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Trump: U.S.-Russia Relations "May Be At An All-Time Low"; Trump's Stunning Reversals On China, NATO, Russia, Syria; Trump's Flip-Flop: China Is Not Currency Manipulator; Report: FBI Got FISA Warrant To Monitory Ex-Trump Adviser; AP: Manafort Paid $1.2M From Pro-Russian Groups; Trump's Ex-Campaign Chairman To Register As Foreign Agent; Carter Page: Nothing To Say About Ongoing Russia Probes; Ex-Trump Adviser Carter Page Denies Colluding With Russians; Report: FBI Got FISA Warrant To Monitor Ex-Trump Adviser; Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 12, 2017 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER HOST: -- Situation Room. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, breaking news. President Trump tough talks Russia calls Syria's leader a butcher. Is this the same Trump we heard just days ago? Plus, another stunning turnaround, Trump now says China is not a currency manipulator. Why the flip-flops now? And Sean Spicer taking a page from the United Airlines playbook. Let's go OutFront. And good evening to all. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news, all time low. President Trump declaring the United States is not getting along with Russia at all, saying the situation could be the worst in history. Here he is at a late afternoon press conference tonight in Washington.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right now we're not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia.


BURNETT: Trump's tough talk is a stunning turnaround because this is the president who during the campaign complimented Putin and bragged about their contact.


TRUMP: I think I'd get along very well with Vladimir Putin. I just think so. Putin says very nice things about me. I think that's very nice. I got to know him very well because we were both on 60 minutes, we were stable mates, so we did very well that night.


BURNETT: And that wasn't only the Trump change in policy today. He also called Bashar al-Assad a butcher. Speaking moments ago at a joint press conference with the secretary general of NATO, Trump called out Assad for killing children with chemical weapons.


BURNETT: Young children dying, babies dying, fathers holding children in their arms that were dead, dead children. There can't be a worse sight and it shouldn't be allowed. That's a butcher. That's a butcher. So I felt we had to do something about it. I have absolutely no doubt we did the right thing.


BURNETT: That, too, is a major departure for Trump. Just over a week ago, the White House said the world may have to put up with Assad remaining in power. We're going to have much more on all Trump's 80s -- 180s on several major foreign policy issues tonight. I want to start though with Michelle Kosinksi because she is in Moscow tonight with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. And Michelle, Tillerson actually did meet with Putin. It was a big question as to whether Putin would do that. They had the meeting. Where does the relationship with Russia stand tonight?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes. After all of the heated rhetoric that's been out there, the good news is the U.S. and Russia are talking and they're talking about doing some more talking. Both sides are trying to find some common ground here, but what still seeps through even in the responses today are these dark shades of those very deep divisions that still exist. What you don't hear is Russia backing away from supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad anytime soon. Four hours of crucial contentious talks with Russian officials, including with President Vladimir Putin himself. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov finally faced the press.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The current state of U.S.-Russia relations is at a low point. There is a low level of trust between our two countries. The world's two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today's meetings, the many hours we spent with Rex Tillerson together and with the president of the Russian federation were not spent in vein. We understand each other better.

KOSINSKI: The most that it could come from this, an agreement to keep on talking. They decided on a working group to tackle the most critical issues. They've agreed to re-establish the now suspended efforts to keep U.S. and Russian planes out of each other's ways over Syria. Lavrov though refused to accept Syrian President Bashar al- Assad responsibility for the chemical attack in Syria. Insisting instead on an objective investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have seen no confirmation that that was the case.

KOSISNKI: And the U.S. TILLERSON: The facts that we have are conclusive, that the recent

chemical weapons attack carried out in Syria was planned and it was directed and executed by Syrian regime forces.

KOSINSKI: Though only hours earlier, Putin was framing the Sarin gas attack as the work of rebel groups.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a staged provocation.

KOSINSKI: On the delicate issue of Russia's interference in the U.S. election, Tillerson stated his case.

TILLERSON: As to the question of the interference with the election, that is fairly well established in United States.

KOSINSKI: And Lavrov once again called for more information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not a single fact has been confirmed who saw those facts, we don't know. Nobody has shown us anything and we have said to them, show us the evidence for these very slanderous attacks.

KOSINKSI: The rhetoric from both sides has been stark and relentless and still yet to meet Presidents Putin and Trump, who laid out the problems here most bluntly today.

