Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

MyPillow CEO Must Pay Expert $5M for Debunking False Election Data; Biden Set to Announce 2024 Bid Next Week; Rep. Jeff Jackson (D- NC) is Interviewed about Calling Out Lawmakers for "Faking It"; Russia Releases Video to Recruit "Real" Men for Putin's War; U.S. Deploying Marines Near Sudan for Possible Embassy Evacuation; Growing Number of Florida Lawmakers Endorsing Trump Over DeSantis; New Images of SpaceX Rocket Exploding, Debris Flying Into Air. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 20, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO, ordered to pay $5 million to a data expert who debunked his election conspiracies. And that expert is my guest tonight.

Plus, he's been in Congress for 100 days, and he's already calling people out, saying the angriest representatives are just faking it. So who is he talking about? Congressman Jeff Jackson will be OUTFRONT.

And Russia desperately recruiting fighters as one top Kremlin ally, talks publicly about obliterating Paris, London and New York.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, Mike Lindell forced to pay millions of dollars for telling lies about the 2020 election. The Trump confidant and the CEO of My Pillow today ordered to pay $5 million to Bob Zeidman, a computer forensics expert who debunked his election conspiracies.

Now, Bob is going to be my guest in a moment for his first live television interview.

Lindell, of course, is well known for his absolutely outrageous claims about the election.


MIKE LINDELL, MY PILLOW CEO: I've been all in trying to find the machine fraud and we found it. We have all the evidence.

I said it before, we're going to melt down these machines and make prison bars out of them.

We're in a race against time, everyone. We need this election pulled down. We need our great President Donald Trump back in and that's coming. Every outlet in the country, they go, Mike Lindell, there's no

evidence and he's making fraudulent statements. No, I have the evidence. I dare people to put it on. I dare Dominion to sue me because then it would get out faster.

Well. Dominion is suing him and Dominion also sued Fox News, of course, for its false election claims, and, well, we know how that went, right? Fox just agreed two days ago to pay $787.5 million and in historic history-making settlement to Dominion for knowingly spreading lies about the election.

So, Lindell maybe shouldn't have issued that dare. And he also probably shouldn't have issued this bet.


LINDELL: There's a $5 million prize for anybody that can -- that can prove the election data that I have from the 2020 election is false, okay, is not from that -- is not from the 2020 elections here.

For anybody here, that's for that challenge, a $5 million challenge, you have to sign a sheet release form at the front. If you did, you have time to do that now.


BURNETT: Well, Bob Zeidman did just that, and he then looked at Lindell's data. He went through it, and he proved that the data had nothing to do with the 2020 election. Lindell then refused to pay up, claiming this in a deposition.


LINDELL: I thought, well, what if I put a $5 million challenge out there, then it would get news, which it did. So then you got some attention.


BURNETT: Well, okay, he got attention. But he was proven wrong. And you know, he wrote into the whole agreement that there'd be a binding arbitration panel if you had to pay out and guess what? That arbitration panel ruled today that he has to pay up the $5 million.

Now, Lindell in a brief interview with CNN says this will end up in court. But, of course, the binding arbitration was just that.

OUTFRONT now, Bob Zeidman. As I mentioned today, he was awarded that $5 million after debunking Mike Lindell's false election data.

And, Bob, I really appreciate your time.

So let's just start off here, right? He puts this challenge out there. He says that it would have to be arbitrated and you take it all the way to the finish line.

What's your reaction today when you find out you've been awarded $5 million from Mike Lindell?


And I think it was relief not because I doubted my own findings. The -- in fact, I never expected to be able to show that it was bogus data because normally data analysis could take weeks or months and I had three days. But the data was so obviously fake that I spent a few hours before I could show it was fake.

I always worried though. Mike Lindell has a lot of resources, a lot of money and you never know.

You know, I think the court system -- generally, justice is served, but not always. And so, I was never sure if I was going to be awarded the money. And more than the money, I really wanted the people -- the public to know what was going on.

BURNETT: Well, and that's what you've accomplished. Amazing you say you think it would take you -- you know, it could take you months, took you hours essentially. That -- that's how difficult it was to debunk to make the point.

Mike Lindell, you just heard, he told CNN that this will end up in court.


Do you think you'll ever get the $5 million that Lindell has been ordered to pay you?

ZEIDMAN: Unfortunately, I don't think so. It would be nice -- and I don't think it's because of court. I think if he does go to court, if he does appeal, I think it's going to be thrown out.

