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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Acting Attorney General Publicly Reveals He's Been "Fully Briefed" On The Mueller Probe And It Is "Close To Being Complete;" White House Dodges Questions On Trump's Interactions With Roger Stone And Any Talk Of A Possible Pardon For Stone; Trump Not Ruling Out Another Shutdown Over Wall Even As CBO Says Shutdown Cost The U.S. Economy $3B That Will Never Be Recovered; Sen. Kamala Harris To Face First Major Test In Iowa Voters Tonight; Tom Brokaw Under Fire For Comments About Hispanic "Assimilation" And "Brown Grandbabies." Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 28, 2019 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thanks very much. And to our viewers, thanks for very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next. Breaking news, Mueller's work is almost done. That's the word from the acting Attorney General of the United States tonight. This is the White House refuses to answer what Trump knew about Roger Stone and Russia linked WikiLeaks. Plus, shut down 2.0, Trump saying it's totally possible to shut the government down again. And Kamala Harris, face-to-face with voters tonight here on CNN. Will see pass this first major test, let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news major developments in the Russia investigation on several fronts, first Mueller's investigation coming to a close, this according to the President's acting Attorney General who spoke to reporters just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: I've been fully briefed on the investigation and I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report. But right now the investigation is I think close to being completed and I hope that we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Close to being completed. It's a huge statement to make. Usually, there's no comments ever that would come out about an ongoing investigation, so that's unusual in and of itself. Keep in mind, Mueller has been on the job for 20 months so far he has charged six Trump associates, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulos and Roger Stone. All in Mueller has charged 37 people and entities with about 200 criminal counts. The majority of those cases against the Russians who attack the United States during the election. This major development comes as the White House tonight is unable to

answer a crucial question about Roger Stone's effort to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russian linked WikiLeaks and how high those contacts went in the Trump campaign. Remember, according to the 24- page indictment of the President's longtime friend, Roger Stone, Mueller writes, "After the July release of stolen Democratic National Committee emails by WikiLeaks, a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about additional releases and damaging information WikiLeaks had regarding Clinton."

So tonight we're still in the dark about that crucial line, who was the person who ultimately wanted Stone to go and get more dirt? The person who is more senior than a senior campaign official who worked on the Trump campaign. Well, today the White House's Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, was asked that by our Jim Acosta.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Can you assure the American people that during these conversations that Roger Stone had with WikiLeaks and individuals who are tied to the dumping of that material that at no time the President had any interactions with Roger Stone, that nobody close to the President had interactions with Roger Stone who may have told the President what was going on in those conversations, all of this when it comes to Roger Stone is a complete surprise to the - he didn't know about any of this, is that what you're saying?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What I can tell you is that the President did nothing wrong throughout this process and the charges of the indictment against Mr. Stone have absolutely nothing to do with the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Of course that didn't answer the question and while we do not know Mueller's exact timeline for completing the Russia investigation other than that he's close according to the acting Matt Whitaker. We do know that the President former fixer, Michael Cohen, has now formally agreed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee next week. Now, we have a lot of developments to get to tonight, I want to start with Evan Perez, OUTFRONT live in Washington at this hour.

So, Evan, close to complete, highly unusual for someone like Matt Whitaker to speak out and say that about an ongoing investigation. What does it mean for Mueller?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I think it's very unusual for Matt Whitaker to be the one saying this. You have already heard from some of the Democrats on Capitol Hill who's saying, "Well, we want to hear it from Mueller himself. Mueller should be the one that speaks for this investigation."

But look I think as you saw from that video clip, it's not clear that Whitaker was intending to say this. He kind of stumbled a little bit, but he did say it, and so this could be a sign that the major investigative work is being wrapped up, is almost It's almost done that there might not be any other major figures that Mueller himself will be bringing any charges for.

But look, we don't know, Erin, how much longer Mueller has before he hands over his report. We don't even know whether Matt Whitaker will be the man who will be handling this because as you remember, Bill Barr is the nominee for Attorney General. We expect that he's going to be confirmed in the next three or four weeks and he probably will be the one who will handle this report when this is all said and done. So there's a lot of questions that are still left unanswered.

[19:04:59]

And we also don't know whether there's any parts of this investigation and Mueller has himself decided belong in other parts of the Justice Department at the Eastern District of Virginia in the Southern District of the New York which we've seen them do already.

