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U.S. General Adjusts Timeline In Ambush But Short On Answers; Soldier's Widow: Trump Couldn't Remember My Husband's Name; Trump Contradicts Gold Star Widow's Account Of Phone Call. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 23, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:04] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for watching. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next, breaking news, America's top general breaks his silence on the Niger ambush that killed four American soldiers. Nineteen days out, why are there still many more questions than answers?

Plus, Trump gets in a last word to the widow of a fallen hero. Why did he use a tweet to suggest she's a liar?

And Trump about to declare an emergency on opioids. Dr. Sanjay Gupta goes to the U.S./Mexico border, and that is have Trump's wall will or won't stop the drug 50 times stronger than heroin. Our special investigation.

Let's go OutFront.

Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news, new information on the deadliest combat loss of Trump's presidency. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs taking 50 minutes of reporter questions about the Niger ambush. Dramatically changing the timeline of the fire fight that left four American soldiers killed by ISIS fighters.

General Joseph Dunford saying a full hour passed with the fire fight raging before U.S. troops called for air support, and then, it took another full hour for that help to arrive. It has been 19 days since the ambush. This is the first time a member of the Trump administration has taken questions. And General Dunford acknowledged the nation deserves answers.


GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD JR., JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We owe the families as much information as we can find out about what happened. And we owe the American people an explanation of what their men and women were doing at this particular time. And when I say that, I mean men and women in harm's way anywhere in the world. They should know what the mission is, what we're trying to accomplish when we're there. And so those are all fair questions, in my judgment.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: While Dunford, though, welcome those fair questions and he said again and again they were fair, and that the families of the fallen and the American people deserved answers. Again and again. Again and again he did not have answers.


DUNFORD: We don't know that definitively right now. I can't answer it definitively. I don't know how this attack unfolded. I don't know why the mirages didn't drop bombs during those initial passes.

I don't know if the unit on the ground asked them to do that. I don't personally know how the soldiers that they were equipped, if they were wearing body armor.


BURNETT: That was how General Dunford answered these questions. Why was Sergeant La David Johnson's body found a mile away? Is General Dunford sure the U.S. soldiers didn't call for help for a full hour after coming under fire? Why didn't those French mirage jets that came to help the American troops drop bombed?

And a basic question, were the U.S. troops wearing body armor? The answers, I don't know. I don't know, I don't know, I don't know.

Ryan Browne is at the Pentagon tonight and Ryan, let's start with the timeline because this is a very big change tonight.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: That's right, Erin. We learned new details about the timeline of this attack from General Dunford in a rare appearance by him in the Pentagon press briefing room, and he laid out a much different timeline than military and defense officials had been saying previously saying that it took almost two hours before air support arrived to support the U.S. troops on the ground. Let's have a listen.


DUNFORD: It's about an hour after the initial contact was made, they requested support. When they requested support, it took the French aircraft, the French were ready to go in 30 minutes and then it took them 30 minutes, approximately 30 minutes to get on the scene. So from that, I think it's a fair conclusion to say that about two hours after the initial contact was made, the initial French mirages arrived overhead.


BROWNE: Now, one of the reasons it took an hour for the team on the ground to call in that air support, General Dunford said was potentially that they thought they could handle the ISIS fighters on their own. But as General Dunford said, that consisted of some 50 militants with RPGs, light machine guns and vehicles. So, again, many questions, though, remain unanswered about what exactly happened during the fire fight. Were the local villagers that the team meeting with, were they complicit in that ambush? Some officials told CNN previously that they might have been. These are other questions that need to be found out. There is an investigation on the way. But one thing that's definitely not known at this time is how Sergeant Johnson became separated from the rest of his team and was missing for almost 48 hours.


BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Ryan Browne. As Ryan said, no answers yet for that as well as whether they were wearing body armor. The mission, itself.

OutFront now, Retired Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, he until June commanded special operation forces on the African continent, knows more about this than anyone. Our Senior Political Analyst Mark Preston is with me, senior writer and terror correspondent for the New York Times Eric Schmitt joins us, along with former CIA operative Bob Baer.

Bob, we've been talking about this over the last few days. Nineteen days later, we got a big 50-minute long press conference from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

[19:05:03] What do you make of the news? A big change in timeline. It went from 30 minutes, that's what has been reported last week. It was 30 minutes from when help was requested to when it arrived to two hours.

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Erin, I think what's clear and this was clear from the beginning, those guys were surprised in an ambush. They weren't prepared, they weren't wearing body armor. They didn't have armored vehicles, they didn't expect combat.

