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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Kelly: Mexican Govt Will Not Directly Pay For Border Wall; Kelly: Trump Has 'Changed His Attitude' On DACA, The Wall; Sources: Kelly Calls Some Trump Campaign Promises 'Uninformed'; Trump Brags About Cognitive Test, Says That's Why He Can Solve NK Crisis; GOP Sen. Flake Compares Trump's Rhetoric To Stalin's. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 17, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next breaking news, the president's chief of staff admitting the Mexican government will not, after all, pay for Trump's wall. John Kelly also saying behind closed doors today that some of Trump's campaign promises on immigration were "uninformed".
And the president already bragging about his cognitive test scores saying that's why he is the president that can deal with North Korea.
Plus, more breaking news, the White House working behind the scenes trying to limit testimony to rush (ph) investigators. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, it's official. The White House tonight admits that the Mexican government will not directly pay for Trump's wall. You heard me. And you don't just have to listen to me say it. I will let you hear John Kelly, the president's chief of staff, say it as he did just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: In one way or another, it's possible that we could get the revenue from Mexico, but not directly from their government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. That is a break of a signature promise. One repeated almost daily on the campaign trail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.
It will be a great wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
Mexico will pay for the wall.
And Mexico is going to pay for the wall and they understand that.
Mexico is going to pay for the wall, believe me, 100%.
And who is going to pay for the wall?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico.
TRUMP: Who is going to pay for the wall? Who?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Who? You. All right. Kelly today, not just admitting that, right, but obviously the Mexican government isn't going to directly pay for the wall. He is now saying, and he said behind closed doors to lawmakers, that the president has "evolved". And moments ago on the president's favorite television network, here is what Kelly said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: He has changed the way he's looked at a number of things. He's very definitely changed his attitudes towards the DACA issue. And even the wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: DACA and the wall, Kelly's comments are coming on those two crucial points as the government shut down looms over those two points. A shutdown that frankly the White House today says Democrats are to blame for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If the president certainly doesn't want a shut down, and if one happens, I think you only have one place to look, and that's to the Democrats, who are holding our military and our national security hostage by trying to push through other policies that have nothing to do with the budget.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: She is referring by those policies to the Dreamers, to DACA. But she's wrong on a crucial point here. It isn't just Democrats. There are Democrats and now some Republicans tonight who are demanding that resolving the fate of the estimated 700,000 Dreamers must be part of a deal to avoid a government shutdown.
And, frankly, the president with his evolved views seemed to be onboard just a week ago. You remember that, you see on the screen, that was the bipartisan negotiation session at the White House, it was televised for nearly an hour. Sitting between democratic leaders, obviously, chosen for the statement, Trump talked about the need for everyone to put hatred aside and come together, and said that they were very close to a deal on DACA and immigration reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It should be a bipartisan bill. It should be a bill of love. Truly, it should be a bill of love. And we can do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: A bill of love. And Trump went so far as to say that if Democrats and Republicans came up with the bill, he was onboard with whatever it was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When this group comes back, hopefully with an agreement, this group and others, from the Senate, from the House, comes back with an agreement, I'm signing it. I mean, I will be signing it. I'm not going to say, oh, gee, I want this or I want that. I'll be signing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That was last Tuesday. Of course, it was just two short days later that the meeting came heard around the world. The same president went from a bill of love to s hole (ph), questioning why the United States was taking people from s hole countries in Africa in. So whatever caused Trump's change of heart, it seems to have happened very quickly.
Here's how very perplexed Senator Lindsey Graham, who attended both of those meetings with Trump describes the about-face.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: By the time we got there, something had happened. So Tuesday, we had a president that I was proud to golf with, call my friend, who understood immigration had to be bipartisan, you had to have border security as essential, you have border security, with the wall, but he also understood the idea that we had to do it with a compassion.
[19:05:03] And I don't know where that guy went. I want him back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, the White House has insisted that Trump was not swayed by immigration hardliners and that he is the one "running the show". But if he is running the show, he has managed to leave the Senate majority leader completely in the dark.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm looking for something that President Trump supports. And he's not yet indicated what measure he's willing to sign. As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: As soon as we figure out what he is for, that is from the Republican majority leader. I mean, it's a pretty stunning thing to say about his president.
And now, adding to the confusion, the chief of staff, John Kelly, telling members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today that Trump was "uninformed" about some immigration issues during the campaign.
So, Mr. President, if you are running the show, what is your position? Every hour, every minute now counts as the shut down looms. And Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT tonight at the White House. And Jeff, Senator McConnell says they have not figured out what the president is for, which is really one of the most stunning things actually if you take a moment to think about that. Does the president know what he's for?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, that certainly was a very blunt message from the Republican Senate majority leader. Again, the Republican Senate majority leader. The House speaker Paul Ryan said a similar thing earlier in the day. What is going on here on immigration, there simply is a vacuum of leadership. No one is taking the lead here. And, to be fair, Senator McConnell is also trying to avoid a bit of the spotlight here by saying it's basically up to the president.
