Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Now: Georgia Grand Jury Hearing Testimony In Trump Case; Hawaii Gov.: Maui Fire Death Toll Rises To 99 Lives Lost; News Ticker On Russian Building Blasts Putin As Ruble Sinks To Lowest Value Since Start Of War; "Scary Moments": CNN Joins Ukraine's Search For Mines. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 14, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next: the grand jury in Georgia still meeting tonight, hearing testimonies as former President Trump's legal team says charges in a potential fourth indictment are imminent tonight. We're going to talk to someone who just walked out of testifying before that grand jury coming straight to us.

Plus, we're on the ground in Maui as the death toll from horrifying fires is now formally at 99. It will go higher and our Bill Weir is there, getting a rare and firsthand look at what is happening right now in Hawaii.

And also tonight, Putin called out as his rubles takes a massive tumble, a very public and embarrassing message in Russia tonight.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, fast and furious. You are looking live at the Fulton County courthouse right now. That is where a grand jury is inside and is working overtime still hearing the case at 7:00 p.m. Eastern with all signs now pointing to an unprecedented any moment now fourth indictment against former President Donald Trump. The lights are still on in the courtroom where that grand jury is meeting. And again, we are two hours pass that court's normal closing time.

Trump's advisers telling CNN that his team is preparing for that potential indictment to be delivered imminently.

And coming up this hour, we're going to be joined by two witnesses because moments ago, the former Georgia lieutenant governor, you know, him, Geoff Duncan, he just left the court. He was there, waited his turn and testified before that grand jury. He's coming straight to us, he'll be with us momentarily to tell you about it.

We're also going to be joined by journalist George Chidi. He entered the court earlier, and right now, he's in that courtroom. We are waiting for him to finish his testimony and join us immediately thereafter. I want to be clear. Both of them were scheduled to testify tomorrow,

but then they were moved in a last-minute switch to today. And this is now going well past hours. It's just one of many surprises, adding to the intrigue tonight in Georgia.

We also saw "Reuters" reporting that a document listing criminal charges against Trump was briefly posted and then removed from the official website of the Fulton County court. Well, that obviously could be hugely significant, statement from the court then called a, quote, fictitious document, we'll see.

Trump himself, of course, is spun up. He called the former Georgia lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, who as I mentioned is coming here to the camera after testify. He called him a loser, warning that Duncan, quote, shouldn't testify. Trump also called the Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis a, quote, phony.

He called the judge in the federal election interference case, Tanya Chutkan, quote, highly partisan, and very biased and unfair. All of that coming from the former president.

Paula Reid is OUTFRONT outside the courthouse in Atlanta.

And, Paula, the lights are on, they're all inside, what is the latest there right now?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Erin, we are watching and waiting. The grand jury is still inside two hours after the courthouse usually closes. The judge who oversees this grand jury still inside, he's popped his head out of chambers a few times to encourage reporters in the courtroom to just hang in there.

So, we continue to watch and wait, but we do have some reporting on exactly what has happened so far. We know that among the witnesses who've gone before the grand jury are two former state lawmakers, both Democratic former state senators went in to testify today. We expected they would be asked about a presentation they witnessed by Rudy Giuliani. It was laden with conspiracy theories.

Now, moments ago, the former lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, who's going to join you shortly, he just came out, but we know there is at least one other witness inside. You mentioned him, independent journalists George Chidi. Now, he's been helpfully tweeting updates about his status. He was waiting a short time ago but his tweets also suggested there's at least one other witness in there, so might be awhile on whether we get any answers about the possible fourth indictment of former President Trump.

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

And, of course, we'll go back to Paula the instant she hears anything.

And as promise, I do want to go straight to Geoff Duncan, the former lieutenant governor of Georgia. He just finished testifying before the Fulton County grand jury moments ago. And, Geoff, I know you were scheduled to go in tomorrow, they decided

to call you in today, you had to go in and wait, and then go before that grand jury. What can you tell us happened?

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it was a very serious atmosphere as you would expect and one that was back and forth conversation and I was certainly honored to answer the questions to the best my ability. And that's what I did for a long period of time that I was in there, which, you know, not sure the exact time, maybe an hour plus.


BURNETT: An hour plus. OK.

And I'm just going to ask you some basic questions so we understand. Who is asking the questions?

DUNCAN: I mean, it's certainly, just not being a lawyer, I'm going to stay away from the details making sure I don't jeopardize the integrity of the investigation. But it was a very intense meeting.

