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Erin Burnett Outfront
Calls Mount For Democratic Senator Menendez To Resign Amid Charges; Nearly 9,000 Migrants Cross U.S. Border In Just 24 Hours; Ukraine Intensifies Strikes On Russian Targets In Crimea; 5 Students Remain In Critical Condition After Deadly Bus Crash; A 4.5-Billion- Year-Old Rock Is About To Arrive On Earth. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired September 22, 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, Senator Bob Menendez facing growing calls to resign from his own party after being indicted on bribery charges. Gold bars and Mercedes, stacks of cash. And that's just some of the evidence that investigators have tonight.
Plus, he just helped free five Americans held in Iran, flew back with them to the United States. The top U.S. hostage envoy is OUTFRONT, and how that deal almost fell apart at the last minute, and what he's doing now to help free "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich from Russia.
And officials just revealing new details about what may have caused that deadly bus crash. One of the high school students who survived is OUTFRONT tonight. And he'll tell you about the moment that he knew something was terribly wrong.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, calls to resign. The drum beat growing louder from Democrats calling on one of their own to step down.
Senator Bob Menendez was indicted today on federal charges, and the evidence, the charges are stunning. He's accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, bars of gold, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash were found hidden in clothing and closets, even a gifted Mercedes. He's also accused of sharing sensitive U.S. government information with Egypt, which is a huge deal on its own, because keep in mind he was the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, powerful committee, classified information that he was privy to. He was only forced to step down today from that due to the indictment.
And tonight, the governor of his own state New Jersey is telling Menendez to step down. Fellow Democrat Phil Murphy just issuing a statement saying, quote: The alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation. The former Attorney General Eric Holder also saying Menendez should
resign. Congressman Andy Kim, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, both Democrats from New York, moments ago saying the same. Virginia Democrat Representative Abigail Spanberger, Minnesota Democrat Dean Phillips, and a number of New Jersey state Democratic officials all have now asked Menendez to step down.
This has really been happening. They were just a couple and a really in the past hour, a lot of people on the Democratic side have been coming out and calling for this resignation. It's incredible for so many reasons.
But one of them is this. This is the second time in a decade that Menendez has faced corruption charges. He was able to get off of them last time. The White House, though, staying mum tonight on Menendez's situation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is -- not comment, because this is an active matter. We learned about this just like all of you. Active matter, not going to comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Paula Reid is OUTFRONT to begin our coverage.
And, Paula, I mean, just some of the pictures here, what's alleged. I mean, it's like if you were writing in a novel, people would think, you know, it's just too on the face. You can't write this. It's too obvious. These are stunning and serious allegations against the sitting senator.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Stunning, that is exactly the right word, Erin. I mean, this would be brazen alleged behavior for any lawmaker, but especially for one who just a few years ago was acquitted on similar accusations of corruption. But the biggest difference in this case is that they are alleging that he used his influence not only allegedly for associates here in the United States, but also on behalf of a foreign government.
REID (voice-over): Senator Robert Menendez facing corruption charges for the second time in just ten years.
DAMIAN WILLIAMS, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I am announcing that my office has obtained a three-count indictment charging Senator Robert Menendez, his wife Nadine Menendez, and three New Jersey businessmen.
REID: Federal prosecutors allege Menendez and his wife accepted bribes including cash, gold bars, and a Mercedes to wield his influence for allies in the U.S. and Egypt.
WILLIAMS: Among other actions, Senator Menendez allegedly provided sensitive, nonpublic U.S. government information to Egyptian officials, and otherwise took steps to secretly aid the government of Egypt.
REID: The senator seen here, traveled to Egypt just last month. The powerful senator who chaired the Foreign Relations Committee until he stepped down today also allegedly attempted to influence criminal investigations of two New Jersey businessmen, one of whom was a longtime fundraiser for the lawmaker, and allegedly pressured the Department of Agriculture to help an associate maintain a monopoly on the importation of halal meat to the United States.
Federal agents searched the Menendez home in June 2022, finding over $480,000 in cash. Much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe. Some envelopes were found inside jackets bearing Menendez's name and hanging in his closet as seen in this photo from the indictment.
The senator's previous corruption case ended in a mistrial in 2017. Then, a partial acquittal a year after that, before all charges were dropped. Menendez subsequently won re-election.
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): I am so proud that New Jerseyans rejected the politics of personal destruction and the false, negative, salacious ads.
REID: The White House today declined to comment.
