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Erin Burnett Outfront

Russian State TV Shows Drone Video of an Obliterated Bakhmut; New Details Indicate Trump Special Counsel Probe is Nearing End; DeSantis Sends Mixed Messages About Trump Attack Strategy; China's Crackdown on Comedy Intensifies After $2M Fine for Communist Joke; New Treasury Estimate: Default by June 5 if Debt Limit Not Raised. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 26, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, bold move on the battlefield. Ukraine accused of striking a vital hub for Putin's military while Russia resorts to pictures of rubble to convince the public to get behind the war.

Plus, burning through billions. The Treasury Department warning it only has about $39 billion left in cash as of tonight. Janet Yellen moving the debt ceiling deadline.

And an update to a story we first told you about upfront, a $2 million fine, and possible jail time after a Chinese comedian made an innocent joke about the communist party. Is Xi Jinping's crackdown us beginning? Wait until you see tonight.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, an aggressive strike. New video into OUTFRONT showing thick, black smoke rising above what is believed to be the Azovstal steel plant in Russian occupied Mariupol. Officials there say Ukraine hit the city with a long-range missile.

Now this is tactical, but also hugely symbolic, in terms of the strike. You'll remember, right? This is where Ukrainian troops during that deadly standoff with Russian forces for weeks last year, the Azovstal steel plant.

And now, Mariupol has become an important staging and for Russian forces in southern Ukraine. It's crucial for them is a constant flow of Russian military convoys moving through the city. So Ukrainians strike changes the game for Russia there.

And in Russia, state media is right now doing something different and new. I want to show you the drone video they're showing and state TV right now. This drone video is from Bakhmut, and it is the hellscape that Bakhmut is, and we will keep playing it here. I mean look, you watch every night, so you know that this is a hell zone. But in Russia, to show this kind of Russia is quite a different

propaganda take, right? This is the part. I mean, they're showing this, complete and utter to see direction.

And the reason this is different is you may remember what we saw in Mariupol. You remember when Putin was there back in March to tout victory? Look at this, the buildings that you saw, and what they put out. Look at that, intact, lights on, people living comfortably in apartments.

Russia hastily rebuilt and dressed up buildings in that area so that it would look like this was victory, that it was a happy, normal city. People liberated, living their lives.

Well, of course it was propaganda, it was a lie. This is the reality of what happened in Mariupol, right? There was incredible destruction there. But the question tonight is, why are Russians now being shown Bakhmut, the hellscape of war.

It is unclear, but that drone footage is airing, as a nuclear saber- rattling is getting louder now. Just listen to this Russian propagandist. He is suggesting that Putin has no choice but to use nukes in order to get President Biden to take his threat seriously.


RUSSIAN PROPAGANDIST (through translator): He said Russia won't do anything.

RUSSIAN PROPAGANDIST (through translator): Yes, that's true.

RUSSIAN PROPAGANDIST (through translator): Which means that they have doubt that we will do anything. So, we need to smash them with nukes. And then calmly watch the doubt disappear from their insolent, chubby faces.


BURNETT: Well, today, the former Russian President Dimitry Medvedev leveled another nuclear threat and he said, quote, in case the West provides you commit a nuclear weapon, we will have to make a preemptive strike, the more destructive the weapon supplied to Kyiv, the more likely a nuclear apocalypse scenario.

Now, you notice there, he said the more advanced weaponry, right? And says nuclear apocalypse. But the key caveat there was that Russia will only preemptively strike if the U.S. provide Ukraine with nuclear weapons, which is obviously not on the table.

But as for Ukraine, they're taking a direct, and new tack against Putin. Senior advisor to Ukraine's president, Mykhailo Podolyak, just spoke to our Fred Pleitgen and here's part of what he said.


MYKHAILO PODOLYAK, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRES. ZELENSKYY: Don't overestimate Putin, this is a man with a very low level of intelligence, a man whom everyone overestimated, and accordingly made wrong conclusions about his ability to analyze what is happening. And this is unfortunately one of the reasons why we have a war today. Putin sacredness has already been destroyed, even Prigozhin has no respect for Putin.


BURNETT: Low intelligence. We're going to talk much more about that.

Fred Pleitgen, of course, you saw there doing the interview live in Kyiv tonight.

And, Fred, what is the latest there?



There were some massive strikes that took place today in Dnipro, that killed a bunch of people, and also wounded a lot of people as well. And tonight, the Ukrainians are saying that they believe the missiles for the strikes that were used in the strikes rather S-300, or S-400 missiles. And those are missiles that are usually used to shoot down aircraft.

