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Trump Tells Reuters He Could "Run" Mueller Probe; Reuters: Trump Says Speaking To Mueller Could Be A Perjury Trap; Sources: Trump Unsettled By McGahn Mueller Meeting; Trump On Border Patrol Agent: "Speaks Perfect English". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 20, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Out front next, breaking news, President Trump says he has stayed out of the Special Counsel's investigation, but he could, quote, run it if he chose to. A major headline tonight. Plus, what he says about whether he would go as far as to revoke even Mueller's security clearance. The reporter who just spoke to the President moments ago is my guest tonight.

Plus, Trump -- John Brennan threatens to sue him. His attorney calls the former CIA Chief a blowhard. Do they really want this to end up in court?

And a leading figure in the Me Too Movement, a Harvey Weinstein accuser, under scrutiny tonight, is she a hypocrite. The reporter who broke that story is my guest. Let's go out front.

Good evening everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow in tonight for Erin Burnett. And out front this evening, breaking news, a stunning series of statements tonight from the President about Bob Mueller's investigation. Reuters just posting an interview moments ago with the President. And here's what the President said, and I quote. "I've decided to stay out of the Mueller investigation. Now, I don't have to stay out, as you know. I can go in and I could do whatever. I could run it if I want."

Let that sink in. I could run it if I want. An investigation into the President. That's right, suggesting that he could run the Special Counsel's entire probe. Now, a probe that is investigating not only him but his campaign and his associates. The President also echoing his Attorney Rudy Giuliani saying that speaking to the Special Counsel and his investigators could be a, quote, perjury trap. This comes as sources tell CNN the President is unnerved by the stunning revelation that the White House Counsel Don McGahn has been cooperating extensively with the Special Counsel's team. Three interviews lasting 30 plus hours.

Out front tonight, Jeff Mason, the Reuters Reporter who broke this story. Jeff, you spoke to the President just moments ago. There are a lot of headlines here. So let's begin with this bombshell that the President told you I could run the Mueller probe if I wanted to.

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Yes. That was one of the more interesting things that he said in the interview with me and my colleague Steve Holland and Jim Oliphant. He talked about the probe. He said again that it was a witch hunt. In fact, he interrupted us when we started the question to be clear that that's how he viewed it.

And -- I mean, this quote is getting a lot of attention with good reason, but he actually the run up to that quote is he said he was staying out of it, and that it was better if he did. So, it's interesting, he was making it clear that he viewed it as a decision, and that he had made the decision to stay out, but it wasn't the only option that he had.

HARLOW: Right. You know, he's also long said as you know that he really wants to sit down with Mueller. He has nothing to hide, he wants to answer all the Mueller's questions, it's his lawyers, you know at this point that won't let him, and they're trying to negotiate. The response you got from the President tonight though on that it seems like it was different. What did he say?

MASON: Well, he wouldn't say specifically whether he would do an interview. And, in fact, we sort of thought maybe that would be the next natural place for him to go after saying what he did. But he didn't comment on that specifically. What he did comment on is we asked him about Rudy Giuliani's comments about potential interview being a perjury trap. And he said he agreed, that it could potentially be a perjury trap. He might say something that would not align with what James Comey had said and then he believes that Robert Mueller would potentially believe James Comey instead of him and then that would be a problem.

HARLOW: So also when it comes to Russia, an actual action against Russia, right? I mean, we all know what the President's rhetoric on Russia has been and continues to be, but he and the White House have said look, look at the sanctions, look how tough this administration has been on Russia. But tonight he spoke about potentially lifting sanctions on Russia. What did he say?

MASON: So we asked him about that. We asked him about the controversy surrounding his meeting with President Putin in Helsinki and whether or not Putin had asked for the United States to lift those sanctions. And he said we're not going to lift those sanctions unless we get something in return. And then he went on to say that which is absolutely true, that the United States and Russia need to and are working on a lot of different things together, including Syria. So the implication was if you scratch my back, maybe I'll scratch yours, but on a bigger sort of geopolitical things that the United States is pushing Moscow to do.

HARLOW: I mean, did he layout what, for example, Putin's regime would have to do in Syria, would have to do regarding Ukraine --


HARLOW: -- for, you know, the U.S. to lift sanctions?

MASON: No. And that's a good question. We didn't get more details about what he would do or what he would envision.

HARLOW: Right.

MASON: But that's sort of the conditions that he suggested would be necessary, broadly, for that to happen.

HARLOW: All right. Really important reporting tonight. Jeff Mason, thank you for giving the interview, thank you for hustling over at the camera. I think you just sat down about 30 seconds before we went to air. We appreciate the hustle.

MASON: My pleasure.

HARLOW: Thanks for being out front tonight.

