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Erin Burnett Outfront

Supreme Court Keeps Trump On Ballot On Eve Of Major Election Day; Two Former Trump Aides Among Loyalists Hit With Prison Time; Trump, Biden Battle For Haley Followers As 15 States Vote Tomorrow; Putin Ally Makes Intentions Clear, "Ukraine Is Definitely Russia"; China, Russia Forge Unprecedented A.I. Military Alliance. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 04, 2024 - 19:00   ET




The Supreme Court hands Trump a win and we are now just hours away from the biggest day in the campaign yet, Super Tuesday. And tonight, a confident Trump celebrating the high court's decision to keep him on ballots nationwide.

Plus, the price of loyalty to Trump. Two of the former president's top aides are now facing prison time and a new guilty plea could put more of Trump's inner circle in jeopardy.

And seizing Ukraine. Russia is rolling out a new map that consumes much of the entire country of Ukraine. Tonight, we go to the front lines where Putin's men are facing little resistance tonight.

Let's go OUTFRONT.


And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the Supreme Court does it again, handing another major win to Donald Trump, allowing him to stay on the Colorado ballot and choosing to ignore the question at the heart of the case, which is whether Trump is an insurrectionist under the 14th Amendment.

It comes just hours before Trump is set to have his its biggest election night yet. Voters in 15 states, as you can see on that map, heading to the polls. There are 865 delegates up for grabs, and Trump could win nearly all of them. "The New York Times" right now is estimating 90 percent of those delegates will be awarded to Trump tomorrow. That would leave him just shy of the 1,215 needed to secure the Republican nomination for a third time.

Obviously, we'll see how those votes for tomorrow, but today, Trump sure is feeling the win at his back, praising the Supreme Court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It was a very important decision, were very well-crafted and I think it will go a long way toward bringing our country together, which our country needs.

Essentially, you cannot take somebody out of a race because an opponent would like to have it that way.


BURNETT: Well, today's ruling by the Supreme Court was historic and what it means, in addition to Colorado is a Trump will be on the ballot in two other states where he had been removed for inciting an insurrection, Maine and Illinois.

But just to be clear, you know, when you heard Trump there talking about the ruling. He is praising the court because it ruled in his favor. He is not praising the court because he believes in the American judicial system.


TRUMP: Every case that gets filed in the Ninth Circuit, we get beaten.

The courts are not helping us. I have to be honest with you. It's ridiculous. Somebody said I should not criticize judges, okay, Ill criticize judges.

Have been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall.


BURNETT: And Twitter after the Supreme Court ruled against him regarding the release of his taxes, Trump said, this is all a political prosecution. Well, the Supreme Court rejected his effort to overturn the election results in Texas. He tweeted the Supreme Court really let us down no wisdom, no courage.

His attorney raising eyebrows when she seemed to suggest that the court owes Trump because he appointed three of the current sitting justices.


ALINA HABBA, TRUMP ATTORNEY: You know, people like Kavanaugh, who the president fought for, who the president went through hell to get into place, he'll step up.


BURNETT: Of course, that's not what it's supposed to be about at all. Now, Kavanaugh did join for other conservative justices by writing that no state can kick any federal candidate, insurrection or not, off the ballot. And even though the final ruling in terms of being on the Colorado ballot was unanimous, the liberal justices and one conservative justice appointed by Trump, Amy Coney Barrett, did take issue with how far the ruling went.

The liberals writing: The American people have the power to vote for and elect candidates for national office. And that is a great and glorious thing. The men who drafted and ratified the 14th Amendment, however, had witnessed an insurrection and rebellion to defend slavery. They wanted to ensure that those who had participated in that insurrection and in possible future insurrections could not return to prominent roles.

Kristen Holmes begins our coverage. She's OUTFRONT live near Mar-a- Lago in Florida.

And, Kristen, I know you have been talking to your sources in the Trump campaign and, obviously, this is a big win, unanimous from the court. Where is the Trump campaign now focusing?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, their focus really is on the general election. I mean, they want to enter this week feeling very optimistic, both politically and legally, talk about what happens next legally, well, first of all, playing those clips was really something. It's very striking to see how Donald Trump talks about the court in various different stages particularly when he's not winning.


But today, he was very gracious.

Now he is going into this week, Super Tuesday. He is poised to win so many delegates that he becomes just shy of the GOP nomination.

And when I talk to his various advisers, they say they want to look past anything primary related and focus just on Joe Biden, just on this general election. And in fact, there were starting to talk about how he could counter-program State of the Union. They were looking at different ideas. He could live-post it on Truth Social, he could put up videos.

