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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Official: North Korea Fires Projectile Into Sea Of Japan; Rep. On Trump And Russia: Some People Will "End Up In Jail"; Former Trump Adviser Met With Russian Spy; Investigators Focus On Timing Of Trump Camp/Russia Meetings; Susan Rice: "I Leaked Nothing To Anybody"; Source: Trump Donor Held Secret Meeting With Putin Ally; Scores Killed In Russia, Chemical Gas Attacks Suspected; Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 4, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN WOLF AND THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, breaking news. North Korea firing off a projectile. This news just coming in to CNN. We have the very latest on this breaking news. Plus a top democrat warning Trump on Russia, "some people end up in jail." This as we learn about two more meetings between Trump Associates and Russians tonight. And advertisers dropping Bill O'Reilly. 18 companies and counting as of this hour. Only a couple this morning, 18 tonight. Can he survive? let's go out front.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. We begin tonight OutFront with the breaking news. North Korea fired a projectile. This is coming from a South Korean defense official confirming to CNN. The South Korean news agency reporting that it was launched into the Sea of Japan. Now this provocation comes as a senior White House official issued a dire warning today on the State of North Korea's rapidly advancing nuclear missile program, declaring, "the clock has now run out and all options are on the table." It's a stunning moment. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon tonight. And Barbara, what can you tell us?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Erin. U.S. officials also now confirming that U.S. satellites did detect the launch of a projectile of North Korea's East Coast. They do believe in their early assessment that it was a North Korean ballistic missile. But there's important things we do not yet know tonight. We don't know how long a range a missile, whether this was one of their more modern missiles that they had been testing. It fell, by all accounts, into the east sea, also known as the Sea of Japan.
So, it went some distance. We don't what or how far it exactly went. The concern tonight will be if, in fact, this was another testing of one of North Korea's more advanced ballistic missiles. They regularly do fire off some of their older missiles. It's not a big concern to the United States. But that missile program has been modernizing and advancing and the U.S. has been waiting to see when they will next test one of those more modern missiles.
This launch tonight came out of a place called the Sinpo Shipyard, this is on North Korea's East Coast. U.S. satellites over the last several days had noticed increased activity at that shipyard. Trains and equipment moving around and now tonight a launch from that very area. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Barbara Starr. Of course as the Trump Administration says the clock has run out. As we await, more breaking details on that story. Our other breaking story this hour. People will end up in jail. That is the stark warning from one top democrat investigating Trump's ties to Russia. Congressman Joaquin Castro making the stunning statement when asked if there's any hard evidence of collusion between the president's associates and Russians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, (D) TEXAS: I wouldn't be surprised after all this is said and done that some people end up in jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Castro's threat comes as we're tonight about more contacts between Trump aides and Russians. We have learned the that Former Campaign Advisor Carter Page, a business man with long toes to Russia met with a Russian Spy in 2013. Especially troubling. A federal complain says that Russian Spy was working to recruit Page as a source.
So recruiting him as a source obviously then he later join the Trump campaign and Page admits to the meeting but insists he didn't know the Russian was a spy. And a new name surfacing tonight, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, the controversial security firm. Prince is the brother of the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, he had a secret meeting with a Russian close to Vladimir Putin in the remote Seychelles island just days before Trump's inauguration.
That meeting, an effort to establish a possible back channel of communication between Trump and Russia. Page and Prince join the growing list of people in Trump's orbit who had direct contact with Russians known to U.S. intelligence. You them on your screen, Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, the former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, associate Roger Stone, former campaign advisort, J.D. Gordon, and of course, Carter Page now and Erik Prince. Jim Sciutto is OutFront tonight. Jim, these are new meetings and the timing of some of these meetings is raising red flags, right?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I spoke to a Congressional Intelligence source who told me that it's a number of things about these meetings. The timing of them, during the transition in December and January. The number of these meetings, the level of the people tied to Trump involved in these meetings but also a key question, the substance, what was discussed in those meetings and in particular, the question, were U.S. sanctions on Russia discussed and was the possibility of softening those sanctions on Russia discussed. The answer to that question, not known yet but it is something that these Intelligence Committees want to investigate as they continue their broader investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Jim, thank you very much. And you're going to be back with us in just a few moments. I want to get now to some new details about these previously unknown contacts between Trump Associates and prominent Russians. Jessica Schneider is OutFront.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A diplomatic source tells CNN, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater met with a Russian businessman connected to President Vladimir Putin a little more than a week before the inauguration in the Seychelles Islands. Prince was not part of the transition but donated $250,000 to the campaign and is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The meeting was intended to set up a possible back channel communication to Russia for the incoming administration according to a source.