BURNETT: Intense and serious. OK, an hour plus.

Now, let me just try to get an understanding from you then lieutenant governor about what the questions -- what was it really focused? I mean, that's a lot of time. It's a lot of questions. What were they really focused on finding out from you?

DUNCAN: Well, I think they, you know, certainly wanted to hear the facts as I knew them. That's what this whole process has been all about, even bigger than a grand jury. You know, I think this is an important pivot point for America is, we've got to get this out of the system, we can't just be half-baked with conspiracy theories and kind of just pat it down.

We either have to validate that these conspiracy theories are real or they're not. I certainly know where I come down on the matter. They don't exist. And so, this is part of the painful healing process for the Republican Party, for us to move past this in time. I mean, this temporary moment of insanity is what I think history is going to reflect of this time of being Republicans.

BURNETT: So, were they focused on the former president's efforts to find 11,780 votes, as he said just one more when he needed to win? Was it mostly focused on that? Was it mostly focused on the fake electors scheme, right, where the slate of electors put forward in Georgia? Their access to voting machines? What are you able to tell us just in terms of the areas where they focus on the questioning to you?

DUNCAN: Well, I know this isn't the answer you want to hear, but it's a very wide ranging conversation across a lot of different topics. As you can imagine, as the president of the senate, you know, I had the purview of the committees, I had the purview of legislation, I had the purview of misinformation and I, of course, spoke of very early in the process against the misinformation. And really it was to the core of why I wanted to, right? Within hours

of the election it seemed obvious what Donald Trump's play was, he was to spread misinformation and create little social media grass fires. And I felt like, you know, myself and millions of other Republicans would tamp it down.

The unfortunate part is there wasn't the millions of Republicans behind a handful of us. And, unfortunately, the fire burned out of control, and two and a half years later, we're still in the same position we were then, with this guy leading our Republican nomination process.

But I do think this is a pivot point. I do think this is going to be a changing tide, and this is an opportunity for somebody to step up and do the right thing here, totally turned their back on Donald Trump's ways and path, and lead this Republican Party in a better direction that is policy centered and a tone that invites people to join us in this journey of trying to fix this mess that Joe Biden has put us in.

BURNETT: Your colleague, former colleague, Gabe Sterling, I remember it when he had appeared before the grand jury earlier on had talked to me about the seriousness with which they approach the questions, members of the grand jury. How thoughtful, how prepared they were. What did you find today and where they all there? Was everybody present? And sort of -- how would you describe the attention they paid year testimony in the focus that they gave you?

DUNCAN: I can tell you that there was a highest level of attention in that room for the folks with a district attorney's office through to the jurors. It was just an extremely intense period of time and everybody was prepared, you know? It's like walking into a perfect meeting where everybody's prepared and ready to go to work. And that's really what it was, a very, very serious work environment.

BURNETT: Now, you were originally, of course, lieutenant governor scheduled to testify tomorrow. That's the notice you've got. And, suddenly, you found out earlier today it got moved up to today.

Did they give you any reason as to why your testimony was moved up so suddenly?

DUNCAN: Well, it didn't affect me other than maybe I didn't get to the carpool today. Brook had to cover for me. But, you know, my story is my story, whether it was a year ago, a day ago, or in ten years from now. My story is the facts and I was trying to deliver that information today.

BURNETT: And, obviously, Team Trump believes an indictment is evident. I don't know if you just heard because you were literally running to the camera, but the judge there sort of told reporters to hold tight for now.

Do you get a sense after testifying that this decision will be coming, you know, imminently tonight?

DUNCAN: Yeah, I'm not certain of those details. I will tell you that there's a heightened level of security like I've never seen in and around that courthouse. You know, the capital is only a block -- maybe a block and a half away from the doors I walked out of. So I know that area well. I've just never seen that much police activity and certainly they're prepared for whatever the scenario ends be.

BURNETT: One final question to lieutenant governor. Is there anything they asked you today in a wide-ranging conversation that you mention was about an hour, anything that surprised you or you did not expect?

DUNCAN: No, absolutely not. I felt like everybody was prepared for the moment. I know the facts. There wasn't a whole lot of having to set the table for, you know, whatever the question was, it was a matter fact question and a simple answer.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Lieutenant Governor. Thank you very much. I know it's been a long day.

DUNCAN: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And joining me now, Ryan Goodman, the "Just Security" co-editor in chief, the former special chief to the Department of Defense.


