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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
White House Blames Mueller For Undermining U.S.-Russia relationship; Mueller Team: Manafort May Face Retrial Or Be Hit With New Charges After Lying And Violating Plea Deal; Interview with Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut; More Than 40 Aftershocks Rattle Alaska After 7.0 Quake. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired November 30, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:03] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Alex, thanks very much. Alex Marquardt reporting. That's it. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, OUTFRONT HOST: Out front next, team Trump blaming Bob Mueller for undermining America's relationship with Russia. What about the 26 Russians who have been indicted for attacking America.
Plus, more legal trouble for Paul Manafort tonight. The President's former campaign chairman could face new charges, possibly a retrial. The breaking news, and a 7.0 earthquake destroying homes, splitting roads in half, all of these in Alaska. The after shocks still coming. Let's go out front.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. Out front tonight, President Trump and 19 other world leaders posing just moments ago with their spouses, plenty of smiles to go around. Below the surface in this picture, anger and resentment, not at brutal dictators like Vladimir Putin or Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman, no anger at Robert Mueller.
President Trump's Press Secretary today blaming the Special Counsel for hurting America's relationship with Russia. Sarah Sanders saying in a statement, "The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax, which is hopefully now nearing an end, is doing very well. Unfortunately, it probably does undermine our relationship with Russia."
So the Press Secretary is blaming Robert Mueller for undermining America's relationship with Russia, not the 26 Russian Mueller has indicted for attacking America during the 2016 election. Those 26 Russians, of course, do include top military officials with direct ties to Vladimir Putin. Even the Republican Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the election said today and I quote Chairman Burr, "We never dreamed that we would find as coordinated, complicated, focused efforts by Russia to use technological tools that allowed them to meddle any where". That in of itself an incredible statement.
And yet Sarah Sanders says it is Robert Mueller who is the one who has been uncovering the Russians involved, the Russian efforts to harm America. Is Robert Mueller who is undermining the relationship with Russia? It is pretty stunning and it's worth highlighting that Sanders first word in that statement calling the Russia probe a witch hunt, the hoax. Now, you know, the President as Press Secretary used those words so often we barely hear them anymore. But when you use them and you call it a hoax when Russia attacked America, it means you're siding with the Russians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a total witch hunt. It's a Democrat hoax.
They have this witch hunt. That was a Democrat hoax.
It's a witch hunt. Phony witch hunts.
It was a hoax. It's like witch hunt. It's like a witch hunt.
This is a hoax. The witch hunt continues.
I call it the Russian hoax.
The witch hunt as I call it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Twenty-six Russians indicted is no hoax. And those words make the President's claim that he suddenly canceled his planned meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit due to Russian aggression in Ukraine, really hard to stomach. Here is the President earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We don't like what happened. We're not happy about it. Nobody does. On the basis of what took place with respect to the ships and the sailors that was the sole reason.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That was the sole reason that he canceled the meeting. Well, it doesn't add up to being any part of the reason.
Because here are the facts. Russia did see three Ukrainian naval vessels and more than 20 sailors. That happened on Sunday. Some saying, President Trump has never directly denounce Russia for doing that. And yesterday, when he was asked specifically about the incident and whether because of -- that he still meet with Putin, here's what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to meet with Putin? And if so, what are you going to tell him?
TRUMP: I probably will be meeting with President Putin. We haven't terminated that meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. Four days after Russia seized the ships, the meeting was on, right? Not going to terminate it. So Trump said that, then he boarded Air Force One to fly to Buenos Aires for the meeting, right? And then less than an hour later from the plane, the President tweeted, "Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin". So what happened in that hour from when he said it was going ahead and then it didn't.
Well the President saw how breaking news of Michael Cohen was playing out. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump's business ties in Russia and saying Trump knew about the lie. Wall to wall coverage. We know that the President was caught spooked and completely distracted by the Cohen news according to source close to the President.
And Jeff Zeleny now is out front. He is in Buenos Aires where the President is meeting with world leaders. Jeff, I mean, no Trump-Putin meeting but how has the President's time in Buenos Aires been going?
JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, good evening. There will be no official Trump-Putin meeting, so that means there will not be a dissection of that meeting.