All right, let's talk more about this. Solomon Wisenberg is with me, former Deputy and Independent Counsel in the Whitewater Investigation, Laura Coates, joins us, former Federal Prosecutor and Patrick Healy, Politics Editors of the New York Times is here. A lot of news just tonight. So let's begin with the headlines.

[19:05:07] Solomon, to you. The President saying to Jeff Mason and his colleagues at Reuters that he could run the Mueller probe. He could run the Russia investigation and Gemini's (ph) associate if he wanted to, your reaction.

SOLOMON WISENBERG, FMR. DEPUTY INDEPENDENT COUNSEL, WATERGATE INVESTIGATION: My reaction is it's a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. It's no different than a lot of outrageous things he said. We all know he is not going to run the Mueller investigation. He just wants to divert everybody's attention or get the media talking about it.

At some point, he'll make a decision whether or not he wants to fire Mueller or attempt to and will face the consequences of that, but he is not going to run the investigation. I think it's just a -- it's a silly, ridiculous comment.

HARLOW: So Laura, his tone and his language has changed when it comes to the question that Jeff Mason asked him about whether he will sit for an interview with Mueller, right? It has consistently been I will or I want to, right? It's up to my lawyers but I want to.

Now he is echoing Giuliani, using the same language, saying, look, this could be a perjury trap, and he essentially said it would be my word against James Comey, the former FBI Director's word and I'm paraphrasing here. But here's a quote from the President where he said, quote, to Jeff Mason, "Even if I'm telling the truth, that makes me a liar". Fair concern?

LAURA COATES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think he's done playing the good cop bad cop which we all know is a kind of a ruse to show that both of you are going to be bad cops here, and you want to have an optics argument to make here. I think it's very clear that he is concerned that there is already testimony that's been given to Robert Mueller and his team that is going to corroborate other people's versions or alternative facts that he may talked about. And he is concerned I think rightfully so a statement that he may make, that may be disingenuous or outright wrong and deceitful will not be able to be corroborated by existing testimony they have.

Now, having said that, that does not mean that every time somebody sits before an investigator that they themselves do not run the same risk of perhaps being other information that's out there that would contradict them. So for the President of the United States, the head of the executive branch under which is this investigatory team to say --

HARLOW: Right.

COATES: -- he can be bothered asking questions because he might something is wrong or in indigenous is laughable.

HARLOW: Patrick, Jeff Mason from the Reuters seemed rightly broad up the question of security clearances, right, the President just revoked john Brennan's security clearance and the President didn't say, no, no, no, I have no reason to do that. He essentially said, well, I haven't given it much thought. There's a big difference between John Brennan and Bob Mueller, and there are a number, is that John Brennan has been all over the air waves criticizing the President calling him -- his actions had much treason. And Mueller hasn't said a peep.

PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. Robert Mueller has not been divulging classified information or doing anything nor was John Brennan --

HARLOW: Nor Brennan.

HEALY: No was Brennan. But there are no grounds under rules for security clearances why the President would be revoking it, except for vindictiveness, punishment, in attempt to, you know, derail the Special Counsel investigation. But this is Trump going to his bag of tricks. I mean, he is used to decades of controlling and running his business empire, telling his underlings and lieutenants exactly what they should and shouldn't do, basic bossing (ph) people around.

He has been so bothered from the get go that he has not been able to control the Mueller investigation, Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein. So this is now -- he has now basically found his weapon which is revoking security clearances. But the notion that he would use that, you know, as in any sort of credible way is a threat against Mueller is pretty ridiculous.

HARLOW: So Solomon, I mean, going to -- it was the lead story until about 20 minutes ago when this Reuters news broke. And, of course, that is that the President was truly, truly caught off guard, so off guard by his own White House Counsel. You were White House Counsel during Whitewater. The President didn't know that McGahn did these three days, 30 hours of, you know, interviews with Mueller. He also didn't know that his own personal lawyers didn't get a full debriefing whatsoever about what McGahn said. How shocking is that to you?

WISENBERG: Well, there are a lot of strands there. First of all, I wasn't the White House Counsel. I was Deputy Independent Counsel. I was up against the White House Counsel.

HARLOW: There you go. Thank you for clarifying.

WISENBERG: And President Clinton's Deputy White House Counsel, Bruce Lindsey, didn't come in and to talk to us for 30 hours. That would have been great. I would have died for that. We had to take him in to court and defeat his various claims of attorney-client privilege. So I think it's a very significant that the President and his original legal team let Don McGahn go in. And to me it's a sign that they didn't have -- didn't feel they had anything to fear.

But keep in mind, back when John Dowd and Ty Cobb made this decision --

HARLOW: Right.

WISENBERG: -- obviously in consultation with the President, they were looking at the Mueller probe as primarily about a conspiracy with the Russians and members of the campaign to effect the election or to hack computers.

