Return to Transcripts main page
Erin Burnett Outfront
Trump Team Discussing Potential Georgia Surrender Date For Next Week; Maui Death Toll Hits 107, Video Shows Town Incinerated By Fires; New Poll: Most Do Not Want Biden Or Trump To Run In 2024; CNN On Ground Near Village Just "Liberated" By Ukraine. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 16, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, another trial day for Trump. Fulton County's D.A. requesting Trump go on trial March 4th for trying to overturn the 2020 Georgia election, a day that not only clashes with the primary calendar but the rest of Trump's court schedule.
Plus, Russia's vicious Wagner Group now claiming it's an educational organization, formerly registering as such. CNN takes you to the outskirts of the Ukrainian village that was just liberated with the possible use of those U.S. cluster munitions. It's an exclusive story that you will see first OUTFRONT tonight.
And the suspected Gilgo Beach killer has had a visitor. Who was it? The sheriff in the case is my guest.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, turning himself in. According to sources, Trump is planning to make his way to the Fulton County jail next week. Just think about the sentence for a moment, a former president showing up at the jail to answer charges. This is where we are.
The Fulton County sheriff tells me that Trump will be treated like every other defendant. That would mean a mugshot and fingerprints. We'll see how that plays out.
It comes, though, as the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis now wants Trump arraigned in three weeks which would make it Trump's fourth to remain in the past few months. And if Fani Willis gets her way, Trump will stand trial starting March 4th. And as you can see, that is just one day before the crucial Super Tuesday, one day before Super Tuesday.
And as the clock ticks to Trump surrendering early next week, as we're hearing possibly, it is worth pointing out that that the whole situation at the Fulton County jail could be a circus. There are 18 other co-defendants, including Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani. They all have to surrender by August 25th at noon.
And according to the sheriff's office, so far, no one has voluntarily turned themselves in. While Trump's team negotiates the former president's surrender, the question now is whether there will be a fifth indictment. We know Arizona's top prosecutor is ramping up their investigation into Trump and his allies' efforts to overturn that state's 2020 election.
And here's what's likely to be a key piece of evidence in that. This picture, this is the Arizona Republican chair Kelli Ward and two other state lawmakers purportedly signing false electoral college documents, declaring Trump the winner of the state's 2020 election.
So, we're waiting here the possibility of the fifth indictment. It all comes as we learn new details about the crushing weight of Rudy Giuliani's legal bills, bills that add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. And today, Giuliani's attorney told a New York court that there's, quote, a lot of bills he's not paying. I think this is very humbling for Mr. Giuliani.
Earlier this week, the former mayor said that he is out of cash, forced to sell his New York City apartment in order to make ends meet. In a moment, we're going to speak to someone who worked with former the New York City mayor for a long time and knows him incredibly well.
First, though, I want to start with Paula Reid. She's OUTFRONT live in Washington tonight.
And, Paula, you have new reporting about what's actually about to happen in Georgia. What do you know?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Erin, right now, we're all looking to see when these defendants will surrender, when they will have the initial appearances. Of course, most of the attention is on the three most high-profile defendants, former President Trump, Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani.
We know the former president is negotiating terms of his surrender. Mark Meadows is trying to get the case moved to federal court. Then I learned that Rudy Giuliani's team as of now has not been in touch with the district attorney's office.
And, Erin, there is some question about whether she'll be able to get a lawyer in the state of Georgia because what his own attorney said today, he's had a lot of legal bills that he's not been able to pay. That's not attractive when you're trying to retain a lawyer. It could always represent him self. He has plenty of experience prosecuting cases, but this would put him at the defense table.
Now, he's likely going to have a while to find an attorney, because of the state that Fani Willis is proposing. It is highly unlikely that the judge will agree to that. RICO cases are notoriously complicated. They tend to get drawn out, and she has 19 defendants here.
But she's clearly trying to put her marker down on an increasingly crowded calendar with all of these increasingly complicated events that the former president needs to ten to next year. Not only in multiple trials but also all the primaries and events related to the status of the candidates. BURNETT: All right. Paula, thank you very much.
Ryan Goodman is with me now, former special counsel to the Department of Defense, now with Just Security. Karen Friedman Agnifilo, the former chief assistant district attorney of the Manhattan D.A.'s office, and John Avlon, our senior political analyst.
So, Ryan, March 4th, Fani Willis' trial date.
Is that realistic? I mean, what Ty Cobb saying last night, you know, these cases -- he really thinks it could be two years or more. But is March 4th reasonable?
RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL TO THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: I think there is a situation in which it is reasonable.
GOODMAN: Two fold, one is that she under Georgia law has to be ready to go, in fact before the end of this calendar year, 2023, because any of the other defendants could ask for a speedy trial. So, that's in some level, a baseline. Second is, I think the way that we should be thinking about this is the word severance, which I think will be starting to be used a lot in conversations about Georgia. I don't think there will ever be a trial in which they're 19 -- yeah, they will sever, and the judge will use their discretion to break it up into different parts.
So then the question is, one of those parts go for that date on March? Maybe it depends on who it is and how small a group is and maybe the facilitators first. And so that's what we might see. It's really thinking about which parts of this could go at a certain point.
BURNETT: Karen, when do you think that will practically see this trial?
KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that Ryan is right. I think it will happen or tie, years from now, not right a way. I mean, there is a logistical problem, too. The case itself will take quite some time to try.
I mean, they have a RICO case in Georgia right now, YSL, they've been in jury selection for several months, right?
BURNETT: Jury selection for seven months?
AGNIFILO: Seven months, and there was another case that Fani Willis did --
AGNIFILO: Yeah, that's Fani Willis's office. There's another case that Fani Willis brought in teachers, 12 teachers, to a trial. She's used to a courtroom with lots of people. That took two years. These cases take time to try in and of themselves. And so, I think for that reason, it's going to be very hard because there's going to
be an election in between.
BURNETT: All right. So, then, in that context, John, Fani Willis wants to be -- so she's ready to go.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah.
BURNETT: She can pick it updates. I happen to be among those who don't believe that she ran up a pick this state. It is the day before Super Tuesday.
BURNETT: What does that -- does that risk having it look political to pick that date even she knows --
BURNETT: OK, yes, yes.
AVLON: Look, politics is perception, and you can be too clever by half. I mean, you know, scheduling this the day before Super Tuesday, it could backfire if your intention is to send a message to voters to delay the primary. But more importantly, the integrity at the justice system depends upon equal justice under law. And that means avoiding the appearance of impropriety or putting your thumb on the scale for partisan political purposes, and that's where it does not pass the smell test. So, it's an unfortunate accident and I suggest --
BURNETT: Maybe pick the Friday of that week, to show.
OK. Ryan, what is interesting is I got to admit, I'm sorry, along with many others I am sure, I saw the possibility of a fifth indictment. You're thinking, wow, kind of cringe, right? It is conceivable in Arizona that the investigation is ongoing. We understand that is brought and scope. It's obviously about the false slate of electors, but it could also involve Trump himself. Do you think that's possible?
GOODMAN: I think it is impossible just in a mere reading at the law. So, if the law applied to the fact, in fact, if you look at Fani Wilson's indictment, she's signaling it. She's saying, look, this racketeering and organized crime activity occurred across the different states, including Arizona and that took place in Georgia.
So, she's sending a signal to the other authorities in that place, as well as you look at the Jack Smith indictment. There's the whole section on Arizona.
GOODMAN: And the only question I do think is that do they want to go up the chain of command because I think they can go after the false electors --
BURNETT: As they did in Michigan. GOODMAN: As they did in Michigan, but Michigan didn't go up the chain of command.
GOODMAN: But we do have lots of evidence that points to Donald Trump's direct involvement with Giuliani, and he's been in Arizona and doing the very same things that they've been doing in Georgia, and Arizona has the same kind of laws as Georgia.
So, they are pressuring Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the house in Arizona at the same way that they were pressuring the Georgia election officials and Raffensperger, and they had the same laws. In some sense --
BURNETT: It forces the hand?
GOODMAN: Yeah, politics and maybe prosecutorial discretion. So, the prosecutors might says, let's let Jack Smith handle this, we'll hold back. But as a matter of law, they could do it.
BURNETT: Right, right. OK. So, that -- there's a big choice to be made there now.
There's also -- we talk about the 19 in total, in Georgia, and one person who isn't every single Venn diagram there, obviously in Jack Smith unindicted coconspirators, would be present in Arizona, is Rudy Giuliani.
So, you worked for Giuliani for a long time. You worked for him at his peak, at his America's mayor moment. Now, he's selling his apartment. He can't pay his legal bills.
What do you even make of all of this?
AVLON: It's a self-inflicted tragedy and it's profound on a personal level, this kind of a fall. I mean, this is someone who five years ago during his divorce proceedings, you know, had a net worth north of $40 million. I think what you see is someone who has lifted their reputation and personal finances on fire for free, i.e., serving Donald Trump as lawyer without getting paid, right? Expenses apparently have been paid, but nothing else.
