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Erin Burnett Outfront

Trump Back In New York Courtroom Hours After Landslide Iowa Win; Haley: U.S. Has "Never Been A Racist Country"; Putin: "Statehood Of Ukraine Will Soon Be In Question"; Elon Musk Makes An "Uncomfortable" Ultimatum. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 16, 2024 - 19:00   ET




Trump taking on New Hampshire. The former president, making his appearance after first spending most of his day in a New York courtroom.

This as Nikki Haley is trying to force a two-person race with Trump and clean up her remarks today, declaring that the United States has, quote, never been a racist country.

Plus, she accused Trump of groping her on an airplane and then testified against him in the E. Jean Carroll case. Jessica Leeds will be OUTFRONT tonight.

And Putin saying the quiet part out loud, talking total domination of all of Ukraine. This as you'll see in a story first on OUTFRONT, Ukrainian military desperately trying to fight back with U.S. vehicles described as tank killers. You will see it all on the ground.

Let's go OUTFRONT.


And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

And OUTFRONT tonight, the last to arrive. After spending the day in New York courtroom, President Trump is in New Hampshire. But it comes on the heels of his huge win in Iowa. He just started to speak about last night's caucuses and he arrived this evening after spending his day in New York -- as I said, in a courtroom, face-to-face with a woman that he was found liable of sexually abusing.

And Trump's court appearance today kicks off a trial about how much he will have to pay E. Jean Carroll for defamation related to that.

The man who just won the Iowa caucuses by more than any other contested candidate in American history spent his day in a courtroom regarding a case in which he was found liable of sexual abuse. So it is just worth saying that again and pausing for a moment to consider it, because in some ways, it is hard to, you know, square this with the reality that in many ways it is business as usual on the campaign trail.

Now, Nikki Haley tried to force a two-way race with Trump, even though she was a close third in Iowa. Today, she actually canceled her debate with DeSantis.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is not my concern. I'm going after Trump. He's the front runner. He's the one that I'm seven points away from. He's the one that were fighting for. There is nobody else I need to debate.


BURNETT: Meantime, DeSantis coming to New Hampshire after events in South Carolina is about to appear with Wolf Blitzer at a town hall in Manchester. He was 30 points behind Trump last night, but yet listened to DeSantis's sell.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump, obviously, you know, won -- won a good victory, but you know, half the people wanted somebody else.


BURNETT: Okay. DeSantis claiming he's that person.

But just the reality here. DeSantis only won one group last night, according to the entrance polls, young voters under 29. So yes, he won young voters. Yes, Haley, actually won one county, the only one Trump didn't, by one vote. But turnout, yeah, it was the lowest in 24 years.

But these layers of the onion do not change the bottom line, which is that Trump's victory in Iowa was overwhelming. And the next few days in New Hampshire will show whether Trump can continue to build on his momentum and end this race quickly or not.

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT. He's live in Henniker, New Hampshire. Obviously, that town hall with DeSantis and Wolf Blitzer is slated to begin later tonight.

What are you hearing, Jeff, so far on the ground as all the campaigns, all the press, everybody descended in full force in New Hampshire today?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump, Erin, is aggressively sharpening his arguments against Nikki Haley. Nikki Haley is calling on Trump to debate. She's ignoring Ron DeSantis. Ron DeSantis is trying to stay alive in this race, calling on Nikki Haley to have some type of dialogue with them. So that is the status of this three-person race here.

Haley spent the day here in New Hampshire, calling it a two-person race. But the reality shows that's not quite true. But New Hampshire voters, as they have over the years, will inspect these candidates in the final week and decide whether to elevate Trump oh, perhaps humble him as they've done other front runners in history.


ZELENY (voice-over): Donald Trump arriving in New Hampshire tonight --

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: This is the biggest one.

ZELENY: -- following a landslide victory in Iowa, eyeing a decisive one-two punch on the road to the Republican nomination. And what he hopes will be a rematch with President Joe Biden.

TRUMP: This is the first because the big night is going to be in November when we take back our country and truly, we do make our country great again.

ZELENY: Along the way, he made a voluntary detour to federal court in New York to watch jury selection in a defamation case against him. The latest sign of how the courtroom is a critical piece of this campaign.

Nikki Haley sought to turn a narrow third place Iowa finish into a winning message on electability.


HALEY: Our campaign is the last best hope on stopping the Trump-Biden nightmare.

ZELENY: That pointed argument rests at the heart of her weeklong push to the New Hampshire primary, hoping to tap into Americans exhausted by there pleading options. She amplified that call in a new TV ad.

ANNOUNCER: The two most disliked politicians in American Trump and Biden.

ZELENY: Tonight in New Hampshire, Haley were confident smile as she tried to will the primary into a two-person race.

HALEY: He is not my concern. I'm going after Trump.

