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Erin Burnett Outfront

Trump Willing To Be House Speaker For A "Short Period"; ABC: Trump Allegedly Talked About Nuclear Subs At Mar-a-Lago; Death Toll Rises to 51 After Russian Strike On Ukrainian Cafe; Biden Admin To Expand Border Wall Biden Has Railed Against; Cornel West Drops Green Party Bid, Will Run As An Independent. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 05, 2023 - 19:00   ET




Donald Trump says he'd accept the role of House speaker, quote, for the party and for a short period if necessary. It comes as he's placing himself front and center in the Capitol Hill chaos.

And breaking news this hour, ABC News tonight reporting Trump allegedly discussed potentially sensitive information about nuclear submarines with a Mar-a-Lago club member. So, how does this fit into special counsel Jack Smith's case?

And Russia launching one of the deadliest strikes on Ukraine yet. And Putin claims he didn't start the war, he's just trying to end it.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, Donald Trump for speaker? Trump saying tonight that he will take the job, telling Fox News digital today, and I, quote, they have asked me if I would take it for a short period time, for the party, until they come to a conclusion. I'm not doing it because I want to, I will do it if necessary.

Trump also telling Fox, he will visit the capital on Tuesday.

Now, keep in mind, the vote for speaker is expected to be Wednesday, possibly, and this will be Trump's first visit to the Capitol, since the insurrection, January 6th, nearly three years ago. And make no mistake, there are plenty of Republicans who don't want Trump getting involved.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: You do not want Trump to come?

REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): Look, no, I think the discussion should be focused on the people that are in the conference.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: But the reality, of course, is that it is a deeply divided party, a chaotic party. And some of the Republicans who support Trump as speaker, are speaking out. Just, as loudly.


REP. TROY NEHLS (R-TX): It's done, I am nominating Donald J. Trump, for speaker of the House.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I think President Trump is the right guy for the job. I certainly would love to see him be speaker of the House.


BURNETT: Of course, it does bear reminding that they are saying this, about a person who is facing 91 felony charges. A person who ABC is reporting tonight, allegedly discuss potentially sensitive information about newest U.S. nuclear submarines with a billionaire, who then shared this information with more than 45 other people, including more than a dozen foreign officials.

ABC reporting tonight, that billionaire Anthony Pratt, an Australian who runs the American company Pratt Industries, one of the biggest packaging companies in the world, has been interviewed by both the FBI and prosecutors at least twice this year. And he told him apparently that at Mar-a-Lago in the spring of 2021, he brought up the American submarine fleet, which he discussed Trump before. Pratt says he's told Trump, hey, Australia should buy U.S. submarines, and then sources tell ABC, that in response Trump, quote, leaned into Pratt, as if to be discreet, and then told him two things about American submarines, supposedly, the exact number of nuclear warheads that they routinely carry, and, exactly how close they can get, supposedly, to a Russian submarine, without being detected.

It's pretty incredible things to just share to a person at a club. Of course, Trump is already charged with 40 felony counts of stripping and sharing classified information.

Melanie Zanona is OUTFRONT on Capitol.

And, you know, in the context here, Melanie, Trump now saying he is willing to, not just run for president, but potentially be speaker for a period of time. You have been talking to a lot of Republicans there today.

What are they telling you about Trump getting involved here, and the speaker?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Erin, I can tell you, it is not being warmly received. This is just what one Republican told me. They said, the solution to chaos isn't to bring in a chaos agent. So, yes, there are some hard-core Trump supporters, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, for example, who are egging on this idea of Trump getting involved in the speaker's race. But the reality is, the Republican conference is so divided right now,

in Donald Trump is a polarizing figure in the GOP today. And so, bringing him in, would do nothing to help them. In fact, it would probably make their matters worse. And the idea of him becoming speaker is just really farfetched. As a reminder, there are 18 Republicans in Biden won districts, and there are two Republicans in the conference, who voted to impeach Trump.

So they are not going to make him speaker, they would have to elect him to do that. But there is a big question, Erin, of whether he gets off of the sideline and endorses a speaker for candidate. That is where things could get complicated. He really was on the sidelines during this fight earlier this week, he had pitched Kevin McCarthy for speaker earlier this year, but really didn't do anything to come to Kevin McCarthy's rescue.

And now, we are being told that Jim Jordan, one of the candidates for speaker has talked to Donald Trump about his speakers bid.


So, everyone is waiting to see whether he actually does get involved in this race or not. But just, the big picture here, Erin, the fact that even Trump's name is being thrown around, by people like Marjorie Taylor, Greene and other hard-core Trump supporters, it shows that there is just so much uncertainty, about who their next speaker is going to be.

Steve Scalise is running, he is the number two Republican. Jim Jordan, as I mentioned, also running. But it's not clear that either of them can get the votes they need, on the House floor, raising the prospect of another massive floor fight next week -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Melanie, it's amazing, right, they didn't seem to have a plan at all.

