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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Spicer: "Take No For An Answer," No Collusion With Russia; Nunes Dismisses Calls To Step Down From Russia Investigation; Interview with Rep. Mike Turner; Russian Banker Who Met With Kushner has Ties To Putin; Trump: We'll Make a Deal on Health Care. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 28, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks for watching. Erin Burnett OutFront starts today.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next, breaking news. New questions tonight about the White House and Russia. Did the Trump administration try to block a former justice official from crucial testimony? Plus new details about the Russian banker who met with Jared Kushner, handpicked by Putin, his bank used as a cover for Russian spying. And awaiting the first lady this hour. A rare appearance from Melania Trump at her husband's side. A White House dinner starting any minute. Let's go OutFront.
And good evening to all. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the Russian storm over Trump's presidency. The White House this evening deeply frustrated by growing questions surrounding the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia. The White House Spokesman Sean Spicer demanding today that a reporter stop shaking their head to his answers on Russia. I want to play for you Spicer's line of the day because he doesn't appear to be joking here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECETARY: If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Spicer's remarks came as the White House this evening is fighting back against the damaging report. This is that the White House itself tried to block the former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. Now Yates was set to appear today regarding Trump associate's ties to Russia. She's a central figure because she's the person who warned the White House that the Former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, could be subject to Russian blackmail. Yates of course was abruptly fired by President Trump for refusing to defend his travel ban. Today, Spicer aggressively fought back saying that any reports that the White House blocked Yates' testimnony are 100 percent false.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: I hope she testifies. I look forward to it. It was never -- they -- let's be honest. If they choose to move forward, great. We have no problem with her testifying, plain and simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: But here's the thing. Before Yates could testify, the House Committee Chairman Devin Nunes had already canceled her hearing. And democrats are asking whether Nunes is doing Trump's bidding. All right. Right now, you're looking at live pictures from the White House, the president hosting senators and their wives, all invited to a dinner tonight in the east room. We have learned Trump plans to speak about his Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch. We're going to be taking you there live as that happens. There's a lot to talk about tonight. I want to start though with Jim Acosta who is at the White House at this moment. And Jim, the line to have the day, Russian salad dressing. Not a joke. Serious.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Erin. Perhaps, they're serving it at that dinner they're hosting this evening with the senators over here at the White House. Erin, one thing we should point out is that, yes, as you said, the president is expected to speak at this hour. We're going to have the first lady at his side as they're welcoming senators from both parties over here at the White House.
But today, White House officials as you just played once again on the defensive over these questions on whether the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes should recuse himself. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was also pressed as you said on whether the administration tried to shut down former acting Attorney General Sally Yates who was fired by the president was scheduled to testify before the intelligence committee.
And although the justice department said in a letter that Yates should consult with the White House before testifying, Spicer said at that news briefing earlier today that she is free to appear before that panel. Now, that all built up to this moment where as you played, Spicer complained that the use of Russian salad dressing would somehow be twisted by the news media to say that the president was colluding with the Russians. Erin, he finished that statement by saying that the press at some point is just going to have to take no for an answer when it comes to the Trump folks colluding with the Russians but of course, there are too many questions to take no for an answer at this point.
BURNETT: There are too many questions. And among them, these, Jim, the White House still not answering the questions about who let Chairman Nunes on the White House grounds to meet with his source, right? That should be public information. Everyone has to log in. Who was that person and who helped him view these classified documents? Why don't have these answers?
ACOSTA: Well, Sean Spicer was asked about that yesterday at the briefing. He was asked again today about how Nunes got on to the White House grounds for that mysterious visit that he made last week. Spicer did not answer that question but he once again complained that the media is covering this story unfairly. That's how he chose to answer the question as to how Nunes got on to the grounds of the White House. And we should point out, Erin, to our viewers that during the Obama administration, these visitors logs and the information in those visitors' logs as to who was coming into the White House, who checked those people in and so on, who they were visiting. That was all public information. It wasn't available instantaneously usually had to wait a few weeks to get access to that information but it was available so far under the Trump Administration, that information not available to the public, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jim Acosta. And on Capitol Hill Chairman Nunes is defiant at this hour refusing to recuse himself from the investigation despite growing questions and I want to emphasize this from both sides of the aisle. Manu Raju is OutFront.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Tonight, a meltdown in one of Capitol Hill's main investigations into Russian ties to the Trump campaign. The House Intelligence Committee locked in a partisan feud over Republican Chairman Devin Nunes with democrats saying he should step aside after canceling a public hearing and privately briefing the president on surveillance information he obtained from a source on White House grounds. But Nunes is defiant, refusing to step aside, insisting he did nothing wrong by briefing President Trump about communications picked up incidentally about the Trump transition.
Are you going to stay as chairman and run this investigation?
REP. DEVIN NUNES, (R-CA) CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, why would I not? You guys need to asked them why there -- you know, why these things are being said.
RAJU: Can this investigation continue as you as chairman?
NUNES: Why would it not? Aren't I briefing you guys continuously? Keeping you up -- been keeping you up to speed?
RAJU: House Speaker Paul Ryan was (INAUDIBLE) when asked if Nunes should recuse himself and if he knew who the congressman's source is.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: No one, no.
RAJU: Democrats see a White House pulling the screens.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (R-CA) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: And he seems to be working with the White House to obstruct this investigation.
RAJU: But the house panel canceling public and private meeting this week. The Senate Intelligence Committee is quietly pressing ahead. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says this panel can do the job, rejecting calls for an independent commission.