[19:10:03] It's now clear that Bob Mueller is focused much more on obstruction of justice and that Mueller has a very, very broad view of obstruction, and I would be very, very worried, and very scared to go in and talk to Bob Mueller. And keep in mind, Bob Mueller's people have indicted four people for lying to Bob Mueller, lying to his investigators, four people. So if he wasn't the president, let's put it this way, any white collar attorney in D.C. would tell you, you would be crazy to let your client go in and talk to the prosecutors under these set of facts.

HARLOW: And Laura, you know, I think one of the reasons that Solomon is noting this that it was really a lens of collusion at that point and not an obstruction lens they were looking through, let's remember the role that Don McGahn played in protecting Mueller, if you will. When the President, in New York Times reported, wanted to fire Mueller, McGahn said, you do that, I'll quit, I'll walk out. So he has, you know, obviously talked to Mueller's team about the questions surrounding the desire of the President to fire Mueller.

COATES: Absolutely. And I think Don McGahn has done an artful way of trying to show that he is the one transparent last line of defense in the White House. And whether that's entirely true, Poppy, in the end, I guess we don't know. But 30 hours is a long time to talk to the investigators.

And if the focal point of Robert Mueller's entire probe was on obstruction, I would be shocked. Obstruction is almost never the focal point. It happens to be one that's a tangential claim that can be added on, but the real meat of the matter is what it is you'd like me to stop investigating, why you want my attention to be diverted. So I suspect, the overwhelming in that information that McGahn spoke to him about was probably in line with, one, he has no attorney-client privilege to protect the conversation.

HARLOW: Right.

COATES: He could, I assume, talk about executive privilege, if that could be actually applied which it can't be in this case. But also remember, Don McGahn is a campaign finance expert, was once on the SEC as a commissioner. And so he probably has information and insight who he -- the role he played on the campaign, and about whether there was any in kind contribution, which I'm sure are of interest to Mueller's team.

HARLOW: Sure, which also would tie back perhaps to Michael Cohen if we see more play out there. And again, the executive privilege wouldn't cover, if there was, the time that he was on the campaign, right?

COATES: Precisely.

HARLOW: Before he was in the White House. Quickly, Patrick, when you look at this big picture --

WISENBERG: Well, in the transitional period -- sorry to interrupt --

HARLOW: No, that's fine.

WISENBERG: -- but in the transitional period, there is some protection.

HARLOW: OK, fair and an important point and nuance there. Patrick, politically looking at all of these, if you look at the President, his reactions this month and the month is not even over yet, he has tweeted about the quote, unquote witch hunt, which he deemed this 67 times, 67 times. That's compared to 19 times in July. We counted. What's going on? Is this back firing? Is this working?

HEALY: Yes. I mean, you can tell that they think that the end is getting near, that he has sort of, you know, Rudy Giuliani and others sort of around him saying, OK, we're going to have to make a decision on an interview, no interview at some point, and that the midterms or, you know, elections are about two and a half months away. Trump is very eager to get on the road to start campaigning.

The reality is there's going to be a big -- there going to be couple of big moments here. His decision whether to do an interview or not, and then ultimately Bob Mueller and some kind of final report. So I think there is that sense that just the pressure is very much on here, and he wants the base to know again and again, this is a witch hunt. His point of view.

HARLOW: And again. Thank you. Patrick, appreciate it very much. Solomon, nice to have you, Laura as well. Thank you all.

Out front next, former CIA Chief John Brennan threatens to sue the President over his revoked security clearances. Now, the President team is saying bring it on. Also, the truth that it's been tough subject for the White House, then Rudy Giuliani made it worse. And Trump's comments about a border patrol officer.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Adrian, come here, I want to ask you a question. So, how did you -- come here. Come here, you're not nervous, right? Speaks perfect English.


HARLOW: Why did the President think otherwise? Next.


[19:17:37] HARLOW: All right, more breaking news tonight. President Trump telling Reuters in an interview just now that he is concerned about a perjury trap in his words, if he were to sit down with the Special Counsel for an interview saying, quote, even if I'm telling the truth, that makes me a liar. Now this comes after his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said this on "Meet the Press."


RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: When you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he's going to tell the truth and he shouldn't worry, well that's silly because it's somebody's version of the truth, not the truth. He didn't have a conversation --

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS HOST: Truth is truth. I don't mean to go like --

GIULIANI: No, it isn't truth. Truth isn't truth.


HARLOW: Out front now, Marc Lotter, former Special Assistant to President Trump joins me, and Symone Sanders, Communications Consultant for Priorities USA and former National Press Secretary for Bernie Sanders Presidential. Nice to have you both. Symone, on this Monday evening, truth is not truth, in what world?