ZELENY: On the heels of a distance second place showing in Iowa, DeSantis began his day in Haley's home state of South Carolina, hoping to plant a flag outside New Hampshire to keep his presidential aspirations alive.

DESANTIS: Haley said, only the top two from Iowa, you know, go on to be viable. Well, guess what? We punched our tickets out of Iowa yesterday.

ZELENY: DeSantis and Haley intensified their bitter duel over who is the leading alternative to Trump. Yet the former president's 51 percent Iowa win suggests most Republicans may not be looking for one.

Trump's unifying tone in Iowa --

TRUMP: I want to congratulate Ron and Nikki for having a good -- a good time together. We're all having a good time together.

And I think they both actually did very well.

ZELENY: -- belies the reality in New Hampshire, where he and his allies have been on the airwaves tearing into Haley, hoping to blunt any momentum.

AD ANNOUNCER: Nikki Haley, too weak, too liberal to fix the border.

ZELENY: While Iowa is the first stop on the Republican nominating calendar, once again, marked the end of the road for two more candidates, including former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a fierce Trump critic, and Vivek Ramaswamy, the entrepreneur who endorsed Trump and is set to appear with him tonight in New Hampshire.


ZELENY (on camera): And in fact, Ramaswamy is on stage with the former president, right now offering that endorsement and urging some of his New Hampshire supporters to back the Trump campaign.

But, Erin, there is no doubt, time is running out for some of these rivals to make their case here. But one thing to keep in mind the electorate in New Hampshire is totally different than Iowa.

Of course, Republicans are expected to participate next week. But as our independence and the undeclared, that's why Nikki Haley believes she has a new potential showing here with this new audience -- Erin.

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

And all right, but here just to talk about this and Trump is speaking now, David, and what maybe a lengthy speech, and it's interesting, he started out slamming Nikki Haley. So I know as Jeff points out, it's not a two-person race, but Trump is actually treating it like it's one as much as he can as well, posting on truth social moments ago. Again, calling her Nikki birdbrain Haley which is the insult, but he has now started to lob at her.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not the greatest nickname, but --

BURNETT: No, no, but yet, he is treating this as if --

URBAN: Well, look, for all intensive purposes in the state of New Hampshire, it is a two-person race. DeSantis smartly goes to South Carolina this morning to point out that how poorly she's going to do in South Carolina. Look, her home state won't even vote for her, that he's going to, you know, makes the trip up to New Hampshire to do the town hall with us, but then he's going to head straight back to South Carolina to kind of plant the flag and really dig in there.

So, for all intensive purposes of two-person race and New Hampshire, and Trump is right to go after Nikki Haley because she is going to be formidable there because you have independence, unaffiliated Democrats, folks can go there and vote for somebody else other than Donald Trump. And there's going to be a lot of them. So, it's going to be close in New Hampshire. And if Trump really wants to make this end, he's going to have to stop her here.

BURNETT: All right. So did she do the right thing then by refusing to debate DeSantis? That was the debate that they were slated to do on Thursday night in New Hampshire.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: In a tactical sense, not a principled sense. Yeah. I mean, she is a two-person race in New Hampshire. She was over her skis last night using the speech that she should have used if she came in second, but in New Hampshire, its a two-person race.

And I think DeSantis, you know, A, he's blowing through it a ridiculous amount of money. It's going to be hard to keep up the momentum in the intention if he's focusing on South Carolina because that's not for a month. He's not going to be the story, and Nikki Haley won 63 percent of moderates last night. New Hampshire is where moderates and independent voters can vote because of the open primaries. So this is really the last stand for that vision of the Republican Party.

BURNETT: All right, yeah.

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think she's doing exactly what she's supposed to do. Exactly what she's supposed to do.

She should be modeling this as a person one-on-one with Donald Trump. No, I don't -- DeSantis, who is that guy? Like I was last week, right?

Trump is already trying to do it by talking about like, oh, they may have a good time together as one of the kids table at Thanksgiving, like now, lets get on with the real dinner for me.

So I think she's doing exactly what she needs to do, one-on-one with Trump. That's the only way she has a chance.

BURNETT: All right.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She's treating DeSantis as a flea on the butt of the Republican elephant in New Hampshire, and it's got to be driving him crazy. And, of course, he needs the earned media because he's blowing through so much of his money.

BURNETT: So much money.

All right. So speaking of Haley, Ana, so she's on the ground there and then she did an interview this morning on Fox News -- everyone knows where I'm about to go.


Let me just play the clip that gives the context for everybody watching. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) INTERVIEWER: Are you racist party? Are you involved in a racist party?

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. We're -- we're not a racist country, Brian. We've never been a racist country. Our goal is to make sure that today is better than yesterday.

Are we perfect? No. But our goal is to always make sure we try and be more perfect of every day that we can.


NAVARRO: What do you want me to say? I mean, its like, you know, she -- she's so awkward whenever she's talking about race. She just wants to tip toe around that and I think it then makes her sound crazy.

