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Erin Burnett Outfront

U.S.: Planning Underway To Send Forces To Protect Embassy In Kyiv; Zelenskyy: 87 Killed After 4 Rockets Hit Village 35 Miles From Kyiv; "Ashamed": Russian Diplomat Resigns In Protest Against Putin's War; Trump Attacks Pence For Campaigning For Rival On Eve Of Georgia Primary; China: U.S. "Playing with Fire" After Biden Vows To Defend Taiwan; Migrants Turned Away At Border As Lifting Of COVID Rules Is Delayed; Police: 34-Year-Old Texas Woman On The Run, Charged With Murder Of Star Cyclist Tied To An Apparent Love Triangle. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 23, 2022 - 19:00   ET




The Pentagon confirms plans are underway for troops to guard the embassy in Kyiv, significant show of force from the U.S. This as new cracks are appearing tonight in the Russian peoples' support for Putin's war.

Plus, Trump versus Pence. The candidates facing off tonight in dueling rallies just hours before the polls open. Is Trump about to face his biggest primary defeat yet?

And was it a love triangle turned deadly? Texas Marshalls looking for a woman suspected of killing a professional cyclist who allegedly dated her boyfriend.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the Pentagon confirming are plans under way to send U.S. forces to protect the embassy in Ukraine's Capitol. The planning includes potentially sending special operations forces there and that would mark the first U.S. troops into Ukraine since the war began. Even as President Biden promised there would be none.

Just a short distance from the U.S. embassy, meantime, towns are still under attack like Desna where according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, 87 people were killed after four rockets hit the town.

This comes as Putin faces growing opposition to his invasion of Ukraine inside Russia. Today, a long-time Russian diplomat quit. In a damning letter, Boris Bondarev saying he's never been so ashamed of his country, writing: The aggressive war unleashed by Putin on Ukraine and, in fact, against the entire Western world is not only a crime against the Ukrainian people but also perhaps the most serious crime against the people of Russia.

It's a stunning rebuke. He's a 20 year veteran of Russia's foreign ministry.

And today, the State Department responding to the sudden resignation in a statement writing, it takes immense bravery to stand up to an oppressor and requires courage to speak truth to power. And we saw that bravery again this weekend. Just watch as thousands chanted "F the war", at a concert in St. Petersburg.


BURNETT: Perhaps they thought there would be safety in numbers there but the chants nonetheless, incredible to hear.

CNN also spoke exclusively to one Russian officer who simply had enough and resigned his post. He had been part of the massive build-up of Russian forces back in February, taken to Crimea and then shortly after February 24th, his battalion entered Ukraine, and told CNN he was embarrassed and confused as to why he was even there.

He said, quote, we were dirty and tired, people around us were dying, I didn't want too feel like I was a part of it but I was a part of it. He tells CNN he went to his commander, stood his ground and resigned. Now, we heard similar stories of soldiers refusing to fight again and again, and from villagers on the ground there who told me how embarrassed and upset their troops, or how ashamed when they heard Ukrainians didn't want them there.

We know Russian troops have been struggling with low morale in many cases, in part because they didn't understand the mission and were confused. But still, there is no sign that Putin is about to end the fight despite all of this and despite the economic toll it's had on Russia.

It is important, though, to note, that toll is not as black and white as it seems, for example the ruble surged to strongest level in four years against the U.S. dollar, needless to say, that's well before the war.

Melissa Bell is OUTFRONT live in Kyiv.

And, Melissa, what is the latest on the ground there tonight?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you mentioned, Erin, tonight, the strikes to the west of Ukraine targeting military infrastructure. That's something we've seen again today in eastern Ukraine, around the town of Dnipro. You can see there on a map.

That is again targeting military infrastructure, trying to prevent and stop and get in the way of these Ukrainian supply line and see specifically, what we saw in the west, trying to target those military supplies, coming in from NATO allies, which speaks to just how difficult this offensive going on in the east of the country is for Russian forces. Still, they're trying to press ahead ever more forcefully with more

fighting, more shelling around towns, all along that frontline where they're trying to push northwards from Donetsk.

Now, this comes as even one Russian soldier was, in today in Kyiv. He's been sentenced to life in jail, again, speaking to those hapless foot soldiers whose fate is becoming more and more clear exactly how difficult those first few days of the war were.



