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Trump Doesn't Rule Out Preemptive Strike On North Korea; Trump: Warning To North Korea Is "Not A Dare", It's A "Fact". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 10, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That's it for me. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, the war of words with North Korea escalating. President Trump doubling down on fire and fury tonight, not ruling out a preemptive strike.

Plus, Trump speaking out on the Russia investigation and whether he plans to fire Robert Mueller.

And going after the most powerful person in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, why Trump is very disappointed in the Senate majority leader and may want him gone.

Let's go OutFront.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. Outfront this evening, the breaking news. President Trump doubling down in a lengthy and unscripted press conference. The president taking question after question, escalating his extraordinary war of words with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I read about we're in Guam by August 15th. Let's see what he does with Guam. He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before, what will happen in North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when you say that, what do you mean?

TRUMP: You'll see, you'll see. And he'll see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that a dare?

TRUMP: It's not a dare? It's a statement. It has nothing to do with dare. That's a statement.

He's not going to go around threatening Guam and he's not going to threaten the United States, and he's not going to threaten Japan and he's not going to threaten South Korea.

No. That's not a dare, as you say. That is a statement of fact. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Now, this came after the president made it clear that his threat to unleash on North Korea, quote, fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never before seen is after the president said that didn't go far enough.


TRUMP: If anything, that statement may not be tough enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would be tougher than fire and fury?

TRUMP: Well, you'll see. You'll see. And frankly the people that were questioning that statement, was it too tough. Maybe it wasn't tough enough.

They've been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years. And it's about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries. So if anything, maybe that statement wasn't tough enough.


BURNETT: Maybe not tough enough. And moments ago, the secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, speaking out saying diplomacy comes first, but the United States military is ready.


JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I don't tell the enemy in advance what I'm going to do. Our readiness, we are ready.


BURNETT: And, of course, part of the issue here is what's gonna happen next. Who is going to actually get their bluff called first, whether it's Kim Jong-un or Donald Trump? And Kim Jong-un, of course, listening to every single word from the president and remarks just revealed from the leader.

They were said before the president spoke. We have just learned them now, though, coming out earlier today. The Kim regime saying the U.S. would, quote, suffer a shameful defeat and final doom if it persists in extreme military adventure, sanctions and pressure.

Officials, quote, vowed to mercilessly wipe out the provocateurs making desperate efforts to stifle the socialist country.

The Kim regime, of course, has threatened to fire four missiles simultaneously into the waters, 15 to 25 miles off the coast of Guam, saying they could be ready to do that as early as next week. Will the dictator do it? Will Trump strike?

As I said, well, this remain a war of words. Jeff Zeleny begins our coverage tonight OutFront at the White House. And Jeff, the president far from backing down more like doubling down tonight.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, he did double down and that's not to be, you know, surprising here. President Trump has rarely backed away from something he said, but in fact, we've seen the administration essentially shape a policy around the president's words from two days ago when he did indeed improvise those words fire and fury.

Today, the administration, you know, is shaping a forward position going forward here, but the president made clear that this was not a one off. This is something he clearly believes.

And if you believe or agree with the president or not, Erin, this I would say was the most clear statement of his policy, of his position toward North Korea that we've heard yet. He rarely talks about this publicly, but it's so interesting that, you know, he doubled down on this.

But, Erin, I think at the end of the day here, the question is, what happens next? We've seen these, you know, back and forth series of days. Many advisers here at the White House, the National Security Council, hope that he and others cool the rhetoric here. That is the one way to sort of dial this back.

But, his words about Guam, about other things was so striking, but when Phil Rucker of the Washington Post asked the president there, well, what would be worse than -- you know, these words weren't tough enough, he said it three times. He said we'll see, we'll see.

We don't know what that means exactly, Erin. So that's why everyone is still on high alert tonight.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny.

And so many questions, but I think important what Jeff said. The president really took a lot of questions on this. You're going to hear much more here as we continue.

I want to go, though, to Will Ripley, who of course has been to North Korea 13 times, more than any other western journalist. Joining us from Beijing and morning your time often when we hear a response.

[19:05:11] Will, of course, we heard North Korea responding. There is a response, but it actually turns out that it sort of comes a few hours before President Trump actually doubled down today.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Yes, normally, Erin, it takes about 24 hours for North Korea to put out a response to whatever the president says because a lot of people have to sign off on it. So, this rhetoric vowing to mercilessly wipe out the provocateurs, this could just be a sneak preview because President Trump with his tough talk really upped the ante yet again today and we saw the North Koreans up the ante when they laid out a detailed plan to simultaneously launch four intermediate-range ballistic missiles, fly them over Japan where U.S. Military assets are located, more than 52,000 U.S. troops and put those missiles down within 20 miles of Guam, home to key military basis, including Andersen Air Force Base.

Hundred and sixty-thousand plus Americans there and North Koreans saying that they're going to send their missiles within 20 miles.

But, as of now, it's all on paper. What we need to watch moving forward, Erin, is, are they going to take those words and put them into action. Are they going to feel that President Trump's remarks, because this is just a war of words for now, are those remarks enough for them to actually follow through on this threat to conduct what would be their most provocative missile test ever?