So -- and it's just -- it's a total abandonment of all the judgment and character that the man once had. I mean, here's a guy who used to say the law is a search for the truth, participating attempting to overturn the election based on no evidence. Somebody who used to say and said to me, you know, I thought very profoundly, to be locked in partisan politics does not permit you to think clearly. He's not been thinking clearly for quite some time because of the partisan politics.
BURNETT: It is -- it is really incredible. Karen, does it in any way, when you look at his financial issue, make it more like that he would flip, and how significant would that be? Because obviously, as I've said, he is a core player in every single one of these alleged schemes.
AGNIFILO: Yeah. I mean, it's possible, but to flip, you also have to tell the truth and you also have to be credible. And he has -- there have been so many things that he has said that I think -- unless he is going to -- ready to walk that back --
BURNETT: Alternate reality, yeah.
AGNIFILO: Exactly, exactly. And I agree with John, it's sad. I mean, he was America's mayor after 9/11. He shepherded us. You know, I was here. He shepherded us through that time, and we were also grateful that he was our mayor.
To see him like this is a terrible tragedy, but he did it to himself. And so, he'd have to completely walk all of that back and amid -- it's more than just willing to flip, because I have no money. You had to tell the truth, or you have no moment, you -- not have value to --
BURNETT: No value to the prosecution.
BURNETT: So, all right. Speaking of how he is in every single one of these, Ryan, you have an article on security going through, what current described as you're like the A.I. -- the A.I. lawyer here.
You went through 30 unindicted coconspirators, and this is only like a day later, okay? And you figured out who many of them are. What did you find out?
GOODMAN: So, there are mistakes on the internet circulating from police and officials are, but we did find, for example, Bernie Kerik, who is a close aide to Giuliani, is one of the unindicted coconspirators. And then there are some others as well. Boris Epshteyn is an unindicted coconspirator.
And so, you can actually match these up. And the way we match them up, we show all the work that we did, which is the January 6th select committee had their final report. They also released a bunch of documents. You can match up some of them so easily. It's like one of them, a person tweeted something, that's also mentioned in the Georgia indictment. So, you can find their tweet.
But the other is that you can find their emails. The January 6 committee released that, and so, there's also been civil litigation that's been disclosed.
BURNETT: So, you can identify these individuals are?
BURNETT: And the fact that they're unindicted could mean they -- they could be pressured --
GOODMAN: At least some of them are probably cooperating. You can look at any individual one and say, well, that person is cooperating. But if I were on Donald Trump's defense team, I would actually look at my chart and think, okay, now, we understand much better who might have turned against me.
BURNETT: Well, they, like anyone else who's interested in this, I'm sure will go to your blog and check it out now to make sure.
All right. Thank you all very much.
And we're going to have much more on Giuliani this weekend on CNN. Don't miss the CNN original series, "GIULIANI: WHAT HAPPENED TO AMERICA'S MAYOR?" It starts Saturday at 8:00 and features, of course, John Avlon.
Meantime next, breaking news, the death toll from the horrific wildfires in Maui is rising now to 107, and there are growing fears that that number could drastically increase. The governor saying he estimates there are still over a thousand people unaccounted for.
Plus, a new poll finding most Americans don't want Joe Biden or Donald Trump to run for president again. Could that opening at this point -- or could that create an opening at this point in the process for someone like Republican Senator Tim Scott?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that my optimistic positive message is being rooted in Iowa and, frankly, our poll numbers continue to go up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And a new indictment connected to George Santos. Why a top staffer to the former Republican congressman is now also facing federal charges.
BURNETT: Breaking news and sobering news, the death toll in Hawaii rising to 107 lives lost, according to the state's governor, who also just told Wolf that he estimates that there could be more than 1,000 people missing a week after those wildfires began, a thousand people missing.
Now, he did say we expect to get an update on this during a press conference, which is going to begin in just moments. So, we are monitoring that, and if we get some more information, we're going to bring that to you. It is slated to being here in just a few moments.
It comes in the context of the White House announcing that President Biden will be going to Hawaii next week on Monday, and we are getting our first expensive look at the devastation on the ground with Gloria Pazmino who is OUTFRONT.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The scope of the devastation here stands in stark contrast to Maui's stunning beauty.
