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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
White House: Kelly Reassures Staffers Fearing More Firings; Putin Critic Killed By Neck Compression?; Pro-Trump Group Hires Former Navy SEAL; Lawyer: Stormy Daniels Was Physically Threatened; Ex-FBI Deputy Director Could Lose $500K If Fired Before Sunday; Interview with Rep. Jerry Nadler (D), New York. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 16, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:13] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next. White House staffers on edge as the act is poised to swing. President Trump seems to be loving every second of the reality show he is directing.
Plus the Putin critic found dead in England after a double agent was poisoned there. The death now being investigated as a murder.
And the Stormy Daniels scandal takes another turn. Her attorney reveals physical threats against the porn star and says there are other women. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, you're fired, eventually.
National Security Adviser H.R McMaster on the rocks tonight, his fate seemingly a foregone conclusion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General McMaster is your job safe?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to stay?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you staying?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going back to the army?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And when a reporter from "ABC News" finally got McMaster to respond, here is what happened.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just wanted to ask you about the reports that you might be leaving the White House.
H.R MACMASTER, TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Oh, Sarah said it straight yesterday. Everybody's going to leave the White House sometime.
(END AUDIO CLIP) BURNETT: Everybody is going to leave the White House sometime. Hey, that's true. We got term limits, right?
Look, it was perhaps some most gracious and graceful way for McMaster to deal with the fact that his boss is talking toa whole lot of people in a whole lot of negative ways about firing him. It isn't as if the President hasn't publicly cut down General McMaster, too via his favorite forum for public shaming. Here is the tweet when he slammed McMaster for slamming Russia for meddling in the U.S election. , quote, "General McMaster forgot to say the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by Russians. And that the only collusion was between Russian and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium Speeches, E-mails and the Podesta company." That tweet slamming McMaster was one month ago.
So the President has been fuming and complaining for at least that long, rendering his national security adviser increasingly toothless. But he has not formally fired him. Why? Maybe because of headlines like this one from "The Washington Post", "Trump decides to remove national security adviser and others may follow."
Look, this President does not like when the media is right even when it's due to his own tweets and loose lips. He likes to toy with his top advisers. You don't need a very long memory to remember what he did to Secretary of States Rex Tillerson, his latest public shaming that ended in firing. Tillerson was fired on Monday March 12, just a few days ago. Like I said, it's just a memory these days.
But that was three months after this tweet the president saying, "The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson that he would be leaving soon. Fake news. He's not leaving. And while we disagree on certain subjects I call the final shots. We work well . And America is highly respected again."
Of course, it turns out the news was not fake. It's just is that President Trump didn't want to fire Tillerson when all the articles and leaks about him doing just that were out. So instead, he chose to keep Tillerson on for months. Even though he didn't agree with the man in charged of managing American foreign policy and the world knew it. It seems the President preferred to get points for yelling fake news instead of putting real points on the board by getting a person with authority to do the most important foreign policy job in the United States.
And tonight everyone is wondering, which White House aide or cabinet secretary will be next to hear, perhaps from Twitter, or the grapevine, instead of the President himself, these words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Kaitlan Collins begins our coverage OUTFRONT at the White House. And Kaitlan, staffers there are telling you they are worried.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Erin, because staffers came to work this morning and they were on edge a little bit over these recent firings because we started the week with the secretary of state being fired via Twitter. So, here it is, 7:00 p.m. in the east coast, and no one fired yet, but as several people who worked inside this White House and pointed out to me, yet is the key word.
Now, the White house pushed back on the idea that there were some potential staff shake-up moving over the West Wing today during that press briefing when Sarah Sanders said that she had spoken to the President last night. He expressed confidence in that the National Security Adviser H.R McMaster, a message she then passed on to McMaster. But the President didn't relay 2to McMaster himself even though Sarah Sanders did acknowledge they met several times today and she is not sure if all of this came up during those meetings.
But, Erin, to be clear here, it's the President who has fueled a lot of this speculation himself, so I think his cabinet is not exactly the way he want it. He likes change. And there could be more change coming in the future.
And we're actually told by sources familiar with what's been going on with the President that he has actually been watching the television in glee over the last few days as he's seen the buildup of this idea of a potential staff shake-up happening.
So, a lot of this is, the President himself, he enjoys being able to control the banners that flash across the lower third of the screen there. So, a lot of this is coming from the top down here in the West Wing and staffers certainly were concern. And the White House could say today that no one is being immediately fired, but they couldn't answer if it was going to happen imminently.
