Return to Transcripts main page


Prosecutors Paint Ex-Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort As A "Shrewd" Liar, Faces A Max Of 305 Years In Prison If Convicted; Jury Selected In Manafort Trial: 6 Men, 6 Women; Trump Campaigning For Candidate Who's Just Like Him. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 31, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] JENNIFER: -- the next couple of days. Hopefully though by next week a pattern change.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jennifer (ph) thanks for that. Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, breaking news. Prosecutors call former Trump campaign Manager Paul Manafort a shrewd liar. His defense? Blame his former deputy. This is where learning just how closely Trump is watching his former chairman's trial.

Plus a Republican out with a campaign ad reading art of the deal to his infant son, teaching his daughter how to build a wall with her toy blocks, and Trump is rewarding him by stumping for him live this hour.

And a prominent Republican says Trump is unfit for office and it's time for him to step down. Former Governor Christie Todd Whitman is my guest. Let's go OutFront.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news. A shrewd liar. That is how prosecutors are painting President Trump's former campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. Today, a dramatic kick off in the first trial from Bob Mueller's Russia investigation. A jury of six men and six women listening as Mueller's team outlined its case describing Manafort as a con artist who ran a global scheme to avoid paying millions of dollars in taxes.

Prosecutors say Manafort made $60 million in Ukraine and that he didn't report it to the IRS. They say he had 30 bank accounts in just three foreign countries which he used in part to store untaxed income to spend on luxury goods like Range Rovers, a watch costing $21,000, a $15,000 custom made ostrich jacket. I mean, who doesn't need one of those, right?

The defense hitting back saying Manafort is the victim that he was taken advantage of by the man he trusted most, Rick Gates, his right hand man in Ukraine and his deputy in the Trump campaign. The Manafort strategy, blame it all on Gates, the man who flipped against his long time boss, the man that government describes as the government's star witness. Evan Perez is OutFront live in Alexandria, Virginia. And Evan, you were there in the court room today, the opening statements, the first witness. What happened?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, it was a dramatic day, especially by prosecutors, as they began their opening statements by describing Manafort as, quote, a man who believed that the law did not apply to him. Essentially talking about the fact that he didn't file income tax -- or accurate income tax statements for the years 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. They went through all of his offshore bank accounts where he apparently, according to the prosecutors, hid millions of dollars that were paid by these Ukrainian oligarchs that he was doing business with.

They described, as you said, 30 bank accounts in three different countries. He owns seven homes, including in the Hamptons, in Florida, and here in Alexandria, Virginia. They said he spent $0.5 million on fancy clothes. $21,000 on that watch and $15,000 on that ostrich jacket. Essentially they made it clear that his extravagant lifestyle, that's their words, extravagant lifestyle, was going to be on trial here because they said this is what Paul Manafort was using these offshore banks accounts in Cypress and in other places to hide the money from the IRS.

BURNETT: Interesting, Evan, because it doesn't sound like at least from what we heard today that the defense is going to be, actually no, we did pay our taxes. It sounds like the defense says, OK, fine but it's Rick Gates' fault?

PEREZ: Yes. Kind of a defense of blame it on that guy, right? Part of it is Rick Gates. Rick Gates was his deputy who worked closely with him not only in business in Ukraine. But also remember, Erin, he was his deputy working in the Trump campaign. As matter of fact he stayed on the Trump campaign after Paul Manafort was fired.

So blame it on Rick Gates. He was the one who was closely managing these business affairs and blame it on the Ukrainian oligarchs who demanded that Paul Manafort set up these private secret bank accounts in Cypress in the St. Vincent and the Grenadines in order for him to be able to get paid by these Ukrainian oligarchs. That's the defense in a nutshell. It's kind of an unusual defense.


PEREZ: They also say that Paul Manafort met with the FBI in 2014 and he described these offshore bank accounts. He identified them and he also described that he had gotten paid $27 million in doing business with Ukrainians. So, we had the first witness already here because this is what's known as a rocket docket here in Alexandria, Virginia. We had the first witness. And so we expect that in the next couple of days, we're going to hear a lot about the accountants and more details about these bank accounts, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Evan. I mean, it's all pretty fascinating. By the way, as Evan says, you know, he says he met with the FBI in detailed $27 million that he was paid. Well of course the government is saying it was 60. So the numbers don't even add up. You know, look, the judge today made it clear this trial is not about collusion or Russia but make no mistake.

[19:05:05] Paul Manafort's child does go to the heart of Mueller's Russia investigation. Take this, Manafort was Trump's campaign Chairman. Of course in the inner circle for the then candidate. Manafort was in the infamous Trump Tower meeting with an admitted Russian informant.

Manafort reportedly offered to provide, quote, private briefings on the campaign to a Russian oligarch and Putin insider. And if his trial isn't going well and he is looking at spending the rest of his life behind bars, he could flip on the President. This trial is front and center on President Trump's mind.