Stephanie Grisham joins me, the former Trump White House press secretary. And Anthony Michael Kreis, assistant professor of law at Georgia State University.

So, thanks very much to all of you.

All right. Ryan, so you heard the lieutenant governor. You know, you having been through this. You can parse what he said and much more meaningful way. You go in at the stage, it's described the way they described it as both the grand jury, and you know, Fani Willis' team about an hour.

What do you take away from that?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: It sounds like we are at the very end game and that it's quite likely that we'll have an indictment decision and hopefully the indictment itself, if that's the case tonight.

And just -- all the timing is pointing in that direction. He was supposed to go tomorrow, they made him come today. The courthouse usually closes at 5:00 p.m. They're holding it late. It sounds like they want to wrap this thing up.

And if that's a case, whether or not the jury returns the indictment affirmatively or negatively, I think it's going to happen tonight.

BURNETT: All right. Anthony, what do you think? Do you expect we'll see an indictment tonight, as you see it?

ANTHONY MICHAEL KREIS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: I agree. I think what we have seen is a real desire by the Fulton County D.A.'s office to expedite the process and to also ensure that the jurors can basically be released from their service once this decision is rendered. I think there are security reasons for that.

Certainly, this morning, you know, Donald Trump's efforts to somewhat intimidate Geoff Duncan from testifying from the grand jury. I think there's a lot of reasons why they want to wrap this up and just be done with it.

BURNETT: And to that point, Stephanie, Anthony's mentioning what the former president said about Geoff Duncan. I'm looking it up, right? He's telling that he shouldn't -- warning him that he shouldn't testify and calling him a loser.

Obviously, he's done that to others as well. But, you know, obviously, that didn't affect the lieutenant governor, in anyway. But nonetheless, you are seeing the former president certainly try to -- well, certainly making his feeling known to witnesses or potential witnesses in this case?

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yeah, he's certainly doing what he always does, and, you know, it's unfortunate because I think until there are actual consequences, he's going to continue doing this. It's like a toddler, you got to give them consequences to show, you know, that people mean it.

I wish, I hope that at some point, the judge says that's it, we're going to give you 24 hours in jail, or whatever -- whatever the punishment would be. But he's got to have consequences before, you know, again, as I said so many times, somebody gets hurt, or heaven forbid, a witness does feel intimidated and that takes some of these cases off the rails.

BURNETT: So, Ryan, you know, the lieutenant governor talked about how he was scheduled to appear tomorrow, right? Now, from his perspective, he's going to come in and say what he's going to say.

He says, it's fine tomorrow versus today, but it wasn't the expectation. And we don't know why things suddenly changed. But we do know that "Reuters" reporting on that document, right, saying that it was briefly posted to the court website and it listed charges against Trump.

Now, the court came out and said his fictitious. Nonetheless that happened today and subsequently it appears, subsequently things really sped up, things that were supposed to happen tomorrow started happening today.

What do you think about all that?

GOODMAN: I agree. I think that's the most important variable that might explain why they sped up today, because either that document is real and therefore does actually show the kind of architecture what the indictment might look like. You know what the jury is going home at night knowing about this, seeing all the news about in, the analysis of it, and then coming back the next day. Or the document is not real, and you don't want the jurors going home and seeing all the analysis of and coming back next day.

Either way, she might just want, Fani Willis, the district attorney, to keep the jurors in place having decided based on the record she presents them, the witnesses that come in and that they would be it, and have no questions asked about whether or not somehow --

BURNETT: Right, don't let anymore into it, whatever, if that is real, that error happen, you just need to -- need to deal with it?

GOODMAN: That's right. And also, they may have given us a preview of what the indictment looks like. So she might also for another reason want to go today so that --


BURNETT: Right, right depending on if it was really fictitious or not fictitious. Or we'll find out certainly, Anthony.

Anthony, if Trump is charged and convicted in the state of Georgia, just to be clear for people watching all these things, he cannot pardon himself because these are states charges. But is there anyone else in Georgia, the way Georgia law works who could do that for him, who would prevent him from serving prison time if convicted?

KREIS: Well, the power to pardon and parole is not in, for example, the governor's gift, as it is in many states. It's an obligation responsibility that's invested by the Georgia constitution to board of pardons and parole. So, it would really be up to them.

But even then, ultimately, a sentence has to be filled before they can consider a pardon. So there's really no easy out in the way the federal system might give Donald Trump an out in some of the federal cases.