So, at the end of the day here as this week moves along as the shutdown approaches, potential shutdown, no one is leading on immigration. Now, we did know the president set principles. He said he wants some kind of a wall. And of course, we heard from the chief of staff, Mexico will not pay for it as the president has indicated several times that they would.
But the fact of a wall simply is now more of a barrier in some places. They also want an end to chain migration and end to the visa lottery system and dealing with the DACA issue in some fashion. But there have been no specifics about what the president would sign. Of course, a week ago, he said I'll take the heat, I'll sign anything. That, of course, changed very quickly.
So at the end of the day here, the Republican president, Republican speaker of the House, the Republican Senate majority leader are still not all on the same page, because the Republican Party is still divided over this issue. Democrats are saying that they are going to hold fast here and not vote for the spending plan. So what we have is a 48-hour mess here, once again, starting another year in Washington, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny in OUTFRONT. Now, I want to go to Democratic Congressman Adriano Espaillat. He's a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and was with John Kelly, the chief of staff today.
Let me start by asking you, congressman, your response to what he just aid moments ago in that interview. A pretty significant admission, right, he's saying the president has evolved on the wall. But what he actually said there in terms of admitting that the Mexican government would not directly pay for it, that is a massive admission. It's an admission of fact that we all know but it is not something that the president has admitted to. How significant is it?
REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D), CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS: Well, as the late governor Mario Cuomo always said, you govern in poetry -- you campaign in poetry but you govern in prose. And so very often, lots of things are said during the campaign, but when you reach government, there must be a consensus building effort to ensure that all sides are heard and that a consensus is built to move forward.
And I think this is what's happening. What's happening right now is that the president is realizing that there is currently three bills on the floor. There is the DREAM Act, which is a bipartisan piece of legislation that has over 200 cosponsors. You have heard Aguilar Bill, which is called the USA Act that was just emerged a few weeks ago. And you have the framework that was considered and put into place by the six senators, including Senator Graham and Senator Durbin and Menendez. And so these are the three rails that we must take to ensure that we discuss and reach a consensus. And we finally, once and for all, take care of all of these issues pertaining to the Dreamers.
BURNETT: And so on this issue of taking care of the Dreamers as part of the bill, the effort to keep the government running, right, to putting these two things together, Republican leadership tonight say they have the confidence that the stop gap that would keep the government open, that they have confidence they can get that done without attaching, without resolving the Dreamer issue. What's your response to that?
ESPAILLAT: Well, I voted against the C.R. last time and I'm ready to vote against the C.R. again. And I see lots of members that really want to take care of this issue, because the public sentiment right now across the nation, over 80% of Americans feel that these young people should stay here. They like them. You look at their young faces and their energy and their feelings about America, and you grow to love them.
[19:10:06] And so 80% of Americans, whether they live on Republican districts or Democratic districts, want this resolved. And so I will be voting against any continuing resolution or a spending bill that doesn't have a resolution to the Dreamers Act.
BURNETT: So, you just heard the White House chief of staff John Kelly, right, in an interview saying the president has evolved in his views on many things including immigration. And you were with John Kelly today. And in that meeting, sources tell us that he said some of the president's campaign promises on immigration were uninformed.
So the chief of staff, John Kelly, sits there with the president every day is admitting that his boss was uninformed. Is that what you heard?
ESPAILLAT: I heard something to that effect. I don't -- I'm not sure if they were exactly those words but that was the tone of the discussion. And who pays for the wall is exactly one of those campaign promises. Mexico always said that they would not pay for wall.
ESPAILLAT: That was a rhetoric -- campaign rhetoric that became very popular among his ranks and that he led the chants during the campaign, stops in different cities across the state. And it almost became a reality. But at all -- all the time, Mexico said that it would not pay for the wall. And here we are, a year into his administration and we realized now that Mexico is not paying for the wall.
BURNETT: Did you feel that Kelly -- I mean, were you surprised at all that he seemed open to -- on some level, it sounds like clearly, you know, criticizing his boss or admitting his boss didn't really know what was going on? Were you surprised to hear that from Kelly?
ESPAILLAT: Well, I'm glad that he was there and I'm glad that he came, I think, in good faith effort to hear us out, to hear the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, present our views on Dreamers, on enforcement and the wall and issues pertaining to immigration. And I think that he was genuine in coming before us and hearing us out.
We presented the ideas that we had, as I said earlier there, three tracks, the traditional DREAM Act, which I am a cosponsor of, the Herwin (ph) Aguilar, and also the framework that was developed by the Gang of Six at the Senate. And so, these are three real pieces of legislations that are on the table right now. We should not invent something new or throw toxic amendments that would only make it further difficult to reach a consensus.
