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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Talks Border Wall in GOP Meeting Amid Family Separations; Trump Admin: Only "Congress Alone" Can Fix Family Separations Crisis; Source: Cohen "Willing to Give" Investigators Info About Trump; Trump Compliments Nielsen as Calls Grow for Her to Resign; Stock Sinks as Trump's Trade Wars Intensify. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 19, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:08] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. President Trump just wrapping up a major meeting on Capitol Hill as his own party turns on him. Is Trump standing firm on separating families at the border?
Plus, more breaking news. More signals from Michael Cohen that he's ready to save what he knows about the Trump -- about Trump. A Cohen friend saying if they want information on Trump, Cohen's going to give it.
And Kirstjen Nielsen under fire, more calls for her resignation. Does she have a credibility crisis on her hands?
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. President Trump just wrapping up a meting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill. The nearly 45-minutes discussion coming as bipartisan outrage grows over the administration's decision to separate children from their parents at the U.S. Mexican border.
Twelve Republican senators now calling on the Trump administration to end the practice. President Trump though tripling down. During a speech to small business owners today, Trump was clear, he stands by his policy to, quote, take the children away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally which should happen, you have to take the children away. They've got to go through the process. And maybe it's politically correct or maybe it's not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, the president went even further on Twitter saying, quote, Democrats want undocumented immigrants to, quote, infest our country. Infest. Now the word infest is a loaded one. It's a verb. Obviously, refers to insects or animals. Present and large numbers to cause damage or disease.
That's what it means and that's what it feels like when it's used. Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen slamming the president saying the use of that word is, quote, repugnant, reprehensible, and repulsive. And that's from a Republican. When it comes to his policy, the president meantime though is getting support from the people he listens to. On Fox News and from the woman who has become the other face of his policy, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since more illegal immigrants are rushing the border, more kids are being separated from their parents, and temporarily housed in what essentially summer camps.
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We give them meals, we give them education, we give them medical care. There's videos, there's T.Vs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you do see that they have those thermal blankets. You do see some fencing, but keep many mind -- some have referred to them as cages -- keep in mind, this is a great big warehouse facility where they built walls out of chain-link fences.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Summer camps, videos. T.Vs, education. That is not what this is, and of course as for this quote, walls built out of chain- link fences, that would be a cage. And this traumatic experience of being separated from parents will have an effect on these young children.
You don't have to take my word for it or even listen to your own intuition, we did called Dr. Julie Linton who's with the American Academy of Pediatrics and she told us what these children are going through can cause long term problems. Specifically, she referred to, learning and organizational issues. She said it can cause irreparable harm to children.
This is a long term issue. Not just the short term pain and anxiety of being separated from that your parents. Just listen to the disturbing sounds obtained by ProPublica from inside one of these centers. It's worth listening to again.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Daddy! Daddy!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mommy!
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Children calling out for their mothers and fathers. Look, like of you when I hear that, I think of my own children and can't imagine their fear if they were taken away from us, the only parents they know. Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill. And Sunlen, what
else are you learning about what happened in this meeting as we've said about 45 minutes just wrapped up, between the president and the GOP in the house.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It just wrapped up, Erin, and we're hearing from many lawmakers who just came out of the meeting and like most meetings on Capitol Hill, there are differing opinions on what exactly went down in that meeting.
A big question going in from Republicans is what immigration proposal would President Trump fully back. Would he fully endorse one of the specific proposals that's on the table, the former conservative one or the leadership-backed moderate bill? Both which address this family separation issue on the border.
Going in, many Republicans wanted to hear specifically, an explicit endorsement from President Trump. Some members leaving saying that they did hear that. One member telling me, Senator -- excuse me, Representative Cullen saying it was crystal clear that President Trump backed the compromised legislation. He said it's unequivocal, that he said we've got to get this done.
Other members not so sure if he fully embraced that compromised measure.
[19:05:03] But I did speak to Steve Scalise, who of course is the whip here in the House and he said tonight, they are going to start whipping around the compromised measure. That an important movement. He says this is -- look, this is the one that has the best chance of passing, and the message he says from President Trump tonight was get me one of these bills to my desk to sign.
Of course that is going to be no small feat up here, Erin.
SERFATY: And one other interesting thing that a lawmaker told me is that, they said during the meeting, President Trump specifically brought up that Ivanka Trump, his daughter brought up these images at the border that are playing out on the media and she said to her father, we've seen images, we've got to get something done for many reasons. That's what President Trump told the room here tonight.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much.
