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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Orders Syria Withdrawal Against The Advice Of Advisers; GOP Furious With Trump Over Decision To Pull Out of Syria; Washington Post: Mueller Could Be Moving Toward Charging Roger Stone. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 19, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, OUTFRONT HOST: Out front next, Trump making two major concessions to Vladimir Putin, saying he's going to put all American troops out of Syria, that is what Putin has been asking, dreaming, begging for day after day on the same day Trump lifts sanctions against two major Russian companies.
Plus, breaking news, Bob Mueller calling for the transcript of Roger Stone's congressional testimony, according to the Washington Post. Is Mueller about to charge Stone?
And more breaking news, new evidence of just how well Trump knows campaign finance laws. Does this actually prove that the President of the United States committed a felony? Let's go out front.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. Out front tonight, President Trump kowtow into Vladimir Putin, giving Putin exactly what he wants in two major ways. First, lifting sanctions of two big Russian firms and second, announcing that he's going to pull American troops out of Syria, something Putin wants more than almost any other thing. It could not get better for Putin today.
And Trump in a new White House video tonight sticking by his Syria announcement. And he did it on a video. He didn't come out and speak to the nation, he didn't answer questions on the decision, he's not answering questions from Congress, no, he hid away and put out a little video. Here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we have won against ISIS. We've beaten them and we've beaten them badly, we've taken back the land and now it's time for our troops to come back home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. Well, he can say it as much as he wants to say it. But, again, he said that without taking questions from anyone or talking to anybody, because he didn't want to answer the questions. And his own party is livid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), ARMED SERVICES: Now, we're dramatically less safe. This is an Obama-like move.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: It's a terrible mistake and unfortunately I think we're going to pay a price for it if it's not reversed.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I doubt there's anybody in the Republican Caucus in the Senate that just doesn't stunned by this precipitous decision that just -- like you woke up in the morning and made it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That shock and anger again from his own party. Coming in response to Trump's twitter announcement that he's going to withdraw those U.S. troops fighting ISIS in Syria. So the original tweet this morning, quote, and to announce, "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency". Let's just be clear, he announced that he's pulling U.S. troops out via tweet.
Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger who fought in the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan responded to the President's tweet, "This is simply not true". In fact, a middle eastern leader in the midst of this fight recently told me this summer that Islamic terror groups including al Qaeda are regrouping and rebuilding, something the President's own special envoy for the coalition to defeat ISIS was clear about just last week. Got to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT MCGURK, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY, GLOBAL COALITION TO DEFEAT ISIS: Nobody is declaring mission accomplished. Obviously it would be reckless if we were just to say, well, the physical caliphate is defeated so we can just leave now. I think anyone who's looked at a conflict like this would agree with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Worth stopping here to be clear. Brett McGurk you just saw there, is the person whose job title in the Trump administration includes the words defeat ISIS. But while at home, the President's move was met with anger. Putin celebrated. You know, of course, Putin has been fighting against the United States and Syria and with U.S. rivals including President Trump's boogeyman Iran.
In a response to Trump's move today, Putin's foreign affairs spokesperson went on television to say the presence of in Syria was an obstacle to peace. She said, "A very important story that may follow from this decision is a real, real prospect for a political settlement". The Russians are happy. And Trump's decision to go against his own Defense Department, right, his own defeat ISIS envoy and his own party and with Putin rendered his Vice President mute. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Vice President, do you believe the (INAUDIBLE) from Syria? Do you stand by what you said to members of the Senate?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Nothing to say.
Kaitlan Collins is out front at the White House. And Kaitlan, you know, look, the President makes this announcement on Twitter and then says nothing to anybody all day and is afraid to take questions it looks like now, putting out a video, right, where he was safe and secure from anyone asking him anything.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, typically, Erin, a President would come out to some kind of address and announce this or someone would appear on camera from the White House, but instead the President tweeted his tweet and the Press Secretary issued a statement to reporters but did not answer follow-up questions about this statement. And here's a little insight into just how much this caught officials here at the White House off guard. They held a background briefing call which is where typically an official will come on, explain the administration's position where they are going forward with this.
But during this call with reporters today, Erin, they could not say how many troops have already come home from Syria, what the timeline is going to be or when the rest of the troops are going to come home as a move that they've signaled. They could not answer those questions. Instead, referring several of the reporters to the Department of Defense which, I should note, is referring reporters back to the White House to answer those questions.
