Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Source: Mark Meadows Testified Before Grand Jury In Special Counsel Investigation Of Trump; Chris Christie Announces 2024 Campaign; Ukrainian Official: Thousands Evacuated, 1,300+ Homes Flooded After Dam Collapse In Kherson. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 06, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, as we await Chris Christie's formal announcement that he's running for president which will be bringing to you, we have breaking news right now in the Trump investigation. Mark Meadows was testifying. Trump's former chief of staff has now testified, we understand before a federal grand jury investigating Trump, and we are learning the special counsel is now using a grand jury in Florida as well. We've got a lot of details for you tonight breaking.

And disaster in Ukraine, now a dangerous blame game of who is behind the destruction of a crucial dam, a breach unleashing deadly floodwaters, and now threatening the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

Plus, the PGA Tour sells out to the Saudis. Is professional soccer about to be next?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, Trump's former chief of staff testifying. CNN confirming that Mark Meadows has testified before a federal grand jury investigating Trump. Meadows is a key figure in the two investigations related to the former president. The probe into Trump's efforts to cling to power, and to overturn the 2020 election results, and the investigation into Trump's handling of classified documents.

Now, you may remember, according to the January 6th Committee, Meadows was helping to lay the groundwork for Trump's big lie. He received this text message from a lawmaker on November 4th, the day after the election, saying, here's an aggressive strategy, why can't the states of Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania and other are controlled state houses, declare this is B.S.

And then the explanation, where conflicts and elections not called that night. Just send their own electors to vote, and have a go to the SCOTUS, Supreme Court.

Well, you know, it's interesting that was sent, right, because so much of that plan actually did go into motion. And Meadows was there with Trump through all of. He knows so much when it comes to material seized at Mar-a-Lago. He was with Trump in the final days of his presidency. He was also formally appointed by Trump to oversee presidential records.

So, on every front, from January six to the efforts to overturn the election, to the classified documents. He is front and center. And this major development comes as we are learning the special counsel is now using another grand jury based in Florida, as part of its investigation into Trump's handling of classified documents. The Florida grand jury has heard testimony from multiple witnesses, and according to "The New York Times", the grand jury in Washington appears to have actually stopped hearing witness testimony.

So this is a significant development. Now you've got all of this going on in Florida, what does it mean? And we understand that testimony, according to "The New York Times", includes 20 members of Trump's Secret Service security detail, in that Florida grand jury testifying. Twenty. I mean, 20 people, we did know and about anything yesterday.

So much to get to tonight, as all signs point to the special counsel's investigation into the classified documents portion of this, at least, wrapping up.

Evan Perez and Kristen Holmes are both standing by, they have new reporting here.

So, Kristen, I want to start with you. You obviously have the significant breaking news on Mark Meadows. What do you understand happened, and what did Mark Meadows do as he testified before the federal grand jury?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, look, this has been a big question mark for months. We knew that Meadows was ordered to testify after he judged threw out judge saying that there is executive privilege. But how he was going to do it, and when he was doing to do, it all remained shrouded in mystery.

And as you said, he is a critical witness here due to the uniqueness of his position. He was Trump's chief of staff. Meaning he had proximity to Trump, he had access to high-level conversations. As well as unique knowledge of his well-being, his mental state, his actions both on January 6th leading up to January 6th, as well as when he left office in January of 2021.

This is a position that everybody wanted to know what he was going to say, and when it was that he was going to testify. And there has been very little insight. I talked to a number of lawyers close to Trump's legal team, who said they had no idea what Mark Meadows' level of cooperation was in this investigation, in these investigations, because as you said, we do not know which grand jury, or if it was both, he testified in front of.

But what we do know is that he will be a critical witness, and is considered a critical witness to both of them. So, it is very interesting position that we find ourselves in. And again, I cannot tell you, we did a long deep dive into Mark Meadows just two weeks ago, about what he has been doing.

And the Trump team was largely unaware, and that led to a lot of speculation about cooperation, a lot of questions about what his testimony might actually look like. And he himself is not in touch with the former president, so these are all things to take into consideration when you realize just how important his testimony is, and the fact that he is already appear before that grand jury.


BURNETT: All right. Kristen, thank you very much. Bring us significant details.

Let's go to our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.