And what's crucial in this, and what lost lives, is there was no quick reaction force. Every one of these special operations and the military people will tell us better than I will that you need backup for one of these things if you expect to get into a fire fight. You just don't go on into a war zone without some sort of support. And I think the military is at a loss to explain how those guys got up there, and why the intelligence was so bad because you get 50 people, 50 ISIS fighters, all together and you're, you know, you're outgunned. No doubt about it.

And, you know, those questions -- they can't answer those questions because they don't know. And I think a mistake was made along the line. And they're trying to determine who made that mistake.

BURNETT: Right. And of course, and I just want to be clear here, when I say two hours, it was two hours from when the fire fight started, one hour from when help was called for. And again, the original report was a half an hour.

General, you have been on the ground, you have run operations like this, and we learned something else today which was that a U.S. drone arrived an hour after that attack got under way. So pretty much General Dunford said within moments of the troops on the ground asking for help, that drone showed up. The remote-pilot vehicle, it has full motion video and it was right over the scene. How crucial is this video, General?

RET. BRIG. GEN. DONALD BOLDUC, DEPUTY OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, U.S. AFRICA COMMAND: I think the video is very crucial and, of course, the investigation that is ongoing will determine how crucial that is. But you have to realize that Niger is -- you know, the operational area in Niger is larger than the operational area in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and Syria.

So, this is a very large area where the special operation forces count on their partners to provide the security necessary and of course as General Dunford said, you know, the situation is that enemy contact will be unlikely. They were doing a civil military operation mission that is part of the special operation force missions there on the ground. So they were decentralized and dispersed, they were working in and among the populous.

The commanders on the ground used their judgment with helmets and body armor. You know, the enemy gets a vote here so to speak by watching them. They (INAUDIBLE) mostly on the actions of our partners because they're the largest force there. The soft footprint is very small.

BURNETT: General, were you interested today -- I mean, I was curious, one of the things General Dunford said was that the troops were on their way back from another mission. He didn't know whether the mission had changed. That was another of the answers he didn't know -- the questions he didn't know the answer to.

But he said they only slept a couple of hours the night before. Did that surprise you?

BOLDUC: No, that doesn't surprise me at all. It's an operational environment in which people must do security, and which there's 24 hour operations going on. The support of our partners, you know, everything is tightly integrated to include the coordination with our French partners and the close air support that they provided was, in my experience, part of the plan.

The quick reaction force, there is nothing quick in Africa given the terrain and given the distance that needs to be traveled. So they go out and they go out ready to go.

BURNETT: So, Eric, General Dunford admitted that the questions out there, and there are a lot of them. He admitted that they are fair which is an important thing. Here he is.


DUNFORD: What you're asking is a fair question but we don't know that definitive right now. It's a fair question but I can't tell you definitively the answer to that question. All those are fair questions but, again, I would just ask for your patience and just giving us the time it takes to do the investigation. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: One of those "it's a fair question but I can't tell you definitively" answers, Eric, came to whether a question of whether the mission itself had changed. A lot of these I don't knows came in response to very central and very basic questions. Were they wearing body armor, what were they equipped with? Why aren't there answers to some of these questions 19 days later?

ERIC SCHMITT, SENIOR WRITER AND TERRORISM CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: I think, Erin, one of the reasons there aren't full answers is, the investigation still has to interview a number of other people. They need to interview the French that intervened. They have to interview the Nigerian troops who are involved in the mission as well. They may hold key clues as to what happened and whether they were diverted as the New York Times reported on, guys on motorcycles dashing away toward the border of Mali and whether these whole patrol took pursuit.

[19:10:08] But the general said also said was that the key clues as to what happened and whether they were diverted as the New York Times reported, guys on motorcycles dashing toward the border of Mali and whether the -- what the general said today they spent overnight, a night out in the desert. That might have given time for some of the militants to mass and launch their ambush later on with perhaps, complicity with the villagers.

Those are some of the things they're still trying to sort out. They're sending a team to the region. They're actually going to walk the ground where this all took place to see if they can find more clues.

BURNETT: And Mark, you know, after the General Dunford presser, Senator John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee who of course have been very critical of the lack of information he's been getting, had threatened even to issue subpoenas if he wasn't satisfied with the information flow, was asked about the presser. And here's what he said.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: What is still your biggest question that you have after --

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R) CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It's about the whole operation. Come on. Questions about it, why four men died. T hat should be the -- that's the question most Americans want to know.


BURNETT: Not satisfied from the Senate, Mark.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And he's right, you know, Senator John McCain is correct in saying that he's not satisfied and that the American public should be more focused on why did this mission fail and more importantly, why did we have four service members die in the line of duty?

