Return to Transcripts main page
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
CNN, NYT: Trump Wanted To Prosecute Political Enemies; President Trump Sides With Saudi Arabia Despite CIA Assessment Crown Prince Ordered Journalist's Killing; Interview with Governor John Kasich of Ohio; Trump Defends Ivanka's Use of Personal Email; Former Navy SEAL Speaks Out After Trump's Criticism of Bin Laden Capture. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired November 20, 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: That was Nick Watt reporting for us from California. Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. President Trump wanted the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey, what stopped him. A warning that could lead to impeachment.
Plus, is Trump letting the Saudi Crown Prince get away with murder? The Ohio Governor, John Kasich, weighs in.
And he killed Osama bin Laden, now he's responding to President Trump's criticism of the raid. SEAL Team Six member Rob O'Neill is OUTFRONT. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT this evening, presidential payback. The President of the United States telling the White House Counsel that he wanted the Justice Department to prosecute two of his biggest political enemies, Hillary Clinton and the man he had fired as the FBI Director, Jim Comey. Those conversations happening last year and all the way into this year. White House lawyers telling the President he could be impeached if he went through with this plan.
It's a stunning and blatant example the President of the United States trying to use this Justice Department as a tool for political revenge, putting in his own people and saying, go after Hillary Clinton and Jim Comey. He made no secret of his desire to investigate and prosecute Comey and Clinton. He tweeted in April, "GOP lawmakers asking Sessions to investigate Comey and Hillary Clinton, Fox News, good luck with that request".
And then, of course, remember this? Right, he had always threatened to do it, actually trying to would have been a whole other step but here's candidate Trump in a debate with Clinton, threatening to put her in jail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: It's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.
TRUMP: Because you'd be in jail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary Clinton --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: This major developing story breaking as we learn that the President has submitted his written answers to Special Counsel Bob Mueller.
So let's get straight to Pamela Brown at the White House. Pam, what more are you learning about what the President wanted to direct the Justice Department to do about both Hillary Clinton and Jim Comey.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We have learned, Erin, according to a source familiar that I've spoken with that over the last year President Trump asked top DOJ officials, including the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein and then Chief of Staff Matt Whitaker who is now the Acting Attorney General, as well as White House Counsel Don McGahn to have DOJ look into investigating Hillary Clinton, even asking Don McGahn to have DOJ prosecute Hillary Clinton.
Again, this is according to a source familiar with this matter. And I'm told by this source that it became so common place that the President would ask about what DOJ was doing to prosecute Hillary Clinton or investigate various matters relating to Clinton, including the Clinton Foundation, including her alleged ties to a Russian nuclear agency that has not been proven, that whenever DOJ officials would come over, they knew they had to be prepared with a response to tell the President to appease him that DOJ was looking into the matter.
And according to "The New York Times," it wasn't just Hillary Clinton, Erin. The President also asked Don McGahn, then White House Counsel, who has now left, for DOJ to prosecute James Comey, to look into that. In fact, according to "The Times," Don McGahn pushed back, robust that to the President and even had a team of White House lawyers draw up a memo saying it would be improper and would cross the line and there would be severe consequences for the President to ask his DOJ to do that.
Of course, Erin, there were supposed to be independence between the White House and DOJ, although they're both under the executive branch. For this kind of reason to prevent a President from ordering investigations, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Pamela.
And I want to go now to the former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District in New York, Harry Sandick, former New Jersey Attorney General, Anne Milgram and former Adviser to Four Presidents, including Nixon and Clinton, David Gergen. Anne, what do you make of this, right? You know, he made the comment, you'd be in jail. People -- It was a laugh line at the time.
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Yes.
BURNETT: He did then want to move forward with this.
MILGRAM: And I think even in the tweets, it was -- it seemed almost like -- like it was a laugh line or he was just venting. This is unbelievable. This basically is showing us that he's asked senior leadership at the Department of Justice and the White House Counsel to try to influence an investigation which is not how it works. Politicians don't get to say, go investigate and charge my rival. That's, you know, it's all about what law -- what laws exist and what facts are there and the idea that any president would try to do that is really is boast astonishing and deeply troubling.
[19:05:06] HARRY SANDICK, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: It's shocking, although perhaps not surprising. For years, he has this, you know, lock her up chant that he leads people in, and so it turns out that true to the that chant, he was indeed asking people in his administration to, so to speak, lock her up. It's, as Anne said, it's not --
BURNETT: It's also proof, by the way, that he was literal.
