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Erin Burnett Outfront
Former Acting Defense Secretary Tells January 6 Panel There Was "No Order" To Have Troops Ready On January 6, As Trump Has Claimed; Attorney General Not Ruling Out Charging Trump In January 6 Probe; Fake Electors Expected To Testify This Week In Georgia Trump Probe; CNN Poll: 75 Percent Of Democrats Don't Want Biden To Run In 2024; Sources: White House Working To Convince Pelosi Of Taiwan Travel Risks; Ukraine Trying To Claw Back Land In South, Retake Kherson. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired July 26, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next Trump's former acting defense secretary directly contradicting a claim from Trump about National Guard troops ahead of January 6th. It's a new take from the January 6 Committee. A member of the committee, Congressman Jamie Raskin is OUTFRONT.
Plus, a new CNN poll finds 75 percent of Democrats do not want Biden to be the Democratic nominee in the next election. Wow. Why?
New details about what the White House is doing behind the scenes to get House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to nix the trip to Taiwan she says she's taking.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
BURNETT: And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, caught in a lie. New video from the January 6th Select Committee, sworn testimony from Trump's former Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller contradicts a statement from President Donald Trump. He said he personally asked for 20,000 National Guard troops to be at the ready ahead of January 6th. That's what the former president of the United States said he did.
This is what Defense Secretary Miller told the committee exactly happened.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JANUARY 6 OFFICIAL: To be crystal clear, there was no direct order from President Trump to put 10,000 troops to be on the ready for January 6th, correct?
CHRIS MILLER, FORMER ACTING DEFENSE SECRETARY: No, yeah, that's correct. There was no direct -- there was no order from the president. (END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: That shutting down a statement from Trump who on June 9th said the unselect committee learned that I as president offered up to 20,000 National Guard or troops be deployed in D.C. because it was felt the crowd was going to be very large.
Well, you heard the secretary of defense say he did no such thing. Whether talking 10,000 or 20,000, he says 20,000, the question was raised in a form of 10,000, he never did it. He never ordered any.
This blatant lie exposed as we learn more from Attorney General Merrick Garland tonight. In a new interview, Garland says he is willing to hold Trump accountable for January 6 criminally if that's where the evidence leads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We pursue justice without fear or favor. We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding January 6th, for any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another, accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
And Garland's investigation is now deep inside Trump's White House. I spoke to Marc Short, the former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence last night and he confirmed that he testified under subpoena in front of a federal grand jury investigating January 6th. He said it was his one and only time before the grand jury.
We've also learned a second former aide to Pence, Greg Jacob, also testified before the grand jury in that criminal investigation. According to the chairman of the January 6th Committee, Garland's investigators at the DOJ are focusing on Trump team's fake electors. That, of course, was a scheme central to Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
And tonight, the breadth of that fake elector scheme is being laid out, even more than we knew before. There are newly disclosed emails tonight obtained by "The New York Times." Let me just show one of them with you. This is an email that was send to Trump adviser Boris Epstein from a Phoenix-based lawyer, who was helping organized the fake electors in that state of Arizona.
The Phoenix lawyer writes, quote: We would just be sending in 'fake' electoral votes to Pence so that someone in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes and start arguing that the 'fake' votes should be counted." Fake votes, their word.
Team Trump saying the quiet part out loud, admitting that their plot was fake. In fact, in a follow up email, that lawyer follows up, PPS -- alternative votes is probably a better term that fake votes, smiley face.
Well, now, the January 6th committee is showing more and more how wide-ranging the plot was involving fake electors from seven states that Trump had lost, and including state officials and lawmakers in Washington. Even the president, according to the testimony on January 6th committee was aware of the fact elector scheme.
And today, the former president returning to Washington to try to deflect and try to distract his plan to cling on to power was hatched there, and tonight, still spouting the same lie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I ran for president and I won. And I won the second time. Did much better the second time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, it doesn't matter how many times you say it, it's still a lie.
And even though he didn't mention the January 6th attacks explicitly in his speech, it's actually really important to mention what he spent most of his speech on, because he was talking about law enforcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They have to become our heroes. They are mine, but some people, they don't feel that way. They're going to have to feel that way if we're going to have a great country and a safe country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You know, you listen to that and you say it may defy belief, right, that he could say that given what his actions were around law enforcement on January 6th. In those three hours when the Capitol and law enforcement were under fire, in the line of fire, Capitol police, Secret Service in the line of fire, Trump did nothing as this happened to law enforcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROLINE EDWARDS, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: I couldn't believe my eyes. There were officers on the ground, you know, they were bleeding. They were throwing up. They were -- they had -- I mean, I saw friends with blood all over their faces.