BELL (voice-over): A blow for the first Russian soldier to stand trial in a Ukrainian court since the start of the invasion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The court found Vadim Shishimarin guilty.

BELL: Twenty-one-year-old Vadim Shishimarin sentenced by a civilian court to life in jail for killing an unarmed civilian in a village in northeastern Ukraine, four days after Russia invaded the country.

IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA, UKRAINE'S CHIEF PROSECUTOR: Today, more than 13,000 cases only about war crimes, and now, we have a first sentence. But it's not enough. It's only beginning. It means that these three months, our investigators and prosecutors properly have done their job.

BELL: Shishimarin confessed to killing the man last week but said he was under intense pressure. A fellow soldier confirmed Shishimarin was obeying orders and had no choice but to fire the fatal shot. His lawyer says he'll file an appeal.

VIKTOR OVSYANNIKOV, DEFENSE LAWYER (through translator): I believe and continue to believe a person carried out an order cannot be convicted under this article.

BELL: The judge said because the crime broke international law, was, quote, against peace, security and humanity, the court couldn't impose a shorter sentence.

ANDRIY SUNYUK, PROSECUTOR: This will be a good example for other occupiers who may not yet be on our territory but are planning to come, all those who are here now and plan to stay and fight.

BELL: On Friday, Shishimarin had made a final plea for clemency.

VADIM SHISHIMARIN, RUSSIAN SOLDIER SENTENCED (through translator): I'm sorry, and I severely repent. I was nervous the moment it happened. I didn't want to kill, but it happened and I do not deny it.

BELL: The Kremlin says it's concerned about Shishimarin and will seek ways to assist him.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BELL (on camera): I mentioned a moment ago, Erin, that increased fighting in the east, increasingly obvious difficulty the Russians are having in pressing northwards, but really what this trial provided was a window to the first few days from Russian point of view, from the foot soldiers, just how badly organized this offensive was to begin with, how the invasion was not understood by those who are fighting for it.

As you mentioned, we've been hearing from that soldier who spoke to CNN off the record. He's happily back at home unlike Vadim Shishimarin who will be spending the rest of his life in Ukrainian jail. But we've been hearing about it also from more senior officers, generals being sacked, and as you mentioned a moment, from beyond the Russian military as well.

BURNETT: All right. Melissa, thank you very much from Kyiv tonight.

Pretty stunning that one could resign as that soldier did and then go home, perhaps more to that story.

OUTFRONT now, retired U.S. Army Lt. General Mark Hertling, former commander of Europe and the Seventh Army.

And, General, I mentioned earlier a 20 year Russian diplomat quitting in that scathing letter condemning the invasion, directly criticizing the Russian foreign minister, by the way, Sergey Lavrov, and he said, in fact, that the ministry of foreign affairs, and I quote, is not about diplomacy. It is about warmongering, lies and hatred.

What do you make of that?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It was stunning. Erin, to use your words. I think it was the first thing I read this morning and I went, holy smokes, that's a real crack in the foreign ministry of Russian.

This Russian Federation has to deal with that. This guy is not an underling. He's a well-known diplomat. He's dealt with our diplomats on several occasions out of Geneva. So, this is pretty significant and shows a crack in the system but it's compounded by all the other things happening.

You know, we enter tomorrow as the 90th day of this conflict. Russian forces have had low morale from the beginning and it's only by all intelligence sources getting worse. So you're seeing these kinds of things compounding, what is occurring on the front line, and that Putin is paying no attention to.

But their Ambassador Bondarev's letter addresses specifically those things, you know, the letter you showed earlier on the screen, it just gets to the key points of how crooked and criminal the kleptocratic authoritarian regime of Putin is. But he also goes after Lavrov, 20- year veteran in the foreign ministry and decimates him in this letter as well. So, it's pretty significant.

BURNETT: And also significant, as you point out, that it's 90 days in, right? And you have people who are now standing up and obviously, when you do that, the risk you take of something happening to you, a sudden death, is not small. Obviously, he did that from Geneva.

So, the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, said today general that Putin's overall strategy regarding Ukraine is unknown. Here's part of how he put it.


LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF STATE: At the outset, he envisioned using overwhelming force and speed and power to rapidly take down the capital city and replace the government. They failed in that.

