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CNN: Mueller Report May Be Delivered As Early As Next Week; Unclear What Attorney General Will Give To Congress & Release To Public; Southern District of New York Investigations Into Trump Inaugural CMTE And Ex-Attorney Could Pose More Of A Threat To President Than Mueller; New York Probes Could Pose Bigger Threat To Trump Than Mueller; CNN: White House Officials Concerned Trump May Soon Fire Intel Chief. Aired: 7-8p ET

Aired February 20, 2019 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN: ... in Iraq. Be careful over there. Arwa, thanks for that report and to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, CNN: OutFront next, Mueller about to make his move. CNN learning he could wrap up the Russia investigation as soon as next week. Will Mueller have a smoking gun? Plus, the White House bracing for a shake off because the Director of National Intelligence be out. And breaking news, the Empire actor who claimed to have been the victim of a racist homophobic attack is now officially a suspect. Let's go OutFront.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the Mueller report after 1 year and 9 months. Sources tell CNN that Attorney General Bill Barr is preparing to announce the Russia investigation is done. Now, we have learned this could happen as soon as next week. The big question, is there a smoking gun? And will we, the American people see Mueller's report?

Today President Trump tried to act like it's all fine. It's all fine. He doesn't care.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should the Mueller report be released when you're abroad?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That'll be totally up to the new Attorney General. He's a tremendous man, a tremendous person who really respects this country and respects the Justice Department. So that'll be totally up to him, the new Attorney General. Yes.


BURNETT: Will the word tremendous work? The President today choosing to kiss up to his new Attorney General, because Bill Barr does hold the Mueller report's fate in his hands and President Trump knows it. So for once he chose not to demean, diminish, insult and otherwise slam the investigation because keep in mind since it began 644 days ago, President Trump has attacked Mueller's investigation about 1,100 times which adds up obviously on average to about twice a day and you know the words, witch-hunt, hoax, all of that.

Of course, though no matter what your politics, that is false. It is not a witch-hunt because you just need to look at the numbers to know that. Mueller's investigation has resulted in 199 criminal counts, 37 people, and companies have been charged. Seven have pleaded guilty, four people have been sent to prison. Those are the facts.

And this all comes as former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe dropped a bombshell coming right on the eve of this news, claiming it is possible that President Trump is a Russian asset.


ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR, CNN: Do you still believe the President could be a Russian asset?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: I think it's possible. I think that's why we started our investigation and I'm really anxious to see where Director Mueller concludes that.


BURNETT: It's possible? That is a remarkable statement for a top intelligence official to make. We're talking about a sitting President of the United States of America. And here's the thing, the former CIA Director John Brennan says that when it comes to Russia, oftentimes people don't even realize they're being played by Putin.


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Individuals who go along that treasonous path do not even realize they're along that path until it gets to be a bit too late.


BURNETT: Long paths. Well, President Trump has had a long history with Russia. It goes all the way back to at least 1987 when Moscow expressed interest in a deal with Trump. Trump actually wrote about it in The Art of the Deal. So he writes about the year 1987, "On July 4th, I flew with Ivana to Mosco. It was an extraordinary experience. We toured a half-dozen potential sites for a hotel, including several near Red Square. We stayed in Lenin's suite at the National Hotel, and I was impressed with the ambition of the Soviet officials to make a deal."

So that was the trip, July 4th in Moscow. When he returned, Trump spent nearly $100,000. These are 1987 dollars, okay, $100,000 to place full-page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. The ad said in part, "An open letter from Donald J. Trump on why America should stop paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves." And, of course, that wasn't just his position which suddenly he

decided he was going to make public in these ads in the major newspapers in this country. That was Russia's open and ardent position at the time. And nearly 32 years later, Trump is still repeating some Russian talking points like on meddling.


TRUMP: I believe that President Putin really feels and he feels strongly that he did not meddle in our election.

I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


BURNETT: So will Mueller conclude Trump was an asset of Putin or not? We may find out very soon. Evan Perez is OutFront live in Washington. And Evan it is amazing after so much talking, so many filings, so many charges, people going to prison.


Here we finally might be on the eve of this being done. What are you learning about the release of Mueller's report tonight?

EVAN PEREZ, SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: No. That's right, Erin. The end is near, it appears. We expect in the next week or so that the Attorney General will announce that he's received notice from Mueller that the investigation is over and then he'll review the findings and decide what exactly he's going to tell members of Congress, what he's going to tell the public of anything about the Mueller findings.