So there's a lot of questions that are still unanswered including, obviously, the central question about what exactly happened in 2016. We expect that that's going to be addressed in the report. But if there's any additional crimes that need investigating that go beyond Mueller's initial scope, perhaps those will be handled by U.S. Attorney's offices, the Justice Department, and Matt Whitaker set as much in his comments today.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Evan, which obviously is crucial because everyone should remember, right, Michael Cohen is going to prison for three years because of the Southern District of New York. So referral can obviously have hugely significant implications.

OUTFRONT now, Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash, former Nixon White House Counsel, John Dean and White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, April Ryan.

Dana, let me start with you, Whitaker has been fully briefed. He says Bob Mueller is almost done, I think as Evan pointed out he appeared to stumble maybe realizing he shouldn't be saying that but nonetheless say it he did.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Say it he did and that was revealing certainly. But what was alarming to some Democrats on the Hill and maybe even some Republicans is the other part of his comment, Erin, and that is that he said that it's - the Mueller report part - the report rather is being reviewed, that he's reviewing it.

Senator Chris Coons told our colleague Manu Raju when I spoke with him as well that that is something that is raising many, many alarm bells among him and fellow Democrats on the Judiciary Committee in particular, because it opens up the question of, "Okay, if he's reviewing it, what does that mean? Is he censoring it? Is he telling the White House about it? What exactly are the specifics of that review? And you can be sure those follow up questions are going to be asked. BURNETT: Absolutely, because they all want to see it and they want

the American public to see it, right? I mean, I know we've got obviously some bipartisan efforts to that and we'll see what happens. I mean, April, you were in the room today when Sarah Sanders was asked questions about the investigation, right, specifically referring to Stone and what Trump did or didn't tell Stone to do, right? And she simply would not answer them and they were repeated.

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes, I even asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders, "Is the President in contact with mutual friends who are possibly friends - well, our friends with those who are indicted, preferably Roger Stone?" And she says, "I'm not sure of that."

And the question was asked, because are these people taking information, these mutual friends taking information from Roger Stone or Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort back to the President and she says, "I'm not aware of that." But they're trying to make sure that they walk a very fine line because at that time if we know correctly - they may not have known that the investigation was probably over.

But also I have a little news to as well. Apparently, before Roger Stone was - his house was rated by the FBI just hours before, he had several influencers from Trump circle of friends at his home for gathering, and some who were wondering if the FBI actually was there watching as they were there for this gathering. And that kind of led me into that question today about that and she just said, "I don't know. I have not heard anything about that." She doesn't believe that's happening.

BURNETT: Interesting as you report on that on a gathering like that, obviously, significant and raises significant questions.

RYAN: Yes.

BURNETT: John Dean, I want to play a little bit more of what Whitaker had to say about where the investigation goes here. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITAKER: Fundamentally, the Mueller investigation has a very defined scope and so anything outside of that scope would have to be enhanced to bring additional matters to be investigated by the Mueller investigation, but obviously the - if it's not given to that investigation by an increasing in the scope of the investigation, it would be retained by the Department of Justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: John, obviously big questions here because in light of the whole situation with Roger Stone, right, that a senior campaign official was directed to tell Roger Stone to go and get the dirt from the Russia linked WikiLeaks, right? We don't know who that person is. Obviously, it begs the question of whether it's the President of the United States and what that means. It sounds like what Whitaker is saying is that even when Mueller is done, the DOJ can continue to investigate. The question for you, John Dean, though would Donald Trump's DOJ do that?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, that's a good question. I was focusing as well on what Dana said earlier and that part of his remarks which caught my attention where he said, "I'm comfortable that the decisions that were made are going to be reviewed." I'm not quite sure what that meant.

[19:10:05]

And then he also added, "Right now, the investigation is, I think, close to being completed." I think he was trying to nudge Mueller and try to tell Mueller, "Well, I'm still is here and I'm still looking over your shoulder and I might be making some decisions." So that's the only way I could read that.

BURNETT: And Dana, what are the fears right now from everyone you're speaking to on Capitol Hill about what it means? If he's really saying, "I'm close to being complete." Look, it could be a bluff, it could be a trying to nudge or it could be real, but nonetheless it's the first time we've heard it. So for some on Capitol Hill, that's a huge concern.

BASH: Right and that but really the word review is the big concern among some of the Democrats, the concern that review means interfere, frankly. We don't know --

BURNETT: Interfere or change or redact or something.

