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Erin Burnett Outfront
Ukraine Asks U.S. for Cluster Munitions, Banned By 100+ Countries; Putin Says Threat of Nuclear War is Increasing; Source: Trump Team Finds 2 Documents With Classified Markings in Florida Storage Unit, Turned Over to FBI; Republicans Say Trump is Hurting 2024 Odds By Backing Bad Candidates; Germany Arrests 25 in QAnon- Inspired Plot to Overthrow Government; GOP Rep. Gosar Endorses Trump's Call to Terminate the Constitution; Biden Renews Push for Ban on Assault Weapons. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 07, 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, Putin upping the ante personally, launching a nuclear threat as Ukraine asks the U.S. for America's cluster munitions, deadly bombs that are banned in more than 100 countries. It's a CNN exclusive, and it's first OUTFRONT.
Plus, trouble in Trump world. New reporting into OUTFRONT tonight about the former president's reaction to the big loss in Georgia as one of his own close allies calls it, quote, really, really bad.
And, 25 right-wing extremists accused of plotting to overthrow the German government conspired by QAnon. The former spokesman for the Oath Keepers who testified before the January 6th committee says this could happen in America. He's my guest.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, game changer. CNN learning exclusively that Ukraine wants deadly cluster munition warheads from the United States, weapons banned by more than 100 countries, that Ukraine tonight says will change the course of this war. And this comes as Putin tonight personally escalates his nuclear threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA PRESIDENT (through translator): With regard to the threat of a nuclear war, Svetlana Yevgenyevna (ph), you are right, the threat is growing, so why hide the truth? Now, regarding whether or not Russia would be the first to use one no matter what the circumstances may be -- well, if it's not the first to use one, then it couldn't be the second to use one, because a nuclear strike on our territory would greatly limit our capabilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Putin clearly referring to nuclear ICBMs, not tactical nukes, because it is those ICBMs that Russia and the U.S. have that would cause such damage so as to prevent a country from responding in a second strike. So, that's a major threat.
And Putin, of course, has the largest stockpile, about 4,200 ICBM nuclear warheads in addition to his estimated nearly 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons. Putin is making this threat, coming out and personally doing it with his back pressed firmly up against the wall. Because he knows his invasion has not going to cording to plan.
He also said today, and I quote him: Regarding the problem with equipment, as far as I can tell, this is already been sorted out. However, if something else needs our special attention somewhere, of course, I would ask you for more information. Then we will definitely deal with it, and as quickly as possible.
An admission of problems with equipment, as soft as that admission may feel to you, for Putin to say this, is a big deal. And he is forced to even admit it because of what his soldiers are seeing every day and are now recorded on tape talking about.
We've been sharing conversations with you between soldiers and their families. I want to play this for you. This is a newly obtained call, a recent call between a Russian soldier and his mother back home. Listen to it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MOTHER (through translator): And people -- you have everyone?
SOLDIER (through translator): Leaving, leaving, people are leaving.
MOTHER (through translator): Leaving? Like running away?
SOLDIER (through translator): Yes, running away, what else? Five (EXPLETIVE DELETED) days under pouring rain, with no sleep.
MOTHER (through translator): That's deserting. Watch out.
SOLDIER (through translator): If they don't let us leave in December, we'll go away, too. You just can't imagine, we live in a swamp. Everything is leaking. We have no sleep, no food, nothing.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: No sleep, no food, nothing. Time is certainly not on Putin's side. And as we speak tonight, his forces are locked in a deadly battle in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. And in this video, I'm going to show you, you'll see a Russian truck carrying weapons. It gets decimated by a Ukrainian strike. That's the explosion that you see on the screen right now.
And inside Bakhmut where the fiercest fighting is taking place, just listen. You can hear nonstop blasts, explosions lighting up the sky. And as I mentioned, CNN is learning exclusively Ukrainian officials want the U.S. now to provide them with cluster munition warheads to respond. These are the same weapons that the Russians have been using to
inflict such suffering on Ukrainian citizens and civilians. Look at what you see here. This is hitting a civilian area in Ukraine's second largest city of Kharkiv. These are weapons that Ukraine says if they get could change the course of the war.
We spoke to Dan Rice, a special adviser to the commander in chief of Ukraine's armed forces.
