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Erin Burnett Outfront

Cohen May Be Asked For More Testimony In Trump Hush Money Probe; Appeals Court Orders Trump Attorney To Testify In Classified Documents Probe; Russia Official: Risk Of Nuclear Conflict Highest Levels In Decades; Attacks On Asian American Spiked In Two Years, Fueling A Political Shift To The Right; Obama Pushes Early Voting In Wisconsin Supreme Court Race. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 22, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, CNN learning the Manhattan D.A. may be calling back key witness Michael Cohen in the hush money investigation. This would be Cohen's third appearance before the grand jury and the jurors meeting again as soon as tomorrow morning. So what does this say about the case the country is watching, waiting for against Trump?

Plus, the threat of nuclear war, the highest it's been in decades, according to a top Russian official tonight, as terrifying video shows a Russian strike on civilians in broad daylight.

And Asian voters in San Francisco, fed up with crimes targeting their community, unhappy with progressive policies on education. Is this a lesson for Democrats beyond San Francisco?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

And OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. We are learning that Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen, could be called back to testify for a third time before the grand jury investigating hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. That grand jury is expected to meet again as early as tomorrow morning.

Now, a source is telling our John Miller that the D.A. may want Cohen to push back against the last testimony that the grand jury had, which was from Cohen's former attorney, Robert Costello, who testified on Monday.


ROBERT COSTELLO, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: I listened to Michael Cohen stand in front of the courthouse and say things that are directly contrary to what he said to us. Now, he's on the revenge tour. I understand it, but I don't condone it.

And that's why I went in there today to tell these people the truth about who the real Michael Cohen is and what he was actually saying at that moment time.


COSTELLO: Bob Costello, of course is a widely respected attorney. He went and did that.

Now, Cohen later responded at least publicly right now in front of the jury yet, but publicly to Costello's claims there.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Bob Costello, if he was any more imaginary in the statements that are coming out of his mouth, he'd be a number one "New York Times" bestselling fiction author.


BURNETT: This all comes as we're learning, the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, told the grand jury to stay home today. It was a surprise to many. I mean, these jurors on the cusp of an historic vote deciding at any day on whether to indict a former president of the United States for the first time.

So, is it a good sign for Trump that the testimony from Costello, of course, a witness that Trump had pushed for seems to still be weighing heavily on this case and may require a third appearance from the key witness, Michael Cohen? That's one way of looking at it.

Or is Bragg as some legal experts who know the Manhattan D.A.'s office think maybe, is he simply holding off the vote on an indictment until he can line up just the logistics involved in arresting a former president, right? Is this just about logistics and not about substance?

Well, here's some context here and we've found it all comes as the KFILE, Andrew Kaczynski and his team, has uncovered new audio tonight of Joe Tacopina. Now you've seen him. You've seen him here on this show and elsewhere, the lawyer now representing Trump.

This audio raises concerns about Trump's hush money payments to Stormy Daniels in 2018, concerns by Joe Tacopina.


JOE TACOPINA, CONSERVATIVE ATTORNEY: You can't pay with it -- pay a client somewhat (ph) with your own money. You can't make someone (ph) -- that bind your client without him knowing about it. So how could he say that?

Now, if that's true, he's got some problems and the agreements are fraud and null and void. If it's not true, then where did the money come from? That Mr. Cohen was not being honest. Where did the money come from?

If it leads back to the Trump campaign funding, that's a big problem. This is a Pandora's box that's going to be opened and, unfortunately, is not going to have any good results for the president.


BURNETT: He's now, of course, the one defending the president.

Kara Scannell is OUTFRONT live outside the courthouse in New York.

And, Kara, what more are you learning here on the eve of another day, possibly for the grand jury to be impaneled?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin. So our latest reporting is from my colleague John Miller, who says that the D.A.'s office is considering whether to bring Michael Cohen back. And as you explain, Bob Costello is former attorney was in meeting before the grand jury at the request of the Trump's attorneys on Monday, and Costello had told them according to what he told us all publicly is that when Michael Cohen was at his worst moment back in 2018 and really on the ropes, he said that Cohen even then would not implicate Trump in any wrongdoing and had said Cohen had said that he had made the payments on his own.

We don't know how that played with the jury. We don't know how that factors into the D.A.'s thinking, but they are weighing considering bringing him back in.

And remember, Cohen was on standby on Monday as potential rebuttal witness, but Costello's testimony went three hours, went right up to the end of the day.


So it certainly has been as something that they have been considering over the past few days, and it isn't clear yet if they're going to bring him in. The D.A.'s office declined to comment, and Cohen's attorney declined to comment on whether he will be brought back in.