So if you use them in a ground to ground continue figuration, didn't cause massive carnage, especially when used in urban areas. That's exactly what seems to have happened in Dnipro. Here's what we're looking at.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORREPONDENT: The horrifying aftermath of another Russian airstrike, a medical facility hit in Dnipro, killing two and wounding scores. As Moscow launched another round of drone and missile strikes at targets across the Ukraine.

But Kyiv says this time we managed to take down all the cruise missiles, and nearly all the Iranian supplied Shahed drones.

CNN got rare access to a key component in Ukraine's air defense, the German made Gepard anti-aircraft system, known as the Shahed killer.

Time is essential, radar operator Oleh tells me. There maybe 3 to 4 targets, and we need to destroy them one by one. The computer system makes it as easy as possible for the gunner to succeed.

Ukrainian forces gave us this, what they share, shows the Gepard destroying several Iranian made drones, in this one even shooting down a cruise missile late last year.

It's part of Ukraine's increasingly affective, mostly Western supplied layered, short, medium, and large range air defense. Including the U.S. made Patriots, they both Washington and Kyiv say have managed even take on the feared Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missiles that can travel ten times the speed of sound, and which Putin claimed were invincible.

The commander of Ukraine's joint forces tells me system supplied by the U.S. and its allies are making all the difference.

We have the means that can fight Kinzhal and ballistic missiles, as well as cruise missiles and strikes, he tells me, and the percentage is constantly increasing, now the efficiency is over 80 percent.

And as Ukraine's army gears up for large-scale counteroffensive, strong protection against it from the skies will be crucial.

The company and say they fully understand the effective air defense will be critical to the upcoming counteroffensive, not to do to protect critical infrastructure and ammunition dumps, but to defend advancing forces as well.

The enemy will throw all available forces to reduce the combat potential of our offensive, the general tells me. The success during the advance and liberation of Ukrainian territory will depend on high quality or defense. And civilian lives on the ground depend on it as well, to prevent attacks like in Dnipro where once again so many were harmed.


PLEITGEN: Certainly, a horrifying attack that happened there in Dnipro, and of course as you can imagine air, and there was search, rescue, and cleanup crews working through the evening of all of the night there in Dnipro trying to save lives. But also as the night moved on, trying to clip the degree as well. One of the reason dressings that we learn though, is that the mayor Dnipro says as bad as it was, it could've been even worse.

He says it's almost a miracle the missile struck exactly as there was a shift change going on in that hospital, otherwise he fears a lot more people would have been killed and wounded, Erin.

BURNETT: Fred, thank you very much from Kyiv tonight.

I want to go now to retired Army General James "Spider" Marks and George Beebe, former CIA Russia analysis chief who obviously spent a lot of time living in Russia in that context.

Thanks to much to both of you.

General Marks, let me start with the new video tonight of the strike in Mariupol. As I said, it's a crucial statement for Russian forces. It has been completely undercut their country for sometime, right? So they have been striking it to long-range missile struck there today. This comes on top of yesterday, Russian officials in Berdyansk, which is also occupied by Russia, that Ukrainian forces struck that settle with missiles. So, we're continuing to see these longer range missiles well past the

front line, deep into Russian controlled territory. What is Ukraine doing here by doing, kind of, here, and then over here, and then over here? General?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Erin, it's a combination of desired effects. What Ukrainians are trying to do, is determine where the Russians are going to respond, and where they think they are strongest. In other words, they're looking for a vulnerability in the Russian defenses, and as they have, the Russians have arrayed their forces. So you attack in multiple different locations, you see how the enemy response, and as a result of that they may in fact maneuver forces to reinforce a particular area. As a result of that, that gives good intelligence to the attacking forces.

So, Ukraine is really doing -- this is really all those intelligence by fire.


They're using this as an opportunity to try and increase their understanding of what the enemy is trying to achieve, and then exploit that to the best of their ability.

BURNETT: So, George, let me just play on the heels of that, some more of what Mykhailo Podolyak, the Ukrainian presidential advisor, told Fred earlier today. Here it is.


PODOLYAK (through translator): Don't overestimate Putin. This is the man with a very low level of intelligence.


BURNETT: Now, I'm curious, George, what you think of that? Because there are many who say this is the first person playing chess when everyone else is playing checkers, right? You know, it kind of gets that attached to him, fairly or not. You've spent years closely analyzing him. What do you think, low level of intelligence, is that fair?