Jeff Zeleny is OutFront with the breaking details on how Trump is following this trial. He's like us to think he's not following at all, Jeff, but that would not be the truth.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, that's right. I mean, there are two different types of strategies here at the White House I'm told today talking to a variety of people. One in public they are trying to distance President Trump from any of these proceedings saying, look, Paul Manafort's business dealings were happening long before he became the campaign chairman and he was the campaign chairman for only a brief period of time.

We heard Kellyanne Conway saying today that she was the winning campaign manager trying to distance and diminish Paul Manafort's role. But make no mistake, I mean, two summers ago in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention, without Paul Manafort, the whole floor fight on the convention would have been much more pronounced. He helped the Republican Party accept Donald Trump.

And now I'm told that President Trump is watching these proceedings very carefully. As he was flying down to Florida this evening where he is going to be holding a campaign rally tonight, I'm told he was watching these proceedings on television. He also has been asking for updates from his legal team, from lawyers who are following this of course very carefully.

So, yes, it's not about President Trump. It's not necessarily even about the Russia collusion investigation. But they are keeping such a close eye on that here at the White House, Erin. Of course, you know, this is Bob Mueller's first public case here. So, for the next three weeks they'll say they are not watching, Erin. Privately, I'm told they are.

BURNETT: Certainly are. Because this may be about one thing as you pointed out but Manafort is linked to a whole lot of other thing as well. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

And I want to go now to the Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California, who is the Ranking Member on the Select Committee on Intelligence. So, of course, part of the Russia investigation there. Congressman, you know, this trial not about collusion with the Trump campaign and Russia as you know. Just about an accused shrewd liar who evaded taxes and bought that $15,000 ostrich jacket, which I'm sort of obsess because I don't even know what. I guess that's a mental image. They are saying this is nothing to do with the Trump campaign. Is it that simple?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: No, it's not that simple. And I think if it were, you wouldn't fine the President watching it so keenly. Look, this is Donald Trump's campaign manager who is pointing the finger at his deputy campaign manager. And if he is convicted, and as you point out Erin, he will face substantial time if he is convicted on these charges. He may flip and that would be I think profoundly concerning to the President.

We're already hearing conflicting reports about the President's knowledge and maybe involvement or approval of that Trump Tower meeting that Paul Manafort sat in on. If he is facing time, then he may come clean on what he knows about that meeting. But also if Mueller were to be unsuccessful, it's an opportunity for the President to further bash him. But I have to say, I'm betting on Mueller on this. These are very document-specific allegations that are I think fairly easy to prove.

BURNETT: So -- I mean, yes, when it comes to paying your taxes or not, right? As you point out, right, it should be document-driven. But, you know, the ostrich coat, the $21,000 watch, the fleet of Range Rovers, right, the list that they're putting out goes on and on. You'd think with all that he would just cooperate but he isn't, right? Unlike other Trump associates who've been charged right, Flynn, Papadopoulos, and Manafort's longtime number two, Rick Gates.

I mean, is it possible that Manafort is not cooperating because he is not guilty? Do you even entertain that possibility at this point?

SCHIFF: I really don't entertain that possibility. I think what is going on here is, if Paul Manafort -- even if he cooperated with authorities, he was still looking at a very substantial amount of time given the weight of these charges. And at his age, he may have concluded he doesn't have that kind of time to spend behind bars. He is going to go all in for a pardon. He is going to be the last man defending Donald Trump and bet it all on a pardon. And that may be where at least he's making his appeal.

BURNETT: Which is an interesting point. I want to ask you, the judge in the case, Judge Ellis, he is important. And as you remember in May, he told Mueller's team, "You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud." He basically accused prosecutors of only caring about Manafort because he could lead to Trump's, quote, prosecution or impeachment. Those were the judge's words.

He asked for Mueller's mandate, he looked at it and said, OK this can go forward. So he did do that. But what do you think of him? Do you think the trial will be fair?

SCHIFF: You know, I certainly hope the trial will be fair. I was concerned by those comments because they didn't really go to any of the legal issues. It seemed like gratuitous political commentary which you don't generally expect from a federal judge.

[19:10:02] The federal judge should look at the law, look at the mandate, look at the jurisdiction, and all of that was very clear. Ultimately, he ruled the right way --


SCHIFF: -- but those kind of political comments I think are concerning.

BURNETT: So the first government witness on the stand today, as Evan Perez is reporting, it's the rocket docket, right? They've got a lot of them. Thirty-four on that side they want to bang through this. It could happen two or three weeks. This could be very quick.

It was Bernie Sanders campaign strategist in 2016. Tad Devine was the first person on the stand. He's worked with Manafort in Ukraine. I remember, I'm actually telling you about this during the campaign, I'm being surprised at that time but he did. He described his relationship with Manafort as friendly, said he was impressed by Manafort, saw him as a hard working guy.

