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Erin Burnett Outfront

DOJ Makes New Push In Trump Case For Verdict Before Election; Biden & Trump Hold Dueling Border Events In Texas; 112 Killed As They Lined Up For Food: Gaza Health Ministry; Iranian Official To CNN: U.S. And Iran Closer To Direct Conflict. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 29, 2024 - 19:00   ET




The breaking news, the special counsel Jack Smith demanding a new trial date for Trump in the classified documents case, trying to make sure the case goes to trial before the election. Could Trump be convicted before November?

Plus, a Texas duel. Biden and Trump both on the border, speaking minutes apart. Trump stoking fears. Biden saying, let's work together. Who has the winning message?

And new pictures tonight of the 33-year-old American ballerina being held in Russia on treason charges. The court today rejecting her appeal. I'll speak to her boyfriend who has just received a letter from her.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight: the breaking news, the Justice Department's new push to try Trump before the election just moments ago, the special counsel, Jack Smith, filing a motion to start his classified documents case against Trump on July 8th.

Now that could mean a trial and a verdict before Election Day. Basically, it appears that Smith wants to move forward with the documents case as quickly as possible after suffering a major setback from the Supreme Court on his January 6 case against Trump.

Now, Trump and his team is, you know, for their part using now they're trying time tested strategy of delay, delay, delay. They've just filed a motion just moments ago, and it reads in part, a fair trial cannot be held until after the 2024 presidential election is concluded. That is the entirety of Trumps strategy in these cases, push everything until after the election.

That way, if he wins in November, you can appoint an attorney general who can toss these federal cases out.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT live in Washington. So, Evan, what does this new move by Jack Smith mean for Trump?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, what you're seeing is prosecutors trying to find a way to box out the former president and his legal team because as you -- as you noted, what they're trying to do is delay this to the point where it makes it impossible for Tanya Chutkan and the D.C. trial to find room on the calendar. They know that obviously, given the fact that this that the that the immunity question is now before the Supreme Court, we anticipate that what they're going to do is look for something that will make sure that that the D.C. judge doesn't have room on the calendar between now and November to schedule a new trial.

And so what Jack Smith is doing here in making this request is trying to at least have the judge in Florida put a -- put on the calendar a date of July 8th. Now, we don't know whether shell go for this. There are a lot of complicated issues because this has to do with classified information.

Aileen Cannon, the judge, there has pretty much been helpful with the former president and his legal strategy, so we don't know where she's going to go. But you also see this in another ruling in another filing today from the special counsel, one of the things that they raised in a filing today, Erin, is that they want to ask jurors about whether they believe the 2020 election was stolen. It's something that obviously the Trump team is opposing, but that's an interesting thing for them to bring up.

This, of course, is a case now being going to be heard in Fort Pierce which is the Trumpiest part of the southern district of Florida. That's where the judge overseeing this case, Aileen Cannon. That's where she says so you can see the legal maneuvering that is going on between the special counsel and the Trump team. Some of this, of course, is going to come to ahead tomorrow, Erin, when the two sides are before Judge Cannon for a hearing that's going to go all day.

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

I'll take that the DOJ is looking at the exit polls. We've seen in each of the states, right? And when you look at how people are voting and do you believe the election is stolen? The numbers have an absolutely stunning among voters coming out, voters saying that they believe it was stolen.

All right. OUTFRONT now, Ryan Goodman, our OUTFRONT legal expert, and Ben Ginsberg, longtime Republican election lawyer.

So, Ryan, you know, you've been talking about Trump's legal calendar here day in and day out as each machination has occurred, can you lay out what it looks like if Jack Smith gets his way and gets this July 8th start?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: So if Jack Smith gets a July 8th start, we do probably get a verdict before the election.


And so, there are two routes. One is based on Jack Smith's own estimation, you'd probably get the end of trial around August 19. Trump's estimation is its going to take a longer period of time for the trial so that you get a verdict in the end of trial around September 16th, but both of those are well before the election.

BURNETT: Both of those are well before the election.

GOODMAN: That's right. So that's why the July 8 and whether or not the Judge Cannon goes with the Justice Department, it's key to that outcome.

BURNETT: So, Ben, it doesn't -- I mean, do you think there's any coincidence that Smith makes this move a day after the Supreme Court said it would hear arguments on Trump's immunity while he is in office and they said that they're going to take that up and that means that likely will not get a verdict by election day in any scenario.