TRUMP: Putin is backing a person that's truly and evil person. And I think it's very bad for Russia, I think it's very bad for mankind, it's very bad for this world. But when you drop gas or bombs, this is an animal.

KOSINKSI: The state department official I talked to today said they think the chances of Russia backing away from Assad in the near term are next to zero that Putin's deeply worried that if Assad if suddenly gone, there's a power vacuum, terrorist Russian, Russia is not necessarily blinds to Assad being a terrible option but for now, they see him as the best, if not the only option. So what the U.S. wants Russia to do is convince Syria to go for a cease fire. Then a political process, though no one knows how long this would take or even to what extent Russia is going to be willing to play. Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Of course, easy to say political process. There's absolutely no sense that there is any such thing ever in the offing. Thanks you, Michelle. Potential flop on Russia and Putin not even his biggest flip-flop tonight. The president is actually breaking a promise and that promise was to hold China accountable for lost American jobs by labelling it a currency manipulator. That is a promise that Donald Trump made again and again.


TRUMP: I'm going to instruct my treasure secretary to label China a currency manipulator.


BURNETT: He promised to do that in the first 100 days, tonight though he let China off the hook. Telling the Wall Street Journal and I quote, the president, "They're not currency manipulators." Jeff Zeleny is OutFront. And Jeff, and Trump not labeling China a manipulator. This goes to the entire core of his campaign, make America great again, American jobs first. This is a massive about- face.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDNT: Erin, it is a massive about-face. I mean, on the campaign trail for more, you know, than 12 months, 15 months, a year and a half, candidate Trump was essentially painting China as an economic villain. He accused China in blunt terms of raping the U.S. taking jobs out of America's heartland. It was his campaign anthem if you will. Today he struck a far friendlier, possibly more diplomat tone because the threats of North Korea now hang in the balance. Let's listen.

TRUMP: President Xi wants to do the right thing. We had a very good bonding. I think we had a very good chemistry together. I think he wants to help us with North Korea. We talked trade, we talked a lot of things. But I was very impressed with President Xi and I think he means well and I think he wants to help.

ZELENY: Now, Erin, it's almost as though he was talking about a different person entirely. Now, of course he had that meeting last week on Thursday and Friday at his Mar-a-Lago Resort. And he's trying to pressure China, in fact, convince them to help with the threat of North Korea, Erin. But it was the, you know, huge about-face. It sounded like an entirely different person that President Trump was talking about.

BURNETT: Oh, yes. And this was something near and dear to his heart. And it wasn't the only flip-flop today while we talk about Russia, we talk about Bashar al-Assad. The president today though also said NATO was not obsolete. We don't even have to pull a sound bite from today and from back in the day. He actually said on himself today. Here he is.


TRUMP: I said it was obsolete. It's no longer obsolete.


BURNETT: So he admits that's an about-face.

ZELENY: No question that he does it without apology, Erin. I mean, we have heard him say time and time again he'll be flexible once he come to office. I guess this is exactly what he meant. I mean -- but the flexibility we'll see how that plays with others here. But now he needs these countries. He is the president now, so, you know, perhaps learning to speak more diplomatically here. The questions is, what will his voters think his base who supported him based on that old message? Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Jeff. Thank you very much. Let's go OutFront now to the Democratic Senator Ed Markey. He sits on the foreign relations committee and senator, good to have you back. The president doing a 180 on China, there is no other way to describe that, as Jeff said, as if he is two different people. He's saying Assad is a butcher, relations with Russia at an all-time low. NATO is not obsolete. Are you glad when you hear all these things?

SEN. ED MARKEY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Well, in some instances, I am glad. I'm glad that he's squaring up his philosophy with reality. But we don't know if this is just today because just two weeks ago he was saying that Assad could stay and they accepted that. So I think that it just confuses our allies. It undermines our role on the world stage. It doesn't have any coherence as a foreign policy, whatsoever. And it continues to look like they're just making it up week-to-week. And they just don't have a common philosophy which they are bringing to all of these issues and that undermines the role of the United States in the world.

BURNETT: So, Senator, on this issue of China, Trump said that China's president greed to take action in North Korea. He said they just had another conversation. In fact, so much action that Trump is not labeling China as a currency manipulator. This one I really do believe went to his heart, he believe China is a currency manipulator. He has talked to me about these interviews for more than a decade, OK? But all of a sudden tonight, they're not a manipulator. Do you think that the president made a breakthrough with China on North Korea? Or do you think that China is now successfully manipulating him?