Now what he says to Congress could vary, because he made no promises about releasing the entire report. Instead what he says he's going to do is see the confidential report which is all of the regulations for the Justice Department require and then decide what to release. Now, obviously there's a lot of pressure from members of Congress. You heard some of that from some of those members of Congress during the time that Bill Barr was getting confirmed. They want to see everything.

There's bipartisan effort to try to put legislation to require that, but one of the things that's guiding Justice Department officials is that they don't want to do a repeat of James Comey which if you remember in 2016 he stood up there, did a press conference. He said there were no charges to be filed against Hillary Clinton, but then spent several minutes afterwards describing all of the things that she did wrong. They do not want to do that again.

So the question is if there are no charges against certain people, will the Mueller report say exactly what they did fine and why they didn't bring those charges. We don't expect that that's going to be made public. So one other thing that we should keep note, take note of this, Erin,

is that just because Mueller is done, it doesn't mean this is all over. The prosecutors in New York that are investigating the inauguration and there's other parts of this investigation that are living on at U.S. Attorney's offices here in Washington and elsewhere.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Evan. And as Evan points out, when you follow the money, this may be just the beginning of what matters most. OutFront now former CIA Chief for Russia Operation, Steve Hall, former Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama, Juliette Kayyem, and former Federal Prosecutor, Shan Wu and former Federal Prosecutor and Former Democratic Member of the Los Angeles City Counsel Jack Weiss. All right, thanks to all.

Jack, could there be a smoking gun in here for President Trump or not?

JACK WEISS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Look, I think the only stuff that's in this report for Trump is bad and what we're going to find out sometime in the next few weeks is who Bill Barr thinks he's working for. Is he working for history or is he working for the Trump family? Does he want to go down in history as Elliot Richardson did or does he want to be remembered as someone like John Mitchell or Devin Nunes.

There's nothing in this report that is going to exonerate Trump. And remember the report is not the end of the matter. It's hardly a bold prediction to say that once the report whatever it is makes it to Congress, Congress is going to open impeachment proceedings. By the way, they can take new evidence when they begin those proceedings.

So the report is going to be bad for Trump. It's going to signal a new process for Trump and we're going to know really soon what Bill Barr is made of.

BURNETT: Steve, could there be a smoking gun?

STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: Erin, I wouldn't rule out anything. I mean it's certainly possible that through the course of this lengthy investigation which we have to remember started out as a counterintelligence investigation of the FBI, that the FBI and the Mueller team has uncovered certain evidence, facts that could indeed be a smoking gun. We'll have to see.

One thing that is absolutely difficult or if not impossible to get past is all of the connective tissue that you've got between Donald Trump, the Trump family, the Trump team during the campaign and Russia. And what the investigation actually shows about those connections and the motivations behind them critically I think are going to be what's really going to decide as to how impactful and what's going to happen with the Mueller investigation when it concludes.

BURNETT: And Juliette, Shan mentions the word impeachment, you think Democrats are going to go ahead with impeachment proceedings after this regardless, there'll be enough in there to force that, to force the Jerry Nadlers of the world to go.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY UNDER OBAMA: Right. I think that's right and I've never been a proponent of the smoking gun theory. I mean, the idea that there is some tape of a phone call between Putin and Trump to steal the election is just ridiculous. In some ways we don't need a smoking gun at this stage. I mean enough people are in jail, enough people have pled, enough lies have been made to make it clear that there is strong criminal exposure for the Trump family.

And so what we have to look at the Mueller report is there's a report and then there's different audiences. So one is going to be Congress. What do they do with it, what do they do in terms of furthering investigation, and do they look at this as - basically, a statement that says that the President is sufficiently compromised by Russia to proceed.


There's the public and whether the public is up in arms about some of the stuff and then, of course, there is the courts. They are - look, there's grand juries meeting right now. We don't even know who the subject of those grand juries are, so there's going to be more shoes to drop across the criminal counterintelligence and political realms. But the smoking gun theory of Mueller just never rang true to me. That's not how these cases unfold.

BURNETT: So I'm going to talk more about those other possibility of what else could be out there when talking about other grand juries, other possible cases. But Shan first, this report, as we said, what is it going to look like? So I mentioned 37 people or entities already charged, four people already gone to prison, 100 criminal counts, what's the report going to look like?