So, Evan, Kristen is talking about Mark Meadows testifying, what are you learning? These are major developments that you're learning about in the grand jury in Florida? I mean, a grand jury that frankly, until recently, nobody even knew was there. Now, you're talking approximately 20 Secret Service agents, maybe more. I mean, what does all of this mean, and what do you know?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, the last time Erin, that we knew that the special counsel or the investigators of this investigation had gone to a court in Florida, was to approve a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. And so, the fact that they've gone back there, and they've gone back there recently for a number of witnesses. Sources are telling Kaitlan Collins that there is a witness, we know of a witness that's going in as soon as tomorrow in Miami. That's the southern district of Florida, and that there is another witness who at least who is also scheduled to come in after that person.

So, it's not clear exactly why the prosecutors have chosen to start using this grand jury after spending months use in the grand jury here in Washington. We know that they've had a grand jury that has been hearing testimony on the Mar-a-Lago documents. That grand jury here in Washington hasn't met since about this time last month. And so, it's certainly a very dramatic turn of events for them to be bringing these witnesses here to provide testimony, rather before a grand jury down in Miami.

You know, a couple of reasons could occur to us for why this could be, and one of them could be that simply, they have perhaps someone who they want to charge, who is accused, or they believe committed a crime in that jurisdiction. And they can't bring it here in Washington.

So, that might be one reason to have somebody below the level of Donald Trump, who may have they believe, committed a crime down there. And so that's the reason why they want to bring those witnesses in that jurisdiction. Again, these are, all of the impressions that we have, that we hope Jacks Smith is going to be able to provide some answers to in the coming days and weeks.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much.

Jack Smith, of course, is the special counsel. And let's go now to the former Trump White House lawyer, Ty Cobb.

So, Ty, you've been saying for a long time, in our conversations we've had, that you believe that Meadows is cooperating. Now we know he has appeared before the grand jury, what do you say tonight?

TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER (via telephone): So I believe that he testified shortly after the judge issued the order in March, rejecting Trump's claims of -- executive privilege. But I also believe that, it's possible he's testified more than once, given the vast knowledge that he has, as you highlighted, in your introduction. The process throughout has been one where either there is a lot of news, early on about Meadows, his cooperation with January 6th, with contempt referral.

And when justice abandoned the contempt referral, that was an indication that there was a possibility that Meadows had initiated cooperation. And certainly, the information that you have today, again suggests that he has cooperated. It is conceivable that he's being forced to testify, and only given qualified immunity. I doubt that -- I believe Meadows has been given full immunity, and has to deal with the Justice Department, and that will be very -- in terms of debunking many of the claims we've heard out of the White House about what happened in those important hours, as people tried to prevent democracy from proceeding as it is supposed to, post-election.

BURNETT: Yeah, I mean when you talk about full immunity, that's obviously hugely significant. And if he's given that, it would seem that it would make sense that he would have answered questions in both. But obviously, classified documents, as I said, he was in charge of that, so that makes sense. But in terms of January 6, and what those charges actually will be, he's absolutely central to that.

COBB: Yeah, that's absolutely true. And there are several options still available to Jack Smith. I think the most compelling option is to indict the obstruction case, and use the evidence with regards to this position of the documents, as motive, evidence so you don't have burden of charging that. And there's also the possibility of charging the January 6th case, or using Meadows's testimony to flesh out a report on that.


BURNETT: All right. Ty, thank you very much. I appreciate your perspective on these breaking developments tonight.

And let's go now to Ryan Goodman, former special counsel of the Defense Department, along with Karen Friedman Agnifilo, the former chief assistant district attorney of the Manhattan D.A.'s office.

Thanks to both.

So, Ryan, okay, we obviously don't know exactly what he said. You heard tie believe he's got full, would've been giving full immunity, and therefore would have chosen to answer questions. How significant do you think this development is? RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: I think it's hugely significant. We can just recalled at one of the staffers to the January 6th Committee on CNN, Dan Riggleman, said that Meadows was the MVP, because he provided the playbook for the efforts to overturn the judge the efforts of January 6 to overturn the 2020 election, and that's just Meadows text.

So then he stopped cooperating. Now, if he's fully cooperating with the Justice Department and providing testimony, he has a wealth of information. I'd say the keys to the kingdom, on the efforts to overturn the 2020 election, what Ty just talked about. He was key with the false slate electors. He, according to Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony, he accumulated charts of all of the electors. He had multiple dozens of meetings, and phone calls about it.

