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Erin Burnett Outfront

Biden Defends Sending Cluster Munitions To Ukraine; Panel: Giuliani Should Be Disbarred For Election Lies; Special Counsel Focuses On Oval Office Meeting Where Trump Weighed Desperate Proposals To Stay In Power; Axelrod: Cornel West Could Tip Election To Trump; Biden Adviser: Cocaine Found Poses No "National Security Threat". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 07, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, President Biden tells CNN it is essential that Ukraine get controversial cluster munitions from the U.S., a, quote, difficult decision, and as Biden taking heat now from allies and members of his own party.

Plus, is Rudy Giuliani about to get disbarred? The recommendation comes as the special counsel zeroes in on a chaotic Trump White House meeting that included Giuliani.

And a town divided. Elon Musk's SpaceX is transforming a quiet town into a bustling terminal for space travelers. Not everyone, though, is on board.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us tonight. I'm Erica Hill in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, lethal aid. The U.S. announcing it is sending its cluster ammunitions to Ukraine. It's a highly controversial weapon that Kyiv has been pushing for and one for which Russia has been widely criticized for using in this war.

It's controversial because as you can see in the video here, it breaks apart midair, scatters explosives over a large area. In fact, cluster bombs can munitions that didn't explode on the ground long after the fighting has stopped, continuing to endanger civilians in the area.

That, of course, is part of the problem and part of the concern that was discussed with Russia early on. An exclusive interview with CNN with Fareed Zakaria, President Biden explained why he believes, though, now is the time to arm Ukraine with this powerful weapon.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are trying to get through those trenches, and those -- and stop those tanks from rolling. So what it was not an easy decision, but the main thing is, they either have the weapons to stop the Russians now from keeping them from stopping the Ukrainian defensive through these areas, or they don't. I think that they needed them.


HILL: Not an easy decision. The number of key allies are among 120 countries that have banned cluster munitions because they can cause so much damage, both initially and as we noted, for years to come. The U.S., Ukraine, and Russia are among the 71 nations that have not signed on to that ban.

This decision by Biden also puts it with odds with members of his own party. Among them, Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan from Pennsylvania who writes in a statement: I challenge the notion that we should employ the same tactics Russia is using, blurring the lines of moral high ground.

Since the early days of this war, both Russia and Ukraine have been using cluster munitions, with deadly results. In a new video posted by Russian soldiers, Putin's men could be here pleading for help as they are being hit with Ukraine's cluster munitions.


RUSSIAN SOLDIER (through translated): We were at the front line, with under constant border fire of the enemy. More than 2,000 shells were fired at us every day. We had no opportunity to take cover, because all of the positions that have been dug, they were all destroyed under enemy mortar fire, as well as cluster munition. We were there without air and artillery support.


HILL: I want to get right to our national security reporter Natasha Bertrand.

So, Natasha, you reported a week ago now that the Biden administration was seriously considering sending cluster munitions to Ukraine. Today, of course, they made it official. And also, really sought to draw a distinction between how Russia uses this weapon and how Ukraine is using them, and plans to use them. What more have you learned?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yeah, Erica, what we saw today from the White House and the Pentagon was really a full- throated defense of this decision to send Ukraine these very controversial munitions. We heard from the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, who said essentially that without these cluster munitions, the U.S. is very worried that Ukraine might not have enough artillery ammunition to actually get through the rest of its counteroffensive and successfully prosecute this war against Russia.

Now, of course, this has serious implications for the U.S.'s relationship with its allies, particularly those that have banned the use of cluster munitions. As you said, over 100 countries worldwide have done so.

But the U.S. says that it is confident that they've managed to reassure allies that this is what Ukraine needs right now. And national security adviser Sullivan also sought to draw distinctions between how Russia and Ukraine are actually using these munitions on the battlefield. Russia does have these cluster munitions, but importantly, the dud rate of those munitions in terms of how many of those little bomblets that scatter across large areas actually explode, actually do not explode. It's much higher than the dud rate of the munitions that the U.S. would provide.

What does that mean? It essentially means that the risk posed to civilians in the longer term by the Russian cluster munitions is far greater than those that would be posed by the ones that are going to be provided by the U.S.

So, the U.S. is also drawing a distinction, of course, between the morality of these cluster munitions, the Ukrainians are using them to defend their own territory, whereas the Russians are using them to attack a sovereign country -- an important distinction that the White House has sought to make, Erica.

