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Erin Burnett Outfront
Trump Says He's Target of January 6 Probe, Expects Indictment; 16 Fake Electors With Felonies For Signing Certificates Falsely Claiming Trump Won Michigan in 2020; CNN Near Ukraine Front Line As Air Sirens, Blasts Go Off; DeSantis Downplays Concerns About His 2024 Campaign. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired July 18, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, is Trump about to be indicted for the third time? Trump and his lawyers say they're caught off guard. Federal prosecutors telling Trump he is a target in the January 6th probe. This as a Trump-appointed judge in another DOJ probe signals she may be siding with him.
Plus, 16 Republicans just charged with trying to help Trump overturn the election results, the so-called fake electors in Michigan, the first in the country to face charges. How this now also points to Trump himself.
And new satellite images of Wagner soldiers on the move for the first time since Prigozhin's failed rebellion, a big development.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening to all. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, closing in. Trump facing a barrage of developments in multiple federal criminal investigations tonight. And a judge may rule this evening tonight on when the Mar-a-Lago documents case can go to trial. So far, the Trump-appointed judge, Aileen Cannon, signaling she's siding with Trump. But we don't know and we may find this one out any moment.
So, of course, we're watching for that as we are covering all this news for you. Because also tonight, 16 fake Trump electors have been charged in the state of Michigan. Also significant, and we're going to have more on these moving developments in a moment.
But first, Trump announcing today that he is now officially a target in the investigation into the 2020 election. And sources tell CNN that this target letter caught Trump's team off guard. They actually got a formal letter. It's called a target letter from the DOJ. They say they had not been anticipating charges against Trump at all, never mind expecting a target letter now.
Now, this target letter comes in the face of an enormous amount of recent news in that case. We've learned the grand jury has heard from a long list of Trump confidants and inner circle members, including the former Vice President Mike Pence, the chief of staff Mark Meadows, his son of law Jared Kushner and many others who were behind closed doors with the president privy to what he said privately and not publicly.
And we have learned prosecutors have interviewed election officials in the seven battleground states where Trump's team falsely claimed fraud and put forward fake electors. And as I mentioned in the state of Michigan for the first time today, 16 of those fake electors were charged with felonies.
So this is significant. You've got all those other states out there, and 16 people now charged with federal crimes. We are awaiting news, of course, from another one of those states, Georgia, which could pertain to the president himself where Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger who also appeared before the special counsel's grand jury was on the receiving end of this infamous phone call from Trump.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. A lot is happening tonight as all these legal threats to Trump appear to be reaching a boiling point where things may start to happen very quickly.
Evan Perez is OUTFRONT in Washington to begin our coverage on this important evening.
And, Evan, let's start with that target letter, the target letter obviously almost always a precursor to a formal indictment in the Mar- a-Lago documents case, which is the one the most recent precedent here three weeks of a target letter to indictment. But this one could be much faster. What are your sources telling you?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We think it could be a lot faster simply because in the previous case, the Mar- a-Lago case, the former president slowed things down. If you remember, he sent a letter claiming that there was misconduct on the part of the special counsel, work towards getting a meeting with senior career officials at the Justice Department, again, trying to forestall what became inevitable, which was the indictment there.
We also know that the special counsel had to start moving the case down to the southern district of Florida where they had to read in that grand jury to all of the testimony that had been taken by the grand jury here in Washington. None of that, of course, is expected to happen in this case. The Trump team has not indicated whether they want to avail himself, whether the former president wants to avail himself of the opportunity to go to the grand jury on Thursday. We know that at least one Trump ally, Will Russell, an aide to the former president, is expected to go before that grand jury on Thursday. But simply put, at the end of that, they could simply vote to indict
the former president. The indication from this letter is that they are ready to go. So, as soon as Thursday evening, the former president could be getting that phone call. And then, of course, he'll go on Truth Social and tell us all about it.
BURNETT: Right. And obviously, a reminder of how we found out last time around was via such a post. I also want to ask you about the Mar- a-Lago case specifically, because I mentioned that Judge Cannon could rule as soon as tonight. So this could happen really at any moment here this hour. She could push back the start of the trial.
What are you learning about that?
PEREZ: Right. So she in court today indicated that she's not inclined to go along with the special counsel's idea of doing a trial as soon as December. The special counsel is saying that, look, this case is not a complicated trial. Of course, the Trump team is saying he's running for office, they want to litigate a number of things including the fact that they believe that the special counsel doesn't have the authority to bring this case.
They want to litigate whether they can use the evidence collected from Evan Corcoran, one of Trump's former lawyers, or actually he's still a lawyer for the former president. So there are a lot of things they say they still need to fight over between now and picking a trial date. She says that she seems to be inclined to pick a trial date, though not here as soon as December.
We'll see, though, what date she does choose. And, of course, Erin, we know that that could always slide simply because the former president is looking to try to stretch this as much as possible between now and the Election Day in 2024.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Evan. And, of course, the possible indictment in this other case, it all becomes a true chess board.