So he was -- president Trump in that instance. And then he's also central to the efforts to use the justice department to try to overturn the election in Georgia, and elsewhere.

BURNETT: Now, Karen, do you think that -- you know, and again, we're going under certain some sense of things we don't yet know, you know, if we had full immunity, in the really answer all the questions, which we do not need to know the answer to. Do you think this is news to Trump tonight?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think so. You know, as we all know, grand jury proceedings are secretive by its very nature, so we are doing the best we can by reading the tea leaves to try to figure it out. But, you know, it's been very clear that Trump did not know what was happening, that he's gone very quiet into the Trump team.

And so I think this really shows that he has testified -- I will go a little bit further than even what Ryan saying, you know, his lawyer, Mr. Terwilliger, made a statement today about meadows testimony, that without commenting on whether or not he testified, he's maintained a commitment to tell the truth, where he has a legal obligation. To me, that suggests that he testified rather than invoking the Fifth.

So, if he's in there giving testimony, and telling the truth where he has a legal obligation. And as Ryan, says he has the keys to the kingdom. I think there is no doubt that there will be charges forthcoming in the January 6th case in particular, because that is where Meadows I think is key.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, Ryan, I think a lot of that discussion had been that it may be hard to get to those charges without him. But if you had him, we presume that Ty Cobb is maybe right that he testified more than one -- that he really did give you those kings of the kingdom. Again, we don't fully know that yet. But if so, how much how does that change your view on the potential slate of charges related to January 6th?

GOODMAN: I think it really ratchet up the likelihood that there will be charges against Donald Trump, for January 6th, and especially the false claim of electors, which we know is one of the most robust parts of the investigation. And there have to have been court approval of the Justice Department's criminal theory of the case because they've approved search warrants in that case.

And why would they give Meadows immunity? They would give him immunity because he could go -- he could give them access to the star suspect. That's the reason that you would give somebody immunity who otherwise has a lot of criminal jeopardy on his own. That's the deal, and so that's enormously significant he's cooperating.

BURNETT: All right. So, Karen, other things that we're finding out here. And Evans reporting right, we know the D.C. grand jury hasn't really seen activity in a month, but now we're finding a whole lot more about the second grand jury in Miami. That they've heard from multiple witnesses, expected to hear from at least two more. But we don't fully know.

So what do you think this means?

AGNIFILO: So if you recall, there are different venues where the Mar- a-Lago documents case could be brought right? The documents were taken from Washington D.C., but they were possessed and held in Florida, and any obstruction led the charges would come from him holding on to documents when -- and moving the documents before the search, and moving it back after the search. All of that happened in Florida.

So this could be as big as the fact that Jack Smith may have decided that Florida is the proper venue for all of that. It could mean something, as small as there is a witness that maybe testified and allied to the FBI. They're going to charge him with lying -- lying and that just one small bit player right. It could be something in between. It could be certain people will be charged in one location. Others charge certain charges will go from one judge the other. It's unclear.

But also don't forget, in the federal grand jury's, you can even put hearsay into the grand jury.


So, it could also just before convenience sake they are letting all the Florida people testify in Florida, and then they pick up those transcripts when an FBI agent goes and reads it to Washington, in their grand jury. So, we don't know a lot, but there are lots of options there.

BURNETT: Yeah. Right, and that is something I think important and surprising that people did not realize until you late at that possibility.

I mean, Ryan, I want to mention again those 20 members of Trump secret service detail. They testified before the D.C.-based grand jury. I misspoke earlier. I said it was Miami. It was D.C.

But that grand jury in D.C. we understand has not -- no known activity. I should say, no known activity in about a month. What does all of that say? GOODMAN: It strongly suggests that that part of the case is closed,

and that they are finished. And that they're -- the next step would be, in all likelihood, based on the evidence we have, reading the tea leaves, that Jack Smith will go to attorney general garland, recommend an indictment, so that they would then return to the grand jury to propose an indictment.

What would be the final step before that? Meeting and allowing a meeting to take place with Trump's attorneys to give an opportunity to try to say why they should not indict their client. Then we also have evidence of Trump himself on Truth Social strongly indicating that there is an indictment coming after meetings with his lawyers and the Justice Department.

BURNETT: Right, which, of course, just occurred.

So, Karen, one other thing that happened here, a person who knows a lot about this, Trump's own handpicked former attorney general, right, Bill Barr, spoke out today. Earlier today, he didn't just say that an indictment was imminent. He also came out and defended the DOJ against what we all I've heard has been an onslaught of attacks form Trump's entire team.

