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Erin Burnett Outfront

Trump Appeals Ruling That Keeps Fani Willis On Georgia Case; Americans Held In Russia; Biden On A Roll? Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 19:00   ET




Breaking news, Trump appealing the judge's decision to keep Fani Willis on the Georgia case. This as we're learning about new developments in the Manhattan hush money case. Is Trump about to face an even stricter gag order?

Plus, Putin jailing more Americans using them as bargaining chips, as Evan Gershkovich marks one year in prison today and Paul Whelan is in his fifth year. We'll talk to their friends and family and America's top hostage negotiator.

And Biden on offense, mocking Trump, targeting Republican voters and raising massive amounts of cash. Is this a turning point in his campaign?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, there are major developments in two of Trump's high-profile trials. First, a late filing by Trump's team to reverse a judge's decision that allowed Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis to stay on the election interference case against Trump writing, quote, D.A. Willis has covered herself and her office in scandal and disrepute as she has squandered her credibility and repeatedly and flagrantly violated the heightened ethical standards demanded of her position.

The evidence of her friend's misconduct is overwhelming and her disqualification is required.

Now, this move is not just aimed at ousting Willis because of her past relationship with her former top prosecutor. It's also another example of Trump's tried and true legal strategy that has worked so well for him. And that is delay, delay, delay.

The Georgia Court of Appeals has 45 days to decide, whether it will take the case if they decline, Trump could then take the case two, the Georgia Supreme Court, and its unclear how this appeal will impact the timing. But remember, Willis wants to start this case in August and she has vowed to not let anything stop her.


FANI WILLIS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: I do think that there are efforts to slow down this drain, but the train is coming.


KEILAR: If Willis gets her way, it's unlikely the case ends before the election. But what we could see are months of televised hearings. We're talking wall to wall coverage, with a number of damning witnesses testifying and even Trump possibly taking the stand.

And it would all be taking place in the days and weeks leading up to the presidential election.

There's also breaking news tonight out of New York where Trump's team is accusing prosecutors in the hush money trial of trying to expand the gag order after Trump attack, the judge and his daughter online.

Katelyn Polantz is OUTFRONT live for us in Washington.

Katelyn, tell us more about the Trump team's appeal strategy.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, in the appeal in the Fulton County case against Fani Willis, that case remains with the trial judge and it's moving forward to trial, but they are trying to get Fani Willis tossed off the case and they are attacking her in both of these developments today, Brianna, we are seeing Trump putting in the spotlight the people who are managing the cases against him in this situation, the prosecutor, the D.A.'s office, Fani Willis we do hear him say in that statement that you just read in his appeal filing that the evidence is overwhelming against her of having some sort of ethical misconduct.

The trial judge did look at it and look at the evidence, had evidentiary hearings, and decided that was not the case that she could continue prosecuting and her relationship with her top prosecutor didn't influence the case against Donald Trump, but Trump wants that to be overturned. And that's why he's appealing today.

KEILAR: And how significant could this gag order extension be?

POLANTZ: Well, this is something that is coming two weeks about just before the trial starts in the first criminal case against Donald Trump as a defendant in this case. What has already taken place is the judge said he wants to protect witnesses, court staff, their families, prosecutor staff, others who are involved in the case in -- behind the scenes, not or just not as prominently as the top people who we talk about all the times such as D.A. Alvin Bragg there in Manhattan.


But Trump has come out to attack the judge's daughter by name. And so, the prosecutors want clarification. They used to 10-dollar word in their letter to the court today, they said he is being contumacious, which is something where you say a defendant in court is being especially disobedient to the law.

There should be sanctions. There should be more specific direction to Donald Trump to knock it off, to stop talking about the judge's daughter. And there should be a clarification from the court that that's not what they meant by this order, that it wasn't just applicable to people working below the judge, it should be applicable to the judges family as well.

So that is all getting set as we move toward this trial where Donald Trump will be in the courtroom before Judge Juan Marshawn in New York, whenever he's presiding over this. And his attorneys are now trying to defend the comments that he has made about that judges which is daughter saying that this is campaign speech or its his First Amendment right and your order wasn't specific enough.

KEILAR: Does seem like a judge's family should be off-limits.

Katelyn, thank you so much for that report.

OUTFRONT now, Ryan Goodman, our OUTFRONT legal expert.