At one point, they were talking about having him do some remarks as a prebuttal to the State of the Union. But really, again, they are entering this week, as you said, feeling very good about where they stand both politically and legally and its not just about winning this case. They thought they were going to win this case. They felt like this was the case of all of their different legal cases that they had the most legs to stand out of the most evidence. They thought that they were going to be successful here.

The part that's really carried them is this immunity claim as the Supreme Court deciding to take up that argument, the reason for that is because they believe and if you talk to many, if not all of Trumps advisers that I've spoken to, they do not believe he is going to face a federal case before the November 2024 election.

And remember, this was there big goal? Their goal was to push and delay an exhaust every single avenue. So, there was not any kind of trial in terms of federal trials before that November election with the hope that Donald Trump wins in November, then can dismiss these cases and they move forward. The cases go away.

They believe that is happening now, particularly given the fact back that if you look at the Supreme Court timeline and, of course, we don't have confirmation that it's going to be pushed past November. But if you look at the timeline, hearing the remarks in April, late April, getting an answer in June, having to prep for the trial, giving them months of discovery of preparation. They believe it's going to push it past that November deadline and the deadline, of course in the election. And that is what they've been trying to do this entire time.

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

And our coverage continuing here, I want to go to the Democratic governor of Colorado, Jared Polis.

And thank you very much. I appreciate your time, Governor.

So, you know, you hear Kristen, that Trump's team, they feel good. They feel great. Legal side of things, they're feeling good. They don't believe any trials are going to happen in the federal cases until after the election.

So you've had a few hours here to digest this. Do you think the Supreme Court today made the right decision in saying that Trump has to be on the ballot in Colorado?

GOV. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO: Well, tomorrow, Super Tuesday in Colorado, of course, other Republican ballot are not only Donald Trump and Nikki Haley, but several people who dropped out after the filing deadlines.

So, in November, I think the Democratic nominee should face the Republican nominee. And frankly, if the Republican nominee is Donald Trump, and that seems likely. I'm confident Colorado will go for President Biden.

BURNETT: But I guess just to try to understand, in terms of the decision itself, I guess you're not surprised by it. Probably no ones really surprised by it. Were you surprised that it was unanimous? I mean, do you feel disappointment or not?

POLIS: No, I'm glad it's unanimous. I mean, I think if anything really adds authority to the court. They're overseeing a number of different cases related to the former president, including cases that could affect the timeline for his criminal charges and potentially even the civil charges against him.

So again, I've always said I think the Democratic nominee should face the Republican nominee in November. And I think that Donald Trumps brand is frankly toxic to the Republican brand in Colorado, and that's one of the reasons that he's running so far behind here.

BURNETT: So the group that brought the Trump ballot challenge in Colorado, they're arguing governor that they lost on technical -- legal technicalities at the Supreme Court. And they're honing in, obviously on the crucial thing here, which is that the courts opinion did not address the heart of the matter, right, which is the reason why Trump would have been removed from the ballot, which is whether he's an insurrectionist. They just avoided that, which of course your states Supreme Court had -- had done.

Do you think the court should have gone further? Given what's at stake, given in fact, that this timeline, as Kristen, is just laying out. It means that the American people may not get any kind of illegal verdict other than this, right?

Should they have made a statement there on the insurrection issue?

POLIS: Well, first of all, you know, when talking to me, you're talking to a non-attorney. So I just want to make that disclaimer. There are governors that are attorneys as well. I was in business before I went into politics.

I don't think -- I think that former President Trump became less popular with January 6, but frankly, it was a lot of the shenanigans during his presidency that I think made him is unpopular as he is in Colorado and frankly underwater across the country as well. I think he's really the weakest possible Republican nominee.

And while as an American, we wish that both parties had strong candidates. I also happen to be a Democrat.


And obviously, he's somebody that I'm confident we can defeat in November.

BURNETT: So you've said having Trump on the ballot is better than Biden -- for Biden than facing Nikki Haley, at least you've made that point before, Governor. And now, they're, of course, "The New York Times" poll this weekend perhaps gave you pause as it did many and understanding at least the current state of the race according to that poll. It shows Trump beating Biden and nearly three-quarters of voters in that "New York Times" poll say Biden is just too old to be an effective president. And that includes 61 percent of voters who supported Biden last time around governor.

Now I know that you were recently with Biden at the White House. You're the vice chair of the National Governors Association. So you just had a chance to spend some time with him personally.

