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Erin Burnett Outfront

Zelenskyy Gets Mixed Reception As He Pleads For U.S. Aid; Trump Co-Defendant Lists Potential Witnesses Ahead Of Trial; Migrants Detained In Texas Border City Seeing "Severe" Surge; 2 Killed, Dozens Of Students Injured, 5 In Critical Condition After Bus Stumbles Down 50-Foot Ravine; DeSantis: "Not Going To Fund" COVID Vaccines, If Elected President; Rupert Murdoch Exits Fox And News Corp As Chairman. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 21, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, McCarthy looks the other way. The speaker avoiding public appearances with the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, but we have the photo that he didn't want you to see.

Plus, McCarthy, in his own words, not long ago seeing a very different tune about Ukraine. What's changed?

And breaking news tonight, officials just holding a presser on the overturned bus carrying high school students on the way to band camp, confirming a second person has died, dozens are injured, five in critical condition. What happened?

And, the border surge tonight. One Texas city is so overwhelmed by the thousands of migrants, the mayor declared a state of emergency. Traffic at one point at the city halted because of the chaos. That mayor is my guest.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, pleading for aid. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Washington D.C. tonight, making the case for more help to win Putin's war. Zelenskyy getting a warm welcome from President Biden at the White House.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. President, it's an honor to welcome you back to the White House and the Oval Office. Earlier this week at the U.N. General Assembly, I made it clear that no nation can be truly secure in the world if, in fact, we don't stand up and defend the freedom of Ukraine from the face of the Russian brutality and aggression.


BURNETT: Zelenskyy, though, was not given the same welcome in Congress. The House Speaker Kevin McCarthy actually tried to avoid being seen with Zelenskyy today. He did, actually, though pose for these photos in a closed door meeting.

But the only reason we know about it, the only reason this picture even is out here for you to see, is because a source inside that room shared the photos with CNN reporter Annie Grayer. So, she's why you know about this because McCarthy, he actually denied official photographers access to the room.

And asked repeatedly, he refused to commit to bringing a Ukraine aid package to the floor, to reporters today.

And McCarthy also denied Zelenskyy's request to address a joint session of Congress, something Nancy Pelosi, of course, allowed when she was the House speaker. And today, McCarthy gave this excuse.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What I was asking for was a joint session, given like a week before. We don't have the time for a joint session.


BURNETT: Well, I mean, of course, he could have had the time if he didn't choose to send his members home for a long weekend today. In fact, McCarthy seems to have time what he wants to do. He found time to move ahead on impeachment proceeding but not to fund the government days ahead of a shutdown deadline.

But his lack of time for Ukraine is surprising. Speaker McCarthy was once highly critical of what he said was President Biden's lack of support for Ukraine.


MCCARTHY: Stronger and rougher and what really needs to help is, Ukraine is not asking for American men and women to fight. All they're asking for is the weapons to defend themselves. If we would have taken those --


BURNETT: He continually said it again and again, if Biden had given the weapons sooner. McCarthy was clear, he was very clear that this was a moral imperative. Why did he think, so passionately at the time, that Ukraine needed to fight Russia?


MCCARTHY: I do not think anything savvy or genius about Putin. I think Putin is evil. I think he's a dictator. And I think he's murdering people right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Well, he said it. And on the facts, nothing has changed since McCarthy said that. In fact, at least 14 prominent Russians have died under mysterious circumstances since Putin invaded Ukraine. Falling downstairs, falling out of a hospital window, falling off of a boat. And, of course, in the case of Yevgeny Prigozhin, falling out of the sky.

Putin's list of dead mounts daily. New video into CNN tonight shows the sheer brutality continues unabated on the front lines. So far, an estimated 500,000, half a million human beings, both Ukrainian and Russians, have been killed for one reason, because Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine.

So, why does McCarthy no longer seem to worry about a murdering dictator? Well, the answer appears to be this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: The U.S. Congress should refuse to authorize as single additional payment of our depleted stockpiles.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I believe that the United States position should be for peace in Ukraine, not continuing to fund and provide weapons that are killing people every day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we need to stop what we're doing. I think we need to pull back.


BURNETT: Those are just a few of the people who hold McCarthy's personal career path in their hands, whether he remains speaker, and that appears to be what's changed.

I want to go now to Fred Pleitgen. He's on the ground in Ukraine tonight.

And, Fred, what is the latest there?