You know, this all comes as the situation is very much in flux. The grand jury has been meeting on Monday, Wednesdays and Thursday. They're not required to meet those days. That's just when they have heard witness testimony. So, now, we know tomorrow that there that is a day that they meet.

Our sources tell us that they are on, you know, quote/unquote, standby and could come in. It remains to be seen what will happen tomorrow. They meet in the afternoon.

But this whole situation is very fluid. I mean, it's a big decision for the D.A.'s office to make of whether to take this historic step and ask a grand jury to indict a former president think there's a lot of consideration being done and you know decisions are still being made. So we're going to be here. We're going to be watching and waiting and we'll see if any witnesses come in tomorrow -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kara.

So OUTFRONT now, Ryan Goodman, Karen Agnifilo, Van Jones and Jonah Goldberg.

So, Karen, you've been there, right? You worked in this D.A.'s office. You were the chief assistant D.A. for Cy Vance, right? So you worked on this and other matters.

But the grand jury not meeting today, and that was, you know, surprising to most everyone. Many thought today would be the day of the indictment. And now here you are hearing Michael Cohen might be brought in again today -- tomorrow, I'm sorry, as to kind of seal the deal. It appears it's unclear what would be going on here.

What do you think is happening?

KAREN AGNIFILO, FORMER PROSECUTOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think they're having a little mini trial in the grand jury. Grand juries are usually what they call bare bones presentations. You put the small amount of evidence in because the proof is much smaller. It's -- you just have to have probable cause that a crime occurred.

But this is a much more fulsome presentation. You've had witnesses testified for long periods of time. And you had Mr. Costello come in for almost three hours, so I think it's important to have to bring Michael Cohen back into for any questions the grand jury might have, and to rebut what was said by Mr. Costello.

BURNETT: Okay, so interesting stories in mini trial.

Ryan, I guess the question I would have then is, you know, everyone has said, look, Michael Cohen is a convicted liar. So, if you believe what he says or not, you would need other corroborating evidence. But then I'm thinking, gosh, they're saying he may be brought in again to rebut Costello.

Does that mean that -- is that an admission of it's a he said/he said, and that's really all it is?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: It might be, it might not be. I mean, there's a good chance that within those three hours, Costello said things that he can be easily rebutted on, and then they bring in Cohen to say we're going to restore the credibility of the witness and what Cohen has told you here. He is saying it again, or can it respond directly to what Costello had said, and then bring in additional information.

Like, for example, that there is information that "The National Enquirer" did strike this scheme with Cohen, and they could bring that evidence back in to say, look, this was obviously a scheme. There's not just up to Cohen. They were in communication with Donald Trump directly about the hush money payment in its first stage with Karen MacDougal before it became Stormy Daniels.

Just things like that could be happening just to finish it off by closing -- and closing the case in that sense.

BURNETT: All right. So, I mean, it is amazing this moment that we're in. But, Van, you know, obviously the politics of this even as a Democrat. I know you've been extremely cautious on and now this is messy.


BURNETT: Right? This is messy, okay? And this whole thing happening tomorrow. I mean, this is this isn't just a clean -- as Karen said, clean, bare bones, go about it.

You've been cautious. This isn't kind of what you wanted to go first.

JONES: Well, no. First of all, I mean, it seems like you know when you're coming down to Michael Cohen, the fate of the whole thing comes down to Michael Cohen, who, you know, flip flops in his flip flops and lies about his lies. It's just -- it's just scary.

And there's so many better things to go after Trump on. What about the election interference in Georgia? Why can't that go first? What about the insurrection? What about the coup? What about 15 other things?

And so, you're just watching this whole thing go down. And you just -- just -- if he -- if he jumps into the swimming pool, he's bringing the entire country with him, the district attorney. And right now, it looks like he's looking pretty hard at the -- at the edge of that swimming pool.

BURNETT: Jumping into a Pandora's box.

JONES: Yeah.

BURNETT: Joe Tacopina flip flopping aside as a Pandora's box that appears for pretty much anyone depending on you know, however, you look at this.

I mean, Jonah, there are plenty of Democrats, you know, like Van here, cautious here. There are a lot of Republicans who are not cautious at all. In fact, they've thrown caution to the winds. Some are not only proclaiming Trump's complete innocence, not knowing obviously the fact pattern here but also calling for bragged to be indicted in jailed.

Rand Paul is one of them. He tweeted and I quote: A Trump indictment would be a disgusting abuse of power. The D.A. should be put in jail. All right?

So then he was asked on camera while jails a big thing to say, how come you feel this way, Senator? And here's what he said.