SYMONE SANDERS, FORMER SECRETARY, 2016 SANDERS CAMPAIGN: Not this world, Poppy, perhaps in 1984. You Know, George Orwell wrote in the book the party told you to reject what you saw with your eyes and ears and that was their final command. I think the Trump administration and the President's attorneys would love us to believe, to buy into the idea that there are different versions of the truth. But I think that is the opposite of the definition of the truth. And no one is buying this.

The Special Counsel I don't think is buying it, but lucky for the President and other people, this is not what Democrats are running on across the country in the midterm elections. But this just doesn't make sense. HARLOW: I mean, Marc, you worked with his team, you worked in White House, former Special Assistant to the President, worked for the Vice President, it's not just this statement this time from one man, from Rudy Giuliani, it's the totality of it, right? So let's jog everyone's memory for a moment. Take a look at this.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: If fact-counting is anything, we've never had anybody with the level of mendacity that he has. Not even close. But we'll leave it there.

GIULIANI: It's in the eye of the beholder.

CUOMO: No, facts are not in the eye of the beholder. You're always welcome to argue the case.

TRUMP: Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. What you're seeing and what you are reading is not what's happening.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: You're saying it's a falsehood, and they are giving -- Sean Spicer, our Press Secretary, gave alternative facts to that.


HARLOW: You worked with the team, you know the strategy, what gives?

MARC LOTTER, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think the biggest concern that we have seen is that a lot of times people are taking facts and facts are facts.

HARLOW: Thank you.

[19:20:00] LOTTER: But they are taking them to reach their own conclusion which often times is not necessarily the correct --

HARLOW: That's an opinion.

LOTTER: And I think that's what the -- is the push back is on. Is that people are taking a series of facts to reach a not necessarily factual conclusion, even with what Rudy Giuliani is talking about right now, if the President has a different recollection of a meeting, then someone else is. Is that perjury? That's the perjury trap.

HARLOW: That's just not what he said. I mean, he said truth isn't truth. I had Jim Schultz, you know Jim Schultz, former White House Lawyer for President Trump on with me this morning. And he said, look, Rudy Giuliani has to be better prepared for this stuff. This is not a good look for the White House. He has to be in Jim's words, very precise with his answers, and get his facts straight. Is he right?

LOTTER: I agree, we can always choose. And there's probably not a single interview I've ever done where I haven't done back and -- HARLOW: No, no, no. Come one. Jim Schultz is saying he has to get

the facts right. I mean, he is the mouthpiece for the President now.

LOTTER: I understand it. But what I'm saying is that, could Rudy have answered that question better, and I think he is trying to address that again today a couple of times both in other interviews and on Twitter. So, I'll take in what he is saying in the broader context, not zero in on every specific word, but I would agree that we have to be very careful when we're answering the questions, especially when you're speaking on behalf of the President or speaking on behalf of the White House.

HARLOW: Symone, let me get you on this other headline out of the Reuters interview the President just wrapped up moments ago. And they are reporting as we just heard from that reporter Jeff Mason, that the President did say that he would consider lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia, should they see action, you know, to the U.S.'s liking in Syria and potentially in Ukraine. Now the President didn't elaborate on what that actually would have to entail, what Russia would have to do. But what's your reaction?

SANDERS: My reaction is I want to remind folks that the Congress in a bipartisan manner passed legislation to sanction Russia, legislation that was veto proof. So the President had no other choice but to sign it. The sanctions that many folks are associated with this White House, the strongest sanctions ever slapped on to Russia by this administration came into effect because of Congress, not because of this is what the President wanted to do.

So I would venture to say if this is something that the President truly is considering, he is going to have a really tough time with Congress. There is not appetite for this type of rhetoric or action, this friendly rhetoric or action if you will against Russia in Congress on a bipartisan level, it's just not there.

HARLOW: All right. I want you both to listen to something that came late this afternoon from the President. He was speaking at an event honoring border patrol agents, and he was speaking to one specifically who had done some very commendable work. And here's what the President said.


TRUMP: Adrian, come here, I want to ask you a question. So, how did you -- come here. Come here, you're not nervous, right? Speaks perfect English. Come here, I want to ask you about that. Seventy- eight lives, you saved 78 people. So how did you feel that there were people in that trailer, there's a lot of trailers around. Please.

He didn't know he was going to do this. But it's just of interest.


HARLOW: What do you think? When you call someone up to, you know, a podium to honor them, you usually don't say speaks perfect English. Was it just a weird thing to say or was it more? LOTTER: The President speaks contemporaneously, and he doesn't always speak in perfect sound bites and perfectly polished and poll tested mean. So I think that's one of the reasons why many people, because they do sense -- he is a genuine person. But we shouldn't let this comment overshadow what was really an important message today about the great work that's being done --

HARLOW: Did he step on his message? I mean I wouldn't bring you on here and say, by the way Marc Lotter is with me and he speaks perfect English.

