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Erin Burnett Outfront

Russians Congratulate Republicans For Stalling On Ukraine Aid; Navalny's Team: Top Putin Critic Is Missing From Prison; Supreme Court Will Hear Arguments On Trump's Immunity Claim; First Key Vote On Biden Impeachment Inquiry Set For Tomorrow; Netanyahu Under Fire For Allowing As Much As $360M To Flow From Qatar To Hamas Each Year. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 11, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, stopping Putin.

Zelensky on his way to the U.S. to make a last-ditch appeal for aid as Putin's top critic Alexey Navalny tonight is now missing. What happened to him? And what could you billboards right now popping up in Russia have to do with his disappearance?

Plus, breaking news, the Supreme Court moving back after the special counsel asked the justices to rule on one of Trump's main defenses.

And, a hypocrite? New KFILE reporting reveals audio of the House speaker slamming the same impeachment strategy he is now pursuing against Biden. The crucial vote is scheduled for tomorrow.

Let's go OUTFRONT.


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

OUTFRONT tonight, Russia is celebrating, laughing at the United States. Putin is watching the United States fight over funding Ukraine.

And just look at Russian state television, to see the celebration.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What's happening in the U.S. is beneficial for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Ukraine is losing. Russia is winning. This is it. Their funding and weapons came to an end.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): As of now, well done, Republicans, for standing firm. That's good for us. Even Mitch McConnell, well done, gramps.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Well done, gramps.

Russia is winning, you heard them say. But the fact is this, if Washington cuts Ukraine aid off, it's huge, it's absolutely huge for Putin and it will be a huge win for Russia.

Zelenskyy could be at the end of the road in that case which is why he is now in Washington to make a desperate plea for aid, as Putin is choosing this moment to flaunt Russia's power today.

Putin appearing in frigid zero degree temperatures to show off two new nuclear submarines. You can see them there.

As Russian military today launched one of its biggest attacks on Ukraine's capital, there were eight missiles, 18 drones that we're aware of. It was an offensive that follows Russia's plans to include for illegally occupied regions of Ukraine in its next presidential election. I hesitate to use the word. It's an election, of course, that is propaganda, a staged event because any real opposition to Putin has already been destroyed, literally so in some cases.

I mean, look at Alexey Navalny. You know that story. We've all been following it so closely here. His spokesperson says the opposition leader is now missing. He failed to show up at a court hearing today. Of course, Navalny has been being held at one of Russia's harshest penal colonies known as IK6.

Now, even there, where his lawyers has been able to see him, he's been able at times to send out messages, which include details about his treatment. Most recently his team posted that Navalny is being tortured with his hands twisted behind his back as he is dragged around the prison, and, quote, every day, I undergo investigative procedures.

But tonight, Navalny is now missing from IK6. Now, we are aware that he was supposed to be transferred to an even more dangerous facility at some point. They never have an exact time there. The facility known as a special regime penal colony is where he was headed.

But all we know tonight is that he missed a court appearance today. His lawyers have been denied visits with him for the past week. And the Russian government will not answer any questions. Navalny's team say they expect checked with a colony that is closest to when he was last being held. That special regime colony known as IK7, but he's not there.

Now, he could be another reported 30 special regime colonies, some much farther away. But Russia is not saying. And Navalny's spokesperson is now tonight saying this, the fact that we could not find Alexei is especially alarming because last week he became ill in his cell. He became dizzy and lay down on the floor. The colony staff immediately came running, lowered the bed, laid Alexey down and put him on an IV.

Well, in a moment, I'm going to speak to Maria Pevchikh, who is part of Navalny's inner circle. She's going to share the very latest here, some new details with us.

But first, Nick Paton Walsh is OUTFRONT live. He is in central Ukraine tonight.

Nick, Ukraine's president, of course, is headed to the United States to make that final plea for aid. What is the latest, though, on the ground where you are?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, make-or-break, really. Zelenskyy's trip to D.C. to try and get aid flowing again. And a palpable sense of anger amongst frontline troops, we have been seeing over the past days. This is life and death. They're not political bargaining. If they don't get aid, then friends will die, their families may live under Russian occupation.

