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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
DHS: Troops Could Be Deployed to Border As Early as Tonight; Trump Administration Sending Troops to Border But Short on Details; Market Swings Wildly on Trump-China Trade War Fears; CNN Exclusive: Mueller's Team Questioning Wealthy Russians; Pruitt on Controversial Pay Raises: My Staff Did It, Not Me. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 4, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:02] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, troops to the Mexican border arriving as early as tonight. The administration, though, stumped on basic questions about how many and when and the cost and why now.
Plus, is Trump all bark and no bite on tariffs? His right hand man on trade, Peter Navarro, answers our questions.
And Mueller's team stepping up the scrutiny on Russian oligarchs. Waiting for them as they arrive at the airport, swooping in, taking them in for questioning.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, tripling down -- President Trump signing a proclamation to authorize the use of the National Guard along the U.S.-Mexican border. And he made it loud and clear that he is taking action, Trump sent his Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen out in front of the cameras in front of reporters for 25 minutes.
Twenty-five minutes is a lot of time, and during that time Secretary Nielsen was asked some very basic and very important questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How soon do you think whatever the number is the deployments will begin?
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: So let me take the last part first. We do hope that the deployment begins immediately.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Size and duration?
NIELSEN: Size and duration, we have not -- I don't want to get ahead of the governors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More robust than the Bush deployment?
NIELSEN: I think -- it will be strong. It will be as many as is needed to fill the gaps that we have today is what I can tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give a cost estimate as to what this will cost and --
NIELSEN: I can't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much will it cost to complete the entirety of the wall being designed?
NIELSEN: So we are -- the Border Patrol as you know has submitted a very specific plan to Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we don't have a total ticket price at this time? It's still unclear what you think it will cost?
NIELSEN: We have the down payments. We're working with Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does that mean the troops could be heading to the border as soon as tonight?
NIELSEN: It does mean that. But what it also means is we will do it in conjunction with the governors. I'm not going to get ahead of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president have the authority to use money Congress has appropriated to the Department of Defense to build the border wall?
NIELSEN: So it's a good question. I'm going to side step it because I'm not at the Department of Defense and I'm not a lawyer over there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, look, Nielsen couldn't answer, right, how many National Guard will be involved, how long they'll be deployed, how much it will cost. It was awkward. And it begs the question of why she was sent out to take reporter questions in the first place, and why the president seemed so fixated suddenly on this need for troops along the border.
Perhaps the answer to that lies in this, the Fox News segment that the president saw the other day. Listen and watch the banner on the bottom of the screen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This story caught our eye and we wanted to bring it to you. An army of migrants is literally marching or riding or making their way from -- is it Honduras?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most -- all of them from Central America, most of them from Honduras, taking the journey from there to the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: An army. Now, that segment aired at about 8:47 a.m. this past Sunday, April 1st. It was Easter Sunday.
About an hour later, President Trump tweeted, Border Patrol agents are not allowed to properly do their jobs at the border because of ridiculous liberal Democrat laws like catch and release, getting more dangerous. Caravans, in quotes, coming. Republicans must go to nuclear option to pass tough laws now. No more DACA deal.
Of course with caravans in quotes, the president using the same word Fox News used on its screen, caravans when talking about this quote unquote army in their words. So, is this move to send American troops to the southern border something that the president said has never been done before all because the president was watching Fox News?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of speculation in the country that this might have something to do with something the president saw on television on Sunday morning. Might have something to do with the fact that president wants to sure up support amongst his political base. Can you speak to that speculation? Is it true?
NIELSEN: I think what is true is the president is frustrated.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sense of urgency about sending the National Guard to the border, the secretary cites this question. Does this have anything to do with the report that the president saw on Fox News?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it has everything to do with protecting the people of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Everything to do with pr protecting the people of the country or everything to do with the Fox News segment that upset the president? Either way, the president surprising even Pentagon officials by his call to use the U.S. Military to guard the border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Until we can have a wall and proper security, we're going to be guarding our border with the military. That's a big step. We really haven't done that before.
We are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: We haven't really done that before. Now, obviously if he's talking about the military that's true. That would be against the law. So let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was indeed talking about what he signed that he was going to do, deploying the National Guard.
Well, that's not true, that that hasn't been done before. [19:05:03] Presidents Obama and Bush sent thousands of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. In fact, maybe more than 7,000.
And our own Ed Lavandera caught up with Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas today on a flight on his way to the border. And Cornyn said he talked to Trump this morning and the president's plan was actually not that different from what President Obama did and we're going to have much more on that in a moment.