All of this laid out as Steve was saying. Ken Starr was what, 453 pages? This would seem - I mean that would seem to be a drop in the bucket of what we're talking about here, but he's not going to do anything that long, will he?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's hard to know what he's going to do and, of course, he doesn't have the same requirements as Starr has because Starr had to write for public disclosure to a large extent. So the requirement was simply he really has to explain prosecution and he has to explain declination and he has to explain any Justice Department interference or limitations on it. Beyond that, it's structuralist form, but I do think we will never see the raw data in that report.

I think that there's no question as to who the Attorney General is working for and he has plenty of good solid rationales not to really say anything negative. He can use that long-standing policy, no disparaging information. So I really think what's going to happen is there will be a very sanitized summary and then the ball should really going to be in Congress' court because the question is what can they gleam.

They can subpoena the document. They'll get some of it. They can subpoena witnesses. It's going to be in their court.

BURNETT: Well, it's going to be pretty amazing, it seems like. You all seem to think impeachment obviously is - that's what's happening here. Steve, I want to ask you about something I just mentioned though, right, the former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe says it's possible the President of the United States could be a Russian asset. Directly, it couldn't have been more clear. You were the head of the Moscow bureau station, what do you think?

HALL: Erin, I think there's a lot of ways that somebody like President Trump can commit treason. It need not necessarily be sort of the typical, stereotypical meeting a spy under the bridge under a foggy night in Moscow. I would actually doubt that it would be something like that. But you have to remember, the Russians have a very broad spectrum of type of people that they can cooperate with in a different ways and different modes.

They've got cooperative contacts. They've got trusted people. Sometimes the quote that you had from John Brennan earlier was very good. Sometimes people are not even witting as to what they're doing. But the real question that I think we have to ask is did Donald Trump work and act in such a fashion that benefited Russia as opposed to the United States?

There's a lot of people who think, "Oh, he was just trying to get a Trump Tower going in Moscow or something to benefit himself financially." But there's a lot of things that he did that don't make any sense unless you were doing it for Russia, disparaging NATO, disparaging our western allies. Why would he do that unless it was in Russia support.

BURNETT: All right that is obviously going to be the crucial question here. All of you staying with me. As the President braces for Mueller's report, is there another major investigation that could be a much bigger threat. Plus, President Trump spends the weekend venting about his Director of National Intelligence. Now, Dan Coats may be on his way out. Plus, Bernie Sanders raking in a massive amount of money in just the first 24 hours of his campaign, $6 million trumps his rivals.


Tonight, the investigation that could be more of a threat to Trump than Mueller's probe which, of course, as we said could be done in the next week. The Southern District of New York investigating Trump's inaugural committee recently requesting interviews with Trump Organization Executives. We don't exactly know what that's for whether it's related to that or something else. And of course the SDNY led the probe into Michael Cohen's roll with hush money payments to women alleging affairs with Trump.

Now, keep in mind this is the same investigation that Trump reportedly asked the former acting AG Matt Whitaker to put a Trump supporter in to oversee. Pamela brown is OutFront. And Pamela, you have reported that Trump allies and Trump himself are much more afraid of what's going on with the Southern District than Mueller, why? PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, Erin.

Trump and his legal team of long-harbored concerns that investigations by SDNY prosecutors may ultimately pose more danger to Trump's family, to him, his allies than the inquiry by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Now, President Trump has said publicly that his red line for investigators is his family and money and it appears that SDNY investigators are focusing their efforts there, now that they've completed the investigation into Michael Cohen, the President's former fixer and his payments to the two women during the election.

And we know SDNY recently reached out to interview executives with the Trump family business, SDNY has been looking into possible campaign finance violations by Trump Org executives. And unlike the Mueller probe, Erin, the SDNY investigation could last throughout Trump's presidency. So that's another sticking point for the President and his allies. But people involved in the investigation I've spoken with say, "Look, the fact that Mueller probe is nearing completion is a welcome development for the campaign and for the White House." Although they say no one is going to relax until all of the investigations, the SDNY investigations are done, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Pam. And Juliette, let me start with you, you think that this could be the biggest threat, the President is right.

KAYYEM: For the President, yes. So one of the hardest things to admit with this President is where his values and where his emphasis lies. So if you say so, what is a value to the President. It's his family. It's the money and it's the brand. And what's the greatest threat to those three things? It is going to be out of the New York cases. All of the stuff happening with Mueller has to do with the United States and our independence as a democracy and whether our elections were free and fair.


