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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Senators Introduce Measure Targeting Saudi Crown Prince; Mueller: Flynn Has Given "Substantial Assistance" In Russia Probe; Bush's Casket Arrives At Church In Houston. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 5, 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: And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, OUTFRONT HOST: Out front next, breaking news. Trump allies breaking with the President in a big way tonight, holding the Saudi Crown Prince personally accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Why is President Trump covering for the Saudi Crown Prince?
Plus, a White House under pressure. Mueller's latest court filing raising questions about Trump's inner circle. And who else could be in legal jeopardy tonight?
And the former President George H.W. Bush returning home to Texas for the last time this evening. That emotional homecoming about to begin this hour. Let's go out front.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. Out front tonight, taking a stand against President Trump. A bipartisan resolution on Capitol Hill just announced moments ago. Holding the Saudi Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia personally accountable for among other things, quote, the abhorrent and unjustified killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It is a stunning rebuke by President Trump led by Republican senators including Marco Rubio who tells CNN tonight, quote, there's no doubt the Saudi Crown Prince was involved in Khashoggi's murder.
And we have learned that more than a dozen lawmakers and intelligence officials are deeply angry and frustrated tonight at the President's response to the murder. That response adds up to a cover-up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He strongly denies it, he vehemently denies it. I hate the cover-up, and I will tell you this, the Crown Prince hates it more than I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: More than I do. Well, at this point they're both in on it. And Trump's Republican allies have had it. Here's Senator Corker speaking to our Manu Raju today.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), FOREIGN RELATIONS CHAIRMAN: I think each day that goes by it becomes much more difficult for anybody to in a straight-faced way, even leave any room for questioning it.
BURNETT: Yet team Trump with a straight face, with just that, is still denying intelligence. The President aided by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis are helping the Saudis cover-up the alleged Prince's role in the murder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We have no smoking gun that the Crown Prince was involved.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: There's no direct evidence linking him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That take away, of course, exactly the opposite of what the CIA Director Gina Haspel told lawmakers as recently as yesterday when she finally appeared before a small group of senators. Senator Graham saying there's no smoking gun, there's a smoking saw, as perhaps the most important thing that was said last night. Senator Paul saying I have no doubt the Saudi Prince did this.
Tonight, Republicans on Capitol Hill directly taking on their President with this resolution. Manu Raju is out front on Capitol Hill. And Manu, the outrage in Congress obviously reaching a fever pitch.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Bipartisan group of senators pushing to get a deal they can get on the floor as soon as next week to go after Saudi Arabia, both symbolically and with (INAUDIBLE). Now, in addition to this resolution that you mention, Erin, they are trying to essentially expand arm sales between the United States and the Saudi kingdom. They want to pull back U.S. involvement in the Saudi led war in Yemen, and they also want to potentially slap the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman with sanctions.
Now, this causes the Trump administration of course has pushed back on this. But after the CIA brief some key senators yesterday, it was clear than ever to these senators that the Crown Prince was directly involved in this. And Bob Corker just told me moments ago, Erin, that the presentation Haspel gave was, quote, the most precise presentation that he has been a part of in 12 years in the United States Senate. He said not -- Yesterday he said that after that presentation a jury would convict Mohammed bin Salman within 30 minutes. But today he corrected that and said actually within 20 minutes a jury would convict Mohammed bin Salman if they knew the evidence that the CIA had. Still, the Trump administration pushing back saying that they have not seen that direct link. Corker today saying no one with a straight face was seeing the evidence can reach that same conclusion. We'll see what the Republicans and Democrats decide to do as soon as next week, pushing back on Saudi Arabia and the White House.
BURNETT: I mean, pretty stunning, Manu. You say 20 minutes and yet here we are, the President of the United States days and days, weeks and weeks still standing behind the Crown Prince. Thanks, Manu.
And out front now, the Democratic Senator from Oregon, Jeff Merkley who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And Senator, you just heard your colleague in the committee, Senator Corker, saying it's impossible to tow the Saudi line with a straight face. Why is President Trump, along with the help of Secretaries Mattis and Pompeo covering for the Saudi Crown Prince?