And of course, Erin, we all know the President has been known to contradict his own spokesman before.
[19:05:14] BURNETT: Right. Something else he enjoys to do. Thank you very much Kaitlan.
OUTFRONT now, April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Network, David Drucker, Senior Political Correspondent for the Washington Examiner, and Eliana Johnson, National Political Reporter for Politico.
You heard the word Eliana, that Kaitlan used glee. The President likes this game. He likes to keep his staff in limbo, to use a kind word.
ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: That's right. And I think it's wrong to say that the President has decided to fire H.R McMaster or anybody else and that he is going to take action. I think the President makes more theoretical decisions and that he decided months and months ago that he -- that both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R McMaster wouldn't be permanent fixtures in his administration but didn't settle on any permanent time, exact time to get rid of them.
And he's going to get rid of them when the news media least expect it, when there are no headlines about it, blaring on the television. And he does like to let his aides live in a state of perpetual limbo, unsure whether they'll show up to work that day and be dismissed, or serve out the entire four years of his administration.
BURNETT: Great way to motivate people, David.
DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHIGTON EXAMINER: Yes. Look, it's very difficult to recruit top talent in the White House when it's so dysfunctional. We've all had these discussions with Republican 2operatives in town and they talked about how difficult it is to make a decision to work somewhere whether they're not sure that they're going to be table to make a difference and they're always looking over their shoulder.
But, Erin, I think you brought up a really good point. The President is enjoying this.
And as we know normally, staff shakeups or in a sense negative things, it means the White House isn't working and the President needs a reset and it's -- in a sense a negative action even though it's a necessary action. The President enjoys this.
And I think we're going see more of it over time. Why? Number one, the President doesn't have an ideological core. So whoever he surrounds himself with any given time that can change and who he needs can change. Also he is very attracted to the superficial, are you good on TV, do you look the part? He'll hire that person, later find out that they are not a good fit personally. We're seeing that with Tillerson and McMaster.
And finally, the President gets very caught up in the reactions that people are having to his leadership, the reaction they're having to his decision making and he ends up in a sense trying to one up people and best them by countering rather than letting things sort of play out because there is a consistent plan that he has in mind.
BURNETT: I mean, April, look, the President thrives on stoking the flames, right? He thrives from chaos and insecurity in others. He slams his aides, he does it on Twitter. He talks relentlessly behind their backs, to other staffers that he maybe talking behind their backs or to associates and friends that he's talking to on the phone all the time. You know, he may like to say you are fired on TV, but the reality here is, is he prefers to do it in a much more passive, aggressive back stubby way, frankly, in real life, right?
I mean, Rex Tillerson, you know, found out from Twitter or from Kelly or Trump didn't even have the courtesy, frankly, to fire his own secretary of state. APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORK: It was very unprofessional. And I mean, to say that about a sitting President is rough to give a unprofessional grade to a President about the fact that he gave a firing note, you are fired by Twitter.
But, Erin, you have to remember, let's go back, it's not even, I don't even think it's been a week, when -- it hasn't been a week. Because remember when the President was in Pennsylvania? And he was talking about, you know, if I was presidential you would be bored. This is who he is. He wants to entertain us and be entertained, apparently.
So -- but this is about stability. This is also about the fact that how as Americans looking at their President and how is the world looking at this President, the leader of the free world or once was the leader of the free world.
And also I'm going to say this. Erin, we're not totally out of that window of possible firing. We have yet to hear from Sessions, if I'm correct, Attorney General Jeff Sessions about McCabe.
BURNETT: Right. We'll be here tonight.
RYAN: Yes. So, I mean, we're still in that window. And the White House really was upset with what McCabe did. So we don't know as of yet. There could be a firing. You know, maybe not one immediately in the White House, but it could be in justice. We just don't know as of yet.
BURNETT: I mean, Eliana, you know, some of the headlines, because I thought it was an interesting point, you said here, the President will want to wait until this dies down, right? So there's no more headlines and he can say I didn't do it because of the headlines or you guys were all wrong. And, you know, it's all part of that psychological game that he is playing.
[19:10:07] Some of the headlines today, "Donald Trump is very public embarrassment of H.R McMaster," that was our Chris Cillizza here at CNN. Your headline, Eliana, "Trump gives McMaster the Tillerson treatment." That was Politico obviously and yours. "Trump preparing to oust McMaster's national security advisor," "The L.A. Times."