Here's Bill Barr.


BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I suspect that it's near. I've said for a while that I think it's the most dangerous legal risk facing the former president. And if I had to bet, I would bet that it's near. I think, based on the facts, as they come out, I think overtime, people will say that this is not a case that the Department of Justice conducting a witch hunt.


BURNETT: You know, it's important to hear him say that, Karen. Why do you think that he is saying that publicly right now? Do you think he has some insight into an indictment?

AGNIFILO: He may have some insight. I think Smith and his team are really keeping things close to the vest. So, it could also just be, he was the leader of the team -- he was the leader of the Justice Department. He knows what these things mean and the cadence at things.

And as Ryan was saying, this looks like it is nearing the end. He knows all about the. It's very easy for someone that is not an insider and who recently ran that agency to be able to give pretty good information. So I think it might be a combination of both.

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

And next, our breaking news continues this hour. Former Republican Governor Chris Christie announcing he is running for president, speaking right now to votes in New Hampshire. And the former prosecutor has a lot to say about Trump's former legal problems. Plus, a major dam in Ukraine. Now, what we have seen happened is a

billion gallons of water, entire region of Ukraine now suddenly under water. The president's adviser telling OUTFRONT why he believes the Russians are to blame. We'll go to Ukraine for that.

And the PGA Tour selling out to for Saudi Arabia. But they're far from the only professional sport that the Saudis have their sights on.



BURNETT: Breaking news, the former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaking out to voters in New Hampshire after announcing just moments ago that he is running for president again.


FORMER GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And that's why I came back to New Hampshire to tell all of you that I intend to seek the Republican nomination for president of the United States in 2024, and I want your support.


BURNETT: Christie is a former federal prosecutor, and he is building a political case against former President Trump, whose legal problems, of course, are mounting tonight. Chris Christie has also made a legal case as well, he's a former prosecutor.

But as we told you at the top of the show, Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, testified before a grand jury investigating Trump, and that's also a major development tonight. So, in his first campaign as a presidential candidate, Chris Christie is wasting absolutely no time doing frankly -- what the other people running on the presidential side have been loathed to do, he was quick to go directly after Trump.


CHRISTIE: Beware out that leader in the country who you have handed leadership to, who has never made a mistake, who has never done anything wrong, when something goes wrong, it's always someone else's fault, and who has never lost. The person I am talking about, who is obsessed with the mirror, who never admits a mistake, who never admits a fault, and who always finds someone else and something else to blame for whatever goes wrong but finds every reason to take credit for anything that goes right, is Donald Trump.


BURNETT: Omar Jimenez is out front. He is a Christie's rally in Manchester, New Hampshire.

So, Omar, how much has Christie focused on Trump tonight? OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. I am talking

softly because he is right behind me as he continues this. But he admitted all at the news around Trump world, Christie talked about, they're big leaders right now who tried to care you that the character doesn't matter, and he, of course, was not shy in mentioning Donald Trump's name over the course of the evening. He went as far to say for Harry Potter fans that Trump has been treated like Voldemort over the course of this campaign season, someone who must not be named and it is not going to play those games.

He also focused on one keep metaphor before he formally announced for president, saying that we have a choice as the country to be big or be small, to get bigger or get smaller. And he went through time after time in history, going back to the Revolutionary War, about moments in time, where he felt the country chose not to be small, and a feels were at a similar moment right now.

Take a listen to what Christie said about Donald Trump, who is seen as the front runner, even at these early stages.


And it shows, how not shy Christie as been in going after the former president.


CHRISTIE: Donald Trump made us smaller by dividing us even further and pitting one group against another, different groups pitted different groups against different groups every day.


JIMENEZ: And, obviously, he has his work cut up for him. He's not been at the top of recent polls as the crowded GOP field has grown. But the energy in the room tonight, I think is the energy he wants the channel into the campaign, where, of course, he intends to take on the former president head on.

BURNETT: All right. Omar, thank you very much, live in Manchester.

I want to go now to Bob Vander Plaats, CEO of Family Leader and a top conservative evangelical and influential voice in Iowa politics. What they go to the top evangelical and influential voice in Iowa politics.