And also happening in the background in the region here, this is the month of August. This is when there are regularly scheduled military exercises that happen between the United States and South Korea just miles from North Korea. This is something that always infuriates Pyongyang.

These military exercises are not happening as a result of the heightened tensions. They always happen every year. Every year, North Korea gets angry, but never before have we had a situation where the rhetoric from the White House is actually matching or even exceeding the rhetoric from Pyongyang.

To save face, will Kim Jong-un take another step? That's what we need to watch, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much Will.

And OutFront now, General Wesley Clark, former NATO commander, Colonel Peter Mansoor, former aide to General David Petraeus, and Gordon Chang, author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On The World."

Colonel Mansoor, let me start with you. When we hear Trump's words, do you believe the president is ready to strike, that he is ready to pull a trigger?

RET. COL. PETER MANSOOR, FORMER AIDE TO GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: Absolutely. You know, you can argue with the tone and tenor of his remarks, but not their content. What the president is doing is putting the military lever of power back on the table, something that has been virtually absent in the last two decades.

And diplomacy has gotten us nowhere other than a North Korean nuclear program that has succeeded in making a bomb and then now making intercontinental ballistic missiles that can deliver those bombs to U.S. territory. What he's doing is strengthening diplomacy by putting the military lever of power back on the table.

The second thing that he does is strengthen deterrence, because if the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un under previous administrations didn't think the United States would strike, he was emboldened to act. I don't think he can make that calculation anymore given the president's words.

And so this actually, I think, strengthens deterrence and helps the United States going forward. BURNETT: So General Clark, I want to get your response to that and in doing, I want to play a couple of more points of what the president said today to Kim Jong-un. Here he is.


TRUMP: We are preparing for many different alternative events at North Korea. He has disrespected our country greatly. He has said things that are horrific, and with me he's not getting away with it.

He got away with it for a long time between him and his family. He's not getting away with this. This is a whole new ball game.

If North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about attack of anybody that we love or we represent or our allies or us, they can be very, very nervous. I'll tell you what, and they should be very nervous, because things will happen to them like they never thought possible.


BURNETT: General Clark, do you agree with the colonel, this puts the military option back on the table? It sends a message? It might work where diplomacy has failed?

RET. GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO COMMANDER: Well, I think we've always had deterrence with respect to North Korea. After all, they have not attacked South Korea. That's because we have troops there. We have a nuclear deterrent, and they've known it, and we exercise those troops.

So I think after say that we have had deterrence, we need to strengthen deterrence as the North improves its capabilities to strike. But when you get into escalating competitions of rhetoric, you have to be very careful because that escalating rhetoric can back people into corners. And when they're backed into corners, they can miscalculate.

[19:10:09] And the simple truth about the Korean situation is this, and I think most of us who've been there have seen this, that there is no cost-free military option. This is not something we can simply say, look, if he doesn't comply and do what we want, we'll wipe him out.

You could wipe him out, but you would also wreak horrible damage in Northeast Asia, on our friends, the South Koreans, on the Japanese, and China would come in. And the consequence of that would probably be a reduced U.S. presence in Northeast Asia in the future and an increased Chinese presence there.

Now, we played this kind of bold rhetoric in 2002 against Saddam Hussein. We didn't like him. We don't like Kim, and we have to be very careful to really make wise decisions here.

I think the president's absolutely right to reemphasize deterrence, to say that he can't get away with an attack on the United States, our friends and allies, absolutely right. What Secretary Mattis has said, absolutely right.

But, also notice that Kim was pretty smart here. He didn't say he would strike at Guam.


CLARK: He let a general say it and a general can give him deniability. So we're going to have to see how this plays out.

BURNETT: And you know what, what he also did is, he said they even had a plan ready that they could strike Guam next week if Kin Jong-un wants it, right Gordon. I mean, they gave themselves an out.


BURNETT: When he said this that, the president responded because they had said by mid August we could strike Guam. The president of the United States took that literally. He's saying August 15th -- I just want to play what he said on Guam here for you one moment.


TRUMP: I read about we're in Guam by August 15th. Let's see what he does with Guam. If he does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before, what will happen in North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when you say that, what do you mean?

TRUMP: You'll see, you'll see. And he'll see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that a dare?

TRUMP: It's not a dare? It's a statement. It has nothing to do with dare. That's a statement.

He's not going to go around threatening Guam and he's not going to threaten the United States, and he's not going to threaten Japan and he's not going to threaten South Korea.

No. That's not a dare, as you say. That is a statement of fact.


BURNETT: OK, Gordon, Kim Jong-un, how does he see it? Does he see this as a dare or will it be a deterrent?

CHANG: Well, he sees it as a dare, but more important, the generals and the senior regime figures around him see it as a dare. If Kim were really secure, he would probably just say oh, that's Trump.

The problem is, you know, we've seen this year, especially January and February, instances of instability. Really extreme turbulence at the top of the regime. Kim very well may decide that he can't back down from this. And even though General Clark is right, there is an element of deniability about it because this is only a proposed plan to strike Guam.