This is what you call a textbook case of how not to handle a crisis. Not to wait 19 days to go out and to hold a news conference, to basically deliver no answers. Now, I don't hold anything against General Dunford for not having answers because it's the fog of war, I'm guessing as Eric said. There are still a lot more questions to be answered.

Had they handled this, though, 14 days ago, 15 days ago, we would be in a much different situation. And to add to this, President Trump in his interaction with the widow, you know, has really, really heightened this to an incredible another level. And in fact, just try to politicize it with his tweets when he went after the congresswoman who was the first to talk about the fact that the phone call didn't go as smoothly as it should.

So, again, I think General Dunford did what he thought he had to do today. He tried to do his best today. It was just a little too late.

BURNETT: And perhaps -- right -- perhaps all those non-answers, you know, two weeks ago would have felt different than they felt today. Bob Baer, you know, when you look at this, you told me that this ambush in Niger was worse than Benghazi because in that situation, the actual decision to go into the line of fire was made by an ambassador and in this situation, it was ultimately made by the Pentagon.

Chairman Dunford was asked about that comparison, specifically, today, about whether this is Benghazi and here is how he answered the question.


DUNFORD: I personally see no utility in comparing this incident to any other incident. What I will tell you is we lost four Americans in this incident. We had two others wounded. What's most important to me, aside from getting the facts, is identifying those things that we can do better in the future.



BAER: Well, Erin, he's right. I mean, the ambassador in Benghazi decided to go to Benghazi and heroically lost his life. He was doing his job but that was his decision.

In this case, it's the military. And I think what we're really dealing with here is we're fighting too many wars on terror. The military, given its (INAUDIBLE) would have had its backup force. It wouldn't have relied on the locals. It would have had better intelligence. Well, we had 800 people when these four guys lost their lives?


BAER: How many of them were shooters? American shooters, maybe 50 to 100. That's not enough in a country the size of Niger and it's a very dangerous country. ISIS has been operating there for the last 12 or 13 years.

Sort of at will, they've been kidnapping French engineers. It was 14 years ago or something like that. So -- I mean, we're too thin. The military needs more support. We got to fight these wars but they also have to have the support.

BURNETT: Right, and of course, a big part of this investigation is going to be who was complicit. Who gave up this information? Whether that was someone in the village or very damningly for the conversation we're having whether that had any possibility of coming from the Niger forces, themselves.

Thank you all so very much. I appreciate it.

And next, Trump essentially calling the widow of the fallen soldier, Sergeant Johnson's widow, a liar today.

Plus, John McCain mocks Trump over his bone spur draft deferment. Will Trump keep his threat and fire back?

And it's hard to believe, but a package this small, this small, this amount of powder, could be used to make a million pills of fentanyl and bring in tens of millions of dollars. So what's being done to stop it? Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us for our Special investigation tonight on the heroin crisis.


[19:17:57] BURNETT: New tonight, Trump's war with a widow. The widow of Sergeant La David Johnson who was killed in the Niger ambush spoke out publicly for the first time today. Here's Myeisha Johnson.


MYEISHA JOHNSON, WIDOW OF LA DAVID JOHNSON: The president said that he knew what he signed up for but it hurts anyway. And I was -- it made me cry because I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said it. He couldn't remember my husband name.

I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband name. And that was hurting me the most because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risks his life for our country, why can't you remember his name?


BURNETT: President Trump less than an hour after that went on Twitter, of course, to slam Myeisha Johnson. Tweeting, quote, I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson and spoke his name from beginning without hesitation!

So when the widow of a fallen soldier emotionally says how the president forgot her husband's name and how it made her feel and made her cry, the president of the United States responds with a tweet denying it making sure he has the last word.

Sara Murray is OutFront tonight at the White House, and Sara, after that tweet, the president then verbally went silent on this issue. Did he get a message to stop?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's a great question, Erin, because obviously this morning, the president felt like he wanted to share his account on Twitter, but we saw him a number of times throughout the day and myself and other reporters tried to get him to elaborate either on whether he had more messages for Myeisha Johnson or if he just wanted to discuss more what happened in Niger. Here's a look at how he responded.


MURRAY: President Trump, do you regret that Myeisha Johnson --




MURRAY: So over and over again today, President Trump declined to engage on this issue but we know that the White House is aware they need to try to turn down the temperature on this.

[19:20:04] They are aware that this is not a story line they want to continue. The notion of the president feuding with a widow, or even disputing her account, these morning accounts. And so we know when we saw General Joe Dunford out there today, White House aides were watching, they were hoping that he would be able to go out there, that he would provide the limited answers that are available, that he would field questions from reporters and be able to turn down the heat on this situation.

