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Erin Burnett Outfront

U.S. Official: Israel Flooding Hamas Tunnels With Seawater; Biden: Netanyahu "Has To Change," Losing Support; Zelenskyy Fails To Convince Republicans On Ukraine Aid; House Set To Formalize Biden Impeachment Inquiry Tomorrow; Trump Now Fundraising With Mug Shot Trading Cards; Venezuela Takes Page From Putin Playbook, Eyes Land Grab. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 12, 2023 - 19:00   ET




Breaking news, Israel now flooding Hamas's network of tunnels, flushing out militants. But Biden saying he can't be sure all hostages are out of harm's way, as America's closest ally breaks with the U.S., calling for a cease-fire tonight.

Also breaking, Ukraine's president in Washington pleading for aid. Are his hopes of getting a deal dead? This is another country is taking a page from the Putin playbook and threatening a mass of land grab with his backing.

And Trump selling his mugshot as trading cards along with pieces of the suit he wore that day. Now being accused of breaking the law and how it is paying off for Trump.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, Gaza's tunnels are now being flooded. A U.S. official telling CNN that the Israelis have informed the United States that they are flooding some of Hamas's tunnels with seawater in order to flush out Hamas fighters and short-circuit part of the infrastructure. The Israelis claim that the flooding is limited and that they are only flooding tunnels where they do not believe hostages are being held.

However, just moments ago, President Biden could not say whether that is, in fact, the case.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not -- well, there is -- assertions being made that they are quite sure there are no hostages in any of these tunnels, but I don't know that for a fact. I do know that every civilian death is an absolute tragedy. And Israel stated its intent, as I said, to match its words with -- its intent with word, with actions, that's why -- that's why I was -- that's what I was talking about today.


BURNETT: So he can't say for a fact, and clearly here, he's referring to civilians overall beyond hostages. He's referring to Palestinian civilians.

And Biden's response here using the word assertion is part of a growing rift between the U.S. and Israel that is now playing out in public. Today, Biden warning the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he's losing international support because of, quote, indiscriminate bombing. Those were the words Biden used leveling that sharp criticism at a fund-raiser.

Now, look, this is a major shift for Biden because up until now, publicly, and the words he's used had been in lockstep with Israel and its prime minister. And late today, one of the U.S.'s closest allies turning -- taking his stand and calling for an end to Prime Minister Netanyahu's campaign in Gaza. Canada is now calling for a cease-fire.

Alex Marquardt begins our coverage OUTFRONT live in Tel Aviv tonight.

And, Alex, look, we are seeing this rift between the U.S. and Israel spilling into public, Biden using the word there, assertion about the hostages and the tunnels being protected. The IDF is beginning what could be a major mission inside those tunnels.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin, this could be a significant new tactic against this network of tunnels that is believed to contain some 300 miles or 500 kilometers of tunnels. The IDF is believed to be doing this on a limited basis, pumping seawater into a certain number of tunnels where they do not believe that the hostages are.

A U.S. official tells our colleague Natasha Bertrand that the Israelis are unsure about how effective it's going to be. But you heard President Biden's concern there for the hostages. Israel saying there are still some 135 Gaza hostages inside Gaza, 116 of them are still believed to be alive.

And, Erin, this comes on a day when we've also heard some of the sharpest comments yet by President Biden against Netanyahu, his government and the war in Gaza.


MARQUARDT (voice-over): The deeper Israel gets into its war in Gaza, the more discomfort the U.S. is expressing as Israel's closest ally. Tonight, the most pointed comments yet by President Joe Biden, telling donors that Israel is losing global support and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to change tactics which Biden says is difficult with Israel's current government, the most right-wing in Israel's history.

The conservative poll by far-right ministers means Israel, quote, doesn't want a two state solution, Biden said. BIDEN: Two states for two people, and it's more important than ever.

MARQUARDT: All indications are that is not Netanyahu's goal.

In a taped message before Biden's comments, Netanyahu admitted there are differences and who the two countries believe will govern Palestinians after the war. But Netanyahu knows how critical American supporters, thanking the U.S. after it was the only country to vote against the U.N. Security Council's resolution for an immediate ceasefire.


Israel is still battling militants in Gaza's north while pushing south. The IDF claims to have killed an estimated 7,000 militants, while the Hamas-controlled ministry of health says that over 18,000 people have been killed in Gaza with almost the entire population displaced.

Tonight, Biden's national security adviser is telling CNN that Israel must open this Kerem Shalom border crossing to allow aid directly into Gaza.

