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Erin Burnett Outfront

Michael Cohen: "Everything Required Mr. Trump's Sign Off"; U.S. Israel Has Enough Troops On Edge Of Rafah For Invasion; Surprise Guest Joins Trump On Jet, Sparking VP Speculation. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 13, 2024 - 19:00   ET




Quote, just do it. Michael Cohen testifying Trump ordered him to make the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. Was it enough to prove the prosecution's case today?

Plus, breaking news this hour, Israel has amassed enough troops to launch a full-scale invasion into Rafah. This despite President Biden telling OUTFRONT that Israel will not get more offensive weapons from the United States if it does that.

And the mystery is deepening over the little governor who suddenly flying on Trump's private jet, showing up at rallies and fundraisers. Is he going to be Trump's VP?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, it's make-or-break in the Donald Trump hush money trial. This is what it comes down to the crucial testimony of Trump's former fixer, Michael Cohen, who finally took the stand today, sitting just 15 feet way from the man that he once said he'd take a bullet for, and the man for whom he actually went to prison for.

Donald J. Trump, who Cohen without emotion now, refers to as Mr. Trump.

Now the importance of Cohen's testimony and all of this cannot be overstated. This is what the case is all about. He is the only person who can testify about what is at the heart of the case, and that is Trump's direct involvement in the alleged conspiracy to falsify the business records in order to pay Stormy Daniels, not whether the affair happened, none of that falsifying, the business records.

Now the testimony was intense today, Cohen rarely looked in the direction of Trump. He said the former president instructed him to pay Daniels $130,000, quote, just do it. He recalled Trump saying.

And just before Cohen went to the bank on October 26, he testified that he called Trump again he said, quote, I wanted to ensure that once again, he approved what I was doing because I require approval from him on all of this. Everything required, Mr. Trump sign-off. On top of that, I wanted the money back and they pointed to crucial documents showing the call log saying that Trump and Cohen spoke twice on that day before that LLC was set up.

Trump for the most part, leaned back as Cohen spoke his eyes were closed and now familiar stance by the former president. And I spoke to Cohen about this case many times here on this show.

Back in February, he was adamant that his testimony when he took the stand and he has been ready to do so for a long time now, would help convict Trump.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I would say at best it would be a four-week case. My understanding is that on the Trump's side, they only have one witness and maybe there's ten on the prosecution side. This case could and should be over in a month with the decision.

BURNETT: And do you have any question about whether he'll be convicted?

COHEN: Oh, I believe based upon the information that I know and based upon not just the documentary evidence, but the corroborating testimony from so many people, I believe that he will be found guilty on all charges.


BURNETT: Now, Cohen beliefs Trump will be found guilty on all charges. But keep in mind, this was the first time today that those two have been in the same room since Trump's civil fraud trial or Trump was ordered to pay more than $450 million. Cohen was key then, just like he is key now.

And this is what Cohen told me when I asked him what it was like that time to see Trump up close.


COHEN: I felt nothing. It was so weird that here I am sitting directly across from Donald Trump and I felt absolutely nothing. I looked at him and I said to myself, boy, what a sad looking, pathetic, deflated individual.

He thought he was going to intimidate, harass me with that scowling look and absolutely nothing.


BURNETT: Now for months, Cohen has been on the attack, goading Trump, appearing on TikTok. He had called out the president. He was wearing a T-shirt that shows Trump behind bars at one point, taking on Trump and his supporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COHEN: Here's the funny part --


COHEN: -- they don't even -- they don't even know what it is that the trolling about when they start trolling that, you know, you're on your under a gag order, right? LOL.


COHEN: No, I'm not. I'm not the defendant in any case right now.



BURNETT: He is not the defendant. Now, he has more recently been much more reticent and his comments. And when the defense is able to cross- examine Cohen, though, they are going to come hard. They're going to come hard with everything they've got.

Keep in mind, Cohen is someone who was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion, making false statements to a federally insured bank and campaign finance violations. He says that was, of course, on the furtherance of Trump's end goals.

But this is what they're going to hit on cross-examination. The question is what the jury will believe, is there a reasonable doubt?

Paula Reid is OUTFRONT live outside the New York courthouse to begin our coverage tonight as always.

Paula, an intense day on the stand, right? This is what it all comes down to. What Michael Cohen has to say, the documents that support what he has to say, and the prosecution isn't done with Cohen yet.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Erin. And so far, Cohen has come across as quite credible, but they are just at the end of today, beginning to get into the alleged crime, which is the falsifying of business records. And then prosecutors are going to have to walk Cohen through some pretty uncomfortable material, including his multiple convictions and then his years of attacks on the defendant.


