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Erin Burnett Outfront

Russia Lashes Out At U.S. After Ukraine Allegedly Kills Commander; Senator Menendez Vows To Stay In Office Amid Bribery Charges; Former Trump White House Aide Says She's "Coming Out Of Hiding"; 8 Hospitalized After "Severe Turbulence" On JetBlue Flight; Putin Critic Believes Russia Ordered Shooting At His DC-Area Home. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired September 25, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Russian propagandists have a new hit list, American bases -- as Putin suffers one of his biggest losses. The commander of the Russian Black Sea fleet allegedly killed, along with dozens of other officers.

Plus, digging in. Democratic Senator Bob Menendez not only refusing to step down despite the charges that he and his wife accepted bribes -- gold bars, half a million dollars in cash, a Mercedes-Benz, but doubling down. Tonight, the story behind Menendez and his wife Nadine who prosecutors say are partners in crime.

And severe turbulence again. Eight passengers taken to the hospital after a JetBlue flight traveling to Florida was rocked by rough skies. Why turbulence is getting worse.

Let's go OUTFRONT.


BURNETT: And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, Russia taking on the United States as Putin suffers one of his biggest battlefield losses yet, his propagandists are now threatening to take his fight directly to American bases.


RUSSIAN PROPAGANDIST (through translator): What they are looking at is not a single American soldier has suffered as a result of this conflict. And the result seems to suit everyone. So we have to make them suffer, and there are opportunities for this, not necessarily on the territory of the Russian Federation. All over the world there are opportunities given the immeasurable number of U.S. bases to cause significant damage.


BURNETT: We have to make them suffer, opportunities at American bases to cause, quote, significant damage. There's no beating around the bush there.

It actually comes on the heels of the propagandist saying that, right, but it's on the heels of Putin's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov saying this about the U.S.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): So, you can call this whatever you want to call this, but they are directly at war with us.


BURNETT: And, obviously, he's official, not a propagandist on television.

And, as I mentioned this comes as Putin is dealt a big battlefield loss. The Black Sea fleet dealt a severe blow with a reported killing of its top commander. In fact, this would be the first admiral killed during combat since World War II.

Vice Admiral Viktor Sokolov was allegedly killed Friday during that massive and devastating strike on the fleet's headquarters. A strike that apparently took out not only Sokolov but according to Ukraine 33 other officers as well.

Russia's not denying this tonight. The Kremlin is simply not commenting. And this strike and reported killing of the top commander and 33, I mean, I should keep saying that, 33 other officers matters. The Black Sea fleet is the pride of Russia's navy. And on top of that, Sokolov himself was put in place last year to bolster up the navy after a series of embarrassing setbacks including, remember, the sinking of the warship, the Moskva.

And adding to the challenges that Putin is facing on the battlefield tonight, Ukraine is now in possession of 31 American-made Abrams tanks. These are highly maneuverable. They have wanted these for a long time. The announcement of their arrival was huge, and now they're there. Same tanks that renowned Russian war correspondent warned could cause our troops a lot of trouble.

Sam Kiley is OUTFRONT tonight.

And, Sam, Ukraine dealing Russia a serious psychological blow by taking out this admiral, something as I pointed out Russia is not denying tonight.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, it's interesting that the Russians are not denying it, isn't it, Erin. And we've seen the Ukrainian campaign of attacking very deliberately the command and control structures. By that I mean the people really at the top of the Russian military effort now for more than 18 months, often with NATO assistance.

But the Russians, at least by Ukrainian standards, are hitting back. This is how it unfolded. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KILEY (voice-over): Ukraine strikes back. Kyiv now claims to have killed the commander of Russian's Black Sea fleet, Admiral Viktor Sokolov. Ukraine says it also killed another 33 Russian officers in the missile strike against the fleet headquarters in Sevastopol on Friday.

The Kremlin has not commented, but struck with violence against Ukraine's Black Sea port Odesa, killing two warehouse workers and destroying an abandoned hotel. The Ukrainians have targeted senior Russian officers throughout this war, often using intelligence from NATO, and specialist units have been tasked by Kyiv with these killings.


They're aimed at zapping morale and undermining command systems. CNN has no independent confirmation of Ukraine's claim to have killed Russia's admiral, but it would be its biggest success in this campaign. And part of an ongoing effort to break through Russia's defense lines to ultimately strike at Crimea. They've included earlier attacks on Putin's navy and a bridge to Russia itself.

