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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Former President George H.W. Bush in Intensive Care; Trump Ramps Up Personal Cell Phone Use; Trump Defends Cohen Amid Talk of His Lawyer Flipping. Aired: 7-8p ET
Aired April 23, 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: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. Our breaking news coverage continues right now with Erin Burnett OUTFRONT.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news, President George H.W. Bush has been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at a hospital in Houston. We have the very latest on the former president's condition.
Plus, the White House not ruling out a pardon for Michael Cohen tonight as legal pressure mounts on the longtime Trump fixer and lawyer. Legal powerhouse Victoria Toensing who has the president's ear, is my guest tonight.
And a driver plowing into a busy street, at least nine killed, 16 injured in the car attack. Was it terror?
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, we begin with the breaking news. Former President George H.W. Bush, 41st president of the United States who just buried his wife, the former first lady Barbara Bush, this weekend, has been hospitalized in Houston. We understand tonight he is in intensive care.
The office of George H.W. Bush just releasing a statement, quote, President Bush was admitted to the Houston Methodist Hospital yesterday morning after contracting an infection that has spread to his blood. He is responding to treatments and appears to be recovering. We will issue additional updates as events warrant.
Our Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel is on the phone. And Jamie, what are you hearing tonight?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Erin, we -- this is what we understand. We've learned from a source close to former President George H.W. Bush that unfortunately he was admitted Sunday morning to Houston Methodist Hospital and was put into intensive care. We were told that he was suffering, and is suffering, from an infection that led to sepsis which can be life-threatening.
Then, that since he was admitted, that he's really been struggling. The details are still sketchy, as you can see from the statement. We're just getting the earliest reports. But I'm told that he was in critical condition, that his blood pressure kept dropping, and that a couple of times there was serious concern about whether he was going to come through, that when his blood pressure dropped that was a very critical point.
Obviously, with his age and his health, his Parkinson's, when someone with that gets an infection and sepsis, this is very serious.
GANGEL (via telephone): But we're told he is responding in the ICU to antibiotics and other intravenous fluids.
BURNETT: And hopefully that he'll be all right and able to come home. We know he's been in intensive care before and come through it. This time, though, Jamie, of course coming -- really going in just hours after attending his wife's funeral. I mean, immeasurably difficult to imagine that.
How was he at the funeral? I know you were there.
GANGEL (via telephone): You know, he -- we thought that he was remarkable at the funeral. Not just at the funeral, but the day before when he went to greet the public who were coming to pay their respects, the fact that he would go and sit there and he spent quite a bit of time there, obviously at the funeral. You saw the pictures. He was very emotional. This is heartbreaking.
And obviously this is exactly what his friends and family have been worried about, how he would deal with the loss after 73 years of marriage and such an emotional week. But I'm told Saturday night that he was doing very well, that he had dinner with his family, but then Sunday morning, he took this turn and it was really a crisis, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Jamie, thank you very much.
I want to bring in Sanjay Gupta now, he joins me on the phone. And Sanjay, what can you tell us? I mean, obviously, you heard Jamie say he was fine with his family. Then she says it's really a crisis on Sunday morning. In the intensive care now, but is responding to antibiotics and appears to be recovering, this according to the statement from his office.
Sepsis is a very serious thing. How could that have happened?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, you know, there's a couple of things that typically lead to this. First of all, what sepsis means is an infection that has become life-threatening, if something has spread throughout the body. So it can start off as any kind of infection really, major or minor. But the body's inability to fight it and the immune system's inability to fight it typically allows that infection to spread and become more serious.
And when the infection becomes serious, all sorts of things are released into the blood stream that cause blood pressure to drop, heart rate to become erratic, sometimes they'll have difficulty breathing. And that's what necessitates the intensive care.
[19:05:12] Why did it happen, how could it happen, your question, you know, if someone's immune system is unable to keep up, that's typically what allows an infection to become sepsis. After a significant loss like this, obviously topped with his age and underlying medical problems, he may be more at risk for this. You know, Erin, and Jamie has talked a lot about the fact that last year he was hospitalized as well for similar sorts of problems. So this is not brand new for him, but very serious nonetheless.
BURNETT: Right. And of course, you know, you can only hope because this isn't brand news that he is able to come out of it. But obviously given his age, his condition. Sanjay, what do you make of the fact that they're saying the antibiotics, he seems to be responding to those, appears to be recovering, but as Jamie says, it still does appear to be very touch and go?
GUPTA (via telephone): Yes. This is a typical course. I mean, you know, being in a place like Methodist, one of the best places in the world to identify what has caused the infection. And usually you can find the source of that in the blood stream, and they're literally trying to see the presence of that bacteria or whatever it may be. I guess it's a bacteria, given that he's responding to antibiotics. And you figure at that point that this is the best antibiotic for this.
