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Trump Takes Both Sides Amid Bannon's War With GOP; Trump Falsely Accuses Obama Of Not Calling Slain Soldiers' Families; WH Claims Corporate Tax Cuts Benefit Workers. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 16, 2017 - 19:00   ET


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- is that those water will also prevent more people from assessing.

[19:00:04] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's hope for the best. Ed Lavandera in Puerto Rico, thanks very much.

That's it for me. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next, Steve Bannon wreaking havoc in the GOP, whispering in the president ear as Trump is trying to play nice in front of the Jordan leader.

Plus, who is behind those mysterious sonic attacks on Americans? President Trump today says Cuba is to blame but is that the truth?

And (INAUDIBLE) people threw rolls of paper towels when he visited this Puerto Rican town. Tonight, we go back and ask, did Trump's team deliver all the help they promised?

Let's go OutFront.

Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, Bannon is back. The former chief strategist who President Trump fired from the White House is as influential as ever tonight. Bannon says, he's declaring war on the GOP and today, Trump appeared to take Bannon's side against the Republican Party.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a friend of mine and he's very committed to getting things passed. I mean, look, I have -- you know, despite what the press writes, I have great relationships with many senators but in particular with most Republican senators. But we're not getting the job done.

And I'm not going to blame myself, I'll be honest. They are not getting the job done. And I can understand where Steve Bannon's coming from.


BURNETT: Well, Trump's endorsement of Bannon coming just hours before he admitted he can't control Bannon. In fact for a president so quick to bully and berate, he said he'd have to ask Bannon to reconsider his war with some members of the GOP. Here is the president on Bannon a few hours after what you just heard.


TRUMP: Steve is been a friend of mine for a long time. I like Steve a lot. Steve is doing what Steve thinks is the right thing. Some of the people that he may be looking at, I'm going to see if we can talk him out of that because frankly they're great people.


BURNETT: Talking about asking Bannon to back off his war against the establishment GOP doesn't seem like a winning strategy, though. Asking, because here is Bannon.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Right now, it's a season of war against a GOP establishment. This is not my war. This is our war.

And you all didn't start it. The establishment started it. Yes Mitch, the donors are not happy, they've all left you. We cut your off again off, Mitch.


BURNETT: Well, the Mitch he's referring to is of course the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And while Bannon is trying to leave McConnell politically dead, Trump today is trying to have it both ways, snuggling up to McConnell as well who seem to, well, for McConnell, eat up.


TRUMP: My relationship with this gentleman is outstanding, has been outstanding.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We've been friends and acquaintances for a long time. We talk frequently.


BURNETT: OutFront now is Jeff Zeleny. So Jeff, let's start with Steve Bannon. He seems to have this hold on Trump. What is the situation?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, there's no question that the president has this unique relationship with Steve Bannon. Of course he helped him get elected but he is no longer in his orbit.

So the president was -- I was struck today, was really walking a fine line. In fact, he was on both sides of the line, in one respect defending what Steve Bannon is doing but then again, saying that look, he may support some of these Republican senators.

So Erin, the bottom line is this, President Trump will have to make a decision whether he wants to support what Steve Bannon is doing by putting his own political capital on the line against some of these Republican Senate primaries. But the reality here, the Republican senators who have voted against some of the president's policies are not up for re-election next year. The people Steve Bannon is talking about going against actually have been supportive of this president.

So, I'm here in Greenville, South Carolina, the president is actually here doing a fundraiser for a gubernatorial candidate. He is going do have to make the decision if he's going to side with the establishment, Mitch McConnell who he needs to get tax reform done, or if he's going to be an outside with Bannon.

So, he's trying the both ways. We'll see how (INAUDIBLE).

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much Jeff. And I want to go now to Bill Kristol, editor-at-large of the Weekly Standard and former chief of staff to V.P Quayle, Kirsten Powers, USA Today columnist, and Mark Preston, our senior political analyst. Thanks to all.

Bill, you're with me so let's start here. Steve Bannon is out for war. He's saying someone else caused it, whatever, it's a civil war. Here he is on Fox News.


BANNON: There's a coalition coming together that's going to challenge every Republican except for Ted Cruz.


BURNETT: I mean, if he succeeds at taking out even some of those Republicans, right, he can rip apart the GOP. He could even frankly deliver a whole lot of seats to Democrats because you got more extreme candidates running versus a more moderate Republican. Force for good or bad within the GOP?

BILL KRISTOL, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT DAN QUAYLE: Well, there's a real civil war in the party and it can't be stop. I mean, it's not just Steve Bannon, there are going to be primaries and almost against most Republican incumbent -- incumbent Republican senators, and a lot of the seats Republicans were hoping to take over, and there will be serious primaries, well funded on both sides.

[19:05:16] Trump is in an excellent position. Jeff Zeleny says he's trying to have it both ways. Sort of implying I thought that while you can't really have both ways, Trump can have it both ways.

