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Stormy Daniels Suing Trump's Attorney For Defamation; Report: Trump Hopes Rob Porter Will Return To White House; Trump Expels 60 Russian Diplomats Over Nerve Agent Attack; Interview with Sen. Bob Menendez (D), New Jersey; Retaliating Against Russia, President Trump Kicks Out 60 Russian Diplomats over the Poisoning of Former Spy Sergei Skripal and His Daughter in the U.K.; The U.S. Says the Diplomats are Spies. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 26, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:14] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, denial team Trump knocking down Stormy Daniels' story. Stormy Daniels sues Trump's attorney and says there could be proof, she was threatened to stay quiet. Plus, Trump expelling 60 Russians after the poisoning of an ex-spy. It's his biggest move yet against Russia. Does it prove he's going to punish Putin? And diversity is not important. That's what the interior secretary says. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the battle between the President and Stormy Daniels escalating tonight. Daniels now suing the President's personal attorney accusing Michael Cohen for defamation for denying her alleged affair with the President.

And now, more evidence of threats according to Daniels attorney. He tells our Sara Sidner that he now has several leads when it comes to the man who threatened Daniels in a Las Vegas parking lot about her story of Trump in 2011.


STORMY DANIELS, ALLEGES AFFAIR WITH DONALD TRUMP: A guy walked up on me and said to me leave Trump alone. Forget the story. And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said a beautiful little girl. It'll be a shame if something happened to her mom and then he was gone.


BURNETT: This is all developing as the White House is adamant that Daniels is not telling the truth.


RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I will say the President strongly, clearly and has consistently denied these underlying claims. And the only person who's been inconsistent is the one making the claims. The President doesn't believe that any of the claims that Ms. Daniels made last night interview are accurate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: A strange word to use right, because there's no belief, right? He either knows them to be true he knows them not to be true, right, because they involved him and her. So the President maintains Stormy Daniels is lying. And accusing a woman of lying is nothing new for President Trump. Frankly, it's a strategy that he uses again and again and again. He's accused of affairs, unwanted advances and harassment, and frankly, has not mattered how many women have come forward to make these claims. He simply says they are all liars.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These claims are all fabricated, they are pure fiction and they're outright lies. These events never ever happened.

Every woman who lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign, total fabrication. The events never happened, never. All of these liars will be sued.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?9

SARAH SANDER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, we've been clear on that from the beginning and the President has spoken on it.


BURNETT: Of course he hasn't sued a single one of them. Last month the President also lashed out on Twitter, tweeting impart "Why doesn't Washington Post report the story of the women taking money to make up stories about me". Well, here is one thing we know. We know two women who did take money, took it to be quiet about their extramarital relationships with President Trump. I'm talking about Stormy Daniels and the foreign Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Daniels received $130,000 and hush money from the President's own attorney and McDougal got $150,000 in cash from a Trump ally, the publisher of the Nation Inquirer. She was paid for her story that then was killed. Meaning never published. Both payments came in the days and months leading up to the election. And both women are now telling their stories and sound strikingly similar.


KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYBOY PLAYMATE: We passed a room and he said this is Melania's room. She likes to have her alone time or to get away to read or something like that. And like oh, OK.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did he mention his wife or child at all in this?

DANIELS: I asked and he brushed it aside said oh, yes, yes, you know, don't worry about that. We have separate rooms and stuff.


BURNETT: And that's not where the similarities stop. And we're going to have much more on that in just a moment.

But first, this question, were Daniels and McDougal silenced in an effort to influence the 2016 election? This is a serious question with major legal implications for the President and his team. And frankly, it's time for the President to give the American people full answers to all of these questions instead of just calling all of the many women who have come forward liars.

Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT live at the White House.

And Pamela, the President is silent tonight over these new accusations, not weighing in on Stormy Daniels.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right noticeably silent. And as, you know, Erin, this is a President who doesn't hesitate to fight back to take aim at people on Twitter. We're not seeing that happen here in this case with the President in the wake of the Stormy Daniels "60 Minutes" interview.

Despite that, sources close to the President tell us that he has been paying close attention to the coverage of the interview before and after and that he is been agitated by what he has perceived as wall to wall coverage. So, we know he's been paying close attention to it. So it is that noteworthy that he hasn't spoken out about it at this point.