I was slipping in people's blood. You know, I was catching people as they fell. You know, I was -- it was carnage. It was chaos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, actions, of course, speak louder than words. We learn that as young children. And Trump's actions were nothing. He watched that live.
But he just described law enforcement. He watched and refused again and again and again to tell the attackers to stop, ignoring entreaties from his own children. And then the next day, the former president refused to call for the rioters who did those things to law enforcement to be prosecuted. He crossed out a crucial line from a speech he gave that day.
Here's the line that he crossed out in his black sharpie: I'm directing the Department of Justice to ensure all law breakers are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. He deleted it.
Evan Perez is OUTFRONT live in Washington.
And, Evan, the Attorney General Merrick Garland says criminal referrals from the January 6th committee won't necessary influence the course of his investigation. So, you know, he's got an investigation. They have all their work.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BURNETT: He's asked for a lot of information from them. But he's saying what they do doesn't influence him. Is that semantics or is it significant?
PEREZ: Well, I think what he's trying to get is that they -- you know, the Justice Department -- he wants to let people know, they're doing their own thing. They're doing their own investigation. He's trying to tell people we're a lot further along than you might know or you might think.
And he chooses his words very carefully. Look, I've covered this guy -- this man for sometime. And you can tell that he weighs every word. And one of the most important things he said today in that interview with NBC, you know, he said that this is an investigation that is looking into people who might have interfered with the peaceful transfer of power.
And really, that broadens the scope of this investigation to include dozens of people. We're talking about the dozens of people who were part of that fact elector scheme in that seven battle ground states. We're talking about some of those lawyers in the story that "The New York Times" has published, you know, who were involved in trying to not only encourage the former Vice President Mike Pence to stop the certification of the electors -- of the election results.
We know, Erin, from sources that, you know, Greg Jacob who appeared before this grand jury in recent weeks was asked about John Eastman and the involvement of Rudy Giuliani in this larger plot.
So, what the attorney general is trying to do, is trying to send out a warning call to all those people. We're talking about dozens. That if, obviously, they have something to tell, they should come forward to the Justice Department. I would compare it to what happened right after the attack when the FBI let all of the people who went into the building come forward. It's better for you to come forward instead of us coming after you.
BURNETT: All right. Evan, thank you very much for explaining that.
I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin from a state of Maryland, a member of the January 6th Committee.
Congressman Raskin, as always, I appreciate your time.
So, when you hear the Attorney General Merrick Garland say that a criminal referral from your committee wouldn't necessarily affect his department's criminal investigation one way or another, does that encourage you or discourage you?
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, that encourages me or it solidifies the understanding that I've always operated with, which is that the Department of Justice has a vast arsenal of resources at their disposal.
These are extremely competent, effective lawyers. They know what they're doing. And they are engaged in the largest criminal investigation in American history examining both the violent insurrection and the attempted political coup that it was surrounding.
So, you know, Merrick Garland is a constituent of mine. So, I was never into the idea of people browbeating him and pressuring him. And he's perfectly capable of doing his own job. And we need to restore the tradition of respect for the independence of law enforcement.
So, I've got confidence that they're going to find their way to render justice for the American people. And they've got very specific guidelines at the DOJ about when to bring a case. It depends -- you know, if they've got probable cause. They know how to do it.
BURNETT: So, what we understand thus far, we've last heard, is that the DOJ was really focused on the fake elector scheme. And I don't know if you heard at the top of the program, but obviously, there were developments on that front today, right? That that scheme is, you know, we're learning more and more how broad it was, as, of course, you have revealed as part of your committee.
Has the focus of the DOJ, such that you understand it, Congressman Raskin, gone beyond the fake elector scheme criminally or not?
RASKIN: Well, I don't know anything more than you do, but, of course, it has. I mean, they charged people with lots of offenses connected to the violent insurrection, including assaulting federal officers, refusing to leave the Capitol, interference with a federal proceeding and seditious conspiracy --
BURNETT: But in terms of those key inner players that Evan was referring to, those -- you know, these kind of 12 players, beyond -- is it going beyond fake electors such -- such that you understand it? RASKIN: Well, the entire plot to overthrow the election of 2020 was
inter-braided. So, you can only understand the counterfeit plot as part of the effort to bring this before Mike Pence and then coerce him to step outside of his constitutional role and declare and exercise unlawful and unprecedented powers to nullify Electoral College votes.
So, all of the parts of it are connected and I would feel certain, although I have no idea, but I would feel certain that they're viewing the whole thing as a comprehensive and interwoven series of events.