Now, there's several different ways to sort of judge success. One is that, you're starting to clear the bacteria from the body. That's obviously important, but you also gotta make sure that the antibiotic isn't causing other problems. These antibiotics, sometimes especially in higher doses, can cause damage to other organs in the body. So you got to be able to balance that, and also you gotta make sure it's not something that worsens his blood pressure or heart rate.
Given that Jamie's hearing that he's responding well, it sounds like probably they're able -- they found an antibiotic that can do the job without causing additional problems. But this is measured in days and weeks, Erin, not minutes and hours, in terms of how someone responds to the treatment for sepsis.
BURNETT: Well, that's very significant that you say, I mean, in terms that this -- it's a longer-term thing generally, not something that at least if you do recover could happen so quickly.
Sanjay, thank you. And I want to bring in now Frank Bruni, who wrote a book about George H.W. Bush's initial presidential campaign, "Ambling into History", along with April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and Doug Brinkley, our presidential historian and professor at Rice University which is across the street from the hospital where George H.W. Bush is.
And of course, Doug, you know, this weekend, he was at his wife's funeral. Some of these images that we can show, you know, they're incredibly poignant. Here he is looking at his wife's casket. And then obviously, you know, seeing her drive away for the last time. This moment for him, it's really impossible for almost anyone to understand his position. He had been with her for 73 years.
DOUG BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, (via telephone): Well, that's right, Erin. And he put on such a brave face for all of America. He had to take care of his own children and their grandchildren. And there's so many friends.
On CNN, we spent days talking about how popular the Bushes are. They have thousands of friends. And George Herbert Walker Bush is known for always writing thank you notes, doing follow-up with people. So the amount of outpouring of love and affection towards that family was very large last week. You can only imagine how much pressure was on him, how exhausted, fatigued, insomnia, morning, grief, and when you're 93 and -- he will be 94 years old this June, and you do have Parkinson's, and you've lost somebody that you've been attached to the hip to since 1945, you know, you can imagine the emotional downturn you take when the adrenaline leaves you and your body's just depleted.
BURNETT: And you know, Frank, you were talking about that image, which we just saw and we'll show it again, of him this weekend, you know, in his wheelchair, in front of the other living former presidents and their wives. That moment that sort of captured the imagination of so many.
But, you know, you can see there, you know, what he's going through -- and there's the picture.
FRANK BRUNI, AUTHOR OF "AMBLING INTO HISTORY": Yes, you know, I mean, you can see that in his face. And that's an extraordinary picture because I think you're seeing in that picture civility, that I think he epitomizes. His whole political career epitomizes. I've been fortunate, since Ronald Reagan, I've met all the presidents. I've been in the company of all the presidents since him.
There was something -- there is something very, very special about George H.W. Bush. There's a kindness that radiates from him, and a sense of decency, and there's a sense of decency. There's a gentleness that I didn't see necessarily in some of the other presidents. And there's a lack of self-consciousness, of self- consumption, that I think was rare in politics and is very rare in the presidency.
[19:10:03] BURNETT: And April, it is that gentleness which so many Americans are seeing now in a new light. When you see someone who had become beloved, but now of course in the more vulnerable days of his life. We are seeing him up close and personal at the moment of his greatest loss.
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes. It's very touching. It's very touching, just the emotion to watch this president of the United States say farewell to his love, not just a first lady, but to his love. And now to fight for his life.
You know, I think of George H.W. Bush, I remember during the George W. Bush years when he and Bill Clinton worked together for the tsunami, you know, and he came back and how he worked for the American people. I remember so many times that he would be at the White House and, you know, just working for the American public, and how he worked with the Clintons, someone he fought fiercely against, and how they became friends. And they were like family. They called them -- the Clintons called them like father, they were part of the family. I mean, they were welcoming.
Yes, it was one thing about politics, but there was also something about the heart when it came to George H.W. Bush. And, you know, we in the press corps, when we had George W. Bush as president, some of us had to try to differentiate, you know, the Bushes, you know, which Bush was which. And I would call him Daddy Bush. We would call him daddy Bush versus W, yes.
So, it's a sad moment in history right now, and I'm hearing from my Republican sources who are very close to the family, and some of those sources are very close to people who are actually there with the family right now, and I'm hearing that they're devastated. The family is just devastated. And they are saying, like Jamie said, Jamie Gangel said, that the antibiotics happens to be working right now, for the infection. But there is an overall issue, and doctors have given them a time frame, from what I'm hearing.
BURNETT: All right, April, thank you very much. And thanks very much to all of you as we cover this.
Also tonight, the White House refusing to rule out a pardon for Michael Cohen, as Trump considers a number of controversial pardons. Is he sending a message to his attorney?
Plus, Sean Hannity reportedly buying up nearly a $100 million of real estate. Did Ben Carson's HUD, his government agency help Hannity get the money?
And panic on the street as a van plows into pedestrians. At least nine murdered in this attack. We're following the breaking story.