Also with us, Anthony Michael Kreis, law professor at Georgia State University, who has been falling following this case extensively. And we have Democratic strategist Basil Michael with us as well.

Ryan, how does this appeal affect the timeline for the Georgia election case?

RYAN GOODMAN, JUST SECURITY CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: So it might affect a dramatically if the appeals court were to issue a stay. In other words, to spend the trial process of the pretrial process until they decide whether or not to disqualify Fani Willis. But if they don't issue a stay, then it doesn't necessarily affect the timeline at all. The train keeps churning along in terms of pretrial motions, heading towards a trial while they determine what happens with disqualification. So it's yet to be seen, but it's a smart play by Trump because it could certainly result in that kind of a delay.

KEILAR: Anthony, the appeals court has 45 days to decide. Do you think they're going to take that long?

ANTHONY MICHAEL KREIS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: Generally, no. So I think what we will see is a decision within 30 days. It's standard practice for the court of appeals to make these decisions within 30 days because there were other kinds of appeals which also have a 30-day deadline, so just for consistency sake, they try to expedite the process on these interlocutory appeals. So I think well see something more soon than not. I also think that Fani Willis and her office, they are going to want to respond quickly in order to make sure things move along as fast as they can as well.

KEILAR: Yeah. And, Basil, Trump and his co-defendants tried to get Willis disqualified in this case. Of course, they failed. Now they're trying again.

How much is this though about dragging her name through the mud and delegitimizing the outcome in the event that Trump is found guilty?

BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think it's very much about that. And you touched on that in the lead up to this segment, that there are two issues here. One that Trump is trying to defame the district attorney. She's -- he's trying to sort of bring back to light a lot of what we heard in those in those hearings over those few days.

It was messy. Nobody really wanted to hear that and go through that. But he wants to be able to bring a lot of that up again. So, it's, A, about discrediting her and be about as we talked about prolonging this because you'll have more opportunity to say to his supporters, look, they're coming after me, but I'm going to continue to fight for you.

KEILAR: Yeah. She clearly knows that, Anthony. Willis was notably not in court yesterday. You had other members of her team who were driving things. It was the first court appearance since Judge McAfee ruled that yes, she could stay on the case, but he also delivered a blistering rebuke of her behavior.

Do you think that she's going to continue to lay low?

KREIS: Well, I think there's a few different issues here. So, of course, we're in the middle of a campaign season and Fani Willis is up for reelection. She is a general election opponent, as well as it opponent in the primary, the Democratic primary here in Fulton County. And so, I -- there will be plenty of opportunities for her to speak.

And I think the real issue here is, as this appeal is pending and as the campaign season ramps up, the inclination and the motivation to speak to the press is really there for her. But at the same time, it's a high risk-reward ratio because if she slips up or says something or as misconstrued in some way, that could be really damaging for hurricanes and for her keeping retaining this case in her office.

So that's something to watch, but I do think that well see her probably appear in court a little bit more, particularly as we get closer to trial and we get away from these pretrial motions which have been handled by other members of the D.A.'s office and county contracted special prosecutors as well.

KEILAR: Ryan, in New York, Trump's lawyers claimed Manhattan prosecutors are looking to expand Trumps gag order in the Stormy Daniels hush money case.


We talked about this after the D.A.'s office, asked for clarification in the wake of Trump attacking the judges daughter by name the social media, the current gag order notably does not apply to the judge or his family. Do you think that that's going to change?

GOODMAN: I think it's a very good likelihood that it does change. There's something of a weakness in D.A. Bragg's letter today because he tries to argue that the gag order does currently apply to the judge's daughter, but it doesn't really. The gag order refers to family members of court staff. And then if you look at what D.A. Bragg himself had submitted in the initial motion for the gag order, he distinguishes between the judge and court staff and the D.C. Circuit, which upheld the gag order that this one tracks completely identically and its language which specifically the D.C. Circuit said the judge is not included.

So, currently, this person is vulnerable, the daughter of the judge. I think there's every reason to include her. There's no reason for the defendant to go after the family members and the daughter of the judge. It also not only endangers her for sure, but it also pollutes the jury pool because that's the argument, is he's actually making allegations against her that appear also to be false allegations about a social media account that she does not actually run.

So, I think there's every reason for the judge to expand the order, not to clarify the existing order, but to just protect others, and in fact, to protect the process itself is what the judge would be doing.