SANDICK: Yes. Taken literally, not just figuratively.
BURNETT: You know, this was not just serious, this was literal and he did want to do it.
SANDICK: And completely inappropriate, as Anne said, and as was said in the reported piece, the type of thing that can be part of an impeachment case.
MILGRAM: And remember, everybody's told him he can't do it so even -- I mean, we can only think about how many times DOJ officials have told him no. We now know McGahn wrote him an entire memo to tell him no.
BURNETT: I mean, what does that mean to you, David Gergen? It got to the point of McGahn having to write this memo, it got into this year, right, possibly up to almost a year after he fired Jim Comey, still obsessing with investigating Hillary Clinton and Jim Comey.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER ADVISER TO FOUR PRESIDENTS: It's madness. You know, thank goodness for James Madison. Had it not been for the checks and balances he and the other framers established early on, you know, we'd be far down the road toward authoritarianism right now. The checks and balances are holding the President in check, thankfully. He hasn't been able to follow through on some of this stuff. But, you know, there is a bright red line that we -- you do not cross any time, anywhere in a democracy, and that is to use the courts and the law to go after your political rivals. Secondly, you do respect or have to respect the independence of the judiciary. And thirdly, and very importantly, he's been telling us he does not know Whitaker, the man he appointed to, you know, help -- to run the -- be the acting head of the Justice Department. It turns out Whitaker's been in these meetings --
GERGEN: -- according to these reports, so he knows exactly what the game is and what's expected of him.
BURNETT: And so what does that mean, Harry, when you look at this now? Whitaker's now in charge. McGahn, out. McGahn's the guy who wrote the memos thing you can't do this.
SANDICK: It means -- while David's right that the safeguards of checks and balances have thus far operated. They've operated because they're dependent on senior administration officials like, apparently, the White House Counsel and the Deputy Attorney General placing checks within the executive branch on the President's efforts to bring these prosecutions. Some of these people are gone and some of them can be overruled now by an acting deputy -- an acting attorney general whose constitutional status is very much under question, whose appointment in that role may be illegal.
BURNETT: And Anne, here he is, the President, right, saying, you know, lamenting, right, because he often, you know, wears his ideas on his sleeve, right, and now we now know that some of the things that he said, he really meant, wasn't just a chant, he meant it. Lock her up. And he's said, I'm upset, I can't have the Justice Department do my bidding in every way. Here he is.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: The saddest thing is that because I'm the President of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I am not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing, and I'm very frustrated by it. I look at what's happening with the Justice Department. Why aren't they going after Hillary Clinton with her e-mails and with her -- the dossier?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MILGRAM: What's funny about that is by his own admission, he knows he's not supposed to do it. He knows that that's not how our government works.
BURNETT: And yet he tries.
MILGRAM: And yet he tries and he tries continually and it's worth noting that Whitaker said publicly that there should be a special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton and so I think it's deeply troubling. He's now sitting as the acting attorney general, and he has authority over many of these questions.
BURNETT: So does this change, David, the calculus on Capitol Hill about Whitaker? We know where he stands on this. We now know the President keeps trying.
GERGEN: I think it does change the calculus in a negative direction and that is it's much more problematic now to have him sitting there. And, you know, the House of Representatives is currently going in a democratic house, is clearly going to start asking a lot of tough questions under oath. The other questions, I think, though is how much longer are Republicans on the Senate going to put up with this? How much longer are they going to defend this?
BURNETT: I want to ask you one more question in here about Whitaker. He corrected his financial disclosure forms five times. We're just learning this. But before he was even appointed to the Acting A.G. post, five times. And we learned that he got $900,000, almost $1 million in payments from a conservative group, oversight group that he founded. Is that a problem or not?
MILGRAM: I think there are so many problems surrounding Whitaker. In addition to what you just said, we know that he was part of the board of a company that was investigated for fraud. There are countless -- he's also associated with one of the witnesses in the conspiracy investigation into Russia, the collusion investigation. And he said publicly that Mueller's investigation should be essentially choked by cutting off money. So there are huge number of issues in addition to what Harry points out about whether it's even lawful, I think he's a problematic choice to sit in that chair.
[19:10:02] BURNETT: And what about the questions to Mueller? They're now submitted, right? The whole debate. I mean, it seems -- I mean, I guess you could still have an interview in, you could have that battle but it seems it's as close to off the table as it could possibly be. He submitted his answers.