[19:16:10] BURNETT: Breaking news, multiple sources telling CNN tonight, President Trump is ramping up the use of his personal cell phone. One source saying it's partly because the president doesn't want his chief of staff, John Kelly, to know who he's talking to. And these conversations are coming as his lawyers are worried about the Michael Cohen investigation, which is a criminal one, and are preparing for all possibilities.
Today, the White House press secretary Sarah Sanders punted on a question about a presidential pardon for Michael Cohen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the president open to a pardon for Michael Cohen?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think that we're going to talk about hypotheticals that don't exist right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: But pardons do appear to be top of mind for President Trump these days. A tweet this weekend about a pardon for a boxer who died 70 years ago, and of course the recent pardon for a George W. Bush aide who was convicted 11 years ago for lying about a leak, Scooter Libby.
Pamela BROWN is OUTFRONT live at the White House. And Pamela, this coming -- you know, the president coming out doing this stuff on Twitter more and more freelancing, as you're learning more about his state of mind.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. I mean, we're seeing some of his state of mind playing out, of course, on Twitter. We've also learned, Erin, that the president has been increasingly relying on his personal cell phone, reaching out to outside advisers, congressional allies. Just in recent weeks, and sources we've been speaking with say this is the president wanting to get around his chief of staff John Kelly so he doesn't know who he's talking to, because John Kelly would then print out if he used the White House switch board, a list of who the president was talking to.
So this is largely seen as the president as we've seen previously sort of going back to his roots, his impulses, his old way of doing things and relying on that personal cell phone use. This as we're seeing the president clearly thinking about pardons. I mean, as you pointed out, he tweeted over the weekend about pardoning a boxer posthumously, Jack Johnson. He pardoned Scooter Libby. And so the big question is, will he pardon Michael Cohen, his personal attorney, if it comes to that.
Now, Sarah Sanders would not commit to not pardoning Cohen, saying that she doesn't want to talk about hypotheticals. Now, we are told that the president's legal team does not believe that Cohen will flip with authorities. That means he will dish on the president. They don't think he will do that. But they are preparing for all possibilities here, Erin, including the possibility that could happen.
BURNETT: All right, Pamela, thank you very much with that reporting from the White House.
Let's go now to Victoria Toensing, she is an informal legal adviser to President Trump and was asked to join his legal team. That didn't happen. And Victoria, thanks so much, it's great to have you on the show. I mean, you just heard our reporting, that the Cohen raid is a concern for the president's team. We know that. A source involved in that situation has told me it is a hundred percent fair to say the president is apoplectic about it.
I guess the question for you, Victoria, because I know, you know, you've talked to him, if the president never committed a crime, why is there any concern at all about this Michael Cohen situation?
VICTORIA TOENSING, INFORMAL LEGAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, the concern could be that he's just very upset that this has happened to somebody. Let me just tell you, Erin, the rationale for this search was the attorney-client privilege was breached because of the crime fraud exception, which means that if there's suspicion that the attorney committed a crime then there's no privilege.
But I don't hear about any of these big law firms that have possible criminal activity being raided by the feds. The Perkins Coie, who have paid for the dossier to hide that the DNC and Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign were paying for, they didn't get raided. This has happened since I'm with a small firm, my husband and I and son and one associate.
[19:20:00] This is of concern. These big high falutin law firms don't get this same kind of treatment, and I'm upset about the system, and, you know, you don't have to have the criminal culpability to be upset of what happened --
BURNETT: So, you have (INAUDIBLE). I mean, they're saying, look, this has been in the southern district of New York, an investigation into Michael Cohen going on for months. They had to get warrants. They had to have probable cause, all of this was signed off on by a judge. I mean, it wasn't just at somebody's whim, or oh, I don't like this guy.
TOENSING: No, I didn't say it was a whim. I didn't say that. I just said that the warrant was focused on Michael Cohen. So I don't know why -- and Trump was told that he wasn't a target of it. So he shouldn't have any criminal concerns.
It's just that, I don't like this kind of system that I see. I mean, Erin, more despicable than this -- and I don't know the facts behind the warrant, we haven't seen it. So let's let that lie. But more despicable is that a federal judge forced him to tell who his other clients are. That's not relevant.
BURNETT: Referring to Sean Hannity?
TOENSING: Well, yes, and one other person whose name I don't know. So that should never, ever happen by a federal judge. So I'm upset about that very much.
BURNETT: Right. And that other person is obviously, that's Elliott Broidy, the, you know, former finance chair at the RNC. You know, the concern here, though, Victoria, I'm trying to understand is, you know, whether the president's worried Michael Cohen would either flip on him which would be if Michael Cohen knows the president did something wrong, or turn on him, in which case, I guess theoretically, according to another long-term Trump attorney, Jay Goldberg, would mean Michael Cohen lies and tells the feds what he thinks they want to hear, to indict the president.
