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Trump Says N.K. Meeting Could Be Back On Day After Canceling; Kelly and Flood Left Briefing After Some Disapproved; Trump Repeats Unproven Claim That The FBI Placed "Spy" in Campaign; Russian Oligarch Questioned By Mueller Met With Cohen During Transition; Harvey Weinstein Arraigned On Rape Charges In New York. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 25, 2018 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, the sudden about-face from President Trump. Now the meeting with Kim Jong-un could be back on, on the same day. Is Kim winning? Taking a page from Trump's art of the deal to manipulate him?

Plus, Trump pushing his FBI/spy conspiracy theory, despite lawmakers of both parties saying they've learned nothing to support Trump's claims. The former director of National Intelligence James Clapper is OUTFRONT.

And why is Michael Cohen still a top official with the RNC?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, smelling blood. President Trump in a dramatic reversal now says his summit with Kim Jong-un which he canceled yesterday could be back on for the exact same day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, is the summit still on?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to see what happens. We're talking to them now. It was a very nice statement they put out. We'll see what happens. It could even be the 12th.

We're talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it. We're going to see what happens.


BURNETT: OK, this is a far cry from saying, quote, you talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful, which was Trump's personal message to Kim just 33 hours ago.

Today, though, it's all changed. We're back from another my button's bigger brink. It seems President Trump is back to desperately wanting this summit. Which seems odd, given the self-proclaimed master deal maker has warned against appearing too eager.

You don't have to listen to him. I mean, read it, right there, black and white, page 53 of Trump's "Art of the Deal". Right under the header, "Use Your Leverage", quote, the worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood and then you're dead.

Does Kim Jong-un smell blood? We know North Korean officials have been reading "Art of the Deal". They've been trying to understand Trump's negotiating tactics. And it seems Kim could be taking a page straight out of the president's book.

"Know Your Market". Kim's market in this case is the market of one person, Donald J. Trump. A man who loves praise, thrives upon it, cannot survive without it. And will seemingly look the other way on anything once he gets the adulation he desires.

Kim did not take Trump's bait on canceling the summit and the whole my button is big -- bigger type of rhetoric. Instead, Kim's government respond in, quote, talking about the historic summit, we highly appreciated the fact that President Trump made a brave decision that no president in the past has made and put efforts to make the summit happen.

Brave. Now that's the kind of response Trump wants to hear when he humiliates someone publicly. He wants them to grovel like Kim seemed to do. It feeds into Trump's ego. An ego the president has talked about pretty honestly, including this interesting exchange nearly 20 years ago.


LARRY KING, T.V. HOST: Should a president have an ego?

TRUMP: I think you have to have -- you know, I don't consider myself to have a big ego. The fact is, I never, however, met a person who's successful who didn't have an ego.


BURNETT: OK. Well, right now, it appears nothing would feed Trump's ego more than a prize that he has had his eyes on and ears listening to for weeks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you deserve the Nobel Prize, do you think?

TRUMP: Everyone thinks so but I would never say it.

CROWD: Nobel! Nobel! Nobel!

TRUMP: That's very nice, thank you. That's very nice. Nobel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think you have to achieve in the coming -- upcoming summit to deserve a Nobel Peace Prize? TRUMP: Well, I don't know.


BURNETT: This though should not be about personal ego. And it certainly not the same as closing a real estate deal. In the last two days, the president of the United States has given the world whiplash, leaving crucial allies stunned. I mean, none of them knew this was coming, right? When he canceled the summit, nobody had any idea.

So the front pages of newspapers around the world of course ran with the headline, the erratic negotiations. And now tonight it might be back on, on the same day. You can be forgiven for being, at best, deeply confused and concerned.

Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT live at the White House tonight. And Kaitlan, does anyone there have any idea what's actually happening right now with regards to the summit? Anyone except for the president of the United States?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's the question there. The president has one view of this, and his staff has a much different view. President Trump sounding downright confident this morning that it could still happen on June the 12th. But when I spoke to several people inside the White House today, they were skeptical at best at the idea of doing the summit on the existing date that they'd agreed to before.

And I think the phrase for all of this is diplomatic whiplash because just yesterday, the president canceled it, today, he seemed to resurrect it.

[19:05:04] And yesterday, it seemed like a fat chance, the idea that that could happen on June 12th. But today, after the president expressed confidence in that, it seemed like there was a healthy amount of skepticism but a chance that it could still happen here at the White House.

