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Erin Burnett Outfront

Ukraine: Forces Shelling Settlements Inside Russia's Belgorod Region; Biden: "No Reason" Debt Deal Should Not Pass By Default Deadline; DeSantis Steps Up Attacks On Trump: "He's Taken The Side Of Disney". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 29, 2023 - 19:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, a Russian onslaught nearly 100 strikes across Ukraine, as chaos and panic consume the capital. But tonight, Russia bracing for Ukraine to retaliate.

Plus, Biden and McCarthy, they have a deal to raise the debt ceiling but does the House speaker have the votes? I'll talk to one Republican congressman who is dead set against the agreement. Why?

And Ron DeSantis says he wants to, quote, destroy leftism, but is that a winning message on the campaign trail?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Erin Burnett.

Welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT tonight.

A swift retaliation, Russia's Belgorod region under attack tonight. The governor there says the non-stop shelling has now killed one person and injured several others.

This strikes come after Ukraine vowed to retaliate, following one of Russia's largest assault on the country. Russia firing off nearly 100 missiles and drones over the past 24 hours and of those, Ukraine knocking down 77. This is a major blow to Putin's war effort, it shows the increasing effectiveness of Ukraine's air defenses.

And tonight, Ukraine's president is thanking the U.S. for providing a sophisticated Patriot missile defense system, which is saving lives.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Patriots, in the hands of Ukrainians, ensures that 100 percent of Russian missiles will be intercepted. And that terror is losing.


BROWN: However, there are still places in the Ukraine that are susceptible to Russian strikes. Take a look, this is new video of a Russian strike on a town just outside of Bakhmut. According to Ukrainian officials, the strike hit a gas station killing

two people and injuring eight. The missiles that Russia is using, according to "Forbes", cost millions of dollars a piece. And Russia is having to rely on the more, and more as its forces have been severely depleted.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT in Kyiv, and, Fred, air raid sirens, they were going off earlier today, no surprise given what's going on. What's it been like on the ground?


Well, there were some pretty severe drone and missile attacks by the Russians, and they pretty much came in two waves. One was overnight using cruise missiles and drones. The Ukrainians say their air defenses can shoot most of those down, but then later in the morning, there were ballistic missile attacks. Ukrainians actually said of 11 ballistic missile shot at the capital Kyiv, they managed to get all of them down. Now, nevertheless, of course, for the folks who live in the city, there was some seriously frightening moments.

Here's what happened.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Terrified children running for their lives, as Russia unleashed another massive aerial attack on Ukrainian cities. But Ukraine says its aerial defense managed to shoot down all the ballistic missiles filed at the capital Kyiv, and now, the Ukraine's forces seem nearly ready for their own, much anticipated counteroffensive.

This weekend, Ukraine's top general, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, releasing this video showing troops gearing up for battle and showcasing modern Western weapons with a clear message, it is time to take back what is ours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): Let my vision be clear. To destroy my enemies!

PLEITGEN: And that's what these guys are training for. This is a unit of the offensive guard of Ukraine's interior mission.

We have a clear motivation, he says. We defend our land. This is our nation, our homeland.

Defensive guard is mustering tens of thousands of troops, they say, training to storm trenches and evacuee casualties which they know they are bound to have in the tough battles ahead.

What these guys are practicing here, no doubt, will become a reality for the Ukrainian armed forces very soon. As Kyiv says it will start a massive counter offensive to take back all of the territory, including Crimea. The Ukrainians already seem to be stepping up strikes on possible

Russian supply lines in occupied areas. Russian installed officials claiming Ukrainian missile attacks against targets around Berdyansk and Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine in the past days.

It's just the beginning, a top advisor to the Ukraine's president tells me. Everything that is happening now is a precursor to a counterattack, a necessary precursor were the intensity of fire increases.


And he lays a bold aims for the counteroffensive.

It will end, undoubtedly, on the borders of Ukraine as they were in 1991 with the de-occupation of Crimea and with the beginning of a massive process of transformation of Russia's political system.

But for now, resilience remains key for people of the Ukrainian cities. These newlyweds had just tied the knot and were on their way to their celebration when the air raid sirens went off. So they just continue to celebrate in the bomb shelter, vowing not to let Russian rockets ruin the best day of their lives.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And you know, Pamela, that's really the resilience that we see from a lot of people here in Kyiv, of course. When the sirens go off the folks they do run into the shelters, they run for cover.

