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Erin Burnett Outfront

Soon: Polls Close In Michigan Where Trump & Biden Face Tests; Witness Fails To Give Trump Attorney's Slam Dunk On Willis Affair; CNN Reports From Iran For Key Elections Amid Rising Tensions; RFK PAC: We Have Enough Signatures To Put Him On Arizona, Georgia Ballots. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 27, 2024 - 19:00   ET




Polls about to close in the state of Michigan, a crucial test in the key battleground state for both Trump and Biden. John King is OUTFRONT at the magic wall.

Plus, team Trump's star witness fails to deliver today, now saying he can't recall when Georgia D.A. Fani Willis began her relationship with her top prosecutor in Trump case. Did he just help Willis stay on that Trump case?

And the top Olympic fencer from Russia speaking out after defecting from his country, slamming Putin for the war in Ukraine. He'll be my guest tonight.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, a mystery in Michigan tonight. Polls are just about to close in the crucial swing state. One of just a handful of states that will determine the outcome of the 2024 election. And when it comes to the Republican primary tonight, there's little polling to show where voters stand.

When it comes to Nikki Haley and Donald Trump, neither one has spent much time in this state. Nikki Haley only hit the ground on Sunday after South Carolina, her campaign only started running television ads in the state last week. As for Trump, he's not even there tonight. He's actually planning just to call into a GOP victory party.

And on the Democratic side, Biden tonight facing an unprecedented uproar over his support for Israel. Biden, the target of a massive campaign urging Democratic Arab Americans and Muslims to cast protest votes against the president tonight. Images like the ones we're about to show you have caused outrage and pain in those communities. People struggling to survive, one of Gaza's only functioning hospitals.

A hospital staff calls a, quote, death zone now. People digging with their bare hands in neighborhood after neighborhood, looking for dead children after airstrikes.

Organizers of tonight's protest vote in Michigan are hoping it sends a message to Biden that he must change course. And the reality is that Michigan is a must win in November, Biden won the state by just over 150,000 votes in 2020 and Arab Americans were a big part of that. They turned out overwhelmingly for him. In fact, he won by nearly 70 percent in Michigan's most heavily Arab American communities.

And that community is expected to pay an even more significant role in 2024. They now make up the majority of residents in the entire city of Dearborn, which is one of the largest cities in the entire state of Michigan. The state's total Middle Eastern population is now over 300,000, twice the margin of victory last time.

And then moment, I'm going to speak to John King about what he is watching tonight. In this crucial primary in terms of what it will reveal for both Democrats and Republicans.

I want to go first to the ground, Omar Jimenez, who is OUTFRONT live at a polling station in Waterford, Michigan, and Omar.

I know you've been there. You've been talking to people coming in, casting their vote all day. What are they telling you?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, we've heard a wide range of opinions from a wide range of people. In short, Trump supporters, many of them have said that immigration and the economy are tops of minds for them, while Biden supporters have said, the economy and human decency in the White House has been top of mind for them.

Then we've heard a few more nuanced opinions. We spoke to one person who actually voted for Marianne Williamson, who announced she was suspending her campaign earlier this month. But really, this was someone who said he previously voted for Joe Biden in 2020, but because of his handling of the Israel-Hamas war, he couldn't bring himself to vote for him again.

Now, of course, that message has been the central the theme of what we have seen be a major push in this state led by Arab American activists. And as we know, to vote uncommitted over his handling of what has happened with Israel and Gaza and Hamas.

Now, as you mentioned before, coming to me, this state here in Michigan has the largest Arab American population of any state in the entire country. No doubt, a crucial voting bloc when we get to the general election. But I want you to take a listen to one Biden supporter we spoke to.

Even though this has been billed as not an anti-Biden vote. It's been billed as a protest vote. This voter, this Biden voter, didn't necessarily agree with voting uncommitted because he saw the alternative to Joe Biden as much worse. Take a listen.


JOHN ELWING, VOTED FOR JOE BIDEN TODAY: A lot of people that are opposing him over this uncommitted, they're forgetting about the Muslim ban, when the women were at the airport wanting to visit their families and they were banned from the country.


They've totally forgotten about that. And if he gets back in there and he doesn't have to worry about any voters, imagine what they're going. He's going to do it all.


JIMENEZ: And he's, of course, talking about that 2017 temporary travel ban that Trump instituted on seven majority Muslim countries.

But, obviously, it is a dynamic not just to watch here in the primary, but of course, it indicates where support may or may not be heading into the general election.