All right, thank you.
Let's go to Ty Cobb now, the former Trump White House lawyer. Ty, appreciate you. So let's start with where we are tonight.
Trump finds out he is formally a target. Will he be charged in days? Or do you think this takes longer? And is there any question it happens?
TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I think he could be charged as early as Thursday, and not likely later than Monday.
BURNETT: All right. Well, that's a very tight window. So, now, let's talk about charged with what? What do you think he will be charged with here, Ty?
COBB: There are a variety of ways to charge this that all boil down to the same conduct. Conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct or an attempt to obstruct an official proceeding such as the Pence proceeding, and even the state certifications, potential obstruction of Justice for interference with witnesses. We've heard suggestions over time that some witnesses may have lied to the special counsel grand jury.
There's an outside chance, and I think it's the media stuff, the charges, at least the true Trump haters, there's an outside chance that he could be charged with giving aid and comfort to the insurrectionists. I don't think he can be charged with incitement, by the way, although that's out there, and some people are arguing it. But I do believe he could be charged with aid and comfort to the insurrectionists as a result of his three hours of inaction and the intervening message calling Pence a coward.
BURNETT: Well, it's interesting, as you say, that that's possible outside chance of that, as opposed to the others that you're more clear on.
Now, let me ask you about the significance of the target letter in one other specific way, which is Trump's team, they say that they were surprised to get it. Maybe they were, maybe they weren't. But then they started going around to see if anybody else got them. And we found out today that John Eastman says he did not get one, that Rudy Giuliani did not get one.
What does this mean?
COBB: I don't think it means much, unlike a lot of people. The reality is they've been in contact with Eastman and his lawyer for some time. They'd been in contact with Rudy and his lawyer. Remember just last week, he visited with him I think for two days.
They can have those conversations orally to the extent that those people actually are targets. Target letters are not required. And, frankly, they typically go out in cases such as this to people who the government is confident will not flee.
So, I wouldn't put a lot of stock in the fact that not everybody has received a target letter because, unlike Trump, many of the other people that have been involved have made efforts, at least to discuss their situation with the Justice Department and been in contact with the department.
BURNETT: All right. It's interesting that your perspective on that. So then, the bottom line is you've talked about the significance of the Mar-a-Lago documents case, right?
BURNETT: That if convicted -- if convicted, and I know there's questions on timing. Just put all that aside for a second. Essentially for someone his age, a conviction there is a life sentence.
So he already is aware of that possibility. Do you think this indictment is more serious, more scary for him than anything else, or not?
COBB: So, I've got a convoluted answer, I'm sorry to say. No, but only because of his narcissism. He sees any insult as equal to any other insult.
These are all things that just taunt him, and he's ready to fight back on all fronts. It should -- it should concern him for, because it will be a legacy-defining decision far greater than the Mar-a-Lago offenses. You know, this is one of the great constitutional insults of our time. The country owes it to itself to reassert the rule of law and demonstrate that at least the vision of America is something we're willing to protect and hopefully deter through punishment of Trump if he is convicted from ever happening again.
BURNETT: Ty Cobb, thank you very much. I appreciate your perspective.
And OUTFRONT now: Ryan Goodman is here with me, our co-editor in chief of just security, the former special counsel of the Defense Department. Karen Friedman Agnifilo, the former federal prosecutor and our legal analyst. Van Jones, former special adviser to President Obama. And Stephanie Grisham, former Trump White House press secretary, who has spoken with federal prosecutors investigating this particular case.
So, all thank you.
Ryan, let me start with you, listening to what Ty had to say, interesting his view. Just because others didn't get a target letter, he does not think that that is necessarily significant to indicate anything here. What do you think?
RYAN GOODMAN, JUST SECURITY CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: I had the same thought process that he had about Giuliani that Giuliani just spent two days with the prosecutors in which if he were a target, they would have known it by then, and they would have communicated it or could've communicated it to him.
So the fact that he didn't get a formal letter at this stage doesn't necessarily mean much of anything. Eastman maybe a little bit more of a surprise if it means their absence of a target letter suggests an absence of an indictment --
BURNETT: Right, which it may or may not.
GOODMAN: There may not. There are others who have suggested that the special counsel Smith should make this very narrow with Trump right away, and then he can bring other individuals indicted later, and that could be what's going on.
BURNETT: Karen, conservative retired federal judge Michael Luttig, so conservative judge, he testified before the January 6th committee. He said of Trump, shared this statement with our Jamie Gangel, he is dared, taunted, provoked and goaded DOJ to prosecutor him relating to defenses related to January 6th for two and a half years.
The former president has left Jack Smith no choice but to bring charges lest the former president make a mockery of the constitution of the United States and the rule of law. Similar point to what Ty was just making. Is this the situation that the special counsel really had no choice?
KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think, in addition to this, don't forget they also prosecuted a thousand people for the events of January 6th.
BURNETT: Serving serious prison time.