REPORTER: In your mind, what law did he break where he may need to go to jail?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): I think we'll stick with just what we tweeted out if you want to report that.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator Paul, what law did Alvin Bragg break that needs to go to jail?


Why do you think he needs to be in jail? Senator Paul?

REPORTER: Senator Paul, what did you mean by your tweet that you thought the Manhattan D.A. should be jailed? Senator Paul, what did you mean by your tweet that the Manhattan D.A. should be jailed?


BURNETT: So, Jonah, no answer. Obviously, Rand Paul doesn't know the full facts of the case. No one does. The lawyers sitting here don't know exactly what Bragg has or does not have. Is Senator Paul's call for Bragg to be jailed over the line or not?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's silly. It's stupid. It's boo bait and fans service for Twitter audience.

Is it -- but I think you know if you take a step back, it is of a piece with this larger dynamic, right, where Donald Trump comes to Washington, gets elected president, violates all sorts of norms -- you know, forget laws for a second, just like norms, traditions, customs, probity. He violates it all, bull in china shop.

And that gives permission to his enemies to violate norms to go beyond -- to go too far to go, you know, go for the jugular, to do politics as the crow flies rather than go through the right processes.

And now we have this tit-for-tat thing where it's elicited what I think is -- I agree entirely with Van Jones that this is a fraught case to bring first against the former president of the United States, but you had a prosecutor run for office, saying he's going to go after Donald Trump, which is the norm violation to and then you got people responding to that. There's a right wing radio guy, Jesse Kelly, talking about how you have to start indicting all the Democrats.

This is the kind of eye for an eye logic that Trump brings in and then he brings out the worst in his enemies.

BURNETT: I love the politics as the crow flies analogy -- Jonah, credit with you on it, but I use that one again because it says something, right, norms matter, right? Norms and rules matter. An FAA matters.

So, Karen, here's the thing, though, the conversation that we're having you can go and watch a Fox point of view right now, an MSNBC point of view now, and these jurors could do that. They're not sequestered. There are 23 people. They are, you know, in the midst of this media -- media storm as well.

Is that concerning?

AGNIFILO: Yes, of course, it is. I mean, it's very concerning, but hopefully, they will -- they are instructed to only listen to the evidence and only consider the evidence, and hopefully, that's what they're doing here. And frankly, if they can't -- if this doesn't get indicted, given the

lower standard probable cause, then they would never make it beyond a reasonable doubt. So it's good to do this now, put all the evidence in now, and if they can get an indictment, then it goes forward. If not, then it shouldn't have.

BURNETT: So, Ryan, that now back to what we heard, Joe Tacopina say, right talking about this as a Pandora's box. It's all bad for the president. Now, that was in 2018. You saw him talking to Don Lemon there and Laura Coates.

And again, 2018, that's when Stormy Daniels was maybe looking for representation, so maybe that's what he was -- the audience he was speaking to. But -- and he didn't have the facts he has now.

I mean, I don't it just doesn't look good, right? His whole takeaway is this is terrible for the president. Now he's the guy going on the airwaves day after day. He is the defense attorney for the president.

GOODMAN: Yeah, he did a bunch of interviews and a lot of appearances in CNN in 2018, around that time. He made other statements as well. A lot of people were saying like this raises certain campaign finance issues, which he is saying that, you know, diametric --

BURNETT: Right, he was the one who was bringing that into the conversation.

GOODMAN: Yeah, which that's the -- that's the stretchy argument here, which is, does this actually raise -- does hush money counts as a campaign contribution? There he is on TV saying it does. And now he's saying the opposite.

And it's very unusual for somebody to be doing that, and it's also very unusual because he also said on CNN that he was consulted by Stormy Daniels. You said that in 2018, and he refused to answer certain questions, saying attorney-client privilege because of that consultation.

BURNETT: Right. And it's amazing that he's now in this position.

All right. So, Van, Trump obviously is raising money off of all this. You know, there's a reporting that he wants to be handcuffed. He thinks this is all great for him. At least he's pretending he thinks that it's all great for him.

JONES: Yeah.

BURNETT: If they don't indict, obviously that that that's a win for him and in certain in ways and if they do, he thinks it's a win for him in other ways. Is it a win-win?

JONES: Well, you know, that means it's Wednesday. In other words, like that's -- that's the Donald Trump phenomenon.

BURNETT: Right. JONES: Like whatever happens, he's figured out some way to make it work for him. He's like -- he's like a -- like a sinister Ferris Bueller, you know? He just gets away with stuff, and it just drives people nuts.