What can you tell us about that? Do you have any concerns about his mental acuity or ability to do the job?

POLIS: Well, look, first, of course, it's going to be a race down to the wire. It was last time, too. Look, no, I spent a lot of time with the president and he actually sat at his table for dinner. He was nice enough to entertain me and Governor Cox and my daughter was with me.

And he and Jill were terrific and he just spoke frankly with us and 42 governors, or however many were at that event. He answered questions on the spot, even called in additional questions. So -- I mean, he was in Colorado few months ago with -- in Pueblo,

where we visited a wind turbine factory. I got to spend a lot of time with him. Look, the president is terrific. I mean, he's the same guy, he always was. I got to know when he was vice president, you know, was just a wonderful, thoughtful person, always shows that empathy, empathy, and warmth, and he surrounds himself with a great team that I think is doing well with record low unemployment.

And I think inflation is on his way down and those fundamental will help his reelection.

BURNETT: But in terms of the mental acuity issue, just since this is clearly so front and central with voters, is there sort of any anecdote that you could share on that?

POLIS: Well, again -- you know, I mean, first of all, he's same age basically as the likely Republican nominee. I mean, they're in high school at the same time and --


POLIS: -- I think that there's probably -- if you're comparing health problems to health problems, there's -- it's probably more likely than the other guy has more problems and the likely Democratic nominee.

But no, look, he -- he's right on top of everything. I mean, he's the same guy that I've always known and he's able, you know, he enjoys telling funny stories and engaging, and I think it's great that the staff is getting them out there more, right? I mean, you know, it's been -- it's busy being president. I get that. I'm a chief executive of a state. You always have to balance the work you do with being available to the public.

I'm glad he's getting out there more. I'm glad he went to the border. I'm glad he shows his strength. And I think the more he gets out there, interacts with people, the better -- the better he'll do.

And, you know, you also got to remember that this is a guy that has always had a stuttering issue, is very open about it.


POLIS: He's talking about it. He's -- you know, and I think that's part of his charm, frankly, is that very human dimension to the story. But, you know, you're not going to compare them on oratory to an orator, but he's somebody that one-on-one and in small groups has always been the dynamic, thoughtful leader that he is today.

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

And the former --

POLIS: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Good to see you, Governor. And the former Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb is OUTFRONT with me now.

And, Ty, here we are. You predicted it three months ago. You came on the show. You predicted how you thought the Supreme Court would rule on the Colorado case.

Lest anyone forgot, here is Ty Cobb three months ago.


TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I think it could be 9-0 and Supreme Court for Trump.


BURNETT: You are right. So what stands out to you, Ty, in the actual opinions?

COBB: So I thought the opinions were solid. I think -- I think the court picked it past that, you know, brought it back unanimity by focusing on the federalism aspects, making it clear that the decision to bump a presidential candidate from state ballot was a uniquely federal decision, whether -- whether a former president and could be disqualified uniquely federal decision.


COBB: And I think they're -- I think they're 100 percent right. It's nine-nothing. Nothing -- nothing really to argue about there.

The argument that they have over whether the court went too far as Amy Coney Barrett made it clear, you know, that's understandable. She agrees that they went too far.


COBB: On the other hand, they didn't go radically far and Congress is the only entity mentioned in article three that could have enforcement authority. You'd have to -- you'd have to really reach out to drive authority elsewhere. So I don't think you can quarrel necessarily about the opinion being, you know, radical in any way.

The incremental steps that they took to enforce the perception they only Congress could act, I think was the right to -- was the right move on.


On the other hand, you know, as Amy Coney Barrett said, the most important takeaway here is the unanimity.

BURNETT: Yes. And that is important. And I -- whether you like the ruling or not, something I hope people can celebrate, that those justices who clearly disagreed, for example, on the issue of presidential immunity and how to handle that, did come to a unanimous decision here, and were able to do that.

But this issue of insurrection, and obviously, you had -- I know you weren't expecting them to weigh in on that, but were you surprised at all that they didn't? Obviously, as you point out, saying, very narrowly on the issue of federalism here, and not weighing in on the issue of whether the former president was an insurrectionist when -- given the schedule in the calendar here, we may get no ruling from the court that has anything to do with his role in January 6. This might've been the only option.

COBB: No, you're 100 percent, Erin. And as always, you know, this is -- this is a situation where they had no reason. Once you -- once you decide that the state court had no authority to act, whatever they did is irrelevant.