Eliana, how long can McMaster function at all in his doc (ph)? When he's getting headlines like that, when the rest of the world are seeing it, when reporters are yelling the question at him? I mean, there is just that basic reality, right?
JOHNSON: It's a good question I think, Erin. And I'm told by people who are close to McMaster and who speak to him regularly, that if he had it his way, he would stay through the end of his second year on the job. He came in February of 2017 and he would stay until February of 2019 if, you know, he had his brothers.
But I think that the constant speculation about whether or not he's going to be fired is adds a level of external irritation and makes it -- it does add friction to his ability to do his job. But as a military man, I think he -- you see him being sort of nose to the grind stone. He remains an active duty military officer and it would be very difficult for him to simply throw his hands up like a civilian and say, I quit.
I think he is somebody who for a long time has been seek ago fourth star. He right now is three-star general. And I don't see him bowing out of this job until he's got another -- a safe landing spot in the army that is a promotion from his current job.
BURNETT: Look, and if, you know, the White House gives him that to make themselves look better, try to make it look more appealing to some work there because not everybody works there ends up tainted, then so be it, right? I mean, you give it to him to use the leverage that he's got.
David, firing McMaster though would mean the third national security adviser for Trump in 14 months.
DRUCKER: It would and it would --
BURNETT: Yes, and I mean, I'm sorry, I just like to put this so people understand the number.
BURNETT: President Obama had three national security advisers in eight years in office. Bush had two. President Clinton had two. How hard it so find a replacement for McMaster given this track record?
DRUCKER: Well, it's very hard to find a replacement when you know going in that you're on a chopping block immediately and you never know where you stand with the boss. And I think that the only two administration officials that are protected are Jim Mattis, the Defense Secretary, because there's so much public confidence in him and Jeff Sessions, believe it or not, the Attorney General, because Senate Republicans are so adamant that President Trump leave him there and they would have to confirm new attorney general.
Look, when you come to the job and you don't have a cautery of loyalists that know what they're doing that you can depend on, you end up having to rely on people we've seen how that works. I will say this though and this is why I think President Trump enjoys this and feels like it's a positive experience.
For all the negative headlines and for so many Americans and people around the world that find this unnerving and unstable, the President's base looks at this as him shaking up Washington and fighting back against the establishment.
Now, look, are all the people that he has brought in the West Wing establishment Republicans that they're so angry at? No. But that's how they look at it. And to him, to them, they see a president that's not willing to play by the old rules. And the President is very sensitive to the feedback he gets from his base.
BURNETT: April, final word. RYAN: We just have to stay tuned. I mean, this is theater. And it's not normal. But there is going to be someone who either leaves, forced to resign or being fired at some point. This president has a track record that you cannot ignore and maybe his base does like this. But at the same time, you have to remember he is not necessarily a tried and true Republican. I mean, he even went against the NRA at one point. So, we have to see how this plays out. And it's entertainment. But it's also not normal.
BURNETT: No. And, of course, it also shows a willingness to keep people in jobs that you think are terrible to make a point to the media. And what does that say. Thank you all very much.
OUTFRONT next, another Russian, a Putin critic silence found murdered in his London home. Was he strangled?
Plus, a former Trump administration staffer who made shocking races, sexist, anti-Muslim comment just hired to promote President Trump agenda.
And stunning new accusations involving Stormy Daniels. Her attorney claiming says she was threatened with physical violence to keep her quiet. And says there are more women.
[19:18:11] BURNETT: New tonight, another murder - the death of a Putin critic at his home in London, now the focus of a murder investigation, Scotland Yard revealing Russian exile Nikolai Glushkov died due to "compression of the neck."
This comes on the heels of a nerve poisoning of the former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter in a small English town. The British foreign secretary Boris Johnson saying it's overwhelmingly likely that Vladimir Putin himself ordered the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, UNITED KINGDOM: Our quarrel is with Putin's Kremlin and with his decision. And we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the U.K., in the streets of Europe for the first time since the Second World War.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: He did not mince words. And OUTFRONT now is the former CIA and NSA Director General Michael Hayden. General, thank you as always for your time.
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR UNDER PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: Boris Johnson did not mince words, right, very clear. He thinks Putin himself made the decision, gave the order for the nerve agent to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Do you think he is right?