We have members on both sides of the aisle with us tonight, as this chaos continues, the Republican Congressman Marc Molinaro and Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton.

I want to start, though, with Congressman Molinaro.

And, I should be clear, sir, I know you voted against the effort to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy, so you wanted him to remain as speaker.

So, you just heard Congressman Nehls, I'm nominating Donald John Trump for speaker. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, President Trump's the right guy for the job, I would love to see him be speaker of the House.

Do you think former President Trump should become speaker, even on a short term basis?

REP. MARC MOLINARO (R-NY): Well, I actually -- the way you framed it actually, isn't good way of answering. I understand he's interested in being a short term speaker. We have a short term speaker, we have an interim speaker. And, I am committed to finding somebody within the House, the membership of the House, to serve as speaker of the House.

We've got to be focused on governing again, and I -- what happened two days ago was a mistake, I have said so, I think it's an embarrassment. And frankly, we need as a conference, Republican majority to come together behind a candidate, who serves in the House, who is committed to governing, within the reality.

And the reality is we have a divided country, we have a bipartisan government, and we have to function within that reality.

BURNETT: So, President Trump, in this context, is coming to Capitol Hill next week, ahead of what might be the first of many rounds of votes for speaker, right, depending what happens on your party, the day before. He has been on Capitol Hill since the insurrection, when he was obviously nearby.

So, do you think that is a good idea, that he would come to the Hill? Is it helpful in any way?

MOLINARO: I think that the conferences a lot to get through these next few days, and quite frankly, the amount of discussion that we have been having, as members, it is complicated enough. I will say, out loud, that I have engaged in these conversations. I think people from different backgrounds, ideological backgrounds within the conference, we all recognize that this is a serious moment. This individual, the speaker of the House, has constitutional responsibilities, second in line to be president of the United States.

This is not a moment where we need any distraction, or any undermining of a very serious effort to find the individual, who will best enable us to govern, the American people, they want us fighting inflation, they want to focus on border security, they want us delivered to the most vulnerable in our society, and they need us to be serious about that. So, that's my attention and focus.

BURNETT: So, Congressman Molinaro, I want to ask who that speaker may be. But first, I do want to ask you about that reporting tonight that I just share, that ABC News is reporting, that former President Trump allegedly discussed this information about U.S. nuclear sub with a billionaire, who then apparently shared with more than 45 people, right, including how close a sub to get to Russian, subs without being detected, how many nuclear warheads it carries.

That's apparent -- that is what he's saying, what he shared by the former president.

What's your reaction to that? And, do you think that Trump, given what you know from that, and obviously what's going on the Mar-a-Lago case, should he have any future access to sensitive information?

MOLINARO: Well, I -- this is the first, honestly, that I have been hearing the reporting. And I don't know the accuracy of the report, or really the truth telling or honesty of the individual. I think that without question, obviously, this information that ought not be shared with anyone, and there needs to be a respect of confidential information. I have said this consistently. No one, presidents or members of

Congress, should be running their mouths and things of that nature. But again, I am just hearing about this for the first-time.

BURNETT: And the speaker's race itself, I do want to ask you, because you said you were in meetings. I know one of them, I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, but was with the Congressman Jim Jordan. Obviously, he wants the speakership. I know he's been speaking to the former president as well, as our Melanie Zanona was reporting.

Did he win your vote?

MOLINARO: I am, I have made this very clear. I have spoken to Jim Jordan, Steve Scalise, and I will tell you that it took three -- let's put it this way, no one worked harder to earn my support, more than the majority in the House, than Kevin McCarthy. And it took him three or four years to earn that support.

I represent Upstate New York, and I represent Americans who want solutions. And I am not committing to any candidate. I'm listening, I am asking tough questions, and I'm speaking on behalf of members like myself, you want someone who's really committed to governing.

Now, any of these men or women, if other names come forward, could rise to this moment. But I think it is critically important, that I represent the interest of Americans, who want a government that's going to function, and people were going to work together towards solutions.

And, so, I'm going to continue to hold firm in that, and these individuals have a week, to earn the support of members like me, and the people I serve.

BURNETT: Right. Well, Congressman, thank you very much. Congressman Molinaro, appreciate your time.

MOLINARO: Be well. Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. You, too.

And I'm joined now by the Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.

Well, Congressman, of course, you know, if Democrats had helped Kevin McCarthy retain his speakership, he may not be looking at a Speaker Jim Jordan possibility. You certainly wouldn't be hearing about a possible speaker Trump, for some interim period of time, or from coming to capital for the first time since January 6th, as he is apparently going to do next week.

Do you have any regrets?

