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Mueller Clears Cohen To Testify Publicly Before Congress; Trump Administration Looking At Diverting Disaster Funds Meant For Puerto Rico And Texas To Fund Border Wall. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 10, 2019 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, OUTFRONT HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. Mueller closing in. The special counsel focusing on conflicting Trump statements that could amount to obstruction of justice. This as Michael Cohen is about to testify publicly with everything he knows.

Plus, more breaking news. Trump administration looking at using money that's supposed to go to Puerto Rico for hurricane disaster relief to build the wall.

And the President says the wall will stop illegal drugs from coming into the United States. Is it true? Sanjay Gupta goes to the border for an OUTFRONT investigation. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT this evening, the breaking news. Spilling his guts. Telling everything he knows about President Trump. Michael Cohen is going to testify publicly on television. Cohen has been cooperating with the Mueller investigation after being sentenced to three years in prison, in part for crimes that according to federal prosecutors he committed, "In coordination with and at the direction of Donald J. Trump." But today, Trump tried to say, he's got nothing to fear.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's some big news about Michael Cohen who's agreed to testify before the House Democrats next month. What do you think of that? Are you worried?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I'm not worried about it at all, no.


BURNETT: And moved on to the next question. Eager to do so, in fact. Because, frankly, he knows he has a million reasons to be worried about Michael Cohen. And Cohen promises that he's going to share a, "Full and credible account" of his time with Trump, which let's all recall, was more than 12 years together, countless deals, including a possible Trump Tower in Moscow, paying off a porn star and a playmate for the 2016 election. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of what Cohen has called many other dirty deeds.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP LAWYER: He knows the truth. I know the truth. Others know the truth. And here is the truth. The people of the United States of America, the people of the world don't believe what he's saying. The man doesn't tell the truth. And it's sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You lied for him for a long time.

COHEN: More than 10 years.


COHEN: Out of loyalty. Out of loyalty to him. I followed a bad path and, hence, how we started this conversation. I have my freedom. And I will not be the villain, as I told you once before. I will not be the villain of his story.


BURNETT: Michael Cohen was Trump's go-to fixer for things he didn't ever want to be public. Cohen knows a lot, and so far, the President's best defense is that Michael Cohen is weak.


TRUMP: He's a weak person and by being weak, unlike other people that you watch, he is a weak person. He's a weak person, and not a very smart person.


BURNETT: Of course, the weaker Cohen appears to be, the more it makes the case that he was doing the bidding of someone stronger, someone who called the shots, like his boss, Donald J. Trump.

Well, Manu Raju is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill tonight. And, Manu, you know, when you talk about Cohen's been cooperating with the Mueller investigation, Mueller did sign off on Cohen deciding to testify publicly.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is according to Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who told me just moments ago that indeed the special counsel's team totally cleared Michael Cohen's testimony in a public setting, in February.

Now, what Cummings and Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, both told me separately today is that he will not be testifying about the Russia investigation in a public setting, because of the fact that this investigation, the Mueller investigation, is still ongoing and in Cummings' words, he does not want to interfere with the Mueller investigation. So, that separate part, about Russia, about potentially those conversations that occur about the Trump Tower Moscow project in 2016, in which Cohen previously lied to Congress about how long that pursuit of that project were known for, that may have to happen in classified testimony before the House Intelligence Committee as Schiff is trying to get him there or even the Senate Intelligence Committee, which chairman Richard Burr is trying to court him to come to that committee.

But Cummings made clear when I asked him, do you plan to press him on the hush money scandal and Trump being implicated in these two federal crimes, he said the American public deserves to know the truth. The American voters will hear directly from their representatives. So clearly that subject bound to dominate this hearing that Cummings and other Democrats have been calling for but now that they have the majority, they're exercising their first real effort to investigate this President in the early days of the new Congress. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Manu, thank you very much. I want to go now to Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst, John Dean, former Nixon White House Council during Watergate, and Berit Berger, former prosecutor for the Southern District of New York.

I mean, Gloria, Trump says he is not worried about Cohen's testimony. Look, that is hard to believe.

[19:05:06] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is. It is hard to believe. Michael Cohen was a loyal trooper for Donald Trump, worked for him since 2006. And, you know, my sources close to Cohen say to me that this is a man who believes that his whole life has been turned upside down, because he had to lie, or he chose to lie, to protect Donald Trump.

And as he said in that clip that you just showed, he said, I'm not going to be the villain in this story. And he is not. He intends to kind of reverse engineer his reputation here. And so we are going to hear a lot about the President and the question of whether he directed these payments to Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal.

And I also wouldn't be surprised if they ask questions, not directly about Russia, but if they ask questions about whether he coordinated his false testimony with -- to Congress with someone in the White House as was alleged by the Southern District of New York. Who was that person in the White House? Was there coordination? I'd like to know the answers to that question.