How can you say that this has never been a racist country when it was founded by taking away the land of Native Americans and importing slaves from Africa? It has never been a racist country, really?

Emmett Till's family may want to word with you.

And, you know, is it a racist party? Look, in the last couple of weeks -- we've seen Nikki Haley, who can bring herself to order the word slavery as the cost of civil war. We've got Ron DeSantis, who in Florida is defending the notion that there was a positive side to slavery. And we've got Donald Trump, who wants to give Abraham Lincoln advice on how to negotiate on slavery.

So, you know, I don't think they're doing themselves any favors on this. It's not going to hurt her with Republicans. It will hurt her --


BURNETT: They say it's a misspeak in the sense of --

NAVARRO: How many times is she going to misspeak on this?

BURNETT: But this is what I find -- America has always had racism, but America has never been a racist country. What does that mean? I mean --


URBAN: That's a problem, Erin, nobody -- nobody knows. And she seems -- she seems like a politician, given that answer. It doesn't seem authentic.

BURNETT: Right, it doesn't straight.

AVLON: Well, look, I think actually she did misspeak. I think she was trying to see what we are not a racist country. We have evolved as a country. The problem is --


AVLON: That's why were talking about it -- NAVARRO: When she used her black friends as a justification. I mean,

how many time is she going to misspeak?

AVLON: Look, she is -- she is a politician of color who rose up to be the governor of South Carolina. And there's a lot of -- her own narrative is about transcending identity politics.


AVLON: As is Tim Scott's. Now, Tim Scott actually dealt with race much more directly, however, imperfectly --

BURNETT: He's also said, by the way, it's not a racist country.

AVLON: And look, as sometime historians in the civil war, I think it's healthy for us to be talking about our history, but that stopped mangling the facts, and that's what she's doing about trying to tip toeing around this stuff because she knows --

URBAN: She's looking as a politician. People look at that and say that's a politician's answer.

SIMMONS: Guys, she knows better.


SIMMONS: That's the fundamental point. She knows better. She's a politician from South Carolina where this is always right underneath the surface.

BURNETT: That's exactly right.

SIMMONS: I've done a lot of my work in politics in Georgia. This is always right underneath the surface. I mean, you know, my family, I grew up in Detroit, but I grew up in Detroit because my great grandfather got chased out of Georgia because the lynch mobs coming for 'em, join the military, ended up with Buffalo Soldier and (INAUDIBLE) of the army because --

URBAN: Right.

SIMMONS: -- no, because of the segregated army.

URBAN: That's great, that's great, I remember, yeah.

SIMMONS: Right? Because the government wouldn't let African Americans serve with everyone else.

URBAN: Buffalo Soldiers field At West Point.

SIMMONS: But the point -- but the point about this is from the Constitution and the Fugitive Slave Act, the Missouri compromise of 1820, the Jim Crow laws, it's been in the country. What we've been doing is for our last hundred -- or little last 60 years since the 1950s and '60s, we've been trying to dig ourselves out of this, and to try to make the country be what our Founding Fathers professed it to be.


SIMMONS: The question is, are we going to be a strong enough country where we can both sort of look at our facts honestly, celebrate our successes, and go forward and have our kids be prepared for the future? Or are we going to talk kids fairy tales so they're not prepared for the reality?


NAVARRO: Last week, I think it was last week, Trump was trying the birtherism thing on her, the same thing birther thing he waged against Obama. Guess what they have in common? Nikki Haley and Barack Obama, they're both people of color. I don't see him waging that attack.

AVLON: Did the same thing with Kamala Harris, same thing with Ted Cruz even. So there's a clear pattern.

SIMMONS: It not just Trump though. It's the anti-DEI forces. It's the anti-affirmative action stuff.

AVLON: Of course.

SIMMONS: It's Charlie Kirk want to take on Martin Luther King now and like fix the Civil Rights Act, at a Turning Point, USA. So we are seeing this driving the movement that Donald Trump has been giving air cover to for the last six years.

BURNETT: All right. So, how do these things impact, especially when you look at New Hampshire where when the slavery comment was made, it was in a New Hampshire town hall and it didn't have an impact there?

URBAN: It's going to have an impact because it makes her look like a politician. People want to vote for someone who's authentic. That's -- whether you like Donald Trump or not, he's authentic. He comes across as authentic.

People appreciate that. People hate politicians. She was a politician right there. You just speak the truth. It's not that hard.


Trump has -- he is the front runner. But, of course, he was the last to arrive in New Hampshire because he was in the courtroom today, you know, with the case in which he was found liable for sexual abuse.


So he's now just speaking. And as we said, making it a two person race, Nikki Haley -- here is Trump a moment ago. Listen to this.