[19:05:01] There will not be a Helsinki like summit where the President's meeting with him is dissected for days and days, of course, that was widely criticized. But we do expect there to be, you know, more conversations on the sidelines if you will. They're at a dinner this evening, a likely venue for them to speak.
But as for the President, he was largely proceeding in the backgrounds at some point and this is one moment he particularly was. He did not want this moment of course where Vladimir Putin we saw. This video was pretty incredible from earlier today. Let's take a look at it.
Where Vladimir Putin was essentially high-fiving the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman as they were walking there. And you can see President Trump there behind them walking in. He, of course, did not want that image of him high-fiving the Saudi Crown Prince. But he did have a brief conversation with him. The White House said it was a simply a greeting. The President would not disclose what they talked about.
But, Erin, what is really hanging over all of this is what the President is making clear. It is still all about the Russia investigation (INAUDIBLE). But we have been to so many of these summits, you know, over the last year in a half since the President started traveling internationally. There's always been a Russia headline hanging over him that has never stops him from wanting to meet with Vladimir Putin before. In fact, he has always said he wanted to do that and he can do more than one thing at a time. He needs to have these important meetings.
Yesterday morning as you said, he said it was a good time to have it. But now, Erin, the optics of this -- of any meeting with Vladimir Putin at the same time that clearly this investigation is in a very new place is not something the White House wanted. So, the President at that dinner this evening. He will be here again tomorrow. Again, perhaps, the biggest meeting, the most consequential meeting is what Xi Jinping tomorrow evening at dinner with him.
But, Erin, the headlines of Russia certainly in the President's head and certainly hanging over this summit here. Erin.
BURNETT: Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much, live from Argentina tonight.
And at out front now, let's go to David Gergen. Also with me, Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for the Obama administration, Steve Hall, former CIA Chief of Russia Operations also here.
David, you know, you heard the White House today, right, the statement blames Mueller. Bob Mueller is probably responsible for undermining the relationship with Russia.
DAVID GERGEN, FMR. ADVISER TO FOUR PRESIDENTS: So far this summit in Argentina has been a electoral (ph) mess for the White House. I don't know why they would go after Bob Mueller when they're out a summit meet -- with meeting with -- in the midst of many of the world's biggest leaders. It's wildly off base. I think anybody who's followed this knows it for two years plus.
Donald Trump has been very, very sympathetic toward Vladimir Putin. Always has days to call him out on anything. And what we know is the -- if it's a crisis in the Mueller investigation, it is because Donald Trump's most trusted lawyer friend for years and years has now admitted that he's been lying about the relationship between Trump and the Russians. And that's what's caused the real crisis-like atmosphere.
GERGEN: But just in one relationship after another, Erin, I think everyone on this program is accustomed to presidents going into the summits very, very well prepared. A clear sense of what they are try to go get out of it, you know, knowing exactly what need they're going to have, have been spent hour and hour figuring out the needs. And this one is just the hash. You never know from one that -- the next what he's going to do if he change his mind.
You know, and it -- what he does, the reputation. He's distracted. His whole team seems distracted and it just hurts American diplomacy. Just I can't tell you how damaging this is over time.
BURNETT: Steve, what do you think, you know, you hear obviously the Republican chairman investigating this on the Senate side, right, respected investigation. Never dreamed they would find what Russia did. You have 26 indictments by Bob Mueller of Russian attacking America's election system. And yet the White House today says that Mueller is undermining the relationship with Russia. What is Putin think when he hears that, Steve?
STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: Well, for Putin this is all a huge win, I mean, what they were just talking about is certainly true in terms of the United States and I think this President looking weak. I think Putin has judged that this is not a strong world leader that he has to be concerned about. And I think that's reflected in Russia's actions not only, you know, the annexation of Crimea, the continuing war that Russia is certainly waging in the eastern part of that country. The most recent incident occurred straight.
So, I think Vladimir Putin has taken his measure of Donald Trump and of his administration and said I think I can keep pushing forward. I think -- I don't think there's going to be any consequences for me because this President, first of all, I think I have some stuff over him, I think is what Putin is saying. And he also understands that Trump has damaged the relationship with the allies. So the west is more divided and more weak and that gives Putin more room to maneuver which is precisely what he's done.
[19:10:06] BURNETT: And now Juliette, the President is saying, oh, he canceled the meeting solely because of Ukraine. Obviously, I laid out the timeline.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes.
