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Erin Burnett Outfront

Putin & Kim Make Strongest Military Deal In Decades; Trump May Get The Payback He Wants, VA Race Too Close To Call; Larry Sabato On Concerns He's Hearing From Dems About Biden; New Details About The Trump Ground Game No One Knew He Had. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 19, 2024 - 19:00   ET




Putin and Kim make a deal as investigative reporter Christo Grozev has new details tonight about the spies Putin wants from Kim. He's my guest.

Plus, Larry Sabato, one of the nation's most trusted political voices, telling OUTFRONT that Democrats are calling him, asking what would happen if Biden is not the party's nominee. Who's calling and what are they saying?

And new reporting tonight on Trump's ground game, bigger than anyone knew. Why he may have the Democrats to thank for that.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, we begin with the longest goodbye. Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un couldn't bear to part this evening, embracing on the tarmac, prolonging their goodbyes. Both standing there across from each other, waving goodbye.

Once Putin got inside his plane, he continued to stare at Kim almost longingly, then waving smiling ear to ear. Kim and his cheering squad waving enthusiastically back, as hard as they could. It was almost childlike.

Putin departing after signing what was the most significant defense agreement for Russia since the Cold War. Nobody knows exactly all the details. We do know that it includes ammunition, missiles for Putin's war in Ukraine. For Kim, access to crucial Russian nuclear weapon technology.

And much as Putin may think or certainly used to think that the leader of North Korea is beneath him, he needed this meeting he went all in for it. And Kim treated Putin like a czar.

Look at this, massive banners of Kim and Putin everywhere, crowds everywhere. They pose just for pictures together with these massive portraits behind them, taking time to drive each other around. You see Putin taking the wheel there. That has a new Russian built

limousine that Putin is driving. They're not being driven by chauffeur, driving themselves all the while, thousands of adoring fans looked on everywhere they went. I mean, it was a rock star reception, fit for a czar.

Just listen to how Russian state television, which was there on the scene reported on.


YEVGENY POPOV, RUSSIAN STATE TV HOST (through translator): The balloons were in the air. North Korean children came to greet Putin. Everything was involved, Soviet songs, Russian flags, and, of course, blaring cheers of the Korean people in honor of the dearest guest arrival from the invincible Russia.


BURNETT: The invincible Russia.

This is quite a turn because it was just seven years ago that Putin was treating Kim like a persona non grata, way beneath him. I mean, listen to Putin then.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We do not recognize North Korea's nuclear status. Pyongyang's nuclear missile program grossly violates the U.N. Security Council resolution.


BURNETT: Wow, the tables have turned.

Here's Putin today.


PUTIN (through translator): Pyongyang has the right to take reasonable measures to strengthen its own defense capabilities, ensure national security, and protect sovereignty.


BURNETT: And Putin state run television anchors were almost giddy at the idea that this deal could give North Korea the power to strike the U.S. mainland.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Its ballistic missiles already reaching Hawaiian Islands, not to mention Japan. The centers on the West Coast of the United States could be under attack sometime later.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: All of this part of a war lust that is deeply dangerous. The former director of national intelligence James Clapper tells OUTFRONT: The evolving partnership between Putin and Kim poses a serious threat to the national security of the United States.

And Putin's total about-face on Kim and these past seven years does make sense in the context of his singular focus on taking on the West, a singular obsession shared by Kim. The West, of course, shorthanded to the United States. An obsession that may explain those long goodbyes and longing looks.

Will Ripley is OUTFRONT. He is in Hanoi in Vietnam. That is where Putin has just landed after leaving North Korea.

Will, a very different welcome for Putin, where you are standing tonight.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, it may have been a long goodbye and feeling young, but it was a cautious and quick hello here in Hanoi, Vietnam, trying its best to host President Putin for a relatively toned down, but friendly state visit without alienating the U.S. and allies.


Kim Jong Un, on the other hand, welcoming Putin in signature North Korea style.


RIPLEY (voice-over): By the time Vladimir Putin's plane landed in North Korea, it was 3:00 a.m. Wednesday, hours behind schedule.

Kim Jong Un was at the airport waiting, greeting the Russian president with handshakes, hugs, smiles, driving together in one of two Russian limousines Putin gave Kim as a gift, past Pyongyang skyscrapers, lit up to welcome the Russian leader in a nation plagued by power shortages.