And I think the reason for a lot of that is the communications. Because yesterday when this summit had been canceled of course we heard from the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who said essentially that North Korea wasn't returning his calls and also said that an advanced staff who had traveled to Singapore ahead of the summit to simply smooth out any of the wrinkles were also stood up by the North Koreans.

And now today, this morning, what's different is President Trump said they are talking to the North Koreans once again with the national security counsel confirming that they are back in contact. So it does seem that there is a change there. But still essentially one big shrug when you ask the White House what is going to happen, are we going to be meeting in Singapore in 18 days.

The question there, not going answered. Luckily, Erin, we booked refundable tickets for this. BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Kaitlan. And let's go now to the Democratic Congressman John Garamendi who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, also has visited North Korea as recently as 2017.

So, Congressman, let's just start with, what do you think is going -- what do you know is going on here? I mean, so yesterday, it's off. We're talking about our massive and powerful arsenal. Kim says Trump is brave. Now it might be back on for the same day.

Do you have any idea what's going on?

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Sure. It's very simple. It's confusion. It's chaos and confusion.

BURNETT: OK, good, because I was about to say, please tell me. OK, it's confusion, I got that. OK, go ahead. Go ahead.

GARAMENDI: It's confusion. OK. So, we really don't know. There are really three paths that can be pursued with North Korea. One path is to accept that they have nuclear weapons and try somehow to live with the fact that they could threaten the United States. The second path is to decapitate, as some of President Trump's allies have said. That is to go to war with North Korea.

Bloody awful war. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people would lose their lives in the first week.


GARAMENDI: And the third path is negotiation. It's the negotiation path that we have to pursue as rough and as contradictory as the president has been. If, nonetheless, critically important to pursue the negotiations.

BURNETT: This is a crucial question. You know, we showed those headlines --


BURNETT: -- around the world. We know that the allies of the United States, South Korea and Japan, did not get an advanced notice of the president's canceling of the summit. Did you or anyone on Capitol Hill have any advance notice or was this -- you know, this just broke as it broke to everybody?

GARAMENDI: Well, it's exactly right. It broke as it broke. It came across on everybody's iPhone or their smartphone. Probably not a TKA -- KTA phone. But nonetheless, the reality was that we didn't know about it in advance.

The real problem are the allies. The allies, South Korea, the president was just there two days before the president canceled it. At that meeting, everything was on. They were moving forward.

The President Moon of South Korea was clearly blindsided by it. Certainly Japan and the rest.

The bottom line is, you cannot have a successful situation with North Korea unless and until you have all the allies on your side and clearly they have no idea what this president's going to do next.

BURNETT: Well, nobody who works around him seems to have any idea, right, because it's off yesterday and now today --


BURNETT: -- he said it could even be the 12th. We're talking to them now. That's a quote from him this morning.

Now, Senator Lindsey Graham, who obviously as we both know, has been extremely critical of this president at times. Today was complimentary of him. Saying Trump can do this and that real estate and golf courses actually are a fair comparison to this sort of deal making. Here he is.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The president's got a clear goal here. I don't know how he bought and sold property. I don't know how he bought and sold golf courses. But he was pretty good at it.

As president of the United States, he's made a decision to end the North Korean nuclear program. He wants to do it peacefully if possible. He's going to do it in his first term, I believe.


BURNETT: Do you think, Congressman, that buying and selling golf courses is a fair --

GARAMENDI: You must -- I think he missed the five bankruptcies along the way. The reality is this is not buying and selling real estate. And this isn't getting up from the deal and stomping out of the room.

This is really serious. We're talking about life and death situations. We're talking about the security of the United States with an adversary that has already threatened us with nuclear annihilation. And of course Trump threatened them with the same.

The reality is, these negotiations need a very serious preliminary build-up to the summit. There has to be that kind of homework done.


GARAMENDI: The detailed homework. What are we going to talk about? What's the North Korea's position? What's the American position? How can we move this thing forward?

None of that has been done. And frankly, at this point, it appears to be some 18 days to get it done. [19:10:04] My recommendation is call for the summit, get Pompeo and other skilled diplomats out there to begin those negotiations at the lower level. And build up so that when these two people come together, there is a reasonable chance --


GARAMENDI: -- that they will shake hands and come to some framework about how to move towards a resolution of a very, very complex but extremely dangerous and important problem.

BURNETT: And to do it later, as sound like what you're saying. Let's not rush this in 18 days. Let's move -- so let's commit to it, but let's do it when we're ready to do it. You can't just walk in a room --


BURNETT: -- and shake hands on the end of a nuclear program that's been decades in the making. It's not that simple. The president tweeted today, though, Congressman, quote, very good news to receive the warm and productive statement from North Korea. That's the one in which Kim Jong-un's team called him brave.