He's now in a position where the established Republicans desperately need Trump to protect them from the Bannonites, from the insurgents, or at least try to. It didn't quite work with Luther Strange in Alabama.

But if you are an establishment Republican that's being challenge, you want Trump coming into your state and doing phone calls saying, John Barrasso is great, he's a loyal supporter of mine in Wyoming. And -- but on the other side, you need the insurgents to keep the guys off balance. The insurgents would feel that's great for Trump, he goes around -- I mean, more wins is actually going to be a trumpy kind of senator.

So Trump is enjoying keeping everyone off balance. I don't think it's the right way to govern. But in terms of his own ability to keep these senators kind of dancing to his tune, I don't think Trump is being entirely stupid here.

BURNETT: Sort of the puppeteer.


BURNETT: I mean, Mark the thing is this, when Trump disagrees with someone, he usually does so loudly, angrily in a bullying manner, OK? But that is not true with Steve Bannon. He almost seems afraid of him.

I'm going to talk to him about a few of those people. You know, he seems he's very careful and differential.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He certainly is Erin, and I think Trump -- President Trump understands that Steve Bannon understands how to reach out to the grassroots, how to get a grassroots audience who are disaffected, who are angry, who sees the establishment as the problem in Washington, and he knows how to get the pitchforks out, much like President Trump does.

Now, they are kindred spirit when it comes to that. But where they are going to have to separate eventually down the road is that, Donald Trump is not an ideologue, Steve Bannon is. Steve Bannon wants to rip apart the Republican Party to try to rebuild it in his image of what the Republican Party should look like.

Donald trump doesn't care about the Republican Party, Donald Trump cares about legacies, Donald Trump cares about wins. When we saw him standing next to Mitch McConnell today, that was very important for Mitch McConnell. It was very important for Donald Trump as well because he's not going to be able to get anything through Congress unless he has a good working relationship with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.

BURNETT: I mean, Kirsten, here's the question, you know, as Mark points out, right. Cozying up to Bannon but -- I mean, this business with McConnell today, look, they have been feuding behind the scenes as we know aggressively. You know, there was the tweet if you remember in August, "Can you believe Mitch McConnell who has screamed repeal and replace for seven years couldn't get it done. Must repeal and replace ObamaCare."

And that came after a phone call Kirsten which we (INAUDIBLE) -- we reported, sorry developed into a complete shouting match between the majority leader and the president. Will Mitch McConnell sign on? I mean, he's got to know Trump is doing this nice act to get tax reform? Does McConnell care?

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Well, I mean, look, the Republicans have their own interest in tax reform, and I think that with the president they have to basically align their interests. And they do have I think similar interests in this case of wanting to see something get done.

I do think that the president while may not be ideological, I think he is sort of more aligned with Bannon's way of thinking about things. And I think that Bannon is more his kind of person, the more bombastic, the more disruptive kind of person, the anti-establishment person. Trump's entire campaign was anti-establishment in case, you know, the establishment didn't notice.

That was basically what he was running on and who he was running against. And so, while, you know, Bill's saying, he can't have it both ways, I'm not so sure about that. Because if you look what happened, you know, in Alabama, I think it made the president look a little bit weak, when he goes out and throws his weight behind the incumbent and the incumbent losses.

BURNETT: So Bill, I want to also ask tonight about something that the president is facing criticism for today. This is something the president said today which was false. Here he is when he was asked about his public silence thus far on the four American soldiers killed in Niger.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why haven't we heard anything from you so far about the four soldiers that were killed in Niger?

TRUMP: I've written down personal letters, they've been sent or they're going out tonight but they were during the weekend. I will at some point during the period of time call the parents and the families because I have done that traditionally.

Now, it gets to a point where, you know, you make four or five of them in one day, is very, very tough day. For me, that's by far the toughest. So the traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls.


BURNETT: All right, it turns out that accusation about President Obama not calling soldiers' families is false. And the president was called out on that. Here's that exchange.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Earlier, you said President Obama never called the families of fallen soldiers. How can you make that claim?

[19:10:03] TRUMP: I don't know if he did. No, no. I was told that he didn't often, and a lot of presidents don't. President Obama I think probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn't. I don't know. That's what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals.



KRISTOL: I mean, how unbelievable is that? He (INAUDIBLE) President Obama's sort of (INAUDIBLE) but he's asked, what are you basing that on. Well, I don't know, he literally says. I don't know, I was kind of told this, maybe he did, maybe he didn't.

And then it gets back to Trump again. I mean, it's all about him. But it's really disgraceful, I think. And then he said at one point, all I can do is ask my generals.

Did the generals tell him falsely? I don't believe so. That President Obama didn't write letters and make phone calls. What's the thing about some presidents didn't do anything. I mean, he just routinely denigrates the office of the presidency, denigrates his predecessors but no basis.