But unfortunately, I don't think he has a case against Dominion. Or I should say Dominion has a great case against him. And the Dominion, of course, is asking for I think $1.2 billion and I don't think Lindell has that.

So I think -- I'm afraid he's going to be out of money before I ever see my five million.

BURNETT: Right. Well, it's interesting. You're making the point. It's not because of a court issue. It's because he's going to keep losing on this crucial issue.

Now, back to this point when you said this could have taken months, you had three days, it took you hours to prove that his data about the election was false. How are you able to do it?

ZEIDMAN: Well, it was really, the data was an amateurish attempt to disguise the data. Now it's kind of like, if you -- you know, if you're doing a cryptogram in the newspaper and you substitute letters, you know, you get these random looking letters. But if you know how to substitute them, then you get a message. And basically somebody did that kind of transformation twice on just a

simple Word document. One was a Word document is a table of numbers and the other was just pages and pages and pages of nonsense, gibberish, as if somebody were just typing randomly.

But I happen -- I have 40 years of experience doing this kind of thing, and I just happened to notice certain patterns, and I said, I wonder what happens if you do this transformation, and if you do that transformation. And what I ended up was with these very simple Word documents, and I was just so surprised that -- that I was able to do that. It's not what I expected.

If somebody were to create -- well, for a real data, it would take a long time to analyze. If it were a fake data, you would hope somebody would be sophisticated enough to do some significant modifications. But that's not what happened here.

BURNETT: And in terms of, you know, Michael Lindell's role, you know, he's out left right and center, you know, saying all of this stuff. Did -- did he have any idea?

ZEIDMAN: You know, that was a big debate among all the experts. All of us in -- at his symposium agreed that this was not real data. We -- you know, most of them didn't know what it was or didn't submit a report.

But we're all wondering, did Mike know that this was fake data and was saying it anyway? Or did just -- he just didn't know and he wanted so badly to believe that this was evidence of hacking into the elections, that he just put it out there?

But I think in the long run, after the whole arbitration -- let me put it this way -- I think he has convinced himself it's real because it needs to be real. In his mind, Trump needs to be president at all costs, and therefore, anyone who challenges him is incompetent.

I'm not the only one who's challenged the data. Members of his own team have done that, and he has essentially gone out, destroy their careers.

BURNETT: So, Bob, here's the thing. You know, when you talk about he has to believe -- you know, in his mind that he just, you know, it's a psychological thing. He has to believe that Trump is president.

Well, this comes from Trump from the very beginning, right, saying that there was election fraud, right, and then -- and then surrounding himself with people who would deliver him whatever it took, right? In this case, you know, this fake information.

I want to be clear. You've said you did vote for Trump twice, but he is out there even now, days ahead of Joe Biden about to announce that he's going to run for reelection, continuing to spread lies about the election that have been debunked.

This is Trump just over the past month at election rallies.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: We won in 2016. We won by much more in 2020, but it was rigged.

The Supreme Court didn't have the courage to right the wrong of the 2020 election.

Millions of votes illegally stuffed into ballot boxes and all caught on government cameras.


BURNETT: Bob, obviously, the state -- the reality, millions of people believe this. He keeps saying it even now. How damaging is it?

ZEIDMAN: Well, that's the reason that I did this, and I have some friends who I hope will still be friends because I am a conservative Republican. But I thought the truth needed to come out.

And I can tell you that both times I voted for Trump, I've considered him the lesser of two evils in my mind. But I don't like Trump. I don't trust him. I think he -- in my mind, he did some good things in his policies, but I think he's unpredictable, irrational.

And I -- now, I'm working with No Labels, a group that is going to put up alternate candidates if it ends up being an election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

BURNETT: Which is very well may. And just to be clear, as I said, because you've been very open about, you know, your political point of view and how you voted. You did vote for Trump twice.

Will you vote for him again in any scenario?

ZEIDMAN: I hope there's a different choice. I really -- I'm going to be frank with you. I don't like Joe Biden's policies and I don't think he's fit for office.


I like Donald Trump's policies, but he's very -- you know, emotional and erratic and I think he could change policies in an instant, if he just decides -- if he just decides to. It's kind of unpredictable.

So I really hope there's a different choice.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Bob, thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

ZEIDMAN: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, and I want to go now to Ryan Goodman, co-editor in chief of "Just Security", the former special counsel, the Defense Department.