We've got a pretty good glimpse of what a hot piece with Russia and the future might look like in the town of Kherson, liberated late last year.


But now with Russian guns just across the other side of the river that it sits on, yes, Ukraine is making gains on the other side of that river, unlikely ones frankly. But daily, we saw how intense the shelling is on civilian areas there, a ghost town, frankly.

Ukrainian forces we were with, using remarkable ingenuity to make up the gap between what they desperately thought they would get from the West in terms of military aid, and what they can lay their hands on right now. But there is a gulf there. And it's one of that Putin is making a great advantage of in those recent days.


WALSH (voice-over): Out of Kherson city, past the bridge the Russians invaded and left on, you reach a new phase of hope and anxiety in this war.

Down on the edge of that Dnipro River on this isolated right bank, lone groups of Ukrainians are making rare advances into Russian occupied land. But it's tiny tools, hand rigged donated drones and small gains. The U.S. is stalling on the big money Ukraine needs to make the break through the West once. You can feel the anger of that here. It is relentless work.

I think it'll be very difficult, that American help he says. Our supplies are also ending so we need this. We have had days so busy, we launched 15 to 20, and I got ten minutes rest between flights, the pilot says. I never imagined this will be my war.

It's the PlayStation generation, headsets directing cheap single-use drones on a one-way flight into the Russian lines.

He's just saying that the weather has cleared up. The fog just settled over the river. And the Russians are very aware of this threat, and you can see them now trying to find the targets. This keeps the Russians off the road by day and help Ukraine take

ground. Now, they met over towards a Russian checkpoint. Killing here, somehow remote, yet also intimate.

Another prized target emerges, a Russian equivalent drone unit hiding in a red roofed house, worth sending two drones at. The first one closes in, taken out by jamming. The second picks it up.

At night, another unit elsewhere near the city takes over. Thermal imaging help them find Russians hiding in the woods across the river near Klinki (ph), a village where Ukraine has a valuable foothold. This unit too was hunted and used achieve cheap device to spot the frequency used by a Russian drone passing above.

This operator dons a new cloak as he launches the drone off the roof. See how it reduces, his signature, probably invisible to the Russians above. The night in battered Kherson City is no respite for civilians.

Sirens, yes. But also a series of Shahid Russian attack drones.

Lights off, lights off --

They close on us. The motor line is lower as it passes over our heads.

Anti-aircraft guns pierce the blackout.


WALSH (on camera): Now, Erin, that noise, that shilling picked up again this morning when we were there, an intensity you'd normally hear frankly of two rival armies were duking out for control over a town. But the Russians are on the other side of the bank, as I saw there with Ukraine making some success in pushing them back, the town itself, though, ghostly, the maternity hospital moving underground to keep its one patient or two patients safe.

People are constantly looking for ways to fortify their homes, leaving the playground surrounded by fortification barriers. That's the kind of life, essentially, that Ukrainians are looking forward to, if indeed they find themselves living so close to Russian occupied forces -- Erin.

BURNETT: Nick, thank you very much, Kryvyi Rih tonight.

And now to Fred Pleitgen, because, Fred, we were talking about Alexey Navalny in the context of those occupied regions. And Putin is going to have them vote in the Russian elections. Well, Navalny is the chief, obviously, opposition leader. And he's been in a penal colony. His team says he is missing now. They don't know where he is.

Is there any information coming out of Russia at all about Alexey Navalny's whereabouts tonight, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what, Erin? There isn't. And one of the things that we have to make our viewers aware of, just the difficulty that Alexey Navalny's associates and his legal team are dealing with in all of this. Because you already mentioned, he was supposed to appear via video link at a hearing today in front of a court from the penal colony that he had been in so far.


And he just did not show up for that.

Well, at first, the lawyers were told that it was simply a power failure in the jail that he was in. But then, they kept asking questions. And in the end, finally, the staff of that jail said, well, he's actually not even on the list anymore as being one of the inmates of this prison.