FRANK TAYLOR, NEVADA TASK FORCE 1, SEARCH AND RESCUE IN HAWAII: It looked like it started up there and ended down there.
PAZMINO: Frank Taylor, with FEMA search and rescue team, found Lahaina reduced to ashes, now a graveyard for everything and everyone caught in the wildfire's path.
TAYLOR: There is nothing left. It's cremation basically. This is the absolute worst disaster of ever seen.
PAZMINO: More than 100 dead, now search teams face the grisly task of finding many more in the days to come, using dogs, trying to locate cadavers in this restricted zone.
TAYLOR: They are absolutely essential to this, and they are trained just for human remains.
We can off through and do visceral searches. You sent a top in there, and I find them. I am confident that we'll find everybody.
PAZMINO: The main roads are just starting to open here. FEMA is providing disaster relief and families hoping to lady victims to rest are fighting exhaustion amid their grief.
MICHAEL RICHTER, LOST STEPFATHER IN FIRE: I just want to identify the body. The police have really helped, but I have front into a lot of people that I understand are tired. I'm tired, too. I've not slept in six days.
PAZMINO: For some survivors, not knowing how deep that the fire started and how it was able to cause so much destruction so quickly, that's to their suffering.
A siren warning system that never sounded, despite being tested just days before the fire raged.
GOV. JOSH GREEN (D), HAWAII: The cellphones were mobilized, the power lines were down, and we had no service, but the sirens, some were broken, and were investigating that.
PAZMINO: And some locals pointed to downed power lines and lots of water pressure as the flames ravaged the landscape, fueled a by months-long drought, extreme winds and flammable grasses.
But one reporter says he finds solace in the close-knit community of Lahaina, after losing at least four members of his extended family.
JONATHAN MASAKI SHIROMA, TRAFFIC ANCHOR, HAWAII NEWS NOW: The people of Hawaii have always been rooted in the spirit of Ohana, which is family. I know how painstaking this is, I know it hurts. I know that just deep void we all fill. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BURNETT: Gloria, you are there in Lahaina, where the main road is reopen for the first time since the wildfires. I know in your piece, we saw some of the lines. What are you seeing?
PAZMINO: Well, Erin, it's frankly very difficult to describe the amount of destruction and devastation that we are witnessing. You can see behind me, there are entire blocks of homes that are entirely gone. Just the foundation is left. You can see that there are burned out cars, there's nothing, just most of the town has been wiped out.
In the distance, you can see two communication towers, two cellphone towers. And we've been watching crews work on those. As we were making our way into town, I saw several trucks that were carrying equipment to repair these towers.
Lahaina has been without communication since the fires last week. So, that is certainly a positive development. In fact, it's the first time our crews have been able to broadcast live from here. So, that's a good sign that people here will be able to communicate.
And as you mentioned, Governor Josh Green has reopened the primary route into Lahaina. He said that is going to be a critical first step in helping to connect Lahaina to the rest of the island.
So, I have been watching, as people make their way back, the ones who made it out of here, and they compare to this high point of on the ground and take a look at what's left of their town, and they are devastated. They are -- they cry, they embrace each other, and they take in all that they have lost -- Erin.
BURNETT: Gloria, thank you very much.
And next, Trump fatigue. We're going to hear from some Republicans who are having a change of heart after backing the former president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I kind of wish Trump will just fade, to be honest with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus, an OUTFRONT special report. We're going to take you to a town just liberated by Ukraine, freed by taken up by homes that were filled with Russian fighters.
BURNETT: New tonight, calling for change. A new poll from "The Associated Press" showing a clear majority of Americans do not want Joe Biden or Donald Trump to run for president again in 2024. Seventy- five percent opposed to another Biden bid and 69 percent against Trump. This includes 37 percent of Republicans who don't want another Trump campaign. So, who then at this point?
Eva McKend is OUTFRONT tonight in Iowa.
GOV. KIM REYNOLDS (R), IOWA: How many of you love Senator Scott?
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): Everybody is the answer Senator Tim Scott and his campaign are looking for this week in Iowa. Campaigning hand to hand, flip to French fry.
But the main political attraction during Scott's visit to the famed state fair on Tuesday was news of front runner Donald Trump's fourth criminal indictment.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Continue to say as I see it, which is that we see the legal system being weaponized against political opponents. That is an American and unacceptable.
MCKEND: Scott attacking the legal process instead of the former president trying to keep his campaign positive, and showing little appetite to take on any candidate, even Trump, despite mounting legal woes.
REPORTER: Is Trump's lead here in Iowa is insurmountable?