Another dynamic we've watched for today is, look, you may notice its not exactly a packed behind me right now, but that doesn't mean people haven't been voting. We saw over a million people vote either early or absentee prior to get being here today. And that of course, has been a major victory for a lot of voting organizers here.

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

And I want to go now to John King at the magic wall.

So, John, the results obviously may not be the big story tonight in terms of who the winner is. But what is beneath that certainly will say a lot. What are you looking for on the Republican side of things?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This slide, this out of the way, Erin, we'll get to it.

Number one, if you look at the map right now, it's Donald Trump. Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Donald Trump, right? He's 4-0, in the states, 5-0 if you had the Virgin Islands. So if you're Nikki Haley, who could be gone from the race a week from tonight after Super Tuesday, you are looking for some proof that Republican voters are listening to you and you say, hey, wake up, we have to stop this.

And so, will it come in Michigan tonight? Number one, 55 delegates at stake. Number two, be careful about that. Most of the delegates, a state convention decides where the delegates go. It will be influenced for at least 16 of those delegates by the prime results tonight, but it's not necessarily beholden to the prime results tonight and Trump has the state party pretty wired.

But what do you look for?

So let's go back to 2016 in the Republican primary. Let's cut 2016, not 2012. There we go. 2012 was interesting too though.

Trump won Michigan. Where do you see the Ted Cruz? You see some Ted Cruz and John Kasich in the suburban areas. That's the way you look for tonight.

Look, Erin, the math has been pretty clear for Nikki Haley for some time. She says she needs to stay in to try to rattle the party to rally around her. Michigan gives her an opportunity. We'll be looking in the suburbs. I wouldn't run to Vegas and place a bet on that.

But as you watch the vote coming tonight, is there any evidence in Michigan tonight that after these four contests, Republican voters are saying, you know, she's right, we need to give boost. If she doesn't get it in Michigan tonight. As I said, next Tuesday night could be the last hurrah.

BURNETT: So that's the Republican side. Now on the Democratic side, right, as you've Omar was just laying out, you've got more Arab Americans in Michigan than any other state. This so-called protest vote is that it is being billed is could be very significant for Biden, right? And it's what's called technically, I know uncommitted in terms of the box you check in Michigan. What do you watching there?

KING: How big is the uncommitted vote and then how do we understood. There's a history of voting uncommitted in the Democratic primary mission. So let's not overstate this.

At the same time, you mentioned the top of the show, Joe Biden won by 154,000 votes last time. That's why you have the 2020 map up here, right? Three hundred thousand people have Middle Eastern descent, 200,000 or so of them Muslims in Michigan, most of them live, many of them live in Dearborn, a Detroit suburb out here.

But it's not just the Arab Americans, Erin. We were in Michigan several weeks ago. Arab American say, Mr. President, we are going to vote against you. They're threatening to vote against not only in this primary but in November as well if the policy doesn't change and guess what, the Israeli-Gaza conflict has also called the president, a giant problem with younger voters. Listen.


JADE GRAY, MICHIGAN VOTER: You know, Mr. President, I've seen you take key humanitarian steps, but I think the next step is a ceasefire and I think that that would go along way with voters.

IBRAHIM GHAZAL, MICHIGAN VOTER: Muslims all across this country voted for Biden because we were not in a million years, would I like to vote for Trump? But coming around this year, I don't know if I'm voting at all, but I definitely will not be voting for Biden.

KING: I was just going to say you feel this way?

GHAZAL: To an extent, yes.

KING: Now, tell me why.

GHAZAL: Well, I don't know if the cameras saw that, but it says abandon Biden. I feel as though President Biden doesn't value my life as a Muslim American as much as he values other lives. And I think that's why I feel that way.


KING: And so, Erin, Ibrahim told our team today he did vote in the primary and he voted uncommitted. He is not completely foreclosing voted for the president in November, but he said he would need to see a giant policy shift. And so, that's the issue when it comes to the math.

Of the battleground states this was actually a pretty good one for Joe Biden, 154,000 votes. But come November, he needs to be worried about Nikki Haley supporters in the suburbs, trying to win them over. He needs to be competing with Donald Trump for the auto workers in Detroit in the suburbs around Detroit.

He does not -- if he is competing for Muslim American, Arab American votes, come October, young voters come October, then he's in trouble.

BURNETT: Right, right. That's -- focusing on a place you shouldn't have to focus, I guess is how they would see it in the Democratic Party. So what does tonight? Tell us about that? About how November shapes up?

