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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump's 100-Day Scorecard On Promises Kept And Unmet; Cruz: North Korea Is 'Most Dangerous Spot On The Plant Right Now'; WH Summons All Senators To Rare Briefing On North Korea; Senator: WH Briefing On North Korea Was "100-Days Photo Op"; NK Official: Military Drill Is Response To U.S. "Aggression"; Senator Merkley: WH Briefing On NK Was "Complete Optics"; WH Tax Proposal: Big Promises; Few Details; Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 26, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
April 26, 2017
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER HOST: Thanks to you and thanks to our viewers. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, breaking news. The entire senate summoned to the White House for an urgent briefing on North Korea. Was it productive or for show? A senator just backing the breaking is OutFront. Plus, the Trump administration proposing a massive tax cut for businesses. How much will the Trump organization gain? And big money, Russian mobsters in a crucial witness who almost died after a mysterious four-storey fall.
It's a story you'll see only here. Let's go OutFront front. Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news. The most dangerous spot on the planet, those are the words of Senator Ted Cruz after a rare briefing at the White House on North Korea's nuclear threat. The entire senate summoned to a highly unusual meeting led by the secretaries of defense and state. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of National Intelligence. President Trump even made a brief appearance. The message according to people inside the meeting was "sobering."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: North Korea is the most dangerous spot on the planet right now. It remains very, very dangerous and unfortunately, there are a lot of outcomes in North Korea where if military conflict occurs, there could be a very, very significant loss of life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What the briefing lacked apparently was new revelations on President Trump's military plan, the specific military plans to deal with Kim Jong-Un. No new information on that despite asking the entire senate to come to the house White House. A big scenario with the caravan of seven buses transporting the United States senate for a two-mile move from the capital to the White House. Senator Jeff Merkley is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He just left that briefing and he is my guest tonight. I want to begin with Jim Sciutto on Capitol Hill.
And Jim, look, the urgency was clear here, right? You have to have this meeting, we have to have it now. You can't have it on Capitol Hill, you need to come right here to the - to the White House. But there are big questions about the optics.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And a lot of questions as whether this was optics over substance. Senator Chris Murphy telling me it was in effect, the 100-day photo op for the president. Listen, democrats and republicans agree, North Korea is a clear and imminent danger. Question is why they had to go all the way down the hill to hear something they already knew? Today the White House taking the unusual step of bussing the entire U.S. senate to the White House for a briefing on North Korea. Signalling growing alarm about the threat from the nuclear state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) DELAWARE: It was a sobering briefing and an important opportunity for the entire senate to hear emerging plans of the Trump administration to confront what is a very real threat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: The meetings led by the president's national security team. Defense Secretary James Mattis, Joint Chiefs chairman, General Joseph Dunford, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats. After the briefing, senators from both parties stressed the seriousness of the threat but said no new information was given, raising questions about whether a trip to the White House was necessary or just for show. You were inside. What was the revelation?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY, (D) CONNECTICUT: No revelations. You know, I think the White House wanted to convey to the congress that they're serious about North Korea. They clearly are, putting a lot of their cards on the table with China to try to get them to change their policy.
COONS: I didn't hear anything that is different from (INAUDIBLE)
SCIUTTO: The commander of U.S. forces in the pacific told lawmakers Wednesday that he's taking the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un at his own word, that he is developing a missile capable of hitting the U.S.
ADM. HARRY HARRIS, COMMANDER, U.S. PACIFIC COMMAND: We're looking at it as if Kim Jong-Un will do as he says.
SCIUTTO: In response, the U.S. is taking urgent steps.
HARRIS: My forces are ready to fight tonight if called on to do that.
SCIUTTO: Admiral Harris announced that the U.S. anti-missile system known as the THAAD will be operation in South Korea within days. The system intended to protect the South and Japan from a North Korean missile strike.
HARRIS: This week North Korea threatened Australia with nuclear attack. A powerful reminder to the entire international community that North Korea's missiles point in every direction.
SCIUTTO: Admiral Harris took the blame over confusion about when the USS Carl Vinson will arrive in the region, this after President Trump touted its deployment last week. The carrier group, he assured lawmakers is now nearby in the Philippines and ready to act if called upon.
HARRIS: As President Trump and Secretary Mattis have made clear, all options are on the table. We want to bring Kim Jong-Un to his senses, not to his knees.
SCIUTTO: One option we're told that the White House is considering, is putting Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. It was on that list before taking off in 2008 by the Bush administration during a previous negotiations to freeze North Korea's nuclear program. Of course, those negotiations, those agreements didn't work. But it shows you, Erin, how how limited the options are that haven't been tried before.
BURNETT: Certainly. And of course how limited negotiation is when they haven't kept their word in any case that we can see over many presidents. Thank you so much, Jim. And Will Ripley is in Pyongyang tonight. Will, you actually had the chance -- this is really important for our viewers to know. You spoke with a senior North Korean official. An incredibly rare interview.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
BURNETT: What did he tell you?