[19:05:03] Now, the White House, Erin, will not say whether the President actually watched the interview last night on "60 Minutes." So Press Secretary Raj Shah was asked several questions about this. He simply would not answer them and he directed a lot of the questions to Michael Cohen as, you know, that the lawyer for the President who was part of this deal. And the President himself had dinner with Michael Cohen the night before the interview aired but again, silence from the White House, from the President on the Stormy Daniels allegations, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. And of course, you know, the President's Raj Shah. The President doesn't believe her allegations, it's ridiculous towards years. And the similarities between Daniels' account for alleged affair with Trump and Karen McDougal who far beyond what the President said that you heard, right, about Melania when they -- about the shared bedroom and in fact that they don't share one, because she wanted her personal space. Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT.


COOPER: Did you want to have sex with him?

DANIELS: No. But I didn't -- I didn't say no. I'm not a victim, I'm not --

COOPER: The sex was consensual, just being clear.

DANIELS: Yes. SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Adult film director and actress Stormy Daniels and Former Playboy model Karen McDougal have a lot in common when it comes to Donald Trump. Daniels broke her silence to Anderson Cooper for 60 Minutes. McDougal also talked to Cooper for CNN.

DANIELS: He was like wow, you, you are special, you remind me of my daughter.

MCDOUGAL: And he said I was beautiful like her. And, you know, you're a smart girl I know.

SIDNER: Some details their stories have in common are noteworthy because they show a pattern of alleged behavior including intimidation, payoff and media influence by Trump's allies as he ran for president. Both of them say they had sexual relationships with Donald Trump between 2006 and 2007.

COOPER: Did he use a condom?


COOPER: Did he ever use protection?


SIDNER: Both say they spent time with Trump when he attended this Lake Tahoe Golf Tournament. McDougal says she'd been dating him and Daniels says she met him there.

MCDOUGAL: He came in one day and said oh there are bunch of porn stars out there.

SIDNER: Both women were paid for their stories before the 2016 election. Clifford paid $130,000 by Trump's person attorney Michael Cohen to keep quiet. McDougal paid $150,000 to sell her story to AMI, the parent company of the Enquirer which never ran it. And the women say they were intimidated at different points to keep them silent. Clifford in 2011 and McDougal in 2016.

COOPER: AMI has put out a statement saying that you can talk to the media. That you're free.

MCDOUGAL: But according to their attorney, I can't. There'll be financial ruin.

DANIELS: I was in a parking lot going to a fitness class with my infant daughter and a guy walked up on me and said to me leave Trump alone. Forget the story. And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said a beautiful little girl. It'll be a shame if something happened to her mom and then he was gone.

SIDNER: Cohen's attorney is accusing Clifford of defamation and demanding a retraction in a letter immediately following the 60 Minutes interview insisting Cohen had absolutely nothing or whatsoever to do with any such person or incident and does not even believe that such a person exists or that such an incident ever occurred.

Cohen has long said Donald Trump has denied the affairs ever took place and knew nothing of the deals. AMI says they deny any coordinated campaign to convince McDougal that she would be sued or her reputation ruined if she told the truth.

MCDOUGAL: I think somebody is lying and I can tell you it's not me.

DANIELS: He knows I'm telling the truth.


SIDNER: Now, there is one stark difference between the relationships these two women described. Stormy Daniels says she did not find the President attractive and it was sort of a business dealing after awhile with him. She certainly never loved him. But McDougal said something very different. She said she loved the President and said that the President told her he loved her too. Erin.

BURNETT: Right. Thank you very much, Sara.

And OUTFRONT now, Gloria Allred, attorney representing multiple Trump accusers, Larry Noble, former General Counsel at the FEC, the Federal Election Commission, which is essential here now, and Samantha Holvey, 2006 Miss USA contestant, who says Trump inspected the women before the pageant. They made them feel like "sexual objects".

Good to have all of you back with me on the show.

Gloria let me start with you with this report you just saw. Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels' stories sound a lot alike and frankly some rather unsettling ways. Does that make them more or less believable to you?

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY REPRESENTING MULTIPLE TRUMP ACCUSERS: Well, I find both of them to be very, very credible, Erin, but there are stark differences of course. While both appeared to be consensual, it's interesting that Karen McDougal suggest that there was a romantic relationship. That they said they loved each other and she had nothing negative at all to say about President Trump.

[19:10:02] On the other hand, in reference to Stormy Daniels, that appeared to be a sex in the context of an after then Donald Trump, indicated a question that of course he was the host of "The Apprentice" at that time and asked her if she might be interested in being on "The Apprentice". After that, sex took place.

Later there were discussions about whether or not she would be on "The Apprentice". She met him one more time although there was no sex. And he didn't have a decision for her yet about "The Apprentice". So I ask potentially that's a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim she might have had them, doesn't have now because it's too late. But that's interesting.

