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Heads Of Military Branches Caught Off Guard By Trump's Ban; Sessions Visits White House Again Without Meeting With Trump; Major Health Care Vote Fails In Senate. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 26, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:02] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, breaking news, Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military. CNN learning top military chiefs were caught totally off guard. Did the President make a rash decision?

Plus, you're fired. Why Trump cannot seem to say his favorite two words when he's not on The Apprentice. And a key witness to the Russia investigation is my guest tonight. What he has to say about that Donald Trump Jr. meeting with the Russian lawyer. Let's go OutFront.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news caught off guard. We are learning at this hour that the chiefs of the military branches were caught off guard by President Trump's announcement today banning all transgender people from serving in the military.

The President tweeting, I want to read them to you, "After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. The question is, after consultation with whom? Because it appears the decision was made without consultation or thinking through the details.

Listen to the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders today, struggling to answer basic questions about the ban.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens to transgender service members now? Are they immediately thrown out of the military?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's something that the Department of Defense and the White House will have to work together as implementation takes place and is done so lawfully.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Something you might have thought through before you said they were completely banned. Trump's tweet also, and this is crucial, it's a complete turn around from what he said just a year ago repeatedly while he was running for President of the United States.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The LBGT community is just -- what's happened to them is just so sad and to be thinking about where their policies are currently with this administration is a disgrace to that community.

The LGBT community, the gay community, the lesbian community, they are so much in favor of what I have been saying over the last three or four days.


BURNETT: Well, today's announcement also sparked a new round of outrage. Republican Senator John McCain coming out, obviously, a Vietnam vet issuing a statement blasting the decision the way it was handled saying, "The President's tweet this morning is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter."

Jim Sciutto begins our news coverage OutFront. And Jim, you are breaking this news this hour, that even the chiefs of four of the military branches were completely taken surprise by this announcement. That's incredible.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is. I spoke to a military official said that the chiefs of the branches, army, navy, air force, marine caught off guard not just by the announcement but also this decision here. And keep in mind, they have been looking into this issue for some months and I was told that they had found that the branches were able to accommodate transgender members of the military. This official described them to me as our brothers and sisters. They had given that message back, asked the question could you handle them and they said yes, we can accommodate them and consider them valued members of those services.

I should note now there is great concern. You saw the answer from the White House there about what happens now. What is the time line and how do they handle current members? Are they, for instance, immediately discharged? I mean, these are very basic questions, but very unsettling ones not just for the service members involved for the chiefs of those service members.

BURNETT: Well, it's pretty stunning that way you're saying. Not only were they surprised, right? Some people might say, OK, were they surprised by the method by which he chose to release this, i.e. twitter. You're saying maybe. But they were also surprised by the decision itself because it didn't fit with the research that they had been doing, that they felt they could have accommodate which is a stunning part of the news you are breaking as well. And as you know, Jim, the reason the President cited for his -- to reverse, to not allow transgender individuals to be in the military, was tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. That's his reason. Is that true from what you've talked to, tremendous cost?

SCIUTTO: Well, let's look at the facts. The rand corporation did a study commissioned by the Pentagon in 2016, and they ran the numbers and concluded in their words there would be minimal impact from accommodating members of the transgender community in the military. Let's look at the numbers there. There are 1.3 million active members of the military force estimated members 1,300 to 6,600 that, to be clear, is well less than 1% of the entire force there. So what are the costs? They ran these numbers as well.

They estimated hormone treatments per year, 30 to 140. This, again, in the population of the military, 1.3 million. Gender transition related surgeries, 25 to 130. I mean, we're talking about fractions of a percent here for the whole force. Total cost estimated between $2 million and $8 million as you see.

[19:05:09] And this is a matter of comparison, Erin, one predator drone costs about $12 million. So, in this enormous military budget, millions of dollars, that's not an inconsequential figure. But in enormous military budget, it is, by comparison, a very tiny figure. Not tremendous as the President described in his tweet.

BURNETT: Right. And of course if you are looking to cut costs, there's a lot of places with a lot of waste, even within health care perhaps in the military. Why he would pick this, I think stunning many. Thank you very much, Jim Sciutto.

And I want to go now to Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who is a member of the Armed Services Committee and thank you for being with me. Senator, look, the President says he made this decision after consultation with his generals and military experts. Those are the words he used in his tweet.

I don't know if you just heard Jim Sciutto there reporting, the heads for the military branches were caught completely off guard. They didn't know what's coming and didn't fit with their analysis of the situation. They felt the military could handle transgender individuals. You're on the Armed Services Committee. Did you or anyone else on the committee know that this was coming?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: We had no idea that this announcement was coming, and by the way, as far as I know, neither our Chairman, John McCain, nor our Ranking Member, both very strongly and explicitly denounced these tweets. You read a little bit earlier John McCain's statement. And the action was bipartisan opposition on both sides of the aisle.