Nonetheless, it's clear that this is a challenge to Kim. And so, I think that essentially this is a point of putting him into a corner. One other thing, though --

BURNETT: So you do -- you think now he has a point? So when he's in a corner, then what does he do? He does it, knowing Trump will strike if he does this test off the coast of Guam.

CHANG: I think that he probably will go ahead. The one thing that's important here is that in the last three or four days, all we've heard about are military options. What we should be thinking about and what I think President Trump should be doing is nonmilitary non-kinetic things.

So before Kim gets to fire those missiles, I think the United States should try to wrap up all the sources of funding for Kim. We know how to do it. We know what those sources are.

Treasury Department is very effective. And what that would show to Kim is basically he can't continue this struggle against the United States because Trump takes the initiative. That's nonmilitary. Shows everybody you've got political will and I think it might maybe even get us to a solution.

BURNETT: Colonel, how do you buy the time to do that though? Because you -- North Korea said, we're ready to do it by the middle of the month. Sure, deniability, maybe they had it. But you heard what Gordon is saying, he feels backed into a corner, you're talking about the middle of August and he had stretch it a little bit.

You are now in a time where you have just taken a time window that was -- I don't know, what, 18 months they said until they could do something and you've put it into less than eight days.

MANSOOR: Yes, that's exactly right. Now, I would disagree that we've been talking only about the military option given that the Security Council just voted 15-0 to ramp up sanctions on North Korea. So the diplomatic lever is in play here, but what the administration needs to do now is basically stop talking.

And they've put their statements out there, those are on the table. And now they need to let this play out and obviously carefully consider how they're going to respond to a missile test on Guam, because they need to respond. They cannot let it go and simply ride it out because of the president's statements.

[19:15:03] BURNETT: Right. And of course, General, you know, when you talk about this whole threat of a strike on Guam, it came -- there were bombers flying over the Korean Peninsula then the president said fire and fury.

I mean, you're now at a point where a word of words could end up being something much more serious, right. I mean, that -- the question is, if Kim comes out and says something in the next day or two, can the president not respond? Can he stay silent? CLARK: I think what you're into now is you're into the escalation of the rhetoric. I think what the president ought to do is send a very high level emissary, maybe it's Rex Tillerson, maybe it's a former president into North Korea. And look Kim in the eye and say back off this. Because if we put him in a position where it's use or lose the nukes, we're not sure what he's going to do.

This is a guy who has killed members of his family in order to stay in power. As Gordon said, there's been a lot of instability there as he's shuffled stuff around. So this is a gamble, and we'd like to improve the odds in our favor.

And having a direct communication with Kim and explaining to him that the United States is not going to stand by idly while you lob missiles at Guam. And look him in the eye and say it and find a way for him to back out of this.

BURNETT: Right. Without losing his complete face because obviously the public position of the U.S. remains no regime change in North Korea.

CLARK: He just says the general was way out of line and it's just one more general whose head is rolled, and line him up and shoot him for insubordination or something. All that can be done in North Korea.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.

And now, you know, when you just heard what the president has had to say, right, doubling down and doing so repeatedly under questioning, there are more questions, though, being raised about whether the Trump administration is on the same page when it comes to possibly striking Kim's Korea. It was just a short time ago during the president's remarks that he had this warning.


TRUMP: I will tell you this, North Korea better get their act together or they're going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world. OK?


BURNETT: OK, that was today. And now, our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto is OutFront.

So you have that and much like it that we were just hearing. Then you have the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis breaking his silence publicly on this. What he's saying?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And Erin, this is the second time in two days that you had a senior member of Trump -- the Trump administration's national security team, moderate, you might say, the president's public rhetoric regarding North Korea.

Yesterday it was Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Today, as you say, Defense Secretary James Mattis speaking to reporters just a short time ago, saying with regards to North Korea, that the first priority is diplomacy, that it remains -- U.S. efforts remain diplomatically-led. Here is what he had to say.


MATTIS: Right now, Secretary Tillerson, Ambassador Hailey, you can see the American effort is diplomatically-led. It has diplomatic traction. It is gaining diplomatic results.

And I want to stay right there right now. The tragedy of war is well enough known. It doesn't need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic.


SCIUTTO: There you have the defense secretary. He has commanded troops in war. He's seen the costs of war, and saying right there that he's reluctant to go down that path. Somewhat contradicting the president's rhetoric at least talking about military responses to North Korea.

Now, I should note, Erin that earlier in the day before his most recent comments, the president did mention a diplomatic off ramp for North Korea as well. Saying that in effect the U.S. is offering the chance of North Korea to join the world of nations, if it were to take a less combative path and rein in its nuclear program. But of course, it seems that message at least from the president outweighed by the more along the lines of the fire and fury.

And again that phrase again we heard today, Erin, like the world has never seen before as the president describes what the U.S. would do militarily if North Korea were to attack or threaten again.

BURNETT: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you.