However, they emerge pretty quickly after the all clear comes in, and they go about their daily lives, they go straight back to work. And one of the things that the head of Ukraine's military intelligence said today is he said, look, if the Russians believe they can scare the people in the Ukraine, Kyiv specifically, they certainly are mistaken -- Pamela.

BROWN: Well, thank you, Fred.

OUTFRONT now, former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. He served as prime minister when Vladimir Putin first became president.

Thank you for joining us tonight.

So you worked alongside Putin for a number of years. When you see this new massive assault of missiles by Russia into the Ukraine, what do you think Putin is trying to do right now?

MIKHAIL KASYANOV, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF RUSSIA: I think Mr. Putin and his inner circle, they are demonstrating their nervousness. They are expecting Ukrainian counter offensive and they are nervous about it, they are trying to somehow prevent, to make it more difficult.

But, of course, these atrocities just continue people all over the world just cannot keep patience on them. That everyone just -- in the West, and we hope that Russian democrats also expecting the success of Ukrainian in upcoming offensive operation.

BROWN: And the Ukraine appears to be stepping up attacks in Russian occupied territories. We have seen a number of attacks by Ukrainian troops inside Russia. What impact do those attacks have on Putin and the Russian public?

KASYANOV: I think, of course, it's not admitted by the Ukrainian government that they're involved on this. But these, of course, operations on the territory of Russia, of course, demonstrating some kind of weakness for the border control of Russia, or Russian authorities, and, of course, it created some kind of fear among the Russian army, and population, and also administrations in those regions.

And the Kremlin is the most important thing, just as demonstration that Russia is not as protected so much as Putin just declared fro decades, that security and the stability is the major, major points in his strategy. But right now, just there's demonstration that this is not the case.

BROWN: Do you see a point at which Putin will be willing to negotiate in good faith?

KASYANOV: In good faith? It's an interesting expression, good faith. Putin wants to negotiate right now, but he does not want to withdraw troops from occupied territories. He wants to stop -- he needs a cease fire so that to restructure the army and the economy facing problems.

BROWN: Let's just take a step back for a moment. When you look at and listen to Putin right now, how is he different to the person that you worked with back in the early 2000s?

KASYANOV: I should tell, it's a completely different person. At that time, when we work to gather, he promised to me and to all of the team of my cabinet that he would support all the reforms. And in fact, he implemented this promise with the exclusion of two reforms.

He didn't allow me to undertake administrative reform, which means reduction of state involvement in economy and public life, et cetera. And he did not allow me to be sure gas sector reform. It means just to destroy Gazprom monopoly, for gas supplies.

But at that time, we -- now I understand. He pretended to be a democratic leader, but in fact, he was always a KGB agent. Right now he performs as he is a natural person, Putin's KGB agent with absolutely distorted worldview.

BROWN: All right. Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

KASYANOV: Thank you.

BROWN: And OUTFRONT now, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, former commanding general of Europe and the Seventh Army.

[19:10:03] So you just heard there, from the former prime minister, Kasyanov, saying that those massive strikes show how nervous Putin and his inner circle are, about this coming offensive. From a military standpoint, what would Russia be trying to do with those strikes?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Pamela, they are trying to interfere with the connection between the political body and the decision makers in the Kyiv government, President Zelenskyy, with his field generals, General Zaluzhnyi. They have developed a plan, there has been messaging on the Internet today saying that President Zelenskyy has approved that plan.

Now I think, Russia is really -- it's not just going after the Ukraine, as the former Prime Minister Kasyanov said, it's more to try and interfere with the command and control structure between the political leaders in Kyiv in the frontline generals all along the front line.

BROWN: And there is reporting out there we talked about earlier on the show, where some of these -- the missiles that they are using are millions of dollars apiece. I mean, this is precious arsenal for Russia. What do you make of that?

HERTLING: Well, it certainly is for Russia, and they are running out of these missiles. Reports that they have been running out for a long time, you happen to mention that some of these Russian missiles cost millions of dollars. The missiles that shoot them down, the Patriot missiles, also cost millions of dollars, between $3 million and $4 million a copy.