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): No I mean, absolutely not. The reality is what we want is a speaker who is willing to work across the, out to get things done for the American people. And, it sounds like that's exactly what my colleague Mark wants as well. Sadly, we never got that from Kevin McCarthy. I mean, this is a man

who, governed to his base, to the extremists from the very day that he was elected speaker. It required Democrats to bail him out, including averting a government shutdown. We bailed him out, coming to his rescue, to avoid a government shutdown, when 90 of his own members, his own Republican colleagues in the House, voted to shut the government down.

And then what does he do? He goes on TV the next day, and starts bashing and blaming Democrats. He could have done the most modest outreach to a few members of our caucus and said, I genuinely want to work together, to include you in the governing process, the same way that the vast majority of American people want. But he never did that.

BURNETT: Would a Speaker Jordan be better, though?

MOULTON: Well, we don't know. I mean, obviously, if you look at Speaker Jordan, Representative J behavior so far, it makes you think that Speaker Jordan will be even worse than Kevin McCarthy.

But, one would hope that the next speaker would recognize that McCarthy's strategy of playing to the base, of being really subservient to these extremists in his caucus didn't work. It didn't work. He didn't get anything done.

In the same period of time, under Nancy Pelosi, we passed three times as many bills out of the House, that Kevin McCarthy passed in his speakership. So it didn't work for legislating, it didn't work for the American people, and ultimately cost him his job, to just listen to people like Matt Gaetz.

So what we hope is that whoever the next speaker is, whether it is Speaker Scalise, Speaker Jordan, or someone else, they don't do that. They'll actually be willing to work across the aisle to govern for the American people.

BURNETT: And, that would be a shift obviously, for some of those individuals, as you fairly point out. It would be a real transformational shift, from how they behaved in the past.

I want to ask, though, about how you have got here. I know you are well aware that your colleague, Democrat Congressman Dan Goldman, said that Liz Cheney reached out to him, about Speaker McCarthy, ex-Speaker McCarthy. She reached out to say, should remind him that McCarthy obviously had, he had such a horrible response to January 6, he had flip-flopped. And the view that she had, that he poses a danger to democracy, because of how he behaved on January 6th, and his current support for Donald Trump.

And then, Congressman Goldman says that he went and conveyed that to the entire Democratic conference, right before the vote. And it was -- it was framed that that was very -- that Liz Cheney was actually very crucial to the decision and the Democratic caucus, to not back or bailout Speaker McCarthy.

Is that how you saw it, how big of an impact does she have? MOULTON: No, I don't think that's true. I mean a lot of Democrats

have respect for Liz Cheney for her political courage, in standing up to Trump, and the insurrectionists, and the people in her party, who are election deniers, right. We understand that about Liz Cheney. That doesn't mean that we always follow her advice.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Congressman Moulton. Thank you very much.

MOULTON: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right and next, a major development on the legal front, Trump trying to get the DOJ's January 6th case dismissed. He says he has immunity, because he was president, and he was acquitted by the Senate after his impeachment. So, does that argument have a real chance?

And Russia tonight, launching a brutal strike on Ukraine. More than 50 people killed in the strike. And Putin tonight, writing, rewriting history, trying to say he did start the war.

And Commander Biden, out of the White House, as our Tom Foreman will report tonight, you will see that Commander's far from the only presidential pet, to end up in the doghouse.



BURNETT: More on the breaking news. ABC first, reporting that Trump shared potentially sensitive information about nuclear submarines with Mar-a-Lago club member. "The New York Times" is now reporting, that special counsel Jack Smith may be calling the club member, Anthony Pratt, an Australian billionaire who runs a U.S. major company, to testify in the classified documents case.

This comes as team Trump is not looking to get special counsel Jack Smith's other case thrown out, claiming that Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election were protected because of presidential immunity, and they point out that Trump was acquitted by the Senate, after his impeachment, which of course is a political process. It is therefore the argument, though, that they are making, as to why he shouldn't be facing charges, in a court.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT.

So, Evan, let me just ask you about that, specific thing, trying to get this thrown out, and immunity. Is this a Hail Mary, or is this actually something real?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is a Hail Mary, but it is probably their best chance. It is only their best offense, and it is one that they have been certainly testing, out in various ways, Erin. The former president knows that, obviously, the fact that he was president does come with a lot of benefits. And one of them was the fact that under article two, he has to execute the laws of the country.

And so what they are saying, in this court filing, is that because there are laws against vote fraud, that the former president had every right to ask the Justice Department to communicate with state officials, to ask them to look into those fraud claims.

Now, of course, there is a lot of reason for the Justice Department to have done those investigations, and come back and said that there was nothing to support that. I will reduce the part of what that filing says though, because they go beyond just what the former president's presidential duties were. This goes into the impeachment trial.

They say, president Trump was acquitted of these charges, after trial in the Senate, and he thus remains immune from prosecution, and the special counsel cannot second guess the judgment of the duly elected United States Senate.


Of course, Erin, if you remember, a central part of what the Senate was looking at was whether the former president inspired, and really brought on, the insurrection on January 6th.