BASH: Exactly and he has been overseeing the Mueller investigation for some time and at least on the public face of it, it doesn't look like he has interfered because we have the Stone indictment. We have other things that have happened since Whitaker has been in charge since sessions was fired. But we don't know what we don't know. We don't know what's going on behind the scenes with regard to Mueller wrapping up, Whitaker looking at what he has. Again, the concern among some on Capitol Hill that he's doing more than sending a signal, but telegraphing in a more direct detailed way to the White House in a way that may not be appropriate.

Now, those are fears that we don't know if that's true, but certainly the way that Whitaker answer the question fan those fears.

BURNETT: John, you also have when you're talking about first of all the big question of who directed Roger - the senior campaign official to direct Roger Stone, right, that person seems to be very important. We don't know who it is. We assume Mueller does and that there's something under up his sleeve, we don't know about that.

We also now know Michael Cohen is going to be testifying to the House Intelligence Committee, right, which he had withdrawn and citing fears for his family. Now, he's going to go back and do that and he's going to do it next week. So the timing on that is also very important.

DEAN: I would encourage him to also resume his testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee and do it publicly. He says he's worried about his family, there's nothing better he can do than go public with his testimony. I can tell you from personal experience as somebody who lived under death threats, who people didn't know my testimony at the time, and the best thing I could have done is what I did was testify openly and while I was under the witness protection program, it's certainly - nobody had any mystery in their mind anymore about what I had to say.

BURNETT: It's interesting and April I will say one thing today what Sarah Sanders repeatedly saying, "Oh, the President did nothing wrong" or evading the question. One thing she did not say was, "I refer you to Rudy Giuliani," to the attorneys and an interesting change in tack of what we're used to hearing.

RYAN: Well, number one, Rudy Giuliani has been the fly in the ointment for them at the White House. He doesn't consult with them and he's now has confounded more so the situation. He needs to stop talking and the White House has been hopeful that he will stop talking. But I want to go back to something that you said, I talked to a former Justice Department, high ranking Justice Department official who said about this investigation.

One thing that could really reopen this for Mueller if he comes back, if he were to come back to probe more is the fact that Manafort and Stone would just completely, I guess, cooperate, and that's one thing that could reopen this. It could really change the dynamic as well.

BURNETT: Which would be crucial and, of course, Stone saying that he will do no such thing, whether that's spending on a pardon or what unclear. Thank you all very much. And next, President Trump refusing to rule out another shutdown. Is he getting his wall one way or the other? Plus, the White House reportedly nervous about another Republican running for President against Trump, the Governor of Maryland, is he really a threat. Plus NBC just releasing a statement after veteran journalist Tom Brokaw made controversial comments including this ...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BROKAW, AMERICAN JOURNALIST: The Hispanics should work harder at assimilation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[19:15:00]

BURNETT: President Trump refusing to rule out another shut down. The President telling the Wall Street Journal today that he thinks the odds are against a deal happening, so for another shutdown or well, of course, there's always executive action, he said, "We could see another shutdown in less than three weeks." And, of course, then there is this ...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARGARET BRENNAN, ANCHOR, CBS: Is the President really prepared to shut down the government again in three weeks? MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT OF BUDGET: Yes.

I think he actually is keep. In mind, he's willing to do whatever it takes to secure the borders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does he say to those like Republican Rob Portman and others who say that a shutdown should be taken off the table?

SANDERS: I'm not going to get into the hypotheticals of taking that off the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Okay, so the shutdown is on the table. The President thinks the odds of no deal are higher than the odds of a deal and it came on the day, we found out, that it has cost the United States $3 billion for the shutdown. That's according to the CBO and only 20 percent of Americans actually support shutting down the government again. That is a bipartisan and overwhelmingly resounding statement. People don't want it. Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT at the White House tonight.

And Kaitlan, that is the big question. The President dangling out there again, right, are we headed for another shutdown?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's really the question here, but what it's going to come down to, Erin, is largely two things. One, whether or not those congressional negotiators can find a deal not just finding a deal but also one that could pass both Chambers of Congress and get the President's signature.

Now, as you noted in that Wall Street Journal interview, he expressed a doubt that they could come to a deal, but the President isn't the only one who's skeptical here because both sides have drawn these red lines not only the President saying he doubt he'd take anything less than $5.7 billion, but also with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi being on camera calling the wall an immorality.