Jay Goldberg told me that is because Michael Cohen is a person of weak character and he'll lie to get out of jail. Here's what he said to me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY GOLDBERG, LONGTIME TRUMP ATTORNEY: Well, he's of a type that I've recognized in the past as one not suited to stand up to the rigors of jail life.
BURNETT: So you think he's of weak character basically?
GOLDBERG: I do think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Do you agree with that assessment, or do you think the president's right to have that fear?
TOENSING: I have no idea. I don't know Michael Cohen. But let me just tell you how unbalanced the criminal justice system is. The feds can put the pressure on anybody and say, if you do such and such, you know, we'll let you go. This happened to Scooter Libby, my client, Erin, where he was told, his lawyers were told, that if he just gave criminal information about Dick Cheney, that he would not be prosecuted.
So that's a really -- you know, for weak people, that really is -- maybe they do fold under pressure, as Alan Dershowitz has said. You know, it's not singing, it's the composing that people should be fearful about. But the feds can do that. They can put pressure on somebody. But the defense, you can't even contact a witness in a case.
So it gets kind of out of kilter as far as who has the more power in a criminal investigation.
BURNETT: So you mentioned Scooter Libby, of course your client, the president recently pardoned. You know, the president now tweeting about a possible pardon for Jack Johnson --
TOENSING: Wouldn't that be nice? He was convicted for marrying a white woman, for goodness sake.
BURNETT: Yes, taking his girlfriend across state lines, pretty much what you're saying. She was white. Convicted in 1913. Sylvester Stallone apparently called the president about this case a month ago.
Why do you think, Victoria, that the president is focusing on these pardon cases right now, unless he's trying to send a message to somebody like a Michael Cohen or a Paul Manafort where --
TOENSING: Well, if Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort do not know that this president has power authority, then, you know, they got something wrong with themselves. I think he took --
BURNETT: But he's trying to tell them, look, I'll do it to you too, is it a message?
TOENSING: No, don't try to read that kind of message into it. You know, I saw him and I talked to him when he gave Scooter Libby a pardon, and he was thrilled. He called me and he said, listen, I don't know this guy, all I know is he got screwed and I am so happy to give him his life back. And Erin, I did what any tough lawyer did, I cried.
BURNETT: So the question about this is, though is, the president's motive in terms of doing this, right? I mean, is he trying to send a signal to Cohen? You think he's doing it out of the goodness of his heart right now?
TOENSING: I'm telling you, he got a thrill out from giving Scooter a pardon. And I would think that anybody who could take back, you know, a crime, for a black and white woman marrying, that would thrill me to be able to give a pardon for that. I'm sure you would feel the same way.
BURNETT: Yes, you know, it's actually interesting. I looked into this story, because it seemed so black and white, for lack of a better term. And, you know, Eric Holder did an interview about it with a professor who had done a biography of Jack Johnson. And he was talking about, why President Obama did not pardon Jack Johnson which of course is the glaring question. He said, first of all, posthumous pardoning, you can count them on less than one hand because it's a very long process and it doesn't always add up to do it for somebody who's already dead. You may agree with that or disagree with that.
[19:25:03] He then referenced Jack Johnson's physical treatment of women as a mitigating factor and the biographer agreed that he had been known for domestic abuse. So, do you think the president is aware that this is maybe more complicated than meets the eye?
TOENSING: I don't know. But that's why people present documents to the president, or to the pardon attorney or whatever process they want to use to give the facts so that somebody can study them and make a recommendation to the president. That's how I did it.
BURNETT: So, Victoria, I know that, you know, you met with the president at one -- he told you about Scooter Libby. You also met with him to talk about possibly joining his legal team on the Russia investigation. His personal attorney Jay Sekulow had put the press release of course out about your husband, Joe diGenova joining the team. And then it came out that neither you or Joe, were joining the team.
Obviously, there seem to be some sort of confusion in there. But what was the bottom line? Did you have any concern about the president's morality or his guilt or anything like that?
TOENSING: Oh, my gosh. No. What a question. That really took me back. My goodness.
It was -- as we said in the statements that we all made, there was an appearance of conflict. There really was not a real conflict at all, because not one of our three clients said anything adverse to the president. And they had all waived it. But the president and Joe and i, and I can talk about this because it was public, we all agreed that the media was going to make hay with it, just like, you know, happens, and it was a distraction. It was really a media conflict, more than anything else. And we decided he didn't need that. We have the greatest respect for him. My goodness, no, I didn't have any negative feelings.
BURNETT: So how often have you been speaking to him or advising him? I know it's an informal capacity, but --
TOENSING: I don't talk about that. The only one I talk about, is the one about Scooter, because that was made so public. But let me tell you a conflict that the media has not focused on, and that's Rod Rosenstein. He has an actual material conflict because Bob Mueller is looking at whether the president obstructed justice when he fired Comey. I don't agree with that. I think he -- the president has Article 2 authority and can fire and hire anybody.