Do you have confidence in the House Intelligence Committee?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) MAJORITY LEADER: I serve in the senate, I don't have any observations to make about the house effort.
RAJU: But even some senate republicans are raising questions about Nunes. Senator Lindsey Graham questions his ability to lead an investigation if the House Intelligence Chairman doesn't share information with committee democrats.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: The problem that he's created is he's gone off on a lark by himself sort of an Inspector Clouseau investigation here trying to find some unmasking information about collection incidental with the Trump campaign and some foreign agent outside of Russia.
RAJU: Meanwhile, today's new controversy cast a shadow over the investigation. Did the White House seek to prevent Former Justice Official Sally Yates from testifying before the panel because of her assertions that former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may have been vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians. The White House flatly denied seeking to block her testimony. But when pressed, Nunes would not discuss the administration's role.
NUNES: Look, you guys are just speculating. I'm sorry. Whenever there's -- whenever there's time, we'll do a -- we'll do a presser.
RAJU: Did they ask you to cancel the hearing today?
NUNES: Come on. Guys.
RAJU: Why is that not -- I mean, why did you cancel the hearing?
NUNES: There's no -- nothing has been canceled.
RAJU: Now, Erin, the Washington Post reported earlier today that Sally Yates' testimony had raised some concerns in the justice department which believe that some of her testimony would presumably be -- would raise confidential information (INAUDIBLE) concerns over that issue of executive privilege. But when Yates informed the White House that she still want to testify around that same time on Friday, Devin Nunes canceled the hearing.
But Devin Nunes today, his spokesman saying that they had no communications with the White House whatsoever that about canceling this hearing and trying to distance themselves from this controversy with the White House, saying this decision was made on the ii intelligence committee's core on it's own, nothing to do with coordination with the White House, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Manu. Thanks very much. OutFront now, let's go to the someone who has some answers on the Intel Committee. The Republican Congressman Mike Turner, good to have you with me again, sir. So --
REP. MIKE TURNER, (R-OH) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you.
BURNETT: -- let me start with you on this particular issue. Are you 100 percent certain that Chairman Nunes did not stopped this hearing at the behest of the White House? TURNER: Oh, absolutely. First off, I met with the chairman and
shortly after the Comey-Rogers hearing, he immediately said he wanted to postpone the hearing with Clapper, Brennan, and Yates so that he could allow Comey to come into a classified session and answer the over 100 questions that he was unable to answer in a public setting. All questions which he had not been presented to before and we needed that evidence to better inform us as we prepared for the Clapper, Brennan and Yates testimony. That came well before any of this controversy. And I thoroughly think it's --
BURNETT: Why wasn't it announced at that time then?
TURNER: Well, you know, when the scheduling happens, you know, I'm not certain but I know when the decision happens. And, you know, this controversy is really a non-controversy. If you look at the hearing where Comey and Rogers were testifying, you and yourself know there are so many questions that are unanswered.
TURNER: Once that our committee needs answer before we talk to the other people who are testifying.
BURNETT: So, are you going to have Sally Yates testify?
TURNER: Well, certainly, the chairman intends to go forward. You heard himself in your own broadcast say it's not canceled, it's merely delayed while we get additional information. And by the way --
BURNETT: But she will be there. She will testify, that is certain?
TURNER: Well, that's my assumption that will she will voluntarily come. We asked her too. The republicans -- it was the chairman's own request that she'd be there. And by the way, the White House isn't stopping her from testifying. What she's done is asking them to waive the executive privilege which is an attorney's trick by the way. If you know executive privilege, is that tool that we give White House so they're able to do their work as supposed to having everything second guest in front of congress. Here's something that would be interesting, Sally Yates ought to -- acting Attorney General out to ask the Obama Administration, because she was also acting under Obama Administration.
BURNETT: Yes, she was.
TURNER: If they -- if they'd waive executive privilege because they wouldn't either. Nobody can do a whole day of news on how the Obama Administration is preventing her from testifying which it wouldn't be the case either. She's going to testify, she should testify. And like Comey who just asserted the executive privilege in our open hearing, she should do the same.
BURNETT: So you want her in an open hearing but you want to give him the classified setting, I hear you, he didn't answer a lot of questions, so I understand that.
BURNETT: Do -- what do you say though to those who say this investigation at least on the House side is a mess and it's irreparably a mess at this point. You have -- your ranking democrats saying that the Chairman needs to resign, recuse himself. How can you continue with this?
Well, we want to get to work. We have three 207ics which are the Russians med allege with our elections and how we can prevent it in the future. The second is any connections between Trump tanned Russians and the third which is incredibly important is the issue about the improper use of intelligence information and the sharing of that with the obama administration, the leaks, v. It's the democrat side saying they don't like how it's proceeding and they want to call for either the investigation to stop or the dhierm recuse himself. We're ready to go to work. I think they should talk more about work rather than politics.
TURNER: Well, you know, we just want to get to work. We have three topics which are, you know, the Russian meddling with our elections and how we can prevent that in the future which is incredibly important. The second is any connections between the Trump campaign and the Russians. And the third is which is incredibly important is this important issue about the improper use of intelligence information and the --
BURNETT: The leaks.
TURNER: -- sharing of that with the Obama Administration. The leaks. Exactly. Now, we're proceeding with those. And now so far it's the democrats' side that is saying they don't like how it's proceeding and then they want to, you know, call for either the investigation to stop or the chairman to recuse himself. We're ready to just go to work. I think they should talk more about work instead of politics.