You're a former Assistant U.S. Attorney. What do you make of that? Bernie Sanders' former top strategist saying he is a hard working guy and impressed by Manafort.

SCHIFF: Well, I don't know the details of this, but Paul Manafort may be a very hard working guy and he may have worked very hard to hide his money and to fail to disclose his taxes. And bear in mind that some of these charges pertain to money laundering that was going on while he was the campaign manager for Donald Trump. So it may take a lot of work to get that ostrich coat but that doesn't mean it was lawful work. And it certainly doesn't appear so from the indictment.

BURNETT: As the Russia investigation continues and Mueller obviously is very focus on the Manafort case right now because this trial is his first. But Facebook announces today that they are shutting down dozens more Facebook and Instagram accounts believed to be run by Russians. It sort of confused me, Congressman. You know, you've got Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg comes and testifies before Congress. They shut everything down and now they are still finding accounts that they need to shut down even now? Does that make sense to you?

SCHIFF: It does make sense because the Russians aren't going to stop and they're not going to be as overt as they were, I think, in 2016. They're not going to use the same I.P. addresses out of St. Petersburg. We have seen continuing Russian activity really since the last election. It never stopped.

And I think we should view what Facebook has disclosed in combination with what Microsoft disclosed within the week. And that is both of these same vectors that appear in these two Mueller indictments, the social media campaign and hacking.

BURNETT: So you belief that's new accounts not Facebook being lack of basic (ph) or incomplete but sort of a continued onslaught from the Russians. Am I translating it right?

SCHIFF: Yes. No, I think that's the case. You know, we kept getting additional information from Facebook about advertising an organic content from those original I.P. addresses from St. Petersburg, but they are going to continue to learn about more as the Russians move and hide and use other proxies. So this is going to continue to be rolled out to the public.

And, you know, I'm glad that Facebook is doing this. They're going to have to continue doing it. The intelligence community is going to have to continue sharing information I hope with the tech companies when they spot foreign actors abusing those platforms as well.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Congressman Schiff, thank you.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, the Manafort jury. We've got six men and six women. They're all white but three of them. They're going to decide whether Trump's former campaign manager spends the rest of his life in prison.

Plus, the President campaigning live in Florida. You see him there at this moment. Source telling CNN Trump is worried about Democrats winning the House. Wait to hear what he's doing tonight. You got to see this ad to believe it.

And Trump calling the mega donor Koch brothers a total joke. It is a battle of the giants. Who is going to win?


[19:17:20] BURNETT: Breaking news, day one of the first trial as part of the Special Counsel's Russia probe has just ended. And we now know some crucial details about the jury that's going to decide the fate of the former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. It is a 12 person jury of course. Six men, six women. Three of them are not white. So it's a very white jury. There are four alternates, three women and one man.

OutFront tonight, Anne Milgram, former Federal Prosecutor and former New Jersey Attorney General, Frank Bruni, New York Times Columnist and Carrie Cordero, the Former Counsel to the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security. So, Anne, does the fact that this jury is so white matter?

ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don't think it matters. I mean, first of all, I think there is some diversity in the jury, which we see. But the second point is what both sides want to do when they pick a jury is they are trying to find people that they think we will be aligned with the way they see the world. So the government wants people who follow the rules, who pay their taxes, who think it's terrible that someone didn't pay their taxes.

The defense here I suspect is looking to see if they can find people with proxies for being super conservative, people who may be more sympathetic and have heard about this idea that this is a witch-hunt and is politically motivated. So I think that's how you end up getting people selected for juries. But I can tell you having picked a lot of juries, you never truly know.

BURNETT: Right. You never know. Interesting, you know, the first thing, you know, a lot of us will look at is sort of racial component. And as you point out, that's actually not the driver here for either side when they're looking at who they want.

Carrie, you live in Northern Virginia that's of course where the trial is happening where the jury pool comes from. The prosecutor went into detail about Manafort's extravagant spending today. $60 million they say he didn't report to the IRS, 30 bank accounts in three foreign countries that they used to buy that custom ostrich jacket for $15,000. Again, I just want everyone to get the mental image. You know, I mean, is it feathered or does it have bumps on it?

Anyway, Carrie, how does all of this play to this jury, now that we know the gender and general racial component of it?

CARRIE CORDERO, FMR. COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: It's interesting. I agree with Anne that the racial component is less relevant. You know, Northern Virginia and the Eastern District of Virginia where this case is taking place is highly educated. It is a diverse area but it's highly educated and we pay a lot of taxes in Virginia and Northern Virginia. So this is a community that pays its fair share, and more.

And so I think the opulence that will be on display in the trial will definitely be something that resonates with this potential jury pool because this is an area where in Virginia we have a car tax. We pay high property taxes, federal taxes of course. And so the lying and the tax evasion component of this case I think will be relevant to this jury.

BURNETT: So Frank, Manafort's team is blaming Rick Gates.