And that's when the legal team called around to other colonies like for instance that IK7, that you were talking about, which is even harsher and could be one of the places that Navalny is supposed to get transferred to. And one of them said that Alexei Navalny was their.

Now, of course, all this is cause for grave concern among the people from the Anti-Corruption Foundation. Of course, among Alexei Navalny's family as well, because he's had those health issues over the past couple of weeks, because they say that he fainted in his cell, and had to get an IV. Now, there could be several reasons for what is going on right now, for Alexey Navalny being missing essentially within the Russian prison system.

One of them is that it's not unheard of for prisoners as they get transferred to be out of communication for a while. But, of course, this also coincides, Erin, with Vladimir Putin announcing that he's running for president again on March 17th. And there was an action by the Anti-Corruption Foundation where they managed to put up billboards trying to dissuade Russians from voting for Vladimir Putin -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Those billboards, obviously, caught a lot of attention. Thank you so much, Fred.

OUTFRONT now, Maria Pevchikh. She's part of Alexei Navalny's inner circle. She helped him uncover who had poisoned him, as we saw in the documentary "Navalny". She's head of investigations and a board chairwoman of Navalny's Anti-Corruption foundation. And, Maria, we all so much appreciate your time tonight.

So, we were just talking about those billboards. Do you think Navalny's disappearance has anything to do with them and with Putin's reelection efforts?

MARIA PEVCHIKH, HEAD OF INVESTIGATIONS, NAVALNY'S ANTI-CORRUPTION FOUNDATION: I think so. It's very likely scenario if you just look into the timing. Navalny disappeared in Tuesday last week and the official elections were announced on Thursday. And this was also the day when we announced our campaign, our anti-Putin anti-war campaign. And this lovely billboard, they said that is in Russia. They are part of our campaign, if you scan the QR code, you will get to our website, and this was our little fun project. So, of course, Putin wants his reelection to be as smooth as possible.

He likes his opponents to be silent. And I think it is possible to connect Navalny's disappearance to that.

BURNETT: How is it possible to even get those billboards up?

PEVCHIKH: Well, that is going to remain our little secret.

Okay, I'm going to share a little bit -- essentially, we pretended that we are advertising something else. And the billboard literally just says Russia, and then somewhere along the line, Russia, happy new year, and then there is a QR code. And then when we submitted them for review, the QR code had a link to one website.

And when they were actually up, when we were ready to announce, we substituted the link. And the link was deleted completely. Different website, and so, yes, just a little trick that we played and installed those billboards in a few major Russian cities.

BURNETT: And, obviously, the kind of creativity that you have long employed to be able to get your message out at all inside Russia. I mean, Maria, do you -- what do you think is happening to Alexey Navalny right now? You talk about him being missing for a week. Do you have any sense of where he might be, of what might be happening to him, anything at all?

PEVCHIKH: To be -- to be frank, Erin, we have no idea. And that's the scariest thing about it. There is no way of knowing. We had a very good system of being able to check whether Alexey is alive on almost daily basis because he was scheduled to appear in court. His lawyers would visit him. But since last Tuesday, he just stopped showing up in court.

And the court administration will say they can't establish a video link with his penal colony because of the power cuts, because there are problems with electricity, at his penal colony. And then the day after, the same thing happened, electricity problems again.

And then the lawyers were not allowed to come in. They were told to wait in that freezing cold for hours and hours and hours. And at the end of the day, they would be told that the visiting hours are over and they should come tomorrow. So they will just wait and wait again with nothing whatsoever.


And today, was another court hearing, where Navalny was scheduled to be at. And we have heard the same story about the power cuts. So, this is when we realized that things are serious and that he has been missing for almost a week. But as I said, the most frightening in this entire situation is that we have no way of locating him. We have no way of knowing where is, how he feels, or for that matter, whether he's alive or not.

BURNETT: And which, of course, is the most difficult questions, but I have to ask you, I mean, do -- do you have any visibility on that? Obviously, he is suffering from ill health. Obviously, they have put him through some horrific situations in the penal colony has already been in.