But of course, Erin, if you want to see any kind of change in tone, if you want to see this story go away, that has to come from the Oval Office and from the president.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Sara Murray.

And OutFront now, Jason Miller who served as communications adviser for the Trump campaign, and the former mayor of Philadelphia, Democrat Michael Nutter. Thanks to both.

Jason, the president is having a public dispute with a widow of an American soldier, right? She spoke about how she felt and he went to Twitter, by the way not even using her name to say that her version is wrong. Is this appropriate?

JASON MILLER, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, I wish the president had not tweeted that this morning. I think it's a very emotional, very raw interview we saw with Mrs. Johnson this morning, and I think the president would have been better served to just let this go. And the main reason is because the man that I saw working for him for seven months or so, but both the campaign and on the transition team was someone who loves our soldiers, loves our veterans, loves the families of those who are serving our country so nobly and honorably. And the fact that we're even having this conversation right now cuts against that.

I think it's a bit of a different argument when you have a partisan political opponent who's attacking you, but today I would have recommended to the president just let this go.

BURNETT: Mayor Nutter, you know, he says he spoke his name from the beginning without hesitation. She, you know, obviously had come out and said the opposite.

What do you make of that? Obviously, somebody told him to be quiet about this and he listened for the remainder of the day because obviously his feeling is in this tweet. He did not comment later when asked verbally.

MICHAEL NUTTER, (D), FORMER PHILADELPHIA MAYOR: Well, first, Erin, I mean, this is just a very sick and sad moment in the course of many instances of sick and sad moments involving Donald Trump. And the fact that Jason could not just flat-out say that it was wrong for the president to attack Myeisha Johnson who he refuses to say her name is further evidence of the sickness that is within Donald Trump. And also demonstrates the incompetence and the ineffectiveness of the staff around Donald Trump to allow this to escalate to the level that it has in the first place.

This is incompetence at the highest level from start to finish. And so to argue with this grieving wife and this family, Myeisha Johnson is her name, demonstrates a complete lack of any moral compassion by Donald Trump and is further evidence of his instability to actually hold this office.

BURNETT: Jason, look, obviously the reality of it is he just went and did that tweet, didn't ask anybody, he just did it, right? I mean, that's what we should assume. And then they all see it hit Twitter.

MILLER: Well, I'm not inside the White House and so I'm not sure what the exact back and forth was this morning. But we know when the president tweets, it's coming directly from him and that's his opinion.

And what I'm assuming is that the president wanted to make sure that the record was straight but, again, going back to my earlier point, this isn't about making sure that the record is straight or getting -- trying to make sure that the facts are right, the fact of the matter is the only thing we need to be worrying about right now is tracking down the scumbags who killed our soldiers in Niger and bring them to justice and killing them.

This is absolutely ridiculous what happened. I hope we find out and get to the bottom of it. And this is really what we need to be focused on.

BURNETT: So, which of course, I think we all agree. The president, of course is the one who made this political last week when he started it. And Jason, I want to ask you about that because you brought up Congresswoman Wilson, you know, that you didn't think that her getting involved in this was fair.

So today, obviously the president is still criticizing her, right for speaking about the call in the first place. His most recent tweet on the issue with her is, "Wacky Congresswoman Wilson is the gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party, a disaster for Dems, you watch her in action and vote R."

But when it comes to it, Jason, Sergeant Johnson's widow backed up the Congresswoman's account of that phone call and she validated a really crucial thing. She validated she had wanted the congresswoman on that call. She wasn't eavesdropping, she wanted her on that call. Here's Myeisha Johnson.


JOHNSON: She's been in our family since we were little kids. Whatever Ms. Wilson said was not fabricated. What she said was 100 percent correct.

It was Master Sergeant Neil (ph), me, my aunt, my uncle, and the driver and Ms. Wilson in a car. The phone was on speakerphone. Why would we fabricate something like that?


[19:25:07] BURNETT: Jason?

MILLER: Well, Erin, neither one of us were on that phone call, and so I think it's tough for us to get in there and say here's exactly the way it came across or way it didn't. W e know from some of the other --

BURNETT: But would you agree it was legitimate that she was on that call and it's a crucial point.

NUTTER: So you're saying the lady is lying, too?

MILLER: What I'm saying is I think that when Congresswoman Wilson then went sprinting out to all the cameras and was referring to herself as then a rock star for bringing this to light, and I think couldn't get between her and a camera anywhere in Washington, D.C., for a number of days, I thought that really over politicized it and I think that was really out of bounds.

