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Erin Burnett Outfront

Fake Elector Charged In Georgia: Acted "At The Direction" Of Trump; Sources: Trump Wanted To Appear "Defiant" In Mug Shot; U.S. Eyes Potential Explosive Device In Downing Of Prigozhin Jet; Professors Quit Florida College After DeSantis' Right-Wing Takeover. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 25, 2023 - 19:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, pointing the finger at Trump. defendant in the Georgia election case now claiming she was simply following Trump's orders when she agreed to be a fake elector. As Trump's legal team is now scrambling to stop the trial from starting in just two months.

Plus, Trump's mountain legal troubles. New reporting tonight about how the former president is coping after becoming the first president to face criminal charges and have his mugshot taken.

And brought down by a bomb. That is one theory into what caused Prigozhin's plane to crash, according to U.S. intelligence. Who could have done it?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, blaming Trump. Yet another one of the 19 defendants in Georgia's election case now claims she was just following Trump's orders when she signed on to be a fake elector. And a new court filing, Kathie Latham's attorney writes, quote: Mrs. Latham was acting pursuant to the guidelines of the Constitution at the direction of the president of the United States.

Latham's claim comes as Trump was trying to distance himself from some of his 18 codefendants.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I look at some of the other people. I don't know a lot of those people. I don't even know that I've met a lot of those people.


KEILAR: Those people have now all turned themselves into authorities, as has former President Trump, who made history last not becoming the first president to have his mugshot taken. And Trump wasting no time trying to capitalize on the picture. His

campaign is now selling t-shirts and other merchandise featuring the mugshot with the slogan, never surrender. Though, as the world witnessed, Trump did surrender to authorities yesterday -- not long after his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

And tonight, Meadows is gearing up for a major hearing. Monday, he is trying to move the case from Fulton County to a federal court. And it could have major implications for Trump and the case as a whole. I'll have much more on that on a moment.

Sara Murray is OUTFRONT.

So, Sara, we just got a new court filing from District Attorney Fani Willis in this case. What's the latest here?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, in keeping with her sort of posture that she wants to move quickly with this case, she's informing all of the defendants and their attorneys that she is ready to go in mid-September to begin sharing discovery in this case. She's asking for a rather large USB drives to provide, so that she can sheer this initial batch of discovery.

And, look, she's already told the judge in this case that she would like to see it with the trial in October of this year. A date that many lawyers involved, and not involved, in this case think is unrealistic. Trump's team has already weighed in on this, saying they oppose that October date, although they have not offered an alternative. And most importantly, we still haven't heard yet from the judge in terms of what he thinks is a reasonable schedule for this case.

In the meantime, though, you've got 19 defendants. It's a little bit like herding cats. You're starting to see everyone make moves that they believe are in their best interests and not necessarily together.

So, today, we also saw Sidney Powell, who is one of those attorneys who was working with Donald Trump in the aftermath of the 2020 election say that she wants a speedy trial in the Fulton County superior court. Another one of these defendants, Ken Chesebro, had previously told the judge that and he had his court date set for October of 2023. The judge made clear, he was saying that for Chesebro, not everyone. We'll see what he does with the Sidney Powell request.

KEILAR: Yeah. And, Sara, I mentioned that next major hearing in this case, Monday. Tell us what we expect to see then.

MURRAY: This is going to be interesting because it's an evidentiary hearing for Mark Meadows to try to move his case to federal court. He's also asked the federal court to just dismiss all the charges against him. So, we've seen paperwork flying ahead of this hearing, and we've seen the district attorney's office lining up potential witnesses that they could call, as part of their case they want to make. Among them is Brad Raffensperger, who was, of course, the Georgia

secretary of state, the person Trump pressured to find votes needed for him to win the state of Georgia. There's another secretary of state official on there that got calls from Donald Trump, as well as communications with Meadows. And two attorneys who are also on the call, working on behalf of the Trump campaign, on the call between Trump and Raffensperger.

So again, the D.A.'s team is going on with argument meadows was not working on his official capacity as a federal officer when he was meddling in the election in Georgia. And he should not be moved to federal court.