Bob, let me start -- I want to talk to you about -- obviously, these crucial issues with Trump in these illegal issues that are mounting tonight. But Chris Christie taking him on directly, whereas others in the field have chosen not to do so. What do you think that? Is that the right way to go with Republican-based voters?

BOB VANDER PLAATS, CEO, THE FAMILY LEADER: Well, when I listen to Governor Christie announced his campaign for president, I think, some people are called to run for president, and they are running for president. I think Governor Christie, he feels called to stop Donald Trump and his whole message was on how do you stop Donald Trump, and he's just going to build a case, as you mentioned earlier, as a former prosecutor against Donald Trump.

So, if you're Ron DeSantis or Mike Pence or Nikki Haley or Tim Scott in the race, you're probably saying I am glad that Chris Christie is going in there, because I want to be the alternative to Trump. But I don't believe for a second that Christie is running for president to be president. I think he is running for president to stop Donald Trump.

BURNETT: Hmm, that's interesting that you think that. So, do you -- I mean --

VANDER PLAATTS: Well, he has no support. You see the polls he's not here in Iowa. He announces in New Hampshire. New Hampshire is where he thumped Marco Rubio. New Hampshire is where -- he's doing one thing, going after the former president. If that is what he feels called to do, let him go.

BURNETT: Well, let me just talk to you about this because you have voiced your own concerns about the Trump situation, and he's got more legal issues, none of which thus far have done absolutely anything to dent his leadership. In fact, they have only increased his lead over his rival Ron DeSantis in early polling, right? That's what has happened.

Now, you're going to get a bunch of indictments possibly from the DOJ, maybe that will change. Do you think it changes, you think it will ever be a problem for Trump?

VANDER PLAATS: Well, first of all, I got just the early polling at all. You and I have been around this long enough to understand that in 2008, if the polling was right, you would have Rudy Giuliani. 2012, you would have Rick Perry. 2016, would have been Scott Walker or maybe Jeb Bush.

So I am not concerned about the early polling.


VANDER PLAATS: What we're seeing in Iowa though is that he canceled a rally that would be a large rally. He is now holding events, when he does not come to Iowa, in very small venues.

I believe that there is an appetite for somebody that's an alternative to Trump. I think a lot of people are very thankful for what the former president did in his administration, but now they believe that it is time to turn the page that we can win in 2024.

BURNETT: All right. So, let me ask you though, when you talk about evangelical voters, so crucial and the GOP base, okay? A recent FOX News poll recently has 59 percent of white evangelicals, Bob, want Trump to be the Republican nominee, no one else even comes close.

Now, I know you don't just early pollings, but this is a group that you know a lot about. So, what do you say to that? What accounts for that consistence support? VANDER PLAATS: Well, I believe the poll is probably indicative of

what the Trump administration did. We know the former president is a transactional leader. You do right by me, I do right by you. Evangelicals helped him get into the presidency.

So he moves the embassy to Jerusalem. He appoints three Supreme Court justices. He defends religious liberty, stands up for the sanctity of human life.

There's a lot of things that he did that people are going to applaud him for, but I think that poll is indicative of that. But the campaign is going to be different, and Trump's biggest hurdle is, can he win in 2024, because evangelicals are very wise. They know 2024 is not 2016, and maybe too much of the country as its month on the former president. That is his biggest hurdle and what has his evangelicals on to close the sale.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Bob. I appreciate your time as always.

And you heard Chris Christie obviously just announcing tonight. Tomorrow on CNN, don't miss the town hall with Mike Pence, Dana Bash will be moderating that. That is at 9:00 tomorrow night.

OUTFRONT next, new video of a building being swept away after a crucial dam in Ukraine is being destroyed. And now the largest nuclear power plant in Europe tonight is in danger.


So who was behind the breach? We're live in Ukraine.

Plus, to live pictures of New York, not Mars, and smoke from the wildfires in Canada are not completely blanketing New York City. Air quality reaching hazardous levels.



BURNETT: Tonight, growing questions about the destruction of a critical dam along the front lines in Ukraine. We've got new video into OUTFRONT. This is a building being swept away, as the flood waters just completely race across the terrain. Ukraine had warned if the dam was ever compromised, nearly five billion gallons of water will flood southern Ukraine.

That's equivalent to the Great Salt Lake in Utah. One Ukrainian officer tells CNN and that is men watched Russian soldiers be swept away. So, let me show you where the dam is to give you a sense of it, right?