And so that's what Trump said in the meeting and you know President Trump, he loves to answer questions from reporters as he is walking in and out. Except for when he really doesn't want to address an issue. Here's what he said walking out of the meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: These are laws that have been broken for many years, decades. But we had a great meeting. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: No questions. Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT. And Jeff, the president says it was a great meeting but he did refuse to take any questions during the meeting as well. Right? I mean, sort of just talking.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Erin. That is the most significant part of all here. It's one thing to not take questions from reporters. The president often does or doesn't do that but not taking questions from members of the House Republicans.
A largely friendly audience on a, you know, on a usual situation did not take questions. We talked to several members as they were leaving. And they were frustrated by that.
But we are also picking a bit as Sunlen was just reporting, he did talk about the images. The president did talk about the images, acknowledging it's not a good look at all but he did say that it is up to the House and the Senate to fix the problem.
But the president not offering much of a road map on that. We just got a statement from the White House just a few moments ago, and they essentially tried to clean this up and reiterate, the president supports either one of these bills not necessarily making an option here. But Erin, it's not clear if the president's visit advanced the ball at all.
I talked to one member just a moment ago, a Republican member from a red state. He said it's always nice to see the president. He also said, he didn't move the ball at all.
BURNETT: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.
And let's go OUTFRONT now to Republican Congressman Will Hurd, who recently visited a temporary shelter in his district for unaccompanied minors who had come across the border. His district has about a third of the U.S./Mexican border which is more than any other House member. And of course, he was just in with the president.
And Congressman, you're on the Homeland Security Committee, so you heard what Jeff Zeleny was saying. Some in the room were saying thanks for the meeting, but it didn't really move the ball. What's your take away?
REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: Well, I think we're going to see once this bill gets whipped. I don't know if there is anything definitive from that meeting. He did say he wanted to get something done this week. But also, I think it's going to be in our hands to actually try to do something. I think it's a little ridiculous that we have to legislate that you shouldn't take kids from their mommies. This is something that we show -- you know, we should intrinsically know that shouldn't happen.
And so, we'll see and this is about getting the 218 votes. Erin, I don't know if they have the votes to get it done.
BURNETT: So Congressman, let me ask you. I know also in this meeting, look, the president did refer to the images. He said his daughter brought them up. He didn't take questions from any of you.
Other things came up. North Korea, trade, called Mark Sanford a nasty guy. I understand the room got quiet at that point. What was your take away from the rest of this? Talking about Mark Sanford, not taking questions from you or others?
HURD: Look, I don't think -- again, there was nothing definitive that we hadn't seen before. This made it very clear I don't think this administration is focused on realizing that they have the authority to stop this practice. This practice of separating kids from their parents. It's something that shouldn't happen.
But the reality is, this is a symptom. We keep talking about the symptom for the larger problem. The larger problem is our immigration system is broken. Our larger problem is that, in countries like El Paso -- excuse me, El Salvador and Nicaragua, you have root causes that is causing this migration. I think building a 30-foot high concrete structure from sea to shining sea is actually not good border security.
We should have operational control of our border. We don't because we're not looking at 2,000 miles of border at the same time. So we need to be addressing all these things. We need to have more immigration judges in order to adjudicate and provide consequences.
I think this narrative is saying that people just want anybody coming here. No, that's not true.
HURD: It's -- you should -- if you break the law, you should be prosecuted. But if -- when you're in our (INAUDIBLE), you should be treated humanely. I think that's something we all learn in Kindergarten and Sunday school.
BURNETT: I mean, you know, look, the president I know is saying of course he does believes in the wall. Does know boarder like you do, but he believes in it.
[19:10:02] He's also saying -- and you're pointing out, you don't think that they quite understand this administration that they can't solve this. It's pretty clear they can, right? They are the ones that even the Homeland Security Department in the briefing today admitted that it's a new policy, it's their policy.
The president today tweeted, Congressman, "Democrats are the problem. They don't care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be to pour in and infest our country like MS-13. They can't win on their terrible policies so they view them as potential voters."
A couple of questions for you, Congressman. First, this issue of infest. Infest obviously as we said, it's a verb. It means in large numbers, animals or insects causing disease or damage. Are you OK with that language?
HURD: No. And look, this is a big problem and the reason we haven't solved it is because the only way to solve it is we actually work together in a bipartisan way. Too many people want to use this as an opportunity to get on cable news and take pot shots at their opponents. To use this as an opportunity to score political points.
This is a real problem that needs to be solved and (INAUDIBLE) for people to sit down and solve it. And, you know what, there actually is a bipartisan piece of legislation that addresses root causes. And that's something that I've been working on with Pete Aguilar. This is the only way.
We've got to put the sword to the sides. Solve these real problems. And I'm crisscrossing the 29 counties I represent which is larger than 26 states. I have been hearing people, yes, get operation control of our border in a smart way.