[19:20:02] BURNETT: Which we were just talking about. It's very interesting, right? Not saying it didn't happen, saying this other guy did it.

BRUNI: Right.

BURNETT: His attorney says, "This case is about taxes and trust. Mr. Manafort placed his trust in the wrong person, Rick Gates. Now Rick Gates of course knows pretty much everything about Paul Manafort, right? They worked together on this campaign. They worked together before in Ukraine. I mean, they have a long history together.

Bernie Sanders former campaign strategist testified today Manafort is hard working and all that. But he also said Rick worked for Paul.

BRUNI: Right. BURNETT: Paul was in charge. Will anyone buy that Gates is the mastermind?

BRUNI: I think it's tough to sell that because you're talking about more than $60 million mate over five years or four years. You're talking about $15 million of taxes not being paid and we're supposed to believe Paul Manafort never noticed that sort of savings in his financial flow? We are supposed to believe that this guy who ran such a big business who traveled the world, who lived that large who was that much of a master of the universe was completely content to just sign papers without reading them and hand it all over to Rick Gates.

BURNETT: Hard to believe.

BRUNI: I don't think that's going to be something the jury is going to be persuaded of and I think Rick Gates' testimony clearly is going to be the moment of this trial.

BURNETT: Right. And of course, you know, they are saying that he is going to be the star in all of this. I mean, Anne, blaming Gates, do you think it is a good defense.


BURNETT: I mean, if it's the best defense they can come up with.

MILGRAM: I think it's more of the latter, then it's probably the best defense. Because if you -- Gates is testifying and he is cooperating and he knows everything. He is the right hand man. He is the inside narrator of the entire scheme. And so the jury is either going to believe him or not. And if they believe him, Manafort is guilty. And so Manafort has to try to chip away at his credibility.

BURNETT: Because you're saying they're recently admitting the paper trail is there, right?


BURNETT: There's going to be proof of the bank accounts.

MILGRAM: Exactly.

BURNETT: There's going to be proof of taxes not paid.


BURNETT: -- here for the crime.

MILGRAM: This is not like he said/she said type of crime. There's going to be a roadmap. The problem for Manafort is exactly what Frank just said, he signed the tax forms himself. He got the opulent homes, he has the ostrich coat or hat or whatever. Like he's the one who going to --

BURNETT: I want there to be a picture of the coat.


MILGRAM: It's hard to argue away I didn't know, right.

BRUNI: I think Gates is going to be the most exhaustively prepared witness in the history of witnesses.

BURNETT: Maybe. I mean, Carrie, the opening statements today obviously very significant. From the prosecution, some of the key words, I just put them on the screen here, shrewd liar, $15,000 custom ostrich jacket. Follow the money. He, referring to Manafort, believed the law did not apply to him. That's the prosecution.

From the defense, two sides to every story, talented political consultant, driving force in the candidacy of multiple U.S. presidents. That third one is, of course, true. I mean, one can argue with that. Paul Manafort has been crucial in the candidacy of multiple U.S. presidents. Who was more effective do you think, Carrie, in the opening statements?

CORDERO: Well, the prosecutor's approach in the opening statement really did track what they put in the indictment which is their theory that Manafort is a liar, that the crimes that he did that they are alleging he did involve lying, lying to banks. Lying to the IRS. Lying to the Treasury Department. So his crime is the criminal act of lying on all of these different types of forms and compliance-related issues.

The defense is going to have a hard time countering the documentary evidence that is going to be in this case. And then Rick Gates, his partner in business, verifying a lot of those documents, which is what I expect part of his role will be.

BURNETT: Frank, Kellyanne Conway today, you know, decided to take the tack of hey, I was the winning campaign chairman. So forget the guy that came before me that delivered the actual nomination. You know, and she said look the trial has nothing to do with Trump. Here's part of how she put it.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: The judge has very strictly instructed no mention of Paul Manafort's role in the Trump campaign. Don't mention Trump. Don't mention Russia. Don't mention collusion.


BURNETT: Manafort of course as I pointed out a few moments ago, right, he was in the meeting with the admitted informant in Trump Tower. He offered the private briefings to a Russian oligarch. He worked to Ukraine. I mean, all of these things. You write in your op ed today that this trial has plenty to do with the President.

BRUNI: Sure. What you just mention suggested if there was collusion with Russia, Paul Manafort might know something about it and have valuable evidence for Robert Mueller. This trial is all about trying to tighten the screws on him and get him to talk. And I don't know that that's been --

BURNETT: And that you agree with (INAUDIBLE) who called that out in May, right?

BRUNI: And there's another thing here too, which is I think this trial is a reminder of the company that Donald Trump keeps of the kind of shady behavior that happens all around him. I think it's significant that this is happening at the same time that we have Michael Cohen in the news. Americans are seeing who Trump lets attach to him and how they operate in the world and how they cut corners and all of that. And these people are in some ways mirrors of the President. And I don't think this is good for the President. And I think it does end up hurting him. So I disagree with Kellyanne Conway in that sense.