[19:20:04]

Now, the one bright spot that White House aides have looked at lately is who's on this committee that's trying to find a deal and it's not none of the hardliners. Mostly you see these appropriators here who are used to finding a compromise and have said they would like to do so for this. Now, if they don't reach a deal and they don't reach one that either Nancy Pelosi likes or the President likes, then the President has said that his top choice essentially here is to invoke a national emergency therefore bypassing Congress to fund his border wall, so that's the question here.

One thing we did learn today, Erin, is that the President will get the chance to make the argument for his border wall during that televised primetime address during the State of the Union which is going to be one week after it was initially scheduled to happen.

BURNETT: All right, Kaitlan, thank you. OUTFRONT tonight, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna. He's a member of the House Oversight Committee. And I appreciate your time, Congressman. Look, the President just putting the odds that less than 50-50 that the bipartisan group of congressional negotiators will get a deal before there's another shutdown, so he has the odds for a shutdown. Where do you put them?

REP. RO KHANNA (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, it's very discouraging. I think we can get a deal done. The Democrats are willing to fund border security. We're willing to fund smart border security even give more than $5.7 billion. We would give $10 billion, but we're not going to get money for the 15th century idea for wall and I think the President if he can move beyond his campaign promises, could easily get a reasonable deal.

BURNETT: So in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the President said he would not rule out another shut down. His quote, "Certainly an option." That's what he used to describe another shutdown. Now, look, we know from the most recent polls, Americans overwhelmingly don't want that outcome according to Monmouth, that is a bipartisan take from people across the country. Do you believe the President will go ahead with another shutdown? Does he think that that's a real alternative?

KHANNA: I don't for two reasons. One, the polling showed that it was unpopular for him, but more importantly his own economic advisor said that it was costing the country 0.13 percent of GDP every week. The President knows that he's nowhere if this economy falls into recession or tanks, I just don't think he's going to take that kind of risk again.

BURNETT: So when you talk about being willing to give something for border security, but not a wall, if this is what it all comes down to, sometimes words are not just words. Sarah Sanders today was asked about it. She said that you all, Democrats, need to give something. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: If they don't come back with the deal, that means Democrats get virtually nothing. That will make the President and forced him to have to take executive action that does not give Democrats the things that they want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Will you vote for a deal, Congressman Khanna, that includes some wall?

KHANNA: I will not and I think the President is miscalculating his odds on executive action. I mean, Senator Rubio, Senator Blunt have said that they would not support the President in declaring a national emergency. And as you know we could invoke Section 5 of the National Emergency Act and the Congress could pass a joint resolution to overturn it. Now, it would require a veto proof majority but the question is whether Senator Rubio and Blunt and others would stick to what they said they would do. BURNETT: Well, of course, Senator Graham has already said he supports

a national emergency. I mean, I guess, the reality of it is are you willing to take one?

KHANNA: Well, I would vote to overturn it and I think it's clearly unconstitutional. I mean, Harry Truman when he declared a national emergency to nationalize steel for the Korean War, the court said that that was unconstitutional. So certainly this is not going to be a constitutional exercise of the President's power.

But here's the point, we're all for reasonable border security and the President if he just gets past the wall and if he thinks about what's common sense can get a deal. I mean, people say, "Well, Ro, you have security in your own house," but I don't build a wall around my house. I have an alarm system. I represent Silicon Valley, their technology solutions that are effective, and my hope is the President will see that.

BURNETT: Now, of course, the President points that communities whether it's L.A. or San Francisco or anywhere across this country and says, "Well, they have walls too." And in fact when he caved in here, right, there's no other word for it, right, he caved and the government reopens and he didn't get any money for his wall at that time, he was slammed by his base for doing that. Here are a couple of people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN COULTER, AMERICAN COMMENTATOR: He promised something for 18 months and he lied about it.

LOU DOBBS, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: She has just whipped the President of the United States. He just reversed himself. That's a victory for Nancy Pelosi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Okay. When he hears that from people that that he cares deeply about, he cares what they think about , he cares that they reflect what he thinks his base want, do you think that will make him dig in even more? HE doesn't want to look like a loser.

KHANNA: Unfortunately, they're calling the shots and this is the base that he thinks got him elected. But leadership is about convincing your base to do something that makes sense for the country. The President everyone knows has a lot of loyalty from his base.