NUTTER: Jason, the truth is the truth. That's the way that works.


NUTTER: The truth is the truth.

MILLER: So Mr. Mayor, do you think she's a rock star?

NUTTER: Are you saying now -- I'm not dealing with that. I'm not dealing with that.

MILLER: If you're going to criticize me, sir, you need to be specific.

NUTTER: Jason, Jason, listen. Listen. You're wrong. I'm dealing with --

MILLER: How am I wrong?

NUTTER: I'm dealing with Mrs. Myeisha Johnson. Her account is what matters. She backed up what the congresswoman said. Get off the political piece.

The president was wrong. He's too immature to say that he was wrong or admit that he was wrong. And the fact of the matter is, I've had to speak to family members of eight police officers and four firefighters killed in the line of duty. There is a way to talk with those families, with those mothers, with those wives, with those fathers, husbands, children, in a way that does not leave them crying because of your ignorance and what you said to them.

And if anyone had any sense in that White House, they would actually turn off Donald Trump's Twitter account. He would have no ability to turn it back on. He's on a government device and he doesn't have to have one.

He is reckless in how he engages with the public. The Khan family last year, this family now, and a number of others. This is ignorance at the worst.

BURNETT: All right. We'll leave it there since you started Jason. Thank you both very much.

And next, the feud between President Trump and John McCain escalating.

And ISIS stockpiling money and thriving underground. Our special investigation on what's next for ISIS.


BURNETT: Tonight, tensions between President Trump and Senator John McCain escalating as McCain spoke, again, about bone spurs, the condition which Trump cited as the reason for one of his five draft deferments during the Vietnam War. This as Trump heads to Capitol Hill tomorrow in hopes of selling his tax plan to the very Senate Republicans he thrives on attacking.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From screaming phone calls in private, to bitter putdowns in public. President Trump continues feuding as much with his own party as he does with Democrats. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

FOREMAN: And some are pushing back. Arizona Senator John McCain, a favorite Trump target, noting that while he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, some were deferred from service.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: And one aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never, ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong.

FOREMAN: McCain now says he was not talking about the president. But when asked today about Trump receiving a deferral for a bone spur --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you consider him a draft dodger?

MCCAIN: I don't consider him so much a draft dodger as I feel that the system was so wrong that certain Americans could evade their responsibilities to serve the country.

FOREMAN: Despite needing his party's leaders in Congress to pass legislation, the president has repeatedly attacked them.

TRUMP: Hey, Mitch, we going to be OK? Everything good?

FOREMAN: When plans to dismantle Obamacare fell apart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came under swift fire. After hearing repeal and replace for seven years, he failed, so did Alaska's Lisa Murkowski. Really let the Republicans and our country down. Too bad.

TRUMP: We'll build the wall. Don't even think about it.

FOREMAN: South Carolina's Lindsey Graham has been pounded for being sadly weak on immigration. When Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and others opposed a debt ceiling deal, the president made it with Democrats.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The nation can breathe a sigh of relief.

FOREMAN: And when Tennessee Senator Bob Corker called the White House an adult daycare center, the president fired back: Little Bob Corker was made to sound a fool.

And he doesn't apologize for a word of it.

TRUMP: We'll see what happens in the end. But I think, actually, sometimes it helps. Sometimes it gets people to do what they're supposed to be doing.


FOREMAN: Now, a great many Americans may look at this and see more evidence of what they see as a very chaotic White House and a party out of control, but remember, Donald Trump came to power by taking on Democrats and Republicans and promising that he would shake up all of Washington. His fans still like it -- Erin.

BURNETT: They do.

All right. Thank you very much, Tom.

And OUTFRONT now, Jamie Gangel, our special correspondent, and, Chris Cillizza, our political editor at large.

OK. This is not the first time McCain and Trump have sparred over this issue of the Vietnam draft. Trump, of course, we all know, said McCain was not a hero because he was captured, and has never actually apologized for that. And McCain said this about the president just last month on "60 Minutes." Here he is.


MCCAIN: We're very different people. Different upbringing. Different life experiences.

LESLEY STAHL, "60 MINUTES": What do you mean by that and what does it make you think about?

MCCAIN: He is in the business of making money and he has been successful, both in television, as well as Miss America and others.

I was raised in a military family. I was raised in the concept and belief that duty, honor, country, is the lodestar for the behavior that we have to exhibit every single day.


BURNETT: I mean, it's pretty powerful, Chris. He's contrasting Miss America --


BURNETT: -- with the concept of duty, honor, and country.