REID (voice-over): The prosecution's most anticipated witness, Michael Cohen, taking the stand in Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We paid a lawyer, a legal expense, we believe expense, is a legal. It's marked down in the book, quote, legal expense.

REID: Facing his former boss, Cohen spoke about his ten years working as Trump's attorney and fixer while Trump sat back in his chair closing his eyes, not reacting to Cohen's testimony. Cohen said he enjoyed working for Trump and whenever he received

direct praise or completing a task, he felt like he was on top of the world.

Cohen told the court that when Trump was mulling are run for the presidency in 2015, Trump warn Cohen, you know that when this comes out, meaning the announcement, just be prepared, that is going to be a lot of women coming forward.

Cohen claimed that just weeks before the 2016 election, the editor of the "National Enquirer" told Cohen, Stormy Daniels wanted to sell her story about having an affair with Trump, which Cohen said would have been catastrophic and horrible for Trump's campaign. Cohen said Trump got angry with him when they spoke about the Stormy Daniels story. I told him that one of the things that we need to do is obviously take care of it. Trump allegedly responded absolutely. Do it. Take care of it.

Cohen testified that it was his idea to include a punitive damages clause in the Daniels deal to ensure that she didn't speak. Cohen said Trump told him to drag the Daniels payment out as long as possible, in fact preferably until after the election because if I win, it will have no relevance because I'm president. And if I lose, I don't even care. And he added this damning allegation, he wasn't thinking about Melania. This was all about the campaign.

Cohen walked the court through the process of creating several LLCs in order to transfer payment to Daniels, Cohen had to front the money himself and used a home equity line of credit because it was paperless. So he could hide it from his wife.

I was doing everything I could and more to protect my boss, which is something that I had done and for a long time.

Cohen testified that on October 28, he immediately called Trump after Daniel sign the agreement, telling him that this matter is now completely under control and locked down. Cohen said in early 2017, he tried to get repaid for the money he fronted to Daniels and needed Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg's input for questions about taxes.

Cohen said he would be reimbursed over the course of the next 12 months, disguising the payment as like a legal service rendered since I was then going to be given the title of personal attorney to the president.

TRUMP: There's no fraud. There's no crime here.


REID: Cohen will be back on the stand at tomorrow and likely for the rest of this week, which is only three full court days.

Now, sources telling me that the eventual cross-examination of Cohen, which will be we've done by Trump's lead attorney Todd Blanche will be as long if not longer than prosecutor's direct questioning -- Erin. BURNETT: We will see what happens here.

All right. Thank you very much, Paula.

Our experts are all here tonight.

And, Norm, you were in court today. You've been in court every day of this entire trial okay. So when they last week, you had said on Thursday, there's not quite proof beyond a reasonable doubt, yet of Trump's criminal intent.

Did Cohen provide that today?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Erin, Cohen took the prosecution across that Rubicon that every prosecutor has to cross at some point in a case by describing Donald Trump's direct personal involvement in both halves of this case.


Remember, its intent to conceal, cover up, or commit another crime.

Plus, the creation of false documents that makes these felony document falsification here, Cohen did both because he explained how Donald Trump had been intimately involved and directing the campaign -- alleged campaign finance and election violations and tax violations that came up in depth today. And also, we ended the day on the meeting with perhaps the most important evidence in this case, Allen Weisselberg's handwritten notes, Michael Cohen's handwritten notes of the grossed up amount --

BURNETT: Gross up, right.

EISEN: And the meeting with Donald Trump to confirm it.

I don't think anybody in that courtroom believed that Michael Cohen would have done all that on his own.

BURNETT: Did they provide though the evidence to go along with it that was not just what Michael Cohen said?

RYAN GOODMAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think they have it. So there's a lot of evidence here on the record and including call logs that are almost impossible to explain another way. So some of the most important call logs are October 7, the Access Hollywood tape breaks, October 8th, the "National Enquirer" is trying to do a hush money deal with Stormy Daniels lawyer. And what do you have in the evening, but David Pecker having a two-minute conversation with Michael Cohen than three minutes of that, Michael Cohen calls Donald Trump for eight minutes. What's going on?

At the time that that Michael Cohen opens the bank account and then he makes the transfer the next day, that early morning, who is he on the phone with? Donald Trump.

So all of this is starting to be very corroborative of Michael Cohen's testimony. So as of today, it'll hold together.

BURNETT: It's call after call after call at these crucial moments. It's not just once, its time after time.

I mean, Terri, in court today where you've been every day as well what, you know, obviously this case hangs on Cohen, if not what he says, but these corroborating documents, call logs, whatever it may be, what was your impression of him as a witness?