JEAN-PIERRE: But again, this is an active matter. So, I'm not going to comment.
REID: But New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a fellow Democrat, along with Congressman Dean Phillips, among those calling on Menendez to resign.
REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN): I don't care your politics, Democrat or Republican, you should be appalled. A member of Congress who appears to have broken the law is someone who I believe should resign. I think George Santos should've resigned already.
REID: But the senator refusing to back down, saying, quote, I have been falsely accused before because I refused to back down to the powers that be and the people of New Jersey were able to see through the smoke and mirrors and recognize I was innocent.
REID: The senator and his wife, along with their codefendants, are expected to appear in federal court next Wednesday. Today, the U.S. attorney said, though, this investigation is, quote, very much ongoing -- Erin.
BURNETT: Wow, and, of course, ongoing means there could be more than what we have already heard, to state the obvious, which is incredible.
All right. Paula, thank you very much.
OUTFRONT now, Cy Vance Jr., who was the Manhattan district attorney for more than a decade, and our senior political analyst John Avlon.
John, I just want to say, you know, the governor of New Jersey obviously coming out, calling for Menendez to step down. But now we're seeing a flurry of others, the other two congresspeople from New Jersey. You're seeing a lot, right, and it's starting.
Can Menendez survive the political pressure that he is clearly going to be under here?
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He can choose not to resign, but the details are so damning, and the Democrats' response has been swift and decisive beginning with the governor. He's not going to have many allies in the Democratic Party or in his home state of New Jersey. And that becomes almost untenable given the fact that he's got his own election coming up, and the contrast is very striking as well between how Democrats are calling for him to resign when Republicans have tip-toed around some of the indictments on their side of the aisle.
So, the pressure's going to be enormous, and while everyone's entitled to be innocent until proven guilty, he should resign.
BURNETT: So, Cy, from the legal side, how much trouble do you think Senator Menendez is in based on what we know already?
CY VANCE, JR., FORMER MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, I think from the perception of the public, his prior charges, which ultimately were dismissed, but alleged similar facts now followed by this indictment with very specific facts which are salacious, which are disturbing, and which I think the average person would have no tolerance for, I think he is in serious political trouble.
But, of course, he is in serious legal trouble. The U.S. attorney's office has gone into great detail in terms of outlining the facts that relate to the sharing of information inappropriately with the government of Egypt over sensitive matters, in addition to the possession of lots of cash and gold. And there may be an innocent explanation for that. But it's never a good look for a politician to have hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash and gold in their apartment stuffed in their suits.
So I think -- I think he's in real legal harm here. I agree that he is absolutely presumed innocent, indictments are often striking in presentation of their facts. But, as the case unfolds many times, those striking facts become better understood and less striking. But I think he's starting on his own (INAUDIBLE).
BURNETT: I mean, because you talk about the detail with which all this is laid out, Cy. Just to go through some of this, the bars of gold. I mean, just because it's -- I mean, we're in 2023, bars of gold, okay. Thirteen bars of gold, prosecutors say, were provided by Fred Daibes, who is one of Senator Menendez's codefendants.
They were found during their search of Menendez's home in 2022 and what you're seeing on your screen is images of two of them.
So then the indictment says Menendez searched, quote, how much is one kilo of gold worth the day after Daibes' driver picked him up at the airport. And prosecutors then say this photo shows two gold bars that Menendez's wife takes to a jeweler, months later, to sell with serial numbers indicating that Daibes previously had possessed them because that's how they track gold bars. There's a serial number on them.
You know, I want to ask Cy about the legal aspect of this, John, but, first, did you ever think you'd see allegations like this against a sitting U.S. senator? And, by the way, can we just emphasize, again, the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee.
AVLON: And that's what makes this so awful in addition to the fact he was indicted less than a decade ago. But gold bars? Seriously, gold bars? I haven't heard of gold bars being passed around hanging out in the senators' offices.
I mean, that's straight out of World War II films. And then boatloads of cash in the linings of jackets. That fact pattern doesn't look good. It's hard to imagine there's an explanation.
BURNETT: I mean, and, Cy, to your point, because you mentioned that, right, half a million dollars in cash in bribes. That's what the indictment alleges. And most of it was stuffed into envelope's, hidden in clothing, lining of jackets in closets, the jacket there, bearing Senator Menendez's name. They said there was cash there.