PEVCHIKH: And on top of it, we know that a week before he has gone missing, so two weeks ago, he had health some related situation. And we know that the doctors, the prison nurses had been called in, and they have given him some medication, some treatment and IV. I think we are not allowed to know what exactly happened. But we know that there was this health-related incident. And then a few days later, he goes missing. It goes without saying that Navalny's life is in great risk.

BURNETT: Well, Maria, thank you very much for taking the time to share all this tonight.

PEVCHIKH: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you.

All right, and next, the breaking news. The Supreme Court moving very fast. Special counsel Jack Smith asked the justices to weigh in on Trump's main defenses. Former Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb is going to join me next.

Plus, new KFILE reporting this hour that the House Speaker Mike Johnson is now moving ahead with an impeachment strategy that he once railed against.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): They openly said and wrote about and spoke about how it might be irreparable damage to the country.


BURNETT: And new video of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un mobbed by an emotional group of children. We'll tell you what's going on.



BURNETT: Breaking news, the Supreme Court is moving fast, saying it will quickly decide if it will hear a case about whether former President Trump can be prosecuted over alleged crimes he committed in office. That development coming after special counsel Jack Smith requested an expedited hearing by the court.

Now the, quote, extraordinary request, as Smith calls it, was made after Trump argued that his alleged attempt to subvert the 2020 election results was part of his official duties as president. Now, the special counsel really wants to keep Trump's trial date on schedule. And in doing that, he wants to begin that in less than three months. So, that's why he did this incredibly rare thing, going to the court to resolve the issue definitively, skipping their appeals process. Former Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb is OUTFRONT now.

So, Ty, special counsel bypassing the appeals process, going directly to the Supreme Court, asking it to weigh in on Trump's historic prosecution for the first time. Supreme Court then quickly agrees to consider it, right? They could have taken a lot longer to give yay or nay about whether they want to look at it. So, what does the speed with which they conducted themselves today tell you?

TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHTE HOUSE LAWYER: Well, so, I think Jack Smith has made an argument that has to adhere to -- it has to demonstrate, you know, compelling national interests, and it has to be urgent. I think what the Supreme Court did today in responding immediately, and requiring Trump to respond by next Wednesday suggests that he has cleared the urgency hurdle. And I think that is to the credit of the Supreme Court. I don't think there have been many cases where this judgment has been signed. There are really more urgent thanks to the nation, and certainly to the Constitution then this case.

BURNETT: So, there is also a new filing from Jack Smith today, Ty, that we just found out about, and I wanted to ask you about this. In all of this, he reveals that his team got access to Trump's cellphone. The cellphone and that he used while at the White House.

Now, we should note, of course, Trump has never known to text from his cell phone. Nevertheless, it will be his cell phone and his records. And that Smith may use data from the phone to show jurors when Trump was using Twitter on January 6th, and to show what he was doing in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

So, we had not known that Smith has Trump's cellphone data until today. This is the first we've learned in this filing. What do you think about it? How significant is it, or it might not be?

COBB: So, it may or may not be significant. But the fact that he put it in his filing and put the court on notice suggests that he thinks it is significant.

BURNETT: Yeah --

COBB: And likely, it will demonstrate that, you know, who, if anyone Trump was talking to, who if anyone he was messaging, and from where in the White House. I think where is important, because remember, there is a lot of testimony that he was, you know, locked in the dining room, basically, watching everything unfold on TV. So this would buttress that if it aligns.

BURNETT: Right, right. And, of course, it would be fascinating to see, as you say, since he puts it in, if it's significant, whether he's sending some of those tweets himself or not. We're going to find out, I suppose, maybe some of this.

Trump declined, though, today at the very last minute to testify in the civil fraud trial in New York as everybody thought he would. You were actually someone who said that maybe he wouldn't. When I spoke to you last week, he you went against conventional wisdom and question whether he'll take the stand. And you said his lawyers wouldn't want him to do it, Ty, because he'll be subject to what you called eviscerating cross-examination.

So, you are right. He did not do it. But you are not sure because you are not sure whether he would listen to his lawyers. Why? I mean, why do you think he did not testify?