The Washington Post reports the FBI is investigating that meeting. Prince's spokesperson told the post that the meeting had nothing to do with Trump and the White House today denied any knowledge of the meeting. Ambassador Nick Burns was a career foreign service officer for more than two decades and says back channel meetings like these aren't how transitions usually operate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNITED STATES UNDER SECRETARY FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: What normally happens is the president waits until January 20th and then becomes president and exercise the full responsibility of office. But there was no reason to find some Russian business person or some contact with the Russian government when you could easily have asked the state department or the Obama Administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Another development, former Foreign Policy Advisor Carter Page now admits that in 2013 he met with Victor Podobnyy who turned out to be a Russian Spy. Core documents show Podobnyy was recorded by the FBI referring to Carter Page. Identified in these documents as male on and describing his efforts to recruit Page as an intelligence source. Male one wrote that he is sorry. He went to Moscow and forgot to check his inbox.
He flies to Moscow more often than I do. Page insists he believes Podobnny was working at Moscow's United Nations Office in New York and stressed he only shared basic immaterial information and publicly available research documents on energy policy. In doing so, I provided him nothing more than a few samples from the far more detail lectures I was preparing at the time. The Trump Team has tried to distance themselves from Carter Page even though then-candidate Trump talked about Page's contribution to the election effort in March, 2016.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You might be announcing your foreign policy advisory team soon if there's anything.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to give Carter Page PhD. SCHNEIDER: And turns out the Russian Spy Carter Page communicated
with was part of that same spy ring as another Russian employment by VEB Bank, the state-sponsored Russian Bank whose chairman met with Jared Kushner in December at the height of the transition at the request of Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Jessica, thank you very much. I want to go straight now to the Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley, member of the Intelligence Committee. Congressman, when you hear all of this, does it add up to fire to you?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Look, I take this in a little more reserved way. We go at this from an aggressive point of view and we follow the facts wherever they lead us. But as an old criminal defense attorney, we have a presumption of innocence. We move forward to find the facts and determine more later on. This is a -- the infancy of the investigation. It's going to take a long time but we're certainly learning a fascinating amount of information in an accelerated fashion.
BURNETT: When it comes to Carter Page, you know, we're learning of course about him and this meeting that he passed information to a Russian Spy. But his meeting of course was before Trump was running for president and you heard what Page says, he has no idea -- had no idea at the time that this -- that this person was a spy. Do you think there's anything there on Carter Page? We've heard a lot of different thesis, a lot of different meetings. But so far nothing has added up to collusion. Do you think it could be time to move on?
QUIGLEY: We haven't even begun listening to witness testimony. I look forward to Mr. Page's testimony. They all say that they're willing to come forward and tell us everything we need to know. We are still literally reviewing the documents. We haven't interviewed a single person yet. It is premature to say one thing or another. One extreme one another. Again, using a criminal justice analogy, there's probable cause to believe that there was collusion. There's not guilt beyond a reasonable doubt but again, we have just started this. Give us some time to do it right.
BURNETT: All right. So you see probably cost. You know, your congressman, your colleague, Congressman Castro says someone could be going to jail as a result of this investigation. Do you --
QUIGLEY: Yes. We're all -- yes. We all look at things differently. And I'll -- I want to take a more deliberate approach to this. I am very, very tired of the three tactics from the White House on this, delay, distract, disrupt. They clearly don't like way this investigation is going. The first open hearing was a nightmare for them where Director Comey announced there was an investigation. He said that there was no evidence that Trump Tower was wiretapped. And he said that the Russians absolutely were trying to influence the election to help President Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. So things aren't going well for them. That's too bad. I just don't want to prejudge. I want the AmErikan public to learn exactly what took place. BURNETT: So, you know, on that, some of the information you're trying to get, some members of your committee have been briefed on the wiretapping documents that Congressman Schiff and Chairman Nunes saw at the White House. Have you seen those or been briefed on them yet?
QUIGLEY: I've been briefed on them.
BURNETT: Is there anything you can tell us? Was there any kind of a game changer, any surprise in there?
QUIGLEY: You know, it's really -- it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that. I -- my belief is the White House is so concerned about this. They can tomorrow declassified those documents. Make them public. If they're concerned about this, first, handle them more appropriately. Take them to the full committee if you're concerned about unmasking.
But clearly this is more about distracting, slowing things down, being very upset about how this process is going. It's not about finding the truth. So, you know, for me to comment again is prejudging, clearly it's important information, but if they're that fascinated with the AmErikan public knowing what really took place, declassify them.