A crucial question remains. Why this urgency to get troops to the border when it's pretty clear from the lack of answers to the questions that the White House has not thought this plan through?
Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT live at the White House tonight. Jeff, you really pressed secretary Nielsen about the timing of this announcement, why she was sent out today to talk for 25 minutes when she was unable to answer so many crucial questions. And she didn't have answers for you.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, that is the central question here, why is this happening at this moment? And again as you said, an unspecified number for an unspecified length of time as well as an unspecified price tag here.
So there's so many questions unanswered. We asked the secretary again, why now. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: Why is this such an urgent priority right now for the president to decide?
NIELSEN: I think, you know, what I would say is that the numbers continue to increase. April traditionally is a month in which we see more folks crossing the border without a legal right to do so. So, partly it's modeling, partly it's anticipating. Clearing out the border as a family unit in a fraudulent way.
So, why today, not yesterday, tomorrow? Today is the day. Today is the day we want to start this process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, she said right there today is the day. Today is the day we want to start this process. So, the timing though, is still uncertain. She said earlier in the briefing they could start as early as this evening. About an hour after that briefing, an administration official had a separate briefing saying probably not that soon.
But, Erin, it remains a question here. Is the administration reacting to a blow back of criticism the president has been facing ever since he signed that spending bill. You will remember a couple weeks ago he signed an omnibus spending bill, only $1.5 billion for the border wall. He was hammered in the conservative press, Fox News, other places. He wanted 25 billion.
So, it certainly seems interesting while the timing of this is related. Erin?
BURNETT: Certainly so. And of course they still couldn't come up with a number of how much they were spending or needed and now as you say, troops going tonight, well, maybe not.
One thing we do know tonight is that the administration is scrambling to put in place the president's plan. And as I mentioned, Ed Lavandera is there on the border where National Guard troops are just learning of this entire situation.
And, Ed, you have covered this border story again and again and again. You know more than anyone. I know you're in Laredo tonight along the border. And you spoke to the Texas Senator John Cornyn today about the president's plan and what he had to say was pretty important.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Erin, we're flying down here to Laredo this afternoon to dig more on the story and the deployment of these troops here into the border regions. Texas Senator John Cornyn was on our flight. We asked him about what he expected to see, any concerns that he might have. He told us that he had spoken with the DHS secretary as well as President Trump this morning before most of these details or actually lack of details have been lined out and spread out this afternoon by the Trump administration.
He says he has no details on the size of the force, how long the force will be deployed, and how much all of it will cost. And the Texas senator doesn't seem too bothered by any of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Those are good, good questions, and I don't have the details. I don't think they were specific yet what it's going to be. I think when it was President Obama, it was somewhere on the order of 1,200 National Guard troops. When Governor Perry did it, it was about a thousand. And, again, it's a big, big border.
LAVANDERA: Does the lack of specifics and clarity about how much it's going to cost and how many troops are involved, why doesn't that bother you as much?
CORNYN: The details, I think I'm not too worried about that because I think there are legal limitations on what the National Guard can do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: And what we've talked to a number of officials here along -- in these border communities, and they said all along what they don't want to see are these troops standing here on the banks of the Rio Grande or any place like that arresting undocumented migrants. By law, they're not technically allowed to do that anyway. Senator John Cornyn also, as you heard him allude to there.
So, the question really be, what kind of role they'll play. But it sounds some sort of support role in intelligence and helping out the front line Border Patrol agents already on the ground here, Erin. BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Ed Lavandera.
And OUTFRONT now, Patrick Healy, politics editor for "The New York Times," and Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security.
[19:10:02] Look, Juliette, if you're trying to say you're all about, you know, protecting the border but you're also about spending money responsibly, and being fiscally responsible, you would think you would have an idea of how many people you're going to send, when they're going to do, how long they're going to be there, what they're going to do when they're there, you know, just some basic questions. And yet the Homeland Security secretary came out for 25 minutes, she was sent out, and there were no answers to any of those questions.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It was embarrassing for her. Look, this is a cover up. It's not a cover up of a crime. It's a cover up of a mistake by Trump.
The White House, Secretary Nielsen, the Department of Homeland Security, and these willing governors are all covering up the fact that the president got it wrong yesterday. He did not understand what it meant to say that you're sending the military. And either -- you know, at best, the president didn't understand the distinction when some people say you're going to deploy the military. At worst he couldn't understand the distinction between the military and the National Guard.
So, now we're playing catch up and the catch up has no specifics. We don't know the money, we don't know what's important to someone like me who deals with the Homeland is, what are the rules of deployment? Are these -- as they're going to be allowed to shoot? What are they going to be allowed to do.