So, it really is a race for logistics, a race to technological advantage, and I think what happened last night with the drone strikes accompanying missile strikes in the evening and then further ballistic missiles during the day. Again, it's Russia attempting to template what Ukraine is doing in their defensive position, and then trying to get the faster moving missiles, the more damaging missiles into the capital city.

So it's a tactic. All -- you know, we are hearing reports of 90 missiles, or whatever. But the way they are being shot into the different locations in Ukraine, Russia is attempting to interfere with the command and control structure, as well as troop movements within the Ukraine. So it is a back-and-forth, it can't just be the big tactic of hay, or shooting a lot of missiles.

BROWN: That's really interesting with the patriot missiles, because you will recall, there was so much back and forth and reluctance from the Biden ministration to send the patriot missiles. Now they are over there, Zelenskyy says they are using them, they are saving lives. If you had a birds eye view of the Ukraine, what clues would you be looking for to see if Ukraine was about to start its offensive?

HERTLING: Well, you know, there's strategic executive that President Zelenskyy has. And he has given that to his military commanders. And over the last several months and weeks, they have been shaping the battlefield. We use that term multiple times on here. Now it's time for the military commanders to come back to the

president and say, hey, look, boss, we have looked at the battlefield, here's where the Russians are weak, here is where we need to be strong. Let's start moving forces from their larger areas in the rear of Ukraine into their attack positions.

So I think what we are going to see in the next couple days and weeks is a lot of movement of Ukrainian forces, they are going to try and hide that movement as best they can. And at the same time, they're going to try and deceive Russia from where they are going, and what access to advantage they're going to use.

So a lot of this, Pamela, it's a lot like a test chessboard. Both sides are playing chess, trying to beat the other one to get to the right positions so they can conduct the kind of offensive and defensive operations they need.

BROWN: All right. Always great to talk to you, General Hertling, thank you so much.

HERTLING: Thanks, Pamela.

BROWN: Well, OUTFRONT next, is McCarthy's deal about to raise the debt ceiling about to implode? One Republican now threatening to derail the agreement. Why?

Plus, Ron DeSantis stepping up his attacks on Trump now, accusing the former president of siding with his powerful adversary.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: He's taken inside of Disney in our fight down here in Florida. I'm standing for parents.


BROWN: And showdown in Texas. The Republican-led House votes to impeach the state's Republican attorney general. Now, all eyes on the female lawmaker who could help decide his fate? His own wife.

We'll be back.



BROWN: New tonight, President Biden saying he is optimistic that bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling and avoid the nation's first ever default will make it across the finish line.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know I never say I'm confident in what the Congress is going to do, but I feel very good about it. There's no reason why it shouldn't get done by the 5th, I'm confident that it will get a vote in both houses, and we'll see. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So, this bill would suspend the debt limit through January 1st, 2025. It would rollback not defense discretionary spending 2022 levels, expand work requirements for some adults receiving food stamps, and claw back about $30 billion in unused COVID relief funds.

This, as a key Republican in the House is warning it will not be easy for House Speaker McCarthy to move forward with this bill.

Lauren Fox is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill.

So, Lauren, where do things stand right now on the Republican side?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, throughout the day, there has been a furious whip operation in both the Republican and Democratic sides, as both sides of leadership are trying to lock down the votes they are going to need, Pam.

But we're going to see a key test tomorrow. That is when the House Rules Committee is going to convene. And already, two conservatives who serve on that committee, and were placed there as part of the agreement to have Kevin McCarthy become speaker. They are warning that they are opposed to this legislation, and all eyes are going to be on whether or not they back this proposal in the rules committee.

Those members, Ralph Norman and Chip Roy, we are also going to keeping an eye on Thomas Massie, he could potentially be the tie breaker in that critical vote. If it does make it out of the House Rules Committee, it then will go to the House floor as soon as Wednesday. That is when I am told leadership and Republicans are expecting they could get about 150 Republican members supporting this bill. They are working to lock up that support.

But, obviously, that would be a huge number, a majority of the majority, something that Kevin McCarthy, the House Speaker has been promising since he announced this deal on Saturday night. He could deliver, Pam.

BROWN: All right, we have a busy week ahead.

Lauren Fox, thanks so much.

OUTFRONT now, Republican Congressman Bob Good of Virginia.


He is part of the House Freedom Caucus, and he sits on the House Budget Committee. He previously oppose raising the debt ceiling in 2021, his first year in Congress.