You are along the crucial Dnipro River, and on the front line at the war. Russia has been in control of one side, Ukraine on the other. Nearby, of course, is Europe's largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia which relies on the order in the reservoir to cool its reactor.

Ukraine is blaming Russia tonight.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This deliberate destruction of a dam and other HPP facilities by the Russian occupiers is an environmental bomb of mass destruction. For the sake of their own security, the world should now show that Russia will not get away with such terror.


BURNETT: Russia denies it, blaming Ukraine.


The United States is still investigating it says, according to intelligence.

Earlier, Zelenskyy's senior adviser spoke to OUTFRONT, and he said the attack was to stop Ukraine's highly anticipated counteroffensive, which the whole goal was to cross the Dnipro River. The United States, of course, believes that a counteroffensive has begun.

Here is Zelenskyy's advisor, Mykhailo Podolyak.


MYKHAILO PODOLYAK, ZELENSKYY'S ADVISOR (through translator): In blowing up the Kakhovka hydro power plant, Russia is trying to suspend our counteroffensive, in this case, in the southern direction.


BURNETT: Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT to begin our coverage in the flooded region.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Masses of water gushing from the gaping hole of the destroyed Nova Kakhovka dam in Russia-controlled territory here in south Ukraine. Massive flooding quickly inundating villages on both shores of the mighty Dnipro River, impacting areas controlled by Ukrainians and by the Russians.

As you can see, there is a massive rescue effort going on here. Local authorities are using boats and heavy trucks to get as many people out of the zone, as they can.

Sixty-five-year-old Nadia Ternashova (ph) was stranded in her home with her cat Sonia for hours, fearing for her life.

Now, I am not scared, she says, but there, it was scary. Why, I ask. Because at the water, the water came, and you don't know where it comes and where it will go.

The authorities here say they have evacuated hundreds of people throughout the day, at times under Russian fire, the head of Kherson's military administration tells me.

We have the water, he says. Minds are floating through here, and this district is constantly being shelled. Two policemen were injured while evacuating people.

Kyiv blames Moscow for allegedly blowing up a date them. An angry Ukrainian president saying that the Russians are trying to de-real Ukraine's current battlefield gains.

It was mined by the Russian occupiers, he says, and they blew it up. This once again demonstrates the cynicism with which Russia treats the people whose land as captured.

The destruction of the dam comes as Ukrainian forces have been making gains on the battlefield, with what some believe may be the early stages of Kyiv's long awaited counteroffensive, even though the Ukrainians have not confirmed that.

Russia's army denies playing up the dam, instead blaming the Ukrainians.

Aiming to prevent the offensive operations by the Russian army on the section at the front line, they keep regime committed an act of sabotage or other a terrorist act, the defense minister said.

While the floodwaters are affecting ever more areas around Kherson, upstream, the levels are critically low. Around the Zaporizhzhia power plant, the biggest in all of your, which relies on a pond connected to the river for cooling.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says, so far, there is no danger, but that could change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is therefore vital that this cooling pond -- cooling pond remains intact. Nothing must be done to potentially undermine its integrity.


PLEITGEN (on camera): So there you can see, Erin, extremely difficult and dangerous situation down here in the south of Ukraine with that massive river just continuously flooding. I think there are two things that our viewers need to be aware of.

On the one hand, those floodwaters are racing extremely quickly. We were on the ground there today for a short period of time, and the water went up considerably. And the other thing is that the Russian army is close to this place. There is constant shelling going on here.

In fact, as I'm speaking to you right now, I'm hearing those studs in the distance. This comes after Ukrainian officials believe that more than a thousand houses are underwater just in the Ukraine of territory of the flood zone -- Erin.

BURNETT: Fred, thank you very much, live in Kherson, in the midst of that flooding. You can hear him saying, you can hear the studs and shelling in the distance.

Inna Sovsun joins me now, a member of Ukraine's parliament.

And, Inna, I appreciate your time. Obviously, I know it is very late where you are, or very early in the morning. Does Ukraine have proof that Russia is responsible for the dam explosion and break?

INNA SOVSUN, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Of course, we cannot provide specific proof, because the dam has been under Russian control for months now, and I think that is the single proof that we can provide, that the dam is under Russian control. The expulsion came from within, so it had to be done by someone who had control over the territory, and that those are the Russians who have the control over the territory. They are the only ones who could've done this.