BURNETT: Like Ed was saying, are they going to stand along the river and -- what are they going to do?
KAYYEM: Yes. Yes. I mean, you know -- and Secretary Nielsen might as well have said, you know, they're deploying to bowling green and the Mexicans are paying, and that would have been more specifics than we got out of the department today.
BURNETT: I mean, Patrick, it is pretty incredible. There were no specifics. And when you look at the timing of it and obviously both Sarah Sanders and Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary Nielsen were asked about this today.
PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right.
BURNETT: The president saw a segment on Fox News, then used the same word, which by the way he often does when he sees segments on Fox News and there's a word in there, a banner on the bottom of the screen, he'll put it in quotes. And he really got riled up.
HEALY: He gets rally riled up. BURNETT: And then used the word army, and then he uses the word military and all of a sudden here we go.
HEALY: Right, and it deals -- it's a manufactured crisis, what's going on at the border. I mean, that -- we're at the lowest number of illegal immigrants being caught at the border since 1971.
BURNETT: And that people are going home, they flows going the other way.
HEALY: And that people are going home.
HEALY: You know, one of two things is happening here. Either he is sort of knowingly manufacturing a crisis just to create a big political message to solve his problem with Fox News and that Republican base were so upset that he got nothing, practically nothing on the border wall.
BURNETT: Right. People like Ann Coulter were basically like, I'll impeach you --
HEALY: -- and say how could you sign this? How could you sign this? Or he's making very basic fundamental mistakes about what the military is and what the National Guard is. You know, God forbid he actually admits that he's just doing the same thing that President Obama did and President Bush did.
I mean, he would never do that. But it's very disturbing. I mean, the reality is, he's going into the midterm election season with no real, you know, legislative initiative to talk about. He's got a tax cut that is several months old. They're unclear still in terms of key states, how that's going to payoff for voters.
And now he's basically -- you know, it's the worst impulse that we saw during the campaign. Going to sort of race and ethnicity to scare people and to come off like a strong man and say I'm going to protect the border.
BURNETT: I mean, and, you know, it's amazing, Juliette because when he says it's never been done before with the military, he was right. But now he's saying, I didn't mean that. I meant the National Guard.
When it comes to the National Guard, as John Cornyn, the Republican senator points out, that is exactly what was done by Obama and by Bush. In fact, it was more than 7,000 National Guard between the two of them, 6000 under Bush, about 1,200 under Obama that were sent down there.
So what's he going to do now. Say, I'm going to send way more than they sent because I have to be different?
KAYYEM: That's my fear. And let me tell you, when I was at the Department of Homeland Security when we were working with the governors about this deployment. It was well construct -- you know, look, and it was controversial. There's no question about it.
BURNETT: Oh, yes.
KAYYEM: But it was organized. It was in consultation with the governors because, look, the governors have their own issues. They're going to have hurricanes and oil spills and other needs for their National Guard. They're not just going to send a bunch of guard members out there without protecting their own resources.
So, it was well planned. We had a sense of who was going to pay. That's a huge issue. The governors did not want to pay. The fact that Nielsen could not settle that issue means that that I think, you know, the U.S. taxpayers will pay.
But finally, I just -- I want to say this. It's -- I've been in Homeland Security before 9/11. It's -- we spent a lot of time working with the National Guard. It's an integral part of our Homeland Security defenses. They deserve to be treated better than this. This sort of willy-nilly, we're going to throw them at the border is ridiculous.
BURNETT: So, Patrick, on this point of what's happening here, too, they're also trying to say, you know, we're building this wall.
BURNETT: Now, of course, the wall is something that much of the border already has.
BURNETT: To just point out a basic thing. And she was asked about this today, right, that there's pieces of the wall that are being, you know, replaced. Look at it. I mean, a lot of wall and a lot what -- what doesn't have wall is impenetrable because of terrain.
But she was asked specifically about, oh, when you're fixing old wall, is it -- are you counting it as new wall, and I just want to play that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:15:05] NIELSEN: If there is a wall before that needs to be replaced, it's being replaced by a new wall. So this is the Trump border wall. In many cases it will --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Replacing current wall would count as new wall in your words?
NIELSEN: Yes, it would.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEALY: Yes, this is a rough performance. And this brings back memories of Betsy DeVos when she was asked about basic questions about education, schooling, secretary of education. Here's the secretary of Homeland Security sent out on behalf of the White House to answer basic questions, basic questions and couldn't do it. And then she's doing sort of the old wall, new wall.