CILLIZZA: Yes, I mean, he doesn't say Donald Trump's name all the time, but it's pretty clear whether it was that C-Span interview or whether it's that "60 Minutes" interview that John McCain views Donald Trump's life with some level of disdain. He feels as though he is someone who has sacrificed for country and that Donald Trump in ways has not. They are personality-wise very, very different.

And let's remember, Donald Trump -- Tom made this point -- Donald Trump is sort of a party unto himself. John McCain is on the sort of more centrist wing of the Republican Party, but still very much in the Republican Party tradition. Donald Trump isn't really.

[19:35:00] You really have Democrats, Trump folks and Republicans at this point in Washington, at least, Donald Trump has gone after at least 15 Republican senators, Erin, and counting, since he's become a politician two years ago. BURNETT: Which is -- which is an incredible thing. I mean, Jamie,

there's also, though, McCain last week took another shot at Trump on his side attacking, quote, half-baked spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.

Trump heard that and punched back as he is oft to do. Here he is.


TRUMP: People have to be careful because at some point I fight back. I'm being very nice. I'm being very, very nice. But at some point, I won't fight back and it won't be pretty.


BURNETT: What more can Trump do against McCain?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: He can keep doing it, but you know what? I don't think it's in Donald Trump's interest to do this. I don't think it's in his interest to go after a guy who is a war hero and is also suffering from brain cancer. That doesn't make too much sense.

It also doesn't make sense politically because he needs John McCain's vote. Remember the very dramatic thumbs down for health care.


GANGEL: They have the budget coming up. They have tax reform coming up. He needs to get to try at least to get McCain's vote.

BURNETT: And that is what is really the crucial question here. You mentioned it, Chris, what, at least 15.


BURNETT: I was just thinking of some of them off the top of my head. McCain, Heller, Sasse, Flake, McConnell, Corker, Paul, Graham, Collins, Murkowski, that's not even all 15.

CILLIZZA: I mean --

BURNETT: But I mean, how many -- and in the case of John McCain, how personal is it? Tax reform. I mean, this is bread and butter for all these guys, OK?

CILLIZZA: That's right.

BURNETT: The plan that's out there. Do they vote for it because it's bread and butter Republican fair, or they do not vote for it because they cannot stand this president?

CILLIZZA: So, I don't think they vote against it because they don't like the president of the United States. Like you said, this is an issue that is fundamental to the Republican Party as currently conceived. To me, the issue, Erin, is, his capacity to convince, assuage, call in

favors, because this will almost certainly be close, right? It will just be like health care. It's going to be close.

And the issue there at the end is do you have the trust, do you have the chips, can you sort of ask a favor? It's very hard to see how Donald Trump does that not only because he attacks these folks who aren't with him all the time. But remember on health care after the House passed the health care bill, he went out and said it was too mean and the Senate had to do something to change it.

So, there's not a lot of trust built up either in personal relationships or if past is prologue in what he said and done on another large bill, health care.

BURNETT: Which I venture to say, Chris is being generous, not a lot of trust, any.

GANGEL: None. They're not going to give him anything.

And let's -- John McCain does not need to say Donald Trump's name. Donald Trump surrounds himself with generals. His branding is the flag, patriotism, not kneeling for the anthem. But what John McCain said on "60 Minutes" is, I'm the military hero. You're the guy with bone spurs.

BURNETT: Bone spurs.

Thank you both very much.

And next, CNN spoke with ISIS leaders who say they saw the battleground defeat coming. The next phase of the war, though, is about to begin. And wait until you see the money they have.

And Dr. Sanjay Gupta's OUTFRONT into America's heroin addiction. Will President Trump's wall stop heroin from coming in?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't know if we get immediately safer over hard narcotics.



[19:42:32] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump's top general contradicting his boss. General Joseph Dunford today warning that ISIS is a, quote, global challenge. This comes days after President Trump said, quote, ISIS is now giving up, they're raising up their hands.

Well, Arwa Damon went to speak to ISIS fighters and she's OUTFRONT tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ISIS' survival is not tied to the fate of its crumbling caliphate. It planned for this day.

ISIS did calculate that one day, they would be finished, the Bahrainian man says, his voice calm and steady. His name is Omar. He says he was in charge of ideological training at ISIS military camps in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa.

He tells us they did not put a lot of money into the battles they fought. The weapons they used were the weapons of the enemy. The money went elsewhere, Omar says.

Even during times of austerity, there was always a calculation for the future.