BURNETT: Right. And certainly, you know, there's so many things. We don't know what we don't know about it.

BORGER: Right.

BURNETT: If all of a sudden he's going to testify publicly, we're going to find out -- well, we could find out a whole lot of other things we didn't even know Mueller was looking at or talking about, right? BERIT BERGER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: That's exactly right. I mean because we haven't had the benefit of a trial in the Cohen case, because he's pled guilty, there's a whole host of facts that we never got to hear. We certainly, you know, have a good sense of what the story is, but there's undoubtedly a number of details and evidence that we know nothing about.

This is going to be an opportunity, this is going to be a platform for Michael Cohen to really tell the whole story, and to do so under oath. And I think that's a really important point. This is not doing it, you know, in a news interview. This is under oath, answering questions, you know, in a very controlled setting.

So I think this will not only be a chance for him to tell his story, but a chance to prove to the people whether or not he is credible. And I think that's going to be a big hurdle for him to overcome.

BURNETT: Right. And, you know, John, to that point, right, he's got to prove he's credible. He's admitted to lying, right? He lied for a dozen years. He lied, you know, multiple times, right? And now he's trying to say, you know, look, I'm going to come clean. I'm going to tell the truth.

And the bottom line is, John, there is no question that he knows a lot. It seems like things Donald Trump didn't want, you know, more public or, you know, I guess, you know, legally clean people to do, he would give to Michael Cohen. He was the dirty deed dude.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: He was, indeed. And he'd be smart if what he does, in anticipation of his testimony, is first of all gather all the key facts and put them down in writing and submit it to the committee, not before his testimony but at the time of his testimony. Because if he goes in before, they'll tear it to shreds before he even gets there.

The other thing he should do is include things he may or may not think important. For example, I put a little fact in mine that I thought I'd been recorded on one or more occasions. Well, that turns out to be one of the most important things that I put in my testimony. And it was almost an afterthought, I put it in.

So I think Michael is obviously going to tell the truth. He's trying to get a reduction in his sentence with further cooperation, so he's not going to go up and lie about anything. And I think he'll be a devastating witness.

BURNETT: Devastating witness, Berit, do you think?

BERGER: I think he will. And I think it's an important point that he just raised. So Michael Cohen, as we know, when he testifies, he's going to be just about a month away from serving this three-year prison sentence. But there is a mechanism in the law that if they found him to provide substantial assistance, he could get some kind of a further reduction in his sentence. I don't know that I think that's incredibly likely, but it could be something that he is trying to work towards in, you know, this continued cooperation. BURNETT: And, Gloria, one thing, you know, John Dean is pointing out, I would give the testimony right when you start testifying, right? Not -- the written part, right? I wouldn't give it before, because they'll tear it to shreds. You're going to have Jim Jordan on this committee, a big Trump supporter. I mean this is going to be political theater. This is going to be much watched -- must-watch theater, like maybe nothing, you know, we've seen before. I mean, I guess the most recent thing everyone had to watch was Kavanaugh hearings, but you're looking at that plus.

BORGER: Well, it's going to be interesting to see, first of all, if the Republicans start defending Donald Trump on the question of these payoffs. I mean, they may say that it's not a crime and it's not, a, you know, it's a campaign finance violation, it's not a real crime, et cetera, et cetera, but are they going to go out there and defend Donald Trump on this? I -- yes, I don't -- I don't know the answer to that.

The other thing is, remember when Comey testified? That was huge audience. I think this might be bigger. I think Donald Trump will be tuned in. I think the difference is that after he saw the Comey testimony, he fired James Comey. He can don't do a thing to Michael Cohen anymore. It's already happened.

[19:10:00] Michael Cohen is going to jail, and he's going to tell his story, because he's blaming Donald Trump for it.


BORGER: And so there's going to be this fight over credibility. And so, while Trump and Rudy Giuliani have been out there attacking Michael Cohen, I think it's going to get worse after this testimony.

BURNETT: And John, you know, look, this comes as we're learning that Mueller is focusing in on public statements that Trump has made, people defending Trump have made, that could lead to obstruction of justice. And I just want to be clear. You know, to this point we're talking about, it's not, you know, as Berit was saying, you know, under oath, right? This is actually just public statements, interviews, things that they may have done not under oath that Mueller is looking at these in the obstruction of justice question. How significant is this?

DEAN: Could be very significant. He may or may not be looking to file an indictment, but that isn't the point, because he likely will not file an indictment, because of policy of the Department of Justice. But what will happen is the Congress will look at this. And Trump should remember that Richard Nixon, part of the charges against Nixon, were his public statements where he lied.