RIPLEY: It is very rare to have a North Korean official sit down and go on the record with us, Erin. And we talked about a wide range of topics. One thing that he made very clear, even though North Korea has not yet conducted its sixth nuclear test, he said it's not the results of pressure from the United States in the international community. He says, there will be more nuclear test, there will be more missile launches, more provocative behavior than what we saw this week, that huge massive military drill what the North Korean army says it's its largest ever supervised by Kim Jong-Un. 300 pieces of long- range artillery firing simultaneously along with submarines and bombers on practice runs, all because of one reason.
SOL CHUL WON, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE OF HUMAN RIGHTS, ACADEMY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES (through translator): This exercise is a direct response to acts of aggression by the United States.
RIPLEY: And also a response to what we saw happening in South Korea. A joint military exercise between the United States and South Korean forces, 2000 soldiers, fighter jet, a barrage of artillery, tanks on the ground, South Korea and the U.S. trying to send their own message that they have more firepower than North Korea. But what officials here are telling me, Erin, is that this kind of exercise in South Korea is they feel a sense of urgency here, to move forward with their plan to build an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching the mainland United States. They feel that kind of nuclear weapon, will be there ace in the hole to prevent what they feel is the imminent threat of invasion by the U.S. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Will Ripley, thank you very much, in Pyongyang live tonight. And I want to go now to the Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley. Member of the Foreign Relations Committee and I mention at the top of the program he was at that meeting at the White House today. So, Senator, let me just start with this. You heard, you know, Ted Cruz talking about North Korea as the most dangerous spot on the planet. You have been briefed, you're very, very well aware of the threat here. How imminent and grave is the threat from North Korea?
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, (D) FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, it's not imminent in the sense that they don't have a missile at this moment with a nuclear warhead that they can launch to the United States. But it is certainly a program that will develop that ability. And we certainly are at a key moment right now because what the administration has laid out is they have a mission. The mission is not to freeze the nuclear program. It is not regime change.
It is to eliminate the nuclear program and they've expressed a willingness to act unilaterally if necessary. Meanwhile, they're counting on two strategies. One is working with China to apply extreme economic pressure and the second is to move military forces into the region, which they have already done with destroyer doing, if you will, exercises was Japan and other one with South Korea. And then moving in the very substantial cruise missile submarine that carries 154 cruise missiles.
So, the - now the question becomes what might happen if there is a ballistic missile test, how will the United States respond and if we respond with an attack on North Korea, do they attack Seoul? And this could be the death of tens of thousands of people should thus unfold in that matter. We learned nothing today about the details of the thinking behind move/countermove and how to make sure that the objective is reached without triggering a major war.
BURNETT: So let me ask you because, you know, when you heard the North Koreas, they are talking Will Ripley saying they're going ahead with this, right? There's no question about it. They want the ICBM, they want to able to strike the United States, that is their ultimate goal and they're going to - and they're going to do whatever they need to do to get there. The latest satellite pictures that we have from North Korea show activity at a known nuclear test site. Did you get any answer at all from the Trump team? I mean, you have the secretary of state there, you have the head of DNI, you have the secretary of defense, as to whether the president will strike North Korea militarily in response to this test? Any answers to that question?
MERKLEY: No answers to that question at all. And the application of rising, if you will, pressure needs to be combined with a clear sense of your mission and your off ramp. What is it you're seeking to achieve and how do you - how do you get there? And right -- one thing that was very clear is the administration is saying we are not talking to the North Koreans. We're not talking to them directly, we're not talking to them indirectly. We don't think there would be any value in doing so. So it's really external pressure and - militarily and Chinese pressure butt - then how do you create the dialogue to get to the place you want to be. That's a key question, we got no insight -- we had no insight on that today.
BURNETT: So, no insight on that, no insight on the military plans if there's a strike, I know the president stopped by at the meeting for what, about 14 minutes is what we understand. Did he add anything? Did he answer any questions at all, Senator?
MERKLEY: No. And it wasn't 14 minutes. He came out from behind the curtain. He introduced the panel, he says he has a very good team, I'm sure they're developing a very good plan. Some comments like that and he said, thank you for coming and then he disappeared.
BURNETT: So why do you think he had all of you come to White House for this?
MERKLEY: Oh, complete optics of giving him a chance to say, he considers it important enough to summon us to the White House. Certainly, this type of briefing you could have anticipated that the administration might be preparing to say that they have a new strategy, a Trump doctrine, if you will. They said that the era of strategic patience is over. So what is the new era, do they have a name and a strategy for it? The answer is not yet.
Are they able to share how they're working out the series of options so that the pressure converts to achieving the goal? They're not willing to share that yet. So, we learned nothing you couldn't read in the newspaper.