We oppose this Twitter policy. It isn't a well considered or consulted policy because it violates the basic principal that servicemen and women should be accept the based on their ability to fight, deploy, train. Many transgender Americans are serving right now with distinction and courage.

BURNETT: Yes, thousands of them, in fact, are at this very moment. All of whom now have no idea what their status will be. The White House says the Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, was made aware of the decision immediately, all right? That's what Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, that he was made aware of it immediately.

Senator, so far Secretary Mattis has not said, he has not clarified whether he agreed with the decision. Although, again, to emphasize Jim Sciutto's reporting, he's reporting for the chiefs of the divisions, army, navy. They're saying they didn't agree. Do you think, though, Senator, that the President would have gone ahead with this decision if Secretary Mattis was opposed to it?

BLUMENTHAL: I can't speculate about what Donald Trump would or wouldn't do. That's a pretty hazardous enterprise. But I can tell you this. The military was engaged in a very methodical and thorough comprehensive six-month study authorized by General Mattis, Secretary of Defense himself.


BLUMENTHAL: And he believes in the military as a unifying institution. And certainly he believed in meeting the policy decision that was made under the previous Secretary of Defense that there should be admission of American transgender.

BURNETT: So let me ask you this, Senator, because I played a clip in our introduction about times during the campaign. The President said how great it was going to be for the LGBT community. I only played a few of them because there were many, many more of them.

In fact, he actually slammed Hillary Clinton, at one point, for taking Clinton Foundation money from Saudi Arabia because he was calling her hypocrite, because Saudi Arabia has no LGBT rights. Here is some more of what the President said when he was running for office.


TRUMP: Ask yourself who is really the friend of women and the LB -- and LBGT community. Donald Trump with actions or Hillary Clinton with her words?

And I will tell you, I am far better for women. I am far better for gays. LGBT is starting to like Donald Trump very much lately.


BURNETT: Senator, why? The big question is why. Why do you think he did this right now?

BLUMENTHAL: The obvious potential explanation is pressure from the socially conservative groups that actually greeted this announcement with great adulation and praise. But that clip raised the really important issue, which is larger than these three rash and very arbitrary tweets, which is it opens the door to additional discrimination. It raises the specter of a really abhorrent approach to our military and to official policies in general that discriminate against people based on all of the factors that we have come to reject as a basis for discrimination.

Men and women entering the military, transgender Americans or anybody else ought to be judged on their ability to deploy, fight and train, not on discrimination.

[19:10:08] BURNETT: Now, there are some who disagree with your overall point of view. Republican Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler came on CNN today supports the President and here is some of the reason why.


REP. VICKY HARTZLER (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Right now we have people who cannot serve in the military with asthma or with flat feet. So why would we allow individuals to come in, although they are very patriotic and we appreciate their desire to serve, but who have these medical issues that could be very, very costly. We shouldn't make an exception in this case.


BURNETT: What's your response to her?

BLUMENTHAL: I think you just demolish the explanation based on medical costs. It's a pinprick, not even a rounding error of expense.

BURNETT: That is true.

BLUMENTHAL: But the main point here is that people, Americans, whether they are transgender Americans or anyone else, should be judged on their ability when they are accepted, when they are assigned, when they are in any way given deployments or not, those decisions have to be made on their ability to fight and deploy as well as to train. And there are all kinds of physical qualifications that have to be met by people entering the military.


BLUMENTHAL: But a transgender Americans who meet that qualification should be accepted and, in fact, welcome. And here is the other point that I find very abhorrent. Anybody who serves in the uniform of the United States of America deserves our thanks.

I have two sons who have served. There aren't a lot of my colleagues who have sons or daughters who have served. But I think the President of the United States should be thanking these men and women, not barring them.

BURNETT: Before we go, Senator, you're a member of the Judiciary Committee, of course, investigating Trump connections to Russia, also the committee with oversight jurisdiction at the Justice department. You are also a former state attorney general. President Trump has been slamming his Attorney General Jeff Sessions now for days, calls him beleaguered, calls him very weak. My question for you is, you have served in the role of an attorney general. Does Sessions even have the ability or the credibility left at this point to remain in his job and execute it faithfully?

BLUMENTHAL: He will have the credibility if he comes before the Judiciary Committee and explains his apparent contradictions or even untruths about these secret meetings with the Russians. As for his recusal, actually he did the right thing. He had no choice under the ethical rules to recuse himself.

