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Erin Burnett Outfront
White House Weighs Whether To Release Special Counsel's Biden Transcript; Netanyahu Calls For Evacuation Of Rafah Ahead of Offensive; CNN Goes Underground in Ukraine Where Schools Are In Bunkers; Taylor Swift Effect On NFL: New Value, Viewers, Conspiracy Theories. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 09, 2024 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next:
Politically motivated. The White House coming out swinging, slamming the special counsel's report that questions Biden's memory, but will that defense work?
Plus, fears growing in Gaza as Israel warns the war may soon escalate again with a new ground incursion, a move that puts Israel at odds with the U.S.
And he pushes Trump's lies about January 6 and the election -- moves that could actually help make him the next chair of the RNC. Tonight, a special KFILE investigation.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erica Hill, in for Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, on the defensive. The Biden administration launching a full court press to counter the damning special counsel's report about President Biden's handling of classified documents. Vice President Kamala Harris, leading that charge, calling the report politically motivated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a former prosecutor, the comments that were made by that prosecutor, gratuitous, inaccurate, and inappropriate. The way that the president's demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts, and, clearly, politically motivated, gratuitous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: The spokesman for the White House counsel's office, echoing the vice president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gratuitous comments in the report are troubling and they're inappropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Troubling, inappropriate, gratuitous -- words you'll continue to hear. The White House clearly doing all it can to portray that 388- page report as nothing more than a partisan memo as opposed to a legal document, a document in which special counsel Robert Hur, decided not to charge President Biden for his willful mishandling of classified documents, findings, though overshadowed by Hur's opinion that Biden had, quote, diminished faculties, describing him as an elderly man with a poor memory who in interviews did not remember the years he was vice president or when his son, Beau, died, troubling allegations for a candidate struggling to combat concerns about his age.
The White House now says it's actually considering whether to release a redacted transcript of Biden's interview with Hur.
Arlette Saenz is OUTFRONT live tonight outside the White House.
So, Arlette, this transcript, what would that change? What does the White House believe it could show?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, it could address some questions about special counsel Robert Hur's characterization of President Biden during that two days of interviews that his team are conducted here at the White House. The White House right now is not ruling out the possibility that they could release these transcripts, but they have noted that it would be difficult to do so given that there is a lot of classified information in there. So there could be a possibility that they could release this transcript if there is a way to redact the information that is classified.
But it does come as we have really seen the White House shifting into full damage control mode. And they've really been escalating their attacks and trying to discredit special counsel Robert Hur's report. You've heard that from aides at the White House podium, aides behind the scenes, and also Vice President Kamala Harris herself. She tried to point to her own experience as a prosecutor to try to call out Hur's statements as inappropriate and also political ugly motivated.
But what's also clear here is that this is a report that has personally infuriated President Biden. We saw that publicly last night, especially when it came to the fact that Hur tried to raise the fact that Biden couldn't remember when his son, Beau Biden, died from cancer. That is something that president spoke out about last night.
We're told that privately, he was even more direct in his fury, telling a group of Democratic lawmakers behind closed doors, quote, how would I f-ing forget that. But it really comes as the White House is now grappling, they had hoped that this report, that headline coming out of it would be that there were no criminal charges facing the president, but now they are having to combat these questions about age, which voters have consistently raised is a key concern about the president as he is seeking reelection.
So, it's clear that this has thrust those concerns and issues about the president's age and mental acuity front and center in the 2024 campaign, once again.
HILL: Arlette, appreciate your reporting tonight. Thank you.
Karen Finney and David Urban join me now.
So, Karen, in that press conference last night, the president made another gaffe when he was talking about Israel and Gaza. Here's that moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that, you know, initially the president of Mexico, Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to allow humanitarian material to get in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: El Sisi is, of course, the president of Egypt, not the president of Mexico.
Paul Begala earlier today said on CNN that press conference made things worse. He said it's, quote, terrible for Democrats.
Karen, do you agree?
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, can I just say, if you actually play the full clip and listen to the rest of his answer, he actually goes into a very substantive nuance, conversation to answer to the question about the negotiations to release hostages, and how to actually get the ceasefire.