And we'll wait to see how Meadows makes his case. But you can bet, Brianna, even though this is a hearing that is focused on the fate of Mark Meadows, there are going to be a lot of defendants watching to see how this plays out, including the former president's legal team.

KEILAR: Yeah, they certainly will be. Sarah Murray, thank you so much for that.

OUTFRONT now, former Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb.

Ty, thanks for being with us.

I first want to get your reaction to this new filing from Sidney Powell asking for a speedy trial. This, of course, comes after another codefendant, Kenneth Chesebro, has made the same request. Where do you see this going?

TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Thank you for having me, Brianna. Nice to be on with you.

I think this is a problem for Chesebro because he had made a creative, gutsy move where his lawyer, who by the way is quite a talented lawyer, you know, seemed to believe if he could get parrot off by himself, he might have a good shot. Now, I'm not sure I agree with that, but, you know, it is a strategic move and I admire those.

But now he's in a situation where he may have to go to trial with Sidney Powell, which I have to say, of all the defendants in this entire case, is the last person I would want to be alone in a courtroom with, if I was another defendant.

KEILAR: And why is that?

COBB: Well, because, you know, everything -- the problem she has is everything that she did was a lie. The evidence about, as to her claims, you remember she is so far afield, she's on the constellation voting machine side of this. She's -- she had a theory about money, dark money moving through Cuba and China to impact the election. Even Rudy, you know, characterized some of her theories as crackpot theories. So, you know, she's -- and she went to federal court on behalf of the

Trump campaign, and Trump and sow these lies, attended to sell them. There were no buyers. But she has -- she has really, in my view, you know, the most difficult case to defend of all of the defendants.

KEILAR: Yeah, and very interesting, he may have to then be linked to that here. The next hearing, we are watching this, you are watching this, Monday. Mark Meadows, he's pushing to move his case to federal court, saying that he was acting as a federal officer. D.A. Fani Willis said, in a filing this week, quote, Meadows has not shown how his participation in a RICO enterprise that conspired to overturn an election had any relationship to his official duties, much less how his participation and such an agreement was necessary for him to perform as chief of staff.

What do you think?

KEILAR: So, I think that Ms. Willis, her arguments, you know, make sense. On the other hand, they don't necessarily direct themselves to the actual standards that's going to be applied.

Judge Stephen Jones who will hear those arguments is a very, very talented, there are a strong judge. And I think he's going to be listening very carefully to Ms. Willis's factual claims because, superficially at least, Meadows makes a compelling case that arrangement calls, attending meetings, even visiting federal facilities, you know, is -- are things within his job description.

Now, there are problems with Meadows' argument, including some emails that he wrote and the fact he wasn't a mere listener on the call to Raffensperger. Remember that he strongly objected and argued with the state officials about their claims of very few dead voters haven't voted. He was insisting, you know, that the numbers were much higher, in the thousands.

And so, he was not a passive participant on those calls. And that may get -- that may get Willis over the hump on that.

KEILAR: Then that's something we're looking for on Monday, for sure.

So Trump is now the first former president with a mugshot. Our sources say that he wanted to appear to find in his photo. That he put a lot of thought into this. He chose not to smile, and that was obviously very purposeful here. Jail records listed him as six foot three, and 215 pounds. Those are numbers that were self reported.

What is your reaction?


COBB: Well, I noticed he didn't include his 40-yard dash time and make it in the 4.3 range. So, I'm glad he could hold back on that. But 215? No way.

KEILAR: I mean, what do you think about that, though? Does not have any material value if you believe that he's not telling the truth, or --

COBB: No, no, not really. It is just another insight into Trump's psyche and how driven he is by whatever facts that he can get out that he thinks will make him more appealable to others.

KEILAR: So, Ty, when do you think all of this will wrap up? Obviously, we are looking at a couple of cases moving very quickly, but the larger tranche of defendants here?

COBB: So I -- I do think that the Georgia cases -- I mean, there is a good chance, they could still be arguing about what court this would be tried and, federal or state court, a year from now after appeals. I think this is an appealable issue. I think, Jones -- you know, even if it is an immediate appeal, I think Jones might certify it as such.

