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Erin Burnett Outfront
U.S. Official: Hamas Has Command Node Under Gaza Hospital; U.S. Forces Attacked At Least 4 Times Since Yesterday; Ex-Trump Attorney: Trump Was "Not Going To Leave" White House Despite Loss; Democratic Representative Zeroes In On Abortion In Run For Virginia Governor; House Essentially Kills Resolution To Impeach Homeland Security Chief; China Clamps Down. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired November 13, 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, a major allegation. Israel saying there is a Hamas commander center hidden under a children's hospital in Gaza. And tonight, we take you inside of the hospital to see firsthand where Israel says it found weapons and evidence, it says, that hostages will also being held there.
Plus, breaking news, Trump lawyers on tape tonight telling prosecutors in Georgia that Trump said he was, quote, not going to leave the White House, even after he lost.
And an OUTFRONT investigation this hour, the Chinese government is now going after people on American soil just for being critical of China. This investigation is coming just before Biden meets with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, you will see it here first. And let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, a war to the end. That is the defiant message tonight from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he insists Israel will not let up on his assault on Gaza until Hamas has been eliminated. As the fighting continues, though, the civilian casualties continue to climb.
And tonight, Gaza's largest hospital, Al Shifa, is still caught in the middle, the hospital complex is massive, but as you can see spinning, many blocks, more than ten acres, thousands of people are seeking refuge there. You can see the camps and courtyards in parking lots, this is a satellite image so you can see how even the spaces between the buildings are being used as a refuge.
U.S. officials telling CNN that Hamas has a command center underneath the roughly 12-acre complex. And that, of course, is what the IDF has been saying. The head of the hospital, though, tonight, denies it.
Here's what he told reporter Shlomi Eldar, the Israeli journalist who we've spoken to a number of times on this program. Shlomi asked him whether there are Hamas tunnels underneath the hospital.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SHLOMI ELDAR, ISRAELI JOURNALIST (through translator): They are saying that the hospital is besieged because of the tunnels under it.
DR. MUHAMMAD ABU SALIMA, DIRECTOR OF AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL (through translator): This is untrue and inaccurate. I am the manager of Al- Shifa hospital. I call any institution in the world to come now and investigate this issue.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Any institution in the world. Well, to be clear, as of yet, there are no visuals of a Hamas command center underneath Al-Shifa, which is the biggest hospital with Gaza. But the IDF today did take reporters to see the basement of the Rantisi Children's Hospital, north of Al-Shifa. The IDF showing reporters evidence of Hamas command center there. They say they also found a number of weapons in that basements as well as evidence that that hostages has been held there.
You're looking at footage of our Nic Robertson who is able to take going into what the IDF says was where those weapons were being held. It's pretty incredible to see this footage. Again, what goes on with the IDF so we can show you what he's saying now, obviously they're saying that hostages were also kept there at some point, and then they had evidence of that. So, that's what you're looking at right now in these images underneath that Al Rantisi Children's Hospital where Nic was today, along with other members of the press taken in by the IDF.
What you see there below ground is obviously description, and deeply disturbing. It's a mosque command center underneath a children's hospital. We don't know what's underground all these hospitals. We do know that what's above ground inside the hospital walls are horrible situations.
OUTFRONT obtained this voice memo from Dr. Marwan Abusada, he's the head of surgery at the Shifa Hospital. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DR. MARWAN ABUSADA, HEAD OF SURGERY AT AL SHIFA HOSPITAL IN GAZA CITY: We don't have electricity. We don't have water. We don't have even the food. And we are afraid that in the middle of the night, we lose the electricity to the main ICU and to the neonatal ICU.
So this is the issue now in Gaza, and we have a lot of killed people, and we would like to bury their bodies, but it is sad to say that that is very dangerous.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: There are explosions in the background as he's speaking, and Dr. Abusada went on to say that they tried to dig a mass grave for their bodies, but he says their machinery was attacked. And, look, these situations, no matter the specifics of exactly what is happening, this is very hard to get actual eyes on it, never mind eyes that are not being monitored by one side or the other, it is the situation for the human beings truly seeking refuge in the hospital.
It's horror, and it is this grim, sorrow-filled reality that President Biden was asked to comment on earlier today, when reporter asked about hospitals in Gaza.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The hospital in Gaza, have you expressed any specific concerns to Israel on that, sir?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you know, I've not been reluctant to express my concerns what's going on. And it's my hope an expectation that it will be less intrusive action relative to the hospital. The hospital must be protected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Biden went on to say that negotiations are still underway, he says for a pause in fighting in order to release the 239 hostages, the hostages that according to the White House do include a three-year-old American whose parents were both killed by Hamas during the October 7th terror attack.
Jeremy Diamond is OUTFRONT live along the Israel-Gaza border.