HURD: Let's solve DACA and let's not rip kids from their parents.
BURNETT: What do you make though of the fact this is happening at all right now? Right. I mean, obviously, you're talking about a broader border issue, immigration issue. Fair.
But what about the fact that specifically, this administration is choosing to pursue this policy, and the president is saying that, you know, that there's two choices, right. We can either release them all or we can separate the families. That he is creating this choice which until a month ago, was not a choice.
HURD: It's a false choice and ultimately, is this a indication of erosion of values. It's I think a big question that we have to ask ourselves. And I -- when I was back in Texas this weekend, people of all political tribes are saying this is not what our country stands for. And in the land of the free, and the home of the brave, we should not be using children as a deterrence policy.
That's an indication that your strategy is broken and you need to rethink the strategy. And the only way we're going to solve this, is if we actually work together. And that is making sure Republicans and Democrats are working together and both sides are playing political games.
BURNETT: Congressman, quickly before we go, the temperature in Tornillo which is where you toured that facility today was a 102 degrees. We have some images. These are tents that have been set up. The high this week is supposed to be 106.
HURD: Yes. BURNETT: Are you concerned for the physical safety of the kids in there?
HURD: The people that are running that facility are emergency management professionals. But we shouldn't get to a point where you have to put kids in a tent even if they have a four ton A.C. unit, right. This is -- they're being moved from other places because we're separating kids from their families. And those kids are going in the state-run facilities and then you get the 16 or 17-year-old boys that are going into warehouses or ultimately into these tents.
And look, it's hot in Texas. It's hot in El Paso. It's going to continue to get hot. And again, this is a -- that place is a manifestation of a failed policy. It's a policy that can be changed today that doesn't require legislative action. And I actually think it should be.
BURNETT: Let's hope that the president hears your words and listen to people like you. Thank you very much, Congressman Hurd.
HURD: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, the president can fix it. He alone can fix this. That's the great irony here. He alone can end this policy at this moment. He loves to say that he alone can fix things, so why is he choosing not to do so? Why is he not stopping this policy?
Plus, breaking news. Michael Cohen signaling to friends he is ready. He's ready to say what he knows about the president.
And, major shake up at the White House tonight. A close adviser, out.
[19:17:42] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump doubling down, falsely claiming again that Congress is to blame for the crisis at the border where children are being taken away from their parents after entering the country illegally. It's an argument his top aides have also tried to push over the past day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We need Democrat votes to get it fixed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congress alone can fix it?
NIELSEN: Congress alone can fix it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: To be clear, as you just heard from the Republican congressman who represents the largest section of the U.S./Mexican border, that is false. The president of the United States can end this policy at any second if he chooses to do so. And he's saying that is Congress' problem, it actually complete 180 from the Donald Trump that we are used to hearing. Remember in the campaign when he said he alone could fix anything?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I alone can fix it. I'm the only one that knows how to fix it. I'm the only one that can fix it. I will pick up the phone and fix it myself if I have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. And this holds true for immigration specifically. He went to Twitter of course in 2015 and said, quote, our southern border is unsecure. I am the only one that can fix it.
Nobody else has the guts to even talk about it. OK, here is the thing. He was right then. He alone can fix this particular issue. Which of course he created by his policy of separating the families, but he could end it at any second. That's the fact.
And OUTFRONT now, former adviser to four presidents including Reagan and Clinton, David Gergen, Maria Cardona, a former communications director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the Clinton administration, and Steve Cortes, a member of the president's 2020 re- elect advisory counsel.
David, let me just start with you. The president met with the House GOP for 45 minutes. Lots of things he talked about. He didn't take questions. North Korea, trade, calling Mark Sanford a nasty guy, who of course was an opponent of Trump's. Republican opponent who lost his primary bid for re-election.
You heard Will Hurd though there, David Gergen. He said this is a failed policy. The president can end it now. It's a symbol of an erosion of values in this country, and the president should end it now. That's from his own party.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO FOUR PRESIDENTS: Erin, first of all, let me just thank you for putting Congressman Hurd on. What a breath of fresh air. And it's so good to see there's still some humanity left in the Republican Party leadership because this is crazy.
[19:20:00] We have a Katrina-like situation where people are -- innocent people are suffering. Tomorrow morning, those children, we could start reuniting those children with their families. It would minimize the trauma they're going to feel over their lives.
There are child psychiatrists who have abundance evidence to show that separation like this, force separation can cause trauma that will last a lifetime.
GERGEN: And think of these young children, they came out of Central America or even Southern Mexico, they had to trek all the way to get here first. Think how traumatic that was and they probably faced abuse back in their home countries which is why they come.