So here's what I think though. I mean, I think for both Trump and for President Biden, they're both old. They're about the same age. That's not going to actually change. And I think it's a disservice. The real question is not, are they old? It's, can they do the job?
And so I think the analysis that we need to be doing is looking at both of these men and saying, can they do the job?
I completely understand why Nikki Haley, for example, attack Donald Trump when he referred to her when he should have done Pelosi. It's -- but ultimately, that's not the reason that people either will or won't vote for him. I think in this instance, the report itself and the press conference just creates more red meat and feeds this narrative in terms of age, which again, I think what we need to be doing is saying, okay, that's a factor, absolutely. However, underneath that, what -- are they capable of doing the job? And let's compare both men, their records, what they're telling us that they want to do if they are, you know, re-elected.
I mean, that is kind of does more of a service to the American people then having this sort of gotcha up every time somebody, you know, uses the wrong word or makes a slip like that. HILL: Look, in a perfect world, we would do nothing but talk about issues. So I don't disagree with you there, right? We would all like to look at issues and facts, but the reality is, these are some of the things that gain traction. This has been, David, there's no denying, this has actually been very effective for Republicans --
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah.
HILL: -- as they're trying to go after Joe Biden, Donald Trump does have his own issues when it comes to misspeaking. They are similar age, of course. Are we just sort of stuff with this until November that this is going to be the conversation?
URBAN: Well, yes. And, Erica, my friend Karen gave you a completely good answer to question you didn't ask, right? You asked the question is, was it -- did Joe Biden help himself last night? The answer is no. He didn't help himself. He dug a deeper hole --
FINNEY: I did answer it.
URBAN: Well, yeah.
FINNEY: I said, yes, it gave political fodder.
URBAN: It was terrible. It was terrible.
Listen, when last one last week when he's -- when he's talking about dead foreign leaders, Mitterrand and Kohl and confusing things, and then the big knock on Joe Biden because he's too old, he's out of touch. You don't go out to keep digging a hole, right? Just stop, stop.
Go out. Go out on the campaign trail and show people you're vigorous. That's what you want it -- you want to prove you're vigorous, go prove it to people. Go out and do unscripted press conferences. Go into diners, talk to people, sit down, get on the campaign trail, but you're not going to see it because Joe Biden can't do that, right?
That's the fact of the matter. And its things are going to change and if that's -- you, Erica, you asked the question, is that's how it's going to be from now that election, it is going to be that way because people have a real question. This isn't David Urban. This isn't just some right-wing conspiracy. These are Democrats that are concerned about Joe Biden's viability and ability to the job as president.
HILL: Karen, a spokesman, we were just talking about this with Arlette, right?
HILL: That a spokesman for the White House counsel's office said they would consider releasing that transcript. Do you believe that would help -- laying out more of that -- of the conversations that happened in those interviews? FINNEY: You know, couple of things on not, having gone through this on the Clinton campaign when we were dealing with Hillary's emails, this issue about redacting national security information nation is very real and it may end up taking longer than they think just having been through this once before. So I'm not sure that's going to be the quick answer that folks think. It may -- it may give more context.
I mean, I thought for example, today, Ian did a really interesting job of, there were things that are in the beginning ways that the special counsel characterized, you know, added sort of his own color and shading to things where further on actually in the text which nobody is going to read, but on page 200 this and 200 that, actually it contradicts -- the facts actually contradicts the way he's sort of described certain things.
So, you know, I don't -- I don't know that it will, but it certainly -- it couldn't help. But again, I think we have to recognize the report. There's two pieces to this, one is the political and one is the legal.
HILL: Right. The political is the one though that's continuing to get most of the attention.
David, I want your take on this. Donald Trump has been fairly, fairly quiet, right, in the grand scheme of things, posted a map on social media tonight, though labeling Egypt is Mexico in the corner. If you can see there, it says source Joe Biden. So trolling President Biden there.
Donald Trump, of course, though, has had his own issues but it's interesting that he has been fairly quiet since all of this came out. Does that surprise you?
URBAN: Yeah, smart, smart. Yeah. Erica --
HILL: Wait, smart, but does that surprise you?
