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Trump Won't Say Whether He'll Fire Mueller Or Rosenstein; Trump Says "Nobody Tougher On Russia" Than Him Even Though He Decided Not To Impose New Russia Sanctions; Top Trump Administration Official: No New Russia Sanctions Told In Call; "Washington Post:" Adviser Says Hannity "Basically Has a Desk" in White House; Cohen Meets with Friend Who Has Russia And Trump Ties Amid Probe; Interview with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D), California. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 18, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:02] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for watching. "Erin Burnett OutFront" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, lawyer in chief, President Trump going it alone essentially acting as his own attorney as the legal pressure mounts, is he making a dangerous mistake?

Plus, a Trump administration telling Russia directly, "No, no sanctions, don't worry about it." What happen? When did the President change his mind and why don't they tell Nikki Haley?

And the hero Southwest pilot, one of the navy's first female fighter pilots saves more than 100 lives after a midair crisis. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, no collusion, that from President Trump tonight speaking at Mar- a-Lago. The President slamming Special Counsel Bob Mueller's investigation saying there was no collusion no fewer than five times. This as we know the President is increasingly acting as his own lead attorney, going it alone, shunning the advice of his legal team.

Tonight, the President calling the Russia investigation a hoax created by Democrats. Here he is just moments ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no collusion and that's been so found as you know by the House Intelligence Committee. There's no collusion. There was no collusion with Russia other than by the Democrats or as I call them, the obstructionists because they truly are obstructionists.

So, we are getting tremendous amounts of paper. This was a really a hoax created largely by the Democrats as a way of softening the blow of a loss, which is a loss that frankly they shouldn't have had from the standpoint the it's very easy for them to have a tremendous advantage in the electoral college. And this is what it is and this is where it came from. You look at the kind of money that was paid, probably some went to Russia. You look at Podesta having the company in Russia where nothing happened and people don't talk about it. You look at the fact their server, the DNC server was never gotten by the FBI. Why didn't the FBI take it? The FBI takes what they want. They go in. They wouldn't get the server. This is a hoax.

As far as the investigation, nobody has ever been more transparent than I have instructed our lawyers, be totally transparent. I believe we've given them 1. 4 million pages of documents, if you can believe this and haven't used, that I know of or for the most part, presidential powers or privilege.

So, we are hopefully coming to the end. It is a bad thing for our country, very, very bad thing for our country. But there has been no collusion. They won't find any collusion. It doesn't exist.


BURNETT: This coming as President Trump does appear to be going it alone, essentially acting as his own lead attorney. This is according to sources who say the President feels misled and no longer wants anyone else in charge.

It is a decision with massive implications, given that President Trump's personal lawyer and fixer of a dozen years is under criminal investigation and all of his documents and communications have been seized by federal prosecutors. That means the President, who does not have a law degree and has never practice law, is trying to essentially take over his own defense.

And today, he went on offense on Twitter about the Russia investigation tweeting, "Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was no collusion, except by the Dems."

Of course, there is a huge problem with the tweet like that, though, and that is this. The President himself said last year on national television that Comey was fired because of Russia.


TRUMP: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.


BURNETT: President Trump also lashing out today against Stormy Daniels and her sketch of a man she claims threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot. He wrote, "A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the fake news media for fools but they know it." It's a statement that could open up the President up to more questions. Daniels' attorney coming on CNN with Wolf Blitzer to say this.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' LAWYER: We're likely going to be amending our complaint. We're looking at doing that now to add a defamation claim directly against the President.


BURNETT: And let's go to Jeff Zeleny now who is at that press conference where the President, as we said Jeff that there was no collusion at least five times in West Palm Beach when he appeared with the Japanese prime minister.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, it certainly seemed like President Trump was responding to questions about this investigation from a year ago. Never mind the fact that there have been guilty pleas, never mind the fact that this is developed so much.

[19:05:05] He's still using the word hoax going back to what he has called it from the beginning. But he did shed some new light on questions that have been lingering. He seemed to down play suggestions that he would fire Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, in fact, the acting attorney general in this matter and fire Bob Mueller.

He said, you know, this has been discussed for four or five months. He seemed to down play. He didn't rule it out entirely then he went on to say this. "We want the investigation to be over with, done with, put behind this so we can get back to business." The question of course, how does that ever happen when he doesn't acknowledge the full extent of the investigation?

Of course, this has changed so much in the last week and a half or so because of Michael Cohen, the person who's closest to him of really any other advisers now is in legal trouble as we know. So the President trying to say no collusion at all. He cited that House Intelligence Committee, you know, the findings of that.