They toured Kim's lavish guest house where Putin spent the night, waking up to the sound of huge crowds lining the streets of Pyongyang, chanting, "Welcome Putin" in almost perfect unison. Rolling through Pyongyang, riding past streets packed with people, waving Russian and North Korean flags as far as the eye could see.

Most of these people don't know the brutal reality of Putin's war in Ukraine, or the claims Pyongyang denies, that huge amounts of North Korean weapons and ammo are flowing into Russia. Cut off from the outside world, North Koreans only know what their government wants them to know, that Putin is Kim's new best friend.

KIM JONG UN, NORTH KOREAN LEADER (through translator): DPRK expresses full support and solidarity with the struggles of the Russian government.

PUTIN (through translator): We highly appreciate your consistent and unwavering support.

BURNETT: North Korea and Russia reviving a defense treaty from the Cold War, agreeing to help each other if attacked, the strongest military pact between the two nations in decades.

Putin also says Russia doesn't rule out developing military technical cooperation, raising fears around the world Putin might help Kim make his missiles more accurate, in exchange for a continued steady supply of weapons and ammo for Putin's war on Ukraine.

MIKE CHINOY, NON-RESIDENT SENIOR FELLOW, USC U.S.-CHINA INSTITUTE: So, we've seen a sea change in which the Russians are now overtly breaking the sanctions and helping the North Koreans to break the sanctions, which, of course, is a great boon to North Korea.

RIPLEY: Veteran North Korea and China journalist Mike Chinoy says Kim has all been abandoned U.S. diplomacy, angry and humiliated after summit talks with former President Donald Trump fell apart five years ago in Hanoi, Vietnam.

CHINOY: What we now are seeing is a kind of reconstituting of an anti- American bloc consisting of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.


RIPLEY (on camera): And all of those nations don't ask Kim Jong Un to give up his growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, Erin, weapons that North Korea and Russia, by the way, have long threatened to use against the U.S. if provoked.

So, now, Putin is here in Hanoi trying to prove they still has allies here in Southeast Asia. Vietnam, maybe an old friend of Russia, but it's his new friend in North Korea and their deepening military alliance that has much of the world worry tonight, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Will, in Hanoi.

And I want to go now to Christo Grozev, investigative journalist who's on Russia's wanted list, and Jean Lee, the former Pyongyang bureau chief for "The Associated Press".

Christo, I just want to start here. I know you've got new reporting on just how close Putin and Kim are. And specifically, I know you've uncovered a link involving what some may remember that assassination of Kim Jong Un's brother that happened in the middle of a crowded airport, that there is a link here.

CHRISTO GROZEV, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Yeah, there is. And I think its relevant in the context of what were seeing now, which may be treated as a sort of a payback time at the time. And the time in 2017 when Kim Jong Un's brother was assassinated by what everybody in the world assumed was just an operation by the security service of North Korea, it was known that the North Korean agents who conducted the assassination or controlled the assassination, fled to Russia. And from there, they were headed over despite the request by South Korea for them to be handed over to South Korea, there were sent back to North Korea.

What is not known and what were reporting for the first time is that these same agents, four of them, actually spent some time in Russia before arriving to Malaysia and to Hanoi before that, with that operation. So, clearly, there was some training, some assistance provided by Russia, whether logistical or more than that. That in the long term became a favor, that putting could ask for -- ask back for, maybe happening now.

BURNETT: I mean, it -- absolutely. I just to emphasize, I mean, that's incredible new detail here that that assassination team had just spent time in Russia and had received, you know, their connections, training.

So do you think then, Christo, that what we're seeing now in terms of what Putin is now wanting from North Korea, is this the payback?


GROZEV: Well, it's way back, but it's not just for that. I mean, we've seen other evidence that spies from North Korea had received training in Russia. We've received access to the mailbox of a North Korean diplomat based in Vladivostok that shows that there was a constant flow of spies from North Korea that received training in Russia.

So, there has been, a lot of behind the scenes support by Putin's Russia to North Korea's regime over the years. And it's payback time now indeed.

BURNETT: And again, just to emphasize, all those spies training in Russia showing the depth of these ties.

Jean, you know, when we -- what we see here in the imagery, the pomp and circumstance, I say fit for a czar. I mean, certainly, Putin's never had a welcome like this anywhere, even in his own country, they're not able to control people to this extent that they are North Korea.