The first batch of U.S. donated Abrams tanks have now also arrived in Ukraine. But they're not the strategic weapons the Ukrainians say they need.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Defense packages from the United States including artillery, necessary shells, HIMARS munitions, air defense missiles, additional air defense systems, tactical vehicles, and some other types of weapons that will prove themselves on the battlefield.

KILEY: Kyiv wants these ATACMS, long-range missile systems to attack deep behind Russian lines to kill more officers and destroy logistics hubs.

The U.S. has yet to announce that Ukraine will get these missiles before the winter freezes over the front lines where they are.


KILEY (on camera): Now, Erin, clearly from the Russian perspective, a frozen, i.e., military or literally front line is, in many ways, from a Russian perspective, victory, because, of course, the Ukrainian agenda is to drive the Russians out of the country entirely.

But if those front lines do get frozen, of course, they will rearm in Ukraine and prosecute this war at a later date, perhaps even sucking NATO and her other -- and Ukraine's other allies in deeper.

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

And I want to go now to retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. So, General Hertling, you know, Sam's reporting on that admiral

commanding Russia's Black Sea fleet sitting in his headquarters in Crimea, just sitting there, thinking he's fine. He's been fine there for the entire war, he's fine there for six years before the invasion, right? And suddenly, he's killed by a Ukrainian strike, along with they say 33 other officers.

I mean, it is pretty stunning in its scope. How difficult is it to pull something like this off?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Extremely, Erin. And there are no safe places on any battlefield.

But what we're talking about is Ukraine's ability to conduct what's called targeting operations, deciding, detecting, delivering, and assessing. That's the military acronym or the approach that they use.

So the Ukrainians have decided to hit these kind of targets strategically. They detect them, when was the admirable there, what kind of things were going on? Then they delivered not only munitions toward the headquarters, the Black Sea fleet, but also several other capabilities, the communications and the signals capabilities that transcribed data from the fleet to the ships at sea from the headquarters.

So, you're talking about great assessing of a good target by the Ukrainian military, and they are getting better and better at this with input of intelligence from other sources.

BURNETT: I mean, you got to think that would really cause pause somewhere in Moscow and Putin himself to see something like that pulled off successfully. What do you think the reaction is in Moscow to the arrival of the Abrams tanks? Do these really transform anything on the battlefield?

Obviously, Ukraine says they will. They've pounding the table for them. They got them. Now, they've arrived. What then?

HERTLING: It's a psychological advantage, Erin. In my view, and I know I'm biased at this, Abrams tank is the best tank in the world. It has great firepower, great protection for the crew. It's very mobile, and it has the ability to quickly go across the battlefield.

But we're talking about one battalion, one Ukrainian battalion, 31 tanks, three companies of ten, one battle commander's vehicles. They can't spread that across the front line.

So what Ukraine is going to do, in my view, is they will use that at a key location, when they finally subjected the Russian front lines, the defensive belts to a breach. They will put in these Abrams tanks, and they will be highly protected and very precise when they shoot at Russian vehicles.

BURNETT: Yeah. All right, well, thank you very much, General Hertling. It will be interesting to see where that is. Of course, the general commanding the counteroffensive told our Fred

Pleitgen maybe a breakthrough at Tokmak and maybe there. Who knows? All right. General, thank you so much.

And OUTFRONT now, our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward who, of course, as everyone watching this show knows, has covered this war so extensively and phenomenally and empathetically in every way.

So, let's just start off with the Ukrainian commander who just told Fred Pleitgen they're on the cusp of that big breakthrough, right? That's what they're saying. And then you see what happened on the Black Sea and you see the Abrams tanks and you feel some momentum that we didn't feel in the past few months.


But you see some real warning signs.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you just have to step back for a second and despite what this Ukrainian commander may have told Fred Pleitgen, I think we can all see that this counteroffensive has been a really slow grind.


WARD: You're talking about incremental gains being made with a high rate of attrition.

And what I've been hearing from certain people who would know much better is that the Russian military has also adapted somewhat. We saw the initial humiliating defeat that the Russians faced early on in this war. But they're not totally stupid. They do learn from their mistakes. And they are now in a position where they are playing defense instead of playing offense. That makes it much easier.

You then put on top of that what we saw last week with President Zelenskyy in town, the Republicans making it very clear that the U.S. Congress is not going to indefinitely write a blank check. Putin is watching that.