And OutFront now, Kori Schake, senior national security official under President George W. Bush, and Chris Cillizza, editor-at-large for us here. Chris, the president is insisting the administration is on the same page.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Uh-huh. No, I mean, they're not. All presidents insist that they have been consistent forever and are always on the same page with everyone in their administration. It's often not true. It's especially not true with this administration.

[19:20:03] I think Donald Trump gets the rhetoric of it and the policy is still to following behind. This is often the case with him on issues. He kind of knows what he wants to say, but the -- OK, well, what does that actually mean?

What does fire and fury the likes of which they've never seen, OK, what does that mean from a military tactical standpoint.

BURNETT: And he said, yes, we'll see, you'll see, right. CILLIZZA: We'll see, you'll see, they'll see. They should be very nervous.

That's not a policy, obviously. And I think what you have is people like Secretary of State Tillerson, you have Defense Secretary Mattis trying to sort of architect some policy around that. And also trying to scale it back a little bit because they know the policy options aren't great. If there was a fix, it would have already been done.

BURNETT: As General Clark said, right? If there was a military fix that didn't involve hundreds of thousands maybe more people dying, perhaps it would have been executed before.

Kori, you know, here is the president and of course you've got the defense secretary and secretary of state really trying to (INAUDIBLE) back. Let's just compare them.


TRUMP: There are no mixed messages. There are no mixed messages. I heard -- I mean, to be honest, General Mattis may have taken it a step beyond what I said.

There are no mixed messages. And Rex was just, you know, stating the view.


BURNETT: All right. Let me just play Rex Tillerson.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I do not believe that there is any imminent threat in my own view. Americans should sleep well at night.


BURNETT: So Kori, what -- you know, that's just Rex Tillerson there and the president. Look, it's very different than fire and fury. There's no question about that. Is it purposeful?

KORI SCHAKE, FORMER DIRECTOR OF DEFENSE STRATEGY UNDER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I do think the White House is in a different place than both the State Department and the Defense Department. And not just the president talking about fire and fury, but also the National Security adviser in a recent interview said that there was an imminent threat, and it was impossible to overstate the threat that North Korea posed.

And this morning, Sebastian Gorka, political adviser in the White House said that North Korea policy doesn't belong to the secretary of state in responding to Secretary Tillerson's comments that Americans should sleep safely.

One thing I did notice, though, I think the administration may be groping towards a more consistent policy because I noticed in the secretary of defense's statement yesterday, he emphasized that the dire consequences, including regime change, that will come to North Korea if they attack the United States or any of its allies.

And I noticed in the president's comments today, he too is now talking about American military options in response to North Korea's action. So I think they're working their way towards commonality, but the White House really is in a much more strident place than the departments are.

BURNETT: And to that point, Chris, all right, you have (INAUDIBLE) when you kind of take White House, right as Kori points out, security adviser saying imminent, and you have Rex Tillerson saying not imminent, right. Rex Tillerson said, I do not believe there is any imminent threat in my own view.


BURNETT: So White House aide Sebastian Gorka, these guys work for President Trump, both of them directly. In a moment of imminence importance for national security of this country, Sebastian Gorka comes out and here is what he has to say about what Rex Tillerson said. You've got to hear it for yourself.


SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: The idea that Secretary Tillerson is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical. It is the job of Security Mattis as secretary of defense to talk about the military options.


BURNETT: I mean, that's pretty shocking.


BURNETT: And by the way, just to be clear, he went on the BBC --


BURNETT: -- to slam the American secretary of state and say that he was nonsensical.

CILLIZZA: Basically not his business.


CILLIZZA: Mind your own business, play over there. Yes, Donald Trump has put a structure in place in his White House that allows this sort of thing.

There has always been in every White House. We saw this with the Obama White House, the Bush White House, the Clinton White House, a level of creative tension.

The Vice President Joe Biden didn't always agree with what Barack Obama did. Sometimes we heard more about that, sometimes less. Gay marriage being a prominent example.

So this happens. But when you have a staffer telling a cabinet secretary to sort of be quiet -- and by the way, diplomacy in military --

BURNETT: Supposedly they're saying diplomacy is supposed to be what you would like to exhaust before you go to --

CILLIZZA: Right, exactly.

BURNETT: So one would think you would be at the tip of the spear.

CILLIZZA: They would certainly work in -- you would think they would work together. And again, don't underestimate. This is a staffer, right. There are ranks within the White House.

A cabinet official should not typically be told what to do by a staffer or a staffer wouldn't do that. But this is Trump, this is Trump's world. You do and you say kind of what you want, and he likes to fight it out.

BURNETT: And he likes it to be in public. I mean, Kori, you know, here is another thing. So you have that sort of shocking thing happening between Sebastian Gorka and Rex Tillerson.

[19:25:04] You then have -- you know, the president who has been roundly criticized for his words, "fire and fury", doubling down today, and in fact saying that a lot of people were complimenting him. Here is what he said at the press conference.


TRUMP: If anything, maybe that statement wasn't tough enough. And we're backed by 100% by our military. We're backed by everybody. And we're backed by many other leaders.

And I noticed that many senators and others today came out very much in favor of what I said.