SCOTT: No, of course not.
REPORTER: Why not?
SCOTT: That's why I'm campaigning because I believe that my optimistic, positive message is being rooted in Iowa and that, frankly, our poll numbers continue to go up.
MCKEND: That optimism comes as some Iowans tell CNN they're sick of Trump, who still holds a dominant lead in the race.
MIKE POWERS, IOWA VOTER: I'm considering other people that I think will also do a good job, maybe without some of the conflict that President Trump has with all of the lawsuits.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I kind of wish Trump would just fade, to be honest with you.
MCKEND: Scott and his supporters have blanketed Iowa and New Hampshire, with more than $20 million worth of ads. At an event in Cambridge, Iowa, he saw the payoff percent.
SCOTT: I'd say in my commercials, if you take out a loan, you pay it back. Hallelujah, this is great, I love it. You all deserve to see the commercials. I was wonder if they were buying anything with all that money I was spending.
MCKEND: In the Hawkeye State, a whopping 69 percent of likely caucusgoers say that they have a favorable view of Scott, according to a recent poll. His pursuit of momentum will have to carry into next week's debate, a crucial test and opportunity with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis seeking to reboot his campaign and Trump's appearance on stage very much in doubt, Scott is convinced he can compete.
SCOTT: I want to continue to run this race for one objective. It's to be the president of the United States.
MCKEND: His campaign just releasing this video.
SCOTT: You get in the race for president to win.
MCKEND: What is their campaign strategy to gain momentum between now and the debate?
SCOTT: Well, the good news is we're going to continue to do what we have been doing, which is focusing on optimistic, positive message anchored in conservatism with a backbone.
MCKEND (on camera): Now, Scott could find himself at the brunt of attacks on the debate stage next week given this relative momentum that he's enjoying, but his team tells us he's prepared. They are preparing him with traditional debate prep and then also reminding him to remain cheerful no matter what happens, because it is cheerfulness that seems to be resonating with some voters -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Eva, thank you very much, in Des Moines.
OUTFRONT now, David Kochel, a longtime Republican strategist from Iowa. He was the chief strategist for the 2016 Jeb Bush campaign.
And I know that he said you don't yet know who your support, but it definitely won't be Donald Trump.
So, David, thank you very much.
I mean, look, we see the polls. Sixty-nine percent of all Americans, including 37 percent of Republicans don't want Trump to run again in 2024, but when you look at Iowa right now, it's there the possibility for Tim Scott or anybody else to defeat Trump?
DAVID KOCHEL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST FROM IOWA: Yeah, absolutely, 70 percent of Iowans are open to someone else, even though Donald Trump has a fairly substantial lead at this point. Iowa always breaks late. It usually contains is a surprise of some kind, and I think that anyone at these candidates, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, who has been the second place candidate over the last few months have an opportunity, and that is one of the things that we'll see from the debate.
But, you know, things move late in Iowa. I think a lot of people are looking for someone else, and Tim Scott's optimistic message, we're going to find out whether or not that is what people want.
BURNETT: So, you mentioned the debate, and we have multiple sources telling CNN now that Trump's campaign advisers believe it is not plan to attend the first GOP debate next week in Milwaukee. Now, obviously, that could change, right? DeSantis just spoke saying Trump owes it to the people to debate.
You know, I know we went through this camp last time it is different this time but he went through this, did not go and that went to the next one. If he skips the debate, does anyone care in the Republican primary voters?
KOCHEL: Yeah, I think so. I think it will show some weakness. I don't think it's a smart strategy to skip. I do think that he'll do it, skip at the first one. We'll be watching to see how many eyeballs are paying attention to that debate. He'll be looking to see what the other candidates are saying about him.
At the end of the day, I think he's going to want to end up on that debate stage, which is I think where most voters and the rest of the candidates want him to be so they can take a crack at him.
BURNETT: And see -- and see it again.
KOCHEL: All right. So, Tim Scott, thus far, when you talk about taking a crack, we are starting to see some cracks in the facade of people like Scott and DeSantis, who just refused to criticize Trump. That's starting to change. Tim Scott has avoided criticizing Trump and praised him.
But one other 2024 rival, Chris Christie, recently said in New Hampshire that -- that it just can't be that way. You can't be nice to Trump, you can't ignore Trump. That to win, you have to take him on directly.