[19:05:12] One more thing during that call, the officials were asked, who did not -- they refused to be identified publicly, they were asked about the National Security Adviser John Bolton saying just a few months ago that the U.S. will have a presence in Syria as long as Iran is operating there. And they essentially chalked it up saying that it's the President's prerogative that this is his decision now and that's where we're going. One more thing, Erin, that I want to note is that Senator Bob Corker, a Chairman of a Senate's Committee was here at the White House for a scheduled meeting earlier today, already here inside the West Wing when they abruptly canceled his meeting with no excuse.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Kaitlan.
I want to go now to Republican Congressman Mike Turner who sits on both the House Armed Services and Intelligence Committee. I appreciate your time, Congressman. Can I ask you as Kaitlan is saying some of these questions. Have you, as a member of Armed Services, been briefed on how many troops have already come home and on the timeline? I mean, has the President shared all this information with you? REP. MIKE TURNER (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, as you know, Erin, no one has been briefed which, of course, is part of the consternation that is happening here on Capitol Hill. You know, we have discussed before, you can't run foreign policy, you certainly shouldn't run troop deployment through twitter. There are processes, there are implications, and there are U.S. troops that are going to bed tonight and that are hearing the news of their withdrawal, now the President saying imminently. And of course there are allies and those that they are working with in the defeat of ISIS that also are hearing the news similarly. It diminishes overall their credibility and their relationships and the work that they do everyday.
BURNETT: So, what do you make of this, that he announces this on twitter. And now he's put out this video that you just heard, right, I mean, it's a propaganda video, right. So he's not talking to you guys right now, he's not taking questions from the media, right. He seems to be avoiding that all together. Why?
TURNER: Well, to claim that we have defeated ISIS is, you know, a dangerous overstatement to be sure. Now, there's no question that ISIS has been significantly diminished. If you look at the territory they've held, the number of soldiers that they've had, this administration by shifting its policy to defeat of ISIS has had a significant impact. Now, it doesn't require that we have troops on the ground in order to continue the battle with ISIS. And this troops as you know were committed during the Obama administration. And this certainly can be a shift of tactics and strategy, but using that has to be worked out with the generals and with a process and not just an abrupt statement of withdrawal.
BURNETT: Right. And, of course, let's just be clear. He is saying that he's defeated ISIS, right, and we just said it again, right? We won. I mean, you know, I mean, it's like a mission accomplished moment. I mean, I don't know how to put it. It seems like it doesn't fit with what this intelligence community is saying, it doesn't fit with what his own guy in charge of defeating ISIS is saying, it doesn't fit with what middles eastern leaders are saying.
I mean, the other question, Congressman, of course, is this issue about Russia. I mean, this is what Vladimir Putin wanted. He has made -- that is not a secret. I mean, clearly that is -- this is a win for Vladimir Putin tonight.
TURNER: Well, one of the things you have to recognized, of course, is that the whole reason why Russia is there is the failure of the Obama administration to appropriately handle the weapons of mass destruction, the use of chemical weapons that gave the opportunity for Russia to step in. And we did not have troops that were there for the purposes of counting Russia, they were there for the purposes of defeating ISIS.
However, there's no question that the benefit of troops on the ground was certainly a counterbalance to the Assad, the Assad regime which we were opposed to. Russia's influence and of course Iran's influence, all of those go right to the issue, of course, that these troops were in Syria without congressional approval. They're still operating under the mandate of al Qaeda, in defeating al Qaeda and then of course --
BURNETT: I understand the points you're making. And look, a lot of this is fair. But, I mean, I'm just getting at the bottom line is tonight Vladimir Putin is happy. There's no bones about that. This is what he wanted and he has now gotten it.
TURNER: Well, I think the point that's important here is that there's no one on Capitol Hill that would say that we should keep troops in Syria solely for the purposes of a counterbalance to Russia.
TURNER: That is not the mandate. That is not the purpose of what's given out. There is no question that, you know, we're all very pleased with the counterbalance, the effects that it was having on Russia's presence. But that is not the purpose that the troops were there and there certainly has not been congressional approval to have troops there for the purposes of countering Iran, Hezbollah or Russia.
BURNETT: Why do you think the President did this?
TURNER: You know, I'm -- I've stopped speculating about what the President's purposes or actions are. I can just tell you this, you know, twitter is no way to run foreign policy. It certainly is no way to run troop deployment. This is dangerous. It's dangerous for our troops. It's dangerous for our allies, those were assisting us there on the ground and it's certainly is a grave overstatement to say that ISIS is defeated.
Now, we have other ways in which to continue to fight against ISIS in Syria. But that is a part of the discussion and the strategy that is short circuited when the President makes an abrupt statement that troops will be withdrawn.