SANDICK: It does seem as if Mueller has decided the essentially it's not worth the fight to take the written answers. And maybe we don't know everything he's investigating. It may be that Trump's testimony actually isn't that important to what he's doing.
And so rather than engage in this yearlong battle with the Supreme Court that he might lose, that Mueller might lose, take written answers and move on and finish your investigation using other steps. We know that certain aspects seem to be winding up. Flynn is due to be sentenced next month.
SANDICK: Manafort's cooperation seems problematic.
BURNETT: And so David, does that mean Mueller is essentially done?
GERGEN: I don't think we can say that yet. Let's see whether he starts coming out with some indictments here in the next few days. It sounds like he's very, very close to done but I don't think you can say that. I think still hanging in the air is the question of Whitaker. He may push for now for a second Special Counsel. That could happen. He could, in fact, if they're still talking about it in the White House, that could still happen.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Huge question raised tonight but I think a lot of people thought, why do you guys worry about these things? So this is why.
And next, getting away with murder. The President in an extraordinary statement, there is no other word for what he put out today. It was like Dr. Seuss until you realized it was really from the President of the United States. Taking the side of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia against the CIA. Is that what he means by America first?
And key in the killing of Osama bin Laden. The former SEAL Team Six member Rob O'Neill, what he says about the President's criticism of the raid.
And Trump defending Ivanka's use of personal e-mail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There was no hiding. There was no deleting like Hillary Clinton did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:15:49] BURNETT: Tonight, getting away with murder. President Trump ignoring the CIA, instead siding with the Saudi Crown Prince in the brutal slaying of Jamal Khashoggi but Trump says putting Saudi Arabia first actually is putting America first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you siding with the Saudis over your own intelligence?
TRUMP: Because it's America first to me. It's all about America first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. Khashoggi of course was a legal American resident. He had two citizens, two U.S. citizens as children. He worked for an American newspaper. He lived near Washington, D.C.
The President, you heard pretty clear, bah, he says, it is America first, and by the way, he says, the CIA doesn't know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The CIA has looked at it, they've studied it a lot. They have nothing definitive and the fact is, maybe he did, maybe he didn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Except that doesn't appear to be true. According to the CIA, the Saudi Crown Prince personally directed the assassination, which frankly is stating what is common sense to begin with since murdering a U.S. resident with a team of 15 people, including a forensic expert and members of the Crown Prince. Security detail would not happen without the Crown Prince's knowledge. Here's former CIA Director Leon Panetta on the evidence that the CIA has.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: That's high confidence, and that means that there is very clear and strong evidence that that is the case. For the President to ignore the intelligence, to ignore the facts in this case and not take a strong stand against the kind of behavior that was involved here in murdering somebody, dismembering them in their own embassy, to not take a strong position sends a clear message to the world that the United States is not going to take action when a country behaves in that manner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Even some of the President's closest allies are shocked, horrified, they're speaking out. Senator Lindsey Graham saying in a statement tonight, "It is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. While Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of the Crown Prince in multiple ways has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic". That couldn't be more clear. And Republican Senator Bob Corker tweeting, "I never thought I'd say the day when a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia".
And, you know, in one crucial way, this is a flip-flop for the President because he said he would hold the Crown Prince accountable if necessary. But when the CIA came out and said, well, Crown Prince, we've got the -- we've got the information here, high confidence, he was calling the shots. Trump changed his tune. Here he is before the CIA concluded that the Saudi prince directed the brutal murder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It depends whether or not the king or the Crown Prince knew about it, in my opinion. Number one, what happened, but whether or not they knew about it. If they knew about it, that would be bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Except for it isn't. Today in a bizarre press release reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss book because it began with its own paragraph, "The world is a very dangerous place!"
Trump raved about Saudi Arabia as a great ally saying, "It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge this tragic event, maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" Here's the bottom line. Trump is not going to do anything about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're not going to give up hundreds of billions of dollars in orders and let Russia, China, and everybody else have them. It's all about, for me, very simple. It's America first. Saudi Arabia, if we broke with them, I think your oil prices would go through the roof. I've kept them down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, Bob Baer, former CIA Operative and Kimberly Dozier, CNN Global Affairs Analyst and Contributing Writer for The Daily Beast who has broken so much of the story. Thanks to both. Bob, Trump, you know, ignoring his top intelligence officials, right, ignoring the CIA and siding, instead, with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince.
ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, you know, Erin, I have never seen this happen before. I have never seen a President with less of a backbone, refusing to take on a country like Saudi Arabia who's -- they clearly killed this man. The Crown Prince did.
[19:20:08] And to say, listen, we're just going to cover this up for an American resident, a PRA, basically it's an open field on Americans. You know, if the trade is good with a country and you want to kill an American, American resident, go ahead. I mean, I have never seen such cynical approach to foreign policy ever.
BURNETT: I mean, Kim, you know, the statement from the President, I think we were all stunned. You know, maybe some would say shocked but not surprised but nonetheless, rambling, raving, it actually went on and on about Iran before even mentioning Saudi Arabia, you know, beginning with those words, "The world is a very dangerous place!" Going on about conspiracy theories about Khashoggi being a terrorist, which have been peddled by Saudi and its allies. It was a stunning statement.
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE DAILY BEAST: A stunning statement but you can see in the statement some of the ways the White House got to this conclusion that President Trump reached this conclusion. With Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, they had basically put all their eggs in that basket. They were counting on him to fix a lot of problems throughout the Middle East. They also invested a certain amount of personal prestige in this relationship so they're looking for a way to let him out of it.
And the folks that I've spoken to or who are familiar with the CIA assessment fall into two camps. It's like a Rorschach test. If like the President, they want this just to pass, they say, there's no smoking gun. If they want to hold the Saudi government accountable and possibly see MBS as the Crown Prince is called, replaced, they say this is a high confidence assessment based on what the CIA knows about how this government works.
BURNETT: All right. And as you know, Phil Mudd was saying to me, you know, this isn't them saying, well, he could have done it or maybe he didn't. This is, he did it.
I mean, Bob, you know, the U.S. has a long history of supporting dictators, right? We might see a similar outcome without this press release and this visible public defense of MBS from another President. It would never happen in this way. But Presidents have looked the other way before. Does Trump have another option here?
BAER: He's got a lot of options. One's called the Fifth Fleet. We protect Saudi Arabia. If it weren't for the Fifth Fleet, they would go under. They'd be speaking Farsi. They'd be occupied by Iran.
They are not in a position to tell us what to do. The only thing they really have is money and they have put a lot of money into Trump Empire just as the Russians have, and he's afraid to take them on. Anybody who he's done business with. I don't see it any other way.
We could simply go to Riyadh and say, we cannot deal with the Crown Prince unless you have absolute airtight proof that he was not involved, you guys got to go. We've done that in the past in Saudi Arabia. We said we can't work with you. We can't refuel your airplanes. Bombing Yemen. We can't send you weapons and we're not going to -- our fleet is not going to protect you if you're going to be killing American journalists. It's that easy and if the President had a backbone, that's what he would do.
BURNETT: I mean, Kim, he's obviously not doing it and you even have, you know, Lindsey Graham, who has backed him on several, you know, controversial things recently saying that the Crown Prince has been made beyond toxic. Is there a will in Congress to force the President's hand?
DOZIER: Well, there will be among the Democrats, some of them newly elected to the House. That is one of the reasons the Trump administration had already prepared a way to start stepping back from the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, by cutting off the refueling assistance that the U.S. was giving. Because they were trying to preemptively say, we're moving away from this relationship, we're punishing MBS, but from the Trump administration's point of view, they've got a couple things driving them.
They are worried about China and Russia taking advantage if there is a void in contact with the kingdom. They're also worried about the fact that MBS has rolled out some of the reforms that they have been pushing the kingdom to do for decades. And so they're worried that if he goes, those reforms go with him.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. Of course MBS, you know, allowing women to drive and then jailing some of the activists who had fought for that. Pretty fraught.
Next, Ohio Governor and possible 2020 Presidential contender John Kasich weighs in. Have we hit a new low? He's OUTFRONT.
And Republicans now demanding more information about Ivanka Trump's personal e-mail, using it for White House business. How can she claim she didn't know any better? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[19:28:08] BURNETT: Welcome back. We are following the breaking news this hour. Source telling CNN, President Trump on multiple occasions spoke with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Matt Whitaker, then Chief of Staff to the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, now of course the Acting Attorney General.
And he talked to him about whether the Justice Department was progressing in investigating Hillary Clinton. He asked the former White House Counsel, Don McGahn, to order the DOJ to investigate her. Asked Don McGahn to do that, McGahn rejected it.