HILL: Yeah, certainly hearing a lot of it.

Natasha, I appreciate it. Thank you.

We should also note that Natasha's reporting tonight, the U.S. and its allies are really focused on Belarus. They are looking for signs the Wagner fighters are amassing there and also looking to determine whether Russia sent its tactical nuclear weapons there.

Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT in Belarus, reporting on where the Wagner fighters would be stationed.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the closest we've ever come to a Wagner camp. Not in Russia, nor the Ukrainian frontlines but standing empty for now in Belarus.

Well, this is where we thought that Wagner soldiers invited to Belarus could be housed, in vast tent city that supposedly this disused military base, about 100 kilometers, 70 miles or so outside of the Belarusian capital, in tents like these that have been set up to house a couple of dozen fighters at any given time.

For the most part, empty at the moment, and that's because the plan to invite Wagner and its leader over here into Belarus after the military uprising of Russia, it now appears to be on hold.

Recent satellite images showed how quickly the camp at Asipovichy was transformed, ready to house large numbers of troops at short notice. And the Belarusian general who gave us access told me that Wagner forces could still be deployed here if the political decision is made.

There is room for up to 5,000 soldiers, at this camp alone, he tells me. And we have other facilities, too.

Have you've been told to prepare this camp for the possible arrival of Wagner fighters? Is that what you are told? We have prepared it for training and for territorial defense, he says.

It was the sudden announcement by the leader of Belarus that neither Wagner nor its leader was in fact in the country. It seems to have thrown planning into disarray.

Lukashenko insists his offer which helps bring Wagner's armed uprising to an end last month is still on the table. But with new questions, over Wagner and its leader, it seems unlikely that this would be Wagner camp will ever now be filled.


CHANCE (on camera): Well, Erica, what I think this shows is that the offer to house Wagner fighters in Belarus was genuine but the move towards the mercenary group and its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is changing rapidly. The chance to leave Russia in that camp may have now passed.

Back to you, Erica.

HILL: Important reporting from Matthew Chance -- Matthew, thank you.

OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Adam Smith of Washington. He's the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

Sir, good to have you with us tonight.

The White House, as you well know, officially confirming cluster munitions will in fact be sent to Ukraine. You said not long ago, you would be open to sending them if it could end the war sooner.

Do you ultimately think that this decision and these weapons will achieve that?

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): I think it's the right decision. It's a tough decision for the reasons that Jake Sullivan and President Biden outlined today. But the bottom line is, the Ukrainians need these munitions because we're running out of other munitions to give them and the war is still being prosecuted against them.

Look, the big concern about cluster munitions is that the impact they have on the civilian populations, and the communities where they are use. That is a legitimate concern. But the Russians are already using cluster munitions. Cluster munitions with a dud rate of unexploded ordinance of over 30 percent.

The munitions we're sending have a dud rate of just over 1 percent and again, Ukrainians are using these to defend their own territory. The reason the White House waited is because we would prefer not to send these weapons. But because the Russian invasion persists, we are getting to the point where they are going to be needed to provide Ukraine with the ordinance that they need to defend themselves, and ultimately to retake their territory. So, tough decision but the right decision. HILL: So, tough, but the right one in your view. As you know, a

number of your fellow Democrats don't agree. In fact, your colleague, Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan from Pennsylvania, saying, quote, I challenge the notion that these weapons are the most effective support that we can provide Ukraine right now, I challenge the notion that we should employ the same tactics that Russia is using blurring the lines of moral high ground.


Are you concerned about the U.S.'s ability to claim moral high ground after reversing course on these weapons?

SMITH: No, I am not -- I am not remotely concerned about the ability of the U.S. to claim, or Ukraine to claim the moral high ground. Russia invaded Ukraine, unprovoked. Ukraine posed no threat to Russia. They've invaded and they have devastated city after city.

Your crews have documented in places like Mariupol and Bakhmut and Melitopol, how the Russians don't just attack but they utterly destroy these cities and killed countless civilians.

Nobody with a straight face should utter the notion that there is any question of where the moral high ground lies, number one. Number two, we are not using these munitions and the same way that the Russians are. The Russians are indiscriminately bombing civilians. And civilian targets with cluster munitions that have dud rates of over 30 percent.