[19:10:11] BURNETT: And let me ask you before we go about the other news tonight, right, the President, the Trump administration announcing it's lifting sanctions on two major Russian firms linked to Oleg Deripaska, who, of course, is still individually sanctioned, they were sanctioned, all of this is part of the interference in the election. Do you support that decision to lift those sanctions?
TURNER: No, I'm actually in support of increasing sanctions on Russia. We've seen no change in Russia's behavior with respect to Ukraine, Crimea, and, of course, the use of chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction in the U.K. And, of course, now with the, you know, closing off access to the Black Sea from the Ukraine, once they have completed their bridge to Crimea, it's a dangerous time to begin to do an overture to Russia. And I think, you know, certainly even our allies in Europe, our NATO allies believe that what we're seeing in the black sea is dangerous trend.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Congressman. I appreciate your time tonight and your honesty.
Look, two major moves in favor of Russia and Putin that are confounding almost everyone tonight. Next, we have breaking news, Mueller reportedly asking Congress for information on Roger Stone. Does this mean Stone is about to be charged?
Plus, more breaking news, the Wall Street Journal reporting new evidence of just how well Trump knows campaign finance laws. Wait until you see what they found. It is pretty stunning when it comes to the felony conversation.
And Maryland's Attorney General leading to charge against the Trump administration. He is now suing the President in at least 20 lawsuits. Why? Does he have the goods or he just looking for a crime? Attorney General Brian Frosh is my guest.
[19:15:41] BURNETT: Breaking news, The Washington Post reporting tonight that Special Counsel Bob Mueller has asked the House Intelligence Committee for an official transcript of Roger Stone's testimony, a sign Mueller could be moving to charge him with a crime. Stone, of course, has a long time close relationship to the President. He's an adviser.
Out front now on the phone is Manuel Roig-Franzia, one of The Washington Post reporters who just broke the story. So Manuel, tell me exactly what you know. Mueller wants this information, right? What more can you tell us as to why and what?
MANUEL ROIG-FRANZIA, FEATURES REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (through phone): Well, this is a significant moment in the trajectory of this whole case for this reason. It's common in cases when an indictment might be in the offing that the prosecutor will ask for an official certified copy of testimony and that could possibly be what's happening here. It's likely that Mueller already has the details of what Roger Stone said during that meeting but this is a box-checking move that legal experts say could mean that more legal actions and even possibly an indictment is coming soon.
BURNETT: Right. You want to check every word, right? You know what, you want to just check every word and cross over "t", check every apostrophe to make sure an "is" wasn't an "isn't." I mean, Stone's response to your report, Manuel was, "This has devolved into gotcha word games, perjury traps and Trumped-up process crimes. I think people can see through the political motivations behind this". What's your reaction to that?
ROIG-FRANZIA: I think Mueller is in for a real public relations battle with Roger Stone, a guy who has access to a lot of people in the media and likes to mix it up, wants to fight, is going to be throwing punches those above and below the belt at Mueller, the people and Congress who have been casting these versions against him and is used to getting down into the weeds on the details of whatever he's battling about. This is somebody who was formed in dirty trickster political campaigns and he will probably give as good as he gets.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Manuel. And that is one of the reasons when you say, look, his friendship with Donald Trump or in another person who likes to mix it up and loves to fight. Roger Stone is of that ilk.
Out front now, Harry Sandick, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Frank Bruni, Columnist for the New York Times, Juliette Kayyem, Former Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama, and Larry Noble, Former General Counsel of the Federal Election Commission. Harry, you know, you heard what Manuel said like this could be very hugely significant. They know what he said. This is a -- you know, you are literally checking every word and you're probably only doing that if you're preparing to be done?
HARRY SANDICK, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I think that that's a very good inference and the one that I would draw, too. In the indictment, you're going to want to quote the exact words that were used if you're bringing a false statements claim based on his testimony. So you're going to want to put that document before the grand jury itself, you're not going to just put a paraphrase of what's being said because the words he chose are important. You might also want to know whether he went back to correct his testimony. Sometimes a witness testifies and submits an errata sheet to correct certain things, so you want to get it 100 percent right.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FMR. ASST. SECRETARY, HOMELAND SECURITY DEPT. UNDER OBAMA: I think that's exactly right, nothing to change. On Harry, I think, what's important to remember, this is the first time that we're aware that Mueller has asked specifically for the testimony of someone who testify before the House Intelligence Committee. Now, I doubt he's going to get it right now.
Remember Nunes is still -- Congressman Nunes is still in charge. He's not going to be helpful, he's never been helpful. He's always protected the President and people like Roger Stone. We're going to have to wait a couple weeks until there's new leadership with Adam Schiff.