MARKEY: Look. We have been talking to China off and on for years about North Korea. Thus far, to no effect in terms of deterring the North Korean nuclear program. That is the entire history. If the president thinks that his conversations over these last couple of days on Thursday and Friday of last week have led to a huge breakthrough on the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program, I think that we're going to need a lot more evidence than him just saying so.

Because I doubt it. That's not how the relationship between China and North Korea has actually unfolded until this point in time. And in fact, the one thing that the Chinese have asked the United States to do over the years is to engage in direct talks with Kim and Trump is refusing to do that now, although he said during the campaign that he would. And so in each one of these instances, it is almost incomprehensible what the exact strategy is and whether or not there are any results whatsoever.

We do know that today, Russia actually vetoed the resolution in the U.N. Security Council on the chemical weapons. And we also know that the president did a complete flip-flop on currency manipulation in China, but without any specific return on that change of policy while abandoning all of his voters who he said during the campaign in 2016 were being tipped upside down and having their money being shaken out of their pockets and their jobs being exported to China and all of a sudden he does it and he doesn't even have a concrete explanation as to what he received in return.

BURNETT: So he -- right. And he was -- he did not -- he did not have that answer. He also when talking about Russia said U.S. relations with Russia are at an all-time low. And he was asked specifically, Senator, whether it's possible that Bashar al-Assad launched that chemical attack without Russia knowing about it. He said that is unlikely. Right? He's saying they probably knew about it in advance. Here he is.


TRUMP: I think it's certainly possible. I think it's probably unlikely. I know they're doing investigations into that right now. I would like to think that they didn't know but certainly they could have. They were there. So we'll find out.


BURNETT: So he says it's possible the Russians knew, unlikely that they didn't, but there's an investigation. Does this sound like he is carrying Putin's water to you or is he now standing up to Vladimir Putin?

MARKEY: Look it. Secretary Tillerson met with Labrov and Putin today. What would we want from that meeting? Number one, we would want Russia to actually promise to get all the chemical weapons out of Syria. That didn't happen.

BURNETT: Well, they did in 2013, right? They promised to do that and they didn't do it. So that promise doesn't seem like so much.

MARKEY: Right. So, if President Trump is going to be successful, he's got to get them to agree to remove all those chemical weapons now and that didn't happen. Secondly, Iran and Turkey and Russia reached an agreement for a cease fire last year. That has not actually been implemented. That should be honored. That didn't happen today. There should be, thirdly, a full distribution of humanitarian aid throughout Syria. Secretary Tillerson did not receive that as a concession today.

And that the opposition party should be going to the table with Assad to reach a negotiated diplomatic resolution. That didn't happen today. From my perspective, if president Trump wants to be serious, he should say to Putin he's prepared to impose brand-new crippling Rosoboronexport and all their suppliers who are -- which is the one company in Russia that sends weapons to Syria. That would be a strong message. None of that has happened.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time. Than you very much, Senator. And OutFront next, new questions tonight about Trump Associates and their contacts with Russia. Former advisor speaking to CNN. Plus, is the man once nicknamed President Bannon about to fall victim to a White House shakeup? We're going to talk to Trump Advisor, long-time Tom Barrack who just spent hours with Trump today. And the president weighs in on this video seen around the world.



BURNETT: Breaking news. Former Trump Advisor Carter Page dribbling down that he did not collude with the Russians to rig the elections for Trump. Here he is moments ago on CNN saying Washington reports of the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to monitor him as bogus, I guess.

CARTER PAGE, FORMER FOREIGN POLICY ADIVISOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Just like president Trump just said when he was discussing the allegations about, you know, who knew what with the chemical weapons. Let's not jump to any conclusions. And until there's full evidence and a full investigation has been done, we just don't know. I have the same attitude about this.

BURNETT: Tom Foreman is OutFront.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next president of the United States.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The FBI warrant to monitor Trump Advisor Carter Page came at the height of the presidential campaign last summer driven by suspicions paid who was doing secret work for the Russians. According to the Washington Post which broke the story. Page denies doing anything improper.

PAGE: This is -- it's such a joke that it's beyond words. I met a few business people but no negotiations about anything in terms of anything related to the campaign whatsoever.