URBAN: No, listen, he's got great -- you know, Susie Wiles, Chris LaCivita, the campaign team around Donald Trump this time, best -- best you're going to get, best in the world, right? They are world- class and they are running this campaign tight. They're going to keep the president on message best they can. And this is one of those times where they're keeping him on message, keep it a tight, and I don't think you're going to see out there.
Listen, there's a saying in the law, right, res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself. You don't have -- you watched Joe Biden last night. You don't have to do much editorializing.
HILL: David, Karen, good to have you both here tonight. Thank you.
URBAN: Thanks for having us. HILL: OUTFRONT next, as Israel hints in a new expansion in Gaza, there are mounting questions about whether there's anywhere left for refugees to go. We are live in Israel.
Plus, Trumps new political power move, backing a man who spread these conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. And January 6, backing that man as just the guy to head up the RNC.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL WHATLEY, CHAIRMAN OF NORTH CAROLINA'S REPUBLICAN PARTY: We do know that there was massive fraud that took place.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HILL: Who is he -- who got a special KFILE report.
And North Korea welcoming its first tourist since the pandemic to, get this, a ski resort. This as a woman who escaped with a brutal regime, shares what life is really like in that secretive country.
HILL: Tonight, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telling his military to drop an evacuation plan for another city in Gaza as he preps for a massive new invasion. Netanyahu's comments in just hours after President Biden said he found Israel's actions in Gaza have been over but the top. What would Netanyahu's order mean for the people in Rafah?
Jeremy Diamond is OUTFRONT
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gaza's last refuge now risks becoming Israel's next military target, 1.4 million people crammed into the southernmost city of Rafah now living in fear as Israel says, this is where it will launch its next offensive against Hamas.
MOHAMMAD JAMAL ABU TOUR, DISPLACED FROM GAZA CITY (through translator): Everybody is afraid. We are praying to God that would happen in Gaza City does not happen in Rafah because of the same happens at Rafah, we will have no place to go. Where are we going to go? To Egypt? Only God knows if they will welcome us or not.
DIAMOND: The Israeli prime minister says a Rafah offensive is critical to destroying Hamas, and that the military will plan for civilian evacuations.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We'll soon going to Rafah, Hamas's last bastion. They will do so as they've done up to now, by providing the civilian population safe passage to safe zones.
DIAMOND: But with widespread destruction in Gaza, where will they go? And how will they live?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We can't get out of Rafah. We have no other alternative. Either we die here or we die in our homes. We have nowhere else to go.
DIAMOND: Among the sprawling tent cities, humanitarian aid groups offer a lifeline here, one that is severely lacking further north.
TOUR: If we go to Gaza City or Khan Younis we see that we're not going to find the supplies that were provided for us here in Rafah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There's no place left, that's all. No place left.
DIAMOND: The United States now sounding the alarm.
BIDEN: The conduct of the response in Gaza -- in the Gaza Strip has been over the top.
DIAMOND: Warning an Israeli offensive in Rafah would be a disaster.
JOHN KIRBY, NSC SPOKESMAN: Absent any for consideration of protecting civilians at that scale in Gaza, military operations right now would be a disaster for those people. And it's not something that we would support.
DIAMOND: Smoke already billows over the Rafah skyline, where the Israeli military has conducted several airstrikes in recent days.
As women mourn their loved ones, the destruction wrought by one strike offers a glimpse of what could come.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Today, if you throw a stone from the roof and Rafah specifically, it will hit ten people easily. What about three rockets falling on a house where every room, every room has a whole displaced family, a family with a father, children, and wife.
DIAMOND: The consequences of war in Gaza's last haven.
DIAMOND (on camera): And, Erica, as Israeli leaders very publicly telegraph, a potential offensive in Rafah, a Hamas delegation has been in Cairo, meeting there for on potential talks where a hostage deal, a major question tonight, whether or not this planned Israeli offensive is aimed at trying to pressure Hamas into that deal. But negotiating tactic or not, it is very clear that the implications and the fear in Rafah are very real -- Erica.