Thank you for your time, Congressman.

So, you and Congressman Roy, you are on the same page and criticizing an opposing this bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a default. Do you think there is enough opposition on your side to kill it?

REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): I certainly hope so. The greatest measurement of whether or not this is a good deal should places closer to an eventual true default on our national debt, meaning we can no longer work with our debt, borrow money, pay our obligations.

Does it hurt the country fiscally? And it absolutely does. It's going to increase the debt limit, and the national debt some $3 trillion to $4 trillion dollars by January '25. It's basically flat on spending. It doesn't contain a real spending reforms or cuts, like we had in the limit, save, grow bill.

So, I certainly hope there won't be Republican support for it. I hope that we can kill it whether it's in the rules committee, or whether in the Republican caucus when he bring to the floor, and go back to a bill that will actually cut our spending, reform our Congress that we can save our country fiscally.

BROWN: So, as you know, the treasury secretary has now said June 5th is the day when the nation could default, if the country does not pay back money that it -- that it has borrowed.

How is this good? How would it be good for the American people, for your own constituents, if the country defaulted? Which is what could happen if Republicans, and Democrats for that matter, but if Speaker McCarthy does not get the votes to get this bill passed.

GOOD: Well, the quick answer is, there's not going to be any default if it passes. It only takes about $70 billion dollars a month to pay the interest on the debt, which is what is preventing true default. We've got an average --

BROWN: So, are you saying that that debt secretary is lying when she says the U.S. will default on June 5th?

GOOD: She -- it takes $70 billion a month to pay the interest on the debt to prevent us from having a default. We've got about $400 billion coming into the treasury. The problem is that we spend about $500 billion on an average monthly basis.

So it's true, at some point when we have exhausted the measures, which she says will be January 5th, excuse me, June 5. Then we will not be able to fund that hundred billion dollar gap, but that would not be a default, that would be a force prioritization of payments. It's complicated, it's problematic the moment goes on.

But we shouldn't fear that necessity or some catastrophe that hits on June 5, because it's simply not true. What we should do is pass a good bill that cuts our spending, puts reforms in place so that we don't absolutely default down the road.

We are near paying a trillion dollars a month in interest just to service the debt. The American people owe $100,000 a person on our national that, at $32 trillion. And this bill will make it worse by taking us to $35 trillion, $36 trillion by 2025. BROWN: Here is the bottom line, though. The bottom line -- and I know

it's complicated, June 5th, prioritizing the spending. The bottom line is, Jessica Yellen, the treasury secretary said, I'm sorry, Janet Yellen, we -- Janet Yellen, the treasury secretary, said it would be a global economic catastrophe if the U.S. defaults, if the U.S. does not pay out June 5th if a deal isn't reach.

Why not focus on the spending cuts and so forth at the time when Congress does that? When Congress looks over the spending for the country, looks at the president's spending bill, and make -- has those negotiations and discussions? Why use this time now when it comes to the debt ceiling to try and have that discussion? Why try to insert that into this, rather than wait for the spending bill discussions?

GOOD: Great question. The reason why we have $32 trillion national debt, that has to be a big part of the conversation to talk about this it's because both parties have been complicit in getting us here. Yes, Democrats are better at spending than Republicans are, but Republicans have been complicit in this as well.

And just like Joe Biden when he was in the Senate voted for conditions on the debt ceiling increase, eight times in the last 35 years, we had negotiated some spending cuts, they have always been in context from conjunction with a debt ceiling increase. This is not new or uncharted territory.

What is new and uncharted is our debt to GDP is 125 percent. That's the highest debt to GDP we've had since World War II. And what we have to show for it, we didn't just conquer imperial China, or Nazi Germany to achieve that level of debt.

There is no reason for us to have this level of debt. We've got to cut our spending, and to make this country, this bill simply does not do it. It makes it worse.

BROWN: But the bottom line is -- you -- this is clearly the hard- liners, the far-right hard-liners in the House that are coming out and strongly opposing this bill. We are waiting to hear from more Progressive Democrats, that is for certain.

But, you -- the Republicans have a very slim majority in the House, right? Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate. You have a Democrat in the White House, compromise negotiation. That's part of the deal with divided government as there is right now.

I mean, why are you willing to compromise more, and to negotiate more?