And Jeremy, what is Israel saying tonight about Hamas's connection to where we just saw that footage, right? That footage was underneath the Rantisi Children's Hospital, our crews took it and that's where they, were they were allowed in there by the IDF, but they were able to take those images. What is Israel saying this is underneath the hospital?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, I think it's important for us to understand the context. I mean, for weeks now, the Israeli military has been laying the groundwork to go after some of these hospitals, claiming that Hamas is operating from within and underground as well as around a number of these hospital complexes. They have shown what they claim to be evidence of rocket launchers and tunnels in the vicinity of several hospitals. They have claimed that one of Hamas's largest command and control centers is underneath Gaza's largest hospital, Al-Shifa hospital.
And today, they are now showing what they say is weapons that they found in the basement of Al Rantisi Children's Hospital. They show in a video, and they showed our Nic Robertson as well, weapons including AK-47s, RPGs, what they say are explosive vests improvised explosive devices, et cetera.
They also say that they found a room that they believe may -- may possibly have been used to hold some of those Israeli hostages. They found women's clothes. They found ropes and a room with curtains, perhaps designated to -- for videos that Hamas has filmed to some of these hostages. They also say that they found near the hospital, about 200 yards away, near a school, the entrance to a tunnel which they claim was used by Hamas militants. Of course, it's hard for us to independently verify a lot of this, but they did bring in our Nic Robertson into this hospital to show him what they found.
BURNETT: All right. And, obviously, you know, we're talking about, you know, it's hard to know exactly what happened underground, and what we're really seeing. But there's underground and then there's above ground, and under ground -- above ground, of course, no one can dispute the human -- human pain and agony that is going on in those hospitals, and elsewhere. I mean, the hospital system in Gaza truly at this point appears to be on the brink of collapse, doesn't it?
DIAMOND: No, we are absolutely watching a hospital system collapsing under the weight of war. We have watched as Al Shifa hospital power outages, shortages of medical supplies, food and water, have led doctors to try and take care of patients using flashlights. We have watched as they wrapped premature infants taken out of incubators because a nearby strike took out a generator, wrapped those babies in foil, in blankets to try to keep them warm, putting them next to warm water.
This is absolutely a dire situation at these hospitals, and we are watching the same thing play out at several other hospitals, including Al-Quds hospital which says that it is no longer fully operational, effectively.
And today, earlier today, my colleague Karen Hatter (ph) spoke with the director general of the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza who said that, you know, the doctors at the hospital don't want to evacuate, because what are they going to do with the hundreds of patients, he said some of them are intensive care, some of them are amputees. How do they want them to leave? Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Jeremy, thank you very much.
And the significant escalation against the United States tonight. Iranian-backed groups conducting at least four more attacks on U.S. forces in the past. That brings the total number of attacks on U.S. forces to at least 52 in just the past four weeks.
These attacks, these latest ones coming after the U.S. hit targets tied to the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Alex Marquardt is OUTFRONT.
And, Alex, what more are you learning tonight about this?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it is not clear whether this message of deterrence by the Biden administration is working. Right now, it does not appear to be so. And so, it is raising the question of whether the Biden administration is doing enough to deter these attacks against U.S. forces, whether the Biden administration is doing enough to prevent this conflict from broadening out from beyond, just Israel and Gaza.
Now, this latest strike by the U.S. forces in eastern Syria was the third in as many weeks.
It hit a training facility, a safe house that is linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, as well as other groups that are linked to Iran. There were some casualties we understand, but the Pentagon is not clear on exactly who was hurt, or who was killed. But this follows, Erin, more than 50 different attacks against U.S. troops as you mentioned over the past few weeks since October 7th, and directly after this latest strike by U.S. jets, there were four in quick succession, Sunday night into Monday morning, these Iranian-backed groups are using a combination of rockets and drones to go after U.S. and coalition forces in Syria.
This has resulted over the past few weeks in more than 50 U.S. troops with varying degrees of injuries, including some two dozen with traumatic brain injuries. Now, our colleague, Arlette Saenz, at the White House, spoke with the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan about these strikes against Iranian groups earlier -- Iranian-backed groups, I should say, earlier today. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Our goal overtime is to ensure that our forces are protected, in that we respond if we get hit. That is what we have done, that is what we will continue to do. They should be measured over the course of time, not over the course of 24 hours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: So, again, Erin, this is not just a question of whether Iran is being deterred, and their groups from striking against U.S. forces, but whether the U.S. can prevent whether the U.S. message is getting through to groups like Hezbollah, like the Houthis who could really expand this conflict in a very dangerous way. That is a major fear of the Biden administration, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Alex, and certainly sobering numbers. Fifty troops with injuries. Two dozen American troops with traumatic brain injuries, as a result of what's already happening against U.S. troops in the Mideast.
