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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

New York Times: Trump Has Been Complaining About State Of The Union Text, Saying It's Too Gentle On Democrats; Trump About To Deliver Second State Of The Union Speech; Federal Prosecutors Seek Interviews With Trump Organization Executives A Day After Prosecutors Issued Subpoena To Trump Inaugural CMTE; Trump Expected To Call For Unity With Dems In State Of The Union Speech; Potential 2020 Contender Weighs In. Aired: 7-8p ET

Aired February 5, 2019 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN: ... all of that. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER, you can tweet the show at @CNNSITROOM. Thanks for watching. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, CNN: OutFront next. President Trump about to speak to the nation as another shutdown looms. He's already reportedly complaining the drafts of his speech are too gentle on Democrats. Plus, federal prosecutors now want to interview executives inside the Trump organization. Is this a bigger threat to President Trump than the Mueller investigation? And Virginia's embattled Governor, digging in, refusing to step down as the Lieutenant Governor is facing scrutiny, let's go OutFront.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett, welcome to a special edition of OutFront. We are live tonight from Washington. Here in the nation's capitol, tonight President Trump getting ready to face the nation and deliver his second State of the Union address. This time before a newly divided Congress and there is a lot on the line this evening, another shutdown, of course, is looming and the President's original State of the Union speech you may remember was canceled by the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi because of the shutdown.

The President is expected tonight to renew calls for border wall funding, the very thing that led to the last shutdown, contractors apparently have been at the White House this week. And we know the President is taking action on his wall because according to sources, the President and his son-in-law Jared Kushner had contractors at the White House to discuss specific construction for the wall with a meeting as recently as yesterday.

And the New York Times tonight reporting that the President has been complaining to his staff that the drafts of the speech that they had prepared are too gentle on the Democrats. This has come after days of the White House insisting publicly, this is going to be a unifying speech. We'll see. Kaitlan Collins is OutFront live outside the White House tonight.

Kaitlan, pretty incredible, right, those were all of the headlines. Now, the President apparently complaining, "I don't want to be so nice to Democrats." What more are you learning about the speech?

KAITLAN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, you've seen those White House officials come out and in public say that the President is going to call for unity tonight. Something they think could happen in Washington, but behind closed doors they are not that optimistic especially after the President and the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spent the day firing back at each other before the President even spoke on Capitol Hill tonight.

Now, the President is going to find, try to find some common ground with Democrats talking about opioids, lowering drug prices, infrastructure, but what the takeaway from tonight is going to be is the President focusing on his border wall, something that as we know Democrats have fiercely resisted funding. Now he's going to lay out the case for it, again, tonight during this prime time address but as we know even the President himself is skeptical that he's going to come to any kind of an agreement where Congress funds that and wall and he builds it through a legislative solution and that's evident in his actions, not just what he said about this but also the fact that he met with those contractors here at the White House yesterday to discuss building his border wall shows he's not very confident that they're going to find a deal on Capitol Hill that will help him get that wall.

Now, he spent the day going over the speech, spent hours on it going over it with Stephen Miller, one of his top aides today. They are expecting the President to come out there tonight speak for about 45 minutes which is about half of how long he spoke last year during that first State of the Union address.

But, Erin, one thing that we will be watching and I've asked some White House officials about, but no one has gotten back to me yet is whether or not the President is going to congratulate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on her recent ascension to retaking the gavel and being House Speaker again. So far none of them have said whether or not he will.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Kaitlan, and we'll check back in with her, of course, as we get ready for the State of the Union this hour. And my guests with me here for our special program tonight, our Senior Political Analyst, Mark Preston, White House Correspondent, Abby Philip, our Political Director, David Chalian. Also here, USA Today Columnist, Kirsten Powers, former Trump Campaign Strategist, David Urban, former Republican Congressman from Utah Mia love, and former White House Counselor to President Bill Clinton, Paul Begala.

All right, thanks to all. David, let's start with you, David Chalian. So here we are and this is bipartisan and this was going to be about unity and they had successfully pushed out those headlines and now, of course, the leak comes, upset about these headlines and he doesn't want to be too kind.

DAVID CHALIAN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, CNN: Right. I know we shouldn't get too surprised at the difference in this administration with previous administrations as it leads up to the State of the Union. But I can't think of an example where you roll out where you expect you want the message to be and the takeaway to be and then have your own people undercut it anonymously before you even make it down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol to give the speech.

But that's what's happening here. Listen, there's nothing in President Trump's first two years that would indicate to us that a call for unity and bipartisanship was going to be long-lasting. I mean he was already taking after Chuck Schumer on Twitter this morning. So I don't think anybody expects there to be a dramatic reshaping of this presidency at this half-time mark in his first term.

[19:05:06]

But clearly this is what they wanted, the administration wanted the message to be going in and like I said it didn't even last up until the start of the speech.

BURNETT: No he didn't. He got the Drudge headline and then he tweeted it and then they took a screen grab of his tweet and then all of a sudden it's over.