But here is a message to Donald Trump. This investigation by Robert Mueller, the special council, will go on because his tormenting and threatening Jeff Sessions just as he has threatened and intimidated or tried to do so with special council will not stop this investigation from going forward. And obviously his agenda in either firing or forcing to resign Jeff Sessions is to appoint someone else who could fire the special counsel.

But I believe very strongly that there would be a firestorm of reaction on both sides of the aisle that we will insist that this special counsel investigation go forward. And that's a message to Donald Trump that if he feels he can stop this investigation by firing any Department of Justice official, he is very sadly mistaken.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Senator Blumenthal. I appreciate your time this evening.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the right turning on Trump over Sessions. Why didn't he see this backlash coming? Plus torture, fraud and Vladimir Putin. How all of that connects to Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer.

And his White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, Trump's Mini Me. Jeanne Moos with her take.


[19:17:37] BURNETT: Attorney General Jeff Sessions was at the White House today. But once again he did not meet with the President of the United States who has continued to attack him. Prominent Republicans this time are not standing idly by.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: You think the President is demonstrating weakness by his handling of Sessions?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't fully understand why the President has, you know, said what he said. But I think Jeff deserves, you know, better treatment.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I know of no professional reason for Jeff to step down. I know of no professional. I've heard no one complain of how he's conducting himself in the office. I wish it would stop.


BURNETT: OutFront now, Mark Preston, our senior political analyst, Nia-Malika Henderson, senior political reporter and David Drucker who was a political analyst and senior congressional correspondent with the Washington Examiner. So Mark, let me start with you. Does it seem like the President was caught flat footed by the massive Republican backlash to these attacks on Sessions, and I should say Republican backlash on Capitol Hill?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, no doubt about that. I mean, but there is a reason for it. He does these tweets, these thoughts without much thought being put into them. He sends out these tweets in the morning or at night or even some time during the middle of the day that there is no strategic plan behind it.

And in this case, what he doesn't understand is Washington and he certainly doesn't understand the loyalty in the bonds that are forged in the United States Senate. When you serve there, you probably see Republican or Democrat, you will often see them take care of each other, cover for each other because they have a bond that a lot of people don't have.

BURNETT: And David, it's not just them, right? It's not just politicians on Capitol Hill. And the reason I made that distinction right is there is sort of what Trump would call, oh, hey, the mainstream GOP and then there's his base.


BURNETT: Well, his base has been critical to Ann Coulter. Rush Limbaugh has been critical. Breitbart with some reason headlines have been very critical of these decisions, the way he's been handling Sessions. Were the President's tweets today about transgender troops in the military maybe an attempt to try to assuage his base and distract them from the fact that he is blaming Sessions who, of course, is a favorite of his base?

DRUCKER: Right. So especially the way he put out the statement today on transgender people serving in the military as a sort of public service announcement without informing the Pentagon really struck me as trying to recover some ground with the base who worries that he might fire Sessions who has been an ideological touchdown for them.

[19:20:09] They don't always know if they can depend on Donald Trump idealogically because he's so malleable and flexible, but with people like Sessions surrounding him, specially on issues like immigration and we see him active on issues like sanctuary cities, they feel like they could depend on him to follow through. The other thing, Erin, that's really important about why they're concerned about the fact he might consider firing Sessions, they don't want him to make a move towards Robert Mueller. And if you remove Jeff Sessions, that's where the questions are going to go. And if the President went that far, they would be forced to confront him. And this is the last thing they want to be involved in, having the special counsel fired and dealing having a deal with the firestorm that would create.

BURNETT: So Nia, you know, taking all this into account, we know Sessions not only does he have friends on Capitol Hill and this bond he has, deep ties to some White House staffers, Steve Bannon. Stephen Miller actually used to work for him. Who, in the White House, Nia, might be encouraging the President to keep doing this? Or are they all too afraid of him and no one saying anything and they just keeps going out with, I think, Mark aptly put the scripts?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I mean, the people I talk to, sources said there are very few people in the White House who are encouraging this. This seems to be sort of a Trump one-man band acting on impulse in those early morning tweets going after Sessions. Someone we knew he had beef with before because of this recusal. But it seemed kind of had recede into the background.

But, I mean, if you look at what happened, over these last two weeks, the headlines out of the Russia investigation all have been, you know -- I mean, bombshells essentially. The headlines about Donald Trump Jr., this idea that Mueller that is looking into business transactions and finances. So this sense that this investigation again is something that Donald Trump can't control and, so, he's looking to Sessions now as sort of blaming for that.