And he told OUTFRONT that these types of weapons are five to ten times more lethal than Ukraine's current weapons, and they are more effective against Russian personnel and armor.
And here's why. We'll show you a graphic here. The first one shows the blast area from one normal high-explosive round. The damage the bomb lands about 160 feet. Now, let me show a cluster bomb, the ones Ukraine is now asking for.
Eighty-eight little bomblets go out. They scatter over an area of more than 320 feet. That is why Ukraine wants them, if they're going to aim at a group of Russian soldiers, they don't just have one hit and it spreads out. They can kill a lot more of them.
Will Ripley is OUTFRONT live in Kyiv tonight to begin our coverage.
And, Will, what is the latest there tonight?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I've seen the impact of those cluster bombs firsthand. We met a woman who had one go through the wall of her children's bedroom. These are very serious business.
Ukrainians also developing drones that are flying deep into Russian territory, drones that have hit strategic air bases as close as 500 miles to the Russian capital Moscow. You have President Putin threatening nuclear weapons and already using 1980s Soviet era nuclear weapons on Ukraine. He's just launching them as dummies right now without warheads.
But they're landing. They're lobbing (ph) themselves into buildings. And the Ukrainians know that these missiles were built in the 1980s to carry nuclear warheads, of which Putin has plenty. Is that a sign, is that a signal for the people of Ukraine? Is it an attempt to try to exhaust their air defenses?
Either way, the Ukrainians certainly know what's at stake here. That's why they're launching more counteroffensives. They're defending Bakhmut, which Russia is trying to desperately to take, to demonstrate some level of success on the battlefield because they have a string of humiliating failures.
There's also word tonight, Erin, that there is another potential front in this war. So we've talked about the Donetsk region to the east. We've talked about Kherson to the south. Well, now, up by the Belarusian border, there are troops on the Belarusian side mobilizing. They're calling them military exercises. But hundreds and thousands of troops are expected to be gathering there in the coming days, and the Ukrainians are also starting to dig trenches, starting to build reinforcements.
This is why they are asking for these cluster bombs and any other weapons possible to prevent yet another potential ground invasion. Could it happen in the coming weeks? Could it happen in the spring when things warm up? Because temperatures are really plunging here. The official start of winter is later this month.
They don't know all the answers, Erin, but what they do know is that Putin is likely going to throw everything he has into this war. And they're going to try to do everything they can to stop him.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Will Ripley.
And obviously ominous considering that Belarusian border is where the troops had all poured into that original offensive and attack on Kyiv itself.
Well, as you mentioned, the exclusive reporting tonight, Ukrainian officials pushing the Biden administration and members of Congress to provide the Ukrainian military with cluster munition warheads. Now, these are the weapons that I mentioned Russia has been using to devastating effect. They are also weapons that are banned by more than 100 countries.
So, let's go to Natasha Bertrand in Washington who broke this story.
Natasha, what more are you learning tonight?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, Erin. So, the Biden administration not officially responding to our reporting here, not providing official comment. But what we have learned is that senior Biden officials have been weighing these requests by the Ukrainians for these cluster munitions and have not rejected those requests outright.
So, what we've also learned is that the Ukrainians have been asking for these munitions for months. And obviously, it's a very controversial request because, as you laid out, these are bombs that explode and launch dozens and dozens of tiny little submunitions that then explode themselves.
And part of the risk just apart from the fact that they can, you know, affect such a large group of people, such a large area of land is also the fact that many of these submunitions, when they explode on the ground, don't actually explode. And so like land mines, they kind of just lay around until people and potentially civilians encounter them.
So this is very controversial. The Biden administration is weighing it, but they say that they are not necessarily considering it seriously at this point. Primarily because Congress has actually imposed restrictions on the U.S.'s ability to send these cluster munitions overseas. Now, President Biden can overrule that, but that would require an
extraordinary determination that the administration does not seem prepared to make at this point. However, the Ukrainians have been saying this could really be a game changer for them on the battlefield, and the administration weighing it as they do with all of the other Ukrainian requests for weaponry, Erin.
BURNETT: OK. All right. Natasha, thank you very much. And obviously a significant step there.
Let's go now to the former defense secretary and former CIA director under President Obama, Leon Panetta.
So, Director and Secretary, of course, the Ukrainians are saying that this would be a game changer. Do you believe that the U.S. should provide Ukraine with these cluster munitions, even though, of course, they are banned because of what Natasha said, some of this damage that they can cause down the line to civilians in more than 100 countries.