So, no, there was no reason to parse it. And I will say, you know, people forget that on the insurrection side, it's not as difficult as some pundits have suggested that insurrectionists, they're going to be running wild.

There is a statute Congress has already acted, 18 USC 2383, which criminalizes insurrection and disqualifies people who are convicted under that statute. You know, should the -- should Biden's justice department want to pursue that? They could do that. Likewise, keep in mind that the January 6 committee interpreted the statute or -- excuse me, the interpreted the section three issue identically with the Supreme Court and recommended that Congress take action under that under that amendment to, A, declare an insurrection and be disqualified Trump.

Now, Speaker Pelosi would not let that come to the floor largely, people suspect because she wanted to have Trump to kick around in the selection but Congress did at least suggest that they should proceed that way through the January 6 commission.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Ty, as always for that.

COBB: My pleasure, and always nice to be with you.

BURNETT: All right.

And next, Trump Org's chief financial officer is about to go back to the notoriously brutal Rikers Prison because of his loyalty to Trump. He is not the only person who is now ending up behind bars for the former president.

Plus, in tonight's Voters OUTFRONT series, a Biden-Trump rematch has voters in one battleground state, looking for another option.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been in a trigger for a while now, at the whole notion of a legitimate third party.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: And two U.S. adversaries, both nuclear superpowers, are joining forces using artificial intelligence in their militaries, and as I speak, reshaping war, as we know it.



BURNETT: Tonight, two Trump allies facing prison time, the former Trump Org CFO, Allen Weisselberg pleading guilty to perjury over lies he told in a 2020 deposition, less than a year after he was released from prison for committing tax fraud at the Trump Org.

The Justice Department also urging an appeals court to send ex-Trump adviser Peter Navarro to prison. He is challenging his contempt of Congress conviction. They are far from the only Trump allies to learn the price of loyalty to Trump.

Brynn Gingras is OUTFRONT.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Allen Weisselberg heading to jail again after serving 100 days in the notorious Rikers Island prison.

REPORTER: Any message to Mr. Trump? Anything to say?

GINGRAS: And not a word incriminating Donald Trump, the man who secured loyalty from Weisselberg for decades, even now, after two more criminal convictions.

The former Trump Organization chief financial officer and protector of the Trump family money, raising his hand today and admitting that he lied under oath --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you familiar with that acronym?



GINGRAS: -- in a 2020 video deposition and on the stand during the civil fraud trial last year when the New York attorney general accused Trump of inflating his assets for his financial benefit.

TRUMP: They are fraudulent people because they rule the house that was 18 -- they put down as $18 million, and it's worth maybe close to 100 times that amount.

GINGRAS: It all comes down to the square footage of Trump's three- floor triplex in New York City. The Manhattan district attorney says Weisselberg knew Trump inflated its square footage by nearly three times, over-evaluating its worth by about $200 million, yet Weisselberg lied for him anyway. The 76-year-old joins a growing list of Trump associates whose loyalty to the former president landed them in hot water.


GINGRAS: Former White House adviser to Trump, Peter Navarro, appealing a four-month sentence for refusing to testify and provide evidence to the congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack.

Steve Bannon showing the same loyalty to Trump, the MAGA enthusiast --

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: Trump won! Trump won! Trump won!

GINGRAS: -- is also fighting his conviction on similar charges. Courts found separate convictions against Trump allies, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, but Trump exonerated both men.

TRUMP: I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad.

GINGRAS: Then there are others formerly in Trumps orbit who have already seen the inside of a prison cell, like his once campaign chairman Paul Manafort, sentenced to seven years, but released early during the coronavirus pandemic.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: To the world, he wants to, again, appear to have this thick skin. He's not thick-skinned.

GINGRAS: And the most outspoken former friend, now enemy of Trump's, Michael Cohen, who served time in federal prison after lying to Congress and violating campaign finance law.

COHEN: I believe that he will be found guilty on all charges.

GINGRAS: Cohen now playing getting to continue his crusade against his former boss by testifying for the state at Trumps criminal trial in New York.

Brynn Gingras. CNN, New York.


BURNETT: All right. Ryan Goodman, OUTFRONT legal analyst, is with me.

Okay. So you believe that this guilty plea from Allen Weisselberg could have far-reaching implications in other Trump cases.

So what exactly do you mean?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: So I think it has ripple effects in the two New York cases. So the upcoming criminal trial for falsifying business records. At this point, it would be very difficult for Trump to put --

BURNETT: This is the Stormy Daniels hush money case.