Well, as Volodymyr Zelenskyy is there in D.C. for those very important talks, the Russians here unleashing a massive barrage of air strikes against Ukraine. And, you now, the air raid alarms earlier today, they were on for several hours.

And the Russians didn't only use ballistic missiles as they have been over the past couple of months, but (AUDIO CLIP) strategic bombers to fire at Ukraine. Here's what happened.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Vladimir Putin unleashing massive aerial attacks across Ukraine just as Ukraine's president visits Capitol Hill and the White House.

Firefighters rushing the wounded out of the burning ruins of this hotel in a town Cherkasy.

The sound I heard was boom, and I saw all the windows were gone in the kitchen and bedroom, this woman says. And she adds, at around 6:00 in the morning, there was an explosion, a strong one. We came here, saw the windows that shattered in the shop.

Kyiv says the Russians launched 43 cruise missiles in the early morning hours, and while Ukraine's air defenses were able to shoot down most of them, some did come through.

Also hitting energy infrastructure, Kyiv saying (AUDIO GAP) scale in half a year. Ukrainians are certain more strikes will follow as temperatures begin to fall.

We can make certain assumptions that the fuel and energy sector facilities will be further targeted by the enemy, the air force spokesman says.

Zelenskyy urging the U.S. and its allies to provide more modern air defense systems, but Ukraine also fighting back. The satellite company Planet Labs releasing these images after the Ukrainians say they struck Russian targets in occupied Crimea, including a military air field.

On the frontlines, the Ukrainians say they're making gains. Cover me, I'll get closer to them, the soldier says. This video released by a unit operating on the eastern front.

While in the south, Kyiv says its counteroffensive there is also gaining steam, even though the going remains tough.

Despite mining and engineering equipment, as well as strong resistance from the occupiers, our units had a partial success, advanced into the depths of the enemy's defense and along the front, he says.

But the Russians may already be gearing up for yet another large-scale aerial campaign against Ukraine's critical infrastructure.


PLEITGEN (on camera): So, as you can see there, Erin, a lot going on today, a lot also going on on the battlefield. We actually went close to the southern front line, and we asked some of those who are fighting in this counteroffensive what they need as Zelenskyy is there in Washington, D.C. And the answer was ammunition, artillery ammunition, HIMARS ammunition, because they say even as they try to advance, the Russians can still fire a lot more than the Ukrainians can -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Fred, thank you very much, on the frontlines in southern Ukraine tonight.

OUTFRONT now, Christo Grozev, the lead Russia investigator for Bellingcat Productions. He is on Russia's wanted list.

And, Christo, you know, you heard McCarthy say very clearly over a year ago, Putin is a dictator, a murderer. He called him evil. While McCarthy's views appear to have obviously changed, Putin has not.

CHRISTO GROZEV, LEAD RUSSIA INVESTIGATOR AT BELLINGCAT: Well, if anything is changed, actually, Putin has increased his obsession with eliminating anybody who crosses his way through execution, through what they call neutralization. It's just a couple of days ago, (INAUDIBLE) the chief of security for the whole of the Russian regime said that they managed to neutralize more than 100 foreign spies.

Now, mind you, they think of people that are part of the opposition as foreign spies. What they found out in the last year, since that change of opinion, is that there's no reputation cost anymore prevents Putin from going after opposition leaders, activists, journalists. Only in the last six months we have investigated the suspicious poisoning of three women journalists. And there's nobody else who is interested in the demise than Putin's regime.

We just found out that at least two other female journalists who work for important stories have been threatened and have been surveilled over the last several months. They have been given very personal details about their movements, about -- one of them had a threat message against their dog.

This is all the functioning of a regime that is murderous. And I cannot imagine how somebody could have changed their opinion in the opposite direction in the last year.


BURNETT: And, you know, in fact, with all the reporting that you've done and, obviously, the extensive reporting on Alexey Navalny and the poisoning of Alexey Navalny by FSB agents, Putin is trying to put you on his list of neutralized people as well.

GROZEV: Well, indeed, and there's been a long term as they found out recently from law enforcement agencies in Europe, that there's an ongoing investigation that probably very soon will go public, but I'm not a lot to talk about that.


GROZEV: But, again, let's not talk about me, let's talk about the dozens if not hundreds of young Russian journalists who are actually surveilled and attacked. What we found out is that the Russian regime has infiltrated a lot of the organizations of the Russian diaspora abroad. They are essentially embedding there poisons and killers.