FOREMAN: Page is no longer a Trump Advisor and says his role was minor. But when the candidate talked about his team just over a year ago, there was the former investor who worked in Moscow and advised Russian companies right in the middle.

TRUMP: Carter Page PhD. George Papadopoulos, he's an oil energy consultant. Excellent guy

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

FOREMAN: Page hints the FBI attention spring from political intrigues instigated by democrats. Indeed he cites his cooperation with authorities in the case of a Russian spy ring. One member of that group tried to recruit Page in 2013, another Evgeny Buryakov who was caught and imprisoned, was released and deported just last week. FBI surveillance of Page will approve by the Secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court. And --

SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I can't comment on the FISA warrant but if a FISA warrant has been issued, it is very, very serious matter.

FOREMAN: Another serious issue for Team Trump, Paul Manafort, the president's former campaign director also denies he was compromised by work he did for the pro-Russian former president of Ukraine. But the Associated Press now says he received $1.2 million from pro-Russian organizations back in 2000. And Manafort is expected to soon register with the U.S. government as a legal representative of Ukraine for that work. Against it all, the White House steadily rejected any claims improper Russian contact on behalf of Trump. Noting for all the investigations no one has been charged with anything.

SPICER: They have seen zero evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

FOREMAN: And yet those investigations are still going on, especially those into whether or not the Russians meddled in the last U.S. election. And with each new bombshell, revelation, the skeptics say with all that smoke, eventually there will be fire. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Tom. Thank you. And Out front now, our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto along with the former assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security Juliette Kayyem and the former CIA Chief of Russian Operations, Steve Hall. So Jim, let me start with you on the reporting. I want to get to Carter Page in a moment. There is another report I want to ask you about, the A.P. reporting tonight that financial record show Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman of course for Trump received more than a million dollars in off-the-book payments from a pro-Russian political party. Now, a spokesman has come out with a statement in response to that report saying it is not true. How damaging, though, could it be?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It could be very damaging. This results from what's known in Ukraine at the black ledger, it was a handwritten accounting of cash payments made to individuals by a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. This goes back a few years granted. Now when it came out a few months ago, Paul Manafort and his lawyers, they questioned the authenticity of it. But what the A.P. has done is they've tracked these payments from the Ukraine to his consulting firm, so it's backs up.

I should note that these payments happened a number of years before Paul Manfort was Donald Trump's campaign manager. So, last of an issue for the Trump Campaign than it is for -- potentially for Manafort himself who is, you know, announced earlier today that he is now retroactively registering as a foreign agent because of work exactly this.

BURNETT: And I see your point. I guess, Steve, what I'm wondering though is when Jim says, yes, these payments were before but it's millions of dollar to pro-Russian political party. Does this raise the question as to whether he was he was compromised by these hidden payments so that when he worked for the Trump Campaign, the Russians were able to -- I don't know. Obviously, use him or collude with him or something that raise that question?

STEVE HALL, Erin, I think it -- I think it does because let's not forget that it actually goes back further than just Manafort's connectivity if you will to the Yanukovych government in Ukraine and those pro-Russian parties. Remember that he was also in touch with Oleg Deripaska who's an oligarch which is, you know, one of the senior guys in the kremlin and actually work for him and receive money for him too. So that was even before that but that's -- it's part of the pattern though that I think is disturbing and concerning.

BURNETT: So Juliette, on this issue of Manafort now registering, right? He is now going to register and say that he did work on behalf of a foreign country. This is now the second top Trump aid to do this. Michael Flynn, the other one. In both cases it happened after the fact. Is that in and of itself suspicious? JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No. There would be

many reasons why after the fact you would clean it up but I should say two things in this regard. One is it's not common to forget to register as a foreign agent. It's a very strict law that applies to people that lobby for a foreign government. People who are in the space and the space that Steve and I are in, they know this law. You don't forget it. It's well known. And so, it's not like this is something that is often done.

The second thing is of course the other person you mentioned who did this was Mike Flynn. And look, lawyers in this field will tell you and they told me and I said this at the time about Mike Flynn, one, one reason and we don't know Manafort's reasons for doing it. But one reason is because of ongoing investigations, someone like Manafort needs to clean up what he can clean up. And in this case it is, he can retroactively file.