This is the first time a former president and, you know, his colleagues have been charged with a heinous crime like this. This is the first presidential -- former presidential mugshot we've ever seen. And while he looks like a batman villain in his mugshot, he is still entitled to all the rights and privileges of a criminal defendant.

So he'll get a hearing on all these issues, and I think it could -- I think it could take, as I've, said at least two years before Willis gets the bulk of this trial to court. I do think, under Georgia law, which is quite demanding, that it is highly likely that Powell and Chesebro do go to trial quickly. I'm not sure how that -- how that will work out. I personally think they are in great danger. But it's their choice.

KEILAR: Yeah, that is a long way off. Ty Cobb, thank you so much. We appreciate your time tonight.

COBB: My pleasure. Nice to be with you.

KEILAR: OUTFRONT next, just in to CNN, we are learning new details tonight from Trump's inner circle about yesterday's historic arrest and mugshot.

Plus, Wagner's response. How are members of Russia's brutal private army reacting tonight after the news of their leader's apparent death?

And in a story that you'll see first on OUTFRONT, Putin enemies meeting untimely deaths after crossing the Russian leader. And the Kremlin's response never changes.



KEILAR: New information tonight on team Trump's game plan. Sources telling CNN Donald Trump's team has had multiple conversations about how to navigate his 2024 campaign and his growing court schedule.

Let's go right to Kristen Holmes, who broke this story.

Kristen, what are you learning? KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I talk to a number

of Trump advisers, and I will say that starting point, they don't believe that this is going to happen. That the trials are actually going to happen while he is campaigning. But as the trials mount, they have come to the realization that this is a possibility.

And look at this calendar here. This is what we know right now. Again, this is subject to change, but if you look at the campaign schedule and the trial schedule, particularly, let's look at January, the 2nd we have this potential trouble for the 2022 election charges, the 15th, is the Iowa caucus, and the E. Jean Carroll civil trial. In March the 5th, you have Super Tuesday, as well as the 25th, the Stormy Daniels hush money trial.

So, they're clearly aware that this is a possibility that he could be campaigning for president and be sitting in these trials. They point to a media strategy which is somewhat on the mind of all publicity is good publicity. Something we know that Donald Trump himself believes.

And they look at the coverage at Thursday, they like the way that that went, particularly because it was a day after the debate, and it really took all of the oxygen out of the race. Everything was focused on him and his arrest. And they believe they can manipulate the media and spin the media that way, if he is having this kind of extensive coverage during a trial.

Now, it remains to be seen whether or not, of, course that is true. But they say that Donald Trump is somebody who has the capability of doing so, looking at last night and his decision to post on X, formerly known as Twitter, taking a moment which he was already the center of attention and essentially building on that. His team had had multiple discussions about when he was going to post on Twitter for the first time since he was banned in 2021, and then reinstated.

This was out of the blue. This was Trump himself deciding that he was going to take control of this media narrative. But I will tell you that even if this does happen, if they do believe they can capitalize on this with voters and try to take the oxygen out of the race, I've spoken to a number of Trump's allies and public operatives who worry this kind of extensive media coverage is actually just going to exhaust voters and turn them off.

But, of course, Brianna, as you know, this is all unprecedented. This is completely new, so we're just going to have to watch it unfold to see how this really plays out, particularly with the election.

KEILAR: Yeah. Hard to know how it will influence voters. We haven't seen it before.

Kristen Holmes, thank you for that great reporting. We appreciate it.

OUTFRONT now, Ryan Goodman, former special counsel at the Defense Department.

We have Sarah Matthews as well, who's deputy press secretary in the Trump White House. She met with special counsel Jack Smith's team and also testified before the January 6th Select Committee. And Jonah Goldberg, editor in chief of "The Dispatch", with us as well.

So, Jonah, you just heard Kristen's reporting there. We saw Trump really wasted no time last night trying to capitalize off of his arrests. I think that's not really a surprise, he had this fundraising email and he had this mugshot that he could feature, which was a feature unlike any other time before here.