HAYDEN: Oh, I do. And look, that's not based on any intercepting communications or prolonging (ph) documents, although our government may have those. It's just based upon my knowledge of how things work in the Russian federation. I can't conceive of anything like this being conducted without his approval. And there's a body of evidence that the Russian federation did this.
BURNETT: I mean, right, I mean, that they this sort of nerve agent, they had developed it, others did not. I mean, it sort of so blatant but it defies belief that they're trying to deny it, but of course they are.
You know, in a highly unusual moment general, Putin himself was confronted directed this week actually by the BBC, which is perfect right, given that --
BURNETT: -- this was about the U.K. And they asked him, whether Russia was responsible for the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter. And I just wanted to play for our viewers Putin's response and I encourage everyone to look at his face.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:20:13] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Russia behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, you know, right, the bottom line is here, general, he says, you know, we're busier with agriculture and you want to ask about in tragedies get to the bottom of things and then we'll talk. But when he said that it's the look on his face, to stained, and ridicules blatant, he's clearly unafraid of any retaliation.
HAYDEN: Erin, I would characterize his response on this in a whole bunch of other things. We've good evidence he's been involved in as the so what defense. What he -- what are you going to do about it? He doesn't even bother to deny it or martial evidence as to why it isn't so. He simply dismisses our complaint. And, again, back to so what.
BURNETT: I mean, you know, that the so what defense, I -- you know, obviously in the U.S. and that they've now put on some sanctions, a lot of criticism about that there should be more, it should be broader, et cetera, et cetera. However, the White House was asked directly if Putin was friend or foe of the United States, right. There's an opportunity to come out and be strong.
BURNETT: Try to stop that sort of so what defense. Sarah Sanders refused to answer that directed question. And I wanted to play the exchange for you, general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Putin a friend or foe of the United States?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that's something that Russia's going to have to make that determination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: General Hayden, is that a hard question to answer? Is Vladimir Putin a friend or foe of the United States?
HAYDEN: It's not a hard question to answer. And our answer is actually correct in a sense Erin. It's up to Russia to determine that.
HAYDEN: And they have. They're acting like a sustained foe of the United States working against American, western interests, global interests in Syria, in the Donbass in eastern Ukraine threatening the Baltic states, interfering in elections and now murder of opposition figures in western countries. The Russians have decided they're acting or like a foe and we need to treat them like a foe otherwise this will be cost free for them.
BURNETT: So why do you think the White House then won't do what you just did, right? They won't do it? They won't call him a foe?
By the way, Trump's own national security team has testified the Congress openly saying Russia is attacking the United States as we speak, in cyber ways on upcoming elections, and yet they won't come out and say what you just said? Why?
HAYDEN: There's a remarkable dynamic at work here, Erin. I'll just repeat what you describe to me in a slightly different way. We have the dynamic. We have the phenomena of -- in the United States the American government, the institutions of American government being well ahead of the president in terms of defining and responding to what the Russians are doing. The White House and the person of the president, is well behind what the rest of his government has already concluded, and a peer to be responding to. I've never seen this before.
BURNETT: And why do you think it is that he won't?
HAYDEN: Look, there may or may not be any dark secrets that Bob Mueller is going to disclose sooner or later. I don't know that. And so I don't go there.
I think we've got a position where, frankly, I think President Trump admires President Putin. He likes strong authoritarian figures. He's already stated his kind of affection for President Putin's style.
And now I think President Trump is a stubborn proud man who never admits that he's wrong and he just can't allow himself or his spokeswoman to say what is obvious to everyone. And, Erin, that's -- and that's just not style. That's substance when the American president doesn't take this on personally.
BURNETT: Yes. It certainly is. But he seems to certainly admire as you say the so what defense.
HAYDEN: Thank you very much, General Hayden.
HAYDEN: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, the Pro-Trump group just hired a former Trump administration official who was kicked out for using racist and sexist language that you're going to have to hear to understand this story.
And Stormy Daniels physically threatened to be silent according to her attorney. Now we're learning that some of her acquisitions happened while Trump was in the White House. Which ones?