That is a less value to the President of the United States. It is clear two years later having done nothing to thwart the Russia threat. That is of less value. So from the President's perspective what does he care about, money, brand and the family, that's all in New York, and none of that gets impacted by whatever Mueller does next week.

BURNETT: And, Jack, look I mentioned the inaugural, I mentioned these interviews with Trump executives and the Trump Organization. There's the Cohen probe and then there's as Juliette points out who knows what else is there, it's right there are other grand juries that we may not even be aware of. But when it comes to these Trump Org executives and we don't know why they have been interviewed, we do know the Chief Financial Officer of the Trump Org, Allen Weisselberg, has been granted immunity, all right, and he knows a lot.

Here's what Trump inner circle members have said about Mr. Weisselberg.


TRUMP: He knows everything about Donald and in terms of the money trail, Donald can be hurt, I believe, a great deal by Allen Weisselberg.

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: He knows every single financial transactions.

BARBARA RES, FOREMER EXECUTIVE, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I do believe that he got more and more involved as time went on and Donald trusted him. He was almost a family member.


BURNETT: How bad could that be for Trump, Jack, when you think about Allen Weisselberg who has been granted immunity?

WEISS: Oh, it's serious stuff and I think Juliette hit it on the head. I mean, Trump doesn't care about the country but he cares about himself and he cares about his family's liberty. The sorts of things that the Southern District is going to be investigating, I would assume would include violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Remember, there was that New Yorker story about Trump wrongdoing in the former Soviet republics to help people who were paying off local officials to get Trump buildings built.

There is the intriguing issue of the Deutsche Bank's subpoena. Remember Deutsche Bank is the only financial institution that would touch Trump when no one else would. There are all of the questions surrounding money laundering. It could be Russian oligarchs buying real estate. It could be other wrongdoing.

This is all stuff which if any of this conduct occurred as late as 2016, the statute of limitations will continue past the Trump presidency and on January 21, 2021 he and his family could be subject to criminal indictment.

BURNETT: I mean, Steve, it's a pretty stunning thing to think about and when he mentions - when you hear Jack mentioned the family, no one obviously is more important to the Trump Organization besides Trump than Don Jr., Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, that trio specifically. Last night, Andrew McCabe was asked directly whether Mueller's team has looked into Trump's family and here's how he answered the question.


COOPER: Do you know was the President's family being looked into either before the appointment of Mueller or after?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: That's something I don't feel comfortable talking about as it goes to kind of the - could go to ongoing investigative matters.


BURNETT: What do you make of that, Steve?

HALL: I think the - it's interesting, the context of that comment was when they were briefing the group of eight which is the senior most folks in Congress about the issue and the fact that he's unwilling, that McCabe is unwilling to go further to discuss that right now indicates to me that there is some sort of ongoing investigation legal or counterintelligence or perhaps both against what Juliette and others have said exactly right is really a center point for Donald Trump. It's his family and his business.

And I think that the Russian intelligence services and Vladimir Putin understand that very, very clearly as well, and that's one of the significant motivating factors when they're looking at somebody like Donald Trump and the family and the team to figure out how can we manipulate them, how can we get what we want. So, yes, it seems to me that the family is an important focus of the investigation.

BURNETT: And Shan, how bad could it get?

WU: It could get very bad because from the prosecutor standpoint what is great about the Southern District case is you have these incredibly valuable informants. You do not give the Chief Financial Officer immunity unless he has a lot of bang for the buck, so that's number one. Number two, they started off with Cohen, another incredibly valuable informant because he has the President's unfiltered comments. He knows what he's worried about, he knows what he's thinking.

And then, lastly, let's not forget my former client, Rick Gates. I'm not saying anything confidential or privilege, just looking at the public record, he has not been sentenced yet. He was involved we know from public reports with the inaugural committee and they're looking at that as well. So when you put together that trio of informants, very, very dangerous.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

WU: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the White House bracing for possibly another moment of chaos, the shake-up. The President's new target, his Director of National Intelligence. The highly respected Dan Coats. Plus, Bernie Sanders taking credit for pushing the party to the left, giving Trump a reason to say this ...


TRUMP: They're becoming the party of socialism.