KEILAR: Basil, if that happens, it would be uncharacteristic for Trump to not claim that he's been silenced that, you know, you'd expect that he'd capitalize on this. How worried would you be about that, that it would help him politically?

SMIKLE: Well, I think it's interesting because I believe that a lot of voters are starting to become more attuned to this. But you add the fit -- the instances of the Fani Willis case with this appeal, the strategy from the Trump team is to take the attention away from his actual actions and put it on other individuals. We're going to target Fani Willis and the D.A.'s office, we're going to target the judge and his family and you had a federal judge on this network earlier talking about how dangerous that is, not just for the individuals involved, but for the institutions and their ability to actually function properly.

So I think what Democrats are going to be doing is zooming out a bit, not getting into the legalese and the day-to-day, but focusing interestingly enough, with Democrats on values, not ceding that to Republicans in the cycle and really talking about these larger values, protecting democracy, but also protecting democratic institutions, that includes judges, their families, and the district attorneys that, you know, that prosecutes crimes.

KEILAR: Basil, thank you so much. Ryan and Anthony, thank you as well.

And OUTFRONT next, race against time to get four tons of what is left of the Key Bridge off the ship that slammed into it. This is the crew is still on board.

Plus, the growing number of American prisoners in Russia. "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich is now been there an entire year and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, five years.


PAUL WHELAN, AMERICAN HELD IN RUSSIA: If they don't do anything, I'm stuck here. And if I'm stuck here, I die here. (END AUDIO CLIP)

KEILAR: Their friends and family along with the top U.S. negotiator are my guests.

And Putin coming to Kim Jong Un's defense on the world stage as Kim desperately seeks new allies over fears that Trump could be returning to the White House. We have a special report.



KEILAR: Tonight, the Navy is sending some of the country's biggest cranes to Baltimore to help clean up the wreckage after the bridge collapse there. One of those cranes which you see here on your screen is the Chesapeake 1000. It is the largest crane on the East Coast and it can lift about 1,000 tons. But it has its work cut out for it because after three days, 3,000 to 4,000 tons of the bridge remained on top of that cargo ship. The screw still on board at this hour.

Danny Freeman is OUTFRONT.


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the massive task of untangling the Francis Scott Key Bridge from the Dali container ship is set to begin. The largest crane on the East Coast has arrived, ready and waiting just up the site of the wreckage.

The hope is this crane can help move thousands of tons of debris. So recovery efforts can continue and ships can eventually move through again.

GOV. WES MOORE (D), MARYLAND: But go out there and to see it up close, you realize just how daunting a task this is. You realize how difficult the work is ahead of us.

FREEMAN: The NTSB released this video providing an inside look at the wreckage from onboard the ship.

IAN RALBY, MARITIME LAW AND SECURITY EXPERT: It's kind of scary because we're on the ship and yet the bridges both below it and on top of it. So you can see this is, this is quite a mess.

FREEMAN: We asked maritime law and security expert and Baltimore native Ian Ralby to walk us through the NTSB video and explain the challenge ahead.

You see objects that are just strewn about like barrels and I guess trying to put together where did this even come from is part of the issue?

RALBY: Yeah, what's the origin? Is it from the ship or was it -- was it on the bridge and we know that there was construction work happening. What kind of materials were on the bridge versus but what came out of a container on the ship and that's going to be part of many different puzzles that are going to be a focus of NTSB and others on the ship right now.


FREEMAN: When you see some of these images of like you said, the bridge tangled with the ship. Do you worry that this ship might capsize or sink?

RALBY: Well, absolutely, the question is, as the salvage operation occurs, how is we're going to be redistributed? And what is going to happen?

FREEMAN: Governor Wes Moore says, by Monday, a total of four heavy lift cranes will be on site along with more than 30 vessels in the coming weeks to aid in the cleanup.


KEILAR: And, Danny, we're learning more about the victims of the collapse tonight. What can you tell us?

FREEMAN: And that's right, Brianna. We now know the identities of all six of those construction workers who are believed to have died on the bridge behind me, 24 year-old Carlos Hernandez was the final victim. His girlfriend actually shared a voice memo with CNN affiliate Univision that she told us was sent just minutes before that bridge collapse. It said, yes, my love. We just poured the cement and were just waiting for it to dry -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Heartbreaking.

Danny, thank you so much for that report from Baltimore.

OUTFRONT next, Putin's American bargaining chips. "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich, marking one year in prison. Paul Whelan, five. Are they any closer to coming home? Their family, friends, and a negotiator are next.

