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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Slams Admiral Because He Didn't Capture Bin Laden Sooner; Report: Ivanka Trump Used Personal E-mail For Government Business; Trump Tweets About Adam Schiff After Calling For "Decorum;" Interview with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D), Connecticut; White House Backs Down, Restores Jim Acosta's Press Pass. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired November 19, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, President Trump charging the Obama White House, should have killed Osama bin Laden much sooner. Leon Panetta, CIA Director when bin Laden was taken out is OUTFRONT.
Plus, breaking news. Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of e-mails about government business using her personal e-mail account. Did she break federal laws?
And Senate Democrat suing to block Matt Whitaker's appointment as Acting Attorney General. One of the senators leading the charge is OUTFRONT. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT this evening, President Trump targeting the military tonight doubling down after slamming the four-star admiral who was in charge of the Osama bin Laden raid. Trump tweeting, "Of course we should have captured Osama bin Laden long before we did". Why is the President even talking about bin Laden right now?
Well, the reason is, because he was asked about criticism from the man who oversaw the capture and killing of bin Laden. And instead of addressing the criticism that he got from Admiral McRaven, the President pivoted, lobbing insults instead. Now, Retired Enforcer Admiral William McRaven was a Navy SEAL. He oversaw the capture of Saddam Hussein and the killing of bin Laden. Just a couple of things that he did in 37 years in the United States military. And then, the year of 2017, he said this about Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADMIRAL WILLIAM MCRAVEN, U.S. NAVY (RET.): The President said the news media is the enemy of the American people. This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime. Well, he said that in 2017, but it was yesterday when President Trump was specifically asked about them in his interview with Chris Wallace. And here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a Hillary Clinton backer, and an Obama backer. And frankly --
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: He's a Navy SEAL.
TRUMP: Wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that? Wouldn't it have been nice?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. So let's go to the facts as always first. The issue of McRaven's politics. He is telling CNN in a statement, "I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else. I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for. I admire all Presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times". So that's the part about his politics.
Now, what about the second part of President Trump's slam on McRaven, you know when he brought in bin Laden. We should have caught bin Laden sooner. Well the former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell summed it up this way, saying, "Correction needed to potus' comment today, that McRaven should have found bin Laden sooner. CIA did the finding, McRaven's special operators did the getting. They moved within days of President Obama giving the order".
In other words, there's no faster, McRaven could have moved. But Trump's slam of McRaven is actually part of a pattern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Our military is a disaster.
I know more about ISIS than the generals do.
He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That last comment, of course, is about the late Senator John McCain, who spent roughly 5.5 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, repeatedly tortured and two of the years that he was there were in solitary confinement. Now President Trump of course did not serve in the military. In spite of the draft, he received five deferments for Vietnam, one of which was for a bone spurs. In fact, this is what we've heard him say about his Vietnam experience comparing dating to one of America's longest and deadliest wars.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now getting back to dating, right, and when going to say to woman, hey you have to go to my personal doctor and I'm going to have you checked out. Is that a tough thing to say to a woman or you just have the balls to say it.
TRUMP: You know, I tell you, it's amazing. I can't even believe it. I've been so lucky --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
TRUMP: -- in terms of that whole world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've never gotten a social disease?
TRUMP: It is a dangerous world out there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is.
TRUMP: It scares like Vietnam, sort of like, you know --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is. It is your personal Vietnam, isn't it?
TRUMP: It is my personal Vietnam.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is. You've said that many times.
TRUMP: Like a great and very brave soldier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, what has President Trump done for the military? Well, he did not go to Arlington National Cemetery on Veteran's Day. He didn't hold any public even to honor the troops. His response when confronted about that, again, by Chris Wallace, was this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I should have done that, I was extremely busy on calls for the country. We did a lot of calling as you know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right, at least he admits he should have done it. Obviously, then giving his excuse. But at least he admits it.
Nearly two years into his presidency, Trump in the meantime, has not visited American troops serving in war zones. Something President Obama did three months after taking office and President George W. Bush did on November 2003, Thanksgiving, eight months after that war had begun. Which makes the irony all these words, all the greater.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:05:14] TRUMP: There's nobody -- nobody that loves the military like I do. I love the military.