Jake Sullivan says they are telling Israel it's an emergency. We are asking you to do this ASAP, he says, because of the nature of the humanitarian situation on the ground.

Today, we saw aid trucks being inspected, but they are still being routed through Egypt.

Right here is where Egypt, Israel and the Gaza strip all meet. These trucks coming into Israel from Egypt could in theory go straight into Gaza to deliver that it. But for now, that is something the Israeli government is not allowing.

Humanitarian groups describe horrendous conditions for displaced Palestinians. This mother trying to push rainwater out of the tent that she shares with nine children, including a baby.

Damn Hamas and Israel, it's enough for us, says Fatma (ph). Have mercy on us and stop, or let Israel kill us all and give us relief.

Thirteen-year-old Rana (ph) says her family has nine people in their tent, also full of water.

My siblings are freezing, Rana says. We don't know what to do. We want to go back to our homes and not drown.


MARQUARDT (on camera): And, Erin, as the fighting intensifies, the humanitarian situation is only getting worse. We are also getting updates from the IDF about the number of Israeli soldiers who've been killed us now over 100, 104 to be exact, 13 of them were killed by friendly fire, which means that one in every eight was killed by friendly fire. And there have been some notable deaths among these Israeli soldiers,

including a son and a nephew of a senior Israeli minister who also used to be the top general in charge of the IDF -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Alex, reporting from Tel Aviv tonight.

And OUTFRONT now, retired Army General Wesley Clark, also the former supreme allied commander of NATO.

So, General, I appreciate your time.

I want to start with the news we have here tonight that we have confirmed that Israel, the IDF is flooding Hamas tunnels with seawater, they say doing it on a limited basis.

Is -- do you think this is the most logical thing, that this is the right step for them to be doing right now?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I've expected it from the beginning because if you look at how -- how could -- what could you with those tunnels? If you put your soldiers in, there's going to be booby traps, there's going to be a firefight in the tunnels, you're going to lose a lot of people. If you try to smoke them out with tear gas, you don't know what the ventilation system is, they probably have gas masks, so gas disperses.

So it always looked like seawater was the most likely option. Now, we don't know what the effect of seawater is. It could pump right in there and sink into the sand and into the ground. It could -- it could collapse the tunnels but maybe it doesn't. It could collapse buildings maybe above the tunnels. And so, this is -- has to be looked at as kind of a test by the Israelis. That's why they say they're doing it on a limited basis I'm sure because they themselves don't know what the impact will be.

BURNETT: And you heard President Biden saying that there's assertions that they are flooding tunnels on this limited basis that don't have hostages on them. It was obviously notable that he used that word, right, assertions. Not that they say this and that this is therefore true, and it just raised a question. And it is part of the concern that President Biden has warned Israel that it's losing support. He said the Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to change its tactics and likely its government.

So, how significant do you think this is, General, that this is all spilling out into public, we're all seeing this?

CLARK: Well, it's bad for everybody, honestly, Erin, because it makes the United States look weak and we've already got a credibility problem after Afghanistan. We're dealing with Putin. We're dealing with the Maduro in Venezuela who's threatening to invade Guyana. And now, our own ally Israel that we said we wholeheartedly, totally support is -- we are in a tussle with Israel.

So it raises a lot of questions for the United States, but it's worse for Israel, because Israel really is dependent on the United States. Netanyahu has been a controversial prime minister.


CLARK: It's not a surprise that there are conflicts there. He's been behind the expansion in the West Bank by the Palestinian settlers which is caused so much of this anxiety and which the Biden administration is opposed to.

BURNETT: So, General, the U.N. General Assembly just voted to demand a cease-fire in the conflict and obviously that's not something Israel says it is going to do. One of votes that they were able to get was from Canada.


Now, Canada up until this point have refused to back a cease-fire, an incredibly close ally of the United States.

So, what kind of pressure does that put on Israel and the United States, when you have Canada with the symbolic importance that it carries, it's the largest land border with United States, turning against it on this crucial issue?

CLARK: I don't think Israel is going to be persuaded to go with the cease-fire. Even if the United States called for a cease-fire, it would be very tough for Israel to agree to that, because they said this is an existential threat.


CLARK: But the United States needs all its friends. And so, Canada's vote is not helpful to us.

BURNETT: All right. Well, General Clark, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

CLARK: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And OUTFRONT now, Tal Heinrich. She is spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

And, Tal, it's great to be with you, of course, here in New York.