BURNETT: Stephanie, I know there's been some reporting that perhaps the former president will speak after an indictment. Now, obviously, he did after Mar-a-Lago because he had a fund-raiser. He didn't after the DOJ charges, the second set for January 6th.


What do you think about that, especially in the context of the lashing out on social media, the fact that the judge in the DOJ case in Washington, Tanya Chutkan, has called him -- you know, put a protective order on the information that can be shared with the public.

GRISHAM: Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if we heard him speak. I wouldn't be surprised if they have a video already recorded and ready to go. As we all probably remember, he said if he gets indicted a fourth time, he will win the presidency. So, you know, and his team has had now four times to get this communications plan correct.

So I can see them wanting to try to get their message out there. I'm sure just like every other time, we're going to have a lot of Republicans on the Hill who will say, you know, this is a witch hunt, this is all staged, this is political before they even read the indictment. So, it wouldn't surprise me to see a video from him. I don't think he's going to do anything but say this is rigged, we're going to fight back, I'm taking this on for you, et cetera, et cetera and fund raise and around the world we go.

BURNETT: All right. And fundraise, and fundraise, and fundraise. The whole goal.

All right. Thank you all very much.

And next, we do have some new reporting on Trump's thinking of this likely fourth indictment. He is unleashing new attacks on the federal judge overseeing his January 6th case as well.

But as we await here, that grand jury again behind closed doors, so we could have the breaking news here any moment So, we're awaiting that.

We're also going to go to Hawaii where anger is boiling over. Victims of the deadly wildfires say that they aren't getting enough help.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody is like, oh, you know, they don't come and help, they don't come and help. (EXPLETIVE DELETED), nobody came to help us.


BURNETT: And special heat seeking drones helping Ukrainian forces find Russian land mines. All those glowing dots that you see are mines.

Our Nick Paton Walsh with an exclusive report this hour.



BURNETT: Breaking news. We are just hearing from the judge overseeing the Fulton County grand jury, as those jurors are hearing the final testimonies now.

Paula Reid is back with me from the courthouse.

And, Paula, some real timing here it sounds like.

REID: That's right, Erin. Understand the courthouse behind me is closed but there are still reporters inside along with the grand jury and the judge overseeing the grand jury. Just a moment ago, our colleague, Zach Cohen, who's one of the reporters in the courtroom, he said that the judge who's overseeing the grand jury, came out and said that he is expected to stay for about another hour tonight. So, that would be around 8:20, 8:30.

The grand jury is still meeting and the timing of any potential indictment is still unclear. But, Erin, we expected that the D.A. Fani Willis would need two days to present her case to the grand jury. But as we've seen today, and as you noted in your great interview with Geoff Duncan, things have just been moving more quickly. So we continue to wait and watch to see if there could be indictments coming this evening.

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

And, Paula is there so. She will know it the moment it happens.

Evan Perez joins me now, along with Ryan Goodman back with me.

Ryan, Paula saying what you thought would be the case but actually put that it would happen tonight, but it seems as if it now could be in the next hour.

GOODMAN: Absolutely. So that's exactly what people have been thinking is going to happen and now this is one more data point that means this is truly imminent. Fani Willis a few weeks ago said imminent. This is imminent like within minutes or hours.

BURNETT: Minutes or hours as that judge said.

So, Evan, when this comes out, you know, the context here is this is Georgia, which was a key part of the federal indictment, right? The DOJ indictment.

Jack Smith and Fani Willis -- Fani Willis has said if she was standing next to Jack Smith, she wouldn't know who he was, they haven't coordinated.

So, how crucial, how closely is his team going to be looking at what comes out tonight?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think it's right that they have not -- there's not been any coordination between the two teams, the Smith team here in Washington and the D.A.'s team. But at some point, you have to think that they will have to start running into each other. I mean, the judge in Washington right now is trying to decide on a court date, on a trial date rather.

And so, you know, there's only so many days on the calendar and it's getting really filled up with not only this case, of course, with the documents case in Mar-a-Lago and, of course, this other -- the former president's other legal problems in New York. So at some point, there is going to have to be some conversation where they'll decide who might be able to get a trial that goes first.

And, of course, Erin, this case and the one that was brought by Jack Smith's team here in Washington are both very relevant, one could argue, to the election, the forthcoming election. You have to argue that voters have an interest in seeing both of those cases or one of the two get to a jury before they take their vote.

BURNETT: Now, Ryan, is there any chance that Georgia would go first over a federal case?