I don't think anybody's been more with the military than I have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT tonight at the White House. Pamela, the President continuing this discussion about McRaven. Obviously, he was asked yesterday and today he, you know, started his tweets.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's absolutely right. And we're seeing a familiar tactic at play here, Erin with the President trying to divert attention away from the criticism, and hitting back hard, even if the target in this case is a highly respected former military leader. So, the President you're seeing is taking direct aim at the four star Admiral Bill McRaven when he was asked about McRaven's criticism of him, that the President's claims of the media is the enemy of the people is the single greatest threat to democracy.
And in response, as you pointed out, he erroneously stated that McRaven is a Hillary Clinton backer. Bemoaned the fact that Osama bin Laden wasn't caught sooner, and boasted about the fact that he defunded or he pulled back funding for Pakistan. None of which, of course, was relevant to the central question he was asked. And it is worth emphasizing that Bill McRaven wasn't even responsible for finding Osama bin Laden, that's the CIA's job. Also, Trump in the past praised then President Obama for finding Osama bin Laden.
So you're seeing the President distract away from the criticism from Bill McRaven. Now, in the past, the President has showered praise on the military but he has drawn criticism, Erin, for not doing more through his actions as you pointed out. The President saying now that he might go visit war zones. That's been one of the criticisms that he hasn't gone to any war zones since becoming President. He said in that interview with Chris Wallace, that that could now change the plans are in the work. So we'll have to wait and see what happens on that front. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Pamela.
And now let's go to the former Defense Secretary and the former CIA Director in the Obama administration, Leon Panetta. Director, Secretary, great to have you with me. Tonight, you were the Director of the CIA. At the time, of course, there were several directors during the hunt for bin Laden but at that time when he was captured and killed you were at the helm. What's your response to President Trump tonight?
LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, the response is that the President simply doesn't know what happened here with regards to the effort to find bin Laden. This was without question the most important and courageous counter terrorism mission that was conducted in our history. The SEALs led by Admiral McRaven had to go 150 miles into Pakistan at night, in order to go after that compound. That was a risky and courageous operation.
And the fact is that it was the CIA that was responsible for the effort to find bin Laden. And when we did, we didn't brief Admiral McRaven until late January of 2011. And we briefed him at that time about the location and asked him to prepare an operation. Within 100 days, they conducted that operation and killed bin Laden. So the President is way off base by accusing Admiral McRaven of somehow not getting bin Laden earlier. He did and he did it bravely and courageously with that team of special forces.
BURNETT: You know, you've known Admiral McRaven for a long time. And he, of course, has criticized the President. We heard what he said in 2017, which Chris Wallace asked about. He also criticized the President after he revoked former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance, right? He took that unusual step of writing about that. Has he put himself in a political spot, and made himself fair game for attacks by the President at all?
PANETTA: You know, Erin, I've worked with a lot of military leaders and these military leaders like Bill McRaven are committed to serving the country. And stay away from politics, stay away from criticizing political leaders because they have a mission and they do their mission. I'm sure that Admiral McRaven was concerned about the way the President was going after the director of the CIA and going after others. And particularly was concerned about his criticism of the press.
[19:10:10] That's his right. He's retired. He is now somebody who continues to provide leadership in the academic community and elsewhere. So he has every right to be able to say that. And frankly, the President rather than attacking him personally with regard to that mission, obviously, has the opportunity to disagree with Admiral McRaven, but this is a democracy.
We all enjoy free speech. That's part of what our democracy is all about. But it doesn't mean that the President ought to attack former heroes in a very personal way, people like John McCain and now Bill McRaven, because frankly it undermines any relationship he will have with the military as commander in chief.
BURNETT: And let's talk about that relationship because, you know, he's obviously said no one loves the military more than he does. You obviously, Secretary Panetta, made multiple trips to Iraq and Afghanistan as Defense Secretary. I went with you on one of those, I remember, to Afghanistan. Here we are about two years in, not quite, nearly two years in, President Trump has not visiting troops in a war zone. Obviously, he did not go to Arlington on Veteran's Day. Do those things bother you?