BURNETT: And by the way, Kori, even though he has been criticized, Senator Rubio who often criticizes the president did come out in his favor today. He tweeted, "Attacks on POTUS for statements on North Korea nukes are ridiculous. They act as if North Korea would act different if he used nicer words."

Obviously ,the president has been slammed, though, by someone like John McCain. But Kori, do you think that the tide is turning, that people are going to now start to turn and support Trump on this, his words?

SCHAKE: No. I actually think one consequence of the president's choice not to make much effort since last November to build national unity. And to talk quite a lot of nonsense in the meantime on a wide range of subjects will make it very difficult for him to have a conversation with the American people that unifies us behind a potential war effort against North Korea.

I actually think that's going to be a real challenge for the president given the way he has governed.

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

And next, breaking news, Trump breaking his silence on the FBI raid on Paul Manafort's home. Is he defending the man who chaired his campaign or dumping him?

And then, Trump versus McConnell. Why is the Senate majority leader the president's latest punching bag? He slammed him today.


[19:30:23] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news, President Trump speaking out about the FBI raid of home of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

When asked by reporters today during his prolonged press conference what he thought of the dramatic early morning raid of Manafort's Virginia home, the president said this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought it was a very, very strong signal or whatever. I know Mr. Manafort. I haven't spoken to him in a long time, but I know him. He was with the campaign, as you know, for a very short period of time, relatively short period of time, but I've always known him for a good man. I thought it was a very, you know -- they do that very seldom, so I was surprised to see it.


BURNETT: This comes as we're learning more about what investigators are actually looking for. As it comes to Manafort, Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT with that.

And, Pam, I know you have new reporting about Manafort and the state of the investigation.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. In fact, we've learned, Erin, that Paul Manafort's son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai met with federal investigators just in recent months, according to two people familiar with the matter. And we've learned from one of the sources that he actually turned over documents and provided information to federal investigators in New York. And we're also told that these investigators were seeking cooperation related to the investigation into Paul Manafort, including with possible tax violations, possible money laundering with his business dealings in the Ukraine with pro-Russia parties.

Now, it's unclear if any of the information Yohai provided is useful for that case, for Manafort's investigation. But all that information has now been passed over to Robert Mueller, of course, who is overseeing the special counsel probe.

It's important to point out here that Mueller has not asked for documents or has even interviewed Paul Manafort. As you know, as we've reported, FBI agents executed a search warrant on his home in late July looking for tax records, financial documents, but they haven't actually reached out to Mueller himself. Mueller as well as Yohai have not been accused of any wrongdoing and their attorneys declined to comment.

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

And OUTFRONT now, Michael Zeldin, CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor, and Robert Mueller's former special assistant at the Department of Justice, along with John Dean, our contributor and former Nixon White House counsel.

Michael, let me start with you.

Knowing what you know about Mueller and the Democratic of Justice, let's start with the breaking news here that Pam was sharing. What do you make about the fact that the DOJ was meeting with Manafort's son- in-law?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Manafort's son-in-law seems to be offering free pieces of information that are very important. First is they're saying tax. Second, they're saying money laundering. And third, they're saying real estate.

And all three of those things are important problems for Manafort. The tax is the Foreign Accounting Tax Act that requires you to report foreign accounts. The money laundering is also foreign account based activity for his company Davis Manafort International in the Ukraine. And then the real estate is what's under investigation by the attorney general of New York, where they use shell companies to buy high end real estate.

So, I think Yohai has offered them a lot of information relevant to money laundering and tax prosecutable offenses. So, it's an important development, that piece of information, and it may well have been information that led to Mueller seeking a search warrant.

BURNETT: So, which is interesting. You know, you go for a search warrant, I know, John. You know, we were talking about this last night. You were saying it's a big deal. You do it when you think there's something there.

And here is more of what the president said, you know, reacting to it publicly for the first time, right? Someone said, what do you think about the FBI's early morning raid on Paul Manafort's home? And here is the president in that press conference today responding.


TRUMP: I've always found Paul Manafort to be a very decent man, and he's like a lot of other people, probably makes consultant fees from all over the place. Who knows? I don't know. But I thought that was a very -- that was pretty tough stuff. To wake him up, perhaps his family was there. I think that's pretty tough stuff.


BURNETT: John, what do you think he's saying there? Tough stuff, consultant fees, but he's a decent man? What do you think the president is saying?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think he's sending a number of messages. He's correct it's tough stuff. As I said last night, it's unprecedented and presidential related investigation to have a raid of this nature, there -- I can find none in history.

But what I think he's also signaling that Manafort is somebody he wants to send a good signal to. I don't think he's going to start passing out pardons yet.

[19:35:04] But I think he is collecting his information and trying to figure out where this might go. So he's sending mixed responses here.

BURNETT: Michael, you know, obviously, we all know there would be a bipartisan firestorm if the president were to fire the special counsel and there are have been times, right, that's been kind of dangled out by administration officials as something that he was considering and they were trying to tamp down. The president answered the question tonight and he was very definitive about firing Mueller.

Here he is.