Plus, Biden dialing up his attacks on Trump and spending millions as he targets Republicans voters. Is the strategy paying off?



KEILAR: Tonight, quote, we're not going to give up. Those words from President Biden when asked about "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich, who as of tonight marks an entire year held at Russia's infamous Lefortovo prison. He's charged with espionage and the U.S. government says that claim is baseless and has designated him as wrongfully detained. Friends say Russia is holding him hostage.


REPORTER: Do you have a message for Even Gershkovich and his family today, sir?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. We admire the hell out of him. We've tried everything we can so far, but Russia's not playing. We're not going to give up.


KEILAR: Tonight, we'll hear from one of Gershkovich's colleagues from "The Wall Street Journal", as well as the sister of Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned in Russia for five years now. And I'll be talking to the top U.S. negotiator working on both of the cases.

First though, Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT with the latest on the growing number of Americans held prisoner in Russia


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): No media allowed at Evan Gershkovich's most recent court hearing in Moscow, just this short clip by the courts press service. Despite a year and a Russian jail, a defiance smile from "The Wall Street Journal" reporter. No surprise. His detention was extended yet again through June 30th.

The U.S. ambassador to Russia ripping into the verdict.

LYNNE TRACY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: The accusations against Evan are categorically untrue. They are not a different interpretation of circumstances. They are fiction.

PLEITGEN: Evan Gershkovich was arrested and charged with espionage a year ago while on assignment in Yekaterinburg, Central Russia.

MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON: I do not know if there are any other cases, but the allegations made by our intelligence services today were not related to his journalism.

PLEITGEN: "The Wall Street Journal" and Gershkovich's family strongly denied the allegations.

Polina Ivanova of "The Financial Times" is one of Evan's best friends and still keeps and regular contact with him writing letters.

POLINA IVANOVA, FINANCIAL TIMES REPORTER & FRIEND OF EVAN GERSHKOVICH: He's doing remarkably well. He's absolutely staying strong. He's not allowing himself to, you know, to wallow to get too upset by everything. In fact, he spends most of his time in letters to us trying to make us feel better.

PLEITGEN: Gershkovich faces a jail sentence of up to 20 years if convicted. But CNN has reported that Gershkovich and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan were part of a proposed prisoner swap with a now dead opposite leader Alexei Navalny.

The Russian president taunted on his reelection day that he approved a swap on the condition he'd get back a high-profile Russian intelligence officer in prison for murder in Germany, Vadim Krasikov.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): The person who spoke to me had not finished his sentence yet. I said, I agree, but unfortunately, what happened happened.

PLEITGEN: For those close to Evan, that means the waiting continues, outcome uncertain.

IVANOVA: When you see Putin talked about it and very clear terms that this is what they want to see happen, that they're looking for a deal, you know, just gives you hope that at some point this will -- this, you know, that he will be home. He needs to be home, needs to be back with his family, with his friends.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And, Brianna, the Kremlin has once again said that there are indeed contacts between the us and Russia regarding possible prisoner swap. However, they say that those talks need to happen in absolute silence. Otherwise it could prevent any positive outcomes from happening -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Fred Pleitgen, thank you for that report.

OUTFRONT now, Paul Beckett, "Wall Street Journal" assistant editor, who worked closely with on stories that he was reporting out of Russia. And Paul, I know that you were part of the brain trust that came up with this, which I want to show our viewers here. This is the powerful front page of "The Wall Street Journal" today with the words, his story should be here and tonight you see an urgent deadline to bring Evan home.

Tell us why.

PAUL BECKETT, WJS ASSISTANT EDITOR: We just feel that at one year its a moment to say we need to re-up our efforts and he just got detained for another three months and we think that's going to be a critical period.


We don't know when it will be a trial. We've seen no evidence for this baseless charge.

But at some point, we assume that will happen and we would just love to get him home before it does.

KEILAR: I know you spent hours with Evan's sister yesterday and you've told us that Evan was actually able to get flowers to his mom and to his sister from the Russian prison that he's in this month for International Women's Day.

What is his family telling you about their interactions with him?

BECKETT: I think we always knew Evan was a great reported. That's why I hired him, and he's just turned out to be such a remarkable young man with a remarkable family and tough as it is, they have been inspirational to this entire year with their strengths.