What do you think about what you saw?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I mean, look. There is a well-established trend with Donald Trump, where he always tries to double down and re-intensify his bond with his base, which is also his donor base.


And, the problem with that as a political matter is it's sort of like the salesman who says, sure we lose money on every sale, but will make it up in volume, right?

He turns off more actual swing voters, independents, Republicans who have already decided that they don't like him, they just intensify their animosity towards him when he does all of this stuff. But the feedback he gets in the bubble of Twitter and the people only tell them the things they want to hear, is that he's just killing it.

And that's what gives social media warship of Trump this otherworldly feel, because it's a feedback loop that just reinforces a lot of bad decisions, including some bad legal decisions.

KEILAR: Really interesting point.

So, Sarah, Trump, he used to brag about how much he could campaign, how much he loved to campaign and how he would do multiple campaign rallies each day as a candidate. Do you think that you could kind of keep that up, anything close to that if he's also facing these legal obligations, and these trial dates at the same time?

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY UNDER TRUMP: I don't think that's going to be possible, just given the schedule. It's going to be more difficult for him to be out there campaigning on the road. But also, you have to look at it from a financial standpoint to. I think that the campaign is fundraising to help fund his legal fees, and any rally that they would put money towards, that's taking away from the legal defense.

And it's not just Trump's legal defense, it's the legal defense of his codefendants, especially in this Georgia case. And so, I think that -- while he's going to want to be out there, he's basically like the Energizer bunny. He can be on the go constantly, I witnessed it firsthand during my time at the White House.

I think that he is going to face some difficulty in the 2024 campaign, being able to keep up that same pace.

KEILAR: Yeah. Look, you don't want any campaign dollars to be let off, because this is going to be quite the fight if he is the nominee.

Ryan, it's clear that Trump doesn't want a trial to help and before the 2024 elections for political reasons, and maybe also financial reasons there. Would there be any upside for him, for it to happen before then, though?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: I think there is a significant upside if the trial of Kenneth Chesebro proceeds, let's assume without Trump as one of the co-defendants. So, if Kenneth Chesebro gets this September 23rd trial date, which is the current order of the court, then Trump as a legal matter does get to preview the entirety of the prosecutor's case against Kenneth Chesebro, and then his lawyers will be much better preparing themselves in the eventuality of when he's tried.

And, of course, they also get to see all the witnesses, so they could figure out if there are any discrepancies between the witness statements in the Kenneth Chesebro trial versus his trial. So I think there's some -- of course, that trial would result in an acquittal, there would be very significant for him. If that trial were to result in a conviction, that would put him in significant jeopardy.

And then, of course, the other question for him in any trial is jury nullification, whether or not the jurors, if they see guilt, would say no, not for him. Any one of them doing that would prevent a conviction. And you can imagine they might be more willing to nullify pre the presidential action then post the presidential election.

KEILAR: Jonah, not a coincidence likely here. President Biden sending out a fund raising email last night. The title was apropos of nothing. And he said inside, I think today's a great day to give to my campaign.

And here's Biden's answer today when asked if he saw Donald Trump's mugshot.


REPORTER: Have you seen Donald Trump's mugshot yet?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did see it on television.

REPORTER: What did you think?

BIDEN: Handsome guy. Wonderful guy.


KEILAR: What do you think about how he is relating to this moment?

GOLDBERG: I think he's got to walk a fine line here on this. I thought the campaign thing was a little too cute by half, but, you know, he's got this double-edged problem. It's that I honestly think, and I think there are a lot of Democrats who would agree away from the television camera, that any other nominee on the Republican side within reason could probably beat Biden.

Biden thinks that he's the guy that knows how to beat Trump, and that he's the guy, and he did it once before, and all that kind of thing, leaving out the fact that it was during COVID and his popularity was much higher back than. I think it's a much dicier proposition that he can beat Trump this time than last time.

And so, he kind of needs to run against Trump on the proposition that there are a lot of voters that don't like either of them. But if you force them to choose, they're going to go to Biden. If it were, say, Nikki Haley, that would be a real problem.