BURNETT: So Patty Murphy said it was a 100 o-day photo op. Would you concur? Would you go that far?
MERKLEY: Yes. Absolutely. No. That's right on. Meaning, it's important for the senate to have these briefings. You're in the room, you're focused on the question, your colleagues are asking questions. By the way, it was a much shorter question period that we would normally have had such a briefing on - fif we'd held it in the senate where basically you - they will stay until everyone gets to ask the question who is still in - still in the room. In this case it was cut off basically after the chairs of the key committees had their questions answered and so, we didn't learn as much as we would have in a - in a normal briefing.
BURNETT: Certainly troubling to hear when you talk about a place as we heard just called the most dangerous place on the planet right now. Thank you, Senator. I appreciate your time.
MERKLEY: You're very welcome.
BURNETT: And next, President Trump's promising the biggest tax cut ever. How much do his personal businesses stand to gain? Plus a scandal that allegedly stretches from New York to the Kremlin. The man investigating it mysteriously falling from a fourth floor window. And our special series, red, purple, and blue to three counties where voters flipped big from Obama to Trump. Their biggest complaint tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not a fan of the Twitter and all that kind of stuff. But I don't care.
BURNETT: Tonight the White House unveiled its tax plan, sort of. In a press conference, the treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn were extremely light on details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: The core principles of this, we have agreement on and we will work forward on the details.
GARY COHN, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: You're going forward on micro details on some of these --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're very important?
COHN: Very important. We agree.
MNUCHIN: Again, I think as we've said, we're working on lots of details.
COHN: Going to mean a tax cut.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much?
COHN: Going to mean a tax cut.
MNUCHIN: Those will be the details we will be working with congress on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. So what exactly is in the plan? Jim Acosta is OutFront with tonight's number.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Get ready for Trump-onomics.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're returning power back to the people.
ACOSTA: Just before he hits 100 days in office, President Trump is unveiling a tax plan that would be a boon to big business and potentially make the deficit go boom.
MNUCHIN: So this is going to be the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country. And we are committed to seeing this through. ACOSTA: The White House tax plan includes what officials are calling
tax relief for middle-income families and help with childcare costs through the tax code, as well as a massive reduction in the corporate tax rate which would plummet to 15 percent. That tax relief for middle-income families would come in a form of doubling the standard deduction and creating three basic tax rates. While repealing the alternative minimum tax and estate tax, a big break for wealthier Americans. The Trump administration would pay for those cuts by eliminating some deductions but not on mortgages or charitable giving, raising the big question raised even by fellow republicans just how is the White House going to pay for any of this?
MNUCHIN: Well, it pay for itself? Again, I think as we've said, we're working lots of details as to this. We have over a hundred people in the treasury that have been working on tax and scouring ups a different scenarios. This will pay for itself with growth.
ACOSTA: During the campaign, then-Candidate Trump promised to eliminate the national debt.
TRUMP: I will bring our energy companies back. They'll be able to compete. They'll make money. They'll pay off our national debt. They'll pay off our tremendous budget deficits, which are tremendous.
ACOSTA: And he slammed President Obama for failing to bring the debt under control.
TRUMP: We've doubled our national debt to $20 trillion under President Obama. In less than eight years, $10 trillion has been added. Think of it and we haven't fixed anything.
ACOSTA: Democrats blasted the White House tax plan as wildly unrealistic. Another example they say, providing too little detail about the president's proposal.
REP. LINDA SANCHEZ, (R) CALIFORNIA: The fabricator in chief can't talk his way through the next four years.
ACOSTA: Now, on another front of the Trump administration is making it clear that at this point President Trump is considering whether he will sign an executive order that would announce that the administration is declaring its intent to withdraw from NAFTA. That is, of course, the free trade agreement from the Clinton era between U.S., Mexico and Canada, but, Erin, we should caution our viewers tonight, senior administration officials are really trying to turn down the temperature on some of these expectations saying that this is just the beginning stage of the process.
The president is considering it but if they do take that step, it may not lead to a total withdrawal from NAFTAa. It might lead to a renegotiation of NAFTA and that is course something the president did promise during the campaign. We've been talking a lot lately about all of these policy reversals of President Trump but if he renegotiates or withdraw from NAFTA, that will be a promise kept. Erin? BURNETT: That certainly will be. All right. Thank you very much. And now, Stephen Moore, former economic adviser to Donald Trump's campaign and CNN Senior Economic Analyst and Austan Goolsbee, Economics Professor at the University of Chicago School of Business and former chairman of the council of economic advisers under President Obama. OK. Steve, I was actually with Donald Trump on the day in the campaign when he rolled out one of his tax plans, you know, it's almost four pages, single space. This is during the campaign, OK?
STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMIC ANALYST: Yes.
BURNETT: We got - we got chart here, what's going to happen to your taxes.
BURNETT: OK. Today, I got one double-space page, very, very light on details, OK? Where are they, Steve?