TRUMP: Haley, in particular, is counting on the Democrats and liberals to infiltrate your Republican primary. You know that. The left, that's what's happening. You have a group of people coming in that are not Republicans and it's artificially boosting her numbers here, although we're still leading her by a lot.


AVLON: All right. Just, first of all, just factual reality check about how the primaries work in New Hampshire. Democrats can't vote in the Republican primary. Independent voters can.

BURNETT: But that's an infiltration.

AVLON: Yeah. So that's who, by the way, you're -- any candidate is going to need to win the presidency is independent voters. So that was unsurprisingly --

NAVARRO: And it's those independent voters and unaffiliated Democrats that are going to be bothered by Nikki Haley running away from the truth on race, our own true?

URBAN: I think the better argument for the president, or if the former president even cares, what's her path forward after New Hampshire? She's going to run into a brick wall in South Carolina, the Super Tuesday states not in favor. They all look more like Iowa, than New Hampshire. So --

BURNETT: And last night in the beginning of his speech, he talked about bringing everybody together in a very uncharacteristic message of unity and Democrats, Republicans and conservative. Well, here we are, Democrats are being positioned as infiltrators of the GOP.

SIMMONS: Yes, this is Donald Trumps brand. His whole point is what he called the friction, right? He wants to make sure that everybody is sort of always like amped up so that's the way he moves people forward.

Donald Trump knows that he got to take Nikki Haley out. He's got to discredit her and I hope she's ready because he's turning both barrels of his rhetorical gun on her and it is going to be a brutal, brutal series of weeks for her. It only gets harder and it's going to be -- we'll see if she's really got this --


NAVARRO: And he's also laying the groundwork to say that it's rigged in the event that she pulls off a surprise, his favorite line of --

BURNETT: All right. All, thank you.

And coming up tonight on CNN, don't miss our town hall live from New Hampshire with Ron DeSantis. Wolf Blitzer will be there along with the governor of Florida. That is tonight at 09:00 Eastern.

And next here OUTFRONT, Trump's lawyers telling a New York jury that the woman he was found liable of sexually abusing didn't suffer, but instead prospered after she made allegations against him. Jessica Leeds, who accused Trump of groping her on an airplane and was a witness in the trial, responds next.

Plus, Elon Musk tonight is accused of violating really one of the most basic rule of capitalism, as he holds one of his own company's publicly traded hostage for billions and billions of dollars.

And former Trump associate Roger Stone allegedly caught on tape calling for death of two Democrats.


ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP ASSOCIATE: It's time to do it. Either Swalwell or Nadler has to die before the election.




BURNETT: Breaking news, lawyers just finishing opening statements in E. Jean Carroll's defamation case against Donald Trump. It is the first time in decades that Carroll and Trump have been in the same room together. Carroll is expected to testify tomorrow. A jury of nine people will now decide how much in damages Trump should pay for defamatory statements he made about Carroll's allegations that he sexually assaulted her in a department store dressing room in 1996, things like saying Carroll "was not my type" as part of his denials.

Carroll is seeking $10 million in damages after a jury last year found that Trump sexually abused Carroll and was liable for $5 million in damages for other defamatory comments. So already found liable in all of this.

Paula Reid is OUTFRONT.

So, Paula, he was there today and as we said, so that's why he's just getting to New Hampshire and giving his first appearance on the ground there. Obviously, Haley and DeSantis are already there.

So do you expect to see him there all the time in the courtroom? I mean, how does this play out?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So it's only going to lie last a few days, but we do expect he'll be back as soon as tomorrow and he'll continue to attend as long as it serves him politically.

Now, note today though, he didn't even stay for opening statements, that's the heart of the case. If you really want to understand what's going on, you want to hear opening statements.

We heard Carroll's lawyer talk about how he had unleashed his followers on her, how she lives in fear and should be entitled to significant damages. But his lawyer, Alina Habba, argue that her career actually prospered after she made these allegations. Now, we likely wont see him on Thursday, his mother-in-laws funeral. No court on Friday, but he could testify on Monday and that would really be something because his role in this, his ability to testify quite narrow because this is just about damages. The judge is not going to let them relitigate what happened in the department store or attack Carroll --

BURNETT: Which is what he wants to do.

REID: Exactly. So, he's not going to be able to stay in those bounds. So the calculus they're going to have to do is okay, is it worth it to potentially turn off the jury or if faced blowback from the judge to score a few political points and amplify this message of prosecution, to them look it might be. They've shown they're willing to take some trial losses to score political points.

BURNETT: All right. So the jury pool I was so fascinated. Watch as I can only imagine what it was like for you being there. So, hearing about the jurors and some of the possible conflicts or by somebody who had worked for Ivanka Trump and worked for the White House. I don't even know how you find all these people with one jury that's actually related to Donald Trump, but they seem to have done that.

What can you tell us about these people?