BEN GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN ELECTION LAWYER: It does mean that. It means the Florida case is the one that can move forward the quickest. I don't think it's an accident, but I think this hearing has long been scheduled for Friday. It was going to involve dates.

It's significant he's moving get back to July 8 just a week before the Republican convention.

BURNETT: Oh, that's interesting and important to point out as well.

All right. So Ryan, here's the thing though. Trumps doing his usual, right, we'll do it until after the election. But you actually think that he may be better off with an earlier trial in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case. How come -- how come?

GOODMAN: So, kind of as Evan said that this is a very Trump friendly territory for him. And I think -- yeah, and it's -- basically, it's an open and shut case as a legal matter, but I think what's going to -- his best defense is jury nullification. That one of the jurors are more say, I'm not even going to convict this person even though the law and the facts say I should.

I think that he would actually stand a much better chance of that happening while he is the front runner, the nominee for the GOP before the election. Were he to lose the election, I think that jury nullification option goes down by a lot.

BURNETT: And that's a significant point, people may not -- may not realize that the nullification issue could even be out there.

So, Ben Trump has repeatedly tried but to argue that even having to be in a courtroom for trial is election interference, right? He said that all these cases are election interference by the fact that they even exist. Here's just a couple of examples.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I go to a lot of courthouses because of Biden because I using that for election interference.

Instead of being South Carolina and other states campaigning, I'm stuck here to an election interference case. That nobody's ever seen anything like it. This judge is a disgrace.


BURNETT: Obviously, Ben, I should point out, you know, he was there by choice and that case. But multiple judges have rejected the claim, right? The point that he's making.

Do you have any worries though, Ben, of how it may look to voters the closer we get to Election Day?

GINSBERG: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, what Donald Trump has shown is that this can become a prime ingredient of his campaign. That he can play the victim. And there is a certain element that shows up in the polling that says people, even independent voters are sympathetic to the fact that his political opponents are putting them on trial so close to the election.

So this is a fraught moment really for the way the campaign plays out, for the democracy generally.

BURNETT: So, Ryan, do you think that Jack Smith at this point has accepted. I mean, I guess, you know, he's got to be realistic about it that obviously the Mar-a-Lago is the only one that he could get a verdict in, given that the Supreme Court is going to hear the immunity issue, even presuming that they rule that he is not immune that he can be criminally charged. There's -- there's no verdict in that coming in the January 6 case.

GOODMAN: I think he probably thinks it's a very low likelihood that there's a verdict coming, so it's better to put the eggs in the Florida basket.

There's still a chance that he could get a verdict in January 6, so that if that gets put back on the rails, but that's unlikely. And I think the only way in which it really happens is it gets handed back to him greenlight to the trial court, and then he decides to slim down the case, not charge all of it, in order to get a much shorter trial period and a much shorter pretrial period, but that's a long-shot bid. That's why I think he's going for Florida.

BURNETT: I do want ask you one other thing here and then get bens reaction and that is just on what actually happened behind the scenes at the Supreme Court. It doesn't seem -- from a lay person's perspective that if Jack Smith comes to you in December and says, hey, what did you hear this immunity issue. So let's get it taken care of Supreme Court.

Supreme Court goes, no, we'll well send it to another court, implying let them decide. And then they decide and the Supreme Court takes three weeks to decide whether it will weigh in or not, all this time passing that didn't need to pass. Does it indicate some sort of real tension on the court?

GOODMAN: Oh, absolutely. I think that they must be internal dissent in the court in that sense, Trump does have, in all likelihood, four justices that have said, okay, we'll take -- we're actually going to take this case. We're not going to let it go back to the courts below, and that we're going to take it and you can take two months to brief the case as well.

So it doesn't seem as though they're in any major hurry, even though April, to some extent, as an expedited schedule for them.


GOODMAN: It's not according to what this is all really about.

BURNETT: And I understand the way the court works is fair to point that out, right, that that is a fast move.


But nonetheless, waiting the three weeks, Ben, they could have decided in December, what do you think is happening on the court?

GINSBERG: It could have. Well, I think there's obviously some dissension in the court about how quickly to move on this. And it's important to put this into big context. None of the silver bullets that have been shot at Donald Trump, whether it's impeachment or the Russia gate, or now any of the prosecutions or the 14th Amendment case is likely to strike home before the election.

So the fate of Donald Trump and his actions are now going to be judged by the voters and in a real sense, if you're looking at the institutional design of the democracy, that's where this should rest. with the voters, until the Supreme Court for whatever their reasons, has contributed to putting the verdict on Donald Trump at the ballot box as opposed to the courtroom.