BURNETT: So, since Prigozhin's death, and that is, there is no attempt to cover that up, right? That is just what we are going to do. There's been a lot of questions about Putin's inner circle, where people's loyalties lie, whether that is just going to shut up any kind of dissent, or not. What's the latest that you understand? GROZEV: Well, my personal understanding is that it is prisoners'

dilemma. It is a Mexican shootout, it is a term from finance, which essentially means that the people around him are scared that they will be purged. But, they are waiting for the right moment to actually take control of their own destiny, and their own safety.

So there's a lot of anxiety in the circle around him, who will be the next one could be taken to a house arrest, and interrogated for a week, or to -- to prove their loyalty. This happened with Surovikin, General Surovikin.


GROZEV: Discussed him on your show months ago. What we've seen now is that with Surovikin, who has a lot of political capital, a lot of admiration for him from the rank and file military, he cannot be just thrown out of a plane, he had to be taken into a position that makes him, as they say -- so he was sent to Africa. But that will not be everybody's sort of way out, and that's why I think that there's a lot of tension that may result in people just trying to prevent -- or preempt their own purging by going after Putin.

BURNETT: But -- and, exactly what are you saying? Are you saying there could be other attempts going after Putin or --

GROZEV: I believe it's more likely that there will be, exactly because of this fear --

BURNETT: Because if they don't --

GROZEV: -- if they wait too long --

BURNETT: They'll get killed?

GROZEV: They'll get killed.

BURNETT: Huh. So you think this could actually accelerate, and you think that sentiment exists?

GROZEV: Yes, it does, it's just a matter of who will -- who have the courage to die first.

BURNETT: Well, in this context, is Putin, what is he doing with the war? You hear the Ukrainians talk about, they want more ammunition, they say that even with the aid they've received, that Russia simply still has more.

Is Putin still accelerating the war?

GROZEV: Putin is accelerating the war, he has an interest in showing to people, without Prigozhin, who is let's face, it the more competent than the commandos he had. He can still show some progress, or at least still be a Ukrainian counter advances.

But what he cannot do is continue with the current composition of his army. He has way too few people to actually take advantage, and make use of this ammunition that they have in abundance. So, I cannot imagine him continuing through the New Year, without the new mobilization. And that may be another internal dissent factor that we have taken to account.

BURNETT: He said something recently, 300,000 people, he's going to call up, it's not going to be a problem. Do you buy it?

GROZEV: Well, it's not going to be a problem for him, I think it would be a problem for these people. Russia has lost a couple million, or maybe more young people, who left the country. So you are left with very few people who haven't taken the offer to get pretty high, well paid contracts for the army. And, now we'll have to be reluctantly drawn into position.

An interesting report by colleagues from the intelligence team, just a couple of days ago, showed that a new called up recruit last on average four months without being killed, before being killed. I don't think the statistics is very favorable to the recruitment right now.

BURNETT: Wow, four months until death. And we talk about the death toll caused by one person's decision to go ahead with this war.

Thank you very much, Christo.

And next, witness list. We are just learning the list of people that want Trump codefendant wants in the Georgia election defense case. The RNC chair is on there, Ronna McDaniel, the Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn, and CNN's Van Jones. Van Jones?

Plus, breaking news, two people dead, dozens of children hurt, five critically. That bus, flying off the New York highway. It's terrifying. It's tragic. The students were on their way to band camp, and police are just giving a press conference. So we'll share with you the very latest, as to what possibly caused this.

And then, Ron DeSantis, taking on the latest COVID vaccine, questioning whether the CDC can be trusted.


Local vaccine advocate, Dr. Peter Hotez, response.


BURNETT: New tonight, one of Trump's codefendants in Fulton County, showing his cards. Lawyers for Kenneth Chesebro in his new court filing revealing a list of more than 50 potential witnesses.

And that's a lot of people, right? Well, it includes Trump allies Boris Epshteyn, Bernie Kerik, the RNC head Ronna McDaniel, as well as Trump campaign attorney Matt Morgan, and also others.

I mean, Van Jones, CNN political commentator, is on there. In fact, that is so unexpected, it was news to Van, when we called him to ask him about it.

Now, of course, Chesebro, of course, is the alleged architect of the fake elector plot to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election.

And joining me now is Ryan Goodman, our OUTFRONT legal expert.

So, Ryan, when you look through this witness list, you said you were surprised that would Chesebro even want to call Morgan as a witness, and I would backfire on him. And that's the campaign attorney, right?