TERRI ASUTIN, FORMER TRIAL ATTORNEY: Oh, I thought he was excellent. I actually think he's one of the best witnesses so far. He was cool, calm, and collected. Beyond that, he was very respectful when he was getting questioned. He always said back to Hoffinger, ma'am.

And I think the jury probably got a good impression of him. And like Norm said, he put all the evidence and in addition to the call logs, we have the checks, the invoices the vouchers all of that is on a chart and the jury can see that. And so everything that Michael Cohen said has been corroborated by all of the other evidence and he connected those dots.

BURNETT: And obviously, there's going to be more on direct, never mind on cross which they've promised. We'll go as just as long which I want to ask about, but, Stephanie, when you see Trump's reaction today, obviously, in court, he was listening or his eyes were closed but he was irate afterwards when he spoke to the cameras, irate more so than we have seen him thus far after any other day in court.

What do you read into that in terms of his ability to keep his composure in that courtroom?

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that he probably saw the news coverage after Stormy Daniels was up on the stand and his reaction was covered pretty widely and it wasn't -- it wasn't favorably. I'm sure his lawyers talk to him. I'm sure his family members talk to him and said, you cannot be acting out when Michael Cohen is there.

And I think probably, too, it was an ego thing. I doubt he wanted to show Michael any kind of a reaction and then yes, imagine that right when he got out of that courtroom, you wanted to burst and couldn't wait until he got to the Suburban. And, of course, had to give the media a show.

BURNETT: So, Norm, what did you notice about Trump's reaction to Cohen in court?

EISEN: Well, Trump has the most vigorous reactions when Melania is mentioned and when there was that very telling discussion that I think really proves this was a payment that was intended for the campaign where Trump said -- Cohen said to him, questioning, him about the payment and the delay and Trump said, look, if I'm president, I wont care. And if I'm not president, I won't care. So try to delay it.

And then Cohen says, and this is when Trump reactant, Cohen says, well, what about Melania? And Trump responded, I won't be on the market for long.


EISEN: And Trump grimaced. He tilted his head. I actually thought he was napping, but as soon as Melania was mentioned, I pivoted over and he did have that reaction. He held himself back though. It was not the violent reaction when Stormy said when --


BURNETT: When he was swearing and muttering, yes.

EISEN: Yes, in separate rooms.

BURNETT: And so, Stephanie, let me ask you about the exact quote, at least that we have it, as Cohen testified about the Stormy Daniels story. So they're having a conversation Cohen says he and Trump about it. And Cohen testifies that Trump says, how long do you think I will be on the market for?


Not long.

You said, Stephanie, a few weeks ago when you and I were talking that there were certain moments of this trial that may be very significant for Trump -- Trump's life, for his marriage. Was this one of them?

GRISHAM: Yeah, absolutely.

Look, I think there are two things can be true at the same time, and could Melania Trump be angry right now about all of this being out there at about their personal lives, and it's humiliating? Absolutely. On a personal level.

But yes, she knew who she married and I think that that comment to Michael Cohen ring absolutely true. She's happy. She's got a very good life. She's not going anywhere. That's been proven.

And so I absolutely believe he said something like that to Michael Cohen.

BURNETT: So, Ryan, on that point though, you know, the point and we know this is going to happen under cross, but they're even trying to bring it up under direct because they want Cohen have a chance to respond to it and that is whether this is all about revenge, and trying to bring down a man for whom he did serve time in prison.

So they talk about how he's angry. Trump cut is bonus. They're talking about he's angry, he didn't get a job or was even considered for one of the administration which was of deep shame to him, and the anger continues today. He's on TikTok, showing Trump behind bars, right?

So this is -- this is going to come up some under direct and a lot under cross-examination, right. They're going to emphasize this heavily. How hard is it going to be for the prosecution to convince just one

jury member, but that's what this is about, anger and revenge.

GOODMAN: I think this is the difficulty for the prosecution and this is where the defense is going to have the greatest vulnerability in Michael Cohen, because it's not just that he's a convicted liar, and a liar to all three branches of government. But he also has a motive to lie in this case. Then motive is revenge, retribution.

We have probably thousands of hours of tape of Michael Cohen and various podcast, and the like. And if he ever says things like, I want them behind bars or something like that, that'll probably be played by the defense. So that's what they have to go on.

At some level, Michael Cohen's character flaws are also a strength for the prosecution. So Hope Hicks says, this is a guy who would never pay $130,000 of his own for Donald Trump --

BURNETT: Right, right, she says he's not a generous guy.

GOODMAN: Yeah, and that's what Michael Cohen said on the stand today and it just resonates. That's exactly who he is. He said, the reason I want to Trump's authority and advances because I wanted my money back. That's the person who he is.

