Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio; Crowd Size, Enthusiasm Surging at Events for 2020 Dems. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired February 25, 2019 - 19:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN: Thank you very, very much. What an incredible story. And to our viewers, remember I'll be back in 1 hour for the CNN Presidential Town Hall with Senator Bernie Sanders. Until then, Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, CNN: OutFront next breaking news, Democrats slammed the DOJ after the man who had been overseeing the Russia investigation suggest that transparency may not be the best policy. Is that about the Mueller report? Plus, President Trump on his way to Vietnam to meet Kim Jong-Un. We're waiting Kim's imminent arrival. The President trying to tamp down expectations and overflow crowds lines out the door as seen at rallies for a whole bunch of Democrats running for President, why? Let's go OutFront.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett, OutFront tonight, the breaking news, Democrats going to war with Trump's DOJ tonight this after the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein today said this ...


ROD ROSENSTEIN, UNITED STATES DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: There's a knee-jerk reaction that suggest that we should be transparent about what we do in government, but there are a lot of reasons not to be transparent about what we do in government.


BURNETT: The man who has been in charge of the Mueller investigation, Rod Rosenstein right there making the case to not be transparent. Moments ago, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, firing back on twitter, "The Mueller investigation's records, particularly those concerning products by the President - conduct by the President, are a matter of national interest and must be made available to Congress when the Special Counsel files his report."

And Warner's comments coming after out of Schiff, the Democratic Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee call it a "double standard" for the Justice Department to not release the report, given the hundreds and thousands of pages they've released in other investigations just over the past two years. And as Schiff and Warner take on the DOJ, fighting for the Mueller report to be released to the American public, Warner is also preparing to question the President's former fixer, Michael Cohen.

Cohen is just hours away from the first of three days of testimony on Capitol Hill, Warner's committee will kick off, a testimony that a source close to Cohen has told the Wall Street Journal will cause "chills." Cohen, of course, is cooperating with Mueller after being sentenced to three years in prison for crimes that according to federal prosecutors were committed in coordination with and at the direction of Donald Trump.

Shimon Prokupecz is OutFront live in Washington to begin our coverage. And Shimon, pretty interesting, you hear Rosenstein making the case, so maybe the transparency is not such a great thing, how much pressure is the DOJ going to face here? You obviously saw these immediate responses from Schiff and Warner.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER, CNN: There's going to be immense pressure on the Department of Justice and what we could be seeing is much of what we saw from Republicans when they were trying to get information from the Department of Justice into the Trump investigation, into the Russia investigation.

So no doubt there is going to be immense pressure and I think people like Adam Schiff and Mark Warner are laying the groundwork there. They're certainly hinting that they're going to fight. They want all of the information that the Department of Justice has as it relates to this investigation.

The problem is though while it may come as a surprise to some that we're hearing from Rob Rosenstein, no doubt that this was done today with the intention I think certainly to prepare the American people that we may not see this report. We may not see everything that we certainly want to see.

BURNETT: All right, Shimon, thank you very much. It is sort of stunning just I don't know as a citizen to say, "My gosh, we are at this point where we're actually talking about that we may not see it." I mean I know it's one thing to say it, but now the reality, is that really possible? OutFront now, former Federal Prosecutor Laura Coates, former Assistant U.S. Attorney with the Southern District of New York, Harry Sandick, and our Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash.

Harry, really we might not see it? I mean, I know that there's always been a faction not wanting to hold it back, but that's one thing to say. It's another to actually you say that after one year and eight or nine months we might not see it?

HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: It's hard to believe that we wouldn't see anything. But I think what the Deputy Attorney General said today what it really relates to is there are DOJ policies, there are federal laws involving grand jury secrecy, involving classified information. And these are good reasons why sometimes things are made completely transparent by the Department of Justice.

It's still hard for me to believe that there won't be some public version, some public renditions or even some private renditions made available to members of Congress who after all have a duty to consider the possibility of impeachment or removal if DOJ concludes that there were crimes committed.

BURNETT: Right. I mean and I guess, Laura, there's a thing if there's a thing, if there's crimes committed or anything, say, involving the President, you say, "Okay, I'm not going to put that out there yet, because we don't want to indict a sitting President." But then you're going to give some of that to Congress. They're going to try to move ahead on impeachment not be able to give a reason why. I mean all of this doesn't seem to add up.

LAURA COATES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: This is all the Comey caveat that I think Rosenstein was talking about.


The idea that you do not want to present the American people information that you're not able to prove beyond reasonable doubt. We didn't like the idea of Comey coming in and usurping the role of the U.S. Attorney's Office or the Department of Justice by saying, "Hey, there's all of this out there. Not enough to prosecute, but there's all this out there that tarring and feathering did not satisfy people then, it should not now.

Having said that, the idea for transparency is different when it comes to the President of the United States versus other people. The DOJ policy says you cannot indict a sitting President. If there is reason to believe in the report that there is enough information to indict the President, well then transparency is a must because the criminal process is not available, but the political one would be. And who is it? The government for of and by the people, Congress.