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I think it comes down to this. The President wants to maintain our arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense are making the calculation that the alliance is more important than Saudi's activities.
[19:05:12] More important than their activities bombing Yemen and causing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, more important than killing an American reporter, an American resident.
BURNETT: So this is cover-up?
MERKLEY: Yes, absolutely. Essentially the fact that the administration blocked Gina from coming over, the head of the CIA to come over and brief all of the senators, this is what it boils down to in my opinion. You have Pompeo, Secretary of State, saying we don't have direct evidence or we don't have a smoking gun. And essentially what he's saying is we don't have fingerprints on the gun, but the CIA is coming along and saying we can place the Crown Prince in the room, deeply involved in the events that took place.
And so it's like strong circumstantial information versus fingerprints. But in a court of law, when you are in the room at the time of the murder, you're involved. You're knowledgeable. And in this case the Crown Prince would have been in charge of it.
BURNETT: We are learning tonight, Senator, that there may be a bipartisan deal in the Senate to directly rebuke the Crown Prince for this murder. Will that pass the Senate?
MERKLEY: I think it probably would pass the Senate. But the dynamic right now is you have some senators who are really focused on Khashoggi's murder and others who are really focused on Saudi Arabia's utter destruction in Yemen. Yemen's had the worst cholera epidemic in history because the Saudis bombed the water system.
There are some estimated 130 children under five who are dying every day from starvation or disease. It's a massive humanitarian crisis. And so, these two strains are coming together, but I think the deal should involve addressing both sides of that. That's my hope.
BURNETT: So when it comes to the deal, right, the President of course has made his view clear. And I just want to make sure we play this again and again because I don't think you can play it to many times. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So he strongly denies it, he vehemently denies it. I hate the cover-up, and I will tell you this, the Crown Prince hates it more than I do.
We are with Saudi Arabia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. Do you think he has the guts to veto a Senate rebuke of the Crown Prince? If you guys can pass it, can he veto it? Does he have the guts to do it?
MERKLEY: Well, he might. Because if that rebuke says no more arms sales, no more intelligence sharing related to the Yemen war --
BURNETT: And arms sales, by the way in our understanding, is in that bipartisan discussion right now just to be clear. Sorry, go ahead.
MERKLEY: As they absolutely should be because our arms are being used in the war against Yemen creating this humanitarian fiasco. So they should be in that. Realize the House has to be in this too, so the path is not quick and easy. We are in a lame duck. The President might be able to buy some time. But I think you would see the Democratic House coming back in January and absolutely saying we should end our arms sales and our intelligence cooperation.
So, perhaps, the President wants to work out a deal that's a little softer now. Maybe he will, maybe he won't by threat of a veto. But right now he's just, our President is engaged in a cover-up of the cover-up and it's wrong.
BURNETT: And your bottom line again on why President Trump is covering up, you know, as you're saying for the Saudi Crown Prince?
MERKLEY: Well, his public argument has been that they are a good customer of our arms sales.
MERKLEY: And in a bit more sophisticated manner, Secretary Pompeo has said they're a source of significant assistance to our priorities in the region. And so it's kind of a, an argument, real politic argument that we need to set aside the devastation they're causing in Yemen, we need to set aside their assassination of an American resident because of those factors. But I think what that argument misses is that at the heart of this, our leadership in the world depends a great deal on our ability to promote a vision for the world that involves human rights, decency, respect, rule of law, leadership. And all those are damaged by this Trump cover-up.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Senator Merkley. I appreciate your time tonight.
MERKLEY: Thank you. Take care, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, the Special Counsel's court filing on Michael Flynn raising major questions for team Trump. The one line in the filing that should scare the White House the most.
Plus, breaking news this hour. A top House member calling for an investigation into the growing evidence of voter fraud in North Carolina. A big new development there with our Drew Griffin on the ground.