But the idea that he's fundraising off of this, what about the false advertising? He says, I'm going to get arrested on Tuesday. Send me money. Everybody sends him the money. He's not arrested.

I mean, he's just -- he's unbelievable, the stuff he gets away with.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, Jonah, it is amazing. He did say he was being arrested on Tuesday.

JONES: Yeah.

GOLDBERG: Yeah and look, I think short term this helps him. There's this sort of rally around them thing that happens, sort of, like what happened with Mar-a-Lago. But I think long term this is probably really bad for him because it fuels this feeling of, man, there's just always something with this guy.


That's -- and like it feels this idea that there's drama, that he invites these problems, and that the amount of baggage he would have -- because, remember, if they indicted him now, they're also going to probably indict him for the Georgia stuff.


GOLDBERG: And then for the federal stuff, and that's a lot of indictments. That's just a lot of drip, drip, drip. And at some point, you can see people saying , look, I think they treated him unfairly. But there's just -- it's just too much muchness with this guy. Let's get a clean fresh start.

BURNETT: Again, too much muchness, politics as a crow flies.

Okay. Thank you all so much. I appreciate it.

And next, Trump suffering another legal setback. As Jonah is talking about these other cases, right? And Van was saying, I wish they went first. His attorney in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case must testify. This is something Trump's team fought tooth and nail over and it all went down and we hours of the morning.

Former White House attorney and OUTFRONT regular Ty Cobb is next.

Plus, Ron DeSantis under harsh criticism for saying that support for Ukraine isn't a key U.S. interest. Tonight, wow, it is a new Ron DeSantis. Here's what he said about Vladimir Putin.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: I mean, I think he is a war criminal. (END VIDEDO CLIP)

BURNETT: And former Obama -- and former President Obama telling people to get out and vote in an election that you have heard of, but we're going to tell you why this could be the most important election this year.


BURNETT: Tonight, a major loss for Trump and the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case. So this adds, of course, to the former president's legal issues right now.


But an appeals court today ruled that Trump attorney Evan Corcoran, you see him there, must provide additional testimony to the federal grand jury about his conversations with the former president. This comes after the DOJ was able to convince a federal judge that there is evidence that Trump used one of his defense attorneys in furtherance of a crime.

The former president's team fighting back tonight, they're saying, quote, there is no factual or legal basis or substance to any case against president Trump. The real story here is that prosecutors only attack lawyers when they have no case whatsoever.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT.

And, Evan, look, and now you've got this war of words happening very rapidly, though. All of this as I was saying, kind of, you know, in the wee hours of the morning. I mean, this is a flurry of court filings in a system that's been sort of like, you know, taking a band aid off bit by bit. There was this who that just happened, you know?

What more can you tell us? You know, it really was remarkable to watch what happened. Just in the last 24 hours, Erin. The court basically told the Trump team they had a few hours to file well, you know, what they wanted the court to do, basically their appeal.

And then they had -- they gave the Justice Department 6:00 a.m. this morning to respond, which is, you know, extraordinary speed for these courts. And you know one of the things that I think we take away from this is that the judges seem to be aware of what Donald Trump is trying to do. His strategy for many years, including during the Mueller investigation was to just try to run out the clock, was delay, delay, delay. And that's the game.

He's also trying to play now, and the courts seem to be aware of that, and they're trying to make sure that nobody is trying to game the system. And so that's the reason why you saw the extraordinary speed. They've made a ruling this afternoon, and now, we expect Evan Corcoran is going to appear in court as soon as Friday, and we'll see whether the Justice Department -- what the Justice Department does after that.

BURNETT: Right. All right. Thank you very much, Evan. And let's go now to Ty Cobb, the former Trump White House lawyer.

So, Ty, as I said, it had been sort of like, you know, ripping the band aid off hair by hair. And then all of a sudden, it's boom, boom, boom, boom. Six a.m., okay, now, Evan Corcoran's coming in as soon as Friday. I mean, it just happened so very quickly.

What does that say to you?

TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I think -- I think it's says that the D.C. Circuit is not going to be part of any delay game.

Now I will take issue with Evan, of course, having run the Mueller investigation at the White House. We didn't delay anything. We voluntarily cooperated throughout.

But these cases have been managed much differently. There has been constant motions, constant appeals, constant assertions of privilege that have been right, you know, roundly rejected by the courts, and I'm -- I'm not surprised that this order was issued.