He got a big hug on the tarmac from Kim Jong Un, that personal touch. They take walks together. They got in the limousine together and Putin is driving Kim around and this limo that is made in Russia that he gave to Kim.

I mean, Jean, when you look at this and you have been covering Kim since he took the public stage in North Korea, what stands out to you? What do you see in these moments?

JEAN H. LEE, CO-HOST, "THE LAZARUS HEIST" PODCAST, BBC WORLD SERVICE: Well, Erin, I have to tell you that I had a knot in the pit of my stomach watching these images of Putin and Kim in Pyongyang, like you said, from that embrace to the massive portraits on Kim Il Sung Square that lionized these two men. I've never seen anything like that in all my years in North Korea. And I have to tell you that it evoked in me and emotion I don't think I felt since my childhood growing up here in America during the Cold War. And as the daughter of Korean War survivors, and I think that's precisely what these two men want to do by standing together as friends and as military allies is to instigate a sense of anxiety in us. But I will say that watching Kim seen him just go to Putin, embrace him, reminds me how far he has come and how much these meetings have given him legitimacy and legacy.

Now, this is a huge ego boost for Putin, but it's also important for Kim. Both them are international pariahs. This is a moment to show their own people in addition to sending a warning to us, but to show their own people that look, we still have friends, friends were going to help us, friends that we can stand together with in case of war. So, absolutely interesting to see the interaction between them.

BURNETT: Christo, you know, you talk about Putin's -- the game here, and the spies that you say the Korean spies, North Koreans that have trained in Russia, the assassin team that perhaps received training in Russia.

How do Putin security services who are such a central power, you know, power center in Russia themselves, how do they view this -- this entire relationship now, this, this now the biggest security deal for Russia since the Cold War.

GROZEV: I think they're the ones, the security services in Russia, they want to see this as a real opportunity of equals for they can help each other, more so than the military had been receiving already shells and ammunition from North Korea for more than a year, a total almost 5 million units, according to some estimates, and not all of them are completely happy with these -- with these deliveries because not all of them work up to the standards that the Russians have gotten used to from their own production.

But the security services, the ones who can benefit from some support, some help from North Korea. Why? Because Russia is run out of spies around the world and this is not an exaggeration. Russia has lost all -- most of their diplomatic spies under diplomatic cover because of a lot of expulsions over the last couple of years as the war started and Russia has lost a lot of their illegals -- the people on the long-term illegal cover --


BURNETT: Oh, it sounds -- sorry, sorry, go ahead, yeah.

GROZEV: -- of them to maintain secrecy. So they need to replenish -- they need to replenish their operating potential and using other people -- other people spies is something they do. They've used Belarusian spies in Eastern Europe before, and now they can use also North Korean spies for some of their more remote Asian operations, for example.

BURNETT: Which is a crucial.

Jean, one question here, obviously, there was the situation with Trump and Kim, right? They had the summit, the love letter, the whole thing. Trump is now saying that -- you know, he was bragging about the relationship is if he wins, it suddenly this relationship would be good with North Korea, again, that this would all be broken up. Here's what he said in recent days.



Remember the famous couple of meetings, I get along great with him. I know him quite well and he's a very smart guy.

North Korea's getting frisky and I get along with him very well.


BURNETT: Jean, does Kim reciprocate this? Is this anything other than just bluster?


LEE: They clearly have established a relationship, a bromance of sorts. But I should remind you that the negotiations, despite that connection, and that connection that they forge, the negotiations did not pan out. And those negotiations are only going to be harder so many years later as North Korea has built up its arsenal to an even greater degree if Donald Trump is back in the White House. So I don't think it's going to be clear and sailing even if he is elected.

And he could be very complicated. And I think that Donald Trump knows that, but he doesn't want to use that as a campaign slogan.

BURNETT: All right. Christo, Jean, thank you both very much.

And next, the payback. Trump on the cusp of getting revenge, the candidate he backed is only a few hundred votes ahead, still though too close to call.

Plus, one of the country's most trusted political analysts selling OUTFRONT that he is hearing from Democrats worried about Biden. What are they saying and what are they asking for when they call Larry Sabato, a pollster and expert? OUTFRONT ahead.

And new reporting on Trump's ground game, a ground game that wouldn't even be legal if it were not for Democrats. We'll explain.



BURNETT: Tonight, too close to call. Virginia Congressman Bob Good right now trailing is challenger, John McGuire by just 313 votes in the Republican primary. Votes are still coming into night and that gap has been shrinking.