Should the U.S. provide them now?
LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think it's well that the administration consider this request very seriously. Look, the Russians are not playing by the Marquess of Queensbury rules. They've used cluster bombs. They're sending missiles into schools, into hospitals. They've had no regard for human life.
The cluster bomb is designed to go after a military operation where you've got military units that are gathered in the battlefield. I think if there are some conditions with regards to the use of those kinds of weapons, I think it is possible that they could have that kind of weapon.
They've got to be able to defend themselves against what the Russians are doing. That's absolutely essential if they're going to succeed.
BURNETT: And let me ask you about what the Russians are doing. Putin, of course, now is personally making a nuclear threat and referring directly to ICBMs, right, which would -- he's talking about the U.S. and Russia, right? He's making that very clear.
You know him. You met him when you worked in the Clinton administration, when you worked in the Obama administration. He's now saying not just this threat. He's saying the threat of nuclear war overall is increasing. Those are his words.
If he were to use nuclear weapons in any way in Ukraine, and he's also making it clear he'd do a first strike, how would you want the U.S. to respond?
PANETTA: Well, I think the president has done this and made very clear that if the Russians use nuclear weapons, that there would be catastrophic consequences to the use of that kind of weapon. And I think that's exactly what should happen.
If Putin crosses that line and makes use of a nuclear weapon with regards -- with all the ramifications of what a nuclear weapon can do, I think the United States and our allies have to be willing to respond with force if necessary in order to make clear that that would force the United States, Ukraine, and our allies to confront Putin and the Russian invasion directly.
BURNETT: Russia has now blamed Ukraine for several attacks within Russian borders. The White House said today the U.S. respects Ukraine's military decisions, but that the U.S. has not encouraged or enabled those strikes on Russia. Obviously, there's speculation that Ukraine now has its own internally developed drones and enabled them to do this. That's the speculation.
What do you think happened?
PANETTA: I -- I think the Ukrainians are defending themselves. That's what I think has happened here. These are bases where Russian planes are taking off to deploy this barrage of missiles that are going into Ukraine and doing tremendous damage to human life, to their infrastructure, and to their entire country, really.
And, so, I think the Ukrainians have every right to defend themselves in this situation. It's up to them. But if I were in a situation where they are taking direct hits from the Russians every day, I think the Ukrainians have a responsibility to respond. So I understand their need to be able to defend themselves.
BURNETT: I think it's significant, you're not just saying a right to respond but a responsibility to respond to where those are coming from, which, of course, is deep in the heart of Russian territory itself.
Secretary, thank you very much.
PANETTA: Good to be with you.
BURNETT: OK. And, next, Trump's legal problems escalating tonight. A search put forward by Trump's own legal team found more classified documents.
Plus, the divide -- the Republican divide over whether Trump is -- should stay is louder than ever, after another major loss last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): His endorsement can be the kiss of death.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think we're losing close elections not because of Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BURNETT: Overnight raids capture a group of right-wing extremists, meantime, plotting to overthrow their government. It wasn't in the U.S. this time. But the former spokesman for the Oath Keepers says it could be next, and he's my guest.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tonight, more classified documents. An outside team hired by lawyers for former President Trump finding two items marked classified in one of Trump's storage lockers in West Palm Beach. This all comes after the former president was directed by a federal judge to take a harder look at his properties for any remaining classified materials.
So let's go straight to senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.
I know, Evan, you've been speaking to your sources tonight. So let's just start off first of all with what more you've learned from them about these new classified documents.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, these two documents were found in a storage unit in Florida. This is one of the places that the Trump team had items that were removed from the White House when he left office. The GSA had them transported down to Florida. And this is one of those places that he went.
The importance of this is obviously the former president and his team got a subpoena back in June, and they said that they had returned everything that was marked classified. This is what the subpoena demanded. This was a grand jury subpoena.
Obviously, we know that that wasn't true because in August, the FBI did a search and found a lot more classified documents in their search. And, since then, the Justice Department has been telling the Trump team that they believe there were additional documents and there were government records that were still missing, and that obviously he hadn't turned over everything.