I think that Jack Smith has done an excellent job of transforming the classified document case at Mar-a-Lago into a very worthy obstruction case. Keep in mind that the key event surrounding Corcoran's testimony involves the June 3rd meeting with Justice Department officials and Cristina Bobb on his team, where they gave him some additional classified documents and a sworn statement, that while Christina signed it, Corcoran wrote it or at least organized it. And they had hours of conversations, backing up the essence of what they were swearing to.

So we know for a fact, shortly after that, in August, they did a search warrant and found hundreds more classified documents. So this is a very serious event and Corcoran, you know, testifying is there's no way for even the former president, to spin that as a -- as a positive event. I mean, he turns lawyers into witnesses, you know, faster than any potential defendant in the history of the criminal justice system.

BURNETT: Right. So, Corcoran is either when he's forced to testify going to say that he doesn't deserve to be a lawyer because he just, you know, signed something that he wrote himself with no idea if it was true or he's going to say that the president told me was true, right? In which case then I guess you know that's where you get to that obstruction.

Why are they -- they are obviously very worried about his testimony.

COBB: Well, I mean, yeah, because that that what they swore to clearly was not true right now, whether Evan that or not, you know, I'm not casting any aspersions that way. I would -- it would surprise me if he did, but it's a possibility and they want to get into it.


COBB: The more likely scenario as you suggest it is, that he was directed to do this by the president and did so, unfortunately.


BURNETT: So, what -- what is this all say then to you about where Jack Smith is, in terms of, you know, this whole debate now? I don't have you heard Van Jones. But you know the frustration that many Democrats even feel that it may be a New York indictment about a misdemeanor hush money payment that it goes ahead of an obstruction of classified documents or obstruction of an official proceeding on January 6th.

COBB: Yes, I -- and I think that's very -- I share those concerns. I think that's sad because as you and I have discussed many times, my view is that the New York case really distorts the law probably is barred by the statute of limitations and in any event won't be consequential to Trump will never go to jail for that.

I think the Mar-a-Lago obstruction and the obstruction of the Pence proceeding on January 6th along with some related -- to see it with regard to the United States, I think those are the -- those are the core claims that that should take precedence, but it may well be that that brag goes first.

I do believe that there is no obligation for Jack Smith to bring both the Mar-a-Lago obstruction aspect and January 6th obstruction aspect simultaneously. I mean, those are two independent criminal acts, so he could bring one well in advance of the other.

BURNETT: Well, it's significant. I think a point people should know, right? If you -- if you do get one, it doesn't mean you aren't going to get the other. They're not related.

All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate it, Ty.

COBB: My pleasure and always good to be with you.

BURNETT: All right. You, too.

And next, the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, as you know, just days ago, said back in Ukraine was not vital as an American interests. But tonight, wow, does he sound different when it comes to Putin?


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: He's basically a gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons. F


BURNETT: And then to call him a war criminal.

Plus, San Francisco's Asian community, which has helped fuel the left rise there is now moving to the center because of a spike in hate crimes.


BURNETT: Tonight, a top Russian official warning that the risk of nuclear conflict is the highest it's been in decades, according to Russian state media and Putin's closest ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, warning of a, quote, terrifying response if the Russian military is attacked with ammunition containing depleted uranium. That's the ammo the U.K. is supplying Ukraine.

Now, by the way, the U.K. notes this is standard in their armor piercing shells. It has no nuclear capability.


PRES. ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, BELARUS (through translator): As soon as these munitions explode at the positions of the Russian forces, you'll see the response will be terrifying. It will be a lesson for the whole planet.


BURNETT: Well, this comes as a senior Ukrainian officials accusing Russia of deliberately launching a deadly attack on a residential building in southern Ukraine.

And David McKenzie is OUTFRONT in southern Ukraine tonight in Odessa.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Terror in broad daylight -- a Russian missile striking an apartment block in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.

Far from the front line forces, lives shattered in an instant.

I was at work and my child was alone at home, Svetlana says. She lived on the sixth floor with her son. He knows how to walk in the hallway during an air raid, she says it may have saved his life.

This is what just happened to my home, says this man. Look, this is where I was sitting with my mom just now.

But even in the aftermath, fear is never far away in Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials say Russian forces fired at least six missiles at the city on Wednesday. Search and rescue teams scrambled to find people trapped under the rubble. Young children among the injured.

President Zelensky called it savagery, from a terrorist state. And overnight, a swarm of Shahed drones sent sirens blaring across Kyiv.

Air defenses brought some down, but at least seven were killed near the capital, say authorities. Russia has repeatedly denied it's targeting civilians.

On Wednesday, President Zelensky traveled close to the front lines in the east to visit injured soldiers and rally his troops and remind them what they were fighting for.

It's your historical mission to protect our land and return everything belonging to Ukraine for our children, he told them.