Somebody ought to show some humanity. Hurd is showing that. Now, why can't the president and his team get with the action. So this is I think is very similar to Katrina.
BURNETT: Steve, what do you say? Why can't the president show some compassion?
STEVE CORTES, MEMBER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP'S 2020 RE-ELECT ADVISORY COUNCIL: The best way -- hold on, the best way for their families to stay together is do not cross a sovereign border. Do not commit a crime together as family. I agree with you. I have enormous empathy for these children to be separated from their parents. They are the victims.
The perpetrator is not Donald Trump. The perpetrators are not I.C.E. agents. The perpetrators are their parents. Who have decided to commit a crime, who have decided willfully --
BURNETT: And these are people who are in dire straits. Who knows what they're going (INAUDIBLE). No one is saying they're not coming in the country illegally -- let me finish my point, please, OK? They are coming in these dire straits illegally as you point out. President Trump and only President Trump not President Obama, not President Bush has opted to go ahead and separate them from their families. Tell me why?
CORTES: No, he did not opt. Their parents opted --
BURNETT: Yes, he is opting. It is his policy. Health and Human Services today said on a press briefing, it is a new policy. That is what they are formally saying today and it is a fact. Why is he doing it?
CORTES: Correct. He is employing the law, which they did not. But if you were an American citizen --
BURNETT: And he can stop it this second as the Republican representative just said. Why is he not doing that?
CORTES: If I decide to break into a house tonight and I bring my children in tow, I will be arrested and I will be separated from my children. They have decided, these parents, unfortunately, to break into our national house, to the United States of America and they have been arrested.
GERGEN: Hold on. Hold on.
CORTES: And that is the exact principle --
BURNETT: Finish your point please then I'll get Maria.
GERGEN: OK. I want to say, it's not time to shut down the Statue of Liberty. We still have values that welcome people. Especially those people who are coming from very rough into asylum situations, asking for asylum. And up until now when they come across the border, they have had their children stay with them. They didn't have a chance to go to court and establish their legality. If they in fact are here illegally, they are thrown out and the children go with them, and we don't have this forced separation which traumatizes these kids and is destroying the image across the world of a country that once cared for the poor and the oppressed and the humbled masses.
CORTES: Those who want asylum are still entitled to apply for asylum. You have to do it the right way.
BURNETT: Maria, let me get to you in here. Go ahead.
MARIA CARDONA, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE: Thank you. So, what Steve is saying actually breaks my heart because it underscores a complete and total lack of understanding, whether you don't care about it, Steve or you just don't get it and don't know the facts. I don't know. I don't know which one is worse.
These immigrants, and I am an immigrant and I am a mother and I come from --
CORTES: They're not immigrants. They're not immigrants. They're invaders.
CARDONA: Let me finish! Let me finish! I did not interrupt you!
CARDONA: They are immigrants.
BURNETT: -- invaders?
CARDONA: They are immigrants, OK.
CARDONA: Steve, I am an immigrant. I come from a country who has also seen the kinds of atrocities that these families are fleeing. I know this firsthand. A family does not wake up in the morning that comes from these countries and they are fleeing certain death, Erin, to say oh, I think it would be fun to cross the border on a life threatening journey with my children in tow to see if I can break into the United States. That does not happen.
They come here because they have no choice. They are facing certain death and they want to come to a country that they believe where they at least have a smidgen of hope to give their children a better future. On every conceivable level and by every measurable metric, this is an abomination.
It is dictatorial. It is inhumane. It is diabolical and that is why you have supporters of President Trump who have been with him on everything up until now. His evangelical leaders are saying that this is disgusting and it should stop now. BURNETT: We heard that the from likes of several of them, Bob Vander Plaats, Franklin Graham. Let me play Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz who is a immigration hard liner and has been a huge supporter of the president and Anthony Scaramucci who defends him on basically everything who is not defending him on this. Let me just play exactly --
CORTES: That's not true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I support and all of the members of Republican conference support the plan that keeps families together while their immigration status is determined.
[19:25:07] SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: All of us who are seeing these images of children being pulled away from moms and dads in tears, we're horrified. This has to stop.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: He's got to step in there and he's going to end this thing. It's an atrocious policy. It's inhumane. It's offensive to the average American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You, Steve, are calling them invaders.
CORTES: If you come across our border without permission, you are an invader. There's no other word to describe it.
BURNETT: OK, so your colleagues calling it's atrocious, it's inhumane, it's horrifying. We know that pediatricians say it can cause lifelong harm. I don't want to even ask you what you think if it happens to you and your own children because I know the answer.
You think it was an abomination (INAUDIBLE). Like anybody else would.
CARDONA: I don't know, Erin.
