballistic missiles and drones and everything else, but also torturing people, killing people, torturing people who are now under the occupation, stealing our children.

I mean, as we see, we get more and more reports on our children being forcefully transferred or being tortured on the occupied territory. So, you know, there is only one goal for us, as we kept saying since February '24, is to defend our territory, to get Russians out, and to restore our territorial integrity.

We have no interest whatsoever in attacking Russia, never have, never will be.


They should take care of their own problems, their own infighting, or whatever happens there. You know, we just want them to be out from our country.

BURNETT: And, you know, the U.S. ambassador to NATO said today, and I quote, we do not support any attacks on Russian territory.

My question to you in this regard when you were talking to -- you were saying you were worried about depleting air defenses. And you want to continue to have the support of the United States and other Western allies. Are you worried that more attacks inside Russia, however they are being perpetrated, could cost Ukraine support from the United States, from the Western allies?

MARKAROVA: Look, we are very transparent with our partners. They know what we are doing. They know we need to defend Ukraine. They know -- and the transparency and accountability about the Western aid, Western defense equipment, but also budget support and other support that we are receiving from our friends and allies, and especially from the United States, is at a very high level.

As the former minister of finance, I can tell you that the reporting on all the support is literally on some of the items daily. So, no, we are positive that our partners know how we use all the support that we are getting. We use it in a very responsible manner. We use it in Ukraine in order to defend Ukraine.

BURNETT: Yes. I want to play one thing for you, if I may, Ambassador. How Russian state television is covering these drone attacks in Moscow. It's very interesting. Here's a clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I believe these strikes were very positive for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Why? For one simple reason. They will mobilize society.


BURNETT: Does that concern you, either that they're saying that, or do you think it could possibly be true?

MARKAROVA: Well, maybe that's why they are doing it. Again, I don't know what is behind these attacks.

But, to be honest, the Russian society was supporting this war before the war, during the war. They unfortunately have been supporting this criminal war since 2014. And they have been pretty mobilized so far.

So I think they should mobilize in order to tell their leadership to take care of Russia, you know, to resolve problems that Russian citizens have, with their power, with everything else. And again, it's not up to us. It's up to the Russian citizens what they want to do with their own -- their country.

BURNETT: All right. Ambassador Markarova, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

MARKAROVA: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. And I want to go now to the retired Air Force Lieutenant General Charlie "Tuna" Moore.

And, General Moore, I appreciate your time. So, you know, you hear that conversation with the ambassador. Ukraine, obviously, is not taking responsibility for the attacks on Moscow. They deny them outright.

What do you think is the most likely scenario of who is responsible?

LT. GEN. CHARLIE "TUNA" MOORE (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, good evening, Erin.

Obviously, this could be some type of false flag operation conducted by the Russians for the reasons that you just played in that tape. It's a way of galvanizing the Russian citizens behind this continued war effort. Or it could be the Ukrainian forces, the military forces or some type of proxy force.

If I had to guess, I would say it's more likely the matter. And the reason I say that is because I look at what's really to be gained by the type of operation that we saw occur inside of Moscow today. And, in my mind, it's really about messaging the Russians, that Russia, and even Moscow, and even a wealthy neighborhood inside of Moscow, is not safe, and should not be viewed as a sanctuary.

And the reason that message is important is because that will then require the Russians to use some of their air defense capabilities, whether it's missile systems, antiaircraft artillery, or electronic warfare capabilities to protect Russia and Moscow. And if they're protecting Russia and Moscow, they can't be used inside of Ukraine.

BURNETT: All right. It's interesting how you lay all that out.

So, then, what do you make of Prigozhin, right? I mean, he comes out. This is almost seems to be sort of mucking up the works. I'm not making light of it, but it's hard to understand. Yelling at Russia's military leadership, calling them stinking animals and swine.

Was Russia well enough prepared for this? I mean, I should note, right, there was that drone attack that we don't know what was behind it a few weeks ago as well.

MOORE: Yeah, I think, obviously, this event and the event that we saw when we actually saw the Kremlin itself gets hit, proves that they have a lot of holes inside the Russian's air defense. And when you're talking about the capital itself, that should be very concerning to Russian citizens, and I think Prigozhin has a point.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, these aren't even missiles, right? I mean, these are drones.