And so they become very relevant in an impeachment proceeding. And they can be very damaging in that situation, as well. So I think this is all Mueller gathering material that will paint a larger picture and material the Congress will be very interested in.

BURNETT: And when all of this comes out, Berit, you know there's a report, right? Mueller's report. And now, you know, we understand it could be sort of, you know, in the near future, that this could come out. We're reporting that team Trump has nearly 20 lawyers focused on keeping this report from ever seeing the light of day, right? Redacting it so heavily that no one can even tell what's in it. Will they get their wish?

BERGER: You know, I think that's interesting. This is going to be the battleground for 2019. I mean, at least from where I sit, I don't think it's likely that they are going to be shutting down the special counsel's investigation. I think, you know, too much has happened, there have been too many people that have been, you know, indicted, too many different investigations that are out there. You kind of can't get the toothpaste back in the tube at this point.

But what they can do is perhaps keep some of this information from getting public. So this is going to be, you know, a really incredible legal battle that will be fought, because it's, for a large part, you know, unsettled law. So, I think it's not surprising that they're sort of staffing up and preparing for this and I think it's going to be a big fight.

BURNETT: That's pretty amazing, you see so many areas of unsettled law that we are learning about because of this administration. All right. Thanks so much to all three of you.

And next, the Trump Administration now looking at how to pay for the wall. So, this is an idea. They're now saying, what about taking money meant for disaster areas like Puerto Rico to pay for it? Plus, President Trump tries to re-write history.


TRUMP: I would say Mexico's going to pay for it. Obviously, I never said this and I never meant they're going to write out a check.


BURNETT: Except he did. He did say it. Wait until you hear it. And President Trump claims a wall would stop drugs entering the United States. So, Sanjay Gupta went to the border to investigate.


SCOTT BROWN, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, HOMELAND SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS: The vast amount of hard narcotics don't come through at places like this.



[19:16:43] BURNETT: Breaking news. The Trump administration looking at using funds that were have been, you know, intended, already set to be used for disaster relief to pay for the wall. These were funds that were specifically promised to people in places like Puerto Rico, which was devastated from the worst hurricane in more than a century. This comes as Trump, who once said of Barack Obama during a shutdown, "you have to be a leader, the President has to lead", is trying to blame others for the fact that 800,000 people are not going to get paychecks tomorrow, thanks to the shutdown.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the buck stop with you over the shutdown?

TRUMP: The buck stops with everybody.


BURNETT: Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT at the White House. Kaitlan, the buck stops with everybody, and now the President is looking at emergency funds to pay for the wall.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what we're seeing here, Erin, is the White House really start to lay the groundwork for the President to declare what's happening on the border a national emergency. And that starts with him eyeing this disaster spending bill that has about $14 billion and it's a Congress passed. All of this money was allocated, but not all of it was spent. And now the White House is considering using this to build the President's border wall.

Now this comes as White House officials are increasingly believing that's the really only way to get out of this mess is to declare this a national emergency so the President can get a win here, but they can also reopen the government. And that's essentially increasingly becoming their only option. Especially after the Vice President and several other White House officials went to Capitol Hill today and zero progress was made, so essentially what we're seeing is White House officials and lawmakers alike bracing for the President to declare this a national emergency.

Now, two people who were in the President's corner, Mark Meadows and Lindsey Graham, have backed to this, saying it's OK, with Lindsey Graham strictly -- or specifically encouraging the President to do this. Though the last sentence of his statement encouraging the President to declare this a national emergency might forebode what's in store if the President does do so. And that was, quote, "I hope it works". That's because many people here in Washington believe that if they do declare this a national emergency, they're going to be facing this legal battle. And that's why right now behind the scenes, we're seeing the White House legal team try to prepare essentially a defense strategy, if they do have a legal fight, once the President declares this a national emergency.

And Erin, that includes this legal team encouraging the President's advisers to use the word "crisis" to describe what's happening as much as possible, so if they need to, they can cite that in a legal defense one day.

BURNETT: Talk about a chicken and egg conundrum. OK. Thank you very much, Kaitlan.

OUTFRONT now, Mia Love, a former republican member of Congress, a new CNN contributor, welcome. We're thrilled to have you.


BURNETT: And Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for the "Nation". OK, Congresswoman, and so the President is now thinking about taking emergency funds from places like Puerto Rico. They're saying they haven't used it. Obviously, there still lots of problems and places, specifically Puerto Rico. What do you make about this idea?

LOVE: Well, if that is the case, I think it's a bad idea. First of all, one of the things that Republicans do not like, including people like Mark Meadows and Lindsey Graham, who we're hearing may be supportive of this, this is consolidating more power to the White House. We didn't like it with the previous administration, it shouldn't be OK with this administration, either.

These are things that should be done in Congress. And really, Congress has got to get together and the power of the purse is there. And by the way, that money was appropriated for something else. I was part of appropriating that money for disaster funding.