LOTTER: Well, again, the President is bringing someone up who is completely unprepared. He is trying to cajole them up. And it wasn't the perfect thing to say, you know. But we shouldn't let that go and overshadow what was really the important message today which is the things that where you have Democrats, they are talking about abolishing ICE., and they are arresting 120,000 criminal aliens, including 1800 suspected murderers. 5,000 suspected of sexual assaults. And that's the important message today.

HARLOW: Symone.

SANDERS: Poppy, if I can jump in, I do believe the President brought a CBP agent up today, which is customs and border patrol, not ICE. Those are two separate entities. And I just wish folks would stop comparing them. People associated and probably associated with this White House alive.

Secondly, the President felt necessary to note that the CBP agent spoke English because I believe he was Latina. That is the only manner. The President didn't bring a young white woman or young white man up to the podium, and say by the way, he speaks perfect English. And I think it's important to note that because it goes to the deep biases that many believe the President has.

[19:25:02] Folks have accused the President of subscribing to a white supremacist ideology, to believing that in the idea of culture, of American culture, quote, unquote, white culture. And these comments lend to why people believe those things, and they've said the things they have said about the President.

HARLOW: All right. Thank you both. We're out of time. You'll both be back. Nice to have you.

Out front next, breaking news. Trump says he would consider, as we just mentioned, lifting sanctions, U.S. sanctions on Russia. What would it take, and would Congress go for it?

Also, turning tables, a Harvey Weinstein accuser now accused of paying hush money to silence a man, a young man that alleged that she sexual assaulted him. We'll dig in ahead.


HARLOW: All right, more breaking news tonight. President Trump just said in an interview that he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia. He made the comments just a short time ago. The President says he'd consider it and that relief for Moscow if Moscow took steps towards working with U.S. on big issues like Syria, like Ukraine.

Let's go to Phil Mattingly, he joins me out front tonight. Look, that is quite a statement when you consider just how overwhelmingly and bipartisan the sanctions against Russia were from Congress. Is this something they would even go for?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, the short answer is no. I actually just ran this by a senior Republican aide who made the point that it might actually have the opposite effect as in spur on Congress to implement more sanctions. Just take look at the United States Senate tomorrow, Poppy, two committees chaired by Republicans will be holding hearings on potential new Russia sanctions, also overseeing as Russia sanctions that were passed back in 2017.

The reality is there's two or three very significant substantive bipartisan proposals moving around in the Senate right now that post the Helsinki summit between Presidents Putin and Trump would implement new sanctions, including one that would snap on new sanctions if the Russians were ever found to have meddled with an election again. Those haven't been able to kind of get a broad consensus behind a single proposal.

Should the president push forward on something like this, that according to several aides might change. People might coalesce around one proposal.

But, Poppy, it's also worth looking back at the 2017 law, really, kind of the implementation of the broadest newest infrastructure of sanctions against Russia the United States put in place in a long time. Ninety-eight to two, the Senate voted for it; 419-3 the House voted. Congress would have review over it. There's no appetite right now politically or on the political side to make any changes to that anytime soon, Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: All right, Phil. Thank you very much for that reporting.

OUTFRONT now, Republican senator of Louisiana, John Kennedy. He sits on the Judiciary Committee.

Good evening, Senator. Thanks for being with me.


HARLOW: So, the president to be clear here in these "Reuters" interview did not elaborate on what Russia would have to do to help aid in Syria or in Ukraine to get sanctions relief. But in any scenario, is lifting sanctions on Russia at this point something you would support?

KENNEDY: Not until I saw a change in behavior by Mr. Putin. Mr. Putin is Russian. And Russia is Mr. Putin. It's a kratocracy. The political philosophy is whatever Mr. Putin said and says, and unless he changes his behavior in Ukraine, Crimea, in Syria, in meddling with our elections, I wouldn't support lifting of the sanctions. Now, if he started to change his behavior, that would be a separate matter, but I think it's important that we watch what Mr. Putin does, not what he says.

HARLOW: So, what would he have to do in your mind? I mean, you know, Russia's annexed Crimea, invaded eastern Ukraine, continues to support atrocities carried out by the Assad regime in Syria. It would take a lot, right?

KENNEDY: Well, it would for me. We could start with Syria. I think if Mr. Putin wanted to, we could get a settlement and end to the bloodbath fairly quickly. Mr. Putin could start by telling Iran to get out of southern Syria. There's going to be a war if Iran tries to establish a foothold there because Israel is not going to put up with it.

HARLOW: Right.