So I want to ask you one more thing if I may, General, since I have you. China, there is a video that we have just gotten in. This is from the U.S. Department of Defense.

And they say it is of a Chinese fighter pilot performing a, quote, unnecessarily aggressive maneuver during an intercept to the U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft.


That's what they describe it as. This is a video that we're watching.

What do you see when you look at this? How dangerous is it?

MOORE: Obviously, a very unprofessional and dangerous act by what appears to be the J-16 fighter pilot. As soon as I saw this tape, I was reminded the event back in 2001. We saw a Chinese J-8 fighter aircraft collide with a Navy P-3 aircraft over the South China Sea, so in the same area.

The result was the Chinese aircraft was destroyed, the pilot was killed and we almost lost an entire aircraft full of American servicemen and woman. Fortunately, they landed in Hanan Island in Chinese territory.

Now, imagine, that was 20 years ago. Imagine that same event happening today with the tensions that we have between our two nations. Very dangerous, and the Chinese need to condemn it.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, General. I appreciate your time tonight.

MOORE: Thank you, Erin.

And, and next, the debt ceiling deal on the brink of clearing a major hurdle, but some Republicans are furious at Kevin McCarthy. Will his speakership end over it?

Plus, it's long been the fast food darling of conservatives. So why are some Republicans now turning on Chick-fil-A?

And Joran van der Sloot, the prime suspect in the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, injured in a prison brawl, and requesting to be extradited to the U.S. to face charges.



BURNETT: New tonight, the debt ceiling deal is on the brink of clearing a major hurdle, but it could come at enormous cost to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The powerful House Rules Committee just clearing the way for the deal to get a full House vote tomorrow.

Now, conservative hardliners, you're seeing, they're furious. They're furious with McCarthy. Some of them even threatening to oust him from the speakership. Manu Raju is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill.

All right. Manu, so here we are. There are some who, you know, late in the night when he finally became speaker, could've felt a day like this may come. Is passage of the debt ceiling agreement all but assured now, just terms in the actual vote itself, separate from the speaker issue, or are there still more bumps ahead?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are certainly bumps ahead. But there's also confidence among the leadership that there will be the votes tomorrow to pass this bill that was intensely negotiated between the speaker and the White House to raise the national debt limit until January of 2025, and include a slew of concessions.

But one thing is very clear, both sides are very unhappy about the deal, including Democrats who believe the White House gave too much.


REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): I'm still undecided. I mean, I'm angry that we are being held hostage. And we are continuing to be held hostage and we are continued to be held hostage because we do not have a choice. I think to the Democrats, none of us believed that we can default on the debt ceiling.

RAJU: This is your husband's legacy.

DINGELL: It is my husband's legacy and why I'm so angry. And so, I mean, I also care about it.

REP. JARED HUFFMAN (D-CA): As much as I believe from a budgetary perspective, Republicans really didn't accomplish much in this deal. We did make other concessions to them that are really tough to swallow.


RAJU: One of those concessions those Democrats were talking about is a provision that would essentially streamline the environmental permitting process for certain projects. That's something that John Dingell, the late congressman, the husband of the Congresswoman Debbie Dingell was -- helped author.

Now, that is on the Democratic side. On the Republican side, there's anger on the far right that this agreement would suspend the debt limit for as long as it will, and also did not go far enough in terms of spending cuts. Some are warning that McCarthy's speakership could be at risk.


RAJU: How much -- I mean, how much confidence do you have in the speaker right now?

REP. DAN BISHOP (R-NC): None, zero. What basis is there for confidence?

RAJU: Is the speaker lying about the way he's characterizing this bill?

BISHOP: Yes, he's lying.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): If there were to be a departure from that specific commitment to have a majority of the majority, then I think that would be trouble for the speaker.


RAJU: So, what Congressman Gaetz was saying there in the end that if there are a fewer than a majority of House Republican who ultimately vote for this tomorrow, then that could lead to an effort to oust McCarthy from the speakership.

But, at the moment, Erin, there's confidence among top Republicans that there will be a majority of House Republicans and some Democrats to push it over the finish line tomorrow.