Good is hanging on despite Donald Trump's best efforts to oust him. And what's become the most expensive GOP house primary this year.

Melanie Zanona is OUTFRONT.


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER (voice-over): Republican Congressman Bob Good hanging by a thread --

TRUMP: Bob Good who is actually bad for Virginia and who will stab you in the back like he did me.

ZANONA: -- after being targeted by Donald Trump in a bitter and expensive primary race, which remains too close to call.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Trump put out of video saying you stabbed him in the back. What's your response to that?

ZANONA: Good is just barely trailing his opponent, John McGuire, a Navy SEAL, and Virginia state senator, who declared victory hours after the polls closed on Tuesday.

JOHN MCGUIRE (R), VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Ladies and gentlemen, the votes are in and the people have spoken. It is an honor to be your Republican nominee for the fifth congressional district.


ZANONA: But Trump's endorsement of McGuire failed to deliver the decisive knockout blow he was hoping for. And even some McGuire voters wished he had stayed out of the race.

STEVEN RANEY, VOTED FOR JOHN MCGUIRE: Stay away from it, and that way, you won't cause problems with division. Let the people make their -- make up their minds.

ZANONA: The source of Trump's anger, Good initially backed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over Trump, a perceived act of disloyalty that Trump has not forgotten.

REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): Just want to congratulate and thank Governor Ron DeSantis. America is hungry for courageous, conservative leadership.

ZANONA: And as chairman of the ultra conservative House Freedom Caucus, Good has made other powerful enemies in the GOP, including Kevin McCarthy, whom Good voted to remove as speaker.

MCGUIRE: His legacy is going to be that he shrunk our party. We're down to a one vote majority in Congress.

ZANONA: But Good still hugs Trump tightly in the race, a sign that Trump's stamp of approval remains highly coveted in the GOP.

Good even showed up in New York to support Trump during his hush money trial last month. GOOD: So we're here to have his back. We're here to defend him, and to

tell the truth about this travesty of justice, this political persecution, this election interference, this rigging elections.

ZANONA: And he made campaign signs using Trump's name, earning a sharp rebuke from Trump's team.

TRUMP: John McGuire has my complete and total endorsement. I want that to be understood because Bob Good's going around saying we're friends. I mean, he was fine the last six months, but before that he was basic disaster.

ZANONA: But Good is not throwing in the towel just yet, vowing to stand the race until every vote is counted. And writing on social media: We believe we can still prevail.

GOOD: I believe that you all will send me back to Washington.

ZANONA: If the margin is less than one percentage point, Good can ask for a recount, meaning Trump's quest for revenge remains on hold, at least for now.


BURNETT: Melanie, it's amazing. Ii know you had a chance to speak to a lot of voters today that actually they didn't want to go on camera, which is a really fascinating thing in and of itself. I mean, so tell me about that and what they told you.

ZANONA: Yeah. Erin, we've been talking to voters here in the district. Really, you can't go very far without seeing Bob Good signs and/or John McGuire signs, most of which include Donald Trump's name on them. So we've been asking voters, how much Donald Trump's endorsement impact your decision makings?

And, Erin, I got to tell you, the responses were pretty mixed. I talked to one gentleman he was wearing a Donald Trump cap. He said he's a big Trump supporter, but he said that he voted for Bob Good because he liked his policies more so than Trump's payback. So it remains to be seen whether Trump's endorsement is going to be enough to put John McGuire over the finish line and defeat Bob Good.

BURNETT: That's fascinating. And the fact that we still don't know it, just yet again, you realize every vote matters and it is so good and important than Virginia people are trusting the system as they -- as they should.

Thank you so much, Melanie.

And next, Larry Sabato, one of America's most trusted political experts says he's fielding questions from Democrats, asking about what if Biden's not their nominee? So why are they asking this now? Who are they proposing? Larry Sabato is our guest.

And we have new reporting about Trump's ground game, taking a lot of people by surprise tonight. We'll tell you why. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BURNETT: New tonight, a plan B for Biden. Larry Sabato, one of America's most trusted political experts, and the man behind Sabato's crystal ball, which predicts the likely outcomes of races across the country, revealing that he is now getting phone calls from some Democrats who have concerns or questions about what would happen if -- if Joe Biden is not the party's nominee this November.