BURNETT: Ryan, is it safe to say with this news that we have tonight, right, Trump trying to delay the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case until after the election, Jack Smith requesting a July 8 start date that would get him a verdict, by election day easily, it's the riskier path, given that the ruling so far from that, judge have obviously gone in Trump's favor and given the jury pool?

GOODMAN: It is risky and it's also risky because the judge can administer the trial however she wants. There's a lot of discretion there. However, but a lot of discretion.


GOODMAN: There's even a little bit of a wildcard. She could even issue a direct verdict after the prosecution presents their case and say there's no -- not enough case here and that's actually not reviewable. They're just many ways -- BURNETT: That's not reviewable.

GOODMAN: It's a very unusual, in a certain sense. It's a surprise to some lawyers. It's not reviewable. So that's why some people have suggested she should have been recused because you shouldn't -- this person should not have that much control given how many times she seems to favored Donald Trump. And very unusual --

BURNETT: So, wouldn't go to a jury and there's no appeals process.


BURNETT: Wow. Ben, does that surprise you?

GINSBERG: Well, I mean, I knew this existed, but Ryan says it exactly right. It is -- it is a fraught strategy which again is why that none of this is likely to come to pass before the election, takes on such significance in the camp campaign. Meaning, in a way, you've taken away the factor that Donald Trump is based in his campaign on, which is he's a victim.

So this is a different political reality where all of a sudden going to need to deal with.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Ben Ryan, thank you both very much.

And next, Biden and Trump, facing off tonight over the border in Texas in the same place at the same time for the first time this election. And the difference between them was stark.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're coming from insane asylums and they're terrorists.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To pass his bipartisan border security bill, we can do it together.


BURNETT: Plus, a horrific scene in Gaza. More than 100 people dead, hundreds more injured after a deadly crush of people in line for food. What happened?

And an OUTFRONT exclusive, I'll speak with Congressman Tom Suozzi, who won one of the most closely watched elections flipping George Santos' seat. What can Democrats learn from his victory?



BURNETT: Tonight, Trump and Biden in their first direct face off of the election, on the issue that ranks number one for voters, immigration and, wow, it was two totally different universes today

Trump was talking about jails being emptied in South America and in Africa.


TRUMP: They're coming from jails and they're coming from prisons and they're coming from mental institutions. And they're coming from insane asylums and they are terrorists. They're being led into our country.


BURNETT: That's just a little taste. There were 30 minutes of comments like those. Again and again and again as he upped the ante, he blamed the crisis on Joe Biden.


TRUMP: But this is a Joe Biden invasion. This is a Biden invasion over the past three years. The United States is being overrun by the Biden migrant crime. It's a new form of vicious violation to our country. It's migrant crime. We got Biden migrant crime.


BURNETT: Meanwhile, Biden, who made his first trip to the border in more than a year, struck a totally different tone.


BIDEN: Here's what I would say to Mr. Trump, instead of playing politics with the issue, instead of telling members of Congress to block this legislation, join me or I'll join you in telling the Congress to pass this bipartisan border security bill. We can do it together.


BURNETT: Totally different universes.

The bill, of course, that Biden is referring to never made it out of the Senate blocked because Donald Trump thought it was bad for himself and Republicans politically.

Rosa Flores is OUTFRONT in Eagle Pass, Texas, tonight.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eagle Pass resident Embiquita Diaz (ph) couldn't be more pleased with the dueling border appearances for both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.


FLORES: That's your reaction?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes! FLORES: She says she's voting for Trump this election.


FLORES: And hopes the former president's visit to her hometown sends a much needed message.

TRUMP: Texas is very secure.

FLORES: Eagle Pass is where Texas Governor Greg Abbott deployed the controversial border buoys and took over a public park by putting up razor wire, guarding it with armed Texas National Guard soldiers and kicking out Border Patrol. It's the park Trump toured and where he was briefed by Texas authorities.

TRUMP: The United States is being overrun by the Biden migrant crime. It's a new form of vicious violation to our country. It's migrant crime.

FLORES: Some Eagle Pass residents gathered in protest asking that Trump leave their town.

JESSIE FUENTES, EAGLE PASS BORDER COALITION: The hate that you spew (ph) today. You're not welcome in this community.