So, you know, to start with the -- the limited flooding of the tunnels that we understand the IDF is doing. Israel says it is doing it on a limited business, and tunnels where they don't believe hostages are being held. Biden says that is an assertion that he cannot confirm it.

How do you know that for sure that there are no hostages in the tunnels being flooded?

TAL HEINRICH, SPOKESPERSON FOR ISRAELI P.M. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: First, Erin, regarding the tunnels, I cannot comment on operational military activity happening on the ground, or anything strategic moving ahead. This is a question that you will have to refer to the IDF. What I can say is that we said in the past, the IDF spokesman has said we are looking to various ways to eliminate these tunnels. We have eliminated much of the tunnel infrastructure but, there are still many of them as you heard from your reporter, also in the area of Khan Younis, where our forces are now operating.

And, obviously when we work on the ground to eliminate the Hamas terrorist regime in Gaza, the hostage situation is at the top of minds.

BURNETT: Yes, I'm curious though, and I understand they're saying, well, they don't believe the hostages are. But a question to you just on an intelligence basis, if Israel knows where they are not, how -- do you know where they are?

HEINRICH: Well, again this is a question for the IDF. What we know is that Hamas only responds to pressure. We've seen a release of hostages so far based on the outlined we agreed upon because thanks to the military pressure and we continue to hit them hard, because we want to reach the twofold goal, the mission that we have defined for war.

BURNETT: So, President Biden has warned Israel it's losing support, right? He said to the Prime Minister Netanyahu, you need to change your tactics and likely your government.

Is there a response from the prime minister tonight?

HEINRICH: Well, first, Israel is a democratic state, the ones who choose the government as you know are the people of Israel. And right now, my country is not dealing with politics, Erin. From left to right, there's a public consensus. We're all united right now of around the goal and the goal is to defeat Hamas.

You know, when the terrorists targeted us on October 7th, they didn't ask who voted for whom -- for which party.


HEINRICH: And, you know, some of these hardest hit communities that I know that you've been south -- you've been to the southern communities are -- honestly, the people who are most staunch supporters of the Palestinian cause in certain areas, the kibbutzim.

BURNETT: Many of them were in those kibbutzim, yes, uh-huh.


BURNETT: So in terms of the civilians, General Clark was talking about how when you flood, there's unknown consequences at this point. It could involve, say, buildings coming down, right? Obviously, unknown at this point, as he lays it out.

A lot of civilians have died, we know that. Israel says -- the IDF says they have killed at least 7,000 Hamas members. Obviously we can't independently confirm that.

But I did recently speak to the IDF spokesperson and I'd asked him about a report that said that senior Israeli military leaders said they were basically killing two civilians for every Hamas member. And he called that a, quote, tremendously positive ratio, that, if it was every two civilians for everyone Hamas that was incredibly positive. How do you see it?

HEINRICH: Well, it depends what you compare Israel to. If you compare Israel to perfection, and, of course, nobody is -- nobody is perfect. We don't want to see any civilian casualty. We want to ease the civilian suffering in Gaza. The IDF is going to such an extent that the -- no other Western military, no other military has done before to safeguard the civilian population in an enemy war zone.

And I think that Israel is really defining the gold standard here of urban warfare, and if you compare the campaigns in Iraq, in Afghanistan, the civilian to combatant casualty ratio, that Israel wants the dust has settled, you'll see that Israel compares favorably.

BURNETT: And I understand that, I understand that sort -- academically if those numbers are put out there, when you talk about the gold standard. Yet what we are confronted about is a horrific loss of Palestinian life, and a lot of agony and anguish. It is hard to hear that being the gold standard.

BURNETT: Every civilian casualty is a huge tragedy. There hasn't been a war in human history, even the most justified ones that haven't seen a certain extent of collateral damage. But again, what we are doing on the ground, the fact that we are telling the civilian population where our soldiers are entering and when, this is unprecedented.


And I'm sure that some family and friends of U.S. armed service members watching us right now would wonder, who does that? Who announces where the troops are going to operate so the civilians and the terrorists would know? This is what the IDF is doing, because we are a moral military, a moral country.

BURNETT: I want you to give you the chance to respond to another report that aired on CNN last night. My colleague Nima Elbagir was reporting on some of the money that has gone to come on Hamas, obviously, a lot of money in recent years. And questions about whether Netanyahu's policies actually aided and abetted by that allowing hundreds of millions of dollars in actual cash to go into Gaza that -- from Hamas, despite concerns from Netanyahu's own government, some of which were raised by then Education Minister Naftali Bennett who spoke to Nima, and here's what he said.