Here is Governor Christie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have to fight him on the truth. When he lies, we need to fight him, because to ignore him is to ascend to his lies. I'm not doing that. I'm not going to do it anymore. If your principles aren't worth fighting for, don't fight for them. Stay on the bench.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, of course, the reality is that the vast majority of Republicans say that they believe that the election was stolen, right, which is false. Is Chris Christie right?
KOCHEL: Yeah, look, you can't run for president without saying why you be better and why other people would not be as good. So, you -- at some point, you got to directly take on the front runner. If nobody takes a real run at Donald Trump, he'll be renominated on his way to the general election. So, yeah, at certain point, you're going to have to go at it. The question is, how do you do it?
KOCHEL: So, you can do it but sounding like you are attacking him from the left, and voters are going to put on the red jersey and stick with him. If you do it by saying, look, you know, I'm exhausted by Donald Trump, I supported him, but we've got to turn the page, you do it that way, you're going to come in a little more softly, now, you can put out the differences between him and you.
And, you know, also, you've got to be authentic about this. Tim Scott is going to have a hard time saying the kinds of things that Chris Christie does because they are very different people. Everybody expects that Chris Christie to be a brawler and get in there and throw punches.
Tim Scott isn't like that. Everybody has got to come to it with authenticity, because that's what Iowa voters want. And that's really what Republican voters are going to be looking for, is can you campaign as yourself and get your message across?
BURNETT: Right, right, it is an interesting conundrum, right? Can you campaign as yourself with everyone avoiding the elephant in the room on the big lie? It is -- it's a fascinating moment. I really appreciate your time and your perspective, thanks.
KOCHEL: Thanks for having me, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. And next, firing back, our Nick Paton Walsh and his team are the first reporters on the ground near newly-liberated Ukrainian village where Ukrainian forces took out Russians who are all in Ukrainian houses. Cluster munitions may have played a role. It's an OUTFRONT exclusive that you will see next.
And a new visitor for the Gilgo Beach murder suspect. Who is visiting him in jail? I will ask the sheriff who's in charge.
BURNETT: Tonight, the brutal Russian mercenary group Wagner claiming it's performing educational activities in Belarus. The private military group, mostly made up of convicted criminals, registering as an educational organization in Belarus. This is neighboring Lithuania announces it is closing two of its six border crossings with Belarus, citing Wagner as a security risk.
This is as in Ukraine, we have new video into OUTFRONT, and it shows Ukrainian ground forces firing on Russian infantry vehicles, wiping them out in this particular case. This is as CNN is exclusive gaining the first access to the outskirts of a freshly liberated a village with the possible use of U.S. supplied cluster munitions helped to decimate the Russian forces who left in defeat. Nick Paton Walsh is OUTFRONT.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There may be run around them, but their direction is forwards. We're with the 35th Ukrainian marines, the first reporters to get to the outskirts of Urozhaine, yet another village announced liberated on Wednesday. The victories may be small but are constant.
So, just down here, Urozhaine, yet another town taken as the counteroffensive does move forward. We are just seeing the neighboring village taken last week, they keep moving.
That much incoming, or getting out of here as quickly as we can. While they control Urozhaine, the Russians do everything they can to make it a nightmare for the Ukrainians to be there.
The unit showed us the intense fight captured by drone. This the tank advancing, dropping a string of anti-mine explosives behind it, they said, when then once it turned, detonated.
The unit released a video of them and the town on Wednesday of how they turned their firepower on what was once a Russian stronghold that shelled them. The company commander recalls many more Russians hidden there, then he expected.
Very many died, he says, especially when they started to run. When they held houses, lots of them died there.
But they were caught as they fled. The smoke around Russians, likely made by cluster munitions. Ukraine has said it is already using some rounds controversially supplied by the United States. We could not confirm if these five here are the new American cluster bombs, but the losses suffered were clear.
And they say that the use is less of an ethical dilemma when you're in this brutal fight.
I don't understand it, he says. That side is using whatever they want. Our people are dying from all of this and it is okay. When the other side, it's not. I don't understand.
His footage shows how young some in the assault were. He has no time for Western analysts say that they should be moving faster.
I would say that they can always come to me as a guest and fight with me, he says. If someone believes that you can fly over the mine field on a broom like in Harry Potter, it doesn't happen in a real fight. If you don't understand that, you can sit in your armchair and eat your popcorn.
Yeah, I smell it. Out here, the last month of offenses feels empty and grueling,
littered now with Russia's dead. They have not moved perhaps as far as it is felt.
These adjust empty farm fields and which many have died to take each kilometer.