And that's not what Jack Smith and the special counsel are actually prosecuting the former president for.

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

And Ryan Goodman is with me, former special counsel with the Defense Department, and now with Just Security. And Katie Cherkasky, former federal prosecutor.

So, thanks to both.

So, Ryan, I -- we have always talked with the fact that impeachment is a political process, and a court of law is a legal process, right and, that these are two different things, right? That was Mitch McConnell's whole point, let the courts decide it. But that's the argument they are making, acquitted by the Senate, so therefore, throw it out.

Is there any case here to do that, with presidential immunity?

RYAN GOODMAN, JUST SECURITY CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: For that argument, no. I don't want to miss characterize it, but it is almost ludicrous, in the sense that, he almost is saying that you require a Senate conviction, in order to be able to then prosecute a president. But, that would make any sense, because evidence could come to light later.

For example, and then as Evan says, there was a particular, specific charge in the impeachment, which was the incitement. These are other charges. Jack Smith didn't charge him with incitement. So, there are many reasons that will fail.

He does have a separate argument which is just, the Supreme Court has found presidents are immune from civil suits. That is a good argument, and he is now saying that should extend to criminal suits. I do think it is still a loser, but I think it is very proper for his

lawyers to raise that. In fact, it would be a mistake for them not to try.

BURNETT: Not to try, all right.

So, Katie, in this case, I know you think this possibly this could go to appeals. You get to the Supreme Court on that. If that happens, how long does it take before we actually get an answer on this?

KATIE CHERKASKY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I mean, now that the defense has filed this motion, theoretically, the trial judge could grant and dismiss the case, on that ground. And I think that we have to remember, this is an issue a first impression. The Supreme Court has never, definitively decided what is, essentially outside of the outer perimeter of the president's duties, which is what the Supreme Court has said, in civil cases, the president is immune from civil liability, and legal process for. But in a criminal context, that has never really been adjudicated.

And certainly, there are certain things that we can say, for sure would be outside of the outer perimeters, things like domestic violence, or even sexual assault. Those will be totally, and wholly unconnected from any official duties whatsoever, potentially making the president amenable to criminal process.

But, when you have a case like this, where there is a question about the conduct, and the execution of the laws, and looking into the federal election, and things of that sort. I certainly think it is a very valid argument. And whether it gets overturned on the trial level, I think that is very doubtful. But ultimately, SCOTUS will have to weigh in on this.

BURNETT: And I could take up time?

CHERKASKY: Certainly, certainly.

BURNETT: It's a long way there.

CHERKASY: The trial would have to end. It would have to go through the other appellate courts, most likely, unless the Supreme Court cases out of turn, which I guess is theoretically possible.

BURNETT: So this could theoretically, this could delay?

GOODMAN: Absolutely, because the Supreme Court could just sit on it.


GOODMAN: They could eventually find, in favor of the prosecution, but they could sit on it for months on end, post the election even, yeah.

BURNETT: Right, which is what the former president wants, right? I mean, on all of these cases, right? So it is interesting, when you look at these. I mean, even if that is all they get, that is what they are wanting. I want to ask you also with this ABC News reporting, right? This is

about Trump sharing this potentially sensitive information on nuclear subs, with this billionaire, who shares it, I'm sorry, with more than 45 people.

Details of how many nuclear warheads, how they go undetected, this is what's alleged, and "The New York Times" is reporting tonight, now, after that ABC reporting came out, that Jack Smith wants to speak to Anthony Pratt, this a billionaire. What do you make of it?

GOODMAN: So, it is an extraordinary set of facts, because right now, President Trump has only been charged for retention of national -- classified information. He has not been charged with disseminating it to others. This is disseminating it to a foreign national, and out of those 45 people, according to the ABC report, it is over a dozen foreign officials.

So, it's just extraordinary. You would think that he would be charged for it. But, he hasn't been, and. I think maybe that could be because the intelligence community would be very reluctant had this information come to a public trial, and expose some things about U.S. nuclear submarines. That said, because the New York Times is reporting it, it creates this puzzle, if indeed Pratt is on the witness list.

BURNETT: Right, to testify. They have, to be clear, the DOJ had interviewed him.


BURNETT: According to the reporting, and the FBI twice. But this puts him on a witness list?

GOODMAN: That's right, so then that is bringing the information into the public trial. So, what is it?

Now, it might just be that they just don't want to bring it in as a charge, because to bring it in as a, charges to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and that maybe has to get into the specifics of, what exactly did the president at the time, he wasn't president at the time, what did Trump say to Mr. Pratt, at Mar-a-Lago, and get into the specifics of U.S. nuclear submarines, including the details that nobody should know about, except the U.S. government.

BURNETT: Right, it puts him -- puts him in a bad square.

Katie, one thing on the Trump Org case today, this back and forth between the Attorney General Letitia James, and Trump, and all of the name-calling that he has thrown at her, calling her racist and other things.