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Yes. I mean it was kind of the most predictable thing imaginable. I mean, when he comes out and says this I think that it's a wonderful idea and it would be great if he was willing to do that and if the Democrats were willing to do that and everyone was willing to come together. But most of all that he would set the stage for it. That would be a really wonderful thing. But in the past he's made these kinds of noises and within hours usually it's all sort of blown up.

BURNETT: And then there's this things, there's the words you put around it, Mark, and then there's also the meat of it. The substance and he's going to be talking about things like the economy, everyone should be celebrating the historic lows of unemployment among African- American and Hispanics which, of course, he brings up constantly on his own.

He's going to talk about the needs to lower prescription drug prices. He's going to talk about ending HIV. These are the some of the things that we anticipate that will be in here. These are all things everybody can agree on, right?

MARK PRESTON, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: But there's the big but, right?

BURNETT: Right.

PRESTON: So the speech tonight, I think, we're all going to be fascinated to see how he carries himself, because that is part of him of what we have to look for now in him as a President. Will he carry himself with the quorum, what kind of message will he spread. But it's really not what he says tonight, it's really what he's going to say tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. depending on what time he gets up that when he starts firing off tweets.

Now, I should know that we kind of have a guess, right, because as we've already noted he was going after Chuck Schumer this morning at the same time that we're talking about unity. I would say this for the Democrats tonight though. The Democrats would be smart not to play into the partisan game with Trump and try to continue to talk about unity no matter what he says tonight. It'd be interesting to see if that message can come true.

BURNETT: I mean let's talk about this Chuck Schumer incident this morning, okay? So the original reporting, right, was that he's going to have an end to the politics of resistance and retribution and he was going to call for unity. But, of course, this morning he tweeted at Chuck Schumer. "I see Schumer -" although usually it's Chuck and Nancy, so I don't know what the use of the last name means here.

But anyway, "is already criticizing my State of the Union speech even though he hasn't seen it yet. He's just upset that he didn't win the Senate after spending a fortune, like he thought he would.

ABBY PHILLIP, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, I think we should pay very close attention to what White House aides are saying about what he's going to say. They're talking about ending the politics of resistance and retribution, that is almost exclusively about Democrats. What the White House wants Democrats to do.

There's very little that we've heard about what the President is going to do and that's why what he says tonight is only as to Mark's point one part of the equation, the other part is the follow-through. The challenge for President Trump is he can lay out what he wants to accomplish, but there is a lack of trust not just among Democrats but also Republicans don't know if they can count on what he says being actually true the next day or the day after that.

And I think that the politics of the wall is really important. There is nothing that can be done in Washington until this issue is resolved and it's not clear to me from conversations with White House officials that they believe the politics has changed any from the 35-day shut down. They are still in the same place today that they were in January in terms of how they think about this issue and how they can pressure Democrats.

So tonight will be an opportunity to see whether or not the President is thinking about that politics ...

BURNETT: And is there any - there's no I would imagine coincidence to the timing of contractors coming to the White House to talk about the wall, do they?

DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: No. So there's couple of things, the Schumer thing - the President was punching back, right, and Schumer kind of won after the President at the Wellness Center, so the President responding to Chuck Schumer there. So he didn't kind of go after him initially. He's kind of resist his own worst instincts there and just stick with "don't undercut your message, stick with the script" to talk about some of the themes in this, the Democrats and Republicans can't agree on.

You talked about ending HIV by 2030, infrastructure, lowering drug cost, prescription drug costs. I expect you'll see most the Democratic side stand up and clap during all those things. This President liked - we got this first step back done, Van Jones, our colleague here is a big proponent of it and this President liked the feel of that. He liked how that felt, liked the response to that.

So that was, I would say, a little bit easier to get done than infrastructure and some of these things he's going to propose, because that was moving already. But I think that there's precedent here.

BURNETT: And even when you take HIV, it's an important thing, it's a scourge that needs to be addressed, but would he not also say jump on cancer or is that - he won't talk about it because that was Barack Obama's thing?

URBAN: No, I don't necessarily think that cancer moonshot thing is off the table. I think this is where he's focusing on here. I think he also have this huge surge of opioids that's ramping in America, opioid's national emergency, wanted to declare a nation emergency. I'd suggest that's where you start first. But there are themes throughout this that are really conciliatory and that you can look to work together with Democrats on it. Maybe not in an election here, but they could get stuff done if they want.

[19:10:03]

BURNETT: So Congresswoman Love, let me ask you, Kellyanne Conway was asked today about the speech and how the American people should be preparing for it and here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: I think that they should listen to the message and not always just look at the messenger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: An oddly blunt acknowledgement, it would seem, that she knows that the messenger can be a problem at least polarizing.

MIA LOVE, FORMER UTAH CONGRESSWOMAN: Listen to the message and not the messenger. I think you have to listen to both, I mean. The State of the Union is actually supposed to talk about the State of the Union, the United States, where we are, where we're going. And the fact that there are so many people that are talking about the speech before the speech actually happens, you've got a lot of people that are saying this is what to look out for, this is what's going to happen.