This is why the Trump team hired a team to do the search of four different properties including Bedminster, the golf course, Trump Tower, the storage facility and another office facility. So this is why the Trump team did this search. They invited the Justice Department to at least participate, and the Justice Department declined.
So, now we'll see whether this satisfies the judge who has overseen all of this and has demanded that they turn over everything.
BURNETT: All right, Evan, thank you very much.
So let's go now to Ryan Goodman, the former special counsel at the Department of Defense, and now the co-editor in chief of the "Just Security" legal blog, and a professor of law at NYU.
All right. Every step of the way, we've talked about this. So now what does this development mean? I mean, obviously, it means Mar-a-Lago is not the only place there were classified documents because these were in a storage locker in West Palm Beach, so a different location. And this outside team has found more classified documents.
So what does it actually mean?
RYAN GOODMAN, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, JUST SECURITY: So, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's further evidence of the core crimes of willful retention of national defense information and concealment of government --
BURNETT: Because we've already that. That's already -- that's already there.
GOODMAN: There's an avalanche on that information already. But it does go to the obstruction of justice and the disobeying of a subpoena. And it sounds like, according to "The Washington Post" reporting, that Judge Beryl Howell is a fantastic judge in the D.C. Circuit --
GOODMAN: -- said to them first, again, attest to me that you have fully complied with the subpoena. And then she demands that they do this additional search. And lo and behold, it turns up more documents.
And also according to press reporting, it's not necessarily that they came straight from the White House, that they were potentially first at an office in North Virginia where Trump's staffers were, and then the GSA only starts to rent out the facility in July of 2021. So that's already six months after he's left office.
GOODMAN: So it's in north Virginia. And then it's in parts of Florida, it's a real problem.
BURNETT: OK. So, when you talk about the avalanche of information already in terms of, you know, willful retention -- okay. But now you're talking about this maybe -- I don't want to be putting words into your mouth -- but maybe this moves the needle even more on obstruction. The reason for that may be that his lawyers reportedly did represent that Trump no longer had custody over any such records, right, since June.
Now, obviously, the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago itself was post that point. But does this indicate that they directly lied?
GOODMAN: It is evidence that they were lying. It's not proof that they were lying. But part of what they say in writing to the Justice Department is that they attested that time to the idea that they've done a diligent search of all boxes that went from the White House to Florida. So --
BURNETT: Right. So they can't claim, oh, we just didn't know about these, right? That's not an excuse. You have to know to certify. GOODMAN: Exactly, exactly. So it's not that they can say, oh, well,
we didn't know that they were there, these two other documents. It's, well, you told us to do a due diligence search of all the boxes, and obviously you didn't because when you got this outside firm, they found more.
BURNETT: So, what does this mean? I mean, you've been very clear. You've written more than a hundred-page document saying they have more than enough to charge in the Mar-a-Lago case. So does this change anything in terms of charges or possible penalties?
GOODMAN: I don't think it adds additional charges, but it certainly adds additional evidence, and not only that, but it's an aggravating factor. These are the kinds of factors the Justice Department routinely looks at to determine whether or not to indict. It is egregious that we're now two years out from his presidency, and he still has even more documents after first giving false statements, second giving false statements. That's the kind of factor that makes a difference.
BURNETT: Right. It was interesting when you say, you know, intent may not matter, it's the facts and whether you have it. But when intent is so clear and so in your face, it means something.
BURNETT: All right. Ryan Goodman, thank you very much.
And, next, new reporting into OUTFRONT. New details about Trump's reaction to last night's loss in Georgia. A source close to him calling it really, really bad.
And Trump posing for photos with a prominent QAnon conspiracy theorist on the heels of a meeting with a white nationalist.
BURNETT: New tonight, Trump world in turmoil. Sources are telling our Kristen Holmes that there's growing concern among Donald Trump and his allies that the tide may now turn in the GOP against the former president. And Trump himself is now stewing over this very possibility.
This comes after the defeat of the latest hand-picked candidate of Trump's, Herschel Walker in the Georgia Senate runoff, the candidate that many Republicans were very blunt in saying was flawed. But Trump pushed anyway.
Kristen Holmes has the reporting, and she is OUTFRONT.
So, Kristen, this is a huge day to see what Trump will do and what those around him are thinking. Just how worried is Team Trump now after the Walker loss? KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, the aides,
advisers and allies that I've talked to are deeply concerned. I mean, they had hoped that for a Walker win obviously. But remember, Walker wasn't just endorsed by Trump. He was heavily recruited by Trump. Trump is the one who actually pushed him forward.