But, you know, this is part of the Mueller case that brings us back to collusion. We've been on the financial side for awhile, we're now back to collusion.
BURNETT: Right. And Frank, that is the point here. Roger Stone does go to the entire heart of the question of collusion conspiracy, OK? At one point -- and this is, right, what his relations with WikiLeaks and helping to get all these e-mails that were damaging to Clinton and helpful to Donald Trump. Many times he bragged about his contacts with Julian Assange who, of course, founder of WikiLeaks which we now know was aided by Russia in all of this. Once tweeted, it was soon be Podesta's time in the barrel then the Podesta e-mails leak out.
[19:20:08] Another time, it couldn't get more direct in this. "I have total confidence that WikiLeaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon. Roger Stone is at the heart of the collusion question.
FRANK BRUNI, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it's totally at the heart of the collusion question because we know that WikiLeaks got those hacked Democratic e-mails from Russian military intelligence officials, right? So the question is if Roger Stone knew what was going on with WikiLeaks, if that was actually coordinated plan, did he also know where those e-mails were coming from? If he knew where those e-mails were coming from, there's your coordination right there and then if Roger Stone knew that, did Donald Trump know that? You'd have to believe so.
BURNETT: Right. And of course Donald Trump, you know, publicly saying hey, WikiLeaks, where are you? Russians get these e-mails and then that happened. But, Larry, Roger Stone has been all over the map, right. He's changed his story so many times. Here he is on the WikiLeaks issue.
ROGER STONE, TRUMP ADVISER: I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation but there's no telling what the October surprise may be.
What I actually said in my testimony was that I had never communicated with Assange. That is correct. I have never met with him, spoken to him on the phone, e-mailed with him.
BURNETT: OK. Let me be just clear there. The operative words here in the first sound bite were I actually have communicated with Assange and the second one was I have never communicated with Julian Assange. Roger Stone at some point has lied and that could be core here.
LARRY NOBLE, FMR. GENERAL COUNSEL, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: Yes. Look, and we're seeing this throughout this investigation where people are lying. They're changing their stories. And, you know, if he, in fact, did have contact with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and did in fact know about the e-mails and did take the Trump e-mails, as you said, there's your collusion right there.
Now he's going to say, well, I was just guessing, I was just making an educated guess about what was going to happen. But, you know, he has a real credibility problem here and I think what Mueller is looking at now is the perjury part of it. Did he purger himself before Congress? And I think, you know, that is going to be critical because if he did purger himself before Congress, it gives Mueller some leverage over Stone, whether he will --
NOBLE: -- respond is a different question.
BURNETT: Now Juliette, just a quick question here though. Obviously there's a lie but the other core part of the issue is here. Let's just say they could prove he did have communications with Julian Assange, right? And that that was the truth, the other one was the lie. In a sense, so what, right? The issues is did he know Julian Assange was doing this -- because he was getting help by Russia, right. That is at the core of it, the other part they need to prove, correct?
KAYYEM: That is true. But let's just remind everyone, in July -- a lot of us thought it was weird Mueller indicted I think a couple dozen Russian intelligence agents as part of this case. We thought it was weird because there's no way he's going to get ahold of them but I do think that that laid the foundation, these Russian intelligence agents were likely the ones who got the stuff from the DNC, send it over to Julian Assange who's in contact with Roger Stone. And let's not forget the last piece. Who's in contact with President of the United States. I mean, there's your collusion with the Trump campaign.
And I think it's important to remember -- and we say this all the time, we don't know what Mueller knows. In other words, it is may not just be perjury. There may be evidence out there to show the link -- a different link between Assange, Stone, and then of course Trump.
BURNETT: And Harry, this comes today as there's a filing in the Michael Cohen case and we don't know what it is. Michael Cohen of course is now absolutely central to what they are finding out about the President of the United States, what he knew, what he did. And with what sort of 1forethought and intention.
BURNETT: What do you make of this mystery filing?
SANDICK: Well, I don't think we should jump to the conclusion that it's particularly consequential. There are often filings in a criminal case shortly after the conviction and the sentence are final. There's a statement --
BURNETT: Which is of course where we are right now, right?
SANDICK: Exactly. There's a statement of reasons that is often filed under seal even in the routine case because it includes certain personal information about the defendant. So it may be that it's totally ordinary information. Again, the way the southern district left things with Cohen, it wasn't as if he was on the verge of cooperating with them, he specifically refused to do that.