BURNETT: So, former Pence chief of staff, Marc Short, talked to me last night and he was skeptical of something specific that I wanted to ask you about. He was skeptical of the testimony your committee highlighted from the anonymous White House security official, you know, the one who you had to modulate his voice, right, who had talked about how members of Pence's security detail feared (ph) for their lives because of the rioters and that some have called their families to sort of give a goodbye in case they didn't survive.
And I played that for him to get his reaction because he was there, he was with some of those Secret Service members, asked him about it. And I wanted to play for you what he said to me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VP PENCE: Well, to be honest, Erin, I was greatly skeptical. I think it would have been the rioters who the Secret Service would have been fired upon. That was the biggest risk in that moment. It was not Secret Service agents really feeling scared for their lives. I didn't witness any of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What do you say to him? Obviously, I'm sure, you stand by your witness, but I mean, he's saying they were not scared or afraid for their lives in any way.
RASKIN: Right. Well, to be clear, I don't think he's taking issue with the credibility of the testimony we put on. That clearly was from a witness. He's disputing the substance of what the witness testified.
BURNETT: That's right.
RASKIN: And, you know, all I would say about that is having been somebody who was there in the room that day, and there were some officers who were armed, it was an objectively terrifying situation where lots of people were calling their spouses. Lots of members were calling their children, their parents to say goodbye, because -- you know, nobody's looking forward to a gun fight and if hundreds and hundreds of people entered the Capitol without going through the metal detectors or any kind of security background check, people could have gotten in with AR-15s.
And as we showed in the hearing, there were people on January 6th who had AR-15s. There were people with rifles --
RASKIN: -- with handguns and all other kind of weapons.
BURNETT: So, I want to ask you something else because, Congressman Raskin, you have interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses. I mean, the amount, the scope of what you've done is frankly staggering, OK, just by any measure. You held eight public hearings. And there's been an indication that, you know, you're going to hold more in September.
I'm curious -- since your last public hearing which is not even one week ago, has anyone come forward that has made you feel this merits firing it all up again? You know, somebody who's really going to make people's jaws drop?
RASKIN: Well, let's just say that, you know, these investigations have a momentum of their own because people watch and they realize that they are in possession of evidence that may be relevant and of interest to the committee. And there are also people who cannot tolerate or indulge the lying anymore. And, obviously, a lot of lying has been going on --
RASKIN: -- as recently today with President Trump claiming that he won an election he lost by more than 7 million votes, 306 to 232 in the Electoral College, which was the same margin that he beat Hillary by which he had pronounced a landslide back in 2016.
So the lying continues. And people are coming forward on a daily basis. All of it, at this point, is filling in details. But the basic elements of the plot to destroy Joe Biden's lawful victory are very well-known at this point.
BURNETT: I'm going to ask you one final point, and this is something I know you focus a lot on. And that is the text messages from the Secret Service that your committee has subpoenaed, the text messages that were sent on January 5th and 6th.
I understand that the Secret Service has only produced one text exchange from that time period. They said that all the others may have been erased because some Secret Service phones were going to resign for migration. Agents had to sort of take action to make sure their texts were saved and they didn't do so, sort of describing this is a technical glitch.
You expressed skepticism, Congressman Raskin, last night over the agency's explanation here. Do you think the Secret Service is covering something up?
RASKIN: Well, I don't know but I want to get to the bottom of it when texts are destroyed from January 6th and January 5th, that raises everybody's eyebrows. That seems like an awfully striking coincidence. So we want to find out exactly what was the genesis of the decision to get rid of these texts. Are they really missing? And what happened there.
And we will get to the bottom of it and I will tell you what I feel very strongly, that anybody who has tried to cover up any aspect of these events has been refuted and superseded by other witnesses who are willing to come forward and tell the truth. They get their comeuppance in the end.
Nobody is going to be able to lie there with you through this or hide from subpoenas or deny the integrity of this investigation.
BURNETT: All right. Congressman Raskin, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
RASKIN: Thanks for having me.
BURNETT: I want to go to Elie Honig now, former federal prosecutor and our senior legal analyst, along with Stephanie Grisham, former Trump White House press secretary who resigned over the January 6th insurrection.
Elie, let me just start with you as I was speaking to Congressman Raskin. Some new reporting crossing from the Washington Post, reporting the DOJ investigators have specifically asked grand jury witnesses, so people like Marc Short, people who appear before that that grand jury, about then President Trump's action as part of its criminal probe, okay, about President Trump's actions.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah.
BURNETT: So, until now, we knew they were interested in the people around him. But they are specifically saying that questions were about the president himself.