MCKENZIE (on camera): The Russians say, Erin, that they are not targeting civilians, but military. But time and time again, over these many months, we've seen evidence of strikes in civilian areas, significant civilian casualties. Just in the last couple of days. We've been back and forth from the southern front line and you hear incoming and outgoing shelling frequently.

And just in the last 24 hours, multiple strikes on that city Kherson. When we've been in that area and after we were in that area, it shows you the impact of this conflict -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. David, thank you very much, live from Odesa.

And let's go now to Ian Bremmer, the foreign policy expert and president and founder of the Eurasia Group.

And, Ian, always -- always good to speak to you.

So I just wanted to start with this point about the U.K. munitions that they're sending to Ukraine with depleted uranium. Now that is just how their armor piercing shells are made at a standard. The shells do not have any nuclear capability. This -- this, of course, is known by the Russians as well.

And yet you've got this immediate reaction. You know, Lukashenko warning of a terrifying response if they're used. Russia saying the risk of a nuclear conflict is as high as it's been in decades.

How concerning is all this rhetoric again now?

IAN BREMMER, EURASIA GROUP PRESIDENT & FOUNDER: Again, it's not really concerning unless the Russians massively underperform in the field. You know, there's a reason why the Americans have been so willing to provide defensive systems like the Patriot missile defense system and but much less willing to send things like the ATACMS and other longer range missiles that could potentially attack inside Russia . They understand what they want to get the Ukrainians to get their land back. They understand potential red lines.

So, I mean, I think when you see the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian forces overwhelmed the Russians if you were to see Wagner, you know, start shooting on their own superiors.

If you were to see you know the regular sort of armed forces fall apart, surrender, and suddenly, Crimea gets cut off and is at risk of attack.


Then I think we start to talk seriously about might be the Russians engage in vertical escalation, in other words, the use of weapons of mass destruction. Fortunately, we're not there, right? Now there are lots of reasons to believe we won't get there with this counter offensive.

So, I mean -- I do think that there is the risks are way too high, but they're -- but they're not. They're not like 20, 30, 40 percent high.

BURNETT: Right, right, but, of course, it's interesting. When you talk about Crimea and Ukraine made it has made it very clear, right, that Crimea is, you know, they're going to take it back. That's what they say, right?

So, you know, at some point, this question raises its head. In the context --

BREMMER: Can I say privately, Erin, though, and, when they're engaged in negotiations with NATO, Zelenskyy does make it clear that there's a very big difference between the way he thinks about Crimea and the way he thinks about the rest of territorial Ukraine. Crimea still Ukrainian land, that's not something they expect to take back militarily. That's something that they believe is a matter of 10 years. In other words, it's a negotiated process. They do understand that.

BURNETT: Yes, all right. So let me ask you about DeSantis, the governor of Florida, of course. He as, you know, recently said that the Russian invasion was a territorial dispute. It was not a vital U.S interests.

In a new interview, you know, he's trying to put some parameters on that about, you know, Donbas, and then he went on and said something that just in terms of feel and tone is obviously very different than territorial dispute, not of interest to us. Here's what he said about Putin.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: He doesn't have the conventional capability to realize his ambitions. And so, he's basically a gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons. I think he is a war criminal.


TAPPER: Obviously, he's a likely presidential candidate to say the least. So what do you think Putin takes away from that?

BREMMER: Well, he's a fading presidential candidate, least in terms of the polls over the last few weeks, but nonetheless very important one. And it's interesting.

He was played a bit by Tucker Carlson. So if you didn't read Tucker's questions, you only looked at the responses that DeSantis gave, frankly, they are not so different from Biden's actual policy. Now he did mention it's a territorial dispute. That's the big shift, but I mean the ask of whether it's a vital interest of the United States, I'm not sure Biden's own administration advisers would all agree to that.

DeSantis said that they shouldn't get F-16s. Biden says the same thing at least for now. And Tucker Carlson did not ask DeSantis, do you support present U.S. policy in terms of what the Ukrainians are getting? And I suspect if he was forced to answer that he'd end up saying yes.

So it turns out, DeSantis, when he's pushed is more on team Biden or team McCarthy or team McConnell, than he's on team Trump when it comes to Ukraine, and, of course, if you're Putin, that means that DeSantis is not someone you're looking forward to seeing get the nomination.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Ian, as always. Thanks.

And next, the alarming rise of hate crimes in San Francisco and other progressive policies has Asian Americans sending a warning to Democrats nationwide.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What happened to the Democrats in the city in your opinion?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they have gone to extreme to the left.