KING: I would be careful about tonight because it is a primary where do we know Trump is well ahead and Biden as well ahead. So its hard to project all the way to November except for on that question of Democratic enthusiasm, I think is very important because one of the issues you look at is where we are now, right?


What does -- what do we know coming into tonight, that this is a very three different race than 2020, that the president is in trouble in many of those states that were key to his victory including the state of Michigan. A poll just this month by Fox, Trump, 42, Biden, 37. Noteworthy, both candidates are so low. A lot of people don't like either of this. They don't -- just don't like this choice.

But in the battleground states, Michigan, he's losing. Georgia, he's losing. Pennsylvania, it's tied. Wisconsin, it's tied.

So if you look at the map, Michigan has a Democratic governor, Biden won it pretty comfortably actually by battleground state standards four years ago. If he is struggling here, it's signals he's got very broad troubles.

BURNETT: All right. John King, thank you very much.

As we await those results, I want to go now to the highest ranking Muslim lawmaker in Michigan, the Democratic state house majority leader, Abraham Aiyash. He is the first Arab American to be a majority leader in a state legislature.

And I very much appreciate your time, Leader.

So I know you're urging Democrats to vote uncommitted. That's the box you just heard a voter there telling John King he had checked, right? That that's the box to check for -- to protest Biden's -- Biden in this case.

Now, there are always uncommitted votes the primaries in Michigan, as John pointed out, it's been about 20,000 votes in each of the past three Democratic cycles.

So with that context, what are you hoping to accomplish tonight?

ABRAHAM AIYASH (D), HIGHEST-RANKING MUSLIM AND ARAB AMERICAN LAWMAKER IN MICHIGAN: Look, President Biden has been one of the most consequential presidents in modern American history as it relates to the domestic policy.

Well, what we've seen over the last four months is nothing less than an abject moral failure in terms of dignifying the humanity of the Palestinians. And we're seeing in Michigan is a groundswell of support of people that are anti-war and people that want this country to leave with moral clarity, and one, our president to not support an administration in Israel that has killed nearly 30,000 innocent men, women, and children.

So, tonight's results will be a reflection of that frustration and folks are going to come out and demand better for our government and for our democracy through the best way possible, which is our vote.

BURNETT: So have you heard today from the president or anyone on his team about your efforts to get put to vote against him in the primary tonight?

AIYASH: No. And I want to be clear, this is not a vote against the president, but this is a vote for reaffirming that the United States should stand on the principles of human rights on dignifying Palestinians in that we are not going to be a country that greenlights the innocent of the killing of innocent men, women, and children that we've seen the Netanyahu regime has done over the last four months and it's unacceptable.

BURNETT: Does the ceasefire, while it would be crucial, is that something that does for you, or is that in a sense checking the box? I mean, Gaza is still leveled. People are -- there's been an incredible amount of death and destruction? And -- does the ceasefire do it for you?

AIYASH: Well, when we met with the White House, a couple of weeks ago, our demands were very clear. We need to see a permanent ceasefire. We want to see the flow of humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Gaza, and finally, setting conditions and restrictions on the aid to Israel. It does not make sense that we speak about human rights and we did it with the way we talk about the Ukrainian people and their right to self-determination and their right to safety and security.

Yet in the same vein, we are funding in Israeli government that does not seem to have any regard for the humanity of the Palestinians. And I think this message, this is a way to emphasize and we do not want to you see this hypocrisy from our leadership. But rather we want to see that moral clarity in the foreign policy that we unfortunately have not seen yet.

BURNETT: So if you don't see all of those things, or you're not comfortable with this as time goes on in November, at this point, obviously, it seems that your choices are going to be Biden or Trump for the Democrats and Republicans. Obviously, you could go another route, but those would be, that'll be the Democratic and Republican choice, as it looks right now.

And obviously, Abraham, you're aware of this, but I want to remind everybody watching about some of the things Trump has said about the Muslim community.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Unfortunately, at this moment in time, there is a Muslim problem in the world.

There were people that were cheering in the other side of New Jersey where you have large Arab populations, they were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

I think Islam hates us.

When I returned to office, the travel ban is coming back even bigger than before and much stronger than before.


BURNETT: Obviously, that was over a ten-year period, but that last comment was last summer, right? That the Muslim ban is going to come back even bigger than before if he wins again.

Those are just a small sampling of the things that you're well aware that Trump has said over the years. If this ends up in a situation where Muslims in Michigan do not show up for Biden, right, even if they don't vote for Trump, they stay home, right, something happens, either way.


That means that Biden could lose the state, could lose the election. Are you okay with that outcome, Abraham?