PANETTA: They do bother me because, you know, presidential leadership as commander in chief is not just about money, and obviously, this President has provided a great deal of funds to the Defense Department. That's good, but the reality is that our men and women in uniform also look to the President of the United States for leadership and for understanding the fact that every day they put their lives on the line. So, they expect presidents to be able to visit the front lines to see what they're doing as every other president I know in recent history has done.
To go to Iraq, to go to Afghanistan, to go to Syria, to visit the cemeteries that celebrate the sacrifices our men and women have made. And the fact that he didn't go to the French cemetery because it was raining. The fact that he didn't go to Arlington on Veteran's Day because somehow he was tired from his trip or too busy. Those are tremendous symbols that our men and women in uniform take as kind of undermining the relationship that they should have with the President who really should understand the fact that they put their lives on the line every day, in order to protect this country. It's time that the President shows that respect for the sacrifices they make.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Secretary Panetta. I appreciate your time.
PANETTA: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, the breaking news, The Washington Post reporting Ivanka Trump used a personal e-mail account to send hundreds of e- mails about government business. Sound familiar?
Plus, Democrats filing a lawsuit saying Matt Whitaker's appointment as Acting Attorney General is unconstitutional. Senator Richard Blumenthal is leading the charge. Does it add up? He's OUTFRONT.
And President Trump says Finland prevents wildfires by raking their forests. The Finns say nay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's mandatory in Finland we have to rake two hours per day, but we got the greatest rakes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:17:39] BURNETT: Breaking news, "The Washington Post" reporting Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of e-mails last year using a personal e- mail account to White House aides, Cabinet officials and assistants. The Post reporting many of the e-mails are in violation of federal records rules. According to people familiar with the White House examination of her correspondence.
Despite her father frequently and viciously attacking Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail for her personal e-mail use, Ivanka Trump claims she had no idea about the rules. Spokesman for her lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has issued this statement in part, "While transitioning into government, after she was given an official account, but until the White House provided her the same guidance they had given other who started before she did, Ms. Trump sometimes used her personal account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family".
OUTFRONT now, Matea Gold, "The Washington Post" Political Investigations Editor, she joins me on the phone. So Matea, what can you tell us about these-mails and Ivanka Trump's e-mail use?
MATEA GOLD, POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST (through phone): Well, our reporters Carol Leonnig and Josh Dawsey learned that there were really two categories of concern regards to her personal e-mails, less than 100 different e-mails involved actual substantive discussion of government policy. Then there was another category of hundreds more that were logistics basically her using her personal account to e-mail her official schedule to assistants. And so those technically also could be in violation of the Presidential Records Act.
BURNETT: And so, in terms of the amount of this, and her -- she had no idea about the rules. That doesn't add up -- yes.
GOLD: So the administration had acknowledged occasional use by Ivanka Trump of her personal e-mail account last year, but we learned that it actually went far beyond how it had been described. And then there obviously were hundreds of e-mails in those two categories I mentioned. And what was striking was that when Ivanka Trump was approached by White House ethics officials about this, she said she was not aware of the e-mail rules and her spokesman for attorney said that once she learned them, they followed proper procedures.
BURNETT: All right. Matea, thank you very much.
Let me just go now to Jen Psaki, former Obama White House Communications Director, former State Department's Spokesperson as well, along with Scott Jennings, former Adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell and Special Assistant to President George W. Bush.
All right, Jen, is these hundreds of e-mails Ivanka Trump, private e- mail account, they're she's saying, you know, she wasn't aware there was any violation here. Your response.
[19:20:07] JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR UNDER PRES. OBAMA: Well the thing that's striking to me, Erin, one of the things I should say, is that the rules for conducting yourself on e- mail when you're in the government are not complicated. It's intuitive actually. I mean, she's certainly should have known because her father ran on -- what about the e-mails as it relates Hillary Clinton for two years. But you should do government business and government e-mail, is as simple as that.
