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Michael Cohen To Testify Again Before Intel Next Week After Wrapping Up Third Congressional Hearing Today; Michael Cohen To Testify Again Before House Inter Next Week; Others Who May Be Called: Ivanka, Don Jr. & Trump Org CFO; New York Times: Trump Ordered Officials To Give Jared Kushner Security Clearance Despite Objections From Intel Community; New York Times: Trump Ordered Kushner Be Granted Top-Secret Clearance; Former Trump Associate Felex Sater To Testify Publicly March 14; Had Key Role In Plans For Trump Tower In Moscow. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 28, 2019 - 19:00   ET




PLEITGEN: So there you have it, Wolf. A little bit of shot on the part of Russian saying President Trump strategy simply isn't working, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN: All right, Frederik Pleitgen in Moscow. Thank you. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, CNN: OutFront next breaking news, Michael Cohen moments ago wrapping up his third day of testimony on Capitol Hill as House investigators vow more witnesses are coming. Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. could be on that list.

Plus, another big public hearing just announced this one with Felix Sater, the Russian born former business associate of Trump. What does he know about Trump's plans to build a tower in Moscow? And more breaking news, Trump reportedly ordering officials to give Jared Kushner a security clearance, despite concerns from intelligence officials and he said he didn't do it. It turns out, it's not true. Let's go OutFront.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news, Michael Cohen coming back just wrapping up his third, it was supposed to be his last hearing before Congress, but the committee says there is more to learn. He has much more to tell us.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: There's not much I can say other than it was very productive. As I've said I'm committed to telling the truth and I will be back on March 6 to finish up. There's more to discuss.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: More to discuss next week and tonight we are learning that

Cohen is not the only person who, in his case was and in some of these other cases still are in Trump's inner circle, who could be testifying before Congress.


ELIJAH CUMMINGS, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: If there were names that were mentioned, or records that were mentioned during the hearing. We'll figure out who we want to talk to and then we'll bring them in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So would it be fair then to say that if any names came up multiple times in that hearing --

CUMMINGS: They have a good chance of hearing from us.


BURNETT: OK, so who were those names that came up multiple times while we went through, we cross-checked it, and during that explosive public hearing that we all saw yesterday, let's tell you those names. It's a who's who of the biggest names tied to President Donald Trump.


COHEN: Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump ...


BURNETT: Those are some of the people who know everything. And this is a new reality for President Trump, for two years he'd been protected by a republican-controlled Congress and now he is facing intense pressure with the Democrats in charge of those key committees. His best line of defense today was to say that Michael Cohen is a liar. Here he is when asked today about Cohen's testimony.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He called you a liar, a conman, a racist, what's your response to Michael Cohen?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it's incorrect and he lied a lot.


BURNETT: So the President says Cohen lied a lot and he's a liar, except what he isn't.


TRUMP: He didn't lie about one thing. He said, "No collusion with the Russian hoax. And I said, "I wonder why he didn't just lie about that, too, like he did about everything else and he lied about so many different thing ... (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: He said, "I wonder why he didn't lie about that just like he did about everything else." So wait, Donald Trump is saying that Michael Cohen lied about everything else, everything but Russian collusion, which means according to the President that Cohen was lying when he said these things.


COHEN: I don't believe Mr. Trump ever struck ...


BURNETT: So when Michael Cohen defended the President I guess he was lying then. Manu Raju is OutFront live on Capitol Hill. Manu, let's start with this that there's going to be more testimony and this could be crucial. Of all the names Cohen mentioned yesterday, who else does the committee want to hear from? Who else can we expect to be going in?

MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, certainly members of the Trump inner circle, his CFO of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg. He is the front and center of, at least, two committees, the House Oversight Committee, the House Intelligence Committee both want to speak with Mr. Weisselberg but also people who were part of the President's family, his son, Donald Trump Jr., his role of what he may have known about those hush money payments. His signature was on, at least, one of those payments that went to Michael Cohen.

Ivanka Trump, her name was mentioned and what does she know about the Trump Tower Moscow project that has being invested by the House Intelligence Committee.