BURNETT: Consistent, yeah.

GOODMAN: He's totally consistent. And he's consistent with the lies that he was going to commit these kinds of laws, but he's doing them on behalf of his client, Donald Trump.

BURNETT: So what was the jury reaction to him today, Terri?

TERRI AUSTIN, FORMER TRIAL ATTORNEY: Well, as always, they were very focused on him. I think he did play to the jury a little bit, not as much as he probably should have. I think Hoffinger had to say will tell the jury, explain that to the jury and then he turned to the jury.

They are looking at every piece of evidence on their monitor and they're following this. This is a very smart jury. We have a couple of lawyers on that jury. And I do think that I think he was credible today. I -- you know, we'll have to wait to see what happens when we get the cross-examination and well probably get it on the end of direct. We're talking about the fact that you've been convicted, the fact that you were convicted for perjury.

But other than that, it was very, very effective.

BURNETT: Quickly. Do you think that the defense really will take as long as the prosecution on cross or if they learned their lesson from Stormy Daniels.

EISEN: Longer. They are just -- this is a very --

BURNETT: They just think long enough, he'll get mad. EISEN: It's not --


EISEN: It's a very client driven defense and it seems unlikely that prompt, the angry Trump we saw today is going to say oh, don't spend too much time on Michael Cohen's. So I think we will get a longer and well go through the end of the day, Thursday with the cross.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. And we'll see you tomorrow.

And next, Michael Cohen reveals just how far he was willing to go for Trump and the incredibly heavy price he paid for his loyalty to the former president.


COHEN: Prison takes your soul. The time that you're away from your family, your friends, your life, you'd never get it back.

Plus, the breaking news this hour, we have learned Israel has now enough troops on the edge of Rafah for a full-scale invasion. The exact invasion that Biden warned on this program, the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, must not do.

And the images are terrifying, cat-5 storms decimating communities, tornadoes shredding homes and lives. One woman though, finding a remarkable way to fight back.



BURNETT: -- trial testifying about what kinds of things he would do for Trump and how we felt when Trump was pleased with his work.

The prosecutor, Susan Hoffinger, asks him, did you at times during your work for the Trump organization for Mr. Trump, bully people for him? Cohen: yes, ma'am, in order to accomplish the task.

Cohen testifying when he received Trump's praise, it was, quote, like I was on top of the world, but that eventually came with a heavy price.

And Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT with more.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just over a year in prison, many months, more under house arrest. If you want to know why Michael Cohen turned on Donald Trump, start with the freedom that friendship, cost him.

COHEN: Prison takes your soul. The time that you're away from your family your friends, your life, you never get it back. FOREMAN: Cohen suggests some of the worst days of his life were spent

at a federal prison inmates in Otisville, New York, where as he told OUTFRONT, he was stripped of virtually everything after admitting detach tax fraud, campaign finance violations, and lying to Congress to protect Trump.

COHEN: You don't even own a toothbrush, you don't have a hair brush, you don't have soap, you don't have shampoo. All you have is what they give to you. One pair of socks, a pair of underwear, a pair of pants that generally don't fit.

FOREMAN: Once Cohen described himself as Trump's pit bull, riding in style, appearing in the media.

COHEN: I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.

FOREMAN: Threatening anyone who might challenge the boss.

COHEN: I'm warning you, tread very (EXPLETIVE DELETED) lightly, because what I'm going to do t you is going to be (EXPLETIVE DEELTED) disgusting.


Do you understand me?

FOREMAN: But behind bars, the gilded life was gone.

COHEN: It's easy to be a television tough-guy when you're on the outside. When you're on the inside, there were rules. It is not -- it's not a good place.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: I stand with Trump and the Constitution.

FOREMAN: Other Trump associates have been sentenced jail or face the threat of it. And before Trump lost the White House in 2020, he pardoned several, but not his longtime dedicated lawyer, Michael Cohen. And that split may have helped prosecutors get closer to Cohen.

COHEN: I would like to see him standing before a court, being judged by a jury of 12 for his own dirty deeds and for his crimes.

TRUMP: He got in trouble, he went to jail. This had nothing to do with me.

FOREMAN: Trump has steadily ripped into Cohen since his prison days, playing down the former attorney's importance and dismissing his former friend's accusations as bold-faced lies.

But Cohen has an answer for that.

COHEN: I'm done with the lying. I'm done being loyal to President Trump.


FOREMAN (on camera): The fact is the cornerstone of Cohen's testimony all along has been that he did lie. He did commit crimes and he did go to prison for it, where he says he also did something else. He learned how to tell the truth about Donald Trump -- Erin.

BURNETT: Right, right. He's telling a story here of redemption is what he is telling to the jury. We'll see what they sit -- they think.