One thing that she did say that is very interesting is, she said, yes, this is sort of the spring season when a lot of migration is coming up from Honduras. It happens every year. These kind -- and Fox News is targeting it as the sort of caravan and army as if it's something different. There's usually a larger influx of migrants coming up every spring. This is not unusual, but they're reacting, you know, in a very political way.
BURNETT: And of course we should point out many of them are coming for jobs that only migrants want to do, and that has to do with farming and a lot to do with the season.
Thank you both very much.
And next, the president talks a big game when it comes to punishing China, but is it really all just talk? Peter Navarro, Trump's trade advisor, is my guest OUTFRONT next.
Plus, breaking news in Bob Mueller's investigation. Russian oligarchs stopped when they're coming in the country, questioned, cuffed at the airport about whether Russians funneled money to the Trump campaign.
And Jeanne Moos on Trump getting legal advice from some unlikely people.
[19:20:19] BURNETT: Breaking news, trade war turmoil. The DOW today swinging nearly 650 points, plunging and then surging, ending up 231 points. The reason for the incredible turn around, investors are betting Trump's tariff threat is talk and not action.
This coming after his top advisors walked back his threats today saying it's all just a negotiation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: This is a negotiation using all the tools.
WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Even shooting wars end with negotiations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That calmed the markets. And OUTFRONT now, Peter Navarro, assistant to the president and director of trade -- of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. And Peter, great to have you back.
So, is this whole tariff threat just negotiating talk?
PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: Well, the big picture here is China steals our stuff then they pose a threat to our technology when American firm goes to China. And President Trump says that that's not good for America and America's future. So, he ordered 9Ambassador Robert Lighthizer to conduct an investigation and we put $50 billion worth of tariffs in place. There's going to be a 60-day comment period and the intention is to put those tariffs in place.
BURNETT: So the intention is to put them in place?
NAVARRO: But, as you note, there are communications going on between the Chinese and Ambassador Lighthizer and Secretary Mnuchin. The bigger issue here, though, is the president's vision for growth. He has a four-point program. As you know it's tax cuts, deregulation, unleashing our energy sector, and rebalancing our trade.
And the trade issue, Erin, as you know, is a big issue. When we run a $500 billion trade deficit with the rest of the world, that basically means we're shipping our factories overseas and on the order of three or four million jobs that are there instead of here. So, this is a growth plan the president is pursuing and I think that's the mission and that's what's going on today.
BURNETT: You know -- and look, you always make a good case, Peter, but, you know, many would call tariff threats and a possible trade wars the opposite of a growth plan. The president began this by saying he was going to impose tariffs, as you point out, on $50 to $60 billion in Chinese goods. And whatever you want to say about the jobs, it's going to -- it might help, it's going to carry huge costs for many Americans including many, Peter, who voted for this president.
One of them is Tim Schmidt, a hog farmer in Iowa and here is what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: How much will these tariffs cost you, Tim?
TIM SCHMIDT, 2016 TRUMP VOTER AND IOWA HOG FARMER AFFECTED BY THE CHINESE TARIFF: Well, if the U.S. sells $1 billion worth of pork products to China. That equates about $7 per head marketed in the United States. So, our farm markets about 5,000 head a year. That would equate to about $35,000 for our farm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: $35,000 for his farm, Peter, and he went on to say 3,700 jobs could be at risk in his county alone, a county that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump. And he said his vote is at risk because of these tariffs. What do you say to someone like Mr. Schmidt?
NAVARRO: Well, Sonny Perdue, the secretary of agriculture made a statement strongly in support of the actions that the president is taking. We're doing everything possible. We're going to have the backs of American workers and American farmers. I think -- this is going to be an interesting time for the American people in terms of seeing into the character of China. What we have here is a situation where they've been basically punching us in the body, in the face for years. All we're doing now is self-defense, defending ourselves.
And the way they expect us to react is to punch us some more and basically try to hit American farmers most directly. And I don't think the American people are going to respond very well to those kind of threats. And for the farmers throughout this country, you have to know that President Trump sits behind the resolute desk. He's resolute in protecting American farming interests. And That's what happens' going to happen here.
BURNETT: But look, I don't need to point out to you the basics of the fact that free trade and cheap goods from Chin had helped a whole lot of Americans when it comes to cheap things people were able to get from Walmart, cheaper televisions, things they weren't able to get before. It's complicated as you and I both know.
When it comes to farmers, though, it's not just hog farmers because China today said, all right, if you're going to do it to us, we're going to do it back. And they say a 106 American products will be subject to their tariffs of about $50 billion. Soybean is on that list. China buys more than 60 percent of total U.S. soybean exports which is a pretty stunning number. And eight of the top 10 soybean producing states in this country voted for this president.