So, Ryan, you heard Bob, go through this and say, you know, he went -- he looked at this and expected that it could take months. I mean, this is a guy who spent 40 years doing data science, okay? To see if this information was real, and he had three days to do it. He thought there's no way and it took him hours to show that it was bunk.

I mean, and then he's getting awarded $5 million. You heard his logic as to why he may not be paid it.

What message does this decision send, that the fact that it is -- it's so clear and so obvious?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: I think it sends a message in a certain sense, that the legal system has a way of ferreting out false information and alternative facts. Alternative facts go to die in a courtroom and they go to die before an arbitration panel like this, and the arbitration panel's reasoning is like this is just absolutely clear. He proved it beyond any doubt that the information that Lindell is putting out there was scientifically bogus, absolutely bogus.

And it's not just about truth, but it's about consequences. There's $5 million. That should go to Bob Zeidman, and it's really great in a certain sense that here's a person, a Trump supporter, but he was really after, as he said, the truth and the facts and in this setting once again, just like with the Dominion settlement, the truth came out and there are consequences to it, multimillion dollar consequences.

BURNETT: Absolutely. Now, here's the thing. You look at it and the multimillion dollar consequences matter, whether he pays and I understand they matter, right? A history making settlement from Fox to Dominion. This matters, okay?

But what I find fascinating is you actually think that despite that, what, nearly $800 million and there's going to a lot more to come, that it actually could provide a roadmap for how to push lies in the future without actually facing the consequences, any consequences.

GOODMAN: I think that's right. So I think, unfortunately, in a certain sense, Dominion wins the battle, but the electorate loses the war in the sense that Fox News has a bit of a road map. They know exactly in the next time around what to do to avoid this kind of liabilities. Don't go after a major company with multimillion dollar deep pockets that they can sue the heck out of you. Don't make specific defamatory claims against them, be a little bit more ambiguous or higher level of abstraction, also potentially, don't write it all down in your emails and text messages that could be subject to discovery because they're -- if they're -- if they reach discovery, that's going to be revealed.

So if they want to do it again, if they want to spread disinformation, they can do that. And if they do it again because of the financial bottom line, the fact that green makes the difference for them --

BURNETT: So you can talk about voting machines and voting technology, and you just don't use the words Dominion.

GOODMAN: Absolutely. Take a page from Donald Trump. He immediately switched when it looked like he could be sued as well and start saying the word Dominion. They just drop out of his language, he says voting machines.

BURNETT: I -- which is incredible. Now, here's the thing, you bring up Trump and as Bob was talking about, right, Mike Lindell in his mind just had to find any way he could have Trump be president. And so he could believe it.

Trump himself, right, the person who spawned all of this, right, and all these people has not been held accountable. He's not been held accountable. Today, his longtime adviser, Boris Epshteyn, who is, you know, in his core political team, now was with him at the Stormy Daniels indictment, days ago, it was in front of the DOJ and the prosecutor, special counsel.

Do you think Trump will be held accountable ultimately, for the lie about the election or not?

GOODMAN: I think so. I think he's going to be held accountable in all likelihood by Jack Smith. I think there will be an indictment for January 6th and might be for what Boris Epshteyn was apparently a central node in, which is the full slate of electors plan that there's very clear evidence that Trump was directly involved in it. The January 6th Committee revealed it to us and then they're now --

BURNETT: Trump electors ready to go in states that Biden won.

GOODMAN: That's right, and totally false and that they had done it after everybody, like senior administration officials telling him, it's over. The election is done, and then they're still trying to pull out these false electors as though they're the real electors to gum up the works of Congress.

Boris Epshteyn, I think that's one of the big questions they probably have for him before the grand jury, and I do think that -- it sounds like they're building a very strong case.

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

And next, the breaking news, President Biden officially running for reelection and the details from the White House next.

And this freshman Democratic congressman has been in Congress just 100 days and he is calling people out.


REP. JEFF JACKSON (D-NC): It's really clear from working there for just a few months that most of the really angry voices in Congress are totally faking it.


BURNETT: Congressman Jeff Jackson will be my guest. Plus, a manhunt underway for a man accused of shooting a 6-year-old girl and her parents after a ball rolled into his yard and neighborhood kids went to retrieve it.



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news, CNN learning plans are underway for President Joe Biden to formally announce his bid for a second term next week. Sources say a small circle of top Biden allies are now preparing behind the scenes.

