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Source: White House Counsel Concerned Trump's Use Of National Emergency For Wall Will Be Challenged In Courts, Admin Has Looked At It Before; Sources: Allies Telling Trump Border Arguments Aren't Resonating; Aides View "Build The Wall" Slogan As Lacking Impact And Urgency; Trump Supporter Says Trump's Tariffs Are Killing His Business; Ginsburg Misses Supreme Court Arguments For First Time After Surgery to Remove Cancerous Nodules From Lung. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 7, 2019 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, the President forging ahead with the threat of a national emergency declaration, as one former White House Counsel says it's a step towards dictatorship and could be the basis for impeachment. What is the national emergency?

Plus, the President says his predecessors told him the wall was a good idea and they should have done it, plural. Who? Well, we have spoken to all the living presidents and they all say they didn't talk to him.

And a Trump supporter says the President's tariffs are crushing his business. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT this evening, national emergency. President Trump tonight forging ahead with his threat to declare a national emergency to save the border wall.

We're learning that tonight the White House Counsel is scrambling to try to make a case that there is indeed a national emergency, right? Emergency means urgent, sudden threat, right? It does not appear that this is the slam dunk that the President led us to believe.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't done it. I may do it. I may do it. But we can call a national emergency and build it very quickly.


BURNETT: Well, even members of Trump's own party are not sure. Senator John Cornyn, the second highest ranking Republican Senator saying the President declaring a national emergency would only complicate efforts to end the shutdown, which is now on day 17 and that is the second largest shutdown in American history already.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I'm confident that he could declare a national emergency, but what that means in terms of adding new elements to this, in terms of court hearings and litigation that may carry this on for weeks and months and years. To me, injecting a new element into this just makes it more complicated.


BURNETT: Cornyn is not alone when it comes to Republicans questioning Trump's plans for the border. In fact, a lot of them don't agree with the wall at all. Here's Congressman Will Hurd, who has a border district.


REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: You can't build a wall from sea to shining sea. It just doesn't work. It's the most expensive way to do border security and it's the least effective.


BURNETT: Most expensive, least effective. His district is the largest district that borders -- the border wall or what would be the border wall. And Cornyn told CNN back in February of 2017, "I don't think we're just going to be able to solve border security with a physical barrier, because people can come under, around it, and through it."

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski telling CNN at the time that it was impossible for Trump to get funding for the wall. But none of this from his own party is stopping the President from demanding $5.6 billion from Congress for the wall. And it's not stopping him from threatening to declare this national emergency. It's also not stopping him from misleading the American people, with a big part of his rationale most recently which was, all the other Presidents say this.


TRUMP: This should have been done by all of the presidents that preceded me, and they all know it. Some of them have told me that we should have done it.


BURNETT: Some of them have told me. So some is, you know, more than one. And it would be really significant if he could have George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or Barack Obama and be able to come forth and say that they said that.

That actually would be very significant. So you know, we went and asked all of them, who went -- who said this to President Trump. And today, well, Jimmy Carter says it's not him, puts out a statement. Says, "I haven't discussed the border wall with President Trump, I don't support him", which follows George W. Bush whose spokesman told reporters Bush did not discuss the wall with President Trump. And Bill Clinton, his spokesman said he did not discuss a wall with President Trump. In fact, quote, they've not spoken since the inauguration.

As for President Obama, well, here's the Former Vice President, Joe Biden.


RANDI KAYE, CNN REPORTER: The President also said today that former presidents have said to him that they wish that they had built a wall. Do you recall President Obama ever saying that?

JOE BIDEN, FMR VICE PRESIDENT: I can't think of a single one who said that.

KAYE: Certainly not President Obama?

BIDEN: Jimmy Carter, George -- I mean, Ronald Reagan, how you doing? George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush.

KAYE: President Obama?

BIDEN: President Obama, come on.

KAYE: So you don't buy it?

BIDEN: We need border security, but that's not the border security we need.


BURNETT: Well, it certainly explains why the President's new acting Chief of Staff simply could not give a straight answer, because he was asked specifically for names and they've all come out and said it wasn't them. So here's how that exchange went down.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You don't know what President it was, though?

MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: No, no, I don't know what the President's mean when they said they weren't supporting a wall. I know that George Bush was President in 2006 when they signed the Secure Fence Act, which is what we're using right now to build the wall.

TAPPER: But which one told him? Which president said --

MULVANEY: I have no idea.

TAPPER: You don't know?

MULVANEY: No, I have not asked the question -- I have not asked the President that question.