And I think they're in a good mutually supportive loop under the toughest two circumstances. So were just really grateful and we look forward to helping them continue that.

KEILAR: You would work closely with Evan on stories where Washington and Moscow were overlapping. And I know that you looked back today at some of your last emails that you had with Evan before he was arrested. Can you tell us what they said?

BECKETT: Yeah. Evan covered a great range of things. Obviously, he was a Moscow correspondent for us. He was also involved in Ukraine war coverage. He, we compare notes about political prisoners in Russia because that's been a big story that everyone's reported on an past few years.

So he was covering the gamut of things and he was there as an accredited reporter the Russian government had given him permission to be reporting from Russia. And this is what happened to him. So he really was covering everything that all the hot topics of Russia in the last couple of years.

BURNETT: Dynamically.

Paul, thank you so much. Paul Beckett, we appreciate your time tonight.

BECKETT: Thank you. We really appreciate your support. Thank you very much.

BURNETT: As the world calls for the release of Evan Gershkovich, American Paul Whelan is also desperately hoping for a deal to bring him home. The former U.S. marine was sentenced to 16 years after being arrested in Russia in 2018.

CNN's Jennifer Hansler speaking recently with Paul from the remote prison where he's being held.


PAUL WHELAN: If you could remind the president and the National Security Council that I'm still here being held hostage by the Russian government and the Biden administration has got to take decisive action to secure my release. If they don't do anything, I'm stuck here. And if I'm stuck here, I die here.


KEILAR: OUTFRONT now, Paul's sister, Elizabeth Whelan.

Elizabeth, thank you for taking the time with us this evening, this one-year anniversary of Evan Gershkovich's detention is reminding people about your brother. He's been held now for five years.

What is your hope for getting Paul out? ELIZABETH WHELAN, SISTER OF PAUL WHELAN, WRONGFULLY DETAINED IN RUSSIA: Well, you know, were very glad to see the spotlight being shared on wrongful detention in general. And I have to say that the administration and the SPEHA group, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs team, they brought 46 Americans home.

And so, we have to hold onto hope. It's been a terribly long time, and I can't imagine what Paul is going through, but we just have to keep on until we get him home as well.

KEILAR: We know that he has been assaulted in prison, that he was punched by another inmate in a sewing room, sort of like one of the ones that you see in the video here, put out by Russian state media. He told CNN about his fears after the sudden unexpected death of Putin critic Alexei Navalny.

I want to play a little bit of that.


PAUL WHELAN: If they can get to him, they can get to me. And what that means is if they are willing to face the repercussions from the world for doing in somebody like Navalny, they're not going to think twice about doing in someone like me, and then blaming the United States for not bothering get me back in five years.


KEILAR: Can you tell us you were worries about Paul safety, especially here recently?

WHELAN: Oh, yeah. I mean, I believe Paul is exactly right. I mean, we are dealing with basically a mafia gang, not a functioning government. And we think about Paul and what he's going through. You know, he's lived every day for over five years now in squalid, awful conditions.

He's been in this prison camp every day, waking up, wondering when he is he going to be able to come home? When will the Russians let him go? And every day has to end knowing that he has to repeat the cycle over and over again. And we can't give up on the people who have been held the longest.

You know, we really hope that the us will redouble their efforts to bring my brother home.

KEILAR: You met with President Biden earlier this year. He mentioned Paul in his statement today is as he was marking the anniversary of Evan's detention.


The Biden administration has said, they hope that they can get a deal in the next 90 days before Gershkovich faces trial and things get more difficult or at least hope that there's some breathing room to do that.

How do you see that impacting Paul, if at all?

WHELAN: It's so difficult to know. We can't predict what the Russians will try to do if they'll try to manipulate the situation as they did with Brittney Griner's detention. The crazy thing is Russia could be getting people home. They Russians could be going home in these deals, but they insist on thumbing their nose at the U.S. and we are not sure what will happen.

I do have faith in the administration that they will try, but I can't -- I don't know what that path forward is.

KEILAR: Elizabeth, you have been through so much, your brother has been through so much and we appreciate you talking with us about it tonight.

WHELAN: Thank you

KEILAR: Now, let's talk with Roger Carstens. He is the U.S. special presidential envoy for hostage affairs.

Roger, I know you talked to these families regularly. You just heard what Elizabeth said there. You know, what is your response to what she's saying?