So we've seen them really proceed at a very slow and unsuccessful place -- pace on the battlefield, and you would expect that he would seek to use other levers of power.


BURNETT: So what can you determine, general, about Putin's strategy now. What is he trying to do? I mean, he does, of course, now control essentially Mariupol, right? I mean there have been significant changes in the map since February here.

HERTLING: Not much, Erin, I'll push back a little bit on that. You know, what Secretary Austin just talked about, the strategies of the Russian force at the beginning, by my count, there were five of them. Take over the Ukrainian regime, replace their power. Further divide the West, get access to the Black and Azov Sea.

And he built those things into an operational campaign plan with tactics, battlefield tactics associated to them. All of those strategic goals, he's failed at. He hasn't achieved a single one of them, and in fact, there's negative connotations to each one of them right now.

He's built NATO. He's not divided it. The Ukraine regime is the strongest it's ever been. There's support for it through the West. The Ukrainian army is performing magnificently, there have been truly no battlefield victories.

You mentioned Mariupol, but that is just a battlefield destruction. That wasn't a victory.

So we've yet to see the kind of things Russia is trying to do in this campaign. I don't know what his strategy is right now. He's just looking to take off a bite of the east and perhaps the south, but it's certainly not part of the original strategic goals of Mr. Putin.

BUNRETT: All right. General Hertling, thank you so much, always appreciate your perspective and view. Thank you.

HERTLING: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, Trump versus Pence, both headlining rallies at this hour, just hours before crucial primary that could have Trump facing his biggest defeat of the year so far.

Plus, China warning the U.S. is playing with fire after this remark from President Biden.


REPORTER: Are you willing to get involved military to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. That's a commitment we made.


BURNETT: And the number of potential monkeypox cases in the U.S. growing, now suspected cases in two more U.S. states. What the Biden administration is warning tonight.



BURNETT: Just moments ago, former Vice President Mike Pence headlining a rally for Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on the eve of a key GOP primary. It's a race that pits Pence squarely against Donald Trump who is backing challengers and election denier David Perdue.

If Perdue loses, which the polls show is likely, it will be the most high profile defeat for Trump-backed candidate so far.

Let's begin with Jeff Zeleny who is OUTFRONT at that Kemp rally tonight.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Mike Pence on the campaign trail, taking sides on the eve of the Georgia primary, in a rare public stand against Donald Trump.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I'm a Christian, a conservative and a Republican in that order. And I am here to support Brian Kemp. I'm here because Brian Kemp frankly, is one of the most successful Republican governors in America.

ZELENY: The former vice president rallying support for Governor Brian Kemp, who is not only running for reelection, but trying to move beyond relentless criticism from Trump, who has been nursing a grudge at Kemp and other Republicans for refusing to overturn the last election.

PENCE: I can honestly say I was for Brian Kemp before it was cool.

ZELENY: To make his point, Kemp invited former Vice President Mike Pence for the final rally of the campaign tonight, putting a fresh spotlight on the long simmering conflict between the former president and his once loyal partner. PENCE: President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the


ZELENY: The governor is hoping for a big win over his chief rival, former Senator David Perdue, who Trump convinced to challenge Kemp, in one of his riskiest gambits of the midterm campaign season.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Brian Kemp is a turncoat, he's a coward, and he's a complete and total disaster.

ZELENY: Kemp has repeatedly declined to engage, as he did again today on a call with reporters.

KEMP: I have never said anything bad about him. I don't plan on doing that. I'm not mad at him. I think he's just mad at me, and that's something that I can't control.

ZELENY: His campaign has not been about Trump, but rather focused on a potential rematch with Stacey Abrams who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Heading into Election Day, more than 807,000 people have already cast their votes, a record early vote for an off-year race in a battleground where voting rights is at the center of the debate.

While many Republicans have made it clear they're eager to look forward, Trump's obsession with narrowly losing Georgia has loomed large, up and down the Georgia primary ballot. He endorsed Congressman Jody Hice to challenge the state's top election official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

TRUMP: Jody is running against one of the worst secretary of states in America, RINO Brad Raffensperger, who is trying to turn the tables on me because I'm fighting for election integrity.