BURNETT: Manu, thank you very much.

All right. I want to come straight to Harry Enten just to understand what's going on here. So, look, we don't know how many Republicans at this point will vote with McCarthy when this ultimately gets to the floor. That's what Matt Gaetz is pointing out that's so important.

But separate from that, late, late evening, what is his track record on anything else when it comes to getting his party to back?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Very strong actually. You know, if we essentially look at what share of the Republicans stick with Kevin McCarthy when there is majority party vote. We see about 97 percent of Republicans stick with McCarthy on the average vote.

That's not as high as Nancy Pelosi when it was 99 percent back two years ago. But the fact is 97 percent is a very large percentage. And when we're talking about a majority of a majority, this is well north of that. So, the idea that he wouldn't get a majority of the majority on this debt ceiling thing seems farfetched given the record that McCarthy is having.

BURNETT: And record ma -- the numbers matter. They tell a very clear story.

So, who has an easier job selling this? You hear dissatisfaction on both sides, the Republicans are mad about the IRS, you know, and the Democrats are mad about pay-for requirements, you know, PAYGO requirements, work requirements. So, who has a harder job, McCarthy or Biden?

ENTEN: Yeah. I mean, look, if you just look in terms of the general electorate and selling this to Republicans and Democrats at large, we know that Democrats are very much behind Joe Biden nationally speaking. His approval rating is 81 percent in a recent Quinnipiac University poll.

Kevin McCarthy's is just 65 percent. Now, there are more undecideds among Republicans. Kevin McCarthy's approval rating, even when you take into account those undecideds, isn't anywhere near as high among Republicans as Biden's is among Democrats.

BURNETT: So, Dan Bishop, it should surprise no one --

ENTEN: Yeah.

BURNETT: -- come out and speak like the way he spoke there. But, you know, you see someone like Dan Bishop steadfast, angry, not happy at all.

Do Republican voters echo that? Is there that same strident reaction to this?


ENTEN: I don't think most Republican voters really care. And the way we know that is basically we can look at how closely they're following news about the debt ceiling, right? Very conservative Republicans who are very closely following the debt ceiling news. It's just 23 percent this year.

You go back to 2011, right, when we had that debt ceiling debate. It was 48 percent, far fewer very conservative Republicans.

BURNETT: Less than a quarter of very conservative Republicans.

ENTEN: Exactly. Less than a quarter. So, Dan Bishop, there are some like him but very many who are not.

BURNETT: All right. Harry, thank you. ENTEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And that vote, of course, will likely hit the floor tomorrow.

ENTEN: In the meantime, next, Ron DeSantis is about to speak in Iowa. It is his first presidential campaign event in that state. We're getting new details about what's going on behind the scenes of his campaign.

BURNETT: Plus, Chick-fil-A is conservative -- always been a conservative darling, right? But now, tonight, a target of some on the right because of a new push for diversity, equity, and inclusion strikes Chick-fil-A. And we'll explain.


BURNETT: You are looking at live pictures out of Iowa.

The Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida making his first official stop as a presidential candidate in Iowa, obviously, the crucial 2024 state to kick off the caucuses there. He is about to take the stage to speak at an evangelical church. It is near Des Moines. And he has just met with more than a dozen local pastors.

Now, obviously, for DeSantis, this comes after his campaign launch which was, of course, filled with glitches on Twitter. Even DeSantis allies criticized it and called it a missed opportunity, trying to make up for that.

Now, of course, Jessica Dean is OUTFRONT. She is at that event.

And, Jessica, obviously, this is a pretty clear sign from DeSantis about what his game plan is to win Iowa and to beat the former President Trump.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Erin. It's no accident that Governor Ron DeSantis is right here in Iowa launching his campaign to a group of people in an evangelical church here. This is just the types of voters that he's trying to convince to support him instead of his key rival former President Donald Trump.

And right now on stage, we have Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. She's said to be introducing him. This is just part of a broader strategy that we anticipate to see DeSantis on the campaign trail again and again, aggressively. They really want to set out to contrast him with Trump and even with President Joe Biden, both men significantly older, of course, than DeSantis.

So they want to really project him as an energetic young new force to voters here in Iowa, and then across the country as well, including in other early key states, Erin, where we're going to see him later this week.