BURNETT: OK. So but it does -- it is important whether you can all trust each other to do this work, right? I mean, you have Republican Senator Lindsey Graham saying that's not possible anymore. That if Chairman Nunes isn't going to tell everyone on your committee who he met with, what information he got from that person on White House grounds, then he should not be running this investigation. Leon Panetta, the former defense secretary, CIA Chief, served in both party administrations as you know had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: You cannot have a credible investigation by a committee of the congress without a close working relationship between the chairman and the ranking member. That's absolutely essential to an objective and fair hearing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Your ranking member of course, Adam Schiff has said that the chairman must recuse himself. Is that just the right thing to do at this point? Have Chairman Nunes recuse himself so you can get to work?
TURNER: Absolutely not. Let's go back to, you know, Lindsey Graham's statement. What the chairman said when he made the announcement that he has been given evidence of interceptions by the intelligence community of communications of the Trump transition team that were unmasked and shared with the Obama administration officials and that this needed to be investigated. He laid out what was going to happen.
And what's happening is this, he turned to the NSA, the collection arm and said, Admiral Rogers, you're the head of this, take this information and provide to our committee every instance in which side this happened. He's doing that. That's going to be available for all committee members, they're saying that they're going to have it available as early as this week. We'll see what their timeframe is, they're obviously having to go through a lot to do it. And that certainly is real. That answers everyone's questions because the answers -- the question should be how did get this? Question should be, is this stuff true? They're going to tell us. We're not going to have to depend on the chairman to do it. The head of the NSA is going to tell us then we move forward.
BURNETT: All right. I appreciate your time, thank you.
TURNER: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And as you said as early as this week for that crucial information. Thanks. And OutFront now, former CIA counterterror official Phil Mudd. Phil, you know, you heard that, passion, energetic defense of why Chairman Nunes should stay in charge here. Can the House Intel Committee tough complete a fair investigation at this point with all these questions?
PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Heck. No. I think they're cooked and I think they've been cooked for at least a week or two. Look, there's two questions we have here. A primary question, Erin, and that is what happened to foreign interference in American elections and equally significant. I think appropriate for the congress, how do we secure the next elections? What do we get in the last week or two?
We got two members of the committee, that is the chairman and the democrat -- the ranking democrat who can't speak with each other without getting in front of a microphone. One member that is Devin Nunes who gets secret information, complains about leaks but then immediately goes and talks about it to the media. That individual, Nunes goes to the White House not only the White House but the target of part of the FBI investigation and reveals that information to the White House before talking to other committee members.
BURNETT: And not giving it to the committee. They still don't have. Just to emphasize. He's hoping as early as this week. He hasn't given it to them yet. That's what Turner said.
MUDD: You want to tell me this game's not rigged? I've got two questions. One, whatever happened to the conversation about Russia? And two, the FBI is conducting a parallel investigation to the same people. That is people like Jared Kushner, why shouldn't the FBI conduct the investigation of people, they have the authority to conduct it and they also have the capability ask whether they could prosecute him. Why doesn't the committee look at Russia? I don't get it.
BURNETT: All right. Phil Mudd. Thank you very much. And you mentioned Jared Kushner.
MUDD: Thank you.
BURNETT: Next, we do have new details on the top Russian banker who met with Jared Kushner. His close ties to Putin, his Russian spy training and what he said about Trump and sanctions. We are live in Moscow with a special report. Plus the president's Twitter tirades, even loyal supporters are crying enough. And we'll show you right now. This is the White House live. We're awaiting a rare appearance by the first lady Melania Trump. And more people are asking at the beginning of this very important and big dinner about to start where we'll take you live. Where has she been?
BURNETT: Breaking news. CNN learning tonight that Jared Kushner's testimony on his dealings with Russian officials will be private. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr also says that Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser will likely be under oath. Not confirming that he will be, likely. This is coming as we learn that the Russian banker that Kushner met with has long standing ties to Vladimir Putin. And also has spy training. Matthew Chance with the special report is OutFront from Moscow.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIOANAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the man, Jared Kushner admits he met just one month after Donald Trump was elected president. His name is Sergei Gorkov, handpicked by Vladimir Putin to run one of Russia's most powerful banks VEB. The state run bank finances Putin's grandest ambitions like the $50 billion Sochi Olympics. VEB was also placed under sanctions by the Obama Administration. Those sanctions pushed the bank to the brinks of collapse. In February 2016, President Putin appointed Gorkov to turn the banks' fortunes around. December that year, around the time of his meeting with Jared Kushner, Gorkov told Russian television he was hoping to get some relief from U.S. sanctions.
SERGEY GORKOV: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, sanctions definitely are not helping us. We hope that they could be adjusted in a positive way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With the new administration coming into power?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Possibly. But we are not preparing for this scenario. Let it be a surprise to us.
CHANCE: In a statement to CNN, VEB bank says meetings were held with representatives from the largest banks and business circles in the United States, including Jared Kushner, the head of Kushner Companies. According to the bank, the meetings took on the format of a road show on development strategy. The White House maintains there was no improper contact between Kushner and the Russians.
SPICER: He met with countless individuals. That was part of his job, that was part of his role and he executed it completely as he was supposed to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he doesn't believe he owes the American public an explanation.
SPICER: Far what? Doing his job?
CHANCE: VEB has been used as a cover for Russian espionage. One of its employees Evgeny Buryakov pleaded guilty in a New York court last year to spying on America while posing as a VEB banker. Gorkov himself graduated from the Academy of the Federal Security Service in Moscow, the Russian school for agents of the FSB, formerly known of course, as the KGB.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R-ME) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If there's anything that we've learned over the past few months, it is that the Russians are not our friends. They cannot be trusted.