BURNETT: Just because it isn't spent doesn't mean we get to use it for something else. Right?

LOVE: Right.

BURNETT: I mean if anything, it should be given back.

[19:20:02] LOVE: There's a purpose and you have to treat these dollars -- and I know that -- look, I am supportive of border security. I think it's important for us to have border security. But the -- but going outside of Congress, going outside of where you should be to appropriate those funds, going into Puerto Rico, I think it's inappropriate. I do not like these executive orders and I really put it on the leadership in the House and in the Senate to put this together and get things done. It's right now -- I call it ping-pong politics. You know, they're just kind of going back and forth and not really -- no one's getting anything.

BURNETT: And what's interesting, Joan as you have -- you know, people like Lindsey Graham getting onboard with sort of the concept here.


BURNETT: And, you know --

WALSH: It should be.

BURNETT: -- it seems like he's going to get it. Somehow, he's going to get it.

WALSH: He may get it. I mean -- and this is going to be tied up in the courts. You know, first of all, Erin, it's unspeakably cruel. The President has taken 800,000 federal workers hostage. They are suffering. And now he's going to make the people of Puerto Rico, and also Texas -- can I just say, between building the wall and taking disaster funding away from Texas, he's going to turn Texas blue faster than Beto O'Rourke. Texas Republicans hate that wall. They are going to hate having this funding taken away and the fact that it isn't spent yet, you know how long it can take to spend disaster funds. I mean I had cousins on Long Island after Sandy who weren't back in their houses for a year.

LOVE: Right.

WALSH: It's hard --

BURNETT: Well, beside a fact it's often completely wasted, right?

WALSH: Exactly.

LOVE: And you have to make sure that you're spending it appropriately.

BURNETT: Yes, yes.

LOVE: This is just making sure that you're spending things -- you're spending dollars, those taxpayer dollars that are very hard to combine to be treated very carefully, just take that money and make sure that you are appropriating it in the right place. Right now it's actually going over Congress and taking money that was appropriated for something else to try and end this Washington, I would say, ping-pong back and forth --

BURNETT: You know, it's -- and, you know, and Trump -- you know, he said, bye-bye, right?

LOVE: Yes.

BURNETT: That's what he said.

LOVE: Kind of juvenile. Kind of juvenile.

BURNETT: And you know what, Joan, is interesting, though, he got up and walked out of the room, right? Everyone's agreed on that.


BURNETT: And he said it was Nancy's fault. But forget whose fault it was. He got up and walked out the room. This is something he has done before. Here he is.


TRUMP: You know what, do this interview with somebody else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we talked about this yesterday on the phone. This is exactly --

TRUMP: Do the interview with somebody else. Good luck. Sorry you feel that way.

You don't have to ask me --


TRUMP: Because I have my own opinions. You can have your own opinions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I want to know your opinions. You're the President of the United States.

TRUMP: OK, that's enough. Thank you.


WALSH: He thinks it shows strength when it makes him look like a big old baby. And I think that he does -- he did not anticipate how tough Nancy Pelosi is. Maybe his sexist ideas about women played into this. But he couldn't get this from Paul Ryan's House majority. He thought he would get it from her. He's not going to. I also think there's a possibility that it was a big set-up, that he thought it would make him look strong. He's also playing this for all it's worth to distract all of us from the news coming out of the Mueller probe, the news about Manafort, now the news about Michael Cohen. I think he's going to make an incredible ruckus, that will backfire, because everything does backfire on the man.

BURNETT: And you know, Congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi is tough. She is tough. She's a match for Trump, in many ways, right? She's quick to go out there, she uses -- she is saying that this whole thing he did yesterday was a shutdown. I mean I'm sorry, a set-up about the shutdown. Here she is.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: Not only was the President un- presidential, surprise, surprise, yesterday in his behavior, I think the meeting was a set-up so he could walk out, but I'll say just that.


BURNETT: So she throws out there, set-up. Do you think it was? That this whole thing -- you know, I'm going to give out butterfingers and be nice and then just walk out?

LOVE: I really don't think -- I mean I really -- I don't know what it was, but I'm telling you right now, there's something that we're not talking about. And I think that there's a golden opportunity here for Nancy Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi to walk in and say, look, $5.7 billion. OK. But I want TPS, I want DACA, I want this, and I want -- and see how much she can actually get for immigration reform.

If that's something that is really important, I'm all about getting things done. I'm tired of this back and forth, no, I don't want to do this, no, I'm not moving. I believe that we need to make sure that we do what the American people expect us to do. And that is to govern. To get things done. They don't like this back and forth. BURNETT: So even though people don't want a wall, Joan, at this point, is it OK, overall in polls obviously it's popular among Republicans, but --

WALSH: But it's unpopular generally.