BURNETT: Yes, and of course, you know, and obviously a lot of the similarities in terms of how he compared them to his daughter, favorably, and told them what he told them about his wife and their separate bedrooms and he certainly the stories echo each other very clearly in many ways.

You know, Sam, both of the women that we just heard say they have been subjected to intimidation and threats. Let me just play Stormy Daniels again.


DANIELS: I was in a parking lot going to a fitness class with my infant daughter. Taking, you know, the seat facing backwards in the back seat, diaper bag, you know, getting all the stuff out and a guy walked up on me and said to me, leave Trump alone. Forget the story. And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said a beautiful little girl. It'll be a shame if something happened to her mom and then he was gone.

COOPER: You took it as a direct threat?

DANIELS: Absolutely.


BURNETT: Sam, Trump Advisor Ed McMullen during the campaign called you and other accusers of the President bimbos. You know, you've been subjected to some of this as well. What stands out from these interviews on Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels to you?

SAMANTHA HOLVEY, FORMER MISS USA CANDIDATE: To me, especially just how the President and his camp continues to call not just them but all of us liars and just because he calls us liars several times does not make us liars especially in my case. I'm simply confirming audio of him talking about going backstage and checking out the Miss USA contestants in the dressing room.

So, you know, how can you call me a liar when I'm confirming your own words. And I think that clearly gets rid of, you know, any validation that he could have that he ever tells the truth.

BURNETT: You know, Larry, it's interesting here on this issue of telling the truth, right. The President's deputy press secretary today used the word believe. The President doesn't believe Stormy Daniels, which as I said I found absurd word to choose, right. Either, you know, he knows, right. So you can do call her a liar or don't call her a liar, but believe is absurd and perhaps says more than a lot of other words, what, the fact that they didn't want to go farther than that.

Stormy Daniels tonight because she's suing the man who paid her the money to be quiet Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, she's suing him for defamation. What happens next here Larry that moves the needle?

LARRY NOBLE, FRM. GENERAL COUNSEL, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: Well, this is interesting because the defamation suits really avoid some problems such as the statute of limitations with a sexual harassment claim. And what they're trying to do here is get it outside the arbitration agreement and basically bring it into court where the question will be whether or not Michael Cohen lied about Stormy Daniels and knew it was a lie or recklessly disregarded the fact it was a lie.

If this case goes forward and I'm sure there will be motion is to dismiss the Trump campaign will file motion to dismiss then try to appeal whatever happens and I'm going to try to delay as long as possible, but if this case does go forward then there's discovery and with discovery Stormy Daniels can take Michael Cohen's deposition might arguably believe be able to take other depositions possibly of the President.

Now he's not named in this case, but he might be considered a witness to what happened. And it really does present the White House with some real problems. You know, its one thing to be able say whatever you want to say on the campaign trail, you know, and be factually challenge on the campaign trail. But when you're get into a court and when you get, you know, get put under oath as President Clinton found out, it becomes very important what you say and that it's true. And so I think this moves it into a different field.

BURNET: It certainly does. I mean Gloria, you know, the White House said today there's nothing to corroborate Daniels claim and her lawyer has suggested otherwise again and again, and again, right. He put out that picture of DVD or a CD, something that, you know, seems to imply there is there is something on it, pictures. And here is what he said just today. So after the old interview aired on 60 Minutes. Here is what he said today.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: We have a whole host of evidence. This is not going away.

There's going to be a lot of evidence that will come to light in the come weeks and months.

She can describe his genitalia. She can describe various conversations that they had that leave no doubt as to whether this woman is telling the truth.


BURNETT: Gloria, at what point should Daniels lawyer put the evidence out or look like he's crying what?

[19:15:07]ALLRED: Well, he has been battling in the court of public opinion, so there are no standards there in the court of public opinion. Although, there are ethical limitations on lawyers in reference to talking about evidence that maybe in a case. So, depending on where this is litigated and those ethical guidelines for lawyers going to have to be adhered to.

Stormy Daniels' testimony of course is evidence. And -- but, you know, it can be weighed by the trier of fact. In addition to that as to that DVD that he said or suggested that contained evidence, all of the evidence documentary, recordings, e-mails, texts, according to the settlement agreement that she signed, if it is valid then they would have to destroy all the evidence or turn it over and not have been permitted to preserve or keep any evidence.

BURNETT: Right. Which I guess could be a question. Although were talking about anyway they say is a $20 million violation which I know you and other say is -- it is excessive if it were even be enforce.