[19:28:24] BURNETT: New tonight, a former Navy SEAL and Trump administration staffer who resigned after racist, sexist, homophobic remarks, that he had made on the radio were exposed, has now been hired by a pro-Trump group. A pro-Trump group whose leaders Trump had dinner with just last week. Think about that. Think about that when I play you what this man said. Carl Higbie is joining despite comment in end word filled social media post reported by our KFILE. Listen for yourself.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CARL HIGBIE, FORMER NAVY SEAL: I just don't like Muslim people. People always rip me a new one for that. Carl, you're racist, you cant, you're sexist. I'm like Jesus Christ. I just like Muslim people because their ideology sucks.
It's her and her husband with the five kinds and the mother, the grandmother of the kids, and they cant -- they don't have jobs, they're there all the time. I can see -- I guess you can guess what color they are.
You are breaking the morals, the moral fiber of our country. You know, I don't like gay people. I just don't."
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: That was just a snippet. OUTFRONT now, the Former Senior Communications Adviser for the Trump campaign, Jason Miller and CNN Commentator, Bakari Sellers. Thanks to both.
So Jason, let me start with you. Once those comments were discovered, the KFILE putting those out, there's a thing he said in the past in the radio. Higbie was forced to resign from his job in the Trump administration. It is acceptable for this pro-Trump group to turn around and hire him? JASON MILLER, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER FOR TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, Erin, I got to call balls and strikes here and say that I'm both disturbed and very concerned that someone who said these comments, these hateful type comments was then hired by the C4.
[19:30:03] I think if I'm a donor to the C4, I'm probably pretty ticked off someone like this was hired. And I'll tell you, especially because this is not how the president talks. This is not how anyone near the president talks.
And this is exactly the story that the left wants to go and paint of the president and his supporters, so when they go and hire someone like this, then obviously having segments like this talking about it.
In the spirit of calling balls and strikes though, I don't think this type of language is appropriate anywhere across the board. And that's why I'm also very concerned seeing certain Democrats continuing to embrace the radical hateful teachings of Louis Farrakhan, whether it'd be Denny Davis, or we see Keith Ellison, vice chair of the DNC, continuing to meet with him and have associations with him.
If I can stand up and say that the C4 shouldn't have hired someone like this, then I hope that Bakari and other Democratic friends of mine can stand up and say, we should have an absolute rejection of people like Farrakhan and these hateful words.
BURNETT: All right. So, Bakari, before I go to you, let me give you a chance though to finish your point, Jason. You've come out and you said this is not acceptable. The president doesn't talk this way.
Does he need to do something about it? The people who run this group, he was with for dinner last week, he knows them. He's friendly with them. He had dinner with them last night, right? Should he stay -- he can stop this. Does he need to?
MILLER: Well, I think that obviously the attention that's being brought on this now I have to imagine that something happens pretty swiftly here. I'm not in the business of telling him exactly what the president should go and do. But I can't imagine that he finds this anyway acceptable. And quite frankly, he's probably ticked off someone went and did this.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, we have to look at this 50,000 foot view. I mean, the fact is same White House that had someone like Steve Bannon who not only praised Mussolini recently, who went out last week and said, if they want to call you racist, let them call you racist.
The fact is, Carl Higbie, he's a racist. He's a homophobe. He's a xenophobe. He's a bigot. And for many of us, we're not surprised that he was attracted to the words and the actions of Donald Trump.
But this brings on a larger conversation that we're now having that we probably otherwise wouldn't have because the 45th president of the United States has brought these tensions on, these racial tensions on with steroids. And, Jason is correct, and I'm very proud to call Jason my friend
tonight because he's rejecting this. And, you know, I can sit here and say that Louis Farrakhan is anti-Semite as well, and his words and his language do not belong in the public discourse. That's an easy call for me to make.
However, what I also will say is that Louis Farrakhan is not in the mainstream of Democratic thought. Donald Trump is Republican thought and Donald Trump allows these racist ideologies to breathe. Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Carl Higbie, there's a direct line. There's a direct correlation.
Carl Higbie just says the word "nigger" very casually, so he needs to go first.
BURNETT: Jason, what do you say?
MILLER: Well, I'd say that what we need to do is I think on both sides, whether it's on the right or left, we should have a complete rejection of people trying to bring this into the discourse, whether it's Carl saying this or respectfully, Bakari, I would say Farrakhan, yes, very much outside the mainstream, but that's what's so troubling you have folks like the vice chair of the DNC who are continuing to embrace him. You have people like Danny Davis when asked about Farrakhan just talked about, what did he say, we can talk about the Jewish question later. I mean, that's pretty problematic stuff.