We will soon see where it lead. Hopefully, to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time and talent will tell.

Does he have a talent? Is this about talent -- is this about Trump's talent?

GARAMENDI: Well, he certainly believes he has the talent. He certainly believes he knows how to do a deal. And he is really open to -- and wants to receive praise for his work. He seems to live on praise from whomever it may be given.

And certainly appears as though Kim Jong-un understands that if you want to get on with this president, you better be praising him in any way that may be even beyond reality. And the president seems to function on that. And he also functions on whoever talked to him last.

So I'm curious about who that person's going to be in the room. If it's John Bolton and what Bolton said, boy, that set things off. When you compare the situation or the solution for North Korea to Libya, that's got to really turn the stomach of Kim Jong-un and his entourage.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Congressman. I appreciate your time.

And next, Democrats --

GARAMENDI: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: -- and Republicans agree that the briefing about an FBI informant doesn't appear to back up Trump's claims of a spy being planted in his campaign. So why is the president still out there pushing his conspiracy theory?

Plus, whoa, more trouble for Michael Cohen. We've got new evidence tonight. And I mean, this is evidence you're going to see the video, meeting with a Russian oligarch. The topic, improving U.S./Russian relations. This oligarch we know has already been questioned by Bob Mueller. Wait until you see when this meeting happened.

And 12-hour ride in the North Korean train. The blinds drone. A hike through the mountainside. Ham and cucumber sandwiches. Fancy China. All courtesy of the North Koreans.

Our Will Ripley's unbelievable journey to Kim Jong-un's declared nuclear site.


[19:16:20] BURNETT: Tonight, new details about the controversial appearance of the Chief of Staff John Kelly and the president's White House lawyer on the Russia investigation Emmet Flood. You may remember right, they both appeared at that classified Congressional briefing. It was the briefing about an FBI informant Trump claims was a spy in his campaign.

And, you know, they said, oh, they just came and introduced, and left. And that was the plan all the way along. But apparently not. A source telling us now that Flood and Kelly only left the briefing after people in the room said it was not appropriate for them to be there.

OK. This is not at all the story that the White House, that the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, told CNN.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What actually happened, they went, they made a couple of remarks before the briefing and the meeting took place and started. And they simply went as individuals to help facilitate the meeting and communicate that the president was asking for full transparency and then they left.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, national affairs correspondent for the Nation, Joan Walsh, and CNN Political Commentator Ben Ferguson.

Joan, you're shaking your head. Yes, at a single look, this is normal, they would go, they would just give this introduction, then they're going to leave.


BURNETT: But, no, they were not. They were not going to leave. Apparently, according to people in the room, they were going to stay.

WALSH: Right. So Sarah Sanders lied again, let's establish that right now. But let's walk back just a minute. This meeting -- these meetings, should never have taken place in the first place, Erin. They were done, it was an attempt I believe by Rod Rosenstein to mollify our crazy president who is taking the unbelievable step of demanding investigations into an investigation into him.

The meeting shouldn't have happened. They happened. They should -- Kelly and Flood should never have been there in the first place. But, you know, yesterday when I heard, oh, they just came to say hello, I thought that was bad enough. Did they just bring coffee and doughnuts, what is this?

Just showing up establishes that the reason for the meeting is protecting the president and caring about his defense. Now that we know that they really tried to stay all throughout and then the White House peddled this charade that they were just showing up just to --

BURNETT: For a brief comment.

WALSH: -- for a meet and greet, it's outrageous.

BURNETT: I mean -- you know, Ben, let's be clear. There's Republicans in the room. You know, a GOP congressional staffer says the craziest (INAUDIBLE) I've ever heard that they were there, right? I mean, does the White House not get it, that sending these guys was just a bad move?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, first of all, the easiest job in the world is to be the guy who never gives your name and then gives -- and saying, quote, to make the president look bad when you might not like him in the first place. So, we don't if Sarah --

BURNETT: Maybe they don't want a punch in the face which is what he gives you when you do use your name?

FERGUSON: Hold on, let me finish. Sarah Sanders, to say starting off at the segment that she definitely lied, that's just not true. That's -- you want her to be a liar, and you're going after like she's a liar. You don't know if she's lying.

They very well could have showed up with the intent to say hello and then to leave. Which by the way, there have been a lot of people that have also said that they did say hello and that they did decide to leave and they left before this started. So you're going off of people that won't even give their name in Washington, which is --

BURNETT: Well, nobody's giving their name on either side.