BURNETT: All right. So, a lot of questions there. And on the issue, Jim, or Carter Page, if this Washington post report is borne out, then the FBI obtained a FISA to monitor him during the campaign which of course was something Louis mentioned quite some time ago. We were told no one in the Trump Campaign was directly wire tapped. So what is the significance of this FISA warrant?

SCIUTTO: It would show that someone at least advising the Trump Campaign and President Trump mentioned him himself, mentioned Page himself as an advisor during that summer or earlier that year, that someone was indeed being surveilled by the U.S. government and not willy nilly, right?


SCIUTTO: The FBI found it have probable cause, he went to the FISA court and he got a warrant to do so. The FISA Court not particularly easy to get those warrants but if the FBI comes and say they have a case, they have concern and keep in mind the bigger picture here. This is as the FBI is just beginning to look at not just Russian interference in the election but the possibility of collusion between Trump officials or campaign advisers and the Russian government. They haven't established that but we know they're looking into it, that's significant.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. And next, the president taking another shot at Steve Bannon tonight in another interview. You'll hear what he said. Did all that talk about Bannon running the country after Trump? And Sean Spicer, still apologizing, but can you ever fully apologize and recover from this?

SPICER: Somebody as despicable of Hitler who didn't even sink to the -- to the -- to using chemical weapons.


[19:31:37] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, President Trump putting his chief strategist Steve Bannon in his place, telling "The Wall Street Journal" and I quote Donald Trump, Bannon is, quote, "a guy who works for me." That's a pretty tough blow to a man who once saw his role as a dominant force in shaping the president's policy. What has changed?

Sara Murray is OUTFRONT.


SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's chief strategist getting a very public slap on the wrist. Donald Trump declining to throw his full confidence behind Steve Bannon in an interview with "The New York" post, saying, "Steve is a good guy but I told him to straighten it out or I will."

Those comments coming just days after tension between Bannon and Trump son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, reached a boiling point, prompting Trump to tell the two of them on Friday to iron out their differences.

While the White House is publicly downplaying staff spats --

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: A lot of it overblown, what you see in the media.

MURRAY: -- a source familiar with the situation says the president was irked by suggestions that Bannon is the one driving the agenda and Trump's allies noted top staffers could better serve the president by laying low.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Staff are there to serve the president of the United States. They're not there to serve themselves.

MURRAY: In a "New York Post" interview, Trump downplayed the role of his own chief strategist, saying, "I like Steve but you have to remember, he was not involved in any of my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn't know Steve. I'm my own strategist and it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary."

But Trump's attempt to diminish Bannon as a latecomer to the campaign hardly meshes with reality. The former head of the right-wing nationalist "Breitbart News" website was one of Trump's prominent cheerleaders, pointing out at a conservative conference this year that Breitbart took notice of Trump's appeal early on.

STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: It's really CPAC that really originally gave him the springboard. It's a first time at Breitbart, we start seeing him and saw how people -- you know, his speeches resonated with people.

MURRAY: In the early days of the Trump White House, Bannon's influence steadily expanded, eventually landing him on the cover of "Time" magazine, which dubbed Bannon "The Great Manipulator".


MURRAY: His perceived importance was famously lampooned on "Saturday Night Live".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Donald. That's enough fun for tonight. Can I have my desk back?

BALDWIN: Yes, of course, Mr. President. I'll go sit at my desk.


MURRAY: Now the ball appears to be in Bannon's court, to mend relationships within the White House and keep a low profile at least for now.

Republicans close to the White House warned it will be a heavy lift for Bannon to prepare his standing after taking on a member of Trump's own family.


MURRAY: Now, of course, there is also a risk in having Bannon outside this White House. He is still a conservative media darling and, of course, the risk there that these right wing websites that have backed Trump could turn their knives on him. We may have seen an early inkling of that today when "The Washington Free Beacon", a conservative website, pointed out if there's a civil war raging in the White House, that they were focused not on Steve Bannon, but Jared Kushner, saying he's meddling too far into national security matters -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Sara, thank you.

And I want to go OUTFRONT now to Tom Barrack.

[19:35:00] He's been a close friend, business associate of the president's for more than three decades. He spent three hours with the president today and yesterday.

And I want to talk to you about Steve Bannon and others. First, though, Tom, three hours with the president, that's a lot of time. What did he say?