BURNETT: So there's that, but the President is watching. And Frank, of course, the bottom line here on the Roger Stone development tonight is that this is something the President cares about deeply. This is a long-time close friend who knows a lot about Donald Trump, not just on the campaign but personally. And how those two worlds, you know, as we've seen with campaign finance or length (ph).
BRUNI: It's another person he has to worry about and else (ph) has to worry because we don't know if the goal here is simply to prosecute, to indict and prosecute Roger Stone or if the goal is to turn Roger Stone into another person who's telling tales on Donald Trump. Everything Roger Stone has said to date, it gives you the impression he wouldn't do that, but it's a lot different when you're actually charged with a crime.
[19:25:06] BURNETT: Well right. And Roger Stone knows the President would pardon him but. And that's always the big but. All right, thank you all.
And next, we have more breaking news because this is a crucial development on the campaign finance front. The whole issue is right. The President says he had no idea that it was a violation of campaign finance law to pay off women. Well, that doesn't appear to be true. He knows a whole lot about election law. A big development tonight from the Wall Street Journal.
And he signed on to sue the Trump administration over the Acting Attorney General over Obamacare, over immigration, over the President using his office to line his own pockets. Will any of it stake? I'll ask the Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.
BURNETT: More breaking news, new evidence tonight that could be key in building the case that the President broke the law. This is the felony question about paying off women. The Wall Street Journal reporting that Trump said in a sworn statement in 2000 and then testified back in 1988 -- as over an extended period of time here -- that he knew a whole lot about campaign finance laws.
This is crucial because the President has been implicated of course in those hush money payments to two alleged mistresses. Those payments happening just weeks before the 2016 election. Michael Cohen has said the President directed them to do it with the intent of influence the election. That would be a felony. In order to convict him, prosecutors have to prove now that Trump did know the rules and violated them willfully. So this history is crucial.
Evan Perez is out front. And Evan, how damning could this be for the President? We now have over 20 years him talking again and again, sworn affidavits and on camera which I'm going to play in just a couple of moments. The President talking about how well he knows campaign finance law.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, exactly. Because there always something in Donald Trump's past that will always come back in these instances.
PEREZ: Right. Because there always is something in Donald Trump's past that will always come back in these instances. And what it shows is that the president, at least in this testimony that you're quoting and it's in this "Wall Street Journal" story, it indicates he is boasting about how much he knows about campaign finance law, that he knows about corporate limits allowed to donate to candidates, the difference between corporate donations and individual donations. That's one of the things that he talks about, both in the Federal Election Commission investigation in 2000 as well as this New York state investigation in 1988, Erin.
And, again, the key thing here is to show intent, right? If the president accidentally violates the law, this could be worked out as a civil infraction because you didn't intend to break the law. But prosecutors can say and show that you have great familiarity to -- with the law and that you had to know that you were breaking it, then that's when you can then cut into a criminal violation and that's what governs all of this. We don't know where prosecutors in New York or the Mueller investigators are going to land on this, but I think this is the kind of information you have to believe investigators are going to be using as they try to figure out what to do next.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Evan.
So, I want to go back to our panel.
Larry Noble, I want to go back to you first here, you were chairman of the Federal Election Commission, right? This affidavit, one of them in the year 2000 was addressed to you. Specifically to you related to a fund-raising event far Senate candidate, Trump signed the affidavit. He makes it clear he was the one holding the fund-raiser, not his company and there's all kinds of things in here, I personally sponsored the reception, I did so solely in my individual capacity, I paid for from my personal funds, the cost of invitations, all kinds of details that go on and on.
How damaging is this? I mean, would you say this is a guy who knew the rules?
LARRY NOBLE, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: Yes, this is incredibly damaging. I should correct you, I was general counsel, not commissioner.
BURNETT: I'm sorry.
NOBLE: But this is incredibly damaging.
The Justice Department has a manual on prosecuting election law offenses and what you have to show for criminal prosecution is that it's a knowing and willful offense, and knowing and willful means that you knew that it was against the law, and one of the things they say in their manual is that experience with the law goes to help prove it was a knowing and willful violation, being knowledgeable about the law and what this shows real knowledge.
What really struck me about it is that he's talking about minutiae of campaign finance law, about how you put on a fund-raiser. After I left the FEC, I was in private practice for six years, and I also taught law school and teaching about how to do fund-raisers, about having money not touched by other people, by having people from the candidate, candidate's campaign committee take the checks, those details are things you have to teach lawyers. He seems to know all about that.
So, I think he has a hard time saying he didn't understand that corporate contributions, contributions over the limit, somebody paying hush money for the purpose of influence your campaign was illegal.