BURNETT: It doesn't appear to add up in any way, shape or form. It doesn't appear to be even part of the reason. It appears to be an excuse for the real reason. Your take?
KAYYEM: Absolutely. It's, you know, it's just an attempt for them to create some fictitious narrative about what's going on with this White House and the U.S.'s position in the world. You know, Jeff reported, you know, that Trump had to cancel because he couldn't be seen being with Putin. I would actually put a little wrinkle on that. I think that Trump may not want to see Putin at this stage.
If we believe that Mueller has pretty concrete evidence that not only did the Russians have Trump compromised and his family compromised and then, of course, there's the election hacking issue and what they did in the election, we may see a president who does not want to face a person who knows what he has over him. And so I'm not surprised.
If I were Trump, I would not want to see Putin at this stage. If I were the President of the United States with a backbone to defend American interests i.e. about the Ukraine or our election, then I, of course, would want to see Putin. So I'm pretty convinced that Trump's narrative is not only about the Ukraine being the reason that he stopped the meeting. It's completely false.
But I'm also now convinced after the news of yesterday that Trump, you know, Trump knows what Putin knows. And Putin knows what Mueller knows. And this is a very scary time for the United States.
BURNETT: You know, Steve, two people. You just heard Jeff Zeleny talking about Mohammed bin Salman and Vladimir Putin in that, you know, sort of casual bro style high five, you know, swing handle greeting between the two as Trump wasn't just was receding in the background. You know, two dictators who have backed murders on foreign soil in the past 12 months. Two dictators Trump has lauded, right, as strong, explicitly siding with, you know. But we saw this greeting today. What do you make of that?
HALL: Well, you know, it's exactly -- you're exactly right, Erin. You have autocrats. You have two dictators, you know, who see eye to eye and are sort of saying, hey, bro, well done.
If we had -- and here I would grieve with joy -- if we had a normal president, then that president would go into both of those guys and say -- and lay down the law and say, look, your behavior, Vladimir Putin, is completely against international, you know, law. And ourselves and our allies are going to make you pay a price for it. You, you know, Saudi Arabia, you're not going to go around killing journalists, murdering journalists in your own cons list. That would be what you would have if you had a normal president.
But what we have is Donald Trump. And so if Donald Trump goes behind closed doors with either of those guys like he did in Helsinki, then who is to say he is not going to come out with his tail between his legs exactly like he did in Helsinki giving, you know, Putin a real boost? So, you know, my assessment is, this is probably not a bad thing that he didn't meet with these guys because at the very least, they don't get a meeting with the American President which is always a win for a foreign head state.
BURNETT: The irony for the President of the United States is that he's glad about these ships being seized because as we have said, that's given him a reason to cancel the meeting which is of course isn't the real reason. Thank you all very much.
And next, Robert Mueller may not be done with Paul Manafort. And big developments on this front tonight. Breaking news on charges coming. And the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, a stunning warning tonight from Burr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If you lie to us, we're going to go after you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And apparently, there are people on that list.
Plus, a massive earthquake striking the United States today. Look at this. The buildings destroyed. Roads collapsing. Tonight officials scrambling. Incredible what's happening. We're going to go on the ground in Alaska.
[19:17:45] BURNETT: Tonight, Special Counsel Robert Mueller now weighing possible new charges against Paul Manafort and he's even considering a retrial on federal charges that resulted in hung jury last summer. This comes just after Mueller's team accused Manafort of violating his plea deal by repeatedly lying, they say repeatedly lying, to prosecutors, even after agreeing to cooperate. That revelation one of several game changing, one this week in the Mueller probe.
Evan Perez is out front. And Evan, these new charges, what could they entail?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the possibilities, Erin, is that Paul Manafort could end up getting charged for things that he admitted to doing that he is not yet been charged. If you remember, he spent more than nine days, at least nine days behind closed doors with the Mueller prosecutors spending dozens and dozens of hours talking to them. And so, if he admitted to some new crimes that they were not aware of or that he hasn't been charged with, apparently, that is one of the things they're looking at. Now they're also looking at the --
BURNETT: And he would have thought -- sorry, but he would thought, oh, I'm cooperating, so I can't get in trouble for them. And now they say you violated, well, now you can.