What it sounds like is that your being an obstructionist here.

GOOD: Well, the American people gave the House Republicans a majority when we ran on fiscal responsibility.

BROWN: Very slim majority.

GOOD: We ran on cutting spending, and the Americans gave us that majority.

BROWN: But this does cut spending.

GOOD: We spent 90 days negotiating a debt ceiling increase when the Senate, the White House were MIA. Most Republicans didn't want to raise the debt limit, we want to cut spending so much we don't have to do it, and very few Republicans currently in Congress have never voted for debt ceiling until limit, save, grow.

However, we came together with reasonable reforms, reasonable cuts, none of which by the way the Democrats can defend being against. That's why they lied about the bill, they said we're cutting veterans benefits, and we were cutting Social Security, Medicare, because they couldn't defend the real provisions that were in the bill. But this bill is a terrible bill, instead of rescinding the $80 billion dollars we --


BROWN: Let me just stop you there so our viewers keep -- okay, and just to be clear. In the deal that was struck between the White House and Speaker McCarthy, there are cuts. There is $136 billion in cuts. "The New York Times" had an analysis that over ten years, nearly a trillion dollars in spending cuts would come from this. We are waiting to find out the official estimate in the CBO.

There are definitely differences on what the House Republicans previously passed, and in this bill. To name a few, the House GOP limited spending growth for a decade compared to two years under this agreement. The House GOP bill also included work requirements for Medicaid, and would have pulled $80 billion in funding for the IRS, opposed to a little over $20 billion on this deal.

So yes, we are not getting everything you want it. But again, isn't compromise necessary here?

I mean, look, President Biden had been saying that he wanted a clean debt ceiling bill, and now look, there is a deal that was struck with Speaker McCarthy. Why are you not willing, and other members of the Freedom Caucus willing to negotiate and compromise more, especially given the fact that there are cuts, there are compromises that are favorable for Republicans, and also for Democrats in this deal?

GOOD: We've been running about a trillion and a half debt for the past couple of years, we've got trillions of dollars in problems, not just small billions of dollars.

And frankly, the cuts that are being talked about are being overstated. We have only got two years of spending caps in place, we want to ten years in spending caps. We do have an additional six years that are not enforced -- excuse me, additional four years that are not enforceable.

You've got to PAYGO for the administrative state, but it says it in the budget director can't look on page two 260 -- excuse me, section 265 of the bill, says a budget director can just wave those, if he deems those necessary or essential, and there's no traditional challenge to it. It cuts about $12 billion, but that's about $30 billion in spending increases in their. Instead of going back to pre- COVID levels --


BROWN: But then why not wait to talk about the spending, when the spending bill comes to Congress? Why use this?

GOOD: Well, we need to do that, too, but the Democrats have demonstrated, unless you have leverage --

BROWN: Okay.

GOOD: -- to force them into spending cuts, they're not going to agree to any spending cuts. The Democrats don't want any spending cuts. Too many Republicans are compromised on the issue, but at least we are trying to put --


BROWN: Well, Democrats in this have compromised on spending cuts which has been an issue for progressive Democrats.

GOOD: -- trillion dollars for the first time ever, and we run a two trillion dollar deficit this year for the first time ever. That's what the Democrats are on spending.

BROWN: And again, there is compromise and negotiate on both sides, Republicans and Democrats in this deal. We'll have to wait and see what happens. Big meeting tomorrow on the House Rules Committee, We'll be following it.

Congressman Good, thanks for coming on the show for your time, for sharing your point of view on this.

GOOD: Thank you. Great to be with you, Pam.

BROWN: And OUTFRONT next, Ron DeSantis kicking off his campaign by vowing to, quote, destroy left-ism in the country. It may play well to his base, but how might that message play in a general election?

And Republicans in Texas going after one of their own, impeaching the states Republican attorney general, and now all eyes are on the AG's wife, a state senator who could help decide his fate.



BROWN: Tonight, Ron DeSantis is attacking former President Trump and using his ongoing feud with Disney to argue why he is more likely to win the Iowa caucuses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DESANTIS: He has taken the side of Disney in our fight down here in Florida. I'm standing for parents, I'm standing for children, and I think a multi billion dollar company that sexualizes children is not consistent with the values of Florida, or the values of a place like Iowa.