[19:25:03] Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, North Dakota and Kansas. Peter, it's an incredible list.
Elaine Kub is a Midwest-based analyst, she wrote the book "Mastering the Grain Markets. Her average expectation is the average soybean farm will lose $7,000 a day if Trump goes ahead with this tariff fight. Is he willing to lose those votes?
NAVARRO: The big picture here is this. When China got into the World Trade Organization in 2001, they were a $1 trillion economy in terms of GDP. Since then, they've grown to a $12 trillion economy and it's almost 800 percent rise.
In the meantime, what happened here? We lost over 70,000 factories, over five million manufacturing jobs. Our wages were stagnant. And our growth rate was cut almost in half.
That's the big picture that Donald Trump is looking at. And so what we're trying to do is to get to a place on the other side of this volatility where China respects the global trading order, that they engage in fair and reciprocal trade. They're simply not doing that and Donald Trump is standing up for the American people. We will have the backs of American farmers in this fight --
BURNETT: How are you going to have the backs of American farmers? You go ahead with the tariffs, they're going to hit back with tariffs. Can you explain that? NAVARRO: -- the secretary of agriculture is aggressively working out plans to assist any American farmers that are threatened by these actions --
BURNETT: So what? You're going to add subsidies into this whole mix?
NAVARRO: Let Sonny Perdue come on and talk about this. But, Erin, look, when this kind of rhetoric plays into China's hands, what they're trying to do is probe the weaknesses of America and then the president's will. That will not happen.
But the people watching this program have to remember what's going on here. China is just blatantly stealing our intellectual property and forcing our companies to turnover their technology. They've targeted the industries of the future, artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing. These are the kinds of things that if they grab the industries of the future, we won't have a future.
And it's not just economic future. It's military future because a lot of these industries which China is targeting has military applications so that's what this is about. And the American people, I think when they watch what China is doing, they're not going to react very favorable to China picking on our farmers and denying that they're even doing this stuff when everybody knows they're doing it.
So, you're asking good questions, but I want everybody to know watching this program that this is a problem that we need to solve for our future and that President Trump has their back.
BURNETT: All right, Peter, thank you very much. I appreciate your time again tonight.
NAVARRO: My pleasure.
BURNETT: And next, breaking news. Mueller upping the pressure on Russian oligarchs, detaining and questioning them at the airport. Did they funnel money to the Trump campaign?
And Scott Pruitt facing ethical questions, many of them tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, one ever your friends from Oklahoma got a pay raise. That's the medium --
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: They did not get a pay raise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They did.
PRUITT: They did not. I stopped that yesterday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You stopped it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you embarrassed that -- PRUITT: It should not have happened. It should not have happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And that was the tip of the iceberg. So, why is Trump sticking with Pruitt?
[19:31:35] BURNETT: Breaking news: the Mueller investigation intensifying tonight with the special counsel's team aggressively questioning Russian oligarchs and you can say well, how, aren't they in Moscow? No, apparently some of them are coming to the United States. And as they arrive in the airport, there is team Mueller as a welcoming unit ready to question them.
Mueller's team looking at whether wealthy Russians were illegally funneling money into the Donald Trump campaign.
Our Kara Scannell broke the story.
And, Kara, I mean, it's unimaginable they came here and Mueller has investigators waiting for them. This is part of an aggressive new strategy you've been reporting about on Mueller's part.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Erin. This is the first time we're learning that Mueller's team is even targeting and interested in talking to oligarchs. And now, we're learning they pulled two offer the private planes when they land the in the U.S. A third is also been asked to provide a voluntary document request and to provide an interview with Mueller's team.
And now, this is all part of the investigation into whether Russians meddled and interfered with the election and if the Trump campaign was involved with that. What we are seeing here is that they're looking into whether the tactics that would use to hide these proceeds into the campaign which, of course, Russians can't donate into the U.S. election. So, whether they did this through straw donors or using American citizens to hide their donations or by making contributions to think tanks or investments in corporations that have political action committees that would have donated into the campaign or inauguration fund.
And so, stopping people at the airport is an aggressive move and experts I talked to today said, you know, it's really a strategy. Prosecutors want to catch people off guard. They want to try to get candid honest answers before people can talk to a lawyer or figure out what their answer is going to be and they also want to get their electronic devices before they can be wiped of any potential evidence.
BURNETT: All right. Kara, thank you very much. It's such pretty incredible to imagine.