They also say, Cy, some of the envelope side fingerprints and DNA of Daibes or his driver, right? So, Cy, from the perspective of reading the indictment, or some of these details, I know you said things come out in a wash. You learn more. But, are you sort of stunned, a bit, at the detail that they've put in here?
VANCE: I'm not stunned at the detail they've put in here, because there's really nothing inappropriate for a federal prosecutor or any prosecutor to put detail in their indictment. But they put it in there to make a point.
VANCE: And I think the point they are making is that this is a strong case.
I am surprised, as I think we all are, that this is a second indictment of one of the most powerful senators in the United States, at a time where the honesty of our highest elected leaders is something we are all appropriately focused on. He could not have picked a worse time to be indicted. And the conduct is going to be very hard to explain as innocent.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both very much. I appreciate it.
And next, nearly 9,000 border crossings in just 24 hours. Tonight, officials in Texas are racing for another wave of migrants.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He says there's thousands of people coming behind him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Thousands behind him.
Plus, a top Ukrainian commander, tell CNN in an exclusive interview, that Ukraine is about to have a major breakthrough. This, after a massive strike on Putin's Black Sea fleet today.
And rock samples more than four billion years old are about to land in Utah. They could be crucial in stopping a giant asteroid from crashing into the earth. Neil deGrasse Tyson is here tonight.
BURNETT: Tonight, the migrant crisis escalating. Nearly 9,000 migrants crossing the southern border in just 24 hours. New drone video showing one large group of migrants at Eagle Pass today, trying to crawl under dense rows of wire. And here, another group locking hands, forming a chain, attempting to get to the U.S. side of the Rio Grande.
Agents doing their best in what is a totally overwhelmed border town.
Ed Lavandera is there, live, in Eagle Pass.
And, Ed, another endless flow of immigrants at the U.S. Mexico border tonight. What are you seeing there right now?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, today has been drastically different from what we've seen the last few days. There's been a significant drop in the number of crossings. In fact, I just spoke with the mayor a little while ago. He said today the crossings had between 800 and a thousand people.
And the difference is really dramatic on the other side. Not a lot of people. More of a Mexican law enforcement and military presence on the other side. That could be one of the reasons why we saw fewer people today.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): A small group of migrants scour the riverbank, searching for a safe place to slip through razor wire. Their final obstacle in a months-long journey to reach U.S. soil.
A man carries a young boy on his shoulders, leading a line of migrants crossing the Rio Grande.
LAVANDERA: He said, we faint, we passed out, this is crazy but thank God we are here.
Jorge Caruyo (ph) of Venezuela holds his 3-year-old child, telling me his family walked through three months in Mexico before crossing the river.
He said we cross illegally because of our children can't take it anymore, they can't handle it anymore.
Eagle Pass, Texas, has been a flash point for U.S. border crisis, with no end in sight. For several days, thousands of people have turned themselves into U.S. authorities. But on this day, the scene is dramatically different. Only a small number of migrants have crossed the river.
MAYOR ROLANDO SALINAS (D), EAGLE PASS, TEXAS: People are frustrated, they are angry. This is not normal.
LAVANDERA: Eagle Pass mayor, Rolando Salinas, says city resources are strapped, and claims that most of the migrants are processed and released. Many go to large cities.
CURTIS SLIWA, FORMER NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: We don't know where they are from, what their names are.
LAVANDERA: Where they are increasingly met with resistance and dwindling resources.
SALINAS: So, imagine Eagle Pass, a place of a town of 28,000 people, with limited resources. What are we supposed to do? Fend for ourselves? We can't.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: With Joe Biden interfering with my efforts to secure the actual border.
LAVANDERA: Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott has gone on the political offensive, blaming the Biden administration for the crisis. Abbott is positioning his state as the only ones stepping up, posting a video on social media of state authorities standing in front of a migrant group.
The governor writing, we are repelling illegal immigrants at the border. And re-posting this video, writing, we are refusing to let migrants in, and sending them back.
But the migrants in that video were not repelled from the border. We watched as they all eventually helped each other crawl underneath the razor wire, and turn themselves into state authorities and Border Patrol agents.
JESSE FUENTES, BUSINESSMAN: I am frustrated with everybody, with everybody, because for me, it's about the river. LAVANDERA: Jesse Fuentes runs a kayak company on the Rio Grande, and
is suing Abbott for altering the river, and hurting his business.
FUENTES: All these barriers, have they stopped them? Have they stopped them? No, sir. They haven't. Until the problem is addressed, these people are coming over here for the American dream.