BROWN: DeSantis referring to Disney's opposition of Florida's controversial law restricting the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade. This, as DeSantis is just hours away from kicking off his first campaign stop since announcing his candidacy.

Starting tomorrow, and Wednesday in Iowa, then in New Hampshire on Thursday, and South Carolina on Friday.

OUTFRONT now, Republican strategist Doug Heye, and Karen Finney, former senior spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

Great to see you both on this Memorial Day. Thanks for making time for us.

So, Doug, you actually knew DeSantis from your time working in the House, and I say knew, loosely, right? But he's a former congressman, and now, DeSantis is ready for a big campaign kick off in the early states, where he'll want to contrast himself to Trump.

But Trump has a lot of support in the GOP. Is this a wise move on DeSantis's part to attack Trump right out of the gates?

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, I'll be honest, I don't know if the wise move or not, but it is a necessary move. And, you know, what we've seen as people try to draw comparisons between 2016 and 2024, and talk about there are too many candidates and all of this. The reality is it's a different race.

Donald Trump starts as a favorite, and what that means is you're not going to win the Republican nomination by going around Donald Trump. You've got to take him on directly. It may or may not be successful, but if you don't do that, you are guaranteed to fail. So DeSantis coming out of the gate after absorbing blows from Trump for a long time when DeSantis wasn't yet a candidate, starting in this posture is a necessary posture.

No one is smart enough to tell you whether or not it's going to be successful. What we've learned is a lot of the political gravity, how we define things don't apply to Donald Trump. But DeSantis is doing the necessary thing to take him on directly.

BROWN: Karen, I want to play something else DeSantis said after he asked why he's running now. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DESANTIS: Everyone knows if I'm the nominee I will beat Biden, and I will serve two terms, and I will be able to destroy left-ism in this country and leave woke ideology on the dustbin of history.


BROWN: What do you make of him saying he is running for president to, quote, destroy left-ism?


KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, look, he is trying to be a carbon copy of Donald Trump in that his campaign and his candidacy is based on grievance politics, divisiveness, an extreme policies. I think the reality is, the American people have already soundly rejected that both in 2020, and 2022. That's a strategy he has decided is going to be effective in the general election.

However, some of that very same extremism is not going to play well in a general election context. Not just because of the issues, but core American values, where people will just disagree that, for example, women should have the right to make our own decisions about our health care.

Or when it comes to gun safety, people are going to agree that permit- less carry is not a good idea. Nor will they think that a governor who decided to take his own personal grievance and grudge match against Disney and cost the state millions of jobs in revenue, is that really the same? We know Donald Trump is that kind of leader, that personalistic leader.

Do we really need another one of them? I don't think so, I think people rejected.

BROWN: What do you think, Doug?

HEYE: Well, I mean, Karen has laid out every reason that Ron DeSantis can't be elected president, and she can probably lay out the reason by every other rebel Republican can't be elected president. But the reality is, most likely, they are running against Joe Biden, in every poll number that we see of Biden is extremely low, lower than Donald Trump's numbers were which is something I would not have thought.

And as we approach this election, we also think that there is an R word that may pop up, called recession. Which means that Ron DeSantis can beat Joe Biden, than probably any other Republican possibly can. It doesn't mean they will, but can.

The other thing I think is very interesting of what DeSantis said, which sort of gets lost in the shovel of defeat left-ism in the wokeism and all of that, is he says that he can serve two terms. So what is he doing there? He is saying that Donald Trump is too old to serve as president, and he's also saying Donald Trump won't be able to serve two terms.

He's telling the base, I'm in this for the long haul, and that is a potentially convincing argument -- again, going after Donald Trump directly. He does it sometimes directly, and sometimes indirectly.

BROWN: I'm going to talk about the age thing.

Go ahead, Karen.

FINNEY: Well, I was just going to say, the core issue here that DeSantis represents, that maybe some of the others do not, where there could be a bit more of the give and take, again, the extremism of many of his policies, which are so unpopular with vast majorities of the American public. Eight in ten Americans, for example, support Roe v. Wade.

That's not a good general election message is a six-week abortion ban, which is what Ron DeSantis did in Florida. There are some things that are very specific to his agenda that we already know will be popular, and people will want to stand with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

BROWN: All right. Thank you both so much. Great to see you again.

Up next, Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton impeached by his own party. Now, everyone is looking to one woman who could help decide his fate, his wife, a state senator.