MOORE: Well, this is a vision. This is a fulfilment of a campaign promise, just get the business taxes down, modernize and restructure our taxes, simplify it. I think most American saying hurray, the whole idea of maybe getting the standard tax form down to size of a postcard. Why does it have to be so mindlessly complicated. But it's really also (INAUDIBLE) towards jobs and helping workers in terms of higher wages. It's about time. We haven't cleaned out our tax system, Erin, in 30 years. Now, you're right. Although a lot of details, obviously I have two pages, not a lot -
BURNETT: One page, double spaced.
MOORE: One page or two. But the point is this is really -- look, the House of Representatives and the senate are going to write a tax bill that is - that is sort of oriented towards the goals that Donald Trump set out here.
BURNETT: Austin, what do you - what do you make of it? If there's a lot less detail even than we had at the end of September in 2015?
AUSTAN GOLSBEE, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: Exactly right. I think they got confused. They thought they wanted to put people's tax returns on a post card. Instead they combined all their ideas and that doesn't even fill a post card. They literally have one page and the one that they have outline is a massive, unbelievably large tax cut for very high income people and very big corporations.
BURNETT: So, let's --
GOLSBEE: And so I don't see what -- why they did this. It doesn't enhance their negotiating position. It actually makes it worse.
BURNETT: OK. So let's talk about that. Because, Stephen, you know, the treasury secretary, Mnuchin was asked the president would release his tax returns. He didn't offer up another delay tactic. I got to give him that, right? He did not. He actually answered the question. And I give him credit for being the first person in the administration to be honest about it. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MNUCHIN: The president has no intention. The president has released plenty of information and I think he's given more financial disclosure than anybody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. So he's not going to do it. Thank you for the truth, Secretary Mnuchin. But the thing is, Steve, is we don't have his taxes, so we can't tell specifically how much he benefit from even the information we have here but I can tell you this, it's going to be a lot. He's going to benefit a lot.
GOLSBEE: Look, Erin, I'm sort of -- I'm disappointed in you that you're bringing this up. I mean, e're talking about a major tax reform that could have a huge impact on our economy for a decade or decades to come and you want to talk about Donald Trump's tax return? I mean, I just think it's preposterous.
MOORE: Look. If people didn't want to vote for Donald Trump because he wasn't going to release his tax returns, they had an opportunity, did that on November 7.
BURNETT: OK. But here's the thing. Steve.
BURNETT: Hold on. He said that he would end up paying more. That's what he told me. And yet, here on this sheet today, we're going to eliminate the AMT, we know we paid $31 million in the AMT in 2005. So, he wouldn't be paying n that extensively. He wants to lower business taxes to 15 percent. I know you Vax report but Trump obviously, the Trump organization is a lot of pass-through organizations so he would benefit from that tax rate which means he could go to 15 percent. People at the top here would go from 39.6 to 35. He will be an incredible beneficiary, far from what he said back then when he said he pay --
MOORE: Do you - Erin, do you really believe that he's putting forward this tax plan because it's going to benefit himself personally? Now look, there are - there are tax breaks that are going to benefit him but don't forget, you know, Erin and Austin, that we're also taking away massive amounts of deductions. So, wealthy people aren't going to have ways to hide and disguise their income. But the point is this is a jobs program. Why don't we talk about how this is going to impact the economy and the average person, I mean, most people don't care whether Donald Trump is going to benefit from this. What most people care about is whether they're going to benefit themselves from it. And I'm here to tell you, millions and millions of working class of Americans are going to have higher wages and more jobs and a result of this.
GOLSBEE: That's not true. Any objective observer that looks at this recognizes that this is the same nonsense that they argued in the State of Kansas where they said, we'll have massive cuts for very high income people and their pass-through businesses and that will generate growth. It did nothing of the sort. It loses massive amounts of money. It does not pay for itself. It didn't work when George Bush cut taxes for high income people and corporations, it's not going to work this time. And Donald Trump, I do not think it is coincidental that Donald Trump may save himself and his family an estimated $1 billion in taxes.
BURNETT: All right.
MOORE: I just have to say, look, we tried it your way for the last eight years and it didn't work. It was - it gave us the weakest recovery. We ran up the debt. Now the - now the Obama people are saying we can't, you know, we can't have this tax plan (INAUDIBLE) $10 trillion of additional debt. Where wage is actually fallen over the last eight years. We've got to - we got to try something new, Austan and this is something that worked for Reagan, that worked for Kennedy. Let's not say on the (INAUDIBLE)
BURNETT: OK. But you keep saying that. Can I just say those, Steve?
BURNETT: That was cutting taxes, right? From 90 to 70 percent.
BURNETT: Right? All the way down to 38 percent.
MOORE: That's true.
BURNETT: You're talking now cutting from 39.6 to 35.