So the notion that she didn't know, that she was suppose to used government e-mail is just -- it's very hard to believe and difficult to believe. The other piece that's very concerning here, I think there's going to be more to begin to is, you know, this was a family e-mail account according to their reporting with Jared Kushner, her husband, who is the point person for the Trump administration on a number of national security issues. He has access to a lot of classified information. She says there wasn't classified information on there but we don't know yet. And I think there'll certainly be more investigating into that.
BURNETT: Well, of course, we know finding out whether there's one or two or duplicates of classified information with a very relevant to this election. Scott, I mean -- and when it comes to use of private e-mail in anyway shape or form. Ivanka Trump is a very smart person. And she like the rest of us heard this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: She deleted the e-mails, she has to go to jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Scott? Does she, by the way, is not Ivanka just to be clear in case there's confusion.
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, I mean, it's obviously not a great story and headline for the White House. So, the core question is how do you move forward from an issue like this and what they have to show is transparency. They had to show involvement from the White House council here.
What I found interesting about the story is that her private lawyers were answering the questions not the White House council. They're going to need to show engagement from that official lawyers in the White House. They're going to need to publicly categorize the e- mails, they're going to need to show that they didn't contain any classified information. And most importantly, they're going to have to show that it happened over this period of time, it was these many e-mails and here's what we did to stop it from happening even further. That would be the way out of this issue.
I would say now that the Democrats are in charge of the House, having lived through an e-mail, investigation myself back during the Bush years right after the Democrats took control. They will clearly use this to trigger a new branch of -- or a line of investigations. So, now the White House council will have this headache to worry about as it relates to their relations with Congress.
BURNETT: And you have you again here those, Scott, as Jen points out, the Washington Post reporting, right, Hillary Clinton's excuse, always was I wasn't aware of the rules. I miss understood the rules. That's exactly what we're hearing now. At least, it appears that the hypocrisy is rather ripe (ph).
JENNINGS: Yes. And that's why they have to be transparent about what was in the emails. If it was as simple as her exchanging some information about personal logistics, I do think some of that is defensible but that's why they have to sort of categorized it and lay it all out and show that there was no well full intent to miss lead or hide information. There was no intent to delete any information. That's why transparency up front in a crisis situation like this when you're trying to manage a story like this is critical.
BURNETT: Well, and that's I guess the Democrats made a mistake, Jen, because obviously a lot of the Hillary Clinton e-mails were about, well, just what Scott is saying.
PSAKI: Great, that is true.
BURNETT: Wedding planning, a yoga instructor, logistics, whatever it was.
PSAKI: No, that's true. But also Hillary Clinton released or the State Department released tens of thousands of her e-mails. So, the transparency bar is a pretty high one and one as Scott has said the White House is going to have to decide if they're going to meet that. Are they going to release Ivanka Trump's email? Otherwise, how will we actually know what's in there.
You know, this was clearly a campaign talking point. I'll be interested to see what Donald Trump says when he's asked about this, which inventible he will be. But I think she also and her lawyers perhaps do but she doesn't know what qualifies as classified or not. So, you know, I don't know that we should take her word for that, not either.
BURNETT: Scott, I want to ask you one other thing as exchange between President Trump and Adam Schiff, obviously The Ranking Democrat on the House Intel Committee. So, Schiff is going to be the chair of that committee. He called Trump's pick for Acting Attorney General which is right that oversee the Russia investigation unconstitutional in an interview.
So then Trump responds on Twitter, "So funny to see little Adam replace the "f" with "ts" and you get an expletive talking about the fact that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was not approved by Senate. What not mentioned is that about that Bob Mueller was not approved by the Senate".
Schiff replying on Twitter 35 minutes later, "Wow. Mr. President, that's a good one. Was that like your answers to Mr. Muller questions or did you write this one yourself?" Scott, first, any excuse, anything they can justify, Trump calling anybody but happens to be, you know, a senior lawmaker an expletive.
JENNINGS: Yes. I would like to tell you that I'm surprised but I'm not because he has routinely given raw, if not, profane nicknames to the people that are his political opponents, Republicans and Democrats.
[19:25:11] So I wasn't surprised to see it. I'm not sure it's a wise tactic because it elevates Schiff, right? I mean, if you're Adam Schiff, this is a good day for you because you've not been elevated by the President in the nickname status.