GOODMAN: There is a chance because under Georgia law there is a speedy trial rule that's specific to their state, which might force her to go within a couple months.

BURNETT: A couple months? We'll be looking, I'm just going to state the obvious here, in October.

GOODMAN: That's right. So, so end of November-ish I think.


GOODMAN: And that it might not be Trump who asks for it because he wants it to be after election but any of the other co-defendants, if there are co-defendants, could ask for their speedy trial rights under Georgia law and that's what she must be prepared for that. When she indicts, if she indicts, that she's ready to go.

BURNETT: And, Evan, just be clear, too, I know from you and Paula and the entire team reporting, you've been reporting there could be a dozen or more people indicted in Georgia. Just to put an exclamation point on it, in the DOJ case right now, you simply have Trump and six unindicted co-conspirators.

GOODMAN: Right, exactly, Erin. And that investigation is still ongoing. So, there could be -- there could be additional indictments for people who were involved in the greater plot, but certainly if you're making a RICO case in Georgia, that's a lot more complicated. And so, again, you're talking about a very crowded calendar and how do you get to that trial.

You know, usually, frankly, when the federal government is indicting someone and the state authorities are doing it, usually what happens is there's a conversation between the two teams and usually the feds go first.


That's not always the case but, you know, that happens often.

We'll see how that conversation goes and when that conversation happens because it does seem like maybe that will have to happen at some point.

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

We're going to keep going back to Paula. As she said, the clock is ticking, now less than an hour until we may get an indictment, unprecedented indictment out of the state of Georgia could be coming within these next 50 or so minutes.

We're going to continue to go back for our breaking news coverage, also to Hawaii, where a couple collecting cash and emergency supplies to give to their neighbors talks about their home on the edge of the fire line. They barely survived but others did not. Their relatives also with our own Bill Weir, including reporting there, next.

And the cost of inflation. In July, American families spent $700 more than they did two years ago to buy the exact same thing. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will be OUTFRONT.


BURNETT: Breaking news, the death toll in Maui tonight, 99. Hawaii governor's just telling CNN that number could double over the next week.

And tonight, we're learning the names of some of the victims. Six- year-old Carole Harley (ph) was trying to evacuate. Her partner says they were separated but what seems like a tornado of dark smoke. You couldn't see anything. Carole's partner says he yelled at her to run. She was found dead on their property.

Sixty-eight-year-old Franklin Trejos (ph) tried to help others and save his house before he decided to evacuate. He was found in his car just a few blocks from his own.

State officials now launching an investigation. We're seeing growing questions about how residents were left to flee such a massive disaster with no warning.


Bill Weir is OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me and Britney will leave the front. We got, right behind us, just stay close.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Charlie and Britney Flak (ph) saw pictures of the devastation in Lahaina, the couple from Maui knew they had to do something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come, come, you give you cash, we've got cash!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there is a big guys truck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got help on the way!

WEIR: So they put out a plea on Facebook and when thousands of dollars began rolling in, they began handing it out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're coming for you.


WEIR: But that didn't seem like enough so they organized a caravan and sweet talk their way past red tape and checkpoints and when they finally saw what Lahaina looks like for the first time, they wept.

But just on the edge of the burn scars, we find an inspiring example of Hawaiian togetherness.

The whole towel, are you kidding? That is aloha hospitality. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here you go, man. Keep you nice and cool.

WEIR: Archie Kalepa is a Hall of Fame surfer and lifeguard with Maui roots that go back nine generations.

This is your actual house here or?

ARCHIE KALEPA, HALL OF FAME WATERMAN: Yes, this is I my actual home. We were really lucky because our neighbors, they were here fighting the fire right at this corner, and the fire department said this is our last stand. We are going o hold a line right here.

WEIR: There is so much frustration over the official response so far, he says authorities deserve some understanding given the size of the disaster.

KALEPA: What this right here is the crime scene. And so, what people don't understand is the government has to do due diligence before they start moving in.

WEIR: So it's a humanitarian response in the middle of a working crime scene.

KALEPA: Exactly.

WEIR: But at another relief pot on a beach nearby, frustration is turned to anger.

ALIKA PENEKU, VOLUNTEER: Everybody's like they, don't come and help, they don't come and help. (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Nobody came to help us. We rely on people like you guys with compassion, you know what I mean? That are willing to help us because please, we need help. We need help. We need the next step.

This is -- this is just first inning. This is the first inning of what we're facing.