HILL: Yeah, absolutely. Jeremy, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes. He's the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Good to have you in the studio with us tonight. President Biden has qualified the response in Gaza as over-the-top
were his words. Would you agree with that assessment?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I'm not sure. Id use exactly those words, but I would say that the next two months, next two-and-a-half months need to look very different from the last two-and-a-half months. There are now some 28,000, 27,000 fatalities in Gaza. That just can't continue. And, yes, a meaningful portion of those are Hamas people who we don't terribly mourn for, but an awful lot of those people are civilians.
The humanitarian situation there is very, very dire. And so, you know, every opportunity I've had to speak to senior Israeli as I've said, we totally understand the right to self-defense. What happened on October 7th is inexcusable, but this -- the nature of this war going forward needs to change in a much more humanitarian direction.
HILL: John Kirby said, on Thursday, warned essentially than an offensive in Rafah would be in his words a disaster and not something that the U.S. would support.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has asked for evacuation plans to be drawn up for Rafah. You mentioned how you've pressed and made clear to Israeli officials how you feel about the humanitarian crisis. How much is that being brought into consideration? Do you believe as further plans are being made?
HIMES: Well, I can't speak obviously to how, you know, U.S. pressures affecting war planning inside Israel. You know, the prime minister has been extremely aggressive. You don't -- on the one hand, you don't blame him for being aggressive considering the horror that were visited on his country on October 7.
On the other hand, it's not clear to me that the prime minister is really thinking about what happens on the day after, you know, how this comes to a close. He says that Hamas will be eradicated. I understand as a politician, the political power of saying that, but the idea that he is going to kill every last member of Hamas in Gaza is just not credible.
So, I hope that the prime minister begins to think about not just the short term, but the medium term and the long term.
HILL: We'll continue to watch situation. I do want to talk to you about some things domestically as well. You had said and you've said repeatedly when it comes to these classified documents, it's not okay for Republican or Democrat to happen, right? As we're looking at now, moving on to the special counsel's report involving President Biden's handling of classified documents.
You said you were profoundly troubled last year. In terms of what was in the special counsel's report, is there anything that you saw or read that was troubling to you in terms of President Biden's handling of those documents? HIMES: Well, I mean, let me just make the blanket statement. We
cannot have classified information out in the wild, and that applies to a, you know, junior airman in Cape Cod who was responsible for a brutal release of classified. It applies to a present United States and to an expert in United States. It's classified for a reason. And if the wrong classified information she gets out there, American officers can die.
So full stop, not okay. And, you know, the president bears responsibility for what he did. Donald Trump bears responsibility, et cetera.
HILL: So, back to the question, was there anything in this report that was troubling to you in terms of President Biden's handling of classified information and documents.
HIMES: You know, I'm not a lawyer. You know, I have a lot of Republican colleagues who are saying, this just shows that there's a two-tier system of justice which is total baloney, right? I mean, read the indictment of Donald Trump, read the special counsel's report, and you will see that Joe Biden handled this radically different in every way, cooperated, a day after we were just talking about Israel, a day after the brutality of October 7, he sat for a five-hour interview. And so this idea that there's a two-tier system is just baloney.
Look, I -- let's address the elephant in the room this feels to me like a second Comey moment, right? You know, before an election, a special counsel or an investigator write something that is gratuitous and irrelevant, that is to say what the special counsel wrote about Joe Biden's memory. You know, that is no more relevant than if a special counsel were to write that, you know, I don't think this person would be good in front of a jury because they're not particularly attractive.
HILL: So as we look at what happened in the wake of that, right, and the moments that were in that report about President Biden's memory, about how he would come across to a jury, about the observations of President Biden, the fact that he came out so forcefully in that press conference last night. And then use the name of the president of Egypt, but said he was the president of Mexico.
There has been pushed back up. Senator Mike Lee raising concerns saying in his words here, posting on X, it was a significant threat to now national security and urging cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment.
HILL: First of all, your response to that?
HIMES: You know, it doesn't surprise me coming from Senator Lee. But if that's the standard, let's just accept that as a standard, then I want to hear Senator Lee to apply precisely the same standard to Donald Trump, who famously said that Viktor Orban was the fabulous leader of Turkey. So I'm in politics and I'm a lot younger than either Donald Trump or
Joe Biden. I make mistakes from time to time. I say stupid things. And so, you know, again, I wish we could just, you know, not see the blatant hypocrisy that we're seeing here. Here's -- here's what we've got in November, an election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
Is Joe Biden of 44 year-old JFK? Of course, he's not, but he is a man with a heck of a record to run on.