[19:10:03] And former President George H.W. Bush returning home this hour for a final time. His emotional homecoming about to begin after a touching tribute by his son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD U.S. PRESIDENT: A great and noble man. The best father a son or daughter could have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight alarm bells for team Trump. A new court filing from the Special Counsel Bob Mueller indicates more people in the President's orbit could be under investigation. It's this line here in the newly filed sentencing document on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, that could be the operative line. Flynn assisted, "On a range of issues including interactions between individuals in the Presidential transition team and Russia". And then the line goes black.
It's actually one of the many redacted lines. I mean, look at these pages, just so much. That's page two, three, we've got a couple of sentences. Look at four. I mean, you know, here all you have is respectfully submitted Robert Mueller. This raises some crucial questions. Who else on team Trump, though, when you talk about this facilitating who's more important than Flynn is in the eye of the Russia probe?
OK, well, it comes -- two people come to mind. One being Don Jr., he's meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, obviously, a crucial topic for the Special Counsel, and Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law.
[19:15:07] Kushner was a key member of the transition team and we do know he had interactions with the Russians during that time including the Russian Ambassador and others. Multiple times, in fact, during the transition. According to a source, Kushner event discussed setting up a back channel to the Kremlin. Now, Kushner has spoken out on this one and he was adamant he didn't do anything wrong. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDEN TRUMP: Let me be very clear, I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. I had no improper contacts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK, the big question tonight, though, is well, is that true? Did Flynn tell Mueller otherwise?
Evan Perez is out front in Washington. And Evan, this filing quite tantalizing, it's quite the tease here, that there's some crucial information in it and raising a host of new questions.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, exactly, Erin. There are a lot of questions that are still left unanswered by this document. And just as you raised Jared Kushner there in your introduction, remember that Jared Kushner came and met with the Mueller team, the investigators in the Special Counsel just before Michael Flynn came in to plead guilty. And then he returned earlier this year to do another interview with the Special Counsel. We don't know what happened in between that time, whether there was some new information that emerged from Michael Flynn as part of his cooperation, which necessitated for Jared Kushner have to come back and talk to the Special Counsel. We've never really gotten a full answer to that question.
And there's also a host of other questions that are still left unanswered. For instance, whatever happened to the Turkish lobbying, the operation that Michael Flynn was involved in? We've never really gotten the full story on that. And we also don't know -- we know from the fact the witnesses have been brought in to the Special Counsel to talk about foreign money that may have gone into the transition, that may have gone into the inauguration, we've never gotten a full story on that either. Again, tons of information here that still blacked out as a result of this court filing and we can only expect that Mueller and the other prosecutors that may have -- that may still be investigating this will have those answers for us in the coming weeks and months.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Evan.
I want to go now to Harry Sandick, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District here in New York, and Laura Coates, former Federal Prosecutor. Harry, you're here with me. How scared should others be, right? You look at that operative line, you see a lot of black then. You know, this would be implied Flynn was able to give information on someone else who was more significant.
HARRY SANDICK, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I think that's absolutely right. I mean, it talks about 19 meetings with prosecutors. Unless you're putting a witness on trial, you don't meet 19 times with a cooperator. He must have had a wealth of information on a host of different subjects. We can see sort of through the haze at least three areas, one of which is not blacked out which is having to do with Russia and the President's transition team. All of those people have lawyers already, and we don't know as Evan was saying, you know, what's been happening in Mueller's meetings with other people.
BURNETT: Right. I mean, 19 meetings, that's a lot of meetings. It would seem to a lay percent as you say from a perspective of an attorney, a lot. I mean, Laura, the other line here, the defendant has assisted with several ongoing investigations, and then of course a long black line of redacted information. Now, you know, I guess you can tell me whether it's semantics or not, but we did not know there were several investigations, plural. What does this tell you?
LAURA COATES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: And that's exactly what Mueller probably intends. I mean, to put it into context, first of all, 19 meetings he only served as national security adviser for what, 23 days. That is put into context of 19 separate occasions. But on the issue of why this was a successful strategy for Mueller, you know, the idea of operating under the aura of suspense very much serves Mueller. You have people who are forthcoming because the anxiety builds about whether their own names or their own actions and potentially culpable behavior is inside of those black lines that have been redacted.