One senior Democratic official telling CNN that these advisers have decided it is, quote, no longer helpful or necessary to not just say the obvious: He's running.

Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT live from the White House.

So, Phil, what are you learning about the timing and how this will happen?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's an important point. Erin, you and I have discussed this often. I think in the past, it was obvious that the president was going to make this decision. It's kind of an open reality here in the White House and yet not in announced one.

And that looks like it's going to change. As soon as next week, on Tuesday. Now, with it, we will be announced via a campaign style video. There won't be some massive rally.

It will just be kind of the launch of what everybody knew was coming and the start of a process that will lead him into 2024, and a potential reelection race against the person he defeated in 2020.

In that 2020 election, as part of the driver behind the current potential timing of Tuesday next week. That will mark four years to the day. From when then candidate Biden launched his campaign against former President Trump, for a president who is very fond of how history and connections can work together about things.


That is a moment that he viewed as critical when he stepped out of private life and back into public life, a campaign he never expected to run. When he did, he also won.

And when you talk to advisors about what the campaign will look like, particularly in these early months, they say, look, to be clear -- it's not going to be that much different than what you've seen in the last couple of months, according to one senior Democratic official said his agenda his core beliefs that's at the heart of his presidency. It will be at the heart of the campaign, just as it was four years ago, Erin.

BURNETT: So, Phil, you know, as you say, he's waited a while to make this announcement right open secret, but that is created. This sense of -- well, is he not sure is uncertainty. It is my intent, right? But not actually saying it.

So what are you hearing about why the president and his advisers feel the now is the time and felt that they could wait until now.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, it's been a really interesting dynamic. The president towards the end of last year made clear he was going to make the decision very early on in 2023, that a announcement could come. The thought was maybe in January, then maybe it was February, then maybe it was April.

Couple key points here. One nobody, who was actually in the inner circle was putting these timelines out there. It was what was thought, it was what was possible, and what was discussed.


MATTINGLY: No official timeline had ever been set. However, part of the reason for the weight or the willingness to wait up to this point is they didn't feel any pressure in the Democratic primary side of things. Everybody in the Democratic Party. It's mostly a line behind the president. There's no real challenge despite two primary challengers being out there that concerns the White House.

More than anything else, the president wanted to focus on being president, wanted to focus on implementing his legislative agenda, wanted to focus on creating the contrast with the new House Republican majority, one that will certainly play into any campaign.

But also keep in mind, there is a Republican primary that is very underway and it is very attack friendly and something that White House officials were very happy to watch play out. They have now decided they'll engage but not necessarily try and get in the way of maybe I don't know Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis at this point.

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

So I want to go now to freshman Democratic Congressman Jeff Jackson of North Carolina. He's getting a lot of attention for this viral video on social media.


REP. JEFF JACKSON (D-NC): It's really clear from working there for just a few months that most of the really angry voices in Congress are totally faking it.


BURNETT: All right. Well, the congressman joins me now.

And, Congressman, I do want to ask you about who you're talking about in just a moment. But first, your reaction to the breaking news that plans are underway for President Biden to announce next week, that he will seek reelection in 2024? Will you support him?

JACKSON: I will. I think it's probably the least surprising political news of the year, so far. I learned about it in the run up to your segment. I think we've all been under the assumption that he's going to be running for reelection.

And frankly, I think the American electorate, broadly has sort of gotten ahead of this particular announcement. We've all sort of been acting under this assumption for at least the last few months.

BURNETT: So as a freshman Democrat in Congress, right? I mean, you're -- you're in a totally a different demographic than he is, right, and the issue that people have when they have one with him, comes down to his age, right? He's already the oldest person to hold the office. He'd be 82 if he wins reelection, and 86 if he serves a full second term.

Does that worry you?

JACKSON: I think what the president would say is, it's a perfectly fair concern for anybody to have, and I think his likely opponent in this matter is going to have a very similar concern applied to him. I think it's a fair question for both of the candidates here.

BURNETT: But you're comfortable with it is the bottom line, as someone who obviously is on the different end of the demographic on age?

JACKSON: I am. Yes.

BURNETT: All right. So you have become a star and social media. I played a clip, right? Your video messages have resonated. You have 1.6 million followers on TikTok. And that latest video, which I just played a clip of a moment, has gone viral.

Here's a little bit more of it.


JACKSON: These people who have built their brands around being perpetually outraged, it's an act. The same people who act like maniacs during the open meetings are suddenly calm and rational during the closed ones. Why? Because there aren't any cameras in the closed meetings.