We should remember, Erin, of course, that was the Republican finding of that committee that said, you know, there was nothing to see there. The Democrats disagreed with that, the Senate still investigating and the Bob Mueller investigation very much alive here. So the President in a bit of a denial saying it's still a hoax as we know, acting essentially as his own lawyer and going his own way here.

But, Erin, one other thing interestingly, it's a very end of the news conference as he was walking away, asked about Russia sanctions. He said, "We'll do sanctions as soon as they deserve it." Of course, that would be in the eye of the beholder. That's one of the reasons he changed his mind earlier this week.

BURNETT: Pretty interesting, as soon as they deserve it. That is something that will get many, many talking. Thank you very much Jeff Zeleny. We're going to talk about more about that in a moment. I want to go now, though, to the former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Harry Sandick, that of course is where the Michael Cohen case is right now. Wendy Murphy is the former prosecutor with us. And David Gergen, served as adviser to four presidents.

Harry, look, as you heard Jeff reporting, the President essentially acting as his own lawyer and in a sense, you hear that now when he's saying going off with his list of things, and as Jeff said, sort of going back to a year ago before there were guilty pleas and all sorts of indictments.

But he is tweeting one thing that clearly contradicts what he said before. This is what happens when someone who isn't a lawyer essentially takes on their own defense.

HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: That's absolutely right. And this is not a good idea. He's saying one thing, there's videotape showing something exactly the opposite. He's continuing to call the investigation a hoax when many people have gone into court, under oath, admitted that they've committed serious crimes. Even if it doesn't lead back to him to say the investigation is a hoax at this point, it doesn't really make any sense.

And everything that he says in these tweets, in these press conferences, is at least potentially material for cross-examination. Should he ever be a witness? It can be used against him for any purpose.

BURNETT: And Wendy, Gloria Borger, you know, has been doing a lot of this reporting on how the President is essentially running his own case, right? We talk about Jay Sekulow, who is not a lawyer with expertise of this particular area who is his attorney, but the lead attorney obviously is gone and that is apparently now essentially Donald J. Trump.

One source telling Gloria, Trump believes that "All of this will eventually collapse on itself because he's innocent of anything related to Russia," which is certainly what we just heard that defiance of that press conference. Is this the right path for a man to take who believes he's innocent just to say I'll do it myself?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: You know the only way it's the right path is if he's right that there is no end game that holds him accountable. And it looks like that's a big gamble, but I suppose it's possible.

And if at the end of the day he faces no charges, he gets in no trouble and none of the documents connect him to the Daniels payment and there's nothing there with regard to him and Russia, then he not only comes across as a bit arrogant, but kind of smart and, you know, strategic.

The problem is, most of what he says if you just think about it from a defense perspective, from a criminal defense perspective, even from a civil lawyer's defense perspective, there's no advantage to saying things like this is about to collapse on its own and it's all about to wrap up soon. I mean, Cohen just had his office searched. That does not look like an investigation that's about to end soon.


MURPHY: So, in a sense he sets him up -- he sets himself up for looking like he doesn't have a clue what's going on. He definitely is not approaching this as a chess game, which you want to do in a case that's a lot of politics mix with criminal defense strategy. He's playing it much more like a politician than a defense attorney and I think that's dangerous.

BURNETT: And of course if, you know, again, his behavior, people like Trey Gowdy have called this out right if there's nothing to hide then why always act as if there is. Why be apoplectic, for example, about the raid on your personal attorney if there's nothing that's problematic that could be unveiled in that raid?

[19:10:11] David Gergen, the President, of course, is coming out as all this is happening. He said something else tonight at that press conference, which is he backing off a little bit off firing Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller, which of course that he himself said the other day at a meeting with his cabinet, "We'll have to see. We'll have to see about Bob Mueller." Well, here's what he just said moments ago with the Japanese prime minister.


TRUMP: As far as the two gentlemen you told me about, they've been staying. I'm going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months and they're still here. So we want to get the investigation over with, done with, put it behind us. And we have to get back to business. 2 (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: David, that is backing off big time.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Lincoln has quote this saying that a man who serves as his own lawyer has a fool for a client. Donald Trump could well pay attention to that. It's an old proverb, but you do need in the capacity to tiptoe through dangerous mine fields when you're being criminally investigated.

I do think this President is making a leap to think that he is superman (INAUDIBLE), he doesn't need anybody else's help. He does need help. He needs legal protection. I thought overall in the press conference that what he was doing more than anything else was trying to keep his options open.


GERGEN: He leaned a little bit away from where he's been, but he kept options open on Rosenstein and Mueller kept his options open on North Korea on going back into the Trans-Pacific, you know, partnership on one issue after another.