MOORE: Let me - let me address that because it's a fair point. The major benefit of this tax plan comes from cutting the business tax rate which right now as you guys know is the highest in the world. We're seeing every country, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Ireland, cutting their tax rates (INAUDIBLE) United States has become hopelessly uncompetitive in our corporate tax. We got to bring it down to bring back jobs. That's where a lot --
BURNETT: But you're saying you're going to shut the deductions down so they're going to end up paying the same amount which would defeat the whole point of the argument you just made, right? MOORE: But that's a good tax plan. You get rid of deductions and
loopholes but you lower the rates because right now we have a poor tax system where some company -
BURNETT: Austan, sorry. Last word to you.
GOLSBEE: That's not -- that's not the plan. And the thing is if you were going to do this in a revenue neutral way, you could get a lot of people on board with it. But that's not what they're talking about.
MOOER: Well, maybe that's the basis for some negotiations.
GOLSBEE: If we were to cut corporate rates that would generate growth, let's look around the world and say where our corporate rates the lowest. The answer is --
GOLSBEE: In Uzbekistan.
GOLSBEE: The region with the lowest corporate rate is Western Europe who also has the lowest growth. So, there is no direct relationship between --
MOORE: Dublin, Ireland has the lowest corporate tax rate in the world.
MOORE: And it's stacked with American companies that used to be here. I want to bring them back from Dublin to place like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and places like that. I mean, there's no question and we've been - Erin, you've covered this story. All these companies that had left the United States because of high corporate.
BURNETT: Yes. Although by the way I will say, Trump says on his one single-space page, you're going to stack that money that's all held overseas and hold those companies to account -
MOORE: To bring it back.
BURNETT: -- which is bringing people in both sides of the aisle, have agreed on at times. Thank you both.
MOORE: Thank you.
BURNETT: Next, the breaking news, top Trump aides including son-in- law Jared Kushner going to schedule - going to be scheduled to testify between the House Committee investigating Trump associates and ties to Russia. That date coming up. And did Trump give in on the border wall? Even Rush Limbaugh says yes.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It looks like President Trump is caving.
[19:30:50] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: top Trump associates expected to meet with the House Intelligence Committee in as few as two weeks to testify on their ties with Russia. Finally, a date and it is soon. And sources tell us the list is extensive. It includes General Michael Flynn and President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.
OUTFRONT now, the former senior advisor to President Obama, David Axelrod, who is the founder of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, and reporter and editor at large for CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza.
Thanks to both.
David, let me start with you. How big is this? I mean, we now actually have a date. We know many of these names on the list. Could we be just weeks away from knowing, was there collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I doubt it. I doubt you'll get that clean a conclusion from those discussions.
AXELROD: I think we'll learn more. Each of these people have exposure that has been written about and that Congress is going on the want to explore. I think the focus of interest may be on Kushner because he has been examined less in all of this.
I think the focus of all of that is going to be his meeting in December with the head of Russian-owned bank, apparently arranged by the Russian ambassador, neither of which were disclosed on his application for security clearance. He cleaned that up after the fact.
AXELROD: And this is a recurrent problem with the Trump crowd is that they have not been forthcoming about all these contacts with the Russians. I think that may be cleared up to some degree -- what exactly were all these meetings about when they appeared before the committee.
BURNETT: And, Chris, I mean, that is the big question, though, is when will there be something definitive?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: I'm with David. BURNETT: Yes.
CILLIZZA: I always think betting on Congress to be less definitive and later than you think is usually, honestly, a pretty safe bet.
BURNETT: Sadly, yes.
CILLIZZA: But I think we'll get some clarity. I think it is remarkable on the 97th -- you know, we're so close to 100th day. I'm going to round up and say, on the 100th day, are pretty darned close to it. You get some news on Russia, because this has been the cloud hanging over the Trump administration since the transition.
You would think that Donald Trump would want this resolved. He has said that this is fake news. He has said that there's no there there, many times over.
CILLIZZA: I -- again, yesterday with the turning over the documents regarding Michael Flynn, or the not turning over of the documents, their strategy to the extent there is one baffles me. If you want to be exonerated, if Donald Trump is right that there is no there-there, the best strategy would to say, we're going to fully cooperate.
CILLIZZA: We want it to be expedited.
BURNETT: Take it, take it.
CILLIZZA: We want this out of our way.
BURNETT: Yeah. So as we come --
AXELROD: Yes, that's big if.
BURNETT: You say 97 days, there are three more days. You know, a lot can happen. I'm scared to round.
Let me ask you, though, you know, David, you have the president coming out tonight slamming judges again, right, off of a narrative that he would want. And in specific here, responding to a judge's decision to block part of that executive order on sanctuary cities. So, he gave an interview today. He said he's, quote, "absolutely considering proposals to break up the Ninth Circuit court."
Adding and I quote him here, because this is not on tape, "There are many people who want to break up the Ninth Circuit. It's outrageous."