And I think when you have leaders who I think you would agree, Ellison and Davis, are very much in the mainstream, we should be telling them they can't be embracing folks like Farrakhan.
BURNETT: Look, Jason, you guys both have a point. But Bakari does have a crucial point, right? The guy you are talking about, part of this, is the leader of the Republican Party and leader of the free world. He's president of the United States of America. This guy was working for him.
MILLER: And, Erin, that's my point, is that he was fired from the administration.
BURNETT: Is that the word you would used? Because we are careful. Just to be clear, technically resigned and didn't do so until the KFILE at CNN exposed all those things he said on the radio.
MILLER: Well, I mean, he left. And probably should have been a bit more forceful than that. But this is -- this is not the type of behavior, attitudes that the president is going to allow to happen. Again, people around the president do not talk, do not act like this. And he shouldn't be a part of the organization.
BURNETT: Bakari, final words since Jason had the first.
SELLERS: No, I mean, I agree with Jason somewhat. But I still think we have to combat this and we have to combat the system, the systematic racism we see in this country, you know, with direct force. The fact remains, Carl Higbie is a racist. He was working very close
to the president of the United States. Steve Bannon is a racist, xenophobic bigot, who was senior adviser to the president of the United States. We can talk about everything on the periphery but we have to deal with what is the core in the country. The president of the United States has a problem with race and we need to have that conversation.
[19:35:02] BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I appreciate the substantive conversation. Thank you.
And next, we have new Stormy Daniels' revelations tonight, some of what she claims about Donald Trump took place in the past year while he was president, the stunning accusation. So what is she talking about?
And Andrew McCabe spent more than 20 years with the FBI, rising to second in command, earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in pension, and tonight it could all be gone, he could be fired. McCabe.
BURNETT: Breaking news, major new claim from the attorney representing Stormy Daniels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Is there anything in the litany of accusations you would call them facts that surround this case that happened while Donald Trump was president?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Yes.
TAPPER: Can you go any further than that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. MJ Lee is OUTFRONT.
I mean, MJ, obviously a pretty big thing to say, while Trump was president, yes, but wouldn't say what. I mean, do you have any sense what he means and what other accusations he's putting out there tonight?
MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, the stunning accusation from Michael Avenatti is that Stormy Daniels has been physically threatened to keep silent about her affair with Donald Trump.
Now, remember, up until this point, we knew that there were legal threats against Stormy Daniels. For example, a temporary restraining order that was taken out against her just last month. But this is the first time that we're hearing the lawyer say that there have been physical threats against the porn star. Now, take a look at what he said actually about this because he was
very explicit in the language that he used.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What are you a alleging was done to your client in terms of pressure to stay quiet?
AVENATTI: Well, I'm not alleging anything. I'm stating a fact, and the fact is that my client was physically threatened to stay silent about what she knew about Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:40:03] LEE: Now, Erin, this is not the only thing. Avenatti also suggesting there could be more headaches coming President Trump's way. He says that six other women have contacted him to discuss taking potential legal action against the president and at least two of them have NDAs.
But he's being very careful here. He said he has not fully vetted these stories. He has not yet fully vetted these NDAs. He doesn't know if any one of the women will end up becoming his clients.
But certainly, if there are more women, this raises a whole bucket of new questions for the White House about whether there were other NDAs, whether there were other payoffs. And, of course, now, the question of whether there are other women will saying, there were threats made against them to keep silent about President Trump.
BURNETT: All right. Obviously, crucial questions and new allegations tonight. MJ Lee, thank you very much.
And I want to go to former prosecutor Wendy Murphy now OUTFRONT.
I mean, Wendy, you heard Stormy Daniels' lawyer as MJ was replaying on his key lines today. He says some of the accusations in this case from Daniels occurred while Trump was president. If he is referring to these physical threats, what does this mean for the president, Wendy?
WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, the first question is who did it. Because if it wasn't the president himself, then a threat made to Stormy Daniels wouldn't lead to any kind of charge against the president unless he ordered it, was a co-conspirator knew about it and aided and a betted.
And he's not stupid. He would not do that. This is a guy, if nothing else, he's very good at building walls that at least somewhat insulate him as being the prime bad guy. He's good at that.