NAFTALI BENNETT, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER & DEFENSE MINISTER: I stopped a cash suitcases because I believed it was a horrendous mistake to allow Hamas to have all these suitcases full of cash that goes directly to re-arming themselves against Israelis. Why would we feed them cash to kill us?

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: So when he says he stopped it, he's referring to when he became prime minister, he's saying he stopped the Netanyahu policy that he refers to as cash and suitcases.

Does Netanyahu believe now that he made a mistake by allowing cash to go in?

HEINRICH: Well, again, this is -- we allowed money to go inside Gaza not for Hamas obviously, and it's not only a policy that happened by the way during this government. The previous Israeli governments because we wanted the money to reach the Palestinian people to fix the water system that we saw Hamas has turned pipes -- water pipes into missiles, the sewage system and so forth.

We wanted to --

BURNETT: But you knew it wasn't being used for those purposes because you could see the system --

HEINRICH: Well -- well, listen, it's a major problem every time. And I think it's a repeating pattern here in history. Every time the state of Israeli has cut more slack to the Palestinian people, it backfired. It was answered with more bloodshed, more murder.

And if you go back, you know, to the 1947 partition plan of the United Nations, we said yes, they said no, they started a war against us. We retreated from Gaza, we signed the Oslo Accords, we've got suicide bombings in our cities. We -- in 2005, the disengagement act from Gaza, we had missiles raining on our communities, now we allowed in more, you know, fake rehabilitation efforts, and we got cut slack to Palestinian workers who wanted to work in Israel, expanded the fishing zone.

What did we get? The October 7th massacre. It's a repeating pattern.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Tal, I appreciate your time. And thank you very much. It's good to see you in person.

And next, the breaking news, denied. Ukraine's president fails to change Republican minds about funding during a high stakes visit to Washington, as we're learning the grisly high toll Putin's invasion has had on his own forces.

Plus, the House just hours away from voting on an impeachment inquiry into Biden, an investigation that Democrat Dean Phillips says makes Biden, quote, unelectable. Phillips is running against the president and he's my guest tonight.

And tonight, the graphic voice mails one election worker says she received because of Giuliani's lies about the election.



[19:22:08] BURNETT: Breaking news, Ukraine's president in Washington making a last-ditch plea for immediate aid. Speaking in English, Volodymyr Zelenskyy stood alongside President Biden as both leaders made their case for American support for Ukraine.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Thanks to Ukraine's success -- success in defense, other European nations are safe from the Russian aggression, unlike in the past.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Putin is banking on United States' failing to deliver for Ukraine. We must -- we must -- we must prove him wrong.


BURNETT: Yet, some Republicans are not on board to give Ukraine more military aid, holding it up in Congress. Those include Speaker Mike Johnson who met with Zelenskyy today.

Here's who Johnson put it just a week ago.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There are important questions that must be answered so that we can continue with these negotiations. Among those is, what is the objective? What is the end game in Ukraine?


BURNETT: Well, that is a major about-face for Johnson because he not only supported Ukraine loudly, clearly and proudly, but he slammed Biden for being too slow on providing military aid to Ukraine. Here's Mike Johnson back in April 2022.


JOHNSON: They're asking for the ability to fight back. As we've seen in recent days, there's a real chance they could win this conflict with Russia. But they will not be able to do that. They certainly can't prevail if the Biden administration continues to sit on its hands and not deliver the weapons that are sorely needed and we're prepared to provide.


BURNETT: Well, a total about-face on that particularly issue. Of course, if aid does not come, Putin will be triumphant and able to continue on his openly stated quest to defeat what he calls, quote, the root of evil, the United States.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We need to know and understand where the root of evil is, where this very spider who is trying to envelope the whole planet, the whole world with its web and wants to achieve our strategic defeat on the battlefield.


BURNETT: It is, of course, Ukrainians who fight every day for Putin's strategic defeat on the battlefield and for the very basic thing, the most basic thing, their nation's right to exist.

And on the ground in Ukraine, the war grinds on tonight.

Nick Paton Walsh is OUTFRONT in Zaporizhzhia.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The war isn't over or even slowing. Avdiivka in the east, the next town Moscow wants to slowly swallow.

Analysts Ukrainian drone videos show the huge losses, the latest U.S. intelligence estimate, Russia has had 13,000 casualties here. A huge number offered without evidence but a clear bid to show American aid to Ukraine's right now hurting Russia.