BURNETT: Tom Perez, the Chairman of the DNC is OutFront. New tonight, the White House bracing for another major cabinet shake-

up. So there are now concerns that President Trump may get rid of his Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats. Trump spent last weekend apparently at Mar-a-Lago venting about him. Alex Marquardt is OutFront.

ALEX MARQUARDT, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN(voice over): It's the latest round of will he or won't he. Another senior administration official seemingly on the President's chopping block. This time it's Dan Coats. The most Senior Intelligence Official in the country. The President today deny he's thinking about it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you considering replacing Dan Coats as your Director of National Intelligence?

TRUMP: I haven't even thought about it.


MARQUARDT(voice over): But the speculation that Coats may soon find himself out of a job went into overdrive after a close Trump friend spoke with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.


CHRIS RUDDY, CEO, NEWESMAX MEDIA: I'm hearing from sources around the White House just general disappointment of the President with Director Coats. There's a feeling that maybe there needs to be a change of leadership in that position.


MARQUARDT(voice over): It comes on the heels of last month's Senate Intelligence Committee hearing when Coats who was surrounded by the chiefs of the major intelligence agencies rattled off a long list of analysis which contradicted what the President has been saying, including on North Korea.


DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: ... is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons is critical to regime survival.


MARQUARDT(voice over): This as the President was promoting an upcoming summit with and heaping praise on dictator Kim Jong-Un.



TRUMP: Things are going very well with North Korea.


MARQUARDT(voice over): After the hearing, the president lashed out, tweeting: perhaps intelligence should go back to school, fuming about Coats behind the scenes while then arguing that the press was misreporting what the intelligence community had said.

TRUMP: They said they were totally misquoted and they were totally -- it was taken out of context.

MARQUARDT: Divisions between the two men sprang to light last summer when Coats was asked about the breaking news.



MARQUARDT: That Russian President Vladimir Putin had been invited to Washington.

COATS: That's going to be special.

MARQUARDT: Coats has repeated time and time again what the president has been unwilling to. That Russia meddled in the 2016 election. And even three weeks after Trump met one-on-one with Putin in Helsinki, the man charged with America's secrets appeared to have not been told that his boss discussed with one of the country's biggest adversaries.

COATS: I'm not in a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened at Helsinki.

MARQUARDT: With the storm clouds gathering over Coats now, allies are coming to his defense. Senator Susan Collins tweeting: We are fortunate to have a person of his ability and candor to lead our intelligence community.

Senator Angus King who served with Coats on the intelligence committee telling CNN's "NEW DAY" that firing him would lead the intel community down a dangerous path.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The message to the intelligence community is, shade the data. Cook it. Slant it. Don't tell the man what he doesn't want to hear. That's disastrous for the country.


MARQUARDT: And, Erin, sources are telling our White House team now that officials have begun having discussions over who could take over, if Coats is, indeed, fired. Now, the cautioning of these talks are in the early stages and may not come to pass as all. But the president has been venting about coats for weeks, we're told, and the president does see Coats as trying to constrain him.

Of course, others who have tried doing that have been shown the exit -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Alex, thank you very much.

I want to go straight now to a person who knows Dan Coats well, a person who has been in that very chair, James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence.

Director, I appreciate your time. Look, you know Coats personally. You had this job. What's your reaction to what the president is seemingly trying to do behind the scenes to get rid of him?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, this is the -- what has become the all-too-familiar pattern here of when people incur the displeasure, or the wrath, I guess, more accurately in this case, of the president, you start to see media reporting and White House aides talking about, you know, his departure and in this case, which I thought was pretty blatant, was the confidant of the president speaking about his eminent departure.

I think this is really, really regrettable for a lot of reasons. One, Dan Coats is an honorable man who believes in truth and telling of the truth and that's what he's been doing, and I think if he is fired, this conveys a terrible, terrible message to the intelligence community. In other words, don't tell truth to power. You got to hue to the party line and to the president's bubble, reality bubble, and not actual fact. And that is a very dangerous thing as Senator King aptly said.

BURNETT: Yes, when he was saying, you know, cook the books, shade the data.

You know, the thing about this is, Director, is that Trump had a lot of people working around him that had a lot of bipartisan respect, right? People may not agree with all of them, but they were respected, right? They were supposed to steady the ship. H.R. McMaster, John Kelly, Jim Mattis, right? They're all gone.