BURNETT: All right. Congressman, I appreciate your time.
ESPAILLAT: Thank you so much, Erin.
BURNETT: Thank you.
ESPAILLAT: Thank you.
BURNETT: All right. And next, President Trump boasting about the results of his physical saying it means he has a mental capacity to solve the North Korea problems when his predecessors did not. Plus, a top Republican senator compares Trump's rhetoric to Stalin's. Fair?
And Steve Bannon's reported slip-up during a meeting with Russian investigators. What did he say?
[19:16:26] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump bragging about being smarter than presidents Obama, Clinton and Bush. That's in a new interview tonight with Reuters in it. He says it's the reason, frankly, that he will solve the North Korea crisis when they all three failed to do so.
Singing his own praises about his perfect score on the cognitive test, the president said, "I guess they all realized they were going to have to leave it to a president that scored the highest on tests".
OUTFRONT now, the Reuters White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe who spoke to the president. Ayesha, you sat down with him today for 53 minutes. And I just shared this one quote there that he gave you. He told you he's better equipped to deal with Kim Jong-un than the past presidents based on the results of that particular test his doctor gave him at his annual physical.
AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Well, he didn't specify that part test. We had talked earlier about kind of the glowing report that he got from his doctor yesterday. But he said he scored the highest on tests, so it could have been the medical test, you know, I don't know what he was referring to, his education or social test. But he said that he scores the highest on tests, and so that's why the North Korea issue had to be left to him.
BURNETT: So -- and this conversation, you also pressed him on the bipartisan immigration meeting, where s***hole comments were made. And I want to just to read part of what he told you, Ayesha. He said, "I'm not going to get into what I said, but I will tell you, it was a tough meeting. I love the people from Haiti. I campaigned, I went two or three times down to Little Haiti in Miami."
What else did he tell you? I mean, I think it's so crucial, Ayesha. He did not deny at all. He did not try to deny what he said in that meeting.
RASCOE: He said he wouldn't go into it. We tried to get to what he actually said. He said he wouldn't talk about what he said in the meeting. And I did ask him specifically, did he think that the U.S., at this point, is bringing in too many people from African countries or from Haiti? And he said that he doesn't want to focus on individual countries. He wants to focus on the individual.
And as you said, that he loves Haiti and that he felt that, you know, people from Haiti were good workers and that he had these campaign events and they were very warm to him. So that's what he said about that. But he also made clear that he hated the bipartisan deal that was brought to him. And that he used tough language. But he wouldn't say what the tough language was.
BURNETT: Right. Even though, of course, in a tweet, he tried to deny it but I think it's obviously very significant. But now, when he had a chance in an interview to do so, he did not try to do that.
Ayesha, thank you so much. Ayesha, as we said, spoke to the president today for 53 minutes.
And OUTFRONT now, our senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson and former director of the Nixon Presidential Library, Tim Naftali. OK. So, it's interesting, you know, he said the scores on test, Ayesha points out it could be any kind of test.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.
BURNETT: Obviously, he did -- the quote again, "I guess they all realized they were going to have to leave it to the -- a president that scored the highest on tests." So that's what it comes down to.
HENDERSON: Yes, and this is a president that likes to measure things, right? Be it the size of a nuclear button that's on his desk. Be it a test that he was given by his doctor about his cognitive ability, which really is a test to determine whether or not he had dementia or showed signs of dementia, so he brings that up in that interview.
You know, a pretty broad interview talking about any number of things. Obviously, this deal with -- or no deal around DACA, in plain coy, right? In reading the interview or reading the articles that came out of it, in some ways, it felt like, has this president really been president for a year?
[19:20:05] I mean, it's -- he's sounding the sort of same notes, the same threats to North Korea, the same threats to China, and he still seems like he's kind of a bystander president and he hasn't really taken office. He's going to the same kind of vague, oh, I'm not going to tell you if I've talked to the leader of North Korea. Or maybe there'll be a war, maybe there won't be a war. So --
HENDERSON: -- that was what struck me (INAUDIBLE).
BURNETT: It's like a flirtation that he really likes to have. I mean, I just want to, you know, again, tests -- he used the word tests, plural. He did take an intelligence test last week, the cognitive assessment. Let me be clear.
So I just want to give everyone a sample of the (INAUDIBLE) assessment. Here's some of the things you need to do. You have to connect the dots. You have to identify a lion, a rhinoceros and a camel. And maybe you get extra points if you know it's a drama berry (ph).
The point that I'm making here in a funny way, I admit, is that this is not an intelligence test.
BURNETT: It is a test to determine if one has mild cognitive dysfunction.
TIM NAFTALI, FORMER DIRECTOR, NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: Yes.