BURNETT: So, are you saying that you all could pass bipartisan legislation and if it was all just behind closed doors, do you feel that optimistic?

JACKSON: Oh, definitely. There's an enormous amount of consensus and compromise behind closed doors, and then you go out into public and everything changes.

And look, I'm under no illusion that I'm breaking any news to you or even the most of your viewers. But the reason I made that video is because it became very clear that a big percentage of Americans don't know this. When they see the people yelling when they see the anger from Congress, they think it's real. They think it's sincere.

And it was sort of my job as the new guy to report back to the rest of the country that, very often, it is not. They're just a bunch of people there who were on team outrage and they're not there to pass laws.


They're there to try and be captain of team outrage every day.

BURNETT: Well, one person who is certainly among the co-captains of that is the Republican Congressman Marjorie Taylor Greene, and she came out today and said that Speaker McCarthy has her back. And she said that after the Republican chairman, the Republican chairman of the Homeland Security Committee banned her from speaking further in hearing after she had this exchange -- obviously cameras rolling, so I'm going to play it for you, Congressman -- with the Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): How long are you going to continue this outrage, complete outrage where China is poisoning America's children, poisoning our teenagers, poisoning our young people -- how long are you going to let this go on?

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Congresswoman, let me assure you that we're not letting it go on. We are fighting this crap.

GREENE: No, I reclaimed my time. You're a liar. You are letting this go on, and the numbers prove it. You can't lie about the facts, Secretary Mayorkas.

REP. MARK GREEN (R-TN), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIR: It's pretty clear that the rules state you can't impugn someone's character. Identifying or calling someone a liar is unacceptable in this committee, and I make the ruling that we strike those words.


BURNETT: Again, that was the Republican Chairman Mark Green.

So, Congressman, Margie Taylor Greene, is she different? Behind closed doors, is she calm and rational?

JACKSON: I don't know if I would go that far. And to be honest with you, I haven't had a lot of conversations with her behind closed doors, but that clip that you just showed, that is exhibit A for what I'm talking about.

But what's more important than pointing out the insincerity behind all of that is the incentive structure that exists. I mean, as you said, Speaker McCarthy went out and said, I have her back. There is an entire incentive structure that exists to protect the people who are willing to be on team outrage. That's what more Americans need to understand.

This isn't random behavior. There are rewards for bad behavior for members of Congress. You get access to certain media outlets who also want to anger their audience. So, there's an alignment of interests between these very angry politicians and media outlets that are trying to anger their audience.

And basically, what she's doing is auditioning. That was an audition, and it worked. She got the part.

BURNETT: Right, what McCarthy said.

Chairman Green, though, saying that that she was banned from speaking further in the hearing and would -- and would ask McCarthy, source close to him said, to remove her from the committee if it ever happened again.

What do you say to that? How much hope does that give you from that Republican chairman?


BURNETT: None? So the bottom line is that --


BURNETT: None (ph).

JACKSON: They've incorporated team outrage into their model. They know that they need team outrage to go use certain news outlets to communicate with certain parts of their base. And she's just too reliable. She delivers for them by conveying that anger.

BURNETT: Well, that is not an optimistic ending, but an important thing for us all to hear.

Congressman Jackson, I appreciate your time and thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Russia desperately recruiting fighters. There's a new ad that says, you're a real man, be one. This as a Putin ally talks openly about obliterating Paris, London and New York.

And the latest on the manhunt for the man who allegedly shot a six year old and her parents after a ball rolled into his yard.



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tonight, you are looking at an ad airing on Russian state TV. It urges Russian men to abandon their civilian jobs and join the war in Ukraine. It's a new commercial that is airing from Russia's defense ministry. It appears to mock those who work as security guards, personal trainers or taxi drivers, and tries getting them to go to battle, to war on the front lines.

The blunt message will freeze it right here on your screen. In Russian, it says, quote, you're a real man, be one and you see them on the battlefield. This ad airing as Russia's battlefield struggles caused mounting frustration at home.

Here is on tape, one of the Kremlin's top propagandists on state television calling for nuclear annihilation of Russian enemies.


VLADIMIR SOLOVIEV, RUSSIAN STATE TV HOST (through translator): We need to obliterate Kyiv, Warsaw, Berlin, Paris, London and New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Without nuclear weapons, you can obliterate Kyiv without nuclear weapons.