And Larry is with me now.

So, Larry, you know, first of all, I know, you know, you're certain Joe Biden is going to be the nominee, but you're getting these calls. Can you tell me about them? Who's calling you? What are they saying?

LARRY SABATO, POLITICAL ANALYST: I think every analyst has a group of go-tos, Erin, people theyve known for years or decades, and were able to be frank with one another and, you know, off the record or deep background or whatever, and, you know, we cover a lot of subjects. Sometimes it just comes up in the middle of a conversation and one or two cases, it was a bit different. It was about asking whether there were clear historical precedents for open conventions to choose a nominee if the original nominee was unable to serve.

This perfectly legitimate, you do want to a plan B. The Republicans ought to have one, too. You know, their nominee just turned 78. So I think that's good preparation.

Now, there is a difference, at least I've seen a difference over many decades I've been around politics. Democrats really are more nervous and more easily panicked than Republicans are. I'm not sure exactly faculty why that's the case, but they get nervous. They read the same polls, which I don't believe, by the way, as everybody else.


And, you know, they talk to themselves and they decide that they want to check out some possibilities.

BURNETT: So, you know, it's interesting when you say everyone ought to have a plan B, generally they don't because, you know, you're not looking at the situation you're looking at, right? With the age of the two people who are going to be the nominees here.

Who are they asking you about, Larry? I understand people some are going to ask about Kamala Harris and how that would play out. But who are the other names when they say to you if something happens, then what -- who is that name?

SABATO: Sure. Some of them, the ones that are in public office, of course, probably you're thinking about themselves. All senators and governors and so on wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and see a president. But the ones who were mentioned most frequently and not just by these

people that I've been talking to are Governor Gavin Newsom of California, Governor Pritzker of Illinois, because he could self-fund, Governor Whitmer of Michigan, her appeal is pretty obvious, and Michigan is so critical. Governor Shapiro, who's done quite well and become popular quickly in Pennsylvania, another key swing state, and others.

And notice most of them are governors because they don't have long records of having cast votes on every controversial issue known to man and woman.


SABATO: So it's a little bit easier to present them.

BURNETT: All right. So if you were, you know, looking at this and, you know, obviously, you are the creator of the crystal ball, how much of an edge could a new Democrat on the Democratic ticket, the top of the ticket, how much of an edge would that even give the Democrats at this point?

SABATO: This is a really important questionnaire because Democrats who may be thinking about alternatives need to understand what would happen. The new candidate would undoubtedly at first received positive publicity and people would say, oh, thank goodness, we no longer have that choice between Trump and Biden that we don't want, or what would happen after that first blush, the other party would dig up every negative thing they could find about that candidates past and present personality. And it would be all over TV and social media for weeks.

So the glow wouldn't last. It never does in politics.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Larry, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

SABATO: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And joining me now to follow on this, the former Democratic Congressman Max Rose, and the former Trump White House communications director, Alyssa Farah Griffin.

So, Max, you know, you hear Larry talk about this. You know, when he's saying he was -- I thought it was very -- he really explained it. He said it's not just casual conversations where it comes up. Some people actually calling with this, that he senses a greater sense of anxiety and paranoia among Democrats than Republicans. And I know you're not necessarily hearing the same thing, but people are hearing get from the party.

Here are two people, very well-known individuals expressing this concern.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's just a lot of concern about the age issue and that is something that I think he needs to ponder. Just do a check and say, is this the right thing to do?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There's so much talent and a lot of it is young and vigorous and energetic. I thought that Biden -- President Biden could consider not running for an election, but that's not the choice that he made.


BURNETT: What do you say to them and those party insiders who are calling Larry Sabato?

ROSE: You know, it's interesting because what the Republicans are also saying, like the background I saw, for instance, is that this is actually a conspiracy, that the plan is already said it's a conspiracy, that Biden is sure to be replaced. I tell you if it was at this stage, if it had gone beyond the Axelrods and the Carvilles, I was 100 percent, correct. I've never met a sitting elected official at the statewide level who doesn't want to be president.

So what would the Governor Whitmers and the Newsoms of the world be doing right now? They'd be calling donors. They'd be calling delegates. They've been making plan to rise out.

BURNETT: In the shadow, they'd be a shadow effort going on.