BURNETT: Of course, Rosenstein's memo supported the president's point of view. So if there's a conflict of interest, it would seem at least that the surface to support the president.
TOENSING: No -- but the president -- Rod Rosenstein was in on the decision-making. He talked with the president about it and then wrote he memo that was made public so he is a witness that he didn't do anything wrong. I'm not saying he did something wrong. I'm saying, he is a witness, and he is supervising Mueller. You can't do that. That's a material legal conflict --
BURNETT: I hear exactly what you're saying, I'm just wondering why it's coming up now as an issue.
TOENSING: Because nobody talks about it.
BURNETT: The president said, look, even Rod Rosenstein in this memo says that I should get rid of Comey, right. I mean, he was the justification the president used to do it. Now all of a sudden the president is saying it's a problem. That's what (INAUDIBLE).
TOENSING: No, he didn't. I did. I did. I'm talking about it as a lawyer. It's a material, actual conflict that cannot be waived.
He is a witness in the case, and Mueller is reporting to him. It's just like unheard of legally, and I've been talking about it for months. I'll be glad to come back and talk about it again.
BURNETT: All right, well, I'll be glad to have you. And appreciate your time. Victoria, thank you.
BURNETT: And next, Mike Flynn Jr. says his father did not lie to the vice president about conversations with the Russian ambassador, but that isn't -- isn't that why he was fired by the president?
And Sean Hannity on the defense as a report alleges he got multi- million dollar real estate deals with a whole lot of subsidy from the government. Does it spell big trouble for the man White House aides dub the unofficial chief of staff? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[19:32:08] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: New tonight: a big claim about President Trump's indicted national security adviser. Michael Flynn Jr. claiming that his father, the former national security adviser, General Flynn, did not lie to Vice President Pence about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
Flynn Jr. tweeting, quote: American patriot @GenFlynn did not lie to Pence or anyone else in the admin about his perfectly legal and appropriate conversations with Russian Ambassador Kislyak in December 2016. Why would a highly decorated military intel officer lie about something legal, that a mainstream media live from day one?
Well, there's a couple of problems with his claim. First off, it was not a media claim. Listen to the president and the vice president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We fired him because he said something to the vice president that was not so.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was disappointed to learn that this, the -- the facts that had been conveyed to me by General Flynn were inaccurate. And I fully support the president's decision to ask for his resignation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. So, the president the vice president are the ones who said Flynn lied and, of course, Flynn himself has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Ambassador Kislyak, so he had said so himself.
OUTFRONT now, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Harry Sandick, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, April Ryan, and "New York Times" op-ed columnist Frank Bruni.
Thanks to all.
Frank, Flynn's son, obviously, he's not a nobody. He worked for Flynn during the transition chief of staff. I mean, he was intimately involved in everything Flynn knew at the time, now calling I suppose the president a liar.
FRANK BRUNI, OP-ED COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, as you say, he's in a position to know things and when someone calls the president a liar, that is often a very credible thing because the president lies all the time. But this is Mike Flynn Jr. of pizza-gate fame, like we have to look --
BURNETT: Right. BRUNI: -- at who's making this allegation. This is Michael Flynn Jr. who tweeted more than once about a Democrat run child sex ring beneath the pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. So, the fact that he's making this allegation now, to me, doesn't have a whole lot of weight.
BURNETT: You know, Harry, Flynn's son, you know, as Frank points out, the tweets conspiracy theories, you know, at the least. And, you know, General Flynn has pleaded guilty in part to protect his son, is what he is at least what we've reported. You know, sources say he is also a subject in the Mueller investigation, so his father's heart to protect the son had to had gone had without guilty plea.
What do tweets like this mean for the investigation?
HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICK OF NEW YORK: Well, they raise a lot of questions about what is in Michael Flynn the father's actual thinking. He went into court. He took an oath, he pled guilty to this. Is he still talking privately with his son denying responsibility? Is he talking to other people denying responsibility?
It's very damaging for a government investigation for a cooperating witness who pleads guilty, to then privately tell people, no, I didn't really do anything.
BURNETT: And while we're on the legal issue here.
[19:35:01] The president this weekend tweeted James Comey illegally leads classified documents to the press in order to generate a special counsel. Is there for the special counsel was established based on illegal act, really does everybody know what that means?
Of course, that's -- that's not what generate the special counsel. That was the president's firing of Jim Comey himself, but he's making claim the whole investigation is illegal, legally.
SANDICK: That's not how it works. The -- you don't get to choose who prosecutes you and you don't get to go to court and tell the Department of Justice how to allocate its internal prosecutorial functions. Whether the president is right about Comey or not, and it seems like he's probably not right because his FBI director, he had tremendous authority to choose a classification level for those memos when he left. It just isn't how it works.