FLORES: Several hundred miles downriver, President Joe Biden in Brownsville today. Biden meeting with border patrol agents, law enforcement, and local leaders as he pushes for a bipartisan immigration deal.

BIDEN: It's time to step up, provide them with significantly more personnel and capability. We also need more immigration judges.

FLORES: The last time a Biden visited the Brownsville area, it was election season 2019. At the time, Jill Biden visited a migrant camp across the border in Matamoros, Mexico, as her husband promised humane border policies.

Some in Brownsville took to the streets today to remind them of those promises. Biden's job on the border could get exponentially more complicated. The plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit are asking a judge to rule that migrant children and their families we have just crossed the border into southern California and are waiting and makeshift camps to be transported for immigration processing are actually in federal custody.

Attorney Neha Desai (ph) says the conditions are deplorable. Some migrant children have waited outside for days in the cold with no food.

NEHA DESAI, ATTORNEY: Children have had no choice, but the take refuge in overflowing port-a-potties to sleep in tarps littered with trash, all to just avoid the freezing rain.

CNN reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for comment. Back in Eagle Pass, Diaz, the hardcore Trump supporter -- tell me how you really feel about it -- says that like Trump, Biden is also politicking on the border.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't like his policies, but I respect him. It's an honor to have the president of United States visit your community. I don't care what party you are.


FLORES (on camera): And the irony of all of this is that neither President Biden or former President Trump actually visited the busiest part of the border where the most migrant apprehensions are happening right now. That's actually happening in another state, in the state of Arizona.

And, Erin, you saw a glimpse of this in our story, but this border battle between the United States and the state of Texas is really changing this community, the community where I am here in Eagle Pass, Texas, and I don't mean just physically with all the razor wire around the public park and the a golf course. And you can hear a military helicopter right now behind me, perhaps.

I mean, the community, the people, it's dividing the people of this community along lines that were invisible before all of this started -- Erin.

BURNETT: Rosa, thank you very much, who has spent so much time reporting on the story for us.

And now, the Laredo, Texas, Mayor Victor Trevino. He met with President Biden during his border visit today. Laredo, of course, sits between Eagle Pass and Brownsville, which is where Trump and Biden were.

Mayor, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much. So you had a chance to be with the president today. Did he say anything to you that gave you any hope that there will be any relief, that he is planning any imminent executive action?

MAYOR VICTOR TREVINO, LAREDO, TEXAS: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I think it was -- his visit in Brownsville, here on the border, was very productive. It was an effort to get dialogue solutions to problems, decades of problems of border problems, border situations and border challenges.

Now, one of the things that is important as we, as mayors, border mayors were present, is that we need to give the reality and a perspective of what we have here, we live and work there, rather than having perspective from other places.

We also need to change the narrative because the only news that we have, most of the news is that we're a warzone down here and it's not so.

Laredo, Texas, is the major port of the United States, the number one port with over $300 billion worth of merchandise coming in on a yearly basis. And we have to be cognizant of that.

Also, Laredo formula works. We are an area where the -- we have the least migrants crossings, and it's one of the safest cities in the United States.

BURNETT: And that is important to say in the context, of course, of what the foreign president is saying about crime.

Now, obviously, Trump was the reason the bipartisan congressional deal on the border did not pass in the Senate. Of course, President Biden could take executive action, but nonetheless, Trump, you know, really put the nail on the coffin on that bill.


He was at the border today and he did say something else that I wanted to play again for you, Mayor.


TRUMP: These are, the people that are coming into our country and they're coming from jails and that coming from prisons and they're coming from mental institutions. And they're coming from insane asylums. And they're terrorists, they're being let into our country, and it's horrible.


BURNETT: Mayor, is this what you're seeing?

TREVINO: Well, everybody has a right to an opinion and these are opinion we have to have ability to be cognizant of what the facts are. But we don't see what he's saying. I mean, this -- this is not the reality.

We live and work here. I'm born and raised in Laredo all my life. And I know that this is not the facts. So, this is something that you have to be here, live here and worked with to know and understand what -- what goes on here. That was a message that we're giving President Biden. He needs to find out from us that live and work here, and the border mayors, given perspective of that.

BURNETT: Mayor Trevino, thank you very much. I appreciate your time

TREVINO: Thank you. Appreciate it.

BURNETT: All right. And Harry Enten joins me now to go beyond the numbers.