It's not a question about comparing himself -- you realize the question had nothing to do with President Obama.


KRISTOL: The question is why you haven't said something about the soldiers --

BURNETT: Probably about the four American soldiers, you know.

KRISTOL: -- who died in Africa. And he could have easily have said, look, I'm writing letters, I'm talking to them. I mean, there's a dignified answer he could have given which would not -- and pay tribute to the soldiers, pay tribute to those fighting for our country, for their families, period.

He just can't resist trying to justify himself, by denigrating his predecessors, in this case, falsely. And then denigrating every other president it seems that went before him. And then blaming it on people who told him this and the generals. I'd like to know what generals. I want to ask President Trump, What generals did you hear this from?

I don't think he heard it from General Kelly, I don't think he heard it from General Mattis, I don't think he heard it from General McMaster.

BURNETT: It's pretty stunning, Mark.

PRESTON: I mean, it's very stunning and Bill is right. You know, for him to say, I heard it from my generals. Well, guess what, the defense secretary is not going to come out and say that he never told President Trump that. You know, you're not going to see his chief of staff, another general come out and say, you know, I never told President Trump that.

What he's doing here is that he's deflecting the fact that he has waited so long to actually contact these families. And if you look at these news conferences today, the earlier one where he said, I'm not going to take responsibility for the fact that no legislation is getting done on Capitol Hill, that's on the Senate.

And here we go with this one as well. I'm not taking responsibility for reaching out to these people, because other presidents probably didn't as well either.

BURNETT: Kirsten, final word to you?

POWERS: Yes, I mean, I think Bill really summed it up well of how disgraceful it is, and how he does frequently say he heard things. This time he claims from a general, but I think probably someone on a blog somewhere wrote this or on Twitter or something like that. And then somehow he repeats it as news or like he got it from somebody in the White House which we know that he didn't.

BURNETT: That certainly because let's just be honest, impossible to imagine that any general in this country would say any such thing.

KRISTOL: He's only the president of the United States so he has no obligation to actually say something that's truthful. And respectful of his predecessors and respectful of the very difficult task presidents have of talking to families.

I mean, instead of -- I think he could have given a nice answer that would have reassured Americans, that he cared a lot about our soldiers in overseas. Instead, he turns it into this ridiculous sort of drive by attack on President Obama.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much so all of you.

And next, Trump calls his tax plan a middle-class miracle. And today, he is giving us a time line. When is it going to pass? So who is by the way is going to get this miraculous windfall? We'll see the math.

Plus, no one is sure who's behind those so called attacks on U.S. diplomats in Cuba. Well, one person apparently tonight is sure, the president.


TRUMP: I do believe Cuba's responsible. I do believe that.


BURNETT: But are they?

And here's the president celebrating his post hurricane response to Puerto Rico. CNN returned to the same town where he threw out those paper towels today, and we're going to show you what's happened in the days since he visited.


[19:17:38] BURNETT: New tonight, tax reform by the end of the year. President Trump has failed to get rid of ObamaCare, build a wall or deal with immigration. Of course, all he's got are executive orders, which have done plenty but they mean nothing when it comes to taxes. And tonight, Trump says tax reform is going to happen in the next two months.


TRUMP: If we get it done, that's a great achievement. But don't forget, it took years for the Reagan administration to get taxes done. I've been here for nine months.

I really believe that we have a very good chance. And Mitch feels the same way of getting the taxes done, hopefully fairly long before the end of the year.


BURNETT: Fairly long before the end of the year? Look, it's already the middle of October. This comes as the White House vows that its tax plan which Trump has called the middle-class miracle.

They say it's going to boost the average American paycheck by at least $4,000 a year. Not by cutting their taxes though, actually by cutting the tax on corporations from 35 to 20 percent. They say that companies are going to pass that money along.

Let's be clear though, it is impossible for this tax cut to not benefit the wealthy. That is because you can pitch a corporate tax cut as a boost for the middle-class all you want but this tax cut is about the rich.

Here's the facts. The top 20 percent of American earners will pay 95 percent of all income taxes this year. And the top one percent alone will pay nearly half of all taxes. So the tax cut definitely is going to help them.

OutFront now, former senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign Steve Moore, and former U.S. Labor secretary Robert Reich.

So Robert, look, the facts are the facts. You can't have a massive tax cut and not have it help the wealthy because they pay most of the taxes. Is it going to do more to help them than it will the middle class?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Of course it will, Erin. In fact, every analysis -- I mean, the math unit is just the straightforward math. But even if you get into the details and look at the alternative minimum tax and you look at the state tax, repeal that they want, and you look at the -- they're lowering the top marginal tax and they're providing a pass through tax for corporations and for partnerships.