TOM BARRACK, CLOSE FRIEND AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATE OF DONALD TRUMP: Well, what he said was actually less important than how he looked and how he felt. And I have to tell you since I was there with him since the first day, he was the most sanguine, the most confident, the most energized, looked at the best, the youngest, the least frustrated that I have ever seen him.

And it felt to me in the confluence of the day with he and with his team that the 96 days that he's had, he's grown into saying, "I am the chief executive officer of the United States. I'm the head of state, I'm the commander in chief, and I've got it."

I just -- and up know my concern for him is not really the political agenda. It's he as an individual.

BURNETT: And now, it's interesting that you say -- I mean, obviously, he's had some big wins with Neil Gorsuch, with Syria. You see that confidence reflected in the way he's acting.

Tom, you just heard our report there on Steve Bannon. I mean, Bannon in a sense was like Icarus. He rose so quickly, he has appeared to now fall very quickly. Are you surprised by how short his tenure as favored advisor he's been?

BARRACK: No, because I don't believe his tenure is going to be short.

But this president, what everybody has to get used to, is this president has a very different management style. There's only one president and there's only one point of view, and I can promise you he does not get manipulated.

He surrounds himself with various, really bright people. Steve is one of them. Steve is dedicated. He's committed. He has the president's ear and he's got a philosophy that has true import in the president's agenda. As does Jared, as does Reince, who's running the locomotive and he's doing a great job, as does Gary Cohn and Dina Powell, as does H.R. McMaster.

So what happens is he curates different points of view and he encourages confusion amongst them. So, what happens is a misunderstanding sometimes on the outside that, of course, you're going to have fights inside of the sandbox that are on purpose and the president then curates a point of view to determine what he wants to do and he adapts.

So, I think you see happening is the president going from contender to a campaign viable candidate to candidate to president and in each place, he's adapting to the information that he has in front of him. I think he's doing an incredible job.

I think the team is the A-team. And inside, I can also tell you -- I spent -- I spent two days with most of the team. There's more harmony. They're better organized. Things are starting to move. The agencies are getting their teams.

Remember, the president influences policy legislation as the head of state and the commander-in-chief. The agencies are the ones who implement the policies, and there's no team. The 2,700 presidential appointees, there's probably 50 in place, so he's just getting going.

BURNETT: So, I'm curious, though, because obviously, he's now done two interviews with "The New York Post" and "The Wall Street Journal" tonight, this is the latest quote. Bannon is, quote, "a guy who works for me."

I mean, look, Bannon was portrayed Tom as calling the shots. Let's just be honest. "The New York Times" opinion piece one time, "President Bannon." Cartoons mimicked and mocked their relationship, "Saturday Night Live" with, of course, this now infamous skit.

Was Bannon drawing too much attention to himself and away from the president? I mean , look, the president was given the direct opportunity to stand behind him and he is not doing so? BARRACK: Well, look, I think the president is standing behind him

because Steve is still a very important part of his triumvirate. And remind --

BURNETT: So, the bottom line is you don't see Steve Bannon going anywhere, the president fully abandoning him, he's just teaching him a lesson?

BARRACK: I don't. Look, the president is the president. And whenever you forget who's in charge, he will teach all of us a lesson.

I think all that's happening is in the inner workings of the White House, as everybody is gaining more command and control -- and honestly, I'm not giving you a political point of view. I'm telling you, in my opinion, it's running better today than it's ever run, and what this team has accomplished in 96 days is monumental. Forget about the politics of what's happened.

And after last week with President Xi and what happened in Syria and how they you'll came together, the fine tuning of his team around him, saying, by the way, there's no "I" in team, you work for America and a president of the United States -- everybody remember that -- is just how any executive would adjust his team.

[19:40:02] BURNETT: So, I want to ask you about Paul Manafort here, because obviously, he's in the news tonight, former campaign chairman. You've known him for decades and you helped bring him into the campaign, right? You know him.

The report tonight that "A.P." has is that Manafort received millions of dollars off the book payments from a pro-Russian political party. They have traced those payments down to his consulting firm. A Manafort spokesman says there was nothing improper going on.

Do you believe him?

BARRACK: Yes, I believe -- look, I've known -- I've known Paul for over 30 years. He's credible, he's reliable. He's an unbelievable pro. I found his character to be bulletproof.

I know his family. I know his wife. I know his partners. I've watched him in from afar for 30 years. So, I have no reason to disbelieve him.