BURNETT: So, April, I want to ask you about today's press briefing, because this was a pretty significant moment. You and Jim Acosta we're talking to Sarah Sanders and asking about the controversial tweet by the president, the one where he wrote a part, quote, there is a revolution going on in California, so many sanctuary areas, want out of this ridiculous crime-infested and breeding concept.
And, you know, everyone tried to understand what the word breeding could mean, that was not a racist interpretation. And here is the exchange that you and Jim had with Sarah.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: When he used were breeding, was he making a derogatory term about Latinos in California that they've breed a lot or that they're prone to breeding --
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, he's talking about the problem itself growing and getting bigger.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What did he mean by breeding?
SANDERS: Again, the president has recognized that this is a major problem and a lot of people, even in California want to see the issue of sanctuary cities address and the president's doing what he can to do that.
RYAN: What does breeding mean to this president? Because when you think of breeding, you think of animals breeding, populating --
SANDERS: I'm not going to begin to think what you think. Certainly, I think that it can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but the president is talking about a growing problem and I addressed that with Jim. I don't have anything else to add.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, April, it's not funny, but yet I hear this, it could mean a lot of things to a lot of people. The president has recognized this is a major problem but we never defined with of this -- I mean she never actually will go there.
RYAN: Right, and that begs the question again, what does breeding mean? And, you know, I even called California Congresswoman Barbara Lee. She said it's disgusting, period. He meant what he said, because some people are trying to say that there was an autocorrect issue with this president, and if there was a problem, he would have said, I made a mistake or recorrected or corrected, or what have you.
BURNETT: What was it be an auto correct even? I don't even --
RYAN: It was supposed to be, according to some people that we are -- yes, we're talking some reporters that were talking they said breeding contempt. Now, if it was breeding contempt, you would change it, wouldn't you?
BURNETT: So, you know, and I talked to Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California. She said, he meant what he said in that tweet, and I'm still waiting to find out, you know, what the president meant by breathing. I don't want to assume and I asked her an open-ended question, but so many people can take it so many different ways I guess, but I'm asking what the president meant.
BURNETT: And you know what, if it was an autocorrect, Frank, she should have said and it wasn't.
BRUNI: Well, that would be -- that would be a great way out of it. But it's just so --
BURNETT: By the way, if there's autocorrect for him, it would be fixing a whole lot, other things, which doesn't make the point, yes.
BRUNI: He needs autocorrect like nobody ever needed an autocorrect. But, you know, I mean, this is not a man who's very artful with his language. The idea that he used the word breeding as a synonym for growing or spreading that just doesn't pass the laugh test, that's not the way Donald Trump thinks for the way he writes.
BURNETT: No, and obviously the word breeding here, you know, all kinds of implications, April, that could come for it, pretty much all of them are pretty racist. In fact, all of them are pretty racist.
RYAN: Yes, because you're talking about a community that you're looking down as animals and it's ugly. It's ugly statement. And if this president is the press of all America, if I were a Latino American, I'm in the minority American.
I mean, we've heard things before we've heard asshole comments. We've heard things about Charlottesville. We've heard the confederate stuff.
I mean, this goes -- this just builds on it, and it's not normal. It's -- and let's just say it's not normal. Well, for polite company it's not acceptable. So, if he thinks Latinos breed, that's what he thinks but it's wrong.
BURNETT: And, of course, Frank, it's the context she points out of what he has said before --
BRUNI: Oh, yes.
BURNETT: -- about Charlottesville and other things that make it -- this is consistent with that, not inconsistent with that.
BRUNI: Yes, this is from a president who's been obsessed with anchor babies, and you have to factor all of that in.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all so very much. And next, Sean Hannity's massive real estate purchases did one of the president's closest confidants get government subsidies government help for the deals, including from a Trump appointee.
And a truck jumps the curb plowing into crowds of people on the sidewalk.
[19:40:01] It's a tragedy. This attack right now we know nine people at least have been killed, 16 injured, some in critical. Was it terror?
BURNETT: New tonight, Sean Hannity trying to fight back after a report that he's linked to a series of shell companies which have spent $90 million to buy nearly 900 homes across the country. Doing that when there were foreclosures and doing it with the help of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD.
On his radio show today, Hannity claiming that the questions about him on this are simply unfair.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: The fact that I am attacked and being held to standards that nobody else in the news business, nobody has ever been held to is not surprising. And the absolute sick and ugly and twisted lying that has gone on as it relates to me -- it's not unexpected.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Here are the facts. Brynn Gingras is OUTFRONT.
HANNITY: Hey, welcome to a special edition of "Hannity".
[19:45:01] BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): FOX News host Sean Hannity has an extensive property portfolio. And according to a new report, for some of the real estate, he used a program set up by the federal government to get it. A detailed report released by "The Guardian" says Hannity spent the last decade buying homes in seven states, spending at least $90 million. The homes range from mansions to low-income housing and were reportedly all purchased under the names of shell companies concealing Hannity's ownership.