OUTFRONT now, Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York, top Democrat of the House Judiciary Committee. You know, here I was imagining at customs they a cost you, but of
course, it's their private plane which makes it even easier for Mueller to figure out, right, a manifest who is on this plane. You heard Kara's reporting. Two oligarchs at least stopped arriving in their private plane in the United States, a third they're requesting information from. How significant is it that they're going to these extents to talk to these people?
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: I think it shows that Mueller is in the old Watergate sense following the money. You know, he was charged with investigating possible Russian interference in our elections two years ago and he's looking at all parts of it and makes sense, I suppose, for him to look at possible money coming in through these oligarchs.
BURNETT: Would you be doing that, stopping someone when they come off a private plane without probable reason to suspect or have information about this person doing something or not?
NADLER: I would suspect -- no, he had to have some -- I don't think he necessarily had probable cause in a legal sense, but he had some reason to believe that it's worthwhile devoting time and resources to doing that. This just shows, you know, he is pursuing the investigation of possible Russian interference in our election. As we know, he's also pursuing the question of obstruction of justice by the possible obstruction of justice by the president and his team trying to interfere with that investigation. That's a very important investigation, too, obviously.
BURNETT: You talk about following the money. And then, of course, there's following the links and meetings between those involved with the Trump campaign and Russians.
[19:35:05] In this case, we're talking about Roger Stone, Trump aide and WikiLeaks, which even Mike Pompeo, ever course the president's future secretary of state and former CIA chief said was an arm of the Russian intelligence.
In Info Wars, with Info Wars, the conservative -- the far-right Web site, Roger Stone did an interview in August of 2016, OK? He did an interview after Roger Stone had denied he had any contact with WikiLeaks, any contact at all, he had denied that. Then he did this interview and here's what he said.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ROGER STONE: The Clinton campaign narrative that the Russians favored Donald Trump and the Russians are leaking this information, this is inoculation because as you said earlier, they know what is coming and it is devastating. Let's remember that their defense to all of the Clinton Foundation scandals has been, not we didn't do, has been you have no proof. Yes, but you have no proof.
Well, I think Julian Assange has that proof and I think he's going to furnish it to the American people.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. Our KFILE, Andrew Kaczynski and the KFILE, found that particular sound bite, the same day that Stone gave that interview, he says I think Julian Assange has that proof. He sent an e-mail to Sam Nunberg, the former Trump adviser and in that email, he said he had dinner with Assange the night before. OK? So, he met with him which, of course, he had denied.
How significant is that e-mail and this sound bite?
NADLER: Well, it may be significant. Remember, he also said that Podesta is going to be in the crosshairs, too, pretty soon. He indicated a number of ways that he knew that WikiLeaks had this information, and clearly, I think the special prosecutor, special counsel has got to be looking into this. And clearly, there is a lot of information.
I mean, you know, one pattern we see there is everybody denies they ever talked to any Russians, all of a sudden, we see 60, 70 people in the Trump campaign or connected to the Trump campaign talked to Russians at various times and places and met with them and seem to know something in advance. And I'm sure the special prosecutor is looking at that, as he is looking at the question of the obstruction of justice and the abuse of power by the president in trying to interfere with the investigation.
BURNETT: Which I know is significant. And when you talk about obstruction of justice, you know, obviously, we have the reporting now that Mueller has told President Trump's lawyers that the president himself is not a criminal target in the Russia investigation. More than a witness, but not a criminal target.
We are, who knows how much longer we have to go in this investigation, but they have been looking at this for a very long time. If we are at this point and the president is not a criminal target, does that mean Mueller doesn't have anything on him?
NADLER: No, it doesn't mean that at all. Quite the contrary.
BURNETT: Why not?
NADLER: Because he said according to the reports that the president is not a target, he's a subject. A subject is someone on whom you have reason to believe was involved in things that you're investigating. A subject can turn into a target, meaning someone --
BURNETT: But this far in, if he's not a target, you think he still could become one?
NADLER: He could. He certainly could, easily could. Or not. We just don't know yet.
When you say this far in, it's not very far in. The investigations take a long time. I wouldn't be surprised if this investigation went on for awhile longer. I don't know. I don't know anything the general public doesn't know. But this -- Mueller has clearly been calling in people, going up the
chain in classic prosecutorial --
NADLER: -- fashion, indict this one, get that one to turn state's evidence and tell you what they know. He now wants to talk to the president. And I assume he will talk to the president. Either the president will talk voluntarily or he'll subpoena him to a grand jury at some point. Then he'll decide.
Now, the fact that the president is a subject now means there is very serious concern. He may or may not turn into a target. It depends what they decide after further investigation.