SOLOVIEV: So you don't like the word nuclear? You don't mind obliterating. You just don't like the word nuclear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I just don't like the idea of a total nuclear war.

SOLOVIEV: Okay, so you don't like it, but I do.


BURNETT: Ben Wedeman is OUTFRONT in Kyiv tonight.

And, Ben, as the fighting rages on in Ukraine, that private military group, Wagner, is making a surprising claim about Ukraine's military tactics in Bakhmut.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is on video, one of the fighters in the Wagner private military company claiming that the Ukrainians are using civilians in Bakhmut as civilians -- as human shields.


WAGNER FIGHTER (through translator): The Ukrainian army was unprepared to defend Bakhmut. There were some trenches, some firing structures, but mainly they used human shields. It's called the Bakhmut meat grinder because Ukrainians used people as human shields.


WEDEMAN: Now, I spent much of January in Bakhmut and certainly what we saw, there are still civilians there, several hundred, if not over a thousand, but most of them were -- you know, every civilian we ran into explain that they were staying there because they had nowhere else to go. Some of them seem to be not quite mentally stable, and also it's worth pointing out that the Russians have been trying for seven months, focusing their military might to take this relatively small town, which had a population of 70,000, and still, they haven't been able to do it. So it would be somewhat absurd the idea that the Ukrainians were

unprepared for this onslaught.


Now here in Kyiv, Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, made the first visit by it, or at least open official visit by a senior NATO official, and he said that when the NATO summit takes place in Lithuania this summer in July, that Ukraine's membership in that organization would be a high priority.

This is something that for the Russians has been a red line. In fact, we heard Dmitry Peskov, the chief spokesman for the Kremlin today, saying that one of the goals of the so called special military operation is to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and that they consider this a existential threat to Russia -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Ben, thank you very much, live from Ukraine tonight.

And the Wagner Group with more developments. There's a very tense situation tonight, where the U.S. military says it's deploying hundreds of marines. They're doing this near Sudan to secure the American embassy there and assist with the evacuation. That country is teetering on the brink of civil war.

The sky over Sudan's capital, Khartoum, and the airport there remain unsafe, according to a source, and at the core of this violence is a battle for control of Sudan. It is the third largest country in Africa, and there's a fight going on between the official military there and a paramilitary group.

And tonight, CNN has exclusive details about how the Wagner Group, the private military on the front lines in Bakhmut that we're just talking about is now secretly trying to tip the scales in this deadly battle.

Nima Elbagir is OUTFRONT.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Sudanese and the Libyan Army celebrated a successful joint operation Wednesday, April 19th, near the remote desert border between Libya and Sudan, having captured the Chevrolet Garrison belonging to the rival Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, the RSF.

But why is this military base is so important, given how far it is from the existential fight in Sudan's capital Khartoum?

Because CNN can reveal that the fight in Khartoum is being influenced by what was happening at that garrison, a Russian resupply campaign backed by a key regional player aimed at turning the tide in Sudan's war in favor of the RSF, who have been a key recipient of Russian training and military aid. In collaboration with all eyes on Wagner, a research group focusing on

Russian proxy Wagner, CNN investigated the group's current presence in Libya.

You can see here on April 16th one day after the fighting began in Khartoum, a Russian Ilyushin 76 transport plane at the al-Jufra base in Libya, previously identified by American intelligence as a Wagner base. Three days later, this same plane is spotted by flight tracker aviation expert Gerjon coming back from the Russian airbase in Latakia, Syria, before returning to the Libyan air base in Khadim.

Images of that same plane began circulating online April 17th heading in the direction of Sudan. Sudanese and regional sources tell CNN that weaponry was air-dropped to the RSF within that timeframe, April 15th to April 18th, to the Chevrolet Garrison during a period of fierce fighting, boosting the RSF.

The al-Khadim and al-Jufra bases where the Wagner planes departed from in Libya are under the control of field marshal Khalifa Haftar, who commands territory in the east of Libya. Haftar and the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, aka Hemitte, have in common strategic alliances, one with Wagner, who Haftar is hosting in his territory in Libya and whom a previous CNN investigation exposed as working with Hemitte to extract Sudanese gold, a second with the United Arab Emirates, who tapped Hemitte to send forces to the conflict in Yemen and backed Haftar in the fighting in Libya.

What does it all mean for the ongoing misery and conflict in Sudan? It means that both a regional Libyan General Haftar and a global player, Russia, putting their thumbs on the scale, which raises the stakes for the region, for the global balance of power, and for the people of Sudan caught in the crossfire.