ZELENY: Raffensperger famously refused to help Trump overturn the election in a call that remains part of an ongoing criminal investigation into election interference. GOP voters will determine his fate Tuesday.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: As long as I am secretary of state, Georgia will lead the nation in election security and election integrity, and accessibility.


ZELENY (on camera): Now, the former vice president has just left, your after shaking hands and posing for photographs with Georgia Republicans, and he followed the playbook that Brian Kemp has been doing all along. He did not engage with the former president. But he said the election here tomorrow would be a sign of the future of the Republican Party. So clearly, and unmistakable message there about what is next for the GOP.

But the former vice president's appearance here in Georgia tonight, Erin, spoke volumes. BURNETT: Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.

And in the final hours of this race, the two Republican candidates are making their closing arguments. As you can imagine, the can be more different here even in these final moments. The front runner, the incumbent Brian Kemp, focused on the general election.


KEMP: We will all unite, on a mission to make sure that Stacey Abrams is not going to be our governor or our next president.


BURNETT: Okay. So focusing on Stacey Abrams, and the general, as he sees it.


While former Senator David Perdue focused on Kemp and the last election.


DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: He allowed fraud to happen in our election. He denied it happen. And he's been covering it up ever since. And I want to fix this election fraud situation in Georgia.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Marc Short, senior adviser to the campaign and former chief of staff to Vice President Pence. And James Carville, the lead strategist on Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign.

So, Mark, when you're looking at this race. There is a real concern that Trump's attacks on Kemp are going to cause some loyalists to sent just out on the general election altogether, and that general election obviously is likely to pit to Kemp against Abrams.

So, if you've got GOP sitting it out, that could be the death knell for Kemp. A Georgia GOP activist told "The Atlanta Journal Constitution", and I quote, Mark, they think both Stacey and Brian are evil. And there is no lesser of two evils. You're rewarding betrayal.

How concerned are you about that sentiment?

MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF STAFF OF TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, Erin thank you for having me on tonight, I think I certainly hope that there are people at home and I think the stakes are really too high, not just for Georgia before our country. And I think that you're going to see a massive turnout in the midterms because I think people are frustrated with the enormously high inflation, the highest in 40 years. They are frustrated that the gas prices, they are at the highest they've ever been in American history. They're frustrated with the direction of the country, and I think that's going to benefit Republicans.

And I think the reality is, Brian Kemp defeated Stacey Abrams in a much more difficult environment in 2018 for Republicans, then it will be in 2022. So look, first things first, he needs to have a good day tomorrow. He needs to win the primary with more than 50 percent to make sure that there is not a runoff, and then he could focus his attention on Stacey Abrams. But I think the campaign is very confident that that's going to happen and that he'll be able to take on Stacey Abrams a second time and defeat her again.

BURNETT: So James, though, when you hear that quote, they think both Stacey and Brian are evil, and there is no lesser of two evils, you're awarding betrayal from some of the GOP, I would imagine that's music to your ears?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I have to catch a few breaks, I think we're getting a few in Georgia, just from what that woman said about how they feel about Kemp and Stacey Abrams, I'm sure how other people feel like that.

And let's not forget, Herschel Walker front and center, there's a guy who played football too long with an ill fitting helmet. And he is right there on that ticket. And all of his problems are going to come to fruition.

And I think that Ms. Abrams is a very tough and skilled person. I think she will put herself and I think she did very well in 2018. I think she has more experience than she had then, and it's going to be barn burn - Biden won by 11,000 votes, and still pretty close. So I think Georgia is an ultimate swing state, but it's a state of my birth, so let's go.

BURNETT: It is going to be a fascinating one.

CARVILLE: It's a big one, yes.


Marc, I want to ask you about -- you know, you're sitting there obviously, as advising camp, but you also know Mike Pence incredibly well. So is his endorsement of camp is that a bull break from Trump, right? Trump hates the guy with the heat of a thousand suns, it appears, right? And Pence came out and defended and has very clearly endorsed Kemp.

And Trump spokesman telling CNN, quote, Mike Pence was set to lose a governor's race in 2019 now desperate to chase his loss relevance, Pence is parachuting into races, hoping someone is paying attention.

Okay. So it's really turned dark, pretty fast. Everybody could have seen where this is going except maybe Mike Pence a couple years ago. How bad is it, Mark?