That includes He is going to be in New Hampshire, South Carolina. And just as a reminder of kind of where their head is right now in terms of the campaign, he's going to be right back here on Saturday. We learned today, he'll be here with Senator Joni Ernst for an event on Saturday.

So, he's going to spend tomorrow here in Iowa. He going to go to South Carolina and New Hampshire and come right back here. And just with this crowd of evangelicals, they really think this is a type of voter that might've cooled on the former president.

What we're looking for tonight is to see if he goes directly after the former president. He's been doing more than or if he doesn't in this room full of voters -- Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Jessica. Of course, at that evangelical meeting in Clive, Iowa, where Governor DeSantis will be speaking.

So, OUTFRONT now, Marc Caputo, national political reporter for "the messenger" who has covered Ron DeSantis extensively. Also with me, Rina Shah, Republican strategist, and Van Jones, the former special adviser to then President Obama.

OK. Thanks so much to all of you.

So, Marc, you just heard Jessica laying out the plan here. He comes to Iowa, going to South Carolina and New Hampshire, back to Iowa. How much of a must-win is Iowa in the eyes of the DeSantis campaign as they try to stop Donald Trump?

And I say this with a caveat, you know, you had Rick Santorum win Iowa. Iowa does not necessarily indicate who's going to win the whole thing, but it seems very important to team DeSantis.

MARC CAPUTO, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE MESSENGER: Right. Well, Rick Santorum wasn't running against Donald Trump. Ronald Trump got such a big figure in the party that there's this belief, not just in DeSantis' camp, but throughout the Republican primary, that this is the place where they have to stop Donald Trump.

So, for all the candidates including DeSantis, pardon the pun, it's their field of dreams, right? This is the place where they've got to stop the momentum of Trump because if the polling is right and that's a big if, and the polling is going to change.


CAPUTO: But if the polling is right and the polling holds, and if Donald Trump winds up winning Iowa, well, he's going to steam-roll into New Hampshire and win New Hampshire. And what's to stop him in Nevada, and what's to stop him in South Carolina?


CAPUTO: You've never had a Republican candidate win Iowa and New Hampshire together, and lose the nomination. You win those two states, you win. DeSantis is obviously trying to win Iowa and sling-shot in New Hampshire, and win that one as well. BURNETT: Right. So, Van, Donald Trump is also, he knows this, going to be in Iowa tomorrow. He's doing a radio interview and then a series of stops on Thursday in the state. And I should just say, Van, a new Monmouth poll finds a hypothetical head to head, Trump has 56 percent of support among Republicans.

By the way, that does -- that does leave a lot of room for others. But right now, that's a 21 percentage point over DeSantis who's the next one. Two months ago, that was neck in neck. In February, DeSantis had the lead.

So how hard does DeSantis need to do something he really has been loathed to do thus far, which is to go directly after Trump if he wants to change that?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's just going to have to start punching back. And, you know, he's done it in interviews. We haven't really seen him do it full-throated in front of a crowd. He's going to have to do that.

But, listen, if you're DeSantis, this looks like Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton this far out with an even bigger gap between Obama and Hillary Clinton, and then Obama went to Ohio -- went to Iowa and scored a knockout there. If you're DeSantis, it's you and Trump versus a bunch of lily focious (ph) that nobody's ever heard of, and you're -- you got a long time before you get a chance to really take on. I think he's in a better position. We'll see what he does tonight.

BURNETT: What do you think, Rina, Iowa?

RINA SHAH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yeah, there are many reasons to be optimistic about that state for Ron DeSantis because of conservatives, evangelicals. I mean, he has some pretty favorable, you know, candidacy to appeal to Iowans. And he's having these conversations with faith leaders not just in Iowa, but around the country.

And who knows how they're going. I mean, truly what we hear back is that, yeah, he should have a good reception. But this talk of how does he move forward? I think before he declared officially, there was a lot of talk about abandoning these early states. And now, it seems his advisers have wised up and understood that that would be a losing strategy.

So now it seems that they're going all in on Iowa. And I think that would also not be a good strategy. They can't be so short-sighted. They have to play the long game.