HILL: There will be much more to talk about between now and November. Nice having the studio.
HIMES: Thanks for having me.
HILL: Up next, Trump's push to make over the RNC includes a man who claims there was massive fraud in cities like Detroit and Philadelphia in 2020.
Plus, learning in a war zone. We'll take you deep underground to the classrooms and Ukraine's subway system. All part of an effort to keep kids safe.
HILL: New tonight, audio uncovered by CNN's KFILE showing why Donald Trump may be zeroing in on a particular North Carolina Republican to take over the RNC. The current chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, is planning to step down. CNN learning Trump felt she didn't do enough to push his claims of voter fraud on the heels of the 2020 election. So, now, he's eyeing the chairman of North Carolina's Republican Party, who has said this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
WHATLEY: Regardless of how these lawsuits come out around the country where the presidential race, we do know that there was massive fraud that took place. We know that it took place in places like Milwaukee and Detroit, and Philadelphia.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HILL: So what we actually know if we look at facts is that there is no evidence of massive fraud when it comes to the lawsuits as well, that he mentioned. It's important to remember, Trump lost more than 60 cases that were filed.
OUTFRONT now is KFILE's Andrew Kaczynski.
So what else did you find in this report?
ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: Yeah, that's right. We felt that in the weeks after the 2020 election, he repeatedly promoted lies about election fraud, saying that these Democratic run cities were basically engaged in wide scale fraudulent activities. And I think it's important for people to remember the context in which
these comments were made. And people probably remember that Trump and his team were just throwing out false claim after false claim of fraud when this was going on and claiming that people were busing and ballots from New York and all sorts of other things.
I mean, one comment widely actually claims that Republican poll watchers weren't allowed to watch the votes of being counted. Now we know that is false and we actually, we know from those 60 lawsuits that you just mentioned and all of those recounts that there was no massive voter fraud that took place.
But this is something that he said time and again that there was, quote, as he said, massive fraud in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Detroit. He said they were engaging in egregious violations of election law in the cities. And because of this, he wanted the courts to overturn the results in those states, take the presidency or the victory in those states from the legitimately elected person, Joe Biden, and give it to Donald Trump.
Take a listen to his comments here.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
WHATLEY: We really is kind of a scary proposition to think that you're going to have a court overturn, you know, some of those results, but that's -- that's really the plan. And, you know, I get asked every single day by a reporter, you know, why you do you keep alleging that there's fraud out there? And it's like, you know, all you have to do is look at the stories that we're seeing out of Philadelphia, we're seeing out of the Detroit area, we're seeing out of Milwaukee, you know, egregious violations of election law. And there's no question why it puts these elections at risk.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HILL: It is something. You also found in your research and your reporting here, Michael Whatley actually backtracking on some of the comments that he made about January 6.
KACZYNSKI: That's right. So, immediately after the Capitol riot, he issued this tweet and I want -- I want people to look at it, because what's really interesting about this tweet is that we found that he actually deleted it. And now, we've seen Republicans who have walked back statements about January 6, we specifically asked him about this deleted tweeting and respond when we asked him about that, and then just a month after the Capitol riot, he went on local radio and he even suggested that January 6 was not done by Republicans.
Listen to him here.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
WHATLEY: Most of the people that have been arrested were not necessarily Republican voters. There certainly were Trump supporters in there. But we've also seen others, you know? And we're going to on an equivocally condemn those actions.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KACZYNSKI: So we did reach out to him. We asked him about a couple of things. We asked him about those -- about those deleted tweets. We asked them out those comments and he didn't respond to those, but he did give us a statement where he said there's no question that changes to the 2020 election process, which weaken safeguards on absentee and mail-in ballots in some states lead to this trust in by many across the country.
And I firmly believe and having proper safeguards in place to ensure that it is easier to vote and harder to cheat.
HILL: It'd be interesting to watch where this goes. Great reporting as always. Appreciate it. Thank you.
Up next here, kids near the front lines are now spending their days in makeshift classrooms deep underground, inside the Ukrainian subway system.