CHANCE: Senator Collins saying that the Russians can't be trusted, articulating the concerns and suspicions of many when it comes to this latest Russian contact. The key issue though is going to be what was actually discussed by Jared Kushner that in his meeting with Sergei Gorkov. Was it U.S. sanctions, was it his own private business, or was it as the White House insists, just the legitimate business of the Trump transition? Back to you, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Matthew. And OutFront now, Former Deputy of Homeland Security Secretary Juliette Kayyam, the former CIA Chief of Russian Operatons, Steve Hall, and our senior political analyst Mark Preston. Steve, you know a lot about this. The head of the bank graduated from an institution where Russian spies are trained. The bank has been known as a cover for Russian espionage, Sergei Gorkov has long standing ties -- deep ties to Putin. I mean, how deep do the ties go?
STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: Very deep, Erin. All of that -- all of that pedigree is something that you see among Russian oligarchs today in, you know, in Moscow. Close ties to Putin, close ties to the security services to the FSB. That's something that's knocking trade right now if you're an oligarch. There's sort of two interpretations of this I think. There's the lighter side that I guess the administration wants you to believe which is -- this is all just Jared Kushner normal business contacts with the Russian banks.
But then as you point out there's a much darker interception to this. What about -- what was he talking about in December? Was it just to establish, you know, better relationships with Russia? In my mind, more importantly, what were they talking about before the election? Because that really is the basic question, right? What about was there a contact, cooperation or collusion and was Kushner and the -- this Russian banker part of that.
BURNETT: And Juliette, so here's the thing. This bank was under U.S. Sanctions. Now, you know, this raises -- just whether it's questionable to have a meeting under any guys. But the bank says that Kushner attended the meeting in his capacity as a business person. Their words. They put out a statement. During 2016 the bank's management repeatedly met with representatives of the world's leading financial institutions.
In Europe, Asia, and America including the head of Kushner companies Jared Kushner. That is what the bank put out as a statement. The Trump administration says, nope, that's not true. He only went in his capacity as a Trump advisor. Juliette, this is obviously an important distinction but should Kushner have had any dealings with this bank given what we know what Steve is just saying?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Absolutely not because the White House explanation, even if you accept it, makes no sense. Why is Jared Kushner having diplomat meetings with a bank? It makes absolutely no sense. I mean, at the time of the transition, there were still questions about whether the sanctions would hold but an individual bank doesn't makes any sense.
And so arguably, arguably for the White House's viewpoint, his meeting with the ambassador, remember they failed to disclose that, the Ambassador Kislyak came in the back door of Trump Tower. Arguably, you could say that one is for diplomatic purposes. So I think the fact that the White House story makes no sense from a diplomacy perspective let alone the, you know, that Russia's coming back with alternate explanation.
So just, you know, on the range between sort of, you know, in -- sort of in confidence, I hate to say it but just, you know, what's he doing meeting with the bank that he not know it was under sanctions, did he not know who the leadership was, did he not know that it had ties to Putin and the FSB to the concerns that were raised by the report which was was there some discussion about supporting Kushner Industries. We just don't know.
KAYYEM: I think Jared Kushner needs to realize there is no two Jared Kushners, there's no Kushner Industry and the son-in-law of the president. There is only one to the outside world.
BURNETT: I mean, because Mark, if he didn't know that's incredibly damning because here is his titles, right? Senior advisor to the president, lead of the White House Office of American Innovation, going to play the key role supposedly and peace in the Middle East. OK? So if he didn't know what this bank was, that's a problem. And if he did know, that's a problem.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. So it goes with what -- what we're talking about here is that is there incompetence in the White House? Are they up to speed with how to actually run government, how to interact with foreign governments, foreign powers or are they just trying to do things as they go and they don't care and that they're in power and, you know, do as I say, not as I do type of a focus on where they're going.
The problem right now is that it wasn't acknowledged until it was found out by the media. You know, they were quiet about it. They didn't want anyone to know about it. We have now found out about it.
BURNETT: Right. Again, it wasn't closed.
PRESTON: And it's just another straw on the camel's back.
BURNETT: Right, right. And Steve, what about the issue here of testimony? I mean, we understand that he's going to be testifying between -- before the Senate Intelligence Committee but it's going to be closed doors. It may not be under oath. How significant is that? If there truly isn't anything to hide, why do it behind closed doors?
HALL: Yes. That's exactly right. I what I was wondering, why do it behind closed doors, why not do it in open session and why not do it under oath? I mean, if the -- if the administration really wants to take the fabled, you know, Russian salad dressing off the table, then you should got to be as open as you possibly can in stuff like this because it's one thing after another. It's the constant drip that I find concerning.
PRESTON: You know, all he got (INAUDIBLE) is I agree that it should go to an open testimony after this Q and A period. But if he just goes -- Jared Kushner goes and appears before congress and testifies, he's automatically going to like he's guilty. And I do think that there's a step that will come before that but very likely it will have to go to or should go to an open hearing.
BURNETT: To an open hearing. All right. Thanks very much all of you. I appreciate it. And next, we are just moments away as I said from that dinner. Hosted by the president and the first lady. An incredibly rare public appearance for her. He has invited the senators and their spouses. It is a crucial dinner tonight for the president and his wife. Plus, breaking news, Hillary Clinton just moments ago making the most political speech since her loss. Why? Is she getting back in the game tonight? And loyal Trump supporters speak out about his tweeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He needs to tone it down and forget about Snoop Dog, forget about Arnold Schwarzenegger.