BURNETT: Why do you use the word "invaders". They're not coming with guns, they're coming because they wanted to be part of this country not to say they wanted to destroy the country.
CORTES: Erin, their parents are the invaders not the children. The children are the victims --
CARDONA: Their parents are not invaders.
CORTES: They're not the victims, they are invaders. If you do not have permission to be in our country, and you cross our border, by division, you are an invader.
CARDONA: Steve, there is a law that allows people who are fleeing certain death and abominable conditions on their own home country to come and ask for asylum. The perversion here is that, even those who are presenting themselves to border patrol at legal ports of entry, their children are also being taken away. That is a perversion of the American dream and Trump is the only one responsible. But I'll tell you one thing, all of the GOP will be paying for it in November. That's why you have all of these Republican leaders who are so scared about the images that they are seeing and want Trump to change this now.
BURNETT: David Gergen?
GERGEN: Well, listen, I think we have to go back to basics and that is, the administration -- this president is treating them like invaders even though we may have object here. But more importantly, Erin, as you keep emphasizing, he's treating them like animals.
GERGEN: You know, when he says that they're coming to infest this country. That is a description you use for animals. And that's the kind of philosophy that has led other countries in the past into authoritarianism and into deep racial --
BURNETT: Hold on, Steve. No one can hear you when you're both talking. David will make his point and, Steve, you can reply.
GERGEN: The point is this, I never mentioned Nazis, you brought it out. But (INAUDIBLE) have been countries in the past who were down this path -- I'm sorry, if you know history, you know the Nazis have been a small part of a very, very long history of inhumanity. And this country was established as an exception to that.
We are a republic that is trying to bring the other values to bear. And when we do this, it sends a message to the world that we are no longer the America that everyone has respected. And that so many presidents have work so hard to build, and so many generations have given up their blood and their sacrifice for this country's reputation and for what we stand for. And for you guys to come in here and say, these are animals, they're invaders, is just -- is frankly embarrassing.
CARDONA: And the ironic thing is, my heart really goes out to you, Steve because you support a president that believes that people looks like you and me are infesting this country. You need to go and (INAUDIBLE).
CORTES: No, I support a president who believes in supporting American workers, whatever their color is, black, brown, white, purple. He believes in supporting American citizens, and that America comes first. And he will not sell out to the globalist belief, the Davos crowd who believes in borderless societies, who believes in the international structure that has existed for so long in this country. And that he has the guts to stand up and say, support -- defending our border is not racist, it's not xenophobic, it is not small minded --
(CROSSTALK) BURNETT: -- and that we now ended with. Thank you all very much.
CARDONA: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, the breaking news on Michael Cohen. Sources telling CNN he is willing to give up what he knows about the president. We have new details on what he's telling his friends tonight.
Plus, new calls for the president's secretary of Homeland Security to resign over her handling of the border separations. Here she is answering basic questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIELSEN: I don't know. I will look into that.
I have not seen something that came out today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:32:17] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: A source close to Michael Cohen in this breaking news telling CNN that Cohen is, quote, willing to give information about the president to investigators, a development that would be major. The source, a friend of Cohen's in New York, says, quote, if they want information on Trump, he's willing to give it.
And "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting tonight that Cohen wants Trump to pay his mounting legal fees.
Kara Scannell is one of the reporters breaking the story for us this hour.
Kara, I mean, this is pretty significant, right? That the source saying he's willing to give what he knows on President Trump and he's hiring a new attorney as this news comes out. What are you learning tonight?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESONDENT: Well, Erin, that's right. So, a friend of Michael Cohen says told my colleague MJ Lee that Cohen is willing to talk to investigators. He's willing to give them information on the president if they want to hear it.
Now, this comes as Cohen is also telling friends that he feels isolated and let down by the president, by the comments that he's made and that is sort of pushing him in this direction of willing -- of being willing to cooperate.
Now, one factor in this, another friend told CNN is exactly what investigators might look to charge Cohen with, that could be part of the matrix as he tries to decide whether he's going to cooperate and, you know, talk to the prosecutors too to decide what they want from Cohen. But, you know, this signal that Cohen is willing to cooperate is certainly about the president, is certainly a new step in this. And it does come as Cohen is shifting his legal strategy. CNN has learned that he is planning to hire Guy Petrillo, a well-known, well- respected former prosecutor who used to be the chief of the criminal division at the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, which is the same office that's investigating Cohen. And we know from people that have talked to Cohen that that's a factor that was important to him. He wants someone who knows the policies, the practices and the people in the U.S. attorney's office that's investigating him.
So, we'll see where this develops from here. I mean, it seems like there's new information every day and different flows about where Cohen is on this. But right now, it seems like he's saying he's willing to cooperate against the president if the investigators want that and depending on where they're heading with their investigation, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Kara, thank you very much.