So, I don't -- I don't see that as the likely answer to the question. But what I want to know is how could Stormy Daniels have signed an agreement in October, and now her lawyer is saying it's related to things that happened months later. That's a very interesting question. And Avenatti is very good at inciting people to speculate. So, I'm
doing a lot of speculating.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you, though, because, you know, he also said that there are six other women coming forward, as you heard MJ referring to. Let me play the exchange where he lays that out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVENATTI: We have been approached by six separate women who claim to have similar stories to those or to that of my client. Two of those women, at least two have NDAs. We are in the early stages of vetting those stories. We're not going to stake our reputation on them until we have confidence that they are telling the truth. We have 100 percent confidence that Ms. Clifford is telling the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: If those women receive money as part of their agreements to remain silent, maybe even during the campaign, Wendy, could the president have bigger issue when it comes to the crucial question of breaking election law or not?
MURPHY: The answer is maybe. I mean, what I would love to see is when the deals were made, because proximity to the election matters, and we know that Daniels' deal was just days before the election. That's one of the reasons it's a strong piece of evidence and suspicion that we all talk about around the campaign finance law issue.
So, when were they signed? I think it's interesting that of the women that have reached out to Avenatti, not all of them appear to have NDAs which suggest to me that those who do have something special to hide. I can't wait to compare the NDAs.
BURNETT: All right. Which I know you've had a chance to read very carefully.
Wendy, thank you so much. I appreciate your time as always.
MURPHY: You bet.
BURNETT: And next the clock ticking for a firing. This of a former FBI official. Andrew McCabe could be hours away from losing his pension right before he retires. Is Jeff Sessions going to fire him tonight?
And the women's paid to speak for Trump may no longer be defending him, firmly defending him. Is Sarah Sanders out of the loop?
[19:47:46] BURNETT: Tonight, retired or fired. Deputy director, the former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe is waiting right now to find out if the Attorney General Jeff Sessions is going to fire him, because just hours before McCabe official retirement. Sessions could fire him for misleading investigators. At stake, hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement benefits and a decision could come at any moment.
OUTFRONT now, the Democrat congressman from New York, Gerry Nadler, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.
So, obviously, this is what you oversee. I mean, what are you hearing right now? I know we thought we would hear about this about an hour ago. We have not yet gotten an update from the attorney general.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: All I've heard is what's publicly available is Attorney General Sessions is considering whether to fire deputy FBI Director McCabe. And that, of course, McCabe's size of this pension is at stake.
He is retired effective Sunday which is 50th birthday. The question is whether Sessions will fire him in order to deprive him of most of his pension or much of his pension.
BURNETT: Is that what he would be doing, though? I mean, I know there's one way of looking at it, but it would be doing it to, you know, the president has wanted him to do it, the president's been public about his feelings about McCabe, he would deprive him of his pension. But we do know the inspector general report, which we have not seen fully, but which is essentially the HR department at the FBI. And their recommendation was McCabe misled investigators about what FBI agency authorized to speak to the "Wall Street Journal" for an article, and that was about the Clinton Foundation.
It was misleading and that basically H.R. department --
NADLER: A firing offense.
BURNETT: -- recommend that he'd be fired.
So, Sessions would, if he follows that, be doing the right thing?
NADLER: Well, that depends. I mean, Sessions, I hate to say it because I have no great sympathy for Sessions, but he is in a difficult place because of the actions of the president. It may to or may not be correct, it may or may not be adequately supported because we don't know the details.
BURNETT: The I.G. report itself, right.
NADLER: Right, in effect, if McCabe misbehaved in order to be fired.
On the other hand, the president has improperly and repeatedly reached into the FBI and criticized McCabe essentially for not towing the line, asked him how he voted, asked him whether he was loyal to him, criticized the fact that his wife ran for the state Senate as a Democrat.
[19:50:16] BURNETT: Right.
NADLER: And has repeatedly criticized Sessions for not disciplining McCabe. So, if McCabe -- if Sessions were to fire him, there would certainly be an appearance, and maybe the reality that he was doing it --
BURNETT: Caves to his boss.
NADLER: Caves to his boss, which would be highly improper reason. On the other hand, maybe he's doing it for the right reason. And this is one reason why it's wrong for the president to make comments about a career FBI official.
BURNETT: So, you know, a former FBI agent told us that he'd seen FBI agents kept their jobs after it has gone through the system, allegations of domestic assault, tax evasion, sleeping with witnesses, sleeping informants, all of that, and kept their jobs, but never lying -- never once lying. You know, it's clear to the FBI honesty is the single most important thing. And other agents said, you know, when they put their hand up and say, so help me God, juries believe them, because honesty is the most important thing.