GOODMAN: Yeah, exactly. And Allen Weisselberg might have been a witness for the defense but it's very hard to now put him on because the prosecutors will say, well, look at this person, he lied before for you in this prior trial that just happened in New York, the civil fraud trial. So why would you believe him now?

And they could even use it affirmatively to say, this is a person who just pled guilty to lying to courts in order to cover up cooking the books. And what is he here for? But he was involved with you, the defendant, Mr. Trump, in cooking the books with respect to the hush money payment, same kind of set of allegations. I think that's one big one.

The second one is the New York City fraud trial that's now on appeal to $450 million judgment.


GOODMAN: It kind of insulates the judgment because that's part of the argument in favor of the lower-court factual findings that the judge found that many of the witnesses on Trump's side were not credible. This person don't just non-credible. He's now just pleaded guilty to having lied in the court about trying to cover up there.

BURNETT: So, serious implications.

Okay. Meantime, in Fulton County, we're still waiting on that judge, that he had said it could take him up to two weeks, but it could come at any moment, whether he's going to disqualify Fani Willis or not. Due to alleged misuse of taxpayer funds because of the relationship she was having with her lead prosecutor.

So, today there was a state Senate committee in Georgia that subpoenaed Ashleigh Merchant, who was the attorney arguing to get rid of Fani Willis on the Trump side here, who had raised the allegations of misconduct. Now that committee doesn't have the power to remove Willis from the case. But is the committee still a risk or a threat to Willis?

GOODMAN: I certainly think so because I think the follow-up is easily can be the question of, for example, did Ms. Willis make false statements when she testified in these proceedings that we've just had in the last couple of weeks, did she testify falsely about the relationship? And that's the cell phone data that we've talked about that seems to contradict her testimony that that relationship started in 2021, and that would be very bad for her. So, no, they don't have enforcement power, but could they could really raise the stakes. Public pressure could be enormous if it's found that the district attorney, in fact, lied to the court, that would be the problem for her.

BURNETT: Right. And a hugely, hugely reputationally issue and also for the people believing in come here.

All right. Ryan, thank you very much. GOODMAN: Thanks.

BURNETT: And next, our Voters OUTFRONT series with Trump on the cusp of securing the Republican nomination. Where will Nikki Haley supporters go?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, we're trapped with that mouthful of vomit. But I can't vote for Joe Biden.


BURNETT: And a Putin ally saying what he really thinks about a Russian power grab that gives most of Ukraine to Putin.



BURNETT: Live pictures right now from Fort Worth, Texas. That's where Nikki Haley will be taking the stage in a moment for our final campaign event before tomorrows super Tuesday contests. Republican voters in 15 states heading to the polls with more than a third of the GOP delegates at stake.

Jeff Zeleny has the latest dispatch and our Voters OUTFRONT series from a battleground Super Tuesday state.


KIM BRAND, NORTH CAROLINA VOTER: I would vote for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in a heartbeat.


STACEY VAN GRONIGEN, NORTH CAROLINA VOTER: We're trapped with that mouthful of vomit, but I can't vote for Joe Biden.

ZELENY (voice-over): Kim Brand (ph) and Stacey Van Gronigen are both voting for Nikki Haley on Tuesday and dreading what likely comes next.

At a weekend rally in North Carolina, they watched Haley together --


ZELENY: -- but parted ways that the notion of a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Should she not win the nomination, what will you do in November?


ZELENY: Brand, a retired banker, said she'll back Biden. Van Gronigen, a retired consultant, said she'll vote for Trump again. VAN GRONIGEN: First time I did with joy. The second time I did with my

nose plug. But ill do it again with my nose plug. I just can't believe though that that's what we had to choose from.

HALEY: We have to start --

ZELENY: In the waning in days of the primary, conversations with Haley, voters offer important lessons, perhaps less so for her own candidacy than for Trump, Biden, or even a third party candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In November, if she's not on the ballot at all, I'm voting for Biden, because I don't want Donald Trump to be anywhere near my country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been intrigued for a while now at the whole notion of a legitimate third party.

HALEY: If you don't think you need that 30 or 40 percent of us, you are showing exactly why you're going to lose a general election.

ZELENY: North Carolina, one in 15 states holding Republican contest Tuesday, is emerging as an early general election battleground.


The fast-growing suburbs and college educated voters are in the sights of both parties as the next chapter of the campaign takes shape.