Putin understands that the most valuable weapon he has is time, and that if he can keep this war grinding and grinding and if it doesn't look like there can be a decisive all-out military victory for the Ukrainians imminently that Zelenskyy will start to face some pressure from his allies to make some kind of concessions or some kind of a political settlement.

BURNETT: Yeah, which, of course, you know, it's sobering, but the reality that you're reporting on. So you just got back from reporting on Putin's effort to seize riches from the Wagner Group, right, as we're trying to see the fallout here from Prigozhin's death. And it shows how big this war, because you were not in Ukraine for this particular report, you were in the Central African Republic.

And President Zelenskyy's been down to Africa. He, actually in this case met with the president of Sudan on his top over in Ireland, but Africa being front and center with him about talking about Russian weapons.

So, it does seem to be that Africa is becoming a bigger part of this war.

WARD: It is, and it's interesting because whether it was borne out of master strategy or much more likely improvisation and opportunism, I do think that Yevgeny Prigozhin, when he was still alive, saw a vacuum in Africa and in African countries where the West, the U.S., the French who had traditionally had a colonial presence there, were kind of withdrawing.

And he saw an opportunity to step in, fill the void. And it ticks a lot of boxes for Russia, because, on the one hand, it gives sort of geostrategic heft. It gives them a seat at the table. On the other hand, it also gives them the opportunity to diminish the influence of France, the U.S. and the West with this propaganda empire. And on top of that, it gives them access to natural resources.

They prop up these unstable regimes, in return they get concessions, mining, diamonds, timber, you name it. So it's worked out pretty well for them, and that's why I think you're starting to see the Ukraine/Russia war and the dynamics at play there really coming out in Africa as well.

BURNETT: Which is, I guess, as we call know the strategic importance of this war goes well beyond Ukraine. The whole world knows it, and you're literally on the front lines of that. There is some new video surfacing of Central African Republic soldiers saluting a memorial to Prigozhin.

So, on the one-month anniversary of his death, there they are. This is in Africa saluting Prigozhin.

It does show the level of Wagner's influence on the country. You access what one Wagner expert called the group's, quote, nerve center there. You confronted its director who was spotted in a photo with Prigozhin just before he died. I just want to play a little bit of the exchange you had.


DAN: So, you were here when, Yevgeny Prigozhin, when he was here and in the photographs? There's the photographs of you with Prigozhin together?

NAFISA KIRYANOVA, WAGNER DIRECTOR: Oh my god, can you show me that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Yeah. I think it was just over in that corner.

WARD: Yeah.


KIRYANOVA: Hmm. OK. OK. That's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is Mr. Prigozhin, no?





BURNETT: Okay. That's just fascinating, the whole thing. Like there's an incongruity about the entire thing there.

OK. But Prigozhin is dead. Zelenskyy saying this summer, well, you know, if they go away on the front line, Wagner group in a massive way, that'll change the course of the war.

So what is happening to Wagner?

WARD: So, Wagner continues to exist, and Wagner in the Central African Republic, continues to do exactly what it's been doing basically for five years now. The question really -- most of the fighters have had to sign these contracts with the ministry of defense.

The question is what happens to the commercial enterprise, what happens to the diamonds, the timber, the cultural center that you saw there, that is the nerve center, where does that go, who takes that? And do you start to see a kind of rivalry or a jockeying for control of those assets.

We think the GRU, Russian military intelligence is heavily invested in this and wants to get involved. We know, of course, the ministry of defense is. You can be sure there will be some others who will also be potentially interested.


And what the Wagner Group will tell you themselves is that we work for Russia, we still work for Russia no matter who is in charge, we continue to serve our country. But there's no question that it's an awkward sensitive time on the ground, and it's going to be very interesting to see how it unfolds.

BURNETT: And, of course, we will -- we will do so through you.

Thank you so much, Clarissa.

And, next, from an engagement at the Taj Mahal, cash and Mercedes- Benz. We're going to take you inside Senator Bob Menendez's three-year marriage, one that prosecutors say is a partnership in corruption.

Plus, we're learning new details about how the judge in Trump's Fulton County criminal case is trying to speed up jury selection.

And a man who was shot down in his suburban Washington driveway now pointing the finger at Vladimir Putin. Hear why he is certain that he's on Putin's kill list. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tonight, not backing down. A defiant Senator Bob Menendez speaking out for the first time flatly denying he did anything wrong, declaring he will not resign despite charges that he and his wife accepted bribes, including mortgage payments, 13 gold bars, which they seized, half a million dollars in cash which they seized, and a Mercedes-Benz, in exchange for secretly aiding the Egyptian government and enriching select friends.