AIYASH: There's no doubt that Donald Trump is a threat to the American republic, is a threat to the idea of democracy. No one is arguing against that.

But I think the question that we have to ask ourselves and to ask President Biden is the voters have done everything they've been told us they're supposed to do. They go out, they protest, they the lobby their elected officials? They ask for our government to do better. That is inherently democratic. And when we see our leaders not act and react and heed the call of the

public, the question then becomes, what is President Biden willing to do to protect and save democracy from Donald Trump? It's not the question that we should be asking the voters.

When I ran for office, Erin, I don't get mad at people when I lose my election or people don't resonate with my message, I go back and ask myself, what could I have done better to campaign and what platform and what vision did I not present that should have inspired people?

So the question that we need to be asking is that President Biden and he still has time to change course. Tonight's vote is a way to demonstrate for the president that he can change course and continue to save lives. The vote for uncommitted is a vote to save the innocent men, women, and children that are still alive, that Netanyahu was hell-bent on killing.

So I want to close with this, Erin. My uncle was killed three days before Trump signed the travel ban. He was in Yemen, was killed in an airstrike, and we had applied to bring him into the United States ten years prior to that point.

So I know the deep pain in the deep impact that Donald Trump's policies have inflicted on our communities. But the question has to be Joe Biden, what is he willing to do to save democracy? Our position has been very clear.

BURNETT: All right. Abraham, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much, as the votes, of course, continue and polls are getting ready to close.

Next, a star witness for Trump's legal team today on the witness stand, and it was a flop. Did he actually helped say Fani Willis?

Plus, our Fred Pleitgen reporting from the streets of Iran where they are still chanting "death to America", as citizens are about to vote in an election there that could send a big message to the U.S.

And a lot of people are not happy with Wendy's plan to make you pay more during lunch rush. But is Wendy's actually just really late to the party when it comes to surge pricing?



BURNETT: Tonight, team Trump's star witness flops. The one person that Trump allies wanted to get on witness stand, the person that they thought would prove that the Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis is affair with her top prosecutor, Nathan Wade, in the Trump case began before she hired him for the Trump case, didn't deliver today.

Wade's divorce attorney wavering again and again when the affair began, this has been part of efforts by Trump and his co-defendants to get Fani Willis disqualified from the case. They have claimed that she misused public funds while carrying out a relationship with Wade. Now, those claims are threatening to delay or altogether end Willis's

prosecution of Trump.

Nick Valencia begins our coverage tonight OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why in would you speculate in this text message?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Terrence Bradley, back on the stand after the judge determined he couldn't invoke attorney-client privilege.

JUDGE: You claimed at the time it was privileged. I found it is not.

VALENCIA: Bradley, Nathan Wade's former law partner, was billed by the defense as the star witness, who would provide proof that Wade and the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, lied about when their romantic relationship started.

Bradley testifying he was just speculating in text messages to a defense attorney where he said the two absolutely were dating before he was hired.

Did you lie to Ms. Merchant when you told her facts about Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis's relationship?

TERRENCE BRADLEY, FORMER DIVORCE ATTORNEY FOR NATHAN WADE: Not that I recall. I don't recall ever -- whether any of it was a lie or not.

VALENCIA: The defense trying to determine if Willis hired Wade to lead the Georgia election subversion case when they were already together or after, as both Willis and Wade have testified.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did Nathan Wade tell you about the relationship?

BRADLEY: I recall him stating that at some point they were dating. I can't tell you what date that was. It was made in confidence.

VALENCIA: Willis herself was pressed about the timing at an earlier hearing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did you start getting dating?



WILLIS: '22, around the -- I don't know, like, you know, it's not like when you're in grade school, you send a little letter and it says, will you be my girlfriend and you check it.

VALENCIA: But after today's emergency hearing, there didn't appear to be any smoking gun evidence. Instead, Bradley facing questions about his own credibility.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you have any reason to lie?

BRADLEY: I don't know if speculation is lying.

VALENCIA: The two-hour hearing ending without the damaging testimony defense attorneys had hoped for, in their bid to get Willis disqualified and the case against Donald Trump and his allies tossed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would you speculate when she was asking you a direct question about when the relationships started and you don't want to testify to that in court? That's the best explanation.

BRADLEY: No, I have no direct knowledge of when the relationship started.


VALENCIA (on camera): There's another hearing scheduled for Friday, where defense attorneys are expected to introduce cell phone data which they received from a subpoena and they say shows that there was thousands of phone interactions between Nathan Wade and Fani Willis before they said they started dating.