And they had hoped that if he won, this would stop these calls for new Republican leadership, particularly after so many of Trump's picks failed in the midterms. And they also hoped that it would breathe some sort of new life and energy into what has really been a lackluster launch of a 2024 campaign. And now they are fearful that it's going to do just the opposite because of this loss. That it's actually going to boost the demand for people to challenge Trump in 2024.
And their fears are not unfounded. I want to read to you what one person who is close to Trump told us. They basically said that Trump's losing score card is what has solidified their decision to support someone else. He said, Donald's got his problems right now, and they are so numerous that I don't think he can win, and I want to back a winner. There are a lot of friends of mine who don't want Trump at the top of the ticket because they feel like it's a killer.
Now, this is all coming on the heels of what has been a really bad three weeks for the former president. And we've told it's not lost on him. He has been at Mar-a-Lago. He is stewing. He is calling allies, he is calling advisers. He is talking about those verdicts in New York, about Herschel Walker losing, about really his campaign that feels very stagnant.
But one thing I want to point out because I spoke to a number of Republican advisers who've said this time and time again, they are not sure that this is the end of Donald Trump.
Even if it feels that way, they believe there is still a big portion of the base that will support him, and they are very careful not to write him off just yet, Erin.
BURNETT: Kristen, thank you very much, with all of that reporting.
Let's go now to Van Jones, former special adviser to then-President Obama, and the host of "The Erick Erickson Show," none other than Erick Erickson.
Okay, thanks very much to both of you.
Erick, you heard Kristen's reporting, right? People close to him, careful to say this may not be the end of him. And you say that if the GOP wants to win, in your words, and move on from an angry old man with nothing left but a knockoff Twitter feed, Eric, do you really believe that this loss is finally going to be -- is this going to be the straw that breaks that camel's hump for Donald Trump for the party?
ERICK ERICKSON, HOST, "THE ERICK ERICKSON SHOW": It depends on how people navigate moving forward. Do they engage with him or do they ignore him? If they start ignoring him, he thrives on the attention, and he does begin to fade. And anyone who thinks he's some sort of threat to the country, or to the Constitution, or to the future, really does need to start ignoring him because he wants the attention.
Just consider Georgia. He's got to win it. It's got 16 Electoral College votes. Every Republican who Trump endorsed in the state of Georgia lost, in the primaries to Republicans who he didn't back or Herschel Walker in the general to Raphael Warnock. Only one won, that would be the Lieutenant Governor-elect Burt Jones, and he underperformed every other Republican.
If he can't win Michigan or Pennsylvania or Arizona or Georgia, you've suddenly given the Democrats 270 electoral college votes that they need to win the presidency.
BURNETT: But, Van, we've been here before. I feel like we've been here before, right, when people start to turn and they say this is it, and they're going to move on. Is this really it?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, it's hard to know, but this does feel different for a couple reasons. First of all, if you're going to be a strong man, you have to be strong, which means you have to win.
Now, in 2020, he lost, but he said, but they stole it from me. So actually I really won, but they stole it from me. And then he tried to steal it with the insurrection, and then that didn't work out, and he said, you know, the media's exaggerating this whole thing and it was just a little -- nice people visiting the Capitol.
So he didn't have any opportunity for a long time to see, is this guy a winner or a loser. He has just lost and lost and lost and lost and lost. And what happens is if you're a strong man and you start losing, that means you're a weak man, and when you're a weak man, people abandon you in droves.
BURNETT: And his whole brand has been strong man,
ERICKSON: Yeah. And to jump in -- and, by the way, Van, it's so great to be on with you. I miss talking to you.
And I got to say, in 2018, they could say, well, it was a midterm and president's parties do poorly in midterms. Joe Biden just became the first president since FDR in 1932 to not lose a single seat in the Senate. Something Donald Trump couldn't do. You've got now three elections in a row where he's lost in all of the excuses keep giving way.
I mean, if the election was stolen in Georgia in 2020, considering every Republican won except Donald Trump's candidates, then the only people elections can be stolen from are Donald Trump and his friends, except it wasn't stolen.