So, Harry, you've got Biden and Trump both at the border. There at the border because it is the number one issue, according to every poll to voters by far. So, this issue is being felt across the United States though, right? It's not a Texas issue. It's not an Arizona issue, which is where the crossings are right now.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: No, it's not. You know, if you look at the immigration cases that are filed in immigration court, right, what you see is look, it's up all over the place where the migrants are going. But we're really seeing the increase is actually in the blue states, not just in the red states.

You know, back in 2019 and Florida and Texas, the numbers there were more than numbers California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, very blue states. But you jump forward to 2023, where have the increase has really come from, really come from the blue states. Look at that, 525,000 cases, new immigration court cases filed in those blue states versus just a little bit more than 400,000 in those red states.

This is the major thing that has changed over the land just four years, which it used to really be a border problem. It used to really be a red state problem. Its now gone beyond the border into a lot of northern states that aren't anywhere near the border, Erin.

BURNETT: It's incredible when you think about that, just by those numbers of known court, court cases -- known cases.


BURNETT: Nine hundred and twenty-seven thousand in one year. Think what that the system simply can't handle that, as structured down.

New York City, epicenter for the migrant crisis. We live here, we see it. The state of the most migrant arrivals per capital last year, one per every 100 people. So, that's 84,000 known migrants that have come to New York City.

Put that in perspective.

ENTEN: Yeah. You know, put it in perspective. Look at New York City's budget, right? How much has Eric Adam's budget saying that were going to spend on asylum seekers this year, $2.3 billion.

BURNETT: More than the fire department.

ENTEN: At this particular point, it looks like more than the Fire Department at $2.2 billion. So this I think is why you're seeing all those protests going on in New York City, especially actually in Staten Island. You're seeing these budget figures and they line up with the way that people are feeling.

BURNETT: Well, and I think that shows something right there, that crosses all party lines.

ENTEN: You got it.

BURNETT: Very far at -- hard-pressed to find anybody who's going to say that's the way it should be.

All right. Harry, thank you very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: Appreciate it. And next more than 100 people killed while waiting for aid in Gaza, as

Palestinian officials say, the death toll there is now surpassed 30,000 people.

Plus, an OUTFRONT exclusive. I'm going to speak with the Congressman Tom Suozzi to just flipped George Santos seat. Can Democrats follow in his footsteps in November?



BURNETT: Tonight, horror in Gaza. At least 112 people reported killed, more than 700 more wounded, following a stampede at a food distribution site in northern Gaza. Eyewitnesses say the stampede was triggered after Israeli forces opened fire. The Israeli military disputes that saying tanks fired warning shots to cautiously, they say, that's their word. Disperse the crowd after seeing people trampled.

It comes as the Palestinian ministry of health says the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 30,000 people.

Jeremy Diamond is OUTFRONT. I do warn our viewers in this piece some of what you may see is disturbing.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT 9voice-over): Around 4:00 in the morning, thousands of Palestinians are already camped out by the coastal road in western Gaza City. Humanitarian aid trucks are reportedly on route.

A rarity in northern Gaza where hundreds of thousands are now on the brink of famine. As the convoy passes and Israeli military checkpoint and enters Gaza City, hundreds desperate for food swarm the trucks as seen in this drone video release by the Israeli military.

Many climb onto the trucks grabbing what they can, when suddenly --


The Israeli military opens fire, killing, and wounding about 20 people in the crowd according to local journalist Hadir Al-Zaanon (ph), who was on the scene.


Pandemonium ensues as people run away. Eyewitnesses say the truck drivers speed off, killing dozens more people. The Palestinian ministry of health says at least 104 people were killed altogether, and more than 700 injured.

CNN is unable to independently confirm those numbers.

The Israeli military acknowledges its troops shot people near the convoy, but says the gunfire was unrelated and came after people were already the killed in a stampede.


LT. COL. PETER LERNER, IDF SPOKESPERSON: In a second event, in a short distance away, we also had a group of people that approached the military forces in a warzone. The forces opened fire in the air to distance them, wanting fire in order to get people out of harms way. Unfortunately, they proceeded to advance and indeed their perceived threat and the forces opened fire.

Of course, I will say were continuing to investigate, continuing to inquire and after actions, activities.

DIAMOND: That account contradicted by eyewitnesses who say Israeli gunfire triggered the mass panic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Our children died of hunger. They went to get a bag of flour in order to feed their children. Some will run over, others were shot. So they send us the aid. So the Israelis can keep shooting at our children.

This is wrong. This is not right. This is not right.