I think that that's the problem with the beltway. I think people are already sending their message out there and say, "Hey, watch out for this or watch out for that." I think that everyone should go into this with an open mind and then I agree, listen to what is said actually the next day, and how people actually react to it. I'm going to be looking at the atmosphere also to watch out to see who is actually there for themselves, whether there are going to be the presidential candidate for 2020, and what their message is or the things that are really - whether it's going to be about the President or whether it's going to be about them. I think that those are the things that ...

BURNETT: And yet Paul will we really see Democrats stand up and applaud when he brags about the record low unemployment rates among certain groups?

PAUL BEGALA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: No.

BURNETT: No, that's the thing. They won't, why not?

BEGALA: So what?

BURNETT: What are they - they're not - so what? What do you mean so what?

BEGALA: Who cares?

URBAN: Boo, Paul Begala. Boo.

BEGALA: They may, well, it just doesn't matter. What matters a lot is what our President says and what matters more is what he does. This is amusing to me to hear Kellyanne say focus on the message not the messenger. The late Roger Ailes who was a Republican Political Consultant who then created a Republican TV network wrote a book. I commend it to you, it's called You Are the Message. That's what Roger believed. He was right about that.

And that's the problem, when Donald Trump says I want unity and community, I want that too. But it's like Urban and I doing ads for like Pantene hair fall 1910 [00:02:08] they're going to be incredible.

BURNETT: Well, one of you does have more hair than the other.

BEGALA: Not much.

BURNETT: I will just say as a statement of fact.

BEGALA: Okay, so like back in the Clinton days, we got paste in the midterms 1910 [00:02:18].

LOVE: Yes, including today.

BEGALA: The President today is still pretending he won the midterm election. He got pasted. The American people are telling him something. Here's what - first thing out of his mouth for Bill Clinton, do you know what he did in 1995, he just lost the conference.

BURNETT: 1910 [00:02:30], right?

BEGALA: The first thing he said, "Again, we are here in the sanctuary of democracy and once again our democracy has spoken. So let me begin by congratulating all of you here in the 104th Congress and congratulating you Mr. Speaker." And he turned around and saluted Newt Gingrich. He hated Newt Gingrich. 0 Newt Gingrich hated him more than, I think, Trump and Pelosi hate each other. But he understood that was the messenger.

BURNETT: Well, that is saying something.

BEGALA: He had to be a unifying figure in his deeds as well as his words and he was and folks loved it. This President, that's the first test, will he congratulate Nancy Pelosi by name. He should, it's an easy thing to do. He won't because he's ...

(CROSSTALK)

PRESTON: Wait a second, by name or by title, because by name it could be seen as slight, by title it ...

(CROSSTALK)

LOVE: But I think that applauding for the wins, applauding for unemployment, applauding for those things I think it's important for us to make sure. It shows credibility when somebody says, "Okay, I agree with this."

URBAN: You can't blow on everything.

PHILLIP: Keep in mind just this morning the President talked about how Republicans did so well in the Senate, not mentioning at all that the Democrat's 140 seats. So he has never been one to really talk about that part of the chamber and what happened in November.

BURNETT: All right, all stay with me and next, Ohio senator, Sherrod Brown on tonight's speech, will he and President Trump actually agree or Sherrod Brown may be going to be on the running for 2020. Plus, Virginia's embattled Governor digging in and refusing to step down after the racist photo from his yearbook surfaced and his own terrible response to it. Tonight, the Lieutenant Governor though is facing scrutiny in that state and Trump giving his big speech in, well, it is the speaker, madam Speaker Nancy Pelosi's House, so how will she respond to the President tonight.

[19:15:00]

And we're moment's away from President Trump's State of the Union to Congress coming as - CNN is learning that federal prosecutors in New York have requested interviews with executives at the Trump Organization. And I want to note that those requests have come in just recent weeks. This isn't something that happened a while ago, we're finding out, this is happening now. And the focus is not immediately clear, but it does come just one day after we reported that Trump's inaugural committee was subpoenaed in a probe into possible financial abuses including how foreign donations were used.

All right, OutFront now Democratic Senator from Ohio, Sherrod Brown. And Senator, I appreciate your time tonight. Obviously, an important night. The President coming to Capitol Hill. I do want to note that we're learning here these interviews with people within the Trump Organization is separate from Mueller's Russia investigation. It's coming from the Southern District in New York which, of course, is responsible now for Michael Cohen impending prison sentence. What do you think is a bigger threat to President Trump, the Mueller investigation or what seems to be going on in New York?

SHERROD BROWN, DEMOCRATIC OHIO: Well, I'm not a lawyer and I don't try to measure one threat to the President against the other. And II just say law enforcement needs to do its job, the bigger threat to the American people is President Trump measures the economy by the stock market, an economy that - a presidency that's enriching him and his family and I measure the economy by what's happening with workers wages, what's happening to the dignity of work, what's happening to the cost of healthcare, what's happening to the cost of education.

And the President would rather distract and change the subject than focus on what workers wages. I've seen the betrayal of workers in Youngstown, Ohio with the GM closing. I've seen the betrayal of workers where workers wages are flat while profits are up for corporations, so that to me is the bigger story not - I just want law enforcement to do its job.