HONIG: And what's really important now, Erin, is we have people who might be able to answer those questions. People like Marc Short, and potentially, Greg Jacob. This shows me that DOJ -- this shows me that Merrick Garland, when he says nobody is off the table, up to and including the president, he means it.
Now, let's understand that statement for what it is. It means he is saying, I'm not placing Donald Trump sort of beyond our reach, nor could he, nor should. But I think what's really notable is they're now, the DOJ is now inside the White House for the first time. That's a big change.
BURNETT: And, Stephanie, you know, as we hear, right, they are asking questions, this reporting crossing, the former president seeing it. They're asking questions in a criminal grand jury about the president of the United States himself.
You know, Marc Short, a former chief of staff for Mike Pence, testified in front of that grand jury. The Georgia criminal case, obviously, is moving very quickly. You've got a lot of things moving quickly here that now are touching Trump himself.
How does this affect him right now? STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's a
tough question. You know, he has dodged so many different inquiries lawsuits, et cetera. So, if I'm being honest, I think he is seeing this as a challenge. He is seeing this as a loyalty test, et cetera.
I worked for an attorney general in Arizona. I do know how methodical you have to be to build a winning case. And so, I do believe that's what they are doing and I do believe something will come of this.
But, right now, I think he thinks he's going to retain his Teflon Don moniker and nothing will happen.
I also think, you know, today, he kept hinting at his latest speech, he was going to run. I think that's continuing to be a distraction and I think it's also continuing to keep his base riled up so that he feels he has people fighting for him.
BURNETT: Right, fighting for him and distracted from all these developments, obviously, you know, that are coming out so fast and furiously.
Elie, finally, so "The New York Times" today, as part of this, things are moving are quickly -- published recently -- just published some undisclosed emails, okay? These are emails between Trump advisers and lawyers, outside lawyers who are involved in the fake elector scheme that we know the DOJ has been focused on.
So, one of the aides who helped organize the effort in the state of Arizona called the electors fake in an email and then follows up in another email saying, quote, alternative votes is probably a better term than fake, smiley face.
HONIG: With a smiley face, right.
BURNETT: How damning is that?
HONIG: That is a really bad email for the person who sent that and for the person who received it. And here's why, Erin, I think the fake elector scheme is sort of jumping off the page to prosecutors, because as Representative Raskin said, we have a whole series of interlocking and sort of inter-braided fraud conspiracies, pressure campaigns here. But the submission of false slates of electors, is tangible, it's on paper. And they wrote down the fake electors and sent it in to the National Archives.
And so, there is a tangibility about that that I think makes it more appealing, investigatively, and potentially, in terms of prosecution.
BURNETT: Yeah. And an email like that, you can't say, oh, it was just in case -- it was an alternative. It's an email.
BURNETT: Fake. Replace it with alternatives, smiley face. I mean, it doesn't get more clear than that.
HONIG: That will be up on the board someday.
BURNETT: Yeah, Stephanie, Trump had previously claimed, right, this has been a big part of his claim, that he requested, he's the one who offered National Guard troops to be ready on January 6th. But his acting defense secretary, the person who would have received that order says it is not true -- according to newly released testimony he gave to the January 6th committee, I should emphasize under oath.
Take a listen to it, Stephanie.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JANUARY 6 OFFICIAL: To be crystal clear, there was no direct order from President Trump to put 10,000 troops to be on the ready for January 6th, correct?
CHRIS MILLER, FORMER ACTING DEFENSE SECRETARY: No, yeah, that's correct. There was no direct -- there was no order from the president.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean again, Stephanie, under oath, loud and clear, exposing what the former president said as untrue.
How damaging is it?
GRISHAM: Yeah, I hate to be a Debbie downer here. It's very damaging, I think, to -- in a regular situation. But how many people now, how many aides who worked for him, how many Republicans have said, no, that's not true, that's not true, that's not true. How many things have been proven not true that the president has said?
So, I do believe this, you know, adds to the case, that the president lies all the time, the former president, I just want to say. But I don't know how damaging it is until the DOJ or the case in Georgia, something actually happens to him.
I think at this point, for our country, you know, and this is no pressure, because again, I understand how hard it is to build a winning case, I think until something actually happens, I just don't know how damaging it is.
BURNETT: Yeah. Well, it's fair and it's important that you stated like you see it.
Thanks so much both of you. I appreciate it.
GRISHAM: Thank you.
And next, Georgia prosecutors, I mentioned Georgia, they are at a pivotal moment in their case, investigating Trump's effort to overturn the election. Again, it's criminal. Details of who is about to appear before the special grand jury. Plus, Ukraine launching one of its most significant counteroffensives.