DIAMOND: The latest victims killed on a day when the death toll in Gaza surpassed 30,000. According the Palestinian ministry of health, a majority of whom are women and children.

More may soon die of starvation, as the World Food Program warns that more than half 1 million Gazans are on the brink of famine.

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI, UNRWA COMMISSIONER GENERAL: We are talking about a man-made famine because we have a kind of a total blockage for the people weren't living in the north. There is not even enough of animal food, animal fodder for people to eat or to do bread with animal fodder.

DIAMOND: That desperation brought Tamar Atta Al-Shanbari (ph) to that coastal road early Thursday morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He went to get a bit of bread, a but I had you been able to ask is he went to get bread, a bag of flour for his family, displaced that the schools in Jabalia camp.

DIAMOND: Now, he lies dead, killed while trying to survive.


DIAMOND (on camera): And, Erin, the critical backdrop to all of this, of course, are those ongoing negotiations to secure a temporary ceasefire in Gaza and make no mistake, that ceasefire clearly is more essential than ever in order to get that humanitarian aid into Gaza, it is because so few humanitarian aid trucks have been able to make their way into northern Gaza that we saw this situation unfold the way it did. But this incident today, as much as it highlights that need, it also could impact those negotiations and President Biden tonight saying that he believes that it will complicate those negotiations going forward -- Erin.

BURNETT: Jeremy, thank you very much, live from Tel Aviv.

And OUTFRONT now, the Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi of New York. This is his first national TV interview since he was sworn in to replace the disgraced Republican Congressman George Santos.

Congressman, a lot to speak with you about tonight and thank you so much for being here in your, of course, home state.

You call yourself an unequivocal supporter of Israel. Obviously, that's a hard report to watch as we tried to understand what happened. More than 100 people killed today at that humanitarian side. A guy going to get flour and he's dead.

When you see that, does that give you pause in support for what Israel's doing?

REP. TOM SOUZZI (D-NY): Well, I'm going to always remain unequivocally supportive of Israel. Of course, you'd have to be inhuman to not see pictures like that and not be moved by it. There's tremendous suffering going on.

I went to Israel in December and went to Gaza, went to the Gaza envelope and saw the attacks on the kibbutzes. I saw so much carnage. It was just -- it was awful.

I think everybody would love to see a ceasefire. Hamas should surrender their weapons, release the hostages and we can try and talk about a path forward. We need to have some sort of negotiated settlement whereby we know that Hamas is disarmed.

Hamas is not some loose confederation of desert soldiers. They are sophisticated, disciplined terror army whose mission is to destroy Israel and kill Jews. That's their mission.

BURNETT: So, you know, sources tell CNN and I've heard from people who have seen this, President Biden's very frustrated with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and how he's choosing to handle this right now. He feels that Netanyahu has been ignoring him and obstructing humanitarian efforts in Gaza.

And Biden is actually let some of that frustration congressman, show in public, saying that the actions of Israel are over-the-top and his words and he also said this.


BIDEN: There are a lot of innocent people are starving. A lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying. And it's got to stop.


BURNETT: Netanyahu so far does not appear to be heeding that. Is there more Biden needs to do? SOUZZI: I think that the president is working really more behind the

scenes to try and build a coalition with the Sunni Arab states so that the Sunni Arab states and Israel and the Western world can work together are there as a bulwark against Iran to not only rebuild Gaza, but to prevent Iran from continuing its malicious activities throughout the world, really not just the region, but throughout the world.


Now, this is -- this is really hard stuff. It's painful. It's difficult. It's awful, but we can't forget that it was precipitated by going in and killing a bunch of innocent people in gruesome ways. And, you know, Hamas -- I did a bill back in 2018, a bipartisan bill with, Mike Gallagher, who's now leaving Congress, unfortunately, very talented Republican called the Human Shields Act, where for Hamas literally uses civilians to protect their armaments, to protect their troops.

BURNETT: Yeah. So, all right. You mentioned Gallagher, and that leads me to the question here. Obviously, you were -- you won and flip the district, George Santos's district. Other Democrats and you've got people like Gallagher leading Ken Buck. You've got people who may be in vulnerable districts, Republicans leaving, opening the possibility for Democrats to pick up seats in November.

This issue that we're talking about though, is front center for a lot of Democrats, certainly in Michigan. And you see it in a lot of communities. We won't see the Israel issue the way that you're laying it out.

When you came in today and you gave your speech about coming into Congress, what do you say to other Democrats who want to try to flip those seats in the environment we're in right now?