BURNETT: All right. So, now, let's just talk about what's happening within the GOP, OK? Mitt Romney's made no secret of how he sees things. But let me just play for you some of the criticism for Trump and many in his own party. It is incredibly direct and harsh. That's first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): The Trump obsession is very bad for Republicans.
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Hopefully, we'll recognize that his endorsement can be the kiss of death.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): He was very active of course in the primaries. And even in the general election. So was he a factor? I don't think there's any question about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Okay. But then, then Senator Lindsey Graham opened his mouth. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think we're losing close elections, not because of Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Erick, I mean, that's still happening. I guess, that's my point, that is still happening from Lindsey Graham. And if that is still happening, then what?
ERICKSON: Well, listen, Lindsey's transactional with Trump as Trump is with Lindsey Graham. So the moment we have another frontrunner, you'll hear him say the same thing about that guy and pretend Trump doesn't exist. It's part of what he does.
The problem here is the others, John Thune, Mitt Romney. If they just say I'm looking towards the future, not the past. Then a lot of Trump supporters look towards the future as well. When they attack Donald Trump, Trump's supporters circle the wagon.
So, if they really want to dispose of Donald Trump, don't engage in the insult tit-for-tat with Trump. Just move on as if he's no longer part of the party, and you'll see the voters do the same.
BURNETT: All right. So, Van, now, let me just flip to the point that Erick made a few moments ago, right, that Joe Biden has done better in the midterms than any presidents since FDR, who, you know, kept getting re-elected and re-elected.
OK, OK -- than FDR.
This puts Biden in an incredible position of the wind at his back. He's got a decision to make in the next few weeks. If he wants to run again, is there any Democrat who would step up to try to stop him?
JONES: I don't see who could or who would. I mean, this guy has defied political gravity. He's gotten infrastructure done, climate stuff done, gun stuff done with the narrowest of majorities conceivable.
He just basically won the midterms. It's very, very hard. People are nervous about his age. It's like, you know, grandpa wants to drive us from New York to Philadelphia and it's rush-hour traffic.
Grandpa wants to drive and there's nobody strong enough to pull him out of the driver's seat. Ad so, I think they've just got to deal with that as a reality in terms of we have somebody who is not going to be moved out of that driver's seat unless he wants to move himself.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much, Van and Erick, and it is great to have you both together.
And, next, 25 right-wing extremists arrested in Germany over an alleged plot to overthrow the government. The group reportedly inspired by QAnon ideology. Sound familiar? I'm going to speak to the former spokesman for the Oath Keepers.
And a sitting member of Congress, a Republican candidate for governor, both expressing support for Trump's attack on the Constitution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARI LAKE (R), FORMER ARIZONA GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE: President Trump is saying we are in unprecedented times and unprecedented measures are necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, German authorities arresting 25 right-wing extremists connected to a terrorist organization that allegedly plotted to overthrow the German government. German officials saying the group was inspired by conspiracy theories and a QAnon ideology. The suspects reportedly include a far-right former member of German's parliament and members of the German military.
Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT in Berlin.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The raid started in the early morning hours. Several thousand police officers searching dozens of locations across Germany, including the castle (INAUDIBLE), home of the alleged ringleader who prosecutors say uses the title Prince Heinrich VIII from he royal House of Reuss.
CNN has tried reaching out to Heinrich VIII, but it's not clear if he has a legal representative.
Based on current findings, the suspected terrorist group uncovered today was founded based on coup d'etat fantasies and conspiracy ideologies Germany's interior minister said. The group is called Reichsburger or citizens of the Reich, and the alleged plotters were trying to overthrow the German government and install a monarchy with a prince at the helm, German authorities say.
Militant Reichsburger are united by the hatred for democracy for our state and for people who support our community, the interior minister said. Conspiracy theorists have a massive following in Germany. In August 2020, tens of thousands including QAnon followers and right- wing extremists took to the streets of Berlin praising Russian leader Vladimir Putin and then U.S. President Donald Trump.
Do you like Donald Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The deep state have for long time manipulated the people, the humans, and that must end.
PLEITGEN: The crowd tried to storm German parliament that day, similar to the insurrection in the U.S. on January 6th, 2021. Crowds ransacking the Capitol with members of the Oath Keepers' militia group playing a key role in the violence. That's another parallel to the alleged coup in Germany, the Reichsburger II had already established a so-called military arm, German prosecutors say.