LAVANDERA: Local officials in border communities like Eagle Pass fear this latest migrant search is far from over. The mayor of Eagle Pass says federal authorities had told him, 50,000 to 60,000 migrants are starting to make their way through southern Mexico. And that large groups of migrants are waiting for the trains in Mexico moving north, to start running again.
Jorge Caruyo and his family arrived shaken, and exhausted, but with a clear eye of what they've seen along the way, to make it this far.
LAVANDERA: He says there's thousands of people coming behind him.
LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Erin, the question that many border officials along the U.S. southern border have tonight is just how long this surge is going to last. The mayor here in Eagle Pass, as I mentioned, is being told that there are tens of thousands of migrants in southern Mexico, and they are wondering where exactly along the way are they going to end up. That is why so many officials along the U.S. southern border are really bracing for this search to continue for weeks, if not months -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Ed, thank you very much. You always see that razor wire behind you. Thank you, Ed.
And next, how a deal to free five Americans from Iran nearly collapsed at the last minute. I'm going to speak to the top U.S. hostage envoy with who is on the plane with those Americans as they returned home.
Plus, investigators say they still haven't spoken to the driver of the overturned bus that was full of kids on the way to band camp, as a student who survived tells me about the moment he knew something was horribly wrong. Why his mom decided at the last minute not to chaperone the trip.
BURNETT: New tonight, breakthrough. That's according to the general leading Ukraine's counteroffensive. General Oleksandr Tarnavsky exclusively speaking with our Fred Pleitgen, saying Ukrainian forces have a breakthrough on the southern front.
And that comes as we are just getting this new video into CNN. This is the fighting on the front lines. This is drone footage of where Ukrainian forces say they've literally been burning a forest, literally burning Russian troops out of that forest that you see on your screen. General Tarnavsky also is telling Fred, another big breakthrough, that's the exact wording, is coming as soon as Ukraine pushes through the city of Tokmak, which is right in the middle of the front lines.
Now, Tokmak is obviously near Russian occupied territory. Not far from Crimea, which Russia occupies, of course, and serves as a crucial base for Russian operations. Ukraine is stepping up attacks on Crimea from afar, hitting a major Russian target today, the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea fleet in Crimea. Now, if Ukraine were to recapture Crimea, or halt Russian operations there, obviously, it would be an incredible turning point in this war.
General Tarnavsky telling Fred today how important strikes like this are for the success of the counteroffensive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIG. GEN. OLEKSANDR TARNAVSKY, UKRAINIAN MILITARY (through translator): A destroyed commander means a destroyed command link. If there is no command, then there are no coordinated actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Our chief global affairs correspondent, Matthew Chance, is OUTFRONT.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ukraine's latest spectacular strike on-occupied Crimea, the camera bypasses by.
Smoke is billowing from the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea fleet. An edifice of Russian power on the peninsula, smoldering and in ruins. This Russian state media images show it is blown out in windows, and collapsed roof. Russia says five missiles were intercepted in the attack. There's no denying others punished through.
Explosions, explosions, right here in the center of the city, says the woman recording this aftermath. She seems shocked, but not surprised.
For weeks now, Ukraine has been stepping up strikes on targets in Crimea, like this hit on a military shipyard earlier this month, badly damaging the Russian surface vessel, and a submarine being repaired in a dry dock.
Ukraine has also been degrading Russian air defenses, destroying at least two sophisticated S-400 systems placed in Crimea, another setback for Russian forces.
At sea, naval drones have targeted Russian shipping.
And Ukrainian Special Forces have seized control of strategic Black Sea oil and gas drilling platforms. Crimea, annexed by Russia back in 2014, now appears firmly in Ukraine's sights.
CHANCE (on camera): Well, Erin, tonight, Russia is counting the cost of that Ukrainian missile strike on the headquarters of its Black Sea fleet. The Russian defense ministry admits that at least one soldier is still missing. It could be more than that. We are keeping an eye on those reports.
Of course, that historic building, the sort of monument to generations of Russian naval power in Crimea is tonight, smoldering, and in flames.
BURNETT: All right, Matthew Chance, thank you very much.
And now, retired army lieutenant, Ben Hodges, former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe.
And, General, I very appreciate your time.
So, General Tarnavsky who's in charge of the counteroffensive now talking about breakthroughs. He also said that he doesn't think winter will slow down Ukraine's advance. Do you think that that optimism is realistic?