The New York Times also reporting that Trump wanted the justice department to investigate the man he had fired as the FBI director, Jim Comey.
OUTFRONT now, the Republican Governor of Ohio, 2016 presidential candidate, John Kasich.
Governor, I appreciate your time tonight. Obviously, this news breaking just before we came on air.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Erin, before we -- yes, before we go any farther. First of all, congratulations on being back and God bless, Owen, your little boy.
BURNETT: Thank you. That is very kind. Nice to year his name on the air. What's your reaction to this development tonight?
KASICH: Well, I mean, look I no longer sort of surprised by anything. In fact, I called my legal counsel and he said, how can a president tell the attorney general who to indict. I mean it just doesn't work that way. So, I got no idea what that was about. You know, it's just another head shaking, head scratching move that we see.
And then of course coupled today with the statement about the murder of Khashoggi is absolutely stunning. And Erin, I know you had guest on talking about it but I just want to tell you that we're in danger of seeing our moral standing. Moral standing in the world eroded.
I happened to meet a tremendous prisoner of conscience, a man by the name of Anatoly Shcharansky, who sat in the Soviet Gular for many years and was defiant about his seeking freedom and not caving to the Soviets. But one thing that kept him alive in that prison and gave him hope was the United States of America, the torch that Lady Liberty holds.
And we read about these prisoners of conscience in places like China, people who have been put in these solitary prisons and they lose their lives and the hope that they have, the hope for humanity, is the United States of America, and we say it's all about some economic transaction.
I tell you, Erin, the world scratches its head and wonders, what is becoming of America? And this is -- this is really, really serious stuff. The hopes and dreams of people who have had the guts and the courage to stand up against tyranny, this is a dark day for them, because they say, does anybody care about me?
BURNETT: And look --
KASICH: And when we don't care, it's terrible.
BURNETT: I want to ask you more about McGahn, but first, because you brought up Khashoggi.
BURNETT: You know, when the president -- he obviously put the statement out that you referenced and then he spoke about it and to your point, right, he made it very clear that it's about money. He was asked explicitly, why are you siding with the Saudis over your own intelligence? He doesn't dispute that's what he's doing, because that is what he's doing.
Let me play the exchange for you, Governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Why are you siding with the Saudis than your own intelligence?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because it's America first to me. It's all about America first. We're not going to give up hundreds of billions of dollars in orders and let Russia, China and everybody else have them. It's all about for me, very simple, it's America first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: There are other presidents who may have come to the same -- yes, go ahead.
KASICH: I don't know why he just didn't -- why did -- Erin, why didn't he say, hundreds and hundreds of trillions and trillions and trillions of dollars? Come on. It is a ridiculous overstatement, and I'm upset about this because I know that by us giving up our moral authority, it has a profound impact on the world.
And I'll tell you what a lot of people in the western world are wondering. Is this America for four years or is this going to continue? And it's a serious question.
Listen, I hear from these people around the world all the time, and what they're hoping is that this is a momentary, in some ways, a momentary lapse of reason, to quote Pink Floyd, and you know, at the end of the day, we got to hope that this is not -- this is not good for our country, it's not good for the world, and when we look at the fact that we just ended the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, we know what's happened since world war ii, how we've kept the world at peace. I mean, people are wondering where the heck has America gone? Very serious. (CROSSTALK)
KASICH: That and this whole business of McGahn.
BURNETT: When are you going to make a decision? Jeff Flake said -- yes, I want to ask you about that. But Jeff Flake said recently someone needs to run, it won't be him, to provide a conservative challenge. When are you going to make your decision?
KASICH: Well, you know, it's not like the "Wizard of Oz" where the wicked witch comes in and puts the sand dial down and says, when this runs out, you're in trouble. I -- all options are on the table, Erin, and you know, these kinds of things really are so troubling.
So, if I think that I can have a major impact, if I think that I can help change the debate, if I think I can help heal part of our country, I mean, that's a big thing to say, and I mean, it in the most humble way. Then I got to seriously think about doing it.
But I will tell you, whether I run or whether I don't, I'm not going to give up on the idea that we need to have unity, less partisanship, and we need to get a healing. So, I don't know exactly, Erin. I'm not avoiding it. I mean, I just don't know. I can tell you that every single option is on the table.