GEORGE BEEBE, DIRECTOR OF GRAND STRATEGY, QUINCY INSTITUTE: Well, I think the point that we should not overestimate Putin is valid. He certainly someone who can make mistakes, communicate serious mistake and launching this invasion and expecting a rapid victory. And that clearly didn't happen. He has found himself in a war that was for more difficult than he has anticipated.

But I think at the same time, I think we need to not underestimate Putin. He has adjusted since the initial phase of this war went so poorly, and he has adopted, essentially, a strategy of attrition, where he's hoping slowly to grind down Ukraine's resources, to use of its manpower, use a pit stop of munitions, and exhaust the West political patience with this war. And right now I think Putin thinks who's winning, but the strategy is working overtime.

So we need to be careful about underestimating him as well. He's clearly not someone who has a low level intelligence. I think if anything, the danger with Putin is that he has been in the presidency for so long, and a so deeply familiar with a wide range of issues that he's not very receptive to advice from his advisers, from people who might challenge him, and force him to examine some of his assumptions. That's been a problem in this war.

BURNETT: And, General Marks, we had these missile strikes on Ukraine, again right? Fred talking about the one in Dnipro overnight the, hit that medical facility with two killed, many wounded, dozens we hunter stand.

So you're still getting these missile barrage is into the Ukraine. You know, if not nightly, close to it, and you don't know where they're going to hit. So, obviously, Fred saying the Ukrainians tell him that for the counteroffensive to succeed the need affective air defense.

Do they have it? I mean, sometimes you get the number. There were 32 missiles, and 31 were intercepted. Then maybe one of the patriot systems was damaged. I mean, do they have the air defense they need?

MARKS: You never can have enough air defense. We really want to protect that third dimension. When you conduct offensive operations, and really try to achieve operational success, which means tying some tactical victories together in a very specific area, you've got to be able to have the ability to maneuver above you, and to protect that area as well.

So you never can have enough, what they have is, essentially what they have. In other words, if you're going to assume a level of risk, in the execution of this counteroffensive, however you want to label this. It is essential that you realize what you have, what you don't have, and you may have to take risk in that third dimension more so than you would take when you try to take a risk on the ground offensive.

BURNETT: So, George, I want to ask you about the nuclear threats because that Russian state propaganda, we obviously see what has to say all the time. It's not new for him to be leveling those. But I thought was interesting that this was a level of frustration, the sort of, they don't take a seriously so we need to do this. They don't believe us anymore, so we need to do this.

And Medvedev, even as he couched his threat with, well, if they give Ukraine nukes we're going to go. He also mentioned, you know, escalating military aid to the Ukraine.

Should this all be dismissed at this point, because it has been bluster thus far? Or you think it's a mistake?

BEEBE: I think it's a mistake to dismiss the risk of a nuclear confrontation with Russia. The Russians do believe that the United States has essentially lost its fear of nuclear war, and part of the reason for waving the nuclear missiles around is to try to restore that fear of nuclear weapons.

But the real danger would be if we put the Russians in a position where they have to choose between using nuclear weapons, and utter humiliation on the battlefield. Not on our interest to put in that kind of position, that is a choice that could prove disastrous.

BURNETT: All right. George, thank you very much. General Marks, thank you very much. I appreciate your time on this Friday.

MARKS: Thank you.

BEEBE: Thanks.

BURNETT: Well, next, Trump cozying up to the Saudis at their golf tournament in Washington, D.C., even as his ties to Saudi Arabia are under scrutiny in the DOJ's investigation into classified documents.


Plus, Ron DeSantis mixed messages on Trump. First, the attacks, then he ignores. So what is the strategy?

A longtime Florida political reporter is OUTFRONT with new details tonight.

And the heart-stopping moment that passenger opened a plane's emergency door while the plane was in the air.


BURNETT: Tonight, former President Trump attending the controversial Saudi-backed LIV golf tournament at his Trump National Golf Club, which is near Washington, D.C.

Well, this is significant, in part, because "The New York Times" has reported Trump's ties to the Saudis are the focus of a subpoena to the Trump Org and the special agent Jack Smith's criminal probe into Trump. This is just one day after growing signs emerged that the messages from the special counsel is near a conclusion. "The Washington Post" reporting that the ground jury has not met in over 20 days.

OUTFRONT now, our legal expert Ryan Goodman.

And, Ryan, interesting in the context of all of this, right now, Trump is flaunting his Saudi ties, not at all fleeing from them.