LT. GENERAL BEN HODGES, FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL OF U.S. ARMY EUROPE: Well, Erin, you and I have talked before about the decisive importance of Crimea that is what this counteroffensive is all about.
HODGES: We've been focused on the land portion, but what Matt just described, of course, shows the sophistication of Ukraine's counteroffensive.
It's air, land, sea, cyber, disinformation, and special forces. All of these things are being integrated, putting enormous pressure on the Russian general staff, and giving Ukraine the initiative.
I think the optimism that general Tarnavsky is describing is well- founded. The Ukrainians have put so much pressure on Russian logistics, Russian artillery, and certainly this is in the year 2023 -- 20 -- in this year, we don't have horses pulling artillery.
HODGES: So, you know, that's why the idea that we would stop or they would stop in the winter, we don't have to have horses that eat the grass. So, they are going to keep going.
BURNETT: So, I mentioned you are talking about Crimea. This is something, by the way general, if anyone doesn't know when they see you, this is something you've been pounding the table on from the very beginning, that Crimea has to be a part of Ukraine, right? And there are some who still think it's a red line.
But you have been very adamant that it must happen. So there was that strike that Matthew was just talking about on the Russian Black Sea fleet in Crimea. There's been several strikes there recently.
But how effective is all of this right now? Is it having an impact?
HODGES: Well, first of all, you take out the headquarters there. So the commanding control, the people, the staff that are required to make necessary decisions, a lot of reports today about who may have been lost in that actual strike. That will have an impact.
The strike on the dry dock, the other day, is really important. This is essential for a navy to be able to do maintenance on their ships. So the Ukrainians went after the logistics. Not only did they destroy a ship, and a kilo class submarine, which is significant, they went after the logistics.
And you can see the sophistication of what they are doing, taking out radar, taking out those oil and gas platforms. Then, the missiles and drones are able to hit the targets. These are all linked together in a very sophisticated way.
BURNETT: And that obviously says a lot about how Ukraine's handling, and managing this, running this war, under such pressure after so much time.
Thank you very much, General Hodges.
HODGES: Thanks for the privilege.
BURNETT: And in Russia tonight, also, no apparent end to the ongoing plight of the American journalist wrongfully detained in Russia, Evan Gershkovich. A Moscow court declining to hear an appeal against Evans' pretrial detention. That detention just keeps getting extended, because they are not giving an actual date for the trial.
Gershkovich is languishing inside Moscow's notorious Lefortovo prison, where he has been held for nearly six months.
OUTFRONT now, Roger Carstens, the State Department special envoy for hostage affairs, he's the person working tirelessly to bring home Americans wrongfully detained abroad. Here he is just this week, on the plane with the five Americans held in Iran after he secured their release.
And here's another picture, late last year, on the plane with Brittney Griner, after he helped bring her home from a Russian penal colony.
So, Roger, I very much appreciate your time. As I said, you fight these situations tirelessly. It involves that, because it is years, in so many cases. I do want to ask you about those Americans that you just brought back home from Iran.
But first, Evan Gershkovich, has been detained for nearly six months. Now it is getting delayed again. Right, they won't even give a trial date. The White House has warned, in their words, that it could be, quote, tough, to get him back.
Rodgers -- Roger, are you worried it could be years before he's home?
ROGER CARSTENS, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR HOSTAGE AFFAIRS: Erin, thanks for having me over here to talk about this.
I tend to be an optimist. I think you have to be an optimist in this business. My sense is that he's not going to be there for years.
We have a way forward. We have an open channel with the Russians to discuss this topic, the same channel that was successful in bringing Brittney Griner home, Trevor Reed home. So, we are going to find a way, as you can tell, the president and secretary of state were caught on this. The president is willing to make hard decisions to bring people back.
So, the question is not whether Trevor -- sorry, whether Evan is coming back. The question is when.
And to be honest, I also want to say, we are still working hard on Paul Whelan, too. I've had a chance to talk to Elizabeth Whelan two nights ago, and assure her that the president and secretary of state are also working hard to bring her brother Paul home.
BURNETT: I think it's very significant what you just said. Hopefully it's not going to be years when it comes to Evan Gershkovich. I know his family and so many are praying for that as well.
You mentioned Elizabeth Whelan, Paul's sister. And that you spoke with her. I spoke with her the other day. She has been very complimentary of all the work that you and your team have done.
But she does have frustration with some parts of this, right? She didn't get a chance to meet with President Biden last week. He didn't have time while she was in Washington.