BURNETT: I mean, Harry, that's the 2000 affidavit that Larry is talking to you in which he has referenced. In 1988, Trump testifies I've gone through federal campaigns and, frankly, it's the best thing that ever happened to me because you're limited to a $1,000 contribution. I don't know if he's making a choke about being cheap or what, but the point is he's saying he knew the rules and he bragged about it on television, OK? Here he is with Larry King, again, we're back here in 1990.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, THEN BUSINESSMAN: I think nobody knows more about campaign finance than I do because I'm the biggest contributor.
LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: What about reform? Does it need reform?
TRUMP: It's very complex --
KING: You're the reform party.
TRUMP: It's a very complex thing. As an example, I'm allowed to give $1,000 to every senator, right? This was 20 years ago, a thousand dollars. Now I love it because I'm capped out at a thousand dollars per senator. They would love me for it, give $1,000 --
KING: Soft money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Can I just say these are the moments where I'm like are we living in like a movie where there's a joke being on us? Did Donald Trump just say I think nobody knows more about campaign finance than I do? He did. He just said it.
HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S .ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Yes. I mean --
BURNETT: I understand braggadocio and it's just hilarious and it's scary, but what does that say?
SANDICK: It absolutely matters. If you're a prosecutor in the southern district, you're going to go back and look through public statements that Trump has made over time like the ones that you've pointed to and that the "Wall Street Journal" has pointed to and the affidavit and you're going to try to show, yes, actually this is someone who did know enough about campaign finance law that we can prove that this was willful and knowing, and therefore, a violation.
[19:35:10] So you would do the work that reporters are already doing and maybe the prosecutors are doing as well to try to build this case, and it seems stronger now than it did a week ago.
BURNETT: And, Frank, this comes as Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, comes out and says, oh, he doesn't understand campaign finance law. He tells "The Wall Street Journal", quote, I don't think his knowledge goes that deep because mine didn't until I research it.
Is Giuliani is watching the show tonight going holy -- did he really just say, I think nobody knows more about campaign finance than I do? Or does he think no one will find that stuff?
FRANK BRUNI, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: There are so many prior moments that Giuliani would have to use. I love just Trump's naivete is selective and convenient thing, but this is so perfect, because this says Trump is the world's biggest bragger, he knows more about the economy than anybody else. He said during the health care legislation, I know more about health care than anyone else. We could probably queue up --
BURNETT: Know more about the wars than the generals.
BRUNI: Usually he says that and there's no consequence. Now there's consequence. It's just desserts.
BURNETT: OK, we're talking campaign finance, Juliette, and also, we're talking about hush payments of women so if he wanted to say I know everything about campaign finance but not hush payments to women and how that plays off, that wouldn't be true, either, because here he is talking about John Edwards with Greta Van Susteren. Here he is.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: A lot of very good lawyers have told me the government doesn't have a good case. They're spending months and years on this case. I hate to see resources wasted to this extent.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FROMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It's like he knew what was going to happen 10 or 15 years later.
BURNETT: He was investigating that one closely.
KAYYEM: Right, exactly. Since the beginning, since Trump has been a candidate, there's been this debate, does he know exactly what he's doing or have no idea what he's doing. And I've always been in the school that he knows exactly what he's doing, he just doesn't know how to do it, right? So he knows how to get the Russians to help him but he then says publicly WikiLeaks come do this, now we're all wondering what's that about.
He knows exactly how to pay off porn stars and I -- we're asked too many times to be stupid. It sort of driving me crazy at the end of the year. The president has these lawsuits, has these women, they don't matter to him until a couple of weeks before the election, his attorney says he told me to get rid of the problem and I got rid of the problem. It seems to me, we're still in a world where two plus two equals four.
The president knew exactly what he was doing.
BURNETT: And, Larry, from a legal perspective, when someone signs an affidavit as he did, talking about very specific things, sworn statement and he goes through these things, there's no cover for him to say well, I didn't read through that, I signed it. The act of signing it indicates knowledge, correct, legally?
NOBLE: That's right, absolutely. And this is not just a case where his lawyer is saying Mr. Trump know this is and that where he can later say as he's doing with Michael Cohen, well, my lawyer doesn't know what he's talking about. This is something where he signed and swore to the affidavit.
He submitted something to the Federal Election Commission under oath in essence, saying that, you know, he knew all this information. There's also something else that has to be remembered. He was running a presidential campaign.
Michael Cohen wasn't his own lawyer. He knew enough about campaign finance law that at the very least he would know to talk to other lawyers about this so this is not somebody coming out and getting involved. He'd been involved in campaigns before, he says in an affidavit I know about this stuff and then he goes ahead and pays the hush money. I think this is the evidence of the knowing willful violation they need.