GOODMAN: Right. So, I think he's playing with fire, and that it could backfire. In Morgan's testimony to the January 6th Committee, it's very damaging to Chesebro.


And he has locked into that testimony now. It's not like he is going to give different testimony in all likelihood, in a trial.


GOODMAN: His testimony is that he, and other Trump campaign lawyers, in fact totally out of the false electors scheme, when they realized litigation had been exhausted. And they said, well, let's give it to Chesebro, because if he wants to pursue it, let him do it.

But what he's doing is not the original plan. The original plan was to make a contingent, and call them contingent electors, on the basis of litigation. And they said Chesebro was not into that. He went for our second plan, which was just to submit these false slates.

BURNETT: False slates, yeah.

GOODMAN: Fall slates, regardless of winning litigation. That's what Chesebro is in deep legal trouble for. Morgan on the stand is not good for Chesebro.

BURNETT: So it is interesting why he would -- why he would do that. Does anything about the number -- I mean, Fani Willis had said, you know, she wants 150 witnesses. I would presume actually this quite an overlap, in the Venn diagram between his list and her list. But nonetheless, were you surprised to see 50 witnesses?

GOODMAN: Yeah, it's a very strange list. And in some sense, I wonder if it's all real. In a way, she doesn't necessarily have to end up calling them, but it's a very long list, and some of the names, it's hard to compute what they're really thinking, especially like these ones, they are actually self destructive, if they were to call those witnesses.

BURNETT: Right, right, what it is even?

All right. Now, Chesebro's lawyers also tried to file a motion to keep a lot of emails out of evidence. And these emails were that he wrote on behalf of the Trump campaign efforts to overturn the election. So there are some of the recipients, Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, you know?

And they are claiming -- Chesebro's claiming that this is attorney- client privilege. This stuff should be protected. Does that compute, and do you think that is a statement of how crucial these emails are?

GOODMAN: The emails are crucial, if they were somehow to get them out of the trial, and Chesebro is in a very different situation. Their court, he is the legal architect of an entire plan to try to overturn the election, through the false slate of electors. And he wrote it all down.


GOODMAN: So, it's very damaging to him. Without it, there's still a case potentially, but it's a very different kind of case.

BURNETT: Okay, so whether he is successful not, then it's crucial because as you say, it may not be the end of the case, but it will be a very kind of case. Will he be successful in keeping those emails out?

GOODMAN: I can't imagine it. So, I -- even to the point of like, why did they file this motion?

BURNETT: Right, right.

GOODMAN: So part of the reason that is hard to imagine is one of these are part of a public record, we all have access to them. And they're not as part of the public record. They are part of the official record, the January 6th committee actually published correspondence. So, it's publicly available in that space.

It's been used in other spaces, and the other places include the Eastman bar disciplinary hearing. So, if they're in there, why would they be entered into the trial as well?

And if anything, it's another kind of -- this could backfire because it's almost inviting the judge to say, beyond all of that, I'll just give you another reason why it's going to be entered. Crime fraud exception. There is an exception to attorney-client privilege, when you are involved in a crime. And here, now as a judge, I'm going to say there's a good likelihood they were involved in a crime. And they will have that.

BURNETT: Yeah. So none of that seems to add up. I mean, especially -- here's the thing, attorney-client privilege, no one should see it, and it's already printed everywhere.


BURNETT: It's kind of hard to make the argument.

All right, thank you.

And next, new drone video of a large group of migrants, detained. And they are in Eagle Pass, Texas, where there is now a state of emergency, because the city is so overwhelmed. The mayor is my guest.

And breaking news this hour, officials just holding a press conference, after a bus carrying dozens of high school students, flies off of a New York highway. The second person has now died, dozens are injured, five in critical condition. And we'll be live near the scene tonight.



BURNETT: Tonight, a new drone video showing a large group of migrants detained by border patrol. And the images that you're looking at here are in Eagle Pass, Texas, along on the banks of the Rio Grande. Tonight, this is the new epicenter of the border crisis, nearly 100 migrants in fact today just seen waiting in the river.

This as more images that we have, and they've said they would not live until they were let in to the United States. Just a small fraction of the 6,000 migrants who have come to Eagle Pass, in just a few days.

The city's mayor declaring a state of emergency. At one point, traffic was halted because the city was simply so overwhelmed.

So, OUTFRONT now is the mayor of Eagle Pass, Rolando Salinas.

And, Mayor, I very much appreciate your time. You were there, of course, outside. You've got thousands of migrants in Eagle Pass, more coming every day. How serious is this situation tonight?