But I think when we're talking about this moment for Ron DeSantis, it's a very delicate moment for him.


He is a known unknown, given that he is the governor of Florida. He did receive a lot of acclaim for how he handled the pandemic era from Republicans, there is still this sense that he's not a nationally known person, and he's got that challenge. BURNETT: And here's the other thing. He is known, if he is known for

some things, or some things, certainly those running against him will make sure he's known for, Marc. Six weeks ago, DeSantis signed a controversial six-week abortion ban into law in Florida, okay? Six- week abortion ban.

He signed it. He did it late at night. He didn't do a lot of fanfare. The next day, he was giving a speech at Liberty University, right, one of the largest Christian universities in the world. He did not mention it.

So, Marc, you have some new reporting on this from inside Team DeSantis, the six-week abortion ban. What are you hearing?

CAPUTO: Well, what I'm hearing is that he's kind of having it both ways at the moment. It's a high-wire act. He knows this is good politics forum in the primary, but in the general election, it doesn't look so good.

The heartbeat bill, though, is a popular piece of legislation among Republicans. Governor Kim Reynolds in Iowa, who is introducing or just introduced Ron DeSantis signed one herself. And whenever DeSantis talks about it now, he does talk about it but usually in response to questions that he has with interviewers, usually they're conservative friendly interviewers.

He mentions the fact that she had signed this legislation as well. It kind of ties back not only to the evangelical base that he wants to approach, but to that Iowa, Iowa, Iowa aspect of his campaign where he is intensely focused.

BURNETT: And, of course, yeah, for the Republican base, as you point out, Marc, it can be a positive. Moderate Republicans, it would seem not so much, and certainly not in a general election.

Rina, how big of an issue is that six-week abortion ban and DeSantis' signing of that law, his support for it, for you when it comes to making a decision as a Republican to support him for president?

SHAH: It is so massive, Erin, because what he did he didn't have to do. I think he should've skipped doing that entirely because he's really being, again, short-sighted and not realizing that there's life after a GOP primary.

And, look, how Trump handled the question of abortion in the CNN town hall with Kaitlan Collins was just, I think, quite masterful. It showed people that this guy can perhaps make it through a general. I tend to believe he can't, but this abortion question is on the ballot in 2024. And people who know DeSantis know that he's believing that the Republican voter, the average one, is consuming news far differently than they were in 2016.

And so, he's hoping that they have that short-term memory. But Republican women don't forget. That's all I got to say.

BURNETT: And this is going to be fascinating to see, Van. I mean, maybe it's part of what we see here, the new Monmouth poll also finding that more than 60 percent of Republicans believe Trump is either definitely or probably the strongest GOP candidate to beat President Biden, even though he lost to Biden in 2020, even though they would both be the oldest president to take office if they win, right? And DeSantis has that stark contrast by being youthful.

What do you make of this poll?

JONES: Well, I mean, part of that is just, you know, he's a brand name. He's -- everybody knows who he is. The other -- you've got to be a real news nerd to know who a Tim Scott is. I love Tim Scott, but, you know, Sununu, these are not people whose names have come up in the line when you're going through the checkout.

So, part of this is he's the guy that people know. But I also agree that him ducking and diving and dodging on abortion is smart for him because Republican Party is mass-producing single-issue voters on abortion against them, among the younger set. You saw it happen in Wisconsin and other places.

So I do think part of what he's been able to do is to stay up there because he's best known and he's being pretty smart, very crafty on Trump.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. I appreciate your time.

And next, another Republican testing the presidential waters tonight, a moderate who is trying to appeal to independents. There's already a candidate in that lane, though, and that candidate is the former Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson. He is my guest next.

Plus, why Joran van der Sloot, the prime suspect in the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, wants to be transferred now to the United States to face charges, a development there.


BURNETT: Tonight, is Chris Christie next? Allies of Republican Governor Chris Christie launching a super PAC to support his expected White House run. The group's website is entitled, I'm sorry, Tell It Like It Is, and it says Christie's presence on the GOP debate stage would guarantee a, quote, robust, direct, truth-telling conservation.