SOUZZI: You have to talk to the people about what the people are concerned about? What are people concerned about? They're concern about the chaos at the border. They're concerned about the cost of living and they're concerned about the dysfunction that exists in Congress. A lot of the problems we have in our country are not being addressed because all anybody does yell and scream at each other.

These are every issue we face is complicated. And you can't solve a complicated problem in an environment of fear and anger. You need people to sit down and talk to each other and try to find common ground. It can't be that everybody is just, you know, you're no good, no, you're no good, you know, a tweet, a speech, a press release, and got to build goodwill between people and trying to work together to solve problems.

BURNETT: Congressman Suozzi, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

And OUTFRONT next, Putin make some of his most alarming comments to date about using nuclear weapons, today, actually warning of the destruction of civilization. Plus, a new picture of the thirty-three-year-old American who is now being held in Russia for allegedly donating $50 to a Ukrainian charity. Her boyfriend has just received a letter from her and he joins me next.



BURNETT: New tonight, Putin threatening nuclear war in his most specific and darkest remarks yet.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): They must ultimately understand that we also have weapons and they know about it. Just as I said, we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory. All of this really threatens conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and therefore, the destruction of civilization. Don't they understand this?


BURNETT: They, the west, but as Putin ramps up, those threats directed to the United States, as we are just getting in a new image of a 33 American ballerina jailed on treason charges in Russia. The court rejecting her appeal today. She appeared by video.

Ksenia Karelina traveled to Russia from Los Angeles to visit her family in January. Then she was detained for allegedly donating $51 to a Ukrainian charity when she was in the U.S.

OUTFRONT now, Ksenia's boyfriend Chris Van Heerden. He was on the show last week after Russia first announced her arrest.

And this is I know, Chris, your first interview since her court hearing today.

So you saw her and I'm so sorry for what you're going through and what that must have felt like. But you did see her today in this photo appearing by video. She's behind bars. I know its the first image you've seen of her since she was detained in January.

What do you see here in her face and gosh, what even goes through your mind looking at this, Chris?

CHRIS VAN HEERDEN, BOYFRIEND OF U.S.-RUSSIAN CITIZEN ARRESTED IN RUSSIA: It's -- it's painful to see this knowing who this woman is (INAUDIBLE). I see helpless, I see someone that's crying for help, hopeless. Someone is -- that's afraid, that's what I see.

BURNETT: I know that you were able to get another letter from Ksenia and that she was just now, he will have a brief phone call with her mother. What is she telling you that you can share?

VAN HEERDEN: In this letter, she just gives me more an idea of what a day looks like in her life right now, because I've asked her to share that with me and she would just explain to me that she's got to be up at 6:00 a.m. in the morning. There are lights out. No, she's got to go to bed at 10:00 at night, because they're not putting the lights out. So, she has trouble sleeping.

She's explained to me that she's a aesthetician, full-time esthetician show. She takes care of herself and messy eyebrows bothers her a lot. So she's telling me in the letter that, you know, I got to take care of my eyebrows. So, she's using a spoon to see a reflection and she's fixing her eyebrows with the spoon. Now, to read this breaks my heart, but it still shows me that is very strong minded. It gives me a little bit of hope that she's strong-minded.

She also explains to me that they get to go outside once a day, but it's cold outside, and they go to the roof and -- but when you go outside, you got to stay at the wall, and not allowed to make contact. Well speak to no one.

Reading this is painful. There's only cold water and she's a esthetician, says is making a joke as is telling me like this is my dream because cold water is good for your face. But I'm actually find -- she's finding humor in all this. It just breaks my heart because if you know Ksenia, she's -- she's alive.


She's so much joy, so much happiness.

BURNETT: It's just unbelievable. I know that, you know, the court extended the time she's going to be in custody now. So now, it's at least April, she's awaiting a trial, and, of course, Chris, it's painful to hear it, but you know, the reality we've seen this with other Americans jailed in Russia.

I mean, Evan Gershkovich from "The Wall Street Journal", appeal after appeal just gets rejected and he's been there now 11 months. Ksenia was detained for allegedly donating $51 to charity for Ukraine when she was in the U.S. I mean, what are you -- what are you hearing from anyone? U.S. State Department, anybody about --


BURNETT: Go ahead.

VAN HEERDEN: I'm contact with the U.S. State Department and everyone is reassuring me that they are trying their very best to get close to Ksenia. So, unsuccessful full but they're not giving up.