BURNETT: And, of course, as name has been reporting right at deploying hundreds of marines to secure the U.S. embassy there.

Nima, what impact do you think this Russian intervention will have?

ELBAGIR: Well, the RSF denies the truth of our findings. But for the U.S. and for actual actors around the globe, this is incredibly concerning because it raises the potential not just of a further entrenchment of this conflict but of a contagion spreading beyond Sudan's borders, and with not only millions of Sudanese trapped in this fighting. But thousands of U.S. citizens and U.S. diplomats, that's got to be -- just a huge worry both in Washington and capitals around the world, Erin.


BURNETT: Certainly, especially given, you know, what the president of things that happened, obviously, in Libya. Thank you very much, Nima. That incredible reporting as always.

And next, a six-year-old girl shot and injured after a basketball rolled into a neighbor's yard. The girl's father also injured and in the hospital tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just -- he looked at my husband dead in the face, and he said, I'm going to kill you.


BURNETT: Plus, Trump does it again to DeSantis, getting the endorsement of a Florida congressman. How much does it matter? Harry Enten is going to break it down and show you.


BURNETT: New tonight, a manhunt underway in North Carolina for a man who allegedly shot a six year old in her parents after a basketball rolled into his yard and the children in the neighborhood went to get it. Police say Robert Louis Singletary is considered armed and dangerous. It's just the latest incident, a property owner shooting an innocent person for a mundane thing.

Kansas City team shot when he knocked on the wrong door, 20-year-old woman in New York shot by pulling into the wrong driveway. Two teenagers in Texas cheerleader shot in a parking lot when one of them accidentally opened the wrong car door.

Amara Walker is OUTFRONT.


KINSLEY WHITE, INJURED IN SHOOTING: We don't even know the man.

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A 6-year-old girl trying to make sense of a shooting that left stitches on her face and landed her father in the hospital.


WHITE: Why did he shoot my daddy and me? He said, he's a stupid kid's dad.

WALKER: Kinsley White was treated and released after bullet fragments got lodged in her cheek and a bullet grazed her mother, Ashley Hildebrand. Kinsley's father, Jamie White, was shot in the back and remains hospitalized in serious condition.

ASHLEY HILDEBRAND, INJURED IN SHOOTING: A chunk of his lungs gone. He's got broken ribs. His upper abdomen split.

WALKER: Witnesses tell CNN it all started with a basketball that rolled into the suspect's front yard. As children in the neighborhood went to retrieve it, the man identified by Gaston County police as 24- year-old Robert Singletary began yelling at some of the children. When a father of one of those kids confronted Singletary, neighbors say he went into his house, retrieved a gun and began shooting at him. When he missed, witnesses say, Singletary turned the gunfire on the other parents and children in the neighborhood.

JONATHON ROBERTSON, WITNESSED SHOOTING: It's pretty intense. I mean, just to see someone running around with a gun to shooting at everybody, because at that point, he just wanted to shoot somebody.

WALKER: Hildebrand says she and her husband were out in the yard grilling steaks Tuesday, their daughter, Kinsley was riding her bike just a few houses down from where Singletary began firing off his gun. Kinsley's father got shot as he ran towards his daughter.

HILDEBRAND: And he come out of the house and he just he looked at my husband dead in the face, and he said, I'm going to kill you. And he started shooting, with my daughter standing right there, beside of him and several other kids around them.

WALKER: Now, a manhunt is underway in North Carolina for a man authorities described as armed and dangerous.

ADAM GAUB, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, GASTON COUNTY: So we're not going to comment on their investigation, but basically, you know, obviously, we're aware that this is a individual with a violent past.

WALKER: According to police, Singletary had previously been charged with assault and kidnapping for allegedly attacking his girlfriend with the mini sledgehammer and keeping her inside his apartment for over two hours. He was released on a $250,000 bond in December.

HILDEBRAND: It's very scary. Very scary to know he's still out there.


WALKER (on camera): Now, neighbors say Singletary often yelled at the children in the neighborhood whenever they would run through his front yard, and they described him as acting like he, quote/unquote, hated children. In fact, they say, he had several issues with the kids and the parents in the neighborhood and just a few weeks that he had been living there, Erin.

The police are asking for the public's help in finding him. He does face several charges, including attempted first degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon, Erin.

BURNETT: So terrifying. Amara, thank you very much.