BURNETT: Sometimes you don't want to ask a question when you don't want to know the answer.

[19:05:01] Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT live outside the White House.

So Pamela, you've been talking to your sources and you've got new information at this hour on this whole process, right? How the White House legal team is going try to get to this national emergency. Can they -- they think they can do it?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, part of the challenge here, Erin, is making the case that this really is a national security emergency. That is what the White House Counsel's office is focused on as it looks at this issue and whether the President has the legal standing to declare a national emergency in order to get around Congress and get funding for his border wall.

As this source I spoke with said, just because the President is saying it doesn't mean it's true. From a legal standpoint, you actually have to have the facts and justification to back it up. And as we know, the administration has been fast and loose with the facts surrounding the border law -- border wall and what is happening there.

Now, the source I spoke with also said, look for the administration to continue to ramp up the use of language like crisis, like invasion, words that invoke the idea that this really is a national security issue at the border. Now, I can tell you, Erin, from my reporting, this was looked at under past White House Counsel Don McGahn, but there was no conclusion reached. But at this hour, we know the White House Counsel's office is seriously looking at this issue, the legal justification for the President to be able to do this.

Because as we know, Erin, this would be an unprecedented move by the President to declare a national emergency for border wall funding, and it's something that the White House Counsel's office is worried about, that it would face immediate legal challenges if the President does so. So it wants to make sure that it withstands any legal scrutiny. Erin?

BURNETT: All right. Pamela, thank you very much.

I want to go straight now to the newly sworn in Democratic Congresswoman in Michigan, Elissa Slotkin. And thank you very much for your time, Congresswoman. All right, do you believe the President of the United States has the legal authority to declare a national emergency for the wall?

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D), MICHIGAN: Yes. You know, I think the lawyers are looking at this right now. I think the bigger question is, does it make sense and what does it say about us as a country if that's what we're going to be doing? Let's not forget, if you declare a national emergency, number one, it just dilutes the importance of what we mean when we say national emergency.

As a national security professional, that doesn't make sense. And then you take the money from the Department of Defense in order to build the wall. So that's $5 billion out of our Defense Department coffers. And I just -- I don't think that make sense for us, whether it's legal or not.

BURNETT: What will you do, you know, if he goes ahead and does this, Congresswoman? He declares a national emergency, takes that money from the Defense Department, what will you do?

SLOTKIN: Yes. Well, I think, first of all, we have to understand where that will land in the court system, which is obviously a separate branch of government. But then Congress is going to have to act and call people from the administration up and talk about what this means. I understand that there's potentially legislative action that we can take to try and reverse it, but I just think we have to be a country of rules and laws and norms and this violates very, very long-standing norms.

BURNETT: Obviously, of course, you have a national security background. I want to make sure our viewers know that. I mean, look, the Vice President said -- Pence, today, told reporters that the ongoing negotiations, right? That have going on about the shutdown, we're on day 17 here, right, have been productive.

But, yes, I mean it's hard to see it that way when you're looking at the second largest shutdown in American history, day 17. How long do you see this shutdown lasting? The President had said, months, years. I mean, you know, it sort of sounds like he was engaging in hyperbole, but are we in this for a lot longer?

SLOTKIN: I certainly hope not. As a former federal employee for 14 years, with these people in my district who are suffering right now, the fundamental responsibility of government is to keep it running and functioning. So, I think if we're into months and years, we're in a serious, serious problem. We have bills that we passed through the House on our first day that we were sworn in that were Mitch McConnell's bills. We need to pass those again through the Senate and the President needs to negotiate.

BURNETT: I want to ask you also, though, in the context here of what's going on with the President, right. What your fellow freshman Democratic Congresswoman from Michigan actually said --


BURNETT: -- Rashida Tlaib. She recently, you know, spoke out with an expletive about the President and in context of impeachment. Let me play the tape.


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN: And when your son looks at you and says, Mama, look, you won. Bullies don't win. And I said, Baby, they don't, because we're going to go in there and we're going to impeach the mother --

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: What was your reaction to that? Let me -- First on the issue of impeachment, do you agree, this is the time to go in and impeach the President?

SLOTKN: Well, listen, I've always said, I want to understand what Bob Mueller's report is going to say. I'm a big believer in Bob Mueller when he was the FBI Director. I was a baby CIA analyst. I have a lot of respect for him. I want to read his report and then we'll see what we're dealing with.

And then in terms of the language, I just can't support that kind of language. I think we're trying to set an example for our kids. Some of the tenor and tone that the President has set has I think been fundamentally unbecoming and I don't think it helps us to respond in time with that kind of language.