AGNIFILO: Exactly. And Trump is the mastermind. He's the general, right, who commanded these troops. And, so, to not charge him, I think that, more than anything, is why Jack Smith had no choice but to charge him.
Getting goaded by a defendant, you have to let that roll off of you. Either the evidence is there or it's not. And clearly, the evidence is here. And you go for the big guy, the guy who commanded the violence.
BURNETT: Stephanie, you know, it's interesting Ty was just saying that for Trump all things are the same, that the fact that this charges here would be truly historical in their context, right, regarding the Constitution and the rule of law, to him, is no different than the documents case. But I am curious as to whether you think he will continue to claim he didn't know he lost the election, given that no one with actually, you know, information and facts could make any such claim with a straight face, and given that everyone around him has testified that they told him that he lost the election.
Do you think he believes he can still claim, oh, but I just didn't know so I just didn't have the intent, I really thought I won, guys?
STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yeah, I mean, there's not much I can guarantee in life, but I can guarantee he will continue to say that he lost, knowing -- or continuing to say that he won, excuse me, knowing very well that he lost. I mean, he has to double down, triple down and quadruple down as usual because his base believes him and he needs that support. He needs to fundraise off of it.
But, also, if you just think about it from a legal perspective, if he admits suddenly that he knew that he lost, I think it would get him in a whole lot of trouble.
So, in order to save himself from the local woes, I think he'll continue. But he will never admit that he lost ever.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I just think, you know, it's about time. The other cases are important cases, but the porn star stuff probably hurt his feelings more than hurt anybody else. Stole some documents, there's no proof he sold them to North Korea. But he was the cheer leader for an insurrection. And he's still
walking around, giving speeches, act like everything's just fine. That is an offense to the American people.
BURNETT: Giving speeches that would indicate he would do the same thing again, right?
JONES: Yeah, and would pardon people and the whole deal. So, I just think that, finally, we're getting down to the real stuff here. This is why he's going to go down in the history books as one of the worst presidents as a traitor to his own country. We're finally here.
BURNETT: All right. All stay with me because we're going to continue this conversation in just a few moments.
The other breaking news, I don't want to gloss over it because it's really significant. Michigan's attorney general charging 16 fake electors with trying to overturn the election in Trump's favor, just before we came to air. This is a crucial development, and there are six other states with this situation. So where are we? What does this mean for Trump?
Plus, a top Republican now calling on Trump to suspend his campaign as he faces more legal problems. Republican Governor Chris Sununu will be OUTFRONT.
And Ron DeSantis speaking to CNN, dismissing concerns as he struggles in the polls, and now struggles with fundraising. Are his policies turning off voters?
BURNETT: Breaking news: Michigan's attorney general charging 16 fake electors with multiple felonies. All of them in an effort to help Trump overturn the 2020 election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA NESSEL, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: This plan to reject the will of the voters and undermine democracy was fraudulent and legally baseless. A failure to act in the face of such evidence would constitute malfeasance of the greatest magnitude.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Whether malfeasance is the greatest magnitude or not, it is an historic moment here. Because this is the first time that fake electors in any of these crucial states have been charged with a crime related to the election scheme. So this is important.
And Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT. She is in Lansing.
Jessica, so, Michigan -- obviously, it's crucial, right? You talk about 16 people first time ever. And then you look at the other states. There is a whole group of them who are looking into fake electors tied to Trump.
What more can you tell us about the situation with the Michigan fake electors and the charges they are facing there?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin, this could potentially be just the beginning. But as it pertains to Michigan, these are 16 Republicans who are essentially accused of trying to storm into the capitol here at Lansing, Michigan, armed with these fake certificates falsely proclaiming Donald Trump as the winner of the state of Michigan in the 2020 election.
Now, at the time in December 2020, they were rebuffed by police. But now they're being charged by the attorney general with eight different counts, multiple felonies, all of which, if convicted, they could face decades in prison here. Now, these are Republicans who supported Trump, but they were also former and current GOP officials. One was a member of the Republican national committee. One is a sitting mayor. One was a member of the school board.
But all of them believe that as Republicans that they were the rightful electors for Donald Trump. Despite the fact that Joe Biden won this state by 154,000 votes. So now all of them are facing these felonies.
And it's significant, Erin, because this isn't the only one. We're also seeing investigations in some of the six other states where these fake elector plots unfolded, including the Fulton County D.A.'s office is investigating, and the state of Arizona.
Plus, Erin, special counsel Jack Smith, he has also made these fake elector plots part of his probe into the efforts to subvert the election. He's had multiple fake electors actually testify before the grand jury. So, again, these charges by the attorney general here in Michigan, it could be just the beginning.
BURNETT: Jessica, thank you very much.
And everyone back with me. So, Karen, on that front that Jessica just said, this could be just the beginning. And she mentioned Arizona and, of course, Georgia, where we know the investigation could lead directly to Trump himself but also you also have issues on the fake electors.
So, where are we in this?