You know -- I mean, but it's not only in the White House people, right? I mean, Donald Trump also has kind of people he talks to outside of the White House. The only person who you can really find who is really going after Jeff Sessions in the way that Donald Trump is going after him is Roger Stone. Of course, he's been kind of a long-time gadfly in Trump ally. But inside the White House, I think most people you mention Bannon, there is also Rick Dearborn, right, who's the Deputy Chief of Staff, that he's got a lot of support inside the White House.

BURNETT: That's pretty interesting and it shows, perhaps, how all these people have absolutely no sway over the President. He's not listening to any of them, which is its own very significant statement just to make.

Well, Mark Preston, let me ask you because this comes in the context, right, of the President's desperate need more a major legislative accomplishment, OK? He's got to get one. Great pass to due date on that. Health care has been what it's been on the table first. You do that, then you do tax reform, whatever it may be.

Here we are, the Senate's marathon debate which dismantle (ph) Obamacare now on day two. Two significant proposals have been shot down. Doesn't have the votes. And with things like Sessions not making friends among the people who need to cast those votes, is that going to -- is this Sessions issue going to cost him health care? PRESTON: Well, let's -- looking at health care, perhaps. But let's look long-term, too. He has three more years left in office. Not only did he attack Jeff Sessions today, he attacked Lisa Murkowski, a Republican Senator from Alaska, after yesterday's vote. He didn't vote with him. He still got the win and yet he still went after her.

What he doesn't understand is that in Washington right now, you need allies. You need friends. And when you're out attacking all the time, not only are you going to alienate those folks you are attacking, but also their allies. And I do think his idea of trying to go out there, Erin, and cause chaos and confusion, and that's how we operates, well that might have worked in his real estate empire. But that only works for so long here in Washington before people just start to, you know, cut their losses and start to really distance themselves from the President.

BURNETT: David, could this cost him health care, or is health care, as the President is clearly betting, has been too many years of a promise by too many republicans for them to let whatever ire they may have at him to get in the way?

DRUCKER: I don't think this can cost them health care. I do think it can cost him other parts of his agenda down the line. Right now Senate Republicans have to figure out how to get a bill out of their chamber and into a negotiation with the House.

So, there are bigger things at play here. But if he continues to jawbone Sessions, if he moved to fire Sessions, he would have a world of hurt. I talked to Chuck Grassley today, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said I don't want to have to deal with any more nominations. I want to deal with items on Trump's agenda. They don't want this and it would cause a big problem.

BURNETT: So Nia, what's the bottom line on health care?

HENDERSON: You know, still to be determined. I don't think anybody knows. They'll move to the skinny bill and see what happens with that skinny repeal. But, you know, it is really anybody's guess how they can get those 50 votes and maybe it will be with the skinny repeal.

[19:25:06] But, you know, this is really unchartered territory. And in some ways it hasn't been good for Republicans, right? I mean, because all of these bills --


HENDERSON: -- have gone down to defeat. And so now there are this kind of last-ditch effort to get this repeal bill.


HENDERSON: But then they basically have to start over with that repeal bill. So it's, you know, we'll see what happens.

BURNETT: And, of course, when they say skinny, I'm going to leave out Medicaid and that defeat (ph) the whole point that isn't dealing with it at all, people.


BURNETT: So, it will certainly just push -- that called that out, that's a joke. Mark, you know, this also comes as we got a new poll, sorry, from Gallup. Now, gallop obviously has put out that record low 39% approval rating for Trump across the country. And a senior White House source told me, look, we look at 14 states. We don't see this. This isn't happening.

But now in a Gallup poll, 31 states underwater for Trump, and they say including 11 that voted for him in November. So that is -- those are the 11 states that I would imagine the White House is looking at very closely tonight. Trump is now going back to the basics. He just announced that Foxconn, you know, that manufacturer that makes electronics for Apple in Asia is going to be bringing 13,000 new jobs to Wisconsin. We're going to see obviously if that really happens. But if he, Mark, can get back on script, jobs, jobs, jobs, will that be everything else?

PRESTON: Yes. Because -- I mean, isn't it all about personally how people are feeling in their own pocketbooks? Listen, win today for him on the Foxconn thing, going to get credit where credits do. But he seems to revel in it too much. He should use that as a building block to try to go even further. As you say, jobs, jobs, jobs. But the question is, you know, can he use it as a spring board to create a greater jobs agenda? And that's really up in the air right now, Erin.

BURNETT: Right. And of course you're not going to get tax reform and companies give and you're not going to get health care reform, and then you're not going to get infrastructure, then you're going to get jobs. I mean, these things are all in structurally (ph) related. So, to get that, he's got to get a legislative agenda through some Disney (ph) Congress.