Does this latest comment hurt him? He's continually taking on judges.
AXELROD: No. You know, the way I read this -- I know you mentioned earlier in the lead in about his decision to stand down in the budget discussions on the wall. I think he threw some red meat to his base on the ninth district play. You know, it was all about the sanctuary city ruling. It's his way of saying I'm trying to do this stuff and, you know, these judges aren't letting me do it.
You know, so I viewed it as part and parcel of the back and forth that's going on and he's trying to keep his base on board on this issue and signify, I think it's dangerous, I think it's irresponsible. It's also Chris and you both, Erin, will remember that during the Obama administration, it was always the Fifth Circuit where all these suits against administration actions were coming, a rather conservative circuit.
[19:35:08] BURNETT: Yes.
AXELROD: And there are people on the Democratic side who are very upset about that, although the president never called for breaking up the Fifth Circuit.
BURNETT: So, Chris, you know, on this point, if it is indeed, as David suggests, something to throw red meat to the base, President Trump is backing down over this wall. OK? It's not going in the funding bill this week, unless they flip flop again. That's why I don't round up on my day.
CILLIZZA: Yes, fair enough.
BURNETT: Yes. But this led to strong warnings, both from the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee and from Rush Limbaugh. Here they are, Chris.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RONNA ROMNEY MCDANIEL, RNC CHAIR: They're going to lose the trust of our base. If we don't keep our promises, our base is going to walk away.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST : It looks like President Trump is caving on his demand for a measly one billion dollars in the budget for his wall on the border with Mexico.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: How damaging to the base, Chris?
CILLIZZA: Potentially, very, because he was elected on the idea that everything would be easy. He knew how to fix it and he would fix it.
As David knows, campaigning and governing are two different things. Campaigning is a heck of a lot easier. Governing is much more difficult. It is easy for a Rush Limbaugh to say "We've got to just do this, why can't they make it happen," than to get the actual votes in Congress, whether it's from Democrats who are not going to vote for a wall funding, $1.4 billion and from some fiscal hawks on the conservative side who are concerned about how you pay for it.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. And next, a witness about to spill secrets about the Russian mob.
Silence after the serious fall from a fourth story window. Did the United States try to warn him? It's our exclusive.
And a visit to Obama country where voters this time went big for Trump. What do they say now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He tried to go with the health care act. It was really a disaster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:40:03] BURNETT: New tonight, is the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare alive again this evening, on day 97? A big step in that direction. The House Freedom Caucus endorsing a revised plan.
The thing is, of course, moderate Republicans may see that as a complete nonstarter. One telling us, "This isn't helpful."
Is this a good or bad omen, though, for those swing state voters, those Democratic voters that went big time for Trump?
Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do you think of his first 100 days?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's shaking things up. I like it.
SHAUN MUNSON, MICHIGAN TRUMP VOTER: He's not failing, but he's like stuck in a hard spot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we're all screwed.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Three swing states: Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and three counties in them flipping by the biggest margin, blue to red.
What do their voters think now?
TONY DEBEVIC, OHIO TRUMP VOTER: I think he's sending the right messages in a way, but he doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut.
MARQUEZ: Tony Debevic, third generation farmer and owner of Debonne Vineyards in Ohio's wine country, a registered Democrat who voted for Trump.
DEBEVIC: Is he the perfect guy? No, he's not.
MARQUEZ (on camera): But you voted for him. DEBEVIC: He was the only guy there that showed a sign of change.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Nine Ohio counties flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. None by more than here, Ashtabula County. Obama easily beat Romney here by nearly 13 points. Trump did even better, beating Clinton by nearly 19 points. That's a whopping 31.7-point swing.
DEBEVIC: I voted out of rebellion of what's happening in Washington.
MARQUEZ: A common refrain. Voter frustration at fighting between Democrats and Republicans.
J.P. Ducro is a new Republican county commissioner here, swept in on the Trump wave.
MARQUEZ (on camera): First hundred days in office, how is he doing?
COMM. J.P. DUCRO IV, ASHTABULA COUNTY: Umm --
MARQUEZ (voice-over): It's a question even some Republicans wrestle with.
DUCRO: How do I answer that question? That is a hard question.
MARQUEZ: Ducro says it is his promise of jobs, above all that Trump will be judged on.
DUCRO: We have had a tough time. We've lost a lot of manufacturing and industry over the years.
MARQUEZ: Then there's tourist destination and fishermen's paradise, Lake County, Michigan -- solidly democratic, or at least it was.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I'm a true Trump believer.
GARY WHEELER, MICHIGAN TRUMP VOTER: I usually go Democrat and I ended up voting for Trump.
MARQUEZ: Twelve Michigan counties flipped blue to red in 2016, Lake County by more than any other. In 2012, Obama beat Romney here by just over five points. In 2016, Trump trounced Clinton by nearly 23, a massive 28-point swing.