AGNIFILO: Look, it's about time. Why did it take so long for state to bring this very discreet, very important charge against these people who lie and forge information on official documents and to try to literally steal the election from Joe Biden in Michigan? That's a very discreet set of charges. And it's good that she's bringing them.
But you're going to see, I think, in Georgia, a much bigger, a more sweeping case. And I think in different states you'll see different levels of charges being brought. I think everybody needs to bring charges here because it's so serious. But you have to wonder why did it take so long and we're butting up against the next election. BURNETT: And, of course, Ryan, you know, you look at it, and you say,
well, if you're going to charge 16 people there and hundreds of people, you're charging a lot of people with a lot of stuff. It'd be kind of odd to not charge one person out of all of this.
Some of the evidence in Michigan that the attorney general points to is language on the fake elector slate that was submitted to Congress. So they submit this to congress. And in that you saw something very important. It said, we convened and organized in the state capitol. So if you're an elector, you're going to convene there. They said that's what they did.
But they actually met at the Republican state headquarters, according to the January 6th committee report, which I guess is not in the state capitol, the pro-Trump attorney flagged this as slightly problematic in a memo to the Trump campaign. Now, anyone watching may say this seems like a detail. It is a detail, but a detail you think matters.
GOODMAN: It's a detail that matters. It mattered to the Trump campaign lawyer, and he said this is a problem. He is mapping out the secret memo how they can do these false electors across the seven states. And he says, Michigan may have a problem because it's a legal requirement that you have to convene in the state capitol.
That's why they obviously put it in their declaration that we are convened in the state capitol, and it is just a falsehood.
Like they can say, oh, we thought he won -- you know, Trump won the election and that's why we did this. We thought litigation might be prevalent.
Did you think you were in the Capitol? You are not in the Capitol, you were in the basement of the GOP headquarters in Lansing. That's where you were when you convened.
It's a false statement that they submit to state and federal authorities that is almost an open-and-shut case of forgery.
BURNETT: Right. Okay, it's important, a false statement is a false statement, that's a lie we're talking about laws and lies, right, Van?
So, here's the thing, though, as all of this is happening, and we may, as I said, start to see things -- it's like a snowball, builds and builds and builds and suddenly you have an avalanche. But the bottom line is every day that nothing happens is a day where Trump goes out and tells his faithful that the election was stolen and rigged and that if he loses again, it is also rigged.
JONES: Yeah, I think part of the problem is it's just taking so long. And can you imagine if a bunch of Muslims had attacked the Capitol and had some big conspiracy, they would have been in jail in about 13 minutes. We wouldn't be here talking about it.
Part of what's going on is this sort of meticulous long-grinding process actually now makes the case easier to make. They're just doing it because of the election. They're doing this just to try to keep me from becoming president.
And I think it's really bad. Like, hurry up, let's go. I don't -- you cannot have more of an open and shut case than what you saw, an open conspiracy to steal this election. So many people, obviously, they were bragging about it on Facebook. They weren't even ashamed.
BURNETT: There really wasn't an effort to obfuscate.
JONES: A conspiracy is usually secret. This was just out in the open, like, we're doing this.
BURNETT: Right, maybe we're using the wrong word.
And, yet, Stephanie, what Van points out is exactly what we are hearing Trump say, right? Okay, so if these things happen, it's all an effort now to stop me from winning.
GRISHAM: Right. I mean, I echo Van and I echo Karen that it is about time. But, yes, this timing isn't great. The wheels of justice turn slowly. We all know that. So you've got your legal issue and you've got your PR, your public relations issue.
And in this case, sadly, in this upside down world we're living in, this actually, I think, again, helps Trump. He's going to fundraise off of it. It's going to be more poor me, poor me. He's already calling the leadership on the Hill and getting people out there to defend him. They're certainly not going to ever admit that he did anything wrong.
And, so, that's the issue here, the PR issue or the legal issue. And, sadly, this makes the PR issue for Trump a positive.
BURNETT: All right. Stephanie, Van, Ryan, Karen, thank you all.
And, next, Trump is actually in Iowa right now. And he is about to speak first time since revealing he could face his third indictment of the year. What do you expect he's going to say?
And Ron DeSantis defending his campaign as it is lagging even further now behind Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our bread and butter were people like suburban moms. We're leading a big movement for parents' rights, having the parents be involved in education, school choice, get the indoctrination out of schools.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is the culture war front line in education a backfiring strategy for him? Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, whose endorsement DeSantis badly needs, is OUTFRONT next. And breaking news in Ukraine tonight, Putin just launching a new wave
of attacks on the city of Odesa. Our team just capturing this video -- glass, air raid sirens, we're going to go to the ground, right after this.
BURNETT: We are going to get back to our breaking news coverage of former President Donald Trump being told he's a target in the DOJ election interference probe. But this is live what you're hearing. We're also awaiting a key ruling in the Mar-a-Lago documents case any moment.
But, first, this breaking news from Ukraine. All right. So, we're working to get Alex Marquardt up.