BURNETT: So when he says as he will that African-American unemployment is a record low, is that something that he deserves credit for, that that deserves standing applause?

BROWN: Well, I doesn't matter who gets credit. I mean I saw when we rescued the auto industry 10 years ago, we've had 10 years of economic growth, 10 years of increased jobs, and that's great that the African- American unemployment rate is lower.

[19:20:04]

But dignity of work means that workers wages go up too. We see corporate profits go up. We see skyrocketing executive compensation. We see productivity going up, but wages are flat and women and people of color have even more challenges with flat wages and that's the real issue, not somebody having two or three jobs that pay $11 or $12 an hour white or black or Latino, that people not making wages that can keep up with inflation and pay for their prescription drugs and pay for their kids school and all the other things that we need.

BURNETT: So prescription drugs, obviously, he is going to call for those prices to come down which obviously is something you agree with. And in fact senator when I looked at the past, what I think is very interesting is you had a lot of the same things to say long before President Trump actually said them. Even put America first echoes you, in fact you said that Senator Brown more than a decade ago. Let me show you and everyone who's watching who may not be aware some of the echoes between you and President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In all things, it's time to put Americans first.

BROWN: It's time to put Americans first.

TRUMP: We have to have fair trade deals.

BROWN: It's about standing up for fair trade. TRUMP: This wave of globalization has wiped out totally, totally our

middle class.

BROWN: A big part of the reason wages are flat is because we have not done globalization well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: You sound the same.

BROWN: Well, it's the same on the surface except that President Trump has played off American workers against foreign workers. President Trump won't adopt to Buy America policy for America's infrastructure building bridges, buying steel, all of that. President Trump is engaged in racist rhetoric which I will never ever and have never ever done when he demonizes immigrants.

I mean it's - his is a phony populism that pushes the divides and pushes people down, real populism has never racist, it's never anti- semitic, it never divides, it lifts workers up. Real populist don't give tax cuts to rich people like this phony populism from the President of the United States does.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about taxes because there is a big debate right now on that issue, right, if you want to say what real populism is as opposed to phony populism. The big debate that's going to come up here is whether raising taxes is the way to address inequality in this country or whether that can better be done to increase economic growth.

Elizabeth Warren has that wealth tax idea, right, 2% to 3% on all assets for the very wealthy. Cory Booker has talked about the rich people funding savings accounts for the less well-off. Congressmen Ocasio-Cortez who, of course, is not running but has gotten a lot of air out of the room with her proposal to nearly double federal taxes on the wealthiest in this country to 70%. Do you support any of these proposals in the specific nature, 70% taxes, savings accounts?

BROWN: I'll answer it this way. Two years ago I presented to the Senate Finance Committee and to the President of the United States, my corporate paid my Patriotic Corporation Act which did one simple thing. It said if you pay good wages and you provide decent benefits and you do your production, the United States should get a lower tax rate, and at the same time the Family Tax Relief Act which focused the earned income tax credit. If you make $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 a year, you got money in your pocket backing your taxes.

So fundamentally you want a tax system that puts money in the pockets of middle-class, hard-working families and that takes away the incentives for companies to shut down production in Dubuque or in Manchester and move production overseas and get a tax break. So that's how my focus of tax reform is. You take away the big tax cut that President Trump gave to companies and to individuals and you build a tax system that helps middle-class families puts money in their pockets and stops the over - the moving of overseas of companies. BURNETT: So to understand it specifically, would you raise that

corporate tax from where it is now, from what he lowered it, would you go ahead and actively raise corporate taxes?

BROWN: Well, the corporate tax rate under the - I would start with scaling back over all the Trump tax cut and replace it with incentives for companies to manufacture here, incentives for Buy America, putting money in the pockets of middle-class taxpayers. I'm not going to pick one or two or three pieces of food off the menu, servings off the menu, I'm going to pull it together in a tax bill that gives incentives for companies to stay here.

The President's tax bill actually gives a 50% off coupon for companies that shut down in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and move overseas to a community, to a city in Mexico. I mean, it makes no sense. The President has done that because in the end this presidency is about putting money in his family's pockets and in the pockets of his fellow New York billionaires.

[19:25:04]

It's not about focusing the middle class. That's why he's betrayed workers in this country.

BURNETT: So when you said back in 2006 which I just played, it's time to put Americans first. Now, he says it's time to put Americans first in 2016 was the sound bite I use, so we're talking 10 years apart. But obviously part of the reason this is so important is you are perceived as someone who is very likely to run for the White House yourself. I don't know if you've heard Senator Beto O'Rourke just told Oprah he is going to decide if he's running by the end of the month, so that's another person about to decide. What's your latest thinking for when you will formally tell us if you're running for the White House?

BROWN: Well, let me address, I don't - probably March, Connie and I will decide. We're doing a dignity of work listening to - I don't go to these early states looking for big crowds. I'm going in listening to workers and listening to farmers and listening to people talk about their lives. But go back to the putting America first that that you have a video of or whatever that I've said many, many times it's about putting workers first, but it's not about racism. It's never about beating up on foreign workers. It's never talking about dividing in this phony populism.