I mean, that kind of puts the question. How can the FBI fire its deputy if he was not forthright, which by the way appears to be the issue?
NADLER: How can't it not fire --
BURNETT: I'm sorry, how can they not fire? Right.
NADLER: Well, the answer is it can, but, of course, he denies that he was not forthright. We haven't seen the --
BURNETT: The full report.
NADLER: -- inspector general's report.
NADLER: They do seem to be doing this with great haste, apparently greater than usual. I don't know. But, again, it shows why it was -- one of the reasons why it was so wrong for the president to put political pressure in effect on the FBI direct -- on the attorney general to be against McCabe.
BURNETT: Do you think this is about doing the right thing? You talk about the report being rushed by the way from what is supposed to be the unbiased inspector general's office, you know, (INAUDIBLE) about the FBI or is it about his pension.
NADLER: The inspector general is widely respected.
BURNETT: You are not trying to question that?
NADLER: Not at all.
BURNETT: So, if that's their conclusion you would be more likely to believe it or do you think it's about somehow depriving him of his pension, which could be half a million dollars?
NADLER: Well, the purpose of firing someone in effect is to deprive him of his pension as the punishment. The question, is it being done fairly and for the proper reasons? Now, we haven't seen the inspector general's report and it's hard to judge. I believe the inspector general is a man of integrity and so forth, and believes what he is saying.
On the other hand, the decision has to be made by the attorney general, and the attorney general has been the object of highly improper pressure by the president.
BURNETT: And the attorney general obviously under great pressure tonight, and not sure what to do or stalling on what to do. He is in a tough spot.
Congressman, thank you very much.
NADLER: You're welcome.
BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Sanders' about-face when it comes to answering tough questions about President Trump. What's behind it?
[19:57:18] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump's public face, perhaps his most loyal and most trusted aide left in the White House. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders used to defend her boss in very black and white terms. For example, calling his women accusers liars as he had, and point blank denials have changed, turning into something different.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I haven't spoken with him about that specifically.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Why is she a bit more hesitant now?
Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT ( voice-over): The press secretary had to know more scorching questions about Stormy Daniels were coming but her answers proved lukewarm at best.
SANDERS: Obviously, we take the safety and security of any person seriously.
FOREMAN: Had she discussed the latest the president? No. Could she answer anything more?
SANDERS: I would refer to you the president's outside personal attorneys.
KEITH BOYKIN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Clearly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders does not know what the president is thinking.
SANDERS: Good afternoon. I'm sure you missed me. All smiles all the time.
FOREMAN: It wasn't always this way. When she took the job almost eight months ago, Sanders routinely and decidedly slapped down unfavorable questions about Trump's conduct, fast and present.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously.
FOREMAN: Even when she was patently wrong.
SANDERS: The president in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence.
FOREMAN: The president tweets a female Democratic senator would do anything for campaign contributions.
Was that about?
REPORTER: Sexual innuendos.
SANDERS: I think only if your mind is in the gutter, would you have read it that way. And so, no.
FOREMAN: The president shares anti-Muslim videos critics believe were staged. Sanders' response?
SANDERS: Whether it's a real video, the threat is real, and that is what the president is talking about.
FOREMAN: But now, her tone appears clearly more cautious. Asked if the president knew about a payment to Stormy Daniels by his attorney, her answer?
SANDERS: Not that I'm aware of.
FOREMAN: Has the president talked to his attorney about it?
SANDERS: I don't know. I'm not sure.
FOREMAN: And on it goes. In just one briefing, she was asked is Trump glad the Justice Department is investigating use of the FISA courts.
SANDERS: I haven't spoken with him about, to determine his feelings.
FOREMAN: Does he think an indicted governor should resign?
SANDERS: I haven't spoken with him about that.
FOREMAN: Would the president allow a suspected terrorist on the fly list to buy a gun?
SANDERS: We haven't spoken about that specifically.
FOREMAN: Maybe it's just temporary, and to be sure, no press secretary knows everything about any president. But as the questions get tougher about Russia, about the president's personal life, and about these rapid fire changes at the White House, Sanders is effectively saying more often, don't ask me -- Erin.
BURNETT: Yes, it's certainly a shift. Thank you so much, Tom Foreman.
Thanks to all of you. Have a good weekend. We'll see you Monday.
"AC360" starts now.