The transparency I buy with respect to the regular American citizens. There's not enough proof. The President of the United States, a very different role by design.

BURNETT: I mean, Dana, this is pretty incredible though to say that he could be at a point where if something happens you would put it in there for everyone to see, because you couldn't indict - I mean, it's a shocking situation to imagine you could be in.

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Right and it makes sense on its face for Rosenstein to make an argument that he tells people, prosecutors in his office and he's done this his whole career when you're in a court of law, when you are dealing with the potential of criminal charges, you need to be able to back it up. But as Laura said, this is really, really different. This is a question of what and if the President and his people did that may not reach the point of criminal charges, but could be incredibly alarming to members of Congress and to enter the American people.

So I think there's transparency and then there's transparency, if that makes sense. I mean there's not wanting to get ahead of regulations for then there's the political reality of where the Department of Justice and more importantly members of Congress and the public are after all of this time and all of this money spent on this investigation.

BURNETT: I mean so Harry you could be at a point, it sounds like from what Dana is saying, you're very close but not there. I mean who knows what you are - but you could conceivably and the other point where you are close to a criminal act or maybe it went to something that a lot of people would think you are but they thought they couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt and you're going to go ahead just plop that into the political realm.

SANDICK: I think that's right and that's in part because as has been said tonight and by others that impeachment is not just a matter of sort of a special kind of indictment for the President. You can be impeached without ever having committed the crime. If the overall lay of the land suggests that this person shouldn't be President because of things they've done, even if it isn't a crime in the Title 18 of the U.S. code, impeachment is still possible and that's why it really is important that at least some version of the investigative findings be shared with Congress.

BURNETT: Laura, do you think at this point that impeachment proceedings are inevitable when you look at the House that they're going to go down that path pretty much regardless of what's in here or not?

COATES: I think they will have some foundation to at least initiate the discussions around high crimes and misdemeanors. Remember, there are many parallels to what happened the last time when there was actually Nixon in office and there was an impeachment proceeding that was on the horizon as well, it didn't quite get to the same level we're talking about here, but the analogies are there.

And the reason for that, Erin, is really because you've got this foundational principle of the actual collusion probe, was about whether or not somebody as a member of the campaign sought to try to influence the election. We already know through Roger Stone as an adviser, through Paul Manafort there was that. We have Michael Cohen on the horizon getting ready to testify about what the President may or may not have done or told him to do with respect to campaign finance violations.

The underlying theme is that there is somebody who is trying to influence the election and hijack it from the American people. If that's the underlying theme, there is more than enough reason to go forward the discussion at least. Now, the Senate may be the overwhelming hurdle they cannot actually overcome.


BASH: If I just may take a crack, the answer to that, I don't think it is a given that impeachment will be out there. I think a big part of the answer to that will be what's in Mueller but also if anything drips out of other place in the Justice Department here in New York, the 7th District of New York, what if anything the newly empowered Democrats in the House find and unearth.

Because impeachment is inherently a political process. It's a decision based on a very vague letter of the law and the Constitution, high crimes and misdemeanors, it's up to Congress to interpret that. But you also are in a place where on the one hand Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leadership in the House have so much pressure from the left to just do whatever, throw whatever, throw the books at him as much as they can.

But on the other hand, you have the reality that this President is going to face voters in November of 2020.

BURNETT: Very soon.

BASH: So it could be up to them to decide.

BURNETT: And Harry also as Dana and Laura said other things that are going to come out, so you don't know how many other grand juries are in panel, you don't know what else is out there.


We don't know what we don't know. We do know Michael Cohen is going to go this week and sources close to him have said the testimony is going to cause chills. Behind closed doors he can talk about anything, tomorrow Russia. In front of the American people, he's going to talk about maybe not Russia but everything else about Donald Trump, that he knows about Donald Trump, his dirty deeds as Michael Cohen has called them. How significant could Michael Cohen's testimony be to this?

SANDICK: I think it could be very significant. This is someone who's very close to the President for many years who has the information according to the Southern District that the President directed him to take actions that amounted to a crime that Michael Cohen's pled guilty to and his credibility will very much be under the microscope. He's a somewhat damaged witness. He's already been convicted of lying to Congress and people are going to be scrutinizing his testimony carefully. How does he answer questions from the Democrats and the Republicans? Does his tone changed? Does he get angry? Does he exaggerated and mind read for the President or does he just say what he saw, what he knew ...

BANA: And does he have corroborating evidence.

SANDICK: Yes, exactly.

BURNETT: Which, of course, we know that prosecutors have said they have, Laura, when it comes to Michael Cohen. They've basically said, "We know guy. We know he's a liar. Everything that we say you did at the direction of Donald Trump." They have other evidence for it, whether it'd be emails or who knows what it is, audio files.

Donald Trump Jr. was trying to go at the credibility of Cohen today. I want to play for you what he said, Laura.


DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You got a President trying to deal with a major world issue and to try to distract or whatever it is by bringing in a convicted felon and known liar. I mean, it's pretty pathetic but it really shows you how much really - the Democrats hate Trump.


BURNETT: Right. Trying to make it political, Laura, but going down that convicted felon route, again, I want to emphasize, they put in the Southern District that they have other evidence to show that what Cohen says about the direction, doing things at the direction of Donald Trump is true, and we're going to hear more about that this week.

COATES: Yes. We should and, of course, the idea of this is a partisan policy. Remember, the SDNY is not some extension of Congress. They're not like their political appointees in the sense of trying to make this all about anti-Trump. Remember, the underlying theme of all this is whether the members of the campaign, Trump has it and Donald Trump Jr. seems to think that it's all about the President of the United States exclusively. But actual collusion mandate was regarding people who are a part of the campaign.

And so before going down the path of convicted felons, may I remind you about Paul Manafort who the President has lauded and said that he is somebody to look at. The President and his son better not go the path of being in glass houses because people will throw stones and it's going to shatter.

BURNETT: Right. All right, thank you all very much. And, of course, just to remind anybody no matter what comes out of the Mueller report regarding the President, you already have more than 30 entities or individuals charged of hundred charges, people are going to jail, people are pleading guilty. There's a lot that's come out of this.

And next, live pictures of the red carpet. They have rolled out a red carpet for Kim Jong-Un literally and he is about to arrive in Vietnam for second summit with President Trump. But is the President really going to take on a person that he has said this about ...


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He wrote me beautiful letters and they're great letters. We fell in love.


BURNETT: Plus, as the House prepares to vote on a resolution that would block President Trump's emergency declaration. Has a warning for Republicans tonight and the President calling Spike Lee's acceptance speech which doesn't mention the President a racist hit, why?


Breaking news, Kim Jong-Un about to arrive in Vietnam for a second summit with President Trump. The red carpet literally, that you see there, it's been rolled out at the train station and he is arriving. He is headed to the summit via train. He started that trip on Saturday morning in Pyongyang via train getting all the way there to Hanoi.

The President right now is still in Air Force One. He is en route to the summit. It has been eight months since their first meeting. And according to U.S. intelligence, Kim is as committed as ever to his nuclear arsenal. But that reality has not stopped President Trump from his alternate reality.


TRUMP: My relationship with Kim Jong-Un is a good one.

I got along great with Chairman Kim. I got along great.

A man I have gotten to know and like.

And then we fell in love, okay? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters and they're great letters. We fell in love.


BURNETT: He sure must be in love to declare as Trump has, "There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea." Because that is the opposite, a complete opposite of what his own Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just told CNN.


JAKE TAPPER, ANCHOR, CNN: Do you think North Korea remains a nuclear threat?


TAPPER: But the President said he doesn't.

POMPEO: It's not what he said. I mean I know precisely what he said.

TAPPER: He tweeted that there's no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.


BURNETT: He did. He did tweet it, so it is right there, black and white, no longer a nuclear threat. But here's the truth, okay, no matter what Mike Pompeo tries to do in terms of his verbal acrobatics, the President has never been on the same page as his own intelligence chiefs despite praising North Korea's decision to publicly destroy at least three nuclear tunnels in front of cameras around the globe, remember that. That was public.

But then Trump's own intelligence officials have been saying that North Korea has not fundamentally stopped its nuclear program. In fact, here is Trump's Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats just days ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons is critical to regime survival.


BURNETT: And one of those leaders, of course, is Kim. OutFront now, Gordon Chang Author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On The World and David Gergen, former Adviser to Four Presidents.

Gordon, I mean it's just interesting there, Mike Pompeo, I mean Trump tweeted what he tweeted. He says what he says, but the people in charge are trying to tell another narrative.

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR OF NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD: I think what's going on here, Erin, is that Trump is trying to entice Kim into good behavior. Trump was very clear about this.


At the G7 which preceded by a few days to Singapore Summit Trump said, "Look, I'm giving the guy, Kim, a one-time shot to do the right thing." And so I think what Trump is trying to do is create this environment that is so favorable that Kim will feel that he can - secure enough to give up his weapons. Everyone is trying to entice the North Koreans; the Russians, the Chinese, the South Koreans, every attempt has failed. You can get the North Koreans to do what you want, but you got to club them over the head.

BURNETT: And that's not what's happened here. I mean, we're talking about - we laugh, it says brutal person, it's almost ridiculous to laugh at it, but it does seem on some level to be rather incredibly ridiculous. David, Mike Pompeo and Jake Tapper, I thought that exchange was pretty interesting. I mean, it is what it is.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER ADVISER TO FOUR PRESIDENTS: It is what it is, it's pretty stunning. I mean, they're in direct conflict about their assessment of North Korea. And the Secretary of State and President usually are on the same page when you go into a big summit like this, but not on this occasion. Listen, I think all of us would like the President to make advances on reducing the North Korean threat.