And as you see from the writings of Mueller in the sentencing memoranda, he essentially gave the best deal to the one who squealed and somebody who encouraged others by his actual cooperation to come forward and give information. So the existence of these separate investigations will probably fall along that same pattern of holding perhaps people in suspense, stability, anxiety and ultimately build the case. Because we don't know whether or not he has followed what he did in the Cohen case, which is to farm one of these cases out to a U.S. attorney's office, and potentially to ensure that even if the Mueller probe should end, at least you have two others entities who were able to do it. I think he secure it very strategically and methodically, psychologically and in terms of litigation.
BURNETT: So, Harry, 19 interviews, I mean, do we translate that into there are definitively more charges into more people?
[19:20:03] SANDICK: Well, it's hard to say that for sure because we don't know what defenses those other people might have, but it certainly looks as if this fits with the idea that he's closing in on charging decisions. The fact that Flynn is getting sentenced now would seem in general to tilt against him being necessary as a trial witness because otherwise you might wait until he testifies at trial to get him sentence. That would be more common.
But the fact is, look, Michael Flynn is a United States citizen, he's not going anywhere. And if he's given statements to the Special Counsel, there's no reason why post-sentencing he couldn't be called as a witness.
BURNETT: I mean, you know, Laura, Flynn, obviously the word here is substantial, right? That's the word that Mueller uses to describe his assistant. And Mueller's recommending no jail time, right? Obviously, this Manafort, right, who -- when he did cooperate they then said finally lied to him after he was already convicted on charges. How big is this no jail time recommendation?
COATES: All of us know that Mueller's team has certainly chosen to have an economy of words. We don't hear any leaks from them, we're hearing it from someone. But the use of the word substantial, I'm sure it means what they believe. They were able to have some information from somebody who was uniquely positioned only in transition but presents the bridge between candidate Donald Trump and President-elect Donald Trump and then President Donald Trump.
And so that fact that he was able to bridge the gap on all aspects of this significant, now, he only did plead guilty to one count, one count that really only probably carried according to the guidelines between 0 and 6 months. So we weren't talking about somebody who was going to serve a long time on that one count. That was probably a strategic decision by Mueller because as you see from the Turkey statements in terms of his help and not registering for as a foreign agent there and lobbying, the Israeli settlement, the United Nations and recommendations and Russian sanctions, there are a whole host of things that he's still on the hook for.
And remember, Erin, because he pled guilty to only one count, and although he's a cooperator and he signed up and had plead and it will be sentence, double jeopardy only attached to that one count. They can still hand over his head remaining counts and charges that could possibly be filed. So he's under the thumb for a lot longer than you think.
BURNETT: All right, thank you both very much.
And next, President Trump face-to-face with his predecessors. The awkward President's club today.
Plus President Trump doing some major damage control today. Even calling himself or trying to say, maybe that he isn't or is he, naive?
[19:26:26] BURNETT: Tonight, you can see live pictures there, George H.W. Bush, his final journey home. The casket there now in Houston. What you're looking at, the honor guard standing there, the motorcade has just arrived at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, and that is where the former President's body will lie in repose overnight until tomorrow morning.
As you see these moments, just to hear the silence and see the flag wave, you realize this is the final goodbye. It has been an emotional journey for the Bush family since George H.W. Bush passed away on Friday. Today, of course, that state funeral in Washington.
Out front with me now Scott Jennings, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, Paul Begala, former White House Counsel to President Clinton and Patrick Healey, Political Editor for the New York Times. Scott, the 41st President finally home in Texas. I just want people to hear that. Sometimes you can just hear the sort of the silence around the moment with the honor guard and the flag, you realize this is indeed the end of the honoring. SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, it is. Although, I hope it's the beginning of us remembering of what life can be like in America when we realize that we're not in all these separate tribes. We're in one big American tribe. And I think if there's a bigger lesson I'm taking away from the celebration of George H.W. Bush's life, it was the message he had in his inaugural speech, it's the message of his whole lifetime of service and that is we can oppose each other politically but we have to love each other and be loyal to each other as fellow Americans. And I think if that lingers on, that will be maybe the final service he's rendered to his country.