BURNETT: All right. Well, we shall see. Congressman, thanks so much. I appreciate your time.
And next, embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt speaking out tonight and blaming Washington's toxic environment for some of the decisions he's made.
And hundreds making their way through Mexico in the caravan headed for the U.S. border. The president is vowing to stop them. So, we sent our Leyla Santiago to the caravan and she's going to be there live after this.
[19:43:20] BURNETT: Breaking news: the embattled EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt is under fire for multiple allegations of wrongdoing. You know that. But now, he is speaking out, trying to defend himself on many counts, including two aides getting $80,000 worth of pay raises.
This is a great exchange. Listen to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I did not know that they get the pay raises until yesterday.
REPORTER: OK, one of them got a pay raise of, let's see, $28,000. The other was $56,000. Do you know what the median income in this country is?
PRUITT: No, what?
REPORTER: Fifty-seven thousand a year.
REPORTER: So, one of your friends got the pay raise that's the medium income --
PRUITT: They did not get a pay raise.
REPORTER: They did.
PRUITT: They did not. I stopped that yesterday.
REPORTER: So, you stopped it?
REPORTER: Are you embarrassed that --
PRUITT: It should not have happened. The officials involved in the process should not have done what they did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Rob Astorino, a friend of the president's and former Republican gubernatorial candidate here in New York, and Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for the nation and political commentator for us here at CNN.
All right, Rob, look --
ROB ASTORINO, FORMER CANDIDATE FOR NEW YORK GOVERNOR: I knew you were going to start with me.
BURNETT: OK. So, this is not even about the raises. Well, it is, but there's a whole lot of other things, right? There's the $50 a night that he was paying for prime real estate from an energy lobbyist, you know, when he's head of the EPA. There's the dozens of first class flights.
Should he still have the job as head of the EPA?
ASTORINO: Yes, with an asterisk.
BURNETT: What's the asterisk?
ASTORINO: Well, the asterisk is, it's up to the president. If he broke a law, then he's gone. Right now, apparently, he washed it through the general counsel and I think three different layers and they said, yes, it was permitted.
There was a difference between not being permitted or illegal and things that are OK technically but don't look good.
[19:45:06] And that's maybe where he is right now. But that's where he is right now.
BURNETT: So, let's play this part about this room. I want to emphasize this is, you know, a prime real estate apartment right by Capitol Hill, $50 a night. And you're pointing out that others approved it, but he's trying to act like it's totally fine.
Let me play how he answered Ed Henry's question on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: President Trump said he would drain the swamp. Is draining the swamp renting an apartment from the wife of a Washington lobbyist?
PRUITT: I don't think that that's even remotely fair to ask that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I'll go on the record here. Ed Henry asked a very good question. The best answer is it's not remotely fair to ask that question? The wife of a lobbyist of the EPA --
JOAN WALSH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's totally fair. It's $50. You can't get a closet on Airbnb for $50 in Washington, D.C. I've tried. I mean, it's ridiculous.
And she's the wife of a lobbyist. This lobbying firm also successfully lobbied for the EPA to change some regulations on one -- lighten regulations on one of their companies. So, it looks dirty. It is absolutely an appropriate question. Maybe it's not dirty, maybe it can be explained away. He's doing this thing and he's done it before.
And he acted (ph) that he's above questioning. He's not. He's a cabinet secretary.
BURNETT: The response in and of itself -- what does that response mean in terms of whether he should be where he is? I don't think that's remotely fair to ask that question? If that's what he truly thinks, who the heck does he think he is?
ASTORINO: No, that was an appropriate question to ask. He should have answered it and he should have answered it dead on and put this thing to rest.
Those kind of responses just beget new questions, you know, and it makes it look like you're hiding something. And if he isn't and he got all clearance, go straightforward and say what I did was perfectly fine. You may not like the way it looks but it's perfectly fine.
It brings up another issue. You know, it's very hard -- Congress members don't get any housing allowance. Members, hierarchy of the government, they don't get housing allowance. They don't get personal travel back home.
You know, it makes it difficult for people of, I'll say normal means, not the Mnuchins of the world or Wilbur Rosses, when you're carrying two homes in different places, a family, it makes it very difficult. I think they should consider --
BURNETT: You're saying it makes it easy to become ethically compromised. You're not defending it. You're not saying it's OK. You're just explaining perhaps.
ASTORINO: No, I'm not saying it was unethical. I'm saying it makes it very difficult and they're going to look for ways where they he could within the law find the easiest opportunity.
WALSH: So, you don't think it's the least bit unethical? You don't think he should look at it and say, I should never be taking a sweetheart deal from the wife of a lobbyist?