PEREZ: Right, because you blown up, they've now blown up the cooperation agreement because they said, he repeatedly lied during those times that he was supposed to be cooperating with prosecutors. And as you mentioned, one of the things that they're looking at is the possibility of retrying him on some of the charges that the jury was not able to reach a verdict on back earlier in the summer when he was on trial in Alexander, Virginia. If you remember, there was some charges of the jury could not reach a verdict on.
And so they are still holding out the possibility as they go through the procedure here of putting more charges on Manafort, putting him back on trial. Now, keep in mind, he is facing decades possibly in prison as a result of being found guilty both in Virginia and now pleading guilty here in Washington D.C. The judge has set March 5, 2019 as his sentencing date.
But between now and then, Erin, we are expecting a big fight to break out in court between the prosecutors and the Manafort team. Remember, Manafort's team says that he didn't lie. And they now are going to seek evidence from the prosecutors. They want evidence of what lies exactly these are.
[19:20:02] And they say they're going to try to maybe get some -- put some of the FBI people, some of the prosecutors to explain exactly what happened behind close doors during a public hearing before this judge. So we're expecting a lot more fireworks in the Manafort case between now and March when he finally is sentenced.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Evan. And of course, obviously, hugely significant coming as it does, as Michael Cohen is saying he lied about the President's Russian business ties to protect the President with the President's knowledge.
With me now, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Harry Sandick and former Counsel to the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Carrie Cordero. Harry, you're here with me. Manafort, government says --
HARRY SANDICK, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Yes.
BURNETT: -- possible new charges, retrial.
BURNETT: How significant?
SANDICK: It's very significant for Manafort because when he entered into the cooperation agreement, you'll remember as Evan was saying, several counts were open counts. They weren't convicted or acquitted. And part of the cooperation, the government said, in the plea agreement we promise we won't retry you on this. But that plea agreement has been broken according to the government.
So, now it's open season on Manafort. He can be charge with those counts. He can be charge with obstruction or false statements. And the defendant is going to try to keep that agreement in place to avoid more charges.
BURNETT: And, you know, the context here, Carrie is so crucial, right? This is a huge week. You know, as Jeff Zeleny was saying, like it was just a week where possibly everything changed or became much more clear, right?
On Tuesday, we got that draft charging document here at CNN for Roger Stone ally, you know, Jerome Corsi who, you know, spends a little -- he knew about WikiLeaks plans to get all these e-mails, right? Told Stone and so Stone could tell Trump and yesterday the revelation that the former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen lied. Lied about Trump's business deals in Moscow particularly Trump Tower obviously. And Trump knew about it. How bad of a week was this, Carrie?
CARRIE CORDERO, FMR. COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: It was a pretty bad week or a pretty significant week. And I tend to think that the exposure of the lying, in particular, the Michael Cohen plea agreement where it now it's revealed that he lied in his written testimony to Congress in their investigation. I think that is perhaps the most, if we can pick out many significant events, the most significant in terms of what that means for potential exposure for those in the Trump organization or in -- close to the President or the President himself in terms of responses that he or others may have provided either to the intelligence committees or to the Special Counsel.
And so now if Michael Cohen -- if their stories had been aligned and those stories were not correct and now Michael Cohen is providing the correct and accurate information, there's a lot of people who might be worried about potential exposure to false statement charges.
BURNETT: Harry, as part of Cohen's guilty plea, he said, "I made the statements to be consistent with individual ones, political messaging and out of loyalty to individual one." Obviously, individual one is Donald Trump. How significant is it that he is now individual one? I mean, when you think about it just, you know, from a non-legal perspective, the individual one is the center. Individual one is everything emanates fam (ph). Individual one is, this is all coming to you. Is that accurate?
SANDICK: It seems to be accurate and it's frankly shocking because this is the way in which you refer to people who are on the periphery or some how involved in a crime that somebody else has committed. And for that person not to be just an ordinary person but the President of the United States and we saw it also back in August when Michael Cohen said that the payments he made to Daniels and the other actress were made, you know, essentially at the President's direction.
SANDICK: And so we see the President showing up in this shadowy way within -- with not being named pursuant to DOJ policy but everyone knows that what's being alleged is that the President is somehow very close to other people's criminal activities
BURNETT: And, Carrie, you know, Chancellor Rudy Giuliani today came out to attack the special Counsel and obviously we know we heard, you know, blaming Russia from Sarah Sanders. From Rudy Giuliani, "Mueller filed an indictment just as the President left for the G20. In July, he indicted the Russians who will never come here just before he left for Helsinki either could have been done earlier or later. Out of control, supervision please."