He called her a political animal, yesterday and today, brought by the racist and incompetent peekaboo James. This is what he posts about her today. Okay, he has been given an order not to talk about the officers of the

court, you know, a gag order. Can stuff like this be allowed to continue, without any consequences?

CHERKASKY: Well, now that the judge has issued a gag order, there really has to be enforcement of that, if it is going to have any meaning at all. So, certainly, the interpretation of a violation would be something that the judge will have to decide, if it is something that happens within the court's view, that it doesn't necessarily need to be a hearing.

But if there is something that is alleged, and he would have a chance to defend against that, and show why it wasn't potentially in violation of that order. But, there are consequences, both confinement consequences and monetary consequences that could be imposed for violation.

BURNETT: Confinement, of course, meaning jail.


BURNETT: But monetary, I mean, right, something has got to happen. You put a gag order, and someone keeps saying this at some point, if it means anything. Something has to happen, which -- which would be a big moment.

All right, thank you both very much. I appreciate it.

And next, striking images of children in Russia putting on gas masks as the war escalates. It comes as Russia launches a horrible strike in Ukraine, more than 50 people killed in this strike.

President Biden says border walls don't work. Well, everyone knows that, right? He was told against the wall. So why is his administration now building more?


BURNETT: Tonight, reduced to rubble, a brutal Russian missile strike on Ukrainian civilians killed 51 people, in a cafe near Kharkiv, including, an eight-year-old boy.


It's one of the deadliest attacks since the Russians invaded. And yet, Vladimir Putin said this, today.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The ever growing, military and political tension should be addressed. We didn't start of the so-called war in Ukraine. On the contrary, we're trying to finish it.


BURNETT: Didn't start the war in Ukraine? Well, that is an incredible thing to say.

Well, today, Putin also bragging that Russia successfully test launched a new nuclear power cruise missile. And it came as sirens blared across the country today, as Russia carried out nuclear drills. Images of school children putting on gas mask, comparing in the case of attack, or circulated on social media.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT tonight in Ukraine, where that horrific missile strike took place. And I will warn you, that some of the images in his reporting are disturbing.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Utter destruction and chaos after the massive explosion.

As night fell, bodies still strewn across the area as search and rescue crews scoured the debris.

This man weeping in front of a body bag, too shaken to talk to us. We learned his name is Sergei, and the deceased was his wife.

As you can see, this building was completely annihilated when it was hit by the missile. The Ukrainians are saying that this was an Iskander missile launched by the Russians. That is a very heavy missile that is normally used to destroy large troop formations or even armored vehicles. And as you can see, it completely devastated this building right here.

The Ukrainians say more than 50 people were killed. It's very difficult for them to identify some of the bodies because they are in such bad shape.

They also say what was going on here was an event around a funeral. And they say that the people who were attending that event were all local folks.

There was chaos, the chief investigator tells us. There was a fire which was extinguished by firefighters. Of course, evacuation measures were taken to get people out of the rubble.

Obviously, all of this is still very fresh, and a lot of the search and rescue cruise crews are still very much at work. We can see over there, that some of the first responders are still busy sort of doing the forensics on the scene here and also still putting bodies into body bags. There's a lot of them laying around here and a lot being taken way by some of these crews here.

One of the other things that we can see over there is that, obviously, this was some sort of recreational area. There still seems or the some sort of playground that was also heavily damaged when the missile hit.

Ukraine's president visiting Spain pinning the blame on Russia.

Tragically, because of this inhuman terrorist attack, 50 civilians were killed during a funeral. Russia does this every day in the Kharkiv region, and only air defense can help.

But that help will be too late for Sergei's wife and the others killed. The only thing he can do for her now is help the crews lift her body to be taken away.


BURNETT: Fred, that's got to be so hard to be there, with such loss of life. You did arrive shortly after this happened, and we can see the destruction behind you. What was that like?

PLEITGEN: Hi there, Erin.

And what was certainly still very fresh when we got here. In fact, I want to look at the scene again. You are absolutely right, the destruction here is complete, it's total, you can see the rubble on the ground, it looks almost like some sort of massive earthquake struck here. That's what this missile did to that building, and that is certainly what we found when we got here, shortly after all of this happened, as well.

There were still a lot of bodies that were strewn around, the debris here, but also, in front of the building as well. It seems as though the folks who survived, the first responders drag some of the bodies out, and there were people who were sort of tending to them, but it was very clear, very early, on that there is very little that any sort of paramedics will be able to do here. So this very quickly became a recovery operation, and, you know, there was definitely a lot of carnage here. The authorities did what they could. But you can also see now, Erin, they have very much given up any sort of hope that anybody could be found alive. In fact, the recovery operation has stopped as well, and we are now in the middle of the night. You can see that this place has been completely destroyed, Erin.

BURNETT: Fred, thank you very much.