REID: This is wild. I mean, it's a random selection of people or 40 to 50 people. And among those, nearly everyone had heard about the case, but you had one person who had done communications for Ivanka Trump a few years ago, someone else who worked for a moving company that serviced the Trump buildings. Three people who donated to Trump or affiliated organizations. Another person who spoke at the White House during the Trump years. And then three people who believe that the court system is being unfair to Trump.

Now, of course, there were ten people who donated to Biden and affiliated organizations but what's really important about this jury is its going to be anonymous because we've seen judges, court officials, jurors facing threats.

BURNETT: I find it amazing though. I mean, you know, people say, you know, it's a look at this. However, if people see bias in the system, but, you know, there's something to celebrate about the fact that you have Biden donors, you've got multiple Trump donors all in a Manhattan jury pool.

REID: America.

BURNETT: Something that the Trump would say didn't exist. And here it is.

All right, thank you so much, Paula.

And let's go now to Jessica Leeds be she accused Donald Trump of groping her on an airplane decades ago. She testified in the trial where a jury found Trump sexually abused E. Jean Carroll.

And Carroll's lawyers have indicated that they may call you, Jessica, to testify in this trial as well. So, we'll start with where we are now as Paula was laying out, Donald

Trump lawyer today told the jury that E. Jean Carroll has not suffered. In fact, that she has prospered since accusing Donald Trump of sexual assault and that she, quote, wants President Trump to pay for the mean tweets.


What's your response to hearing that argument?

JESSICA LEEDS, TESTIFIED AGAINST TRUMP IN E. JEAN CARROLL CASE: I think its a very creative platform that he has moved to. He -- somebody is I think put the bug in his ear. I don't think he's capable of being that creative.

But at the beginning, she lost her job. She lost her livelihood and she was an outcast when he first went out at after her and that the sort of -- cult-like behavior which is fostered by the by the Internet has put the fear in people all over the United States like in Congress.

BURNETT: So the case as we, as this case is now centers on Trumps denial of E. Jean Carroll's allegations, and that she was not his type.

Now, of course, we should be clear, a jury, he has been found liable for sexual abuse. Okay? So this case it's actually not about whether he did that or not. Its about damages, but that's what he wants to litigate. And he used a similar defense in 2016 after you went public with your allegations.

Here he is.


TRUMP: Yeah. I'm going to go after. Believe me, she would not be my first choice that I can tell you, man. You don't know. That would not be my first choice.


BURNETT: It's a go-to defense, used it with you, used it with her, there have been other times as well that he has said that about others. What do you think about that, that that's his first defense when a woman accuses him of sexual assault?

LEEDS: Well, for one thing, he fails to recognize the passage of time and he what he saw when the story broke was 79-year-old woman and that's -- that's -- he cannot imagine he cannot imagine that he would make a pass at that because he's just gotten women who are younger and younger and younger. So its a lack of imagination on his part, but that -- that is his defense that we're not his type. I don't think there's a woman out there that isn't his type, but that's my opinion.

BURNETT: Well, it's an interesting point you make and one, I guess with probably more deep psychological things to discuss when it comes to him and his life and perception of mortality.

But at least three potential jurors today, as Paula was reporting said, they believed Donald Trump is being treated unfairly by the U.S court system. There were also three and I don't know if there was overlap, but three who said that they were donors to the Trump campaign as somebody who had worked for the White House, somebody had worked for Ivanka Trump. So that's the jury pool, but three of them said that they believe he's being treated unfairly.

How do you respond to that?

LEEDS: I think he's being treated more than fairly. I think the court system has bent over backwards to give him time and place, and they are trying really hard because they don't want it to go to an appeal court and get thrown out because the judge lost his temper. So I think they are -- are being very glove -- handling him with soft gloves and the people who think that he's being prosecuted, they're the ones that are most cult-like. Anything and everything he does they think is wonderful and they, they -- they're just in a cults mentality and its really unfortunate because this is not a good person

BURNETT: So, he was in court today just after he won the Iowa caucuses, right? So that was a blowout. New Hampshire voters lined up for hours to see him speak.

Look at -- it's clear that Trump has a grip on the Republican Party, seems to be well on his way to being the nominee. I mean, you know, it would require something quite extraordinary for that not to be the case at this point, possibly could be president, again.

How do you -- how do you get your arms around that? How do you reconcile that with the person that you interacted with and what you know to be the case?

LEEDS: It really is hard to contemplate. It really is hard to fathom that this is -- this is this would be our future.


It's so depressing that so many people think that this man is our future. I think about things like our place in the world of he would have gotten us out of NATO. And what would have happened in Ukraine?

There are so many issues that the economy alone, the handling of COVID -- the legislation that went through Congress, the fear-mongering, being governed by tweets. This is not anything I want to go back to at all, and I think it would -- it would be a tragedy for our country and it's just really horrifying to think that that is a possibility.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Jessica, I know you may end up, of course, back in that courtroom if they do call you again as you have had to appear as a witness before. I appreciate your time. And you're taking -- taking the moments to share your thoughts with me.