I think it's important to make that distinction that to me it's about lifting workers up in all countries and that's how you put our country first, because if you raise wages in Mexico and the U.S. with a real change in the North American Free Trade Agreement, a really good negotiated agreement, you lift workers in both countries and Mexicans will be able to buy more American cars or Americans will buy Mexican products and it lifts all boats, and that's what trade is all about.

BURNETT: All right, Senator Brown, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

BROWN: Of course, thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, the litmus test for 2020, you've all stood up and said the governor of Virginia needs to go. Well, he hasn't gone yet. So what are they going to do about it? Governor Northam standing strong and the Lieutenant Governor now facing a serious allegation as well. Plus, among Trump's guests at the State of the Union, an 11- year-old boy who's been bullied because his last name is Trump.

[19:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:30:27] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tonight, it's the litmus test for the 2020 candidates, what to do about the Virginia Governor Ralph Northam who is doing nothing about leaving. He has been conducting business as usual, a sign he is ignoring growing calls for his resignation.

Today, he signed a bill giving subsidies to Amazon, right? Because they're going to have their headquarters there. Silent, though, about the picture that now everybody knows from his medical school yearbook page posted under his name, along with other photos he admits to submitting all of them, we understand were submitted, you know, they each had to submit in an envelope, a sealed envelope, each person with their page.

OUTFRONT now, Democratic Virginia Congressman Donald McEachin, member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

And I appreciate your time. Thank you.

REP. DONALD MCEACHIN (D), VIRGINIA: Thank you for having me.

BURNETT: All right. So, let's start with this. You know, it's been five days. I don't know what the governor thinks. Does he think that he can just get through the first 72 hours, I'm going to be OK. You have called for him to resign.

Is there any sign of it?

MCEACHIN: I think he's circling the wagons. I know he has had meetings with cabinet members, people of color that are on his staff. But Ralph really needs to think about what's in the best interest of Virginia and of the party and that's to stand down.

You know, we're in the middle of an election cycle. We're down one seat in both chambers. And not only that, this is the 400th anniversary of Africans coming to Jamestown in chains and to have that juxtaposition of a governor who's misled on blackface and to have a commemorative ceremony later on this year is not the look my state wants to give the rest of the nation.

BURNETT: So, do you think he's going to -- he's just waiting to do it or is he really trying to wait through it?

MCEACHIN: I have heard a cup of different versions of what he's doing. One is he wants to sort of ride it out, and the other is that he wants enough time just to at least clear his name about the picture in the yearbook, and then he'll stand down.

The problem with both of those is it's not about the yearbook anymore. It's about confessing that you did it as Michael Jackson. How do you know how much polish to put on your face if you have never done it before? All of those things. He's referred to as Coonman.

All those things are troublesome and his answers have not been satisfactory.

BURNETT: His seeming willingness to do the moonwalk until his wife told him not to. It's part of the press conference as well. But, you know, part of the context here that has now come into this, Congressman Justin Fairfax, the lieutenant governor who would be the one to succeed Northam if he does go away has come under fire for allegations of an incident of sexual assault back in 2004, which he vehemently denies and he is speculating that somebody is smearing him with this.

Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GOV. JUSTIN FAIRFAX (D), VIRGINIA: Does anybody think it's any coincidence that on the eve of potentially my being elevated that that's when this uncorroborated smear comes out?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Do you believe the allegations against him at this point, Congressman?

MCEACHIN: I have not heard the accuser actually articulate the allegations. So, I can't really comment on that. I know what Justin has said. I know that he has said it was a consensual relationship before he was married, I think he was a staffer for John Edwards in that presidential run.

So, until she comes forward and has a chance to say what's on her mind, you can't judge her story.

BURNETT: You know, one of the questions I have about this is her story deserves to be heard. We need to figure out what's going on. However, does Governor Northam stepping down have anything to do with Justin Fairfax?

I mean, these two things have been sort of step aside. Some people are saying, well, OK, should he then stay in office if Justin Fairfax did this, no, right?

MCEACHIN: Well, the question of Governor Northam resigning and Justin Fairfax ascending to the governorship are two completely different questions.

BURNETT: Right. MCEACHIN: We know, you know, like we said, Justin has denied it.

BURNETT: Yes.

MCEACHIN: We have got that out there.

So, the governor confessed to doing what he's been accused of doing. And again, and it's about his ability to lead and to heal us, right? We forgive Ralph, OK? We have all made mistakes, but he's no longer in a position to heal us or lead us, and that's the challenge.

BURNETT: That, of course, is what he said, he would leave when he couldn't lead effectively.

All right. Stay with me, please, Congressman, I want to bring everyone into the conversation.

Paul, here's one of the big questions we face here. Governor Northam, does he think he can wait this out? Is this sort of the 72-hour rule of crisis public relations, OK, now I'm going to be OK and hope this Justin Fairfax stuff gets loud enough and they won't care I did this racist thing?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think they are two very different things. Northam has been through the worst, everybody, including the congressman, calling for him to resign, he's not resigning. I don't think he will.