What do you make? I mean, he's obviously trying to say that's a pretty clear implication is make Trump look bad in the world stage and make Trump look like Putin's patsy (ph), right, before he sees him. Did Giuliani have a point, Carrie?
CORDERO: No. It's really disappointing as a former Justice Department lawyer and he was a U.S. attorney. It's just so disappointing to see him sort of accuse the prosecutors of this type of activity.
First of all, on the timing front, I just don't believe that the Special Counsel is timing their criminal process according to diplomatic trips that the President may have scheduled. I think the more relevant factor in the timing of the Special Counsel's release of the Michael Cohen plea had to do perhaps with the timing of the President submitting his written responses.
[19:25:16] BURNETT: Right.
CORDERO: But I don't think that there's any factual basis to think that the Special Counsel is trying to play games in terms of the timing and embarrassing the President or anything like that. And then as far as the supervision comment, I mean, that -- it's hard to not think of that as a very public appeal to the acting Attorney General, which really plays into all of the really serious concerns that lawyers of all across the political spectrum, across the legal scholarship spectrum, from liberal to conservative lawyers, everybody is concerned about the improper attempted influence ton the Justice Department and the undermining of rule of law. And if he is trying to insinuate that, now is the time for acting Attorney General Whitaker to step up and play some kind of rule to tamp down the Special Counsel's investigation that's just so out of bounds.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, both of you.
And developments on the acting Attorney General. Tonight, he appears to have made a deal with Democrats. Plus, thousands of people scrambling for safety. A massive earthquake striking Alaska, homes, businesses, as you can see shaking. The danger is not over with after shocks tonight.
[19:30:02] BURNETT: Tonight, a warning from the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Here's Chairman Burr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We have made referrals to the special prosecutor. If you lie to us, we're going to go after you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Made referrals. This, of course, is after Michael Cohen is admitting he lied to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to protect the president.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Senator, thank you for being with me.
All right. So, Senator Burr saying multiple referrals to Mueller. Do you think Cohen is just is the tip of the iceberg here?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think that there are a lot of people who potentially Congress and it begins with Donald Trump Jr. I sat through the Judiciary Committee proceedings and viewed his statements at the time not only his statements but the way he said it. And I feel then, I feel more strongly now that there were very, very serious questions about his accuracy and his veracity.
As a former prosecutor, I believe Robert Mueller has to review those statements that he made to Judiciary Committee as well as the Intelligence Committee.
BURNETT: Now, you know, obviously, Yahoo News is reporting that he and his sister Ivanka had pursued a Trump Tower deal in Moscow. Michael Cohen is saying he briefed the family, so not just the father but obviously them as well on this Trump Tower development. But -- and to your committee he said, I was looking at the transcript today, he was, quote, peripherally aware of Michael Cohen's efforts to build a tower.
So, do you believe that Donald Trump is in legal peril?
BLUMENTHAL: I think he really is in legal peril. He has very severe exposure right now, not only for what he knew about the Trump Tower development, but also what he said about whether he told his father about the Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016 with Russian agents, what he and his father did together on that Air Force One statement, what he said about the blocked phone numbers on calls surrounding all of these issues.
BLUMENTHAL: There are a lot of statements that he made that struck me at the time as very questionable.
BURNETT: All right. So you think he could be in legal peril and you also have Burr saying we have made referrals to the special prosecutor. That's not referral, it's referrals, so multiple people here you're saying you think multiple people lied and he's referred to --
BLUMENTHAL: Felix Sater also came before our committee and I am certain that Robert Mueller being the by-the-book, methodical, systematic prosecutor that he is, he's looking at Felix Sater testimony because he was intimately involved --
BURNETT: In Trump Tower interaction, yes.
BLUMENTHAL: Exactly, he was the guy in Moscow on the ground in effect, who was in effect introducing Michael Cohen, on behalf of the Trump Organization. And when Donald Trump says it was very legal and very cool, the question is why did he lie the American people thought it as he did during the campaign? And the Russians were complicit in those lies. They have leverage over Trump then and they do now.