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: That's right, and it does seem to be an appendage, or an arm of the special counsel's investigation, given that there is a known subpoena to the Trump Organization and the like to try to get underneath the business dealings between him in the Saudis, which sounds like they are at least exploring a potential connection between the former president holding on to these classified documents, and whether or not he would have any interest or motivation that's related to his dealings with the Saudis and LIV Golf. [19:20:16]

BURNETT: So, I mean, look, as that -- as that is happening, "The New York Times" is also reporting on a seal member that was written by the U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, and really this memos about why Trump's lawyer Evan Corcoran should not be protected by attorney client privilege and the classified documents probe. And she went through citing multiple instances of possible obstruction by Trump.

But then, in this document, also writes, quote, other evidence demonstrate that the former president willfully thought to retain some of documents when he was not authorized to do so, and knew it. I mean, there it is in black and white. I mean, it appears extremely significant to see this, is it?

GOODMAN: Very, very, significant. It's hard to exaggerate how significant it is. Just to explain the significance of, it that is the language of the espionage act. And we have it coming from the federal district court judge, which means that the government has the special counsel's office has presented evidence to her that that is part of the theory of the case.

So anybody was thinking of this is just an obstruction case, does not sound that way at all. It sounds like part of the theory or the case, is the Espionage Act, and the judgment that they were sufficient evidence of that crime to be able to pierce attorney-client privilege.

BURNETT: Which is hugely significant, right? Because there's been a lot of commentary legal experts, yourself, Ty Cobb, many others, right, the obstruction case appears to be black and white. The question is, what else gets put on top of it?

And the special counsel now, you say, obviously looking into -- why Trump kept you documents? What he did with the documents? Basically his motive, right? That's whether another was espionage.

So they are looking at it, but Ryan, do you think the special counsel will get, and present answers to those questions?

GOODMAN: I think so. I think there is a lot of evidence, the same kind of evidence, in a certain sense, that goes to the question of obstruction. Was he holding on these documents when the National Archives and the Justice Department try to acquire them? It's basically all of the evidence that goes under the Espionage Act, which basically says by the terms of the Espionage Act, willfully retaining documents containing national defense information, and not delivering them to the authorized agents of the U.S. government.

You can just see how the evidence seems to fit that hand in glove, I have every expectation, especially based on the reporting from "The Post" and "The Times", that that will be one of the charges which is very dramatic. The Espionage Act against a former president.

BURNETT: Very much so, and something, as I said, not fully expected. So -- it would surprise many, we'll see what kind of impact it has.

Ryan, thank you.

GOODMAN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Ron DeSantis sending mixed signals about whether he will actually take Trump on by name, or given the honor of some sort of an odd, modern-day political Voldemort. What's happening inside the campaign is next.

Plus, what started as a joke about two dogs and a squirrel has exploded into an unprecedented crackdown on multiple comedians in China.



BURNETT: Tonight, Ron DeSantis sitting down with another friendly conservative media outlet, slamming former President Trump, saying he's weak on illegal immigration and soft on crime. Listen to this.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Two million illegal aliens he wanted to amnesty, I opposed it under the Trump administration. He enacted a bill, basically a jailbreak bill. It's called the First Step Act. It has allowed dangerous people out of prison, who have now re-offended, and really, really hurt a number of people.


BURNETT: This is DeSantis's campaign, says it raised $8.2 million in the first 24 hours after DeSantis announced his presidential bid, which by any historical comparison, really, outshines, I'm sorry, any comparisons, Trump himself, or Joe Biden.

OUTFRONT now, Marc Caputo, national political reporter at "The Messenger", who's covered DeSantis extensively, Ashley Allison, former national coalitions director for the Biden-Harris presidential campaign, and Republican strategist Doug Heye.

Marc, let me start with you because you discover DeSantis so much. So he attacked Trump throughout that interview, right? That's very explicit, he uses his name, comes up with a policy difference, he's slamming him.

But then, it's a campaign speech today, has only one of the day, it does not mention Trump's name once.

So you've done so much reporting, Marc, on his campaign. What is going on with the mixed messages on Trump? Do they know what lane they want to be in?

MARC CAPUTO, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE MESSENGER: Well, what they're going to tell you is that he's going to take on Trump in select, and certain circumstances, in certain issues, and is going to pick the terrain. But if he's going to do an interview and someone asked him about Trump, he's going to take him on an answer the question directly.

So, the DeSantis campaign argues, it's not really a contradiction. But his message on the campaign trail is about what he wants to do, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Now in Trump world view, it's kind of foolhardy to attack him as being weak and crime, or we can immigration. I mean, after all, Ron DeSantis in 2018 ran for governor and had an ad where he was telling his children to build a wall --


BURNETT: Oh, yeah, the Legos, yeah.