Thank you all. And next a key witness in the Russia investigation is my guest. What he's about to tell Senate investigators about that Donald Trump Jr. meeting with a Russian lawyer.

And a man who worked for Donald Trump for years says Trump never said you're fired. He just does a sort of passive aggressive thing and freezes people out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think at his core, he's a bully.



[19:30:41] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: New tonight: an alarming warning from a top FBI official speaking at today's Senate hearing on Russian meddling. The agency's counterintelligence chief warning Americans' way of life is right now being actively threatened by Russia. Let's say that again -- Americans way of life. That's not a small thing to say as the Senate is about to hear from

one of its star witnesses, a man at the center of the Russian investigation. And I'm going to speak in a moment with him, William Browder.

But, first, here is how Browder found himself in Russia's crosshairs.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the heart of Donald Trump Jr.'s controversial meeting with a group of Russian and Russian aligned lawyers and business associates is Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian attorney who was arrested and died in prison in 2009.

While working for American born financier Bill Browder, Magnitsky discovered a $230 million tax fraud and corruption scheme involving the Russian government and oligarchs with ties to the Kremlin.

WILLIAM BROWDER, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT CEO: Sergei Magnitsky was a 37-year-old lawyer who was working for me. He was my responsibility and he was taken hostage because of me. And then he was slowly tortured to death in the most horrific way as a hostage and then he died.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bill is passed.

KEILAR: His death inspiring the Magnitsky Act, a law passed by Congress to financially punish Russians involved in human rights violations, many of whom are close to Putin and responsible for Magnitsky's death.

BROWDER: These people are not good people and they're doing very bad things. Everyone needs to understand that.

KEILAR: Browder is a leading proponent of the sanctions, which led Putin to retaliate by suspending U.S. adoptions of Russian children. It was this adoption issue merely a cover for discussing removal of the sanctions that Trump Jr. claims was the focus of his June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin.

BROWDER: When they mentioned that his was about adoption in that meeting, it had nothing to do with adoption. There were two effectively agents of the Russian government who went to Donald Trump Jr. and said, can you help us withdraw this act if your father gets elected president?

KEILAR: CNN has not confirmed Browder's claim. President Trump said his previously undisclosed hour long conversation with Vladimir Putin at a G20 dinner earlier this month was also about Russian adoptions.

BROWDER: For Putin, this is his single largest priority, to get rid of these sanctions, which sanctions him and the other people around him. KEILAR: Browder is set to appear before the Senate Judiciary

Committee Thursday. Today, they heard from the FBI's top counterintelligence official about the extent foreign adversaries are spying on the U.S. and attempting to meddle in elections.

BILL PRIESTAP, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE DIVISION: Our country is under relentless assault by hostile state actors and their proxies. They use people from across their governments and from all walks of life in pursuit of their desire to gain strategic advantage over the United States in whatever ways they can.


KEILAR: The hearing was noteworthy for who did not attend as well. Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort struck agreements with the Republican-led committee to avoid a public hearing.

Tomorrow, the committee is sure to have a lot of questions for Bill Browder, especially given his extensive knowledge about key people at that meeting with Trump Jr., Manafort, and President Trump's son-in- law, Jared Kushner -- Erin.

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

And OUTFRONT now, a man at the center of the investigation into Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer. We're talking about William Browder, who you just saw, a longtime Russia critic, who has been declared a threat to Russian's national security by authorities there. And, of course, as you saw, he was Sergei Magnitsky's client.

I appreciate your time, Bill. Good to talk to you again.

You will be testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow and you are very central in their discussions. You plan on speaking about two key people, two of the key people that were in that room with Donald Trump Jr. That is the Russian lawyer and a Russian- American lobbyist who served in what was the Soviet military. Both deny working for the Russian government.

What do you know about their role?

BROWDER: Well, what I know for sure is that Natalia Veselnitskaya is a lawyer who represents the family of a senior member of the Putin regime. She was paid for, funded and acted on behalf of this person in the United States in relation to withdrawing the Magnitsky sanctions and trying to cover up for a -- or to get them released from an investigation by the Justice Department of money laundering from the crime that Sergei Magnitsky exposed.

[19:35:21] That's Natalia Veselnitskaya. Rinat Akhmetshin is paid for by her.

BURNETT: That's the lobbyist.

BROWDER: That's the lobbyist. That's the other guy. And so, basically, the money was flowing from a senior Putin regime

official to Natalia Veselnitskaya, to Rinat Akhmetshin and then to a number of other people that I'll be talking about tomorrow in my testimony.

BURNETT: All right. So, senior Putin regime official that she represents. I just want to make it clear. What you're saying here is that she is an agent of the Russian government as far as you see it, right? Or is there a way for her to be that person's lawyer and not be an agent of the Russian government?