ZELENY: Anderson Clayton is chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. It's been 16 years since Barack Obama won here, the last Democrat to do so.

Trump's margin of victory has narrowed, a little more than one point in 2020 down from more than three points in 2016.

CLAYTON: My job in my opinion, right, is to go chase every Democrat that from 2008 did not vote afterwards, did not see themselves represented in this party afterwards.

ZELENY: Billy Ward is vice chairman of the Wake County Republican Party in Raleigh. He draws a different lesson in the booming population growth.

BILLY WARD, VICE CHAIR, WAKE COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY: We see a lot of people that are moving in because even though they're Democrats, they're frustrated with the way the Democrats have been running their former states, their former cities and in many ways, the country.

ZELENY: The big question is whether the fall election becomes a stark choice with Trump or referendum on Biden, the economy and more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think people are ready to go back to what we have four years ago. ZELENY: Sara Reddy Jones (ph) misses Trump's policies and said she can

tolerate all that comes with it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Suburban women are afraid they can't pay the bills. They're having to go back to work. You know, at the end of the day, they're worried about personal safety and they're worried about providing for their families.

HALEY: Go out and vote on Tuesday.

ZELENY: As Haley weighs whether Super Tuesday will be her last stand, supporters like Brand and Von Gronigen brace for a long road to November.

So will you try and work on each other over the next eight months or your --

BRAND: No, we value independently.


ZELENY (on camera): So, of all the states voting tomorrow, North Carolina stands out for what it could mean for the fall. And those Nikki Haley voters are squarely in the middle. Now there's no doubt as you heard there some supporters or anti-Trump, but many, many we spoke to also anti-Biden.

But, Erin, the outcome of this primary could expose Trumps vulnerabilities, particularly among college educated voters in those fast-growing suburbs, where Biden also has considerable ground to makeup. If he wants to turn it into a winning battleground and earn those 16 electoral votes.

BURNETT: All right. Jeff, thank you very much. Fascinating.

Everyone could learn from those two women's friendship and finding independent thinking and being able to be friends, such close friends with someone voting the other way.

OUTFRONT now, Kristen Soltis Anderson, Republican strategist and pollster, along with Karen Finney, the former senior spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.

All right. So, Kristen, you just heard those Super Tuesday voters telling Jeff that they're intrigued by the idea of a legitimate third party is how they put it and obviously no labels, that group has said they'd be opened to Nikki Haley leading that ticket. She's publicly rejected it, but she's got a lot of money. I mean, she just raised $12 million in February.

So what do you think it would actually due to the race if -- and I understand it's an if she's currently rejecting -- but if she pursued an independent run, what would it do, Kristen?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If Nikki Haley pursued an independent run, it would really make things challenging for Donald Trump to put together the coalition he would need to win in November. You do not want to go into a general election in these polarized times with a divided party.

Now I think it is highly unlikely that Nikki Haley would ever do this. She has a long career in politics. I think she has her sights set on a future Republican nomination. Running as an independent would really just sink that particular boat for the long term.

But I think if somebody was compelling as an independent, we do see a real dissatisfaction in both major party presumptive nominees this time around.

BURNETT: Right, and, of course, as you point out, you know, when you look at the generational divide, she talks about this new generation. I mean, she is young. She's got a lot ahead of her, if she does want to pursue more in Republican politics, obviously.

But, Karen, for those sitting at home, they suddenly say, wait a minute, what if there was a ballot choice and it's Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, and RFK, Jr.?


BURNETT: What the heck happens?

FINNEY: Donald Trump likely becomes our next president.

Thankfully, you know, one thing about no labels. They've said they're interested in her. It's my understanding she's not interested in them, and that's smart because that is a slush fund for the two people, the donors who founded it. They've even said their goal is not to win, it's to offer a choice.

And I would just remind people, all those women who were bawling when Donald Trump won in 2016 those folks who voted for Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, how did you feel when you found out the total Trump won? So I think that's a history we don't want to see repeat itself, but I think we -- you know, look as Democrats, we were taking it very seriously, the potential challenge.

I just wanted -- the one other thing I would say about Nikki Haley, though, she is a smart politician. And I think she probably knows her future is in the Republican Party, not as an independent. And if she was seen as a spoiler, that could be a problem.


I think she should go out and campaign for other candidates down ballot.

BURNETT: So, Kristen, the context here, of course, is, here's another poll, I mentioned "The New York Times" at the beginning of the show. So let me give you the "A.P." one now, 80 percent of independent voters are not confident in Biden's mental capabilities. Fifty-six percent say the same about Trump. I mean, it is overwhelming in terms of people feeling this way about Biden, much more than they do about Trump.