BURNETT: OK, the president today you said very cool. I want to read that tweet. He tweets, oh, I get it, I'm a very good developer, happily living my life. When I see our country going in the wrong direction to put it mildly, against all odds, I decided to run for president and continue to run my business very legal and very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail, lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia, put up zero money, zero guarantees, and didn't do the project, witch hunt.
Now, the project never happened. Obviously, somewhere in Russia sounds absurd it was in Moscow and it always was in Moscow and there was ever any question of being anywhere else. But it did never happen, right? It was only a letter of intent, it didn't move forward. Could he have a point?
BLUMENTHAL: The project never happened but not for lack of trying and not for lack of desire. And the point here is that he lied to the American people. He said there were no dealings with Russia well into 2016, when in fact there continued to be and it may never have happened that the project in Moscow went forward, but the Russians knew that he was lying American people, they enabled him and now they have that leverage over him. So, he's compromised.
BURNETT: All right. You have challenged the constitutionality of Matt Whitaker as attorney general, right? Obviously, you've seen to do that. But documents came out today, Whitaker was aware of fraud claims on a Florida company, he's not in the advisory board he was aware of those fraud claims. Obviously, the Justice Department previously said he was not aware of those fraud claims via statement. So, ostensibly they talked to him about it, that's why they put out the statement.
What's your response?
BLUMENTHAL: My response is one more piece of evidence why Matt Whitaker has no business being an acting attorney general.
BURNETT: So, quickly before we go, "The Washington Post" today, they went through every single thing they could find that he's ever said. He said, the president was self-serving in firing Jim Comey, that -- this is Matt Whitaker. Matt Whitaker also said the president should release his tax returns.
Today, the ranking members on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committee said, look, he has promised he will follow the regulations when it comes to the Russia probe and it comes to the special counsel.
[19:35:09] Is it possible you've made a mistake, he could be objective?
BLUMENTHAL: These questions, and they're good questions, are exactly the kind of questions that have to resolve through a confirmation process. We've sued Matt Whitaker because there's been no advice and consent. There been no hearings. There has been no opportunity for us to ask those kinds of questions or about his financial dealings on behalf of private entities where severe questions about his integrity have been raised.
So, I'm never one to say that I'm infallible but the advice and consent process required by the Constitution has never been used here.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Senator. I appreciate your time tonight.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, President Trump's lavish praise for Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: He's done a very brilliant job in terms of what he represents and who he's represented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Was that all trying to make a buck?
Plus, terrifying moments for thousands. A giant earthquake rocking the United States. This is Alaska, the aftershocks still happening at this hour.
[19:40:12] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump defending his business dealings with Russia after his former lawyer Michael Cohen admits lying about a proposed Trump Tower deal there to try to help out his boss. But it wasn't just the proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. Trump tried for decades to do business in Russia, and this is the crucial point: decades. How so?
Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For decades as the Trump empire expanded --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Standing as one of the Philippines' tallest buildings --
TRUMP: This piece of land which is almost 2,000 acres fronts on the North Sea.
FOREMAN: -- devouring real estate around the globe --
IVANKA TRUMP, FIRST DAUGHTER: We're really creating Northern Baja as the new Cabo.
FOREMAN: -- Donald Trump wanted something more, a Russian opportunity.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: The Russians however began courting him in 19 -- I think it was '87, before the end of the Soviet empire, with this trip that he and Ivana went gone. And Donald is very, very susceptible to people who flatter him.
FOREMAN: It was a heady time as communism was collapsing, a wealthy hungry business class was rising in Russia, just the kind of people who might invest in what Trump had described as a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": Trump was going where the buyers might be found and so, it was natural for him to go to Russia when the oligarchy was emerging and billionaires were being minted almost on a regular basis. FOREMAN: By the time he brought his Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013, he was lavishing praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
TRUMP: He's done a very brilliant job in terms of what he represents and who he's representing. If you look at what he's done with Syria, if you look at so many of the different things, he has really eaten our president's lunch, let's not kid ourselves.
FOREMAN: Through it all, Trump persistently tried to make a deal for a marquee Trump property in Moscow. In 2015, he proposed putting the tallest building in the world there, the spa named after his daughter Ivanka.
MICHAEL KRANISH, CO-AUTHOR, "TRUMP REVEALED": Over a thirty-year period, he tried again and again to do deals there.