OUTFRONT now, Seth Jones, his analysis in the conflict being extensively used by the U.S. government. He's the senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
And, Seth, I want to ask -- let's get to those strikes against U.S. forces in a moment, but first, this command center first. The U.S. now, the U.S. -- so, this is not the IDF, although the U.S. is getting information, but they're putting their name on it. They're imprimatur.
And they're saying that Hamas has a command center under the largest hospital in Gaza, the Al-Shifa Hospital. You heard the hospital's director denied that. What have you learned about Hamas's connection to that hospital? SETH JONES, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM: Well, Erin, my
conversations with U.S. government folks today indicates that the U.S. does believe that there is a -- at least a Hamas command center and possibly the storage of some material underneath the hospital. It's not necessarily large amounts, but there is -- there is some Hamas infrastructure underneath the hospital. So, that is what the Israelis look like they are targeting.
Obviously, the suffering we are seeing in the hospital itself is significant, and concerning.
BURNETT: Right, right, but I think it's important as you say that what you're hearing is that there is a command center of sorts, but not necessarily large amounts of material there, all important.
But you point out about the tragedy in the hospitals themselves. President Biden is saying that hospitals must be protected in Gaza. He's using those words explicitly. Then, that brings us to that children's hospital, right, where the IDF says it found weapons in a basement, RPGs is we're looking at footage of right now. RPGs, improvised IEDs, bulletproof vests and AK-47s, that they say they found those there, they took reporters there to show them today.
They also say that there was a room that they believe may have held hostages, and even provided for Hamas to make videos of hostages, hostage videos. And, you know, again, we are looking at the footage that we have of that from today.
What do you see in these images? What do you take away from what the IDF says this is?
JONES: Well, again, in this case, it does appear that the Hamas has used areas including basements for the storage of weapons as command facilities, possibly hostages. This really goes along with a tactic that Hamas has done, not just now but over the last couple of years. It has used civilians as human shields, it has put weapons and fighters and ambulances. It's almost begging the Israelis to conduct these kinds of attacks in and around civilian centers like hospitals, so they can use that for its propaganda purposes.
So, this has been a pretty deliberate significant and consistent practice from groups like Hamas.
BURNETT: So, now, the U.S. forces you just heard Alex Marquardt say that there are two dozen American forces in the Middle East because of this conflict in Gaza, have suffered traumatic brain injuries because of strikes from Iranian-backed forces.
Fifty injured, but two dozen of the most traumatic brain injuries, right? Your life -- your life is altered because of that.
At least 52 attacks we know of, that so far against U.S. and coalition forces over the past few weeks. Seth, when it comes to a military perspective, an escalation, as I want to emphasize for these people injured, traumatic brain injuries, this adds up to a change in their life. For this conflict, is this escalation or is it chatter?
JONES: Well, I think the conflict in the region is moving up the escalation ladder. We have not seen the levels of violence we saw for example in 1980s where we saw the attack against U.S. marine barracks, and we saw hundreds of casualties. But we are creeping up that escalation ladder where we are now seeing both sides striking each other's targets.
And the thing is particularly concerning. Alex mentioned this a little bit, is the amount of standoff weapons that Hezbollah has, Iranian- linked group have in Syria and in Iraq as well. It's significant, well over 100,000. That could be shot at Israel itself and also that could strike U.S. targets in places like Iraq and Syria.
So, if we keep creeping up this escalation ladder, there is a lot of violence that could happen.
BURNETT: All right. Seth, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
JONES: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, we have some breaking news on the domestic front. One of Trump's former attorneys telling prosecutors in Georgia on tape that she was informed that Trump was quote, not going to leave the White House. This is despite losing the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNA ELLIS, FORMER TRUMP ATTRONEY: He said the boss is not going to leave under any circumstances. We are just going to stay in power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You'll see that in just a moment.
Plus, the battlegrounds. It is our new series with John King and his magic wall, the places, the issues that are going to decide who wins the next presidential election.
And we've got breaking news this hour, the House is about to vote on moving forward with impeaching the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. We'll be live on the House floor.
BURNETT: Breaking news, ABC News obtaining videos connected to the first plea deals in the Fulton County's 2020 election interference case and these are something to see, including former Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis. She recounts a late 2020 conversation with Trump top aide Dan Scavino. Dan Scavino, you know, ran his Twitter account, was very, very close with Trump.
She says Scavino told her that Trump would never leave the White House, despite losing the election and losing multiple legal challenges. Here's what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLIS: He said to me in a kind of excited tone, well, we don't care and we're not going to leave. And I said what do you mean? He said, well, the boss, meaning President Trump and everyone understood the boss, that's what we all called him. He said the boss is not going to leave under any circumstances. We are just going to stay in power. And I said, then, well, it doesn't quite work that way you realize. He said we don't care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, it's pretty incredible, right? I mean, the people so close to Trump that just bought into this. One day after that interview, Ellis pleaded guilty in the Fulton County case, admitting that she paused false election fraud claims and now regrets representing Donald Trump. Trump's lead counsel in the case told ABC that the, quote, purported private conversation as described by Ellis was, quote, absolutely meaningless.