[19:10:06] BURNETT: So, I want to ask you on this issue of impeachment, an idea suggested by another new Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She has actually suggested raising taxes. By the way, by stratospherically so on some of the wealthiest in this country. Let me play her for you.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: Once you get to like the tippy-tops, on your $10th millionth dollar, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 percent or 70 percent. That doesn't mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that as you climb up this ladder, you should be contributing more.


BURNETT: Do you agree with that? You get to 60 percent, 70 percent tax rates in the United States?

SLOTKIN: That felt a little steep to me. I think that we do have a marginal tax rate. I think that it does make sense that people that, you know, do really well should be taxed appropriately, but I think some of the things that have been bandied about just feel a little out of whack to me.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Congresswoman Slotkin, I appreciate your time.

SLOTKIN: Thanks for having me.

BURNETT: Ms. Elissa Slotkin, Former CIA Analyst and now a Congresswoman from Michigan.

OUTFRONT next, President Trump's border wall push. A prime-time speech now coming your way, a visit to the border. Will any of it change minds?

Plus, Trump's major contradiction, flip-flop on Syria. The President now says he never said he was going to pull troops out immediately, but the problem is, of course, that he did. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They're all coming back and they're coming back now.


BURNETT: What does now mean to you? And Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, absent from court for the first time in 25 years. It's coming after her surgery for tumor in her lung. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is OUTFRONT.


[19:15:30] BURNETT: Trump going prime-time and on the road. The President delivering an address to the nation tomorrow night, going to do that in prime-time. The broadcast networks are all set to air it. And he's going to be visiting the border on Thursday. These after his allies have told him that his arguments on immigration are not resonating. And that his case for a wall simply lacks urgency which is pretty bad thing when you're claiming it's a national emergency.

OUTFRONT now, John Dean, Former Nixon White House Counsel, Juliette Kayyem, Former Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama, and Mark Preston, CNN Senior Political Analyst.

OK, Mark. So it's interesting. You know, some of Trump's aides are telling him this build the wall slogan is not resonating the way it used to when it was like, who's going to build the wall? Mexico. And it was like a reverberation, you know, sort of a back and forth. So now he's going a prime-time address.


BURNETT: He's going to the border.

PRESTON: And he's also --

BURNETT: Smart or desperate?

PRESTON: Desperate and also bringing in United States steel as well in saying he's going to call the head of U.S. steel and other steel manufacturers and talk to them about designing. Because by doing that, what he's saying, I'm going to create jobs and I'm going have even more.

BURNETT: Even though he's admitted it's going to be more expensive.

PRESTON: 100 percent more but that is a desperation attempt when he says he's going to go out and do that. And the idea that he's going to go to the Oval Office, and then go to McAllen, Texas, which I have to say is a very liberal part of the Texas. That's right on the border right there. We were down there with Beto O'Rourke right before the election, did the Town Hall with him down there. That is Democratic country. It's an interesting place for him to go. BURNETT: So Juliette, you know, when you talk about this address that he's going to do, it's going to be his first prime-time Oval Office address. And he says it's only going to be eight minutes, about eight minutes which is pretty incredible, right? President Obama gave 13 prime-time addresses. There's three from the Oval Office. This is the first for this President. What do you make of the strategy that he is choosing this moment and this issue?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think -- let me go back. We used to have a saying in emergency management that you can't talking points your way out of the Hurricane Katrina response. In other words, the White House thinks this is a communications problem. It's not a communications problem. It is a reality-based problem, which is, one, we don't have a crisis at the border. Two, Mexico is not paying for it, and three, the American public doesn't want it.

They could talk as much as they want. They could refine the statements. They can have Trump try to give a statement at the Oval Office. Ultimately, he has to get a deal with Democrats and Republicans. That has nothing to do with talking points. It's a bad policy.

So I'm for him doing this. I'm -- actually, I'm for the networks and CNN airing it. I think it's important for people to see that however he presents the case, it doesn't get any better, right? That argument does not get any better.

BURNETT: So, John, on the argument, obviously, we're reporting tonight that the White House Counsel is looking into a bit whether they can do this legally, right. It all depends on, you know, how you say there's a national emergency and a crisis at this moment, when there wasn't one before. Do you think this would hold up in court?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: That's what they're obviously looking at in the Counsel's office to see how long they can hold this out. I think it will be a challenge immediately. Probably one of the Democratic Attorneys General of the Border States that are affected, I think they can get standing and maybe some of the land owners, if he threatens eminent domain.