BURNETT: OK. Or predementia. That's just the reality. Although I will play it for you, to Nia's point, he does love to talk about how smart he is.
NAFTALI: Yes, he does. You know, he is so good at the game of poker, international poker, that he has managed to make a man who ordered the murder of his stepbrother, Kim Jong-un, look reasonable. Donald Trump's policy has managed to make the North Korean regime look reasonable because of the steps it has taken to have a dialogue with South Korea.
Now, that to me is not the sign of an intelligent American policy. And yet the president promises us that he's smarter than all of his predecessors, and that he will figure out something that none of them has figured out up to now. It's dubious because he never gives us details. It's always these grand statements without detail.
BURNETT: Right. And you know, to this point, when it came to Kim Jong-un, right, he would not say whether or not he's spoken to Kim Jong-un, as Ayesha referred to. And he said, no, I just don't want to say as to whether or not we've had communication. But, OK, we'll see how this plays out. And hopefully it can be done in a peaceful way, but it's very possible that it can't.
Now, this is very significant because he's had a giant fight for several days going on with the Wall Street Journal --
BURNETT: -- about whether he did or did not say that he probably has a good relationship with the leader of North Korean. So it's an opportunity today with Ayesha to come out and say what he really thinks.
HENDERSON: Yes, yes, but he will --
BURNETT: And he will not do it.
HENDERSON: -- and he wants to leave it out there and play coy and clever. And in the meantime, North Korea is closer to having a nuclear weapon that they can deliver to American shores than they ever have been. You had Condoleezza Rice come out in an interview with David Axelrod and say that they are pretty clever, pretty clever to go to the Olympics, pretty clever in their approach to South Korea, pretty clever in really breaking up what had been in previous administration kind of a multilateral talks between North Korea and Japan, China and Russia.
And so, yes, I mean, you know, he can sort of say all of these things and play coy, and in the meantime, Kim Jong-un is doing what he wants (ph).
BURNETT: And Tim, you know, he also on the s hole countries, OK, he had a chance here to either admit it and say he was sorry, which he doesn't apologize --
BURNETT: So it wouldn't be consistent, but would have been the right thing to do. Or, to go ahead and double down on his tweet where he denied saying it, which of course wouldn't make sense at this point because we know what happened. But it was interesting that he chose to do neither. He chose to avoid it.
NAFTALI: No, what he chose to do is to be confusing, because he ran promising that the United States would have a country-based immigration policy. Remember what he said about Mexico? Remember what he said about people from Muslim countries?
Now he's saying he wants an immigration policy based on individual merit. That's something entirely new for him. That's not what he ran on. That would actually be a lot better for the United States, but it -- so it's not clear to me, and I don't think it's clear to a lot of people that are watching this, what the president's new immigration policy is except that it's not a bipartisan compromise.
NAFTALI: His hard line Republican allies have told him it's bad for business to do it. And I don't see what he wants instead of it.
HENDERSON: And neither does Mitch McConnell.
BURNETT: Right. And Mitch McConnell, obviously, needs to know in order to get it through Congress has said publicly, which is a pretty strong admonishment. He doesn't know what the president's view is.
All right, thank you both.
NAFTALI: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, one of the harshest attacks yet on the president from his own party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP_
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: An American president who cannot take criticism, who must constantly deflect and distort and distract, who must find someone else to blame, is charting a very dangerous path.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT" And more breaking news, Trump's chief of staff saying tonight the White House did not instruct Steve Bannon to invoke executive privilege with Russian investigators. OK. So who's telling the truth and who isn't?
[19:28:20] BURNETT: New tonight, a historic takedown of U.S. president by a senator from his own party. Senator Jeff Flake ripping into President Trump on the Senate floor, comparing the president's rhetoric to that of Russian dictator Joseph Stalin. Warning the Trump's daily attacks on the media and government institutions are putting American democracy at risk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLAKE: It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies. An American president who cannot take criticism, who must constantly deflect and distort and distract, who must find someone else to blame, is charting a very dangerous path.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard editor-at- large and Bryan Lanza, former communications director for President Trump's Transition Team. Thanks to both.
Bryan, Senator Flake making a very impassioned speech. Obviously, you know, this is a point now of moral clarity for him. This is the second such speech that he has done. This one about the president's thin skin, his lies, his attacks, on government agencies and the media. He says it's a threat to our democracy. Why is Jeff Flake so wrong?
BRYAN LANZA, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM: I think he's wrong because he's talking about -- first of all, let's talk about dictators. I mean, the president, you know, dictators, you know, the only dictators that Jeff Flake is familiar with are the Castro brothers in Cuba. You know, he's been in apologies for the Cuba policy. And that is a real dictatorship. That is somebody who actually suppressed the free media. They didn't allow free speech to take place. They didn't allow religion establishment.