BURNETT: All right, thank you all vert much. As our coverage continues all of you will be with us as much as hopefully you can.

And next, Trump live at a Tampa rally campaigning for Ron DeSantis who is running for Florida governor. But wait until you see the Trump mini me.


[19:25:05] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why do you have to loss.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ron loves playing with the kids.



BURNETT: And a longtime Republican says it's time for her party to call for Trump to step down.

Former Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman is OutFront.


BURNETT: All right. You see the President there. He is campaigning for Congressman Ron DeSantis in Florida, who was once considered an underdog in the race for governor in Florida, but not so much anymore. Thanks to the man on the screen.

He appears beginning momentum. Thanks to an official endorsement from President Trump. This comes as CNN learns Trump is eager to hit the campaign trail and no small part to distract from everything to do with Bob Mueller. A source telling CNN the President is also worried that the Democrats are going to take the House.

OutFront now, Rob Astorino, former New York Republican Gubernatorial Candidate, who's been friends with Trump for 15 years and Paul Begala, a Democratic Strategist and Former White House Counsel to President Clinton. Paul, let me start with you because, you know, DeSantis was underdog now. Look, the President is on fire right now when it comes to lots of these races.

Out of all, the special elections in primaries out there. The Trump is waiting on. Seventeen, when he's waiting if 1-4 of loss. That's an impressive record. The longtime political editor of the Tampa Bay Times when it comes to this DeSantis race, told CNN today that DeSantis' rival was a shoo-in for the primary but it is Trump that has turned the tables.

Is he really the king maker now, Paul?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. He is, Erin. In the Republican Party he is. Look at Brian Kemp, the new nominee of the Republican Party to be governor of Georgia.

He was behind. He was outspent. He was running against a more experienced candidate. He did his job.

OK, I don't want to take anything away from Mr. Kemp. But Donald Trump put him over the top if you ask me. I think he is going the do that with Ron DeSantis. DeSantis is embarrassing himself from the primary by being so close to -- I mean, you kick Donald Trump --

BURNETT: I'm going to play that. Don't worry, I'm going to play the ad. I'm going to play it.

BEGALA: OK, but he's not -- DeSantis is not wrong to do that in the primary, here's the problem. In the NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll just came out, President Trump's approval rating among Republicans is 88, that's stratospheric.


BEGALA: But his approval among independents is 36. That's a collapse. He won independents. In the election, he got 48. Now, he's down to 36. So, he is golden with the Republicans, but he is death with the independents.

So, if he is campaigning in swing states and swing districts in the general election, he is actually going to hurt his party.

BURNETT: What do you make of that, Rob? You get the far right Trumper through the primaries and then you hit this independent black hole.

ROB ASTORINO, FRIEND OF PRESIDENT TRUMP FOR OVER 15 YEARS: But all the Republicans will go back, no matter who they voted for in the primary, they're going to stick with the Republican candidate. You can't -- you can't --

BURNETT: What about these independents?

ASTORINO: Well, if the economy is doing well, he's got a shot. And if you don't like Trump now, you're not going to like him in November. If you like Trump now, but if you're open minded to the candidate that's running in that election, then you got a shot. You can't have it both ways. I tell Republicans this -- you can't sit

there and try to run from Trump if you don't like some of the things he says because you are going to be tagged with it anyway and Democrats aren't going to vote for you. So, you might as well embrace it and get across the finish line.

BURNETT: Well, I guess it all depends on you guys are debating it's sort of an accordion. How big is this, quote, unquote, independent. A lot of people say they are. How many really are? Right?

I mean, so, Paul, I promised. I will now deliver on my promise. I am a person of my word. Let me play Ron DeSantis, the candidate for governor in Florida, his most recent campaign ad which is garnering quite a bit of attention.

BEGALA: Cute little baby.


CASEY DESANTIS, WIFE OF REP. RON DESANTIS: Everyone knows my husband Ron DeSantis is endorsed by President Trump, but he's also an amazing dad. Ron loves playing with the kids.

REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Build the wall.

C. DESANTIS: He reads stories.

R. DESANTIS: Then Mr. Trump said you're fired. I love that part.

C. DESANTIS: He's teaching Madison to talk.

R. DESANTIS: Make America great again.

C. DESANTIS: People say Ron's all Trump, but he is so much more.

R. DESANTIS: Big league. So good.

C. DESANTIS: I just thought you should know.

AD ANNOUNCER: Ron DeSantis for governor.



BEGALA: First, the kids are undeniably cute.

ASTORINO: Yes, exactly.

BEGALA: Congressman DeSantis and his wife should be congratulated for having such beautiful children. But you know, I can procreate and it shouldn't make the governor of Florida, that's not enough. It's very -- it's lovely.