Could this be, could it be a major turning point in the war? We are live in Ukraine.
And historic flooding. The latest weather disaster to strike that United States, record rain around St. Louis. Homes destroyed, people fleeing. We have the story.
BURNETT: Tonight, Georgia's fake electors who tried to overturn the state's 2020 election results in favor of former President Trump are set to testify before a special grand jury in just the coming days. At least 11 of the 16 Republicans who signed unofficial electorate certificates are expected to appear.
Their scheme is laid out in newly-disclosed emails obtained by "The New York Times". One of them sent by Trump advisor, Boris Epshteyn, talks about an idea proposed by a lawyer working with a campaign.
This email reads, in part: His idea is basically that all of us, Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania, et cetera, have our electors send in their votes, even though the votes aren't legal under federal law because they're not signed by the governor; so that members of Congress can fight about whether they should be counted on January 6th.
Nick Valencia is OUTFRONT.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A significant week for Georgia prosecutors investigating alleged election interference by former President Donald Trump and his allies in the 2020 election. At least 11 of the 16 Republicans who signed fake electorate certificates are expected to appear in front of the special grand jury to testify in the criminal probe.
Among them is the state's GOP party chair, David Schaffer. But most are not widely known, even in Georgia.
JUDGE ROBERT MCBURNEY, SUPERIOR COURT OF FULTON COUNTY: Most of these folks could walk, as long as they are wearing normal clothes, they could walk right into the courthouse and those cameras that seem to be glued to our courthouse steps right now wouldn't even pivot on them.
VALENCIA: The so-called fake electors are now targets of a criminal investigation for participating in a plan to subvert the Electoral College in an attempt to falsely certify Trump as a winner in Georgia in the 2020 election.
But even as Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis appears poised to file criminal charges, this week, a major misstep in her investigation. MCBURNEY: It's a "What are you thinking moment?" moment. The optics
VALENCIA: A judge on Monday blocking Willis from pursuing a case against one elector, Burt Jones, a Republican state senator who is now running to be Georgia's next lieutenant governor. This after Willis hosted a campaign fund-raiser for Jones's political rival.
MCBURNEY: It's not a lowercase "A" appearance. It's like a capital "A" with flashing lights fund-raiser, district attorney, for the political opponent of someone I have named the target of my investigation. That's problematic.
VALENCIA: The setback for Willis and her team could now also impact the overall case. A new district attorney could be assigned to specifically question Jones, if needed, which could create problems.
The Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia, who could appoint the special D.A., says no decision has been made.
NORMAN EISEN, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: While it matters, of course, whenever there is our disqualification, in this case, the grand jury review moves forward. And it does not affect the most important target of all, potentially, Donald Trump.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: The people of Georgia are angry. The people of the country are angry. And there is nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you have recalculated.
BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is that the data you have is wrong.
VALENCIA: For a case that was sparked in part by a now infamous phone call between Trump and Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. Willis' case has evolved to be wide-ranging and broad in scope. Now, at least seven key Trump allies have been subpoenaed to testify before the special grand jury, including five of the Trump campaign's legal counselors, as well as the president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
VALENCIA (on camera): And, Erin, we've learned today, according to a spokesperson with the Georgia State Bar, that two Republican attorneys who participated in the fake elector scheme are now having their law licenses investigated. The complaint was filed by a group of lawyers with a nonprofit legal watchdog group earlier this year, according to that spokesperson.
So, now, not only are those to Republican lawyers being investigated by Fani Willis in the criminal probe, they're also having their law licenses investigated for the role as fake electors -- Erin.
BURNETT: Nick, thank you. And, next, new poll numbers tonight. It's a staggering result. Three
out of four Democrats don't want Biden to be the nominee? Well, the divide among Republicans is getting even wider about who should run in 2024.
Plus, new reporting that the Biden administration is working behind the scenes and has been towards Speaker Nancy Pelosi to stop her to go from going to Taiwan.
BURNETT: Tonight, 75 percent. The vast majority of Democrats, three out of four, don't want Biden to be their nominee in 2024.
That is according to a new CNN poll.
OUTFRONT now, David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama.
David, I heard that and stopped in my tracks for second. Three quarters of Democrats don't want the incumbent president to run again? How worried should Biden be right now about that?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well -- I mean, obviously, this is a -- this is a very unhappy bit of data for him. I'm sure, you know, it is concerning. But we should point out that he's got two and a half years before the next election, or a little less than two and a half years, so you can over -- you can get overly focused on one number.