But, Erin, he's dealing with a very dangerous area. These are very special powers. They really are undemocratic powers. They are dictatorial powers in many regards. And they're for special occasions, not for crisis of his base for a vanity project. And that's what we're dealing with here.

BURNETT: Although, Mark, I mean, to be fair, you know, Presidents do use this national emergency in a variety of different ways.

PRESTON: They do, but they use them in ways, as John Dean notes, where it's needed. Now, if you just go back a few months, he sent U.S. troops down to the U.S. border, saying that the caravan was going to storm the border and --

BURNETT: Well, those words, invasion -- PRESTON: Invasion, exactly.


PRESTON: What happened right after the election? Those troops were pulled right back. The amount of money that went into there and went into sending them down there, in addition to pulling people away from their families down there for a political stunt was outrageous. What we're seeing this, and what we're seeing with President Trump right now, again, would be an outrageous act. But again, it wouldn't be surprising if he went forward with it.

BURNETT: All right. So, let's -- you know, Jerry Nadler, obviously, is now very significant in Congress, right, as a Chairman Judiciary. And has come out not that the President is going to mislead, hasn't said that the President is making a bad case, he's actually saying the President is using the L-word, the lie word, right? Not, not telling the truth, lying. Somehow, when you hear it, it sounds different. Here he is.


[19:20:11] REP. JERRY NADLER, (D) NEW YORK: I expect the President to lie to the American people. Why do I expect this? Because he has been lying to the American people and his spokespeople continue lying to the American people.


BURNETT: So, Mark, quickly, I mean, that means that when it comes to Congress, it doesn't seem that this whole PR push this week is going to do anything in terms of any shutdown?

PRESTON: This will have actually nothing to do with a shutdown. My biggest concern about the speech is that the President is going to go into the Oval Office and continually lie. And when he does that, that is really going to sully, assuming it happens, sully the Oval Office. I mean, we just haven't seen it at this level from a President and certainly not coming straight from the Oval Office.

BURNETT: Juliette, shutdown ending anytime soon? Where are you on --

KAYYEM: Too late.


KAYYEM: I mean, it's too late. Like this idea that there's like a good not-lying Trump and a bad lying Trump. And if we only keep him from the statement, he's going to, you know, he's going to be the good one, it's ridiculous. He has lied about basic things. Numbers at his inauguration, from the beginning, to the numbers that Sarah Sanders and Secretary Nielsen are trying to promote about, you know, these 4,000 terrorists coming over the southern border, which has been debunked by everyone, including now NBC News, which puts the number at eight. So he lies. We should feel comfortable saying that. He will lie tomorrow night. It will not change reality. You can -- and that's the reality that is impacting these 800,000 employees. And so, you know, but there's no alternative Trump. And we just have to face that now. He lies. And his team lies.

BURNETT: So, John Dean, what is the significance? You talk about it as dictatorial. This is, you know, people always say, when -- what is the step too far for this President? Is it possible that it could be this or no?

DEAN: This is a certain first step too far. He is taking really inherent powers of the President and using them for a pure political purpose. And this is very dangerous, because it's crying wolf. Maybe his parents never told him of the little boy who cried wolf, because this is where he's getting into a dangerous area.

When he mixes his lies in with national security and claims crisis that are not, in fact, that. Because when the real crisis does come, and one will, people won't believe him, they'll doubt him. The machinery of government won't work properly. So this is why I'm -- it's very troubling that he would even play with this.

BURNETT: Does it, John, in your mind, change the impeachment discussion?

DEAN: This is the sort of thing that becomes cumulative, that certainly would result and could result in being in part of a bill of impeachment. It's a very serious abuse of power. And as Mark said, he's degrading the office in doing it, as well.

BURNETT: Mark, does -- when we talk about abuse of power, though, are there Republicans who suddenly will say, OK, we'll look the other way on personal character and morality and degrading the office and all of those things, and even on lying, but when it comes to abuse of power, something that could be seen as constitutional, are there some who say, OK, that actually is a problem?

PRESTON: I would like to say there are. We haven't necessarily seen a whole lot of people step up to the plate and oppose President Trump when he has done things similarly to this. But it's really unclear. When we will see it happen is, a, the Mueller report comes out and it's so damning in indicting or that, b, the political fortunes of those are tied to President Trump in a negative way. Then they'll come out.

BURNETT: And, Juliette, quickly, before we go, you mentioned, you know, there's -- that they had said 4,000 and then there may only be a handful, look, any terrorists coming over could be a major crisis and a major problem, right? But why wouldn't they just be honest about that? Give the real number. Why say 4,000 if it's 8, say 8, and 8's enough?