And so they're in this sort of mutual co-dependency kind of thing.


Trump says, I'm the only guy that can beat Biden. Biden says I'm the only guy that can beat Trump, and we're going to get a replay of 2016 where we have two candidates so unpopular, each has a chance to lose to the other.

KEILAR: Yeah, maybe he does want to talk him then, you know, in that case.

Sarah, Trump was on Newsmax last night where he was asked how well he is sleeping in the middle of all of this, and this is what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I do sleep soundly, and I don't let it bother me, because it is what it is. It's a horrible thing.


KEILAR: You know, what do you think about that answer?

WILLIAMS: I imagine that he knows that politically, this benefits him I would say in the short term, at the very least. I think that this is going to solidify his standing in the primary. He's the clear front- runner.

But I think he knows from a personal standpoint, this is a really bad thing for his legacy. He's been indicted four times, now this mug shot is up there, I think that while, of course, his team has capitalized on it, try to spin it into a positive, they fundraised off of it which is good, I think that he also knows that he is in trouble here.

I mean, look at the facts of the case in Georgia, for example. He's on audiotape telling the Georgia secretary of state to find him 11,780 votes, when there have been multiple recounts already. I mean, it's going to be really hard for him to prove that he wasn't trying to overturn the election.

And for him to claim that he didn't know these people who have been charged in this case, I think that something else that he said recently in that interview, was that he didn't recall meeting any of these folks, and didn't recognize them. We've heard that line before, he used that line on me when I testified before the January 6 committee, claiming that he had never interacted with me, never seen me. And so, I think that he knows he's in trouble, even if he is going to display a false sense of bravado.

KEILAR: Yeah. We know that's a device of his when he clearly even does know someone.

So, Ryan, three codefendants now in Fulton County who say, look, I was just doing what Trump told me to do. I was acting on his orders. You have Latham still, they were fake electors. Now you have the former GOP chairman in Georgia, David Shafer.

How problematic is this for Trump?

GOODMAN: It's not good. It's a bad legal fact for him, that you have 3 of the co-defendants saying that you acted at the direction of Trump. That's what they say in their legal briefs, and that will hurt him in Georgia, and it will hurt him in the federal case as well.

I remember reading that line in the federal indictment. It says that the false electors acted under the direction -- at the direction of Trump and Giuliani. And that is very bad for him. Now, we have the three individuals themselves saying that's exactly correct. So the prosecutors will be able to use that.

And it's one of these instances in which the codefendant's interest do not perfectly align. They're trying to say that they're acting under his direction so that they can get into federal court. It's not a good argument there for him, but it's a very bad argument for him.

KEILAR: Yeah. And we'll be watching that, because it certainly is.

Ryan, Sarah, Jonah, thank you to all of you.

OUTFRONT next, U.S. intelligence says Prigozhin's plane may have been brought down by a bomb. So if it was, who could've planted the explosive?

And it appears that Ron DeSantis's conservative takeover of a liberal arts college has backfired. It's a story that you'll see first, on OUTFRONT.



KEILAR: Tonight, an onboard explosion, that is one theory that the U.S. intelligence committee is exploring as it evaluates what caused the plane believed to be carrying Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin to fall out of the sky. This as Russian officials say they recovered the planes flight recorders as part of their investigation into the crash.

Melissa Bell is OUTFRONT.

So, Melissa, you've covered the Wagner group for a long time. You have interviewed Wagner fighters. What is the reaction been to Prigozhin's apparent death?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A good deal of grief, and a great deal of shock. This was after all, a man who had cheated death so many times, cheated justice and charges, even in the wake of his failed march on Moscow.

And for those Wagner fighters, the ones that have been with the group for a long time, of course, I make a distinction because the 2022 invasion really transformed. You saw a lot more inexperienced fighters, convicts even, joining the rank and file of Wagner to help make progress here in Ukraine. But if you take those Wagner fighters who were very experienced fighters, the elite, they had a great deal of respect for Yevgeny Prigozhin.