BURNETT: It's unpopular generally. But OK, have your $5.6 billion, that only gets you a little bit of wall anyway. But in exchange, if you were to get DACA and all these other things?

WALSH: You know, the problem with that. I think there's the potential for a deal, the problem is, Congresswoman, you know as well as I do, the President walked away from a deal like that. He walked away from a deal for the than that. Chuck he saw --


[19:25:01] BURNETT: Well, he thought he was going to get $25 billion from Chuck Schumer in exchange for DACA.

WALSH: Chuck and he thought he had -- Chuck and Nancy, he thought he had a deal. Then Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham went in with a similar deal. They thought they had an agreement, and he went back to John Kelly and Stephen Miller, who are really the powers in the white -- John Kelly is now gone, but who nixed it. So I don't think that right now Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer or anybody feels like when they are told, OK, we have a deal, that the deal is going to hold when they walk out of the room.

LOVE: Which is why you cannot depend on the administration to do legislative -- have legislative authority.

WALSH: Well, that's on Mitch McConnell.

LOVE: Yes. Well, here's the other thing that we -- again, we haven't talked about. There is a way to bypass it. If you could get a super majority in the House and in the Senate, they don't have to worry about what the President is going to do.

WALSH: Right.

LOVE: So why aren't they having a meeting with Kevin McCarthy and with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell and get together --

WALSH: Because McConnell --

LOVE: I talked about that with immigration, also.

WALSH: Right.

LOVE: It was just, we're negotiating with the administration when the legislative powers should be with Congress. They're giving up the power.

BURNETT: We'll leave it there. Although, I will say it's very interesting, Mitch McConnell's face is nowhere to be seen on this. He doesn't want to touch it with a 50-foot pole.

All right, OUTFRONT next, President Trump trying now to claim that he never said this --


TRUMP: Mexico will pay for the wall. I said Mexico will pay for the wall.


BURNETT: And Sanjay Gupta goes to the border to investigate efforts to stop drugs from crossing and to investigate, are the President's claims about drugs coming into the United States true?


[19:30:12] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tonight, one of the most brazen attempts to twist the truth yet. Today, President Trump said he never said Mexico will pay for the wall.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When during the campaign, I would say, Mexico's going to pay for it, obviously, I never said this and I never meant they're going to write out a check.


BURNETT: OK, so where to begin with this? Let's start with this issue of the check. That's what he's -- he said, I never said this, said a check. OK, except he did. Here he is with his buddy, old pal, Sean Hannity in April 2016.


TRUMP: Sean, watch this. Watch this. Are you guys ready? Who's going to pay for the wall?


TRUMP: And, by the way, by the way, 100 percent. You know the politicians say, they'll never pay -- 100 percent.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: They're not going to write us a check --

TRUMP: They'll pay! They'll pay. In one form or another, they may even write us a check by the time they see what happens. They will.


BURNETT: I mean, wow. Sean, you sure delivered there. They're not going to deliver us a check, oh, yes, they are, Sean!

Trump's own campaign website, by the way, also makes the point. It says that Mexico would, quote, make a one-time payment of $1 billion to $5 billion. It's a one-time payment. You can call it a check, you call it Zell, Venmo, I don't ware what you want to call it. OK.

But frankly, this isn't even the issue here. Because the president said constantly like a broken record that Mexico is going to pay for this darned wall.


TRUMP: And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.

Mexico will pay for the wall.

Mexico will pay for the wall.

I said Mexico will pay for the wall.

Who's going to pay for the wall?


TRUMP: In the end, Mexico is going to pay for the wall.


TRUMP: Now, even his own staff admits that Mexico is not paying for the wall. In fact, you are paying for it.


MERCEDES SCHLAPP, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: This trade deal, in effect, does help pay for this border security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't pay for it. Taxpayers paid for it.

SCHLAPP: Let me tell you something, it's $5 billion. Yes, and you know what else taxpayers are paying for? The financial burden of this illegal immigration.


BURNETT: So paying for the wall and the financial burden.

All right. Ed Lavandera is live in McAllen, near the U.S./Mexico border.

And, Ed, you have been all along the southern border, you're doing investigation after investigation, Texas to California. And a lot of the people you've been speaking to are not worried about who is paying for the wall, because frankly, they do not want anyone to be paying for the wall, because they do not want a wall.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. You know, Erin, I think the one thing that just repeatedly stands out in all of our travels and reporting from these border regions is just how much differently people down here talk about these issues compared to Washington and quite frankly, most other places in the country. It's so much more nuanced. It's such a complicated issue, on a daily basis that it's really hard to have kind of in-depth, serious conversations about what should be done, you know?