ABC says Scavino has not yet commented.
OUTFRONT now, Ryan Goodman, our OUTFRONT legal analyst and Jack O'Donnell, former president and chief operating officer of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.
And this is, obviously, we just played, Ryan, was a day before her guilty plea, Sidney Powell also instrumental in that book as well. I'm going to play that at a moment, but first, Jenna Ellis after that, agreed to cooperate and testify as part of her plea deal.
Now, just that's the clip that's been released. How significant then is she?
RYAN GOODMAN, JUST SECURITY CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: It looks like she can be very significant. She's adding something that's golden evidence for prosecutors, both in Georgia and in D.C. potentially --
BURNETT: In special counsel.
GOODMAN: In special counsel, which is they don't have to prove this, but if they can show that Trump knew he lost, and was still during the trial to hold on the power, that's it. That's game over and that's exactly what she says in the context of the conversation.
She is telling Dan Scavino, it's essentially over. We just lost the major Supreme Court case on December 11th and he says back, it doesn't matter. We're staying in power.
BURNETT: We don't care.
GOODMAN: That's right. We don't care. We're staying in power.
BURNETT: I mean, loud and clear.
All right. So, Jack, on this, ABC also obtained video of Sidney Powell's interview with Fulton County investigators, and I should note, she also pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal. She says multiple Trump White House lawyers, multiple told Trump that he lost the election, right?
This whole point that we kept honing in on for so long, right, did people really tell him? Did he really know? She said, multiple people told him he lost, and here is how she said Trump responded to that.
Here's the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was President Trump's reaction when this cadre of advisers would say he lost?
SIDNEY POWELL, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: It was like -- well, they would say that, and then they would walk out. He would go, see, this is what I deal with all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: She throws her hands up in the air, I guess it is, seems, Jake, he's mimicking the former president. But she said, they walked in, multiple of them, and they'd walk out after telling him he lost, and goes, see, this is what I deal with all the time.
Does this sound like the Trump that you know?
JACK O'DONNELL, FORMER PRESIDENT AND CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER OF TRUMP PLAZA HOTEL & CASINO: Well, it is the Trump that we know, Erin. You know, he just, you know, refuses to believe the bad news, number one, and then as we all know, he lives in an alternate world when it comes to the law, you know? He believes that he's above the law, on everything. And so, it really doesn't matter to him the significance of a peaceful transition of power, or whether it's something in his business.
He doesn't believe in the law. He just ignores it. But it's absolutely Trump and nothing that Sidney Powell says surprises me.
BURNETT: I mean, both of those though, Ryan. I mean, obviously, they're putting out clips that are, you know, making a very clear point. They're bad for Trump.
BURNETT: It comes on a day in the Trump Org fraud trial that was not great. The defense calls Don Jr., so he's always been called by the prosecution, called by defense to testify again.
And team Trump fights today. They want to use a PowerPoint presentation, a very specific one about the Trump Org, even though it has things in it that are not true. They actually wanted to put it into evidence.
The senior editor of "Forbes", Dana Alexander, you know, who we know, we have him on a lot, he said the presentations at 40 Wall Street was 72 stories.
This is a powerful presentation they wanted in court. It's 63, according to the SEC and NYC tax documents.
The presentation said it was directly across from the New York Stock Exchange. I remember where -- I worked at New York Stock Exchange for a while, it's not. So, did this look bad for Team Trump to put in a power point that they were showing people, that was false?
GOODMAN: Absolutely, and the prosecutors also pointed out some other inconsistencies. And all of them go to one particular thing, which is all an inflation of Trump's assets and the supposed value of those assets.
BURNETT: Right, a taller building, a better location.
GOODMAN: Yes, and higher levels of occupancy of the building as well.
So, first, it's just -- it's bad for them because it means that their evidence is unreliable, they can be relied on for their defense. But it's worse in the sense that the very presentation of trial is what they are being prosecuted for, which is inflating his assets. It's all skewed in one direction. It's not just clumsiness like oh, sometimes it was higher, sometimes it was lower.
Every time Don Jr.'s testifying with this presentation that they must have thought about long and advance, it's all skewed in favor of his father, suggesting even greater wealth.
BURNETT: And, Jack, this is something that you lived and breathed. I mean, when it came to 40 Wall Street, we just talked about how they exaggerated its height and were not honest about its actual location.
He -- Don Jr. testified that it occupancy for 40 Wall Street was higher than 90 percent. It turns out it's 77 percent, but he had testified it was higher than 90 percent.