And yet, listen to Trump this weekend.


TRUMP: And Putin, you know, has so little respect for Obama that he started to throw around the nuclear war terror. You heard that -- nuclear.

The Biden border will -- well, you know this right? The Biden border bill.

Did you just see Maduro, Venezuela -- it's unbelievable.

We are a nation that just recently heard that Saudi Arabia and Russia will repeat (ph) -- will be reducing --


BURNETT: And, you know, people pull together these clips, Kristen. We've all seen them on Twitter, you know, to -- they're trying to make the point that, oh, look at Trump. He stumbles, he confuses Pelosi and Haley, and he confuses Biden and Obama.

But why isn't that resonating with voters in the same way that it is with Biden on age?

ANDERSON: Well, this has been part of Nikki Haley's message for the last couple of weeks now, is that it is unfathomable that as a country, this is the choice that we're going to be facing.

I think the reason its hit Biden a little bit harder thus far is that he has stayed more off the radar. Most of what Americans hear about him are these gaffes, where for Donald Trump, there's a lot of -- well, he's just weird. Well, he just says stuff, kind of priced into how people already think about him.

With that said, I do think that clips like the one you just showed if that begins to at least eliminate some of the advantage Trump has over Biden on the who is older and more with it question, that could be a problem if enough of them accumulate as we get closer to November.

BURNETT: And, Karen, Evan Osnos just got a rare interview with the president, when you talk about him appearing more.

And, Evan said he did not see much of a difference its in the president physically and he writes in his article for "The New Yorker" that he wrote about this, quote, his voice is thin and clotted and his gestures have slowed. But in our conversation, his mind seemed unchanged. He never bungled a name or a date.

That's an honest assessment, right? I mean, no one wants to hear their voice being clotted and thin. But mind seems unchanged, never bungling a name or a date -- is that bar high enough for voters?

FINNEY: Well, look, I think it's going to play itself out over the coming months. I mean, Americans are going to have to see that for themselves. But I will say as someone who has had worked for people -- and Evan Osnos profile is no joke. I mean, that's -- those are tough, long interviews

So, that's -- for those of us who know that, that's a positive sign.

But again, I think its going to be more about the president getting out there and talking to people for folks to see for themselves. I will also say though the amount of coverage of Joe Biden and his age has far outmatched --


FINNEY: -- what we've seen about Trump. So I agree, we may see that even out.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate it.

And tomorrow, we will have special coverage of the Super Tuesday contest. It starts live at 4:00 Eastern with Wolf Blitzer and me.

And next, Ukraine is definitely Russia -- those are the words of a top Putin ally while standing in front of this map, Ukraine is basically swallowed. It comes as dwindling American support is being felt on the battlefield. We're going to take you live to eastern Ukraine. Our reporters been embedded with those troops for days.

And a dangerous alliance. China and Russia comparing notes on the military capabilities of A.I.



BURNETT: Tonight, quote, Ukraine is definitely Russia. That message coming from top Putin, ally Dmitry Medvedev today, while he was standing in front of a massive map.

And if you look at that map, it makes it clear Russia's goal is to completely -- to consume, consume Ukraine.

And the reality on the battlefield tonight remains grim.

So our Nick Paton Walsh has been on those front lines now for days to see with his own eyes, and now he has this report that you will see first OUTFRONT.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a lonely path ahead. The Russians have never been louder or closer.

Occupied Bakhmut is just up the road. But now, some Ukrainian tank guns are silent just when they're needed most. Here, they don't have enough shell. Sometimes they just won't far at all for a whole day. Other days is still shooting constantly. And it is loud on the other side of that hill and it's sort of surreal to hear that sort of noise over there and see this tank unit having to ration their armor.

YAROSLAV, UKRAINE'S 42ND MECHANIZED BRIGADE (translated): We have people, but without weapons. This is not a war you can win with a sword.

WALSH: We learned they didn't fire at all that day, all the day before or the next day.

The silence here is what losing sounds like. So too is what these soldiers had to say.

If the Americans don't give money, what's going to happen?

UKRAINIAN SOLDIER (translated): I think we're all going to die. Everybody who is here. We will be no more.

WALSH: Is this the worst you've seen it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, definitely, definitely. I think this year is going to be the worse year in the war. I do know that there's certain units that they're running out of tanks.