BURNETT: And Paul, you know, as we watch what is happening now in Houston at the St. Martin's Episcopal Church, you know, I think about today in Washington, right? What a moment it was or I believe we're going to see so many people in this country who stop to watch. This is the first time, though, since the inauguration that we have seen President Trump face-to-face with all of his predecessors as we did today in Washington. And it was quite a thing to watch. I mean, I think we all were (INAUDIBLE) by this.
Here was the move before the Trump's came. You have the Clintons chatting with the Obamas and then Trump's arrived. Obviously, the President and the First Lady were sitting there and shaking hands. They reached their pew, walking all the way up there. It was a somewhat awkward moment there, but nonetheless they were shaking hands with the Obamas, nothing with the Clintons at all. What did you think, Paul, as you watched all of this unfold?
PAUL BEGALA, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Well I just thought -- to pick up on Scott's point, it was really remarkably classy of the Bush family to invite the President. President said some really just horrible things frankly about the former President, who's now passed away, about President George W. Bush, about Governor Jeb Bush we ran against. And it seems crazy but I can imagine there was quite a debate within the family as to whether to include the current President of the United States in a tribute to a former President of the United States.
Of course, the Bush family did the right thing and included our President. I have to say President Trump did the right thing. I know he didn't shake Hillary and Bill's hands but I'm reasonably close to them. I can promise you they didn't lose any sleep. It's not like Hillary Clinton --
BURNETT: It doesn't look like any of those parties involved were --
BEGALA: Right. So it was the moment we came together. I'm happy to say that Donald Trump met the bare minimum standards of decency. He'll never be a George H.W. Bush, Scott's right. I mean, George H.W. Bush, Bush 41 was all class. Donald Trump is very often no class, but today he showed a little.
[19:30:02] I'll give him some credit for that.
But I think the real spotlight needs to be on that family. Politically, I've always opposed them, obviously. But personally, I've always admired them.
This man who's laid to rest today was a really great American and really served, and always put country ahead of party. He formed a terrific bond with my boss, Bill Clinton. George W. Bush today said that. He said --
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Yes, he did. He brought him up he'd been a mentor. I thought that was a nice moment and Bill Clinton obviously was quite moved by that.
BEGALA: He called Clinton a brother from another mother, and I can tell you that's true. The affection between those families, having been terrible political rivals, is deep and real, and even I would say it's love.
BURNETT: You know, Patrick, Michelle Obama obviously has been recently on her book tour and said Melania has not reached out to her. And all of a sudden, you're sitting next to each other at this moment you want to be gracious and yet you're still a person and you're interacting with other people.
Michelle Obama's expression before and after the Trumps arrived was undeniable change, right? She's laughing with President Clinton before, there she is, and then the Trumps arrive, and well, she's much more somber.
PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I think she really -- Michelle Obama set a standard for class in a situation here. She's been on the book tour and writes in her book about how she'd really never forgive President Trump about putting her family in jeopardy.
BURNETT: She chose not to smile.
HEALY: She chose not to smile, but she leaned over, shook his hand, she said good morning. She kept it sort of polite and classy and, you know, is befitting a ceremony where I think honor and grace and dignity were kind of the calling cards there. And she met his eyes and she set that standard.
But the reality is that you come outside of a church, come outside of a day like this and the reality is you don't --
BURNETT: You can't just undo what's been done.
HEALY: And you don't find a current sitting president that's living up to the aspirations that I think Scott described. It's very hard to find common ground with someone who as this president isn't interested in serving --
BURNETT: You know, Paul, one thing obviously, you know, as you hear all this talk about 2020, President Trump and Hillary Clinton did not say hello to each other. I don't know how anyone would be able to bury that hatchet when you talk about being gracious. There's only so far people can go.
How uncomfortable do you think this was for her?