KENNEDY: So we could start with Syria. We can start with him calling off the dogs and stop trying to meddle in our midterm elections. We're going to have a classified briefing tomorrow with our security agencies to talk about what Mr. Putin is doing in terms our f midterm elections.

Would that be enough? I don't know. But it would be a start. I'm just -- I'm just not going to accept Mr. Putin at his word that he will do better. I mean, just -- I want to see some action.

HARLOW: All right. On another topic, Senator. Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, is taunting, daring John Brennan to take the president to court. Brennan over the weekend, of course, said he would consider that. And here's what Giuliani tweeted to John Brennan.

Today, President Trump granted a request and Jay Sekulow and me to handle your case after threatening if you don't do it, it would be just like Obama's red line. Come on, John, you're not a blowhard. That's when the president's personal lawyer.

You called Brennan, John Brennan, former CIA chief, and I'm quoting -- this is your language, Senator, quote, a butt head. Your feelings for Brennan aside, is there any way this thing goes to court?

KENNEDY: Let me -- I don't know. I'm not one of the lawyers.

Let me try to explain my concerns about Mr. Brennan. We have an elite of our national security intelligentsia in this country. I'm talking about people like the late George Bundy, Zbig Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, these are extremely intelligent intellectuals, if you will. They served both Republicans and Democrats. They're above the political fray. They should be able to keep their security clearance. Mr. Brennan has made a decision, and it's a free country, he was

entitled to do so, to basically become a politician. He is -- in our free enterprise system, he is being paid and paid well to make provocative statements on television that are very political.

HARLOW: Senator --

KENNEDY: But let me finish my point, Poppy. If Mr. Brennan repeated in an airport some of the things he said on TV, he would either be in handcuffs or in a straitjacket.

[19:35:11] And I don't -- I can't imagine anybody going to Mr. Brennan for objective analysis of the national security situation.

HARLOW: Like what comments do you think would get him arrested in an airport specifically? I mean, obviously, there's the calling the Helsinki summit with Putin tantamount to treason, there's the hogwash comment in his -- regarding collusion in "New York Times" opinion piece, but what specific language are you talking about regarding Brennan.

KENNEDY: I think Mr. Brennan's objectivity and for me his credibility is broken. It is more broken than the Ten Commandments.

HARLOW: So, I --

KENNEDY: Now, there's no reason that he can't continue in a free country to say what he is saying, but if Mr. Brennan has decided to become a politician, you know, politics is not bean bag. If you want to run with the big dogs, you can't hide on the porch. And he can't go on television in the morning and make overtly political statements that are over the top if he believes there is a top, and then at night call his friends in the bureaucracy and receive inside information. It doesn't work that way.

HARLOW: Look, some of that criticism has been echoed even by James Clapper just yesterday who told Jake Tapper look, some of this hyperbole is too much. He is like a freight train sometimes, but he shares the concerns we have. And the reason one maintains their security clearance is not just to call their friends, as you say, and get this information. I mean, it is to help current intelligence officials, right?

And John Brennan was a key officer in all that. He helped plan the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden. And when you look at his clearance and his need, President Obama's former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes called Brennan the principal architect, and that's a quote, of the Obama administration's drone policy.

Is that not, Senator, you know, politics, opinion aside, is that experience and knowledge not worth anything to current intelligence officials?

KENNEDY: Well, certainly, it's worth something. I think -- I thank Mr. Brennan for his service, but that's before he became a politician.

And let me say it again. If you want to be a politician and you say something, you're going to be challenged.


HARLOW: So, you cannot speak out against -- you cannot speak out against the administration and maintain a clearance that you could help current intelligence officials by having? Is that what you're saying?

KENNEDY: No, it is a matter of degree, Poppy. I don't think any fair minded person would contend Mr. Brennan and his statements has any nuance, has any gray area. I mean, he -- the president had a bad day on his press conference with Mr. Putin. I said that before.

I don't think he should be put to death over it. I don't think that makes him a traitor. I think that was clearly over the top. I'm not sure Mr. Brennan believes there is a top, but I don't see how any fair-minded person would go to Mr. Brennan now and ask him for his, quote, institutional wisdom, and put any value on it.

He can't be. He is not objective. I will say it again, his objectivity and his credibility is broken. It is more broken than the Ten Commandments.

And it doesn't -- that's his decision, but he's made his bed. He's decided to be a politician, and I don't think it is fair for him to be a politician and then call his friends in the bureaucracy and get inside information.

HARLOW: Senator John Kennedy, I have to leave it there, I am out of time. I appreciate you taking the time tonight. Thanks for being with me.

KENNEDY: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: You got it.

A leading figure in the #MeToo movement alleged to have paid off a young man that accuses her of sexual assault.