[19:31:26] BURNETT: Tonight, growing concern from president Trump's own supporters about his tweeting. Moments ago, Trump just tweeted this, "Why doesn't fake news talk about Podesta ties to Russia as covered by FOX News or money from Russia to Clinton, sale of uranium."
Tonight, Trump voters telling us that Trump's Twitter rants need to stop.
Brynn Gingras is OUTFRONT. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How many you know about the president's tweets or follow them through some sort of media?
(voice-over): Everyone in this room in Eastern Pennsylvania voted for Donald Trump.
EMMA LEACH, EFFORT, PENNSYLVANIA: Seeing more people. It's like a modern day constituent letter. They're tweeting at their president. They're voicing their opinion and they're more politically involved.
ILENE WOOD, EMMAUS, PENNSYLVANIA: He feels that people are editorializing his commentary. So, therefore, this is his way of assuring that his message is going direct to the public.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't like tweeting. I have other things I can be doing, but I get very dishonest media.
GINGRAS: But nearly every one in this group wants the president to stop tweeting about things like TV ratings at this inauguration and Arnold Schwarzenegger's departure from "The Apprentice."
RAY STAMER, EMMAUS, PENNSYLVANIA: What Donald Trump is doing is he's reacting immediately. He's not taking -- it's a knee-jerk reaction.
GINGRAS (on camera): So, does that concern you?
STAMER: Oh, absolutely. He needs to tone it down and forget about Snoop Dogg, forget about Arnold Schwarzenegger. We don't really care about them, do we?
SCOTT MCCOMMONS, ALTOON, PENNSYLVANIA: I don't. If you want to be "The Apprentice" step down, and let somebody else run the country. He needs to be presidential, plain and simple.
STAMER: Sometimes I think he overacts and doesn't have all the facts before he tweets.
GINGRAS (voice-over): Like this tweet, "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon-Watergate. Bad or sick guy."
An accusation that is false.
MARK HANNA, BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA: I can see on a major news channel network, and I remember the first thing I said to my significant other was, "I don't believe he just tweeted that." Even if he felt that way, I don't think he should have tweeted it.
LEACH: I don't like those tweets. I really don't.
GINGRAS (on camera): He's using this as a medium because he doesn't trust the media. If you use that medium and lie on it, where does that put us?
WOOD: Makes you no better than the journalist you're assailing.
MCCOMMONS: Show us the proof. Don't tweet it. Nobody got in that building and set up wiretaps in that building, he knows it. He won't admit it. And that's the kind of stuff is that angers me. That's unpresidential.
GINGRAS: Life long Democrat Scott McCommons says he went to two Trump rallies and was so inspired, he crossed party lines this election.
TRUMP: Thank you.
GINGRAS: McCommons says he now regrets his vote, even tweeting Trump, "Your Twitter rants are out of control. I voted for you to make America great again. Run the country, sir."
MCCOMMONS: I will jump back on his wagon if he starts telling the truth and being honest with the American people.
GINGRAS (on camera): Do you trust the president?
HANNA: In what vein?
GINGRAS: In general.
STAMER: Simple question.
GINGRAS: Simple question.
STAMER: It is a simple question.
In this particular moment, I'd say I trust him, even though he goes off half cocked sometimes.
HANNA: The good outweigh the bad for me. I'm thinking Trump 2020.
STAMER: Don't go that far.
HANNA: I am. I already am.
BURNETT: I mean, that was a really fascinating piece. A lot in there really stood out to people watching I'm sure. But what stood out the most to you from your conversation with them?
GINGRAS: Well, I got to say, these are supporters for the most part, and they don't think Trump is going to change. They think this is the man who they elected. They do think if he stops those reckless tweets, people may have a different perception of him and that might help. But when it comes to those major issues, they trust him.
[19:35:02] And they think it's actually going -- it's going to work out. They think that the administration is doing the right thing at this point. I got to say, though, one of the most emotional tweets that we presented to them was this tweet about "SNL". And that was the one where we got in almost the comical way, the biggest reaction, with this one here where Trump was criticizing Alec Baldwin for his impersonation. And the entire panel said that's not true. He's doing a really good job and he needs to have a sense of humor.
BURNETT: Really about Alec Baldwin?
BURNETT: Alec Baldwin likes to hear that Trump supporters say he's doing a really good job.
All right. Thank you very much, Brynn. I appreciate it.
OUTFRONT now, the former adviser to President Obama, Dan Pfeiffer, and the former White House political director for President Reagan and Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord.
Jeffrey, you know, interesting. You just heard what she said about the "SNL" tweet. Not only do they think he has no sense of humor and he's wrong. But you heard Scott there. He was saying the person knows that no one tapped his phones. Trump's tweets about that angered him and unpresidential, to use his word. He won't commit to voting for him again.
Isn't that something that you've got to worry about?
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think there's two issues here. One is the issue of just tweeting in general and what you tweet about. And I would concede the point that tweeting about Arnold or "SNL" and that sort of thing, although I think it plays into the culture, I don't think that that's -- I understand that.
But there are specific issues like the tweet about the wiretapping by which he meant surveillance which is an issue which has been raised by the intelligence committee chair. And the tweets you just quoted as we started in the show and I hadn't seen those, I mean, they're brand- new, about why is there more attention on John Podesta and the Russians and the Clinton campaign, this is why you tweet.
BURNETT: She lost. He's president.
LORD: Right, right.
BURNETT: I don't want to get into a debate over that tweet, but I will just answer that question. He is president, so he has to answer to it. Yes.