I think we're pleased, we ought to be pleased about the fact that they're not testing it at the moment, but that's nowhere close to denuclearization which is the heart and soul of all of this. And to think that you - how in the world can the President say he's fallen in love with a guy who orders assassinations, runs the concentration camps, has forced labor, and by the way as his own aides are telling him is mentally deranged. How can you fall in love and expect to make serious progress?

We need something. We got in Coats and in Pompeo hard-headed realists on this and we have a President who thinks that at his first summit produced as he told his aides, he produced gold in the television ratings. Presumably, hopefully, this will be a more serious conversation.

BURNETT: I mean, Gordon, the President, what I find sort of shocking about all of this is that he thinks that he knows more than his intelligence chiefs. When anything he knows is a subset of what they know, what they're telling him. So it's kind of saying, "I don't care what you guys say. Look, we're in love. It's great."

CHANG: Yes. Well, first of all, Kim is in a regime, it is a one-man regime, but if Kim were to decide despite everything to actually sort of do what Trump wants to do, there are so many people who would kill him, because they depend their livelihood on Kim, maintaining the regime that his father and grandfather built.

BURNETT: That's what it said, regime, not just a single person, but Kim and the others in the regime.

CHANG: So even though you might build this personal connection with Kim, it really doesn't matter for so many different reasons and we've got to understand that, otherwise we're going to try to build a relationship which is completely irrelevant.

BURNETT: I mean so David what does the President do here? I mean, the pomp and circumstance of this. Look, he's not getting the coverage he got last time around.

GERGEN: Sure not. You can only go to the well so many times on issues like this and that's why I think it's very, very important that the administration pull itself together and have a message that all of them believe in and not one where we're very confused about what they really believe. And the North Koreans think that - you inevitably weaken yourself going to negotiations and coming out of negotiations if you have sixes and sevens on your own team.

BURNETT: All right, thank you both very much, crucial next 48 hours. And next, President Trump warning Republicans going against his own party and said, "Do not vote against his emergency declaration." Tomorrow, they will make their big choice. I'm going to ask Republican Congress Mike Turner on how he'll vote. Plus, President Trump taking on Director Spike Lee, claiming his acceptance speech was "racist hit."


Breaking news, another Republican Senator saying he'll vote against the President's emergency declaration, Senator Thom Tillis, writing in an op-ed tonight that while he agrees with Trump's vision for border security, "his national emergency declaration was not the right answer." Now, this is after Trump has warned Republicans not to vote in favor of a resolution of disapproval, that vote is tomorrow.

And by the way, it's going to pass in the House. They are going to go against the President. The question is what will happen to the Senate and the President took that on. As he was getting onboard to go to Hanoi tweeting, "I hope our great Republican Senators don't get led down the path of weak and ineffective border security. Without strong borders, we don't have a Country - and the voters are on board with us. Be strong and smart. Don't fall into the Democrats; trap of open borders and crime."

Pamela Brown is OutFront at the White House. And Pamela, clearly this was on the President's mind as he boarded that plane. This is going to be a big vote for him tomorrow.

PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: That's right. It is a big vote for President Trump as he heads to Vietnam for the North Korea Summit, Erin. He is clearly focused on this House vote tomorrow rebuking his National Security declaration for border wall funding. White House officials expect this resolution to pass the house easily, noting the only thing Trump's team can do is try to keep the bill's margin of victory from being embarrassingly large according to a White House aide we've been speaking with.

Now, in the Senate as we know, the path forward for this resolution is less clear and that is why President Trump, as you read there in that tweet is warning GOP Senators from wavering. A lot of senators have come out against the National Security declaration, but they have not said how they will vote unlike Senator Tillis. The bottom line, it's more about optics concern here at the White House, because the White House believes it does have the veto authority and that there's not enough votes in Congress to override.

I spoke to one White House official this evening, Erin, who said, "Look, this is all for show, but that doesn't mean that they're not paying close attention to the votes tomorrow," Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Pamela, thank you very much and I want to go now straight to the Republican Congressman, Mike Turner, who, by the way, is on both the Intelligence and Armed Services Committee.

[19:30:04] So, all of these coming right in the center of your jurisdiction. Congressman, you weren't in favor of the president using an emergency declaration to build his wall, right? You have said it will set a dangerous precedent.

How are you going to vote tomorrow?

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, we've been asked to vote to disapprove. And all Nancy Pelosi has offered so far on the disapproval side is her statement that building a wall is amoral.

Now, what I have said, Erin, which you have characterized correctly is I'm very concerned about this as a precedent. However, we do have a circumstance where we do need to take action on the border. What I don't want to see is the president cannibalizing funds for our national security to address the issue on the border.

Now, I just spoke to Congressman Adam Kinzinger who just came back from his Air National Guard deployment on the border.

BURNETT: Right, on the border.