ROGER CARSTENS, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR HOSTAGE AFFAIRS: I agree with a lot of it. I mean, this is hard case. We're trying to push hard on it in the first case that I ever took about four years ago and, Elizabeth, I spent a lot of time on the phone and we actually feel like were partnering with the families, but at the end of the day, she mentioned that the Russians have the ability to make the trade.

And that's right. Paul is to my mind, wrongfully detained. Evan's wrongfully detained. The Russian should just let them go. And instead, we're almost in this impossible situation where the United States has to conjure up a very tough to provide proposal in order to bring these two home.

Having said that, that's our job, and we're going to find a way to get it done.

KEILAR: Let's talk about this time period here in the next few months. Evan's pretrial detention was just extended. His trial set for June 30th. Are you worried that if you don't get a deal before then, and Evan goes to trial, that it may doom him to a second anniversary in prison?

CARSTENS: You know, we hope so. It's really hard to get into the Russian system. Really, at the end of the day, the Kremlin can speed up or slow down the timeline as much as they want. Having said that, we would want to leave anything to chance. If there's a way that we can get this done during this next pretrial detention phase, we would love to do that. In fact, the faster we can get it done, the better, because every day that Paul and Evan are in prison is a day they're at risk. So if we can speed it up and get it done, we're going to. We'd rather

have something happened before a trial process begins, whether that's on the 30th of June or later? But the bottom line is speed is everything here. And that's why I think you'll your hearing in the president's voice and definitely in mine that there's a sense of urgency in trying to solve these cases.

KEILAR: As Fred Pleitgen -- our Fred Pleitgen reported, Putin has said that he approved a prisoner swap before the death of Alexei Navalny. That would have had Navalny, Whelan and Gershkovich released for Vadim Krasikov, a former Russian intel official who is in prison for murder in Germany. Is a swap for Krasikov on the table?

CARSTENS: First off, if I may, reference to Navalny, I can't imagine what it must be like to be his family. It's really every family's nightmare that your loved one dies in prison before they're able to get out. So, my -- definitely, my condolences to the family there.

What I can say about what President Putin said is it costs him nothing to say that. You know, he can say whatever he wants. Whether it's true or not, you know, who can verify it?

What I can tell you without getting into the details is the United States is trying to put together a proposal that were able to deliver and that the Russians are willing to accept to bring people home. And as much as I would love to go into details because I think people -- your viewers would be stunned at the amount of time, energy and creativity that goes into crafting this, these -- these deals, at the same time, the more we talk about it, the less chance we have a pulling it off.

Sometimes its better to be sensitive and keeps some of these deals classified, covert, private so that we can execute them, as opposed to negotiating and public as the -- as the phrase often goes.

KEILAR: Yeah. Putin is facing some sort of new pressure. Now a lot at home, 144 killed in this terror attack at this Moscow concert hall. And he's trying to pin it on Ukraine after he dismissed us intel warnings about an impending attack, pretty specific warnings as we have reported. Has that complicated negotiations for these Americans?

CARSTENS: I guess it remains to be seen, but I would say probably not. What I've been surprise that in four years on this job is no matter what the amount of tension is between the United States and another country that's holding our citizens, we're still able to come together and find a way to make a deal to bring Americans home.

As you know, we got Trevor Reid home only two months after Russia invaded Ukraine.


We got Brittney Griner back shortly after that. And even though we've had tensions with countries like Venezuela, for example, we're still able to find a way to get the job done. So despite anything that's happening in the geopolitical space, our

goal is pretty firm. It's -- we're resolute and we'll find a way to bring Paul and Evan home.

KEILAR: Let's certainly hope so.

Roger Carstens, we know that you are working very, very hard on that. Thank you for being with us tonight.

CARSTENS: Thanks, Brianna. Appreciate it. Thank you.

KEILAR: OUTFRONT next, Nikki Haley, who is not even in the race still getting 18 percent of the vote in one of the last primaries and now, Biden is zeroing in on her supporters by reminding them this --


REPORTER: How do you bring these Nikki Haley voters back into the --



KEILAR: And Kim Jong Un keeping a close eye on the U.S. election as we're learning why he actually now fears Trump returning to power.



KEILAR: New tonight, Joe Biden targeting Republican voters to beat Donald Trump, just launching this ad aimed at Nikki Haley voters as part of a $30 million swing-state ad campaign.



TRUMP: Nikki Haley is made an unholy alliance with RINOs, Never Trumpers, Americans for no prosperity.