We all know when you get a nickname from the President, you're under scan. So, I wouldn't do it. I would think through the tactics of this. Are you giving him more relevance, are you giving him more of a platform by launching him into the news even further this way?
BURNETT: Right. And, of course, I would imagine you are saying there's no new low here in the sense of, we're already here at a low every single day it seems with things the President says or does, or how he presents himself.
But Jen, hold on, let me give you a chance to response.
JENNINGS: I mean, unfortunately our culture has accepted a level of coarseness that's unfortunately exists.
BURNETT: Right. And I think we all three can agree on that and hopefully all of our viewers. But Jen, what about the point of Adam Schiff? Why not take the high road? Or that he just say, great, now I'm being picked on. I can politically seize the moment and look good because that's what it looks like.
PSAKI: You know, I'm not sure if it makes them look good. I don't actually think it makes them look good. It always feels good to punch the bully back in the nose. But I think what we saw in 2018, in the election just a few weeks ago, is that the Democrats who ran on issues and ran on substance, and actually tried to be the antidote to the darkness of Donald Trump, where many of the Democrats who were successful.
And so I think if we start to get mired in the muck, I'm not saying that's what Adam Schiff did today. You know, I think he probably had a knee jerk reaction to what he responded quite quickly on Twitter. But hopefully Democrats are not going to be pulled into the muck, because that's how we'll spend the next two years if so.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.
And next, Democrats suing to keep President Trump's Acting Attorney General out of the job. Will it work? Well, one of the top Democrats filing that lawsuit is going to make the case.
And the Trump administration caves, returning Jim Acosta's press pass. Is the White House admitting defeat?
[19:30:00] BURNETT: Tonight, Democrats suing to block Matt Whitaker from serving as attorney general. Three senators filing a lawsuit that claims President Trump's appointment of Whitaker is unconstitutional because he was not confirmed by the Senate.
OUTFRONT now, one of those three senators, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the former attorney general of the state. He sits on the Judiciary Committee.
Senator, good to have you with me tonight. I appreciate your time.
All right. Let's just be blunt here, is this all about politics or do you genuinely think you can win a case?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: We can win this case, we should win this case, we will win this case, because what the president is doing is an end run around the Constitution. It's the highest law of the land and it provides that he very simply cannot install a person like Matt Whitaker, who is his lackey and lap dog when the office really requires qualifications.
And Matt Whitaker lacks the key qualification, which is approval by the Senate. He's depriving us of doing our job, he's depriving the American people of a system of checks and balances, which is designed to protect against this kind of unqualified nominee.
BURNETT: All right. Your case has been assigned to Judge Trevor N. McFadden. He's a Trump appointee, 2017. You voted in favor of him.
Does this mean you will trust his ruling no matter what he doe does?
BLUMENTHAL: If he rules against us on whatever ground, we will appeal it, and I believe that we will win if this case goes to the United States Supreme Court, because there is no question that the highest law of the land, the United States Constitution applies here, and the Supreme Court has an obligation to apply it.
And make no mistake, what's at stake here is not just Matt Whitaker, but all of the decisions of the Department of Justice, the special council investigation. He's shown himself to be hostile to that investigation. He's provided a blueprint for strangling and stifling it.
BLUMENTHAL: And the stakes here are very high.
BURNETT: Now, he has, right? He said he thinks it's not worth anything. That he could starve it from money or someone in the role he now has, could starve it from money. So, it no longer exists. You're right about that.
But Lindsey Graham tells us, Whitaker has used all that harsh language but has now assured Graham that he would, quote, use regular order when it comes to the Mueller investigation. Do you think Graham is right? You know, you say a lot of things but then you're given a position of great power and authority, and you take it very seriously, and you're going to do the right thing.
Is it possible that that is true? And that he's not a threat?
BLUMENTHAL: That's exactly the kind of question that needs to be answered in a Senate hearing. In a vote, in meetings with Whitaker, that's the process that takes place, when the Senate advises and consents.