I mean, look at it over and over again, what they're doing is creating a huge windfall for the wealthy. Everybody knows this. I mean, this is one of those absurd lies that they are perpetuating. They say over and over again where most of the public gets it.

I mean, this is nothing but a payoff to the big patrons, the big donors, the Republican Party. It's what they've been aiming for all along.

[19:20:02] They really have not -- they don't care about the wall, they don't care about immigration, they don't care about DACA, they don't care about anything. What they want is a huge tax cut, that's why they put this administration and the Republicans into power. And that's what they are focusing on.

BURNETT: And Steve, because here's the thing I don't get. You know, you can talk all you want about what percent of a tax cut to corporations goes to this group versus that group. Fine. But if you really want to help the middle class, why don't you just cut their taxes. Why do we need to rely on this derivative while I'm going to cut corporate taxes so some of it is going to trickle done, right?

I mean, why?

STEPHEN MOORE, FORMER ECONOMICS ADVISER, 2016 TRUMP CAMPAIGN: To grow the economy, Erin. And by the way, the average family, you know, if you have an income of between 50 and $90,000 of income, you'll save about $2,500 a year on your taxes, because remember this plan doubles the standard deduction. So that's a big cut and in fact, you know, you were showing those statistics earlier about the percentage of taxes paid by the top one percent. You're right, that's amazing isn't it that the top one percent pay, you know, between 40 and 45 percent of the tax.

I mean, we have a highly, highly progressive tax system. No country in the world relies on the top one percent more than we do. Now, the idea here is -- and now look, Bob Reich may disagree with this but I think there are a lot of economists who do agree that our corporate tax rates -- and by the way not just corporations, let's not forget, Erin that this plan -- I helped devise it, I help put it together for Trump during the campaign. It would cut the tax for millions -- there's 27 million small businesses in this country. They employ, you know, well over half of the workers in this country.

It provides a tax reduction for them so they can invest more on their businesses, hire more workers. Yes, Bob Reich even paid their workers more. If we have a tax code that is sending companies and corporations, you reported on this Erin, these companies are leaving the United States, we've seen companies as epic as Burger King leave the United States because of the high tax rate. We think we can bring them back, and Bob, that's good for jobs.

REICH: Steve, if I may, Erin. You just made several assertions that are completely, if you don't mind my saying so, are completely wrong. I mean, first of all, we don't have all that much of a progressive tax system because you're not including the payroll tax, and you're not including state taxes and you're not including all kinds of sales taxes. I mean, if you look at the total taxes Americans pay, it's not the top one percent. I mean, the average person in America is overtaxed. The top has never had as much wealth and as much income as they have now, and they are under taxed. Their tax rate has steadily dropped from what it was in the 1950s under Dwight Eisenhower.

The top marshall tax rates was 91 percent, Steve. And we didn't do so badly in the 1950s. In fact, the American economy grew much, much faster --

BURNETT: OK, you're looking for 91 percent tax rate?

REICH: No, I'm not. Erin, I'm not. No, I was using that as an example of how absurd it is to argue right now that the top are overtaxed when they are taxed at a mere fraction of what they used to be, and the other point -- yes?

BURNETT: OK, I just want to get on this, this point though about the middle class, and how much they're going to get as a tax cut, because a lot of this is going to come down to that, right? The chair of President Trump's council on economic advisers Kevin Hassett did a study. And his whole point is, you know, if you cut the corporate tax rate as they're planning to do, the 20 percent, you're going to raise the median income in the United States by at least $3,000.

All right, that's real money if he's right. The median income in 2016 was about $59,000 so that would bring next year's median to $62,000. Thanks to corporate taxes. I hear Steve saying uh-huh, uh-huh, OK. But --

MOORE: By the way, Erin, I don't think that would happen right away. I mean, it takes some time for that tax --

REICH: It takes about -- it will take about 40 years.


BURNETT: Let me finish my point (INAUDIBLE) to get a chance to respond. So because that look like a lot of money, I look at what has happened to the median in the last couple years and here's what I found. 2014, 50 -- just shy of $54,000, 2015 just shy of $57,000.

If you look at the years that we just see in 2014, in 2015, in 2016, it's going up $3,000 a year.


BURNETT: Steve, that's what (INAUDIBLE) so they're trying to say, oh, this tax cut is going to get $3,000, they're already getting 3,000. That would mean this tax cut is not a good idea.

MOORE: Erin, that's a highly misleading. It is true the last two years of the Obama administration the median income went up, but it went way, way down in the first six years of the Obama administration. So much so --

REICH: Because we had a financial crisis.


MOORE: We had a recession but it took six years -- and that first six years that Obama was in office, the wages fell.

BURNETT: But if people are getting that increase now, why are you selling them on the tax cuts (INAUDIBLE).

MOORE: Because we want people to have bigger increases in their income. I mean, look, it's very simple --

REICH: But they're not.