[19:25:02]

His poll numbers are through the roof still with that 40 percent of the country that voted for him. I think if he turned to them and said, "Look, I'm getting border security. We're getting funding for smart border security and it doesn't have to be about a 15th century wall." I actually think the vast majority of his base would stay with him. So I think he is over relying on the Ann Coulter's and isn't doing what would the vast majority of the country wants. BURNETT: All right, well, thank you very much. Congressman Khanna, I

appreciate your time tonight.

KHANNA: Thank you, Erin, for having me on.

BURNETT: And next, is the President trying to bait former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz into running for President? Plus, a longtime Republican lawmaker switching parties while he's saying it's all because of President Trump and he's doing it now. He's OUTFRONT.

Tonight, the first big test for Senator Kamala Harris, moments away. She will be facing voters in Iowa at the CNN Town Hall in Des Moines. It is just one day after she officially announced she is running.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm running to be President of the people, by the people and for all people.

[19:30:03]

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT. He is in Des Moines.

And, Jeff, this is obviously a big night, in many sense, you know, formally kicking off 2020, this town hall. The stakes are high for Senator Harris tonight.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, good evening.

No question, they are. I mean, after we heard that speech yesterday in her hometown of Oakland, California, laying out her vision, giving her slogan, she's of the people. Now, she's going to be taking questions from the people. She will be taking questions from Iowa voters.

And, Erin, I can tell you, talking to so many Iowa Democrats, independent and other voters, they are curious about policy positions. They are curious if these Democratic candidates, this growing field of candidates has what it takes to ultimately do the top objective. That is, to defeat Donald Trump.

So, this, no question, is the beginning of a process to do that. She's had a very smooth rollout over the last week or so. It's been multi-stops. It's stopping here tonight in Iowa. And she's going to be taking those questions.

But there are some concerns about where she stands on some of the issues. Is she as liberal or progressive as some of the other candidates in the field? If she is, would that hurt her in a general election?

So, this is the beginning of organizing. It's shopping season for Democrats here. They want to pick a winner. All that makes up is a lot of ingredients, that it's just the beginning phases. A lot of voters we talk to say, is she going to be like Barack Obama? Can the party have another Barack Obama?

Erin, it's a good thing to keep in mind, Barack Obama now is about 12 years ago this very week. He had a lot of ups and downs as well. So, it's how you survive the long stretch here, not simply one of these evenings. It's the long obstacle course -- Erin.

BURNETT: And it is one long runway we have. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny.

And I want to go now to Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for "The Nation", along with Bill Kristol, former editor of "The Weekly Standard".

So, Joan, the top objective, they want to beat Donald Trump.

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: Yes.

BURNETT: So, what does Harris need to do tonight in Iowa? As Jeff said, right, you can have your ups and downs but tonight is a crucial night for her.

WALSH: It is a crucial night. I think it's very good that she went to Iowa first after Oakland, Erin. I think that there were some rumors for a while. I mean, it's still early but early in the early, that maybe she wasn't going to be serious about Iowa, she would look ahead to Nevada and South Carolina, which are demographically better for her. But Iowa is crucial. I mean, Iowa actually --

BURNETT: It sets the tone.

WALSH: It sets the tone. You can't neglect Iowa.

And also, Iowans are very proud, Iowan Democrats, of sort of credentialing Barack Obama when they gave him that big win in '08 that actually liberate a lot of black voters to take him seriously and say, wait, maybe white people are going to give him a serious chance. He could be a winner.

So, you know, I hate to keep comparing her to Obama but there is that comparison. She also has to introduce herself. California has a lot of rural voters. It's not like she is just an urban person -- she represents just an urban area. But she's got to introduce herself to those rural, working class white Iowans and make it clear that she cares about them too.

BURNETT: So, Bill, you know, when it comes to this issue of, as Jeff said, the top objective, right, for Democrats, they want to beat Donald Trump. So, OK, you have all kinds of issues going on in a crowded field, including former CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, who, quote/unquote, is now seriously thinking of running but he would not run as a Democrat. No, no, no, Bill. He would run as an independent. The backlash has been swift and nasty.

This exchange just happened at a book event for Schultz in New York literally just moments ago as the show was on the air. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD SCHULTZ, FORMER CEO, STARBUCKS: I am seriously considering running for president as a centrist independent. And I wanted to clarify the word independent, which I view merely as a designation on the ballot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't help elect Trump you egotistical, billionaire (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK. So, look, obviously, Andrew Ross Sorkin, my friend there, excellent moderator, moved the conversation along. But now, this is what they're talking about here, right, and this is the sentiment we've seen everywhere, whether it has included expletives or not. Michael Bloomberg said Schultz running would split the anti- Trump vote. Democratic Senator Brian Schatz said there's zero appetite for this and those were the polite ways it was framed.