BURNETT: Plus, former President Obama rallying voters tonight for a race that may be one of the most important contest this year. Where and what is it?



BURNETT: Tonight, New York City Mayor Eric Adams trying to avoid becoming the latest Democratic leader to be painted as soft on crime by touting his tough on crime policies in a new video.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: The tide is turning and every day, our city is getting safer. I always say that public safety is the prerequisite to prosperity.


BURNETT: Well, that comes after rising crime in liberal cities across the country has some voters moving to the right politically, even in one of the most progressive American cities, San Francisco.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.


FORREST LIU, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST, GROW SF: China understand the needs of the Asian community here.

Yeah. How you doing?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Forrest Liu, once a San Francisco finance worker --

LIU: So, I'm a stop Asian hate activist.

LAH: -- now a Bay Area community organizer.

LIU: Do you live around this neighborhood?

LAH: Tracking the voting power of Asian Americans? Discontent in the Sunset District, majority Asian community is driving a series of political shakeups in San Francisco, one of America's most liberal cities.

LIU: We're like a canary in a coal mine, right? When things get really bad. We're going to come out and be like -- these are like basic human rights that are being violated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: San Francisco is deteriorating right now.

LAH: It began in the pandemic, with the spike and violent hate crimes targeting Asian Americans.

LIU: The right to feel safe when you walk on the street, the right to have access to decent public education. And the right to be seen and heard and yeah, I think we woke up.

LAH: And voted into city hall, a moderate Democrat.

JOEL ENGARDIO, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT 4 SUPERVISOR: I'm bringing it more to a moderate shade of blue, a common sense shade of blue.

LAH: Joel Engardio, elected in November, beat the Chinese American incumbent, becoming the first non-Asian and two decades to represent this majority Asian district.

Voters overlooked race and supported Engardio's campaign on public safety, merit-based public schools and cutting red tape for small businesses. Engardio also backed the recall of San Francisco's progressive district attorney last year, overwhelmingly supported by Asian American voters in the district.

Is it a backlash of progressivism in our cities? Is that how you see it to me?

ENGARDIO: To me, progressive is forward thinking, moving into the future and building a better city. And for too long, we have not followed that definition of progressive.

LAH: One of the Chinese mothers who campaigned and ushered in Engardio's upset is Alene Chu (ph).

ALENE CHU, RESIDENT: I'll just pick this name because it's Asian. That's how I used to vote.


That is not a good way to vote. Something turned on during the pandemic and sort of lit a fire.

LAH: It began with her anger at the public schools. She says the school board put progressive politics over classroom needs during the pandemic. Zhu is one of the Asian parents who drove the successful recall of three school board members.

What happened to the Democrats in the city, in your opinion?

CHU: I think they have gone to extreme to the left. I think we need to get back to the basics and focus on, making sure that the cities are safe, making sure we have high quality education.

I know of folks that have traditionally voted Democrat that are now voting Republican because they do not feel that the Democratic Party is representing them.

LAH: That is a warning sign for Democrats and civil rights attorney Charles Zhang (ph) and for national Democrats in 2024.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You saw a substantial double digit erosion of support from Asian Americans from this midterm election to 2018 and, incidentally, it's not just Asian Americans. You saw the same something among Hispanic voters.

Is your race a warning signal to national Democrats?

JOEL ENGARDIO, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT 4 SUPERVISOR: San Francisco, most liberal place in America, is saying enough. We want safe streets. We want good schools, so that should tell anyone pay attention.


BURNETT: And Kyung is with me now.

And, Kyung, you know, you've been working on this piece and doing so much reporting on it. And then while you actually shooting the story , you know, and I guess it's ironic, but it's not. It's sort of brings home how real this is and pervasive. You and your crew were the victims of crime in San Francisco, shooting this story.

LAH: Yeah, a little bit of a postscript on this story of footnote, if you will. While we were inside talking to Supervisor Engardio about street crime and his political rise because of it, this is what happened to our rental car. It was broken into and this happened in four seconds.

The reason why I know it's exactly four seconds is because we had hired professional security to watch our cars because this is so pervasive. It is such a shared experience and our bags were taken. We had a reported to the police. And then I heard from people all over the city, Erin, who say that

they too had this experience. Our bags were returned. We're happy to report, but this is something that the people of San Francisco who do return our bags say, that they are fighting to stop.

BURNETT: Yeah. I mean, it's amazing, I guess just to make a pause and hope everyone heard what you say that you have to have hired security to shoot a story in San Francisco, California. That is an incredible thing just on its own.

Kyung, thank you so much for that. And for sharing that report, and Kyung has been obviously working on that for quite some time. So I was so glad to share it with you.