Coats also respected on both sides of the aisle. If he goes, how big of a loss is it? When you look at that roster, gone, gone, gone, gone?

CLAPPER: I think on the heels, particularly, of Jim Mattis' resignation, that this is for the country, maybe not for President Trump, but for the country, would be a real double whammy to lose another independent voice in Dan Coats. I recall a conversation I had with Dan in November of '16 when he was, I think, pressed pretty hard by Vice President Pence to take this job, and Dan was retiring. He was on his way out.

He took the job out of a sense of duty. And I think he's served with great honor. And I think this would be a huge loss for the country and what a message for his successor. Here's how you have to behave if you want to keep the job.

BURNETT: Right. Not a good message. I mean, let me ask you about this is coming, right, in the context of the Mueller report, which we were reporting could be released as soon as next week. That Mueller could be done with his investigation as soon as next week.

You were there, Director, right, back in 2016, the first meeting with the Trump campaign, right? You warned Russians could be trying to interfere with the U.S. election. So, you were there at the very beginning, the nascent beginnings of all of this. Now this report could be about to come out.

Do you think that anybody could be indicted by Mueller? Whether the president or don junior or Ivanka Trump or Jared Kushner? Do you think there could be any move to indict by Mueller?

CLAPPER: I don't know, but I kind of doubt it. I think if something like that were afoot, that we'd know something. So I don't -- I don't pretend to know just how this is going to be handled, but perhaps if that's being contemplated, that would be handed off to the Department of Justice. So, you know, he -- and in a sense, the special counsel's acting like a prosecuting attorney. Not like an independent counsel. So it's a different thing here.

So I don't know. But I have said, I've come of a mind that this thing could be anticlimactic.

BURNETT: All right. Well, we will, of course, see. Thank you so very much. I appreciate it, Director Clapper.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, Bernie Sanders with an eye-popping fund-raising number. In just 24 hours. Should other Democrats be really afraid? The DNC chair, Tom Perez, is OUTFRONT.

Plus, breaking news, Jussie Smollett, you know, the actor who claimed to be the victim of the racist and homophobic attack, is now officially a suspect. Are charges next?


[19:40:16] BURNETT: Tonight, the money. Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign says he has brought in $6 million in just 24 hours after he announced he's running for president the second time.

Sanders, of course, topping the bar easily set by Senator Kamala Harris who raised $1.5 million in her first 24 hours.

OUTFRONT now, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez.

Look, it's a heck of a lot of money, and I know, Chairman Perez, he's got the lists and the e-mail lists and, you know, kind of the built-in group of people, but $6 million is a lot of money. What do you make of it?

TOM PEREZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, that's a lot of money and that's great. What we're trying to do at the DNC is to encourage grassroots fundraising. That's why for debate participation, we have encouraged all candidates to raise money at the grassroots. That's exactly what they're doing. We have a remarkably deep field. I welcome that. And what our job is

here at the DNC, Erin, is to make sure everybody gets a fair shake during the process and to make sure that we continue to build the infrastructure that enables our next nominee to take down Donald Trump because we have to win this election. That is our number-one objective, and that's exactly what we're working 24/7 to accomplish.

BURNETT: So, the question is, of course, will the ideas that are being put forth by that very wide and diverse field appeal to enough Americans to do that? Sanders says the party has moved towards him and his ideas.

And let me play for you how he put it.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You may recall that in 2016, many of the ideas that I talked about, Medicare- for-All, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, all of those ideas, people said, oh, Bernie, they're so radical, they are extreme. The American people just won't accept those ideas.

Well, you know what's happened over three years? All of those ideas, and many more, are now part of the political mainstream.


BURNETT: And, you know, when you listen to some of his rivals, it sounds like he's right, Chairman. Here they are.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am introducing a brand-new, big proposal, for universal childcare and early learning.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to have Medicare-for-All. That's just the bottom line.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to work toward a tuition-free system of public university, college, apprenticeship, and certification programs in this country.


BURNETT: Free, universal, for all. Is Sanders right?

PEREZ: Well, you know what we're right about as Democrats? We believe that health care is a right for all, and not a privilege for a few. We believe that climate change is real. The other side believes that climate change is a hoax.

We believe that if you have diabetes or some other pre-existing condition, you ought to be able to keep your health insurance. We believe that your source of payment or your family income should never inhibit you from getting the education that enables you to punch your ticket to the middle class.