No one knows exactly how much ISIS is worth now. In 2014, the group was thought to have a total of $1.5 billion to $2 billion. It was making $1 million a day from oil fields, more than enough for its regular expenses.

ISIS has distributed its revenues overseas for the next phase of its war.

Esam is an ISIS member from Raqqa who oversaw the border crossings between Turkey and ISIS territory.

He tells us that ISIS would train and dispatch members to set up companies which then acted as facilitators, but also behaved as regular businesses. ISIS may no longer physically control swaths of Syria and Iraq, but it thrives under ground and if is widely assumed that the ISIS leadership, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his top lieutenants are in the border areas between Syria and Iraq, familiar territory.

The first stage of the ISIS insurgency back in 2010 was called aggressive hibernation, making money, building networks in the deserts and cities of Iraq. In many ways, ISIS is going back to the strategy, waiting for the next opportunity. It's an ideology that exploits and feeds off of deep-seeded grievances, fosters a thirst for revenge.

[19:45:02] They will spring up somewhere else, Omar says, if you don't know how to fight them ideologically.

ISIS plots for the long game. Its leaders are fond of saying that it's not ruling Mosul and Raqqa that counts. It's the will to fight. And ISIS will once again simply bide its time.


DAMON: And, Erin, both of those men had, in fact, in the last three to four weeks handed themselves over to the Syrian Democratic Forces, telling us that as we already do know to a certain degree, ISIS is already taking advantage of security vacuums that exist worldwide, expanding itself even deeper into areas in North Africa, Southeast Asia, and beyond.

BURNETT: All right. Arwa, thank you very much. Very powerful reminder of the reality here.

And next, this is the equivalent of about a million pills of fentanyl, this small little container. This is flour. But if it were fentanyl, each one, each pill would be 50 times more powerful than heroin. Can Trump's wall stop billions and billions of these bags from coming into the U.S.?

Dr. Sanjay Gupta's OUTFRONT investigation is next.

And Jeanne Moos on how Melania Trump spent her day campaigning against bullying, for real.


BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump expected to declare the opioid crisis in America a national emergency. And tonight, we begin our investigative series into the opioid crisis. "Killing America: Inside the Opioid Epidemic with Dr. Sanjay Gupta."

So, first, will Trump's wall stop heroin and fentanyl, which could be 50 times stronger than heroin, from getting into the United States?

Sanjay is OUTFRONT.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What is the first thing that sort of flags this?

SCOTT BROWN, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, HOMELAND SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS: Sometimes it's just the driver's behavior, they're unnaturally nervous for crossing the border. Sometimes the car hasn't crossed the border a lot or sometimes the car's crossed the border too often.

GUPTA (voice-over): What you're witnessing here are efforts in stopping drugs from coming through the U.S./Mexican border.

BROWN: Almost every car crossing is crossing for a legitimate reason. It's a very small percentage that comes in carrying contraband. But I think when the inspectors pick up on something, their success rate is pretty high.

[19:50:04] When you saw the dogs sit down at the back of the car, that's how that particular dog alerts.

GUPTA: Special agent in charge, Scott Brown, oversees the Tucson field office for Homeland Security Investigations and drugs are a big part of what he does.

(on camera): This is how it happens. I mean, what we're witnessing is --

BROWN: Is what happens every day along the south border of the U.S. and the officers at the ports of entry are phenomenal, they're fantastic at identifying marks that shouldn't be there. So, a screw that would originally be turned there'd be no reason for it to be turned. They can pick up on that. I mean, they are experts.

GUPTA: That's just human art and intelligence together.

BROWN: Yes, absolutely.

GUPTA (voice-over): What they find, about 24 kilos of hard drugs.

Minutes later, field testing reveals, cocaine.

(on camera): This is a win today, isn't it?

BROWN: This is definitely a win.

GUPTA (voice-over): In the midst of the country's opioid epidemic, President Trump has made building up the wall a cornerstone of his agenda.

TRUMP: The wall's going to get built folks, in case anyone has any questions. The walls are going to get built and the wall is going to stop drugs.

GUPTA: But I wanted to learn just effective the wall would be in accomplishing that.

(on camera): This is literally a physical wall between two countries that we're looking at here.

BROWN: The advance of hard narcotics don't come through a place like this. The vast amount of hard narcotics come through the port of entry where we just were.

GUPTA (voice-over): And besides meth, cocaine, heroine or marijuana, it's fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroine. It's the biggest challenge nowadays. The most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control found that overdose deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl rose over 72 percent in just a year.