WALSH: All of this is classified so there's a limit to what they can and should say. I assume we'll eventually find out more because we always do.

FERGUSON: So, here's my point, though, how can you say that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a liar if you then just said that this was classified and some people may actually not want to give out information about a classified meeting? WALSH: Because this -- I -- you know what, I -- because she does not deserve the benefit of the doubt. This White House --

FERGUSON: -- that she's a liar?

WALSH: No, I don't think it's extreme at all. I don't think it's extreme at all. I think she could have known the truth yesterday. She probably did know the truth yesterday. If they were sent out by people who are in the room, in the meeting --

FERGUSON: You don't know the truth. That's the whole point.

[19:20:01] How can you say without a shadow of a doubt you know the truth when clearly you don't know what happened in the classified meeting --

WALSH: I know the pattern. I know --

FERGUSON: You have unnamed sources. You don't know the pattern. You're not around this. You won't even go to this meeting.

BURNETT: We do know the pattern of truth versus reality in general, Ben. But, can I just ask -- moving on from the Flood/Kelly appearance, OK, to the fact of what the meeting itself, the predicate of the meeting itself, right? The president, as we all know, has put this theory out there, right, that a spy was put in his campaign to help Clinton.

But then when he talks about it, he always puts caveats around it, Ben. He says, I hope it's not so. If they had spies, it looks like a serious event, but we'll find out.

Right, so he puts it out there --


BURNETT: -- but he kind of covers his own, you know, what. And this is what he has done on everything from the illegal immigration numbers in this country, calling Bill Clinton a racist, President Obama trying to take away people's guns. He throws these things out there and then says, oh, it's not me.

Let me just play a few.


TRUMP: I'm now hearing it's 30 million, it could even be 34 million, which is a much bigger problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whom you're hearing that from?

TRUMP: Well, I'm hearing it from other people and I've seen it written in various newspapers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you yourself calling him a racist?

TRUMP: No, he was called that by the Obama campaign, he was called it loud and clear. He was extremely insulted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you put it in your tweet if you don't believe it?

TRUMP: I -- they said it, I didn't say it.

You know, the president's thinking about signing an executive order where he wants to take your guns away, you hear this one?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Mr. Trump, the president has not signed an executive order to take away guns.

TRUMP: No, no. I've heard that he wants to and I've heard it, I think on your network. Somebody said that's what he's thinking about. I didn't say he's signing it.


BURNETT: Ben, come on.

FERGUSON: Yes? Well, I mean, I can directly talk about the gun issue. There were Democrats talking about how the president should sign executive order before he got out of office on guns.

BURNETT: but he didn't sign it.

FERGUSON: And the president didn't say he signed it. He said he was thinking about it.

WALSH: There were no Democrats saying that.

FERGUSON: He said he was thinking about it.

WALSH: There were never Democrats saying he just signed an exec --

FERGUSON: See, this is where I'm not going to let you get away with rewriting history. I had Democrats on my show who talked about how the president of the United States of America, if he cannot get the votes need in Congress to do something on guns and they refuse to act and then attack the NRA --

WALSH: To take away the guns?

FERGUSON: -- that he should do an executive order on guns.

WALSH: That was never said. That was never said. That was never said.

FERGUSON: So you're telling me that there was not a single Democrat --

BURNETT: But what he's always saying is, I'm hearing it from other people, others have said that. This person said that.

WALSH: Yes. BURNETT: That's what they said. It's very successful, Ben, he got to put it in the public sphere without having to take responsibility for saying it yourself. At some point, shouldn't the president take the responsibility? I think, I believe, I am saying?

WALSH: I know would be good.

BURNETT: Not somebody else. I'm just saying. Right?

FERGUSON: Here's -- let's not deal with the FBI issue right now since that's the one clearly that's on everyone's mind. The president of the United States of America has reason to believe that there was an informant in -- looking at his campaign. Now, of course, the FBI --

BURNETT: That's not what he's saying, Ben. That's not what he's saying.

FERGUSON: -- backing themselves up, and Comey and Clapper and every -- and then of -- let me finish, though.

BURNETT: But you're saying it. That's not what he's saying. He's saying a spy was planted in his campaign to help Hillary Clinton. That is not what you just said.

WALSH: By the Obama White House.

FERGUSON: It could be. It could be. And the other thing is that people that have come out and talked about this are people like Clapper who clearly can't stand the president of the United States of America. I would not trust that an informant in this campaign was not leaking information.