And next, President Biden, now building a border wall, which is something, of course, that -- the entire core of the whole campaign, right? Trump wanted a wall, and Biden didn't, so it was against everything he stood for. So, what's changed?

And just days before RFK Jr. is expected to announce he is running as an independent, Cornel West is beating him to the punch. And we're going to go beyond the numbers, they are important here, because this could do something to a Trump-Biden race.



BURNETT: Tonight, the Biden administration is building a border wall. The president saying it's being built with money that was approved during the Trump administration. And he says he doesn't think it would work. But, he says he's powerless to stop it.

Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The border wall -- the money was appropriated for the border wall. I tried to get them to reappropriate it, to redirect that money. They didn't, they wouldn't. And in the meantime, there's nothing under the law other than they have to use the money for what it's appropriated. I can't stop that.

REPORTER: Do you believe the border wall works?



BURNETT: And when pressed on it later, Biden's own press secretary couldn't say what law was forcing Biden's hands to build the border wall.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to speak to the law. We'd have to refer to the Department of Justice. I'm not a lawyer. But what I can tell you is that we are com -- this is a law that we are complying with.


BURNETT: All right. Well, just to cut through this confusion, Congress did authorize money in 2019, to build, quote, border barriers. What Biden faced was a deadline, to either spend the money, or to lose it, the government to lose it, right?

So Biden has chosen, instead, to spend it. This comes as the migrant surge hits crisis levels, far beyond the summer border.

Whitney Wild is OUTFRONT tonight, from Chicago, where this issue is now pitting Democrats against the White House.


WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the end of a six-week long journey from Venezuela for Carla Garcia, and her five-year-old niece Angeli.

CARLA DANIELA GARCIA GONZALEZ, MIGRANT FROM VENEZUELA (through translator): So tired. We don't have a decent place to sleep.

WILD: They sleep in a corner of a South Side Chicago police station, while dozens more migrants lined the sidewalks. More than 3,000 migrants live at city police stations, and airports.

MAYOR BRANDON JOHNSON, CHICAGO, IL: I've been over the course, since I've been in office, we have been flooded with buses, with individuals who are in very desperate circumstances.

WILD: Mayor Brandon Johnson expects the number of migrants who have descended on Chicago, to reach 20,000 in the coming days.

Migrants started arriving in August, 2022, when Texas Governor Greg Abbott added Chicago to a list of sanctuary cities, where he plans to send buses, saying, relief is needed for overcrowded southern border towns.

JOHNSON: This is very much tied to the politics of the Republican Party, that has made it very clear, they want to de stabilize cities like Chicago.

WILD: Tension is flaring between Illinois leaders and the White House, for more help. The pressure to manage this crisis will only grow. Next summer, the Democratic National Convention comes to town, officials believe that will prompt even more buses.

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D), ILLINOIS: There are other things the federal government can do, other than sending us money, that they haven't yet done. And I do believe, and I have spoken with the White House since even, over the weekend, and the letter, to make sure that they heard us.

WILD: Johnson's instruction is working rapidly, to house migrants, opening up one shelter per week.

But closing some public facilities to make room for migrant housing has angered some residents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our rights have been infringed upon because instead of having the ability to say yes or no.

WILD: The city has inked in nearly $30 million deal for military grade tents, a temporary solution, while the city races to move migrants off the street, before Chicago's brutal winter sets in.

JOHNSON: I'm very much committed to making sure that we get people off of the floors of police districts, and police stations, and out of our airports, because it is not humane. These are awful conditions.

WILD: Back at the police station, Carla isn't sure leaving Venezuela was worth the sacrifice.

GARCIA: We don't know yet, because we're here. All of this uncertainty, and just sleeping here. If you are thinking about coming here, think twice, because this is very hard.


WILD (on camera): Erin, Mayor Brandon Johnson says he understands what southern states are going through, and he is actually going to go to the border himself, to assess the situation. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has sent people here to Chicago this week, to assess the situation. And, Erin, time is really a major hurdle here, because it is going to drop into the low 40s, overnight very soon. Back to you.

BURNETT: All right. Whitney, thank you very much from Chicago tonight.

And OUTFRONT now, Steve Inskeep. He's the host of NPR's "Morning Edition" -- familiar to all of our viewers, I'm sure. Also the author of the new book, "Differ We Must: How Lincoln Succeeded in a Divided America".

So, Steve, many of us are listening to you every day, know this as an issue you have reported on extensively for years. In fact, you have driven the entire length of the southern, border, you are in Chicago tonight, where Whitney is reporting, and the crisis has been pitting the Democratic mayor, the Democratic governor of Illinois, against President Biden.

How big of a problem is this right now, for Biden?