First of all, this is definitely a very serious situation for the city of Eagle Pass. We're a city of about 28,000 to 30,000 people. And the last couple of days, we've had an excess of 5,000 people crossed from Piedras Negras, Mexico, into Eagle Pass, Texas.

It's become a big concern for the community. A lot of people are frustrated. A lot of these people are being let loose in the community, walking around. And it's just a big concern for the city of Eagle Pass. Not only safety-wise, but also our local economy is taking a hit, because of this crisis, we have to shut down bridge number one.

Our international bridge, with so many millions of dollars flowing through this bridge, we depend on the tolls of the people that pay those bridge tolls. And it's just an emergency situation. That is why, as mayor for the city of Eagle Pass, I decided to declare a state of emergency for the city, because we've never seen this before, this is not normal, and we should have to be going through a situation like this in the United States, or here in Eagle Pass, Texas.

BURNETT: No, you shouldn't. I mean, I just want to emphasize what you just said, because this really hits home. I grew up in a town about the size of yours. You are saying you've got 5,000 people, in a couple of days, coming into a city of 28,000 to 30,000 people. That's like 15 percent of your population.


BURNETT: How do you even manage such a thing? And my understanding, tell me if I'm wrong, is that there's a lot more coming where they came from.

SALINAS: Right. Well, fortunately, we have the help of our state partners, DPS, the governor, our federal agencies, Border Patrol. They are helping, and they are controlling the situation, as best as they can. But what's disappointing is that you have all of these thousands of people just walking in, without any consequence whatsoever.


So, the word is getting out. It's kind of come one, come all type of approach. And you have all these people coming. There is no consequence. And I just want to say that I think that this is unacceptable. It's a shame that we don't have immigration reform, and a solution to prevent situations like this.

BURNETT: Well, I think --

SALINAS: I don't know why things have come to this.

BURNETT: Yeah. I don't think anybody could disagree with you when you say it's unacceptable. You know, you say that they're coming with no consequence. And so, that's why more come.

I mean, the sheriff in your county, I know you are an independent, he's a Democrat. He told my colleague, Ed Lavandera, who's been in Eagle Pass, as you know, in the past days, that President Biden is to blame for the surge.

And he specifically said because he's created the perception that the border is open, because he's more accepting of migrants than Republicans, and that that's part of the reason that you are just saying this surge in flow.

Mayor, how do you feel about it, when you say that there are no consequences, and does the president bear some of the responsibility for the crisis in your city?

SALINAS: I'll be honest with you, I'll believe 100 percent he does, he bears some responsibility for this crisis. I haven't heard from anybody in the administration. The president hasn't put out a statement, the vice president, I haven't heard from anybody.

Nobody has bothered to call me, anyone in the city staff saying, hey, this is the federal government. We know what you're going through. We're worried about you. This is our plan of action.

Nothing. We're here abundant. We're on the border. We're asking for help. This is unacceptable.

Please, just enforce the laws that are on the books. We are a nation of laws. That's all I ask for, is that it shouldn't be like this. We should be able to enforce laws. If you want to come here -- good, come legally. A lot of people have in the past.

It takes a lot of money and years to do it the right way. And it's not fair for those people that now we have thousands of people coming in, without one single consequence. It's just not fair.

BURNETT: Mayor Salinas, thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

SALINAS: Absolutely.

BURNETT: For telling us what you're -- what you're going through there.

SALINAS: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right, as Mayor Salinas is standing there, you heard what happened. I mean in his city, what is happening.

Harry Enten is OUTFRONT now to go beyond the numbers.

You know, look, his frustration, I mean, that, you know --


BURNETT: -- it's not hidden. I mean, it's frustrating. Think about what he's going through.

Democrats have traditionally been seen as the pro-immigration party.

ENTEN: Yeah.

BURNETT: That's the traditional view. It's more nuance than that, but it is -- it's a traditional view. Is the crisis at the southern border, I mentioned the Democratic sheriff, who said President Biden bares responsibility. Mayor Salinas, independent, Biden bears some responsibility.

Is this changing Democrats' views on the issue?

ENTEN: I think it is, you know? We had a good poll question that essentially asked, do you believe that immigration levels should be increased, decreased, or stay the same? And if you take the margin of increased versus decreased, you can see that Democrats are still more pro-immigration than not by 22-point margin in 2023. But that is down significantly, nearly cut in half from where we were in 2021 when it was at 38-point margin, increase over decrease.