The New Jersey senator also saying tonight that he will not stop running for re-election.


SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): To those who have rushed to judgment, you have done so based on a limited set of facts framed by the prosecution to be as salacious as possible.


Instead of waiting for all the facts to be presented, others have rushed to judgment because they see a political opportunity for themselves or those around them.


BURNETT: Menendez and his wife Nadine met at an IHOP and have been married for three years.

Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Given the vocals, it might be hard to immediately place the song. It's called "Never Enough" from the movie musical "The Greatest Showman".

This is how Senator Bob Menendez serenaded his then bride to-be Nadine Arslanian when he proposed in October 2019.

The Taj Mahal provided a romantic backdrop for the couple who told the "New York Times" they met in December 2018 at an IHOP in Union City, New Jersey, where Menendez grew up and previously served as mayor.

She thought he was, according to "The Times," very intelligent and very, very hot. While Menendez says she was beautiful and bright, and had this aura about her.

Prosecutors allege it was a courtship steeped in corruption that began soon after they met. A 39-page indictment names three men, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes, who prosecutors say paid the couple hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for using Menendez's power and influence as a senator in ways that benefitted the government of Egypt and to enrich themselves.

The senior senator from New Jersey denying any wrongdoing.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey's senior senator.

CARROLL: Prosecutors say before Arslanian met with Menendez, she was friends with Hana who is originally from Egypt and maintained close connections with Egyptian officials. He, in turn, introduced Uribe, a New Jersey businessman to the couple, according to the indictment, Daibes is a real estate developer and longtime fundraiser for Menendez.

Prosecutors say these three men offered huge bribes to the couple including gold, cash, and a $60,000 Mercedes-Benz convertible. Federal agents searched the couple's home and safety deposit box last year where they found more than a dozen gold bars and more than 500,000 in cash, much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets and a safe.

While the indictment lays out allegations portraying a couple on the grift, Menendez offered this defense for the cash found stashed at his home.

MENENDEZ: But these were monies drawn from my personal savings account based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years.

CARROLL: Menendez remains defiant, and though his wife was not at his side at his press conference Monday, she too denies any wrongdoing, and says she will vigorously defend the allegations in court.


BURNETT: I mean, it's incredible and the kind of defiant and, I'm running for re-election, obviously, sounds like somebody else out there right now. To say it didn't happen and go for it.

CARROLL: I mean, look, no doubt prosecutors have a compelling case, but, again, Menendez being defiant as ever, and we should also point out that we did reach out to the three men who were named in the indictment. Hana's spokesperson got back to us, issued this statement saying, in part, we are still reviewing the charges, but based upon our initial review, they have absolutely no merit. Mr. Hana is expected to voluntarily return to the United States from Egypt and appear in court.

And Menendez just for the record for part says that his record on Egypt is quite clear, that he has been holding them accountable.

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

And I'm going to go now to the Democratic Congressman Jeff Jackson of North Carolina.

And, Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. I'm really glad to talk to you again. You're a first-term congressman, and you were not afraid to step up

quickly to call for Senator Menendez to step down. And I should be clear, while there are others who have done so, with the governor of New Jersey, among others, but only two of your colleagues in the Senate have done so as of this time tonight. Menendez says people are rushing to judgment. What do you say to that?

REP. JEFF JACKSON (D-NC): I would say I read the indictment and I know that we don't have everybody on board yet, but there will be more because I think more people are going to read the indictment, they're going to watch segments like the one that you just had, which weighed out all of the evidence. But if you actually get into the indictment, what you see is the timing of all of those payments that he received and how they came either immediately before or after he did favors for the Egyptian government.


I mean, it's just an incredible amount of evidence.

BURNETT: And I want to say actually literally in these past couple minutes, Congressman, Peter Welch -- Senator Peter Welch is now the third senator to call for Menendez to resign. So there are now three. That's two today, and then, of course, one was on Friday.

The reality of it is, of course, is that many in your party are condemning his actions but they are stopping short of saying Menendez should resign. Let me just play the arguments we're hearing from that group.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): In terms of resignation, that's a decision made by Senator Menendez and the people of New Jersey.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I want to get back and talk to my colleagues on the foreign relations committee before I recommend a path forward.