And to Ryan's point, I mean, this is -- this seems to be standard operating procedure for this family. I mean, here's an example for my documentary in the Trump Org when they talked about how many units they've sold for the business.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: We have projects all over the world that are incredibly successful, and that are virtually sold out. So, from Hawaii to Toronto, to Istanbul.
BURNETT (voice-over): Bankruptcy papers filed for the Toronto property years later told a very different story.
MARCO CHOWN OVED, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, TORONTO STAR: Years after it opened, they still had three quarters of the units that had never been sold, just sitting empty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Virtually sold out, Jack, and the reality was nearly three quarters of the units were empty and that was the reality when they had to file for bankruptcy. You've lived and breathed this. Is this -- is this who they are at their core?
O'DONNELL: Erin, it's form over substance always, and it also shows just a complete lack of discipline within the organization that they will look at a flashy presentation and we wowed by that wouldn't even look at the numbers. They can't even take time to do that. It is, you know, it's disgusting.
That is -- you know, from a businessman standpoint, but, you know, the problem with the culture there, Erin, is even if they have a 90 percent occupancy rate, I promise you they'd be saying they have a 98 percent occupancy rate. You know, it's just how they function and they cannot -- they cannot help themselves. They are always going to be lying.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both very much.
And next, do you remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would hope that we would give to women in this country, the right to make that decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Why that message didn't work 35 years ago, but now is suddenly resonating. John King at the magic wall to do our new series, the battlegrounds.
Plus, an OUTFRONT investigation tonight. China is now trying to silence people on American soil. This is with sobering threats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will kill me if I don't delete my YouTube account.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, riding the momentum. Democratic Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger announcing she is running for Virginia governor a week after Democrats won control of both houses of the state legislature. What drove many voters was protecting abortion rights, which Spanberger today put front and center.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D-VA): While some politicians in Richmond focused on banning abortion and books, what they're not doing is helping people.
It's about focusing on recruiting and retaining teachers, so all of our kids can succeed, and stopping extremist from shredding women's reproductive rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, throughout this election, we're going to take a closer look with John King at the places and the issues that will decide this election. And tonight's battleground is the suburbs, where this fight for abortion rights is right now playing out, and John King of course is that the magic wall.
So, you know, Abigail Spanberger there launching her bid for governor, wasting no time making it clear what her issue, start right at the fore issues that Glenn Youngkin had made his, she's on the other side of them and she believes that there's a clear reason for this, not only in Virginia but across the country.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She's right, at the moment. Look at the results this year, look at the results last year. The abortion issue for Democrats is like the lighthouse, it's the light turning in the lighthouse saying, come to safe haven. This is where you should drive your boat because this is where it is safe.
Let me just show you, this is the 2020 presidential map, but Spanberger's congressional district is here. It's Prince William County, it's Stanford County, Caroline County, right down in here, right, central -- north central Virginia, a lot of suburban areas.
The Democrats in taking back the House of Delegates, they kept the Senate and they took back the House of Delegates, a huge story in Virginia just one week ago. They picked up two House of Delegates. He's right here that overlap for her district.
They did that by running on abortion rights. So, Spanberger says it worked last week, maybe for me it will work in 2025. That's one that governors races. But the current evidence -- who knows what 2025 will show? But the current evidence says, why not?
Let's look at just 2023, just again, one week ago tonight, what happened? Andy Beshear reelected in dramatic fashion. We thought this would be a very close race, right? Andy Beshear winning huge.
Look at all of this red out here, the suburbs around Frankfort, around Lexington, up here, critically important. The Cincinnati, Ohio, suburbs that are in northern Kentucky. Look at closely at this map. Look at all this blue.
This is the 2020 presidential election. It's not three years ago. That's all Donald Trump, that's all Donald Trump.
Andy Beshear, sure, he was the incumbent governor, but he ran on a big issue that Daniel Cameron would take away, further restrict abortion rights, it helped. Was it everything? No. But it helped. And it's not just this governor's race.
Let's go back. There were initiatives on the ballot, right? Let's come to the state of Ohio, again, a Trump -- a state Trump won by eight points, Erin, look up here. The Cleveland, suburbs, the Akron suburbs, the Youngstown suburbs, the Toledo suburbs, the Columbus suburbs, the abortion issue drives voters to the polls.
I give you just one example, Lake County. Come up here, this is Lake County, a relatively Republican suburbs, strong Republican suburb outside of Cleveland, the abortion initiative yes, this should be a constitutional right get 60 percent of the vote.
Donald Trump got 56, just three years ago.
So, you have places where Republicans are winning, voting for abortion rights. So, if you are a candidate, why not? Why wouldn't you? It's not just this year, of course, if you went back last year, and you looked at what happened in Kansas, the first vote after Dobbs, the suburbs, the suburbs just out across the river from Kansas City, Missouri, in Kansas City, Kansas, Topeka, Lawrence, Manhattan suburbs there.