BURNETT: So, when you talk about Don McGahn, the Justice Department now is run by a close Trump ally, Matt Whitaker, who is apparently aware of these requests and conversations in some way from the reporting that we have, it's still being fleshed out. Do you think the president will now continue to try to have a special counsel on Hillary Clinton or, you know, that this really could still happen now that Whitaker is actually the acting attorney general?
KASICH: I think, if I'm reading a CNN report tonight, it seemed as though Whitaker did not go along with this. Don McGahn, to his credit, I don't know these guys, and I'm -- not happen to be a lawyer. That's another reason to be pleased with me.
But all the friends of mine who are lawyers say, you know, that I've talked to about this, they say, you know, it's kind of crazy. And so I think we can say that those who were approached said no. As to what he's going to do forward, I really don't know. But it's inappropriate.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Governor Kasich, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
KASICH: Thanks, Erin. Good to be with you.
BURNETT: All right. And next, part of the team that killed Osama bin Laden, the man who pulled the trigger. What does SEAL Team Six's Rob O'Neill say about the president's slam on his operation? O'Neill is OUTFRONT, next.
And Trump going to an old playbook defense of Ivanka's use of personal e-mail. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:35:01] TRUMP: What it is, it's a false story. Hillary Clinton deleted 33,000 e-mails. She had a server in the basement. That's the real story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump defending his daughter Ivanka's use of personal e-mail for official business.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There was no hiding. There was no deleting, like Hillary Clinton did. There was no servers in the basement like Hillary Clinton had. You're talking about a whole different -- you're talking about all fake news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK, well, it's not fake news. It happened.
And there is unease about it on Capitol Hill from Democrats and Republicans. Republican Trey Gowdy sending a letter to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly asking for more information about Ivanka's personal e-mail use. Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, meantime, the likely incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee who could be asking for a lot of this information, says he is going to look into it.
Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT now. He's in West Palm Beach, near the president's Mar-a-Lago resort, where his family has arrived for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Jeff, Ivanka Trump defending herself as well. Her excuse, essentially, she didn't know. She didn't know this wasn't okay.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, that is her excuse. Good evening.
And that's a statement from her lawyer, saying that, look, when she was making her transition into the White House, her transition into government, she started several months into 2017 and she wasn't as up to speed on all the rules and regulations.
[19:40:03] So, she, you know, simply did not know the rules and she was, you know, mainly using her private e-mail address. Her lawyer says, for logistical things. But the reality is the watchdog group that found all this found a variety of e-mails, perhaps hundreds of e- mails sent to members of Congress, members of the cabinet, so much more than logistics here, but the excuse simply is, was not aware this was an issue. Never mind the fact, of course, this was only the biggest soundtrack of the 2016 campaign. BURNETT: It was the biggest soundtrack, right? There's no American
that wasn't aware this was an issue. It was the issue of the election. Let me just give a couple of examples in case anyone has forgotten what an important issue it was for her father.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: She doesn't even remember whether or not she was instructed on how to use e-mails. Were you instructed on how to use them? I can't remember.
She should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she did with e-mails.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Let's be clear the "she" is Hillary Clinton, not Ivanka Trump. I mean, you know, it is -- it doesn't seem more right than that, right? She doesn't remember whether she was instructed. I mean, there's no one in the Trump family who would not be aware that using personal e-mail was the wrong thing to do.
ZELENY: Certainly not, or no one in public life after the president, Donald J. Trump, made that the biggest issue at every debate, at every rally. It still is. I mean, these crowds are still, you know, and supporters are still chanting, "lock her up", meaning Hillary Clinton.
But the reality here is, this is a serious issue. It's not just a partisan issue. As you said earlier, look at the Republicans who are pressing the White House, demanding answers from the White House. Trey Gowdy, hardly a shrinking violet here, a supporter of the president, the outgoing oversight chairman in the House, he said he wants answers by December 5th. That's the week after the thanksgiving holiday.
Ron Johnson, the top Senate chairman of Senate Homeland Security Committee, same thing. So the reality here is this is a serious problem, whether the president likes it or not, probably more of an ethical problem than a legal problem but the reality is, we do not know what's in those e-mails. Republicans on Capitol Hill as well as Democrats say they'll find out -- Erin.
BURNETT: Need to find out and of course when someone says they didn't delete, did they or did they not? This all has to be now looked into.
All right. Jeff, thank you very much from Mar-a-Lago tonight.
And next, the man who was a key player in the killing of Osama bin Laden, the person who killed Osama bin Laden, weighs on the president insulting the operation, the man who was in charge of it. Rob O'Neill of SEAL Team Six is my guest.