TURNER: Yes. He was there personally. He said he saw obvious drug trafficking, human trafficking. He believes it's a national security. You mentioned I'm on the Armed Services Committee. We had Under Secretary Rood testify before our committee and said that there are portions of the border where people are crossing unimpeded. And we had Admiral Gilday who said that, every day, people are being able to cross the border and then troops that are down there are not in sufficient number to be able to stop them.

BURNETT: So, are you going to vote to rebuke the president for his emergency declaration or --

TURNER: No, I will not be supporting Nancy Pelosi's measure tomorrow.

What Nancy Pelosi needs to do, and this I think would be what I think the country wants, is to sit down with the president of the United States and negotiate a package to appropriately fund closing the border. The problem is that she's created such a box for herself, where she claims that closing the border would be immoral, that she's having trouble coming to the table. So the president's taking action. He's now going to have to go to court to prove that this is a national security.

But we can't take her statement of it just being immoral as a statement of disproving it's a national security.

BURNETT: But in other words, you're essentially OK with him doing it. You're you aren't, but you aren't voting with her to go the other way.

TURNER: I am not joining Nancy Pelosi for a plan of open border. I believe that as speaker, she should be coming to the table, which is what the American public want and negotiating a solution to close this border.


TURNER: The president is now going to have to go to court to establish that this is a national security. But I believe this is a dangerous precedent and I believe that we should not be cannibalizing our national security dollars for this. I think Congress should go forward --

BURNETT: So, you don't him to do it. Just to make sure, you don't want him to do this national emergency, but you're not going to vote against doing it tomorrow because you don't like how he's doing it, right?

TURNER: What I want is Congress to sit down with the president of the United States and negotiate this and to get this border closed. And that's not happening. So, Nancy Pelosi has created this false choice of a national emergency or an immoral closing of the border. And the American public overwhelmingly want the border closed. It's part of our national sovereignty and it's something that we need to do.

BURNETT: Well, the American public don't want a wall. I mean, I guess within the Republican Party, right? I mean, there's walls along certain --


TURNER: If you ask the American public if they want the border closed and if you ask them if they want a barrier, they'll say yes. Now, the wall certainly has been politicized. But, you know, certainly, the American public don't believe that closing the border is immoral.

And that's unfortunately the gridlock that we're in here, where Nancy Pelosi said it's immoral, the president's declaring a national emergency, the president's going to court, Nancy Pelosi is going to the House floor. I will not support open -- an open border and I will not support just on her --


BURNETT: So you think Thom Tillis is making the wrong decision, right? I mean, he's being very clear, right? He does agree with Trump's vision for border security, but he is going to -- he says the emergency declaration is not the answer and he's going to, you know, vote to disapprove on the Senate side?

TURNER: You know, that's his own personal choice. My personal choice is that the resolution as written by Nancy Pelosi is asking this Congress to declare that the national emergency is over. There's no national emergency. And I'm certainly not going to do that.

I think absolutely that the president and Nancy Pelosi -- because we really are down to these two people, need to sit down and negotiate this and fund closing the border, which is overwhelmingly what the American public want.

BURNETT: Since you are on the Intelligence and Armed Services Committee, I want to ask you about some big news that happened today. Some people may not be aware, this is very big news, though, out of Iran, which the president has made central to his foreign policy. The foreign minister there, Javad Zarif, went to Instagram and resigned on Instagram.

You see the message there. It was rather strange, to be honest with you. I sincerely apologize for the incapacities to continue serving in all the shortcomings during the service.

Do you have any idea what's going on here?

TURNER: I do not. And it's certainly troubling, because he has been a champion of, you know, going forward in negotiations. You know, certainly -- and I've made public statements before, Iran has been seemingly complying with the deal. What needs to happen now is our allies need to join with us in working with Iran to re-negotiate the terms of the deal.

You know, the deal is flawed. There are three problems with the deal. One, it's limited in time and it should be in perpetuity. And two, there are limitations on the inspection regime.


[19:35:00] TURNER: And there's no limitation on missiles. And you know, you certainly don't need an ICBM for conventional weapons.


TURNER: It's only part of weapons of mass destruction.

But this is a troubling development, because we don't know who we will be negotiating, but I think hopefully, this will give our allies some renewed impetus to join with us on this.

BURNETT: All right. Well, certainly, Javad Zarif is a fluent English speaker, knows this well, talks to journalists. It is - it will be a very big change, at the very least.

Thank you so much, Congressman.

TURNER: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Director Spike Lee using his acceptance speech at the Oscars to say voters must make the moral choice between love versus hate and Trump firing back today.

Plus, Democratic voters fired up for the campaign. Why?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little bit of PTSD, sort of, about what happened in 2016. And I think a lot of are afraid it's going to happen again.



BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump versus Spike Lee. Trump lashing out at the director after Lee said this at the Oscars.


SPIKE LEE, FILM DIRECTOR: The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let's all mobilize, let's all be on the right side of history. Make the -- make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let's do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there.