BURNETT: And, Congressman, Bonnie Watson Coleman saying, quote, under our legal system, Senator Menendez maintains the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Why do you think, Congressman, so many are reluctant to do what you did and just moments ago Senator Peter Welch did?

JACKSON: Some of them may have known him for many years or even decades. I don't. I've never met the guy. And she's right. He is entitled to a presumption of innocence in a court of law.

But he's not entitled to public trust. And he's lost it. Anybody who reads that indictment with any sense of objectivity is going to come away with the exact same opinion, that, of course, this person has lost public trust. BURNETT: Well, Senator Menendez today, you know, you know this, and

you saw it in Jason's reporting. But today, he explained away the shocking piles of cash specifically and gold bars by saying that having them on hand is an old-fashioned safety mechanism following the persecution of his family in Cuba.

Now, I want to say, Congressman, doing some very quick back of the envelope math with his Senate salary of about $174,000 a year, he'd be keeping about 5 to 6 six years of his after tax Senate salary around, just in the cash, forget the gold bars, just in his cash, you know, you can get 5 to 6 percent in a money market right now. I mean, do you -- do you buy that?

JACKSON: No, I don't buy it for two other reasons. First, speaking of envelopes, they found the DNA of the person who allegedly bribed him on the envelope, and he didn't disclose having that cash. All senators have to disclose their income.

During their relevant period, he didn't disclose that cash, and of course, he didn't address the gold bars. He didn't address the Mercedes. He only addressed the cash.

So, no, I don't think that's a very good explanation. Nor was it a good explanation when he said this is all the normal work of a congressional office. As a member of Congress, I can assure people none of this is normal.

BURNETT: Well, Congressman Jackson, I appreciate your time and I'm glad to speak to you again. Thank you so much.

JACKSON: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. And, next, former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson says she has more to say after explosive testimony about Trump's actions on January 6th. Could she be called to testify again in Fulton County or D.C.?

And new details tonight about a Florida-bound flight that was rocked by severe turbulence. Eight people sent to the hospital on landing. Why does turbulence seem to be getting worse?



BURNETT: Tonight, former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson speaking out after months in hiding following her bombshell testimony before the January 6th Committee. Hutchinson's new memoir is coming out tomorrow titled "Enough".

And in this interview, she talks about the moment she switched from being a Trump loyalist to being one of the most impactful and revealing witnesses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE AIDE: I felt torn a lot of the time because I knew what I knew and I wanted to come forward with what I knew. But, at the same time, I didn't want to feel like I was betraying them and I didn't want to feel like I was betraying my colleagues.

I heard the door click open and I turned around and looked at my attorney and said, I can't do this. He started to walk and gently pushed my shoulders and said, you can do this, and then we walked out.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Olivia Troye who worked in the Trump administration with Cassidy Hutchinson. She was homeland security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence.

And also with me, Chris Timmons, the former Georgia prosecutor.

So, thanks so much to both of you.

Olivia, you still talked to Cassidy. I know you've helped her deal with the security threats that she has faced, many of them. Is she ready for what is about to happen here -- a new wave of threats, attacks that will likely come at the release of her book?

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER ADVISER TO VP PENCE: Yes, sure. I think, as much as we sort of get used to the barrage of threats and sort of spin that happens when we speak out, I think it's hard to sort of live day to day. It doesn't change its impact on you. And so, I think it's going to get worse.

I think this will be a very hard couple weeks for her. But I give her tremendous credit for telling her story. It's a story that needs to be told, and certainly she lives this very personally and having worked with her in the West Wing, she was in the center of it, and she witnessed what many of us witness in the White House.

BURNETT: And, in that, you know, she -- you heard Zoe Lofgren, I was talking to her, who was on the committee saying on Friday, all the things that Cassidy Hutchinson has said, which has been borne out by so many others and the fact patterns to be true.

Chris, in this front, Cassidy Hutchinson is standing by, a claim that got a lot of public attention. Anyone watching remembers this, that she says she was told that Trump lunged to the front of his presidential limo on January 6th when he was told he couldn't go to the Capitol. The Secret Service agent who was in the car and the White House official she says that she heard the story directly from. Both said they don't remember it.

Now, Hutchinson, though, is standing firm. She defends her testimony, and I wanted to play that clip for you.