TRUMP: I haven't given it any thought. I mean, I've been reading about it from you people. You say I'm going to dismiss him. No, I'm not dismissing anybody.


BURNETT: Do you believe him, Michael?

ZELDIN: Well, actually he can't dismiss Mueller, only Rosenstein can dismiss Mueller. And Rosenstein can only dismiss Mueller for cause. And so, if the president orders Rosenstein to fire Mueller without cause and Rosenstein declines to do that or does it because he feels he has an obligation to the president to do that, then I think we're in constitutional crisis mode. And John can talk well about constitutional crisis modes where you start firing special counsel.

BURNETT: So, John, the president also commented on the investigations on the Hill. The investigation, you know, from all the different committees into all things Russia. And he talked extensively about it. Here is the conclusion that he says is very clear.


TRUMP: I also want the Senate and the house to come out with their findings. Now, judging from the people leaving the meetings, leaks -- but they leave the meetings all the time and they say, no, we haven't found any collusion. There is no -- there is no collusion. You know why? Because I don't speak to Russians.



DEAN: Well, I think he's trying to dismiss the Russian investigation. It's clear from this press conference also that he thinks that if Russia is seen as influencing the election in any way, it soils his own victory. So, he's trying to dismiss it and diminish what the impact of this might be.

But there's a lot packed into that press conference that's most striking to me was the way he put the lie to a number of his lawyers.

BURNETT: What, the lie to a number of his lawyers?

DEAN: What he did is, for example, he said that he hadn't passed any notes to Mueller when his lawyer John Dowd had made the point of exactly saying that. It had been widely reported. So he's, again, keeping us all off guard he on what he thinks is true and what we know is true.

BURNETT: And when you point out that he also wanted to talk about how Russia had nothing to do with the election, that he clearly feels that that taints his victory, he did talk about that. Let me play that, Michael.


TRUMP: There is no collusion. You know why? Because I don't speak to Russians. Look, I won because I suppose I was a much better candidate than her.

I won because I went to Wisconsin. I went to Michigan. I won Pennsylvania. I fought a smart battle. That's why I won.

I didn't win because of Russia. Russia hl nothing to do with me winning. The thing that -- we had a great team and I guess I did a good job.


BURNETT: It's clear, Michael, part of his issue with this is he does feel it diminishes and taints his win.

ZELDIN: That's right. It is something that has pestered him since his election victory.

I don't understand it. He won. He won the states that he said he won. Maybe he won because he had a better economic message than Secretary Clinton. I think it's time for him to move beyond it.

However, for him to say that he's had no financial dealings with the Russians is not objectively true from what we can determine. It seems to me that he has had financial dealings with the Russians, and his son has said so pointedly when he in 2008 during the financial crisis that they relied principally on Russian money for their high end New York and California and Florida properties.

So, it's just not a true statement that there's no contact with the Russians. Whether it impacted the outcome of election is -- that's what Mueller is determining. But it's just not a true statement. He has to be careful when he says things like that especially if he's put under oath.

BURNETT: There's things, of course, like Miss Universe and others.

Thank you both. Appreciate it.

And next breaking news, the president praising Vladimir Putin in his press conference. Once again, what did he say today?

And Trump can't stop talking about Mitch McConnell. Is the president wise to attack the person he needs the most to deliver his promises?


[19:43:15] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump tonight praising Vladimir Putin, thanking the Russian president for expelling hundreds of American diplomats. Putin's move retaliating for the U.S. imposing new sanctions against Moscow. Here is the president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank him because we're trying to cut down on payroll, and as far as I'm concerned, I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people, because now we have a smaller payroll. There's no real reason for them to go back. So I greatly appreciate the fact that they've been able to cut our payroll for the United States. We'll save a lot of money.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, the Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, member of the Judiciary and Armed Services Committee, of course, as part of Judiciary, part of the Russia investigation.

At the end there, it seemed to me he was clearly cracking a smile. But what's your reaction to what he said to Vladimir Putin?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: My reaction is, again, what kind of strategy is reflected in that remark? What kind of signal is he sending to our allies with the intelligence community that he seemingly is not taking seriously a very serious action by Vladimir Putin, and one that may and probably should prompt some reaction from us? How does he then take stern and strong action in reaction to what Putin is doing when he is talking so facetiously about this.

BURNETT: Right. So, you're saying it's not a laughing matter. It may have seen funny but it's not a laughing matter.

BLUMENTHAL: Hardly a laughing matter when so many of our diplomats and a lot of them are Russian employees, but some of them are serious diplomats and perhaps intelligence community operatives.

BURNETT: That's right. Which, of course, we very much need there.

All right. So the president also commented on the raid of Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman. And this is the first time he's weighed in on this. Of course, significant news, predawn raid. I just want to play again what the president said, because it's a bit confusing and it might make a lot of sense to you.

[19:45:05] Here he is.


TRUMP: I thought it was a very, very strong signal or whatever. I know Mr. Manafort. I haven't spoken to him in a long time, but I know him. He was with the campaign as you know for a very short period of time, relatively short period of time. But I've always known him to be a good man.