The efforts to disqualify Fani Willis and get him removed from this case pick back up Friday at 1:00 p.m. -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Nic, thank you very much, in Atlanta tonight.

I want to go now to Ryan Goodman, our OUTFRONT legal analyst.

And, Ryan, you watched Terrence Bradley's testimony today. You are really watching it I know throughout the afternoon.

So what do you think? Do you think it'll help Fani Willis?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: I certainly think it does not hurt Fani Willis. He didn't say anything to contradict Fani Willis's or Nathan Wade's testimony. So in that respect, I assume that they have read the sigh of relief in a certain sense.

I do think he was in some sense not such a great witness that in some ways you may have heard her to some degree because the judge could actually think this person is keeping the information from the court. And the reason for him to do that is because it is damaging to Willis and Wade, but that's not very strong. It is not a big win for the defense at all. It was, as you describe it, pretty much of a dud for them and very much of a windfall for Wade and Willis.

BURNETT: So how does this then playing -- the other question the judge has, which is whether to decide to admit the cell phone data as evidenced. That's a private investigator who was hired by a team Trump said that he found Wade's phone, a minimum of 35 times, connected to an extended period to cell phone towers near Willis's condo, that there were 2,000 voice calls and about 12,000 text messages between Willis and Wade in 2021.

That's significant because obviously that's before Willis hired Wade and its before when the two of testified under oath that their relationship began, which they said was after he was hired. So that data could be very crucial.

Does anything in what we saw today give you a sense of where the judge will go as to whether admitting that evidence happens?

GOODMAN: I think there's high likelihood is that the judge will admit the evidence and then give it to kind of scrutiny that one might think it deserves and give the prosecutors the opportunity to try to rebut it.

Today, the judge time and again, gave the defense counsel license to ask certain questions, license even ask questions that are already been asked, each time he was giving them an opportunity to try to make their case. So I think the judge might think, look, the cell phone data information looks like it could be very important. It could decide the outcome. And so --

BURNETT: And do you think it could disqualify her if he deems it real?

GOODMAN: It's the strange quality of life in a certain sense. I think if it does come in and he deems at real, it won't necessarily disqualify her because it shows a conflict of interest, but it could just very easily disqualify her because we ensure that she and Nathan Wade lie to the court. It would directly contradict their testimony. I think that's the problem for them.

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

And next, an Olympic fencer from Russia gave it all up, defecting to the United States. Tonight, taking on the Russian president head-on. He's OUTFRONT.

Plus, our Fred Pleitgen with a rare look inside Iran, where voters are anxious to send a warning to the United States that they are ready to take it on.



BURNETT: Tonight, warning shot from the Kremlin. Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov telling Western nations not to send troops to Ukraine unless they want all-out war with Russia. This after the French President Emmanuel Macron said the possibility, quote, cannot be ruled out. Attention coming as a former Russian Olympic fencer who defected from his country over Putin's invasion is bravely speaking out tonight here OUTFRONT.

Konstantin Lokhanov left Russia the night before the war broke out. Didn't know about the war obviously, it happened that night. He never went back outraged by what Russia was doing to its neighboring country.

A decision cost him his marriage, cost him his country. It's not safe for him to return to visit. Now, he's living in the United States trying to obtain citizenship to compete for a chance to represent America in the 2024 Summer Olympics.

OUTFRONT now, Konstantin Lokhanov.

And, Konstantin, I'm so glad to have the opportunity to speak with you. You know, as you and I are talking tonight, a human rights activist in Russia was jailed, the Russian American ballerina is in jail now on a treason charge, Alexei Navalny, Putin's top foe, of course, is dead. And yet Constantine, you are speaking to me tonight.

How much risk are you taking on by continuing to speak out for what you believe in?

KONSTANTIN LOKHANOV, RUSSIAN OLYMPIC FENCER WHO FLED TO THE U.S.: First of all, thanks for invitation. And I hope I'm not that big enemy as Alexei Navalny, but I think I just need to being careful, but I don't see the point of being scared because it's exactly what they want us to. They want us to being scared and just don't share our opinion. And I just don't want to let them what they want to and I wanted to just share my thoughts as it is.

BURNETT: And so, you speak out and you continue to speak out, Konstantin.

When you left, you happen to be out of the country the day before the war started and you didn't go back because you chose to not go you chose this path. It has come though at great personal cost see you. Your wife wouldn't leave Russia. I know you had to get divorced.


You've lost your wife. You've lost your country.

What has this been like for you?