All right. Thank you very much, Tom.

And Omarosa Manigault Newman is with me, former senior adviser to then President Trump, also the author of "Unhinged: An Insiders Account of the Trump White House".

And, Omarosa, obviously, you know, Michael Cohen very well. You go way back with him for many, many years together and the apprentice. Today, we saw some new things, at least to us, call logs that showed Trump and Cohen spoke to each other twice in the hours before Cohen up that LLC that he used to pay Stormy Daniels. We learned that Cohen at all of Trump's contacts sink to his phone.

And, you know, over these years, you and I both seen them together many times. Just how close was their relationship. And did you see something new today?


And certainly, what you see in front of you in terms of Michael Cohen as a witness, as a man who has evolved since most people came to know him during the early days of the campaign in the last, I'd say eight or nine years, Michael Cohen has been through a lot. In fact, right before I came on, you played a clip of him talking about his time in prison. Well, I talked to him often during that time. I've corresponded with him. I was in touch with his family. It was a very difficult time and it was something that I believe changed him forever.

BURNETT: So he testified today the while Trump was preparing to enter the presidential race, Omarosa, he admitted he was concerned about negative stories about his personal life and how they could affect the campaign, right? And Cohen talked about those conversations. He said that Trump told him just be prepared. There's going to be a lot of women coming forward.

And then according to Cohen, Trump's spoke specifically about the Stormy Daniels allegations and the fallout from Melania. And this is a crucial lines, let me ask you about it. Cohen testified today that Trump says, how long do you think ill be on the market for? Not long. A sort of a dismissive way of saying who cares what Melania thinks?

That is ultimately what this case comes down to, right? The falsifications of business documents, and did Trump do what he did if the jury believes that he did this for the campaign or in any part, did he do it for his marriage? So what did you take away from what you heard today? And how much was

Trump really worried about his marriage versus the campaign in those days? Well, Erin, when I first met Donald Trump, which was in late 2003 --


NEWMAN: -- I mean, he was still, engaged to Melania. He hadn't quite married her yet, and he considered himself a ladies man. He was constantly bragging about his conques, the women he had been with, whether it was playmates or whether it was models. I mean, this was someone who was very proud of the type of women that he engaged with, and how many women he engaged with.

And so, what Michael Cohen shared, it rings really true to who Donald Trump was during that time but Michael Cohen also pointed out something that Donald Trump knew, that this relationships, these illicit affairs will be problematic to the campaign and that proved to be true.

BURNETT: So, Omarosa, now here we are six months left in the 2024 campaign. So do you think more of this comes out? I mean, at this point or not?

NEWMAN: It depends on what's in the alleged Trump vault. You remember, there's this rumor that at AMI there was this Trump vault that contained all of the stories that they tried to catch and kill. It wasn't just two in terms of the McDougal or the Stormy Daniels affair.


From what I understand, allegedly, there are quite a number of these relationships that he had that they had to try to suppress.

And so, certainly, there's still room for a lot of this to come out, but maybe they, just like they did with Stormy Daniels in some type of agreement are found a way to suppress them.

BURNETT: Wow, and we will see whether, whether we find out and of course first I guess is all this proves whether it would even remotely matter.

Omarosa, thank you so much. I'm glad to see you.

NEWMAN: Good to see you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And next, the breaking news, we are learning that Israel has enough troops inside southern Gaza tonight to go inside the heavily populated city of Rafah. That's what Biden told OUTFRONT Netanyahu who could not do. That was the red line, unless Netanyahu was ready for major consequences like the cutting off of U.S. weapons.

Plus, Trump's surprise guest. He appeared on Trump's jet this weekend about to attend a fundraiser for Trump now. Who is he now so often by his side? Could this be the short, the shortlist for VP?



BURNETT: Breaking news, CNN has just learned the Biden administration believes Israel has amassed enough troops on the edge of Rafah to launch a full-scale invasion.

This comes after President Biden warn very clearly in our exclusive interview with him that the United States would stop providing weapons if Israel moved to do exactly that.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I made it clear that if they go into Rafah, they haven't gone in Rafah yet. If they go into Rafah, I'm not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities, to deal with that problem. It's just wrong. We're not going to -- we're not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells.


BURNETT: MJ Lee is breaking this reporting tonight OUTFRONT of the White House.

And, MJ -- I mean, you're reporting tonight is hugely significant. Biden gave an ultimatum to Netanyahu. He was very clear. And now you're reporting that Israel has moved ahead and has the troops ready for that full invasion?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. What two senior administration officials tell me and Kylie Atwood tonight is that the U.S.'s current assessment is that Israel does have enough troops, a mass on the border of Rafah to move forward with the full incursion into the city in the coming days.