SHORT: Look, Erin, I think Mike Pence is here not for any sort of broader message. He's here because he supports Brian Kemp, and Brian Kemp is one of the most conservative governors in America. He's got an amazing record of providing billions in tax relief. He's provided hundreds of millions in additional surpluses back to taxpayers. He's provided parents an opportunity to know what is going on in their classrooms.

He's one of the first governors to open up with COVID. He's had a remarkable record of accomplishments for the state of Georgia. That's why Mike Pence is here in the state. That's why he's supporting somebody who's got a great record and is going to win again.

You know, you can read the various quotes whether it's a disgruntled Republican or from Taylor, but I think the most important quote that's out there is just Stacey Abrams two days ago saying Georgia is the worst state in the country to live in and she's running for our governor.

So, I mean, that's actually from the candidate herself denouncing and denigrating the people of this great state of Georgia. I think Pence is here because Kemp has been a friend, Brian Kemp has got a great record, he's proud to be here, and I think that Brian Kemp is going to win it decisively on the way to win it again four more years.

BURNETT: So, Stacey Abrams, James, did say that Georgia was the worst state in the country to live in. She actually -- she did, so let me play exactly what she said over the weekend.


Here she is.


STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I am tired of hearing about being the best state in the country to do business when we are the worst state in the country to live. When you're number 48 for mental health, when you're number one for maternal mortality, when you have an incarceration rate that's on the rise and wages that are on the decline then you're not the number one place to live in the United States, but we can get there.


BURNETT: Obviously, you heard Marc seized upon that. Do you think it was a mistake for her to say that?

CARVILLE: I think she's challenging the status quo. And, you know, you can check her figures. Expand healthcare more, wages are not what they need to be and I think she was saying, I'm not satisfied what Georgia is, I want a Georgia that can be and I think that's what she's going to run on.

And I think she'll do quite well. You know, Kemp is obviously going to defend the status quo, and Ms. Abrams obviously is going to challenge on that point. That happens in most times where you have incumbent facing the challenger. So -- and I think she's got some energized people behind her. She's very skilled campaigner but we ought to make one prediction that Perdue gets 33 percent because that's about what Dr. Oz and J.D. Vance got and it seems to be a consensus number of how many Republicans who follow Trump. So, I'll make a prediction.

BURNETT: Make a prediction, and we're going to be sitting here tomorrow night see if that pans out but as you point out that has been the number for the Trump based candidate in the other states.

All right. James Carville, Marc Short, thank you both very much. I appreciate it. Both, of course, are going to be a crucial part of tomorrow night and you don't want to miss live coverage of all the results as they come in. It starts right here at 7:00 tomorrow evening.

And OUTFRONT next, China warning Biden not to, quote, play with fire when it talks of militarily defending Taiwan as the Pentagon and White House once again are downplaying Biden's comment on this explosive issue.

Plus, tens of thousands of migrants waiting to enter the U.S. despite a judge's ruling that stopped the surge for now.

We're OUTFRONT live on the Mexican side of the U.S. border.



BURNETT: The U.S. is, quote, playing with fire. That is the warning from China after President Biden said today the U.S. would use force if China invaded Taiwan.


REPORTER: You didn't want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?


REPORTER: You are?

BIDEN: That's the commitment we made.


BURNETT: He was very clear. No equivocation. It is the second time, in fact, in recent months that Biden the United States has said that the United States would defend Taiwan and the second time, in fact, that the White House has then subsequently rushed to walk the words back and say, actually, no, no, no, the president of the United States doesn't speak for U.S. policy. There hasn't been a policy change

OUTFRONT now, Mark Esper. He's the former defense secretary under President Trump and the author now of the brand new book, "A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times".

Secretary Esper, I really appreciate your time. And so, this is, you know, the second time here that President Biden

has been, you know, unequivocal, completely clear the U.S. would defend invasion from China in Taiwan, and second time the White House has said actually, there's been no change in policy. So what's going to happen here? Is he right that U.S. would go to war with China if it invades Taiwan?

MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, first of all, Erin, thanks for inviting me on to the show. You know, I finished my book a year ago and have an entire chapter on China and in that chapter, I talk about this specific issue that I felt that the One China Policy had run its course, that China and Taiwan evolved in different ways since diplomatic relations were open in the '70s, and I thought it was time to have this broader discussion about what of our policy is.