And she talked about that, she was very gracious. But she was frustrated.
Here's what she said, Roger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH WHELAN, SISTER OF PAUL WHELAN, WRONGFULLY DETAINED IN RUSSIA: I'm a little frustrated, and trying not to be depressed. I don't have a lot of leverage to use to get meetings like that. I'm not a big media company. I don't have a lot of expensive lawyers. I don't have a sports team.
And so, it's easy to wave of someone like me. But I'm going to keep fighting for my brother, regardless.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What do you say to her, Roger?
CARSTENS: I talk to Elizabeth all the time. I think my office speaks to a pretty much daily. When we talk with Elizabeth, we are always very open, honest, on both sides.
What I would say to Elizabeth, if she were here now, I'd say, Elizabeth, you know that we are working hard on this.
But more importantly, you don't have to be famous to get the U.S. government to give you everything it's got. You can be poor, rich, you can be Black, White, you can come from Minot, North Dakota, you can come from Miami, Florida. If you are a blue passport holder and you are held wrongfully by another country or taken hostage by a terrorist group, nothing matters.
That's the only important thing, that you held a blue passport. If that's the case, your country is going to come get you, and bring you home.
BURNETT: You did just bring home those five Americans who were wrongfully detained in Iran. They hadn't been home in more than five years, right? So, this is -- this is the length this process took.
We've got the picture of you on the plane with them. We've had some reporting that they've seen delay after delay at the 11th hour. The Iranians had trouble accessing the six billion dollars in funds that were crucial to the agreement.
They wanted to keep the Americans longer, you know, literally something that sounds so silly, but can be culturally significant, having lunch together at the airport in Tehran -- noting I'm saying in Tehran, right? Not getting out of the country.
Was there any point that you thought, even in these final minutes, that this was all going to fall apart?
CARSTENS: Not really. I think Abraham Paley and I were forward in Doha, dealing with these last second challenges. We had no doubt how it was going to end. We actually expected even months, if not years in advance, knowing that when this day came, no matter how much you were to get the deal done, the Iranians are going to throw in some curveballs at the last second.
So when it started happening, we were like, yes, of course, this is what -- we knew this would happen. And so, we really just tried to take a pause. Abram stuck to some principal diplomacy that both he and Brett McGurk worked out. We just stood our ground, and try to be patient.
And in doing so, Qatar and the Swiss were able to finalize the deal. I have to say, we wouldn't get a lot of this done if it wasn't for our partners and allies like Qatar, the Swiss, Oman, the South Koreans, and even the U.K., all pitching in to try to pull these things together. So, while I may be the face of it at times, there's probably over 1,000 people in the government that work on this, and definitely partners, allies, journalists, believe it or not, NGOs, congressman, senators. I represent a huge team that tries to bring these people home.
BURNETT: All right, Roger, thank you very much. I appreciate your taking the time.
CARSTENS: Erin, the thanks for letting me be on tonight. I appreciate it.
BURNETT: All right. And next, terrifying moments. A high school student who survive that horrific and deadly bus crash. As he woke up as he felt the bus tipping over. His mother was asked to chaperone the trip, decided not to go. That student is OUTFRONT, next.
Plus, scientists are trying to figure out if they can alter the course of a massive asteroid that could hit earth. Sounds like the plot of a sci-fi movie. But this is real, and Neil deGrasse Tyson joins me live to talk about it.
BURNETT: New tonight, federal officials just wrapping up a press conference in Upstate New York on the deadly bus crash that killed two people and it is five students still in critical condition. The lead investigator says they've not yet spoken to the driver. But a faulty tire may be one of several factors in the crash. He's also talking about what struck him as he surveyed the crash site.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN HUMM, U.S. NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION BOARD: The way I would describe it is that there was intrusion into the occupants space, on the left side, the side that it rolled onto. Anytime that there is intrusion into your survivable space, a vehicle, that is obviously a cause for concern. So, that's kind of -- as I walked around it, that's what struck me the most, I think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, one of the students who was on the bus at that crashed, Anthony Eugenia.
And, Anthony, I really appreciate your being with us. I'm so glad you are okay. And glad to be able to talk to you.
It's got to be hard to even process your thoughts about this. I know you were sleeping on the bus. Was there a moment where you realized that there was something that was horribly wrong?
ANTHONY EUGENIO, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT WHO SURVIVED BUS CRASH: Yeah, when I woke up, I woke up to the sound of the bus hitting the ground. And then right after that, it started to roll down.