REPORTER: How do you bring these Nikki Haley voters back into the --

TRUMP: I'm not sure we need too many.


KEILAR: And Haley voters make up a significant part of the Republican Party.

If you just look at some of the most recent primary results after she had dropped out, Haley had nearly 18 percent of the vote in Arizona, more than 14 percent of the primary vote in Ohio, 14 percent in Trump's own home state of Florida.

OUTFRONT now, longtime Republican pollster and strategist, Frank Luntz is with us.

Frank, what are your thoughts on Biden going after Haley voters in key swing states?

FRANK LUNTZ, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: It's smart because you got Republicans that don't want to vote for Donald Trump. Democrats who don't want to vote for Joe Biden, there's only about 5 percent that are truly undecided and only seven states are in place.

So, I want you to consider this they're going to spend $2 billion on literally 1 percent of America. And so anytime you've got a weakness, you want to exploit it.

KEILAR: Former President Obama, of course, trying to help President Biden make his case to voters last night at this joint fundraiser with also former President Clinton, the Biden campaign excluded cameras from the venue. But they did release some selected clips, including this one.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It's not just the negative case against the presumptive nominee on the other side, it's the positive case for somebody who's done an outstanding job in the presidency.


KEILAR: How much do you think that helps President Obama sort of very vocally vouching for Biden? And do you think at this point that Biden is doing everything he needs to do in his campaign?

LUNTZ: I don't think he's doing everything he needs to do. And the fact is, I don't believe it's Donald Trump that's winning. I think it's Joe Biden that's actually losing, that the message isn't strong enough.

Look, the economy is pretty strongly. Inflation has come down. Unemployment is almost negligible. There's a case to be made.

And yet, Donald Trump is beating Joe Biden in most surveys by 2 or 3 percent. And the key is the swing states.

Those seventh swing states, Trump is either tied or leading. And so the messaging and the communication from the Biden effort, let's be candid, the issue of his age is holding him back, just as the issue of the indictments is holding Donald Trump back. Both of them.

These are the weakest presidential nominees in American history, both of them, and yet we've got seven months with the two of them are going to be going at each other. So anytime you bring someone else into the conversation, Barack Obama is reasonably popular, particularly among Democrats. It's going to be helpful.

But in the end, both Biden and Trump are going to go at each other with brick bats and it's going to be a very painful election to watch.

KEILAR: Yeah, we're feeling that already.

Today, Good Friday, Easter, of course, this weekend, Trump is hoping his supporters will buy the Bibles that he is now selling. Let's watch.


TRUMP: All Americans need a Bible in their home and I have many. It's my favorite book. It's a lot of people's favorite book.

This bible is a reminder that the biggest thing we have to bring back America and to make America great again, is our religion.


KEILAR: I saw you there, Frank, shaking your head, but that's also -- I wonder if that's because the multiple times and I want to play this, that Trump is really how these awkward exchanges when it comes to religion in his faith. Here is two of them, including one with you back in 2015.


LUNTZ: But have you ever asked God for forgiveness?

TRUMP: I'm not sure I have. I just go and try and do a better job from there, I don't think so. I think I -- if I -- if I do something wrong, I think I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that a picture. I don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm wondering what one or two of your most favorite Bible verses are.

TRUMP: I wouldn't want to get into it because to me that's very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible, it's very personal. So I don't want to get into -- I don't want to get it --



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- verse that means a lot to you that you think about or cite.

TRUMP: The Bible means a lot to me, but I don't want to get into specifics.


KEILAR: Your question there, Frank, as I'm refreshed in my memory, was such a good one there. And yet despite these moments and others to this day, poll show white evangelical voters are hugely behind him. Why?

LUNTZ: I know it sounds contradictory, but they trust him to protect those of faith. The Republican Party, now some people think it's gone too far, notice I said the word faith, not religion. This is about faith. It's about a private relationship between you and your God, and religion is the named brand of it. And that's not really what this is about.

Voters, evangelical voters trust Donald Trump to protect them and to allow them to practice their faith and they don't have the same confidence with the Democratic Party, just as Democrats trust the ability to keep religion and government separate. This is why you have Democrats and Republicans.

I just find it unseemly that you're hawking a bible, you hawk sneakers a few weeks ago, you sell perfume, you sell trading cards, you used to sell beef or meet or whatever you want to call it, it just -- it doesn't seem proper, but I want to emphasize, it doesn't seem to matter.