This military arm aims to set up a new German army, the federal prosecutor said, consisting of homeland security units yet to be built. According to our information, individual members of this military arm were in the past active in the German armed forces.
Several suspects were flown to the federal prosecutor's office by police helicopters, an indication of just how seriously German authorities are taking this attack on their democracy.
PLEITGEN: And, Erin, the German government says that they really became extremely concerned about all this after they've been observing this group for months. And they saw them find a counsel, install a justice minister -- shadow justice minister and other ministries as well.
But then when that military arm came in, they became alarmed. Some people were arming themselves, some legally, some illegally. That's also where a lot of those former German soldiers came in as well. And that's where the German authorities said they knew they had to act. They are treating as terrorism, say they're continuing to be tough on such groups in the future as well, Erin.
BURNETT: Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much, live from Berlin tonight.
And OUTFRONT now, Jason Van Tatenhove, the former spokesperson for the far-right Oath Keepers group. And he testified before the January 6th Committee and warned of extremist groups using political violence.
And, Jason, here we are tonight. You know, you've seen what happened today. You hear Fred reporting about extremists with links to QAnon plotting to overthrow the government of the largest country in Europe.
Did you immediately think January 6th?
JASON VAN TATENHOVE, FORMER OATH KEEPERS SPOKESMAN: I did. And I thought that previously.
You know, they've got this notion of this Day X, which is covered extensively by a "New York Times" reporter Katrin Bennhold who did the Day X podcast series where she really, really breaks this down.
But you can think of Day X as being the equivalent in America of being the storm that QAnon talks about. And four months before January 6th happened, they had almost an identical event happen at the parliamentary building in Berlin.
So, this is a direct reflection. We're seeing this happen all over. And they're using really the same blueprint.
BURNETT: It is pretty amazing to see it, right? I mean, so when you see former President Trump hosting at Mar-a-Lago a prominent QAnon conspiracist, posing for photos.
This is after, of course, he just had dinner, right, with a person who denies the Holocaust, who is a known antisemite. What signal does this send to members of the Oath Keepers, just for instance, to other far- right groups?
VAN TATENHOVE: Well, again, it's much like we heard during the presidential debates with the stand back and stand by. You know, it's a dog whistle. It's acknowledging that he sees them as part of his base and part of his power structure, and that he possibly intends to use them, much like we saw them employed on January 6th. But it normalizes.
BURNETT: It -- I mean, it certainly does, right? I mean, he's appearing with these individuals.
So, the other context here in the U.S., when we talk about attempted overthrow of the government in Berlin, like I said, the largest country in Europe, investigators in the North Carolina -- investigators in North Carolina suspect extremists are behind that attack at a power station, which cut off power to 45,000 people.
In fact, they are pointing to extremists calling for attacks on critical infrastructure. They're zeroing in on extremists, targeting this county in North Carolina they say because a drag show performance was scheduled there.
How does this -- this situation in North Carolina, this attack on the power station play into this, do you think?
VAN TATENHOVE: Well, I think, again, this is something we've seen echoed in the past, you know, back in I think it was 2011 in California, there was millions of dollars of damage done using the exact same techniques. There was a prosecution that happened in between then and now in Ohio with people wanting to perpetrate the same actions.
This is something that I heard within the circles that I had traveled in, in the Oath Keepers, you know, five, six, seven years ago, what -- where they were talking about these types of very specific attacks where you're shooting at the kind of cooling barrels of a substation. So, this is something that, that they've been discussing for years now and even implementing.
Now we're seeing it happen much more often. And that's very troublesome. That's very concerning. We need to be watching that.
BURNETT: Certainly. I mean, for those who would think that what happened on January 6th was the end, it would seem like from what we're seeing here in the U.S. now, what we're seeing overseas, it was not, not even close to it.
VAN TATENHOVE: No.
BURNETT: And in some ways the beginning.
All right. Jason, thank you very much. I'm glad to speak to you.
VAN TATENHOVE: Thank you.
BURNETT: And, next, a sitting member of Congress and a Republican candidate for governor both endorsing Trump's call to terminate the American Constitution.
Plus, President Biden renewing his call tonight to ban assault weapons.