Here's the problem, if you were to kick Donald Trump in the butt, you'd hit the back of Ron DeSantis' head. It is humiliating for a guy who is pretty accomplished person to just belittle himself that way. It's just -- I find it distasteful.

The kids are gorgeous. I love the kids. The message I think is a little embarrassing.

BURNETT: Is it funny or belittling, Rob?

ASTORINO: A little bit of both. I mean, it's not the way I would have gone. And I think DeSantis can stand on his own record. But they're all kind of trying to out-Trump each other. I don't think they need to do that because in the general election, you do need to bring others into the camp. But you cannot underestimate --

BURNETT: An ad like that, let's be clear --


BURNETT: -- is not going to bring anyone into the camp.


BURNETT: That is an ad for the people who love Trump.

ASTORINO: That should have been a direct mail piece, not something on television where everyone is going to see it. But I do think you know there is something good for DeSantis tonight when the Republican president comes in and endorses you. We can talk about whether he should have or shouldn't have. But that's going to bring in a lot of money, a lot of resources, a lot of hype for DeSantis and that's going to help him out tremendously.

BURNETT: So, you got the Lego wall and the "Make America Great" thing. You have all that. I mean, you would again, you both seem to agree, a bit belittling and perhaps funny Rob to you. But he does sound like Trump when it comes to substance and policy Paul. That I think is what is significant and voters should keep in mind.

Let me just show that.


DESANTIS: Strzok was the prime driver not only behind exonerating Hillary, but then pursuing this collusion fairy tale, I think Rosenstein should have recused himself should have never been involved in any of this. The use of yes a spy was directed every bit as much against Donald Trump as it was against Russia. It underscores the need why you need to have border security and an actual border wall.


BURNETT: OK. The point I want to may be with that, Paul, is all those interviews were on Fox News.

[19:35:02] BEGALA: Right.

BURNETT: I believe every single one of them, right? It's not -- this isn't about local media and talking to voters in Florida. It's about doing it on Fox News where the president can see you, hear you parrot his talking points and then endorse you.

BEGALA: And reach the core Trump voters. A very start strategy for the primary. Very smart.


BEGALA: The problem is I think it's going to limit his ability to reach independents in the general because people in the general election see that, too. Independents watch that.

BURNETT: Because you are assuming that all the voters in the primary care enough about politics that they are going to be watching national cable as opposed to local. I mean, is that the assumption you're making?

ASTORINO: Hard core Republican primary voters, yes.


BEGALA: The hard core, yes. But in the general election, that's not going to cut it. Running an ad that's saying I'm more Trump than Trump, that's just fine. But it's not going to win, nobody going to make, I think, no independent is going to say, let's make that guy governor because he is close to Trump. They want to know about health care and schools and crime and roads and the things that governors actually do.

Some fine day, maybe Congressman DeSantis will figure that out, but not today.

BURNETT: Penny wise, pound foolish.

ASTORINO: Well, that's a lot -- first of all, you've got to get over the hump, you got to win the primary first and then you can run in the general election and come up with a strategy for that. But there is a lot at stake in Florida because the redistricting is very, very important for the 2020 election and going forward for the following 10 years. So, not only Congress but the people who draw the maps, and that's the Republican governor or the Democratic governor.

BURNETT: I have to say, just as a non-politician, I think it's sort of, you know, disgusting how both sides just run to their polls to get the primary. And then you end up with more and more polarized people in Congress and Congress does nothing and we end up with all of this and, you know, whatever.

BEGALA: I agree completely, Erin.

BURNETT: The whole thing kind of, you know, disgusts me as someone who knows.

Thank you both.


BURNETT: And next, the feud between Trump and the billionaire Koch brothers exploding in all out war. So, who is going to win on this one?

And John Kelly, he had a foot out the door at the White House. But now he says he is in it to win it through 2020. What changed?


[19:40:33] BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump going to war with the powerful billionaire Koch brothers. That's right. Now a war, calling them a total joke in real Republican circles.

This is a battle between two titans. Who will win?

Cristina Alesci is OUTFRONT. That's tonight's "Money and Power".


CHARLES KOCH, CONSERVATIVE DONOR: When people act in protectionist ways, they erect barriers, which makes everyone worse off.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Those barriers include tariffs and immigration reform. Billionaire Charles Koch's political network, which historically backs Republicans coming out in force against President Donald Trump and complicating matters for Republicans facing tough races in the midterms.

One of the Koch network's top officials saying over the weekend: The divisiveness of this White House is causing long term damage.

Trump hitting back at the Kochs tweeting early Tuesday, the globalist Koch brothers who have become a total joke in real Republican circles are against strong borders and powerful trade. I never sought their support because I don't need their money or bad ideas.

The president picking a fight with its network of donors, which has pledged to invest more money in this midterm election cycle than ever before, up to $400 million.


ALESCI: The Koch political machine making it clear it won't help Congressman Kevin Cramer for now, the Republican vying to unseat Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.