BURNETT: And the classified briefing yesterday in which the head of the GOP Senate said he didn't learn a single new thing, period.

WALSH: If there was any evidence --

FERGUSON: Classified meeting if you're a statesmen, that's the right thing you should say.

WALSH: -- I'm sorry, Devin Nunes would have come out to a bank of cameras if there was the least bit, a shred of evidence that this was a spy. In fact, what it was, we know was an informant. They were not investigating Donald Trump. They were investigating Russians meddling in Donald Trump's campaign.

A normal candidate, a normal president, would be happy for the assistance. This president has something to hide so he's not happy.

FERGUSON: I don't think Hillary Clinton would be happy about that.

BURNETT: We'll hit pause. Thank you both very much.

And next, Michael Cohen's legal troubles mounting tonight. The RNC today says he's still a top official though he's under criminal investigation. And former director of National Intelligence James Clapper says the Russians not only meddled in the election but they put Trump over the top. Now that is new. And it is a huge thing to say. Does he have evidence? Well, General Clapper will be my guest tonight.


[19:28:18] BURNETT: New tonight, another secret meeting, this one, between Michael Cohen and a Russian oligarch, 11 days before Trump's inauguration.

So, let's roll the tape on this one. Vekselberg is on the right. He's got a pea coat on and a hat. And that is the lobby of Trump Tower.

He's there with his cousin Andrew Intrater who's standing on the left. They're checking in at the security desk which is right there at the base of those elevators. Moments later, they enter the elevator that goes up to the Trump offices. Their destination, Michael Cohen's office, which is on the 26th floor. The same floor as his boss's Donald Trump's.

Now, a source tell us that Cohen and Vekselberg talked about improving U.S./Russian relations. Let's just remind everybody, this is 11 days before the inauguration.

Twenty-seven minutes later, there they go, the two men leave. They come back down.

This is not just important because Vekselberg is an oligarch close to Putin and it happened 11 days before the inauguration. It's important for two other big reasons. One, Vekselberg's cousin who you saw in the video with him, paid $580,000, Andrew Intrater, to Cohen. That was a consulting contract to help his company, all right.

So, one of those guys paid Cohen more than half a million dollars. And by the way, the biggest client for Andrew Intrater's company, his cousin, Viktor Vekselberg.

And the second reason this matters is that Vekselberg himself has been questioned by Special Counsel Bob Mueller's team. And in pretty dramatic fashion too, the FBI stopping his private jet when he arrived in the United States earlier this year, asking him not only about that $580,000 in payments to Cohen but about another $300,000 in donations that Vekselber'g cousin made to Trump's inauguration and the Republican National Committee.

OUTFRONT now, the former assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, Harry Sandick, former Nixon White House counsel during Watergate, John Dean, and New York Times Op-ed Columnist Frank Bruni.

John, we've got a meeting with a Russian oligarch who's been questioned by Mueller. This meeting happens 11 days before the inauguration on the 26th floor with Michael Cohen. [19:30:00] JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It's -- the

plot has continued to thicken and it always seems to have Russians and the Trump people or somebody has direct access to Trump being involved with him. It's hard to read but this -- from the story what we have here. It doesn't appear to be necessarily extortion based on what's been reported, doesn't appear to be bribery necessarily.

So it's just swampy behavior and it's pay to play, which is pretty ugly and exactly what Mr. Trump said he was going to eliminate.

BURNETT: And get it happen of course on this floor with his personal attorney. I mean, Harry, what does this mean for Michael Cohen, who is of course under criminal investigation?

HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSITANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I think this was a reckless thing for him to do, to have any Russian-related business at this moment in time, January 2017, when the whole story about Russian involvement in our election was a big story. And as -- I agree with John, that we don't know whether anything illegal happened. It's a little premature to say.

But this puts a target further on Cohen's back and we've been talking about Will Cohen cooperate. And next week, May 30th, he goes back to Judge Wood in the search warrant case. So this is just another log on the fire of that.

BURNETT: And, Frank, here's the thing, this is video. There's no disputing that Vekselberg came to Trump Tower, right? We can see it. He came with his cousin, which makes it pretty hard for Vekselburg to argue he knew nothing about the nearly -- a million dollars in payments to Cohen, team Trump and the Republican National Committee which, by the way, Michael Cohen is a top official of.

FRANK BRUNI, NEW YORK COLUMNIST: Yes. No, that doesn't pass the smell test of these things are. When you connect the dots, it certainly looks like yet another example of Russians trying to purchase some sort of influence, some sort of governance in their favor from the Trump administration. It is another example of Michael Cohen walking out there with the biggest tin cup I've ever seen and I mean pay to play has never happened to a shameless degree like this that I've seen.