Plus, never before seen images of a North Korean labor camp where workers shoveled bodies like, quote, garbage.
HILL: Tonight, new video into OUTFRONT showing the utter destruction of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine. It's the current epicenter of the war. The city just devastated after months of intense fighting and all of this comes amid a major shakeup in Ukrainian military, a newly installed commander taking charge after President Zelenskyy fired the general who'd been leading the war effort from the start.
Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT following tonight, a group of children adapting to the realities of war.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Extra special braids is what six-year-old Elmira (ph) wants for school because simply going to school is special here in Kharkiv.
And it's dangerous, so dangerous, they had to move classes underground.
For many children here in Kharkiv, this is the reality of their school day. They go down into the subway because everywhere else in the city is simply unsafe.
The city built classrooms here. They call it the metro schools.
How were you this morning?
Here, we won't hear anything she says. Hear what? I asked. Bangs, she says.
Bangs happened nearly every day here in Kharkiv, Russia's army shelling the city, killing and wounding hundreds since the beginning of the invasion.
But down here, kids can be kids. The classrooms are soundproof locking out, not just the noise of the subway that's still running, but also the thunder of the war that has already affected these youngsters so much.
On my birthday for some reason, a war broke out. Elmira tells me. February 24, 2022, all Elmira wanted was to celebrate her fifth birthday. But Vladimir Putin's troops were already storming Kharkiv.
Firing from Russian territory towards the territory, I would say around Kharkiv. Reporting from the Russian side of the border, I saw the invasion firsthand.
On the receiving end, instead of the birthday party, Elmira and her friends had to go to the bomb shelter.
I even started crying. She tells me I thought it would be the end.
They try not to talk too much about the war in the subway school, but the children coming back here now have been scarred for life, the teacher says. They had the look of adults would already experienced hardships, she says, experienced the hard days and months of this war.
There are no regular functioning schools in Kharkiv, either the subway or online classes. And the city doesn't believe that will change soon. They're building bunker schools because children here wouldn't even have enough time to get to an air raid shelter, the mayor tells me.
The S-300 missiles reach Kharkiv in about 35 to 40 seconds, he says. Therefore, no air alarm can work. And the only way out is to build such underground facilities, real underground schools.
Back at the subway school, every day, a minute of silence for those killed by Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine.
But then the kids sing their national anthem, showing the Russians and their leader that no matter how many missiles they fire, Ukraine is growing stronger, brighter every day.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kharkiv, Ukraine.
HILL: Up next, North Korea welcoming its first tourists since the pandemic and it says a lot when you learn where they're from.
Plus, one of the most watched events of the year. And this year, it's more than just the bad blood between the Chiefs and the 49ers. It could bring in millions more viewers. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HILL: Tonight, 100 Russian tourists, you see the group there, they're touching down in North Korea actually believe to be the first tourist to enter the reclusive nation since the COVID-19 pandemic. Their arrival also underscores the deepening ties between the two countries, two countries, of course, at odds with the U.S.
And this comes, as we're also getting a rare look at life inside North Korea in a remarkable secretly recorded footage from the critically acclaimed documentary "Beyond Utopia".
Just take a look at these never before seen satellite images of a gulag and listen to the man who survived it, losing 91 pounds in the matter of just a few months there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): When the bodies decomposed, they fused together. You couldn't separate them. If you tried the arm, it just came off. The legs fell off and the head would just fall off. We had to shovel them onto a handcart like garbage and bury them in a hole in the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Also featured in the film, North Korea defector, Hyeonseo Lee.
Erin spoke with her and with the director Madeleine Gavin about this BAFTA nominated film.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: I am so grateful to be with both of you and to see you again, Hyeonseo.
Madeleine, let me start with you about this access. We just looked at that -- those satellite images. You were able to obtain those. No one has seen those before.
You've got videos of defectors leaving, you know, brokers on the China, North Korean border are working with them. You've got their actual escape. You've got video of police abusing North Korean defectors, Chinese police, that was presumably CCTV of some sort, but you are -- you were able to obtain it.
How did you get this access and footage?