And we'll see if he can govern effectively, we'll see. He has the same constitutional powers. He has the same agenda that Democrats in the legislature.

There was a report out of Richmond today when the leader of the House of Delegates, I want to give him more time and a little more space. So, it may be that the pressure is easing on him.

It's completely different. I don't want to conflate these two things. The lieutenant governor, now, uncorroborated allegation against him. The state party which is already called on Northam, the governor to resign, put out a statement today saying all allegations of sexual assault deserved to be taken with profound gravity. We will continue to evaluate the situation regarding Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, period.

I don't know what else. I don't have a better statement for them but that's not a resounding, it's certainly not calling for him to resign like they did for Northam and also not a resounding, we got your back, Justin. It's uncorroborated but we're supposed it also want to hear and believe victims.

BURNETT: There is a timing issue, right? If it happened, it needs to be investigated and decide what to do about it. But is the timing coincidental?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, it could be coincidental. It seems strange. You know, it is something that I think you asked the question why did this all of a sudden come up, but I do think that they're two separate issues in the sense of just back to what you were asking him originally, I do think what the governor is trying to do is sort of the, you know, run out the clock thing, you know, change the story.

It reminds me of "Access Hollywood", frankly, first sort of being sorry, maybe imprint do -- maybe I didn't do it, and I can keep doubling down and eventually people will move on. I don't think that's going to happen. I don't think people are going to move on. I think enough Democrats have stood up and said, you know, this is not OK, and I think it's amazing to hear you say, you know, you forgive him but he can't lead.

You know, that's the best he can hope for, right? I mean, the fact that people would say we forgive you for doing it, but obviously you have to put the needs of the people that you're leading above your own needs, right? I mean, you need to just take responsibility and step down. That's the right thing to do.

BURNETT: Now, he's taking a page out of the Trump playbook in a sense, David Urban, right? Just OK, deny, deny, first he said he did it. Wait, maybe that was a mistake, I should have never said it was me.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, that was the most ham handed, the entire episode, everyone watched it unfold. Every presidential candidate is going to be asked about this over and over and over again. The drum beat is going to get louder. He's not going to survive, he should step down, do the right thing.

People are going to be asked repeatedly, every debate, every town hall they show up in, and it's going to get so loud for him, he cannot remain in place.

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: To me, this is about credibility. If I look at my former colleague here, who, by the way, treated me very well. Thank you, as the only Republican in the Congressional Black Caucus, people should take note as to what he is saying here.

First of all, I don't think you can actually govern or have anything to do with the state legislature when people don't trust you. They don't trust what you're going to say. He has apologized on one hand and then come back and said, well, that's not me.

He knows more about shoe polish on the face than most people. He has his wife sitting there telling him what's appropriate and what's not appropriate. So, to me, this is about a credibility issue.

BEGALA: That's cause for resignation and Donald Trump is still our president? Are you kidding me?

LOVE: Wait a minute, wait a minute, because when Steve King went out and said something inappropriate, I called him out and I said, I'm sorry, you can't be here, you've got to go. The same thing, I think we need to call people out on both ends of the spectrum. That's not the only thing.

I know a lot of people don't like to talk about this, but this is a person who is I think incredibly extreme on his views when it comes to contempt for human life. I mean, here's the third trimester, saying I'm supporting third trimester abortions, to me, that was one thing. The other thing is to go in and say -- and have no credibility, or have this contempt for people of color. He should own it, apologize and move on.

BURNETT: And so, before we go, Congressman, how much time do you think he has until people start talking about impeachment or the next step which they have been very careful to avoid in order to give him the space to do the right thing?

MCEACHIN: Right. Well, we need to understand that impeachment in Virginia is just like impeachment in the federal government and that's for malfeasance in the office. It might be nice and interesting to talk about it, I think that's a fantasy. But I do think that it's got to dawn on Ralph that what candidate wants to campaign with you.

You know, again, we have the House of Delegates, the state senate up and every time you want to appear with somebody, they're going to have to justify why they're appearing with you. Every time you want to write a check out of your PAC to them, they're going to have to justify why they accepted that money. It's not going to work.

URBAN: And I would just say wait until the boycotts start, right? I mean, he doesn't go, the corporations, entities, just in North Carolina and other states, they'll flex their muscle and make him go.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.

[19:40:01] I appreciate it.

And, Congressman, thank you so much for coming and being with me.

And, by the way, of course, Stacey Abrams giving the Democratic response, and we have some breaking excerpts from that coming up right after this.

As well as Democrat Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer wrapping up a key meeting. Our Dana Bash was there. So what did they have to say about President Trump's big address tonight.

Plus, how do the 2020 candidates plan to send a message to the president during the State of the Union.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT from Washington on the State of the Union evening, breaking news as we are getting our first excerpts of the Democratic response from Stacey Abrams. That's what she will be delivering after President Trump's State of the Union.

The former Georgia candidate for governor will say in part, this is again, just an excerpt, quote: The shut down was a stunt engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people but our values.

[19:45:01] Meanwhile at the Capitol, a lot of focus on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She will be sitting right behind the president for the entire speech. That's always the person Dana Bash said I love to watch. Just the look on their face, and you know, sometimes she has a great look of incredulity that she can throw out there.