This was not just a founder of Wagner. He was very hands on. Whether it was from the battlefields of Syria to 2015, to more recently in so many of those African countries, where Wagner has become part and parcel, not just for the political landscape, but for the security landscape of so many countries.

What many of his fighters saw was a man who was hands on, and they themselves found themselves at the heart of a group that had a deal of reputation for being a fine fighting machine. Now, of course, there is then what Yevgeny Prigozhin represented to those beyond his immediate fighters. And I think you're seeing a lot of that in the outpourings, Brianna, that you're seeing at those makeshift memorials that have popped up in St. Petersburg.

What the 2022 in Beijing did was essentially expose Trump's form his group. He himself found himself thrust in to the limelight, and he seemed to enjoy it a great deal. And that, of course, you saw spoke to the part of the Russian population, and, frankly, was appalled by what we're seeing happening in Ukraine.

Still, shock for everyone that this should have been so brutal, even as we await the results of those investigations. This was not a poisoning, Brianna. If indeed it was done on purpose, if this was an assassination, this was an explosion designed to show that there is one man in charge in Russia, and that is Vladimir Putin -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yeah, it sends a very loud message.

Melissa Bell, live from us from Ukraine, thank you so much.

And OUTFRONT now, Seth Jones, director of the international program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and George Beebe, former CIA Russia analysis chief, who spent a lot of time living in Russia as well.

Seth, this bomb theory, I know you've been talking to your sources. What are you learning about this?

SETH JONES, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I think what we have right now is a lot of circumstantial evidence that this was a -- some kind of a bomb attack that took down the airliner. We have motivation here in this case, Prigozhin had thumbed his nose at the Kremlin, conducted an insurrection against Vladimir Putin.


And second, from talking to my sources with the U.S. government, the U.S. has no evidence that any kind of surface air missile was shot at the airplane, which strongly suggests that something on that aircraft took it down. The reality of course is that because it was over Russian territory, it's the Russian government that will control the investigation of it.

KEILAR: That's right.

And, George, Russian authorities say, to that point, the flight recorder, this other relevant material, that's going to be forensically examined to determine the cause of the crash.

You know for sure about Russia, how the system operates. What are you expecting will be the outcome in that investigation?

GEORGE BEEBE, DIRECTOR OF GRAND STRATEGY, QUINCY INSTITUTE: Well, Brianna, I think the outcome of this investigation is going to be inconclusive. Putin has strong reason to want to send a signal to Russian elites that he was responsible for taking Prigozhin down. He wants to reestablish his authority, show them that he is in charge. But he also doesn't want to put himself in legal jeopardy, or put the Russian government in legal jeopardy. So I expect that the results of this investigation will either be inconclusive, or they will try to pin the blame for this on Ukraine and the United States.

KEILAR: Seth, as you are seeing, and we see in pictures, people are visiting these makeshift memorials to Wagner in major cities. They're laying flowers in St. Petersburg, also in Moscow. There's a video that is surfacing of a man walking through a desecrated Wagner cemetery in Russia, saying the site has been demolished. The graves have been raised to the ground.

How important is Wagner to Putin, and will it remain as valuable and productive for him, with Prigozhin and these other top Wagner leaders gone?

JONES: Well, I think private military companies with Wagner as the largest will still remain important for Russia in places like the Central African Republic, in Mali, Sudan, Libya, Syria. They play an important role in sight security, they play an important role in the extraction of resources.

But I do think they're some lessons that the Kremlin will probably take away, including limiting the power of any one organization, the way Wagner had gotten away. So I think there are some steps that will see the Kremlin take to try to reestablish control over private military companies like Wagner.

KEILAR: George, do you think that Putin comes out of this stronger? I mean, we talked a little bit about the elites. We talked a little bit about just regular ordinary people in Russia, with Melissa Bell. What about with them? BEEBE: Well, I think within the elites, Putin has definitely

strengthened his position. Ironically, I think a lot of the elites are going to welcome this action. They don't trust each other, these are people that fear some sort of return to a situation like the 1990s, when they were at war with each other and they lacked someone with a firm hand in the Kremlin that could protect them against each other.