WALSH: How angry does it make you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I'm pissed. I'm absolutely pissed off. There's no point in trying to paint this in any sort of light where its good for us that Russia takes Ukraine.


That's going to be very, very, very bad for us geopolitically.

WALSH: South near Avdiivka, homes that dealt with about ten years of war just up the road finally are emptying out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): You know, the house shook four times already. It's made of clay and straw that every time I think that's it. The most scary would be if that horde (the Russians) come here. There can be no trusting people whose hands are covered in blood.

WALSH: The skyline is bleak enough as it is but now rumbles with Russia advancing.

Ukraine said it would hold steady at three villages near here after it left Avdiivka. That hasn't happened. All three are now heavily contested at best. And the noise of the Russian approach is louder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): Donbas was Ukraine, we were living a normal life. We had jobs. I will turn 70 soon. I've been married for 52 years. We will be buried together. Right here.

WALSH (translated): Did you expect the Russians to get so close? UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): We didn't expect it. We thought it would somehow settle, calm down.

WALSH: Some units had enough shells. They said these firing American rounds in a donated Paladin -- but still less than before. We didn't see much in the way of heavy defenses around here. And the worry is, was and will be the Russia does not stop.

It may not be huge and sudden enough to make the West pay urgent attention, but that's exactly what Putin wants anyway.


WALSH (on camera): Now, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying that in February, Ukraine has managed to down 15 Russian jets and also his defense intelligence officials suggesting they've managed to take out a bridge 500 miles inside Russia. That's the changing nature of this war though, because Ukraine is showing capabilities, it didn't have at the start of the war, frankly, but still facing relentless Russian assaults along a key line of villages. And without holding them back, there is the risk that it begins to look like a sense of inability for them to hold the defensive line. They so clearly stated they wanted when they pulled out of Avdiivka, and that's extremely bad news right now, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Nick, thank you very much, in Eastern Ukraine tonight.

And next, this photo shows former President Trump meeting Black voters a look at that picture because there's one problem with it. It's fake.



BURNETT: Tonight, former President Donald Trump posing with Black supporters, except for the picture is not real. The image was generated by Trump supporters using AI to target Black voters. But this picture, and we're putting a thing on, so its very clear, its not real, has been viewed more than 1 million times, in an election already ramping with A.I. misinformation, and misinformation that often comes from U.S. adversaries like Russia and China.

And tonight, our Will Ripley is reporting how those two countries are cooperating more than ever using A.I. and this time for military purposes.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two nuclear superpowers forging what some call a dangerous alliance that could reshape modern warfare. China and Russia, long time U.S. rivals, meeting in Beijing, strategizing a new battleground -- the military use of artificial intelligence. Detailed discussions the Russian foreign ministry says, potentially delving into A.I. powered weapons systems. A top military priority of Russia, China, and the U.S., autonomous submarines and warships, fighter jets, and ground combat vehicles, even testing swarms of A.I. powered drones, as shown in this Chinese state media video, weapons that could deliver increased firepower. Experts say A.I. could even influence military decision making. And analyzing vast amounts of satellite, radar and online data, giving commanders better and faster asked her understanding of the battlefield.

President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, agreeing to hold talks on A.I. in the spring, at their San Francisco summit last year.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to get our experts together to discuss risk and safety issues associated with artificial intelligence.

RIPLEY: The world's major military powers, all investing heavily in A.I. The U.S. State Department warns there are risks and military A.I. use has to be done responsibly. A warning in the West and the Far East.

SENIOR COL. WU QIAN, CHINESE DEFESNE MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): China is opposed to using A.I. advantages undermine the sovereignty of other countries.

RIPLEY: Chinese state media picking up reports on OpenAI's policy change, potentially allowing cooperation with the U.S. military. The report says: Beware of the U.S. military's collusion with tech giants.

Moscow and Beijing conspicuously absent from a U.S.-led coalition promoting responsible military use of A.I. and autonomy, raising questions about their intentions at a critical time.

Military experts warn the risk of a major global conflict no longer a distant threat, but a looming crisis. Ongoing wars in the Middle East and Ukraine threatening to spill over highly sensitive technology moving at lightning speed.

WU: China pays close attention to security risks posed by military applications of A.I. technologies.

China's military capabilities, expanding at an unprecedented pace, simmering tensions over Taiwan and the South China Sea, setting the stage for a catastrophic showdown as the world teeters on the brink of a new era of warfare, machines making life and death decisions on the battlefield.

Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.


BURNETT: And thanks for joining us.

Anderson starts now.