LOKHANOV: It was a hard time but I wouldn't say it was hard to make that decision because like it's -- took me like one day to decide that I don't want to go back anymore just because I don't want to be part of that.

The thing that I love there is more about just the cost to being free and being open to talk, and being open to leave the life that I want to and she's (ph) my choice. So I decided that I can pay that cost. For me, the -- life valuables (ph) are more important.

BURNETT: Konstantin, you know, you say it took, you just one day to make the decision that it was easy in that sense, but obviously, there are so many for whom it was not easy, right? Even many who stay who are still torn or don't know. But -- but you were able to make a choice so quickly. What was it that made it so easy for you?

LOKHANOV: I think because like my athlete career, like I traveled a lot, and I saw the world. I pretty much knew how the people's living in different countries, and also like my cultural sense my life valuable, they are more American than Russian. And I think that's one of the main differences is that like I was pro-American, pro-European as my mindset even before the war started.

BURNETT: And, you know, Konstantin, the last Olympics as we're getting ready for the Olympics this summer, were in Beijing, it was literally in the days before the war began and everybody was watching Putin. It's been almost, or it's been two years now since that moment

How much further do you think Putin is willing to go, Konstantin?

LOKHANOV: I have no idea, unfortunately. We're always thinking that he can go further, but was -- so what happened like nine days from now, they murdered Navalny, that everyone's thinking is like, you know, like the next level that's impossible. But here we are.

BURNETT: And, Konstantin, you are an Olympic level fencer. I know you're trying to get us citizenship in time to have a chance to compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic fencing team this summer.

Given everything that you've been through, what would it mean to you to have the opportunity to complete -- compete in the Olympics for the U.S.?

LOKHANOV: It would be honor for me because I already said that, like my life and mindset, swear-in American and I'm feeling home when I'm in America. And it would be honor for me to -- in the best way to stay in the podium, and there is an American flag around me. I just dream that it might happen.

BURNETT: Well, Konstantin, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me tonight. I'm grateful. Thank you.

LOKHANOV: Thank you. Thank you so much.

BURNETT: Also tonight, the U.S. is ramping up pressure on Iran to stop providing weapons, including long-range missiles to Putin, announcing fresh sanctions against Iran. It comes as tension between the U.S. and Iran is rising as Iranians are now preparing to vote in a high-stakes election.

Our Fred Pleitgen is in Tehran with story that you will see first OUTFRONT.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Iranian conservatives with a show of force ahead of what many say will be a key election on Friday, supporting their leaderships tough stance against both the U.S. and Israel. His sons Ihsan and Hossein (ph) dressed up in military fatigues, voter Mohammed Kalantari says he wants to show the U.S. Iran strength.

They know that Iran is a powder cake, he says, it only takes a spark to blow up the entire region. Iranian youth, me and the children, are wearing these clothes to say that we are the soldiers of this country.

And this man says, through this election, we will prove that we can stand against the U.S. not only economically, but militarily, they are sanctioning us. But this will be solved soon. And then we will be a country sanctioning them.

Tension between the U.S. and Iran has reached a boiling point as Washington accuses Tehran of supporting Houthis in Yemen, firing missiles at cargo ships, as well as pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and Syria targeting U.S. bases there, including the January 28 attack killing three U.S. service members and wounding dozens.

Iran denies any involvement but has ripped into the U.S. for Washington support of Israel and its campaign against Hamas in Gaza.


At the conservative event, disdain for Israel on full display. Flags with a star of David on the floor for people to step on.

It certainly seems pretty clear how most of the people at this rally are going to vote at the upcoming parliamentary elections. But this event is really about something else. It's about getting out the vote. In fact, supreme leader of this country has urged people to head to the ballot boxes to make sure there will be a high turnout.

It's the first election since massive protests erupted in Iran in late 2022 following the death of Mahsa Amini after she was detained for violating hijab laws. On the streets of Tehran, get out the vote posters, nearly everywhere. But with many moderate candidates barred from running inflation high and the economy reeling from tough U.S. led sanctions, some say they feel unenthusiastic when we ask if they will vote.


PLEITGEN: The country belongs to the people, this man says. There should be participation the elections, but it should be freer with the presence of all groups and minorities.

It's unclear if Iran's leaders could persuade more people to vote in an election deemed pivotal for the country's future.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And, Erin, the leadership here, certainly trying to put on a full-court press to get people to go to the polls and vote. We're speaking a little bit about the candidates that were not allowed to run in this election, while some 15,000 are actually competing for the 290 seats in parliament. And again, the supreme leader himself also coming out and urging people to go to the polls -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Fred, thank you very much in Tehran tonight.