BURNETT: And I understand your point there. I'm just trying to understand, you know, you keep saying don't prejudge but obviously this investigation has been going on for a while. I mean, you didn't -- you didn't see anything in there or hear anything in the briefing that led you one way or the other?
QUIGLEY: I would say that everything influences me one way or another but for me to probably talk about that would probably be inappropriate.
BURNETT: So, on this issue of unmasking, Susan Rice today did not deny unmasking the names of Trump Associates picked up in legal surveillance in some of the documents you may have been briefed about. She did, though, categorically deny leaking any such information. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: I leaked nothing to nobody and never have and never would.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That's definitive. Do you want her to testify before your committee on what intelligence she saw involving Trump Associates?
QUIGLEY: Well, look, I welcome her to testify. I just want to remind people that unmasking is not leaking, it is clearly not surveillance, it is normal protocol. There is a legal process where which it goes to and I don't believe anything was done inappropriately. Again, we're now on step five of distraction. You know, let allegations about wire tanning Trump Tower, canceling the public meeting, not wanting Ms. Yates to testify and now bringing up this issue after Chairman Nunes's extraordinary late-night excursion, is all evidence that they don't want the truth to come out.
BURNETT: So -- but just to make a point --
QUIGLEY: This is silly.
BURNETT: You keep referring to it as a distraction. But you were briefed on that information, he saw it, did you view it as a distraction? Was it irrelevant or not? I mean --
QUIGLEY: Yes. Again, I would say the totality of the circumstances tells me that the White House is doing nothing but distract.
BURNETT: All right, Congressman. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
QUIGLEY: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, who exactly is Erik Prince?
So, what does the word patriot mean to you?
ERIK PRINCE, BLACKWATER FOUNDER: Someone that answers the call of their country when they're need.
BURNETT: Plus, one of the deadliest chemical attacks in Syria in years. Dozens dead including at least 10 children. The White House tonight blaming it on Obama. And what is Former President Bush saying tonight about President Trump cutting funding to one of his tom top causes?
BURNETT: Breaking news. A source confirming a secret meeting between a Russian businessman with close tie to Vladimir Putin and a man claiming to have access to the Trump Administration, a massive donor. The secret sit down taking place on secluded island. Story first reported by The Washington Post which involves the person connected to Vladimir Putin and the founder of the controversial security firm Blackwater. Erik Prince is the name. And as you are about to see, Prince has -- have a connections to Trump is pretty tight. Tom Foreman is out front.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out, watch out. Let me get a shot.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the middle of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, there was the controversial firm Blackwater. And in the middle of that private security force, its founder, former NAVY Seal Erik Prince.
PRINCE: I disagree with the assertion that they acted like cowboys.
FOREMAN: He burst into the public eye after one of this team opened fire on Iraqi civilians while escorting a state department convoy in 2007. Prince said they were under attack. A court disagreed and four Blackwater contractors were convicted of violent crimes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their personnel engage in reckless use of weapons.
FOREMAN: The incident largely soured Blackwater's deal with the U.S. government and Prince's feelings, too.
PRINCE: I regret of working for the state department because they were just not worth it for the men that were killed or injured doing that job.
FOREMAN: Yet his ties to the new administration run deep. Prince donated at least $250,000 in support of President Donald Trump's president bid. His sister is Trump's Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. He's also appeared on Steve Bannon's radio show on the ultra- conservative website Breitbart.
PRINCE: Is everyone looking to United States, unfortunately I think they're going to have to wait until January and hopefully Mr. Trump is elected because clearly our generals don't have the stomach for a fight.
FOREMAN: Prince often seems ready for any fight suggesting for example the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in Benghazi, Libya, could have been prevented.
PRINCE: I mean, amongst the hundred thousand mission between Iraq and Afghanistan no one under our care ever kill or injured. I think we could have kept him alive as well.
FOREMAN: According to the Washington Post, officials from the United Arab Emirates arranged the meeting in the Seychelles between Prince and the Russians a week before President Trump took office. Allegedly to set a back channel communications with Moscow although a spokesman for Prince ahd denied it. He continues to consult on military power for clients what critics call mercenary work but Prince --
BURNETT: So what does the word patriot it mean to you now?
PRINCE: Someone that answers the call of their country when they're needed.
FOREMAN: None of this proves that Erik Prince in any way was involved in setting up a pipeline from the White House to the Kremlin. But what it does prove is that once again, someone with ties to the Trump Administration was at least in a position where they could have done such a thing. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Tom. And OutFront now, Adam Entous, he helped break the story about the secret meeting for The Washington Post, Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary for Department of Homeland Securty, and our Jim Sciutto, national security correspondent. Adam, let me start with you. You first broke this story. What more are you learning tonight about the secret meeting in the Seychelles?