This is what's actually happening right now in Odesa. You can hear this. Obviously, we were just there with President Zelenskyy. And now this is what's happening here now. Loud booms, air raid sirens coming in from Russia.
Our Alex Marquardt is there. Alex, can you hear me? And take it away.
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Erin, I can hear you just fine. What you're playing there are some of the extraordinary scenes that we have seen playing out really over the course of the past hour here in Odesa. This is a very -- this is a lull. We hope that it is a long lull or in fact the end of what might be a very loud and violent night here in Odesa.
Of course, it's just past 2:00 in the morning. What we've heard is a significant barrage of drones and missiles attempting to strike this city. We have seen just these extraordinary scenes of Ukrainian air defense trying to fend off what we imagine are these Iranian-made drones. These are the drones that Russia tries to send at Odesa and other Ukrainian cities on an almost daily basis. But also these huge Kalibr cruise missiles that have been fired at this city now for two nights in a row from the Black Sea. These are enormous missiles that at least last night Ukraine said that they had intercepted.
But last night, we heard some impacts tonight, Erin, a lot more impacts. This has been a much busier, much louder night than last night. We did hear I would say six to ten of these loud impacts all around us.
Now, we are in downtown Odesa. This is one of the biggest cities, one of the most important cities in the country. We're not too far from that critical port. What impact or, rather, what effect these missiles have had on this city at this point, that certainly remains to be seen.
We're keeping our eyes glued on the sky, because what we've been seeing are these tracer rounds, these red tracers going up by the hundreds to take down these drones that start up at any moment without any notice.
You can hear, Erin, you've just been in Ukraine, that there is no air raid siren. The air raid sirens have been notably absent tonight.
But we have seen spotlights in the sky. But we have seen spotlights in the sky. We assume that those are Ukrainian forces looking for those drones, trying to shoot them down, just extraordinary scenes.
I've really never seen anything like it in years of covering conflict. Erin, the Kremlin had already said earlier today that this was a direct response, a direct retaliation for Ukraine carrying out the attack on the Kerch Bridge between Crimea and mainland Russia. And the Kremlin said, in fact, they were still looking for more options to respond even further.
And it is safe to assume, Erin, that this second night in a row, this much heavier second night in a row is a continuation of that response from the Kremlin.
BURNETT: You know, and, Alex, you obviously were here on the show 24 hours ago when you were talking about explosions that, obviously, as you were speaking, that was happening. You also were hearing those air raid sirens. And, of course, as we all know, you become accustomed to those air raid sirens.
But they're meaningful, and often they are related to drones, Kalibr missiles, whatever it might be. But you're talking about tonight not hearing those air raid sirens. And I know you don't know the reason as to why. But it does seem notable.
MARQUARDT: You're absolutely right, Erin. We should make the point that often times there are air raid sirens that are all across the country. For example, when a bomber is sent up in Russia, we can hear an air raid siren all across the country because we simply don't know where that Russian bomber is going to target.
And, so, Ukrainian authorities want their citizens to take cover and go into basements so that they aren't hurt. They want them to stay away from windows so that if there is an explosion that they don't get hurt. It's hard to say, but there certainly were air raid sirens earlier in the evening. There has been a lot going on, Erin. I really can't overstate that enough.
It has been just an extraordinary mix of these antiaircraft machine guns firing into the air. We have seen what appear to be drones falling out of the sky or at least some kind of object on fire streaking out of the sky. We saw that last night as well.
And then these extraordinary sounds of impact so loud that it has set off car alarms all around town. It's very difficult to say where those impacts were, how far away from us. But certainly enough to shake the building that we're in and cause the cars around us to have their alarms go off, Erin. BURNETT: So, Alex, what is the sense of how much this escalates from
here? Obviously, you're in Odesa, current home of the Ukrainian navy, such that there still is. Crimea off in the distance. It's a crucial location, as you point out.
Is there a feeling that you are seeing sort of the actual event, or the prelude to the actual event?
MARQUARDT: Well, this probably is the actual event. You know, this is essentially the extent of what Russia can throw at a city like Odesa without significant escalation. Of course there's a lot farther that Russia can go. But this is what they've been doing, a combination of missile and drone strikes targeting cities all across the country, flashback nine -- all across the country. Go back nine months ago, Erin, after the first attack on the Kerch Bridge.
We saw the biggest wave of strikes by Russia since the war had begun. The Kremlin warned that they would also respond after this latest Kerch Bridge strike. And that started last night, some 24 hours after that Ukrainian attack.
So here we are two nights in a row, Russia clearly sending a message, and a message of response to that attack. You know, of course, the Ukrainians took out this bridge that was not just hugely important as a vital supply route but also hugely symbolic. A pet project of Putin's to connect Russia to illegally annex Crimea.
This is the Putin response. This is the Kremlin response to that attack. Where it goes from here is unclear.
It might be over for now. It could very well start up in just -- at a moment's notice. It's an extremely fluid situation, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Alex, thank you very much. We're glad that you are safe. Thank you for sharing all this with us.