I think President Biden is being completely honest, his instincts are right and indeed may be the third time he said this and it continues to amaze me that the White House staff walks him back on this.

BURNETT: OK. So you think he's right in terms of how he reads it but the message it sends to China, you feel that is the right way to go?

ESPER: Yeah, even in the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, there's language that says any move by China in this case to determine the future of Taiwan other than peaceful means would be considered a security matter and grave threat to a United States. That's diplomatic language for fighting words, if you will.

BURNETT: So, obviously, this is not what we heard from Trump. But Trump was tough with China on trade. Okay. That's just clear, and we should be direct about that. But in other areas, when you talk about Trump in your book, you talk about how he initially did not embrace being as tough as you and others in the administration felt was necessary.

You, of course, the secretary of defense, and you write here, and I'm quoting your book: In a rare moment, I saw him chastise Mike Pompeo for being too aggressive in public remarks that the secretary of state made about the PRC, People's Republic of China, asking Mike to please dial it down as they sat opposite each other across the Resolute Desk. Pompeo paused for a moment, acknowledged Trump's request and nodded in agreement.

So what do you make of Trump's handling of China. He did become more critical, of course, as COVID spread across the U.S., infamously calling it the China virus. How much was a real turn and how much was political, not wanting to look weaker than Joe Biden on the issue during the election?

ESPER: Right. This is a great topic I write in detail and I try to be fair and accurate in my book and one thing I think the Trump administration deserves credit for is forging a consensus within the United States government that China is a strategic adversary of ours but I also write, the president wasn't fully on board with all the parameters of the policy.


He seemed to really focus on the trade piece of it, and really, in many ways, wanted to build this friendship with President Xi Jinping that in some ways, undermined our efforts.

Look, the policy with regard to China has to be multidimensional. It has to encompass diplomatic, economic, trade, political, human rights, freedom, Hong Kong, you name it and he wasn't there on all the issues which I thought was the soft spot. He did get tougher in the final year I think because China's handling of COVID really undermined our great economy and thus his electoral chances.

BURNETT: All right. So, let me ask you about that, because you talk about in the book, something that, you know, people should hear your thoughts you thought about many times as resigning as Trump's defense secretary and the reasons you did not, that you didn't for what you said the sake of the country and fear he would replace you with a person who would just say yes and then you sum up the final months of his presidency.

You write: The president seemed to surround himself with more and more sycophants who would blindly do his bidding, agree with his ideas, and implement his plans regardless of the consequences. The country became like a runaway car barreling down a hill with Trump behind the wheel and his loyalists pushing hard on the accelerator.

OK. By all accounts, Secretary Esper, Donald Trump is the GOP front runner for 2024. If he runs, it's his for the taking, that is just what every single Republican strategist says.

What do you think it would mean if he won, what would it mean for the country?

ESPER: Well, from, I'm not certain if he tries to run he will be the front runner. I think what's good to see is there are potential 2024 candidates who are starting to step out and show some distance, on your previous segment talked about Mike Pence in Georgia, Mike Pompeo in Pennsylvania is opposing the Trump endorsed candidate.

So I'm hoping that that's not the case. I'm hoping President Trump doesn't decide to run and further that he doesn't involve himself in the contest. Now, I know that second part is highly unlikely.

But look, if he does, I've said before that I'm concerned. I think that a future GOP. candidate and I consider myself a regular Republican, should meet some core criteria. Number one, put country above self. Number two, have integrity and follow a core set of principles. And number three, be able to reach across the aisle, work with others and unite the American people, and President Trump just doesn't do that for me.

BURNETT: All right. Secretary Esper, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

And as I said, Secretary Esper's new book is just out now. Thank you, sir. ESPER: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, we're going to take you to the border where desperation is growing. Tens of thousands of migrants literally just waiting to enter the U.S.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no lights in here, but you can see just how completely full this dormitory is.


BURNETT: Plus, the hunt is on for a woman wanted in the alleged killing of a pro cyclist. Is a love triangle at the center of this bizarre attack?



BURNETT: Tonight, desperation at the border where tens of thousands of migrants are waiting and just waiting to enter the United States, because they were thinking they could come in Monday but then a judge ruled to keep in place title 42, which is basically a COVID-related rule allowing border agent to see turn migrants away from U.S. because of the pandemic. So they're still there waiting and no one knows what will happen.