(on camera): Opioid deaths rose over 42 percent in just a year. In the past, cartels might try and smuggle 100 kilograms of drugs across the border, wasn't easy to do, they were likely to get caught. But here's part of the problem, nowadays, they can smuggle across something that looks like this. This was just a one kilogram bag of flour. But if it was street fentanyl, it will cost $8,000 to make, could be turned into a million pills, and then sold for $20 million to $30 million on the black market, all of that from a small container that looks like this.

BROWN: The vast majority of fentanyl is produced in China. It comes into the U.S. two ways. It comes into Mexico, where these are pill form (ph) combined with heroin. The other way it comes in is American consumers buying it direct oftentimes from vendors out of China.

GUPTA: Then it gets mailed?

BROWN: U.S. mail, which is the most common, a very small quantity of fentanyl. It's very hard to detect in the masses of letters that come into the U.S. everyday.

GUPTA: How effective is a law from preventing drugs from getting into the United States.

BROWN: In terms of hard narcotics, no, I don't know that we get immediately safer over hard narcotics. As of right now, the vast majority of hard narcotics come in through the ports of entry, in deep concealment, or come in through, you know, the mail or express consignments.


BURNETT: Sanjay is with me now.

And, Sanjay, I mean, this is incredible. You showed us two-pound bag of flour that was. If that were fentanyl, it's a million pain pills. How potent is that?

GUPTA: It's really unbelievable, but unbelievable in terms of the potency again. Just, you know, one kilogram bag of flower here, it's about 50 times more powerful than heroine, 100 times more powerful than morphine. This is really strong stuff, Erin.

And the economics of it, as you heard -- I mean, $8,000 that's what it'll cost for the raw ingredients. You can turn that into $30 million. People are just keep -- they keep trying over and over and over again. I mean, you get one bag across, that's $30 million worth of pills.

So, you can see the problem. It's not -- it's so small. It's in the back of the car somewhere and people keep trying to get it across.

BURNETT: You're not going to be able to stop the demand. And as you were pointing, I think this was also stunning, that the main way this can get smuggled in is the United States Postal Service.

GUPTA: Yes, you got a million pieces of mail coming in every day into this country from other country that has no advance electronic data. You really have no data, no absolute tracking of where it came from, how many countries it visited before it got to the United States. So, it's very, very hard to track. And that's a huge part of the problem.

You rely on dogs, you rely on X-ray machines, you rely on human intelligence to say, well that says it's a box of pen but it's much heavier let me inspect it. That doesn't work very well when you're talking about a million packages a day. So, that's an area that they're trying to focus on to try to make that a little bit safer.

BURNETT: A needle in a haystack.

All right. Sanjay, thank you very much. But you're going to be back with us tomorrow night, the second installment in this incredible series by Sanjay, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thank you.

[19:55:00] GUPTA: Thank you. BURNETT: And next, Jeanne Moss, on Melania Trump's No One Eats Alone campaign. It has social media asking, how did this lonely lunch happen?


BURNETT: Tonight, Melania Trump makes her first trip and her anti- bullying campaign. And it's generating a storm of sarcasm.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first lady's speech got a round of applause.

But you know what the 7th and 8th graders really want? Selfies. Melania-mania manifested itself in selfies.

One at a time, two at a time. The first lady's former life as a model make self-fees a snap. She stooped. She put her arms around them. She's no Prince Harry, asking her fans to refrain.

PRINCE HARRY: No, I hate selfies. Seriously, you need to get out of it. I know you're young, but selfies are bad.

MOOS: Melania was anything about selfish about selfies. We counted almost 35 kids posing and one adult.

But the trip was meant to be a photo op of a different sort, launching the first lady's anti-bullying in this middle school cafeteria.

(on camera): The name of the program, No One Eats Alone. Anyone want to eat with me? You want to eat with me?

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: I encourage you today, find a new friend and have a launch with that friend. You agree?

MOOS: Of course, any time the first lady talks about putting an end to bullying, critics say, start with your emotionally child-like husband.

TRUMP: I'm being very, very nice, but at some point, I fight back and it won't be pretty.

MOOS: Always dissing out the demeaning nicknames from Little Bob Corker to Wacky Congresswoman Wilson.

TRUMP: Lying Ted, Lying Ted. Crooked Hillary, Crooked Hilary.

MOOS: So, does the first lady need to square her bullying campaign with her husband's behavior. Her spokesperson told CNN, Mrs. Trump is independent and acts independently from her husband.

But does she eat independently? Read one tweet, someone befriend this boy. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: And thanks for joining us.

Don't forget you can watch OUTFRONT, anytime, anywhere. Just go to CNN Go.

Anderson starts next.