BURNETT: And, of course, then nobody knows more about campaign finance -- I mean, who says that. How does that ever come up?
All right. Thank you very much
OUTFRONT next, Maryland's attorney general, he sued the president and his administration in at least 20 different lawsuits. He's my guest next. Plus on this question about a felony, can you indict a sitting president or not?
And developments tonight in the case of the seven-year-old Guatemalan girl, the one who died at the border. An attorney for the family sharing details about how exactly she was treated by the government. Those details coming up.
[19:43:03] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump facing dozens of investigation, from the Democrats, right? The House is going to be Democratic control now in a matter of days. But it's not just Congress taking him to task. One state's attorney general has been fighting him in over 20 lawsuits, leading the charge even taking the president to court today.
OUTFRONT now, the Democratic attorney general of Maryland, Brian Frosh.
I appreciate your taking the time. Let me ask you about the lawsuit today, just to start, right? It was
in court today. You're contending that it's unconstitutional for Matt Whitaker to be deputy attorney general of the United States. The DOJ defending, says he's sensible and reasonable pick and he's highly qualified.
Do you think you're going to win this, Brian?
BRIAN FROSH (D), MARYLAND ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes, I do. This is a motion in our case defending the Affordable Care Act and Matt Whitaker was not properly appointed attorney general of the United States. They ignored the attorney general's succession act which says the deputy attorney general is next in line to the attorney general, and then down the line. So, Whitaker's appointment was illegal and he's clearly unqualified to be attorney general.
BURNETT: Now, my question for you, though, is now the president said I want William Barr to be my permanent guy, Whitaker is my transition guy. Is this worth litigating at this point for you?
FROSH: Well, it is. We have a long time before Mr. Barr gets his hearing in the Senate and perhaps gets confirmed. It's possible we will have Mr. Whisker as the attorney general or purporting to be the attorney general for a period of months and it's too important a position to allow somebody who is unqualified and illegally appointed to fill in.
BURNETT: All right. So, you're going to continue with that.
I want to ask you about another line you're fighting on amidst some of these 20. The president that you say using the office of the presidency to line his own pockets.
[19:45:04] It's the formal word, emoluments, with this practice.
BURNETT: You've issued dozens of subpoenas to businesses affiliated with the president, including the Trump Organization, are they responding? Are you getting the information you've asked for?
FROSH: Well, their responses won't come for another couple weeks and given their past performance we expect them to drag their feet to file motions to stop our discovery, object to the subpoenas. We don't expect them to just cough up the documents right away, although they should.
BURNETT: So, as I said, these are part of over 20 lawsuits you're bringing against the president right now. What's your goal? Some might say, hey, look, are you just looking for something? Or do you really have something already, right? I mean, that could be an important distinction. Do you have something already or are you fishing?
FROSH: On the emoluments case --
BURNETT: On any of them and your emoluments claim, yes.
FROSH: On all of them, I mean, you know, we've joined with other attorneys general in all of these other cases, save one or two. We've led in a couple, other A.G.s lead in others and in each case, we've won. The only case that you could argue that the A.G.s have lost is the Muslim ban case where the first two iterations were declared to be unconstitutional and the third that added Korea and Venezuela was found to past muster.
BURNETT: So the president's fate may come down to whether a sitting president can be indicted. You know, a lot of people said it's a matter of precedent. It's settled. He cannot be. Others are now disagreeing.
Where do you sit on this? Yes, he can or no, the president cannot?
FROSH: I think he can. This Constitution certainly provides no prescription on that. It does not bar indictment of a sitting president. No one is above the law in our country and certainly not the president. There's other ways of getting at him, by impeachment, but I believe he can be indicted?
BURNETT: All right. Brian, thank you very much.
FROSH: Thanks for having me, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, a new development in the case of the seven-year- old girl who died in government custody at the Mexican border.
And Jeanne Moos on how Michelle Obama brought down the House last night. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: This is after the Trump administration, waving from air force one. Can you walk me through --
MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: Bye, Felicia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:50:05] BURNETT: Tonight, attorney for the family of the 7-year- old girl who died while in the custody of Customs Border Protection says that neither she or her father were provided water after they were detained.
Ed Lavandera is OUTFORNT on the border tonight.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin arrived at this remote border checkpoint with her father, the station was closed. There were only four border patrol agents on duty to handle the 163 migrant refugees who turned themselves over to the agents. Customs and Border Protection officials insist the father and daughter were given food and water as they waited nearly eight hours for buses to drive them to a border patrol station 95 miles away.