CAPUTO: Right. So, all of a sudden now, that issue comes also, Trump folks will tell you the First Step Act, first iteration DeSantis had voted for. Now, Congress has a variety of different bills, so maybe there's different ways to explain how he voted then, and how it feels now.

But by and large for Trump's point of view, they're looking at this and saying, look, DeSantis is not really ready to give a full vision of what he wants to do. He sort of attacking Trump places that are really strong spots, and it's not going to work. That's --

BURNETT: Right. So, Doug, you know it's interesting here, I think Marc's history there of DeSantis support of that bill is very interesting. But what we just heard there was DeSantis making in the clip I showed, I'm sorry, making a clear policy distinction between himself and Trump.

But frankly, there aren't a lot of those, right? And they -- you know been in lockstep for a lot of time.

That's a question, Doug, can DeSantis succeed at making, based on this one case, build the wall Trump, you know, and brand him as an amnesty, guy?

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, you know, it's interesting, because what he's doing is he taking Donald Trump on on substance, I would applaud that, but also know that Donald Trump was not a series of policy proposals. Build the wall, yes, ties in immigration, but that, along with so much that Donald Trump did, and said was an attitude, it was not a policy platform.

You know, the RNC didn't have a policy platform under Donald Trump.


And so, DeSantis is going to try and go to the right at him. We've certainly seen that a lot with COVID. I would applaud that, again, because if you want to get this nomination, it does not go around Donald Trump, you got to take him on directly.

BURNETT: But, Doug, you think, I mean, you go to the right of him. I mean, where is to the right of him in the Republican base?

HEYE: Well, I think it starts with some of the things that he has been laying out, especially on the issue of COVID. And we said Donald Trump was great for the first three years until Fauci took over. Now, obviously, Fauci didn't take over, but that's rhetoric that the Republican Party will like.

And Donald Trump is not a traditional conservative, he never has been, and now he doesn't even talk so much about being a Republican. So there are opportunities there, but again, it requires you taking on Donald Trump on directly, and in a sustained way.

BURNET: So, Ashley, despite the campaign launch, which was not great let's be honest, it was not good. But DeSantis could say look when you come out of it numbers are what top, and it's not the number of minutes that the thing was messed up. It was me fundraising $8.2 million.

But as I said, by any measure, that's a lot of money. Double what Trump raised in the 24 hours after his indictment, which was huge for him, $2 million, more nearly, than what Biden raised when he announced in 2019 and he was jumping in against Trump.

So, what does money talk here? Does this prove DeSantis is the contender to take this from Trump?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Money definitely talks in politics. I think comparing DeSantis's numbers to a pre-COVID, pre- George Floyd, pre-January 6th fundraising announcement for Joe Biden isn't necessarily a fair comparison, but I do think looking at Donald Trump's numbers, and DeSantis's numbers, it's a different comparison in his primary.

I'm also not surprised DeSantis has done well in fundraising. He --

BURNETT: Well, big donors are all looking for anything but --

ALLISON: That's right, that's right.


ALLISON: He has a bundle of riches already, because he has done so well with fundraising. So it is significant. I mean, I think, though, just to DeSantis's point that he played is, like, the left of Trump on immigration?

I mean, Trump was the person who separated families and had babies crying because they were with their families, and did not have a plan to reunite them. That's a scary position, I think, across the board that we don't want to mind ourselves in. And yet, he's a great success, so he is a strong contender.

BURNETT: So, Marc, what is DeSantis's world telling you about these fundraising numbers? And what's going into them? Who are these people?

CAPUTO: Well, they're not telling everything about the fundraising numbers. You know, NBC had first written a story and subsequently, "The Sarasota Herald Tribune" had advanced it.

The executive office of the governor, his official gubernatorial side, his staff, high level staffers have been texting lobbyist, and telling them, hey, you should contribute. The number of these lobbyists feel as if they're being squeezed. Now, other lobbyist say, look, the code of the lobbyist, if you shut up and contribute.

Also, some of them wonder like, look, war being strong-arm to contribute? We know whether this is good or bad for DeSantis, they'll tell you, it is a fact. He's going to do what he wants to do.

So they know they have to give the money, but they also know that on the other and even if they give it, their projects might get vetoed in any way. Incidentally, more than $100 billion budget has yet to be delivered to DeSantis, when he gets the lineup with the veto authority in Florida. It gives him a tremendous amount of power.

And just weekend, better said just yesterday, there was a group full of DeSantis fundraisers, many of them lobbyists, who were dialing for dollars, there are networks on his behalf, to raise some of this money that one of $8.3 million fundraising haul that he announced.