Ukraine is using their weapons and will be using these weapons to target military targets that have invaded their own country. So, any suggestion that this is somehow even remotely similar to what the Russians are doing is just ridiculous, frankly.

Now, we don't want to use cluster munitions, not because of any moral comparison in Russia, but because we would rather not do it. But Russia has forced Ukraine's hand with this brutal and unending invasion.

So, that's I think the proper way to look at this difficult decision.

HILL: Tomorrow will mark two weeks since Yevgeny Prigozhin ended his armed rebellion, and also two weeks last seen in public, we initially were told he was in Belarus, and then as you know, Belarusian president said he is now in Russia. The Kremlin is not commenting.

How concerning is it that no one seems to know exactly where he is?

SMITH: Well, look, I mean -- for Prigozhin and his supporters, it's very concerning. For the rest of us, we might have a different look at that. The concerning thing is the instability in Russia, what it means for the war in Ukraine and what it ultimately means for where the Russian government is going to go in the future.

We want to have a reliable partner to ultimately negotiate a peace on this. The instability in Russia is undermining that.

What is Prigozhin doing? I mean, it's -- you know, I don't know where he's at, but it definitely adds an element of instability.

It is worth noting that Prigozhin's comment saying this war, Putin lied basically. This war isn't what he's been telling the Russian. People it wasn't provoked. It was a war of choice. It definitely means there is going to be internal conflict in Russia for some time to come.

HILL: Congressman Smith, good to have you with us tonight. Thank you.

SMITH: Thanks, Erica. I appreciate the chance.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, more trouble for Trump's longtime attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Why he could soon be barred from working as an attorney.

Plus, national security adviser Jake Sullivan weighs in on the cocaine found at the White House, as questions grow over why the Secret Service investigation seems to be taking so long.

And Elon Musk's SpaceX investing millions of dollars into a small town that is home to the SpaceX launch pad. So, why do some now want Musk to take his rockets elsewhere? It's a story you'll see first on OUTFRONT.



HILL: New tonight, should Rudy Giuliani be disbarred for trying to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election? That is the recommendation from a D.C.-based attorney disciplinary committee which says, in part, in terms of that recommendation, quote, he claimed massive election fraud but had no evidence of it. Mr. Giuliani has not acknowledged or accepted responsibility for his conduct and the misconduct here sadly transcends all his past accomplishments.

This, as we learn special counsel Jack Smith is focused on that chaotic Oval Office meeting we heard so much about in December of 2020, the one that Giuliani, and other Trump legal advisers attended, where Trump considered every possible option to stay in power despite the objections of his then White House counsel, including seizing voting machines.

Paula Reid is OUTFRONT.

So, Paula, we know special council has asked Giuliani and others about this meeting. He's also focused on efforts to pressure officials in Arizona and Georgia to overturn the results in their states.

Did any of this give us a clue about just how close Jack Smith maybe to wrapping up this investigation?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, this information taken together with all of our other reporting does suggest a charging decision could be near. Let's take the December 2020 meeting. I mean, this is one of the most explosive moments in a time period between the election and January 6th. It's widely considered to be one of the most chaotic meetings of the entire Trump administration, which as you can imagine is really saying something. This was something covered extensively by the January 6th committee, but we've known about this for quite some time.

So, the fact that they are now in recent weeks and months asking witnesses about this suggests they are crossing their T's, they're dotting their I's, right? They are finally talking to Rudy Giuliani after about six months of silence. He sat down for this voluntary interview. And they are asking him about this meeting. He was a central player here.

All of this in addition to other reporting about how we know they are interested in the campaigns for state, the pressure on states to overturn their election results. It all suggests that this could be close to wrapping up. But, Erica, we have other reporting that suggests they are not done yet. We know there are some other witnesses who have recently been contacted by the special counsel but I have not set a date to sit down with him.

So, there are still some people that they need to interview. At this point, it is not clear when charges will come. The other big question I get is, will the former president be charged? At this point, Erica, based on our very detailed reporting, it's just not clear.

HILL: Paula, appreciate it, thank you.

OUTFRONT now, Ryan Goodman, former special counsel of the Defense Department, and, Elie Honig, former federal prosecutor.

Good to see you both.

Let's quickly talk about Rudy Giuliani and his recommendation that he should be disbarred. Do you agree?


RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL OF THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: I have to agree in a certain sense. The factual evidence laid out by this committee unanimously is pretty overwhelming. And one of the key facts that they also say is paragraph 33 that he acknowledged in the hearings that he commenced litigation without evidence of his core or factual claims.

That's pretty damning. They say, look, let's put it in context. And they also say it is unparalleled destructive purpose and effect. What was he trying to accomplish? To disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians with totally frivolous claims and that he had not even a faint hope of succeeding.

That's the language in this opinion. So, under the kind of significance of the case, this pretty heavy sanction of a complete disbarment does seem like it's called for. And I do expect that will be the final result.

HILL: In terms of those comments, I think it's important to just remind people what we heard from Rudy Giuliani in the weeks following the 2020 election. So, just take a listen.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Joe Biden is in the lead because of the fraudulent ballots, the illegal ballots that were produced and were allowed to be used.

They look like they are passing out dope, not just ballots. It is quite clear they are stealing votes.

This is the worst election in American history. This election was stolen -- in seven states.


HILL: So, we have his words there. We also have -- when you look at all of this, we've talked so much about Rudy Giuliani and his role. Was there anyone, you think, who was more key, Elie, based on what we know, to these efforts by the former president to overturn the election? Or does it all lead back to Rudy Giuliani?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Do I get to say Donald Trump? Because I would put him number one. But then Rudy Giuliani is clearly so much went through him. He is facing at least a partial consequence now with having his law license suspended.

You can, as a lawyer, be zealous in your advocacy. You can be creative in your advocacy. But you cannot lie to a court. You cannot go to a court with absolutely nothing to backup the claims you are making.

And so, yes, so much of this ran through Rudy, from the advice he was giving to Donald Trump, the coordinating role that he played of putting together these slates of fake electors, to his role in pumping up the election fraud lie, both in the public and in the courts.

And I do think it's worth taking a moment to just reflect and a court decision mentions this. It's sad, it's pathetic what has happened to Rudy Giuliani.

HILL: Yeah.

HONIG: He was a very respected federal prosecutor in the southern district of New York, where I worked a couple decades later. And now, as of this moment, he is unable to practice law in this country.

HILL: It is -- it is really something. And also, I agree with you, notable that it was mentioned in that recommendation that all of this overshadows all of those past accomplishments.

As Paula was reporting, we know there is this focus from Jack Smith on this meeting in the Oval Office. Why do you think they may be focused, it's not the only thing we are focused, and we want to be clear, this is one of the elements, one of the parts of the investigation, what does that meeting signify to you or could it?

GOODMAN: So, there are many different things that could've come out of that meeting. I have covered waterfront. One aspect is the clash between the lawyers. It might give Jack smith an incredible visibility into the legal advice Donald Trump was receiving.

So, on one hand, in that -- on one hand, he is getting the White House counsel saying this is not legal, you cannot go through these kinds of approaches to overturn the election. On the other hand, Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and their advice seems to be conspiring in the criminal conduct of trying to overturn the election. That would be very important to the special counsel because you could deny Donald Trump one of his key defenses, which is advise of counsel, realizing on counsel, they told me one thing.

Well, not if this was happening and not of the counsel themselves are implicated in the criminal scheme.

HILL: So, you see potentially conspiring in criminal activity, but is there clear -- based on what we know, we do know a lot about this meeting thanks to everything we learned over the committee hearings, right? And does anything you've seen, Elie, point to potential criminal activity that could lead to charges?

HONIG: So, let me tell you what I think this meeting is and is not. And I think if we are only looking at the bounds of this meeting, you can't point to just that meeting in a vacuum and say there is a crime right there. This meeting was chaotic. It was wild. It was crazy and all of that.

And even some of the advice he was giving was dangerous, anti- democratic, and unconstitutional. Not necessarily a crime. What you have in this meeting is one group of lawyers saying to Donald Trump, do these things, seize voting machines, named Sidney Powell, special counsel. Another more sponsor will group of lawyers were saying, no, you cannot do that.

I don't think you can charge Donald Trump with a crime because he chose to listen to group A rather than group B. But it's a very important part of the story, because virtually everything that follows flows from that meeting. A lot of the actions that come after, again, the submission of these electors' schemes flows from that meeting.

And it's important I think to set the baseline. But I don't think a prosecutor is going to be able to argue right there in that meeting a crime is committed. It's part of the bigger picture. It goes to the broader intent.