BRUNI: And I agree with Harry. I think it suggests that there is such a bevy of evidence out there, shady behavior by Michael Cohen, that the idea that they're not eventually going to be able to flip him, I think that's going to happen.

BURNETT: So today, John, this gets -- this is pretty exciting, Matthew Chance, our Matthew Chance is in Moscow. He actually meets Vekselberg and he asked him about Michael Cohen and this meeting with Mueller, right, being questioned. And here is how it went down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did your company pay hundreds of thousands of dollars --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- to President Trump's lawyer --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really appreciate, just later, OK? Yes, really appreciate -- you understand. You're so aggressive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it to buy access to the president?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know -- what did you get for the money?



BURNETT: You're so aggressive. I mean, oligarchs certainly are not used to being held accountable, John.

DEAN: No, they're not. He barely knows the name of the man he's being asked about and doesn't want to talk about him, what he does know. You know, it's interesting. He obviously is used to spreading his money around and getting favors for it, particularly in Russia. It's a way of business there. So, you know, I'm sure he was not happy to be pressed by CNN today.

BURNETT: No, I mean -- not how I think that would be done. A polite understatement.

You know, Frank, Cohen is under criminal investigation. You know, we talk about $300,000 in payments, in donations, from Vekselberg's cousin's company to this -- to the RNC and the Trump inauguration. And yet the RNC spokeswoman yesterday was asked about Michael Cohen, right, does he still work for the GOP, another criminal investigation. OK. Here's how she answers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last time we spoke, you had told me he was still working as a Deputy Finance chair for the RNC. Is that still the case?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, RNC SPOKESPERSON: It is still the case. You know, there's ongoing litigation and we'll take it step by step. But yes, he is still.


BURNETT: We got a whole new standard here. Steve Wynn is out for sexual harassment allegations. Elliott Broidy out as deputy finance chair because he paid $1.6 million to a playmate during extramarital affair who had an abortion. But if you're under criminal investigation? SANDICK: I think it's perversity still working for the RNC. But I think what you see there and the reason still working for the RNC is this kind of defiance that mirrors Donald trump's position about all this. It's a kind of there's nothing there so why should we change anything? It's the witch-hunt argument. There's a witch-hunt. We're not to cave to it.


BRUNI: Yes. If I were in the RNC, I'd be doing an investigating into all of the funds that Cohen raised to find out what the story is so you can figure out whether something needs to be done. Maybe that's happening, maybe it's not.

[19:35:05] BURNETT: I don't know. To me if someone's under criminal investigation, I would say let's just, you know, suspend you until we find out what happens and maybe everything's fine and maybe everything isn't. It won't continue. Seems absurd. Thank you all.

And next, the president twisting a former intel chief's words to spread his conspiracy theory about an FBI spy. James Clapper joins me to respond and also to explain if he has evidence for the Russians actually turning the election in favor of Trump. And Will Ripley taking us along his bizarre journey to the nuclear site.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was surreal. A 10- course banquet with all the blinds closed and strict orders not to film outside.



BURNETT: Tonight, the White House tripling down on its conspiracy theory that the FBI put a spy in the Trump campaign to help Hillary Clinton. Can anyone even imagine having spies placed in a competing campaign by the people and party in absolute power for the sole purpose of political advantage and gain? That's a tweet from the president.

Trump pushing his theory, in spite of the fact that members from both parties who attended a classified briefing on the informant yesterday said they did not learn anything new to corroborate his claims.

OUTFRONT now, the former director of National Intelligence under President Obama James Clapper, the author of "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Line in Intelligence."

[19:40:05] Great to have you back with me, General. So let's start with this meeting, right? Even the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he didn't, "Learn anything surprising after meeting with the DOJ." But the president obviously went back on Twitter today, continued with the specific accusations. A spy was planted in his campaign to help Hillary Clinton. Will there ever be evidence that makes the president stop making these claims?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, Erin, thanks for having me. And I think the answer is probably not. I think this narrative is going to continue regardless of the facts. That's just -- that's the way things are now. And I think the president will continue to perpetuate that narrative no matter how much evidence is brought out that's factual.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about something that has been brought up here and there's been a lot of, you know, accusations made about who knew what. But I want to play for you something that Ari Fleisher said, obviously the former press secretary for George W. Bush. Here's what he is accusing.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We need to know why did it begin and who authorized it, what role did Barack Obama have, did he know that the FBI had informants there? And I guarantee you, the answer is yes. No FBI would put informants in another presidential campaign without permission from the White House including the president.