Would Schultz be catastrophic for Democrats?

BILL KRISTOL, FORMER EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think I once did a book event, I think I once sat at that same about Barnes & Noble in New York. I think the lesson is don't go too far (ph) at book events in New York.

But, look, I mean, I respect Howard Schultz and let's see what he has to say. I mean, maybe, I think that the bet would have to be that the Democrats far left to nominate Bernie Sanders, who I think would be unacceptable, would scare off a fair number of Democrats, the Hillary Clinton voters, and Republicans nominate a weakened Donald Trump and maybe you could run up the middle and get 35, 40 percent and actually win.

BURNETT: Oh, you see a path?

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: But I don't think without -- unless there's a Sanders' nomination, I suspect Schultz at some point would decide that a reasonable Democrat is better than Donald Trump.

[19:35:07] I mean, he's a Democrat himself. It's not even clear what he disagrees with the national Democratic Party.

WALSH: Exactly.

KRISTOL: Except he's tougher on the debt and deficit, which is fine with me, but I don't know that you can really -- I do agree if you're any kind of Democrat or any kind of independent or even kind even of some Republicans who switched in 2018, are you going to risk not -- are you going to risk leaving Donald Trump in office to cast what might be a symbolic vote for Howard Schultz?

BURNETT: Maybe so. Joan, the vitriol, and I would use that word, vitriol has been swift --

WALSH: That was pretty swift. That was nasty.

BURNETT: The condemnation. Yes.

WALSH: I would have to agree with that. But, look, people are angry. You know, this man purports to be a lifelong Democrat, then run in the Democratic primary. The field isn't formed yet. I don't think Bernie Sanders is going to get the nomination but he will probably be there.

There is room for a centrist who is maybe a deficit hawk. That's not my lane in the party but there are still moderates in the party. Run and show your ideas. I would also add, though, even people who are afraid of him because of all the money, because of this --

BURNETT: He can afford to self fund.

WALSH: He can afford to self fund.

He was terrible on "60 Minutes" last night. We all remember -- some of us remember that poor Ted Kennedy doomed his '80 campaign with a terrible "60 Minutes" performance. Howard Schultz was so horrific on "60 Minutes".

He should have had a triple latte before he went on. All day we've been contrasting his rollout on "60 minutes," not official, with Kamala Harris, with the energy of Kamala Harris. I don't know what his constituency is but he didn't commit to anybody last night.

BURNETT: His constituency, for certain, Bill, appears to be Donald Trump, who said Howard Schultz doesn't have the guts to run for president, obviously trying to goad him in to run for president, because Donald Trump obviously perceives it would be a great thing, split the anti-Trump vote and you get another term of Donald J. Trump.

KRISTOL: You know, I think the team understands he's not increasing his support at all, it will go down from 46 percent last time, even if he wins the nomination. And I've being involved on the Republican side to trying to lay the groundwork for a primary challenge for Trump. How panicked are they about that? They tried to rig the rules with the Republican National Committee. They're worried about what's happening in the early primary states.

I think Trump is weak and that's another reason that the Democrats, sensing they have a reasonable path to victory here with a pretty impressive, diverse field, you know, lot of interesting choices there. They don't really see why Howard Schultz is going out, especially now. If in the summer both parties are really unpopular, Pelosi and Trump are in some death match and no one likes either of them, that's one thing. It's a little strange for Schultz to launch now.

BURNETT: All right.

WALSH: Agreed.

BURNETT: And, by the way, the outcome of Trump and Pelosi, very possible to see. I don't know if that leaves you with a third-party candidate but possible death match.

All right. Thank you both very much.

And coming up later, don't miss the town hall with Kamala Harris live in Des Moines, 10:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

And next, a long time Republican quitting the GOP. Why he says President Trump has taken the party to the extreme. He is OUTFRONT.

Plus, NBC moments ago addressing the backlash Tom Brokaw caused after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BROKAW, FORMER "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS" ANCHOR: Also I hear when I pushed people a little harder, I don't know whether I want brown grandbabies. I mean, that's also a part of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:41:58] BURNETT: Tonight, a long-time Republican lawmaker leaving the party and becoming a Democrat. His main reason, the president who he claims has, quote, led the party to the extreme on issues that divide our country.