MOORE: Unless you have healthy businesses, you don't have healthy jobs. If corporations are more profitable and they have more money, guess what, they will invest in more factories.

REICH: Erin, here's the big difference between Steve and me because I'm looking at history, and the corporations have never done as well as they are doing now.

[19:25:02] They have huge profits, where are those profits going, they are not going into wages, they're not going to jobs, they're going into executive pay and they're going to shareholders. The top one percent of America has a huge percentage of the total shares of shares of stock in this country.

The way you create jobs is you give more money -- you've actually have bigger wages, higher wages, higher minimum wage, better education, better infrastructure, so you're more productive. Your people are more productive. They get more money for their work and they can turn around and buy stuff and that creates an incentive for companies to create more jobs. That is the way the economy works.

MOORE: We did increase the minimum wage under Barack Obama, we did increase the taxes on the top one percent under Barack Obama, and it was the worst recovery we've ever had from a recession.


BURNETT: -- for his last two years as president.

MOORE: No, the last two years had a big increase, but over the last 15 years and this includes the Bush years, there has been no real increase in wages and salaries to the average worker for 15 years. We raise the minimum wage.


BURNETT: All right, I have to leave it here.

REICH: This is really, really important. I have to say this.

BURNETT: I have to leave it here.


REICH: Look at the past 44 years, 1972 to 2016, and the average typical American is actually adjusted for inflation, is making less today than was making in 1972, with all of the tax cuts from Reagan and from Bush.

BURNETT: All right. We will continue this conversation. And on the truth or truthiness of lack there of, thank you both.

MOORE: -- we're going to get it done. I think Trump is right --

REICH: The truth and fact from Stephen Moore.

BURNETT: Next, President Trump says the Cuban Government is to blame for the attacks on U.S. diplomats. But, is that true?

And Trump famously celebrated his response to Hurricane Maria in this town in Puerto Rico. So today we went back to find, yes, they maybe have some paper towels, but guess what, still no power, still no clean water.


[19:30:26] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news, President Trump blaming Cuba for the mysterious attack on at least 22 American diplomats and family members, leaving some victims with brain injuries and severe hearing loss.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do believe Cuba's responsible. I do believe that. And it's a very unusual attack, as you know. But I do believe Cuba is responsible.


BURNETT: Cuba, of course, has denied any involvement. And this is as close as the Trump administration has come to saying Cuba carried out the attack.

OUTFRONT now, the Democratic Senator Mark Warner, who is a ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

And, Senator, I appreciate your time. You know, do you agree with the president's assessment? That Cuba is responsible for this attack?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), RANKING MEMBER, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Erin, we don't know yet, we do know that a number of American diplomats have been injured, and as you mentioned, some of them quite seriously. We also know that it is absolutely critical that Cuba does more to try to investigate the source of this attack, if they themselves were not the culprits.

It is responsible -- it's responsibility of any country, it's responsibility of America to try to help keep Cuban diplomats safe in this country. It's equally important that the Cubans try to keep our American diplomats safe.

And the fact that we still don't know, many weeks after this kind of attack, sometimes using sonic waves, some people have presumed, that we don't know the actual source is very disturbing.

BURNETT: And when we talk about the actual source, obviously, there's been speculation that, say, Russia which has a close relationship with Cuba, could actually be -- who is responsible for this. Do you think that that is the case?

WARNER: Again, unlike the president, I'm not going to lay out or assess blame until we actually have the facts before us. But what I would acknowledge is that it is the responsibility of a host nation, any host nation that hosts other country's diplomats to do all they can to help protect those diplomats. And if there's some kind of incident as they clearly was an incident in Havana, that they work very collaboratively with us, to find out, if not them, who was the source of this incident.

BURNETT: You know, the motive of the attacks and the method are still a mystery. They, of course, as I mentioned, have caused brain injuries, life long disability for some of the victims.

"The Associated Press", Senator, obtained a recording of the sounds that some U.S. diplomats claim to have heard. Experts say this version is not damaging to play in short clips because the volume is not damaging. So, I want viewers to know this won't hurt you. But this is -- to give you an understanding of what happened, and I want to play it.


BURNETT: Senator, what do you think the purpose is here? Again, if this was something like Russia, is it retaliation to the U.S.? Or is it a dry run for something else that could be much bigger?

WARNER: Erin, again, I don't know. Unlike the president, I'm not going to speculate about motives until I get my facts. I feel that's important to not always shoot from the hip on issues that are important as this.

So, clearly, there was an incident. We've got to put our abilities to find out what happened. But also, we do need the cooperation and greater collaboration from the Cubans. If they didn't do it, they need to be in there helping us investigate and find out who did.