Thirty-seven-year-old Shaun Munson had never voted in his life ever until Trump's promise to bring back jobs and fix health care.
MUNSON: I took it as maybe he might try to do like Canada, pay a little extra in taxes and get free health care for everybody instead of whoever can afford it.
MARQUEZ: Bridget Lamoreaux owns, cooks, and serves up beers and burgers at Government Lake Lodge.
MARQUEZ (on camera): You live upstairs?
BRIDGET LAMOREAUX, OWNER, GOVERNMENT LAKE LODGE: Correct.
MARQUEZ: So, you're here 24/7 is what you're saying?
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Trump's promise to lower taxes and create jobs got her onboard.
LAMOREAUX: He's very biz savvy. That's what I felt we needed to get into office.
MARQUEZ (on camera): And what are you feeling now, 100 days in?
LAMOREAUX: I like it. I mean, he's definitely eccentric. I'm not a fan of the Twitter and all that kind of stuff. But I don't care.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): John Brunn is the local tree trimmer and the only Democrat to survive a contested race in Lake County.
COMM. JOHN BRUNN (D), LAKE COUNTY, MICHIGAN: Out of 848 votes, I won by 13.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Lucky 13.
BRUNN: Lucky 13.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): He can't account for why the county went so hard for Republicans.
(on camera): This is a Democratic county.
BRUNN: Has been for decades.
MARQUEZ: What happened?
BRUNN: I'm not -- that's a tough question.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Donna Featherstone, a retired long haul truck driver, now scoops ice cream. The independent voter has no health insurance. She says Trump scares her but --
DONNA FEATHERSTONE, MICHIGAN INDEPENDENT VOTER: If they can get things done, I'm ready to give them a chance.
MARQUEZ: Finally, there's Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, one of only three in the Keystone State to go blue to red.
Obama won here by 4.8 points in 2012, Trump easily won the county by more than 19 points, a swing of 24.2 points.
Ann Marie Bossard has worked in the family business and for Anthracite Newsstand for 53 years.
[19:45:00] She flipped and likes Trump's aggressive foreign policy.
ANN MARIE BOSSARD, ANTHRACITE NEWSSTAND: He's not going to take no baloney off anybody. He's going to be -- he's going to be and he's going to kick it!
MARQUEZ: Richard and Eileen Sorokas both volunteered and voted for Obama.
(on camera): You're a Democratic county councilmember for Luzerne County.
EILEEN SOROKAS, PENNSYLVANIA TRUMP VOTER: Yes.
MARQUEZ: And you voted for Donald Trump?
E. SOROKAS: Yes. And I run the executive committee, too, for the Democrats. But I still went for Trump.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Both flipped but watching closely.
RICHARD SOROKAS, PENNSYLVANIA TRUMP VOTER: He tried to go with the health care act. It was really a disaster.
MARQUEZ: At Chacko's family bowling we caught up with commercial pipeple construction worker Andrew Coleman who has a wife, two kids. They have insurance. He doesn't.
ANDREW COLEMAN, PENNSYLVANIA TRUMP VOTER: Right now, I don't have insurance through my employer and I can't afford it. The way it's going now. So, that's a big thing for me. That's the reason I voted for him.
MARQUEZ: Christine Napierkowski, a Republican and mother of two, gives the president so far an "A".
CHRISTINE NAPIERKOWSKI, PENNSYLVANIA TRUMP VOTER: I think the president is doing well. First time has not had government experience before.
MARQUEZ: Clinton voter and veteran Daryl Smith says Trump's lack of experience still worries him.
DARYL SMITH, PENNSYLVANIA CLINTON VOTER: And he's ticking off a lot of people. I'm afraid that it's going to end up backfiring on him. This is what I'm afraid of.
MARQUEZ: Swing voters still sizing up the new president but expecting results soon.
Miguel Marquez, CNN in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio.
BURNETT: Another fantastic look from the front lines of voters in this country.
Next, Trump doing something no American president has ever done before: taking aim at America's national monuments today. Why?
And secret stolen cash, the Russian mob. A witness falling from a four-story window. An OUTFRONT exclusive.
[19:50:03] BURNETT: President Trump tonight making an unprecedented and highly controversial move, taking aim, out of all thing, America's national monuments. So, he signed an executive order today basically calling into question two dozen national monuments across the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, I'm signing a new executive order to end another egregious abuse of federal power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Trump's order could take away national monuments, some near the Grand Canyon in Utah and even a World War II monument.
Joining me now, our senior political analyst, Mark Preston.
I mean, Mark, let's just make this clear, no president in U.S. history has ever rescinded a national monument designation. Why is Trump doing this?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And let's go all the way back to 1906, because Donald Trump, Erin, is a businessman and he talked a lot on the campaign trail about he's going to create jobs, we only need to go back to the beginning of his time in office when he approved the Keystone pipeline. It's well said that that would create jobs, a lot of environmentalists were upset about that, Erin.