If you did not believe Kansas, Michigan came after that, closing out 2022 with another one in the suburbs. Erin, who knows if it last to 2024, and 2025, but if today, if you're a Democrat, that should be your beacon because the recent evidence is it works.
BURNETT: It absolutely is. It's interesting, though, you say today, and we'll see whether it happens, and I know that that comes in part from in the past, it wasn't always this way, right? It wasn't too long ago that whenever you had a Democratic efforts to court suburban voters with the abortion issue, it was -- it was a failure.
KING: Times have changed, and the suburbs have changed. So, let's go back through it. You mentioned campaigns of long ago. You showed in the tease, Governor Dukakis for the 1998 campaign, that was my first presidential campaign. This is my tenth.
So, nine campaigns ago, Michael Dukakis, look at this, he got thumped, right? He only won ten states. Think about how much things have changed. He won West Virginia. Michael Dukakis, the Democrat won West Virginia.
And he won it by pretty good, by five points if you look at it. Democrats did not do well in the suburbs in those days. They did well with blue-collar voters. Michael Dukakis tried. He looked at a place like Pennsylvania, right?
George W. Bush didn't win it by a lot, George H.W. Bush, 51 to 58. Dukakis tried here. He knew the suburbs would matter. He wanted to turn out Democrats, swing the suburbs.
How did he do it? He said George H.W. Bush will take away your rights.
BURNETT: So --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUKAKIS: But isn't the real question that we have to answer, not how many exceptions we make, because the vice president himself is prepared to make exceptions, it's who makes the decisions? And I would hope that we would give to women in this country the right to make that decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But, Erin, it didn't work. Look, Bucks County just outside of Philadelphia, Dukakis loses. Bush gets 60 percent. Then you move around the collar, Montgomery County, H.W. Bush gets 60 percent. Dela Co, Delaware County, 60 percent. Why?
Remember those Willie Horton ads? George H.W. Bush ran on crime, Dukakis ran on abortion in those days, not just in Pennsylvania, in Michigan as well. The crime issue trumped the abortion issue, perhaps because remember, George H.W. Bush, he supported abortion rights. He switched and was antiabortion to get onto the ticket with Ronald Reagan. Roe was still on the books, a lot of voters think he didn't mean it. It didn't work for Dukakis back then.
Now, I want to fast forward. I just want to fast forward to 2004, another Massachusetts Democrat, John Kerry. At this point, Erin, you're beginning to see the suburbs shift. Look at Pennsylvania. I just showed you, George H.W. Bush winning the suburban collar around Philadelphia.
Well, John Kerry did that, just barely. The suburbs were just starting to turn blue, 51 percent in Bucks County. Fifty-five percent in Montgomery County, 57 percent in Delaware County. So, that one was moving faster.
John Kerry again, like Dukakis said, I need another state or two. I need to win the suburbs. Abortion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a burden that falls more and more on women, because we all know, as my wife often reminds me, women -- where women's rights are just that, rights, not political weapons to be used by politicians in this nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: There is evidence that it did help some, but think about how much time have changed. George H. -- George W. Bush won reelection because of Ohio, just barely. What was on the ballot this year? Remember, it was a constitutional amendment to put abortion rights in the Constitution. Then, it was a constitutional amendment to ban success marriage, in 2004.
KING: And it turned out those conservatives and Bush won.
BURNETT: Right. Of course, you've got to wonder whether Democrats are there, let's battleground states to see whether they can put abortion on, there are some of these may be wish they had played that card so quickly. But to that point, it's clear that abortion is a problem for Republicans in the suburbs, but it's not just about abortion is it?
KING: Not just about abortion, but it's about as these big changes have happened, why? Who is? How they get there?
Look at these counties I've talked about a lot tonight. Back in 1990, just after the '88 election, Loudoun County was just emerging as a suburb, 87,000 people then. Look, Erin, 420,000 people now. Bucks County already an establish suburb, then, 543,000 people than, up to 646,000 people now, so growing, but nowhere near that the speed of Loudoun county.
Now, it's not just the growth, it's who's moving in. Take a look at the diversity changes here, Loudoun County back in 1990 was 88 percent white. It is now 54 percent white. Bucks County was 94 percent white then, it has not changed this much, only 83 percent white.
So, but you do see the bigger population, more diversity, that transit Democratic.
But here is the one thing, Erin. If you're looking for one reason why the suburb is red, why is this suburb lean blue? Why is this suburb bright blue? Look at this, education is now the dividing line in American politics, and you see it in the suburbs.
Thirty-eight percent on average in many county in America, people have at least a bachelors degree or higher. In Bucks County is 44 percent, higher than the national average, so it leans blue.