HUTCHINSON: I know what I recall in this particular instance. I can't climb inside the minds of Tony Ornato and Bobby Engel. Maybe they truly don't recall this happening. But, for me, I stand by what I testified to. But what would I gain by coming forward? No, it would have been easier for me to continue being complicit and to stay in the comfortable zone.


BURNETT: So, if you're the prosecutor in this case, Chris, what do you think about her speaking out? You know, she's now doing interviews. She's speaking out in this book. And she's being very clear about why she stands by her testimony.

CHRIS TIMMONS, FORMER GEORGIA PROSECUTOR: Yeah. So, Erin, I'm very concerned as a prosecutor any time I've got a witness giving a statement outside a courtroom when I'm directing them. It's fodder for cross examination.


I see in the D.C. trial and possibly in the Georgia trial as well a defense attorney stepping forward holding the book in hand with pages tabbed. You know, you've also got the testimony that's going to come out of the January 6th hearings as well.

Human beings, any time they tell a story or any time they talk about what happened to them in the past, in each telling it's going to change a little bit. A good defense attorney is going to make an entire cross-examination out of that. So I wouldn't be too happy if I was any of the prosecutors who saw this book coming down.

BURNETT: So, Olivia, you know, in his book, we are learning some new things, right? She's talking about things that we had heard about and adding more. But she's also putting new things in. Of course, allegations that she was assaulted by, groped by Rudy Giuliani on January 6th, first and foremost, among them. She said they were backstage at Trump's speech near the White House. He puts his hand under her blazer and her skirt, and he's leering up at her.

I mean, the writing is captivating in a horrific and disgusting way. Did that surprise you when you read that, Olivia?

TROYE: Well, I certainly found it completely despicable and disgusting. It actually enraged me when I heard about this. And I was so angry, and I also felt just as someone who is senior staff in the White House thinking about the environment of what women faced in the Trump White House and also just someone who is starting out in their career, that's the last thing that I want someone like Cassidy to face.

But, unfortunately, this was the environment that we were in. And it was very misogynistic. It doesn't surprise me. I sat in meetings with the president himself where he would pretty much examine every woman in the room. He would look at us from head to toe and look at what we were wearing.

Rudy Giuliani, similar personality, as well as Peter Navarro. They're out there still today this past weekend referring to us in very derogatory terms. This is how these men view women.

And I just want to say, look, when it comes to Cassidy Hutchinson, she was one of the most critical members of the staff in the west wing regardless of what they may try to say and however they may try to paint us. That's how they do it. They try to be disparaging in these terms. So when these attacks come out against her and they refute these things, she doesn't have a reason to lie.

She was critical. She would call staff in the White House. She would call me who is senior staff on Mike Pence's staff and task me at times. Because when she called she was speaking for mark meadows. I'm just saying this because she was of critical stature in the west wing and this operation. And I believe everything that she says because she's lived it.

BURNETT: And we've heard as I said from others like Zoe Lofgren, everything she said was corroborated, right, by others, by the factual records. So, there -- she said that's why there would be no reason not to believe what she says, although, Chris, I do understand your point about speaking out, the book, the risks from a prosecutorial standpoint.

On that front, obviously, she could be central in multiple cases here. But in Fulton County, in the criminal case into Trump's efforts to overturn the election as a racketeering case, I know you're learning new details about how the judge is trying to speed up jury selection there. Can you tell us what you know?

TIMMONS: Yeah, absolutely. I spoke to Judge McAfee about -- on the case and what he was planning on, moving forward on. And one of the things he indicated was, you know, looking at the YSL case here, the Young Thug Case that's been proceeding for months in jury selection, that's not something he wants to have happen in his case.

And so, he's actually installing clocks, which we have in the federal courts here. But I've never seen that on the state level in Georgia. But he's installing timers. Plan is to give, at this point an hour to each side for each 12-member panel.

So, my guess what will happen is he'll bring in the group for the day, he'll read the indictment to them, he'll qualify them on the first initial statutory questions. They'll bring in a 12-person panel, give an hour for the state for them to do what they want to do. And then we're done in two hours and moving on to the next panel. So that should speed jury selection significantly.

BURNETT: Wow, that's fascinating. I think for many of us it's not something we were aware of that happened. So, thank you for that important insight.

Thank you both very much. I appreciate it. Chris, Olivia, thank you.

TIMMONS: Thank you.

BURNETT: And Cassidy Hutchinson will be sitting down with Jake Tapper on "THE LEAD" tomorrow at 4:00. And I hope that you will all tune in to see that interview.