And by and large, I'm not saying that everybody down here is opposed to the idea of border wall. We should also remember that the border stretches some 1,900 miles from Brownsville to San Diego. Nearly half of it already has some sort of border wall protection on it.

So the question here is how much more, what should it look like, and to what lengths should much of these very remote areas be covered with a border wall. And that's where the conversation really gets overly simplified and really kind of gets lost, especially for many people down here. Especially, I spent a great deal of the day today talking to a bunch of Trump supporters who were watching the president going in and out of the border patrol station, Erin.

And even when you ask them, do you support the idea of the way the president is handling this border wall discussion, and they really pause and they just talk about it in a completely different way, a much more nuanced kind of way. They're very skeptical about the idea -- you know, to blanketly say that a wall is going to stop illegal immigration. Even the most ardent Trump supporters I've met down here say they don't think it will ever stop illegal immigration, but they hope that it would slow it down.

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

I want to go OUTFRONT now to Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly joining me on the phone.

Congressman, OK, so the president said, I never said they'd write a check, and, of course, he did, in response to Sean Hannity, they may even write us a check, but also very specifically on his campaign website, Mexico would make a one-time payment of $5 billion. You can call it a check, you can call it a wire, whatever you want to call it, it's a one time payment. It's extremely clear what he said and extremely clear what he campaigned on.

Why do you think he's now trying to say he never said it?

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA), OVERSIGHT & GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE (via telephone): Well, first of all, let's be honest, this president has a habit of pathological dissembling, and that's being polite.

[19:30:09] It's almost a case of, don't believe of what you see with your eyes and hear with your own ears, believe what I tell you.

And maybe he fools some percentage of the public with that, but I don't think he's going to fool many people. All of us saw it for many, many rallies during the campaign in 2016 and afterwards. What are we going to do? We're going to build a wall. Who's going to pay for it? Mexico.

He couldn't have been clearer and now he's backtracking and asking the American taxpayers to foot the bill.

BURNETT: Right. As his own communications executive there, you saw Mercedes Schlapp, admitted very directly. Now, the president also said today, Congressman, that nothing else can

do the job of an old-fashioned wall. That we need an actual, physical wall. Here he is today.


TRUMP: You can have all the technology in the world, I'm a professional at technology. But if you don't have a steel barrier or a wall of some kind, strong, powerful, you're going to have human trafficking. You're going to have drugs pouring across the border. You're going to have MS-13 and the gangs coming in.


BURNETT: All right, he says, you can have all the technology in the world, I'm a professional at technology, it's not enough. Your response?

CONNOLLY: I think history tells us that walls are kind of imperfect things, and sooner or later, those who want to thwart the purpose of the wall usually are able to do so. And whether it's the walls of Jericho coming tumbling down or the Berlin wall, in which tragically a lot of people were killed, but they indeed were able to overcome the wall, through tunneling, through clever escape patterns and so forth.

So it's like this president is thinking in the 14th century for a 21st century solution. And apparently big walls and castles and motes and drawbridges can protect us all.

BURNETT: I want to ask you, before you go, congressman, one other major story tonight. We have learned that President Trump's former fixer, right, Michael Cohen, who's going to jail, is going to testify before your committee, the House Oversight Committee.

And apparently going to tell everything he can, everything he knows about his more than dozen years doing what he says are dirty deeds for this president. What do you want to ask him? And will you believe what he tells you?

CONNOLLY: I think we have reason now to believe what he tells us, because he sort of has purged himself of his past, if you will, in cooperating with the special counsel, and in basically plea bargaining, and understanding that he's going to go to jail. He doesn't have a lot to lose. He has a lot to gain in telling the truth.

In terms of what would I like to ask him? I would like to ask him to get on the record, so we have it as a matter of sworn testimony, exactly what role did you play over this dozen years or so? What was your relationship to individual number one, known as President Donald J. Trump? What kinds of things did he rely on you to fix or do or tend to? Were you, in fact, directed to commit illegal acts on his behalf, by him?

BURNETT: All right. Congressman Connolly, I appreciate your time. Thank so much. CONNOLLY: My pleasure. Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, one of President Trump's main arguments for the wall is that it will stop drugs. OK, but will it? Sanjay Gupta went to the border.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is how it happens. I mean, what we're witnessing here is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is what happens every day along the southwest border of the U.S.


BURNETT: Plus, Nancy Pelosi taking on the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin. The house speaker calling his classified briefing on Russia one of the worst she has ever received. What went down? That's next.


[19:42:50] BURNETT: Tonight, one of President Trump's primary cases for building a wall with Mexico, right? It's drugs. He keeps saying there's drugs, they're pouring in, they're pouring in.

So Dr. Sanjay Gupta went to the border to investigate.


GUPTA (voice-over): What you're witnessing here are efforts to stop drugs from coming across the U.S./Mexican border.