BURNETT: Tonight, a sitting member of Congress supporting Donald Trump's call to, quote, terminate the Constitution. In a since-deleted tweet, including a screen shot of Trump's original statement, the Republican Paul Gosar had this to say, quote: I support and agree with the former president. Unprecedented fraud requires unprecedented cure.
And the defeated Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, Kari Lake, who still hasn't conceded to Governor Katie Hobbs, also agreeing with Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KARI LAKE (R), FORMER ARIZONA GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE: President Trump is saying we are in unprecedented times, and unprecedented measures are necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Asa Hutchison, Republican governor of Arkansas.
And, Governor, I appreciate your time as always.
You know, look, there's been many in your party who have called this out. There have been some who have refused to directly call the former president out, even though they say they're for the Constitution.
And then there is a sitting member of Congress and a candidate for governor saying they support it, openly backing the former president's call to terminate the Constitution.
Can you believe that this is in your party?
GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): It's terrible.
And first of all, I really appreciated Herschel Walker last night in his concession speech said, democracy and the Constitution is more important than Herschel Walker. I thought he gave an incredible statement and I think that reflects healing power of whenever you can accept a loss and congratulate the winner and appreciate our democracy. And I appreciate what he had to say last night.
But the Republican Party has to really look deep into our soul. We have to, first of all, understand that there's a price to be paid whenever you have a Trump endorsement.
And then secondly, whenever you see the extremism across the country, now across the globe, we have to take every opportunity we can to reject that violent extremism. I know where it leads. You have to reject the conspiracy theories and embrace the truth and facts and the Constitution and democracy.
And I really believe that you look at Governor Kemp. You know, he won handily in Georgia, and he embraced all of those values, and our candidates in Iowa and other places in the same way. So the midterm election is not a rejection of Republican principles, it was just a rejection of certain candidates that are not addressing the needs of people and not following the Constitution and democracy.
BURNETT: Right. And you have been saying, Governor, for quite some time, that the Republican Party needs to move on from Donald Trump. You've been clear.
All right. This midterm, just three Trump-backed candidates in competitive races for governor, senator, and secretary of state won their races, just three. Fourteen lost. Herschel Walker being the 14th in Georgia last night.
What do you say to Republicans who still think that Trump is the ticket to victory for the GOP?
HUTCHINSON: Well, I think that number is diminishing, first of all. And secondly, the facts do not bear that out, that Trump is a ticket to victory.
As I said, there's a cost that comes with his endorsement. We saw this time and time again in the midterm elections. And whenever candidates talk about commonsense conservative values and address the challenges of inflation and energy costs, they win on the Republican side because the voters trust Republican principles and ideas.
They just don't want to get trapped into the past and the debate over the last election and conspiracy theories. That's a losing recipe. That's what we saw, and our party is really going to reject that, I'm confident, as we look to 2024.
BURNETT: Right. Well, of course, it's going to be a question. You're not going to be able to avoid it in any debate or interview because the only person who's currently formally declared that he's running is the former president, who denies that he lost the election.
You have said you are seriously considering jumping in that race for the 2024 presidential bid. You were in Iowa last month. You're one of more than a dozen Republicans who talked about a return. That would be a huge GOP field.
Are you worried that such a big field would splinter the party, that would ultimately help Trump?
HUTCHINSON: Well, sure. I mean, there's a challenge in that. But this is different than what it was when Trump ran the first -- ran the first time, and whenever he was able to pick off the other candidates out there one by one.
I think people understand what we're up against now. I welcome many different voices that are speaking as to the right direction for our party, of commonsense conservatism. There'll be multiple candidates out there, and that's what's going to happen, as we winnow those and determine who's actually going to be the nominee in 2024. I'm optimistic about it.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Governor Hutchinson. I appreciate your time.
HUTCHINSON: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. And next, President Biden doubling down on his call to ban assault weapons just days ahead of the 10th anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
BURNETT: And tonight, President Biden this hour calling for stricter gun laws. He's speaking at the national vigil for victims of gun violence. The president speaking about the loss that so many in that room share, the loss of those they love.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know a little bit what the loss feels like. It will be an anniversary on the 18th of this month. I lost my wife and daughter and nearly lost my two sons when a tractor-trailer broadsided them. And it's not long after that anniversary of losing my son. I know that feeling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Biden calling, again, for a ban on assault weapons. But so far, it does not appear that Congress has the votes to pass that in the lame duck session.
Thanks so much for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.