I think he was trying not to be definitive because it can go either way. And I think that is also something he needs to think about because as in the sanctions case, you know, he's undercut his own representative at the U.N. Nikki Haley, by basically saying, you know, she had it all wrong.

BURNETT: Right, which we are going to have a lot more on that because there has been big development on that. But, Harry, you know, this is all coming in. You know, when you talk about the criminal investigation into Michael Cohen, the President's personal attorney and fixer, the New York attorney general did something today that could change the game.

He's asking New York State to basically change the law in New York State, so if someone is convicted and pardoned by the President of the United States, they can still be tried in New York and therefore, they could still go to prison if they are convicted in New York.

That could change the game for Michael Cohen because if he's thinking, "Oh, I'll just stick and be loyal to the President because I know he'll pardon me," maybe all of a sudden you'll say, "Wait, maybe not."

SANDICK: Right. There's something behind door number two at this point and it could be an investigation either by the New York attorney general or potentially by a district attorney in New York, the Manhattan districts attorney or someone else.

New York has this law which gives defendants more rights than the U.S. Constitution entitles them to and the attorney general is asking the state legislature to amend this law so that if someone is charged and tried or pleads guilty in federal court that they can also be prosecuted a second time in New York State court even if they are pardon.

BURNETT: So a president cannot save you from prison, essentially, if you are convicted?

SANDICK: That's right.

BURNETT: And that obviously could be very significant when you're talking about this and the developments and whether Michael Cohen ever does turn on his boss. Thank you all very much.

And next breaking new, President Trump changing his mind on imposing additional sanctions on Russia. Just moments ago, though, insisting that no one has been tougher on Moscow. Plus, the man who the White House aides reportedly say is the unofficial chief of staff.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: What is Hannity? Is he an opinion journalist? Is he an advocacy? I'm a talk show host.


BURNETT: And a chief of staff? And calm under pressure.


TAMMIE JO SCHULTZ, PILOT, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES: Yes, we have a part of the aircraft missing so we're going to need to slow down a bit.


BURNETT: Just imagine what was going on when she had that calm. Who is the hero pilot who saved more than 100 lives?


[19:18:06] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump insisting tonight that no one has been tougher on Moscow than he.


TRUMP: There has been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump. There has been nobody tougher than me. With the media, no matter what I did, it's never tough enough because that's their narrative, but Russia will tell you, there has been nobody tougher than Donald Trump.


BURNETT: OK. The thing is, is that which just happened moments ago, came after this. A senior administration official telling CNN that the administration called the Russian embassy directly to say there will be no new sanctions against Russia and they made this call on Sunday right, right after the whole serious strikes, right, which were of course (INAUDIBLE) in Russia space and it's a huge about face for President Trump because it was decided, it was done.

The United States just going to sanction Russian companies linked to Syria's chemical weapons program. It was completely decided. Nikki Haley announced it on television, right, and we don't know exactly when the President changed his mind so completely, but one told Nikki Haley before she said this on national television.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday if he hasn't already.


BURNETT: OK. That was a done deal, I think that's pretty safe to say, that no one told her that actually it wasn't. The President has completely changed his mind and then called the Russians directly to tell them about it. This has set a scuffle off with any administration with Trump's economic adviser, Larry Kudlow saying, "Oh, Haley must have been confused."

And Haley put the biggest punch in the face ever saying, "With all due respect, I don't get confused." I always laugh when people start a sentence that way because, you know, it means the opposite. Privately we are learning that Haley felt disrespected obviously by the White House slam.

[19:20:03] OUTFRONT now, former U.S. Undersecretary for Political Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Nick Burns, former Senior Adviser to the National Security Adviser, Samantha Vinograd, and former Republican Congressman and Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers. Thanks to all.

Congressman, let me just start with the news that we have here. Someone on the Trump administration is told after Nikki Haley goes out and announces the sanctions, which she clearly didn't do out of turn, right? I mean, clearly, that was a done deal. And call the Russians directly to say, "Do not worry, Nikki Haley is wrong. There will not be sanctions." It seems incredible, Chairman, that such a phone call would happen, doesn't it?

MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It does to me, you know. And this has been the gripe from the national security folks for months about the lack of an interagency process inside the White House.

So I have every confidence that Nikki Haley was talking to probably people in both the National Security Council and the treasury and they all said, "Hey, we're going to do this. We're going to go after Russian companies that have something to do with chemical production in Syria."