ROSE: There would be an incredible shadow effort right now, not just to win the nomination, but to also try to raise over $1 billion in like 90 days. So that's not happening at all and people might be calling Larry, people might be talking about it who used to serve former presidents but that shadow campaigns not happening, which means that there's no "there" there here.

BURNETT: Now, and, Alyssa, obviously, that is crucial because they would have to raise -- I mean, the complexity, I guess that's what a lot of these huge are calling about you, how does this work in an election? How does an open convention work? How do you -- how do you raise this money?

Of the names that Larry mentioned and those are the ones that he said kept coming up, who would -- who would Trump considered to be the biggest threat?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, unquestionably, Gavin Newsom, and I think -- I think the others would struggle with name ID, even though we all know who they are. You know, people in California don't necessarily know who Gretchen Whitmer is. But this is a popular second term governor of the -- you know, one of most populous states.

I've been in meetings with -- at least one meeting with Newsom and Trump, and he raved afterward. He's out of central casting. He looks the part. He was very gregarious. He was nice to Trump, but he can also, you know, cater to the more left-wing of the party. That's the only person in this very out there scenario who I think could even rise to the occasion and to Trump would be threatened by.


But I was of the Axelrod mind that the stakes are too high. Biden should be performing better. They should consider replacing him. I think the window is totally closed. You cannot do that five months out and raise the name ID that you need to reach as many voters as you need to be such a herculean effort.

BURNETT: And yet, Max, we're in a situation where, you know, "Axios" is reporting that many senior Democrats, including some of Biden's aides, are really doubting how Biden's going about it. They're saying specifically his called democracy is under threat and harkening back to January 6 and saying its a choice between that and me, one Democratic strategist said to "Axios": It's unclear to many of us watching from the outside whether the president and his core team realize how dire the situation is right now, and whether they even have a plan to fix it. That is scary.

Are you scared by the campaign Biden's running right now?

ROSE: I'm not scared by the campaign that Biden's running. I am totally frightened, though, by a presidential election that involves even a slim chance that Donald Trump could become the president-elect.

BURNETT: It's not a slim chance right now.

ROSE: Oh, look --

BURNETT: It's much more than a slim chance.

ROSE: In this country, the way we're politically divided, it is always going to be close to 50/50. Now, Biden's weakness and strength is people have doubted him before. They doubted his campaign in 2020, and the effort in 2022. In both those instances, highly successful.

I do fall back on one critical stat and that is in poll after poll, after poll, there's roughly kind of 7 to 12 percent of the electorate that's undecided. I can understand how someone is still undecided.

But when they ask them if the election was today, who would you go with? Biden is still winning, so long that that's the case, I do believe that momentum is on his side.

BURNETT: Larry mentioned that Republicans should have a plan B as well, you know, in part -- and forget that people don't seem to care about the legal stuff, whatever all that, the reasons they thought they need a plan B, but you also have a 78-year-old man running and something could happen. Same reason that they're expensively worried about Biden on the Democratic side, they're not worried about Trump on the Republican side.

GRIFFIN: Well, it underscores why six in ten Americans didn't want this rematch from hell. But there is no plan B. If there wasn't a plan B after 34 felony counts, convictions, they're not, they're sticking with Donald Trump.

BURNETT: There's not going to be one now.

GRIFFIN: Yes, it would be -- it'll be presumably, if anything were to happen, it would be whoever he names as his vice president at the convention. But I just have to say, I think -- I think if Democrats were running, I've been dreaming up Barack Obama or somebody, he would be performing dramatically better than Joe Biden is.

And Joe Biden's legacy is on the line. If he loses to Donald Trump and Donald Trump becomes president again because he didn't step aside, history will remember that.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

ROSE: Thank you.

BURNETT: Great conversation.

And next, it may be the key to Trump's victory in November if he has one, and he has Democrats to thank for this. We have new reporting next. We'll explain.

Plus, the historic flight. Two dozen Black veterans on the first ever Juneteenth honor flight, and they receive a hero's welcome that is long overdue.


UNIDENTIFIED MLAE: I really wish that they (INAUDIBLE). You see, I'm tearing up now.




BURNETT: Tonight, the Trump ground game no one knew he had.

So we've got new reporting from Trump insider, Mark Caputo, and it reveals that the Trump campaign's ground game could be much larger and stronger than anyone expected. And that the reason for that is Democrats.

Democrats fought and won to change a campaign finance rule that team Trump is now exploiting.