BURNETT: Director, you can answer this question. Did the FBI know? I'm sorry. Did President Obama know the FBI had informants there? He said he'll guarantee the answer is yes. Do you know the answer?

CLAPPER: I'm sure the President Obama had no knowledge whatsoever of an informant. The FBI has dozens, maybe hundreds of informant who provide very valuable information and do so in a legitimate way. And I didn't know about this, specifics nor would I know of any specifics informant. The FBI has very strict protocols and rules on managing and using informants and I'm sure those protocols were used.

BURNETT: So you're saying this whole thing, they're putting around --

CLAPPER: I really doubt any --

BURNETT: I'm sorry, this whole thing, it was a presidential campaign and therefore the president would know or someone like you would know, you're saying no, you wouldn't, and you didn't?

CLAPPER: Correct.

BURNETT: So I want to ask you about another big thing you argue in your book, Director, and this was very significant and I have been eager to have you on to ask more about it. You say the Russia interference in the election tip to vote to Trump. I want to read what you wrote. You write, "Of course, the Russian efforts affected the outcome. Surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win. To conclude otherwise stretches logic, common sense and credulity to the breaking point. Less than 80,000 votes in three key states swung the election. I have no doubt that more votes than that were influenced by this massive effort by the Russians." This is a huge thing to say obviously, sir, it's not just Russians influenced the election. You're saying that they actually changed the outcome. Is this just your belief or do you have hard evidence?

CLAPPER: Well, you pretty well outlined the key passage in my book about this. And I do need to emphasize, try to make as clear as I possibly can, that when we rendered our official intelligence community assessment on the 6th of January of 2017 which we briefed to then President-elect Trump, we made the point that the intelligence community did not make any attempt to assess the impact on voter decisions or the outcome of the election and has neither the authority, the capability, or the resources.

But having some understanding, pretty good understanding, of what the Russians did, the massive effort they made on a multidimensional basis to affect the election and the tens of millions of voters that were impacted or saw the effort that the Russians mounted, in information operations campaign, a lot of that, the details of that have come out, particularly their use of social media, since then.

And the passage you quoted makes the point that since the election turned on 80,000 or less votes in three key states, it just, to me, defies logic and credulity to suggest that they didn't have huge impact and turn the election towards Donald Trump.

Also, I describe in the book the striking parallelism in what the Trump campaign was doing and saying and what the Russians were doing and saying. It was almost like an echo chamber, particularly with respect to their attacks on Hillary Clinton.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. General Clapper, I appreciate your time tonight, as always. Thanks, sir.

BURNETT: Thanks, Erin.

[19:44:59] And next, Will Ripley on -- I don't know what word you use to describe it. Let's go with bizarre because it was certainly that, the trip to North Korea's nuclear test site.

And the former Hollywood powerhouse Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs today, facing charges of rape.


BURNETT: Tonight, inside the secret trip to North Korea's nuclear site. A trip unlike any other that CNN's Will Ripley has taken to North Korea. And he's been there a lot of times. It was a luxury train ride. They had a 10-course banquet. Ham and cucumber sandwiches and provided by the North Koreans at the nuclear site in a building right before they blew it up. Here's Will's incredible story.


RIPLEY: From the moment I landed in Wonsan, I knew this story was unlike any other. Eighteen trips to North Korea and this country still keeps me guessing. For more than 24 hours, we didn't even know if our trip to the Punggye-ri nuclear site would happen. The rhetoric with the U.S. was really heating up.

Only when we boarded the bus did we know it was a go. We rode for more than 12 hours on a North Korean luxury train. It was surreal, a 10-course banquet with all the blinds close and strict orders not to film outside. We also couldn't film on the drive to the nuclear site.

Arriving at Punggye-ri was surreal. The buildings were log cabins. Almost like a summer camp. It was definitely not what I expected. We had to carry our gear and hike for what felt like ages of steep ravines to get to observation post built specifically for us. We visited tunnel after tunnel. The same tunnels North Korea has used to conduct six nuclear tests since 2006. All of them full of explosives.

[19:50:08] Football size bags strung with wires. We even had lunch provided by the North Koreans, ham and cucumber sandwiches surrounded by buildings that would be blown up just hours later.

The explosions were huge. Earthshaking. They sent rocks and debris flying. We found some of it scattered later hundreds of feet away. I could only imagine what it felt like during those nuclear tests. It was totally impossible to verify if what we were seeing if all those dramatic explosions actually made that nuclear site unusable as the North Koreans claimed. For the nuclear officials on site, there was almost a sense of sadness watching more than a decade of hard work go up in smoke.