OUTFRONT now, California Assemblyman Brian Maienschein.

Assemblyman, I appreciate the time. Look, you're not new to politics. You were in the legislature for six years. You served in city council for San Diego for eight years.

What was the straw that broke the camel's back when it comes to President Trump for you?

BRIAN MAIENSCHEIN, CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLYMAN, SWITCHED PARTY AFFILIATION FROM GOP TO DEM: You know, it's been so much. I started my career on the San Diego City Council, I wanted to get things done, fix problems. I've watched as the Republican Party has moved further and further to the right and then under President Trump, it's just become so strident and filled with so much vitriol that I just didn't feel comfortable continuing to serve under that banner.

BURNETT: So, you know, you talk about the stridency, vitriol, moving to the right. The one thing I would say -- my question for you, though, is that some of these things we heard a long time before now, right? Here is then candidate Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of

Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Obviously, that was 2015. So at that time, you were willing to deal with that but now something has changed. So, what has happened between then and now?

MAIENSCHEIN: I just think it's reached a breaking point with people refusing to stand up to that. And he has been -- it's been sort of more strident. He has -- his staff is fleeing and the chaos that really comes out of that White House on a daily basis. You know, there's a lot of people who wanted the Republican Party, particularly in California but really anywhere else to change, to become more -- have more of an open tent and yet, it just continues to not.

And at some point, you know, I wanted to take a stand against that and it's been -- I'll tell you, the reception has been really nice locally for somebody to stand up to that behavior.

BURNETT: So when you talk about the reception locally being nice, I want to ask you something about one of your colleagues said, the chairman of the San Diego Republican Party actually are very critical of you, right? You know, you won in November, I want to be clear.

MAIENSCHEIN: Yes.

BURNETT: You were re-elected. It was a really tight race, 607-vote margin in your favor.

MAIENSCHEIN: Yes.

BURNETT: And the chairman of the San Diego Republican Party has said about your decision to leave the Republican Party for the Democratic Party, quote, Brian Maienschein has shown himself to be the absolute worst kind of politician, someone making decisions based on politics instead of principles -- you know, referring to your district turning more Democratic, saying you're just doing it to win.

[19:45:01] What do you say to him?

MAIENSCHEIN: Well, I mean, it's not surprising that the chairman of the Republican Party would say that. What I'm talking about is just more -- kind of the regular people that I want to represent. I mean, the constituents in my district, they want a problem solver. They want somebody who's there to represent them, not to be an ideologue and say those terrible things. You know, the clip you showed, and, you know, there's 100 other clips similar to that that could be shown, too.

So, no, I'm not surprised that the chairman of the Republican Party feels that way or at least says that. But, again, you know, they've been resistant to change, to not having an open tent, to not wanting to attract people and appeal in the best in people but to continue to appeal to the worst in people.

BURNETT: You know, we're leading into our town hall here with Kamala Harris, launching the 2020 season, right, and now you've switched parties, right? We've got five Democrats who have officially entered the race for 2020, Kamala Harris among them. We've got others who are likely to do so, right, Elizabeth Warren, Kristen Gillibrand. Look, you could even have Howard Schultz as an independent. Who knows?

The point is when you look up there at all of these choices, would you be willing to vote for one of these people as president?

MAIENSCHEIN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think the big key is going to be to change the White House. And so, absolutely. I'm looking forward to it. I think it will be a fantastic primary campaign. I think there's going to be a ton of good candidates out there. This is the first step in Iowa, but it's going to be pretty exciting.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Brian. I appreciate you time.

MAIENSCHEIN: Thanks, Erin. You bet.

BURNETT: And next, NBC News calling Tom Brokaw's comments about Hispanics assimilating and brown babies inaccurate and inappropriate. Are they taking any action?

Plus, Jeanne Moos on Roger Stone, guilty for crimes against fashion.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:50:35] BURNETT: Tonight, NBC News weighing on controversial remarks made by veteran anchor Tom Brokaw about Hispanics, releasing a statement moments ago saying: Tom's comments were inaccurate and inappropriate and we're glad he apologized.