And the Mississippi race should have been a shoo-in for Republicans but are pictures like these of the Republican candidate in a confederate hat sinking her chances?
[19:46:35] BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump saying he doesn't know the four-star admiral he personally slammed for the Bin Laden raid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don't know Admiral -- I don't know Admiral McRaven.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: This after he disparaged Admiral McRaven by name just two days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He's a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer, and frankly --
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: He was a Navy SEAL
TRUMP: Wouldn't it have been nice if he got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Robert O'Neill, former SEAL Team Six member who killed bin Laden, also author of "The Operator."
I mean, what's your reaction when the president of the United States comes out and says, you know, this wasn't done right?
ROBERT O'NEILL, FORMER NAVY SEAL ON BIN LADEN MISSION: Well, this is part of the problem with stuff that goes on in Washington. This is partisan politics right there. Simply because -- I mean, Admiral Bill McRaven never endorsed anybody for president. In the community, we know which way he leans. Some guys lean one way, some the other.
But because President Trump thought that he's a Hillary Clinton backer, that's all he was saying and he said we should have found Osama bin Laden sooner. The command that Admiral McRaven was in charge of didn't find bin Laden. It was the women and the men and the three letter agencies that worked for many, many years under many presidents to include Presidents Clinton, Bush, and, of course, Obama.
And they were there for America. They weren't there for red or blue. They wanted to find bin Laden, and once they found him and were pretty much certain what was going on, Bill McRaven was the reason my SEAL team was picked. And Bill McRaven presented that to President Obama and President Obama approved it. And it's just that simple.
You know, I'm not here to disparage anyone. I'm just here to point something out that it's not like anybody wanted to wait, hold on to bin Laden so maybe we can win the midterms. These are great men and women, both sides of the aisle. This wasn't even bipartisan, this was nonpartisan. This was a like --
I was joking today, Republicans, Democrats, and I'm assuming a few independents that wanted to find bin Laden, but it was an American thing. It was not just for America, it was for the 90-plus countries that had people die in the World Trade Center, for the people that fought on Flight 93, for the coalition that fought with us in Afghanistan and even in Iraq.
It was never about politics and I don't think the military should be about politics.
BURNETT: So, what do you say? I mean, you've supported the president in the past. You've dined with him at the White House. There's things that he has done that you have supported.
You know, you were there. You got on and got on those helicopters and flew into Pakistan in the dark of night. You were there and put your life on the line to fulfill this mission.
What would -- what would you say to him now? What is your advice to him after he has just said something like this?
O'NEILL: Yes, what I would say to him right now is, I knew Donald Trump before he was the president for a few years, I talked to him while he was campaigning. Like you said, when he became president, I have had dinner with him at the White House.
But I think it's very important for people in leadership and in subordinate places that just because you agree -- just because you support, doesn't mean you agree every single time. And I would just say you need to be really careful about when you're talking about vets to get too into the hashtag #fakenews or left versus right type stuff because in the military, we try to stay as nonpartisan as we can. Like we said, we're one time, one fight with one mission.
And I would just -- I would just say, it's important to not only make sure the men and women know what they're doing and why but make sure they know they're supported by both words and actions. And maybe sometimes, don't talk faster than you're thinking.
BURNETT: So, you know, "The Washington Post" had a story today, Rob. I don't know if you saw it. It offers a possible reason the president has not visited active U.S. troops in combat zones. He has not done that, and, you know, we talked about it. George Bush went in eight months after the war started in Iraq, right, with incredibly hot war.
[19:50:03] Barack Obama went three months in. President Trump has not yet done so.
"The Post" quotes a former senior White House official who had worked with Trump saying, quote, he's afraid of those situations. He's afraid people want to kill him.
When he was asked explicitly about that today, whether he was afraid he didn't answer. But he did say he would be going to a war zone. Obviously, he's not going to say when or where, but he said he would. Why do you think it has taken him so long to do that? Did he not
realize the importance of it or what?
O'NEILL: I don't know the answer to that. I wasn't part of it. I mean, it could be because he's going around the rallies trying -- for the midterm type thing. But if, you know, I was an adviser to President Trump, I would say we need to get to a war zone. Make sure morale is at a high level, and about your safety, that's the job of the Secret Service doing an outstanding job protecting you.