BURNETT: And Will, it's just incredible. But tell me more about that train. You describe it as luxury, this 10-course banquet. Ten-course banquet.

RIPLEY: Yes. I mean and we had military officers that were staffing the train. All of them were members of the Korean People's Army. And so we had these officers kind of patrolling up and down the halls, making sure that the blinds were closed, making sure that we had everything we needed.

The sleeping department was pretty small. We were in first class cabin. My producer, Tim Schwarz, and I had two banks side by side. Some of the other people were in the second class where they fit four people into the same size room. But yet you had that luxury dining car with this kind of extravagant meal. It was really a surreal moment to be on this train which is reserved for the most privileged of North Korean citizens rolling through the country side in the middle of the night unable to look out the windows. But when we arrived, it was a quite surreal experience to then go to that nuclear site, Erin.

BURNETT: On every level just seems have in the blinds, I mean, just an incredible experience. Will Ripley, thank you so very much.

And next, disgraced Hollywood Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs today, formally charged with rape. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:55: 06] BURNETT: Tonight, Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs. The former megastar movie producer, rape and sexual assault charges, now in his space. It was a powerful moment for the women speaking out against Weinstein and other powerful men, and for the women who have been fighting for decades to make a moment like this possible. Our CNN original series event 1968 looks back.

OUTFRONT now, two icons, Robin Morgan and Tarana Burke. Robin is the co-founder of the Women's Media Center with Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda. And Tarana is the found of the Me Too movement and senior director of Girls for Gender Equity. And thank you both so very much.

So, Robin, you know, you organized the famous Miss America protest, you know. Now we hear so much about all these pageants. You know, they become part of the political discussion. But 1968, you know, was originally an erroneously labeled as a bra-burning event. It was actually bras going into the trash. What would you be tossing out today?

ROBIN MORGAN, CO-FOUNDER, WOMEN'S MEDIA CENTER: The president of the United States would be a good place to begin. But it might be low hard for me to lift but there are moments when I would like to toss in cellphones, smartphones just for some piece. But the created use of those by younger feminist like my sister here has been -- we did not have that means for organizing. Everything was done by telephone and by leafleting on street corners, you know.

So here I am 50 years, I can't believe it. And seeing these younger women, black, white, and older women coming back as well on the streets pissed off for all the right reasons and working together across class (ph) lines and (INAUDIBLE). And it is so moving and internationally as well.

BURNETT: So, Tarana, you started the Me Too movement actually more than a decade ago, right? This is something that you saw a long time ago and it was really to help women speak out about sexual assault, would plagues our society. But a lot of people don't realize that this isn't brand new, right? I mean the Harvey Weinstein thing happened October 5th.


BURNETT: Alyssa Milano has a tweet that goes viral, October 5th and all of a sudden Me Too is now a household name.

BURKE: I mean I think that the work that's happen throughout the year starting with the women's march and probably proceeding that with the election, I think that the election of Donald Trump for a lot of people symbolize a bridge too far. But I think people should also remember that the sort of the land was being tilled for a while, right?

BURNETT: Yes. BURKE: Prior to -- I think this is also misconception that Donald Trump came in and things went south. And, you know, he's not a great president, yes, but the truth of the matter is, even under Barack Obama, even before Barack Obama, you know, we had issues with people trying to legislate our bodies.

BURNETT: You know, we've all seen Meghan Markle, right, you know, walking down the aisle alone. And, you know, on her new page, the British Monarchy, the website, her official website in her profile, it says, "I am proud to be a woman and a feminist." That in and of itself is an incredible thing to say and to put on that.

BURKER: So it's a big deal for Meghan Markle to say it emphatically and declare it without any kind of, you know, issue around it. Like this is who I am.

MORGAN: Feminism is hot right now. We are incredibly hot and we have been hot in little moments before and then fallen from grace. Everybody runs in the other direction, from the F word. So we just keep on keeping on. And I hope that this hotness that we are demonstrating now is sustained. It's just like an electric spark that you set off, my dear.

BURKE: Not just me.

MORGAN: Well, I know not just you, but, you know, you gave it a name and the name is very important.

BURNETT: Well, putting a name on something is very important as we all know. Thank you both so very much.

MORGAN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And be sure to tune in, our original series event 1968 starts this Sunday at 9:00 Eastern. And we'll see you then. Thanks so much for joining us in the meantime.

"AC 360" with Jim Sciutto this evening starts now.