BROWDER: Well, let's put it this way. Vladimir Putin wants to have the Magnitsky Act repealed as one of his top, or maybe his very top foreign policy priorities. And these people were working to repeal that.

Now, the Russian government doesn't give out business cards saying I work for the Russian government in these types of activities.


BROWDER: It's not -- it's not a formalistic thing. And, so, based on what I know, she was working on behalf of the Russian government.

BURNETT: All right. So, working on behalf of the Russian government. Now, let's just get now to this level of it. Donald Trump Jr. was asked, right, just the other day or a week or so ago if he or anyone in the campaign knew who this Russian lawyer was before the meeting, OK? Here's what he told FOX News.


DONALD TRUMP, JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: We didn't know who she was before the meeting. You know, apparently she was a prosecutor in Moscow who hasn't done that since 2002. So, 14 years ago at the time of the meeting, she was a prosecutor. And it was such a nothing. I literally wouldn't have remembered the meeting.


BURNETT: So, Bill, you are talking about Donald J. Trump Jr., right, who had done -- tried to do a lot of business in Moscow. He was the Trump child who was dealing the most with Russia. You have Jared Kushner. And then you have Paul Manafort who, of course, has extensive ties and links professionally with Russia.

Do you think it's possible that these individuals that you're talking about, the lawyer, the lobbyist, really were completely unknown to any of them?

BROWDER: Well, her name is not a famous name. And so, she wouldn't have been known to them by her name. But if anyone had bothered to go into Google and type her name, they would have discovered that she was the representative of the Katsyv family in a major in a money laundering case in where they were defendants in the United States. That would have been the first thing they would have seen on Google. So, either they didn't do their -- either nobody did their due

diligence or they decided to have the meeting in spite of that. I can't claim to know what they knew or didn't know when they made that meeting, when they set up that meeting, but she's no mystery.

BURNETT: So, when you look at the e-mails between Trump Jr. and Rob Goldstone, right, who, of course, set this meeting up and said it was, you know, sensitive information from the Russian government, part of the Russian government's support for Trump, what are the odds that Donald Trump Jr. could have been used as an unwitting agent for Putin?

BROWDER: Well, the way I -- the way I view this is that the Putin regime wanted this Magnitsky Act repealed. They sent Natalia Veselnitskaya to America to do a lot of different things, not just this Trump Jr. meeting. They were also all over the halls of Congress.

They somehow got into this Trump Jr. meeting. They had a very specific ask, which was getting rid of the Magnitsky sanctions and they probably came up with a very specific offer for that meeting. We don't know what the offer was, but we know what the ask was.

BURNETT: So -- but you're saying there would have been an offer.

So, let me ask you this because you were instrumental in getting the Magnitsky Act passed, right? It is something Vladimir Putin is deeply angered by, obsessed by, might be the fair word, right?

BROWDER: Yes, yes.

BURNETT: He brought up his own retaliation to it, the ban on Russian adoptions to the United States with the president at the G20.


BURNETT: In your prepared remarks, you're going to testify to Congress. You write you've received death threats from Russia. The most notable may be from the Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, who said that according to you, quote, it's too bad that Sergei Magnitsky is dead and Bill Browder is still alive and free.


BURNETT: Pretty stunning thing for an American to hear. Do you really think that the Russian government wants you dead?

BROWDER: I know the Russian government wants me dead, and I can say that there's a number of other people who are connected to this case who are dead.

Boris Nemtsov who is a former -- a Russian opposition politician who had been lobbying for the Magnitsky Act in America, at the European parliament, et cetera, was shot in front of the Kremlin in 2015.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, who was his protege, who was also lobbying for the Magnitsky Act very actively, was poisoned within an inch of his life. He went into coma and multiple organ failure.

The lawyer for Sergei Magnitsky's mother has been fighting alongside us for justice, was thrown off a fourth floor apartment building.

[19:40:06] He survived, thank God. And, of course, I have been receiving all these different types of threats from Russia. This is a regime that kills and maims when they -- when you're standing in their way and standing in the way of them stealing money.

BURNETT: All right. Bill Browder, I appreciate your time.

BROWDER: Thank you.

BURNETT: Sobering conversation and obviously, you will be testifying tomorrow and that important testimony. We'll be talking to you then.

And OUTFRONT next, after the president tweets we worship God in America, a leading conservative firing back. In America, the president doesn't tell us who or what or whether to worship.

Plus, one of Trump's favorite refrains.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the way, are you going to get the votes? Oh, he better -- otherwise, I'll say, Tom, you're fired.