And I assure you, no commander of any battle space will let any president hurt on their watch. The security will be there. It's very important to get there just to stop some of these conversations of the military going through a lot, have been since September 11th, 2001. And this is just certain things the military doesn't need to be dealing with.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Rob, thanks so much. Good to have you back.
O'NEILL: Thanks, Erin. Good to see you.
BURNETT: All right. Rob O'Neill there.
And next, could Republicans lose in Mississippi? This is a big question tonight after comments like this one.
(BEGIN VDEO CLIP)
SEN. CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R), MISSISSIPPI: If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:55:44] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump going all in for the Republican candidate fighting to hold her Senate seat in Mississippi. The special election pitting Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith against Democrat Mike Espy. This race was a slam dunk for Hyde-Smith until video surfaced of her joking about attending, quote, a public hanging.
Trump, who plans to hold a rally her the night before the election, came to her defense today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: She made a statement, which I know that she feels very badly about it. And it was just sort of said in jest, as she said. And she's a tremendous woman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And suddenly, a Democrat as a fighting chance to win a deep -- in deep red Mississippi.
Martin Savidge is OUTFRONT.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In deep red Mississippi, Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith should be cruising to a runoff victory. Instead, she's run into a problem -- Cindy Hyde- Smith's own words and actions.
The latest from 2014 showing her wearing a Confederate army hat and holding an old rifle. It comes after another incident in which she told a supporter over the sound of a train this.
HYDE-SMITH: If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row.
SAVIDGE: At Mississippi State University, she jokes about voter suppression saying --
HYDE-SMITH: There's a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who -- that maybe we don't want to vote.
SAVIDGE: Neither remarks sits well in a history of lynchings and voter suppression, and when her Democratic opponent Mike Espy is African-American.
MIKE ESPY (D), SENATE CANDIDATE FROM MISSISSIPPI: We do not need to reinforce those stereotypes that have continued to haunt our state and cost us jobs.
SAVIDGE: Hyde-Smith has refused to apologize and repeatedly deflected questions about her public hanging remark during a news conference with the state's governor.
HYDE-SMITH: We put out a statement yesterday, and it's available. We stand by the statement. And that's all I'm going to say about it.
SAVIDGE: The latest ad from the Espy campaign uses Hyde-Smith's words against her.
AD NARRATOR: We're better than this, Mississippi, and that's no joke.
SAVIDGE: Just how much of an impact it's having on voters depends on who you talk to.
JIMMY RHODES, SUPPORTS SEN. CINDY HYDE-SMITH: If people understand what she's all about, I don't think that will affect them.
JORDAN MALONE, MIKE ESPY SUPPORTER: It made it very clear both to me and to a lot of other black Mississippians that the Republican candidates do not really have our best interests at heart.
SAVIDGE: The Espy campaign is counting on an energized black electorate who made up 33 percent of the original voting earlier this month, as well as possible crossover voters now reconsidering their support for Hyde-Smith. Nervous Republicans remember last year in neighboring Alabama when Democrat Doug Jones pulled off a stunning upset over Roy Moore.
President Trump will be in Mississippi the day before the runoff vote campaigning for Hyde-Smith while potential 2020 Democratic presidential contenders have rallied support for Espy.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: We are in a moral moment in America again.
SAVIDGE: Espy is still very much the underdog. His ties to the Clinton administration as former agriculture secretary can be a liability in this conservative state.
On TV, Republicans link Espy to national Democrats.
AD NARRATOR: Mike Espy, his liberal agenda is their agenda, not ours.
SAVIDGE: But the real key to victory for either candidate may not hinge on controversy but on the ability of both campaigns to get voters to the polls again after a fatiguing midterm election and during a distracting holiday season.
BURNETT: So, Martin, when you do this, we're talking about a really short period of time before the election, right? So you don't have a lot of time. Spending on both sides, though, when you look at the numbers has been really aggressive.
SAVIDGE: Incredible spending. If you just look at what the parties have spent on buying television ad times alone combined, $3.8 million. We're talking from the beginning of November, well, the election is next Tuesday. By the way, the one and only debate between these two candidates is getting underway in a matter of minutes. And how Cindy Hyde-Smith handles herself could impact the outcome of Tuesday's runoff election -- Erin.
BURNETT: Pretty stunning. When you think about this run off, you never would have thought could be in contention, and yet, here we are.
All right. Martin Savidge, thank you so much from the ground in Mississippi, as that gets underway.
Thanks so much for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.