The lack of a potent summer breakthrough means Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy faces perhaps his most toughest weeks ahead. He had to take time away from fighting Europe's biggest war since the '40s to get caught between these two politicians as they have their own squabble.

Here on Capitol Hill, the lawmakers are eager to go home for the holidays at the end of the week.

In Ukraine, weeks later they may start running out of money on the front lines.

It is life and death, one helicopter pilot in the east, told me.

UKRAINIAN PILOT: It could be very difficult for us to fight without your assistance but we have no choice. This is where (INAUDIBLE) because unfortunately, we don't have enough power in our country to support our army, but we extremely need it. This is just a -- this is a point of our survival.

WALSH: Russia is relentless, shelling the city of Kherson hard most nights and mornings this week, and said Ukraine security service, possibly behind a cyberattack hitting a major cell phone provider. It impacted air sirens, air raid alerts on phones and added to the sense of Putin moving in and what's left of civilian safety in Ukraine. This winter looks bleaker.


WALSH (on camera): Now, Volodymyr Zelenskyy returns to Ukraine, likely without achieving the thing that this trip hoped it would achieve you would do, with some officials warning that salaries for doctors on the frontlines may indeed run out in January with clear public tension with his chief of staff who ran a counteroffensive that hasn't yielded the results that Ukraine and its Western backers wanted. The defense minister today also joking that he hadn't heard whether or not the chief of staff had indeed be fired. He hasn't just for clarity.

But Ukraine also experiencing consistent Russians shelling, attacks on infrastructure, the cell phone service nationwide experiencing what Ukraine said was a Russian cyber attack today. The problems are mounting, but this key one, a lack of financing, will burn in the next weeks very hard, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Nick, thank you very much in Zaporizhzhia.

And OUTFRONT now, longtime Putin critic Bill Browder. He was once the largest foreign investor in Russia. Now he's on Putin's wanted list. He's also the author of "Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder and Surviving Vladimir Putin's Wrath".

So, Bill, President Joe Biden said today that if Congress fails to pass the supplemental aid package, it's going to give Putin what he called the greatest Christmas gift. Is this how Putin sees it?

BILL BROWDER, LONGTIME PUTIN CRITIC: There's no question. I mean, so the Ukrainians showed us two years ago that with some resources, even though they were outmanned and outgunned, they could fight the Russians back and a war that should've lasted three days has gone almost two years. But that is contingent on Ukrainians getting weapons that they didn't have before from United States and other countries.

And the United States is responsible for more military and financially aid than any other country. And so, if for some reason, the Americans can't provide Ukrainians with any more financial aid, then basically Putin had to wait two years for this but he's going to get what he wants. And President Biden is right about that.

BURNETT: So a source telling CNN today the declassified intelligence assessment that Congress received in the context of all this conversation about aid, right, says that Putin has lost 350,000 troops on the battlefield and that the war has basically setback 15 years of Russian effort to modernize its ground force, 15 years.

So you could look at that and say, if you are looking at doing damage to the Russian military machine that damage is being done. But is there any point in which these losses get too big for Putin to continue? And, obviously, this question will be contingent upon, you know, support obviously continue?

BROWDER: Well, I should point out that Putin doesn't really care about how many of his own soldiers are killed. He has no empathy, he's really a psychopath.

But having said that, there is one factor which is that he operates in a country with a lot of people who could one day rise up against him. And the 300-and-some-odd thousand people who are dead, that's 20 times more than the Soviet Union lost in Afghanistan. They lost about 15,000. And I was over a ten-year period.

That led to the mothers of the Soviet Union rising up and forcing the regime to withdraw from Afghanistan. And so, you know, it's -- Putin can do this as long as he is running a complete totalitarian system where everybody, even the mothers and wives and sisters and brothers of the soldiers who are lost can't rise up.


But at any point they start to rise up and organize, then Putin is really in a bad place.

And so, it's not certain what that moment is. And Putin seems to think he can carry on.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, that's the thing. I mean, that moment hasn't happened. I think confounding many, right? And the question is when?

I mean, one person who obviously had been the leader of the opposition, spoken up against Putin prior all this was Alexey Navalny, poisoned with Novichok, put in a penal colony. And one of his closest aides yesterday told me that he's been missing for a week and that right before he went missing, his lawyers were unable to get access to him. It's been said that he had a health incident and he needed an IV bag, but no one knows anything about what happened to him since them.