Sam, you know, when you see all of these and, you know, you and I have talked about this before. You spoke out early. You have come out and spoken out again and you've done so despite people saying nasty things about you trying to intimidate you, you know, and you've been unafraid. Is that how you're going to continue? Are you afraid or scared at all when you look at this pattern of intimidation that's clearly out there?

HOLVEY: You know, it's not always easy to do what's right but it is always necessary. And sometimes it does get kind of scary for me, I'll be honest with you, but I have a great support system and I'm very, you know, there are a lot of women that have gone before me that have done a lot tougher things than this. So I think it's important that I keep fighting and standing up for the women of our country.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Sam, for doing that and for doing that with us. And thanks very much Gloria and Larry for being with me as well.

And don't miss Anderson's full interview with Stormy Daniels. It's coming up in the next hour on AC 360. So you can see it again.

And next, the New York Times reporting that President Trump has told advisors he hopes Rob Porter comes back. That's Rob Porter. The one who's two ex-wives and live in girlfriends said that he abused them. Plus Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke under fire tonight for saying he doesn't care about diversity.

And getting tough with Russia, after failing to even mention the poison attacks and the call with Vladimir Putin then, you know, coming out again and again saying maybe Russia didn't do it, when it comes to election. The President is now stepping up and showing 60 Russian diplomats the door.


[19:21:28] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump said to be talking about bringing Rob Porter back to the White House. This according to a report that just published in the "New York Times". In case you forgot, the name, Porter is the White House staff secretary, the former one, who resigned after he was accused of abusing his two former wives and a former live in girlfriend. There was even picture of one of his wives with a black eye. Domestic abuse over the years so this is one of them. This picture appeared in the Daily Mail.

According to the Times, the President's calls w999ith Porter have increased over the past few weeks. So they are definitely talking, they are citing three sources familiar with the conversations.

OUTFRONT now, the co-chair of the Women Vote TrumPAC, Amy Kremer, and National Affairs Correspondent for "The Nation", Joan Walsh.

Joan, the President's calls to Mr. Porter has increased and he is thinking about, you know, aware he probably can't but thinking about bringing Porter back.

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: Still thinks he could come back. Thinks he got a raw deal. Thinks he was accused and maybe unfairly accused. I mean that story is so disturbing on so many levels, but it's so clear that the President is isolated in the White House does not have people that he's comfortable with -- around with anymore.

And so he is kind of parking back to the day why can't Rob Porter come back. But I mean I don't want to leave aside the allegations against him, the domestic violence allegations. You just can't have a person in that position who does not have a full security clearance. You simply can't do it. So, you know, I don't know that anything will come of this.

BURNETT: Right. And obviously he's not able to get security clearance.

WALSH: He'll never get it.

BURNETT: Been married twice and both wives have said it and his live in girlfriend, Rob Porter is 40 years old. Amy, what do you make of this?

AMY KREMER, CO-CHAIR, WOMEN VOTE TRUMP: We know that the President, one of his top priorities is loyalty to people, you know, the people that around him and would hope leaving and others that have left I mean I'm sure he does a little isolated and he's been talking to him according to this report. But it says there that he's probably not going to bring him back and I actually happen to agree that you can't have somebody in that position --

BURNETT: Well, because he's aware that he can't. 2 KREMER: The security clearance. So, I mean I think this is just another story and I don't think anything is going to come of it.

BURNETT: Does it bother you that the President would express a desire to bring someone back who had physically abused both of his ex-wives?

KREMER: I, you know, I think it says in the Article 2 about how we can be sympathetic to people because of the attacks he's been under and sometimes will relate to that. So, you know, I think domestic violence is a serious -- very serious issue across this country. And I don't see the President bringing him back but at the same time, I see the President focused on what is good for America in his agenda. What he wants to do and obviously Rob Porter was somebody he worked well with. He liked the structure there and what not and he believed in the America first agenda. And so it's hard to prioritize that probably when, you know, he's thinking of these things. But I don't think he's going to -- I don't think he'll bring him back.

BURNETT: I want to say what the President said about Rob Porter just to, you know, when we expressed his thoughts about it. Here he is.


TRUMP: It was very sad when we heard about it and certainly he's also very sad. Now, he also, as you probably know, he says he's innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent. So you'll have to talk to him about that. But we absolutely wish him well. Did a very good job while he was at the White House.


BURNETT: That's his point of view when a man is accused by a woman.

KREMER: Right.