But what I can tell you is, in the campaign for the president, which had nothing to do with this, right, what people don't understand is in March the president needed delegates.


BARRACK: And this president had no conventional team. So, when you're in a jungle, you need to find somebody who's been through that jungle. And a convention is really complicated. You need 1,267 delegates. And each state has a different process, a different set of rules, different manner in gaining those delegates and a different manner in selling them. All roads led to one person, Paul Manafort, to run that convention and

that's what he did for President Trump. From March to August, he did probably the best job of the four conventions he ran, by the way. There's nobody who's run more conventions than Paul Manafort.

So, in looking at the connection between President Trump and Paul Manafort, that was what it was. He did an A-plus job. He got the 1,267 delegates.


BARRACK: He set the rules platform which was unbelievable, and then he was gone. The rest of this --

BURNETT: Now, of course, I mean, you know, you have Sean Spicer and others, you know, distancing themselves saying he was there for a short time and not even in a significant role, which, of course, as you point out is categorically not true.

But, Tom, I mean, the bottom line question, this is what's under investigation. I mean, do you think Manafort was compromised or colluding with the Russians to try to rig this election for Donald Trump in any way?

BARRACK: Look, in my personal opinion, it's heresy. It's impossible.

Number one, the president-elect had no inclination of Russia. It wasn't on his radar. It had no purpose in domestic policy.

Number two, Paul Manafort's job who's working for free, by the way, was singularly a domestic convention which relied on such grassroots politics that Russia, the Ukraine had no place on the stage.

So, I don't know the facts. I'm just saying I know the man. I know the character of the man. I know what happened during that election. I know what happened during the convention and I would have a hard time believing it, although I don't have any access to the facts.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Tom Barrack, I appreciate your time. Thank you, as always.

BARRACK: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, Sean Spicer can't stop saying sorry. Is it time for Donald Trump to say, "You're fired"?

And tonight, the president's advice on how this incident could have been avoided. And you know what on this one, everybody, he is totally right.


[19:47:08] BURNETT: Tonight, "I let the president down," so says the Press Secretary Sean Spicer, apologizing yet again after widespread condemnation for claiming Hitler never used chemical weapons and other things he said about Hitler. Is this one mistake too many for a man who already faces many


Brian Stelter is OUTFRONT.


SPICER: To make a gaffe and a mistake like this is inexcusable and reprehensible.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Press Secretary Sean Spicer asking for forgiveness as his credibility suffers yet another hit.

SPICER: On a professional level, it's disappointing because I think I've let the president down.

STELTER: It's the third time Spicer has apologized for the firestorm he created with these comments.

SPICER: You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to the -- to using chemical weapons.

STELTER: Repeated attempts to clarify only backfired.

SPICER: He was not using the gas on his people the same way that Assad -- up understand. I appreciate that. Thank you. There was not in the -- he brought him into the Holocaust center. And I understand that.

STELTER: Reporters and politicians in Washington are buzzing about whether Spicer's job is on the line. Even his mea culpa on CNN was splattered with inaccuracies.

SPICER: The president's decisive action in Syria and the attempt that he's making to destabilize the region.

STELTER: Destabilize the region? That's the wrong word.

And he also mispronounced the Syrian leader's name again.

SPICER: With Bashad al Assir -- Bashar al Assad in charge.

STELTER: It's a pattern of sloppiness that's corroding his credibility. Earlier this week, Spicer's mention of barrel bombs in Syria suggested a big change in U.S. policy.

SPICER: If you gas a baby, if you put a barrel bomb in to innocent people, I think you will see a response from this president. That is unacceptable.

STELTER: Multiple White House officials later clarified, implying that the press secretary misspoke, added to a long list of mistakes and misstatements like this one last month.

SPICER: There's been discussion of Paul Manafort who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.

STELTER: Manafort's role was not limited. He was Trump's campaign chairman for three months. Even before that, Spicer kicked off an international incident when he shares FOX's baseless claim about President Obama using the British to tap Trump.

SPICER: On FOX News on March 14th, Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement, quote, "Three intelligence sources have informed FOX News that President Obama went outside the chain of command."

STELTER: And on day one, Spicer shocked the press corps with false statements about crowd size.

SPICER: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.

STELTER: The question now is whether Spicer has become too much of a liability or will his profuse apologies protect him?