Yeah, you just listen to all of this, $51, like it blows my mind.

BURNETT: It blows anybody's mind. Well, I know that she is I'm sure if aware, and so grateful for what you're doing here, to try to make sure that the world understands what she's going through now.

VAN HEERDEN: Yeah. We have -- we have -- we have a long battle ahead of us. I know that. So I've created a GoFundMe page for and just fighting for this.

BURNETT: Chris, thank you so much. Talk soon.

VAN HEERDEN: Thank you

BURNETT: Chris Van Heerden.

And next, we're going to take you to Iran, where a key official tells CNN that Tehran is now closer than ever to direct conflict with the United States.

And Oprah Winfrey parting ways with Weightwatchers after revealing that she has lost a lot of pounds with weight-loss drugs..



BURNETT: Tonight, Iran saying it's closer than ever to direct conflict with the United States. And as Iranians prepare for their own elections tomorrow, they're keeping an eye on the U.S., telling our Fred Pleitgen, who is there that a Trump presidency could make things worse.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT tonight in Tehran.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As Israel continues its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza, with casualties mounting, Iran warning the Israel-Hamas war risks leading to a direct confrontation between Tehran and Washington. The speaker of the Iranian parliament's foreign policy committee tells me.

ABOLFAZI AMOUEI, IRANIAN PARLIAMENTARIAN: We think that if there will be no finish for this war, it can go in bigger scale and it's -- it can be harmful for everybody. The United States is one of the parties who are in support of Israel.

PLEITGEN: The U.S. accuses Iran of arming Hamas for years, aiding the group's attack against Israel on October 7, last year, killing more than 1,000 Israelis and taking hundreds hostage, and for supporting the Houthis in Yemen who are targeting international shipping in the Red Sea allegedly to force an end to the Israel-Hamas war.

But it was attacks by Iran-backed militias against U.S. bases in the Middle East, including one killing three U.S. service members on January 28, and the U.S.-U.K. military counters strike in Iraq and Syria that brought the us and Iranian tension to a new level.

President Biden says, the U.S. is not seeking conflict, but when Americans are harmed, he promises a response.

AMOUEI: Iran has its power to defend itself. But as I know that there will be no place for the United States forces to be hide -- hidden in the -- to defending themselves. It will be no place for them to be stay in the Middle East.

PLEITGEN: In Tehran, folks hope the calm music head of the Persian new year won't give way to the drumbeat of yet more confrontation.

Of course, when you speak to people on the streets here, they'll tell you the main concerns that they have are about the economy and also about inflation as well. But, of course, there are also people who really fear sure. That things could spiral out of control between the U.S. and Iran, and possibly even lead to an armed conflict.

Even here, confident tones.

Not only the U.S. is afraid, but also Israel and neighboring countries, this man says. The U.S. does not have the courage to get close to Iran because of military concerns.

But a fear of what might happen after the upcoming U.S. elections.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next year that Trump is coming, it's -- everything going to be much, much worse than now, yeah.

PLEITGEN: How do you think it will be worse? You think it could be war?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't think the war is coming, but the economy is going to be awful. Yeah, it's going to be awful, yeah.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And, Erin, of course, Iranians remember all too well how confrontational the Trump years were. Trump pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear agreement, ordering the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, the Iranians for their part, shooting down a U.S. drone over the Persian Gulf. The Iranian leadership it says, to them, it really doesn't matter who the U.S. president is. They will continue to challenge the U.S. in the Middle East -- Erin.

BURENTT: Fred, thank you, from Tehran.

And finally tonight, Oprah Winfrey ditching Weightwatchers. Oprah announcing she is leaving the company's board after nearly a decade as its most prominent spokeswoman. Weightwatchers shares nose-diving as a result. Shares down as much as 25 percent in early trading.

Oprah's lost a dramatic amount of weight and she's admitted that a weight loss drug, she's not saying which one, but a weight-loss drug helped her achieve this. She told "People Magazine", quote, I'm absolutely done with shaming from other people and particularly myself.

The admission revealing a change of heart for Oprah. She previously said taking weight-loss drugs seemed like, quote, the easy way out, but she is emphasizing that it's not the only thing she is now doing. She says she's adhering to a strict diet and exercise regimen, eating her last meal at 4:00 in the afternoon and drinking a gallon of water a day. And with her exit, she is also letting go of her shares holdings in

Weightwatchers, donating more than $6 million worth of those shares to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.