[19:25:04] BURNETT: And by the way multiple women in the case of Rob Porter. Every woman with him -- was married or had a living relationship, very similar to the President himself, right? He feels he's under attack --

KREMER: Right.

WALSH: -- by many women. They're all liars.

BURNETT: Well over a dozen.

WALSH: He insists all the women are liars. He won't talk about Stormy Daniels. She's the only one he hasn't personally called a liar yet, but the rest of the accusers are liars. So Rob Porter's accusers are liars. But this is a terrible, terrible look for this President. He really can't afford -- he can afford to lose more support from Republican women. I mean that is the place where he is really suffering in the last 14 months. And as we approach the midterm, that is what has to scare Republicans.

KREMER: I'm going to say something. I think the difference here is that there's photographic evidence with these women.



KREMER: And I'm not saying I mean --

BURNETT: Well, there's the tape of the President saying he grabs women by the p.

KREMER: I mean I think that was locker room talk. I mean seriously I really do think that was locker room talk, but I think were still a part --

BURNETT: Can I ask you a question. I know we're far past that on someone level except if we're not because we've never dealt with it. He says he does it and more than a dozen women come forward and say he does exactly those things. How do you dismiss -- you have people saying he did it.


KREMER: I think men talk differently and it's very easy for women that want to attack him and tear him down I mean to go out there and say yes, he did it to me. I mean, you know, he has denied it. He has denied it, so he has denied it and I think that I mean as long as he's denying it, I mean --

BURNETT: Amy, how many women, as a woman, would it take for you to believe that?

KREMER: To believe what?

BURNETT: 15 or 16 women who have accused him of harassment or assault. They're now on extramarital affairs. We now have two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

KREMER: And he denies it.

BURNETT: Let me ask you about what Raj Shah have to say. The President doesn't believe Stormy Daniels. Why would he use that word?

KREMER: I mean --

BURNETT: Or he's either going to say she's lying or it's true. But I don't believe when it was between you and him, why do you think he's only saying believe?

KREMER: I did hear all of what Raj Said, I don't know. I mean the President has denied that and said there was nothing there. Nothing happened between them. And so well, he had --

BURNETT: Spoken on personally about it, that's why I'm wondering, Raj is spoken for him, his lawyers are, you know --


KREMER: I don't think any of it really matters. I mean when you have poll numbers that are coming up. The President, he's doing what he promised to do on jobs, the economy, trade. I mean that is what people care about. And it's not just a CNN poll. We've seen it with a Fox News poll today that his job approval numbers are coming up. And while the Stormy Daniels is out there, I mean we all saw that who poll (ph) this weekend. The thing about the Stormy Daniels thing is the only part of it that's really relevant is the possible FEC violation.


KREMER: And that is something --

WALSH: There are threats. The threats are relevant.

KREMER: But we don't know that they actually happened. I mean --

WALSH: We'll see.

KREMER: Joan, you're a mom, I'm a mom. Erin, you're a mom. I'm going to tell you one thing. If anybody ever threatened me with my daughter and she's my only child, if anybody ever threatened me, the first thing I would do is call the police, because there's nothing more important than my child. I don't care how powerful they are

WALSH: I want to go back to the polls though, because the polls are interesting. The President has gotten bump in the polls in the last week and the last month. That's a good thing for Republicans. Here are two things that are bad.

KREMER: It's a good thing for Americans.

WALSH: Here are two things that are bad. One is there's a huge gender gap. Republican women are more likely -- they favor -- they believe the women more than they believe Trump. That's unheard of. And the other thing is among people who are very enthusiastic about voting in November, only 38% approve of the President. What you have is an energized base that disapproves of the President that believes the women, you know, approaching a critical midterm election.

KREMER: And I will say as a founder of the Tea Party Movement, this is the red flag for Republicans because the Tea Party Movement, no matter what anybody says we did not have money in 2010. We had momentum and we were able to take back the house. The Republicans better get on it and pay attention because this is a well funded movement and they've got the momentum and we saw what happened --

WALSH: And the grassroots movement also.

KREMER: You better get on it and at the same time all this is going --


KREMER: Have been energizing in their base, you've got Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan taking their base in the teeth with its huge omnibus that the President had to sign or shut down the government. So, I mean Republicans are in trouble if they don't pay attention. I'm very concerned about it.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

KREMER: Thank you.

WALSH: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, a new scandal for Ryan Zinke. Why the interior secretary says diversity does not matter. And Trump getting tough on Russia expelling 60 diplomats. Is the Trump Putin coziness gone?


[19:32:57] BURNETT: New tonight, retaliating against Russia, President Trump kicking out 60 Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the U.K. The U.S. says the diplomats are spies.