Now, when it comes as CNN is reporting that Christie sees himself as the only serious Republican challenger willing to directly confront former President Trump. However, there is another candidate already doing that, and that is the former Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, who's been on the show many times, and he has been very clear in his arguments about why Trump should not be president again.

And joining me now OUTFRONT is Asa Hutchinson.

So I appreciate your time. So, what's interesting here is you're a former governor. Chris Christie's also a former governor. You both support abortion exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother. You're open to certain gun control measures. You said the 2020 election wasn't stolen. I guess, at least, we still have to mention that, but that's important for the Republican Party base.

You said the party needs to move on from Trump. So, all of these are things that the two of you happen to share. And yet, Christie, we're learning, sees himself as the only serious Republican challenger willing to directly confront Trump.

What's your response when you hear that?

ASA HUTCHINSON (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Chris Christie is a friend. He was a fellow governor there in New Jersey while I was governor of Arkansas. And we've both been federal prosecutors. So there's a lot of similarity there.

But I've been out there. I announced about a month ago. We have a great response in Iowa. And I think the difference in our potential campaigns is that I will focus on Iowa, I will look at New Hampshire and be there as I will be tomorrow.

And so we're prepared to run a nationwide campaign looking at Super Tuesday. And I believe as a governor of Arkansas, a conservative state, that I will have appeal broadly across the spectrum of the Republican base.

And, so, I think there are some distinctions with our records as governor, but he's a friend. I think that more people that get in actually is helpful to have a debate about ideas.


That's what we're going to do.

BURNETT: All right. So, you mentioned, obviously, going to New Hampshire, you are going to Iowa later this week. And I was just going to say, you know, Trump's going to be there, and obviously, Ron DeSantis is there, and he's going back again. Everybody now is heavy, heavy on Iowa.

How is your message going to be different when you're there?

HUTCHINSON: Look, because my experience matches the challenges that we face. Whenever you look at the fentanyl crisis that we have across the country, in Iowa, we have families that struggle with this. Former head of the DEA, federal prosecutor, as a dad I understand these challenges. And so I want to be able to address those. My experience matches the challenge.

When you look at security along the border, I was responsible for border security during the Bush administration. When you look at violence in our cities, I understand enforcing the law and how important that is. I've been a governor that balanced the budget.

These are experiences that are really unmatched in the field, that I bring, and so I have a view of the presidency that you're supposed to bring out the best of America. And I believe that I can do that. And that's what will appeal.

BURNETT: And you're talking about very serious issues. Obviously, there are some in your party, some of whom are running for president, who are focused more on cultural issues, right, the so-called woke. They're spending more time in those areas than they are in some of the areas you're mentioning. And, in that context, Chick-fil-A has now entered into the fray, Tthe fast food giant. So obviously a conservative darling, and it always has been.

Some conservatives are up in arms on Twitter. They want to boycott the company. They accused it of going woke because it has a vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion, DEI. Now, you see the headlines here.

Now, here's the thing, this person's job description, governor, is, according to the company's website, to, quote, insure equal access, valuing difference, and creating a culture of belong. That's the job description.

What do you think about this boycott?

HUTCHINSON: Well, first of all, I think that's a very small minority of an extreme element that wants to boycott Chick-fil-A. They've been such a wonderful member of our corporate community, they serve a wonderful product, they're Christian-based, and we value that.

So, this is an illustration of where you can disagree with a business, and I don't necessarily disagree with Chick-fil-A, if they want to have a DEI, that's their business. And, so, the key is that we don't use the power of government to punish businesses that we might disagree with.

Chick-fil-A can make their own decisions as to how they're going to run their business and how they're going to appeal to their customers. And government shouldn't be in the business of dictating that. That's the important principle here.

BURNETT: Right, and that's the point you're making. Also you've made also about Disney as another example.

HUTCHINON: And it's true from the left or the right. And that's one of the problems the Biden administration, they're trying to push corporate America to the left in their social policy, and in their environmental policies versus being neutral in that.

And, so, this is the problem on the left, and it can be a problem on the extreme right. We shouldn't use the same tools that they use, the tool of government to punish businesses if they say something we don't agree with.

BURNETT: All right. Governor, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much tonight.

And, next, the main suspect in the disappearance of the American teenager Natalie Holloway. Joran van der Sloot injured in a prison fight. And his attorneys are now pushing to have him sent to the United States.