Alex live from Odesa tonight. We'll continue to monitor that in these early hours of the morning, right? It's about 2:39 in the morning where Alex is right now.
Next, meantime, Ron DeSantis defending his campaign. He's been obviously struggling to gain traction.
The Republican governor Chris Sununu whose endorsement DeSantis needs badly, is OUTFRONT next.
And all eyes are on Florida this hour. A federal judge there could decide at any time when Trump will go on trial for the classified documents case. As I said, that could happen any moment, and Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the January 6th Committee, will join me.
BURNETT: Just into CNN, Donald Trump wrapping up a speech moments ago in Iowa. It is the first time he's spoken since he announced he is a target of special counsel Jack Smith's probe into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And he said this as Trump faces a third possible indictment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: We have a man the only way he can get elected is to weaponize the Justice Department, which he's gone around doing. I didn't know practically what a subpoena was and grand juries and all of this.
Now I'm, like, becoming an expert. I have no choice because we have to -- it's a disgrace. If you say something about an election, they want to put you in jail for the rest of your life. We have prosecutors that are evil people. These are evil people, deranged. I call them deranged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Trump's remarks just hours after he scrambled to call top allies on Capitol Hill, including the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the House GOP conference chair Elise Stefanik to strategize.
Kristen Holmes is OUTFRONT.
So, Kristen, your -- you know, you know what's happening here, who Trump's talking to, what they're saying. What are you learning about Trump's strategy here?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, there is always going to be two strategies in theory, the political strategy and the legal strategy. But as we continue down this path with more and more of these legal issues, more and more of these indictments, they really start to merge together, and that's what you just saw there in those unannounced remarks.
He stopped by the Lynn County Republican Party. A small group gathered there to cheer him on. These people who support him, who knew he was coming, and he talks about how deranged this is.
This is part of their election strategy because they are going to continue to paint this as a witch hunt and a hoax. And that is when you start to see these two strategies merge. We know the former president likes to play things out in the court of public opinion. And that is what he is going to continue to do. And that is what his team is going to continue to do.
Now, we do also know because we saw those SEC filings from the campaign, those finance reports, that the strategy of essentially fundraising off of these indictments is working for the former president. The number -- the numbers don't lie. They show an enormous amount of money in the last quarter, more than the first quarter, more after the indictments and those arraignments. And that is what his team is banking on.
Again, they also saw those poll numbers as well maintaining those poll numbers, not going down. However, I do want to note one thing. I have talked to several allies who say that while this might give him a boost right now, this is completely unprecedented, as we know, and it is unclear what this looks like in the long run.
BURNETT: All right. Kristen, thank you very much.
And I want to go now to the Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu.
And, Governor, I really appreciate your time.
Here's where we are this moment, and things could change a lot over the next few days, but two indictments for Trump this year so far. One of his Republican rivals, Asa Hutchinson, I have said from the beginning that Donald Trump's actions on January 6th should disqualify him from ever being president again. Anyone who truly loves this country and is willing to put the country over themselves would suspend their campaign for president of the United States immediately.
Do you agree, Governor? And is an indictment in the January 6th probe, as we anticipate there may be one in the next two days, disqualifying?
GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: It should be, but -- but it's just not. He's not going to get out. In fact, as much as these indictments roll out, it just helps him. It's building a lot of sympathy on his side. His poll numbers go up.
So, you know, he looks dour and all this kind of stuff. He obviously doesn't have the fast ball and the energy that he used to have. He gets up there in his rallies. Instead of 90 minutes of getting people excited in, about disrupting and being an outsider like he did in 2016, he gets up and does 90 minutes of a droning legal recital of the indictments and the woe is me and it builds this sympathy. It's like a sad Lenny Bruce repeating itself in 2023. But it builds all this sympathy.
There is no question there's a lot of Democrats cheering this on because they completely see how this will play out. This allows him to gain sympathy, likely win the Republican nomination, and get absolutely crushed in November of '24 because there's no independent, there's no undecided voter who's going to see all this and see all the drama, see the soap opera that is Donald Trump life and say, oh, you know what, I've changed my mind, I'm back to that guy. No, not a single one.
So it really spells a lot of trouble for the Republican Party if he were to stay on top.
BURNETT: All right. So, look, you've been clear that Trump shouldn't be the GOP nominee and you just said there. And, you know, when you said -- and even, by the way, I do think it's important, governor, you pointed something out which I hadn't mentioned and deserves mentioning. Fine, he's in a small room in Iowa, he's not at a big rally. So, I
give that caveat, but he does sound tired and dour and beaten down and what you just said, right? I mean, the tone, that's what it is.
But here's the reality, the new --
SUNUNU: This is not the Donald Trump of 2016.
BURNETT: No, no. I mean, certainly, not what we hear there. Brand new poll out of your state shows exactly what you just said. He's got a wide lead. And it's getting bigger. 14 percentage point lead over Ron DeSantis in New Hampshire right now.