Trump also closing the Russian consulate in Seattle, which is located in the building you see there, 25th floor. In total, more than 100 Russian diplomats have been expelled today by the U.S., the E.U., Canada and Ukraine.

This coming three days after we first told you Trump's National Security Council have been urging him to do this. As a reminder, it took the White House days to officially blame Russia for the attack, Trump himself was reluctant to outright blame Putin and, of course, remember Trump ignored his own advisors advice to condemn the poisoning, during a phone call with Putin, the call where he congratulated him for winning re-election even though he had been told in all bold letters not to do so.

Chief national correspondent Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT. 2 And today, Jim, here's the fact -- it is the toughest action yet that President Trump has taken against Putin.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question and it's significant for a couple of reasons, one because it is coordinated. It is Western allies, the U.S., nearly two dozen countries expelling at once, the entire E.U., a number of Russian diplomats who are actually spies -- let's be frank -- and that will significantly impact Russia's ability to gather intelligence here in the U.S. and inside those countries. That's a big deal.

As you said, for the president to do this, someone who has been reluctant to penalize Russia even to speak critically in public about Russia, that is a step although notable the president as you have said didn't say it in this call with Putin, did not tweet about it, did not make public comments about it. And in fact, the statement came from the podium at the White House press briefing and an announcement this morning.

But the actions still taken and I spoke with Lisa Monaco today who advised President Obama and she said this is a significant step for this administration. The question, of course, is will it accomplish the tax task of deterring Russia changing behavior because remember the U.S. has expelled diplomats before for Russia's interference in the election.

[19:35:02] The Obama administration did that. They've sanctioned Russia economically for its interference in Ukraine, the election meddling continues, the interference in Ukraine continues. Will this change this kind of behavior, the murder of people outside of its borders? Open question going forward.

BURNETT: Big open question.

All right, Jim. Thank you.

OUTFRONT now, the Democratic Senator from New Jersey, Bob Menendez. He's the ranking member of the Senate Foreign relations Committee.

And, Senator Menendez, thanks for your time tonight.

First, your reaction to these diplomats being expelled. Do you give President Trump credit for this move?

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, look, it's a welcomed action by the United States and an administration that otherwise has been absolutely reticent to do anything on Russia and to expel 60 intelligence officers, close the Seattle location and do it in concert with 14 European nations I think is a strong message.

But it's simply not enough. This administration has been unwilling to challenge Russia for all of its violation of international order, including undermining our elections here at home. So, I hope this is only the beginning or first step.

And I hope they will actually finally pursue the sanctions that Congress called for in overwhelming votes against Russia, 98-2 in the Senate alone under the CAATS Act law, the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. Those are mandatory sanctions which the administration has yet to levy.

BURNETT: So, I want to ask you about that because, you know, you raise that point, that they have not moved forward on that. And, of course, you've been critical of how the president himself has handled Vladimir Putin.

I just want to play, Senator, a brief clip of what you said earlier this month on the Senate floor.


MENENDEZ: There's one thing that President Trump has shown rock solid consistency on since taking office, and that is a shameful embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin.


BURNETT: Now, of course, the president himself, right, has been loathed to admit that Putin even intervened in the U.S. election. But his administration has taken some actions. The treasury department imposed sanctions on Russian oligarchs close to Putin as well as individuals and groups indicted by Mueller and, of course, people that the Department of Homeland Security says are responsible for hacking the electricity grid. So, those are all actions that have been taken.

My question to you, Senator, is at this point, do those actions speak louder than the president's personal silence?

MENENDEZ: Well, not really, Erin, because most of the sanctions you just referenced to are repeats of sanctions that were levied under the Obama administration versus some of those individuals that were particularly chosen. The Countering of America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act has a series of mandatory sanctions that the administration has not yet levied. And so, I think there are far stronger actions to take than simply largely mirroring what the Obama administration did when so much more has happened with Russia.

BURNETT: I want to ask you about another breaking story on CNN tonight. Several employees of the Interior Department have told us that Secretary Ryan Zinke has made several comments along the lines of -- and these are in quotes but these have been made over several times: diversity isn't important, or, quote, I don't care about diversity, or, quote, I don't really think that's important anymore.

Each time, though, Zinke has followed with something along the lines of, and I quote, what's important is having the right person for the right job, or, quote, I care about excellence and I'm going to get the best people. And you'll find we have the most diverse group anyone's ever had.

Is he right?