BURNETT: Senator, your colleague Bob Corker, the senator, is in a war of words with the president as you know. Senator Corker referred to the White House as an adult day-care center, accusing the president of being reckless enough to possibly cause World War III. Most recently, he accused the president of castrating his secretary of state. He told "The Washington Post" and I quote, you cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state without giving yourself that binary choice. The binary choice to which he was referring was war or letting Iran and North Korea get nuclear weapons. This weekend, Senator, the Secretary of State Tillerson responded to

Corker's comment it was in an interview with Jake Tapper. Here he is.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: He said, the president has, quote, castrated you before the world stage. That's his word, not mine. What's your response to that?

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, as I indicated earlier, Jake, I think this is an unconventional president.

TAPPER: You have a cattle ranch. You don't want to say anything about the senator calling -- suggesting you've been gelded before the world? It's not anything that bothers you?

TILLERSON: I checked. I'm fully intact.


BURNETT: Senator, what does this say? When these are serious questions, and that actually aired on television?

WARNER: Well, again, I don't want to sound like the secretary of state, but I would agree with him on this case.

[19:35:01] This president is unconventional and I think many of his policies are not well suited for keeping our country in its preeminent position, frankly for that matter, in certain places, keeping our country safe.

And there's very few senators in either party that I have more respect for than Bob Corker.

BURNETT: And so, you're not concerned at all about the level of discourse or adult day care, castrate, the use of any of those words?

WARNER: Well, again, they're not the kind of words that I might use, but Senator Corker is somebody who's been a great friend of mine since the first day I came to the Senate, we worked on a ton of bipartisan legislation together. And I would again simply cite back that it seemed like this spat started with some of President Trump's, again, inappropriate tweets. I think there's an awful lot of folks here on Capitol Hill, both Democrats and Republicans that wish the president would stay a little more focused on national policy and a little less time on Twitter.

BURNETT: You know, today, he was -- during his press conference -- asked about the Russia investigation, Senator. And I just want to play for you how the president responded and get your reaction. Here he is.


TRUMP: The whole Russia thing was an excuse for the Democrats losing the election. There's been absolutely no collusion. It's been stated they have no collusion. They ought to get to the end of it because I think the American public is sick of it.


BURNETT: What's your response? The Americans are sick of it?

WARNER: Well, that's not what I hear from my constituents, that's not what I hear when I travel the country. They want us to find the proof. And the proof we know is that Russia desperately tried to influence our elections. We know the Department of Homeland Security, the president's own Department of Homeland Security has notified 21 states that their election systems the Russians attempted to tamper with.

We know and now have coming forward, Facebook, Twitter and now Google showing that Russians either through the purchase of advertising or through fake accounts tried to influence our elections and sow chaos. The question about collusion is still an open question. But that is something that this investigation has got to go ahead, find the facts, and provide those facts to the American public.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you so much, Senator Warner. I appreciate your time as always, sir.

WARNER: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, President Trump threatening the total termination of the Iran deal. And breaking news, a new CNN poll this moment showing Trump's approval rating for how he's handled the hurricane response. It's gone down 20 points in the past month.

The president, though, today saw it differently.


TRUMP: They gave us an A-plus for how we responded to the hurricane aftermath and that includes Puerto Rico.



[19:41:21] BURNETT: Breaking news, a major drop in approval for how President Trump is showing hurricane response. A new CNN poll tonight shows his approval falling 20 points since Hurricane Maria. And among nonwhite voters, only 25 percent are happy with the president's response.

That has not stopped President Trump from bragging about the response to the hurricane and blaming Puerto Rico for not getting clean water and food to people.


TRUMP: We've delivered tremendous amounts of water, then what you have to do is you have to have distribution of the water by the people on the island. So, we have massive amounts of water, we have massive amounts of food,

but they have to distribute the food, and they have to do this, they have to distribute the food to the people of the island.


BURNETT: This after CNN reports people are so desperate from water, they're getting it from potentially contaminated superfund sites.

Well, today, CNN's Bill Weir went to the town that President Trump visited two weeks ago. Remember this video when he was throwing up the paper towels to the people in the crowd. Well, Bill went back to find out what Trump's administration has actually done.

Bill Weir is OUTFRONT.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aside from one cluster of power line contractors working gamely in the rain, it's hard to see any signs of improvement in the highlands, just outside of San Juan. The roads still littered with Maria's debris are all the more treacherous at steady tropical downpour, as weeks worth of cleanup work can be undone in minutes.

(on camera): This literally just happened, within the last hour, a wall of fallen trees and pipes and cars came rushing down the hillside. And that mudslide made life all the more difficult for the people here because it took out this bridge. This bridge had been certified as safe recently. They had cleared this road. But now, the families that live on that side are completely cut off. They either have to hike over the mountain in this kind of weather for food and supplies, or ford this raging river.

What was it like watching it happen, were you afraid?