So, yeah, we are seeing this across the polling nationally, where Democrats are becoming at least a little bit more skeptical of the immigration levels in United States.

BURNETT: All right, and one place that you are seeing that, and generally, is some of these big cities. Traditionally Democratic cities, right, where you have migrants being bused in. New York City --

ENTEN: Yeah.

BURNETT: -- the epicenter, where we are sitting tonight, 100,000 asylum seekers have arrived in this city, since the spring. There are 19,000 children, now in New York City public schools, 19,000 children, overcrowded classrooms in many cases, and children who, of course, don't speak English, don't have the support that they need.

There's been growing animosity over this issue, between Biden and the Democratic mayor, Eric Adams. In fact, Biden was here this week. They did not meet.

Okay, New York is a liberal stronghold, a Democratic stronghold. What's happened to public opinion there?

ENTEN: Yeah, you take a look, serious problem, the flow of migrants into to New York. You look statewide, 80 percent, 82 percent. Even among Democrats, 72 percent say it's a serious problem. You can't help but turn on the local news, and see that the fact that this is a story that has taken over the city of New York, it's taken over the state of New York. And it is something has gotten a lot of people, a lot of traditionally Democratic voters, very, very upset.

BURNETT: Seventy-seven percent of Democrats. I mean, it is pretty stunning to think about it. How much is this issue of hurting President Biden, and Democrats?

ENTEN: Yeah, you know, who do you trust more? Who do you agree with more on immigration? If you go back to the beginning of last year, Democrats held a one point margin on that issue. Now you look at, it Republicans hold a ten-point margin.

This is going to be an issue that I bet that former President Trump is going to try and use in this campaign against Joe Biden because as immigration levels, people become more hawkish on immigration, I expect that this is an issue that's certainly play into the 2024 campaign.


BURNETT: Well, certainly, the numbers, and at least the shift that you are seeing, at least at this moment in time, it's pretty stunning. Harry, thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, the breaking news, two people now confirmed dead, dozens of students injured. Some in critical condition, after a bus going to a high school band camp overturned. We are live near the scene, next.

And Ron DeSantis saying that he would cut funding for COVID vaccines, end it if he is elected. And questioning whether the CDC can be trusted. Dr. Peter Hotez, who is now a target for everybody from Aaron Rodgers to Tucker Carlson, for supporting vaccines, is OUTFRONT next.


BURNETT: Tonight, the breaking news, police just holding a press conference about the overturned bus that was filled with high school students on their way to camp, a band camp. This is the charter bus, after it rolled down an embankment in Upstate New York. Two adults are confirmed dead, dozens of people injured. Five students are in critical condition.

This was one of six buses carrying students from Farmingdale High School on Long Island. Students on the other buses are safe.

Omar Jimenez is OUTFRONT near the crash site, in Middletown, New York.

Omar, just absolutely horrifying, for anyone watching this. What do you know, so far, about what caused this bus crash?


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin. Well, the most of it is still under investigation right now, but we've got some clues from state police, who said preliminarily, they believe it was an issue with the front tire of the bus, that may have been a contributing factor to this crash. That's part of why they had their collision reconstruction unit on the scene, as we understand, from state police, to try and figure out more of what could have caused this.

So I want to give you an idea of where we are right now. Just behind me is the entrance to I-84 West, that is where the bus crash actually happened. Not where that truck is, but essentially on that interstate, going westbound. And that's what has been closed for hours now, as crews have been trying to figure out what happened, and, of course, piece together any clues that may have been on the scene.

We know that there were 44 people on board this bus, 40 students, for adults, two people have been killed, both of them adults as we understand, five in total in critical condition here. The only good news from this is that the vast majority people, on the bus while they were injured, do you appear to be just be bumps and bruises. But, of course, as we know, two people killed, and many in the community how they're going to move forward.

BURNETT: And, Omar, what do you know about students who were killed, the people in critical condition?

JIMENEZ: Yes. So, as we understand right now, the two that were killed, as I mentioned were adults. The first woman, her name is Gina Pellettiere. She was 43 years old from Massapequa, New York. And as we understand, she was that music director at Farmingdale high school, which is, of course, where these students were going to go towards a band camp across the border in Pennsylvania.

And the other adults as we understand, Beatrice Ferarri from Farmingdale, New York, she was 77 years old. As I mentioned, they're going to a band camp across the border in Pennsylvania, in Greeley, Pennsylvania. And it was only about 35 miles from where I'm standing right now. So they were very close from where they were going to be, this blast was one of six that was going from Farmingdale to that particular band camp.