But there are a series of numbers that are not good for his overall approval rating. It's hovering there between 37 and 38. And, you know, that isn't -- that isn't deadly. We were 15 months at when Barack Obama got 38 percent approval rating. He ended up winning the electoral landslide. But, you know, the time will come when these numbers have to be accounted for, and he's going to have to make a decision. That time is not now.
BURNETT: So, in between and now and that time is the big elephant in the room, right? The economy. Americans are upset and they're anxious. And President Obama said -- President Obama -- President Biden said this about the state of the economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My hope is we go from this rapid growth to steady growth. And so, we'll see some coming down, but I don't think we're going to -- God willing -- I don't think we're going to see a recession.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Put semantics aside, is framing the experience of so many Americans are having right now, of surging costs, weakening job markets in some crucial sectors, is that the way to frame it? Is it effective?
AXELROD: Well, look, it is difficult because, on the one hand, he's looking at numbers that show progress in a lot of other areas, including employment in this country, that he considers, to his credit, to his policies credit, that he wants people to see it that way. He doesn't want to talk the economy down. You do have to link up to where people live.
And right now, people are at -- the gas prices are coming down, they are still high, they are going to grocery stores, they watch those numbers climb. And there is general unhappiness. And that's reflected all over the polling. People think the country is headed in the wrong direction.
They have very -- you know, consumer confidence has gone down again in numbers released today. These are all concerning. And he needs them to turn around. There's no doubt about it.
He needs improvement on inflation. He needs public attitudes to improve. And he needs to be careful about not getting out of sync with people's experience, as he talks about it.
BURNETT: So, we talk about 75 percent of Democrats right now saying they don't want to have him to be nominee, and that's bad. On the Republican side, it's bad. There is a schism over there. It's getting worse, if it's possible to say that.
Exhibit A, the most recent, Trump ally and sycophant Matt Gaetz yesterday said that Mike Pence will never be president. This is how Marc Short, Pence's former chief of staff, responded here last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC SHORT, FORMER PENCE CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't know if Mike Pence will run for president in 2024. But I don't think Matt Gaetz would have an impact on that. In fact, I'd be surprised if he was still voting. It's more likely he will be in prison for child sex trafficking by 2024. And I'm actually surprised the Florida law enforcement still allows him to speak to teenage conferences like that. So, I'm not too worried about Matt Gaetz thinks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, David, I should note Gaetz denies this, and hasn't been charged with a crime. But, wow.
AXELROD: Yeah. No, that was a tough punch. Look, today the focus was on pence and Trump because they were both speaking in Washington and they were kind of speaking at each other a little bit.
Certainly, Pence was about Trump when he said we've got to be about the future and not the past. They won't be the only players on the field in 2024. And, you know, if you look at polling right now, the race is more
between Trump and Governor DeSantis of Florida than it is between Trump and Pence. I think what Pence is hoping and betting is that Trump will fade. And that he may not be in the race come the spring of 2023. And that then pence will have a race, perhaps with DeSantis and some other players who aren't polling as well.
But, look, Trump is taking on water. One of the things Biden is thinking about is Trump. He has said it many times. I don't want him to be president again. I'm the guy who can beat him. Races are comparative, they're not -- they're not referendums.
And so, if Trump numbers erode, you know, Biden's hopes climb.
I don't know if the two lines will intersect. We will encourage him to run. But, yet, we have a dynamic situation right now.
BURNETT: All right. David Axelrod, thank you very much.
And next, Nancy Pelosi aware for weeks of the administration's concerns about her percent whole trip to Taiwan. She is not backing down. And now, China is upping the ante.
Plus, a major move by Ukraine, one that could move the course of Putin's invasion. We'll take you there live.
BURNETT: Tonight, CNN learning the Biden administration is working behind the scenes to convince Speaker Pelosi of the risk that her potential trip to Taiwan could pose, amidst the tense, tense moment in China. China's defense ministry doubling down on its rhetoric against the trip saying the military is prepared to, quote, resolutely defend national sovereignty.
Josh Rogin is OUTFRONT. He's a global opinions columnist at "The Washington Post" and a CNN contributor.
So, Josh, you are reporting that specific administration officials, General Milley, Jake Sullivan, have been trying to get Pelosi to not go for weeks, right? Weeks. That was before the trip was even publicly reported. So, for weeks, they're trying not to get to go. Then we find out about that. She seems she's pushing ahead with.
What more do you know?
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, Erin, tonight's headline is that the White House is trying to convince her not to go, and it should be that they are still trying to convince her for several weeks -- officials including Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, Kirk Campbell, the White House top Asia official, Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs chairman, John Aquilino, the head of Indo Pacific Command, have been briefing Pelosi and her staff, laying out intelligence assessments, military operational plans to impress upon her that the risks of her visiting Taiwan at this time are so high that they would have to mount a massive military operation to protect her.