One big reason? Kramer voted for the $1.3 billion spend bill earlier this year. Since 2010, the Koch's have spent heavily on candidates who oppose tariffs and support government spending, among other issues.

That puts Republicans who may need Koch money in a tough spot, especially which former Trump adviser Steve Bannon issued this warning Tuesday. You take Koch money, it's going to be toxic.

Candidates like Marcia Blackburn of Tennessee and Jim Jordan of Ohio both find themselves in the middle of a tug-of-war between Trump and the Kochs, according to Daniel Schulman who wrote about book about the Koch brothers. DANIEL SCHULMAN, AUTHOR, "SONS OF WICHITA": Jim Jordan has been a

very close ally of the president particularly on the Russia probe. But on tariffs, he's expressed some concerns about that. So, he is to some degree walking -- walking a fine line on some of the stuff.

ALESCI: The Kochs did not get behind Donald Trump in 2016. Instead, their network supported down ballot House and Senate races spend being $250 million. None of it on Trump.

SCHULMAN: The Kochs have, you know, they have a long game. And I think what the Kochs are trying to do is remind the candidates that they supported of the issues that they were -- that they once held dear.


ALESCI: A Koch spokesperson today on the phone with me tried to down play the whole dispute between the Kochs and the Trump administration. But I'm not going to sugar coat it, Erin. Trump is actively trying to undermine Koch influence here. And that is no surprise.

Some Republican operatives I spoke to today say the Koch influence has already been diminished because it's been pushing the -- the Koch network has been pushing to reduce tariffs and the administration has done just the opposite -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you, Cristina.

And pretty incredible in Cristina's reporting. You are talking about power, Trump, who has access to money, but willing to take on a $400 million donor. Who else would be willing to do that?

And next, a prominent Republican calls on President Trump to resign, charging he's, quote, not fit to remain in office. The former governor is my guest next.

And Jeanne Moos with the most recent polling on who is the better president.


REPORTER: Lincoln or Trump?


REPORTER: Lincoln or Trump?


REPORTER: Lincoln or Trump?


REPORTER: Lincoln or Trump?





[19:48:29] BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump asking his embattled chief of staff John Kelly to stay by his side through 2020. This comes after weeks and months of rumors that Kelly's demise was imminent. But if one prominent Republican has her way, Trump won't even be in office that long.

The former New Jersey governor who also served as a member of President George W. Bush's cabinet, Christine Todd Whitman, writes in a "Los Angeles Times" op-ed titled, calling my fellow Republicans, Trump is clearly unfit to remain in office. Quote: I am a lifelong Republican. I have campaigned and won as a member of the party. And I have served more than one Republican president.

We must put aside the GOP label as hard as that may be and demonstrate the leadership our country needs by calling on the president to step down.

Not mincing words. Not trying to hide behind nuance. That's a clear statement.

And Christine Todd Whitman is OUTFRONT.

I appreciate your time. Look, I know this took a lot for you to write. But, I mean, just so people know, you weren't a Trump supporter. You came out and said, look, I voted for Hillary Clinton. But now, you are coming out with this step down and you are doing it now.

What made you decide to do this now?

CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: Well, the final straw for me was the way he behaved over in Europe for the E.U. and NATO meetings when he basically dissed our allies and set them aside and embraced Putin.

And when you take the oath of office, you agree and hold up your right hand and swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Putin is an enemy. He is not going to be our ally.

Talking to him is fine. Nothing against that. But to fawn over him the way the president did, to set aside our allies, to throw everything into uncertainty on the people who are -- for the people who are on our side in order to appear more closely aligned with somebody like Vladimir Putin.

[19:50:14] That's just not good for the country. BURNETT: So, Republican voters, as you know, strongly back President

Trump. Paul Begala was just raising this point, right? He was saying, I believe 88. Our latest polling is 82 percent. No matter how you look at it, it is a stratospheric approval rating among Republicans.

WHITMAN: That's the key. They're such a small percentage of the registered voters.

BURNETT: But if you get all the Republicans to vote for him, he could win again.

WHITMAN: But if you're only 29 percent -- yes, he can. Oh, I don't doubt that he can. But if you're 29, and now I've heard 26 percent of voters identify as Republicans. So if you're talking yes, if you get that out, it's a serious bloc. But that's a small percentage of the overall potential electorate.

BURNETT: You're talking about the Trump base.

WHITMAN: The Trump base. The Republican base. Those who self- identify as Republicans now are between 26 and 29 percent, 30 percent is Democrats -- say they're Democrats. And 40 is independents or unaffiliated.

So, you've got a huge block. And those -- that 40 percent is not even going to break 50-50.

BURNETT: So, would you leave the party? Would you leave that 26 to 29?

WHITMAN: Well, I'm not in that 26 to 29. I'm an Eisenhower Republican. And those are not the ones they ever poll as identified Republicans.