And, of course, when you couple that also with Kara's reporting that Cohen wants the president to pay his legal bills, well, that just raises questions, right, as he's trying to dangle out there, if you pay my bills, I won't flip on you? It's sort of absurd if that's the case.
But now, the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper joins me.
Director Clapper, you know, I laid out that sort of -- that scenario out, but obviously Michael Cohen, according to a friend, says, you know, he's willing to tell what he knows about the president. We know this -- Cohen worked on Trump's Moscow tower deal, his Miss America pageant, the payoff to Stormy Daniels.
Do you think that he knows something that could hurt the president in this Mueller investigation?
[19:35:01] JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, first, Erin, I don't have any inside baseball insight in here.
CLAPPER: But if anyone knows about Mr. Trump and his activities, particularly in his businesses, it would be Mr. Cohen. So, this is potentially I would think quite significant, maybe more significant than the -- you know, whatever comes out of the Mueller investigation.
So -- but again, I'm just speculating here. And I do think, again as a layman watching from afar, that it appears to me that he's gotten serious -- Mr. Cohen has -- and realistic about how much help Hillary's going to get from the White House or Mr. Trump specifically, and has lawyered up with what appears to be very competent lawyer.
BURNETT: Now, obviously, this would be a significant development as you say. I mean, you know, we don't know what he knows, but we know he knows a lot about a whole lot of things that may have lived in dark corners. I mean, maybe that would be the best way to put it, so whether that ends up being crucial or not, the big question.
There's another development tonight, Director, I wanted to ask you about and that is about Roger Stone, a close Trump associate, another one. Today, he issued a lengthy statement talking about a meeting he had with a Russian offering dirt on Hillary Clinton in 2016. The crucial thing about this meeting, Director, is when he testified to the House Intelligence Committee, he didn't say anything about it.
So, he testified to them, was asked about contacts the Russians, said nothing about it. He says the FBI was, quote, seeking to set me up, so he claims the whole thing was an FBI who sent an informant of this meeting with him and it's all on them. What's your response to that?
CLAPPER: Well, first, my concern throughout all this is this disturbing pattern of meetings that normally are revealed by the media between some associate of Mr. Trump either in the campaign or a business associate or whatever, and then it comes out by whatever means and when, whenever, and the participants in the meeting on the U.S. side, of course, you know, write it off as innocuous nothingburger, nothing substantive came of it, and that seems to be the pattern here.
CLAPPER: I don't quite understand why if this character that he met with is known to be nefarious, why met with him at all? And, of course, the statement seems to assume or make the point that this person was a known FBI informant. Well, I don't know that to be true and probably, we're not going to know because the only people that could firm or deny that really are the FBI itself and it's not their practice to acknowledge who's an informant or not.
Now, of course, you know, Stone and the former campaign adviser who set this meeting up, Michael Caputo, are both saying this argument, this line of argument, right, that this was an informant and they say it's important because of this meeting predated the Russia investigation as we know the timeline with that George Papadopoulos meeting in London. So, if there was an informant, they say it would be very significant because it would change the whole timeline.
Here's how Caputo put it last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Right now, we're going with the fallacy this whole investigation started in late July. This is late May. It's two months earlier. So, it wouldn't matter if anything out if an FBI informant contacted me, and indeed he did.
So, as far as I'm concerned, he's sworn --
BURNETT: So, what evidence do you have that this person was an FBI informant at that time? That's very -- a very specific question, right? CAPUTO: I don't have evidence. That wouldn't be available. That
wouldn't be available to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Obviously, he's admitting, Director, that he doesn't -- he doesn't know, but he says that everything from what he does know is that this Russian was an informant. If -- do you think that what they're saying, Stone and Caputo, about this person being an informant deserves investigation, that the FBI owes some answers? Because it would change the timeline, of course, if it were true, or do you think it's all just a distraction?
CLAPPER: Well, again, I don't know here, but it just seems to me that this is a bit of distraction because the sequence of events doesn't track. This would seem to me and again I don't know specifics here, but it would seem to be awfully premature even if the FBI were going to do this, way premature to try to do a set up as they seem to allege. And I -- that just doesn't track with me.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Director, I appreciate your time as always. Thank you.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly considering Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nelson a, quote, surrogate daughter. He's had enough though to save her and then her growing calls for her resignation, which, by the way, she reportedly awkward recently when he berated her.
Plus, breaking news, the Dow plummeting as the president ramps up his trade war with China.
[19:43:46] BURNETT: Breaking news: the president tonight complimenting Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on her performance on the press briefing yesterday, a performance that was criticized for Nielsen's lack of information. She, of course, was charged with defending, separating parents from their young children at the border.
Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT tonight on the growing calls for Nielsen's resignation and the credibility crisis she faces.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Against the riveting uproar on the border, in a torrent of defenses --
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I find that offensive. No.
NIELSEN: It's not a policy.
FOREMAN: And dismissals.
NIELSEN: Illegal immigrants have put their children at risk.
FOREMAN: The secretary of homeland security is defending the president by blaming everyone else -- Congress, Democrats, critics of all stripes.
REPORTER: How is this not child abuse?
NIELSEN: Which -- be more specific, please? Enforcing the law?
We have high standards. We give them meals. We give them education. We give them medical care. There's videos. There's TVs.
FOREMAN: While some are now calling for her resignation, the White House appears pleased and why not? Kirsten Nielsen has played this role before.
NIELSEN: Thank you as always for your leadership on behalf of the largest law enforcement agency in the federal government.
FOREMAN: Recently, the secretary heaped praise on the boss over his stance on immigration and violence just after she slapped aside assessments by the nation's top law enforcement and intelligence agencies that Russia tried to help Donald Trump win the election.
[19:45:12] NIELSEN: I do not believe that I've seen that conclusion that the specific intent was to help President Trump win.
FOREMAN: Nielsen fiercely defends the president's projects from the border wall to merit-based immigration.
When people at a private meeting said he used a vulgar term to describe some African nations, she said --
NIELSEN: I did not hear that word use. No, sir.
FOREMAN: When the president said he would send the National Guard to deter illegal immigration, she explained, sort of. How many troops?
NIELSEN: It will be strong. It will be as many as is needed to fill the gaps that we have today.
FOREMAN: What will it cost?
NIELSEN: We're working that real time.
FOREMAN: Why now?
NIELSEN: Why today, not yesterday, tomorrow? Today -- today is the day. Today's the day we want to start this process.
FOREMAN: And when Democrats and some media outlets erupted over the president's characterization of some immigrants -- TRUMP: These are animals.
FOREMAN: The White House said he was referring specifically to violent criminals and Nielsen jumped in.
NIELSEN: Personally, I think those lawmakers and the president -- owe the president an apology. They are misstating facts in a very dangerous way.
FOREMAN: Misstating facts, of course, is part of the problem in the current situation for many of the critics out there, and yet for all of the outrage, the playbook at the White House seems unchanged especially for her -- defend the president first, attack his enemies second, and let the truth be sorted out later -- Erin.
BURNETT: Tom, thank you.
And more breaking news. This hour, stocks sinking for the sixth day running, now in negative territory for the entire year. Two hundred and eighty-seven points drop for the Dow, but this as the president threatened to impose more tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. A trade war, of course, bad for anyone who holds stocks, including anyone with a pension or 401k.
Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT from the White House.
And, Jeff, what is behind the new tariffs?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, in fact, it's just essentially a response to what China was doing, which is the response to what the president was doing in the first place. So, we are indeed locked into a trade war, certainly the beginnings of one, a tit for tat.
I talked to Peter Navarro today when he was doing a conference call with some reporters. Of course, he's the president's top man on trade, and he supports this policy, is driving this policy, this protectionist policy.
He dismissed the idea of a trade war, saying it's simply a dispute. But he also we asked him directly about some of the voters out in red state America, Trump America if you will. The president's heading to Minnesota tomorrow. He talked a lot about how all of these tariffs are going to help steel.
I asked him what it's going to do for people on the other side like farmers, soybean farmers, producers. He said that they are confident that the president will have their back there may be some other type of government funding to help them out with price supports.
But the reality here is, Erin, this is getting closer and closer to a trade war, even though they want to call it a dispute.
BURNETT: Right. And, of course, as we all know, there's no winner in a trade -- in a trade war. I mean, Jeff, the White House is saying -- the White House deputy chief of staff Joe Hagan is leaving. That's a departure, you know, and we've been watching so many departures. There's been a break though in all of that.
How big of a deal is this one?
ZELENY: Well, this certainly is a big deal in this sense of Joe Hagan is someone who has years of experience working in other White Houses, you know, particularly the Bush White House, which sometimes put him at odds with this president. But he certainly knows what he's doing and without Joe Hagan, that Singapore summit that we saw all last week likely would not have come off. He's a master of pulling off big events like that for to working with other governments. So, it's one sense of professionalism leaving this White House. He'll be working here through the 6th of July, I'm told.
And, Erin, I also have the sense talking to a variety of people, it is the beginning again of another potentially summer shake-up as the summer moves along, a lot of other senior considering their options here, before the midterm election campaign heats up even more on Labor Day -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.