Which then in turn could be seen as aggressive, and sparked the crisis that everyone is trying to avoid. Now, everybody agrees that the Chinese government shouldn't be allowed to tell Americans whether or not they can go to Taiwan, lawmakers or anybody, okay? That's a violation of international laws.
ROGIN: That's not under dispute.
But the Biden administration is saying there is a risk here. The Pelosi response is, well, that's a risk I'm willing to take. And there is the stalemate, which branch of government gets to decide on foreign policy when they disagree. Are the Chinese really bluffing?
And when the Chinese test our resolve, maybe the best thing is to show resolve. That's what the Pelosi camp would say.
BURNETT: Right, right. But pretty incredible, right? When the Pentagon tells you we have to a massive amount of military -- mount a massive military operation to protect you, and she goes ahead with it. I mean, they've been working, as you report, Josh, for weeks to not get her to go.
And then it all spills into the public in the most undignified way, right? You don't want this getting public. If it becomes public, it's the president of the United States essentially confirms report to the trips himself, and shows that he doesn't -- that the administration -- it doesn't want her to go. Here is President Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, do you think it's a good idea for Speaker Pelosi to travel to Taiwan this summer?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think that -- the military thinks it's not a good idea right now. But I don't know with the status of it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Josh, was that planned? That he decided, I'm going to come out and say that? The military doesn't think it's a good idea?
ROGIN: I'm not sure that was not planned. That was Biden being Biden. He was being honest, although a little bit incorrect. It's not the military, although there are some military concerns. It's a White House-driven effort. It's run from the White House itself. They are making policy.
They are engaged in the delegate dance with Beijing. They are doing this -- they're having this chess game with the Chinese authorities. And they never invited Nancy Pelosi to sit down and make a move and they don't like the move that she chose. And she doesn't really care about that.
And the Chinese, meanwhile, can't believe that the president of the United States can't tell the speaker of the House not to go to Taiwan, because in their system, the president can tell anybody what to do any time. If the lawmaker went to Taiwan against the president's wishes, they would disappear.
So, there is just miscommunication all over the place creating chaos, increasing the risk. And there was a leak, too. There was a leak from "The Financial Times" that she was going to go. And Pelosi can't even talk about it because it's a secret trip for a reason, because of the risks, because she wants to arrive without a lot of fanfare, so that she can get in and get out before the Chinese have a chance to do something crazy.
But the bottom line is that Biden's comments ruined the negotiations at that time and brought this out into the public.
ROGIN: And that has the effect of making a Pelosi team think, oh, well, now, we're going to take the hit if we back down, so that makes them even more determined than before.
BURNETT: Yeah. It's pretty amazing you think about -- you know, look at history, how many things happen in these sorts of ego reasons on every side.
Thank you so much, Josh.
And, next, Ukraine planning a major counteroffensive that could give them back a crucial city. It's a really important development tonight.
And historic flooding in the St. Louis region. More than 100 rescued, at least one person dead tonight.
BURNETT: Tonight, Ukrainian forces planning one of the most significant counteroffensive since the war began, that the Ukrainians are successful in regaining this city of Kherson, it could change the course of the war.
Ivan Watson is OUTFRONT.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scenes from Ukraine's southern front in the first months of the war.
Footage shared exclusively with CNN shows a Ukrainian Senior Lieutenant Andrii Pidlisnyi hiding in shell craters, flying a drone to call in artillery strikes on Russian positions.
But the team of spotters also narrowly escapes long-range fire from the Russian military.
Months after filming these videos, Pidlisnyi is still fighting on the southern front.
Where the Russians in this village before?
SR. LT. ANDRII PIDLISNYI, ARMED FORCES OF UKRAINE: Yes.
WATSON: The Ukrainian military is fighting to claw back territories seized by what this commander describes as well prepared Russians.
PIDLISNYI: It's very slow, the process, to take back all of our territories. But step-by-step, with the help of Western guns, vehicles, and so on, artillery systems, we do that.
WATSON: This month, my team and I travelled the length of the southern front, from the critical ports of Odesa to the edge of the Donbas region. I spoke to people willing to risk their lives against the Russian war machine.
In the city of Kryvyi Rih, Ukrainian forces stormed a building. It's actually a training exercise to prepare these men for one of the most dangerous forms of modern warfare, urban combat. The commander here was gravely wounded pushing Russian-backed separatists out of cities in the eastern Donbas region, in 2014.
We have a duty to liberate our territories, he says. This is our land and we will not give it to anyone.