The Russians mined so hard here, they used this machine to do it, so much damage done, it's hard to imagine what plans Moscow had four here at all, had they kept it.
WALSH (on camera): Erin, just to give you some context, about ten days ago, we were with Ukrainian troops who had liberated Staromaiorske and that's the village across the river from where we were today, Urozhaine. But the problem they said that they had where that Russians were hiding out in Urozhaine, were shelling them. Well, now, the Iranians have moved forward, they've taken that village, they got rid of that problem.
Look, this is village by village. It is slow, certainly, but you can't doubt that there is progress -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Nick, thank you very much.
And certainly, slow village by village, progress that we have not seen. Maybe the cluster munitions are a determining factor right now, yet to be said for sure.
I want to bring in Steve Hall, the former chief of Russia's operation for the CIA.
So, Steve, look, there's progress in the counteroffense coming as the Wagner group seems to be massing in Belarus and has gone now officially registered as an educational group there. It seems almost absurd, right? Why would you put such a charade out there?
What do you think is going on?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's kind of a question of what do you do with these guys, Erin? I mean, they have shown themselves to be a threat to the Kremlin, when they got halfway to Moscow under Prigozhin's control, so some sort of deal was cut, now there are some in Belarus where the Poles for one have said, look, we're concerned that they're there.
Now some of the other politicians are saying that we need to cut some of the border crossings because of their presence. So, in that sense, that benefits Putin because he understands that there is still political concern about some sort of greater war with Russia. So if these guys are on the border with NATO countries, maybe bad accidents can happen. That plays into Putin's hands.
But he can forget about them either because at one point, it looked like they were coming for him. So, even though they're in Belarus, they're still pretty close. He's got to keep an eye on them as well.
HALL: Where do you put these guys? I think Belarus is the only option.
BURNETT: I mean, it is sort of stunning, right? And I know that Lithuania, you mentioned other countries, Lithuania has said that because of this Wagner gathering, that they're going to close several of the border crossings with Belarus. What do you think?
Is it a real risk that these forces could cross borders, and do something?
HALL: You know, I think the threat of, it I'm not a military analyst, I think the threat of it is probably greater than the actual tactical meaningfulness.
I think if they attack a NATO country, you know, there wouldn't be -- it wouldn't be a big fight. But it would escalate things in a geopolitical fashion. So, that's how that benefits Putin.
But, you know, realistically, we think they're going to invade Poland, I don't think they'd be successful. The Ukrainians have to pay a little bit of attention to them. They have to strengthen that flank they have with Belarus, which, of course, that takes their troops away from other options, where they're needed in the south in the east.
But in terms of actual military threat, I'm not sure that's significant.
BURNETT: So, I want to ask about something that happened, we learned the secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, spoke today on the phone with Paul Whelan, an American who has been held in a Russian penal colony now for quite some time, five years in confinement, altogether.
So, the fact this conversation happened is significant. Only able to speak directly to Antony Blinken. It does come, of course, as "The Wall Street Journal" reporting, there's no evidence that Putin has any interest in hostage swaps right now, or doing anything about "The Wall Street Journal" reporter, of course, who is also there in prison.
Do you think there's progress being made at all right now?
HALL: You know, if there is, Erin, it's going to be very, very, you know, closely held behind closed doors, which is how the Russians really prefer to do it. There is no good time to be a foreigner, especially an American or a Westerner in a Russian jail. But now, it's a particular bad time, because really, you know, aside from a couple of what I think a relatively small fish that we might have in American jails, these are some of these young hackers who, you know, might have acting in the behest of the Russian government, who are extradited to the United States a year or two ago.
Beside that, I don't know if there's any really anybody left that the Russians are interested in. It's not looking good for these guys, at all.
BURNETT: No, no, of course they used a lot in the Brittney Griner transaction for that swap as well.
All right, thank you very much, Steve. Good to speak with you.
BURNETT: And next, new details on how the suspect in the Gilgo Beach serial killings is spending his time in jail. The sheriff in charge is OUTFRONT.
And a campaign fund-raiser for George Santos indicted, accused of impersonating a high ranking aide on Capitol Hill.
BURNETT: New tonight, the suspected Gilgo Beach serial killer gets a visitor. The sheriff who runs the general revealing Rex Heuermann has now met with one person outside of his attorney. He's been in that jail for more than a month now.
So far, Heuermann has not had any visits from his wife or two adult children. He's charged with the murders of three women, suspected in the killing of a fourth.
OUTFRONT now, the Suffolk County sheriff, Errol Toulon Jr.