FOREMAN: The deals all fell apart, and yet his longtime fixer is now telling a federal judge deep into the 2016 campaign, as Trump turned his previous claims about Putin --
TRUMP: I do have a relationship and I can tell you that he's very interested in what we're doing here today.
FOREMAN: -- upside down --
TRUMP: Well, I have nothing to do with Putin. I've never spoken to him. I don't know anything about him other then he will respect me.
FOREMAN: Even then, his former lawyer says, Trump was still trying to find some kind of an angle to get that long awaited and never fulfilled Russian deal -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you very much.
And obviously the history here is so important, a longtime that Trump was working there.
And a major earthquake now striking Alaska. Roads collapsing, buildings destroyed, thousands left in the dark. Temperatures now well below freezing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes have it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That moment, impeachment fever began in this country.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:47:19] BURNETT: Breaking news: a 7.0 earthquake rocking Alaska, still sending powerful aftershocks that are reverberating for hundreds of miles. Homes, roads destroyed when the quake struck around 8:30 a.m. local time, obviously a middle of the day here on the East Coast.
Officials warning of devastating damage throughout the state. Now, they don't even know the extent of it right now.
Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT with what we know.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Earth- shattering terror for nearly a minute and a half just as the Anchorage day was starting.
The 7.0 quake and dozens of aftershocks felt for hundreds of miles, home security cameras caught the confusion for humans, and their pets, outright fear for many.
Some kids already at school, dived under their desks, all thankful to be alive.
CONTROLLER: FedEx, go around! FedEx, go around!
AIRCRAFT: Is that for FedEx?
MARQUEZ: At the Anchorage airport, a FedEx plane on final approach, the landing aborted, alarmed in the controller's voice.
AIRCRAFT: Tower, FedEx 49.
CONTROLLER: FedEx 49 Heavy, go around!
AIRCRAFT: Going around, FedEx 49.
CONTROLLER: Attention all aircraft, there was an earthquake here.
MARQUEZ: Sydney Vaught was on a layover when the quake hit, she went under the airport bench and the power went out.
SYDNEY VAUGHT: The after earthquakes keep happening, so I'm definitely on edge about that. I kind of want to duck and hide whenever that happens.
MARQUEZ: Several roads around Anchorage little more than crumbles.
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: There has been extensive damage to two roads to infrastructure. It's winter, it's cold, it's dark, and we're not sure what that power situation is. We're worried about breaks in gas lines.
MARQUEZ: Sarah Palin's parents home appears ransacked. The former vice presidential candidate tweeting: Family is intact, house is not.
(END VIDEOTAPE) MARQUEZ: What might be most shocking at the moment is that there are no reports of anyone being killed, some reports of injuries so far. But, you know, Alaska is in an earthquake zone. It has been hit by several 7.0s and higher in the last 20 years or so, never this close to a population center.
The biggest issue right now might be that Anchorage, the big city there, it's pretty much cut off from the rest of the state because of the roads, all of their goods come in through Anchorage even by sea or by plane.
[19:50:06] This could be a major problem going forward -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Miguel. Obviously, as they continue to have aftershocks, that is very serious concern.
Kristin Dossett is on the phone with me right now. She was in Palmer, Alaska, at her home when the earthquake struck. That's about 50 miles from Anchorage, of course, by the epicenter.
And, Kristin, thank you for being with me. We're glad you're okay. We're glad that you're able to be on the phone and be able to talk.
I mean, what happened here? You were in the middle of one of the most powerful earthquakes to hit Alaska.
KRISTIN DOSSETT, PALMER, ALASKA RESIDENT (via telephone): Yes. It was absolutely terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. It started shaking, and then the power went out. So, being at 8:30 in the morning, it started here, so it was completely pitch black, fumbled for my phone, and it just kept shaking and shaking.
Everything came off the dressers. Everything came off the bookcases. Photos are all on the ground. We lost all our glassware in the kitchen. Just everything is everywhere. We've been cleaning up glass all day.
We're physically fine. There's not much damage to our house. We have one crack in a wall, but other than that, we are just all fine.
BURNETT: I mean, it must have been so terrifying. I mean, you know, we're looking at some of the video we have, the pictures. That courtroom in Anchorage, you know, where the violent shaking lasted for over a minute, I can't imagine how long that felt to you, though. It must have felt so much longer than that.