So, this is as much evidence as we can provide given that we don't have access to the territory now and we did not have access to the territory yesterday, to set up such an explosion.

BURNETT: All right. Well, it's crucial that everybody understands that. These are important facts.

A senior NATO official said today that U.S. and Western officials do see signs that the long awaited counteroffensive against Russia is beginning.


Obviously, when you're talking about five billion gallons of water flooding the region, does the dam break have any impact on the counteroffensive plants?

SOVSUN: Well, it is definitely distracting our military, at least, right? People who would have been involved in the counteroffensive efforts are now helping with humanitarian aid and so on and so forth. So, that is the least effect that it could handle on the counteroffensive.

Now, as you know very well, as of right now, that the detailed plan of the counteroffensive is unclear. So, we cannot confirm or deny that this would have been the direction at the counteroffensive but the fact that it definitely diverts efforts from the military side to the humanitarian aid, which has also been provided from the military personnel on the south right now, that is definitely can be confirmed.

So, yes, I can say that it is part of the plan to suspend the counteroffensive. What there it will be successful or not, I think the coming days will show.

BURNETT: All right. Of course, the world is watching.

Anna, thank you so very much, I appreciate your time. SOVSUN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the PGA tour selling out to Saudi Arabia, after a year of boldly and the finally refusing to join forces, saying it would be taking south the blood money.

Plus, intense testimony from Prince Harry who is accusing the British press of having blood on their hands.



BURNETT: Tonight, selling out to Saudi Arabia, the sports world in shock after the PGA tour announced it was merging with the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf league, a deal that reportedly stunned most members at the PGA Tour.

Remember that the PGA Tour was locked in a bitter battle with LIV, which offered stars like Phil Mickelson multi, multimillion dollar deals to join. Tiger Woods said, no way, it was not right. It was under a year ago that the commissioner at the PGA Tour itself said this to players contemplating joining the Saudi league.


JAY MONAHAN, PGA TOUR COMMISSIONER: I think you had to be living under a rock to not know that there are significant implications, and as it relates to the families of 9/11, I have two families that are close to me that lost loved ones. So, my heart goes up to them, and I would ask any player that has left or any player that would ever consider leaving, have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?


BURNETT: All right, and then there was, of course, the bone saw incident. Look, it was really different today. What we heard from Mr. Monahan today was, well, extremely different about teaming up with the Saudis.


MONAHAN: What we are talking about today's coming together to unify the game of golf. The game of golf is better for what we have done here today.


BURNETT: Okay, so, sure, but I want to be clear, that he is not alone in changing his tune on the Saudis. He's actually one of many. A bit we've got to the point that we just had to cave. It goes beyond the sports world.

Then candidate Joe Biden, remember he vowed to make Saudi Arabia a pariah, his words, over the murder of Washington journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the bone saw incident, a murder that U.S. intelligence concluded that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, approved.

As president, Joe Biden met with MBS, the crown prince, and an attempt to get the Saudis to boost oil production. And guess what? The Saudi said sorry.

OUTFRONT now, Harry Enten, our numbers wiz.

Harry, this is a situation where money talks, okay?


BURNETT: Money talks, and morality can get in the way of it. And for many, money ends up winning. So, you found out how Americans view Saudi Arabia is an issue, and incredibly rare issue where you have bipartisan agreement.

ENTEN: You have bipartisan agreement. The percentage of Americans that have an unfavorable view of Saudi Arabia will into the 60s, and more than that, what you see is Democrats 73 percent have an unfavorable view of Saudi Arabia. Republicans, 67 percent, and I will notice on the time turned views on Saudi Arabia, becoming negative, more negative, negative and negative.

BURNETT: Which is amazing, because you're saying over the past year, when you had political and business circles with negative views, they're changing their tune, but the public isn't, which is fascinating.

ENTEN: Correct.

BURNETT: So, how do Americans see Saudi?

ENTEN: Yes. So, I think one of the key things to point out if you look that how Americans view the relationship between the USA and Saudi Arabia, very few see this on an ally on ally relationship, right? Just 3 percent say that we're an ally.

Look at that, 47 percent say that we're a necessary partner. I think that this gets at what is going on.

BURNETT: Certainly, with Joe Biden, it does.

ENTEN: Exactly right. We don't necessarily like Saudi Arabia, but we understand that there needs to be a relationship with them, and that is what I think you saw with Joe Biden, and also what you're seeing with the PGA tour, saying, you know what, we will team with the folks over in Saudi Arabia.