And obviously you have been a part of her preparations today, Dana. Tell us.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. She and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, talked to some of us here in the Capitol a short while ago, and the gist is they're trying to exude a sense of hope, not a giant sense of hope because they say they are realistic.

But in particular, the speaker said the last time she spoke with the president which is late last week when she re-invited him to the state of the union after it was cancelled initially, they did talk about the areas where they can work together, infrastructure, reducing prescription drug prices and she said that she hopes that that will come across in his speech tonight. But again, both she and Senator Schumer said it passed its prologue, that might not happen.

And in her kind of blunt way, Pelosi said with regard to the way he's going to be received tonight, this isn't something where we say, God, we hope he doesn't melt down. So that's not exactly the highest bar that they're looking for there among the Democrats.

But there's no question, Erin, it is going to be a very, very different vibe, a different scene, different optics, not just having Nancy Pelosi behind President Trump but as Pelosi reminded us, the sea of Democrats, the sea of a very different, much more diverse Congress than he saw this time last year.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Dana Bash.

Our panel is back here. I want to talk about Stacey Abrams excerpts, but first the theater that will be tonight. Nancy Pelosi sitting there behind the president is going to be enjoyable to watch.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, of course, and for many reasons. First of all, it is going to be a visual representation of a different Washington than Donald Trump has had to inhabit before as president. So just having the Democratic opposition leader literally sitting over his shoulder and keeping watch on him is a completely different visual.

But also obviously, here was the first female speaker of the House of Representatives has now returned to that position. I remember when George W. Burn gave his State of the Union address in 2007 after the Democrats won and Nancy Pelosi became speaker last time, Paul was referencing Bill Clinton, George W. Bush did a magnanimous nod to the moment in history that Nancy Pelosi just had. So, this is a particular position for her. I don't think you're going

to see Nancy Pelosi try to take advantage of this position in some way. She has been here before. She knows what she's doing.

But I agree with you, sometimes her facial expressions, they seem almost involuntary in certain moments and so, I'll be looking for those moments.

BURNETT: Yes.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Beware of the eye rolls.

BURNETT: That would be classic moment.

PHILLIP: But we have seen them face-to-face before, and they had a really fiery Oval Office meeting in which you saw her really going head to head. She really gets up in arms when she feels like the president is misrepresenting facts and I think we will all be on the lookout for whether or not the president is being straightforward with the truth but I think for Nancy Pelosi, that's one of the big things for her, and I think she thinks it distorts the debate. It will be interesting to see whether she can keep a straight face during those moments.

BURNETT: And then, of course, Stacey Abrams, this is an interesting moment, right? This isn't someone sitting in Congress right now. This isn't a sitting senator. This is a different all together -- this is someone who lost, but is seen as a rising star.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Seen as a rising star, what a juxtaposition. We talked about Nancy Pelosi and the problems she was going to have, you know, as she was seeking to become the speaker of the house, and problems within her caucus. Well, it turned out she did have problems because she's such a good politician, and she's a killer.

And we saw that when she was sitting across the couch from President Trump and got into his face, which is a very hard thing to do when you're in somebody else's office, let alone the White House. So, he does that. But at the same time, you look at Stacey Abrams who is the new face of the Democratic Party and is leading this new pack of Democrats. Andrew Gillum, another loser in Florida, but yet a rising star.

BURNETT: Beto O'Rourke, another loser --

PRESTON: Beto O'Rourke who said today, finally said today, yes, of course, I'm interested in running. I have to find myself a little bit, but we'll know in a few weeks, right? Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, if we had this conversation, I think David and I would have these conversations two or three years ago, we'd say, where is the bench in the Democratic Party, we didn't see much of one. You saw Hillary Clinton, saw Bernie Sanders, we didn't see much of a bench after that.

Now, the bench is really overflowing, Democrats in the long run if they can keep it together.

BURNETT: Paul, how important is this moment for Stacey Abrams and for the Democratic Party? We just shared one excerpt, here's another.

She'll say: When we had to negotiate criminal justice reform or transportation or foster care improvements, the leaders of our state didn't shut down.

[19:50:01] We came together and we kept our word. It should be no different in our nation's capitol. We may come from different sides of the political aisle with our joint commitment to this nation cannot be negotiable.

Obviously, she's referring to what she dealt with there in Georgia.

BEGALA: Where she was the Democratic leader in the Georgia House of Representatives. So, she has some -- it is an interesting point for us to point out. Only in the Democratic Party do you win by losing, right? And it's Beto and Andrew --

BURNETT: I mean, they got a fleet of them.

BEGALA: And, by the way, Nancy Pelosi won the biggest landslide in 44 years for my party, and there were some knuckleheads who didn't think she should be speaker. Now, I'm using knuckleheads because it's family appropriate.

She is quite a rising star. Her being outside of Washington is very important. But she can really hammer President Trump on the shutdown and not have to say, oh, by the way, Democrats shut down the government last time, which we did over the Dreamers.

BURNETT: Right.

All right. Everyone, stay with me.