BURNETT: I mean, do you -- are you even able now to remember how you -- how you felt? First of all, you are coming out of being asleep, but then that something so horrific is actually happening to you. What did you feel at that moment?
EUGENIO: I thought I was dreaming, when it was rolling around, it felt like how when you get stuck under a wave in the ocean, because I had my hood over my face and I couldn't see anything.
BURNETT: Wow. In a sense, maybe you thought you were dreaming for a moment. What was happening inside in those moments? I'm sure other people had fallen asleep like you. Some people were probably awake. Were people screaming, and did you literally roll to the top of the bus?
I mean, what do you even remember about that?
EUGENIO: I couldn't even see where I was. And I don't remember if people were screaming. But people were definitely screaming.
BURNETT: How are you able to even get out of the bus? I don't know if you just heard the federal official there he was talking, Anthony, about when he looked at it, how struck he was by the fact that the earth, the trees was in the bus, right? It went into where people were.
And, obviously, people did die. Two people died. How were you even able to get out of the bus when it stopped rolling?
EUGENIO: There was a space between the windows and the ground. So I was able to drop safely from the bus to the ground, and then walk around it.
BURNETT: And was there a moment where you just realized, okay, I'm okay here, and obviously at that moment you're realizing I'm sure, Anthony, that there are many people who were not okay.
EUGENIO: There were a lot of people that were hurt bad. I was freaking out. But I just -- I wanted to help people. And then I just got safely any way I could.
BURNETT: And I know your band director Gina Pellettiere was killed, Beatrice Ferrari you've known her retired teacher, helping chaperone the trip, were killed. I know that you'd already had a big impression made on you by Ms. Pellettiere who leaves behind a young child.
Why was she so important to you? And I know you'd only known her for a short time. But what was it about her that was special?
EUGENIO: I've only been in marching band for, like, two weeks. But she loved marching band. She looked forward to teaching kids every day. She was the nicest teacher ever. And marching band just won't be the same without her.
BURNETT: Well, Anthony, I hope that you continue to play. I know it's the baritone. And I know this is going to be a hard thing for a very long time for you and all of your friends. I appreciate your taking the time to talk to me about what you went through. Thank you. EUGENIO: No problem.
BURNETT: Anthony Eugenio is a student at Farmingdale.
And, next, what does Neil deGrasse Tyson think about that video of supposed aliens out of Mexico? He's my guest next.
And a potential peace deal between two longtime enemies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: This is an amazing change. And I'm always careful about these things. I never exaggerate. I think this is a pivot of history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, a 4.5 billion-year-old cosmic rock about to land back on Earth. This spacecraft that you see there is carrying a sample of rocks and dusts from an asteroid named Bennu and is entering Earth's atmosphere at a velocity of 36 times the speed of sound. The sample is going to land in this desolate section of the Utah desert.
That's important because Bennu overall is an asteroid the size the Empire State Building. It has a real chance of smashing into Earth in 159 years. If that actually happens, it would hit Earth with the force of 22 atomic bombs.
So, NASA is hoping that this sample that they have obtained could help them figure out away to preventing the impact and learn more obviously about asteroids.
OUTFRONT now, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. He is the head of the Hayden Planetarium, the host of "Star Talk" and he just wrote his latest book "To Infinity and Beyond: A Journey of Cosmic Discovery."
So, Neil, obviously, I relish all of our conversations. So, you've got this asteroid, and, you know, it's incredible, all the math of it. We get on there, you get a little piece of rock, and they brought it home.
So, what can a scientist actually learn from this 4.5 billion-year-old rock that's about to land in Utah?
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, ASTROPHYSICIST: Well, what we don't know for sure, when you think we would, but we just don't, is what's the structural integrity of asteroids? Only recently, in recent decades, did we learn some of them might be rubble piles gathered together that are masquerading as a solid object. Others are loosely held together.
This matters because if you want to deflect an asteroid that might be headed your way and you nudge one part of it and it doesn't have the structural integrity to stay together, you can end up breaking off a piece and your mission would then fail.
So, by looking at what the material contents of Bennu is through this sample return -- which, by the way, we just have to pray that this is working, okay?
I've got to say, we've launched Osiris Rex, this mission, seven years ago from a moving platform, Earth, intersected a moving target, Bennu, an asteroid. It did a touch and go, grabbed material, came back to Earth --
BURNETT: It's incredible.