ADAM ENTOUS: Yes. At this point, what we're trying to determine is sort of, you know, you know, did anybody in the Trump world give a green light for Prince to approach the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and present himself as the envoy to meet with the Russian? You know, the crown prince Abu Dhabi is not known to be someone who takes meetings like this willy-nilly. Usually there would be some communication beforehand to ensure that both Trump and Putin intended for the crown prince to bring these two people together. So that's one of the questions we're still trying to get the answer to.
BURNETT: And of course, Erik Prince spends most of his time in the United Arab Emirates, training people there militarily. Juliette, here's more of what we know about Erik Prince, right? Which Tom mentioned us, he donated at least a quarter of a million dollars to the presidential campaign. That's significant. He appeared on Breitbart Radio which of course Steve Bannon ran before, becoming the chief strategist for Trump. He is the brother of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary for Donald Trump. A lot of roads from Prince do lead directly to Donald Trump.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, HOMDLAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT: That's exactly right. And let's just remember how Erik made all of his money and that's Blackwater, a very controversial firm, one would even say, you know, sort of subjected to accusations of Human Rights abuses and other things in Iraq. So he is a man who's background -- I sort of describe him as, you know, when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
You know, sort of a military type aggressive person, and so the amazing thing about The Washington Post story is not only that the meeting happened, Erik had to have known his contacts with the Trump Administration, even if they -- even if these meetings were benign, but also this whole notion of the back channel. I don't get it. It keeps coming up with the Trump administration. These back channels, we wanted to reach out to the Russians. They were about to be president. I mean, it was about to be in administration, you don't need back channels. You have a transition, lawfully recognized transition that gives you access to the Russians.
BURNETT: Right. Obviously unless there's some sort of a smoke there. I mean, Jim, here's the thing. Erik Prince had a point of view of Russia. He went on Steve Bannon's Breitbart Radio, he talked about Russia just before the election. Last fall on October 12. And he defended loudly the Russians against accusations of hacking the Clinton Campaign Chairman. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE: John Podesta's e-mails, I can assure you did not come from the Russians, so this idea that the left and even the administration, even from the intelligence community are now claiming it's all the Russians is entirely too cute and very, very thin on any kind of fact or legitimacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Jim? JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF NATIOANL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, look,
let's listen to the people who disagree with him, the intelligence community as he cites there. Department of Homeland Security. Democrats certainly but the republican speaker of the house, the republican senate majority leader, the republican chairman of the -- both the senate and House Intelligence Committees who are now investigating Russian interference in the election.
So that assessment just does not measure up to the facts and for him to characterize as his opinion or an assessment of confine to the left is just not accurate. But what is -- what is interesting is that point of view is one that the president himself held and publicly expressed many times during the campaign, even during the transition, although he has moderated that somewhat but on that point, for some time here the president were aligned.
BURNETT: So Erik Prince actually lives in the United Arab Emirates, as I mentioned most of the time. The meeting took place in the Seychelles, Adam, as you reported. Remote islands that the Emirates have bank rolled. I've been there, I've seen the ruler of the Emirates compound, it's sort of dominates and entire mountain top. You can -- you can see the influence physically in that house. The islands pride themselves in operating in secret. Their secretary of state for foreign affairs commented by telling you, Adam, this and I quote, "the Seychelles is the kind of place where you can have a good time away from the eyes of the media. That's even printed in our tourism marketing." And Adam ,the question is, if there's nothing to hide, why the secrecy here?
ENTOUS: Yes. I know, I think that's the central question here. And it's a question that we, you know, are asking ourselves time and time again. You know, why did Flynn not just come clean about his communications with the Russian Ambassador. Why didn't Sessions decide to err on the side of transparency? You know, you can sort of understand in the context here leading up to this meeting in the Seychelles, why there was concern about having official contacts, because official contacts were under tremendous scrutiny, both from law enforcement and the press.
So, you can understand why you'd want to go with something that was not going to attract attention. And it's called the cut-out. You know, picking somebody who is -- who is not officially connected to you and then after you have that meeting you can just disown it and pretend like it never happened, which is basically what we see, I think what we're seeing here now from the White House.
BURNETT: And Jim, the timing again of this -- of this meeting raising red flags right before the inauguration.
ACOSTA: And that's right. And because it's not isolated. Because the Prince meeting is in early January, in December you had Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, then president-elect's son-in-law meeting with a Russian bank official of a bank that was been under U.S. -- still is under U.S. economic sanctions. So, is that -- the proximity of those meetings, the timing of those meetings, a number of them that is drawing the attention of the hill congressional -- the congressional committee is now investigating Russian interference.