And that's why she was so confident on Sunday, but without that process, somebody changed their mind and pick up the phone and called the Russian embassy. And this is not just bad, it's a little danger. These mixed signals on something as important as this can get you in trouble in a hurry.

BURNETT: And Ambassador, I mean, it is pretty stunning, right, that someone from the Trump administration picks up the phone and calls the Russians and says, "Don't worry about our U.N. ambassador, forget her. I'm telling you, don't worry. There's nothing coming."

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Yes. And this is a problem, of course, with the undisciplined nature of Donald Trump. You can't hang your own people out to try. He needs to build up Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo and the others in the administration and he's not doing it. When the going gets tough, the President points the finger at someone who works for him and diminishes their credibility.

I think she's been one of the stars of this administration. She's a very precise, exacting person. And if she thought a decision had been made, she wouldn't have made this announcement on Sunday morning if she hadn't thought a decision was made and the President just can't change decisions on a whim.

He says he's the strongest President against Russia, I think a case can be made. He's been the weakest since well before the Second World War. He's never really acknowledged the cyber attack on our election by Russia. He never formed a national commission to help our 50 states. It took him eight months to implement the sanctions the Senate voted 98 to 2. This is a weak president when it comes to Russia.

BURNETT: Well, and this is something which is actually very interesting. Not only did Ambassador Haley, of course, go out and do this, having clearly spoken to maybe even Secretary Mnuchin directly, right? But, I mean, that was clear.

Sam, it is also, when it comes to Russia, Nikki Haley has taken a very strong stand and she has been very firm. And she has done so completely and opposite to the President of the United States more than once. Here's some example.


HALEY: We cannot trust Russia. We should never trust Russia.

TRUMP: We want to be able to get a along with Russia. Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.

HALEY: Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections.

TRUMP: It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. And also, it could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?


BURNETT: Not on the same page.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO THE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No. And Nikki Haley has not been a wilting flower on Russia, much like Mike Pompeo. It's interesting. Both Pompeo and Haley have been further out in front on Russia than the President since they both been in their respective positions

Both have not been fired, where as we've seen for example Secretary Tillerson, who had several differences of opinion with President Trump that he have on North Korea. He was given the boot. So for some reason, they seem to have more job security and it will be interesting to see how Ambassador Haley proceeds to the U.N. on potentially multi- lateralizing sanctions base upon the fact.

By the way on Friday night, President Trump said actually said as we announced the Syria strikes that we would be putting more financial pressure on Syria and its backers. So, he contradicted himself when he rolled back these sanctions and she was left out to dry.

BURNETT: You know, I'm curious, Chairman. Tonight, you know, Nikki Haley said she was sort of walking through the halls of the U.N. and someone yelled at her what's your relationship with the President and she said it was perfect. But, you know, I know we can all talk with that a little bit obviously given the fact that this moment just occurred. But, you know, she has down played any kind of tension between the two, even though they have so often and so strenuously said opposite things on things like Russia. Here she is.


HALEY: I've always been true to myself. And when I see something wrong, I call it out regardless of who it is. He knows that about me. He doesn't tell me what to say. I don't have to take directives.


BURNETT: So Chairman, can she continue to walk the line when she has been so publicly -- I mean, frankly, neutered on this particular issue of Russian sanctions, and take him on when frankly as we pointed out, other members of the cabinet have paid the price for that with their jobs.

[19:25:06] ROGERS: I mean, she's performed well, I think, in the United Nations, served the country well, I think in her position there.


ROGERS: I will tell, this reminds me of the old quote from George Shultz when he was Ronald Reagan's secretary of state. There was a better kerfuffle and somebody asked him, "What is your foreign policy view?" And he said, "You know what, I don't have a foreign policy view. The president has a foreign policy view."

So you have -- at some point, you do have to get all on the same team. And it sounds to me this wasn't just Nikki Haley running out to Sunday news show saying something. This was a product of conversations within the National Security Council folks to come to that conclusion and get the sanctions ready.

So that change happened in a way that isn't consistent with having surrogates out on the road doing, reaffirming the President's message of what he wants to accomplish. That's what wrong with this. So I think this is a one off for her. I think what I hope happens if they, if -- with and when Pompeo gets confirmed --


ROGERS: -- they'll go back to wriggle (ph). They'll have people in there that President trusts to make sure that everybody is on the same page. If you want to have an impact on Russia, you have to do that. You can't do what you're doing now, which is one day say one thing --


ROGERS: -- and the next day say something else.

BURNETT: But Ambassador, you know, there's also the more -- the big question here, which is, it's not just the miscommunications and how embarrassing and bad it is for the country to be having all this mixed signals, but just a very simple point of that fact that as Sam pointed out, the President of the United States said more financial pressure was coming.