I mean, so the comparison is kind of -- you know, it's extreme in just trying to get -- you know, the senator is trying to get attention. My understanding is he only had two people there -- two other senators listening to him speak. He's trying to get attention. He's trying to use sort of the Trump model and say outrageous things so people pay attention to him while the rest of D.C. is trying to actually solve the issues of the budget, and DACA.
[19:30:07] It's just a distraction. We gave him his 15 minutes and let's just move on from this at this point.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I thought it was a good speech. I think Jeff Flake has been courageous. I wish he were staying in the Senate and running for reelection and even if he lost, he lost. That's the only thing -- I mean, it's his decision and life and easy for me to sit here and say he should have run. But I wish he had.
I think, there are the Trump apologists, but then there are serious people who are concerned about what Trump is doing to this country. And I guess the thing that occurs to me watching senator flake and talking to a lot of other people is that it's really time to fight, you know?
I mean, governor, one quick story, governor called me yesterday, I don't know him that well, but he called and seen something I said about immigrants being deported. I think it's from the Detroit airport, it got a lot of coverage, a guy who'd been here I think 30 years, wife, kids --
BURNETT: Yes, it's gotten a lot of coverage. Yes.
KRISTOL: Right. And he said what can we do about this? I said, you know, you are a governor. I don't know quite what we can do about this, but if you and other governors say this is an outrage, if you talk to your own police department, you know, law enforcement departments and say, how can we stop this, go to your senators and congressman say what is going on, you can do something. So, I'm a little tired of elected officials saying, gee, Trump is really a bad guy and not acting in Congress to pass DACA or as governors to do what they can to really change things.
BURNETT: You know, Bryan, to this point, though, when you talk about comparisons to dictators, I want to ask you the point about empowering them. You know, when I have conversations with people overseas, sometimes there is pretty crazy conspiracy theories thrown out there. And first thing they say to delegitimize reality sometimes is it's fake news. And the term fake news, we all know who thought of it, OK?
The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, recently said we're all living through a fake news era. The Venezuela president who is rolling back democracy blamed the global media for all kinds of false things, saying this is what we call fake news. And in Russia, Bryan, the foreign minister now hast an entire Website, I'll show it to you, an entire website, look at it, big fake on the top of it, and they just put stories they don't like on there.
There is only one guy who came up with this branding and did this. Does that at all to you seem like a problem when people like those people are empowered by it?
LANZA: It's very concerning. I mean, what you are talking about, there are communists, dictators, who are suppressing individual freedoms. And that is very concerning to me as an American, to me as somebody in this world community.
BURNETT: Right, and they're doing it using Donald Trump's number one excuse?
LANZA: I'm uncomfortable with it. I mean, I'm not going to argue anything differently. But at the end of the day, what the president is doing here in the U.S. matters a little bit more than sort of the interpretation of his words in the international community. And he is fighting to change Washington, D.C. There is a power structure that has left a vast majority of America behind and fighting to represent those people.
And he's using -- he's criticizing the media. Nobody is free of criticism. I mean, you know, CNN makes mistakes. Trump makes mistake.
BURNETT: He's not just criticizing the media. He criticizes anything he doesn't like or anytime he's criticized, which I think is the point Jeff Flake was making. Bill?
LANZA: I'm to the going to agree.
Sorry. Go ahead, Bill.
KRISTOL: No, the criticism is fine. The media can take care of themselves. They are big institutions.
KRISTOL: Most of them.
But what about a week ago in interview with the president of the United States says that these two FBI agents who texted things that weren't so flattering to him are traitors, he used that word, traitors. A president of the United States calling individuals traitors, that is something we have not experienced in our time. Joe McCarthy did it and was eventually censored for doing so.
It's unbelievable it's an unbelievable kind of abuse of rhetoric and dangerous. I mean, you don't really want other people calling other people in the government traitors when there are no charges against them. Trump, incidentally these people work for the FBI who is directors pointed by President Trump. If there are really traitors in the FBI, maybe they should go after them.
But he just throws around these terms, and in that respect, I do agree with what Erin is implying. It does do damage to us that he uses terms in this way.
BURNETT: And, Brian, I want to get back to this point, though. Doesn't he bear some responsibility for the fact that dictators around the world and close governments that don't allow for open elections are now using his term to demean and deride and dismiss every kind of story that they don't like?
LANZA: I mean, dictators are always going to use something that the American does. You know, dictators took advantage of the fact that President Obama had a lead from behind foreign policy which allowed them to be very aggressive in their approaches. Look what happened with Russia and Ukraine.
So, dictators are always going to be very aggressive whatever towards whatever American president we have.