MADELEINE GAVIN, AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Yeah. So, there's actually three different sources for what you've talked about. The satellite imagery of the gulags is from the Committee of Human Rights in North Korea, in Washington, D.C. And there was obviously a whole process involved in getting clearance for that satellite footage. In terms of the footage inside North Korea, including the torture
footage, but also just footage of people on this street --
GAVIN: Yeah, this -- yeah, this really this was during the research phase when I was researching the film and this is what drew me in to making me want to make this film because or feel like actually this film needed to be made because I was feeling the pulse of people inside North Korea seeing people inside North Korea living real lives. And there was a stark contrast between what I was seeing there and what we see in terms of what is actually allowed out of North Korea by the Kim regime.
You know, essentially, what we are able to see usually is what the Kim regime wants us to see. So finding this footage was like finding a treasure trove of horrific -- of a horrific reality. And, you know, and I realized there's 26 million people in that country, and we're really not hearing from them.
BURNETT: I mean, it is incredible because some of the footage, I mean, I'm looking at it going my goodness, right? And to your -- 26 million people and yet we don't see their lives.
I mean, Hyeonseo, you were a child in North Korea. Obviously, you lived there until you were 17. And I know when you defected, it had to be so secret, you couldn't even tell your mother. But in the film, Hyeonseo, you can see you talk about some of your childhood experiences and it's incredible. You talk about practicing for those mass games.
Now, some of those images are things that the Kim regime does want the world to see. All those children performing in unison. But here's how you described it, Hyeonseo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HYEONSEO LEE, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR: We usually practiced on the cement so kids were rolling on concrete for months. Some kids even broke their jaws when they fell on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Hyeonseo, these children, as you point out, were as young as five-years-old, you talk about how school was canceled because children needed witness executions. You saw one when you were seven years old. Now you have Kim telling women in North Korea to have more children, that there's a real issue with the birth rate.
Do you believe the hesitancy that women there have in having children comes from any of this, comes from them seeing the suffering of their own children and their own experiences?
LEE: First of all, the babies -- I mean, they're for born -- the babies die rate is super higher than the other countries. And also because of the starvation or lack of food, everything. People -- women don't want to marry, or they don't want to have kids.
BURNETT: I mean, Madeleine, North Koreans as among the many things they're taught. Hyeonseo, you know, referring to, right, the ignorance, right. They're taught certain things are not exposed to other ideas. It's a psychological study of what -- what could happen to any group of humans, right?
And yet, they're taught from an early age, for example, that Americans are evil. Some of the propaganda that North Koreans grew up with, and, Hyeonseo grew up with, you know, there's these -- these images North Americans are going to kill you, right?
In the film, you interview a woman. This really stood out to me, 80- year-old grandma mother. So she fled from North Korea.
She defected with her family, but what was amazing as she made it very clear she fled because her family fled, and she felt that she would be targeted if she stayed.
So, her reason was pragmatic. It was not political, it was not, you know, on principle. And she said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): Do you still think North Korea is the best?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): How -- how should I respond?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): How should -- you can say whatever you feel. If it's bad, it's bad. If it's good, it's good. Nothing was bad.
Okay, then talk about that. Don't look at me when you talk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): I believe Marshal Kim Jong Un is really at a young age, trying very hard to support so many people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): Wait, mom. Mom. Don't lie. When did Kim Jong Un ever give you rice to eat? Just say it like it is. When did you eat rice? Don't lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That's incredible.
GAVIN: Yeah. I mean, it was so amazing to spend time and get to know the royal family along the way and to watch the sort of what I call the unpeeling of an onion. You know, of, for instance, grandma, who for 80 years had believed in her bones, in her blood.
I mean, she believed wholeheartedly in the Kim regime. She was -- she has had tremendous guilt toward Kim Jong Un. She was extremely angry at defectors for abandoning him and to watch her kind of grapple with what she's known to be true versus what she was experiencing and how she would kind of go back and forth and this dielectric within herself.
But, yeah, she defected only because she felt she had to. She had no choice. Her daughter was going. I mean, the family was going to banished, so they would not have survived if they had stayed in North Korea.
But nevertheless, if she thought she could have stayed on her own and made it, she would have.
BURNETT: She would have.