LORD: Erin, the point I would make is here, I hate to say this, but you and I and Dan are all of an age where we remember that saying that a politician should never get into an argument with someone who buys ink by the barrel, meaning newspaper publishers. In today's world, Twitter is how you get around that. And whatever the subject be, seriously, a serious subject, this is an excellent way for the president to do that.
BURNETT: Although, Dan, you know, what you heard them saying is, you're no better than the journalist you assail when what you tweet is untrue. His supporters see that, that sometimes he will tweet things out and it's wrong. Wiretap being example number one.
DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Look, the problem is not Twitter, right? The problem is the Twitter user?
It is -- you know, President Obama had a Twitter account for several years. He never tweeted anything that caused anything that caused a national controversy, an international incident, was embarrassing to himself or the nation.
Like I think Trump should be learning the lessons or should be learning the lesson. His voters have certainly learned it -- that there's a difference between being a presidential candidate and being president. When you're presidential candidate, people can say they take you literally but seriously, or seriously but not literally.
When you're president, they take you seriously and literally. What you say matters, whether you say it on Twitter or in a speech or on FOX News.
LORD: So, Jeffrey, there is a new FOX News poll. And I want to use their poll very specifically, because on this issue and it's their poll. Sixteen percent of people approve of Trump's Twitter use. That's 16 percent, to make sure you didn't mishear me, not 60 -- 16. On the same day that poll was released, here is what Trump told Fox about Twitter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have close to a hundred million people watching me on Twitter, including Facebook, including all of the -- Instagram, including POTUS. I think that maybe I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Twitter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Jeffrey, he may be right, but that's a FOX News poll. It shows that his supporters, or people are over his tweets, just like we heard from Brynn's piece, right? It may not be working anymore.
LORD: Right. Erin, I just don't agree with that. I mean, I think like Franklin Roosevelt with his radio addresses and JFK with his live TV news conferences, which we now accept as standard presidential performance, was in the day very controversial, I think Twitter is the new thing, the new technology. Every president's going to have to use it.
He's using it in his style. It helped him undeniably. I don't think he's going to stop and, frankly, I don't think he should stop. BURNETT: And perhaps if Twitter just had -- I don't know -- a less
childish name. The word tweet, just something about it, it's so problematic.
LORD: Well, I may agree with that. But then again maybe they wouldn't listen.
BURNETT: Dan, this comes as Hillary Clinton is speaking this evening live in San Francisco. And you know what? We haven't heard Trump tweeting a lot about her tonight. She just came out, though, and with some very political words about him. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Recently, photos have been making the rounds on social media showing groups of men in Washington making decisions about women's health. We shake our heads and think, how could they not have invited any women to the table? And when this disastrous bill failed, it was a victory for all Americans.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:40:03] BURNETT: Is she getting back into politics, Dan?
PFEIFFER: Well, I think she -- in this particular case and this is the first I've heard of this speech, she's talking about an issue she's talked about from, you know, her entire career. I think it's important to recognize that in previous elections, the -- there is sort of this detente afterwards between winner and the loser. President Obama met with Senator McCain after 2008 race. He had lunched with -- met with Governor Romney after the 2012 race.
Donald Trump is the one who's been tweeting about, talking about attacking the Clintons on a near daily basis. So, I think Hillary Clinton has more than earned the right to go out and advocate for the issues that she cared about in the campaign and she spent her whole life fighting about for.
BURNETT: Jeff, what do you make of the fact that she's coming out? This is the first time she's been political, right? We've seen her on the hiking trail. We've seen her at events, you know, not with the usual hair and makeup look. She is back to full game tonight.
LORD: Let me uncharacteristically agree with Dan. I mean, bring it on. I do think -- you have a democratic process for a reason. And it's been a few months now. She should get back out there, highlight these differences.
I mean, it's good for him. It's good for her. It's good for America.
BURNETT: All right. Thanks to both of you.
I just want everyone to listen here. This is Donald Trump at the White House speaking right now to senators and their spouses. Melania Trump is with him. As I said, this is a crucial dinner for him at the White House tonight.
Let's listen to the president.
TRUMP: Nobody ever told me that politics was going to be so much fun. But we're doing well. It's doing very well.
We just had a call, a long call from General Mattis. And John I know is very happy to hear that, but he knows better than anybody. We're doing very well in Iraq. Our soldiers are fighting and fighting like never before. And the results are very, very good.
So, I just wanted to let everyone know. I have some very special friends in this room, especially -- I must tell you we have the Republicans, but I even have a couple of Democrats.
I said, you know, we had a dinner here about three weeks ago, and it was so beautiful. We have these incredible musicians from the Marine Corps and from the Army. Incredible actually.
And I said, you know, I'd like to do something special. I'd like to ask the United States Senate with spouses to come and hear how good it was. It was just a beautiful evening.
And so, here we are, and shockingly, it's semi-bipartisan. A lot of people showed up that people weren't expecting, which is a very good thing.
Which is a very, very good thing.
And I know that we're all going to make a deal on health care. That's such an easy one. So I have no doubt that that's going to happen very quickly. I think it will actually.
I think it's going to happen because we've all been promising -- Democrat, Republican, we've all been promising that to the American people. So, I think a lot of good things are going to happen there.
We'll talk about infrastructure. We're going to talk about fixing up our military, which we really need. There has been a depletion and we're going to make it so good and so strong. And there's been, I think, never been a time where we needed it so much.
And we're going to be doing a great job. And hopefully, it will start being bipartisan because everybody really wants the same thing. We want greatness for this country that we love.