And next, Putin sobering admission, he wants all of Ukraine. And we have a special report on the one American infantry fighting

vehicle that right now is still key to Ukrainians in the deadly fight as U.S. aid is on hold.

And Elon Musk giving his own company Tesla an ultimatum. Wait until you hear exactly what he's doing.


BURNETT: Tonight, the state of statehood of Ukraine will soon be in question. The statehood of Ukraine soon in question are the chilling words of Vladimir Putin. He is now predicting that Ukraine he will soon be conquered by Russia following what he calls a, quote, failed counter offensive.

And just to be clear here, Putin is saying the quiet part out loud. He is not talking about taking a region or two of Ukraine as those who cling to calling for a negotiated settlement constantly claims all that Putin wants and what he will happily settled for, because he never was talking about that. Putin wants what he wanted from the beginning, total domination of Ukraine -- Ukraine being part of Russia and Ukraine not being a country. And that's what he said today.


And it comes as Putin met earlier with the foreign minister of North Korea, a crucial ally that is supplying Russia with missiles to bomb Ukraine.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT with a report and how Ukraine is fighting back with American armored vehicles which they say they desperately need more of.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As the Russian army assaults Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine, U.S. provided Bradley infantry fighting vehicles are key to keeping the Ukrainians in the fight. We're ready, the crew say, and then unleash their powerful 25 millimeter gun on Russian troops in nearby tree lines and helping Ukrainian infantry blunt an assault.

The vehicle's commander's call sign is Barbie tells me the Bradleys are making all the difference.

I doubt that we'd be talking with you doing this interview if we didn't have the Bradleys, he says. Most likely, the northern flank would have been already lost without the Bradleys. They have no time to lose. The next task, waiting as the Russians tried to press forward.

But Ukrainian say the Bradley is now one of the most effective tools in the defense of Avdiivka because of its armor and its strong canon, it can easily defeat Russian armored vehicles.

The Bradleys also own the dark, the crew says, able to find and target Russian troops with their thermal scopes.

You can see the rounds impact after they fired a salvo at Russian forces.

I asked Barbie if the Russians fear the Bradley.

The Russians are very afraid of the Bradley. He says, we were getting radio intercepts where we could hear their infantry shouting that the Bradley was coming on. They couldn't do anything against it. They've come a long way since Ukraine's failed counteroffensive this past summer, when Bradleys and other Western vehicles were often bogged down by minefields and Russian artillery barrages, unable to unleash their firepower.

Now, it often looks like this. Ukraine's 47th mechanized brigade provided us with these videos of what they say is Bradleys firing at Russian infantry positions.

They also provided several videos purporting to show a Bradley beating Russia's most capable main battle tank, the T90, in a duel. The Bradley fire salvos at the right Russian tank. After taking many hits, the T90 seems to be out of control. Its turret spinning.

The vehicle, then hits a tree before the Ukrainian send a drone to finish it off. The Russian crew manages to bail

But the Ukrainians fear this could end soon if us Congress doesn't okay additional funding for military aid. And both U.S. and Ukrainian officials have said that Ukraine is already forced to ration some ammunition.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: The assistance that we provided has now ground to a halt the attacks that the Russians are conducting are only increasing.

PLEITGEN: Barbie and his crew said, so far, they had no shortages of ammo or spare parts for the Bradleys, a key weapon as they tried to hold the line against a massive Russian invasion force.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And you know, Erin, another reason why the Ukrainian say the Bradleys so important for them is that it also lifts the morale of frontline troops when they're fighting in the infantry, they're saying that in many cases when troops are under a lot of pressure or under fire from the Russians, when the Bradley shows up, they understand that with its armor, its going to be able to protect them and get them out if they need that.

Of course, one of the things that Vladimir Putin has said today is that he's going to keep pressing his offensive against the Ukrainians, even calling Ukraine's statehood into question -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Fred, thank you very much from Dnipro tonight in eastern Ukraine.

And OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

So, Congressman, this issue of statehood, Putin predicting that Ukraine statehood would soon be in question, as he is mocking the counteroffensive that they have put on. Do you have any doubt as to what he saying when he says that their statehood is at risk?

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): No, not at all. And thank you. You summed it up perfectly at the top of this segment. That's exactly what Putin has been after from the beginning. And so many people have sort of helped him do that by claiming that, oh, Putin would have made peace if we had just said, Ukraine won't join NATO or any number of other things. That's simply aren't true.

You perfectly summed up what Putin's objective is. And right now, the group that's helping Putin in that objective more than any, is the Republican Party in the House and the Senate by refusing to pass the supplemental aid package that the president has proposed that would help Ukraine in this fight.


BURNETT: Do you have any sense that there's any possibility of a breakthrough on that?