STEVE INSKEEP, CO-HOST OF NPR'S "MORNING EDITION": It's a remarkable thing, when I am following a news coverage here in Chicago, and you have Chicago alderman saying the federal government is absent. And I say that, because you know politics, Erin. And when you say Chicago alderman, you think classic kind of neighborhood politics, sidewalks, rows, patronage shops, maybe a little corruption. And instead, you have an alderman talking about the border. This is an issue that is coming home in people's communities.

I want to note something about the announcement by the administration itself. I was reading a statement by Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary. And he didn't say we're going to expand the wall. He said, plural, we're going to expand, or at barriers.

And, having driven the border, I think I understand what's going on here. The government has always used some bits of wall, in different places, to secure the border, along with other tools like patrols, and technology, surveillance technology, and the horrible landscape in some areas, the difficult landscape.

BURNETT: Yes, absolutely.

INSKEEP: That's always been a tool, and they want to make more use of that tool. But it has become instead, a huge political symbol, that it was for Trump, and therefore became a symbol for Biden. And now, you have the practical need to expand the wall a little bit, and it becomes a political statement.

BURNETT: So, I want to look at some numbers here, because as you point out, when you talk about an alderman weighing in on this, right? This has become, at the core of politics, in a way perhaps it never has been before. And that is because it has moved into big, northern liberal cities, right? It is now in people's communities, as you say.

Sixty percent of Democrats, now, Steve, say they support increasing efforts to stop illegal immigration.


That's the recent Marquette University poll. That's a stunning number, because that's Democrats, right? And I know, you know, you talk about border walls -- the wall versus barriers. Biden has said he is clear, a wall as an example won't work.

But the reality is, whatever word you use, and as you point out, maybe it is not just a matter of semantics. But nonetheless to -- from a political point of view, it does seem to fly in the face of some of his most core campaign promises like these.

INSKEEP: This is a reality.


BIDEN: We don't need a wall.

There will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration


BURNETT: So, Steve, how does he deal with that? That's, of course, what he said during the campaign.

INSKEEP: Well, this is the reality that American politicians have always faced. There has always been, fear and anxiety about immigrants, and immigration. You noted the book that I wrote, Abraham Lincoln had to deal with this, had to deal with what was called a nativist movement, and he had to figure out how to appeal with nativist voters politically, even though he disagreed with them on the issue.

And, every generation of American politicians since has faced the same challenge. And, that is definitely true of Democrats, who have a big part of their coalition who are immigrants, and pro-immigrant, but have other parts of their coalition who have certain doubts, or at least they don't want problems in their cities, problems in their backyards, even if they favor immigration in general.

BURNETT: So in your new book, you talk about, in Lincoln, you focus on his interaction with 16 people -- 16 people with whom he did not agree. And, you focus in on those interactions. And what he learned as a result of that.

Is there any possibility of that happening in the environment we live in now, where people who are just diametrically opposed to each other, could find some sort of --


INSKEEP: I don't think that you can -- can agree with everybody, in this divided society. In fact, it would be weird if we could agree with everyone, in a democracy. But you can try to build coalitions, with people with whom you have some limited agreement, that are enough to make a majority. And if you are concerned about the future of the country, if you are concerned about democracy, if you are concerned about continuing this republic, then that calls for some compromises with people, to build that majority.

We're looking at a political situation right now, where, when you look at the House of Representatives, neither side has quite got their coalition in order, to feel comfortable the next election. And, that's something that Lincoln was good at.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Steve, thank you very much.

And we talk about coalitions not being together, what about Cornel West? He is officially running as an independent candidate for president, much to the chagrin of the Democrats. RFK Jr. is also expected to ditch the Democratic Party, and do the same. It really could shake up this race, where every single vote will count. And we were going to go behind the numbers next, and then, commander by, not the first presidential pet with a biting problem.

Tom Foreman, we'll report tonight.



BURNETT: All right. Tonight, spoiler, progressive activist Cornel West says he is officially running for president as an independent. He is dropping his Green Party bid.


CORNEL WEST (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need you, to be part of wrestling with this corporate duopoly, this two party system, that impedes.


BURNETT: And West's announcement comes just days before RFK Jr. is widely expected to announce he's dropping his primary challenge to Joe Biden, and with a primary challenge, but now the challenge because he says he is also probably, we expect, going to run as an independent.

All of it happening in what is so far very tight race. And frankly, every vote is going to matter.

Harry Enten is OUTFRONT tonight, to go beyond the numbers.

So, Harry, let us just talk about Cornel West, which, by the way, when you talk about him to Democratic insiders, they are very worried.


BURNETT: RFK Jr., they are very worried, too. They like to say that's a bigger issue for Trump. Maybe that is a bit of a fig leaf, but they are very worried. So, where do Cornel West and RFK, Jr. poll?

ENTEN: Okay, so these are two very different cats, in terms of where they're poling. RFK, Jr., at this particular point, he is pulling in the mid teens, he is pulling in the mid teens. You compare that with Cornel West, who is only pulling out 2 percent.