So, I think we're going to have some very good relationships, right, Chuck? I see Chuck. Hello, Chuck.
(LAUGHTER) And I really think that will happen. So, again, enjoy these incredible musicians. They are really something special. And I hope we're going to do this many, many times together as a unit. Thank you all for being here.
Melania, thank you very much.
Our vice president, did we make the right decision with Pence? Right?
And, Karen, thank you very much. So nice.
Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Have a good time.
BURNETT: All right. A dinner there going to begin at the White House.
The president is just saying something crucial on health care. He said we'll do a deal on health care, I know we're going to make a deal on health care. That's such an easy one.
Also referring to the shockingly bipartisanship of the room, talking about other things he wants to do, how things are going well in Iraq, also infrastructure and the military.
Let me bring in Nia-Malika Henderson, our senior political analyst who was with me. Also with me, David Gergen, of course, advisor to four presidents, and Jeffrey Lord.
Nia, what do you make of the significance of this? Putting health care back on the table and again, in a shocking way, "that's such an easy one."
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I mean, who knew? I mean, if you -- if we go back to Friday, it was essentially that health care was behind him. He seemed in some ways relieved that it was behind him and moving on to tax reforms. And so, this new sentence here about health care and this new approach, this idea that it will be easy, that they'll do it quickly, that they'll get a deal, I think this is news to a lot of folks, particularly the House Freedom Caucus and all those people who have seen that this is very complicated.
[19:45:01] So, this idea again that, you know, he seems to be promising something that I'm not sure he's going to be able to deliver on. But I do think it shows that their approach to this initially, essentially saying "too bad, so sad" on repeal and replace and that they were moving on, that wasn't the right approach because it in many ways I think was a cynical approach. It was a callous approach. This idea that he was going to let Obamacare collapse and let people deal with premium hikes, it was against his brand and I think it really, I think, framed him of something like a bystander president who didn't really care what was going on in the lives of ordinary Americans. So, this I think is a better framing. But listen, this idea that it's
going to be quick is just not borne out by what we're going to see.
BURNETT: I mean, Jeffrey Lord, it sort of harkens back when I hear it, too, a couple of weeks ago, when he said, oh, who knew health care could be so complicated, which, of course, he said to wide derision, but has everybody knew it. That was the whole problem with healthcare. But here he is again saying that's such an easy one.
Is he going to win anyone over in that room over with that sort of remark? Yes, it's one thing to be optimistic, but it's certainly -- it's far from easy.
LORD: You know, Erin, for as much television coverage that he or any other president gets, there's a lot that goes on in a presidency that we don't see until it's all over. It's often said -- he wrote "The Art of the Deal." He also wrote "The Art of the Comeback" and "Never Give Up." He is relentless.
And, you know, having been blocked on this the first time, all that really says is he's just going to keep coming back and back and back again, until he gets what he wants.
BURNETT: So, David Gergen, what do you make of the fact that Chuck Schumer is there? I presume there's only one Chuck that he's referring to when he refers to Chuck who's in the room, and the fact that it's bipartisan. I know there were questions whether someone like Chuck Schumer would go. How significant is it that he's there?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is important, because just on Friday of this last week, just after the defeat, of course, the president blamed the defeat of health care bill squarely on the Democrats and not anybody else, the finger-pointing.
But over the weekend, the tune changed in the White House to be more "let's see what we can work out with the Democrats".
GERGEN: And now, just as Chuck Schumer is basically saying he's promising a filibuster against Judge Gorsuch, you know, the president is, you know, being friendly to him again. So, there's a lot of zigzagging.
GERGEN: I do think it's important he says it, health care, he's going to get it done, because I think there's a lot of sentiment in the Republican Caucus not to leave it where it is, but actually no longer to repeal and replace but to repair.
BURNETT: And that -- well, that's a very -- the most significant thing he clearly just said there.
The other significant thing at the very end, Nia, was "thanks to Melania". Melania Trump is there. And that is significant, because seeing her is rare. The first lady usually has a much bigger role than the one she has thus far taken on.
As "The Washington Post" put it today -- she is not low profile. She is no profile. You see her there at the back of her head.
She's actually there, Nia.
HENDERSON: Yes, she's there. And she's essentially a blank slate, I think, to the Americans at this point. Typically, you see a first lady or political spouse gain some sort of stature or recognition and notoriety on the campaign trail. She didn't really do that. She seems to carving out at least so far, mainly focusing on the ceremonial and hostess role of the first lady.
HENDERSON: When they open the House to foreign leaders or in that case senators, you see her on hand. Very difficult from what we saw from Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama, by this time, she had the garden. She'd been on the cover of "Vogue" magazine, "Oprah" magazine. She had toured all up the agencies, and they're essentially in a sort of get-to-know-you tour.
HENDERSON: Melania Trump doing something very different here. But I do think she may be one of the most consequential first ladies in the sense that she's really defining the role. This idea that you don't necessarily have to move to Washington right away and have sort of a profile -- I mean, this is -- this is something we haven't really seen.
BURNETT: No, and I would say for those who criticize her and say she isn't feminist -- perhaps it is the most feminist thing.
BURNETT: The one would go and live your own life and not have to be by your husband's side.
David Gergen, we haven't seen her, but a few times since the inauguration. We saw her with the wife of the Japanese prime minister. We saw her with the Netanyahus. We saw her, of course, as we just saw there in the video, at the first State of the Union-type of thing in Congress.
But she's just hired a communications director. Will that make a big change?