SMITH: Well, you know, the presidents called a meeting at the White House yesterday, or some leaders. The pressure is growing.

And look, the frustration here is, I know that there are Republicans who don't support Ukraine. JD Vance, Matt Gaetz, they've made their arguments. I totally disagree with those arguments. I think they're disingenuous, but that's what they believe.

The real problem now is all of the Republicans here who claim to support Ukraine, who claimed that they don't -- you know, they don't want to support Putin. They don't want to see Putin succeed. They support Ukraine. They're going to support an aid package and they just don't do it.

And now, they've tied in it to a very complicated fight over the border. I would ask that the Republicans do what Mike Johnson, the speaker said they would do, which is not abandon Ukraine. Speaker Johnson made that clear when he got the job. I hope he lives up to that commitment.

BURNETT: And you just mentioned the border, which of course in the GOP eyes should be tied to this funding, as well as, as other issues. You know, I spoke the other day with the former DNI for President Obama, James Clapper.

And I asked him whether he was worried about the border, the southern border. In particular for whether -- what -- you've got a quarter million people in December crossing over illegally, whether that really is a risk of people who wish to do America harm, whether it'd be from Russia or from Yemen, or wherever it might be.

Here's how he responded. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DNI: I've gotten very concerned about it. The nature, the composition of the border crossers has changed a good bit since my day and now, it's much more international, the Chinese, Russians and others. This is a serious national security concern


BURNETT: Congressman, do you agree with him?

SMITH: Absolutely. I completely agree. I mean, the border is a threat for that reason, it's also a threat just because so many of our cities and communities as being, or being overwhelmed by migrants that we cannot support.

Look, we need to reform border policy. Ironically, part of the block now is you have House Republicans saying that they don't support the negotiation that the Senate Republicans are engaged in to get a border policy deal because they don't want to lose the political issue against President Biden in this election year.

I mean, yes, we need border reform, but we need Republicans to come to the table in an honest way to get us there.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Congressman Smith, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much for being with me tonight.

SMITH: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And next, Elon Musk holding Tesla hostage, demanding a massive payday from Tesla, which forces, you know, publicly traded, owned by shareholders like he's already the richest man on the planet. Now he wants more to do something that should just be a basic requirement of running that company.

And the suspected Gilgo Beach serial killer back in court tonight, charged in the killing of a fourth woman. How investigators connected these dots?



BURNETT: Tonight, ultimatum. Elon Musk is demanding of $85 billion payday from Tesla, which, of course, is a publicly traded company owned by millions of shareholders. He says he wants the money if Tesla wants to develop new AI technology.

Now, Elon posted on X, which, of course, he does own outright. And he says, I am uncomfortable growing Tesla to be a leader in AI and robotics without having 25 percent voting control. Unless that is the case, I would prefer to build products outside of Tesla.

Now, of course, you know, everybody would like to control the company that they run, but he doesn't and denying a publicly traded company investment in something so basic seems to be a violation of a basic rule of capitalism. His job and his fiduciary responsibility to shareholders, never mind customers in a capitalist system is to invest in things to make accompany competitive.

Harry Enten joins me now to go beyond the numbers.

So, Harry, he's demanding this -- this payday because he wants the money so that he can control more of the company. Because I guess he wants more control to do the investments which would be required now in that industry. But he's already a really rich guy to state the obvious.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: He's already a really rich guy. He's a guy who's worth $230 billion, according to some estimates. And, of course, he right now controls 13 percent of the shares of Tesla. So he needs another 12 percent to get up to 25 percent, which is what he wants. If he gets that, he gets another $85 billion. Of course, that is if it happened today.

Of course, I will point out Erin, he used to own more shares of Tesla, but he's decided to sell those so that he could buy Twitter and then turn it into X.

BURNETT: Right. Okay, that's right. So he did at one point control the share in Tesla that he says he now wants to make investments. But when you look at Elon Musk and obviously his incredible success, there's absolutely no way to deny that in any way shape form. But Tesla is the core of that.

ENTEN: Tesla's absolutely the core of it. You know, if you go back five years ago, you know, Elon Musk was worth perhaps, you know, $20 billion, which most of us would definitely take, but its not anywhere near the amount of money he's owned -- he has today. And the reason for that is because Tesla stock has done so incredibly well.

So if you look at the growth in Elon Musk's wealth over the last five years, it pretty much mirrors the growth that we see in the Tesla stock. You can see those two numbers are very much the same right there. So the fact is the reason Musk is worth so much is because of Tesla and now, of course, he's basically trying to hold them hostage today.

BURNETT: Now, look, a lot of us could be bluster and he loves to do that sort of thing. However, I made a point when I talked about capitalism and fiduciary responsibility to do basic investments to grow the company competitively. And some people may say, well, is AI really that? Is it so basic?