BURNETT: But, Brian, you got to admit, this is different. This is -- any conversation I have with someone overseas, when they don't like something they're hearing, they just throw fake news, and then that has become intellectually enough for people to say, I no longer have to consider it, I no longer have to think about it. I no longer have to deal with it.
This is not something we have ever seen before. And it is empowering people who are not open to ideas in their societies.
[19:35:00] LANZA: I just don't see how the blame is on President Trump. I mean, you are talking about dictators who leverage every piece of advantage they have to keep their countries under power and expand their powers. They would have done this under Hillary Clinton. They clearly did it under Obama. They did it under Bush.
This is just what dictators do. They use whatever they can to divide -- to divide and to sort of expand their powers. It doesn't -- you know, it's just -- we need to be pro-active in how we address what dictators do, how to open up the press, how to open up more freedoms in this countries. I think we need to be very pro-active, and I think that's where America has been always been sort of beacon to that.
The language the president uses and these dictators are sort of, you know, clinging onto is uncomfortable but that just means we have to double our efforts over there.
BURNETT: So --
LANZA: And, you know, there is an issue with the media sort of being inconsistent with the truth. I think we have seen the last year of it where people have come up with these anonymous whispers or anonymous sources saying these things are happening and there's no way to review it. You know, the president gives a statement says this didn't happen, and yet he is stuck having to respond to anonymous statements or anonymous whispers saying this actually did happen. There's a problem here.
BURNETT: Let's just take that, no anonymous and multiple source and he himself has no longer denying what he had denied on Twitter. So, I would ask you who's telling on this case.
LANZA: Well, I'm just saying, you know --
BURNETT: The truth problem very clearly in this country, we have one in the White House, and I think anyone who disputes that has an issue, whether you are defender of his or not.
LANZA: This bothers me to say, but I think we have a truth problem in the media. I mean, conservatives have been talking about this for a very long time. It's now an issue where it sort of now hit the mainstream thing. There is a problem with the truth in the media.
And it's not the specific things that they're saying. It's how they tailor the specific messaging. And I think that's the problem and that gives Trump and his supporters the oxygen to say fake news because the Middle America is focused on different things.
BURNETT: Bill, I just want to the point that Bryan is making, Jeff Flake today obviously said that some of the words Trump uses, compared it to Stalin who, of course, killed tens of millions of people.
BURNETT: Rona McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee responded to the senator in part, saying, comparing the leader of the free world to murderers and dictators is absurd. You've gone too far.
Does she have a point? Or was Jeff Flake right, Bill? KRISTOL: Well, I mean, he's technically right about the use of the
term. But, look, freedom is rolling back, it rolled back across the world. I think President Obama wasn't a help on this. Freedom House, the bipartisan organization, put out a study. And Donald Trump is not helping for that. He is not fighting human rights incidentally around the world. He pals -- he likes dictators, he justifies dictatorships. Those seemed to be the foreign leaders he gets along with best, in China and Russia, Philippines and elsewhere.
So I wish we had a president who fought hard for human rights around the world.
The media -- there are lots of reporters, there are a lot of media outlets. Some do better, some do worse. There's only one president. He has to be held to higher standard that a bunch of honest reporters, and I say this as someone who edits a magazine.
If Donald Trump, if the president of the United States can't hold himself to higher standard than huge number of reporters and media, then we have a big problem.
BURNETT: All right. I will leave it there. Thank you both very much for great conversation.
And next, breaking news, the White House said it would cooperate with the Russia probe. So why is it now working behind the scenes to limit testimony to investigators? We have some breaking details this hour.
And despite the very rosy report from the White House doctor, the president does have heart disease and Dr. Gupta joins us with the new details.
[19:41:57] BURNETT: Breaking news: the White House working behind the scenes to limit the testimony to congressional investigations into the Russia investigation. This is according to multiple sources. The strategy becoming clear yesterday when President Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon refused to answer multiple questions about transition in the White House, citing executive privilege. Amazing though because moments ago, Trump's chief of staff denied that Bannon was told to do that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Did the White House tell him to invoke executive privilege?
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: No.
Steve has had very, very little contact with the White House since he left. He left the White House and certainly never returned to the White House and with the exception after few phone calls here and there, very, very little contact with the White House. And I certainly have never spoke to him since he left.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sara Murray is OUTFRONT.
Sara, what is going on here?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, I certainly asked the White House for more details. But it looks a little bit like a game of semantics here. I mean, maybe he's saying that they didn't speak directly to Steve Bannon, instead conversations with Steve Bannon lawyer or maybe he's saying the White House hasn't officially asserted executive privilege.
But here is what we do know, that Steve Bannon was behind closed doors, he was testifying for nearly six hours and throughout that testimony, he took breaks. And while they were taking breaks, his lawyer would confer via telephone with the White House counsel's office about what Steve Bannon was allowed or not allowed to say and would come back with the guidance that Bannon could not talk about anything that had to do with the transition or anything that had to do with his tenure in the White House.