And Matt Rivers is OUTFRONT from the Mexican side of the border.

I mean, Matt, this is an incredible moment. The judge's ruling obviously is temporary. We don't know when the outcome will be or when it will be, and the administration will have to face, most likely, this major surge. And I think that may be an understatement, at some point, in the near future.

RIVERS: Absolutely, and what we saw during the day today which we spent here just across the border there, behind me from the city of El Paso, Texas, is the people here, who have in many cases been waiting a long time to get a chance to apply for asylum in the United States, they're not planning on leaving.

Many people we spoke to including a Venezuelan man who's here with his family said they're going to continue to wait, maybe even try and cross. The Venezuelan man said he will make an attempt to cross in the next couple of weeks.

Here's just a little bit of our conversation.


RIVERS: Are you nervous the authorities not going to allow you to enter the country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes very much so. More than nervous, it's the eternity of not knowing how long we'll have to be here, especially for a baby. He's only a year and a half old. So yes, it's difficult.

RIVERS: Thank you so much for your time.

So, his story, very similar to other stories we've heard in the shelter. The shelter is called the Good Shepherd Shelter and it is completely full at the moment. The majority of migrants here right now are actually Haitian but as you heard from our interview there, he is Venezuelan, there's people from Honduras here and this shelter, which can hold 80 people, is now completely full.

We can show you some of that. I want to enter into one of the dormitories here but bear with us, it is a little dark as we transition from sunlight to darkness here. There's no lights in here.

But you can see just how completely full this dormitory is. It is just bunk bed next to bunk bed next to bunk bed, there are dozens of people living in this facility, most of whom are spread out through the facility. They've asked us to respect peoples' privacy here so that's why you're seeing empty beds.

But there are people who are sharing bunk beds here. Now, remember, Ciudad Juarez is one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico and people in the shelter can't actually leave unless they have a reason to do so. One of the legitimate reasons would have been to apply for asylum at the border.

And many people were hoping here that with the expiration of Title 42, that they could have gone to the border to do that more easily. Of course, that didn't happen with the federal judge in Louisiana continuing to allow that policy in place and that's been very disappointing for people here, many of which, many of whom would have gone to the border to try to apply for asylum.

And we spoke to the director of this facility earlier today who told us that things can't continue like this. He's building another facility just across the street that he says can house more than double of what he can hold right now. And yet when that is finished in two months time, he says he already knows that there won't be enough people, enough room, rather, to handle all the people that he says are still going to be in this area.


RIVERS (on camera): And Erin, we asked the director whether he thought the Title 42 being continued would actually slow the number of migrants here, he said no. He said he absolutely expects the number of migrants arriving here at the border to continue to increase over the weeks and months ahead.

BURNETT: Matt Rivers, thank you very much. It's pretty powerful reporting. Just -- I mean, you think about that. Look at how they're sleeping. They're building one across the street and when it's done, build another. And those are people who are lucky enough to have a place to sleep. OUTFRONT now, Harry Enten, CNN data reporter.

Harry, this is a big, big issue for Democrats. Biden administration said they're going to appeal the judge, keeping Title 42 in place. They have to decide whether to sort of, the speed with which they will do that. This is a really big thing for Democrats right now.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: It is, and basically, what you have is the Democratic base on one side of this issue and the American public on the other side of this issue. So you ask most Americans, do you oppose the ending of Title 42? In which you essentially find most Americans say yes, they do, but most Democrats don't.

And this, I think is part of the larger picture of Democrats moving to the left on immigration. You know, if you compare how where you are on illegal immigration, where Democrats were in 2006 to 2022. And what you essentially see is that not at all number, sky rocketing into the 40s. The great deal number, dropping tremendously, dropping from 42 percent to 18 percent.

So this is part of the thing where the Democratic base has moved on this issue while the American public stayed pretty steady overall.

BURNETT: Right, and this is one of the times I feel it's worthy to remind people that while more Americans self-identify as Democrat than Republican, it's still about 30 percent identify so then you're talking about the base within that, always make that point that Democrats, Republicans make too so people understand.