And growing interest tonight about the future of Senator Dianne Feinstein, after a report reveals the 89-year-old senator is having to rely on her staff more and more.

We'll be back.



BROWN: New tonight, a Texas state Senate is now holding articles of impeachment against Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is currently suspended from his duties after being impeached for abusing his office.

State senators are now preparing to start his trial, and one of those lawmakers cast with deciding Paxton's fate will be his own wife.

Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am directed by the House of Representative to present to the Senate the articles of impeachment preferred against Warren Kenneth Paxton Jr., attorney general of the state of Texas.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A historic moment in Texas politics. The 12 Texas House representatives who will present the impeachment case against Attorney General Ken Paxton helped formally deliver the articles of impeachment to the Texas Senate late this afternoon.

The day after Texas lawmakers impeached Ken Paxton, he shared these photos on social media saying, there is nothing better than a weekend spent with loved ones.

There was no love from an overwhelmingly bipartisan collection of Texas House lawmakers, who voted 121 to 23 to file 20 articles of impeachment against the Republican attorney general.

ANN JOHNSON (D), TEXAS STATE HOUSE/GENERAL INVESTIGATING COMMITTEE: Either this is going to be the beginning of the end of his criminal reign, or God help us with the harms that will come to all Texans if he's allowed to stay the top cop on the take.

LAVANDERA: Paxton called the impeachment vote a politically motivated sham and ugly spectacle.

Former President Donald Trump's support didn't held either. Trump called the impeachment vote unfair led by the radical left Democrats and RINOs, Republicans in name only.

Paxton is accused of a litany of criminal acts including bribery and obstruction of justice and that he's unfit for public office.

ANDREW MURR (R), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: The evidence is substantial. It is alarming and unnerving.

LAVANDERA: Paxton's impeachment moves to the state senate. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick will preside over the trial. In an interview with CNN affiliate WFAA, Patrick would not say when the trial will take place.

LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK (R), TEXAS: We will all be as responsible as any juror would be if that turns out to be.

LAVANDERA: One of those jurors and senators is Angela Paxton, the attorney general's own wife. There are calls for her to recuse herself but she has not said what she will do.

KEN PAXTON, TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL: Every politician who supports this deceitful impeachment attempt will inflict lasting damage on the credibility of the Texas house.

LAVANDERA: As House representatives prepare to cast their impeachment votes, some lawmakers say Paxton was vowing retribution for anyone voting against him.

REP. CHARLIE GEREN (R), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: Several members of this house while on the floor of this house doing the state business received telephone calls from General Paxton personally threatening them with political consequences in their next election.

LAVANDERA: Paxton has been under indictment on felony securities fraud charges and remains under FBI investigation for a scandal involving a campaign donor.


Paxton has denied all wrongdoing.

PAXTON: This shameful process was curated from the start as an act of political retribution.


BROWN: And, Ed, you are actually learning more about the timing of the impeachment trial. What do you know?

LAVANDERA: Yeah, we've been waiting to hear from the Senate side on this. And just a little while ago, there was a resolution adopted by all of the state senators saying that this impeachment trial will take place no later than August 28th. On June 20th, there about, there will be rules for the impeachment trial, they will be presented.

So look for the trial to take some place between June 20th and no later than August 28th this summer.

BROWN: All right. Ed Lavandera thanks for bringing the latest there.

OUTFRONT next, California Governor Gavin Newsom's vow years ago to replace Senator Dianne Feinstein with a Black woman if she retired early. Now that promise is being put to the test as questions grow about Feinstein's health. So what will Newsom do?

And tonight, a nation honors the Americans who gave their lives fighting for freedom.



BROWN: Tonight, growing speculation on intrigue around the health of 89-year-old Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has new report details, has become increasingly reliant on aides to help her do her job on Capitol Hill. This, at some California Democrats, are lobbying Governor Gavin Newsom to keep his promise if he is called on to appoint a replacement for Feinstein if she retires.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: Good morning, Los Angeles!

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California Governor Gavin Newsom hit his party's top issues of the California Democratic convention.

NEWSOM: This is the free state of California!

LAH: But not the biggest questions swirling about the Democratic faithful, especially in this room of Black Democrats.

Are you confident that Governor Newsom will keep his promise?