But now, attorneys for the young girl's father paint a different picture.
CHRISTOPHER BENOIT, CAAL MAQUIN FAMILY ATTORNEY: What we do know, and what our client is unequivocal with, is that no water was provided to either him or his daughter. They were provided cookies, essentially, with limited bathroom facilities.
LAVANDERA: Homeland security officials have not responded to this latest accusation. According to the timeline released by Customs and Border Protection, Jakelin started showing signs of distress just before the bus departed from the port of entry checkpoint to the border patrol station in Lordsburg, New Mexico.
REP. RAUL RUIZ (D), CALIFORNIA: There's a small little table, right, you know, about this big, this wide.
LAVANDERA: Congressman Raul Ruiz who's a doctor was part of the delegation that toured the facilities. He says he was stunned to see the room where border agents used a table in a utility room as a bed to treat the young girl who had stopped breathing.
RUIZ: I'm not saying that they didn't try. I'm saying that there are some clear under-resourced, under-trained, under-equipped and lack of standards and procedures that reflect the highest possible care that we can give to any child.
LAVANDERA: CBP officials say the decision to keep Jakelin on the bus was the best means to provide the child with emergency care. But the father's lawyers questioned whether that was the best decision, and want to know why they didn't choose to airlift her from the checkpoint area sooner.
ENRIQUE MORENO, CAAL MAQUIN FAMILY ATTORNEY: Some time before the bus left, some time around 5:00, there was an indication of distress and a decision was made at that point to transport her by bus, anyway. One of the fundamental questions that needs to be answered that we don't have an answer for is if, in fact, she was in distress.
LAVANDERA: It's hard to overstate the remoteness of the Antelope Wells outpost on the U.S./Mexico border. Customs and Border Protection officials say human smuggling routes into this area is a brand-new phenomenon. In the last two months officials say, extremely large groups of migrant refugees have been arriving together, smugglers leaving parents and children on America's doorstep in the middle of nowhere.
LAVANDERA: And, Erin, lawyers for the young girl's father also alleged today that in the hours after Jakelin's death, customs officials got the father to sign various documents in English. The lawyers say they don't know what was in that document, in those documents but they expressed anger and frustration that they would do that in if the process of this man's grieving. One other note, we're also still waiting on official autopsy results and that could take several more weeks as what exactly took this young girl's life is still not clear to everyone involved -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Ed, thank you.
And next, Jeanne Moos on Michelle Obama and who is this Felicia?
[19:57:55] BURNETT: Tonight, Michelle Obama tells us what she was really thinking. Here's Jeanne.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The band seemed to wish Michelle Obama was still first lady. Earlier, she and Jimmy Fallon surprised tourists when their elevator opened.
But an even bigger surprise was the former first lady's response when Fallon showed her a photo taken right after --
FALLON: The Trump inauguration. Just waving from Air Force One.
BURNETT: Yes. It's like --
FALLON: Can you just -- walk me through --
BURNETT: Bye, Felicia.
MOOS: Just two little words.
BURNETT: Bye, Felicia.
MOOS: Maybe you remember hearing, bye, Felicia, about a year ago when former Trump adviser Omarosa got dissed by ABC anchor Robin Roberts.
ROBIN ROBERTS, ABC ANCHOR: She says she has a story to tell. I'm sure she'll be selling that story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll see.
ROBERTS: Bye, Felicia.
MOOS: What does Felicia mean? It comes from a classic comedy "Friday", an annoying character gets the brush off from Ice Cube.
ICE CUBE: Bye, Felicia.
MOOS: When Mrs. Obama said it, most people took it as dissing the Trumps. Columnist Piers Morgan wrote: Stop it, Michelle, for someone who hates going low, you're (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sniping at Melania just to sell books is a cheap tacky shot.
Critics definitely weren't letting Michelle Obama forget about her famous high/low rule.
OBAMA: When they go low, we go high.
MOOS: Somewhere in the middle was Michelle's face when she mentioned another inaugural moment.
OBAMA: And the Tiffany's box. It was just all, you know, a lot.
MOOS: Ah, yes, the awkward Tiffany box handoff. The box containing a picture frame. Mrs. Obama couldn't figure out what to do with it, which is odd, since eight years earlier, she presented a similar box containing a leather journal and pen to Laura Bush who stuck it behind her back when they posed for a photo and discreetly passed it off once inside. It's not nice to say bye, Felicia, to a box.
Jeanne Moos, CNN --
OBAMA: Bye, Felicia.
MOOS: -- New York.
BURNETT: And thanks so much for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
"AC360" starts now.