[19:40:03] BURNETT: All right. Well, he didn't technically use anybody's name. But the person he's talking about tweeted in response, quote, be nice if Spike Lee could read his notes or better yet not have to use notes at all when doing a racist hit on your president who has done more for African-Americans, criminal justice reform, lowest unemployment numbers in history, tax cuts, et cetera, than almost any other president. OUTFRONT now, former Republican Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah, and

Angela Rye, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus.

So, Angela, the president comes out with his list of things he said he's done, but the obvious key words were racist hit, to describe what Spike Lee did. What do you say?

ANGELA RYE, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: Well, I think that the president maybe needs to take a -- or maybe not even take a class but just read a dictionary on what racism actually is. I think a basic definition would indicate there was nothing racist. I think Spike Lee didn't even mention race except for the fact that it's now been 400 years since the first enslaved African came to the shores of this country. So, maybe he was offended by that, particularly because maybe that's when he thought America was at its greatest point, when the first slave got here.

It certainly seems that way, especially when he's taking credit for things that he's hardly done, including the African-American unemployment rate. Perhaps unemployment rate has gone down, but one, maybe two percentage points on a good day, and he should really thank President Obama, but you know what? It would be hard for him to do that, since he's still questioning his citizenship, which is really the racist thing to do.

BURNETT: I mean, so, Mia, here's the thing. He lists off his accomplishments, right?


BURNETT: Criminal justice reform.

LOVE: Right, right.

BURNETT: Lowest unemployment numbers in history for black Americans, OK.

LOVE: Right.

BURNETT: But, when I said he didn't use his name, of course, he was talking about Trump, but it seemed that he was trying to be bigger than that, basically making it a Republican/Democrat thing.

LOVE: Right.

BURNETT: Right? Republicans, you know, anybody who would vote for Trump.

LOVE: Right.

BURNETT: Anybody is a Republican, is a racist. Does that go too far?

LOVE: Well, first of all, let's just say, the first half of that speech or the first three quarters of that speech was really beautiful. He talked about -- he just honored his family members that got him through school and talked about the people that have worked hard to get us to where we are.

And I think it's really interesting that the president would actually say, hey, by the way, you're attacking your president and I think he should have just left it alone. People are entitled to their opinions. They're entitled to say whatever they want to.

I think the other issue, also, I actually agree with Angela on the fact that he really can't take credit for all of the things that we've -- that Congress has done. Let's talk about criminal justice reform. I've worked on criminal justice reform with Bobby Scott and Simpson Brenner from four years ago. This is way before the president had anything to do with criminal justice reform.

Those are -- even tax reform. I bet you Paul Ryan knows more about the tax code than the president does, because we've worked so hard --

BURNETT: That is a safe assumption.

LOVE: It is a safe assumption. So I think that one of the things, one of the problems that the president has is one, he takes a lot of credit for -- instead of being a team player and saying, hey, I helped make this happen, he takes all of the credit for the good things that happen.

Let's just -- let's just put it this way. I think it's important for us to empower black Americans, to say, we are not going to allow the president to tell us how to behave. History is going to write about what we do and the things that we do to make this country a better place to be.

I've certainly take that stance. I'm not going to run away from my president because I disagree with what the president is doing. As a matter of fact, I'm going to hold him accountable to the Republican platform and the principles that we believe in. That means calling him out when he says things that are stupid and policies that aren't American.

BURNETT: I mean, you know, Angela, in the epilogue to his movie "BlacKkKlansman," lee does explicitly connect Trump to the events in Charlottesville, right, in Virginia in 2017. Let me just play the clip quickly.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.

(CHANTING: Nazis, go home)

TRUMP: Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists. You also had people that were very fine people.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: All right, Angela, putting aside if it's even possible of the absurdity that not all of those people were neo-Nazis, when that's what they were doing and the principles that they were espousing, right, "the good people on both sides," do you think that's why Trump responded to Spike Lee last night because of film, or do you think he even knew that was in there?

RYE: I doubt that he knew that was in there. I think this president is so fragile, this ego of his is so fragile is all he heard was someone who wanted a worthy competition in 2020 and that was sufficient.

[19:45:01] He happened to be a black person talking about what he wanted in an election, and that alone again is how Trump defines racism.

So I would challenge him to take a moment to define what racism really is. The president, as we all know, is wrong, is errant in what he said about Charlottesville. It is troubling and for Spike Lee to produce a movie that really has a face race and a dress race, that in and of itself is not racist. For all the Trump trolls on Twitter, that is not what makes you racist, to talk about race, to deal with racial tensions in this country and the divisions that exist do not make us racist. It means we want to deal with it.

BURNETT: Mia, why do you think the president responded?

LOVE: Yes, I don't know if he knows when to respond and when not to respond. And I think that he does take things very personally. I mean, I can't tell you how many times I've had to stay away from Facebook, because not everyone's going to agree with you. It's OK!


LOVE: I think that as a president, you have to understand that you are the president of the United States of America. And you have to use every opportunity you can to unite people, to unite Americans and to say, look, if there's something that is harmful, I want to try and fix that.