You know, Alexander Hamilton warned that the president might appoint people of such insignificance and pliancy that they would become mere obsequies instruments of his pleasure.
This man is an instrument of Donald Trump in doing his bidding in a slow motion Saturday Night Massacre, cutting funds, cutting authority, and that's what we need to determine in the United States Senate if there were advice and consent.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you, because, you know, we've been talking a lot about decorum, right? The president, you know, using an expletive to refer to Adam Schiff and many other things, that he has done in that vein.
You and your colleagues do use some very derogative terms in your statement to defend the lawsuit. You just said two of them. You called him a lap dog and a lackey in this interview. But in the statement, you refer to Whitaker as a constitutional nobody and Senator Whitehouse calls him a lackey, which, of course, you just did verbally.
How is that rhetoric any different from that of the president?
BLUMENTHAL: This rhetoric is in legal papers, a complaint that we have filed in the United States district court. What matters here are not our words, but the law.
BLUMENTHAL: And --
BURNETT: But you're not worried about words like lackey and lap dog minimizing what you're saying and make it sound, you know, more personal and more like the president is rightly criticized for using those words?
BLUMENTHAL: The courts are going to decide whether or not we have been deprived of our right. It is our right of senators to do our job, and we're doing that job because we were elected to do that job.
So, the president's depriving the American people of that right by doing this constitutional end run. Those terms, those laws are going to be critical in the courts consideration. Not his rhetoric or even our rhetoric.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time as always, Senator Blumenthal.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, the White House backing down, restoring Jim Acosta's press pass.
[19:35:03] And the White House now spinning that defeat tonight. You'll hear how.
And President Trump about to be briefed by the CIA on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This after reports the CIA has concluded that the Saudi crown prince, in fact, a ruler of the country ordered the killing personally. So, why is Trump still saying this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good.
(END VIDOE CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, the White House caves, saying it will fully restore the press credentials for CNN's Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta. CNN now dropping its lawsuit against the president and the administration with the press pass in hand. And perhaps as a face saving measure, the White House today also
detailing so-called widely understood practices for presidential press conferences, these supposedly including, quote, a single question from each journalist, follow up questions permitted only, quote, at the discretion of the president or other White House officials. I guess it would include Sarah Sanders and, you know, if anyone watched some of those press conferences, the whole point is everybody asks follow up after follow-up and fights over each other, that's the way things have always been done.
So, just to be clear, not only do these rules not get observed no one's agreed to them, and they're not widely understood. OK? Let me just play what I mentioned. Take a look at what happened at the last presidential press conference on November 7th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: One question on the lame duck, sir, and one on your cabinet.
[19:40:03] REPORTER: Can I ask you one more question, Mr. President?
REPORTER: Quick one, quick follow-up. Which loss last night surprised you the most?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: No follow-ups. OK. Guess not.
OUTFRONT now, our Chief Media Correspondent for CNN, and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES", Brian Stelter, and White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, April Ryan, the author of --
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: You can ask me as many follow-ups as you want.
BURNETT: -- "Under Fire: Covering the Trump Administration".
OK. Brian, this was a major victory for CNN tonight.
STELTER: Yes, that's the headline, we've been through two really strange weeks, the White House press corps has never seen anything like this, but it is clear today now that the White House has back down and said Acosta's press pass is back in his hand, CNN's gone ahead withdrawn the lawsuit, there's no more lawsuit, and things will hopefully get back to normal, to the extent there's anything normal about the Trump White House.
Going-forward, one of CNN's lawyers said to me, the system worked. CNN had to go to court to protect Acosta's rights. But the system worked. Checks and balances worked in this case.
BURNETT: And as you point out, you know, Jim Acosta gets this letter of, hey, there's these rules, April, there's no follow-ups allowed.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. BURNETT: Whatever these rules are, they were only sent to him, and as
we just showed, no one else observes them or is aware of them, and yet --
BURNETT: So what happens here, right? I mean, this is not the way things have ever operated at this White House, right? Everyone's like one more question, a follow, two questions.
RYAN: And that's the issue right there, because it's already been done. It's documented, it's on tape for the world to see how these follow-ups happen, particularly when the people they want to engage with. And this is not about Jim, it's not about us, it's about the American public getting information.