What did you do during the actual shaking, as it was hitting?
DOSSETT: I was laying in bed watching CNN. I grabbed my dog. I grabbed my phone. I tried to get ahold of my husband, who works in Anchorage. And he texted me, and I was able to text him. I ran to the other end of my house to find my son, who was sleeping, and he was okay.
And then I called my parents, who live in New York, to let them know that we were okay. Then they kind of contacted other siblings. I contacted my kids that live out of state to let them know that this was all while it was shaking.
You're absolutely terrified. You want to let everyone know you're okay, then we keep having aftershock after aftershock.
BURNETT: Well, look, our thoughts are with you. There's aftershocks I'm sure and they are scary. And, of course, you never know exactly what will happen.
So, we're thinking of you during that. And, Kristin, thank you so much.
And next, impeachment fever. It started with Bill Clinton, and it's gotten worse and worse. Fareed Zakaria with a special report, coming up next.
[19:56:17] BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, impeachment. Now, it's only happened three times in American history, but it's a word that recently has been thrown around quite often. A new documentary from our Fareed Zakaria looks at the history of presidential impeachments in this country.
Take a look.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: All my life, I've wanted to be involved with people.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" (voice-over): In 1978, a bright eyed, 32-year-old Bill Clinton was running for governor of Arkansas.
CLINTON: I've tried to bring out the best of people through politics, and I've been really happy doing it.
ZAKARIA: He and his wife Hillary were also investing in some real estate. A nice little batch of land in the Ozark is called Whitewater. That plot of land on the White River, a real estate deal that ended up losing money, would change the course of history.
REPORTER: Are you a subject or a target?
REPORTER: Mrs. Clinton, did they read you your rights?
ZAKARIA: Decades later --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Whitewater controversy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whitewater.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Political turbulence over Whitewater.
ZAKARIA: -- Whitewater became a massive, spiraling investigation.
REPORTER: Mr. Starr?
ZAKARIA: -- that led prosecutors to a sex scandal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes have it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: William Jefferson Clinton is impeached.
ZAKARIA: That became the second presidential impeachment in American history. How on earth did that little corner of Arkansas --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hereby deliver these articles of impeachment.
ZAKARIA: -- explode into a constitutional showdown?
BURNETT: It is incredible when you think about it.
OUTFRONT now, Fareed, the documentary is called "Presidents Under Fire."
You know, presidential historian Tim Naftali in your documentary says that after Clinton, impeachment went from being something you only use in moments of constitutional crisis to something used as everyday partisan battles, which sounds like that's what you're talking about. You start with a failed land deal 20 years before, you end up with sex acts in the Oval Office. That got them what they wanted, to do what they wanted.
He says it is a horrible development for the American people. You call it impeachment fever. We saw it with George W. Bush. We saw it with Barack Obama.
We are seeing it right now with Donald Trump.
ZAKARIA: We're absolutely seeing it. When George W. Bush left office, 1/3 of America wanted to impeach him. When Barack Obama left office, 1/3 of America wanted to impeach him. When Donald Trump entered office, on the first day, 1/3 of the American public wanted to impeach him.
So, we've gone from, you know -- after Andrew Johnson, this was Lincoln's successor, and it was a bad impeachment, generally regarded as a wrongful impeachment. For 100 years, nobody ever broached the issue of impeachment because it was seen as having been tarnished.
After Nixon, it was seen as having worked. But still, 1973 all the way to the 1990s, you had --
BURNETT: Now, it's like a way for the side that lost to get a redo, is what it seems like.
ZAKARIA: Exactly. The people who call for the impeachment for Hillary Clinton was before she was even elected, you know? I think that you raise a very important point. The Clinton impeachment happened at the start of this new hyper-partisan America.
It was also the birth of Fox News. It was the beginning of Matt Drudge and all those websites, like Breitbart.
ZAKARIA: So, it was this take-no-prisoners politics. And impeachment then becomes not the nuclear option but the new normal.
BURNETT: All right. Fareed, thank you very much. I mean, obviously, I think as you used Tim Naftali to say, deeply disturbing developments.
But the history here is so crucial. Don't miss the special report, "Presidents Under Fire: The History of Impeachment", Fareed's documentary is Sunday night at 9:00.
Thank you for joining us.
Anderson starts now.