And DeSantis, though, downplayed concerns about his campaign. He tries to say everything's doing fine. He had an exclusive interview with Jake Tapper. Let me play something he said, Governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: This issue gets into the state of the race, because some of your supporters are disappointed that your campaign has yet to catch fire the way they would want in terms of polling. One Republican pollster, one who is sympathetic to you, I was asking her about your campaign. And she said she thought the issue was you bumped up at the beginning because voters, Republican voters saw you as more electable conservative like Trump, like Trump without the baggage.
But then they say as you go further and further to the right on some of these divisive social issues that could alienate moderate suburban moms, et cetera, Republican voters see you as less and less electable. What do you say to that analysis?
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think it's true. I mean, the proof is in the pudding. I mean, I took a state that had been a one-point state, and we won it by 20 percentage points, 1.5 million votes.
Our bread and butter were people like suburban moms. We're leading a big movement for parents rights, have the parents be involved in education, school choice, get the indoctrination out of schools. Of course, there's bread butter issues that matter, too. Inflation, more economic opportunity, Florida's economy is ranked number one of all 50 states. We worked hard to make that happen.
Crime -- you see crime in all these different communities that is now even going into suburbs and some areas. So, I think there's a lot of thing. I don't think that's the reason. I think the reason is I was getting a lot of immediate attention at the time, coming up the victory, I had to do my job as governor with my legislative session, we had a great legislative session, we did a lot of great things, actually things that are appeal to huge majorities of the population, so I think that that analysis wrong. But I had to do that.
So, I was basically taking fire, really nonstop since then because a lot of people view me as a threat, I think the left views me as a threat, because I think I'll beat Biden and actually deliver on all the stuff, and then, of course, people have had their allegiances in the Republican side, you know, have gone after me. But the reality is it is a state-by-state process.
I'm not running a campaign to try to juice, you know, whatever we are in the national polls. I mean, whatever we did in the CNN, compared, whatever. It's fine, I'm definitely doing better than anybody else.
TAPPER: It is state-by-state, obviously.
DESANTIS: It's state-by-state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Governor, I'm curious, for July 2023, so things can happen. You know, you cycle back through, you don't know where went up. But where we are right now, and where we've been in the past few months is Ron DeSantis so people thought was a shining star in the GOP and was going to surge, didn't. And not only didn't he -- it's gotten worse, at least at this point.
What do you think it is that's turned voters off to him?
SUNUNU: Well, remember, nobody surged, right? So, it's more that the Trump voters, with all these indictments, as we were discussing, all the sympathetic, he's garnering all the headlines and all these candidates are running against a former incumbent president, right? So, just naturally, there's -- if Trump wasn't garnering these headlines, if these indictments weren't happening, I have no -- I have no doubt that Ron DeSantis or other candidates would be surging, they'd be a bigger story around the other candidate, but Trump keeps garnering the headlines to Governor DeSantis' point, while the governor was, you know, having to be governor. You know, some of us do have 24/7 jobs still.
So, there is a lot of time here left, and I don't -- I think asked some really, tough, head-one questions. I think the governor gave some really clear answers in terms of, you can't say, well, he's going, you know, too far right of he won Florida by 20 points, right? He does have the support of independence and Democrats as do other potential candidates.
So, I just think there's a lot to play. We haven't even seen them on a debate stage, right? I keep going back to that. We are still a month away from the debate dates, and that's going to be really telling for all of them, who can take and give a punch, who's going to really stand up and push back on the former president and show where we are going forward as a country.
BURNETT: And, of course, we don't know whether the president will be on the stage or not. I mean, obviously, he could be, it's whether he chooses to be. He's obviously made the requirement. You said you were going to endorse someone early, and you're going to campaign for them, so what is that at this point? You're going to wait until after that debate to see or not? SUNUNU: No, I tell you. I'm campaigning with all the -- with all the candidates right now, actually. So, they come up, where they do kind of their retail stops, I will go out. I'll see all of them, I'm spending time with them. Some of them are doing multiple events with me a day, kind of seeing and helping them do good retail politics.
I just think as -- with all of them in the race, if they do well here on the retail side, that's good for New Hampshire, it's good for the country. It's good for his filter.
SUNUNU: It's not about policy. It's about looking the eye, and kind of buying on you as a person, and the rest of the country watches that. So, we're going to be -- myself and my whole team are going to be a big part of that, all the way through this fall, and if there's a candidate that's really standing out, I got no problem standing behind them and endorsing.
BURNETT: All right. You know, but, obviously, all the way through this fall, until such a moment may occur.
Governor, thanks so much, always good to talk to you.
And after Governor Sununu just spoke, let's go to Harry Enten, because, Harry, here's the reality, and I know what the Governor Sununu saying, well, nobody has surged.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yeah.
BURNETT: That's true. I will say, if you look at state-by-state, you do see it, Chris Christie certainly in New Hampshire, right? I mean, there's some -- there are some, but his point does hold.