But an important caveat, Erin, is that senior U.S. officials actually don't know right now whether Israel has even made a final decision to go ahead with such an operation. Now, I don't have to tell you. It would be hugely significant if Israel did actually move forward with such a military operation precisely because of what President Biden told you in the interview last week, he made very clear that the U.S. would stop sending offensive weapons to Israel if they were to take that step. And all of this would of course be in direct defiance of what the president has repeatedly warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to not do in the past several months.

Now, in just a sign of how problematic this would be in the eyes of the Biden White House, one senior official telling me that Israel has made nowhere near the preparations that it would need to when it comes to food, shelter, and even a hygiene in preparation for needing to move and evacuate eventually more than 1 million people that are currently in Rafah. What's also interesting is that we are seeing U.S. officials increasingly questioning the way that Israel is taking an approach to the end of this war. Kurt Campbell, who is a number two at the State Department, told Kylie

earlier today that Israeli leaders often talk about the idea of a sweeping victory on the battlefield and about this idea of total victory. But what he said to Kylie was, I don't think we believe that is likely or possible. So that's certainly a sobering assessment from a top us official as the Israelis continue to warn that they are going to move ahead with such an operation into Rafah, Erin. Certainly significant to say a total victory is not possible as they've defined it.

BURNETT: All right. MJ Lee, thank you very much with that crucial breaking news from the White House.

I want to go OUTFRONT now to Democratic Congressman Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

So, Congressman, I appreciate your time, sobering development tonight with MJ's reporting. Israel's amassed enough troops to launch a full- scale invasion of Rafah. Of course, President Biden has made it very clear. He made it very clear in that interview last week when I asked him that that was not okay. It was wrong and that he would withhold offensive weapons if Israel moved ahead with that kind of an operation into the population center of Rafah.

So is there any turning back for Israel now?

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): Well, certainly there is. I mean, they have not gone into Rafah in that way and so they would have to make a decision to go in. So, clearly, there is turning back and look, Prime Minister Netanyahu was put Israel, the U.S., and the entire Middle East and a very difficult place. We do not want to withdrawal support from Israel, least, at least I don't, the president doesn't. We saw that when Iran attacked Israel a few weeks ago, if we are not able to help Israel defend itself, this war could spread as Iran and Hezbollah decide to jump into that void.

But at the same time, Prime Minister Netanyahu is pursuing a strategy that is not in the best interests of Israel and not in the best interests of peace. He has no plan for a post-Hamas-Gaza. So, the president has been trying every lever we have to change that. But we don't really have the power to just force them to do something differently. And as I said, completely abandoning them comes with on high amount of risk for peace in the region as well. That's what President Biden is trying to navigate.

BURNETT: So one thing though, after President Biden said to me that warning, two things happened. One, Prime Minister Netanyahu came out and posted a video saying I've to go it alone if I have to with my fingernails or something like that. But it was go it alone if I have to.

And the IDF came out, the spokesperson, Mr. Hagari, and said in a defiant statement, Israel is enough weapons and its stockpile to go ahead in Rafah if it chooses to.

[19:40:01] Now, obviously, some of those weapons, it appears our American weapons, but they already have them. My question to you is congressman, from your perspective, the information you have on armed services, can Israel go it alone even if it's using stockpiled U.S. weapons? But can they do it? Can they do a major offensive in Rafah without additional new U.S. weapons?

SMITH: Absolutely, they could absolutely do that. The better question is, could Israel adequately deter all of the different entities who want to attack it? Iran, Hezbollah, the Houthis, various other militia groups without that support. That's a much tougher question.

Yes. Israel could go into Rafah without U.S. support. No question about it. Well, I mean, its a real as I said, its a real problem. What Prime Minister Netanyahu is doing, not looking to a future where there is some kind of peace in Gaza. There has to be a future for the Palestinian people on his approach has been, you know, undermining that, at every turn. There are people who could come and govern Gaza, Palestinians.

The Saudis are working with them. King Abdullah in Jordan is working with them. Egypt, UAE, others are trying to build that group. Prime Minister Netanyahu has to give them that chance by giving some kind of future for Gaza and by focusing on the humanitarian crisis there as well. And it's in Israel's best interest to do that.

BURNETT: And yet, and yet, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been intransigent in terms of the way he sees this. And perhaps that's part of the reason why President Biden chose to give that ultimatum as he did when I spoke to him last week. I mean, is the Biden-Netanyahu relationship which is central to this, what is the status of that right now, after President Biden did what he did?