And Marc Caputo is OUTFRONT. He is the national political reporter at "The Bulwark".

Okay. Marc, so, you know, in this reporting, you say nobody thought Trump's ground game, would amount to much in part because of all the Nikki Haleys and all the people, you know, all the other resources that had gone another way. This is taking people by surprise.

So what more can you tell me.

MARC CAPUTO, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE BULWARK: Well, thanks for the Democrats asking if a campaign can coordinate closely with a field organization that is a group of people who paid canvassers to knock on doors and getting the answer, yes, that's sort the answer to Trump's prayers or the Trump campaign's prayers because they didn't have much of a ground game. They didn't have a lot of money. They couldn't really hire staff. They didn't have experience.

Now essentially, they can outsource a lot of that. We're talking like maybe about 3,000 paid canvases across six maybe seven swing states. The thing is though it's not in-house. They're going to have to kind of contract out, deal with other committees, other political groups. Those political groups will do the hiring.

There are some rules, but by and large, it makes it a lot easier for the Trump campaign to outsource something it couldn't do before.

BURNETT: All right. So, you write and we talked about the huge money gap between the two campaigns. I understand you're saying, look, it's not necessarily going to be all roses. However, I just want to emphasize here, Marc, this -- this, that the Trump campaign is able to take advantage of, it is helping them in measurably, is thanks to a Democratic election lawyer, right? Democratic election lawyer fought for this? How come?

CAPUTO: Correct, on behalf of a group called Texas Majority PAC, yes.

BURNETT: And they did this because they thought Biden would benefit or why?

CAPUTO: No. They did this at the Senate level and at the state-level. Texas Democrats hope broadly can eventually flip blue. And in order to do that, they've got to put Democrats say, the resources, the money, and the know-how into it.

This would be a help to Colin Allred, they hope, in his race against Ted Cruz. However, federal races are federal races. And the same rules apply to a Senate candidate as it does to a presidential one. And therefore, the Trump campaign says, ahhh, here's an opportunity solve our problem. Biden's campaign has a massive internal organization that's handling all of this and they're not really going to be taking advantage of it, at least not right now. It's the Trump campaign that is.

BURNETT: Well and it saves them because, I mean, you know, they didn't have anything as you point out. So whether they're able to get where they need to get with it, that's the question. But the fact that they even have the opportunity and that's thanks to a Democratic election lawsuit, I think is hugely important to emphasize.


But you also say, Marc, in your reporting that Trump could be his own worst enemy here because as even though sometimes his campaign speeches, he's been saying things like people should vote and take whatever -- you know, do whatever you need to do voting early, then he comes out and slams early voting and he just did it the other day. And just so everyone understands, this is what -- if you go to a rally, this is what people heard from Trump.


TRUMP: We don't need votes. We got more votes than anybody's ever had. We need to watch the vote. We did to guard the vote. We need to stop the steal.

We don't need votes. We have to stop -- focus, don't worry about votes. We've got all the votes.


BURNETT: So, how -- does this hurt him?

CAPUTO: It's not very helpful. Understand, just weeks before, the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee had unveiled this idea, a program called Swamp the Vote.

And they said, look, you want to vote early, in-person, great. You want to vote by mail, great. You want to vote on election day, great. Just show up. Everyone needs to vote. Everyone needs to vote. Everyone needs to vote.

Few weeks later, Donald Trump is sort of off that teleprompter, he's off the script and he's back to those, like, look, we got plenty of votes, don't worry about it.

Yeah, it's not the sort of thing that helps but Trump throughout his political career has been self-sabotaging and in 2016 he won, in 2020, he didn't. We're going to see about 2024.

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

CAPUTO: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, an historic flight on this Juneteenth to honor the many Black veterans who never received the recognition they deserve.

And American Paul Whelan spending his 2,000th day in a Russian prison, 2,000 days. Tonight, his family has a message for Washington.



BURNETT: Tonight, history is being made on Juneteenth. Twenty-six Black veterans arriving in Washington, D.C. on the first ever Juneteenth honor flight. The unsung heroes, including a 101-year-old World War II vet, making an emotional journey to visit the memorials built in their honor.

Dianne Gallagher is OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be Juneteenth honor flight.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Celebration, admiration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is such a pleasure and privilege to be your captain this morning.

GALLAGHER: Appreciation -- all long overdue and it coming on this day makes it that much sweeter for more than two dozen Black veterans, including 101-year-old Calvin Kemp.