BURNETT: Would you leave the party, though as some have done?

WHITMAN: No, not right now. I still want to fight for the party. I believe in the Republican Party and what we used to stand for.

I don't think that Donald Trump is truly a Republican. I don't think he is truly a conservative and I don't think he is good for the country.

BURNETT: You know, the thing, though, if he were to do what you're asking, to step down.

WHITMAN: He won't, he won't.

BURNETT: Right, OK, fine, but if he were --

WHITMAN: Yes, yes.

BURNETT: That then means Mike Pence. And "New York Times" columnist Frank Bruni who was just here a couple of minutes ago said getting rid of Trump would be a mistake. His quote was, quote: There are problems with impeaching Donald Trump.

A big one is the holy terror waiting in the wings. That would be Mike Pence, who mirrors the boss more than you realize. He's also self- infatuated. Also a bigot. Also a liar. Also cruel.

All right. That's one person's very strong point of view.


BURNETT: But let's be clear, Mike Pence has a very strong point of view on things like abortion.

WHITMAN: Oh, yes.

BURNETT: The law on --

WHITMAN: Gender, right.

BURNETT: -- gender and gay and lesbian relationships in Indiana. He has a strong point of view, which his boss actually does not seem to have on those issues in the same way.

WHITMAN: No, but I don't think --

BURNETT: Would you be willing to take Pence over Trump?

WHITMAN: But I don't think he would tweet us into a war or a difficult situation. I don't think he would disrespect the Constitution. I'm not a fan in the sense that I don't agree with any of the positions he has taken.

BURNETT: But you would take those positions over Trump?

WHITMAN: For the next two years, I'd live with those positions.

BURNETT: Wow. So, let me ask you about -- Hugh Hewitt in "The Washington Post" said, no matter what you think, the president has surrounded himself with superb cabinet members, his commitment to originalist judges and a size of the military rebuild are two of the most consequential aspects of his tenure. The economy is cooking.

His point of view is, he's done a good job.

WHITMAN: The economy is cooking, the best quarter since 2014 that was only four years ago under the much hated and reviled Obama administration.


WHITMAN: So, we've seen it before. He should take credit because he would get the blame if he didn't.

BURNETT: Yes, he would.

WHITMAN: If he were in there, there is no question about that. And as I say, some of the people that have pushed back against me have

been very thoughtful. And those interest points that they raise. But that to me does not trump, to excuse that, Trump what I see as a really dangerous undermining of the norms that are the basis of our democracy.

This idea about false news, it scares me when the president of the United States will stand up and say, don't believe anything you see or anything you hear. All news is fake. Only believe me.

That should scare people to death. That's not the kind of country we are.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you so much, Governor. I appreciate your time.

WHITMAN: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And thank you for coming and talking to me about it.

And next, Jeanne Moos on Trump's obsession with Abe Lincoln.


BURNETT: President Trump declaring victory tonight over Abraham Lincoln. He just did it moments ago.

Here is Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump seems to have a touch of Lincoln envy.

TRUMP: The late great Abraham Lincoln.

Most people don't even mow he was a Republican, right? Does anyone know?

MOOS: Ah, yes, but we didn't know this. President Trump tweeted: Wow, highest poll numbers in the history of the Republican Party. That includes Honest Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. There must be something wrong. Please recheck that poll.

Oh, there is something wrong, all right. False on the "PolitiFact" truth-o-meter. Even Jimmy Kimmel sent someone out to do research.

REPORTER: Lincoln or Trump?


REPORTER: Lincoln or Trump?


REPORTER: Lincoln or Trump, better president? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, Lincoln.

REPORTER: Who is a better president, Lincoln or Trump?


REPORTER: Trump. Perfect. Said the woman in front of a Hooters.

MOOS: There is one itty-bitty problem with President Trump comparing his poll numbers to President Lincoln's.

Abe Lincoln was dead before polls started, read one exasperated tweet. Lincoln died 71 years before modern scientific polling started in 1936. In Lincoln's time, there row would have been only tiny local straw polls. President Trump does have an 87 percent approval rating among Republicans, but other presidents have topped that.

What would Lincoln say? Conan once juxtaposed the Animatronic Abe with the real Donald.

TRUMP: I mentioned food stamps, and that guy who is seriously overweight went crazy. He went crazy.

MOOS: Trump actually used Lincoln to score points against Clinton.

TRUMP: OK, Honest Abe, Honest Abe never lied. That's the good thing.

That's the big difference between Abraham Lincoln and you. That's a big, big difference. We're talking about some difference.

MOOS: Call me crazy, but I don't think honest Donald is the nickname history will bestow on President Trump.

When it comes to stature, even when you're saluting him, Abe seems to turn everyone into the size of one of his shins.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

MOOS: Build that wall, build that wall!

MOOS: -- New York.

MOOS: Build that wall, build that wall!


BURNETT: All right. Thanks for watching.

Anderson is next.