And prosecutors just charging a husband in the gruesome murder of his wife and daughters. Tonight, a stunning twist. He is claiming his wife is the one who strangled the children. The breaking details ahead.


[19:43:19] HARLOW: All right. Tonight, a stunning report that one of Harvey Weinstein's most vocal accusers allegedly sexually assaulted a young man. Encrypted documents sent to "The New York Times" reveal that Asia Argento paid $380,000 to a young man, an actor and a musician named Jim Bennett, who played her son in a film in 2004. Look at them here. This is them in a movie scene together.

He at the time there was just 7 years old. Bennett is no 22. And he is claiming that Argento sexual assaulted him in 2013 at a California hotel when she was 37 and he was 17, the age of consent in California is 18.

Now, Argento, we know her because she has emerged as a leading voice in the #MeToo movement, and has alleged that she was raped by Harvey Weinstein when she was 21 years old.

OUTFRONT now, "The New York Times" reporter who broke the story, Kim Severson, joins me.

Kim, thank you for being here.

Before we get into how the documents ended up in your inbox, tell us more about what you're reporting, what Bennett is alleging, sexual battery is among charges. It's very disturbing.

KIM SEVERSON, NEW YORK TIMES CORRESPONDENT, BROKE ASIA ARGENTO STORY: Right, it was a long list of charges in this intent to sue notice that we got, and it was emotional distress, it was sexual battery, it was assault. A number of charges that really stem from this one afternoon or morning actually at a hotel room in Marina Delray in 2013.

HARLOW: In your article, you talk about how you got this document, and that they were sent to, not only "The New York Times", to your inbox through encrypted e-mail and they were went from an unidentified party.

Do you have any better understanding tonight of who sent these to you?

[19:45:01] SEVERSON: You know, we have a pretty solid idea of how they came to us, but without solid confirmation, we, of course, took these documents that came after -- I had been reporting on Anthony Bourdain's suicide and previously had been reporting on some of the #MeToo movement stories that came out of the restaurant world, I write about food, and I had be talking to people in the Bourdain camp, and talking to people who knew him and who he knew he and Asia's relationship.

And then I heard, got a wind of something of -- about this story maybe a month and a half ago, kept asking about it, trying to pull strings. We knew a few strings here and there, but nothing that was reportable or verifiable. And then, you know, in a series of a couple of e- mails, these documents trickled in. Two of them were particularly key because they were signed by attorneys, so we were able to go back and verify the documents.

Obviously, we aren't in the business of taking things over the transom and running them in the paper. So, we spend a lot of time verifying these from different sources.

HARLOW: I mean, Kim, still, I think it is stunning still no response to you, right, no response at all from Argento or her team.

SEVERSON: We have spent a lot of time. We had one of our -- the reporter in our Rome bureau had interviewed Asia extensively regarding the Harvey Weinstein material and, you know, he had a relationship with her. He reached out, I reached out.

HARLOW: Nothing.

SEVERSON: We know that her attorney had gotten our e-mails and requests for interviews because she had called other sources, called two of the other attorneys involved. So, they clearly don't want to talk about this right now.

HARLOW: Again, Argento says she was raped by Harvey Weinstein, and Weinstein's lawyer is, you know, capitalizing on this tonight, responding in part.

Let me read part of it: This development reveals a stunning level of hypocrisy by Asia Argento, one of the most vocal catalysts who sought to destroy Harvey Weinstein.

You know, two things can be true at the same time, right? It's important to point out what she's alleging many other women are alleging happened to them as well.

SEVERSON: Right. And Ms. Argento was not part of the six charges that Harvey Weinstein are facing, Harvey Weinstein is facing, and, you know, this is -- the thing that seems essential here is one person doesn't make an entire movement, and we don't know what Argento's side of this was, you know, so I think there's a lot to be considered.

But, you know, the idea that this one incident would somehow unravel an entire case against Harvey Weinstein and this young social movement we find ourselves in the middle of is kind of crazy.

HARLOW: All right. Kim, really important reporting. Kim Severson of "The Times", thank you for being with me.

SEVERSON: You're welcome.

HARLOW: All right. Also breaking news in that gruesome murder of a pregnant young woman and her young daughters. The father tonight claiming his wife strangled their children. New details that investigators just released, ahead.

Also, Melania Trump takes on cyber bullying. Is she trolling her husband?


[19:50:59] BURNETT: All right. Breaking news tonight: shocking new developments in the case of a Colorado father charged with killing his pregnant wife and two daughters.

According to court documents, Chris Watts claims it was his wife who killed their children. Earlier today, Watson's charged with nine felonies, including five counts of first degree murder.

Scott McLean is OUTFRONT on the story tonight and joins me from Colorado.