MENENDEZ: Well, look, diversity doesn't come at the sacrifice of quality and the best people. On the contrary, we can find some of the best people in the nation from diverse communities, whether that diversity is ethnically, racially or otherwise.

The problem is, is that Zinke is clearly on a path in which, I think, we're going to have increasingly a lily white Department of the Interior. So, I'm really concerned that this is one of many elements of the cabinet where diversity is not only not important, but it's not an effect. And if anything, diverse and excellent members of those departments increasingly seem to either be let go or pushed aside to a lower position.

So, it's a real challenge because, you know, the nation needs to, and it's Department of the Interior and for that effect, every federal department, looks to -- needs to look like the United States of America. And we can do that with the highest quality. We don't have to sacrifice quality in order to achieve diversity. And that's where the secretary is absolutely wrong.

BURNETT: All right. Senator Menendez, thanks so much. I appreciate your time.

MENENDEZ: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, a veteran lawyer dropped just days after being added to Trump's legal team battling Robert Mueller.

[19:40:04] A lawyer who turned down an offer to join Trump's team joins me next.

An opportunity missed, an Obama administration official now says the U.S. was warned two years ago about Russian meddling. So, why wasn't it stopped then? Our Drew Griffin with a special investigation. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: New tonight, another lawyer gone from President Trump's Russia legal team, a lawyer who we only learned was joining the team a few days ago. "The New York Times" reports that this leaves President Trump with just one personal lawyer working full-time on the Russia investigation, and the president has failed so far to land an A-list lawyer to add to that team.

That personal lawyer that's left is Jay Sekulow who announced that Joe DiGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing, aren't joining the team. Keep in mind, it was only seven days ago that Sekulow officially announced that the DiGenova was on board.

So, OUTFRONT now, Robert Bennett. He was a defense attorney for President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He was also law partners with Ty Cobb before Cobb joined Trump's legal team.

And, Robert, I very much appreciate your time. You understand this sort of an investigation, the people involved with it, better than anyone else to the extent that multiple sources have told us that you were one of four top lawyers who were asked to join President Trump's legal team in recent weeks. Can you confirm or deny that tonight?

[19:45:02] ROBERT BENNETT, FORMER DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR BILL CLINTON: I don't think it appropriate for me to get into that, Erin, I'm sorry.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I understand. We'll leave it at multiple sources have told us that.

One person we know that Trump reached out to was the former solicitor general for President George W. Bush, Ted Olson, who has turned the president down multiple times in his request to join the team. And today, Olson said there is an extraordinary amount of chaos surrounding Trump.

And, Robert, I wanted to play for you exactly how he put it.


TED OLSON, FORMER SOLICITOR GENERAL UNDER PRESIDENT G.W. BUSH: I think everybody would agree this is turmoil, it's chaos, is confusion, it's not good for anything.


BURNETT: Do you agree with Ted Olson?

BENNETT: Yes, I do. Very much so.

BURNETT: And so, what happens in an environment like that? You now have one lawyer working full-time for the president in an environment of turmoil, chaos and confusion. What happens then?

BENNETT: Well, it's very dangerous to the president and that one lawyer is not a criminal lawyer. And here, the president is being investigated by Bob Mueller and the team of some of the most experienced criminal lawyers in the country. So, it's a very dangerous situation for the president.

BURNETT: Robert, the president tweeted yesterday and I quote him: Many lawyers and top law firms want to represent me in the Russia case, don't believe the fake news narrative that it is hard to find a lawyer who wants to take this on. Fame and fortune will never be turned down by a lawyer, though some are conflicted. Problem is that a new lawyer or law firm will take months to get up to speed if for no other reason than they can bill more which is unfair to our great country and I'm very happy with my existing team besides there was no collusion except for by crooked Hillary and the Dems.

Obviously, his existing team is one lawyer. What do you say to the president's tweets? I mean, first of all, that he has all these people who want to work out with him, but you know, that for a guy like you, you just want it for fame and fortune and if you took the job and took a long time to get up to speed, it just because you want to basically rip him off?

BENNETT: Well, leave me out of it. But the type of lawyer the president needs is a lawyer who already has some fame and success in the practice of law. I'm sure the president's right that there would be many lawyers in the country that would love the exposure of representing the president. But very experienced lawyers like Ted Olson who have achieved a lot of things, they don't want to go into a situation which is in turmoil.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Robert Bennett. I appreciate your time. Thanks for being with me.

BENNETT: My pleasure, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, a Drew Griffin investigation. The Obama national security staffer who is speaking out now exclusively saying that administration dropped the ball on Russian meddling. That's next.