I thought it was a very -- you know, they do that very seldom. So I was surprised to see it. He's like a lot of other people probably makes consultant fees from all over the place. Who knows? I don't know. But I thought that was a very -- it was a pretty tough stuff.


BURNETT: All right. What do you make of that? Is he defending Manafort or is he distance being himself from him?

By the way, he was the campaign chairman during the crucial, most crucial six, seven months of the campaign. So, that's a big ridiculous for him to say, you know, sort of barely was there. But how do you interpret it.

BLUMENTHAL: There's a lot packed into that statement. First of all, the president is absolutely right. It's a strong signal rarely taken. He used the word seldom and it's done only when a federal judge finds there is evidence of probable cause that a crime has been committed, a serious crime, that the person, Paul Manafort, is connected to that crime.

So, this step is profoundly serious, even stunning. And the president's, I think, recognizing that fact. For him to be dismissive of Paul Manafort's status in his campaign I think is very revealing, because he seems to be creating distance -- even though -- well, maybe especially because Paul Manafort was at that June 9th meeting with his son, Donald Trump Jr.


BLUMENTHAL: And Jared Kushner.

And additionally, Paul Manafort is associated deeply involved in financial dealings with the Russians. Seventeen-point-one million dollars is what Paul Manafort received, probably channeled through the party of regions and the former Ukraine dictator that the Russians supported and, of course, Donald Trump, the president, is trying to draw red lines around financial dealings. So, there is a lot going on in that statement.

BURNETT: And, you know, when you talk about this -- 20,000 pages have been turned over to your committee from the Trump campaign at this point that we understand to your committee, judiciary. Paul Manafort has given you about 400 pages. Donald Trump Jr. in that meeting with Manafort and the Russian lawyer, 250 pages. I know you're just starting to review some of this.

Have -- what have you seen in there that would indicate to you or have you seen anything, the FBI would do the first raid of this type in history as John Dean said?

BLUMENTHAL: Without going into what I have seen, again, what's been submitted so far, what's really profoundly significant about that FBI predawn raid not only seldom used but extraordinary is the distrust that it shows for Paul Manafort. So, whatever he's made available so far, whatever he's turned over, the FBI and the special counsel are saying in that raid, we don't think he can be trusted to be forthcoming, to be fully honest, and we think there's a danger of obstruction, possibly destruction of documents, and we need to show him how serious we are.

And all of this simply reaffirms the reasons that I fist called for a special counsel with these authorities.

BURNETT: So, in the documents that you've had, and I know they obviously -- you're not sharing documents with the FBI, right? So they're going to look for what they wanted. Have you gotten everything? Do you feel he has been forthcoming?

BLUMENTHAL: There is going to have to be an assessment very seriously, Erin. That's a key question. Whether he has been forthcoming, we hope perhaps we will get some guidance from the FBI, but I said for some time these documents need to be subpoenaed and they should have been subpoenaed. There was one, but it was withdrawn, and we need to now revisit whether in fact he has been fully forthcoming to the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee of the Senate will also want to go through the same exercise.

BURNETT: Before we go, the president commented on your committee's investigation, mentioned it by name. Here he is.


TRUMP: I also want the Senate and the House to come out with their findings. Now, judging from the people leaving the meetings, leaks, but they leave the meetings all the time and they say, no, we haven't found any collusion. There's no -- there is no collusion. You know why? Because I don't speak to Russians.


BURNETT: He says they leave the meetings all the time, they say we haven't found any collusion. There's no collusion. Is that what you say?

BLUMENTHAL: I hope maybe the president will tell us who he's talking about there, because he has the idea there's been no collusion, but that's hardly been the finding of anyone so far. In fact, the reason for the special counsel investigation, as well as our congressional investigations, is the evidence of collusion.

[19:50:08] Whether it involves Donald Trump or not, is a separate question.

But the collusion is under investigation. That apparently is probable cause of some criminal wrongdoing. Whether it's collusion or not is unknown at this point. But this investigation of the special counsel is widening and intensifying, progressing very aggressively. And my hope is that the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee will also progress when we come back in September.

BURNETT: All right. Senator, thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the president during his working vacation slamming Mitch McConnell, saying McConnell needs to get back to work. Is he attacking the one man whose support he must have?


BURNETT: Breaking news: President Trump today slamming the most powerful man on Capitol Hill, the Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

Here's President Trump at his press conference in Bedminster, New Jersey, late today.


TRUMP: I said, Mitch, let's get to work and let's get it done. They should have had this last one done. They lost by one vote. For a thing like that to happen is a disgrace.

I'm very disappointed in Mitch.


BURNETT: All right. This is all after McConnell said the president hadn't been in politics for long, so he has excessive expectations about how fast legislation can move.

OUTFRONT now, Jack Kingston, the former Georgia congressman and former senior adviser to the Trump campaign, and Doug Heye, Republican strategist and former RNC communications director.

Thanks to both.

Doug, let me start with you.