Coming back, next, more on the breaking news. Now, the first lady is getting ready. She will be in the car to head to the Capitol early. We'll show you who they are and what statement is the president trying to make.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: And we're just over an hour away from the president's State of the Union Address.

[19:55:01] The spotlight not just on the president, and members of Congress, of course, it's on their guests too, right? And Melania Trump is going to be there too. She's going to be arriving early and meet with some guests.

And I want to bring everybody back in

Kirsten, that is a part, a big part of this, right, the guests.

POWERS: Yes. BURNETT: And obviously, the first lady w expect to leave the White House momentarily and head over to meet with some people. A lot of eyes will be on her as well.

POWERS: Right, and one of her guests is a child who has been bullied because his last name is Trump. I think he had to change his last name. And bullying is one of her big things.

I've seen people making fun of this because this is who she chose. But actually if you read the story, it's quite sad. This poor kid really has, you know, his mother says he hate himself. It's legitimate bullying. I think it's a good thing to highlight.

Of course, people like from Melania also to talk to her husband, but it doesn't change the fact I think she is highlighting some thing that's a real problem in our country and really tragic.

BURNETT: And do you expect, David, his -- what do you expect from his decorum tonight? Last year was an hour and a half. This year is supposed to be half that.

URBAN: I think the president is going to try to strike a strong, kind of conciliatory tone. It is on his best interest, right, as we go into another shutdown coming up to say, look how nice I was, right? And Nancy Pelosi can get along with me --

BURNETT: He's complaining around the tone is too gentle --

URBAN: No, I don't know if that's true. I don't know who wrote the story for "The Times". But I think you will see a conciliatory tone, kind of strong and have lots of things the Democrats can clap for, right? You're talking about criminal justice reform and these fuzzy puppy infrastructure, ending AIDS, things that everybody wants, right?

So, you're going to see that and then you're going to come back and having Nancy Pelosi saying, can't you meet this guy half way and get this government? That's the tone he's going to strike.

LOVE: I want to touch on this young kid with the last name Trump. I have kids. Let me tell you, when you see adults bullying each other, it really sets the strong tone for our youth.

I mean, when I tell my kids, hey, don't look at what anybody else says on their Twitter feed, look at mine. History is going to judge us on what we write.

So, here is what I'm hoping for. I'm hoping that everyone on both sides of the aisle, especially the president, elevates the conversation. Talks about what is good for the country. Talk about where they could reach across the aisle and make things work for America.

And I'm hoping the speaker of the house is accepting that and find the way to get a win on immigration issues, for instance, get a win for her party also, because if everyone gets a win on this, then the Americans win. I hope that -- I hope that it's not going to be combative.

BURNETT: Is this just going to be -- he's going to threat. I mean, he's had this meeting -- the meeting is leaked out about contractors coming for the wall.

CHALIAN: No matter what gets done, we're ten days away from this deadline.

(CROSSTALK)

CHALIAN: Every one is still ducking. So, there's nothing that's going to change in Washington tonight because of this speech. We're going to wake up to the reality, we have a polarized Washington that doesn't have a solution with both sides dug in on this issue.

PRESTON: If you look at the State of the Union is right now, the State of the Union is those guests that we see that were brought by Democrats and Republicans that all have stories, whether they lost a family member who was murdered, whether it's a young boy who was bullied, whether it's somebody who lost somebody over seas who is serving our country. The State of the Union isn't Donald Trump and the members of Congress who are going to be there applauding or not applauding, booing or not booing.

The State of the Union right now is us. And, unfortunately right now, the State of the Union, it's not a great place. The economy might be fine but we're not fine. I think as we all watch this tonight, we'll see --

BURNETT: And that's the crucial thing. If people look back at the State of the Union, they don't always say strong. There's been times when you talk about it directly being, you know, week or needing improvement. I mean, it is actually interesting, Abby, what his words will be.

PHILLIPS: It will given that we just came out. I think really a terrible period in this country's history, 35 days of 800,000 plus people not being paid for what seems to be absolutely no reason. But there are opportunities for President Trump in this speech. He used them in the past to find something that everybody can agree on.

Whether -- I think it was last year he brought a North Korean defector to the State of the Union. He was a surprise guest. It was an incredibly powerful moment for the chamber I think for someone who everyone could agree needed to be there to represent freedom, to represent striving for something greater and what can happen when people do that.

The president has opportunities in this speech, in this moment to do that whether he takes it tonight. I think that will be a really important thing.

BURNETT: And that will be a smart thing if he can do something like that. That's putting, Paul, Democrats on the back foot, right? They have to then respond magnanimously. They may need to stand to support him. BEGALA: And that would be a wonderful thing. The State of the Union

is divided. The problem is the president has an instinct for more division, not less. David used his phrase, wonderful phrase, that I hope the president was strong and conciliatory. This president believes conciliatory is weak. He was one key and that's the key of hate, and that's what he's going to strike tonight. You watch.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate all of you taking the time. Obviously, it's a big an important night and the nation will be watching. Thanks so much to all for joining us.

Our special coverage of the State of the Union continues now with Anderson and "AC360".