And I just wanted to share with everybody to understand why this is so crucial. Let me just give you Apple CEO Tim Cook who explained this about AI, and how fundamental it is as an investment recently.


TIM COOK, APPLE CEO: We view AI and machine learning has fundamental technologies and they're integral to virtually every product that we shop.


BURNETT: And that puts the context around what withholding that investment could mean for Tesla.

ENTEN: Absolutely, right. I mean, if you look in investment in the private enterprise, in AI over the last ten years, we have just seen blossom. I mean, in 2014, it was just $7 billion, $45 billion in 2019.


Now, we're talking about a forecast of $132 billion. What is that? That's, you know, 20-fold essentially. This is a huge industry and Elon Musk realize that, that's why he's doing what he's doing.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Harry.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, a single piece of hair, new evidence that investigators say links the alleged Gilgo Beach serial killer to another woman's murder. He's in court today facing a fourth murder charge.

And Trump ally Roger Stone caught on tape talking about wanting to kill House Democrats.


STONE: Either Swalwell or Nadler has to die before the election.



BURNETT: New tonight, the suspected Long Island serial killer accused of killing multiple women, appearing in court today, you see him there.

Rex Heuermann was brought in before the judge six months after his arrest to face of charge now of killing a fourth woman. Prosecutors say they connected the New York architect to this latest victim using a single piece of hair.

Brynn Gingras is OUTFRONT.


NICOLETTE BRAINARD-BARNES, MAUREEN BRAINARD-BARNES' DAUGHTER: I was only seven years old when my mother was murdered.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nicolette Brainard- Barnes speaking publicly for the first time after facing in court the man accused of killing her mother, Maureen. BRAINARD-BARNES: I remember she read to me every night, and now I can

no longer remember the sound of her voice. I wish she was here today, but she was taken from us.

GINGRASH: Rex Heuermann charged with killing Maureen Brainard-Barnes, a 25-year-old woman who vanished in 2007, and is believed to be the Gilgo Beach killer's first victim. Heuermann has now accused in the murders of all four women who were found within a quarter-mile of each other along the same stretch of parkway on Long Island and infamously became known as the Gilgo Four.


He's pleaded not guilty.

RAY TIERNEY, SUFFOLK COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This indictment marks a change in the investigation.

GINGRAS: A hair found on a belt used to bind Barnes matches DNA profile of Heuermann's now estranged wife, Asa Ellerup, the discovery made using advanced nuclear DNA analysis.

TIERNEY: We believe these DNA results are significant. Nuclear DNA has illustrated as much more discriminant.

GINGRAS: In the 23-page updated indictment, prosecutors lay out more evidence. They say ties the 60 year-old architect to the killings of the four women authority say were sex workers. Hairs found on Megan Waterman's body and the burlap bindings match Rex Heuermann and his wife's advanced DNA profile.

And the hair found on Amber Costello's body matches Heuermann's daughter, Victoria, evidence Heuermann's attorney is already taking issue with.

MICHAEL BROWN, ATTORNEY FOR REX HEUERMANN: All along, we have been told that the evidence is unsuitable for nuclear DNA testing. This morning was the first time, and this is 13-plus years that miraculously nuclear DNA testing and results have come forward.

GINGRAS: Police say burner phones and computer activity also show communications with some of the victims. A credit card statement found in a storage locker and cell phone records further confirm Heuermann's family was out of town when the murders took place, which allowed quote unfettered time to execute his plans for each victim, the indictment reads.

TIERNEY: The grand jury investigation of the so-called Gilgo Four is over.

A step forward for family members continuing to seek justice.

MELISSA CANN, MELISSA BRAINARD-BARNES' SISTER: These victims had families. They were human beings with aspirations and hope for a better future for themselves.


GINGRAS: And that was Maureen Brainard-Barnes's younger sister. You may remember she actually received a call from her sister cell phone after she disappeared, and on the other line was the killer. So a lot of trauma there, they certainly feel like they are seeing justice.

As for next steps, Erin, Rex Heuermann's going to be back next month, and the D.A. says he's hoping to use his new DNA technology, possibly tie Heuermann to some other murders. So we'll see if that develops -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Brynn, thank you very much, live outside that courtroom.

Next, former Trump associate Roger Stone, caught on tape talking about killing Democratic members of Congress by name. Police tonight, investigating


BURNETT: Tonight, the U.S. and Capitol police and the FBI are investigating comments allegedly made by Trump ally Roger Stone on tape threatening to assassinate House Democrats.


STONE: It's time to do it. Either Swalwell or Nadler has to die before the election. They need to get the message. I'm just not putting up with this (EXPLETIVE DELETE).


BURNETT: Stone is referring to Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell and Jerry Nadler. The damning tape was obtained by the website Mediaite. Now, CNN has not independently verified the tape. Stone denies making the comments though, and in a statement to Mediaite said they were claimed -- claimed they were generated by AI.

Thanks for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.