It clearly was completely agreed to. It was been announced on national television and then he changed his mind. Why? Why would he change his mind? And then, you know, tonight saying, well, if Russia does more to deserve it, he just said this at the press conference with Abe, if they do more to deserve it, we'll put on more pressure. So what changed?

BURNS: Well, I think, Erin, this is the most important thing we can say about the President. There is no evidence of a strategy here. There wasn't on Syria and there isn't on Russia.

It's interesting because with this new foreign policy team, with Pompeo and Bolton, Nikki Haley and Mattis, just to name the top four people, they're all tough on Russia. They all think we ought to be sanctioning Russia. And the President is the outlier. Sometimes he said -- he thinks he agrees with them. Sometimes, he doesn't. So they're not getting the consistent, strategic leadership from the Oval Office that they need.

BURNETT: Right. And, of course, we just don't know the answer as to why if aiding and then vetting at a chemical attack merited military strikes -- that was worthy of military strikes but not of sanctions is very hard to understand how those two things can be true at the same time. Thank you all very much.

And next, the President's unofficial chief of staff, Sean Hannity, becoming so close, one adviser tells "The Washington Post," Sean basically has a desk in the White House. Plus, the Southwest pilot hailed a hero.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is your airplane physically on fire?

SCHULTZ: No, it's not on fire but part of it is missing. They said there's a hole and that someone went out.


BURNETT: Who is that pilot? Tammie Jo Schultz.


[19:31:26] BURNETT: Tonight, unofficial chief of staff -- that is what White House insiders have dubbed the Fox News Host, Sean Hannity, according to "The Washington Post". The fact that President Trump and Hannity share the same lawyer in Michael Cohen, it just seems to be yet another connection between the two. According to a presidential adviser, quote, the frequency of Hannity's contact with Trump means that he basically has a desk in the place.

OUTFRONT now, Josh Dawsey, White House reporter for "The Washington Post" who co-wrote this story and Frank Bruni op-ed columnist for "The New York Times". OK, two perfect people to talk about this.

Josh, let's talk about your reporting. You know, you're saying basically a desk in the place a source told you, phone calls between the men go on at all hours of the day and night, I don't know if it's the three a.m. proverbial Michael Cohen call or what it is. But you know you're saying at all times.

How much is Sean Hannity influencing policy?

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, Sean Hannity is influencing policy on a major scale. He talked to the presidents of them several times a week. The president sees his show as a good arbiter of what his political base is thinking and he really cares how Sean Hannity presents issues. You'll have to talk to advisors and the White House about Sean Hannity's ratings and how extraordinary he thinks they are.

And Hannity is one of the people that would the president has a sensitive issue and he can it wants to test the pulse of what his supporters would think he talked to Sean Hannity. Several of advisers we spoke to for this story said it would be difficult to overstate his influence in the White House and how much he channels the president, how much the president channels him back. And this is a median response presidency as Steve Bannon, one of the president's longtime advisors, has said and nothing epitomizes nothing is the epitome of that more than Sean Hannity.

BURNETT: And, Frank, you know, we could see it, you see it. I mean -- I mean, let's just play a few of that -- I mean the word echoes are actually pretty incredible. Here are just a few to give everyone a taste.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reason why Democrats only talk about the totally made-up Russia story is because they have no message, no agenda.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: This is more proof the Democratic Party is in total disarray, they have no agenda.

TRUMP: I think, you know, I think it's terrible. If you want to know the truth, I think it's a disgrace. What's going on in this country, I think it's a disgrace.

HANNITY: The highly classified FISA abuse memo has now been released and it is absolutely shocking, it is stunning.

TRUMP: A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves.

HANNITY: A lot of people broke the law. It's more than a shame. This is so deep in its corruption.


BURNETT: OK, a crucial question here, though, is going to become, who is echoing whom?

FRANK BRUNI, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, that's a really great question. I think the answer is each is echoing the other. I'm so glad you showed that because there's a long tradition of presidents you know off-the-record on the phone whatever talking to media figures not with this kind of frequency.

This isn't coziness. This is coordination, and this goes so much further. I mean, I remember when Obama was president, I remember sometimes being invited to off-the-record lunches of columnists, and he would talk about how we saw the world off-the-record, and sometimes a day or two later, you'd see in a columnist's column some of Obama's thinking and language creep in.

This is so many steps beyond that. So, I mean there's a context and a precedent for it, but not with this kind of coordination.