BURNETT: All right. Thanks to you all. I appreciate it. And next, a horrific chemical attack in Syria. At least 70 dead, nearly a dozen children among them. It is a stunning attack. A huge challenge to President Trump. Will he do anything about it? And advertisers dropping Bill O'Rielley 16 in a day after new sexual harassment claim circus. Is Bill O'Reilly done?
BURNETT: Breaking news. Tonight the Trump administration condemning the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed scores of innocent women and children in Syria. The image is emerging from the overnight are horrific. They are difficult to look at. What you see are children stunned. Others unresponsive, burns on their bodies. They're crying, causing, wheezing, rescue workers there racing as you can see to try to hose them down.
In another video, you see the chaos inside a crowded hospital. Children covered in blankets are hooked up to respirators and you can see their tiny bodies twisting and convulsing.
It's horrific to see. At this time we don't know what kind of chemical, kind of gas was used. We do know how the victims died. Those who died suffocated.
And tonight, the White House sending mixed messages as to who was responsible.
Our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT.
What is the message? They see those pictures. President is now the president of the United States. What's the message?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Erin, we did not hear the president himself talk about this today. The White House certainly saw these, you know, gruesome, grisly images. The president, we're told, was briefed by his national security advisers earlier this morning and then indeed throughout the day.
And, you know, they essentially placed blame on the Obama administration for crossing that red line. Let's take a look at the president's statement here and then dissect it just a little bit. This is what he said.
He said, "Today's chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world." He goes on to say, "These heinous actions by Bashar al-Assad regime are consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution."
So, basically, right there, that is this Trump administration passing the buck here, saying that this is the Obama administration's fault.
And, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, today was asked in a small briefing with reporters, at what point does this become the Trump administration's challenge, problem, issue here? And Spicer punted on that, but he did say that, look, they are deciding a response to this, but this president does not intend to sort of show or prove or telegraph, in Spicer's words, you know, the next actions going forward here.
But, Erin, if you look at the full history of President Trump, then candidate Trump on Syria, it is very mixed. And we found a tweet today which is very interesting, since the president likes to communicate that way. We went back and saw this tweet.
Take a look at this. He said this. Trump -- this is in 2013, Mr. Trump said, "President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your powder for another and more important day."
So, Erin, we're left here at the end of the day here with some mixed messages, not a clear strategy here. But blame the Obama administration or not, this is this administration's challenge and problem -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff.
And OUTFRONT now, Mark Preston, our senior political analyst, Arwa Damon, our senior international correspondent, and Jamie Gangel, special correspondent.
Arwa, you've been in Syria. You've been covering this war for years. You have seen the aftermath of attacks. This is one of the worst we have seen in years.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. And I think the tragedy of it all is in the challenge of trying to find words to articulate exactly what it is that the Syrian population is going through, and what is it going to take to actually galvanize action. Syrians don't know what to do anymore. This is not happening in the vacuum. Everybody is watching and there's going to reach a certain point in time when we are going to have to create new words to define what has happened at this stage.
Yes, there is a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the Obama administration. But if the Trump administration wants to uphold the so-called mores and principles of the civilized world, then there is an onus of them to take action, because a moral compass has been broken when it comes to Syria. There are powers that can begin to put it back together, if the will is there, and the will right now is not there to do that.
BURNETT: And, Mark, you know, Trump, as you heard the statement, blaming this on Obama's weakness and resolution, he noted in the statement that President Obama had drawn the red line. Of course, we all remember that, that August and then did nothing. This was something in fact that Trump called out repeatedly on the campaign trail. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Another humiliation came when President Obama drew a red line in Syria and the whole world knew it meant absolutely nothing.
This was started by Obama when he didn't go in and do the job when he should have, when he drew the line in the sand which turned out to be a very artificial line.
Obama draws the line in the sand. It was laughed at all over the world what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK, that's what he said, Mark. Yet, in the past few days, the secretary of state, Trump's U.N. ambassador, have said the Syrian people should decide the fate of Bashar al Assad, the same person who just launched this chemical attack against his own people. That's even less action than Barack Obama who at least said that Bashar al- Assad need to go. At least he said that.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and, you know, we also heard from Nikki Haley, who's the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., say recently as well that it's not going to be the top priority anymore to try to end the Syrian war.
[19:35:03] Backlash, though, is coming to the Trump administration for these comments and for their decision not to focus on trying to end the Syrian conflict and remove Bashar al Assad.