That confidence shared by a regiment of frontline troops in eastern Ukraine. They show off recently arrived British-made Land Rovers, and this armored personnel carrier.
I just noticed something, take a look over here, at this tire, made in Russia. This was Russian.
VILNYI, AZOV KYIV REGIMENT: It was a Russian car. But our soldiers fight him and take this car.
WATSON: You captured it?
But the war is taking a dreadful toll here.
Day and night, Russian rockets, S300 surface-to-air missiles repurposed to strike ground targets pound the frontline city of Mykolaiv. More appear to be on the way.
Ukrainian resistance group shared this exclusive footage with CNN taking just days ago, showing the arrival of a train full of missiles in the occupied southern Kherson region, alter confirmed by these satellite images provided to CNN by Maxar. But with the help of U.S. long-range rockets known as HIMARS, Ukraine has been targeting ammunition depots. Senior Lieutenant Pidlisnyi says he knows the difference on the front
PIDLISNYI: We've had about three to there weeks, when they haven't enough ammunition to fight us.
WATSON: Still, he predicts it will take a long time for Ukraine to win the war in the south.
PIDLISNYI: I'm not sure that we will win within the end of this year. It might be the end of next year.
WATSON: Before I go, Pidlisnyi shows me captured Russian passports and drivers licenses.
When did you capture these?
PIDLISNYI: About some weeks ago.
WATSON: Russian men ranging from 22 to 41 years old who Pidlisnyi speculates are now dead. They look like you.
PIDLISNYI: Yeah, they look like me.
WATSON: They have similar names.
PIDLISNYI: Yeah. But they are our enemies. I'm standing in my territory and they came to me to capture our territory. To kill me. To kill maybe my parents.
WATSON: This is what Ukrainians are fighting for.
WATSON (on camera): Now, Erin, if this did in fact happen, if the Ukrainians were able to push the Russians further back, it would be a huge symbolic blow and strategic blow. But as we have heard, it is a hard to grind. That's what's Ukrainian commanders are predicting to try to push the Russian troops back. We are probably seeing more signs of these efforts though. There are reports tonight of rocket attacks on a key bridge, that the Russians would use for reinforcing and supplying their troops in these occupied parts of Southern Ukraine -- Erin.
BURNETT: Ivan, thank you very much, live from Odessa tonight.
And next, a state of emergency in the St. Louis, Missouri, area tonight after record shattering rain.
BURNETT: The St. Louis area reeling from a historic downpour. Record rains prompting emergency declaration. Flash floods swallowing cars. It's not a one-off. A look at what we may see a lot more off. Omar Jimenez is OUTFRONT.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look, you can't see nobody cars.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roads turned into rivers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is the only road out of this area and it is impassable.
JIMENEZ: And interstate shut down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Interstate 70.
JIMENEZ: And firefighters forced to make dozens of rescues, all as a record amount of rain fell in the St. Louis area in just a matter of hours.
CHIEF DENNIS JENKERSON, ST. LOUIS FIRE DEPARTMENT: We had approximately eight and a half feet of water that developed in a low lying area. We were told by a civilian that there was a possibility of somebody in a car. Water was received. We have pulled a civilian out of a vehicle that has passed.
JIMENEZ: Others went scrambling for shelter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard thunder early this morning. I didn't think much of, it went back to sleep. A couple hours later, just heard some water coming into the apartment. I woke up and there was a couple feet in and just keep going up.
JIMENEZ: From midnight to 7:00 a.m., St. Louis got more than eight inches of rain. The previous record for one day was less than seven which happened all the way back in 1915. The surrounding St. Louis area saw anywhere from 6 to 10 inches overnight, according to the National Weather Service. Area officials urged everyone to avoid travel as they say they were getting 911 calls of multiple people stuck.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't know how deep it is. It's simply not safe. It's not worth the risk.
JIMENEZ: Torrential rain left parts of the area almost unrecognizable, trapping cars on streets, flooding train tracks and homes.
Climate scientists say such turbulent weather is becoming more familiar as rising temperatures mean the atmosphere can hold more moisture, leading to more rain and more extreme conditions, from deadly heat to destructive fires, dangerous floods.
It's a dynamic officials are increasingly trying to be prepared for across the country. ALI ZAIDI, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY NATIONAL CLIMATE ADVISOR: Whether it's
the extreme heat affecting tens of millions of Americans or the hurricanes, or the droughts, this is the new normal. This is a climate emergency.
JIMENEZ: In St. Louis, the floodwaters are receding. Scientists say the chances of this happening again are only going up.
Omar Jimenez, CNN.
BURNETT: And thanks for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.