LAH: That's not confident. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm cautiously optimistic.

LAH: She is talking about this.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: If, in fact, Dianne Feinstein were to retire, will you nominate an African-American woman?

NEWSOM: We have multiple names in mind, and the answer is yes.

LAH: Age 89, Senator Dianne Feinstein had been absent for the Senate for months battling health issues. Now back on the job, she maintains she can fulfill her duties and will not resign.

But should she step aside? Governor Newsom would nominate the person to complete her term. With a razor thin Democratic Senate majority and judicial nominations on the ballot, California Democrats are confident Newsom is aware of the stakes.

KIMBERLY ELLIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think he needs reminding. He knows why this is so important.

LAH: Kimberly Ellis is one of a powerful group of Black Democrats openly lobbying for Newsom to keep his word.

ELLIS: Black women are the margin of victory, we get it done. We believe that Gavin Newsom will keep us province, to kill that seat with a Black woman. The only question is, which Black woman?

And from our perspective, it's Barbara or bust.

LAH: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who has been in Congress since the late 90s. She is already running for Feinstein's Senate seat in the 2024 election.

Should you be that Black women?

REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): Well, let me say, I'm focused on this campaign, and I'm not going to get involved in his process. He made a commitment, and I am running to win this campaign.

LAH: How important is it for a Black woman to sit in the Senate?

LEE: Representation matters. When you look at the fact that there is not a voice in the Senate who represents our diversity, it's outrageous.

LAH: But choosing Lee isn't a simple choice for Newsom. That would mean elevating her above two rivals in the Senate race.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We'll be friends during the campaign.

LEE: That's right.

LAH: That's Congressman Adam Schiff. He is also running for the same Senate seat. The lead prosecutor and Donald Trump's first impeachment trial backed by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. SCHIFF: They finally get me some very good advice, which is focus on

the things you can control, not the things you can't. So I'm focused on running my race, and I do think that, ultimately, voters will decide this race. And they want that choice to make, and I think they will have a choice.

LAH: Congresswoman Katie Porter, beloved by the progressive base, is also running for the Senate seat.

How much does that tip the scales if he selects Representative Lee?

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): I assume that Governor Newsom will keep his promise, but I can't speak for him or what he's thinking about.

For me, this campaign is about, not about the past about the future. It's not just about the next six months. It's about the next six years, the next 60 years for California.

LAH: A Newsom adviser tells CNN this is a politically fraught choice he would like to avoid it. His supporters say it would present a tough decision and could test Newsom's own standing within the party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know the governor has his mind in the future, himself, and people have long memories as to whether or not they can trust someone to support, shall we say, promises that they made.

NEWSOM: We are proud to be here as Democrats!


BROWN: Kyung, there's also the potential that Governor Newsom could pick a caretaker to fill the rule, maybe someone who pledges not to run in 2024. What are you hearing about that?

LAH: Well, at least among the Democratic activists that I've been speaking with, Pam, at this weekend event, it would be considered quote, under deliverance. Not a real nomination if he picks a non- political person, or somebody as you say, who would not run in 2024. The hope here, at least from the Democratic activists' side, is that it will be a significant choice.

But as we have laid out here, it is certainly politically fraught and will not go unnoticed -- Pam.

BROWN: All right. Kyung Lah, thanks so much.

OUTFRONT next, a nation honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We'll be back.



BROWN: And finally, tonight, we remember. The nation paying tribute to the troops who made the ultimate sacrifice service of their country this Memorial Day. President Biden giving his annual speech at Arlington National Cemetery during a ceremony, the White House as well attended by roughly 3,000 people. The president scene here laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and his remarks, Biden talking about the importance of caring for veterans and their families.


BIDEN: It's a sacred obligation, not based on party or politics, but on a promise -- a promise to unite all of us. There is nothing more important, nothing more sacred, nothing more American.


BROWN: President Biden also acknowledging the anniversary of the death of his son Beau, who served in Iraq.


BIDEN: Tomorrow marks eight years since we lost our son Beau. Our loss is not the same. He didn't perish in the battlefield. As it is for so many of you, the pain of his loss is with us every day, but particularly sharp on Memorial Day.


BROWN: Thanks for joining us on this Memorial Day. I'll be back in the chair tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m.

Up next, the premiere of the HBO documentary special on "The Bee Gees". That starts now.