SMITH: It's very clear that is problematic. I mean, it looked but again, I think the more important issue here is what is Prime Minister Netanyahu's relationship with the Israeli people? It's not good. You see all of the protesters, you see all of the concern, the concern for the hostages.

So whatever Netanyahu's relationship is with Biden, Biden's relationship with Israel, the U.S. relationship with Israel is strong, Prime Minister Netanyahu is creating problems for that. And again, the people paying a high, high price for that certainly are the people in Gaza, but also the Israeli people who are placed at greater danger because of it.

BURNETT: All right. Congressman, I appreciate your time. Good to talk to you tonight. Thank you, sir.

SMITH: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, all eyes tonight on a little-known governor who has suddenly found himself flying on Trump's private jet, attending fundraisers and massive rallies.

Could he be Trump's VP? And breaking news, more reports of tornadoes tonight as storms across the United States are growing more destructive and more deadly.

We'll be back.



BURNETT: Tonight, VP courtship. Trump, bringing a surprise passenger on the plane to his New Jersey rally this weekend, the North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. Burgum and his wife even stayed behind in the plane to huddle with the former president, according to "The New York Post".

And now, Burgum was not widely known outside of his state, he did run for president. He said to join Trump tomorrow to fundraiser in New York, along with several other VP hopefuls with much higher name recognition.

So why Burgum?

So Harry Enten is with me to go beyond the numbers.

So, I mentioned he ran for president.


BURNETT: And he did run for president.

ENTEN: He did.

BURNETT: He's an extremely successful businessman. But he didn't get traction there. He did not become a household name. But now, suddenly, a lot of buzz.

ENTEN: A lot of buzz, you know, you were mentioning -- I look back at the polls more than 70 percent of voters didn't know who the heck he was, even when he was running for president, including north of 70 percent of Republicans.

Yet, if you look at the odds of Doug Burgum being Donald Trump's pick for VP. Look at this according to the betting markets a month ago, it was just 3 percent. Then May 1st, it was 13 percent. Now it is 24 percent.

He has gone up eightfold in only a month period of time. Now you may look at that 24 percent, you say, oh, that's not that high but that's actually tops for any of the potential Trump VP picks according to the betting market odds. He's beating out Tim Scott. He's beating out JD Vance.

He is now number one, according to the bettor and that I think lines up the conventional wisdom, which a lot of folks like myself a month ago, nah, this guy couldn't potentially be the VP.

Now, a lot of folks are saying, hey, you know what, this could actually happen?

BURNETT: Well, I mean the Kristi Noem dogs story implosion, and I mean that people said what you're going to be -- asked to pick a woman or he's going to pick Tim Scott, but now, a different shift, right? I mean, obviously, Doug Burgum is 60-something-year-old white man, right? Similar to Trump, but the surge is coming as Trump paraded him at the rally this weekend, obviously, happy to be seen with him.

And then they both went on stage and saying each others praises. Here they are this weekend.


TRUMP: Get ready for something. Okay? Just get ready. But Doug Burgum has been incredible.

GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R), NORTH DAKOTA: Working with President Trump as a governor was like having a beautiful breeze at your back.



BURNETT: Poetry.

ENTEN: Poetry.

BURNETT: Okay. What does Burgum offer Trump? Back to this point of needing a woman or looking at Tim Scott for the South, for it -- because Tim Scott, you got African-American vote. Doug Burgum, what does he bring?

ENTEN: Can you remember a VP outside of LBJ that actually helped out a presidential ticket? Because I'm going through my head and I really can't think of one. I can think of at least one who harmed the ticket, Dan Quayle, back in 1988 and '92.

The number one rule when it comes to VP picks is do no harm, do no harm. Doug Burgum might be one of the most boring guys alive and if you look in North Dakota where the voters know him best.


He has basically been this guy who's been able to reach across the middle.

Take a look at this. This is voters in North Dakota who think that Trump or Burgum are conservative, 72 percent of North Dakota instinct Trump's things conservative versus 44 percent of those who know Doug Burgum best. He has the type of pick that Trump is trying to say, I'm not going to eliminate the middle. I'm not going to distract. I'm going to be safe. And that is why Doug Burgum is on the rise at this point?

BURNETT: Yeah. Well, that's really interesting. Only 44 percent would say he's conservative, which as you point out, would show a pragmatic --


BURNETT: A pragmatic sort of governor.

All right. Thank you very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the breaking news, reports of tornadoes, right now in the South is we're seeing storms grow more destructive and deadly. We'll be right back.



BURNETT: Just in, we are getting new reports this hour of destructive tornadoes in parts of Louisiana. It comes as tornadoes and hurricanes are getting more powerful than ever. Homes leveled, rebuilt, leveled again. A climate crisis fueling more than 80 different billion-dollar disasters in the U.S. in the past four years, 80 different billion- dollar disasters in four years.