So, Scott, investigators are just revealing what Chris Watts now claims happened. What more is he telling them? SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. So, this is according to a police affidavit we've just gotten in the last hour or so. Chris Watts says that he did kill his wife Shanann but not their two young daughters. He told police investigators he had gotten up early in the morning on August 13th and told Shanann that he wanted a divorce. Later, he had gone downstairs for a bit and when he came back upstairs to the bedroom, Shanann had strangled her two young daughters.

In a fit of rage, Chris Watts said that he ended up strangling his own wife to death. He then loaded all three bodies into the back of his work truck, took them to a worksite at an oil storage facility. He dug a shallow grave for his wife and dumped the bodies of the two young girls in that oil storage tank.

That is the story that Chris Watts is telling. But police say that he left out a key detail. That he has been having an extramarital affair.


MCLEAN: Prosecutors in Colorado say Chris Watts was not the family man he seemed to be. Formal charges against the father were filed today. Murder charges for the death of his wife Shanann Watts and 3 and 4-year-old girls. A felony charge with the death of their unborn child, and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.

FRANK RUSIK, SHANANN WATTS'S FATHER: I am Shanaan's dad. This is her brother. We would like to thank everyone in the Frederick police department and all the agencies involved for working so hard to find my daughter, granddaughters and Niko. Thank you everyone for coming out to the candlelight vigil and saying all your players. They are greatly appreciated.

MCLEAN: After Shanann and her two girls went missing, Chris Watts spoke to local media.

REPORTER: Did you guys get into an argument before she left?

CHRIS WATTS, CHARGED WITH MURDERING WIFE AND DAUGHTERS: It wasn't like an argument. We had emotional conversation, but I'll leave it that. But it's, I just want them back.

MCLEAN: Late the night before, Nickole Atkinson told ABC's "Good Morning America" that she had dropped Shanann off at home after a business trip. The next day, she and her young girls were gone, with so few clues, even from Watts.

NICKOLE ATKINSON: He kept saying he didn't know where she was, that she went on a play date but he couldn't give us the name of the friend.

MCLEAN: Late last week, Shanann was found dead. Prosecutors say she was buried in a shallow grave. While court documents show her daughter's bodies had been sitting in a nearby oil tank for four days. The same documents also suggest the victims may have been strangled. MICHAEL ROURKE, WELD COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It's been a long week

for the Frederick Police Department, obviously for Shanann's family. It's been a long week.

MCLEAN: In 2015, the Watts went through bankruptcy and were sued by their homeowner's association for $1,500. But just weeks ago, Shanaan's Facebook page showed a happy family, awaiting a new baby boy they had already named Niko.


MCLEAN: Now, the defense had filed a motion to have their own expert take DNA samples from under Shanann's finger nails presumably to prove her involvement in the death of those two young kids, but the judge denied the request, Poppy.

HARLOW: Tragic. Scott, thank you for the reporting.

OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on Melania Trump's speaking out without irony on the evils of cyber bullying, next.


[19:57:44] HARLOW: So, today, Melania Trump addresses a summit on cyber bullying. The president, though, not able to attend.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do what she says, not what he does. Melania Trump was once again speaking --

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: On cyber bullying prevention.

MOOS: You know, like calling someone that dog.

MELANIA TRUMP: Can also be destructive.

MOOS: Or tweeting angry Democratic thugs.

MELANIA TRUMP: And harmful when used incorrectly.

MOOS: Tweeted one critic, it appears she's never met her husband. Tweeted another, irony, thy name is Melania, misspelling her name the way the president once misspelled it.

Someone posted an image of a broken irony meter off the scale. Another commenter used the words of the church lady.

UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: Well, isn't that special?

MOOS: Supporters protested. No, @RealDonaldTrump doesn't cyber bully, he cyber counter punches.

Some thought the first lady was sending -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A veiled message to her husband, right?

MELANIA TRUMP: Let's face it, most children are more aware of the benefits and pitfalls of social media than some adults.

MOOS: This adult?

It's all gotten so surreal that it's hard to tell what's real and what's parody.

Very proud of First Lady Melania Trump giving a speech on cyber bullying. Anyone who uses social media to bully someone or insult someone is a low IQ loser who really should just disappear.

It turns out that was a parody Donald Trump, but dozens found it so authentic they lashed out. You literally can't make a tweet about not cyber bullying, without cyber bullying. Someone else took a page from Rudy Giuliani.


MOOS: Hence, bullying isn't bullying.

Melania has acknowledged that people are skeptical of her discussing this topic.

MELANIA TRUMP: But it will not stop me from doing what I know is right.

MOOS: Could there be marital fallout? Because the first lady dares to use the anti-bully pulpit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband will be so mad. He will not speak to me.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


HARLOW: All right. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

'AC360" starts now.