BURNETT: I mean -- and, Josh, it's pretty stunning, you know, when you talk about the level of coordination. But your reporting is that he's a de facto chief of staff, that's not a small thing to say. I mean, that means he's sort of essentially something this president hasn't really had, a first call to bounce an idea off of or to ask something up.

DAWSEY: Right. Well, the president also it's pretty close with Jeanine Pirro. "The Justice with Jeanine" on a Saturday night show, talks to her all the time as well.

[19:35:05] What we have to understand about this president -- Lou Dobbs, who's a Fox Business host, he's close with Lou Dobbs. He sees the world through a TV prism in many ways, as several of his advisers have told us, that when they want to make a case to the president they do it on television.

Alan Dershowitz had said, you know, I give him legal advice on television. We see people repeatedly who instead of calling the president directly do it through the TV, and a number of the people around him consistently say that these figures like Hannity, Pirro, Lou Dobbs have more power because the president cares very much about how things are perceived.

And when he watches, you know, these hosts, these influential hosts, he sees how they're channeling gives agenda and what they're talking about, it really can shape the presidency. It can move policy. It can lead to him calling these folks on speakerphone in the middle of meetings. The (INAUDIBLE) remarkable amount of power.

BURNETT: Yes. I mean -- and you know, here's the thing that, Frank, I'm curious Sean Hannity is now facing a lot of criticism, and he may say he doesn't care and the president doesn't care of the external criticism. But it's not just external. Shepard Smith, very prominent, very well-respected anchor even outside Fox News, very much so, and political analyst Juan Williams are questioning, why did Sean Hannity not disclose his connection to Michael Cohen?

BRUNI: Right. BURNETT: He is facing some real pushback internally.

BRUNI: Well, yes. No, I mean, there are there journalists at Fox who are -- for lack of a better term -- conventional journalists.

BURNETT: Right, real journalists.

BRUNI: And this really embarrasses them because Sean Hannity can say, no, no, I'm not a journalist, I'm an entertainer, I'm a talk show host, whatever he wants to say. When you are going on night after night, and you are railing about the raid on Michael Cohen's home and hotel room and offices, and you're making a big political issue of it and you never mention your incredibly close personal connection, you lose all credibility and you're not playing fair with your viewers.

HANNITY: And that's obviously the big question.

All right. Thank you both very much.

And next, Michael Cohen skipping court to smoke cigars outside his New York hotel. So, who are the men and who specifically is that man right there? You see him illuminated. And why is he connected to both Donald Trump and Russia?

Plus, President Trump blasting immigrants. What does he mean by, quote-unquote, breeding concept when he talks about sanctuary cities?


[19:40:56] BURNETT: Tonight, Michael Cohen and his lawyers are going to start getting documents seized in the FBI raid and review. Prosecutors are saying that will start happening as soon as next week.

Cohen, of course, skipping his first court appearance to hang out with some friends outside his Manhattan hotel, including at least one friend with ties to both President Trump and Russia.

Cristina Alesci is OUTFRONT.


CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While Michael Cohen's attorney was in a New York federal court arguing against the government raids on his home and office last week, Cohen was holding court with a group of men who were smoking cigars he described them as friends, just friends -- friends with alleged connections to Russia and President Donald Trump.

KONRAD PUTZIER, SENIOR REPORTER, THEREALDEAL.COM: So there's all these rumors flying around, then Michael Cohen just sits out with all these people who are basically part of these rumors out in the open, it's almost like he says, I don't care that, like so what? You know, this is -- this is who I am.

ALESCI: Konrad Putzier has covered Trump real estate deals and he points out this man, Rotem Rosen, former president of Africa, Israel, USA, a real estate holding company. Rosen accompanied Donald Trump on that now infamous trip to Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant. The pair met with Russian developer Aras Agalarov, joining them, Alex Sapir of Georgian descent, who financially backed a flashy Trump project in downtown New York called Trump SoHo.

Rosen and Sapir tried to recreate Trump SoHo and Moscow, a deal that later fell apart. But that didn't stop Trump from bragging about his Russian connections in a phone call to Putzier.

PUTZIER: He basically just started bragging about, you know, how many people he hanged with in Moscow, how all the oligarchs were in the room and he was there, how everyone loves him, how the market in Moscow is very attractive to him.

ALESCI: Rosen's former employer, Africa Israel, is owned by soviet born tycoon Lev Leviev, who reportedly described Vladimir Putin as a true friend.

PUTZIER: Lev Leviev has had close relationships with important people in Moscow and the Soviet leadership, later in the Russian leadership, for many, many years.