However, in the case of DeSantis, people expected a lot.
BURNETT: They didn't expect anything from those other guys.
BURNETT: OK? Or from Nikki Haley, they didn't expect as much. DeSantis people expected a lot. He has not delivered in the polls at this point. What's up?
ENTEN: Yeah. I think that if you look underneath the hood, there is a big problem for the Florida governor. Look at his very favorable ratings. This historically has translated to support at the ballot box, and what we see as his favorable ratings among Republicans have dropped by about 15 points since the beginning of the year.
So, yes, Trump might've come up in the polls little bit, no one really surged, who wasn't Donald Trump candidate. But the fact is, if you look underneath the hood, I think there's real problems for DeSantis.
BURNETT: All right. And that's very important, right, because you want the more people who get to know you, the more they like you.
BURNETT: It's not good when it goes the other way around.
There is one group, though, that does like DeSantis?
ENTEN: Yes, big donors like DeSantis this past quarter. They made up the vast majority of his donations, while small donors, the ones who keep giving to the campaign made up only a tiny fraction. But even those big donors at this particular point, there's a lot of point that suggests that they are looking at Tim Scott at this point. So I'm not quite sure who Ron DeSantis is appealing to at this point.
BURNETT: Yeah, one of those big donors recently I heard say, you know, probably -- he thinks DeSantis probably could be done, who knows? We are early in the cycle.
If DeSantis were to be in the primary and beat Trump, what does a DeSantis match up with Biden look like now? We've been watching that.
ENTEN: Yeah, it's close. Look, he's within the margin of error of the current president of United States but the one thing that has occurred is used to run better against Biden than Trump did. Now, Trump actually runs slightly better than DeSantis does. So, he can't make the electability argument either.
BURNETT: All right. Harry, thank you very much.
ENTEN: Thank you.
BURNETT: And a federal judge who's a Trump appointee may rule tonight on when the Mar-a-Lago documents case can go to trial, as I said. We have been awaiting that possible ruling. It could come at anytime.
And joining me now is Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the January 6 Committee and also ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, also lawyer and constitutional law professor and expert.
So, Congressman, appreciate you being here.
So, the U.S. district judge I'm referring to, Aileen Cannon, told prosecutors today that the mid-December trial date that they want would be too soon. Now, obviously delaying the case past the election does appear to be a core part of Trump's strategy, right? Delay it until after the election and then hopefully it goes away. This is a judge that Trump appointed, Trump has been on national television calling on her to do the right thing.
So, Congressman, when you look at it, look at what she's done thus far in the case, do you think she's acting in good faith or is she being influenced by Trump? REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, I don't know subjectively what's
motivating her, but I do know that Trump lawyers are not just in this case is but in cases around the country arguing for any possible delay or postponement to try to push it into next year where they can say, oh, surely this can't be done election year, it's got to be pushed until after the election. And so, you know, when he was president, his claim was, he could never be prosecuted for anything because he is president. When he was no longer president, the argument became now, he is a candidate, and so he can't be prosecuted because he's a candidate. And so, all of these delay and postponement, dilatory tactics are being used all over the country.
BURNETT: So, Rudy Giuliani has not received a target letter, John Eastman said he did not get one either, we don't know about Mark Meadows, of course, in the context of the efforts to overturn the election and the fact that Trump has received a target letter from the special counsel.
Do you think Congressman, from what you understand, the tea leaves that you see out there, do you think any members of Trump's inner circle will be indicted in this scheme?
RASKIN: Well, I can't say. Obviously, Trump himself has said that he received a letter, and so that's like Nixon knowing that is potentially a target in the Watergate prosecution. It, of course, all goes back to Donald Trump, who was the one that mobilized everybody to go to the Capitol on January 6, the original permits were for January 20, for those protests, he was the one who turned January 6 into a date for convergence of both his political plan and then his street plan to try to disrupt and overthrow the counting of the electoral votes.
BURNETT: I want to ask you one of the thing here if I can before you go, and this is the Democratic presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy set to appear at the GOP-led Weaponization of the Federal Government Subcommittee on Thursday. House Democrats want to ban him over repeated conspiracy theories, like something he said just like last week at a fundraiser. This --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese. We don't know if it was deliberately targeted or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It's on tape, Congressman. How much harm do you think he can do if he's on the witness stand Thursday?
RASKIN: Well, anti-Asian and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and paranoid tropes are now completely replete in the land, and all over the world and it's sad to the a name so associated with the Democratic Party, a name that so many Democrats love, participating and partaking in that kind of paranoid statement. There's no evidence for it. There are no facts for it. Obviously,
they're calling for Bobby Kennedy to come testify because they think he'll be a divisive force within the Democratic Party. He obviously doesn't have any factual evidence to offer.
BURNETT: No, no. This certainly hasn't stopped him from saying these things.
Thank you so much, Congressman Raskin. I appreciate your time.
And I appreciate all of your time for watching us.
"AC360" begins now.