So the fact is, RFK Jr., in my particular mind, at least at this particular point, seems like he could be a much bigger player in the 2024 campaign and Cornel West is. But then again, 2 percent ain't nothing either.

BURNETT: No, it isn't. And if you look at 2 percent in, what that could mean in certain states, and certain places, that could be the whole race, right? You are looking at a country that is deeply divided. A few states, a few states matter more than anything, in the electoral race.

When we say the race between Biden and Trump is close though, at this point all polls are just a snapshot in time, it is like a balance sheet, how close are we talking?

ENTEN: We are talking really close. I mean, we can talk nationally, where we have a race within the margin of error. Maybe Trump is slightly ahead. We can talk and sort of an aggregate of the swing states, that I have here, with maybe Biden slightly ahead.

But the fact is --


ENTEN: -- either way you look at it, at this point, we are looking at a very tight race. And that 2 percent that we spoke about with Cornel West, that might not seem like a lot. But when you have a one point race either way, that 2 percent could make all the difference in the world.

And, of course, RFK, in the mid-teens, that could make a tremendous difference.

BURNETT: Well, think about Jill Stein and Hillary Clinton, right. You had -- names, small numbers --

ENTEN: Ralph Nader.

BURNETT: Ralph Nader, he could make a huge difference. But the reality of it is, when you talk to people, it does seem like the Democrats are a lot more worried about the prospect of a third party candidate than Republicans. Why is that? Are they right?

ENTEN: Well, I mean, the reason that they are worried about it, is because Republicans are a lot more enthusiastic about Donald Trump than Democrats are for Joe Biden.

So, essentially, if you asked me if you are enthusiastic, if this person is your nominee. We see that 70 percent of Republicans are enthusiastic for Trump. Just 68 percent of Democrats are enthusiastic for Joe Biden.

Now, we will see how that all translates in 2024, but the fact is, that is the reason why Democrats are worried, at this. Point

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

ENTEN: Thank you. And next, Commander Biden is not the only presidential pet to make

dubious headlines.

Tom Foreman has more, on the raccoons, bears, possums, oh, pet possums, I had one once -- even, a hippo, that have been presidential pets.



BURNETT: Tonight, the White House says Commander has moved out. This, as CNN learns the two-year-old German shepherd has been involved in more biting incidents than the 11 publicly reported.


REPORTER: Were you ever wary of being around him?


REPORTER: You know, because of the biting incidents that you have heard about?

JEAN-PIERRE: I have seen Commander many times, I was never worried, and I have never been bit by commander.


BURNETT: Okay, commander is far from the first president pet to make headlines.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost a dozen secret service personnel, and plenty of staffers, sources tell CNN the presidential dog, commander, has bitten more people than previously known. And after this latest snap, he has been relieved of command.

JEAN-PIERRE: Commander is not presently at the White House.

FOREMAN: Presidents have had passed pets, from the nations beginning -- bears, birds, tigers, possums, horses, alligators, raccoons.

Teddy Roosevelt had the most. Woodrow Wilson had sheep to trim the grass. Calvin Coolidge had a hippo. But, they have often been pet peeves.

In the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt had a big dog named Major that bit a British prime minister. During World War II, political foes falsely said he sent a navy destroyer to fetch his little dog named Fala, after it was left behind on a presidential junket.

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, FORMER PRESIDENT: Of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family don't resent attacks. But Fala does resent attacks.

FOREMAN: In the '50s, opponents accused vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon of misusing campaign donations, among the gifts with a cocker spaniel puppy, his daughter named Checkers.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: And I just want to say this right now, regardless of what they say about it, we're going to keep him.

FOREMAN: In the '60s, Lyndon Johnson outraged some dog lovers, by lifting his beagles by the ears.

And, of course, a previous Biden family dog was also banished for biting. And ironically, just like FDR's snappy German shepherd, his name was Major.

Still, comedy writer Jill Twiss, who wrote a children's book about him notes, at least this is a different kind of political scandal.

JILL TWISS, AUTHOR, "MAJOR MAKES HISTORY": Yeah, I feel bad for the dog, that is what dogs do when they get freaked out. I feel bad for the family, because families love their dogs. I obviously feel terrible for people getting bit, because getting bit is terrible. But I'm not mad anybody, and that is just really a good feeling.


FOREMAN (on camera): At best, White House dogs can be happy, and they can really humanize a president, making them the most powerful person in the world seemed like a lot of us, just hanging out with our best friends.

But at worst -- well, sometimes for the dog and the humans, it just bites -- Erin.

BURNETT: Yeah, for the hippo. And you know what? Hippos are not pleasantly disposition to, let's just say that.

FOREMAN: I can't believe you had a possum.

BURNETT: Briefly, I didn't succeed in saving my possum. But I did.

All right. Tom, thank you very much.

And thanks to all of you for being with us.

Anderson starts now.