And, Erin, one thing that we have not touched upon is once you do a follow-up, what is a follow-up? A follow-up helps to flush out the answer or the issue just by asking what's going on. And some could question is this censorship. Some could say, you know, this is not following the mandate or the principles that the Founding Fathers put down. This is not the new normal. This is not normal.
You know, we talked about this robust back and forth between the press and the president of the United States. This somewhat constraints the process, if you will, especially when it's being done over and over again. We've seen it.
So, the question is, how will this play out? And really, will it be to the detriment of the viewership or the American taxpayer to find out really what's going on?
BURNETT: Well, you know, Brian when the president hinted at the new rules, and in that he said. If I think someone's acting out of sorts, I'll leave, I'll say thank you very much. Thanks for coming. I'll leave. Those reporters will not be too friendly to whoever it is that's acting up.
It's basically I will withhold access to myself because of whomever I didn't like. And then the rest of the press will gang up on that person and take care of it for me. That's very chilling.
STELTER: Yes, trying to drive a wedge between reporters. What's so notable the past week is that more 50 news outlets did stand with CNN. Did all stand united. We've almost never seen anything like that before.
So, if Trump wants to try to drive a wedge, can he try, I'm not sure if he'll succeed. I do wonder if he'll try to come back around use these rules as a pretext to try to kick other reporters out in the future. But we will see if he tries it or not. Look, he had a bad loss in court this week, today the White House gave in. So, maybe they won't try this again.
But the bigger picture is that the president's attack of the media, takes many forms, right? This war on the truth trying to take away Acosta's press pass was one of the many examples of that war. And I think he's going to try to delegitimize the press, to say real news is fake, the fake news is real, to tell you can't believe your lying eyes. All of that continues. But thankfully, reporters like Acosta are free to ask about it.
BURNETT: And let me just, April, remind everybody of what the president recently said about you in the midst of all this brouhaha. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEOI CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The same thing with April Ryan, I watch her get up, I mean, you talk about somebody that's a loser, she doesn't know what the hell she's doing, she's very nasty. And she shouldn't be. She shouldn't be. You have to treat the White House and the office of the presidency with respect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, April, what's next? When you see these rules sent to Jim Acosta, you hear yourself called out in that way, what's next?
RYAN: Oh, I was called out and I wasn't even there, I was on the president's mind. Let me say this to you, what happened to Jim Acosta, I was waiting to see how it played out, because the president basically, when he was talking about Jim Acosta and the revoke of his press badge. I was the next person he had in his mind.
So, what happens to Jim affects me directly, and I'm hearing that it could have been another group of people, a small group of people that they planned to pull the press badge from.
[19:45:03] But I'm going to continue to do my job. I'm not what the president called me. My mother used to always say, it's not what they call you, but what you answer to.
BURNETT: I like that. Thank you very much.
And next --
RYAN: I'm glad.
BURNETT: -- President Trump about to receive a full briefing on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Will he stand by his CIA, the CIA of the United States of America, which concludes the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder according to the Washington Post? Or will he not?
And it was the message that launched 1,000 memes. Trump's cure for massive wildfires, raking.
BURNETT: I want to stick with an ally. Those are the words from President Trump, as he is facing a formal briefing from the CIA tomorrow on the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He is talking about Saudi Arabia, that ally. The briefing will include the CIA's damning conclusion which is that
the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, personally ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi according to senior U.S. official. Jamal Khashoggi, columnist to "The Washington Post", resident of the United States of America.
Here is the president when pressed about MBS's role in the murder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:50:04] CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: What if the crown prince speaking to you, the president of the United States, directly lied to you about --
TRUMP: He told me he had nothing to do with it. He told me that I would say maybe five times at different points.
WALLACE: So, what if he is lying?
TRUMP: As recently as a few days ago.
WALLACE: Do you just live with it because you need him?
TRUMP: Well, will anybody really know? We do have an ally and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, will anybody really know? If that is the conclusion of the CIA, then, yes, somebody really knows and you are taking the side of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia who you really don't know from Adam, in all for intents and purposes over Gina Haspel and the CIA. There is no other way to put that.