Now, Putin has said I'm in charge. He's shown that he will deal decisively with rebellion, and I think that will be a source of comfort within the Russian elites. As for the Russian people, I think they're going to want to know their stability and order in the country. I think a lot of them were shocked by this uprising, and I think the degree that Putin can show that stability is back, it will serve his cause with Russian people as well.

KEILAR: Very interesting.

George Beebe, Seth Jones, thank you so much to both of you.

OUTFRONT next, Putin says he didn't kill Prigozhin, but there is a long list of Russians who have died after crossing the Russian president. Who is behind the mysterious death? And the brain drain at what was once a popular liberal arts college, before Ron DeSantis let a conservative takeover.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About 40 percent of our faculty have left.




KEILAR: Today, Vladimir Putin's top propagandist on state TV pushing the Kremlin's claim that Putin was not behind the reported death of the man who led that mutiny against him just two months ago.


VLADIMIR SOLOVYOV, RUSSIAN STATE TV HOST (through translator): The last person to benefit from this is Putin. There is no threat to him. More than that, Putin is a man of the law.


KEILAR: But there's a long trail of Putin foes who have been targeted.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): With Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin now presumed dead in a plane crash, the Kremlin says Vladimir Putin had nothing to do with it. But Western leaders aren't so sure.

BIDEN: There's not much that happens in Russia with Putin not behind it.

PLEITGEN: There is no evidence that Russia's leadership may have brought down the jet, but Prigozhin is the latest of many figures harmed after crossing the Russian president.

In 2006, former Russian intelligence agent-turned Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko fell ill in the U.K. and soon died. Doctors found he had been poisoned by a radioactive substance.

While the Kremlin denied involvement, an inquiry came to a different conclusion, saying Russia's intelligence service, the FSB, was behind it.

ROBERT OWEN, HEAD OF LITVINENKO INQUIRY: The FSB operation to kill Mr. Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr. Patrushev, then head of the FSB, and also by President Putin.

PLEITGEN: In 2018, same country, different poison. This time, a former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by a nerve agent Novichok.


While the Kremlin once again denied involvement, Putin not shy to show his contempt for Skripal.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): He is simply a spy. A traitor to his homeland. You get it? There's such a thing. A traitor to once homeland. He's one of them.

PLEITGEN: In 2020, same poison, but this time inside Russia. Opposition figure Alexei Navalny falling gravely ill on a domestic flight. He was medically evacuated to Germany, Putin ridiculing allegations the Kremlin might be behind the poisoning.

PUTIN: It doesn't mean at all that he needs to be poisoned. Who needs him anyway? If they wanted to, they probably would've followed it through.

PLEITGEN: And just a few days ago, a general whom a Washington-based think tank says may have known details about a palace allegedly under construction for Vladimir Putin, which the Kremlin denies, died in jail after unexpectedly being diagnosed with Leukemia.

The Kremlin hasn't commented on that case.

Volodymyr Putin called Yevgeny Prigozhin's death a tragedy and said he fully trusts Russia's investigation to the abrupt crash will bring the truth to light.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And, of course, Brianna, those are just a couple of the cases were enemies of Vladimir Putin have been harmed or even killed. Another of course, being the gunning down of Boris Nemtsov, right in front of the Kremlin in 2015, another case where the Kremlin vehemently denies having anything to do with it. In this case, of course, Vladimir Putin urging patience and for the investigation to play out -- Brianna.

KEILAR: These cases, they pile up. Fred Pleitgen, thank you.

OUTFRONT next, the resignations piling up as well at a Florida college, after Ron DeSantis's conservative takeover. And now, students are unsure if they can even graduate. It's a story that you'll see first on OUTFRONT.

Plus, members of Spain's World Cup soccer team leveling an ultimatum after their star player was forcibly kissed on stage.



KEILAR: Tonight, chaos in a Florida college where GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis spearheaded a conservative takeover. Governor DeSantis, on the campaign trail today, making this pitch to Republicans as he tries to regain his momentum and catch up to Donald Trump.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The issues in the election that should be front and center should be the issues you care about, that affect you, your family, and our country's future. If we're discussing anything else, other than that, then we are just playing into the Democrats' hands.