HILL: All right. And now, we wait, as Paula pointed out. We sit here and wait for more.

HONIG: Is it too late?

HILL: You don't have any plans tonight, guys?

HONIG: It is 7:25, I don't think DOJ's coming out tonight.


HILL: Not tonight. You might be able to enjoy your weekends. Elie, Ryan, appreciate it, thank you.

OUTFRONT next, a warning from a prominent Democrat tonight that Cornel West running as a third party candidate could in fact hand the election to Donald. Trump.

Plus, with some residents in a small community fear Elon Musk's SpaceX will actually destroy their quiet beach town.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My fear from my neighbors that they will be shut out, they will be pushed out of the neighborhood and a place that we know as home.



HILL: Tonight, risky business. Former senior adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod, warning Biden could be facing a third party spoiler, specifically from Green Party candidate Cornel West. Axelrod tweeting, quote, in 2016, the Green Party played an outsized role in tipping the election to Donald Trump. Now, Cornel West is there likely nominee, they could easily do it again. Risky business.

This comes as less than 40 percent of Americans say they view Biden or Trump favorably.


Almost one and four voters in fact say they don't like either candidate, which is a key part of Cornel West's pitch.


CORNEL WEST, GREEN PARTY 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just thought about all the creative, imaginative, courageous fellow citizens I meet and how do we end up with the two candidates? Trump on the one hand, Biden on the other, good God.

Brother Trump, you've got a gangster in the objective sense. And with Biden, again, I love the brother but he is a hypocrite. And he's pushing toward World War III when we talk about what he has to say about China and Russia.


HILL: OUTFRONT now, Joe Pinion, Republican strategist, former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, and Basil Smikle, Democratic strategist, former executive director of the New York state Democratic Party.

Gentlemen, it's nice to see both of you tonight. You were both sort of nodding your heads as we were playing that sound from Cornel West, which was so interesting. He's been a major figure in progressive politics for sometime. So,

now, we see where he's going. This recent NBC News poll really stood out to me.

Forty-five percent of Democrats say they'd consider backing a third party candidate. Compare that to 34 percent of Republicans.

How concerned do you think Joe Biden should be tonight?

BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He should be a little concerned. I would say this because of my affinity to Cornel West, he's a frat brother, I got my PhD in part because I was drawn intellectually to the heft of his scholarship.

So, he resonates and he has resonated particularly with the African- American community for decades, frankly. If you are Joe Biden, you know this is likely to be a close race, whether it's DeSantis or Trump, whoever it is, that it's those margins, in some states, a handful of states, where this third party candidate could be affected, particularly when you look at 2022. You see the numbers, especially in the African American community, we're not where the Democrats needed them to be.

So, if there is concern about how close the general election might be with memories of Jill Stein from 2016, this is -- this should concern Biden and Democrats a little bit, based on the issues that Cornel West will be able to address.

HILL: So, a little bit of concern for Biden and Democrats. What about for the Republicans?

JOE PINION, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, I think for me, personally, if Democrats seem to think that Cornel West is the problem, then they don't seem to recognize why they lost to President Trump in 2016 in the first place. It certainly was not because of Jill Stein. It was because there was a blue collar revolt from people who felt the Democratic Party had left them behind.

And so, for me, whether you are Republican or Democrat, you see somebody like Cornel West, do politics aside, has dedicated his life to justice, the only thing they should have to say to him is thank you. Instead, and they send somebody like David Axelrod, at the architect of the Obama generation, to go out there and take the hatch to him to try to marginalize him -- again, it plays exactly into what he is talking about. This is a party that is more concerned with the status quo than they are with the safety and security of Black and Brown communities.

I would also say that we can't forget that this is the same Cornel West that, again, was ostracized because he wanted to support somebody like Bernie Sanders and wanted to push a little further, was ostracized because he wanted to have a Black State of the Union, back with Tavis Smiley, to talk about what was right for the Black community that came out in record numbers to help elect the first Black president. So, again, for me, it just confirms what many believe that the

Democratic Party seemingly has forgotten about what they claim is their core conviction, trying to make sure they can deliver results to multigenerational poverty and despair for the people that, effectively, are the bedrock of that party.

HILL: It's interesting. I was struck today. And the fact that Cornel West who we know was major surrogate obviously for Bernie Sanders, so was Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who today said she is supporting Joe Biden. Take a listen.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I think -- I think he's done quite well given the limitations that we have. I do think there are ebbs and flows.