GERGEN: Well, you have to wonder whether she was there tonight at the -- upon the recommendation of a new communications director. Because she is -- you know, they're reclusive nature of it has been inspiring a lot of gossip. Frankly, you know, I hope the president isn't too lonely in there.
But I must tell you, as a more a traditionalist, I really hope we can cut her some slack. I think first ladies, they don't ask for the live sometimes they get thrust upon them. And if she needs to be reclusive for her own sake, more power to her.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all. Appreciate it.
BURNETT: And next, their rowdy town halls help take down the health care bill.
[19:50:02] What's the grassroots movement Indivisible's next target?
And Jeanne Moos on Russia dressing.
BURNETT: Tonight, as President Trump says there will be a deal on health care, just seconds ago, one group taking credit for stopping the Republican bill on health care is now trying to move to the next target. Today, protesters who we saw flooding town halls, now trying to end the career of a long time Republican lawmaker.
Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside the district office of California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, a crowd covers the sidewalks.
PROTESTERS: Hey, hey. Ho, ho! Darrell Issa has got to go!
ALISA MARTIN, PROTESTER: They came back every week, and every week, it grew bigger and bigger.
LAH: This one the biggest yet, say these constituents, smelling blood in the water. Their congressman won a seat by a razor thin margin.
PROTESTERS: Russia-gate, Russia-gate, why don't you investigate?
LAH: Joining in the fight, this woman, and one other operative here are with the Democratic Party. Democrats grabbing on to the furor are targeting candidates they see as vulnerable in 2018, like Darrell Issa.
[19:55:04] But the rest in this crowd of hundreds are volunteers and constituents, many are part of the grassroots group called Indivisible.
Like the ones who filled town halls across the country this weekend, from Texas to South Carolina.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trumpcare was toast.
LAH: Newly fueled by the health care bill being pulled, these constituents in ISIS district continue to flood Washington, D.C. inboxes with postcards and emails, turning now to urging more action over Trump's ties to Russia. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Target your postcards to Issa, Trump and Nunes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're asking to take a leadership role.
LAH: Ellen Montanari says she's politically active for the first time in 25 years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Better get up there.
LAH: She's the mom of an adopted 14-year-old girl with special needs, her health care covered under Medicaid, critically important for them. Montanari calls the shelving of the Republican plan a victory but she's not ready to quit.
ELLEN MONTANARI, PROTESTER: It wasn't just one thing, health care. We high-five each other, we go eat pizza and we're done. We're in this for the long haul.
LAH: A feeling shared by Mary Schrader, a stay-at-home who's been outside Issa's office week after week.
(on camera): Who did you vote for in the primary?
MARY SCHRADER, PROTESTER: John Kasich. I have always been a registered Republican until after the primaries. I feel that the Republican Party has changed so much over the last eight years.
Trump, to me, has been an abomination of what the Republican Party ever stood for.
LAH: Do you think you can keep this up for four years?
SCHRADER: Yes. I'm motivated. I mean, there are weeks that i, you know, need a break. And I take a vacation. And then I, you know, then I'm angry all over again.
BURNETT: And you see the passion there, Kyung. Obviously, Congressman Issa is very well known, very high profile in Washington. What is he saying about this?
LAH: Well, we did reach out to his office, he's not in his district office today. So, he didn't hear those chants directly. He is in D.C. I spoke with his spokesman, who says that the congressman wants to reach out to all constituents.
And they release a statement saying, quote, "Resisting isn't very constructive. Congressman Issa has a history of advancing solutions. What you're seeing is a loud and vocal group. We're also hearing from others who support the congressman's efforts."
We did ask the spokesman, can you tell us what the percentage is, who support and who don't support the congressman? They're -- we're still waiting to hear the exact breakdown, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kyung. I appreciate that.
And last but not least, it is time for Jeanne Moos and her take on the president's Russian dressing.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When Melissa McCarthy impersonates Sean Spicer, she plays him with a rage towards reporters that's bottled up.
MELISSA MCCARTHY AS SEAN SPICER: You're testing me, big guy.
MOOS: Well, on Tuesday, the bottle spurted open.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Creamy Russian dressing.
MOOS: It was the continually drip, drip of Russia-related questions that set off Spicer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've got Russia, you've got wiretapping.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You know, we don't have that. There is no connection. You've got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's Russian connection.
MOOS: The Twitterverse salivated. "If you share that salad in a secret meeting with the Russian ambassador, and then lie about it, yes," tweeted Russian chess champ and activist, Garry Kasparov.
"Pass the Russian dressing," read this tweet featuring Donald Trump and a taco bowl.
Continuing the theme of the president's diet, "Special sauce on Big Macs is just about Russian dressing. That's more believable than POTUS eats salad."
Comedian Stephen Colbert had previously twisted the president's words to make a dressing joke.
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: What's your favorite dressing, is it Russian?
MOOS: There were puns. "He's always Putin Russian dressing on his salad."
There was foodie elitism. "Anyone who likes Russian dressing should be investigated."
If you want Russian salad dressing, accompanied Melissa McCarthy using her super soaker.
MCCARTHY: This is soapy water and I'm washing that filthy, lying mouth. SPICER: I'm sorry that that disgusts you. You're shaking your head.
At some point, April, you're going to have to take no for an answer.
MOOS: April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks was stoic afterwards.
APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: It was unfortunate but we move on.
MOOS: It was an attempted dressing down using Russian dressing. Spicer probably wished he could deploy his podium, or leaf blower.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That directly contradicts everything --
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: And thanks for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch anywhere, any time on CNN Go.
Anderson is next.