Brian Stelter is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROKAW: Spanish should work harder to assimilate. That's one of the things I've been saying for a long time.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Veteran TV journalist Tom Brokaw now trying to walk that back, apologizing for his statements about Latinos not fitting into American culture. Now, dozens of Latino leaders are demanding more from NBC, saying his comments are part of a legacy of anti-Latino sentiment that is spreading freely in 2019.

BROKAW: A lot of this we don't want to talk about.

STELTER: Brokaw speaking on Sunday's "Meet the Press", said many Republicans see the growth of Hispanics helping Democrats.

BROKAW: Also, I hear when I pushed people a little harder, I don't know whether I want brown grandbabies. I mean, that's also a part of it.

STELTER: There, the talk of racial animus, he upset some on the right, like Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush who tweeted, I am one of those little brown ones and I was loved by my grandparents.

What Brokaw said next about conflicting cultures stirred even more anger.

BROKAW: They ought not to be codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English and that they feel comfortable in the communities and that's going to take outreach on both sides frankly.

STELTER: What people heard was an old and unfair stereotype.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS CORRESPONDENT: We also need to adjust what we think of them as America.

STELTER: PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor pushed back on Brokaw.

ALCINDOR: I grew up in Miami where people speak Spanish but their kids speak English, an idea that we think of America that you can only speak English, as if Spanish and other languages wasn't always part of America is in some ways troubling.

STELTER: The show moved on but the conversation was just beginning.

Brokaw who covered the civil rights movement seemed out of touch with America today. Texas Democrat Joaquin Castro called the comments xenophobic, and called Brokaw stunningly ignorant of Hispanic culture.

When Brokaw first expressed regret, tweeting: I feel terrible a part of my comments on Hispanics offended some members of that proud culture, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists called Brokaw's comments inaccurate and slammed him, saying it only further demonstrates Brokaw's lack of understanding of what forced assimilation does to communities.

The 78-year-old special correspondent continued tweeting, saying: I am sorry, truly sorry my comments were offensive to many. The great enduring American tradition of diversity is to be celebrated and cherished.

Now, some of Brokaw's colleagues are coming to his defense. Joe Scarborough saying: Hopefully, he will be shown grace.

Meantime, an alliance of Latino groups wants NBC to do more to show the changing face of America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: A nation of immigrants, of course, a nation where so many people, Erin, work so hard to overcome huge struggles and obstacles in order to assimilate. It's part of what makes America great. Brokaw didn't seem to get that. Of course, as always, this is about media diversity. Let's hear less

from Brokaw about this and more from Hispanics, that I think is an option and an opportunity for NBC.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Brian.

And next, Jeanne Moos calls the fashion police on Roger Stone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:58:05] BURNETT: Tonight, Roger Stone and the fashion police collide.

Here's Jeanne.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Whether he's giving an interview or flashing the peace sign, it's not just what Roger Stone is doing, it's what he's wearing while doing it that sticks, while Nancy Pelosi takes her sunglasses off to talk to the press, Stone puts them on.

STONE: I'm going to put these on cause otherwise I'll squint.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I don't blame you.

MOOS: But some blame him for wearing a top hat to President Trump's inauguration. Stone was compared to villain Snidely Whiplash in Mr. Peanut. He considers himself a dapper dresser with his pocket squares and round glasses. Even on his legal defense fund page.

But when he wears his beret, he tends to get berated. Makes me wonder why he wasn't arrested sooner for his incriminating fashion choices.

STONE: Mano-a-mano.

MOOS: Stone's beret and leather jacket make you want to pull a Paul Manafort with his ostrich jacket and bury your head in the sand.

But the most famous part of Roger Stone's look is what he wears under his clothes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Nixon tattoo is really all you need to know about Roger.

MOOS: The tattoo is featured in the documentary, "Get Me Roger Stone". It's gotten Stone parodied by political cartoonists and lampooned by the Borowitz Report. In ominous development, Roger Stone gets Mueller tattooed.

Stone is actually the men's fashion correspondent for the conservative website, "The Daily Caller", his best dressed list for 2018 featured Melania, and Trump, Fox News favorite, Jeanine Pirro.

His worst dressed list included Beto O'Rourke, dweeby, washed-out, Stone called him. And he trashed Michael Cohen for his garish sports jackets, not that Stone would ever wear such a thing. I wonder what he was wearing when the FBI rather than the fashion police woke him up and said you're under arrest.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Yes, see, you saw that tattoo, huh?

"ANDERSON" starts now.