HOST: Will you be supporting Joe Biden for reelection?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I believe given that field, yes.


HILL: How significant is that she is saying that at this stage?

SMIKLE: It's incredibly significant because, in some ways, it pulls a lot of her supporters in the direction of Joe Biden and away from thinking maybe we should be looking at somebody else. Look, Joe Biden --

HILL: Maybe we should be looking at Cornel West?

SMIKLE: That we should be looking at Cornel. So, a lot of folks will argue Joe Biden's numbers are soft. I don't think there is necessarily concern that a lot of voters will go and vote for Cornel West. But it may tamp down turnout, because you don't have that movement candidate in a Joe Biden.

And to everything you said, absolutely right. In terms of communities of color, particularly the Black and Brown communities that Cornel West speaks to a lot of those concerns. Joe Biden needs to take some of that on the campaign trail.

HILL: So, to that point you are both making, she was then asked about Cornell West and she referenced that. So, I think we have that sound as well.



HOST: What do you make of Cornel West's campaign?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: You know, I think Dr. West has an incredible history in this country. What he fights, for what he gives voice to is incredibly important, and the ability for us to talk about issues that, frankly, mainstream Democrats are often too afraid to touch.


HILL: I mean, Joe, that's essentially what you are saying. You are both agreeing with each other, right? What is the potential, not just for Cornel West to maybe peel away some of those voters and maybe even beyond people of color, talking about working class voters, full stop, in this country who are looking for somebody to talk about their issues. Could he also pull some away if it's a Donald Trump as the nominee?

PINION: Well, look, you see even now with somebody like RFK Jr., who is starting to attract traction from some Republican voters. So, there is a fervor in America for people who are willing to speak to the populist ambitions of the nation, but also the core bedrock actual deficiencies within our mainstream construct.

So, yes, I think if Dr. West was being wise, he probably just abandon everything he's doing everywhere and move to Iowa. There is a long tradition of grassroots support, particularly more in the populist and more liberal-leaning bent in those Democratic caucuses. So, he should be going to all 99 of those counties and go back again and go back again.

The South Carolina primary has already been rigged. Certainly Democrats trying to figure out where they will move it up or leave it where it is. There's not a lot of oxygen there where they say they know Joe. I think that's where he could have impact.

But to your point, there is a broad consensus from all Americans that we want to have, somebody that speaks to the fact that we are spending wars -- money on wars abroad, we are not dealing with the fact that we've got public housing crisis here at home.

SMIKLE: If I could add very quickly, and there needs to be -- there needs to be a -- I think AOC was speaking to this -- for a Bernie Sanders type candidate, someone who's going to pull the party and hold Democrats and hold them accountable for a lot of those issues that we haven't necessarily talked about.

But if you look at what Bernie Sanders did, look at the impact he's had on how we've talked about college and affordability today. How we talk about health care. There needs to be that voice in this conversation.

If Cornel West is going to play any part in this, that's the voice that -- that's the lane I think he occupies. To your point about the South Carolina primary, where Joe Biden can do, since that is likely the first primary, is start talking about those issues early, set the tone, and hope that carries into the general election. But speaking on it once, letting it go, not addressing it again is a losing proposition.

PINION: That's why you see so many more African American men, bit by bit, slowly moving to the right. I think at some point they are willing to consider alternatives, because they feel as if their needs have been neglected for so long.

HILL: Joe, Basil, great to have you both in studio tonight. Thank you so much.

OUTFRONT next, it's been five days since cocaine was found inside the White House. So, why don't we know who was behind it? This is the national security adviser who weighs in on that investigation.

Plus, it was a tiny Texas town until Elon Musk's SpaceX took it over. And some people are not happy about it. We have a special report, ahead.



HILL: New tonight, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is insisting that cocaine found at the White House should not raise concerns about a security threat. Sullivan also raising doubts the cocaine belongs to anyone who works in the building.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We have a rigorous drug testing policies at the White House. We have rigorous drug use policies here at the White House. We take those extremely seriously. So, we'll let the investigation unfold. If it involves someone from the White House, the appropriate consequences will ensue.