BURNETT: To be clear, because obviously, there are front and center today, and it's a big flip-flop. But they're not the only ones, not the only sport doing this.

ENTEN: They are not the only sport doing it. I think this is all a play by Saudi Arabia to try and sort of ingratiate themselves in the sports world. So, they did obviously with golf, but they are also doing it with soccer.

There are a number of big soccer stars going over to Saudi Arabia. Ronaldo is one of them. You see another one on there --

BURNETT: Yeah, he has an apartment over there. Yeah.

ENTEN: Exactly. Look at the amount of money that Saudi Arabia is given to folks, $100 million plus a year estimated, $200 million plus a year estimated. This is per year to get these folks to play.

So, Saudi Arabia believes that money talks. Apparently, money does talk.

BURNETT: It's interesting, I was just over in the region, and Ronaldo is all over the tablets. I asked myself, I wonder how long he will live there. But, that is the thing, it would pass the payday. That's the big question for Saudi Arabia.

All right. Thanks, Harry.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Prince Harry taking the stand and a historic case and he took on the British tabloids, who he accuses of hacking his phone.

Plus, these live pictures out of New York, otherworldly and deeply disturbing. This is the air tonight. It is not fog, it is air quality. It is a haze of smoke, and we will tell you why.



BURNETT: Tonight, Pence's testimony for Prince Harry. His years long battle with the British press coming to head in the London courtroom today. The duke of Sussex was suing a British tabloid publisher accusing them of hacking his phone to get private information that they let their printed.

Harry telling the court that British journalism has hit, quote, rock bottom. Nada Bashir is OUTFRONT.


NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): A highly anticipated moment in a carefully watched legal battle. Prince Harry becoming the first senior British royal to testify in court in over a century.

The duke of Sussex is among a dozen of claimants suing British tabloid publisher Mirror Group Newspapers, of allegations their journalists use unlawful means, including phone hacking, to obtain private information between 1991 and 2011.

Prince Harry's witness statement goes into extraordinary detail about how MGN's intrusive tactics impacted his personal life, saying, how much more blood will stay in their typing fingers before someone can put a stop to the madness?

Meanwhile, the duke's lawyer says that newspaper articles like these show a telltale sign of illegal information gathering. From the intimate details of a private conversation shared with his brother William, the prince of Wales, Harry, telling the court that MGN's journalists planted seeds of distrust between the two, to the ups and downs of his relationship with former long term girlfriend Chelsea Davy, intrusions which he says led to huge amount of paranoia and even bouts of depression.

With MGN's tabloids labeling him the playboy prince, (INAUDIBLE) and dropout in his youth. But Prince Harry's testimony also detail alleged evidence of payments made to private investigators tasked with gleaning personal information about his mother, the late Princess Diana. A recent revelation which he said made him feel physically sick.

MGN has contested most that the allegation put forward in the duke of Sussex's claim, arguing that there was simply not enough evidence to prove that his phone was hacked.


The trial comes on the heels of an incident last month, where Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the duchess of Sussex, were pursued by paparazzi for two hours after an event in New York. The couple describing the chase as near catastrophic, though the severity of the incident as since been called into question. Despite a fierce round of questions today in court, Prince Harry is not backing down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty clear of personal it is. He blames the tabloid meeting in the U.K. for the death of his mother, the destruction of his relationship and for his poor mental health. He says his family is forced to flee the U.K. because of them.

BASHIR: Nada Bashir, CNN, London.


BURNETT: And coming up on "AC360",the man who took down one of America's most notorious eyes, Robert Hanssen, died and present yesterday. He joins Anderson tonight. You'll hear that story at 8:00.

And next, live pictures of New York, suffering under a blanket of dangerous smoke from thousands of miles away. Officials urging people to stay inside.


BURNETT: And, finally tonight, this is what it looks like in New York City right now -- orange, hazardous, smoky cloud descending upon the city, so bad New York temporarily top the list of having the world's worst air pollution, the world's worst. It's all because more than 150 wildfires burning across Quebec, Canada.

Officials today warning that the discussions can result in shortness of breath, asthma, heart disease. And the smoke isn't obviously just affecting New York. More than 40 million people across the Northeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic are under air quality alerts.

Thanks so much for joining us.

It's time now for "AC360" with Anderson Cooper.