ASTORINO: It's not a sweetheart deal because what they did is 30 days times $50 is $1,500. That's what that would have rented for on a monthly basis. So, that's what --
BURNETT: The average rent in that area, as I've seen reported is $6,000 a month. So, let's be clear.
WALSH: Right, and that's not the way --
BURNETT: Fifteen hundred sounds like a lot to a lot of people and it is. But when you're talking about what you get in a deal that was unethical, he was not paying.
BURNETT: Was he paying a real rate?
ASTORINO: And also, apparently, again, I have no idea. From what we've seen, apparently that company that does the lobbying had nothing before it in the last two years since he's been there.
WALSH: I think that's wrong. At least the agency just relaxed regulations in March of 2017. That's part of what this whole beef is about.
ASTORINO: Well, I think part of it is --
WALSH: A Canadian company.
ASTORINO: From what I read, they had nothing before them while he's been there since '17 and '18.
WALSH: I think "The Washington Post" reported the opposite.
BURNETT: Here's my question to you, Rob, before we go. What Pruitt has done is what Trump wants him to do.
BURNETT: I'm not talking about the ethical issues. I'm talking about as head of the EPA.
ASTORINO: The policies, yes.
BURNETT: OK? He's rolled back fuel efficiency rules for cars. He's removed any mentions for the word climate change from EPA pages. He has gotten rid of 700 people. He's rolling back environmental -- I'm not saying it's good or bad.
BURNETT: I'm just saying he's doing what the president wanted him to do. So, it's what the president is telling the country that's more important than having someone who is ethical or honest.
ASTORINO: No, but if he is being ethical, in other words, if it is in the parameters of what he's permitted and just because of people are carping on it --
BURNETT: There is a problem when what's permitted. Can we all admit that?
ASTORINO: Well, but that's a whole separate issue. If he did what he's allowed to do what he did, then we move on. But policy wise --
BURNETT: -- it doesn't show entitlement to you?
WALSH: The $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office. He's not a spy chief. Come on.
ASTORINO: We talked about "get smart" last time. We loved get smart.
WALSH: We did. We're on the same --
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both.
And next, Trump claims the caravan of migrants has been broken up in Mexico because of him. Well, we sent a reporter to find out and she's with the caravan as it is making its way to the U.S. border.
[19:53:28] BURNETT: Breaking news, a caravan of nearly 1,000 migrants is traveling through Mexico towards the United States tonight. This comes a day after President Trump claimed credit for it breaking up the caravan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said, I hope you are going it tell that caravan not to get up to the border. And I think they are doing that because as of 12 minutes ago, it was all being broken up.
(END VIDEO CLI)
BURNETT: Well, Leyla Santiago went to find out if that was true. She's in Pueblo, Mexico, tonight.
And, Leyla, you are with people who are part of this caravan. You heard the president say he had broken up the caravan. Is that true?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, the caravan itself we are told is still strong south of where we are right now. But I am in Pueblo, where I will show the faces, the people who have been with this caravan from the beginning. These are people from El Salvador, from Guatemala, from Honduras, and they are telling me that nothing will stop them, that they are going to continue north.
Most of these men and women have told me that President Trump or the National Guard cannot stop them. If there is some sort of challenge at the border, they will find a way to get through.
That said, not everybody feels the same way. I talked to one gentleman who said that President Trump is having an impact and he will not be going north because of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTIAGO: Do you plan to go to the United States?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Not really.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think not a place for Central American people, Mexico people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: United States has a bad, bad president.
SANTIAGO: This is about President Trump for you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. This is dangerous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANTIAGO: And so, where we are right now is a shelter at a church and the priest told me he expects hundreds to come over the next few days. He expects about a hundred to arrive just tonight, and these are people, many fleeing violence from Honduras, Central America, fleeing poverty. Some like the gentleman you just heard from staying in Mexico, but many still continuing north -- Erin.
BURNETT: And this is an annual event, right, organized by activists, Leyla?
SANTIAGO: Right. This is an annual event. It's what we call the Via crucis here in Mexico. This one in particularly has been going on for eight years. They start out in a big group and they do start becoming smaller as they get closer north. The organizers of this march in particular tell me that at this time, they believe that about 200 people will make it to the U.S.-Mexico border and seek asylum there -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Leyla, thank you so very much. On the ground reporting and we'll be right back.
BURNETT: And thank you for joining us. You can watch OUTFRONT any time, anywhere on CNNgo. We'll see you back here tomorrow night.
"AC360" with Anderson Cooper begins right now.