Those other buses in those students were on their way to go back to New York as they try to process what happened here this afternoon in just a matter of moments -- Erin.

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

And next, a man who has become a lightning rod for vaccine skeptics, attacked by Aaron Rodgers and Tucker Carlson, is not backing down. Dr. Peter Hotez is my guest.

And a real life "Succession", playing out at Fox. Rupert Murdoch is out, and one of his sons, taking the reins. But why is he stepping down now?



BURNETT: Tonight, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis taking on COVID vaccines, promising to pull government funding for the vaccines if he's ever elected president.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Certainly, we're not going to fund them. I think that Biden spending billions and billions of dollars on these, so they have done studies. They have not demonstrated the benefits of the boosters.


BURNETT: DeSantis tonight also questioning if the CDC should be trusted, vowing to hold the agency, quote, accountable if he's elected. It comes after a surgeon general told Floridians not to worry about getting infected with COVID and advised residents 65 and under to forego a booster shot.

OUTFRONT now, Dr. Peter Hotez. He's the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and co-director of the Texas children's hospital center for vaccine development. In Houston and now, most recently, author of the deadly rise of anti- science, a scientists warning.

And, of course, anyone watching the show, Dr. Hotez, knows you very well. You have spoken passionately for vaccines now dealing with personal threats, stalking, and harassment because of your -- of your science.

So, DeSantis questioned whether CDC can be trusted, says the boosters haven't been proven, surgeon general says if you're under 65, skipped the booster. What do you say to that?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: Well, I think it's outrageous on multiple different levels, Erin. I mean, imagine that the governor of Florida and his staff, including the surgeon general, who has no training in vaccines or vaccinations, knows more than the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, the Centers for Disease Control, or the Centers for Biological Evaluation Research at the DFA. It's incredibly audacious, and it's wrong. We know that we need

boosters not only to ensure that people stay out of the hospital, and perhaps worse. But remember, there is another unwritten part of -- point to this, long COVID.


HOTEZ: We know that vaccinations in immunizations do a great job and also reducing a likelihood of getting long COVID. So, it's actually weaponizing health communication, putting Florida residents at risk.

BURNETT: So, the thing is, though, is more people it seems are buying what DeSantis is selling. Not just DeSantis, by the way. He is vocal, and he's heard. But he's not alone. If you look at a poll asking Americans if you received updated COVID booster. This is the one that has been available since last September. So, not even the new, this is since last September, 44 percent for Democrats, only 44 percent of Democrats. And this has, unfortunately, been overly politicized in terms of who takes up the vaccines.

But that number was 91 percent for the first vaccine. Look at independents? Then, 76. Now, 26. Republicans 68, now 17. The skepticism it seems, has spread.

HOTEZ: Skepticism has spread overall. And that sharp partisan divide, political divide, continues. And a lot of that is because elected leaders are choosing to weaponize health information and mislead the American people about the effect of safety of vaccines.

This started around 2021, from the CPAC conference in Dallas. If you remember the language, first, they're going to vaccinate you, then they're going to take away your guns and your bibles. As ridiculous as that sounds to us, so many people in my state of Texas and elsewhere believed it. And then you saw the pile on, from members of the House Freedom Caucus.

BURNETT: Right, so you are seeing this? I know it's in the numbers. But as a practitioner, right? Texas Children's Hospital. Are you seeing this across the board with other vaccines as well?

HOTEZ: That's the worry. That this -- that what the attacks on vaccines and vaccinations are accelerating with COVID vaccines.


And, by the way, 200,000 Americans needlessly lost their lives because they refuse the COVID vaccine, and were victims of these targeted and partisan attacks. They will now spill over to other childhood immunizations. Not only in the United States but globally as well because the U.S. is exporting this anti-vaccine movement.

BURNETT: And you obviously have had a public, you know, dispute with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about the safety vaccines, right? He -- Joe Rogan then challenge you to debate RFK Jr. and you declined and said it would not be worthwhile. But since, then you have had a target on your back. And here's how it's played out.


TUCKER CARLSON, TV HOST: If anybody is discrediting vaccines, making people afraid of them, is such an obvious lunatic and politicizing medicine, it's Peter Hotez.


BURNETT: Steve Bannon calls you a criminal. The NFL star Aaron Rodgers calls you a bum.