BURNETT: All right. So, Doug, in terms of raising more money. You know, obviously at the top donors, and I know it's a very spotty record. I've talked to some of them, right, who've been really frustrated about his attorney phone calls, spending time with them, that, that, that. So, we'll see whether that changes.

But in terms of exposure, he's in interviews, thus far, have been conservative radio, now Ben Shapiro, Fox News, do you think, Doug, that that needs to change? Or at this point, if you are going to go to the right of Donald Trump, I mean, that's where you got to stay?

HEYE: So, I think it's a mistake for politicians and their staff, frankly, to mistake an outlet for the audience. People watch every network, whether they're conservative or, liberal or, down the middle of the road. But we put ourselves in the silos, I think, artificially.

Clearly, if you want to win the Republican nomination, we know where that starts, and it starts at Fox News, but it doesn't necessarily end there.

So what I would say is also, though, Erin, so often you see Republicans and especially the ones you try to be more iconoclastic, and be more of a celebrity than anything else, talk really tough when it comes to the media. What I tell you is, look at how strong I am, but I am scared to talk to Dana Bash, is not really the strongest posture that you can have.

BURNETT: Ashley, all right, let me go through something here for Biden. Plenty of warning signs for him in some of the recent polls, okay? Sixty percent of Democrats and Dem-leaning independents listed as a first choice for the nomination.


Sixty percent, he's an incumbent.

RFK Jr. has 20 percent right now, and that's been steady for a couple of months. They get down, nearly a fifth the people of color so they will support Biden. About a fifth of white, non-college graduates say the same. A fifth of independents.

How concerning is this for Biden at this point?

ALLISON: Well, it's still early, and polls are snapshots, but they should not be ignored. I think sometimes the politics, people treated as though it's different than real life. If you see an issue, address it.

And so right now, what the Biden campaign needs to do is go talk to the different constituencies that are going to be important to his coalition particularly African American voters. If one in five say right now that they do not support Joe Biden, you may not be able to get to five out of five by November 2024.

But you try and work to get to 3 out of 5, or 4 out of 5, and each one of those demographics, and that so you go to a winning coalition. So they should not ignore it, but I don't think it's time to go into panic mode right now.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much, I appreciate. It

CAPUTO: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. And next, an OUTFRONT update, China dramatically escalating its war on comedy after a joke about the military got shows canceled, jokes censored. Comedians say that they are now answering to the communist party. It is incredible it's happening there, and we've got an inside report.

And just how much is A.I. driving your pension, your 401k, the stock market up or down? Someone, an influential market analyst is next.



BURNETT: Tonight, China's war on comedy. This is a story we first told you about last week. A Chinese comedian telling a harmless joke about the communist party, it was about squirrels and a dog, he is now facing possible arrest after being faced with a $2 million fine. And anyone who publicly supported him has been punished as well.

But Xi Jinping is not stopping there. In fact, shows across China are actually getting canceled now. The government is now reportedly asking performers to submit their scripts for vetting an approval.

Will Ripley is OUTFRONT.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Where the flash open, live audience and opening monologue, this Chinese comedy show almost looks like late night TV in the U.S. Until you turn up the volume.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping's speech, the country is the people.

RIPLEY: The jokes are communist party propaganda, punctuated by silly sound effects. Parroted back with studio audience that almost resembles after-school detention. A faith far worse than detention awaits comedians who may be tempted to push party rules as China exercises very tight control over comedy shows.

Li Haoshi, known by a stage name "House", was doing a skit about stray dog chasing a squirrel earlier this month. He said they reminded him of eight words, a popular party slogan for the People's Liberation Army.

That joke, and those eight words landed House in the doghouse. A 2021 law bans insults on the Chinese military. House is now under police investigation in Beijing, suspended indefinitely, plus, a massive $2 million fine on his former employer, a fledgling industry now in danger. All that, after the comedian posted a public apology, promising to deeply reflect and reeducate himself.

House joins a growing list of comedians canceled in China for jokes that run afoul of the authorities. Some even made outside of the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): What will happen if this gets published on the internet. They say then you won't be able to return home.

RIPLEY: In February, comedian Chi Zi joked about not being able to go home after he told jokes critical of the Chinese communist part on his Canadian tour. His name erased from most Chinese social media.

The rules more relaxed for comedians in Hong Kong. In the Chinese territory, you won't go to jail for jokes like this, at least not yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People asked me what's the deal with China and Taiwan. I said it's actually really simple, like Chin and Taiwan would be like, say I would ask a girl, like this girl, and then she rejected me, she said no, and then I still went around telling everyone she's my girlfriend.