KAYYEM: OK. Exactly. So I teach crisis, you know, crisis management and there's a difference between a problem, a public policy problem and emergency like a fire or an earthquake and a crisis. We have a problem. Sometimes we have an emergency at the border. We're not at a crisis.

This is a public policy problem. Bad people are coming over the border. They have constantly come over the border. And just on that eight number, that's eight people who were found who were on a terror watch list. We don't actually know if they were terrorists, just to even put a greater refinement on the lie that they told.

But, you know, this President gets to crisis mode and just picking up on what John Dean said, I've never seen anything like this coming from the Department of Homeland Security. I want to believe that when the really bad thing happens, the terror attack, the school shooting, whatever, we can rely on numbers from the government. How many people died, how many people are helping, you know, where are the police?


KAYYEM: I can't do that anymore. I mean, they just lie about things they don't need to lie about, coming from the department we're going to be dependent upon when the real crisis or emergency comes.

[19:25:06] BURNETT: Right. I think you make a good point, right? There's their spin and that's what people should expect, but there's a difference between a spin and a lie, right? You can make a spin, but when there comes to absolute facts, facts are fact. Thank you all.

And next, the President completely contradicting himself on Syria. Why he's now saying that the troop pullout is not going to happen now, even though he said that it was.

Plus, he voted for Trump, but now his business is being crushed by the President's tariffs.


BURNETT: Tonight, National Security Adviser John Bolton contradicting President Trump on his plan to withdraw American troops from Syria. Bolton saying the United States will only leave once ISIS is defeated and when Kurdish fighters are protected. This after President Trump completely flip-flopped and contradicted President Trump. Here he is.


TRUMP: Never said I'm getting out tomorrow.

So our boys, our young women, our men, they're all coming back, and they're coming back now.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, the founder and former CEO of the Blackwater Security Firm, Erik Prince.

OK, so they were coming home now and now they're not coming home now. And obviously, this was a huge deal for many in Congress and the President's own party. He lost his defense secretary over saying they were coming home now and now obviously he's changing his tune. How do you know which Trump to believe?

[19:30:00] ERIK PRINCE, FORMER CEO, BLACKWATER SECURITY FIRM: Look, I don't know that the United States has a permanent interest in keeping troops in Syria. The president's right to campaign against forever wars and I think he's doing his best to end those. Maybe the United States has an interest in defending the Kurds and the Christian communities there and keeping pressure on the Iranians, but it doesn't have to be an all-U.S. troop option.

I haven't given any ideas on that to the president, but the cost and the commitments to have the United States being at war everywhere is very harmful to the military's readiness and capability and even morale, long-term.

BURNETT: And you've talked a bit about this obviously when it comes to Afghanistan and how you would do things differently. Has the president asked you or are you working on something to provide him an idea on Syria?

PRINCE: I know what could be done, certainly, to protect the Kurds and the Christian communities, to give them the ability to defend themselves. But, you know, so far the national security bureaucracy, it kind of seems to speak with one mind, that they want more U.S. troops fighting in more places all the time. And I think the president was right to campaign against that.

BURNETT: OK, but then he flip-flopped. The big question is, when a guy comes out and says, okay, I'm taking them home now, then he says, no, I'm not -- I mean, part of the problem here is I don't know what to trust about what he says.

PRINCE: I can't speak to the rotations and the timelines, but I think the president is right, just like he said -- look, considering removing half the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, because he campaigned against endless war there. And he does have options to keep the lights on, to keep the Afghan security forces much more capable than they are now, for a fraction of the cost. And that's the question, does he make rationalization decisions, or do we keep carrying on in Afghanistan for 17, 18, 20 years, since we're now already entering the second generation of warfare there.

BURNETT: So, you know, you obviously have ideas on that, as I said, you said, you haven't yet presented them on Syria. You also have talked about border security. Part of this is all security, but border security here specifically. The president now saying that he could be asking for funding, because he's going to say there's a national emergency on the southern border.

What's the emergency?

PRINCE: Look, if you look at the amount of fentanyl, the synthetic opioids, the seizures are up over 300 percent, of other narcotics up 375 percent, deaths from synthetic opioids alone are twice what the rate of gun death is in America. OK? So, if everybody thinks we have a gun control problem in America, from 14,000 deaths from guns, 28,000 deaths from synthetic opioids alone, not to mention a half million illegal folks that are seized coming over the border.