So, let's go now to former CIA operative and analyst Bob Baer, intelligence and security analyst.
So, Bob, look, that does seem to be what it comes down to. Am I taking it too far? Oh, I talked to MBS. He told me five times he didn't do it. Well, if the CIA concludes he does, and the president's take away is will anybody really know, what do you make of that?
ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Erin, you are right. It's just preposterous. I mean, it's like Trump saying that the Russians didn't hack the elections in 2016 when the evidence is there. The national security agency, the CIA, everybody knows it except the president. He just doesn't like to deal with unpleasant facts that stand in his way of making a deal, a business deal basically with a country which is very brutal.
I mean, what they did to Khashoggi, what I have heard is the same thing that the Islamic State did to American hostages. It was a horribly brutal act and this crown prince clearly was responsible for it. Everybody who knows Saudi Arabia including the CIA knows he was behind it. And we simply can't have him sitting on the throne because he is going to do something equally irrational at some point and it will be much worse if we kick the can down the road.
BURNETT: What does the CIA do about it? Obviously, they leaked out this conclusion before the president was formally briefed. Although when Gina Haspel, the CIA director, came back from Istanbul after listening to these tapes, seeing whatever evidence there was, she did meet with him, right?
So, whatever technical term you want to use around this formal briefing, the president is in the loop here as he should be. But what does it say to the CIA? What's the takeaway, when he talks to Vladimir Putin and says, well, he assured me he didn't do it? And when he talks to MBS, he assured me he didn't do it in direct contradiction to his own country's intelligence?
BAER: Well, the CIA and other intelligence services answer to the White House. He is the boss. So, when the boss says I don't trust you I trust this random person, it's completely demoralizing.
But, you know, good on Gina Haspel. She used to work for me. She deals in fact. She simply put the facts down on paper and told the president. And that's the best she can do. At the same time, the rank and file are saying, what's the point?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Bob Baer. As we said, that formal briefing supposed to happen tomorrow. You heard the president coming in. He told me, you can never know for sure.
OUTFRONT next, President Trump says Finland rakes its forests. Is it time to rake America great again?
[19:57:36] BURNETT: Raking and cleaning, that is what President Trump says would help prevent deadly wildfires like the one raging in California. He is crediting Finland for the idea. The Finns do not like it.
Jessica Dean is OUTFRONT.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is RAGA the new MAGA?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rake America great again.
DEAN: It all started Saturday when President Trump offered this solution while touring the unprecedented fire damage in California.
TRUMP: I was with the president of Finland and he said we have a much different -- we are a forest nation. He called a forest nation. And he spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. And they don't have any problem.
DEAN: The only problem is the Finnish President Sauli Niinisto says he never said that. Niinisto did admit he discussed the California wildfires with President Trump while the two met in Paris. But he says the idea of raking never came up. In fact, Niinisto told a Finnish newspaper he thinks raking came to Trump's mind after he saw some of the firefighters doing it in California.
TRUMP: I was watching the fire men and they were raking areas. They were raking areas where the fire was right over there. They were raking trees, little trees like this, not trees, little bushes that you could see are totally dry, weeds. And they are raking them. They were on fire.
DEAN: But President Niinisto says that's not the Finn's solution to keeping their forest safe, adding the only raking he sees is in his own yard.
Finns have flooded the Internet with posts mocking the idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is mandatory we have to rake two hours per day. We got the greatest rakes in the world.
DEAN: On Twitter, one user wrote, quote, off to perform my civic duty. Another posted, quote, not on my watch, #rakenews. And this woman said, quote, just this afternoon I was busy meeting my quota.
Trump may have been trying to offer a solution after initially criticizing poor forest management to the deadly fires, but he has been raked through the Internet after proposing such an idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anytime you're welcome back to Finland, Mr. Trump, and we can teach you how to rake.
DEAN: The jokes keep coming. People in Finland and across the world continue to post using #raga and #rakeAmericagreatagain on Twitter tonight, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Jessica. Thank you.
And thanks to all of you for joining us. See you back here tomorrow.