So, he could be sick. He could be moved to a worse penal colony, as could be the case, could be dead. They don't know. I mean, what do you think could happen here?

BROWDER: Well, I think the very best case scenario is that they have put him in the transfer system between the prisons and we have seen this before with various people including Navalny, where -- when you are being transferred, you effectively get lost and nobody has access to where you are. You can't communicate. You're lawyers don't know where you are.

And that may be, and that maybe where he is. And that is the best-case scenario. And, of course, the worst-case scenario is that that something catastrophic has happened to Alexey Navalny, and that's entirely possible. And it's particularly ominous with the fact that he had this incident where he collapsed six days ago, and that was the last anyone's ever heard from him.

BURNETT: Yeah. Of course, and we wait for news there. We are hearing nothing today, for yet another day.

Bill Browder, thank you very much.

BROWDER: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Republicans are one step closer to launching an impeachment inquiry against Biden. Full House is right now scheduled for tomorrow. Dean Phillips is a Democrat running against Biden for president. He's OUTFRONT next to weigh in. And Trump cashing in on his legal problems, now offering his

supporters a literal piece of the suit that you see in this mugshot. Somebody cut it up for a hefty price.



BURNETT: New tonight, the full House just hours away from a vote to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. Republicans defending the move is necessary, saying the White House is not turned over requested documents in the Hunter Biden probe. Democrats, though, say it's about politics and ultimately about helping Donald Trump win in 2024.

OUTFRONT now, a man running against President Biden on the Democratic side for 2024, Congressman Dean Phillips.

And, Congressman, so I understand that, you know, you are running to win obviously.


BURNETT: You want President Biden out of office, but do you stand against this impeachment effort the way the Republicans are doing?

PHILLIPS: I do. I think it's absurd. I've not seen a single shred of evidence that would indicate that he is guilty of anything whatsoever, other than being a good father. And that's the truth, and I'll be flying to Washington to register that vote, because I think it's absurd. And we cannot start using impeachments as a regular course of business in a massively dysfunctional Congress.

BURNETT: So, I want to talk about your bid to defeat President Biden in the primaries. You're going to go and you're going to support him on this impeachment vote. But, look, there's growing among Democrats. I'll just go through a few these things.


BURNETT: He's trailing former President Trump by five points in Georgia which, is a purple state now. It is worse news for Biden in Michigan, where Trump has a ten-point lead. Those are states that Biden won.

Biden says -- you know, look, his approval rating is at 37 percent, it's the lowest that it has been. But Biden -- we asked them, well, what about you? And they say, well, you are only polling -- Congressman Phillips is only polling 10 percent in New Hampshire, so there is nothing to worry about.

Did you think it would be easier, when you look at his numbers, did you think that your job would be easier?

PHILLIPS: No. I would -- in fact, I'm thrilled I'm at 10 percent. I'm thrilled -- BURNETT: That's another way to look at it, to say the challengers

coming in at 10 percent. Yeah.

PHILLIPS: People don't know my name yet, and do you know why I don't know my name? Because I'm not a jerk. It's so easy to become in famous in politics right now by just being a jerk. That's why some of the best known politicians in America right now are just people like that.

It's going to take months for me to become known, introduce myself. And I'm -- I'll be around. So, no, I'm not surprised at all, and those comparisons don't matter right now. What matters, Erin, is next May or June, head to head comparisons, how does President Biden stand against Donald Trump? How do I stand?

And they give Democrats a choice. A really I think clear choice, I believe I will be ahead of Donald Trump, I believe President Biden will continue to be behind.

BURNETT: But you think in the polls, when people will say you're name versus Trump's name, that you would be -- would win even though Biden would not?

PHILLIPS: Almost with certainty. But let's get to those dates and see. That -- most importantly, we Democrats are deluded right now into thinking the best way to proceed is with this coronation. The data you just shared. It is horrifying.

So why would we not want a multi candidate primary to identify the person best position to beat Donald Trump. That's my proposition. The fact that I'm only doing it is perhaps the most bizarre part of this whole episode.

BURNETT: Well, RFK Jr. was doing it, but now, he's moved over to independent, because he will not back him if he's the nominee, right, which you would be forced to do as a Democrat.

PHILLIPS: Well, I will absolutely back the president if he's the nominee. We have no choice. But my position right now is in 2020, I do think he was probably the only one that could defeat Donald Trump. In 2024, I do believe he's one of the only ones that can't.