The other thing I'm going to say is that racism didn't start with the president. It's not going to end with the president. And I think that it's incredibly important for all of us -- I cannot handle if somebody comes -- does something or commits some sort of racist act or says something and they say -- well, the president made me do it. Or I'm OK to do it because it's the president.

BURNETT: It doesn't excuse.

LOVE: And it's not -- by the way, racism has no party line, either. You don't have to look any further than the Virginia governor. So, if we're going to have a conversation about racism, we need to talk about us, we need to start with number one.

And we need to stand up and say, I am going to be a beacon of hope. I am not going to become the thing that I'm trying to fight, which is anger and hatred in this country. I'm going to stand as an example of just being a light in this country, an example of how we should behave and love and care for one another.

BURNETT: Thank you both very much, for the conversation.

RYE: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, standing room only, lines out the door, and we are a year away, what, 50 weeks, 49 weeks away from the Iowa caucuses. What is going on?

Plus, we are just moments away from a crucial town hall for Bernie Sanders, as his campaign already announced he's raised $10 million in a week or so, 12,000 of those donors are registered Republicans? Who are they?


BURNETT: Just in, a spokesperson for the Bernie Sanders campaign says Sanders has raised nearly $10 million from about 360,000 donors since he announced his candidacy nearly one week ago.

[19:50:08] So, you've got less than a week, you've got 12 -- sorry, $10 million, 360,000 donors, and 12,000 of them at least were registered Republicans.

OK. We're going to talk about that in a moment. But, right now, we are just moments away from what you see on your screen, a special CNN town hall with Sanders. This is a live picture of the event which will be in Washington. A lot of enthusiasm there.

Voters are going to be asking questions next hour, but Sanders is not the only candidate drawing huge crowds.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.


MEGHANN FOSTER, IOWA DEMOCRAT: All right. Bye. Don't slip.

We are going to Bettendorf to hear Kamala Harris.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An hour trek for Meghann Foster and her family, an Iowa Democrat, sensing a shift for 2020.

FOSTER: There is something different in the energy this time around.

ANNOUNCER: Senator Kamala Harris.

LAH: You can see it in the crowds. In South Carolina, Democrats packed town halls for Harris. They climbed closed bleachers for a view and filled the second floor balconies.

Braving blistering cold, Iowans lined up for Harris north of Des Moines and in New Hampshire, her town hall was so full, the fire marshal closed the doors.

But it's not just Harris.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not enough room for everybody to get inside.

LAH: It's been happening at Elizabeth Warren's campaign stops for weeks.

And Kirsten Gillibrand perched here on a restaurant booth as she spoke to an overflow crowd in Iowa.

Cory Booker has jammed his house parties from New Hampshire to Iowa.

And who can forget Amy Klobuchar's determined followers standing for hours, braving Minnesota's winter.

(on camera): Regardless of the candidate, it's standing room only.

FOSTER: Oh, yes.

LAH: Why is that?

FOSTER: I think that there is just a lot of excitement and curiosity about these different candidates. I think that a lot of people do realize that we absolutely have to get this right.

LAH (voice-over): Of course, crowds could be just that, a crowd, and not a sign of things to come.

But Democrats in Ames, Iowa, believe this does mean something and have a theory about what's driving them.

(on camera): Why is this room so packed? Why is every room packed that I go to?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to get rid of Trump.

FOSTER: I'm nervous, I mean, I'm obviously nervous, a little bit of PTSD sort of about what happened in 2016, and I think a lot of us are afraid it's going to happen again.

All right.

I'm excited. This is great. I really can't wait. She's one of my favorite candidates.

LAH (voice-over): A common purpose, an early unifier in this crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get this man out of office.

(APPLAUSE) LAH (on camera): What's happening as far as people being so drawn to you and some of your other Democratic contenders? What's happening?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think what's happening is that the American public has rightly embraced the fact that their government and its future is in their hands.

FOSTER: I think we're all very motivated, you know, it is very real to a lot of people. So, yes, I definitely think that we're all feeling this on a very personal level.


LAH: Foster is like a lot of Democrats I have met here in Iowa. Personally meeting multiple candidates this cycle, driving hours across the state and Democrats I've met here in Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire, do say because of so many candidates, they simply haven't made up their minds yet. There's a lot of time still, Erin.

And one other thing, they also don't have great answers on because of the number of candidates they're seeing if it's going to lead to a splintering of the Democratic base -- Erin.

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

And I want to go straight now to Rick Santorum, former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, and a former presidential candidate, Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for "The Nation". She's been doing a lot of reporting on these candidates. And Mark Preston, our senior political analyst.

Joan, OK. Voters engaged this early.


BURNETT: And I think it was one of those shots that Kyung had, the speed motion, where you just saw the in and out, the number of people. What does that say to you?

WALSH: It says people really are excited about this field. It's a very diverse field. It's a huge field and that they are desperate about getting rid of Donald Trump.