KALEPA: Tourism is our number one source of income. I would hope that our representatives, our politicians, our government would ask the people from here, when can we open? They should not be telling us, oh, we want to open six months from now. The truth of the matter is, when you look at the overall devastation, we are not going to be ready to allow people to see what we are living through in six months.


BURNETT: And, Bill, it's just devastating to see what you are experiencing in an American state. I know you are in Kula now. The fire has been incredibly difficult to contain there. What can you share about what you are seeing, even right now?

WEIR: Well, yeah, this is an area separate from Lahaina, along the coast there in west Maui. This is the up country, the south Maui fires that took out a few hundred structures including his home here. The homeowners are just telling me that the fire came raging up this ravine, and actually passed this home.

But these power lines were still alive. One of them broke loose, and was just crackling laid down, they think, on this house. That was the end of it.

The questions about the power shut off, why that wasn't done, is on a long list of questions that locals have right now. They are grieving. While they are processing what the biggest forensic examinations face, you can imagine.

I was stunned when the police chief told us over the weekend that of 96 souls lost, it's more than that now. It's going up. They've only identified two.

So the idea that right now, there are family members who know they are a widow, who know they are an orphan, and because they are father or partner decided to stay behind, and they have to go give DNA to match what has been found. It is just soul crushing.

But the amount of aloha you saw there, the Ohana, sense of community and family, gives these folks the best chance of pulling through this as of anyone I've ever met around the world. And so, the helpers are there, but a lot of them are saying it would be nice to have any official presence.

You've got volunteers who cut down all these trees on this road, which were taken down and laying across. They said it would be great if just somebody in uniform could come check on us -- Erin.


BURNETT: All right. Bill Weir, thank you very much. And we're very grateful to have Bill there.

And next, gas prices on the rise. Americans paying hundreds of dollars more every month. Can the Biden administration get inflation under control? I'm going to ask the treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, about it.

And an OUTFRONT exclusive, our Nick Paton Walsh in the trenches in Ukraine's counteroffensive, narrowly avoiding Russian fire overhead and on the ground.


BURNETT: New tonight, a blow to Putin. One penny is all it takes to buy an entire Russian ruble. Russia's currency hitting a 17-month low against the U.S. dollar. In fact, the ruble has lost nearly 40 percent of its value so far this year.

In Russia, people are taking notice of this milestone. Just look at this news ticker. This is from Surgut, it's a Siberian oil town. I noticed this, Max Seddon of "The Financial Times", a friend of the show, flags it online. We verified it, geolocated it. Someone put in text that reads, quote, 100 rubles to a dollar. Lost your effing mind? Putin is an expletive and a thief.

OUTFRONT now, the U.S. treasury secretary, Janet Yellen.

And, Secretary, I appreciate your time. I wanted to ask you in the ruble in just a moment. I want to begin though of course with the U.S. economy, where you are marking the one year anniversary of President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act. It does come though as gas prices once again are soaring.


The average price of a gallon, of regular, hit $3.85 cents. It is its highest level in nearly 10 months, up 28 cents from just one month ago. How worried are you about this, secretary?

JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Well, we've seen some increase partly because of the summer driving season and global factors. But gas prices are down off their highs over a $1.20. So, of course, this is an area of uncertainty. But we are certainly well off the highs.

And, more broadly, inflation has come way down, something that's been a tremendous concern to Americans. Over the last 3 months, inflation, both headline and core, has been just around 2 percent. So I think the inflation news has been overall excellent, while there are still risks, we've got a good strong labor market with unemployment at a 50- year low, of three and a half percent. And the economy continues to grow.

BURNETT: So, you know, as you point out, the rate of inflation has been plunging. It's a fair point, right? Last month, consumer prices were up 3.2 percent compared to July of last year. A year ago, when you looked at the same thing, July to July, prices are up 8.5 percent. So, obviously, it's a huge improvement, as you say.

But the direction is still agree now. According to movies, the typical household spent $202 dollars more last month on the same goods and services last year than it did a year, $709 more than 2 years ago.

So the rate of inflation has plunged. But prices are still going up. These are huge numbers for American families. It's real hardship.

What do you say to those families? Can you tell them that prices will actually go down?

YELLEN: So, I don't want to say that the level of prices will go down. But I think inflation will subside to rates that are quite normal, and are within the range that the Fed is seeking to target. President Biden's worked with Congress, and within the administration, to do what we can to lower our prices, and give Americans relief.