SCOTT BROWN, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, HOMELAND SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS: Now with almost every car crossing is crossing for a legitimate reason. It's a very small percentage that comes in carrying contraband but I think when the inspectors pick up on something their success rate is pretty high.

When you saw the dog sit down at the back of the car, that's how that dog alerts.

GUPTA: The special agent in charge Scott Brown oversees the Tucson field office for Homeland Security investigations and drugs are a big part of what he does.

(on camera): This is how it happens. I mean, what we're witnessing here is --

BROWN: Is what happens every day along the southwest border of the U.S. and, you know, the officers at the ports of entry are phenomenal, they're fantastic in identifying fresh tool marks that shouldn't be there. So a screw that's been recently turned, that there wouldn't be a reason for it to be turned. They can pick up on that. I mean, they are experts on what they do.

GUPTA: Was it human art and intelligence together?

BROWN: Yes. Absolutely.

GUPTA (voice-over): What they find? About 24 kilos of hard drugs. Minutes later, field testing reveals cocaine.

Situations like this were a central tenant of President Trump's argument this week for a wall.

TRUMP: Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of when floods across from our southern border.

GUPTA: But I wanted to learn just how effective the wall would be at accomplishing that.

(on camera): This literally is a physical wall between two countries that we're looking at here.

BROWN: The vast amount of hard narcotics don't come through in places like this.

[19:45:03] The vast amount of hard narcotics come through at the ports of entry where we just were.

GUPTA (voice-over): And besides meth, cocaine, heroin or marijuana, it's fentanyl which is 50 times stronger than heroin, it's the biggest challenge nowadays. The most recent numbers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that overdose deaths from fentanyl have skyrocketed at least 1,100 percent since 2011.

(on camera): In the past cartels might try and smuggle 100 kilograms of drugs across the border. It wasn't easy to do. They were likely to get caught. But here's part of the problem. Nowadays, they can smuggle across something that looks like this.

This is just a one kilogram bag of flour but if this were street fentanyl, it would cost about $8,000 to make, could be turned into a million pills and then sold for $20 million to $30 million on the black market. All of that from a small container that looks like this.

BROWN: The vast majority of fentanyl is produced in China. It comes into the U.S. two ways. You know, it comes into Mexico where it's easy to pressed into pill form or combined with heroin. The other way it comes in is American consumers buying it direct oftentimes from vendors out of China.

GUPTA: So then it gets mailed in?

BROWN: U.S. mail, which is the most common, a very small quantity of fentanyl. It's very hard to detect in the masses of letters that come into the U.S. every day.

GUPTA: How effective is a wall at preventing drugs from getting into the United States?

BROWN: In terms of hard narcotics -- no, I don't know that we will get immediately safer over hard narcotics. As of right now the vast majority of hard narcotics come in through the ports of entry in deep concealment or come in through, you know, the mail or express consignments.


BURNETT: Ports of entry, right? I mean, as in, not in that unwalled -- ports of entry are highly monitored, right? The president says 90 percent of the heroin in the United States floods from across our southern boar border. That's his stat. True, but misleading.

GUPTA: Yes, I think that's a fair characterization. And most of this stuff is coming from Mexico, 90 to 95 percent. We look at State Department records, they have been citing that number for some time.

But the point is that most of it is coming in deep concealment through legal ports of entry. You get the idea, you can take small amounts and that could be turned into lots of drugs. It's coming in deep concealment, typically in cars, like you saw there. Oftentimes, it's coming in these tractor-trailers, so it's mixed with a lot of legal goods. Very, very hard to find, as a result.

BURNETT: The point is, a wall would do nothing about any of that, if that's how it's coming in, and you know, you talk about it, that's the one kilogram bag of flour, you're talking $20 million to $30 million of value.

GUPTA: That stunned me. I didn't realize this. We really dug into this with the border patrol down there. That's about $8,000 worth of raw ingredients. $8,000 worth of raw ingredients turned into a million pills and those pills sell for 20 bucks to 30 bucks a pop.

So, you can see. There's two problems, right? The economics of it. It's too irresistible for people to not to try to do this. But look how small this is. When you talk about deep concealment, you don't need to go over a wall or through a wall, they're putting it in the cars or trucks or however.

BURNETT: And to your point, you don't need to go to the middle of the desert where there is ant wall. It's too easy to conceal through the highly monitored, videoed, walled port of entry.

GUPTA: Exactly.

BURNETT: All right. Sanjay, thank you very much. Perhaps better than anything at showing the real depth of the problem and the fact that the solution out there doesn't address it.

OUTFRONT next, House Speaker Pelosi ripping into Steve Mnuchin's classified briefing today. He went to Capitol Hill to brief about Russia. She called it a waste of time, the worst classified briefing she had ever gotten. We're learning much more about this heated briefing. And Jeanne Moos on karaoke with the commander-in-chief.