BEGALA: Oh, she's been threw a lot worse, believe me. The fact Donald Trump didn't want to reach over and shake her hand isn't going to cause her to lose any sleep. My belief, having known her for 25 years, is that her thoughts are with the Bush family.
She didn't make any sort of a scene. It would have been a little awkward frankly if President George W. Bush, on behalf of the family went outside the pew and shook every single hand of every former president and former first lady and that was wonderful. It would have been a little harder I think for Trump to have done it when she was seated.
So, I just don't want to make too big a deal out of it.
HEALY: She knew very well the camera was on her in that moment and it was something, you know, she would certainly think through kind of going into it, and she made a conscious decision in wanting to look straight ahead and keep it to that.
BURNETT: I think you've got to acknowledge it. They all knew exactly they were going to be on camera and what was going down.
I want to play, you know, I thought some of the eulogies were very moving. And what they said about aspiring to be things, and the former president, I want to play President George W. Bush speaking about his father.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: He showed me what it means to be a president who serves with integrity, leads with courage and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Obviously that was meant from the heart and he meant what he said, and yet in the context we are in now it is hard not to hear a double meaning.
HEALY: Oh, absolutely. Look, I mean, the president -- President Bush wrote this eulogy surely, you know, probably weeks or months ago. We don't know how long before, and he wanted it to be a tribute to his father. He didn't want it to be picked over and analyzed and coded.
But the reality is when you're in that church and you're hearing those words and thinking about a president who really felt called to service, that it was duty, honor, country and you'll see a sitting first incumbent president who very much has made so many issues and politics and enemies about himself and how he is treated and how he is making America great again. The discordant nature is hard to miss.
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, I think president bush wrote this eulogy today with only one person in mind, and that was his father. We can all try to read into things, different messages but at the end of the day, this unique American relationship between a president and his father, also a president.
[19:35:02] And also President Bush essentially knowing he someday will also live through this moment. I mean, very few of us have this knowledge of --
BURNETT: Well, here's the thing, they're all sitting there knowing what someone is saying about them, what their moment will be like, as dark as that is to admit, and certainly, that includes George W. Bush.
BURNETT: It includes the current president who I'm sure, you know, will choreograph his own funeral, they all do, before they happen.
JENNINGS: But as you hear these eulogies and in President Bush's speech today you can't help but think his message is what you would want someone to say about you, which is the office is bigger than anyone sitting in that pew. The country, the future, what we all stand for as Americans and what we aspire to be as human beings, it's not about us individually. It's about something much bigger than that.
That's what I heard in the eulogy today, and that's what George W. Bush was always good at, putting these bigger ideals ahead of individual wants or selfish political desires. That's what I always admire him the most.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.
And next, President Trump scrambling to calm the markets after they tanked because of his braggadocios tweets.
Plus, a top Democrat calling for an emergency hearing on voter fraud in North Carolina, fraud that allegedly helped the Republican get ahead and we now have a development on the ground. Our Drew Griffin investigating.
We'll be right back.
[19:40:01] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump says he's not naive. The president trying to contain the damage after the market rout on his China tariffs, today defending his boasting about a trade deal with China's president, even though there's no deal to brag about yet.
The president saying on Twitter, quote, very strong signals being sent by China once they returned home from their long trip, including stops from Argentina. Not to sound naive or anything, but I believe President Xi meant every word of what he said at our long and hopefully historic meeting. All subjects discussed.
This comes after the Dow suffered one of its largest point drops in history after the president called himself a tariff man, threatened to increase tariffs again if the deal isn't reached, and bragged China was giving up more than he was giving up before there was anything to sign.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio.
Congressman, I appreciate your time.
Look, you've been very involved with all of this because your state, of course, is feeling the brunt of some of these tariffs with the General Motors mass layoffs. When the president says not to be naive, is he being naive to say he trusts the Chinese president at his word with no signed deal?
REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO: Of course. This gets back to what I think Ronald Reagan said, which should be bipartisan in its implications and its applications is trust but verify.