The public is still narrowly in favor of Trump. So clearly something is going on that all of these issues do not seem to be having the impact of one would expect.

KEILAR: And, Frank, before I let you go, I would be remiss if I didn't ask you the question that all of our viewers are wondering which is you seem to be joining us from the Oval Office, which is actually your house in L.A. Tell us about this.

LUNTZ: That's correct. I'll get out of the ways you can see the desk right there. That's Ronald Reagan. It's a replica of Ronald Reagan's resolute desk. That's Kennedy's desk, actually, Reagan's chair all around me, the couch is Bill Clinton's couch. These chairs are Richard Nixon's chairs. You can see the bust up there. I even am going to lift this up so viewers can get a better view of it.

I wanted to have something that represented not a particular president, but the office of the presidency. And the most fun I had was when I sat on that desk in shorts, put my feet up and said, thank you, President Obama giving me use of the Oval Office.

The greatest thing is, the public when out -- they lost it, because they thought that I was disrespecting Oval Office. I'm only disrespecting my house.

KEILAR: Just your house.

Well, Frank, that is wild and I thank you for sharing it with us. And thanks for being with us. Have a good night.

LUNTZ: Thank you. You, too.

KEILAR: OUTFRONT next, Kim Jong Un cozying up to Putin as he braces for a second Trump presidency.

We have a special report, next.


[19:57:05] KEILAR: Tonight, Russia cozying up to North Korea as Putin sends his top intelligence official to Pyongyang. All of this is a very nervous Kim Jong Un keeps a close eye on the U.S. election.

Will Ripley is OUTFRONT.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDNT (voice-over): In Pyongyang, North Korea, Kim Jong Un is preparing for a possible second presidency of Donald Trump.

TRUMP: It's an honor to be together.

RIPLEY: He went viral in 2018, gushing about the North Korean leader.

TRUMP: He speaks and his people sit up in attention. I want my people to do the same.

RIPLEY: Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton posted that clip along with this warning: Donald Trump wants Americans to treat him like North Koreans treat Kim Jong Un. Get ready.

If Trump wins in November, Bolton thinks Kim may invite the president to visit Pyongyang, an invite the close-aide-turned-Trump-critic says, his old boss could very well accept.

TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury.

RIPLEY: From fiery saber-rattling to historic summit, and surprise meetings, all ending in bitter failure. Trump's first term was a roller coaster for U.S.-North Korea relations. The big question, would Kim actually consider a second round of Trump's style diplomacy?

What do you think was going through Kim's mind after Trump walked out and he had actually promoted this meeting ahead of time to his people, which is something North Korean never does? And do you think that Kim is likely to forget that feeling anytime soon?

JOHN DELURY, PROFESSOR, YONSEL UNIVERSITY: I think coming out of the Hanoi meeting, Kim Jong Un on that long train ride felt burned and he had to simmer in the juices of the fact that you cant really count on Donald Trump at the end of the day to seal the deal, that Trump will walk. I mean, that's the lesson learned.

RIPLEY: These days, Kim's cozied up to President Vladimir Putin, supplying the Russian strongman with weapons and ammo for his war in Ukraine.

TRUMP: He wrote me beautiful letters, and they're great letters. We fell in love.

RIPLEY: Trump shared 27 of those love letters with journalist Bob Woodward, revealing a relationship that sour when diplomacy disintegrated in 2019. In his last known letter to Trump in August of that year, Kim wrote: If you do not think of our relationship has stepping stone that only benefits you, then you would not make me look like an idiot that will only give without getting anything in return.

DELURY: There was always this gap between the seriousness that Kim Jong Un brought into the process versus the theatricality of it for Donald Trump.

RIPLEY: Some compared the whole thing to a made for TV reality show. Now, many wonder, could there be a second season?


RIPLEY (on camera): Based on my experience dealing with the North Koreans, they're always planning. They're always calculating and so in preparing for a potential second Trump administration, North Korea's likely to pursue a dual strategy. On one hand, engage directly with Trump, take advantage of that personal rapport between Trump and Kim. On the other hand, continue to grow its nuclear arsenal and deepen those diplomatic and economic ties with Russia and China, as a hedge against the unpredictability of U.S. policy, particularly under the former President Trump, Brianna.

KEILAR: Will Ripley, thank you for that report.

And thank you so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.