Those are the conversations Democrats are going to have throughout this primary. I was proud with President Obama to work on a lot of these issues. And we're proud to work with the Fight for 15 Movement and the labor movement and others on those issues, and what we're going it see in this upcoming debate season is a robust exchange of ideas. We're not going to be talking about hand size. We're going to be talking, Erin, about health care.

BURNETT: And you're going to be talking about big words, right? One of them is going to be socialism. The president is putting that front and center. He's launching a new line of attack at your party saying all of this freeness is socialism and here's what he's saying.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To those who would try to impose socialism on the United States, we, again, deliver a very simple message. America will never be a socialist country.

The Democrat Party has never been more outside of the mainstream. They're becoming the party of socialism. We are alarmed by the new calls to adopt socialism in our country.


BURNETT: Are you comfortable with that?

PEREZ: Oh --

BURNETT: Being a socialist?

PEREZ: I'm laughing, Erin, because what you should have put on after that was Ronald Reagan back in 1962 and 1963, we were debating Medicare in America. And here's what he said. And I quote, Medicare will lead to socialized medicine. Medicare will lead to socialism in America.

Here's what Medicare has led to. It has led to prosperity for our seniors. When you fight for those ideals of health care for all, you're not fighting for socialism. You're fighting for fairness. You're fighting for inclusion.

So, this socialism word, you know, this is not the first time they've attempted to put this in the playbook to attempt to deflect people from the realities.

[19:45:02] Here's what Democrats are fighting for: results. We want to make sure that this economy works for everyone. Not just a few at the top.

BURNETT: All right. Tom Perez, thanks.

PEREZ: Always a pleasure.

BURNETT: All right. And next, breaking news. Police just announcing the actor who claimed to have been the victim of a hate crime is now an official suspect. Charges could be next.

Plus, someone gets saucy at a Kirsten Gillibrand event.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry. I'm just trying to get some ranch.





BURNETT: Breaking news. "The Chicago Tribune" reporting that the Cook County state's attorney's office is charging "Empire" star Jussie Smollett with felony misconduct. This after Smollett claimed last month that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attempt by men who cited Trump's make America great again slogan. This story, though, immediately raising questions and beginning to unravel.

Nick Watt is OUTFRONT in Chicago.

And, Nick, a huge turn of events in just the past week.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just in the past few hours, Erin, we have just confirmed ourselves that Jussie Smollett has been charged here in Cook County with felony disorderly conduct.

[19:50:02] Now, earlier this afternoon, two brothers, two men who were arrested last week as suspects in this attack came here to the grand jury. Their lawyer just told us that they decided to man up and tell the truth.

That lawyer told us that those two brothers were paid by Jussie Smollett. We have been hearing this from law enforcement sources for a few days now, that Smollett paid these men. He choreographed, orchestrated this attack on himself.

Now, the attack took place back on January 29th, as you mentioned, questioned were raised pretty early on. It was 2:00 in the morning on a frigid cold night. Smollett took 30 or 40 minutes to report the incident to police. Questions were raised early on.

But those two men who were seen on surveillance camera, they were arrested and then released on Friday night when police said that new evidence had come to light. Now, on Saturday, which was the last time we heard from Smollett's lawyers, they were still saying it could not be further from the truth. This accusation that he orchestrated it.

Now, Erin, it looks like it may well be the truth -- Erin.

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

Obviously, those big developments, and I want to make it clear, disorderly conduct felony would carry, according to "The Chicago Tribune", would carry a sentence of probation up to three years. A hate crime felony would be as many as ten years.

I want to go to now to former Clinton White House aide Keith Boykin.

And, obviously, you know Jussie Smollett personally, which I want to get to in a moment. But Smollett, of course, said he was the victim of a hate crime. That's why I mentioned the difference in the sentencing, that his alleged attackers cited Trump's "Make America Great" slogan when they attacked him.

Nine Democrats running or considering running jumped in pretty much immediately in part because that's the standard now. Everyone expects you to jump in. They got forced to do it. Kirsten Gillibrand first. Kamala Harris tweeted this is a modern day lynching. She was asked about this on Monday as the facts started to seem it could be a very different story, and here's what she said about that tweet.



REPORTER: About saying that it is a modern day lynching. Yes, Jussie Smollett.

HARRIS: OK. So, I will say this about that case. I think that the facts are still unfolding.