Look, are we a nation of laws or are we a nation of not? And I think having a wall, having actual border security gives you the option to have an actual wall, but with a wide gate. I have a contract manufacturing business. I have a couple of thousand employees in the United States and it is very hard to get more employees, right? Get more people to work.

So I understand the pressure for people that want to come across from our neighboring countries to come to America to work. But do we have a process where people are interviewed, where they get a visa and a process, or do we just -- or is the United States, is the Congress wanting to outsource our immigration policy to the cartels, which are now responsible for moving the thousands of people across our borders? It's not just organized --

BURNETT: Did you say half a million people?

PRINCE: Half a million people were detained last year.


PRINCE: Do you -- so are we outsourcing that to the cartels, what our immigration policy is? Because, remember, cartels make as much money on trafficking humans as they do on trafficking drugs. So we know drug trafficking is up, because our deaths are up.

BURNETT: But if they're detaining those people and if you look at the narcotics that have been seized, CBP, Customs and Border Protection, right, they're seizing all those at legal ports of entry, packages, cargo, people coming in legally. That's how so much of this stuff is coming in.

PRINCE: And sadly, year over year deaths from the opioid abuse is up 47 percent. So we do have a narcotic problem, we do have a synthetic opioid problem, much of which is coming across our southern border.

BURNETT: So our Ed Lavandera has gone along the border, I know you have, too. And he's gone to places where we have some of the best wall that we've got down there, because as we all know, there's more than 700 miles that has some sort of structure on it, and guess what? They tunnel under it, they go around it. You of all people would know those sorts of things, right? You work around in security situations.


BURNETT: Why in the world would a wall stop it?

PRINCE: Because it at least takes away the easiest and fastest option for people that want to traffic to get across. Obviously, tunneling is much more difficult than just running across the border.

BURNETT: But the big amounts of drugs you're talking about, these are serious endeavors, these are serious cartels, they're going to bring it if they want to. We're not talking about mom and pop here. PRINCE: It's not just organized crime, it's industrialized crimes.

And when you go to cities like Laredo and the city park along the river, there's every sign in the city park has cartel logos on it, literally marking their turf. It's almost like it's ceased to be United States territory anymore, it is cartel territory.

[19:35:04] And so, are we going to outsource our immigration policy to cartels, and who they want across, and what drugs they want across, or are we at least going to have a system of laws, so we can have a wide gate, make it easier to emigrate, make it easier to come to the greatest country on earth, but let's have a process. Let's enforce the rule of law.

BURNETT: Yes, but all of that could be very separate from an actual wall, right?

PRINCE: A wall is a simple tool, especially because you said there's a few miles of wall, but thousands of miles of nothing. Of nothing point nothing. And you drive along the border and it's literally no man's land.

BURNETT: A lot of this is like huge ravines. These are gullies and not how people are coming in.

PRINCE: And also places you can approach at a high rate of speed in an ATV, pickup truck or whatever, drive right across, dump your load to your carriers that are going to take it north.

A wall -- certainly, we don't need a wall from Brownsville to San Diego, no, but we need a wall in a lot of places to make it much harder for the industrialized crime by the cartels moving drugs and people into our country illegally.

BURNETT: All right. When you talk about a wall, though, you know, the White House is also saying terrorism is a part of this, right? The terrorists are coming in. Again, why would a wall stop a terrorist who really wanted to come in?

PRINCE: It's again, why do you put a fence around a place that you're trying to deny access? Everyone that lives in a walled community, why do they put fence around it? Yes, you can probably jump over the wall, you can poll vault over the wall, you can use a ladder, but it is another deterrent factor and I think the president rightly campaigned on actually getting handle on our border security.

Look, since 1965, the United States has spent $64 billion total on border security.


PRINCE: We blow that as a country in Afghanistan in one year. Now, I've advocated to cut that cost, as well.


PRINCE: But the idea of not spending $5 billion, $3 billion, or $2 billion to help give our law enforcement a tool to enforce the laws of the United States to me seems an insane political position to be in.

BURNETT: You can also say, as long as people want drugs, someone is going to supply drugs.

PRINCE: Look, I have visited death row in Texas, OK, and I asked the inmates who were locked down there 24 hours a day if they had access to drugs and yes, they still have them.


PRINCE: But do you have tools that you give law enforcement to make their job simpler to protect us all? Absolutely.

BURNETT: All right. So, I want to ask you before we go, you've spoken about the Mueller investigation, right? You're a part of it. They asked you questions and brought you in. When's the last time you talked to them?

PRINCE: Nine months ago.