The Inflation Reduction Act, had many features to do that, including cuts in health insurance premiums, in drug prices, the cost of insulin was capped at $35 a month. And, you know, we are working oil releases last year from this Strategic Petroleum Reserve, I think, made a big difference to the gas prices people had to pay. But inflation remains a problem that we are focused on.

BURNETT: And on that front, I mean, the economy is by far the top issue for Americans in this election. The latest CNN poll, Secretary Yellen, shows that 75 percent of Americans believe the economy is in poor condition. And maybe that's because, again, even though inflation rates have come down, they are still paying more, 63 percent of people on this poll disapprove of how President Biden is handling the economy.

What do you say, Secretary Yellen, to the clear majority of Americans, who simply do not believe that the administration is helping them?

YELLEN: Well, you know, Americans know best, I think, about their own personal finances. And it is important to recognize that when they are asked how would they personally doing, over 70 percent of Americans say that they are very comfortable with their financial situation.

So, they seem to perceive the economy as a whole as doing less well than they are personally. But most Americans feel good about their own economic situation. Of course, I'm here in Nevada today to talk to people about President Biden's economic plan over the last year. Wages have been rising in almost all sectors of the economy. The biggest gains have gone to low income workers, who have seen a significant reduction in quality.

BURENTT: Secretary, as I mentioned a few moments ago, the ruble hit a 17-month low against the U.S. dollar. One penny is an entire ruble. That news ticker in that Siberian oil town of Surgut calling Putin out over it. Who knows what happened, whether was hacked into or not?

But there was in Siberia, 100 rubles to a dollar. Lost your effing mind. Putin is an expletive and a thief.

Now, Secretary, you have repeatedly said that Putin's invasion of Ukraine is a big economic negative for the world.


And here we are, nearly a year and a half into the war, how much impact do you think it is having now on Americans?

YELLEN: Well, it continues to have impact on Americans beyond the money that we are spending to support Ukraine. The cut off of Ukrainian green from Russia's decision to end the Baltic Green initiative is pushing up food prices, with the biggest toll in the poorest countries of the world. And it continues to have some impact on gas prices.

But as you mentioned, the ruble has declined in value, which is a reflection of the fact that our sanctions, our program of sanctions, with our allies and the war, is causing a drain on the Russian economy.

BURNETT: Secretary, I want to ask you one more thing. You recently were in China. You ate dinner at a restaurant chain called In and Out. I should say to Americans, not to be confused with the burger joint. I see you smiling. You set up a frenzy, because you ordered a mushroom

dish that contains apparently what are considered magic mushrooms. Mushrooms that can be hallucinogenic.

So, now, these wild mushroom dishes are selling out at that restaurants branches across China. You have sparked all this.

May I ask you, I'm just quite curious, what was it like, the mushroom experience?

YELLEN: So, I went with this large group of people. The person who had arranged our dinner did the ordering. There was a delicious mushroom dish, I was not aware that these mushrooms had hallucinogenic properties. I learned that later.

I can tell you --

BURNETT: Later when you are sleeping or having visions or?

YELLEN: I was -- I read that if the mushrooms are cooked properly, which I'm sure they were, if this very good restaurant, that they have no impact.

But all of us enjoyed the mushrooms, the restaurant, and none of us felt any ill effects from having eaten them.

BURNETT: All right. Well, now they are selling out at In and Out China.

Well, Secretary Yellen, thanks so much for your time. I appreciate it.

YELLEN: You bet. Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And, next, new reporting on what's happening inside that Fulton County courthouse. As we know the grand jury is in there, still hearing testimony, the judge is set to leave shortly. We have the details next.

And in the trenches, our Nick Paton Walsh on the ground with Ukrainian forces, under fire, from everywhere around them.



BURNETT: All right. We are back with the breaking news our top story tonight. These are live pictures of the Fulton County courthouse in Georgia where another indictment against former President Trump could be returned at any moment. Journalist George Chidi is still inside that courthouse. He was supposed to be a guest on the show tonight. Just moments ago, he told us he's still waiting to testify before the grand jury.

Ryan Goodman is back with me.

So, Ryan, let's just start with what that tells you and I should note that George Chidi, is a journalist and he talked about what he witnessed, right, was that when the Georgia was supposed to certify the election he walked into a room on a different floor or from where the certifying was taken place to a fake slate of electors. So he's a very specific story to tell. He has been in there and he has been waiting now for quite some time.