ALESCI: Another important connection to both Cohen and Trump's businesses, the man in the grey suit, Jerry Rotonda, the former CFO of the private banking arm of Deutsche Bank. Rotonda still works for the firm according to a person familiar with his employment.

PUTZIER: He basically was a key figure in the institution that's been bankrolling a bunch of Trump deals in recent years, including the hotel in Washington, D.C. They gave them $170 million construction loan.

So, here we have a person at the center of this whole thing sitting outside with Michael Cohen and Rotem Rosen.


ALESCI: So, Erin, this picture of Michael Cohen holding this informal meeting with the collection of businessmen is a visual reminder of how close Cohen is to the Trump Organization, its business, perhaps its effort to build a Trump property in Moscow, and that's probably why the president is so upset about the raids on Michael Cohen's home and his office.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Cristina.

And pretty incredible right to skip a hearing and choose to surround yourself with people with those sorts of contacts and ties.

And next breaking news, the president revealing tonight why he is changing his mind on hitting Russia with new sanctions. Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell responds next.

Also breaking tonight, terrifying new details just emerging about what it was like inside the Southwest jet when this happened to the engine outside the window. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:48:02] BURNETT: The breaking news: the Trump administration is telling Russia it's not going to impose more sanctions. The president changing his mind even after his treasury secretary, his U.N. ambassador all thought it was a done deal. She announced it on television.

And then the president had someone call the Russian embassy and say, don't worry, don't worry, it's not true. We're not going to do it.

This comes as Trump tonight with the prime minister of Japan in a brief press conference insisting no one has been tougher on Russia than he has.

OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, let me start with this. When the press conference ended and the president was walking away with the prime minister of Japan, our Jeff Zeleny reports that he was asked again about Russian sanctions and why sudden about-face. His response was, we'll do sanctions as soon as they very much deserve it. That's the quote from the president of the United States about Russia. We'll do sanctions as soon as they very much deserve it.

So, he's basically saying they didn't deserve it, so he changed his mind over the weekend and he's waiting until they do deserve it. Your reaction?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Erin. They very much deserved it right after what they did in the last election. And President Obama put them in place and incoming President Trump's national security adviser, General Flynn, was telling them, don't worry about that and don't respond too harshly.

So, since the inception of his presidency, he hasn't been able to be tough on the Russians. And I think the best thing we can do, Erin, is to tell the country what the strategy is toward Russia. I would suggest it would be to counter their aggression here and abroad, and then what we're going to do to achieve that would be, he has to finally directly confront Putin. Make sure that we are imposing the sanctions that Congress has already passed, and support the investigations in Congress that look at what Russia did and unite the country around hardening the ballot box.

BURNETT: So, why -- I'm just trying -- I'm asking everyone this question to understand here, Congressman, he was willing to do strikes, OK, against Syria and Bashar al-Assad backed by the Russians, right? He was willing to drop bombs on Assad and Russia, against what Russia wanted, right?

[19:50:04] And they were going to go have the sanctions. He said so himself when he addressed the country on Friday night, and then he changed his mind.

He was willing to bomb, but not do sanctions. I don't understand what happened. Do you have a theory?

SWALWELL: I don't either. It looks like he loves me, he loves me not saga that's playing out with Vladimir Putin, where he seems to want to talk tough about Russia, but when it comes to actually imposing what Congress has passed or doing what is best in our national security interest, he is just incapable of doing it.

BURNETT: So, when it comes to the Russian investigation, obviously, you have warned repeatedly that Trump could try to fire Bob Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Moments ago, Trump was asked about that speculation and he backed off of it. I want to play it for you.


TRUMP: They have been saying I'm going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months, and they are still here. So, we want to get the investigation over with, done with, and put it behind us.


BURNETT: So he backed down. The other day is, we'll have to see as we crossed his arms. Now, it's sort of, you know, they are the ones who've been leaking this, look, they're still there. I'm not doing anything. Does that dissuade your concerns?

SWALWELL: No, Erin, I don't trust him. He's not worthy of being trusted on this matter. But I do believe that if you are at home and you've been writing your member of Congress or tweeting your member of Congress about the need to protect Bob Mueller or the concern you have about the president firing Bob Mueller, this is evidence that it's working because I do think that anytime the president does the right thing when it comes to Russia, it's because of the public sentiment and the pressure. So, keep it up if that's what you care about.

BURNETT: I want to ask you about something he tweeted today before you go, Congressman Swalwell, if I may. It was about your state. He said, quote, there is a revolution going on in California, so many sanctuary areas want out of this ridiculous crime infested and breeding concept. Jerry Brown is trying to back out of the National Guard, but the people are not happy and want security and safety now.