I mean, this has had an impact on your real life. You have had stalkers. You had threats.

Are the attacks against you worse than ever? Has there been any change?

HOTEZ: Well, it comes in waves. You know, it began -- well, it's been going on for decades since I have a daughter with autism and I wrote "Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism". So, that gave me a front seat to this, and I became public enemy number one or two, for two decades.

It really accelerated during COVID, particularly when the Fox News anchors going after me. So, Laura did this with Governor DeSantis after I predicted the delta wave was going to hit Florida very hard. They went after me and sure enough it did.

Tucker Carlson did this in 2022, the day I was co-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, for low-cost COVID vaccines reaching 100 million people, bypassing pharma companies. He decided to go after me that day, and then the RFK.

So, it comes in these peaks and waves, and what the way it manifests is a wave of online attacks. You know, the army of patriots is coming to hunt me down, they said.

BURNETT: Well, Dr. Hotez, thank you very much. And "The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: A Scientist's Warning", his latest book out now.

And next, Rupert Murdoch, stepping down as a chairman of Fox, facing multiple lawsuits and a damning new book about him. Does that have anything to do with the announcement today?



BURNETT: Tonight, Rupert Murdoch's 70-year career at his media empire is over. But why now? The 92-year-old just announcing today he is stepping down from Fox and News Corp after insisting he would never retire. His son Lachlan is taking over.

And there are questions tonight about the timing of this announcement. It comes after Michael Wolff and his new book "The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty" predicted Murdoch's imminent exit.

Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT.


BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS HOST: Rupert Murdoch created all of this.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Love him or hate him may depend on what side the political aisle you sit on. But there's no denying Rupert Murdoch is one of the most influential media moguls in history, and one of the most powerful forces in right-wing politics.

Now at 92 years of age, the longtime chairman of Fox and News Corporations is stepping down. Starting in November, he'll hold the honorary title of chairman emeritus.

In his statement saying: Our companies are in robust health as am I, we have every reason to be optimistic about the coming years -- I certainly am, and plan to be here to participate in them.

The question in media circles, age aside, why step down now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wonder if Rupert has said, you know, I need to help my son get settled as a leader, de facto person in charge. And to do that I may need to step back in terms of outwards facing responsibilities.

CARROLL: His elder son Lachlan Murdoch will take over as chairman and will continue to be executive chair and chief executive officer of Fox Corp. Murdoch's right wing media empire began about 70 years ago in Australia, where he turned a small newspaper chain he inherited from his father into the global multi-billion dollar media empire of today.

RUPERT MURDOCH, FOX AND NEWS CORP CHAIRMAN: How delighted I am that we've now reached this moment when we can firmly announce the starting of a Fox News Channel.

CARROLL: That was Murdoch when he launched Fox News in 1996. The conservative 24-hour news channel has grown into a cable ratings juggernaut, but not one without challenges as of late.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Moments ago, we learned there is a settlement.

CARROLL: This year, Fox News settled with Dominion Voting Systems for more than $787 million in the largest publicly known defamation settlement in U.S. history involving a media company over its airing of 2020 election lies.

Fox News also severed ties with right-wing extremist and popular prime time host Tucker Carlson this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is continually hunted for any reason.

CARROLL: And faces new competition from pro-Trump cable news outlet Newsmax. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a major problem. He's erratic. He is

making bad decisions.

CARROLL: The series "Succession" airs on HBO, which like CNN is owned by Warner Bros Discovery. It is believed to be loosely based on the Murdochs and their media empire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: i think I'm the best option.

CARROLL: Unlike the series' satirical world, it's clear who the new leader is now that Lachlan Murdoch has been named sole chairman.

In a statement, he thanked his father for his vision, his pioneering spirit, his steadfast determination and enduring legacy.

Media insiders say after so many years of building an empire, it's unlikely stepping down means the elder Murdoch will completely step away from exerting his influence.

UNIDNETIFIED FEMALE: From the letter that he sent to -- that Rupert sent to employees, it sounds like he is still going to be incredibly involved. Maybe not in the logistics, but at least in the ideologically it sounds like.


CARROLL (on camera): And, Erin, in that letter, I have a copy of it here that Murdoch wrote to his employees. He said several things. He said one, that he will continue to reach out with his thoughts, ideas, and advice. He also said, Erin, that some can still expect him to show up at the office late on Friday afternoons -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jason Carroll, outside those Fox headquarters in New York.

And thanks very much to all of you for joining us tonight.

"AC360" begins right now.