COBB: So, I think, I think -- it appears to me that his lawyers kept pounding away on the cost-benefit analysis of him testifying. It really has nothing to add to the evidentiary file in this case. And he is already testified.


COBB: And in -- and in an unhinged matter, he made multiple, multiple admissions that severely damaged this case. He was not effective with this matter, you know, what the PR is from the other side. Certainly, as a legal matter -- and as I said, I think last week, the reality is if he testifies, he's not going to get cross-examined much on what he has to say. He's going to get taken through a litany of all the lies that he's told during a relevant period of this trial and subsequently.

And, you know, you can do that for days, but I'm sure they would probably take the top 40 hits and expose him as someone as someone with no credibility. And that doesn't help him politically.

BURNETT: No, it certainly doesn't. And as you point out, he has been using this trial as a political megaphone, such that he's been using it, showing up, but even testifying just to get those few seconds outside to talk to the cameras.

All right. Thanks so much, Ty.

COBB: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right.

And next, the KFILE, uncovering audio from before Mike Johnson as speaker when he was slamming what is now his impeachment strategy.


JOHNSON: The Founders were afraid that if politicians ever weaponize that function in the Congress, then you would open a Pandora's box that couldn't be close.


BURNETT: Plus, the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu facing questions about whether he allowed Hamas to get millions of dollars in donations for years. It's a CNN special report.


BURNETT: Tonight, impeaching Biden. A key House committee voting on an impeachment inquiry against President Biden tomorrow. House Speaker Mike Johnson is moving ahead with votes despite new reporting from CNN's KFILE uncovering that Johnson once warned that this exact same impeachment strategy, the one that he is now championing, could cause, quote, irreparable damage to the country.

So, here is Johnson talking about Democrats push to impeach then President Trump back in 2019.


JOHNSON: The Founding Fathers warned us -- I mean, they feared a single party impeachment. And the reason they said that is because they knew that it would literally divide the country. And they openly said and wrote about, and spoke about how it might be irreparable damage to the country. The Founders were afraid that if politicians ever weaponize that function in the country, then you would open up Pandora's box that couldn't be close.


BURNETT: All right. Andrew Kaczynski of the KFILE is now OUTFRONT.

So, you know, Andrew, I mean, it's clear how he felt but he didn't just say it one time. He said it repeatedly again and again when he was making this argument against the Democrats.

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: Yeah, that's right. You heard him right there, it will cause irreparable damage to the country. And just four years ago, he was attacking Democrats for opening an impeachment inquiry into Trump along party lines, with just Democratic votes, and so close, just 11 months to an election.

And that's the exact scenario that he finds himself in right now, as he is pushing ahead with all of this. You heard him say in those clips where he warned about this Pandora's box scenario that he said would happen, where, essentially, you would have this-for-tat where every opposing party in the House was now going to be impeaching the president. And this could happen now. And the only reason that could happen is because of Mike Johnson.

So this nightmare scenario that he warned about, he is essentially bringing to fruition. I think I want people to listen just a little bit more of what he said in 2019 about this.



JOHNSON: If you are the majority party in the House, and you don't like a president of another party, because his policies are wrong, or you don't like the way he communicates or whatever it is, you can just manufacture charges and go after him and try to remove him. But that's not how our constitutional republic was designed to work.

There is a check on the president. It's called the next election cycle. That's why they only serve four years. The voters get to decide that. And we have an election coming up in this country and 11 months, let people decide on Donald Trump.


KACZYNSKI: You heard him right there, let the people decide on Trump, and that 11 months from now, that's the same distance we are from 2024 election.

BURNETT: I mean, it's amazing. I mean, it's literally apples for apples, I mean, 11 months. It's incredible. Now, you did speak to a lot of experts about the differences between Trump's impeachment then and the possible, now looking likely, impeachment hearings for Biden.

Now, what do they tell you?

KACZYSNKI: Yeah, that's right. We spoke to five. And one of the things that Johnson repeatedly said was that Democrats who are using what he called gerrymandered facts to impeach Trump. He said they were doing this because, solely for this predetermined political outcome, impeaching Trump to undermine his political standing as we move into the next election.