And next, this week here on CNN, we're talking about champions for change and after this, I want to introduce you to some heroes I met who are helping survivors of domestic violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: She would tell the child a monster, a monster attacked me, and he would say, well, where's daddy? Daddy was here. Where is daddy? She said, well, daddy was protecting me from the monster.
And, you know, it's hard to think about having to make that sort of a lie up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: One out of four, that's how many women in the United States are victims of domestic violence. Harvey Weinstein scandal and Me Too movement and alleged abuse by former White House aide Rob Porter, though, have given women the ability to speak up and speak out.
And these women are the true champions for change.
OPERATOR: Hello, Safe Horizon hot lines. This is Stephanie. Are you somewhere safe where you can speak freely?
CALLER: I can't talk for long. He could be back any minute. I might have to call you back. CALLER: He kept on arguing with me, and he was punching me and slapping me in my face. I blacked out. I didn't even know what happened after that.
BURNETT (voice-over): More than 20,000 people call Safe Horizon hotline every single day.
[19:55:05] We met this 23-year-old woman at a Safe Horizon shelter in New York City. She asked us to call her Denise, but did not want to disguise her voice.
DENISE, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIM: My husband, he was abusive, verbally, mentally, ad physically. It was easier to deal with in the beginning. And the older my older son got, the more questions he started to ask and the more it's hard to explain. I'm sorry --
BURNETT (voice-over): It's OK.
BURNETT: She would tell the child a monster, a monster attacked me. And he would say, well, where is daddy? Daddy was here, where is daddy? And she would say, daddy was protecting me from the monster. And, you know, it's hard to think about having to make that sort of a lie up.
When you left that night, was it different than what had happened before that made you say this is the last time or --
DENISE: It was worse than it usually is. And I felt like if I don't leave now, I'm not going to be able to. I had to leave when I did.
BURNETT: It's this, right?
DENISE: Uh-huh. I have permanent bruises that I am going to have for the rest of my life. It hurts to talk about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on in.
BURNETT: Thank you. It is amazing how welcoming this is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
BURNETT (voice-over): Safe Horizon shelters are unmarked to protect the women inside. My sister worked to the shelter for survivors of domestic violence. I remember her staying overnight to be sure the families felt safe and abusers didn't find the home.
ARIEL ZWANG, SAFE HORIZON CEO: At a given night, 700 people sleeping safely under our roof. Federal public health research says that one in four American women in her life time will be a victim of domestic violence.
BURNETT: Denise came to Safe Horizon without any identification, without her children's birth certificates, without a change of clothes, without food. ZWANG: When a client comes to shelter, they basically have nothing.
They literally have their life in a bag. So we have to make sure that we provide for their basic needs.
BURNETT: Which include child care. On average, 400 children are in Safe Horizon shelters in New York every day.
DENISE: That wasn't my first abusive relationship. I didn't want it to be normal for my kids.
BURNETT (on camera): These women, they did this for themselves and they did it for their children. And that is what they say. First and foremost, they did it for their children. And those are the real champions for change.
(voice-over): CEO Ariel Zwang says calls to Safe Horizon are up 40 percent since the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the Me Too Movement became front page news. She says former White House aide Rob Porter's alleged abuse also caused women to come forward.
ZWANG: It's affluent women and women who don't have as many names. It's educated women and women who don't necessarily have a GED. People in all walks of life can be abusive. They are affable and pleasant in public. They're not beating up their boss.
BURNETT (on camera): Right, you don't see it in public with -- the public persona at all.
ZWANG: They choose to engage in that behavior only at home. And that's how someone can keep doing that and fool everybody.
BURNETT (voice-over): Denise still wears her wedding ring, but she believes one day she will move on.
DENISE: He's told me I was ugly. He's told nobody else was going to love me, so I had to stay with him. I was going to leave him and go where? And I believed it for a long time.
BURNETT: You really believed that?
DENISE: I did.
Maybe about a month ago, we did a photo shoot, they did makeup and hair and that's when I really realized, I'm not ugly. And somebody else is going to love me. One day, somebody else is going to love me.
BURNETT: Denise says she has met with a recruiter from the marines and has taken a test to become a corrections officer.
DENISE: I don't want to give up now. I have a good heart and I have dealt with a lot of bad stuff and I know that after every storm, there is sunshine.
BURNETT: Denise is in her early 20s and her story is powerful and painful to hear, you know, moving for all of us when you think about the ways to make a difference. You know, we met another victim of domestic violence who was actually a social worker, who had referred women to Safe Horizon.
Then, her ex-husband struck her in the face. This was a few years ago. They have managed to co-parent their child together.
There are many stories like this and we're going to continue to bring them to you throughout this week on "Champions for Change". And thank you for joining us.
Anderson starts now.