And OUTFRONT next, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s campaign has secured enough votes to qualify for the ballot in Arizona and Georgia. This could be crucial. Could it make him a serious spoiler in November?

And Wendy's joining the likes of Uber and airlines, which all use surge pricing, is paying more during peak times, the new normal.



BURNETT: We are just moments away from many of the polls closing in Michigan for tonight's crucial primaries. This as a pro-Robert F. Kennedy Jr. super PAC just announced that it has enough signatures for him to qualify for the ballot in both Arizona and Georgia.

Now, Biden won Arizona by just over 10,000 votes, and Georgia, of course, by 11,779 votes. A third party candidate could upend the entire election because Arizona and Georgia are two of the six closely watched swing states that could determine the outcome in November.

OUTFRONT now, Van Jones, the former special adviser to President Obama and longtime Republican pollster Ed Goeas.

And thanks so much to both of you. I appreciate your time.

Van, 10,000 votes in either of those states could turn the entire election. "New York Times"/Siena College poll for a poll in Arizona has Kennedy with 26 percent support, Biden and Trump a little bit ahead, but not much, 33 percent each.

Just to make the point, RFK junior could do a lot better than 10,000 votes in those two states.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, you can, and it is -- if you understand basic math, this is a shockwave through the Democratic Party because it takes a lot less than the amount of support he's got, especially among young people, to throw this whole thing to Biden. And we can lose some states, but we can't lose many.

And so we're having -- we're going to have a tough enough time in Georgia, and we're going to have a tough enough time in Arizona anyway. But this is a big deal. It is a very big deal and I think for me that my heartbreaks, I know RFK, Jr. In fact, he endorsed and wrote the foreword for my first book.


JONES: I'm very close to his sister, Kerry. He was an environmental champion hero of mine for a very long time, but if you don't have a pathway to win the White House, and I don't think that he's going to be on enough ballots to win the White House, then you shouldn't be doing this because you can only hurt Joe Biden and hand the country over to Donald Trump.

BURNETT: So, Ed, from all the data you see and the voters you're speaking to, who does RFK Jr. hurt the most in these -- let's just stick with Arizona and Georgia right now, Biden or Trump? ED GOEAS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER: Well, clearly, it comes what comes from Biden, but it does offset is offset a little bit by the fact that there are many Republicans, they are planning on staying at home and not voting for Trump. So the math is a little bit different than what you would traditionally look at.

Biden needs all those Democrats to turnout but this point, it looks like Biden will get more of the Democrats to turnout, even with a three -- a third party race, than Trump will in terms of the Republicans.

BURNETT: So which is -- which is crucial context here. And, of course, RFK Jr. says he wants to get on the ballot in all 50 states, Van. We'll see about that. I know you're skeptical, but Michigan is one that RFK Jr. is looking good on the ballot next. That's where they're focusing. And Michigan, of course, has those primaries tonight.

What are you looking at to gauge Biden's strength there? And obviously, that was as John King said, as far as the swing state goes, very comfortable victory for Biden last time around. But David Axelrod was saying last night, it appears that will be much closer this time.

JONES: Sure. I mean, Michigan is going to be tougher because you got a bunch of constituencies that we need that right now are grumpy to say the least. The big Muslim community there in Michigan, they are not happy with the way that Joe Biden has been handling the situation in Gaza. And you also have a lot of young people of color, especially African-Americans and some African-American men that are just frustrated in general with the state of things.

And so, we've got to -- you've got a very short period of time to get those two groups back on board. Don't forget, Donald Trump has won in Michigan before. He went Michigan in 2016, he lost Michigan in 2020 -- 2024, it is possible that he could win again.


So my thing with RFK is, again, he's going to the places that the swing states that are going to be the margins of victory for either candidate and that is, but his math right now, he is not on track to be an enough states to actually to win the presidency. He's just on track to be in enough states to cost Joe Biden the presidency.

BURNETT: So, Ed, I want to play part of Seth Meyers last night. He did an interview with Joe Biden and Joe Biden was trying to take on the central issue that is facing him and poll after poll, age, and tried to turn it against Donald Trump. Here's what he did.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Number one, you got to take a look, the other guy, he's about as old as time, but he can't remember his wife's name?

SETH MEYERS, TV HOST: Yeah BIDEN: Number two, it's about how old your ideas are. Look, I mean,

this is a guy wants to take us back. He wants to take us back in Roe v. Wade. He wants to take his back on a whole range of issues that are 50, 60 years. They've been solid American positions.