We saw John McCain just this morning on CNN say a couple of things that really stick out to me that were jarring. One is, he said that the Trump administration has no clear foreign policy doctrine. He said that he is -- this is John McCain saying this about Donald Trump, that he has no confidence in his security team. That is -- that is damning in a big way and is sending a message throughout the world.
And, you know, he also goes on to say it's another disgraceful chapter in American history which I think is what Arwa is saying. She's been over there and has seen these atrocities. And at some point, it's on us as the United States to take the moral high ground and try to end it.
BURNETT: It's pretty shocking for John McCain to say that, the security team.
BURNETT: Yes. But I mean, you know, the national security adviser, defense secretary, both very respected people within and, of course, the military community.
Jamie, this is a test for this White House. This is a test. And so far, at least according to that statement today, it seems they failed if your response is, blame the other guy.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Especially if you go to the two words Arwa just said, moral compass, right? What are they going to do?
And it's -- I don't think they know. They thought that they were going to be taking on ISIS. They did not want to have to be dealing with this. Now, how do you square those pictures -- I know you've been watching this for six years and we all have. But now, it's President Trump who has to look at those pictures and make a decision.
And I also wonder with what Tillerson said recently and Nikki Haley said recently, and our general concern about national security. Does Assad feel even more emboldened right now to do something like that? And the White House may say that they're not saying what they're going to do next because they don't want to tip their hand. I don't think they know what they're going to do next and they have to --
BURNETT: And you're going to get tests like this.
I mean, Arwa, this begs the question, though, you know, this was always the issue with Syria, that saying you're going to draw a red line then begs the question of what you would do if it were crossed. That answer is no easier for Trump. I mean, he can't just go in and do something, can he?
DAMON: It's not easier. It's a more complex situation right now.
But there's also a very important point to be picked up on. And that is that when the 2013 chemical attack happened and that was President Obama's red line, that resulted in absolutely no accountability. That really served as one of the key radicalization factors of the revolution. That allowed for the extremist groups, the Nusra Front, ISIS, to come in and use those images of dead women and children and say to the more moderate that were in the majority at the time, look, you want to be like the West? You want freedom and democracy, well, the West isn't even standing up for you when you're getting gassed by your own government.
And that is this rallying point for entities like ISIS. There are such serious consequences to inaction to allow this population to be slaughtered like this.
BURNETT: When you mentioned John McCain criticizing President Trump, which, of course, he has done on other issues, although he took his side yesterday when it came to Susan Rice. The president also getting criticism tonight from the former President George W. Bush. This actually related to a program near and dear to the former president's heart that is going to be cut in the Trump budget. He almost never speaks out about a current president but he did today.
Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I hope our government when they analyze what works around the world will understand that PEPFAR has saved over 11 million lives, and that while progress is being made, we've got to continue to stay in this battle in order to save lives. Every human life matters. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: PEPFAR, of course, was his signature aid program. What he said there are very interesting, though. Every human life matters. Not what's more consistent with the Trump's doctrine of every American life matters.
GANGEL: So, President Bush and the former first lady are in Botswana and Namibia, this time about cancer. But this is something they believe in. The U.S. foreign aid can save lives. The HIV program, more than 11 million lives have been saved. You will notice he did not say Donald Trump's name.
GANGEL: He said, "Our government." Trump has said he wants to -- the White House has said they want to cut the State Department 28 percent. No one thinks it's going to be that high but the Hill won't allow it.
But this program is not something that is near and dear to Donald Trump's heart and this was George Bush's way of pushing back, saying something, and even making the trip.
[19:40:05] This is his seventh trip. He did not have to go right now. I think just making that trip was a message, this is important, this counts.
BURNETT: And criticizing.
All right. Thank you all.
And next, scandal fallout. Eighteen advertisers pulling commercials from Bill O'Reilly show on FOX. It was just a couple in the morning.
And building the border wall. Hispanic contractors who want to work on it are being called traitors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth is, if you can't beat them, bill 'em.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump's tough stance on immigration likely leading to a dramatic drop in illegal crossings at the southern border. The former acting Customs and Border Patrol commissioner told senators there's been a 67 percent plunge so far this year.
Trump is still pushing ahead with plans to build the wall. Scores of contractors are lining up with bids. The politics of this not bothering them, and some of those firms, Hispanic.
Boris Sanchez is OUTFRONT.
TRUMP: I would build a great wall. And nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.
[19:45:03] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since day one of his campaign, then candidate Donald Trump's promise of building a wall along the border with Mexico has been a lightning rod, drawing chants from his supporters and scorn from his opponents.
And now that the federal government is accepting design bids for the wall, that ire is now focused on those who want to construct it.