I mean, there's no way you should deal with the Chinese without anything but suspicion. They steal our intellectual property. They cheat on most trade laws. They're a very difficult partner to negotiate with regard to the global trading regime. You should not trust them one inch until something is signed and implemented and even then you've got to watch them like a hawk to make sure they're not cheating.
BURNETT: You know, on this, though, look, you're criticizing China and the president does this as well, right? I mean, he's the one saying all the things you're saying, intellectual property and all this thievery that's going on.
BURNETT: So, when he kind of, on Twitter and said, oh, I have this deal, they're going to get rid of their tariffs on cars, were you supportive of him and celebrating that? I mean, again, didn't have the deal signed, but I would imagine you would support him and celebrate that if it were true, right?
RYAN: Well, any trade law that's going to benefit companies in the United States and workers importantly in the United States, I'm going to be all for. But the problem with the president's policies, Erin, is that there is no grand strategy here. This is a series of tweets and tactical moves with no end game. We don't even know what direction we're moving in with China, and he's not making any investments on the domestic side, on education, research, the tax code that are going to allow us to grow and industries to compete with China.
I mean, China's putting hundreds of billions of dollars behind renewable energy, wind and solar, additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence, all of these industries that are growing at 25 percent to 30 percent a year, the United States is standing still on these issues. So part of its trade, part of its fair rules that we all need to abide by. But it's also about domestic investments that are going to make us a competitive country and the president has dropped the ball on that.
BURNETT: So, today, you met with the CEO of General Motors, which is where much of this started with, you know, when she announced the mass layoffs, some of it in your state, Mary Barra. Now, you know, part of the reason for those mass layoffs General Motors has said over the past two months is the tariffs. She said that over the summer.
Now, she had met with the president immediately after these mass layoffs were announced. You met with her in person. Did she say anything about that meeting? Did he threaten, what did he say to her?
RYAN: She didn't share anything about her meeting with the president, but what she did say was that basically the instability, I mean that's part of the problem here. You're going to have policy disagreements on issues that affect the auto industry or the steel industry or any other industry. The reality is you've got to have a long-term plan that companies could at least have some standardization, at least understand what the rules of the road are going to be like moving forward.
And that's really the problem with the president. One day the tariffs are on, next day the tariffs are off. One day the Chinese are our friend, the next day they're our enemy. Like what is it, and what could companies like General Motors when they look at the field and say, OK, we have some certainty here so we can make investments.
And that's part of why the Trump presidency brings a lot of chaos to the market, up and down, left and right, we don't know what direction we're going because quite frankly, the president doesn't know what direction he's going in.
BURNETT: All right. Congressman Ryan, thank you for your time tonight.
RYAN: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. And next calls for an emergency hearing on alleged voter fraud in North Carolina as we learn new details about the ballots that are now part of a criminal investigation.
Plus, at this moment, former President George H.W. Bush in Houston, his body lying in repose after an emotional and touching day right now at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston.
[19:48:53] BURNETT: Breaking news. A top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee tonight demanding an emergency hearing on alleged voter fraud in North Carolina's ninth congressional district race. This as CNN learns the absentee ballots in question are part of an active criminal investigation.
I want to go to Drew Griffin. He's obviously on the ground there.
And, Drew, I know you've got new reporting just coming in here. What is it? DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the
political operative at the center of this investigation's name is McCrae Dowless. He was paid to get out the absentee vote in this congressional race.
We've done some digging on him. It turns out that McCray Dowless has been involved or hired by six different campaigns since 2010, paid a total of $23,000, Erin, and get this in almost every single race he's been involved with, his candidate has got a disproportionately large amount of absentee ballots in his home county. Now, he's at the center of this fraud investigation that could overturn the North Carolina congressional district race for district 9.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The voting irregularities at North Carolina's ninth district congressional race are part of a criminal investigation that began in January and include possible vote fraud that could have affected the outcomes in three elections.
[19:50:12] Among the allegations, more than a thousand absentee ballots from likely Democratic voters were gathered and destroyed.