So while you have the Democratic base moving to the left, American public has not shifted as a whole and on the Republican side, you've got a shift the other direction.

ENTEN: You've got a shift in the other direction. More and more of what we're seeing on the issue of immigration is polarization along that issue, right?

Go back to 2012 essentially and say how did those voters who voted in 2012, how did they vote in 2020 and what you see, basically illegal immigrants causing crime, is that a big problem? Have they caused increase and you see people who switched over to Trump from voted Obama in 2012, overwhelmingly, 84 percent of them said that illegal immigration increases the crime rate versus those who stuck with the Democrats, just 26 percent believe that.

And so, what you're seeing again is this polarization along immigration, one of the number one issues. Tell me how you feel about illegal immigration, tell you how you vote in the next election.

BURNETT: Harry, thank you very much.

And everyone should know, as I talked about tomorrow night, how crucial it is, run-off tomorrow in the Texas Democratic side, this schism in the party. Henry Cuellar who has criticized Biden on immigration running against lawyer, Jessica Cisneros. So, this is going to be, you know, again within the Democratic Party, there is a schism.

OUTFRONT next, police say apparent love triangle turned deadly. A search tonight for a woman charged with shooting and killing a pro- cyclist.

Plus, a top White House health official with a warning tonight about the monkeypox in the United States.



BURNETT: Tonight, suspected killer is on the run as police in Texas are investigating an alleged love triangle murder.

Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A manhunt underway for 43-year-old Kaitlin Marie Armstrong in suspected murder of professional cyclist Anna Moriah Wilson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is snaking through into the finish. This is Moriah Wilson.

LAVANDERA: Wilson, known as Mo, was considered one of the best gravel racing cyclists in the world. Police suspect she was killed in a love triangle gone wrong after Armstrong learned Wilson had been spending time with her boyfriend, fellow cyclist, Colin Strickland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The champion is in the House. This is Moriah Wilson.

LAVANDERA: On May 11th, Wilson was in Austin, Texas, preparing for an upcoming race. Austin police say that night, 25-year-old Wilson was found murdered in the bathroom of a friend's home. She was shot multiple times.

According to a police affidavit on the day Wilson was murdered, she went to a public swimming pool and had dinner with fellow cyclist Colin Strickland. The two had a brief romantic relationship in the fall of 2021, while Strickland was on a break of his relationship with Armstrong who he had dated for about three years.

Austin police say surveillance video shows Armstrong's car pulling up next to the house where Wilson was staying around the time she was murdered and a gun discovered in the house where Armstrong lived with Strickland is the likely murder weapon.

The police affidavit also states that authorities have learned that Armstrong was furious and shaking in anger when she learned of Strickland's romantic relationship with Wilson in January. The day after the murder, Kaitlin Armstrong was interviewed by investigators and presented with evidence. The police affidavit described Armstrong was very still and guarded as investigators detailed what they discovered. She then requested to leave.

A week later, U.S. Marshalls announced they were assisting in a search for Armstrong but the 34-year-old woman has disappeared since her interview with police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy birthday BWR champion.

LAVANDERA: Just weeks before her murder, Mo Wilson was celebrating with friends after wining the Belgian waffle ride in California.


These are the last images of her competing in a sport she dominated. Wilson is described as a role model yet shy and compassionate, an athlete that developed intense passion for cycling while growing up on the bike trails of Vermont.


LAVANDERA: And, Erin, in a statement to "The Austin American Statesman" newspaper, Colin Strickland says he cannot express the torture and regret he feels for his proximity to the murder of Moriah Wilson. Moriah Wilson's family also said today they do not believe at the time of her murder that Moriah Wilson was romantically involved with anyone -- Erin.

BURNETT: Unbelievable.

All right. Ed Lavandera, thank you very much, of course, as they are on the hunt right now.

And OUTFRONT next, more U.S. states now investigating new cases of monkeypox. Details, next.


BURNETT: Tonight, monkeypox cases now confirmed in 15 countries. That's up from 12 in about 24 hours. Globally, there are now nearly 100 confirmed cases, others under investigation.

Here in the U.S., new cases investigated in Florida, Utah and New York and they come just days after the virus first confirmed in Massachusetts.

White House COVID czar, Dr. Ashish Jha, telling ABC News that cases are likely to rise in the upcoming days.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.