KEILAR: But one of those issues appears to be backfiring on him in his own state.

Carlos Suarez is OUTFRONT.


DESANTIS: Education needs to be about teaching people things that matter, not trying to indoctrinate them.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis turned his words into action at New College of Florida. Now, the school is in chaos, and professors are leaving just as the fall semester gets underway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said teacher unions are evil.

SUAREZ: Earlier this year, DeSantis installed a conservative majority on the board of trustees that led to the appointment of a new president. The board quickly banned the diversity equity and inclusion office, and set its sights on gender studies. Which one board member called, quote, more of an ideological move than academic discipline.

The board's work to dismantle gender studies proved too much for Professor Nicholas Clarkson, who quit last week. In his resignation letter, Clarkson described Florida as, quote, the state where learning goes to die.

NICHOLAS CLARKSON, FORMER FACULTY, NEW COLLEGE OF FLORIDA: What I am saying there is really about the ways the students were so excited and curious and intellectually engaged before this chaos began. When you start banning terms and banning fields of study, and arguing that the state has a right to tell faculty what they can and can't say in a classroom, that really hampers the learning environment.

SUAREZ: DeSantis-appointed board member Christopher Rufo posted a headline about Clarkson's resignation on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling it, quote, good news. In a news release, DeSantis praised the moves, saying the board is quote, succeeding in its mission to eliminate indoctrination and refocus higher education on its classical mishit.

The New College trustee Dr. Amy Reid says the shortage of professors and-limited class selection is becoming untenable.

DR. AMY REID, BOARD OF TRUSTEES MEMBER, NEW COLLEGE OF FLORIDA: About 40 percent of our faculty have left, and actually just before I came to this meeting, I received word that one more faculty member in biology is leaving. That's going to make it a challenge for students to complete their areas of study here.

SUAREZ: Chad Loeffler (ph) is one of those students. We first met him back in February, when sweeping changes at the school led to protests. These days, Loeffler is not sure if he's even going to graduate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no urban studies factual here at this semester to actually teach me any classes. And I do have classes left to take, but a lot of the professors are gone. So I can't do that.

SUAREZ: New College says it's faculty recruitment efforts are ongoing, and more classes could be offered. A spokesperson points to an increase in fall enrolment as a sign the school is appealing to more students.


KEILAR: And Carlos is with me now.

Carlos, as we just heard, enrolment numbers are up at the school. Tell us why that is.

SUAREZ: That's exactly right, Bianna. So, New College is touting a record number of students in rolled in the fall semester. We're talking about an incoming freshman class of 341 students, compared to 277 last year.

But, Brianna, a closer look at those numbers shows the uptick are mostly student athletes. It's a recruitment effort that a lot of the students and professors that we spoke to say is odd, considering that New College only created a sports department a few months ago, and they don't have many sporting facilities -- Brianna.


KEILAR: It is very interesting. Carlos Suarez, thank you so much.

OUTFRONT next, Spain's women's World Cup team now refusing to play, unless the head of the league is removed after kissing the team's star player. The soccer chief's shocking response, next.


KEILAR: Tonight, I was not respected. Those are the words of World Cup soccer star Jennifer Hermoso. Hermoso fighting back after she was forcibly kissed on the world stage. You are looking at that moment, where the president of Spain's soccer program, Luis Rubiales, hugs Hermoso, puts both hands on her head and kisses her, and then pats are on the back as she walks away.

Millions watched as this moment played out live on television. Hermoso was collecting her medal after winning Spain's first ever women's World Cup. Rubiales there, the soccer chief, defiant, saying, quote, I will not resign. He claimed the criticism is, quote, false feminism. He said the kiss was spontaneous, mutual, and with consent.

But in her statement, Hermoso says that Rubiales' explanation is, quote, categorically false, and part of that manipulative culture that he himself has generated. Rubiales has faced widespread criticism from Spanish politicians and the players, who are refusing to play until he is fired.

Thank you so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.