MARIO BURGOS, OWNER, BURGOS GROUP: Every country in the world has borders. If you don't have borders, you don't have a country.
SANCHEZ: Mario Burgos is one of the many contractors who have submitted bids to work on the wall. The son of Ecuadorian immigrants did not vote for Donald Trump and he rejects the president's rhetoric about Mexicans and other minorities.
BURGOS: It's absolutely mean spirited.
SANCHEZ (on camera): But thousands of miles away from the divisive language of the campaign trail, here, in the desert of New Mexico on the border with Ciudad Juarez, reality trumps rhetoric.
BURGOS: The bottom line is, New Mexico has the highest unemployment in the nation right now, 6.7 percent. We have created these jobs. We have 120 employees now working for us. Our employees have families that they need to feed just like we have families that we need to feed.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): The idea of Hispanics playing a role in the wall's construction has not been without controversy. This week, the archdiocese of Mexico City launched an attack on Mexican companies willing to work on the border wall, calling them immoral and traitors.
BURGOS: Traitor to what? I'm an American. It goes back to we have borders. Every country in the world has borders.
SANCHEZ: Burgos says online trolls are already targeting his business.
BURGOS: Just call me a bunch of names because I'm going to go build a wall.
SANCHEZ: But Burgos insists, if a wall is going up in his backyard, he wants any economy windfall to stay in his backyard.
BURGOS: There is no changing fact that New Mexico is a border state. And so, if there's going to be a border built in New Mexico, I'd like to see New Mexico companies, but us as a general contractor, our subcontractors, the people that manufactured concrete, the folks that live here, work here, coach soccer here, they should be able to participate in building the wall. And the truth is, if you can't beat them, bill 'em. SANCHEZ (on camera): Mario Burgos is not alone. Of the more than 600
contractors that have registered with the federal government to build the border wall, about 10 percent are Hispanic owned.
Boris Sanchez, CNN, along the U.S. border with Ciudad Juarez in New Mexico.
BURNETT: That's a pretty incredible story. Thanks so much to you, Boris.
And next, 18 advertisers fleeing, refusing to be associated with Bill O'Reilly and his show on FOX.
And burning the president's tweets. Jeanne Moos feels the heat.
[19:50:22] BURNETT: New tonight, advertisers running away from Bill O'Reilly. At this hour, 18 companies fleeing the show on FOX, after a report that a total of five women reached settlements with him or FOX News after they accused him of sexual harassment in four cases, one of them was verbal abuse. Lexus, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline are some of the latest companies to pull commercials from the program. And, by the way, we're up to 18, but this just started yesterday.
FOX News in a statement, saying, quote, "We value our partners and are working with them to address their current concerns about the O'Reilly Factor. At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re- expressed into other FOX News Channel programs."
OUTFRONT now, former prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, and our senior media correspondent Brian Stelter.
Brian, let's just understand, first of all, the scale of this. This has happened literally in about a day in response to a "New York Times" story over the weekend. It was a couple of companies. Now, it's 18. How many more are left?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: But today was the tipping point. There were two advertisers yesterday. We have been calling these companies, now today every hour, there were new firms added to the list.
These are the ones that are saying it publicly, Erin. Privately, inside FOX, there are other advertisers that have also told FOX, move our ads away from O'Reilly. They haven't said it publicly yet. But that number is going to continue to grown beyond the 18.
However as you said, they have only moved their ads to other shows on the FOX News schedule. So, this may not be hurting FOX's finances, but it is hurting O'Reilly's reputation. It is a PR disaster for him.
BURNETT: Right. I mean, just on the basics of it, if they're not going to run ads on his show, that's fine, they can move them for now. But eventually, the highest rated show on the network isn't able to get the ad dollars. I mean, it will affect the bottom line.
STELTER: That's right.
BURNETT: And the new question is then, what is he going to do tonight? Is this going to be --
STELTER: Last night, he didn't speak of this at all, last night. And I'm told he's being counseled to stay quiet, do not address this. You know, he has said the claims against him are meritless.
STELETER: But others inside FOX have known his reputation for a long time. This "New York Times" story was not entirely surprising over the weekend.
BURNETT: Right, and, you know, Paul, what I find interesting is while the "New York Times" put together all of these stories, some of them -- you know, what he was doing on the phone while calling someone had actually been out for quite some time. So, it was sort of just because the "New York Times" did it in a very public way that is forcing this issue.
O'Reilly did put out a statement on his website, even though he hasn't commented on his show, in which he said, "Just like other prominent and controversial people I'm vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity." But Don Lemon spoke to one of the accusers who said that she had rejected his sexual advances and then he broke a promise to sort of position her on his program, gave her access to his program.