[19:51:14] BURNETT: Breaking news. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasting the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for a classified briefing he held today on why the administration is easing sanctions on Russian oligarchs. You heard that, easing sanctions on Russian oligarchs. They wanted to know why. They brought him to testify. Who?

Here is what she said about it moments ago.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: With stiff competition, mind you, one of the worst classified briefings we've received from the Trump administration. They had an intelligence briefing which I won't go into, and then they read a document which was unclassified, wasting the time of the members of Congress.



Well, Mnuchin in response said he was somewhat shocked by the speaker's comments. Note not fully, just somewhat.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT.

I mean, Evan, that's a pretty nasty exchange. You know, you're supposed to have a classified briefing. We do not hear people talk about it like Nancy Pelosi did today.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Welcome to the new Democratic majority.

I think this is exactly what members of the Trump cabinet are in for, and clearly, this was a hearing that they thought was going to provide significant information about why the administration decided to lower the sanctions on a couple of companies, Rusal being one of them that is controlled by Oleg Deripaska. He is someone obviously who is very close to the Kremlin and is sanctioned himself.

So, why would you be lifting the sanctions on these companies? Erin, you know from covering business that this has been a big issue in the business community, the sanctions that were put on this company, especially Rusal, has been very difficult for the aluminum markets around the world. So, that's one of the things that the Treasury Department has been dealing with just over the past year.

BURNETT: Yes, obviously, it's the second biggest aluminum company in the world. It's a huge impact. You talk about Oleg Deripaska. Obviously, he is central to all of this, central to Paul Manafort.

But personally, he's supposed to be still sanctioned, and I know they say that he has somehow changed the ownership structure of the company so that they can unsanction the company, but keep him still personally sanctioned?

PEREZ: Right, exactly. And I think that's one of the difficulties that the Treasury Department has in explaining exactly what they did here. They lowered the sanctions on these companies while keeping the sanctions on Deripaska, and also sanctioning additional Russians who are close to him, and I think that's what the administration was hoping was going to satisfy some of the critics.

Clearly, that has not gone the way they planned. And look, I think Deripaska, we're going to hear a lot more about him as the Mueller investigation concludes, because he obviously was very close to Paul Manafort. He was a close business associate of Paul Manafort. And the investigators believe that he was playing a role in all of the things that the Russians were trying to do in the past year, interfering with the U.S. elections, interfering in elections around the world.

And so, I think that's one of the reasons why the Democrats have been making such noise about this.

BURNETT: All right. Tank you very much, Evan. And, of course, you know, we can report. Oleg Deripaska is someone not even allowed to come into the United States for a very long time for things he is suspected to have been doing.

OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on Trump's favorite --


TRUMP: I would have said bye-bye. Bye-bye. So I said bye-bye.



[19:57:50] BURNETT: Tonight's shutdown talks at a stand still. Ever since Trump uttered a favorite refrain, quote, bye-bye.

Here's Jeanne.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You've heard of long goodbyes.

This is the long --

TRUMP: Bye-bye.

MOOS: Donald Trump has been saying it forever.

TRUMP: You know what? Bye-bye.

I said bye-bye without making a deal.

MOOS: But when he said it and then walked out on Chuck and Nancy --

TRUMP: I very calmly said if you're not going to give us strong borders, bye-bye.

MOOS: It made headlines, even in France. It's one thing for N' Sync to sing it.

Or Ann-Margret to belt it out.

But this is POTUS, not some "SNL" skit --



MOOS: -- about a mean airline.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye-bye. I'm sorry, what? What part didn't you understand? The buh? Or the bye? Bye-bye.

MOOS: Often Trump's signature kiss off line is accompanied by a signature hand wave.

TRUMP: And if they said no, I would have said bye-bye.

MOOS: Whether it's about dealing with Iran or NATO.

TRUMP: If they don't pay, bye-bye. Bye-bye. Bye-bye.

MOOS: He loves saying it to protesters.

TRUMP: Bye! Go home to mommy.

PROTESTER: You're a bigot!


TRUMP: Bye-bye.

MOOS: But when it comes to a government shutdown, political analyst Howard Fineman tweeted: @RealDonaldTrump doesn't understand that being president means you can't say bye-bye. This isn't a real estate deal in New York where you can just walk away.

Sure, a host of a show could do it.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, TV HOST: Out of time, bye-bye.

MOOS: But out of line, according to this analyst.

Bye-bye? What is he a Teletubby?



MOOS: Having their line hijacked by the president, that's enough to turn a Teletubby's tummy.



MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: The hand motion is somehow so special.

Thank you for joining us. Bye-bye.