HILL: So, the Secret Service, it's important to notes the Secret Service in charge of this investigation, is expected to wrap up that investigation by Monday. Just a refresher for you, that cocaine was found in a cubby near the ground floor entrance to the West Wing, as staff pass through when entering the building.

OUTFRONT now, Evy Poumpouras, former Secret Service agent.

It's good to have you here with us tonight.

So, Jake Sullivan seems to suggest he really doubts the person responsible for this is a White House employee. Just because of some of the testing that they do, some of the security measures they have in place. Do you agree?

EVY POUMPOURAS, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: No, I don't. One thing I learned working as a criminal investigator and doing investigations, is you really can't vouch for anybody, you would like to think and presume everybody we hire is a certain way. But at the end of the day, you really cannot do that.

You don't know what people's personal lives are like. You don't know who people are, who they associate with. And then also, just to -- you know, I hear him say rigorous drug policies. I would actually push back as a former interviewer and interrogator, I'd say, well, what are those? What exactly are those? How often do you drug test?

Because -- just because you drug test somebody when you hire someone, which many places do, it doesn't mean they are not going to hit later. So, if you do drug tests, is it random? Is it every three months? Is it every year? What does that look like?

So, really can't -- you can't really vouch for anybody.

HILL: It's been five days at this point. Based on your experience, do you think the Secret Service already knows at this point who is responsible or has narrowed it down to a small list?

POUMPOURAS: I think they are working very hard. Look, from a science- based approach, you are going to look at DNA, if there's any DNA on the packet, or fingerprint. That would be the easiest way to go.

Now, if you don't have anything, now the follow-up would be doing interviews. And so thinking from that standpoint as a criminal investigator, I don't know if you can really wrap it up by Monday, maybe by Monday they can say, no DNA, no fingerprint.

But then even if they found something, then they would have to track down who it was. It won't be wrapped up by Monday. I think this will take a bit of time. Also doing those interviews, how I would have a polygraph if I could.

Sitting people down and really figuring out who was in the White House, who brought this in. I do think we should have some answers because it is at the White House, right? There's a bit of that shame factor. How could something like this happen? How could something like this be brought in? So, it really would be very important to kind of narrow that down.

HILL: Really quickly, does it raise security concerns for you? Jake Sullivan said no.

POUMPOURAS: Look, it doesn't. It's somebody's back they brought, in at the end of the day you are looking for weapons, biochemical attack, anything like that. From a security standpoint, it is secure.


HILL: But to your point, also a little bit of an embarrassment.

Evy, great to see you. Appreciate it.

POUMPOURAS: Good to see you.

HILL: Thank you.

OUTFRONT next, Elon Musk could be wearing out his welcome in one small town where SpaceX is impacting just about everyone's life, including the wildlife. A special report next.

Plus, Ukraine's president told Erin Burnett he needed President Biden to push for Ukraine to join NATO, quote, now. Tonight, President Biden responds.


HILL: Tonight, a small Texas town divided, at odds over what Elon Musk's SpaceX have done to their peaceful livelihoods, as they sit in the shadow of the behemoths SpaceX facilities. On the flip side, it also has brought in an economic boom.

Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It looks like the surface of the moon.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Take a walk through the sand dunes surrounding the SpaceX launch pad tower in south Texas, and the remnants of April's launch of the most powerful rocket ever built are still everywhere.

These pieces right here were part of the launch pad.



LECLAIRE: This is only a quarter of a mile, maybe. The debris that size, three quarters of a mile at least.


LAVANDERA: After the launch, Justin LeClaire documented the aftermath. He's a biologist with the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, a group that's tracking the environmental impact of SpaceX launch is on the Boca Chica Peninsula. The area is often referred to as Elon Musk's star base.

LECLAIRE: It's in the middle of the wildlife refuge and the safe part plants. This area is not really meant to be disturbed. That is the point of protecting these areas, to protect them from the wildlife and public enjoyment as well.

LAVANDERA: In April, thousands of people descended on south Texas to witness the thunderous launch of the SpaceX starship rocket and heavy booster. The rocket's 33 engines disintegrated much of the concrete launch pad. And then a few minutes later, the rocket blew up before reaching space.

LECLAIRE: Literally like a meteor.

LAVANDERA: Debris from the launch left craters in the sand flats, smaller pieces pepper the landscape like a shone gun blast at close range. Tangled rebar was thrown nearly a mile away. Vegetation near the site was scorched. The area is a critical nesting ground for threatened and endangered wildlife.