And next, Trump takes on DeSantis and his own state and right now is winning, at least with one group.

And the most powerful rocket ever built, explodes minutes after liftoff, debris sent flying miles. We got new video.



BURNETT: Tonight, Donald Trump trouncing Ron DeSantis in Florida endorsements. Florida, to state the obvious, DeSantis being the governor of. Congressman Michael Waltz represents DeSantis' former congressional district and has come out announcing he is backing Trump instead of his own governor. It comes as Trump wines and dines the Florida congressional delegation, hosting some of them, in fact, for dinner at Mar-a-Lago, right now, as Harry Enten and I sit here OUTFRONT and discuss it.

Okay. This is actually -- this is one of those things. There's no accident, too, for Trump, right? This isn't just I want a lot of endorsements. This is I want Republican members of Congress from the state of Florida and it's working.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: It's working. He's trying to cut Ron DeSantis off at the knees, right? If you look right now, in terms of the members from the House from Florida Republican members, there are 20 of them. Donald Trump's already wrapped up nine of their endorsements, compared to just one so far for Ron DeSantis.

Of course, 10 have not announced at this point, but Donald Trump, the clear plurality leader. And you know some of them are perhaps not that surprising, right? Like Matt Gaetz, who, what a surprise, you know?

BURNETT: Yeah, yeah.

ENTEN: Yeah, that's not a big surprise, but you know, someone like Byron Donalds who you know, was introduced Ron DeSantis at his victory party back when he won reelection in November coming out in support of Donald Trump. It's not just the easy ones he's getting. He's getting some of the hard ones too.

And this, I think is quite surprising if you understand the history of Donald Trump that he's actually able to bring in some members of Congress for his campaign.

BURNETT: Right. So how does this or does this contrast with what you saw before for Trump?

ENTEN: Yes. So you know, go back to his 2016 campaign. I think it was until 2016. He didn't get any endorsements back in 2015 from members of Congress and total up all the endorsements he had from members of Congress and governors, what you saw was it doesn't come anywhere close to the number of endorsements he has right now from members of Congress and governors. He has over 60 of them at this particular point.

Back in 2016, through the entire primary season, it was 15. It was 15. So he's already four times the number he got during the entire primaries is, it's just a very different Trump campaign that we're seeing right now, versus what we saw in 2016. I dare say Donald Trump is part of the establishment.

BURNETT: Which is fascinating. But now they're now to that point. There are some who will say, oh, look at you sitting here talking about endorsements, endorsements don't matter. That's the swamp.

ENTEN: Yeah.

BURNETT: Do endorsements matter?

ENTEN: Well, in my mind, they do matter and the way we know they can matter is we can look back through history. Look at all of the primary season since 1980, right, those that did not have an incumbent president running and then there's no incumbent president running on the Republican side. And what do we see nine of 15 times the early endorsement leader, the leader at the end of April, went on to win the nomination.

If you compare that with the national polls, right, it's about equal. How -- how much -- how well, they predicted this particular point, and the endorsements will only get more. Predictive as we go on, Erin.

BURNETT: Right, and they're obviously going well over half.

ENTEN: Yeah.

BURNETT: So, alright. Thank you very much. Just fascinating.

And next, coming up on "AC360", new details about the notes left behind by the gunman in the deadly Louisville shooting. That is tonight at 8:00.

And here next, new images from the ground of the dirty rain left behind in the moments after the most powerful rocket ever built, exploded.



BURNETT: Tonight, new images from the ground and the aftermath of the SpaceX explosion. Dirty rain is they're calling it falling from the sky and coating the ground below. So the pictures are showing you here are taken about six miles away from where the launch was. There were throngs of people, spectators gathered to witness the historic launch in person.

The starship of SpaceX, sending out a massive boom as it lifted off. And then tumbled and exploded about four minutes later. No people were on board.

SpaceX attributing the explosion to what they call a rapid, unscheduled disassembly, or explosion. Starship is the most powerful rocket ever built. It's nearly 400 feet tall. It has 33 engines.

And this is a big loss for everyone because NASA eventually plans to use those rockets to put astronauts on the moon. Elon Musk has his sights set on shuttling people to Mars. So this is something that everyone had a lot at stake and its success.

Musk is undeterred by this setback, he says, congratulating the SpaceX team, saying beforehand it would be insane to expect a perfectly smooth launch and then saying they've learned, quote, a lot.

Well, thanks so much for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anywhere.

"AC360" starts now.