RIPLEY: Standup comedians say self censorship is already silencing sensitive jokes.

GARRON CHIU, STAND-UP COMEDIAN IN HONG KONG: We say like, you know, the first comedian to go to jail for telling a political joke is going to be a hero, and none of us want to be that hero. It is tougher because comedy for some is a form of rebellion, and there is now a less way to rebel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're still playing to a different audience, he said it is not the people in the room, it's people who run this place. RIPLEY: Across the Pacific, the contrast is clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meanwhile in America, we have an 80-year-old man begging us for four more years of work. Begging. Begging.

RIPLEY: Chinese may not be allowed to mock their own leaders, but just like an America, mocking the U.S. president is fair game.


RIPLEY (on camera): Somebody made a joke again China, how about Xi Jinping, they would disappear, and probably not reappear for a very long time.

U.S.-China relations are at a 15-year low, Erin, and China, frankly, is losing influence in the west. So they're trying to do is they're tightening their grip on power at home, on the way they do it if you are dictatorship, entertainment, crackdown on entertainment. The fact that performers have to actually submit their scripts, and set list ahead of time to make sure they are patriotic sufficiently is just mind-boggling, but that is what comedians and all performers and China are facing right now, Erin.

BURNETT: It's really incredible, and thank you so much for continuing to follow this, because this is stunning.

Will Ripley, thanks very much, from Taipei tonight.

And next, a new debt ceiling deadline, lawmakers just given more time to make a deal on America's debt, but the spending right now is at $17 billion a day, $17 billion a day.


And sheer panic tonight aboard a flight after a passenger opens emergency door while still in the air.


BURNETT: Tonight, a new debt ceiling deadline. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen now saying the U.S. will default on its debts on June 5th if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling. That's after Yellen and the Biden administration repeatedly warned that a deal had to be done by June 1st, because that would be the earliest date for default.

Now, Biden tonight sounded a note of optimism, despite a top GOP negotiator, Congressman Garret Graves, shutting the door on a major sticking point for Democrats, which is work requirements on social safety net programs. Here's what the president just said.


REP. GARRET GRAVES (R-LA): It's crazy to me that we are even having this debate.

REPORTER: Are you willing to drop the work requirements? GRAVES: Hell no, hell no. Not a chance.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Adam Kobeissi. He is the editor-in-chief of "The Kobeissi Letter", which is an influential publication on global markets and I found really fascinating.

So, Adam, let's start with the latest numbers of the Treasury Department. You write this in your newsletter, that the United States has cash balance right now of $39 billion.



BURNETT: Just lest anyone at home go, oh, that's a lot of money, okay, the U.S. spent $17 billion a day, $17 billion only brings in $13 billion.

Gosh, after a week or so, you got a big problem. I mean, it doesn't -- how dire is the situation?

KOBEISSI: I mean, yeah, $39 billion, like you said, it sounds like a huge amount of money but for the U.S. government, that's like you or I having $100 in our account. They are burning an average of $4 billion dollars a day, maybe more depending on the day. We actually spend $1.4 billion dollars a day just in interest expenses on the U.S. debt.

So, you know, needless to say, it is becoming very crucial that we raise the debt ceiling immediately and the, quote/unquote, extraordinary measures that the treasurer is taking are now being exhausted and if we can make it to the June 15th, that will be big, because that will allow us to push the default timeline back a little bit.

BURNETT: Because you get money coming in?

KOBEISSI: You get quarterly tax payments, you get extraordinary measures that will supposedly help add another $140 billion in June by the treasury, but you're kind of just kicking the can down the road.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, so, if that even work to happen, you have more time, getting these guys in Washington more time is it necessarily a good thing, obviously. But now you got Yellen saying June 5, right, repeatedly it had been June 1st, it's about June 1st.

Look, we understand the situation is dire, but from the public's perspective you hear June 1st, then you hear June 5th, then you get to June 15th, does that create this like the perception of crying wolf?

KOBEISSI: Yeah, I mean, that's the worry, right? Because the June 1st deadline, it started out as a while ago -- June 1st, we need a deal done. Now we are kind of really getting down to granular technical details as to how the treasuries balances are changing. If that keeps on changing, it loses its effect. But I also think that June 5th, June 1st, I mean, it doesn't really

matter. We need to reach a deal here because there's not much --

BURNETT: Right, it doesn't mean that, okay, it's not a problem I'm just pretending it's a problem. That's the distinction that you are drawing.