And, next, the NTSB now investigating a report of severe turbulence that sent eight people to the hospital on a Florida-bound JetBlue flight. So what happened 30,000 feet in the air? A live report, next.

And I'll talk to a Maryland man who says he's on Putin's kill list after being shot outside his home. You'll hear why.



BURNETT: Tonight, sudden severe turbulence on a JetBlue flight sends seven passengers and a crew member to the hospital in Florida. The flight had departed from Ecuador, and as it approached Fort Lauderdale this morning, it experienced this sudden jolt. And it comes just a few weeks after the turbulent fight in Atlanta, you may remember this one, sent 11 people to the hospital including passengers and flight attendants.

Gabe Cohen is OUTFRONT.

And, Gabe, you know, we keep hearing about this, and then there was the one from Texas, right, that was heading to Europe and again and again. What can you tell us about this latest incident in Florida and what details you actually know?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Also, Erin, we've learned the NTSB has just opened an investigation into this incident. They want to know more about what happened because, as of now, the information has been somewhat limited.

As you mentioned, this was a JetBlue flight. It was on its way from Ecuador to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. And around 5:00 a.m. as it was flying over the Jamaica area, that plane suddenly hit severe unexpected turbulence. They did manage to continue the flight and land safely in Fort Lauderdale.

But once they were on the ground, eight people, seven passengers, and a crew member had to be taken to the hospital. At this point, it is not clear how severe those injuries were, Erin, but it gives you a sense of how intense that turbulence must've been in the sky.

That plane was taken out of service for inspection by JetBlue. That's standard protocol after an incident like this. And, as for potential cause at this hour, we can't, of course, say for sure, but we do know that flight tracking website showed storms along the plane's path right around the time that this all unfolded.


BURNETT: And, obviously, that could be part of it. But, you know, this is -- this is a pattern, right? We're hearing more and more of it of the severe turbulence, incredible drops, terrifying.

What are you learning about the rise in injuries that we're seeing as well from turbulence in recent months and why it's happening?

COHEN: Well, look, Erin, it's a major concern for officials that we seem to be seeing more and more of these turbulence incidents amid the more extreme weather that we've certainly seen in recent months, but definitely in recent years. So, you mentioned that delta flight. You can see the video right now 11 people last month injured by turbulence before landing safely in Atlanta.

And, look, turbulence is the most common cause of aviation accidents. And most of those incidents cause injuries without actually doing any damage to the plane. Take a listen. We spoke with NTSB chairwoman Jennifer Homendy about this issue.


JENNIFER HOMENDY, NTSB CHAIR: What I would say to passengers, seatbelts are critical, making sure infants are in their own seat, in a carrier that's approved by the FAA. A lot of folks don't know that, and making sure that flight attendants are seated and belted at the most critical times of a flight.


COHEN: And, Erin, as you mentioned, a woman was killed during turbulence on a private jet back in March.

Bottom line, officials want you to be wearing your seatbelt unless you are up on your feet for a reason. Of course, it's much harder for those flight attendants who have to spend a good portion of the flight on their feet.

BURNETT: Yeah, absolutely.

All right. Gabe, thank you very much.

And, next, we're going to hear from a man at the center of a mysterious shooting in suburban Washington, D.C. He believes Putin tried to have him killed, but why? He's next.

And an update to a story we've been following. The notorious Italian mob boss tonight dead less than a year after he was finally arrested.



BURNETT: Tonight, shoot him. Those are the words Paul Joyal heard from his assailant outside his Maryland home just before he was shot in the gut, assailants he was convinced were sent by the Russians. The attack happening days after Joyal, a Russian intelligence expert, appeared on NBC's "Dateline" in February 2007, accusing the Russian government of poisoning former Soviet spy Alexander Litvinenko, which the Kremlin denies, saying, quote, a message has been communicated to anyone who wants to speak out against the Kremlin.

If you do, no matter who you are, where you are, we will find you and we will silence you. So, that's what he said appearing in a "Dateline". Four days after he said that, Joyal he's in the hospital, in critical condition from punches to the head and a bullet to his stomach.

Official says the shooting appears to be random. But Joyal is not alone in his suspicions. Many prominent news outlets at the time questioning what happened. Rampant speculation remains.

Recently, at least 14 prominent Russians have died under mysterious circumstances which include falling downstairs, out of a hospital window, off of a boat, and, of course, in the case of Yevgeny Prigozhin, falling out of the sky. The Kremlin also denying, of course, that it assassinated the Wagner chief.