BURNETT: Nine months ago. Have they followed up in any way with you since then?


BURNETT: So now you have Democrats in charge in Congress. They want you back. They name you by name.

They say they want you back. They say you weren't honest with them. They're going to subpoena you possibly. What do you do?

PRINCE: We'll see. We'll see what comes.

BURNETT: Would you go in voluntarily as you had before or would it take a subpoena to get Erik Prince in front of Congress again?

PRINCE: I think I've talked about everything that the Mueller investigation was ever interested in and beyond that it's just political grandstanding by the Democrats.

BURNETT: So, no subpoena?

PRINCE: We'll see.

BURNETT: All right. Erik, thank you so much, I appreciate your time tonight.

PRINCE: Thanks.

BURNETT: And next, a Trump supporter says the president's tariffs are crushing his business. He's OUTFRONT next.

And Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She missed opening arguments today for the first time in more than 25 years.


[19:42:21] BURNETT: Tonight, betrayed. That's how Pat LeBlanc, chairman of EBW Electronics, feels about the president to "The New York Times ". Leblanc voted for Trump, but now he's work that the tariffs of the Trump administration has put on essentially his business have forced him to consider moving production to New Mexico.

OUTFRONT now, Pat LeBlanc, chairman of EBW Electronics.

I appreciate you taking the time, sir. Look, you voted for this president. You now are telling "The New York Times" that you feel betrayed. How so?

PAT LEBLANC, CHAIRMAN, EBW ELECTRONICS: I think betrayed might be a strong word, Erin. You know, there's -- there's not a president that I've ever voted for that was 100 percent in line with everything I thought. And when I voted for president Trump, this wasn't even an issue.

So, yes, I'm disappointed. There's some things he's done they like and some things he's done that I haven't liked. Although this certainly hasn't helped my business, that's for sure.

BURNETT: Yes. I mean, obviously, they reported that word you used was "betrayed.". Explain how these tariffs are hurting you. What has happened?

LEBLANC: My business makes printed circuit board assemblies containing LED lighting. And our products are used to light up vehicles. So headlights, taillights of cars and things like that.

All the components that make up the product come from China. And we're locked into buying them from China, because we can't change them. The automotive companies, they don't make it easy for you to change suppliers.

So we're stuck getting them from China and there's been some resistance from our customers. So, a little pushback from absorbing the costs. So we're kind of stuck in a squeeze play.

BURNETT: And how much money are you losing?

LEBLANC: Well, currently, last month was $60,000. Next year in 2019, when the larger tariffs go in place, we'll be on pace to lose over $1 million.

BURNETT: Over a million dollars.

LEBLANC: Yes. Over a million dollars.

BURNETT: So, so how does that make you feel? Look, the president said, I mean, you said that you didn't expect this. There's a lot of reasons you may vote for someone or not vote for someone, but obviously, you know, he's been talking about China for a while and he says that what he's doing in China has been good for the country. Let me play what he said, Pat. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have taken historic action to bring back American jobs by cracking down on China's abusive trade practices. And we're doing very well.

We're reclaiming our nation's proud manufacturing heritage and putting tariffs on foreign producers who cheat our workers and cheat our companies. Not fair.


[19:45:00] BURNETT: And yet you're an American company employing Americans. You're on track to lose $1 million because of this. When he says "doing very well" and "reclaiming our heritage," what's your reaction, pat?

LEBLANC: Well, I can only speak for my company, so I don't know how it affects all the companies in the United States. Maybe in the balance, it is good for American manufacturing. I can only speak for my company. We don't move the cog of American economic commerce. We're small.

But it is hurting us. And I don't know that that message is known in Washington. So part of the reason why I agreed to the interview was to help get the message that it's not helping everyone. There is a section of us that are being hurt by it.

BURNETT: So you, obviously, did vote for Trump. And now, you know, you're talking about losing this money and you want people in Washington to be aware of it. Are you -- if the re-election vote was tomorrow, Pat, would you vote for him again?

LEBLANC: You know, I don't want to make this about me. It's not a personal thing. You know, it's -- the issue is about my company. And you know, who I'm going for in two years now, I don't really know how that's going to affect this. I'm not a single issue voter, so I would have to weigh all the issues. I definitely am disappointed by this, because it does hurt my business.

On the whole, is it good for America? Probably, but it's not good for my company.

BURNETT: All right, Pat, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

LEBLANC: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, Ruth Bader Ginsburg missing Supreme Court arguments for the first time in 25 years. She's recovering from cancer surgery. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is OUTFRONT.