[19:50:04] SPICER: This was mine, mine to own, mine to apologize for, and mine to ask for forgiveness for.


SPICER: Asking for forgiveness and, Erin, let's be honest, this is a hard job. Being a top spokesman for the U.S. government always a hard job. It's even harder when your boss is President Trump.

And there's no indication right now Trump is out there looking for a replacement. But this is yet another day where Spicer is the story and not what the White House is doing. That's a bad look for Spicer.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Brian.

And now, our political director, David Chalian.

I mean, David, he apologized again and again and again, right, saying it's inexcusable, going on and on. I mean, is that enough? Or is Trump going to fire him?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, as Brian just said, there really is no indication that Sean Spicer is sort of hanging by a thread at all right now, Erin. But, listen, I think the apology tour that you're talking about indicates is the magnitude of the error, and I think he was out there for the better part of the last 24 hours, not only to make sure his boss knew he was out there apologizing, because Donald Trump, as you know, consumes a lot of this, but also to try and earn back whatever credibility Sean Spicer thinks he lost.

BURNETT: And, you know, Sean Spicer of course has this issue, as Brian was just playing, some of the moments when he was said something is not true -- it's not just him, Kellyanne Conway, of course, with the now infamous alternative fact moment. I mean, it is a broader credibility question, isn't it?

CHALIAN: Well, sure. We know that -- let's go to the top of this administration, Donald Trump's relationship with the truth, I think you can call tenuous at times. And so, that's why, you know, you're doing what you do every night and what we're all doing here is important because we have to present the facts, lay them out for the American public, so that they can assess their leaders and the president's staff credibility.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, David Chalian.

And next, President Trump, weighing in on the shocking video of the United Airlines passenger dragged off a plane. And, you know what, as a businessman here, we think he might have nailed it.


[19:55:40] BURNETT: President Trump is criticizing United Airlines tonight for dragging a man off the flight. Trump telling "The Wall Street Journal" the airline should have offered passengers more money, saying, quote, "They should have gone higher. But to just randomly say you're getting off the plane, that was terrible." And he's right. By the way, if they just offered more money, eventually, somebody would have gotten off the plane. He is right about that.

It comes as United CEO is now on a massive apology tour. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For a while, it seemed tough, dragging an apology out of United -- but finally the CEO said sorry.

OSCAR MUNOZ, UNITED AIRLINES CEO: The word "ashamed" comes to mind.

MOOS: You didn't need a poll to gauge public opinion.

JIMMY KIMMEL, ABC'S "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": What a week for United Airlines. The company lost $255 million in market value in one day, which means they could have given each of those passengers they kicked off the plane their own jet plane.

MOOS: It's been a banner week for apologies. First, Pepsi had to pull their new commercial, the one spoofed by "SNL."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stop the police from shooting black people by handing them a Pepsi. I know, it's cute, right?

MOOS: And then, Sean Spicer had to admit --

SPICER: I screwed up.

MOOS: -- for his Hitler comments, lampooned on Kimmel.

SPICER: Someone as despicable at Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons. So, you have to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, did I just defend Hitler?

MOOS: Sean Spicer versus Oscar Munoz.

We present the battle of the abject apologies, who grabbled most?

MUNOZ: You saw us at a very bad moment.

SPICER: Not a very good day in my history.

MOOS: Take it from Brenda Lee.

BRENDA LEE: I'm sorry.

SPICER: This was my mistake, my bad.

MUNOZ: That's on me.

SPICER: It was my blunder.

LEE: Please accept my apology

MUNOZ: This can never -- will never happen again on a United Airlines flight.

SPICER: It was a mistake. I shouldn't have done it. I wont do it again.

LEE: I sorry.

SPICER: I sought people's forgiveness because I screwed up.

MUNOZ: No one should be treated that way, period.

LEE: So sorry.

MOOS: So, who was the sorriest?

SPICER: It was painful myself to know that I did something like that.

MOOS: Sean Spicer seemed most contrite. One Internet poster put him in full apologetic regalia, wearing a United uniform holding a Pepsi.

SPICER: It was insensitive and inappropriate.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos --

SPICER: Inexcusable and reprehensible.

MOOS: -- CNN, New York.


BURNETT: I have to agree. Sean wins on the contrite battle.

We'll be right back.

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"AC360" with Anderson Cooper starts right now.