GOODMAN: So, sounds to me just maybe the final witness, totally independent outside of politics a journalist, that his only testimonies only relevant to a few minutes. So, that's why we could very well see the indictment tonight because he would be just in an out in a certain sense, and that's somebody that the jurors wanted to hear from that the district attorney thought they should hear from, this independent voice and a witness to that incredibly important meeting.

BURNETT: And I should say also, he is about to appear before, the same people that Geoff Duncan, the lieutenant governor, just the former lieutenant governor appeared before, he described them, Geoff Duncan, as serious and intense, referring to the grand jury themselves, right?

Those are, for all of us, those are peers. Those are the American citizens who were randomly called to be in a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia.

GOODMAN: That's right, and the way he described it is such a solemn and awesome task and responsibility they have in front of them. So the way she described a how concentrated they were, and that they were ready to have this high level discussion within all the details just shows how seriously they are taking this issue of course, and that maybe they are trying to figure it out by the end of tonight. No need to go into a second day.

BURNETT: So, let me talk about this. The judge had according to our Paula Reid said, okay, just hang in for about another hour. Which is by the time as she was we reporting it as we cover this, would be put the time around 8:15 to 8:30-ish.

But do you think at that time that would be a formal indictment? Or, I mean, is there any chance there's anything shy of that?

GOODMAN: I don't think so. I think the only reason a judge would want to have the journalists stay around us because something big like that is going to drop. It's not like I'm keeping you around so I can tell you to come back in the morning. And the judge himself is staying there, so that's a really important indicator. He says I usually leave it five p.m.

BURNETT: Right, and he would need to receive the indictment.

GOODMAN: Exactly.

BURNETT: All right. Well, we await of course any kind of an update as we watch that and I should also say the lieutenant governor said lieutenant governor set a block and a half from the capital, he had never seen security around that Fulton County courthouse like he had seen tonight when he walked out a few moments ago and came on this program.

Next, an OUTFRONT exclusive, a firsthand look at how Ukrainian forces are hunting for land mines in the trenches.



BURNETT: Tonight, Ukraine's defense minister saying the country has the most mines and booby trap explosives in the world. And tonight we have exclusive access to a team finding those mines.

Nick Paton Walsh is OUTFRONT on the frontlines.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fire still smolder at dusk, moving to the front of Ukraine's counteroffensive near Robotyne.


WALSH: There was intense bombardment around this area. And now the sun is setting, the occasional round being fired. Most of it seems to be towards Russian positions.

We're here to learn of a new tactic that may help Ukraine overcome one of the hardest obstacles here, minefields. Shell fire is a constant overhead. The drone unit used daylight to help direct artillery fire.

This isn't coming shortly.

So, they're using this to correct the next shell that's fired.

And know they must keep hidden.

OLEKSANDR, 15TH NATIONAL GUARD: If the enemy sees the drone, he will unleash everything he has, artillery, tanks and mortars.

WALSH: Still, the basic problem that it's trench warfare, and minefields. And that by definition makes the going slow.

But as the sky darkens and the air cools here, an advantage has emerged. One of their drones is equipped with a thermal camera, they have noticed out in the wide crated fields, about four kilometers away, where the Russians hide. Something new.

Some of these white dots are Russian land mines. They retain the heat of the summer sun as their earth around them cools. The contrast is greatest at dusk or dawn, experts say. So, they seem to glowed.

The unit told us they use special charges to blow up the minds. It's not a precise science. But a huge help and seeing an invisible enemy.

OLEKSANDR: We took a tree line, one kilometer by 300 meters wide. We found up to 53 booby traps. And these are not made of one grenade. We call it a 'bouquet". Grenades on top of another grenade.

WALSH: Encircled by minds, don't try to tell them the counteroffensive could be faster.

ANTON, 15TH NATIONAL GUARD: There have been many scary moments. Every time you go to work, you step over our fear. Because who else will do it? Nobody. If someone else goes and gets hurt, you can't forgive yourself.

WALSH: There is little time to reflect.

Go, go, go.

As a Russian helicopter spotted coming right at them. We take cover for it pass.

This is the kind of threat we're in danger every day when just one piece of information can send them running for cover.

And then we leave.

Hours after we left, we're told that trench network came under heavy Russian attacked, which they repelled. But the grind is constant, and rare, and any advantage no matter how small is urgently welcome.

Nick Paton Walsh, near Orikhiv, Ukraine.


BURNETT: My thanks to Nick and to all of you for being with us.

"AC360" begins now.