And, of course, the bottom line is, we actually don't know how many jobs it would create.
BURNETT: These monuments, these national monuments, I mentioned a few them, right, they exist thanks to Teddy Roosevelt, and his legacy is something that Donald Trump once wanted to honor. I mean, here is as recently as December, extolling the memory of Roosevelt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Honoring the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, believe it or not, one of our great environmentalists. We will also conserve and protect our beautiful natural resources for the next generation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Now, he was, you know, adulating Roosevelt, and others compared Trump to Roosevelt. Here's John Boehner.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN BOEHNER (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I think Donald Trump sees himself larger than life. He kind of reminds me of, if you look back through history, he kind of reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, you know, you got all these op-eds that did that. National Geographic documentary that talked about the link between the two, he's now blowing that out of the water tonight.
PRESTON: Yes, no doubt about that. Listen, they're both big personalities, they're both were brash. They're both from very wealthy New York families.
But when it comes to the idea of preservation, Roosevelt is going to go down and has gone down in history as somebody who's trying to preserve these federal lands for future generations, Donald Trump will probably go down as a result of his actions a few hours ago, Erin, as trying to open them up for energy companies and mining companies, and others. And again, as we said at the top, we don't even know if these lands were to be open, how many jobs it would create and would it offset of the jobs that are created through tourism and outdoor recreational activities.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Mark Preston. A stunning move from the president tonight.
And next a Russian lawyer, a key witness in an upcoming trial, falling from a fourth story window, were the secrets he was about to spill, behind the quote/unquote, "accident".
[19:56:11] BURNETT: Tonight, a mysterious death and a near fatal accident linked to an investigation that could go to the very top of the Russian government. A Russian lawyer and key witness almost killed after falling four stories, Russian media says he fell out of a window while trying to move a bathtub.
We, though, are learning that U.S. officials have long feared he was in danger.
Drew Griffin is OUTFRONT.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The official Russian story goes attorney Nikolai Gorokhov accidentally fell four stories, out of this Moscow apartment window, while attempting to move a bathtub. Perhaps, but CNN has learned U.S. prosecutors once feared for Gorokhov's safety and argued that he and his family could be in danger by individuals in Russia, all because of a corruption and tax fraud investigation that could eventually reach the upper hierarchy of Russian government.
BILL BROWDER, FORMER RUSSIAN INVESTOR: I think that foul play was involved.
GRIFFIN (on camera): Bill Browder's once powerful investment firm, Hermitage Capital, was the target of a massive scheme in Moscow, allegedly involving almost every layer of the Russian government -- courts, police, ministry of interior officials, even tax officials.
(voice-over): $230 million taken from the Russian treasury and distributed to Russian organized crime figures and government officials in the form of tax refunds according to U.S. court documents.
Browder fled Russia fearing for his life, but one of his associates was not so lucky. His name was Sergei Magnitsky and he initially exposed the fraud. Magnitsky was arrested, thrown in prison, beaten and tortured with rubber hoses, he died in prison in 2009.
Nikolai Gorokhov was Magnitsky's lawyer, and he fell out of that window the day before he was scheduled to present new proof of Russian involvement in the fraud scheme and Magnitsky's death.
BROWDER: He's going to show up in Moscow court with a bunch of new evidence which consisted of emails, and WhatsApp messages, showing that Russian organized criminals were communicating directly with the Russian police to try to cover up the murder of Sergei Magnitsky and cover up the corruption crime that Sergei had exposed.
GRIFFIN: Gorokhov was also a witness in a U.S. Justice Department money laundering case. Federal prosecutors alleged the stolen Russian money ended up here, invested in various New York properties. Federal officials are now trying to seize expensive New York condominiums and millions of dollars in bank accounts.
Now, CNN has obtained newly unsealed documents showing at the time of Gorokhov's involvement in the case, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara wrote, individuals in Russia could attempt to threaten or harm Mr. Gorokhov and his family, in an effort to prevent Mr. Gorokhov from testifying at trial.
Now, he is recovering from severe injuries supposedly from an accident.
Russian expert William Pomeranz says Gorokhov's case may prove the danger of speaking out against anyone in Russia.
WILLIAM POMERANZ, WILSON CENTER: If you challenge them, the Russian state will find ways to potentially retaliate, and there will be consequences.
GRIFFIN: Erin, Nikolai Gorokhov has yet to present the evidence he claims that's going to point to a far reaching conspiracy to defraud Russian taxpayers. Since his accident with that window, he said nothing publicly while he recovers from his injuries -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Drew, an incredibly sobering piece. Anybody could be subject to retribution.
Well, thanks so much to all of you for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT, anytime, anywhere. And as I say, you just need to go to CNN Go. Thanks for watching. Have a good night. I'll see you tomorrow.
"AC360" with Anderson Cooper begins right now.