TYSON: -- deployed that capsule, and it keeps going, is going to visit more asteroids. And people are saying, I don't trust science, science this. It's, like, do you know what we do? Do you have any idea?
BURNETT: I mean, it is pretty incredible. There's also, oh, my gosh, we can do that, and what a mess we make of much more simple things here at home, right?
BURNETT: Ok. So, if Bennu does hit Earth -- and obviously we can talk about odds. But if it were to, you're talking about something 22 times -- is that what I said? Twenty-two times -- 22 atomic bombs. Let me make sure I say it exactly correctly.
What would something like that do to Earth?
TYSON: Well, it's not an extinction level hit. If it hits a city, that's really bad. But we would have some good idea of that well in advance.
By the way, as we get closer to 2182, these odds will improve, improve in the sense that it'll either go to zero or go to certainty. It's not going to still dangle in is it or is it not. So, that's an important first point.
So, if we know that it's going to hit, we know where it's going to hit. If it hits a city, it takes out the city completely. But most of earth is not city, and most of land is not occupied. So, my fear is that if it hits the ocean, then you've got a tsunami that could take out an entire coastline, right?
TYSON: But other otherwise, it would destroy a county's worth of land, that's about it.
BURNETT: So, you know, I hope everyone will get your new book. You talk about parallel worlds, black holes, wormholes, time travel, all these questions people have. One thing that a lot of people are talk about lately, and NASA has ahead of UFOs, right? Congress has a hearing on UFOs. And so, people are talking about UFOs and aliens in a more serious way than being on front of the National Inquirer, the way it used to be.
So, a Mexican journalist displayed bodies of two supposed non-human beings in Mexico in front of the Congress in Mexico, okay? Each with three-fingered hands and elongated heads.
Now, before we all mock the video, right, because it's gotten a lot of mocking. It looks a lot like ET, but as I said, NASA just announced a director of research on UFOs. So, they are taking this overall topic more seriously. What's your take on this?
TYSON: Well, first of all, I like what they did in Mexico. They had what they claimed are alien bodies. They brought it out in front of their Congress. That's better than leaving them in a locked box and saying, you and no one else can get to see them. That's a start.
But in science, a new truth, an objective truth is only established when multiple labs can analyze whatever your claim is. When we brought rocks back from the moon, we distributed them to all the labs of the world. So, everybody participated in that discovery.
So, here, bring on samples to others and let other people, skeptical people, in other labs test this. Verify it or falsify it, and we move on.
BURNETT: What was your reaction when you saw the images?
TYSON: I was surprised because there's -- if they're from another planet, why do they look so human? They have two eyes, a nose, a mouth, shoulders, hips, femur, ribs? Why? Most life on Earth shares DNA in common with us, looks nothing like us. So, how can something -- so that was my first thought.
Second, any corpses or mummified remains, there is no bone in your nose. It's an open hole into your skull. These aliens have intact noses, okay, if indeed that is their nose. I'm not for sure.
BURNETT: Well --
TYSON: So, that's odd after 2,000 years to still have a nose with two cavities in it. So that's odd. But they should share it.
BURNETT: All right.
TYSON: That's how -- that's how we determine what is true and what is not.
BURNETT: All right. Neil, thanks so much. Great to talk to you.
TYSON: Thanks for having me.
BURNETT: All right. And next, the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel says getting
-- Israel is getting closer every day to a major deal with Saudi Arabia. And that story is next.
BURNETT: Tonight, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying his country is, quote, at the cusp of striking a peace deal with long time enemy Saudi Arabia. Netanyahu telling Kaitlan Collins why he was confident such an unlikely deal could happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: How close are you today?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Closer than we were yesterday.
COLLINS: Do you feel that a deal is likely?
NETANYAHU: I think it's -- I think it's possible. I think it's likely because I think Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States share a common goal, to change history, to make this quantum leap, another quantum leap for peace. We had one with the Abraham accords with the United States. And we now have an opportunity with United States to change the Middle East forever, to create -- not only to bring down the walls of enemies, but also to create a corridor of energy pipelines, railings, fiber optic cables between Asia through Saudi Arabia, Georgia, and Israel, and the United Arab Emirates. This is -- this is an amazing change. And I'm always careful about these things. I never exaggerate. I think this is a pivot of history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You can watch the rest of the interview tonight on "THE SOURCE" with Kaitlan Collins at 9:00 Eastern.
And thanks so much for joining us. Have a great weekend.
It's time now for "AC360".