I want to show you something. I know you had focused in on this. This is a picture from earlier this week. It is an explosion at the Pentagon. It was not real, right? This was an A.I. generated image, it was shared widely on Russian media. But the markets fell $500 billion, half a trillion dollars was lost in minutes, because of a bogus image, just one bogus image.


BURNETT: We can only imagine where that come. Now, you thought a lot about that today. You talked about the S&P's gains this year. You were saying a lot of it is due to A.I., some of these big companies, Amazon, Meta, Nvidia, which I know is one of the ones you hold in your newsletter.

So you are telling me that A.I. is driving this, massive, massive, companies like this.


BURNETT: I mean, I am not saying A.I. isn't here to say. Of course, it is. But are we at a point right now that A.I. is sort of like the next crypto?

KOBEISSI: Right. Well, that is a great question. I mean, there's been -- we have been -- very vocal about A.I. for the last few months now. You are seeing over 1,000 mentions of A.I. in earnings calls in the second quarter alone. That's up 70 percent since the previous quarter, that is about 100 percent year over year.

And, you know, the tweet that you put up on the screen that we were commenting on about Nvidia and these few stocks, there are 7 stocks that are accounting for almost the S&P's gains this year. I mean, the S&P is up 10 percent. If you take those 7 stocks out, and let's just call it S&P 493, the index is basically flat. It's up 1 percent. Those 7 stocks in one index are up 44 percent this year.

So, A.I. is huge right now. There's -- you know, you alluded to, is this a bubble? Is this a fad? Is it the next big thing? It could be both. It doesn't really matter because it's driving markets right now, and that's what we're looking at.

BURNETT: Right. Well, and it's very fair as you say. It could be both. Sometimes people just get, as we say, over their skis.

All right. Adam, thank you very much.

KOBEISSI: Thanks. BURNETT: And coming up on "AC360", a major surprise for UMass Boston grads when the co-owner of the Celtics Hale Rob handed them each $1,000. Hale joins 3-60 to talk about why he did that. That's coming up at the top of the hour.

And next here, the chaos and panic as wind whiffed through a cabin of a jet, a passenger opening the emergency door while that plane was in the air. The story is next.



BURNETT: Tonight, terror in the skies. An Asiana Airlines passenger is under arrest tonight after he opened the plane's exit door midair. The plane landed safety, but the incident left 200 people on board shaken, and, of course, it was real fear. Some are still in hospital tonight.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wind howling through the cabin, 200 people on board, passengers gripping their armrests. These were the chaotic minutes before landing for that Asiana Airlines flight in South Korea. Officials say the plane was still 700 feet in the air, traveling around 170 miles an hour when a man in his 30s grabbed an exit door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Maybe the man try to get off the plane. A flight attendant said "help, help", and about 10 passengers stood up and pulled them in.

FOREMAN: Opening a commercial jet door in-flight is supposed to be impossible. The doors are locked and beveled so that air pressure inside the plane pushes them firmly into the door opening.

Aviation experts say overcoming that pressure would be like lifting a car.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, at altitude, you simply can't do it. There are thousands of pounds of pressure on those doors, you can't open them, you can't open over the wing exits.

FOREMAN: But at very low altitudes on some older planes, experts say it might be possible. What we know for sure is the man on the Asiana flight was arrested and others have tried the same thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm taking over this plane.

FOREMAN: On a flight from L.A. to Boston in March, authorities say a passenger was restrained after he attacked a crew member, tried to open the emergency exit door, and said he believed the flight attendant was trying to kill him.

Soon afterward, a court ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's Homeland Security with the gun? Because I'm waiting for them to point a gun at me. I will kill every man on this plane.

FOREMAN: Other incidents have raised similar concerns in the air, including a woman who tried to open a door while flying from Raleigh, North Carolina.

And on the ground, in Los Angeles, authorities say a man opened the door of a parked jet and jumped onto an exit slide.

In Chicago, officials say a man popped on emergency door while his plane taxied and walked on to the wing.

And in New York, officials say a couple with their dog opened the door and took an exit slide as their plane was preparing to leave.


FOREMAN (on camera): Why that man in the Asiana incident allegedly tried to open that plane, we don't know. Authorities are merely saying he was not in a good mental state. By the time it was all over, neither there were some other passengers who were taken to the hospital for hyperventilating -- Erin.

BURNETT: I mean, look, it is terrifying and I think everyone wants to know the motive.

Thanks so much to Tom and thanks to all of you. Have a good weekend.

It's time now for "AC360."