BURNETT: Which is obviously a big switch.

Now you've been vocal on the border, you've been vocal on Biden and criticizing him how he has handled it. You rejected claims it's secure. You called it, I quote you, Congressman, an unmitigated, embarrassment, inexcusable disaster. So, today, we heard from several Republicans, we heard from Senator Graham. We've heard from Sen. Cornyn.

Here is what they're saying.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): I think it is going to take the president himself telling his cabinet and telling his staff to get this done. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And, Lindsey Graham, the key is to get the commander in chief involved in the negotiations. It's his job above all others.

Do you agree with Senators Cornyn and Graham?

PHILLIPS: Every American should agree, it is the commander in chief's primary job to provide security to the United States.


I've been at the southern border twice, Erin, it is an unmitigated, embarrassing, horrifying disaster, not just under this administration, for about the 10 last administrations. And that is true, Democrats and Republicans have absolutely failed at the border.

And these truths I wish more Americans knew. Yes, we have to secure it. Yes, we have to completely reform our immigration policy and particularly our asylum policy.

It is -- we are actually putting human beings in the position of making this horrific journey, spending their life's savings, giving it to Mexican cartels because they have to come across the border. We should be doing that -- we should be processing asylum cases in the countries of origin to prevent the crisis once against a border.

Most people in government have literally been doing this for so long, they know no other way. They do not know how to anticipate, plan ahead, between the border crisis, A.I.

We've got a lot coming down the pipeline, Erin, and we do not have leaders in positions right now, and Donald Trump is certainly not it, that can anticipate these issues, process 'em, plan ahead, and prepare for the future. It's pretty simple.

BURNETT: All right. Congressman Phillips, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And it's good to see you here.

And next, Trump is cashing in, charging for trading cars with his mugshot and a piece of the suit he was wearing. This is how he raises money. His run-ins with the law have been incredibly lucrative for him and this is real money.

Plus, one world leader now taking a page from Putin's playbook, threatening to invade another country. Take half of it and Putin may be involved. Will they get away with? A special report.


[19:45:14] BURNETT: Tonight, the former President Donald Trump fundraising off his mugshot again. So now, this is what he's doing. He's now offering people the chance to buy this, quote, historic gift just in time for Christmas, mugshot edition, that's what they call it, digital trading cards.

And if you buy 47 of them, you will get a piece of the suit Trump wore when his mugshot was taken.

You do all of that, it will run you about $4,600. It's not like even PBS, when you do it, you get a bag.

Harry Enten is here to go beyond the numbers.

OK. So, we're sitting here laughing and it is funny. And yet this is real money --


BURNETT: And he's raising real money. It's why it's a story. I mean, how much money did Trump make since the mugshot in that court where you have the numbers?

ENTEN: He's made millions of dollars. I mean, that's what they have reported out and we know that quarter three which, of course, was when the mugshot was taken, which was his best fundraising quarter by far. And overall in the quarter, now, of course, some this happened before the mugshot, he raised $45 million. $45 million, his best fundraising quarter so far.

And that what we've seen is an upward trajectory of Trump fund raising. He was not fundraising at all before the first indictment. That all of a sudden he saw this tremendous climb in the fund raising numbers and right now, he's a runaway train when it comes to endorse --

BURNETT: And the mugshots, can you -- can you -- I mean, I know correlation is not necessarily causality, but what's the relationship between the mugshot and the polls?

ENTEN: Yeah. You know, you might think, you know, this is just something that plays to the base, right? But, in fact, it seems to be something that might actually be playing to the general election.

You know, before the mugshot was taken, Joe Biden had a small lead in the national polls about two points. When you look at where we are now, we see Trump with the lead of about three points in the national polls, and it is not cut down on his support at all, if anything, he seems to be gaining over Joe Biden. So, this isn't just a primary phenomenon. It's something.

BURNETT: Five-point margin. Now, people supporting him as you see, that seems to have improved. Does that mean that they think he's not guilty?

ENTEN: No, this I think is the most interesting part of it, right, Erin, which is maybe more support for him now, but they actually do think that he is guilty in that Georgia election subversion case. You can see that right now. A majority, 51 percent believe, in fact, he is guilty, compared to just 26 percent who say not guilty.

So, this sort of this thing where these voters are wearing these different issues in their mind, but Trump seems to be the beneficiary at least so far in the metrics that actually matter.

BURNETT: And very quickly now saying, you got to cut up a piece of the suit. I mean, you know, we were all talking about making a joke. I mean, it's like relics in the Catholic Church back in the day. Who knows if it's the real suit?