In Loudoun County, Erin, it is 65 percent, way above the national average which means it is ruby blue.
BURNETT: All right. John King, thank you very much.
And next, he was one of only eight Republicans who voted to get oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker. And now, a new speaker is facing the same threat of shutdown. Ken Buck is OUTFRONT next.
And the Chinese government is going after people in the United States who are in the United States, just because they're criticizing China. This is an OUTFRONT investigation tonight . (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BURNETT: Breaking news, House Democrats have effectively killed a Republican attempt to impeach the Homeland Security Committee Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. House Democrats maneuvering to send Republicans' attempts to impeach Mayorkas to the Homeland Security Committee which essentially kills the effort. Republicans campaigned heavily on promises to impeach Mayorkas over its handling of the U.S.- Mexico border situation.
OUTFRONT now, Republican Congressman Ken Buck. He voted with Democrats to send this back to the committee.
And, Congressman, I very much appreciate your time. Why did you vote with Democrats on this one?
REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Because Secretary Mayorkas has not committed an impeachable offense. I disagree strongly with how he's handling the border. I think the border is porous. I think it's a threat to this country, but it's not a high crime or misdemeanor. It's not treasonous, it's bribery, it's not the crimes, the issues that our founders set forth in the Constitution, and it's wrong.
We are using impeachment in the last five, six years, you know, in a way that's just inappropriate and it means really the integrity of the House.
BURNETT: You are obviously one of very few Republicans who took that stand. I know obviously, Congressman, you come with this conclusion after a lot of thought because I know you confronted Secretary Mayorkas when he appeared before the judiciary committee last year. And you talked about how your constituents felt about impeachment.
Here's what you said then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUCK: My constituents want you impeached, because they believe you've committed treason.
They believe your traitor. They compare you to Benedict Arnold.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, that's what your constituents wanted. Obviously, you don't believe that yourself. You feel very differently.
But how do you explain to them -- well, I guess what you just explain to me. Why you thought that was the right thing to do, instead of what maybe what your constituents would have wanted?
BUCK: Yes, it's a constitutional issue, and if we do not follow the rulebook, we really demean ourselves, and we demand the integrity of this institution. I feel really strongly about that. I didn't vote for the first Trump impeachment, or the second Trump impeachment. I'm not sure I would have voted for the Clinton impeachment. It is really -- it's a drastic action to take, and it's inappropriate in this situation.
BURNETT: We are, of course, just five days away, I can't believe I'm saying this congressman from another government shutdown deadline. Speaker Mike Johnson has proposed a two tier plan that does not include spending cuts.
Now, at least eight Republicans have said publicly that they will oppose it. And, obviously, he can only afford to lose four of them, unless he gets enough Democrats on board. Do you support his plan?
BUCK: I have not made a decision at this point. I'm actually leaving this interview, and I'm going over to the House Freedom Caucus meeting where Speaker Johnson is meeting with the House Freedom Caucus to talk through things. I'm not sure the bill is going to be the same tomorrow as it is today. And I want to just keep my power dry at this point, but I appreciate what Mike's trying to do, and that is to get more appropriations bills passed.
We are not looking at the end of next year, $36 trillion of debt. Moody's has just downgraded U.S. bonds. It's a very serious situation.
BURNETT: It is a very serious situation, there's no question about it, and one that neither party has frankly taken seriously enough when it comes to getting in power. There's just a lot of spending that happens regardless of whether D or R is by someone's name.
But guess what I'm asking you, and I know you have maybe a different thought about the snow that you are not running for reelection, do you believe that -- I mean, would you be okay to vote to support something if basically you are going to be voting with a bunch of Democrats to support Speaker Mike Johnson? I mean, you just did it with Mayorkas. Are you willing to do it again on principle of working across party lines?
BUCK: I am absolutely willing to vote my conscience, to vote based on what I believe is correct, and if Democrats agree with me, great. If Republicans agree with me, great.
I think that if we don't have some break on this spending spree, and you're absolutely, right this is a bipartisan bankruptcy. This is not just Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives.
This is bipartisan. It's gone on for years. It's both the White House and Congress have engaged in this, it has to stop and we have to take this more seriously.
So, if the Democrats want to join me on a vote, I absolutely will vote with the Democrats if we can get counting under control.
BURNETT: All right. Congressman Buck, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much tonight, sir.
BUCK: Thank you.
BURNETT: All right. And next, the OUTFRONT investigation we've been talking about, the Chinese government harassing and threatening to kill people here in the United States just because they've criticized Beijing. That special report is next.
Plus, stunning images tonight of a volcano sending lava and ash miles into the sky.
BURNETT: Tonight, the Chinese government is going after people on American soil. The threats against people the government deems are critics. They come as President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are set to meet in California.
Donie O'Sullivan is here with an investigation that you'll see first OUTFRONT.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel really, really afraid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They use hateful words or threatening words.