And I appreciate your time, Sheriff. It's good to speak to you again.
And I know it's not a family member that's visited, but you did say Heuermann has now had a visitor, other than his attorney, one other person.
Can you tell us anymore about who that person is? How many visits? How long they've spent together? Any context here?
SHERIFF ERROL D. TOULON JR., SUFFOLK COUNTY, NEW YORK: Sure, first, thank you for having me on. Mr. Heuermann did have one visitor. Obviously, someone that's known to him, because he's denied two or three visits already. We don't know the extent of the conversation. I do know that at less than the hour time that we allot for visits, whenever anybody is visiting someone in our custody.
I do not know how the conversation went. I do not know how this individual was contacted to even think to request a visit.
BURNETT: Well -- but the person -- the person did reach out, I guess -- you don't know how long Heuermann knew this person, or whether the person reached out to him, could be some in the media, anything like that. You're not -- you either don't know or aren't able to share?
TOULON: Right, that I do not know. He could've reached out to this individual through his attorney, or through anyone else he may have called on the phone. He is allowed to make outgoing phone calls in our facility.
So, anyone that he may have spoken to may have contacted this individual, or maybe this individual just knew that he could attempt to visit him and Mr. Heuermann would accept it.
BURNETT: All right, so, obviously, very interesting, we'll see what happens whether this person returns. I know that Heuermann has been inside your jail for more than a month now. You and I've spoken several times.
Today, you give our local affiliate an inside look, inside your facility. So, give a sense of the conditions, how he's really living. You had said he was reading fiction books last time we spoke, participating in recreation time.
What is he spending his time on now? Have you seen a change?
TOULON: Yes, you know in the first couple of days, or even in the first week or two, that he was in our custody, he was basically laying on his bed. He was sleeping a lot. Now, he's participating in recreation, which means he walks around the yard.
He's by himself. He has the option to play basketball, at least shoot a basketball hoop. He can do pull-ups, dips, setups, pushups. Which he doesn't do, he just walks around the yard. Participates in religious services, he goes to a library, where is able to take out books. Which he's been reading, it seems like is really a lot now.
BURNETT: And fiction, you said?
TOULON: Yes, he's reading fictional books.
BURNETT: So, one thing that was supposed to happen, I understand today, you had said was crucial, direct sample of his DNA. We know that there was DNA in a pizza crust. That you wanted a direct DNA sample, had to go through a court procedure to get that.
Public court documents indicate that the DNA swab was expected to take place yesterday. Has it happened yet?
TUOLON: So, the district attorney's office, who we are working with very closely, will announce whether that DNA swab was actually obtained yesterday. So, we're going to restore respect the district attorney's office, and wait for their announcement, as to whether or not it did or did not happen.
BURNETT: That could, of course, if they have, it they can all of a sudden see whether he's linked to other potential murders.
I know in Las Vegas, the police department want to do a direct comparison of his DNA, with a sex worker who they know was murdered there. There could be even more.
Do you know how many cold cases that you think could possibly be opened up on that DNA is obtained?
TOULON: No. That's a great question. There can be so many when you go down to South Carolina. If there's any missing sex workers, anybody that have been recovered over the last several years that can now be attributed to Mr. Heuermann, or even what's going on in Las Vegas.
Once that DNA has been analyzed, and it's distributed to those jurisdictions, and possibly, other jurisdictions across the eastern seaboard, where Mr. Heuermann may or may not have been. We can now see whether he has a direct participant and any crimes in those jurisdictions.
BURNETT: Yeah. All right, we'll see what happens. And whether this case, you get some more really big breaks.
Sheriff, thank you so much for your time.
TOULON: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, campaign fund-raiser for Congressman George Santos indicted tonight by a federal grand jury, accused of posing as a top aide to Speaker McCarthy.
BURNETT: Tonight, charged with impersonating a top aide to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the campaign fund-raiser for Republican Congressman George Santos, Samuel Miele, Has been indicted by a federal grand jury in alleged scheme to defraud potential donors.
So, here's what happened. He's accused of pretending to be the McCarthy aide on the phone in over email. Going so far as to make a fake email account to solicit contributions for Santos. The indictment says he communicated with Santos about the scheme, writing, high risk, high reward.
It comes as Santos himself was indicted on 13 counts of federal fraud and money laundering charges. He, of course, has pleaded not guilty, and is running for reelection. We'll see how it all this develops.
Thank you so much for joining us.
It's time now for "AC360".