Now, Joyal is fighting for more agencies to get involved when their suspicious crimes could be related to foreign governments. His shooting remains unsolved.

Paul Joyal is OUTFRONT now.

And, Paul, I just want to get a chance to understand here exactly what happened as you recall it. The Kremlin never commented on what happened to you or on your belief that Russians were behind it. What made you so convinced that it was the Russians?

PAUL JOYAL, RUSSIAN EXPERT: Well, I had a close relationship with Alexander Litvinenko. I had a close relationship with Major General Oleg Kalugin, who I was with before it occurred. I was critical publicly. I never claimed that I'm on a hit list or that I want to be on a hit list.

But I think there was reasonable suspicion. We know now from the article that was posted that the FBI examined not only my home but my office for polonium, for listening devices, et cetera. So, obviously, it's just not my opinion. There was reasonable suspicion.

BURNETT: So, when you were under attack, in that moment, did you even have time to think and to connect the dots in your mind that it could have been linked to what you had said on "Dateline." Or what did you experience in that moment, if you're even able to remember it because of the trauma?

JOYAL: Oh, I can remember it quite clearly. I was -- I turned and faced my opponent, yelled as loud as I could in his face, attacked him with a trachea shot, took him to the ground. I was fighting with him on the ground.

So, but I will tell you this. As soon as I got into the house, after my wife called 911, I asked her to call Oleg Kalugin and warn him.

BURNETT: So, you did immediately do that.

Now, police, as you know, of course, have said -- they've said there's no evidence that this is related.

Now, of course, I want to note, they couldn't talk to you for a month. You were in the hospital. You were obviously in critical condition.

JOYAL: I was on a breathing tube for 30 days, just about 30 days.

BURNETT: I mean, it's incredible to even imagine such a thing. But when you hear they say there's no evidence, I mean, do you think it's possible that something like that could have happened to you just randomly?

JOYAL: Well, as I say, if they were looking for -- if they were trying to get something from me, they could have asked. You know? No one asked, no one took anything, phone, laptop, et cetera.

So, the point of the matter is, I'm not trying to draw attention to myself. I'm trying to draw attention to the violent times we live in and the fact that these types of incidences are on the rise.

BURNETT: And, Paul, I know you're fighting for agencies to get involved on suspicious crimes that could involve foreign governments in any way, right? That's what you're focused on.

JOYAL: That's right.

BURNETT: I pointed out a lot of those. Those are, of course, Russian citizens.

JOYAL: Right.

BURNETT: But you point out the times we live in. There's a Moscow- based financier, American, who is friendly with Jared and Ivanka Trump. He sold them real estate.


He's dead.

Dan Rapoport is his name. He's dead. He fell from a luxury apartment building. Police concluded that was not foul play.

Kremlin, of course, denies any role in his death. This is a case you've been focused on. What do you think possibly happened?

JOYAL: Well, we don't know. But the point of the matter is this, is that this is a suspicious incident that occurred during the conflict in Ukraine. This man was involved in that.

And we can't expect the Metropolitan Police Department, who have no counterintelligence background, that don't understand active measures, that don't understand the other things that occur around shootings, which are clues. That's why I say it's time to increase the authorities of the FBI to be able to assist.

As Bill Chase, the former special agent in charge of the Baltimore field office said in the interview, we didn't have a predicate to go forward. We need to develop an opportunity to allow local law enforcement the support they need to conclude investigations properly.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Paul, thank you very much. I appreciate you're taking the time and talking about it here.

JOYAL: Thank you very much. Appreciate the privilege.

BURNETT: All right.

And next, the ruthless Italian mob boss who had been on the run for three decades before being captured this year tonight is now dead.


BURNETT: Tonight, notorious mob boss, Matteo Messina Denaro, once one of Europe's most wanted men, has died. Italian media reports he died at a hospital where he was getting treatment for colon cancer. Now, Denaro was at the infamous Sicilian mafia known as Cosa Nostra, once Italy's most powerful.

He spent nearly 30 years on the run before his arrest earlier this year. Police later finding at least two hideouts in Sicily where he reportedly lived recently, including a fortified bunker. He had been given three life sentences in absentia for mafia-related crimes, including two separate bombings that killed top anti-mafia prosecutors and the torture and murder of an 11-year-old boy who testified against the mob, and then 30 years in the run, captured, dies in less than a year.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.