BURNETT: That he's referring -- Trump referring to his wife as Mercedes, it appears, as supposed to Melania, I guess that was the first reference.

Does this strategy work? Well, I'm going to late night show and taking the age issue head on in a joking way, but then trying to do it seriously, does that work?

GOEAS: Well, certainly works if he got a lot of people laughing and laughing at the other candidate. And also, I think showed him to be a little bit more on his toes and some people think he is, and I think that is very, very helpful in the process.

But, you know, his weakness in this campaign, there's an argument that will carry the most weight with the centrist voters out there, it's a question of will he last the next four years. And do you really want her to be the next president? That's going to be the thing used against him on age, not just as age, and I probably the more direct.

So the more he can show similar funkiness. I think it is good. I have always felt he is not as bad as what is portrayed out there in terms of his age. He may walk like an old man. I don't know that he thinks like an old man, and I think he has an opportunity to prove that in the next election.

BURNETT: All right. Well, both of you, thank you so very much. And I want everyone to know, you're also the author of "Question of Respect: Bringing Us Together in a Deeply Divided Nation", something we all hope we'll see more of.

Thanks to both of you.

And next, Wendy's wants to charge you more for a burger at lunchtime. So is that about to be the new normal?



BURNETT: Where's the beef?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's the beef?

ANNOUNCER: Some hamburger places you a lot less beef on a lot of bun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's the beef?


BURNETT: Wow, that's the way it is now. A lot of bun, a little beef that beef may cost you a lot more, too. It's because Wendy's will soon start testing digital menus. The change prices by the minute based on the demand.

Now, they call it dynamic pricing, better known as surge pricing. And Harry Enten is here to go beyond the numbers.

So, Harry, obviously this is driven by inflation and everybody knows inflation has been a very serious issue. But how big of an issue is it for chains like Wendy's, and McDonalds that are trying it?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yeah, I mean, look, my mom always said to me when I was growing up, do not go into the service industry, do not go into the restaurant business. And if you look at inflation right now, look, inflation has been bad over the past few years, right? Since the COVID, pandemic. But it's been up 20 percent overall.

Look at it for out-of-home dining restaurants, it's up 26 percent. That's how much the prices are even over the last year. It's up 5 percent, nearly double the overall inflation rate. Why is that? Well, we know that, you know, fast food restaurants employ a lot of low wage workers, right?

Those raises, those wages have been rising, especially as this job market has been so good, they don't have to stay in one place. They can go to a lot of other places.

How about the fact that commercial rents are still really, really high for a lot of folks? So restaurants are having to pass on the cost to the consumer and the result of that is higher fast food prices.

BURNETT: All right. And the thing is though when you think about it, actually, surge pricing is not new, right? Uber in the rain war or like pouring rain in Manhattan, we're starting to see it more and more.

So it actually would seem maybe Wendy's is just really late. They're getting all the outrage. But --

ENTEN: Yeah, I mean sure. How about airline tickets? We see, you know, surge pricing, dynamic pricing. You see it on Amazon, concert tickets, right? You go on and Ticketmasters doing all this stuff. And now it's coming --

BURNETT: I know Amazon did it.

ENTEN: Yeah, Amazon does it. Absolutely. Ive seen my cream soda go up and down when I try and buy it on there.

BURNETT: Oh, really.


BURNETT: It must be when I come in to buy it.

ENTEN: That's exactly. The two people who buy A&W cream soda.


ENTEN: There you go -- very good, although Tab out of business.

All right. But, you know, fast-food as well. But here's the real question, Erin. The real question is, is that demand going to be so high and they're going to be so few options that this dynamic or surge pricing will actually work for something like Wendy's when I could just go across the tree, maybe get a burger at a diner.

BURNETT: You could, but McDonalds is doing surge pricing too, right?

ENTEN: Yeah. They have they have certainly tried it a little bit. Now, we'll see if these are ultimately successful, but I think what this says something about the fast food industry at large, right? I'm used to going through a drive-thru right with my mom maybe when I was a kid to Burger King or McDonalds.


ENTEN: Perhaps you might go up and you may order in person. But what we see as more and more of McDonalds sales are digital. Look at the rise in the digital sales as a percentage of overall says. It was just 20 percent in 2021. Now, it's upwards of 40 percent. My goodness, gracious.

BURNETT: That is incredible. Wow, no more fish fillet in the drive- thru.

ENTEN: No more.

BURNETT: Where's my Wednesday afternoon on early pickup.

All right, Harry, thanks so much.

And thanks to all of you.

Special election coverage starts now.