(voice-over): Everything I've been struggling for all my life, all of a sudden is gone, (INAUDIBLE) tells me. He restores Corvettes for a living, but now, his parched trailer is tossed. A few of his cars totaled by that wall of muddy water.

He and his wife Luz have been surviving in a house without power, burning their savings on generator fuel, to keep her insulin from spoiling. Life was stressful enough, but then their trickle of a creek brought the highest water they've ever seen.

My son was picking up the most important things as the water was coming up, just in case we needed to leave, he says.

(on camera): Really, really. Oh, that must have been terrifying.

(voice-over): This is the blue collar section of upscale Guaynabo, the same municipality where President Trump tossed those paper towels, as Mayor Angel Perez stood by.

(on camera): How would you describe the response of FEMA? MAYOR ANGEL PEREZ, GUAYNABO, PUERTO RICO : It's been slowly, but

it's there. You know, they have given us water, food, tarps. So, now, they have changed a little. They're going to assign a couple persons directly to each municipality. I think that's the right direction.

WEIR: Yes.

PEREZ: So, help is coming.

WEIR (voice-over): With over 1,000 homes in his town damaged, he says the biggest needs are tarps for shelter and drinking water. Those plumes of fuel pouring into the creek, a reminder of the health hazards of drinking off the land.

[19:45:00] And he expresses hopes the Army Corps of Engineers can somehow replace his bridges.

(on camera): Now, you are brand new in this job.

PEREZ: Forty days.

WEIR: Forty days? What a baptism by fire. I know you were appointed by the governor after a scandal with the previous mayor. Tell me about the politics, do you wish you co scream and beg for more help from the federal government, or do you have to be careful about how you ask?

PEREZ: No, we want more help. And I know from my experience FEMA has given us a lot of help. We need more help and as I have meetings with other mayors, I see the desperation.

WEIR (voice-over): Off camera, Luz tells the mayor, I voted for your party and you forgot about us. We need water.

(on camera): Have you seen FEMA? Have you seen any aid from the federal government? They haven't brought food or water here?

No, no.


WEIR: When they pressed the mayor there, Luz and her husband, he could only shrug his shoulders and say, we don't have the personnel to distribute. So, the president is right when he says the distribution is not getting done, but it's not because people are sleeping in. It's because there are mudslides, there are now torrential rains, there are tarps to be hunted and water to be gathered, as people, Erin, just try to live minute by minute.

BURNETT: Sounds like it's either the military or people on the island aren't going to be able to do that distribution.

All right. Thank you very much, Bill Weir.

Pretty powerful when you think about it, going back to that town. And next, Trump making more threats against the Iran deal tonight.


TRUMP: Phase two might be positive, and it might be very negative. It might be a total termination.


BURNETT: And Jeanne Moos on the unlikely bromance that has gone viral today.


BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump suggesting the U.S. may even be closer to pulling out of Iran nuclear deal entirely after announcing last week that Iran isn't complying with it.


TRUMP: The Iran deal I felt something that had to have been done. And we'll see what phase two is. Phase two might be positive or might very negative, might be a total termination. That's a very real possibility. Some would say that's a great possibility. But it could also turn out to be very positive.


BURNETT: The problem is, of course, there's no such thing as unilateral termination of the deal. It goes on with or without American participation because it includes five other countries. Today, the leaders of two of them, the U.K. and France, expressing their, quote, firm commitment to the deal.

OUTFRONT now, Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.

And, Ambassador, I appreciate your time tonight. I know that you have great frustration --


BURNETT: -- with this deal. You have been very open about that for a long time.

The deal, of course, would go on without the United States, if the U.S. were to get out of it. If the U.S. got out of it, Israel and the U.S. would lose any ability to see inside Iran's nuclear program. As bad as that view may be, it's the only view we've got.

What is the point then in threatening termination, Ambassador?

DERMER: Well, I disagree with the premise that we won't be able to see.

[19:50:01] We have some of the best intelligence services in the world, and we saw in Tehran, before you had this deal. And what you have right now are inspectors who are going into certain sites but they're not going into other sites.

One of the main problems of the deal, or one of the big problems of the deal, I should say, is the fact that it's not clear that you're going to be able to inspect military sites. Iran is saying publicly that will not allow America or anyone else, the IAEA inspectors, to inspect military sites. And I think one of fixes that could be in this deal is to get at the very least the Europeans to make clear that they support the U.S. position that all sites in Iran should be inspected.

I also disagree with the premise that America cannot terminate the deal. They can do it and he can do it unilaterally. He doesn't need anyone for that. The United States -- the president of United States can reinstate American sanctions.


DERMER: He can also reinstate by himself U.N. Security Council sanctions. What he can't do is he can't force the Europeans to have their sanctions.

But I've got to tell you something, if the president of the United States forces the Germans, the British or the French to choose between doing business with a $19 trillion American economy or a $400 billion Iranian economy, I can guarantee you that they're going to choose to do business with the American economy.