BURNETT: Except for outside of the pretend world, he doesn't be able to bring himself to say those words.


BURNETT: New tonight, CNN just learning the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, may testify before Senate investigators in public after all. Manafort who, of course, was also at that meeting with the Russian lawyer had agreed to testify in private.

Now, Senator Chuck Grassley also telling our Manu Raju that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will now also appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. These are obviously significant developments.

And OUTFRONT now, Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, member of the House Intelligence Committee, chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

[19:45:03] And, Chairman, I appreciate your time.

I want to ask you about these new developments at this hour. How important is it for your committees to hear from Sessions and Manafort? And is Donald Trump Jr. also on that must testify list?

REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I'll tell you, two of the three, Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort would be central witnesses to our committee's jurisdiction. We're looking at four things, Erin. What did Russia do, with whom did they do it, the unmasking, the leaks, and then the U.S. government's response. I don't know that Attorney General Sessions would be a relevant witness on those four jurisdictions, but we're always happy to hear from him.

BURNETT: So, Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. must testify. I mean, I also want to ask you about, you know, when we talk about those two gentlemen in that meeting, about our last guest, I don't know if you hear him at all, when you got to the camera, but Bill Browder obviously going to be testifying tomorrow. He says the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort was acting on behalf of the Russian government. He laid out exactly why he believes that.

From what you know, from what you understand, Chairman, do you have any evidence that suggests otherwise?

GOWDY: No, ma'am. And your previous guest sounded like an expert, which no one would describe me as one.

But what I think is less important than what Donald Trump Jr. thought or knew and the only way to discern that is to interview him. What did he know prior to the meeting? Why did he accept the meeting and what was the content of the conversation in the meeting? For me to speculate on that would not be fair to your viewers or frankly to the investigation.

BURNETT: Are you confident that you are going to get all those answers from him? Obviously, this week it was going to be public testimony from him along with Paul Manafort. That obviously hasn't happened. Deals have been cut.

Are we going to get -- are you going to get everything that you need from Donald Trump Jr.?

GOWDY: Well, I'm always reluctant to use the word everything. For 16 years in the courtroom, I don't know that I ever got every -- that I ever got every salient fact, but we're going to have as much time with him as the committee feels like it needs to explore our jurisdiction. We certainly deal with Jared Kushner and I expect us too with Donald Trump Jr.

BURNETT: Now, you did have a chance already to question Jared Kushner, who was also in that meeting, and that was just yesterday. I want to ask you, according to "Bloomberg", your colleague, Congressman Adam Schiff, was critical of you in this regard. He said, quote, Mr. Gowdy took the role as a second attorney for Mr. Kushner. I don't know whether he's describing you as a defender or an apologist or what, but what's your response to Congressman Schiff?

GOWDY: Not much of any -- I was in there for three hours. Mr. Kushner has a very good lawyer named Abbe Lowell. I was a very mediocre lawyer, although, I did it for 16 years. He can do much better than me. What I was tired of, Erin, was the Democrats asking non-relevant

questions. So, Jared Kushner answered all of their questions. He stayed an hour longer than he was supposed to. In fact, he stayed an hour longer than Dan Coats, who's the head of the intelligence community.

The Democrats ran out of good questions, but they didn't run out of questions. So I think that's Adam's frustration that Jared Kushner did not tell him what he wanted to hear from a political ambition standpoint. This investigation has been very good for the Adam Schiff for Senate campaign. But yesterday was not good for him.

BURNETT: So, today, the president also, of course, tweeted a comment he made at his rally last night. I wanted to play for you, Chairman, what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have heard me say it before on the campaign trail, and I'll say it again tonight. In America, we don't worship government. We worship God.



BURNETT: Now, conservative Bill Kristol, of course, you know him. He's been critical of the president before. But on this, he tweeted, in America, the president doesn't tell us who or what or whether to worship. Who do you agree with, Bill Kristol or the president who just came out and definitely said in America, we worship God?

GOWDY: How about choice C, our Founding Fathers, who gave us a First Amendment, which is a free exercise right, but also a freedom to have no religion if that's what we want. There is no established religion in this country. That's why we have an Establishment Clause.

The president is welcome to share his faith. It's been done by other presidents. I saw Jimmy Carter did it. John F. Kennedy Jr. did it. If President Trump wants to share his faith, more power to him. But our country recognizes all religions, including no religion.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Chairman. I appreciate your time.

GOWDY: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.

BURNETT: OUTFRONT next: why President Trump has a hard time actually saying you're fired in the real world.

And Jeanne Moos on how the new White House communications director is making sure he gets the president's message just right.



TRUMP: We're going to win so much --

SCARAMUCCI: -- that you are actually going to get tired of winning.