JIAYANG FAN, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: They will make life very uncomfortable. For those who speak ill of China.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are here on American soil, thousands of miles from Beijing, but still being hounded and harassed by the Chinese government.
FAN: I was instantly flooded with messages, asking me to kill myself.
O'SULLIVAN: Her name is Jiayang Fan, a writer for "The New Yorker", she's been targeted with a wave of online harassments since she covered pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong four years ago, more than 12,000 tweets calling her a traitor.
FAN: I was caught so off-guard, and I was not sure if it was a coordinated effort.
O'SULLIVAN: It is a coordinated effort of fake and anonymous counts. It's called spamouflage.
PROFESSOR DARREN LINVILL, MEDIA FORENSICS HUB, CLEMSON UNIVERSITY: Depending on how you measure, it's the biggest disinformation campaign that world has ever seen.
O'SULLIVAN: Professor Darren Linvill from Clemson's media forensics hub has tracked spamouflage for years. It's only now been revealed that the vast disinformation campaign is tied to the Chinese government.
LINVILL: Thousands and thousands of messages repeated over and over again.
O'SULLIVAN: A CNN review of court documents, social media reports and interviews with victims reveals a massive relentless campaign of intimidation by the Chinese governments, targeting people on U.S. soil.
JIAJUN QIU, FORMER PROFESSOR IN CHINA: They told me they will kill me if I do not delete my YouTube.
O'SULLIVAN: Jiajun Qiu posts pro-democracy YouTube videos criticizing the Chinese government from his office here at this church in Virginia. To hit back, the Chinese trolls post thousands of messages attacking him.
QIU: They cover people's eyes, that's so that the Chinese people cannot see the reality.
O'SULLIVAN: A vast campaign of intimidation that even employs artists to create original illustrations to mock and harass its victims.
This is not just some guy in his basement.
LINVILL: No, I think it's clearly a very sophisticated effort.
I'm often staggered at the number of platforms where we come across their content.
O'SULLIVAN: Some of the people behind spamouflage are these Chinese police officers. That's according to the U.S. department of justice. The DOJ charged 34 Chinese police officers for using social media accounts to threaten, harass and intimidate specific victims in the United States. The indictment is full of pictures allegedly taken from inside of the special trolling units, showing laptops, phones, and other equipment used as part of the operation.
A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. said the DOJ's allegations are politically motivated, and have no factual evidence or legal basis.
CHEN POKONG, ACTIVIST & U.S. CITIZEN: Yeah, they try to shut me up. They tried to sentence me, you know, to silence me, to minimize my voice.
O'SULLIVAN: Chen Pokong spent nearly five years in a Chinese person for his pro-democracy work. Now, he's an American citizen and campaigns from here.
POKONG: They started to make noises, yelling, shouting.
O'SULLIVAN: At the height of COVID in 2021, he organized a Zoom meeting for pro-Chinese democracy activists in the U.S. But Chinese police officers, part of spamouflage, broke into the Zoom, and shut it down.
POKONG: That time I was myself, even shocked. I said, what? The CCP don't even allow us to have a meeting, overseas meeting.
O'SULLIVAN: The U.S. State Department has warned that the Chinese government is spending billions of dollars annually on foreign information manipulation efforts. And if it goes unchecked, it will reshape the global information landscape.
JAMES RUBIN, SPECIAL ENVOY AND COORDINATOR, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: The communist party's bloodstream is propaganda repeating it over and over again, and trying to get everyone to repeat that same point of view, and reject alternatives. That's in the DNA of communist parties.
O'SULLIVAN (on camera): And, Erin, you know, we talk so much about these kind of troll groups and things like that, but what's remarkable there is thanks to the U.S. Department of Justice, but also the work of Meta, formerly Facebook, we have faces, some Chinese police officers, people who go to work in Beijing every day clock in, clock out, their job is not patrolling the streets but it is posting these messages online over and over and over again.
You heard there just from Americans who really don't know what to do, more to turn because what this Chinese campaign is doing is leveraging and exploiting freedom of speech in this country in the openness of the society to intimidate and targets these people.
BURNETT: It's pretty -- it is incredible, an incredible they go to work every day in Beijing just to be able to do that, incredible that you can get those individual to speak to you as well.
All right, Donie.
And next, bracing for what could be a dangerous eruption, officials forcing towns to evacuate, you'll see next.
BURNETT: Tonight, Mount Etna in Italy erupting in a massive flaming lava. The lava launching miles into the sky. Several towns on the island of Sicily covered in ash. It comes as the entire country of Iceland is on edge from a massive eruption that could come officials say at any moment.
The famous blue lagoon is closed after a powerful earthquake rocked the geothermal spa just days ago, which could be just a small sign, officials say, of what is to come.
Thanks for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.