America has -- is responsible for over 50 percent of global capital flows. Iran is insignificant in that.


DERMER: So, which German bank, which French bank, which English bank, British bank is going to decide to do business with Iran and not do business with America. So, he has the power.

BURNETT: Which makes completes sense -- look, it makes complete sense. I've made the same argument when the U.S. had the power and the leverage with the South Korean free trade deal that we should do that. I mean, I've been to Tehran. I've seen all the South Korean business that was being done there, Ambassador.

But the truth is, I also saw Germans and British even when the sanctions from Europe were supposed to be at their peak, and they were still there. They lost the will. Why do you think they're going to get it back now? Why would they say, OK, now, we're going to put sanctions on when the United States could not get them to keep sanctions on a couple of years ago?

DERMER: Well, I agree with you that they've lost the will. And, frankly, the policy of Europe is a policy of containment. They are willing to accept the nuclear Iran. They just want to delay it for a few years. Thankfully, as of Friday, the United States has made it clear that it has not lost the will. The president of the United States has made it clear that it's the policy of United States to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon now, in five years, ten years or ever.

And there's no question that if the United States is going to use its economic power, I have no doubt whatsoever that the Germans, the French, and the British will choose to do business with the United States. He can make it very difficult for them to continue the deal.

I don't think Iran is going to try to change this deal because they got the deal of the century. They have the ability not to break in or sneak into the nuclear club, but simply to walk into the nuclear club, because all they have to wait is for all of these restrictions that the deal puts in place --


DERMER: -- to be automatically removed in a few years. And when that happens, they basically go to the cusp of not having one or two bombs, but an entire nuclear arsenal.

BURNETT: Ambassador, I want to ask you something else here tonight. The great -- Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who obviously as we know is still very important and powerful with this president, spoke to a gathering of conservative Republicans on Saturday and he said something really important to you. He actually said the White House is about to make a big move when it comes to Israel. Here he is.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Heck, next week, I hope -- I think they're going to announce the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and move our embassy to Jerusalem.



BURNETT: He said, next week, that was Saturday. That would mean this week. Ambassador, you were the first who would know? Are you aware that President Trump is about to do these two things this week, Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist and move the embassy?

DERMER: No, I'm not. That will be great if he did. We think all countries around the world should put their embassies in our capital. We don't think it undermines peace. We think when the world recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital, it will only convince the Palestinians that they have to give up with all of these ideas that as if the Israel is going to be -- Israelis are going to be driven to the sea and that Jerusalem won't be our capital. We think it actually lays a cornerstone for peace.

So, I don't know that the president is gong to do that. I hope he will. I do think that this president will ultimately move the embassy to Jerusalem.

BURNETT: All right. We'll see. Of course, other presidents have promised, none delivered. But I know you're saying, importantly, you still have faith he will do it.

Thank you so much Ambassador Dermer. Good to talk to you.

DERMER: Thank you.

BURENTT: And next, Jeanne Moos on how FOX News was moved by today's Rose Garden get together.


CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS POLITICAL EDITOR: I was waiting for the vacation pictures to come out. This is the time that Mitch and I went to Machu Picchu. It was great.



[19:58:13] BURNETT: President Trump says he's closer to Mitch McConnell than ever before. Well, that's probably true because the bar is pretty darned low.

He's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember when President Trump was flirting with the opposition.

TRUMP: Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I.

MOOS: Well, now, Chuck is back to his last name --

TRUMP: Schumer.

MOOS: And the president is flirting with his own party Senate leader.

TRUMP: Mitch, as of this moment -- but I haven't told Mitch.

I'll let Mitch. You want to talk about that?

MOOS: The two haven't been exactly buddy-buddy in the past. Can you believe Mitch McConnell who has screamed repeal and replace for seven years couldn't get it done?

But now, the president is even touching the majority leader.

TRUMP: But we've been friends for a long time, closer than ever before. My relationship with this gentleman is outstanding.

MOOS: And while some critics were disgusted, this kumbaya moment is nauseating. A Trump parody account tweeted. I would like to announce Mitch McConnell and I will be going away together this weekend. True love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was waiting for the vacation pictures to come out.

MOOS: While the president laid it on thick.

TRUMP: He's outstanding.

MOOS: The Senate majority leader was more reserved.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We've been friends and acquaintances for a long time.

MOOS: "The Daily Show" suggested McConnell looked like a hostage.

One reporter tweeted: Overheard at the White House, POTUS and McConnell planned to renew their vows in the Rose Garden.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: The arranged marriage and it had all the warms of an arranged marriage.

MOOS: Right up to the moment --

TRUMP: Thank you very much everybody. Thank you.

MOOS: -- they departed the altar, make that the podium.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: The handshake didn't last very long, though, did it?