And in fact, when Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, was answering questions about Bannon's appearance today, she didn't dispute the notion that these phone calls were going back and forth. Instead, she said it was totally normal for that to be happening. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's the same process that is typically followed. Sometimes they actually have a White House attorney present in the room. This time, it was something that was relayed via phone, and again was following standard procedure for an instance like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: So what we know is the White House has been working behind the scenes to limit what some of these witnesses will talk about when they go behind closed doors. But, you know, it kind of remains unclear what happens next in all of this. We did see Corey Lewandowski. He was on the Hill today when he was asked again behind closed doors about anything that had to do with his time since leaving the presidential campaign, he punted, but he said that he was unprepared to answer the committee's questions.
The White House viewed of this is they're doing nothing wrong, that they're simply maintaining precedent. Democrats see it as an effort to muscle important witnesses. One thing about Steve Bannon's appearance, he certainly left that room infuriating lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
BURNETT: Right. The rare thing to unify them on that particular committee.
Sara, thank you so much.
OUTFRONT now, the former special assistant to Robert Mueller, Michael Zeldin.
So, Michael, let me just ask you. Sara's reporting the White House is working behind the scenes to limit the testimony that anybody is going to give to congressional investigators. Are they fully cooperating here or not?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it seems that they are cooperating with Mueller and not so much with the congressional committees.
[19:45:02] And they face the same sort of ability to be charged with lying or obstruction of justice for failure to cooperate with the committee. So I don't understand why they would do this dual strategy. But that's what it looks like from the reporting we have had tonight.
BURNETT: Right. As you point out, the repercussions would be the same. So, it doesn't seem to fully make sense. I mean, you know, today, Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for Trump also was in front of the House Intelligence Committee, and has Bannon tried to do, he also refuse to answer a slew of questions.
In his case, though, Michael, he said he was not prepared.
BURNETT: I mean, he knew this day was coming. He's going to Washington, he's going in front of a group of people who are investigating collusion in the Russia investigation and Russian interference in the election, and he says he's not prepared?
ZELDIN: Right. I used to try that in the 6th grade but Mr. Coron (ph) would never accept that as excuse for not doing my homework. It's just not really acceptable to have an answer from Corey Lewandowski who has been in the news for everyone and the day saying that he's going to fully cooperate, he's got a story to tell and this is, you know, something he's looking forward to. And now coming in with some claim of spurious claim of executive privilege or the dog ate my homework and I'm not prepared to testify. It's just Alice in the wonderland, you know, Alice's adventure in wonderland curiouser and curiouser is only way it makes sense to me.
BURNETT: It does seem like Alice in Wonderland. It doesn't make sense. It all comes back to really if there is nothing to see here, just put all of your laundry out.
ZELDIN: That's right.
BURNETT: Thank you very much, Michael.
And next, the White House getting defensive today about the president's health after a test shows the president has heart disease.
And yet another public office seat long held by Republicans just won by a Democrat, this in Wisconsin. Is it part of a nationwide trend or not?
BURNETT: Tonight, the White House defensive after a medical test showed the president has a heart disease, this after a very rosy description by the White House doctor about the president's health in nearly one hour press conference yesterday.
Here's White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: He is the only doctor that has weighed in on this matter that has examined the president. And so, I think a doctor that has spent the amount of time with the president as Doctor Jackson has is not only the most qualified but the only credible source when it comes to diagnosing any health concerns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is OUTFRONT.
Sanjay, so tell us about the test results, the ones that focus specifically on heart disease.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, there were several types of tests to try to parse out evidence of problems with the heart, cholesterol tests.
[19:50:03] We know his cholesterol, for example, has gone up, despite being on medication. And we know about his weight, which can also be a predictor for heart problems.
The one that sort of came out in questioning is a test known as a coronary calcium test and basically what that's looking for is evidence of plaque and narrowing in the blood vessels that lead to the heart. That's heart disease. As I mentioned, it wasn't part of the official record. It only came out when I asked Dr. Jackson about it.
Listen to how it was described.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. RONNY JACKSON, WHITE HOUSE DOCTOR: He does not have heart disease.
GUPTA: He had a CT scan before that showed calcium in his coronary blood vessel.
JACKSON: He does, he did. He had so -- I think, so technically, he has nonclinical artherosclerotic coronary -- coronary atherosclerosis. So, that's being mentioned in previous physical exams he's done. He had a coronary calcium score done in 2009. It was 34. He had a coronary calcium score done in 2013 that was 98. And we did get a calcium score from this one, I didn't mention it because I think it was clinical good information. It wasn't -- but it was 133.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: That 133 number, Erin, important. Many of the -- much of the literature and people who study say anything over 100 suggests evidence of heart disease, even under 100 can be mild heart disease. You heard the doctor there saying it's not heart disease, but the president has coronary atherosclerosis. That's heart disease. That's what that is.