BURNETT: The president slamming McConnell today. That is the fifth time he has taken a swipe at McConnell in two days, OK? We're getting to Jeff Sessions' territory here. Does this motivate the majority leader, or does it get him to say, forget it, I'm sure not going to help you now?

HEYE: Well, I think what it does is it says to his members in the Senate and also to a lot of House Republicans, that this White House that they're at least privately wary about following on the Sessions attack is not doing what they need to do to help do all those things that Donald Trump wants to do.

[19:55:13] The infrastructure package, tax reform or passing the NDAA bill coming up, or passing all the things that the House is facing, the Senate's facing. We've got to shut down possibly looming. All those things they need to do, if we're not all moving forward together, if it's not all hands on deck, whether those are big hands or small hands, or whatever, we're not going to get them done. We need leadership from the president.

BURNETT: Congressman, McConnell's colleagues are coming to his defense again, much like we saw with Sessions today.

Senator Hatch tweeted: Senate Majority Leader has been the best leader we've had in my time in the Senate, through very tough challenges. I fully support him.

Hatch, of course, has been in the Senate for decades.

What happens here? Republican Senator Jeff Flake also coming out, we know, Congressman, he's been critical of the president. But Senate majority leader does a tough job well. He has my support.

Is the president making a mistake here, Congressman?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think he is at all. I think Mitch McConnell is a very tough man. He's pro. He's been there for many years, he's weathered these kind of storms.

I don't even think it's a very deep criticism. I think the two of them are just having this little exchange. But their futures, political futures are tied together. If Donald Trump succeeds, McConnell succeeds, Paul Ryan succeeds, Republicans in general have promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, they promised an infrastructure practice, they promised tax reform, and as Doug said, they've got appropriation bills.

The House is going to pass an eight-section appropriation bill the first week they're back in town, send it over to the Senate. They don't want to wait to Christmas Eve to get something done. So, I think all of the House Republicans, and the Senate Republicans know these are must-do items. It doesn't matter if they love each other or not, they've got to get it done.

BURNETT: OK. But when he said, I'm very disappointed in Mitch, and talks about losing health care by one vote, for a thing like that to happen is a disgrace -- you know, that's a pretty big slam when you're the guy who's job it was to get the votes.

But my question to you, Congressman, is it the president's he lost health care by two votes? Is he now just going to alienate more senators?

KINGSTON: No, he's not.

BURNETT: They don't want infrastructure. Maybe they're like, hey, you know what, forget your tax reform. It's not going to be what we want anyway. We're not going to give it to you.

KINGSTON: Well, you know, I was talking to somebody from Alabama who's been on the ground in the Luther Strange race down there.


KINGSTON: And they said among Republican primary voters, Trump approval rating is 80 percent. So, right now, you don't want to pick a fight with the president if you are a Republican who is facing potentially a primary opponent.

But, you know, one of the things that Mitch McConnell does not have that Paul Ryan does have is Paul Ryan can hand-pick his rules committee, he can decide when bills go to the floor, who's going to offer amendments and how long those amendments will be debated. Mitch McConnell does not have that.

So, he is right, that it's very, very difficult in a body of 100 independent contractors to get something done. But it's still in their political best interests for all three of these leaders to make these things happen.

BURNETT: What do you say, Doug?

HEYE: Well, I'd say two things. One, for the past five years we've seen two constants, one is that Republicans have been at each other's throats. Two, they haven't been able to do anything on Obamacare. I think the congressman will remember the House Republican retreat in 2014 and eastern tour of Maryland, not far from your neck of the woods, Erin.

We haven't been able to do this, and we've been at each other's throats constantly. There's one dynamic this year, that's President Trump. He needs to show leadership and get everybody moving forward together, or we'll have nothing to argue to the voters about, about how we're representing America.

BURNETT: Congressman, quickly, I mean, it's not just McConnell, now he went on today to threaten all Republicans in the Senate. Here he is.


TRUMP: So, we had two Republicans that went against us, which is very sad, I think. It's very, very sad for them.

There is still time to do the right thing. And for Senate Republicans, this is their chance to keep their promise.

And the Republicans, frankly, are putting themselves in a very bad position.


BURNETT: Congressman, I'm misspoke, those weren't today, over the last few months slamming Republicans. But you're saying the strategy is working. On the ground, 80 percent approval among base Republican voters.

KINGSTON: Yes. And I think the president is actually doing Mitch McConnell a favor because what he is saying is, you guys got to get behind Mitch McConnell. He's the leader. Our political fortunes are tied together. We've got to make these things happen.

BURNETT: Final word, Doug?

HEYE: Well, I think united we stand, divided we fall. We're divided right now. How do we pass these things if we don't unify.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both. I appreciate it very much.

HEYE: Thank you.

BURNETT: And thanks so much to all of you for joining us. We'll see you back here, same time, same place tomorrow night.

"AC360" with Anderson Cooper begins right now.


A very big night. If the president ever writes one of those "what I did on my summer vacation" essays, he'll have plenty of material today. Just today alone, he escalated his tough talk in North Korea twice and North Korea has a new threat as well.

He continued to smack down the top Republican in the Senate, the guy who's supposed to be his key ally.