ENTEN: Who knows if it's the real --

BURNETT: I venture to question to it.

ENTEN: I have no idea but whatever he is doing, it's working no matter how bizarre it is, Erin.

BURNETT: Right, raising money, that's the bottom line. As we said, that's why it's a story. It is real money.

All right. Thanks, Harry.

ENTEN: Thanks.

BURNETT: And next, he's power hungry and threatening to invade his neighbor. Well, you'll see who it is. Plus, an election worker in tears as she testifies about the terrifying death threats she received because of Giuliani's election lies. You will hear those horrifying messages.



BURNETT: Tonight, the authoritarian leader of a country with nearly 30 million people threatening a massive land grab tonight. The leader taking his cues from his ally Vladimir Putin.

Isa Soares is OUTFRONT.


ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an outlandish attempt to the land grab that has the world on edge.

Long live the full map of Venezuela. This is President Nicholas Maduro, revealing his vision, a larger, a more powerful Venezuela, which includes Essequibo, a large and vast patch of land that makes up two thirds of neighboring Guyana.

Maduro is now threatening to invade Guyana. After an incendiary referendum at home that backed his bid to claim sovereignty over the territory. Let's publish and take to all the schools, high schools and

universities of the country the new mark of Venezuela, he says.

Across the border, Guyana's president, Irfaan Ali, is ringing alarm bells.

IRFAAN ALI, PRESIDENT OF GUYANA: This is a direct threat to Guyana's territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independents.

Roughly the size of Florida, Essequibo has been a part of Guyana since 1899, when international arbitrators set the current borders. Venezuela has long sought to control the territory.

And the discovery of more than 11 billion barrels of oil and gas off Guyana's coast, by oil giant ExxonMobil in 2015 which put the country on track to become the world's highest per capita oil producer, has only emboldened Maduro. Now he's escalating tensions even further, naming major general as the head of the new Essequibo state, and telling oil companies operating in the region they have three months to pack up and leave.

This as he orders Venezuela's national oil company to start exploring the area.

Immediately, we'll proceed to give operating licenses for the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and mines in all of Guyana's Essequibo, he says.

It's a move out of President Putin's playbook and the fear Guyana's president tells me, is that Maduro feels empowered by the Russian leader's invasion of Ukraine.

ALI: We cannot allow a situation like Ukraine in this western hemisphere. We cannot allow the annexation of the territory in this western hemisphere.

SOARES: Allies and neighbors, too, are taking note. Brazil's President Lula da Silva has ordered additional troops and armored vehicles to his northern border.

Something we don't need in South America is war, we don't need a war. We don't need conflict, he says.


What we need is to build peace.

A long time ally, the United States, is conducting flight operations within Guyana, while throwing its support for the country's sovereignty and robust security.


SOARES (on camera): And, Erin, context here is important. President Putin is one of Nicolas Maduro's strongest backers. And Washington, along with Guyana's allies, will be wanting most surely to avoid a scenario like the one unfolding right now all the way in Ukraine.

Already, the White House which has eased sanctions on Venezuela's oil sector back in October says it's not ruling out putting those sanctions back on the table -- Erin.

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

And pretty incredible story, though, and a land grab of more than half a country happening just south of the U.S. border.

Well, next, Georgia election worker revealing the violent and racist threats she received because of Rudy Giuliani's election lies.


BURNETT: A former Fulton County election worker crying as she testified today in Rudy Giuliani's defamation trial. Shaye Moss spoke of how her life changed when Trump's former lawyer spread conspiracy theories about her, leading to death threats. Moss saying, quote, I am most scared of my son finding me or my mom hanging outside of my house on a tree, and having the news at his school that his mom was killed.

Jurors also hearing some of the racist and violent threats that she and her mother, Ruby Freeman, received. And I will warn you that these are graphic threats.



CALLER: Have a nice life, what's life of it you have.

CALLER: Hey, if this is Shaye, hey, (EXPLETIVE DELETED), I hope you like jail, because that's where you're going, on your way to hell.


BURNETT: Federal judge has already found Giuliani guilty of defamation. Moss and Freeman are asking for between $15 million and $43 million.

Now before we go, an important programming note. Our friend Dana Bash is going to sit down with Nikki Haley and the New Hampshire governor, Chris Sununu, who is endorsing her, of course. That is tomorrow at noon. And you will want to see that with Dana.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.