And many of the experts that we spoke to said that's exactly what they think Johnson is doing right now. One of them who we spoke to, they all sort of noted that this case is a lot weaker. And one of them who we spoke to said this is built on disjointed theories, based on scraps of evidence that don't even directly implicate the president.

So we went to Johnson's office. We ask them about all this, and they essentially told us, with this impeachment inquiry, they're going to follow the facts, and they're only going to pursue it if they think the evidence warrants an impeachment.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Andrew, thank you very much. And, of course, we'll see how that goes.

I want to go now to Republican Congressman Ken Buck. He's on both the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees.

So, Congressman, I know you have talked about this. You have thought about this. But I want to ask you about Andrew's latest reporting here for the KFILE.

But, first, how do you plan to vote on this impeachment inquiry into President Biden, if the House Rules Committee does move it forward tomorrow?

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Erin, I'm struggling right now. I have to tell you. I have come out strongly and said there is no direct evidence linking President Biden to the activities of Hunter Biden.

[19:35:00] And I have, at the same time, the White House who recently sent a letter after these committees issued subpoenas to the White House. The White House sent a letter back and said, you have an impeachment inquiry vote, and we're not going to give you any records until he will pass an impeachment inquiry. I think that is an absolutely wrong position and it's a delay tactic which would necessitate Congress going to the courts and having the courts enforce the subpoenas.

So I wish the White House hadn't done that. I don't think there is direct evidence. I'm struggling, and I want to read the resolution before making a final decision on whether to vote for it or not.

BURNETT: So, just -- you know, it's interesting because I understand what you are talking about, the process that they're handling, you've got frustration. But I -- focusing on the facts, you say at this point, you haven't seen any evidence of facts that would link those two things together. A week ago, the Speaker Johnson made clear that he is all in on moving forward with this impeachment inquiry because of the facts. Here's what he said.


JOHNSON: The facts are so clear for everyone to see. The evidence is so clear you cannot look away. And the Constitution requires the House to follow the truth where it leads. We have a duty to do this. We cannot stop the process.


BURNETT: Well, of course, he can't stop it. I mean, he is the speaker, right? But what he is doing, as Andrew pointed out in the KFILE reporting, Congressman, as you know, is exactly what he said in 2019 with President Trump, that it was such a threat to the entire country. Let me just replay that.


JOHNSON: What happens a few years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, we have a Democrat in the White House and you have a Republican majority in the House. They're going to demand that they be impeached because you now set the bar so low that we're going to get to tribal politics now. I mean, if you think politics were divided before this, heaven help us.


BURNETT: Well, obviously, not 10 or 20 years, right? Just -- just four years.

So what do you say to Speaker Johnson about the bargaining that he's basing it on the facts, and he's now -- and he's now supporting the very thing that he said was so terrible a few years ago?

BUCK: Well, he was absolutely right in 2019. This is not the way to run Congress. This is not the way to run a house. We should not be engaging in retribution politics and retribution impeachments. I believed and voted against the first impeachment, both impeachment of President Trump, but particularly the first impeachment. I didn't think it was there and I thought it was wrong for Speaker Pelosi to bring that.

I also think that the evidence does not warrant impeachment at this point. We are talking about an impeachment inquiry, and that is a more formal way of beginning a process. I still have reservations about that until you have some evidence that links Joe Biden's actions with the money that Hunter Biden received.

BURNETT: Yeah, well, it does seem you end up in a cycle, right, where you -- one party gets power, they impeach the other. Then that's -- seems to be the only way that anybody would be spending their time which, of course, is not -- not good for the country, right?

Thank you very much, Congressman. I appreciate your time. Always good to talk to you.

BUCK: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. And next, as Israel intensifies its strikes on Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under fire for actually helping prop up Hamas with millions of dollars. A CNN special report is next.

Plus, the satellites, the military, the nuclear tests. Where is Kim Jong Un getting all of the money to pay for all of that? Well, here is a special report. You'll see some of it exactly from where.