And Jeanne Moos on the two words the president isn't able to say or tweet.


[19:52:07] BURNETT: New tonight, an Obama administration official speaking out for the first time, saying he warned the State Department that Russia could try to influence the elections in 2014, two years, of course, before the election itself and Russia's massive meddling in it.

Our Drew Griffin is OUTFRONT.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russia still denies it, but the Twitter war, the fake news, the social media attack, Putin's new weapon of war, as some called it, was launched against Ukraine in 2014 during its election. And just like a Cold War battle, a counteroffensive set up by the U.S. State Department pushed back. The Russians backed off, but they didn't go away. They just got better.

And one former U.S. official said he tried to sound the alarm that the Russians would try the same tactics in the U.S. According to Brett Bruen, then director of global engagement on the U.S. National Security Council, it was a sign of what was to come, the Russian's new weapon of war. And he says in 2014, two years before the U.S. election, he urged the State Department to keep the task force up and running and build on it.

BRETT BRUEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL MANAGEMENT: And I was sitting at the White House telling the State Department, for the love of god, keep this up. This is not the moment for us to stand down.

GRIFFIN: Bruen pitched a command center that would track and counter Russian misinformation, but he says the State Department dismissed the idea, precisely why isn't' clear.

(on camera): CNN spoke to half a dozen former State Department and National Security Council officials. Some of whom tell us the State Department was focused on diplomacy with Russia. Others blame bureaucracy for getting in the way. Still, others say no one including Brett Bruen accurately assessed the damage, the potential damage to the U.S. election.

(voice-over): Victoria Nuland, then-head of the State Department's Bureau of Europe and Eurasian Affairs told CNN by phone there was just no money for what Bruen was proposing. We were operating on a shoe string budget it was, she said.

Whatever the reason, the warning of the looming Russian threat was not shared across the Obama administration. By the time of the Republican and Democratic conventions in July 2016, more than 80 people at the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency were already assigned to meddling in American life. Yet, in the U.S., multiple sources who dealt with national security at the time tells CNN they had no idea the extent of the Russians' activities.

In other words, they missed it. You knew enough that he would be able to foresee the whole fake news, fake grassroots support, fake Twitters coming in the election.

BRUEN: Not only did I feel like I knew enough at that moment, I was sitting in the Situation Room saying, this is something that is going to march across Western Europe.

[19:55:09] It's something that is going to march over to our shores and we need to be ready.


GRIFFIN: Erin, Bruen says his biggest concern is what Russia going to do next. His warning was ignored by the Obama administration, but now that his warning proved to be true, he's puzzled why the Trump administration chooses to ignore the Russian threat. He says, if anything, Putin's newest weapons of cyber style war have only improved and he doesn't believe the Trump administration is doing much to counter them -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Drew Griffin, thank you very much.

And next, Jeanne Moos on Trump suddenly out of words when it comes to Stormy.


BURNETT: Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The president is taking a licking when it comes to Stormy Daniels. She is water cooler conversation.

But you know who isn't talking?

REPORTER: We watched "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Mr. President?

MOOS: President of the United States is waving, pointing smiling, posing with babies. But when it comes to the hush agreement meant to keep Stormy quiet, well, it's the president who's been hushed lately.

REPORTER: Is Stormy Daniels a liar, sir?

REPORTER: Are Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal lying about the affairs?

REPORTER: Is Karen McDougal telling the truth, sir?

REPORTER: Mr. President, any comment on Mrs. McDougal?

MOOS: Stormy Daniels' attorney is literally taunting, daring, provoking President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let the president take to the podium and call her a liar.

We have a president that will tweet about the most mundane things.

Known to mankind, but for some reason, he can't come out and deny the affair.

You know why he won't tweet about it, because it's true.

STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM STAR: He knows I'm telling the truth.

MOOS: The president's only stab at a post "60 Minutes" tweet was generic. So much fake news. Never been more voluminous, or more inaccurate.

He is leaving the spin to his spokespeople.

REPORTER: Why haven't we heard from him?

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Well, that will be up to the president.

MOOS: Donald Trump doesn't always zip it when facing accusations by women.

For instance, the "People" magazine reporter who said Trump pushed her up against the wall and put his tongue down her throat.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look at her, look at her words, you tell me what you think? I don't think so.

MOOS: But if the president insists on keeping a stormy silence, he's got to hope that "60 Minutes" doesn't become 60 days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More details from Stormy Daniels.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still stay a little on the Stormy side.

MOOS: -- New York.


BURNETT: Anderson starts now.