And to be fair, most men over the age of 40, myself included, probably have some evidence of heart disease. It's very common. So, not at all unexpected that President Trump who's 71 years old have some heart disease, and there is evidence of it.
BURNETT: Is there anything unusual about having that test done? Obviously, the doctor had -- you know, he mentioned it, when you brought it up and gave the results. But not only did he have it done last week, but he also had it done at least two times from 2009 on.
GUPTA: Yes. I mean, usually you get the test because somebody has got enough concern to say, look, let's look for heart disease, there's enough of a concern because of cholesterol levels, because of lifestyle, whatever it may be. So, as you point out, nine years ago was the first time he had this test done. And at that time, the number was in the 30s, four years later, it went up into 90s and now it's 130 range.
So, it's -- there was cause for concern to say, hey, look, let's follow this. We don't think the president is actively having problems with his heart right now, but these tests are predictive. That's what they are. This isn't about diagnosing someone about to have a heart attack or anything, but you order these tests to be predictive and you look at the results in order to actually gain some information.
BURNETT: Obviously very crucial. And as you pointed out, given the trajectory where it is going, that, of course, could spark more concern.
Thank you so much, Sanjay.
GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.
BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, the state of California versus President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a movement that's not going to be stopped. The president cannot win.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[19:55:43] BURNETT: A shocking victory tonight that Republicans fear is a sign of things to come. A Democrat defeating a Republican for a Wisconsin state seat. Now, this is a state senate, but this is what we're watching around the country right now. This has been a seat that has been held for Republicans for nearly 20 years. Republican Governor Scott Walker tweeting, Senate district 10 special election win by a Democrat is a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin.
And Wisconsin is not alone. Across the country, Democrats have flipped 34 legislative seats since Trump became president. Republicans in the meantime have only flipped four. That is nationwide.
There's one state, though, where the resistance against Trump could be the strongest, that's California. And that's where our Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT tonight.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The California Republic versus President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The resistance is legion.
MARQUEZ: One year into his administration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is a wake up call.
MARQUEZ: The world's sixth largest economy fighting Trump administration policies on everything, from legal marijuana to taxes to the environment.
GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: California is not waiting for Trump. We are not waiting for all the deniers.
MARQUEZ: And the escalating fight over immigration.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to fight and we're going to win.
MARQUEZ: California now an immigrant sanctuary state. A new law limiting cooperation between local, state and federal law enforcement. Prank road signs welcome drivers to seemingly, another country, the land of illegals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the politicians in California don't want to protect their communities, then ICE will.
MARQUEZ: The acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Fox News said California politicians who made the law should be held personally accountable. Politicos here aren't worried.
(on camera): Have you ever seen the enmity between California and D.C. like it is today?
BROWN: I wouldn't call enmity. There are certain policies that are radical departures from the norm. And California will fight those.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): The immigrant community finding its voice in the era of Trump.
LYDIA AVILA, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER, CALIFORNIA CALLS: We are actually working harder and galvanizing more people.
MARQUEZ: A daughter of Mexican immigrants, East L.A. activist Lydia Avila says the president, his rhetoric and policies, have only emboldened her community.
AVILA: This is a movement that's not going to be stopped. The president cannot win. He maybe there now but he's not going to be there forever. We're going to win.
MARQUEZ: Equally galvanized, the entertainment industry with its deep pockets and powerful voice.
JEREMY ZIMMER, CEO, UNITED TALENT AGENCY: The power of an idea to change the way people think and change what people feel is really what's important. That's really what we are fighting for.
MARQUEZ: Jeremy Zimmer, CEO of United Talent Agency, one of the world's largest, says President Trump represents a threat to the idea of America.
ZIMMER: We all see that the freedoms and life we assumed we have, the incredible privileges we have to be raised in this country, to live in the country, we all see that, you know, how fragile it can be.
MARQUEZ: Cheryl Contee, an activist in the tech community, says it is a fight over principals.
CHERYL CONTEE, DIGITAL ACTIVIST: I think that you are going to find Californians to be completely unapologetic about, you know, fighting for what we see as California values.
MARQUEZ: Working from home on her pedal desk, one foot soldier among millions across the Golden State, countering, resisting Trump.
MARQUEZ: Now to give you a sense of where things are between the Trump administration and California right now, President Trump is the first president not to visit the Golden State in his first state in office since Dwight D. Eisenhower. That was back in 1950s. The activists I spoke to says all of their money, lots of money here in California, all of their energy, and their technical skills will go to those midterm elections, not only here in California but across the country -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Miguel, thank you.
And thanks to all of you for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere. You just have to go to CNN Go.
"AC360", though, starts right now with Anderson.