BURNETT: New tonight, brutal battle racing -- raging across Gaza. Israel intensifying its attacks on Hamas remaining strongholds there, where the IDF said it's fighting, quote, the fierce and difficult battles. They have struck more than 250 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in just one day. Those are their own numbers. It comes as the fate of 137 known remaining hostages hangs in the balance. Hamas is threatening to kill them if its demands are not met.

All of this is as we are learning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have been propping up Hamas with millions of dollars.

Nima Elbagir is OUTFRONT.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Israel's mourning continues even as the clamor around Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu grows, questioning whether his policies helped prop up Hamas.

In a series of interviews with key Israeli players, CNN and the Israeli investigative platform "Shomrim" were told how Netanyahu allowed Qatari cash donations to Hamas for years, without supervision, despite concerns from within his own government.



GILAD: Per month.


GILAD: $360 million, it's more than a billion shekels. It's simple mathematics.

ELBAGIR: That's a lot of money.

GILAD: A lot of money, $1 in Gaza is like $20 in the U.S. For them, it was like relief. It was like oxygen. Can you live without oxygen? No. So, it's dramatic, historic mistake.

ELBAGIR: Former Israeli prime minister and former defense minister, Naftali Bennett, says he was among those repeatedly raising concerns to Netanyahu. When Bennett became prime minister in 2021, he put a stop to the suitcases of cash to Hamas, moving the transfer of financial support to Hamas from cash to a U.N. mechanism.

NAFTALI BENNETT, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER & DEFENSE MINISTER: I stopped cash suitcases because I believe that is a horrendous mistake to allow Hamas to have all these suitcases full of cash that go directly to arm of themselves against Israelis. Why would we feed them cash to kill us?

ELBAGIR: The cash deliveries were supposed to help, among other humanitarian needs, pay Gaza civil servants. And pictures in 2018 showed workers lining up to receive 100 dollar bills.

Israel approved the deal in a security cabinet meeting in August 2018, during a previous Netanyahu tenure as prime minister. And an Israeli official defended Netanyahu's decision, telling CNN, successive Israeli governments enabled money to go to Gaza, not in order to strengthen Hamas, but to prevent a humanitarian crisis.


That's true, but no one else approved it in cash. Former Prime Minister Bennett says that Netanyahu underestimates Hamas.

BENNETT: I think the approach towards Hamas was one of sort of a nuisance type terror organization that can shoot rockets, can cause a bit of havoc here and there, but not much more than that.

ELBAGIR: So underestimates?

BENNETT: Absolutely. And in that sense, we have learned the lesson. We have to believe our enemies.

ELBAGIR: This lesson has become a turning point for Israel, one even longtime Netanyahu ally like Zvika Hauser acknowledged.

BENNETT: That was a strategic lesson for the Israeli society that you can talk a lot about peace. You can try to do a lot of things. You can come to the White House, to the -- and get some Nobel Prize's but at some point enough is enough. And if you ask me what symbolizes October 7th? October 7th mostly symbolizes the Israeli society, no more take risk.

ELBAGIR: Risks such as this, heating the toll of human suffering and international calls to slow the pummeling of Gaza before Israel is satisfied, Hamas has been destroyed, whatever the cost.


ELBAGIR (on camera): And that comment to course-correct, Erin, is not just domestic. Many international observers have been telling us that they are worried that this pressure on Netanyahu to be seen to correct his mistakes could be impacting the willingness of those in Israel's government to take into account the real concerns over the loss of civilian lives -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Nima, thank you very much in Tel Aviv tonight.

And next, North Korea's Kim Jong Un mobbed by a horde of hysterical children. What's going on here? All that is unusual.

Plus, Oscar winning director Stephen Spielberg raising his sirens about the October 7th terror attacks in Israel.



BURNETT: All right. We've got some new video, look at this. This is the North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un surrounded by adoring children, hugging their dear leader. To see him there, smiling, all in. This was at North Korea's fifth national conference of mothers.

Now, much of the loyalty that Kim demands is rooted in his promises to destroy the West. With his nuclear arsenal that we are now learning was funded by billions of dollars, billions of dollars of stolen crypto.