What is your concern about what this place is going to look like?

LECLAIRE: Yeah, well, that is the question. Where does it stop, really? Another explosion, another explosion, another explosion. Eventually, this is not a wildlife refuge anymore. It's not a place for the public to go and like see natural beauty. It's for space testing, space travel, and that's it.

LAVANDERA: The April launch has resurfaced the tension between Elon Musk's SpaceX and its critics here in South Texas.

This graffiti appeared just a week later. Several environmental groups are suing the Federal Aviation Administration to take stricter oversight of the private space company's launch plans.

SpaceX did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

It's not clear when SpaceX will launch again. Elon Musk says he would like to try by the end of July or early August, by the Federal Aviation Administration tells CNN it will not speculate on a type timeline to approve future flights. The FAA says that SpaceX has yet to complete its final mishap investigation and the company still needs to identify and implement corrective actions to ensure public safety.

BARTON BICKERTON, OWNER, HOPPER HAUS: A lot of it is space-themed.

LAVANDERA: Barton Bickerton opened Hopper Haus bar and grill almost two years ago. It's become a popular spot for SpaceX employees, locals, and space tourists. Business has been booming.

BICKERTON: We have a lot of regulars who come in every day and really support us. Now we are kind of -- you know, they were just kind of shocked by it.

LAVANDERA: Like more nervous about the impact and all that?


LAVANDERA: There is no turning back from this now, right?

BICKERTON: There's no way that they're not going to keep launching from here. These guys have figured it out. They will figure out what they need to do.

LAVANDERA: The SpaceX boom has also triggered a real estate boom.

This is old Brownsville?


LAVANDERA: You grew up a few blocks?

HINOJOSA: I grew up two blocks down that way on levee. So yeah, I -- it's home. LAVANDERA: Josette Hinojosa isn't sure how much longer she can afford

to live here. She says her rent jumped from $650 a month to $1,000 in just two years. Hinojosa says many families are selling their homes because they can't afford taxes anymore.

HINOJOSA: That is my fear for my neighbors, that they will be shut out, they will be pushed out of the neighborhood and the place that we know as home.

LAVANDERA: Brownsville is in one of the poorest counties in the state, but the median home price has more than doubled since SpaceX broke ground here in 2014, far outpacing the statewide price increase.

HINOJOSA: It's like this polarizing issue within our city. You have people who work for them and then you've got people like me who are like, you guys are looking at the bigger picture.

LAVANDERA: SpaceX has the full throttle support of local political leaders, who sees SpaceX as a major economic driver that will fundamentally change the future of the Rio Grande Valley. The company is expanding its footprint on the south Texas coast, and Elon Musk has committed millions to the community.

JUDGE EDDIE TREVINO JR., CAMERON COUNTY: We are inventing the wheel with the largest potential spaceship that's ever been launched or developed.

LAVANDERA: Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino says it's like the early days of NASA, when the space agency developed Cape Canaveral, Florida.

TREVINO: I guarantee you, any other community in this country would love to have SpaceX launching in their backyard, because of what it would mean from an economic development standpoint, from an educational standpoint, from a tourism standpoint.

LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, Brownsville, Texas.


HILL: And our thanks to Ed Lavandera for his reporting.

OUTFRONT next, Ukraine desperately wants an invitation to join NATO.


Does President Biden believe the war torn country is ready to join the alliance? His exclusive interview, next.


HILL: Tonight, President Biden says he does not believe Ukraine should be invited into NATO just yet.

Listen to what he told CNN's Fareed Zakaria in an exclusive CNN's sit- down. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think it's ready for membership in NATO. Here is the deal: I spent, as you know, a great deal of time trying to hold NATO together because I believe Putin has had an overwhelming objective from the time he launched 185,000 troops in Ukraine. And that was to break NATO. He was confident, in my view, and many of the intelligence community, he was confident he could break NATO.

So, holding NATO together is really critical. I don't think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in a middle of a war.


HILL: Now, those comments come after Ukrainian President Zelenskyy made a direct appeal to President Biden in an exclusive interview with Erin Burnett, saying in English in that moment, Ukraine needs to be a part of NATO, quote, now.

You can see Fareed's full interview with President Biden this Sunday right here on CNN at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Thanks so much for joining me tonight on OUTFRONT.

"AC360" starts right now.