And Jeanne Moos on Trump's ever-changing wall.


TRUMP: It's not a fence, it's a wall.

You could call it a steel fence.

We'll build a steel barrier.



[19:50:36] BURNETT: New tonight, Ruth Bader Ginsburg missing oral arguments at the Supreme Court. It's the first time she has ever done so in 25 years, her entire tenure. That's her empty chair. The first arguments before the court for 2019.

This comes after her surgery to remove two cancerous nodules from her lung last month. She has survived other bouts of cancer, never though missing oral arguments. She did not miss them after the death of her husband.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is OUTFRONT.

And, Sanjay, clearly, this is a situation that bears watching.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No question. Lots of eyes on Justice Ginsburg after her operation which she had at the end of last month as you know. Obviously, this has a lot of attention, the fact she's missed these oral arguments.

But let me give you a little context here. You mentioned this briefly, Erin, but just a give you an idea of what her health history has been over time. We know about this most recent bout that she's had with the cancer, but going back, you can see that she's had cancer in the past, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer. She's had a coronary stint in the past.

After all of these, she was back to work fairly quickly. What is the big difference at this point is really her age. She's 86 years old now. So, recovery after this sort of operation that she had for most people, Erin, doctors would say six to eight weeks, so we're not even at three yet. So, it's not that surprising.

Keep in mind as well, what wasn't on that timeline was that she had these fractured ribs before she had the lung operation. That's how they found these abnormalities in her lungs. So, look, I think it's a lot of obviously a lot of eyes on her, but from a medical standpoint, this isn't that surprising or alarming.

Let me show you quickly if I can what she had done. Specifically again, it was the left lower lobe of her lungs. There's you can see there, the ribs were cracked on the outside. That's how they found those abnormalities on the left lower lobe. They actually removed that lobe of the lung. You can see the separation between the lower lobe and the lobe above it.

That's what they removed. That takes a little bit away of her pulmonary capacity. It's going to take a little time for her to get back to what she was doing before.

BURNETT: So, Sanjay, what is the prognosis then usually for someone with her condition?

GUPTA: So, there's two cancerous nodules in her lung. We don't know what they were. What exactly the type of cancer was. From the statement that was released from the hospital at the time of her operation, it does not sound like these came and spread from another organ in her body, known as metastatic disease. It sounds like these were nodules that originated in the lung, stayed in the lung and have been removed.

They also mentioned that statement she should need no further therapy. So from the cancer standpoint. It doesn't sound like anything else she'll need, but another few weeks of recovery from the operation and all that she went through.

BURNETT: All right. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Jeanne Moos on this whole you know is it just semantics? What is a wall or no wall? .


TRUMP: The wall, or a slat fence or whatever you want to call it.



[19:57:57] BURNETT: Tonight, indulging Trump. People not holding back after the president said call it a wall, whatever you want. Here's Jeanne.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With both sides walled into corner, the wall has begun to morph. Donald Trump used to say --

TRUMP: It's not a fence. It's a wall.

MOOS: But now --

TRUMP: Wall or fence or anything the Democrats need to call it because I'm not into names.

MOOS: And instead of concrete.

TRUMP: You could call it a steel fence.

MOOS: But why stop at fence?

TRUMP: We'll build a steel barrier.

MOOS: If only the president could bury some of his old quotes in concrete.

TRUMP: I said I was going to build a wall. I never said, I'm going to build a concrete. I said I'm going to build a wall.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: What do the walls going to be made out of?

TRUMP: I'll tell you what it's going to be made of. It's going to be made of hardened concrete. Concrete plank. Precast. Boom, bing, done.

MOOS: But now, concrete seems boom, bing, done for.

Ever since he started talking about steel slats last month, he's been getting slapped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The computer generated representation of what this wall might look like with slats.

And while it is --

MOOS: Steel slats have been turned into prison bars.

Next thing you know, we're wall to wall with smart suggestions.

Read one tweet, has anyone considered a corn maze? A 2,000-mile long corn maze.

The wall was diminished to speed bumps. The red velvet VIP barrier is coming. Next week, it will be a bunch of Chihuahuas patrolling the border.

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich suggested Trump would bargain down from a steel to corrugated tin to chicken wire to a chalk mark and end by stationing troops at the border wearing wall costumes which actually exist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One man even wore a spandex wall costume.

MOOS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw shade when she said now he's down to I think a beaded curtain or something. It's hard not to be on the fence about this border wall.

TRUMP: A wall, or a slat fence, or whatever you want to call it.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: Thank you for joining us. "ANDERSON" is next.