Will Ripley is OUTFRONT.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every North Korean missile test, every satellite launch, every nuclear test, likely cost Kim Jong Un's cash millions of dollars. Where does that money come from? How does Kim's regime evade heavy sanctions, advancing its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs at breakneck speed?

ANNE NEUBERGER, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We certainly believe that North Korean currency around -- infrastructure around the world is a major source of revenue for the regime.

RIPLEY: A staggering more than $3 billion in stolen crypto over the past five years. U.S. lawmakers say a record $1.7 billion last year alone.

SEN. ELZABETH WARREN (D-MA): So, where does that money go? Straight into North Korea's illegal nuclear program.

RIPLEY: An underground pipeline of illicit wealth, fueling Kim's nuclear ambitions, pumping payments into Pyongyang from places like Russia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vietnam.

WARREN: Does that pose a threat to our national security?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does, Senator.

RIPLEY: The U.S. believes North Korea has a global shadow army, secret operatives posing as IT professionals, government officials, freelance Blockchain developers, even hiring Westerners to hike their connection to Pyongyang.

Spanish police arrested Alejandro Cao de Benos, earlier this month, known as a special delegate for North Korea. The U.S. accuses him of helping North Korean officials use tech for money laundering. He posted a message on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying: There is no extradition. The U.S. accusation besides being false does not exist in Spain.

Blacklisted by the U.S. as modern-day digital pirates, North Korean operatives are linked to ransomware attacks, targeting online gaming, gambling, and banking industries, even American hospitals. North Korea exploiting online vulnerabilities, using stolen money to mass produce missiles, funding the Kim family's lavish lifestyle, palaces, planes, yachts, and this armored Mercedes limousine carried on Kim's private train to that September summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The latest breach from North Korea's notorious Andariel hacking group, targeting South Korean defense firms and others. A yearlong investigation by South Korean police and the FBI exposing grave vulnerabilities in Seoul's cybersecurity defensive's, around 2050 sensitive files, 1.2 terabytes of classified data stolen. A crime concealed through rented servers, a secretive trail of digital deception leading straight to the North Korean capital, breaching borders, defying digital defenses, threatening global stability.


BURNETT: Will, it's amazing to see these numbers, and bitcoin now has posted its steepest drop in about four months today, right? The value of it is dropping dramatically over the past couple of years. I mean, crypto overall is taking a huge hit. So, in this context that you're talking about, all these billions of dollars coming in, how is Kim now still making money off of those stolen currencies?

RIPLEY: You are right, Erin. It has fluctuated so much. In 2020, it was down to $4,000. In 2021, up to $69,000, as you know. But North Korea took this bitcoin and then they laundered the money. They learn how to basically invest in businesses that in friendly countries like Russia and China, whether it will be like a cargo business, or real estate, even restaurants.


So, with this really complex financial web, it's making money for North Korea. Those investments from bitcoin, it's very difficult to trace. Now, North Korea is also making a lot of money by doing something called bitcoin mining, where they verify transactions basically by solving mathematical equations. It requires a huge amount of energy. But guess what, Erin? Because North Korea can't export its goal, they burn that goal to create the energy to do bitcoin mining even though the nation's notorious for blackouts for most of the population most of the time.

BURNETT: Well, that is amazing. Bitcoin mining to use that coal.

All right, thank you very much, Will Ripley.

And next, Steven Spielberg, the Oscar winning director of "Schindler's List", speaking out for the first time about the October 7th terror attack on Israel.


BURNETT: Tonight, Steven Spielberg breaking his silence after the October 7 terror attack in Israel. Spielberg, who directed the Oscar- winning Holocaust film, "Schindler's List" saying, quote, I'd never imagined I would see such unspeakable barbarity against the Jews in my lifetime. Spielberg, also announcing, that his USC Shoah Foundation, which records and preserves interviews with Holocaust survivors, will now also be collecting accounts from people who survived the October 7th attacks.

Thank you very much for watching.

It's time now for "AC360".