But now, one woman is taking matters into her own hands. And, Bill Weir is OUTFRONT with his champion for change.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The most powerful storm ever to make landfall on the Florida panhandle.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The window to evacuate is closed.

ANNETTE RUBIN, VERO BUILDING SYSTEMS CEO: I remember watching TV and thinking, if this stays on the same path, we're not going to make it and it's too late to leave.

I'm originally from Seattle, Washington, and I met my husband up there. I was bartending and he was playing for professional football for the Seattle Seahawks. We are having our first baby, and so, we purchased a home on the Gulf Coast right outside of Destin.

We had Ava, my first baby girl when Hurricane Michael hit 12 weeks later.

REPORTER: Hunker down, stay indoors, stay away from windows.

RUBIN: Wind Code actually where I live is about 115 miles an hour. And hurricane Michael was well beyond that already. The storm continued to shift and then unfortunately hit Mexico City Beach, where it was its complete and total devastation and absolutely heartbreaking.

The next morning when I woke up, there was a fire in me that this isn't right. I can't live from June to October every single year, hoping that a

storm does not come and kill me and my kids.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: And so, driven purely by a desire to protect her own family, Annette Rubin became an accidental pioneer in the field of disaster proofing construction.

You had no experience and construction or business of this sort at all.


I went down this rabbit hole of how do we build a fortified structure?

WEIR: In her new quest to find a really strong building material ,someone at Annette's church brought up Emmedue, or M2. It's a 40- year-old Italian company created by an engineer who discovered a really easy to construct method to build a home that could stand up to an earthquake.

Basically came up with a Styrofoam and steel mesh sandwich on concrete read, first you make these panels any shape you want, round, straight. It can be a roof that could be stairs, it could be a park bench. It could be an airport. And then it is covered with sprayable concrete.

RUBIN: That's SCIP, structural concrete insulated panel, creating one monolithic structure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What these panels have that's great is that they're way more waterproof than a traditional construction material. So if you see that building over there, the roofs not even finished, its not even waterproofed and it just rained like three days in a row and not one droplet got into the second floor?

RUBIN: So this is the mesh machine up here, and we can do very length and width and all that.

WEIR: Did you ever imagine when you are moving across the country that you'd be doing this?

RUBIN: No, definitely not.

We have a 250 mile an hour wind rating.

WEIR: Two hundred and fifty?

RUBIN: Yeah, which they're actually has never been a hurricane that fast before.

WEIR: Right, that would be a category nine or something, but yeah.

RUBIN: Yeah, there's never been a hurricane that fast before.

WEIR: As a climate reporter/dad, I tend to measure global trends against the lifetime of my kids. It just in the four years since my little boy River was born, there

have been over 80 separate billion-dollar disasters, just in the U.S. As the planet overheat sunder a blanket of fossil fuel pollution, it is clear the way we think about shelter has to evolve.

RUBIN: We have these huge catastrophic events and they rebuild everything the exact same way. In my mind, that's the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and hoping for different results.

Our goal is to give 10 percent of all of our profits to disaster relief, donating homes to people who lose them and hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, you know, any kind of natural disaster. And they're getting worse.

I think people are hungry for something different. And I think as a construction community, there's enough people coming up in the next generation that really want to learn these new innovative things.


BURNETT: Her story is incredible, to pursue this, you know, from nothing to get to where you actually have the company and the product and the idea. And, you know, and that you wrote about are in your book, "Life as We Know It (Can Be)".

WEIR: Right, yeah.

BURNETT: But when you look at what she's doing right now, she says that the definition of insanity is doing something you know, wont work again and again.

WEIR: Right.

BURNETT: Part of the reason people do that is because it's cheap on the upfront.

WEIR: Exactly.

BURNETT: Is this more expensive to build?

WEIR: Well, I actually wrote this book because as a guide to my boy, like where to live, what kind of house to live in as the Earth heats up right now. And it turns out that if you live in a place with a lot of swimming pools like Florida, California, the southern part. Those are the contractors who know how to blow concrete, shot create a granite (ph), it's called.

And so it may be 5 percent more than a stick fame construction, but there's so many saved costs at the end. You don't have to put a roof on it. You don't have to put signing on it. You can do whatever you want with it.

But it's just encouraging to see somebody take their anxiety and turned it into action?

BURNETT: Yes, anxiety into action.

WEIR: To make a safer world for all of us.

BURNETT: Absolutely, and 5 percent more. I mean, that's nothing when you think about it.

All right. Thank you so much, Bill.

And don't miss the one-hour "Champions for Change" special Saturday at 9:00.

"AC360" starts now.