So many sanctuary areas want out of this ridiculous crime infested and breeding concept. What do you think he was saying?

SWALWELL: I don't know, Erin. It seems that, again, this was just more racist rhetoric around immigrants. I was a prosecutor in Oakland, which is a sanctuary city. I'd prefer we call them safe cities, because I think what we are trying to achieve is safety for new Americans and also the people around them who benefit when a victim of crime comes forward who is undocumented.

But, you know, we can protect the border and also protect our communities. And I think we should be clear -- if you are here and hurting somebody, you're gone. But the 99 percent of people who want to be part of this American dream, we should find a pathway for them.

BURNETT: Congressman Swalwell, thanks for your time.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, a Navy veteran hailed a hero today. The amazing story of the Southwest pilot who safely landed the jet with the exploded engine.


[19:56:12] BURNETT: Breaking news, investigators have new details on what happened on that Southwest flight after one of the engines broke up midair at 32,000 feet. It was a Boeing 737 and it went into a, quote, rapid, uncommanded left roll.

The terrifying incident lasting 22 minutes.

Passenger Jennifer Riordan was killed after she was partially sucked out of the window. The terrible tragedy officials revealing she died of blunt impact trauma.

The pilot, though, Tammie Jo Shults, managed to land the plane safely.

Alex Marquardt is OUTFRONT with frankly what is her inspiring story.


SW 1380 PILOT: Yes, we have part of the aircraft missing, so we're going to need to slow down a bit.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not a hint of nerves in the voice of Captain Tammie Jo Shults as she radioed in the emergency to the control tower.

SW: Could you have the medical meet us there on the runway as well? We have got injured passengers.

ATC: Injured passengers, OK, and is your airplane physically on fire?

SW: No, it's not on fire, but part of it is missing. They said there was a hole and someone went out.

MARQUARDT: With engine one blown out, oxygen masks dropping.

MARTY MARTINEZ, PASSENGER: I really thought that these were going to be my last moments on earth.

MARQUARDT: Marty Martinez had no idea that amid the chaos, a calm and collected 56-year-old Shults was actually guiding the plane in for a landing.

MARTINEZ: We were all freaking out wondering if we were going it make it home to our loved ones or not, but I just feel so lucky to have someone with that experience. MARQUARDT: Shults' experience, Martinez soon learned, is deep and

groundbreaking. As a teenager growing up in a ranch in Mexico, she wanted to fly in the air force but was told there were no female pilots. So, she tried the navy, and after waiting a year, she got in.

One of the first women to be a naval aviator, saying in a book, I have finally broken into the flight club.

Women were barred from combat, she became an instructor, eventually selected again one of the first women to train on the coveted FA-18 Hornet fighter jet.

By the time Shults retired from the Navy, she had reached the rank of lieutenant commander. So, on Tuesday morning, when her left engine blew out, it's little surprise she showed no fear.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION CONTRIBUTOR: Compared to her previous experience as one of the first female F-18 fighter pilots, carrier based, I suspect this was a walk in the park for her.

MARQUARDT: Shults' extraordinary landing was quickly compared to the Miracle on the Hudson. Captain Sully Sullenberger lost both of his engines, but could rely on his plane's automatic systems to keep the plan under control. Captain Shults had no automatic help bringing the plane down manually.

O'BRIEN: They drill this over and over again. So, this becomes engrained in their memories, their muscle memory. It becomes almost routine for them. And in the case of Tammie Jo Shults, it was evident that that training just came right through.

MARQUARDT: That historic training now being credited by Martinez and other surviving passengers for getting them to the ground safely.

MARTINEZ: I tell here, you know, thank you that -- for giving me a second chance in life. Now, I walk and take these breaths and feel like I am going to move forward with a newfound sense of purpose.


MARQUARDT: And, Erin, we're told that after Captain Shults made this incredible landing, that she came out of the cockpit and was hugged by several of the passengers. She made her way to the back of the plane and I think we've got a picture of it, where she checked on the other passengers and were told person by person, and the woman who posted this photo called her a true American hero.

As for Marty Martinez, who is the young man we interviewed for the piece, he told me, I'd pay extra for Shults to be my pilot.

BURNETT: That's pretty incredible, she's giving him a new sense of purpose.

MARQUARDT: Absolutely.

BURNETT: Miles O'Brien said most of all, it was like a walk in the park for her, compared to what she normally does.

MARQUARDT: I mean, you hear it in her voice.

BURNETT: So calm.

MARQUARD: Cool as a cucumber.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much.

And thanks to all of you for joining us.

"ANDERSON" starts now.