And here's what she said as to why she's speaking out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WENDY WALSH, PSYCHOLOGIST: I just want a nontoxic work environment for my daughters and their generation. We need to change the system. The workplace is not a mating marketplace. And if you're looking for a date, do like everyone else and go on Tinder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Where does all this go for him?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: These things, these sexual harassment cases kind of function on two levels. One is the ordinary person level. If you're in a company, you harass two, three sets of women, settle the cases, you're going to get fired. The corporation is not going to take a risk on it.
If you're a Bill O'Reilly and or a big star, and you generate $100 million to $175 million a year in revenues, there'd been a lot of reports about that, you can settle a lot of small, $5 million cases and still be profitable, and as Brian said --
BURNETT: Which is what they had done, right? All these cases are settled and in her case she said she's actually not suing him.
CALLAN: So, it's all about, in the end, as Brian said, it's all about the money. Now, once enough advertisers start to walk, though, the thing changes. If he can't pull advertisers to the show, then FOX has no reason to keep him. And when women start saying, "I'm not watching that guy, I'm not watching that network," then the network will have to act.
BURNETT: So, Brian, at what point do we know whether he can survive this and get those advertisers back. I mean, Rush Limbaugh went through something different but similar. It wasn't about sexual harassment, it was about comments about Sandra Fluke, right?
STELTER: Yes, years ago, yes.
BURNETT: Right. And he came through it. And so, what happens here?
STELTER: The Murdochs are the ones ultimately to make this call. Rupert Murdoch who is the patriarch of 21st Century Fox, and his two sons. His sons are deeply uncomfortable at this. Lachlan and James, they help run the company. They are deeply uncomfortable with these stories, with the "New York Times" story, with this advertiser backlash.
Whether they do anything about, though, is the question.
BURNETT: Because, obviously, not deeply uncomfortable with the fact that he's doing these things, he's known about that, because of these settlements for a long time.
STELTER: But I wonder how much the board of directors of the company knew for example. There are some unanswered questions here, and there is an ongoing federal investigation into other settlement payments involving Roger Ailes, the head of the network, that stepped down last year under pressure, amid his own sexual harassment.
[19:55:06] CALLAN: But I think we do have to say one thing, just because there's a settlement, doesn't necessarily mean that he's guilty. And I have seen cases where men have said, settle the case, I can't deal with the embarrassment and the insurance company or the corporation you work for says OK. So, we don't know whether he's guilty in all of these cases or any of these cases.
STELTER: An O'Reilly's folks feel this is a pile-on. But they also don't know what is FOX News is going to do. His contract was going to expire at the end of this year. There's been reports that maybe it was extended. But at some point, FOX may say this is enough.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both. We shall see. See whether he talks about it tonight.
And OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos and a man who's fired up over Trump's tweets.
MOOS: Are President Trump's tweets too hot to handle?
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When President Trump tweets, it can leave his critics burning, so a robot builder decided to burn them. Each and every Trump tweet goes up in smoke, with a message to, "@realDonaldTrump, I burned your tweet."
How often do you empty the ashtray?
DAVID NEEVEL, ROBOT BUILDER: About once a day.
MOOS: David Neevel says he is giving Trump's tweets the attention they deserve. He found himself annoyed by them. For him, the tweet burner is cathartic.
NEEVEL: It's a way to last through this, hopefully.
MOOS: Neevel specializes in making Rube Goldberg-like gizmos that solve problems in difficult ways. Like this Oreo separating machine, that separates the cream from the cookie, or the bottle cap remover activated by opening the refrigerator door, or the mannequin that sprays deodorant on him.
Neevel is from Oregon. Now, he's currently doing freelance robotic engineering in the Netherlands. He spent a couple of weeks making himself the tweet burner.
But where do you keep a tweet burning robot? It's got to be someplace low on the flammability scale.
NEEVEL: It's on a little table I made that's in the bathtub.
MOOS: In the bathtub?
MOOS: And while Trump rails against the failing "New York Times," the tweet burner itself sometimes fails, missing the ashtray or burning its own arm. It's cheap toy shop lighter failed to light, temporary sparing a tweet.
The burner emails Neevel when it receives a Trump tweet. Neevel then gives the command to burn, rub-a-dub-dub, presidential tweets burned in the tub. When the president tweeted about a witch hunt, little did he know his tweet would end up burned at the stake.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: Just a whole new meaning to STEM education. Wow, look at the robots you can build.
Thanks for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere on CNN Go.
"AC360" starts right now.