The report states dozens of these properties were bought at a discount in 2013, when homeowners were defaulting on their mortgages, a time when Hannity repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for hurting homeowners.
HANNITY: And the dream of owning your own home has been made a nightmare under Obama for many Americans. The rate of those who own a home has now dropped several percentage points. Now, we also saw record numbers of foreclosures during his presidency.
GINGRAS: Hannity bought two apartment complexes in rural Georgia for $22.7 million in 2014, says "The Guardian". More than half of the money Hannity borrowed came with help from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which ensured the loans under President Obama's National Housing Act program. Hannity's loans were recently increased by $5 million under HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
HANNITY: I'm like, why did you give up being a brain surgeon? And I know you've done a good.
GINGRAS: A benefit Hannity never disclosed when having Carson on his show.
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: Hello, sir.
GINGRAS: The purchases come under scrutiny after Hannity was revealed as a client of Michael Cohen's, president Trump's personal lawyer who is currently under federal investigation.
Hannity says he sought advice from Cohen about real estate deals, but it was a relationship he never revealed, even during previous interviews with Cohen on his show.
COHEN: Sean, how are you?
GINGRAS: It's not known if these deals were ever discussed with Cohen.
In response to "The Guardian's" report, Hannity issued a statement saying, quote: These are investments that I do not individually select, control or know the details about, except that obviously I believe in putting my money to work in communities that otherwise struggle to receive such support.
GINGRAS: And it's important to note that Sean Hannity's real estate attorney Christopher Reeves is married to a CNN executive.
Now, Erin, when it comes to some of these properties that Hannity owns, next year, Ben Carson is going to be allowing or is allowed to have Hannity turns of those rentals into condos which, of course, we know could be very lucrative for Hannity, according to "The Guardian".
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Brynn.
And I want to go now on Brynn's reports to the former White House aide in the Clinton administration, Keith Boykin, and former senior economic advisor to the Trump campaign, Steve Moore, also an informal White House adviser.
OK, Keith, so Hannity invests in foreclosed properties. I got more money to do so under Secretary Carson. Here's more of Hannity's response. He said, quote: It's ironic I'm being attacked for investing my personal money in communities that badly need such investment and in which I am sure those attacking me have not invested their money.
KEITH BOYKIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE IN THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION: That --
STEPHEN MOORE, FORMER SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think he does. I'm sorry --
BURNETT: Go ahead, Keith.
BOYKIN: I think he's completely missing the point here. I think he's completely missing the point, Erin. I'm sorry, Steve. He's -- I think he's missing the point.
The reality is that the problem is not just that -- Hannity has a right to spend his money however he wants. Nobody cares about that. He's a private citizen with that respect.
But there's an element of disclosure that's required of people who are on television who are portrayed -- portraying themselves as journalists or at least in his cases a TV host, you have to disclose things for example the fact that he was praising HUD, praising rather Ben Carson last year, but not talking about his relationship with HUD. The fact that he's getting government assistance from HUD.
The hypocrisy of this guy who is his conservative ideologue take basically on the government dole while he's criticizing everybody else for taking government assistance and, you know, I just find it -- this is an inconsistency that's a part of the pattern again we saw last week when it was revealed that that make Michael Cohen and Hannity had an attorney-client relationship that he hadn't disclosed, until it came out in court. Hannity has a lot of explaining to do.
And actually one more point, full disclosure, Sean Hannity has blocked me on Twitter. So I need to mention that as well.
BURNETT: All right. Look, it's all about full disclosure.
OK. Steve, you know, it is interesting the inconsistency. I'm not going to say Sean Hannity's the only one who does this, but people who love to say they hate a government handout until it's theirs, OK? And when you're getting subsidized loans from HUD, you're getting a government handout, whatever word you want to use for it. That's -- that that he benefited from that, and, you know, Keith's points out that they he said about Secretary Carson who was the HUD secretary when some of these loans were happening, and I want to just play a couple of those exchanges for you, Steve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN CARSON, HUD SECRETARY: The real idea is to get people to move up the ladder of opportunity, not to be complacent. That's going to help us as a nation, to strengthen us.
HANNITY: You're a good man. I wish you all the best in what you're doing. You've got to come to see us.
[19:50:00] You didn't even take my calls anymore. I guess, when you become a HUD secretary, I'd say, Hannity's out.
CARSON: Talk to my people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURENTT: Very friendly there, Steve. No question about it.
But, look, he didn't disclose that he was, you know, getting help from HUD to buy these properties. Isn't that an issue?
MOORE: Well, look, I mean, the fact is that he started these investments -- if the idea is you're here that he's getting kind of some special relationship with HUD because he's friends with Ben Carson, I mean, these -- as you just showed, Erin, the loans started -- his investment in these loan program started under Obama.