Hyeonseo, when you and I met in Seoul in 2015, you didn't want the cameras to show where we lived because you were afraid that North Korean agents would find you. And at that point, you hadn't lived there for many years.
But one of the things, Hyeonseo, that I have never forgotten about our conversation, then is that you told me that if you had and do it all over again, because of all of the difficulty that you faced after leaving North Korea, that you would have stayed. And now that you have done this film, and you see everything there, you see others who have laughed and you have lived now another nine years of your own life, do you still feel that way?
LEE: Yeah. You know, on the outside, I might know more, but on the inside, still I'm suffering from enormous pain because I left my relatives and friends and I had to be separated from my family for 14 years and 17 -- left behind 17 years of memories. So, still the pain stays with me wherever I go. That's why I was going to Internet and a community to raise awareness of our issues. So at the end, many people, if know about these issues, we have the power to end this modern day tragedy.
BURNETT: Hyeonseo, thank you so very much.
And thank you very much, Madeleine, as well. I hope everyone will see "Beyond Utopia".
GAVIN: Thank you
LEE: Thank you.
HILL: Up next, is the countdown to Super Bowl Sunday or -- I mean, let's be honest, this year, isn't it really Swifty Sunday?
BURNETT: Tonight, are you ready for it? The Super Bowl is, of course, the biggest night in sports, but with
Taylor Swift expected to touch down in time to cheer on her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, it's a pretty safe bet there will be almost as much attention on the pop star as there is on the game.
Nick Watt is OUTFRONT.
PATRICK MAHOMES, QUARTERBACK, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: The anti-hero song. I mean that, that ones pretty sweet. So I would say that, but --
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Super Bowl star quarterback days before the big game, answering questions about which of a teammate's girlfriend's songs he'd like the most.
MAHOMES: I do love "Love Story". I mean, it gets me every single time.
WATT: More than 100 men will be on the field Sunday eclipsed, perhaps by one woman in the stands.
Here is Taylor Swift and the NFL by the numbers. The Chiefs won nine of the 12 games she attended this season, you can now bet on what color shirt she'll wear Sunday. Red is favorite. She's reportedly added over $300 million in brand value to her boyfriend's team, the Chiefs and the NFL.
REPORTER: What do you say to those who think it's all scripted by the NFL?
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: I don't think I'm that good of scripter.
WATT: To the Jets/Chiefs game October 1st, she brought along 2 million new female TV viewers. The director reportedly cut to her 17 times.
"New York Times", all the news that's fit to print, took a deep dive on that stat. How often is Taylor Swift actually shown at NFL games? They are conclusion, less than many seem to think.
Still, right-wing TV talking heads are getting their boxers very bunched.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, around four years ago, the Pentagon psychological operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset during a NATO meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Build them up, build them up, build them up, and then at the moment of truth, they're going to endorse Biden
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1949, George Orwell had a vision of the future.
WATT: As Orwell predicted our surveillance age, as Caravaggio predicated our narcissistic selfie obsessions, so Swift predicted falling in love with a football player.
In 2008, "You Belong With Me".
WATT: Whether she'll make it in time from a concert in Tokyo to the Super Bowl in Vegas has generated acres of copy, infographics, even an assurance from the Japanese embassy.
Is it only the 49ers quarterback who just doesn't care?
BROCK PURDY, QUARTERBACK, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Obviously, our defense is going against Pat Mahomes and there are great offense, so that's all we're looking at it. We don't -- we're not trying to get wrapped up in us against Taylor Swift or anything like that. So --
REPORTER: Do you have a favorite Taylor Swift song?
PURDY: I don't.
WATT: Perhaps Brock Purdy doth protest too much
WATT: Now, more than 100 million people will watch Sunday and its worth remembering that right at the center of all this razzmatazz and the hullabaloo, just a young couple of kids in love, getting to know each other's professions.
WATT: As Taylor Swift told "Time Magazine", football is awesome. It turns out, I'm just there to support Travis.
There. I did it. I said Travis for the first time in this entire report.
HILL: That was impressive. Can I just say for the record once again? I love a Nick Watt story any night. This was especially fantastic. Thank you, my friend.
Thanks all of you for joining us.
WATT: Thank you.
HILL: "AC360" starts right now.