TRUMP: -- that you may get bored with winning.



[19:52:19] BURNETT: Tonight, the White House confirms President Trump has not met with Jeff Sessions since his recent Twitter attack on his attorney general. This despite the fact Sessions has been at the White House at least twice this week. For a man famous for the phrase "you're fired," he actually doesn't like to use it very much when it's real.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.


TRUMP: You're fired. You're fired. You're fired.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For all the president's pummeling, name calling, and humiliation of his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, he has yet to utter his famous TV catch phrase.

TRUMP: Johnny, you're fired.

FOREMAN: Surprising? To those who know him, maybe not.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I think President Trump doesn't like to fire people, period.

FOREMAN: Despite his tough guy image and dismissal or resignation of nine high level players since he took office, the president has showed little appetite for showing folks the door, off pushing that job off on others.

TRUMP: He's a show boat. He's a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil.

FOREMAN: He did not handle James Comey's firing in person. Instead, he sent an aide, a former bodyguard with a letter to the FBI director's office while Comey was on the other side of the country.

When Corey Lewandowski was booted, Donald Trump, Jr. was on hand and said the former campaign manager didn't see it coming.

In Atlantic City, decades ago, Jack O'Donnell worked for Trump and says he saw the same behavior.

JACK O'DONNELL, FORMER PRES. OF TRUMP PLAZA HOTEL & CASINO: I think at his core, he's a bully. FOREMAN: So, when Sean Spicer, a devout Catholic, was denied a chance

to meet the pope with the president, it appeared the president was sending a message that his press secretary was out of favor -- never a good thing.

O'DONNELL: I think that is part of what he considers his edge, by keeping people guessing, by keeping them wondering if he is going to fire them today or tomorrow. I think it's absolutely the way he operates.

FOREMAN: Just this week, the president leaned on his Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to get enough congressional votes to pass a new health care plan.

TRUMP: He better get them. He better get them. He better -- otherwise, I'll say, Tom, you're fired. I'll get somebody --

FOREMAN: And he's told U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, she had better do a good job.

TRUMP: Otherwise she could easily be replaced, right? We won't do that, I promise, we won't do that. She's doing a fantastic job.


FOREMAN: Well, sometimes the president says he's just joking, but who can tell when that is? And in any event, that's cold comfort to Jeff Sessions who, at this moment, doesn't know when or how the beatings will stop -- Erin.

[19:55:00] BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Tom Foreman.

And next, Jeanne Moos on all the love from the new guy in the White House.


SCARAMUCCI: I love the president. I love the president.

I love the guy.

I love the president.



BURNETT: Tonight's number: five, Anthony Scaramucci has been on the job for just five days, and well, it's uncountable the number of times he's professed his love for the president. The Mooch loves Trump so much that he's starting to steal his best lines.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anthony Scaramucci won't have to scrounge for a nickname.




MOOS: Stephen Colbert said it 13 times --


MOOS: -- in a nine-minute segment about the new White House communications director.

COLBERT: The Mooch is ready to smooch.

MOOS: Smooch the president's behind.

SCARAMUCCI: I love the president. I love the president. I love the guy. I love the president.

MOOS: Let us count the ways.

SCARAMUCCI: The way I know him and the way I love him.

MOOS (on camera): But Scaramucci isn't saving all his love for the president. He's got love left over.

(voice-over): For Sean Spicer.

SCARAMUCCI: And I love the guy.

MOOS: For other White House staffers --

SCARAMUCCI: I love the hair and makeup person that we had.

MOOS: Tweeted one critic, is there anyone, anywhere, or anything you do not love?

(on camera): Next thing you know, he'll say he loves the fandango.

(voice-over): Actually, Scaramouche is a clown character in Italian theater and a fandango is a Spanish dance not yet danced at the White House.

Scaramucci may not be a bohemian, but he rhapsodizes about love.

SCARAMUCCI: I love the president.

MOOS: He even uses the same line as the president.

SCARAMUCCI: We're going to win so much, Chris --

TRUMP: We're going to win so much --

SCARAMUCCI: -- you're actually going to get tired of winning. TRUMP: -- you're going to get tired of winning.

SCARAMUCCI: We're going to win so much --

TRUMP: You're going to get sick and tired of winning.

MOOS: And they don't just talk the same.

The Mooch himself retweeted this bit from "The Daily Show." Even when he merely likes someone, his feelings grow as he speaks.

SCARAMUCCI: I like the team. Let he rephrase that, I love the team.

MOOS: Anthony Scaramucci is the Barry White of the White House, right down to blowing the press a kiss.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: And thanks for joining us.

Anderson is next.