LORRIN FREEMAN, WAKE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: You're looking at several thousand or approximately 2,000 absentee ballot requests from this most recent election, about 40 percent of those it appears at this point may not have been returned.
GRIFFIN: Lorrin Freeman, the district attorney for Wake County, North Carolina, was sent this letter back in January by the district attorney of Bladen County, asking for help to investigate voter fraud allegations and plausible false statements to effect election outcomes allegedly perpetrated by McRae Dowless.
Dowless is this man, a political operative hired by Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris. Harris won the 9th district race in a squeaker, just 905 votes. But that vote count is now in doubt because the operation run by McCrae Dowless could have affected more than a thousand of the votes.
Freeman says her office and North Carolina state bureau of investigation are also looking at these hundreds of absentee ballots which were cast but with suspicious witness signatures on them. A second part of the alleged scheme where absentee ballots were only partially filled out by voters then gathered up unsealed allowing political operatives working for the Republican to fill in the rest.
(on camera): Does it appear that there was a scheme for one or a couple or a group of people to stamp a bunch of ballots the way they wanted to stamp them and send them in?
FREEMAN: I think this, again, is a matter that is very much under investigation. Those are the types of allegations that we are reviewing currently.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Voters like Aubrey Atkinson say McCrae Dallas actually showed up at his door to help him fill in his absentee ballot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know how to get them to spell it out to me because I can't read and write.
GRIFFIN: He can't remember who he voted for.
Lacey Allison had help, too, he remembers voting for sheriff but not for Congress.
(on camera): What about the congressional race? A guy named Harris and a guy named McCready.
LACEY ALLISON: I don't remember which one, but I do remember those two names.
GRIFFIN: Erin, Mark Harris, the Republican candidate who won the election, denies any involvement of any wrongdoing in all this. As for that man, McCrae Dowless, he continues to ignore all of our calls -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Drew. As Drew continues there on the ground.
And next, former President George H.W. Bush's funeral, as right now his body is in repose in Houston for the night. Today the ceremony filled with some poignant but also humorous moments.
[19:56:56] BURNETT: President George H.W. Bush right now lying in repose. That is the family's church in Houston. And what you are seeing now live is marking the end of the day filled with many touching moments, and also some laughter.
Here's Jamie Gangel.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, Washington says good-bye to President George H.W. Bush. Every living U.S. president, royalty, world leaders, politicians, and dear friends at the national cathedral. A ceremony filled with tears and laughter.
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR: As Dana Carvey said, the key to a Bush 41 impersonation is Mr. Rogers trying to be John Wayne.
GANGEL: Former Senator Alan Simpson, a longtime friend, recalled how Bush helped him during a crisis.
FORMER SEN. ALAN SIMPSON, BUSH FAMILY FRIEND: He reached out to me while I'm tangled in rich controversy, and taking me lumps and he said, yes. There were staff members, Al, who told me not to do this, but, well, this is about friendship and loyalty. GANGEL: Brian Mulroney, former Canadian prime minister, praised
Bush's leadership as the Cold War came to an end.
BRIAN MULRONEY, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: No occupant of the Oval Office was more courageous, more principled and more honorable than George Herbert Walker Bush.
GANGEL: The son eulogized his father.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: To us, he was close to perfect, but not totally perfect. His short game was lousy. He wasn't exactly Fred Astaire on the dance floor. The man couldn't stomach vegetables, especially broccoli. And by the way, he passed these genetic defects along to us.
GANGEL: And praised him for teaching him how to lead in public life and in private.
BUSH: Through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man, the best father a son or daughter could have. And in our grief, I just smile knowing that dad is hugging Robin and holding mom's hand again.
GANGEL: And a final departure from Washington for the 41st president. Aboard the same 747, he used while in office, taking him home to Texas for the last time.
GANGEL: Tonight's Special Air Mission 41 has landed back in Texas. There will be a final memorial tomorrow and former President George H.W. Bush will be laid to rest at his presidential library -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Jamie, thank you so very much.
And thanks to all of you for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.