BURNETT: OK, look, she didn't have an answer. None of them do right now, but they were very quick without facts on it.

Will this rush to judgment be an issue for them?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first, let me just say, we don't know what's happened yet. We know there's a charge. I'm not necessarily presuming him to be guilty because of the charge, because people are innocent until proven guilty in this country.

Secondly, I do think it's important to understand that the climate we're in in this country makes these things believable because of the fact that when you have Nazis who are marching in Charlottesville, when you have hate crimes on the rise, when you have attacks on black LGBTQ people, trans people on the rise, it's understandable people would think this.

BURNETT: Isn't there a lesson to be learned though? If this happened, it would be horrible. I'm waiting for the facts.

BOYKIN: There's a way to handle it responsibly and to get the fact out, yes. But at the same time, I also think they also are handling it responsibly by re-evaluating what they're stating, unlike Trump who never reevaluates anything, just completely doubles down on everything.

And don't forget that Donald Trump is one of the people who condemned this attack. He said it was horrible, the worst it gets. So it's not just the Democratic candidates. A lot of people believed this. People had no reason to think that, why would somebody make up a story like this?

BURNETT: You know Smollett.


BURNETT: You're shocked that he could have done this?

BOYKIN: Again, I'm not presuming his guilt on this, but I have known him for eight years. I have never known him to lie. I had no reason to think he would lie about this. I still don't know it's necessarily true.

You know, in my previous life, I used to head an LGBT organization for African-Americans, I saw these types of things happen on a regular basis. There was a guy a few blocks from here who was shot and killed in Greenwich Village, Mark Carson, in New York City, because of his sexual orientation.

BURNETT: But if he made this up, doesn't he hurt every single person who has something this horrific happen to them. Now when people hear it, they're not going to know if it's true.

BOYKIN: Well, I heard that argument, but I don't believe that. I think people looking for excuses are going to use the excuses either way. Yes, it doesn't help the case or future cases, but the reality is that people, these people are victims of crimes. Black LGBTQ people in particular have been victimized by these crimes. And regardless of whether this is true or not, those stories need to be heard and need to be told.

BURNETT: Well, I hope they are, even if we have charges here now, and if this was a horrific and horrible thing to make up if that's what happened. Thank you so very much.

And next, in the middle of a campaign event, this woman stole America's heart.


GILLIBRAND: Grassroots care about --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry. I'm just trying to get some ranch.




[19:57:59] BURNETT: Tonight, condiments on the campaign trail and the moment that went viral. Here's Jeanne.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don't even think of messing with her ranch dressing. As Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand was speaking at an Iowa City restaurant called the Airliner, this viral moment took off.

GILLIBRAND: Grassroots care about --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry. I'm just trying to get some ranch.



MOOS: Jimmy Fallon has the replay.

GILLIBRAND: Grassroots care about --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry. I'm just trying to get some ranch.



JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: She's like, your election is in two years. I need my ranch now.

MOOS: And thus was born "Ranch Girl", the hero America needs now. So what is so great about ranch?

HANNA KINNEY, "RANCH GIRL": I think it's the best condiment. If I could only have one for the rest of my life, it would definitely be ranch.

MOOS: College student Hannah Kinney was upstairs leading a bible study group when their order arrived without ranch dressing. Hannah tried to wiggle her way to the kitchen through the Gillibrand crowd. Not recognizing the senator.

KINNEY: I was thinking, oh, they're thinking you're trying to cut in front to get closer to the senator. That's why I threw my hands up, like I'm trying to get ranch. I don't want anyone to be mad.

MOOS: "Elle" magazine gushed, clear a space on Mt. Rushmore and change the name to Mt. Ranchmore.

What was the ranch for? Pizza. The "Ranch Girl" is a dipper. She dips her pizza in it.

"Ranch Girl" says she leans left and plans to vote Democratic. Senator Gillibrand tweeted, never get between a Midwesterner and their

ranch. Telling Hannah, pizza's on me during the next trip to Iowa City.

The restaurant's giving her a year's supply of ranch.

Do you ever drink it straight from the bottle?

KINNEY: I have definitely probably done that on a dare in the past.

MOOS: On her wish list, an endorsement deal from Wish Bone.

Jeanne Moos, CNN.

My cameraman is telling me I have ranch on my upper lip.

New York.


BURNETT: She really loves the ranch.

All right. Thank you so much for joining us.

Anderson starts now.