CALVIN GEORGE KEMP, 101-YEAR-OLD WHO SERVED IN WORLD WAR II: She's going to be holding my hand.

GALLAGHER: Onboard the first ever Juneteenth honor flight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is an honor for me, as well as its crew, to take you to D.C. this morning.

GALLAGHER: From Atlanta to Washington, D.C., a well-earned all expenses paid jam-packed day of fanfare and camaraderie. Visiting military memorials and monuments but also confronting, conflicting emotions about their own service. And how a country they loved and fought for didn't always love them back.

KEMP: I went and brown eyed and bushy tail then got the Navy uniform on. I felt proud and I was somebody, I felt like somebody. I felt very proud of representing my country.

And then when I come back home, I couldn't go to school. I couldn't go on in place buy a hamburger, couldn't go in a motel. It broke me down.

GALLAGHER: Those feelings shared by so many Black veterans or in part would inspire Honor Flight Network's board member John W. McCaskill to help push for a Juneteenth flight.

JOHN W. MCCASKILL, HONOR FLIGHT NETWORK BOARD OF DIRECTORS: We want them to know that they're just as much a part of the fabric of this nation as anybody else who serve?

GALLAGHER: Today, Kemp, a World War II veteran, had the honor of participating in the wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of the unknown. Kemp told CNN that respect was the last thing that he received in his service in a segregated U.S. Navy unit.

KEMP: I came back home from the movies about 11:00 that night and my back was soaking wet with urine, soaking wet. Each, each guy just come by and sprinkle it. I had respect for the United States, and hey broke my heart when they abused and mistreated me.

GALLAGHER: That mix of pride and pain also exists in U.S. Army veteran Robert Sams, injured by land mine in Vietnam.

SGT. ROBERT ROOSEVELT SAMS JR., U.S. ARMY (RET.): It took my left eye out and hit me down there. I still got a piece of shrapnel still in my, here down in through here.

GALLAGHER: Sams was awarded the Purple Heart, but says he had to fight for more than 50 years just to get his full disability benefits. This trip for him makes him feel appreciated, finally.

SAMS: We did so much, so much and taking the time to recommend. It should be done a long time ago.

GALLAGHER: For Marian Captain Dee Elder, the connection between her own service and Juneteenth is especially poignant.

CAPTAIN MARIAN DEE ELDER, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET): And finally, being recognized. And Juneteenth makes an extra special because as a Black, I'm going with a group of Black veterans and this is a token of appreciation.

GALLAGHER: Elder, who spent more than 20 years and three different branches is proud of her service, but says her journey to becoming a flight nurse didn't always feel fair.

DEE ELDER: A lot of opportunities. I was passed over and I believe it would because I was a woman and a Black woman.

GALLAGHER: And while one trip cant right the wrongs of the past --

KEMP: I really wish you'd take the last. You see, I'm tearing up now.


GALLAGHER (on camera): Erin, I spent the past couple of days with some of those veterans, and a lot of them have nerves before this and trepidation. They weren't sure how to feel. Each one of them told me today that this trip with healing.


They felt recognized, acknowledged. They felt seen for the first time.

And, look, the Honor Flight Network is a non-profit. They survived strictly off donations, but they've sent around 300,000 veterans on these trips over the past 20 years, very few of them have been Black veterans. They hope this trip will change that. They plan to make the Juneteenth honor flight an annual event.

BURNETT: Really incredible report, just listening to them and all those conversations you had.

Thank you, Dianne.

And don't miss CNN special, "Juneteenth: Celebrating Freedom and Legacy", featuring John Legend, Patti LaBelle, and Smokey Robinson. That is tonight at 10:00.

And next, American Paul Whelan spending his 2,000th day inside a Russian prison. Tonight, we hear from his family.


BURNETT: Two thousand days. That is how long American Paul Whelan has now spent locked up inside a Russian prison. The former U.S. marine was sentenced to 16 years after being wrongfully detained in 2018.

Tonight, his family releasing a statement to OUTFRONT. It reads in part: We made it clear that calling Paul's case a priority of the White House had caused the word to lose all meaning. Paul's case does not appear to be a priority or the people who say it is use that word in a very different way from how it is defined.

Well, our thoughts with Paul, he still waits and waits, hoping for release.

Thanks so much to all of you for joining us tonight.

"AC360" begins now.