I think you do see, I thought that was a really well produced piece because you hear the anxiety the people have. It's great to have these candidates but we don't want in-fighting, we don't want a rerun of 2016, where, you know, the wounds of the primary never really healed.

[19:55:06] So, people want it to be a boisterous, exciting, packed primary with lots of good ideas but not a lot of drawing blood.

BURNETT: Rick, who are the 12,000 Republicans writing checks to Bernie Sanders?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Either they're people from Vermont, potentially, or there are folks that, you know, are -- there are Republicans who are disenchanted with Donald Trump and are looking for alternatives. That's a realistic thing.

But, look, the piece that you just read, it's really exciting. I can tell you, I never got crowds like that in Iowa, and I won the Iowa caucus in 2012. I mean, those are amazing crowds for this early in a caucus, and I think it does go to show that the base Democratic voter out there is very, very been hyped up, and Donald Trump has been vilified, he is public enemy number one. And they are coming out in droves, looking, not committing, I think there's very few commitments so far, but there are a lot of folks looking and shopping right now.

WALSH: They're shopping.

BURNETT: And when you say it's interesting, your perspective having been there, right, the size of the crowds being so incredible.

Mark, one of the things, though, as Rick said, public enemy number one to Democrats is Donald Trump and here's what one of the voters said to Kyung about that.


LAH: Why is every room packed that I go to.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to get rid of Trump.


BURNETT: Mark, is it anything to be worried about at this point that it's all about him? And it's not yet about being for someone else, it's all about being against Donald Trump?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let me tie back to what Senator Santorum did. I was with him many times on the campaign trail where we had small crowds and he traveled throughout Iowa. And he's right, he did win the Iowa caucuses.

BURNETT: He went to every country.

PRESTON: He went to every county and talked about issues. The reason I say that is that Democrats have to show that they are fighters, they have to show that they are willing to challenge Trump and they won't back down.

But at the same time, they can't allow Donald Trump to take them off message, to be the one who's driving the news narrative of the day. A tweet could take the whole Democratic message off course for one day if not for a week, if not for a month. So I think that if you're a candidate right now, you have to go out and say you are willing to stand up to him, but you want to talk about issues, you want to talk about the economy, you want to talk about jobs. BURNETT: Right.

PRESTON: Nobody wants to hear how bad Donald Trump is over and over again.

BURNETT: Right, right, that's not going to last.

I mean, Joan, it's interesting. You know, Rick's take on Republicans for Bernie were people from Vermont or people disenfranchised with the president. But, you know, you and I were also talking about, who knows? It could be something else together.

WALSH: We have seen mischief like this before, where somebody might feel, Republicans might feel that Bernie Sanders is the weakness candidate so they want to buoy him, but, you know, he's got a whole lot more genuine Democratic, independent, left wing supporters, so I mean.

BURNETT: Three hundred sixty thousand, they said, right, 12,000 Republicans.

WALSH: It's still a lot of people.


WALSH: So, you know, I think that it represents a real groundswell. It represents an incredible asset.

I think he's probably the front runner at this point, you know? I think he's got such a base, so much fundraising capacity, and, you know, he finished second last time around. So, you know, he's probably the person to beat.

BURNETT: You know, I wonder, Mark, what you think and maybe I should be asking this to Joan given that she covers this as a female, but I'm going to ask it to you. You know, I remember going to Bernie Sanders events last time around and young women voters would say, you know what, I don't need to vote for Hillary because there's been opportunities, so many women presidents in my life, who cares?

Are they going to feel that way this time around? Are they willing to put forward a mid-70s white guy?

PRESTON: Let me go back, and I'll just take a little bit of a way of what I just answered, they want a winner. I don't think they care if the person is 80 years old, or 70 years old. Any kind of taboos we had on candidates.

BURNETT: Or 50 years old. I mean, there are other options.

PRESTON: No, no, 100 percent. But what I'm basically is, I know, but the taboos that we've had on candidates, Erin, have entirely changed. They just don't exist anymore.

WALSH: I think it is really interesting. I think there are a lot of women who do want to vote for woman, but you have five -- BURNETT: That might feel differently this time around, right?

WALSH: That might feel differently.

BURNETT: Not so cavalier.

WALSH: Right. We saw it was not easy to get our first woman president. We didn't do it.

So, now, we've got five women to pick from. We have two African- Americans, we've got a Latino. We've got an amazing diverse field. So, I think that's exciting to people.

BURNETT: What does Rick need to -- I mean, sorry, Rick. What does Bernie need to do tonight?

SANTORUM: Look, I mean, Bernie is a very defined candidate. I don't really think there's much Bernie Sanders can do. He set the agenda for the Democratic Party.


SANTORUM: And that's, I think, his biggest obstacle, he's well known, well defined. He is the vanguard of the Democratic Party heading to socialism, and I think he's going to have a very hard time closing the deal. I mean, there are just too many other attractive younger versions of him that are more interesting.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. And thanks to all of you for joining us.

Stay with us, because CNN's presidential town hall with Bernie Sanders begins right now.