And next, President Obama weighing in on what's become a nail biter in a crucial swing state, contest that could have major implications in next year's presidential election. Plus, a terrifying close call. This is Southwest plane coming within 100 yards less than that, actually of crashing into an ambulance.



BURNETT: Tonight, a bitter battle in what might be the most important election of the year, with major implications for the presidential election. Voters are deciding who will control Wisconsin's Supreme Court. That is the court that narrowly, narrowly rejected Donald Trump's attempts to overturn his 2020 loss. Even former President Obama is now getting involved telling voters to act now.

Our Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Voting is underway again in battleground Wisconsin, where echoes of the last presidential race still resonate, even as an April election nears. This time, the campaign is all about the court, the state Supreme Court, that came within one vote of overturning Donald Trump's narrow loss to Joe Biden here three years ago.



ZELENY: Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz, the liberal candidate, sparred on a debate stage here this week with former Supreme Court justice Daniel Kelly, a conservative who lost his seat in 2020 and is fighting to return to the state's highest court.

It's become the nation's most expensive judicial race on record.

CAMPAIGN AD: The false electors scheme, in Wisconsin, extremist Dan Kelly was the right wing lawyer behind the scenes of it all.

ZELENY: With $30 million in counting on ads alone.

CAMPAIGN: Protasiewicz set violent criminals free again and again.

ZELENY: In a bitter contest over abortion rights, redistricting and even rules for voting in the next presidential election.

PROTASIEWICZ: The results of the 2024 presidential election are likely to come in front of the Supreme Court as well. The 10 electoral votes that we have here are very, very highly sought after.

ZELENY: Should the 2024 presidential election be part of this race?

KELLY: Nope. All we deal with in the court is legal questions. Political questions those are resolved in the legislation. That's why I don't talk about politics.

But the Democratic governor and a Republican legislature that conservative leaning Supreme Court often has had the last word. From outlawing ballot drop boxes to potentially taking up a challenge to an 1849 law, banning nearly all abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade.

PROTASIEWICZ: If my opponent is elected, that 1849 abortion ban will stay.

KELLY: There seems to be pattern. Just tell them lies.

ZELENY: Three major Wisconsin anti-abortion groups have endorsed Kelly, who said he makes no promises how he'd rule on that or any issue.

GRACIE SKOGMAN, WISCONSIN RIGHT TO LIFE: Our endorsement is based on his judicial philosophy.

ZELENY: Gracie Skogman of Wisconsin Right to Life, said her movement is working hard to elect Kelly.

SKOGMAN: There is more at stake in this election, than ever before in our state.

ZELENY: Wisconsin is one of 14 states that directly elect Supreme Court justices at the ballot box, in elections that are technically nonpartisan, but practically anything but.

BEN WIKLER, WISCONSIN DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR: This election is the most important. Didn't election in the country in the year, 2023 because Wisconsin is the tipping point state for presidential elections.

ZELENY: Ben Wikler leads the Wisconsin Democratic Party, which is invested millions into the race for Protasiewicz.

WIKLER: Whoever is elected April 4th will serve in 2024's presidential race, 2028, 2032. (END VIDEOTAPE)


ZELENY (on camera): So the term of the Supreme Court race is for 10 years. That's why its impact will have such a lasting effect.

Whichever candidate wins, that side will take control of the Supreme Court by a 4-3 majority. It will certainly set the stage for 2024 in terms of voting rules. But for now, abortion rights is the driving factor on both sides. But Democrats hope Wisconsin will be another example of a place they will win. This election is on April 4th -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And a crucial one. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny.

And next on "AC360", the mother of Stephen Smith is going to speak out about her son's mysterious death in 2015. Officials just reopening that cold case due to information uncovered in Alex Murdaugh's murder case. That's coming up at the top of the hour.

But next, we're just learning about Southwest and the jet that came dangerously close to getting an ambulance.


BURNETT: Tonight, less than a football field. That's how close a Southwest plane came to crashing into an ambulance crash, which could have killed many. The plane was taking off from Baltimore when the ambulance cut across the runway into the jets path. The incident happened in January, but we're just hearing about it now.


AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL AUDIO: ARRF 439, make sure you hold short runway 10!

ARRF 439, you were supposed to hold short runway 15R!


BURNETT: And this coming to light after another incident, which involved a Southwest plane at Burbank Airport in Los Angeles, is coming to light. That plane was diverting from its landing because they had to avoid colliding with a helicopter, which was practicing touch and go landings on the same runway.

Thanks for joining us.

"AC360" begins now.