MOORE: He was hardly friendly to the Obama administration.
MOORE: So I think that's a little bit of an unfair characterization. Look, this program -- I've studied this program for 30 years, and it's one of the most corrupt programs. Well, you know, I think Keith and I on that will agree.
BURNETT: The HUD loan program.
MOORE: This is just an incredible -- it's just -- it gives huge amounts of money to developers. It doesn't help low income people. It should have ended, you know, 30 years ago. And look, the whole HUD, you know, agency --
BURNETT: So, Hannity, you're not blaming Hannity for it ,but benefitting from a corrupt program that helps rich developers.
MOORE: Well, look, there's my other point. You know, I've known Sean for a long time. As you know, Erin, I was with FOX for six years before I was with CNN.
BURNETT: I understand.
MOORE: So I got to know, Sean, very well.
I believe he's a conscientious person. He does have a lot of wealth. He doesn't need to make a lot of money on these loan programs. He's made a lot of money.
But I would say this, I do take his word for it that he believed that he was helping in -- look, what's the purpose of these programs, Erin, is to bring redevelopment --
BURNETT: I'm not going to impugn Sean Hannity in what he was trying to do among other things.
BURNETT: The main reason he did this, I would presume, would be to make money.
BOYKIN: Thank you. People going to business to make money, Erin. They don't go into business to help people.
MOORE: Sure. BOYKIN: That's certainly Sean Hannity's objective here. And the reality is it's not just about the HUD programs. It's also the idea he's criticizing the foreclosure rate during the Obama administration when he's profiting off with foreclosures that were taking place during the Obama administration, getting discounted prices for foreclosed properties that people had lost their homes for, and Sean Hannity rushes in to buy them.
And then there's the other hypocrisy on this guy who's making $36 million --
BURNETT: OK, final word, Steve.
MOORE: I don't even see how that's a problem that people buying --
BURNETT: OK, go ahead. Final word, Steve.
MOORE: OK, I don't -- I just -- I've never understood this argument that people like Donald Trump who bought foreclosed properties, and that's just being a good businessman. You buy low.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both. I appreciate it.
And next, the suspect in the Toronto attack has been identified killing at least nine people today. We're gonna speak to a person who was there and saw it all as this happened and tried to help.
[19:56:35] BURNETT: Breaking news: at least nine people dead, 16 injured in a vehicle attack. At least five of those still in intensive care. A van plowing into pedestrian on a busy street in Toronto. A law enforcement official briefed on the situation telling us the incident is believed to be deliberate.
According to U.S. law enforcement official, the suspect is a 25-year- old named Alek Minassian. The video that you see there appears to show a stand off near the scene. You see the van. That video was obtained by our partner, CTV. The individual appears to be pointing an object at a responding police officer.
Diego DeMatos witnessed the attack and he joins me now on the phone.
And, Diego, I am so sorry what you saw. I know that you tried to help people who were injured fighting for their lives.
Tell me what happened. You were there, you lived near there. You left the gym and what did you see?
DIEGO DEMATOS, WITNESSED TORONTO VAN ATTACK (via telephone): Hi, Erin. No, I was actually on my way to the gym. As we were getting closer (INAUDIBLE), the van was coming south on Yonge Street. I'm sorry, I am still emotional. So, as we're getting closer to the gym, we just see the van driving
down fast and hit two people. It was a white male and a black female, and blood started gushing out of his head and she was bleeding badly too. At first I didn't think anything, I thought it was a hit and run.
And so, I slowed down my car and kept driving because traffic was behind me, and then as I'm driving a few meters away north, it was about four or five people on the ground. Some of them moving and some of them motionless, and I stopped a little bit and I thought something is going on. So, then I kept driving.
As I'm driving, I see a guy on the floor with another guy trying to help and seeking (ph) for help. And then I parked may car and went over and tried to perform CPR on him. And as I am doing it, the guy I was trying to help was dead. So, he died in our arms. And we were waiting for the police and the paramedics and firefighters to come in at time.
And once they got in, we backed off a little bit and we waited to speak to the police and see if they needed anything from us. But it was like a scene from a war zone. There was garbage cans everywhere, broken bus shelves (ph) and mailboxes on the ground. (INAUDIBLE) police came. And it was really, really horrible.
BURNETT: And I know that you tried to help that man. Then what happened when the police came?
DEMATOS: Before the police came, this woman wearing a scarf, she took it off and gave it to us. So, we covered him until the police came and they told us to back off. So, we backed off and we were on the sidewalk waiting until they did their work.
BURNETT: Well, Diego, I'm so sorry. I know I can only imagine how emotional it must be.
BURNETT: But it is good that there are people like you who try to help in these horrible moments that none of us could ever imagine being a part of.
Thank you so very much for your time. We're thinking of you.
And thanks very much to all of you for joining us.
Our coverage of this breaking story and other news continues now with "AC360".