And then, Elizabeth Holmes, once the world's youngest self-made female billionaire, who spent years flying on private jets, gracing magazine covers, tonight is behind bars.



BURNETT: Tonight, the prime suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, Joran van der Sloot, injured in a prison fight in Peru, this as he awaits extradition to the United States in connection with Holloway's vanishing which was 18 years ago today.

Jean Casarez is OUTFRONT.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joran van der Sloot, one of Peru's highest profile inmates, injured during a brawl in one of the country's most violent prisons. His lawyer telling CNN it was a fight among some inmates, and my client got involved when he tried to defend his friend. Van der Sloot is in prison for killing a woman in Peru 13 years ago today.

JORAN VAN DER SLOOT, NATALEE HOLLOWAY SUSPECT (through translator): I want to give a sincere confession.

CASAREZ: And the prime suspect in the shocking disappearance of American Natalee Holloway exactly 18 years ago today, May 30th, 2005.

LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: Still no charges against the soul remaining suspect.

CASAREZ: Eighteen-year-old Holloway was last seen alive with Van der Sloot during her senior trip to Aruba in 2005, but he denies killing her.

BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S MOTHER: He knows exactly what happened, he knows what, where, when, who, why, and how. He knows the answers.

CASAREZ: Last week, in a letter to his lawyer, van der Sloot said: I want to go to the U.S. to face charges not for murder, but for allegedly extorting thousands of dollars from Holloway's family.

TWITTY: We just feel like if we just keep working hard and hanging in there, we will have answers.

CASAREZ: Natalee's parents have remained relentless in her pursuit for answers. In 2010, a $50,000 reward for information was offered. Van der Sloot stepped forward. According to legal documents, he would reveal the location of Natalee Holloway's body, the circumstances of her death, and identify those involved in return for a payment of $250,000. The Holloway's attorney went with van der Sloot to a home in Aruba,

and a $25,000 down payment was given to him. Once there, van der sloot pointed to the residence and said that Natalee's body would be found in the foundation. Van der Sloot emailed the Holloways after fleeing to Peru saying he had lied about the location of Natalee's remains.

Surveillance video from a Lima casino shows van der Sloot gambling, it is believed with the $25,000 he got from the Holloway family.


There he met the daughter of a prominent Peruvian businessman, Stephany Flores. Hours later, she was dead.

VAN DER SLOOT (through translator): I am truly regretful for what I have done.

CASAREZ: Van der Sloot admitted to the violent murder and was sent to prison. Now headed to the U.S., but still no answers as to what happened to Natalee Holloway.


CASAREZ (on camera): And the president of Peru is the one that has granted permission for Joran van der Sloot to be extradited to the United States. It should happen by the end of June.

But with all the twists and turns from the very beginning in this case, who knows what's going to happen. But I will say one thing. This may be an extortion case. But to the Holloway family, they want answers. They want to know what happened to Natalee Holloway.

And he bargained in Peru. It should have been a life sentence. He only got 30 years. So will he bargain here so finally they will have answers?

BURNETT: It is incredible. And, of course, I know you were in Peru, as so much of this played out. Jean, thank you very much.

And coming up on "AC360," Anderson will talk to the former director of the FBI, James Comey, about his new book and Donald Trump's continued attacks on the rule of law.

OUTFRONT next, the woman who swindle swindled investigators -- investors, I'm sorry, of hundreds of millions, hundreds of millions, lied about her magical blood testing machine, finally reporting to prison.


BURNETT: Tonight, Elizabeth Holmes, once a Silicon Valley icon, and the youngest self-made female billionaire, reporting to prison to begin her 11-year sentence. It was a stunning downfall for Holmes. She was 19 years old when she dropped out of Stanford to found the blood testing start-up Theranos. Eagerly, she played the role of tech boss, private jets, magazine

covers, a lot of awards. She made the point to look the part wearing black turtlenecks in a nod to Steve Jobs.

It fell apart in 2014 when is the "Wall Street Journal" revealed that Theranos was smoke and mirrors. A jury found Holmes guilty of defrauding investors, and tonight she begins to pay the price.

"AC360" starts now.