What Elijah Cummings, the Oversight Committee Chairman, told me today, Erin, is that at least five or six House Committees planned to investigate all of the allegations that came out of yesterday's testimony, allegations of bank fraud, of insurance fraud, of supporting perjury of about of Russia related matters, all of which the several committees plan to split up how to pursue this going forward.

So certainly we will see some public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee with that associate Felix Sater coming forward, but also we'll see other committees pushing forward to bring in people who are mentioned at yesterday's hearing. So while yesterday's hearing was very, very public we could see others come forward in a very public setting as well. This investigation as Democrats will say only just beginning. This is driving what Democrats will plan to do here in the weeks and months ahead, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Manu, thank you very much and I want to go OutFront now to a member of the House Intelligence Committee, of course, they interviewed Michael Cohen today, Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney joins me. And I appreciate your time, Congressman Maloney. So what did you learn new from Michael Cullen today?

SEAN PATRICK MALONEY, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE, INTERVIEWED MICHAEL COHEN TODAY: Well, I'm not at liberty to discuss the specific testimony except to say that he's a very important witness. We appreciate very much that he came in and was so forthcoming. I thought he was very credible and he's a big piece of the puzzle here. And in the fullness of time everything he said before the committee will be out in the public and I think that's as it should be.

For now what I can tell you is that we're in the middle of this interview. It's going to continue next week and it's very important. We appreciate very much how forthcoming Mr. Cohen is being.

BURNETT: All right. So I want to play again part of what Michael Cohen said when he came out of the room where you were today. Here he is.


COHEN: I'm committed to telling the truth and I will be back on March 6th to finish up. There's more to discuss.


BURNETT: OK. I want to get to the truth part in a moment, but first what more do you need to get out? I mean, these were three really long days and there's still more that you need to learn?

MALONEY: Well, I think what we realize is that the closed-door format with an opportunity to go a little bit deeper, a little more in depth allows us to cover a bunch of subjects that didn't get sufficient attention yesterday, and again that transcript will be released in the fullness of time. But the fact is that there are very serious questions with different aspects of this investigation that Mr. Cohen has very important testimony on and we again appreciate how forthcoming he's been.

BURNETT: Could you share your topics that you think need more drilling down on?

MALONEY: I appreciate the question, but as I've said I'm not at liberty to guess what happened in the executive session except to tell you that transcript I expect will be released eventually. And what I can tell you is that Mr. Cohen is extremely credible and cooperative. There's not a single question that was put to him that he did not answer and we appreciate that very much and I think the efforts to intimidate him or attack him are incredibly inappropriate and I think he equipped himself very well.

BURNETT: Have you learned anything from him that moves you towards impeachment proceedings?

MALONEY: Well, I'm not going to comment on that, specifically. I can tell you we've learned a lot from him and I've learned a lot of things that I didn't learn from his testimony yesterday. So his appearance is very, very important and it's very much appreciated.

BURNETT: All right, so when you say he's credible and you're frustrated of people who are implying otherwise, of course, two of the President in Congress, Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows. They were both there yesterday and they were aggressive in their questioning. They're asking the Justice Department to now investigate Michael Cohen for perjury, because of some of the statements he made in his testimony yesterday, they submitted a letter of things they said were false.

They include that he says he didn't seek a job in the Trump White House, when he did, and they include his denial of committing bank fraud which, of course, he has admitted to doing, he's going to prison in part for that. Do you believe Cohen lied yesterday?

BURNETT: No, I do not and I think that what is absolutely clear is that the Republicans should be a lot more interested in the substance of what he was saying. Remember, yesterday in open session, Mr. Cohen brought documentary evidence that the President of the United States was involved in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct campaign - excuse me, to disguise campaign finance contributions that were improper and he gauged an effort to cover that up while he was President.

Now, you're thinking maybe that would be of concern to some folks, instead they spent their whole time attacking him. And we know he has credibility problems as any cooperating witness does, but I found him to be extremely credible and extremely forthcoming and he brought evidence and that evidence is important.

BURNETT: Yes, OK, and to that point when you say he brought evidence, you're saying, well, you're not taking him on face value or trusting him on things where he did not bring evidence. To your point on the checks, those are checks signed by Donald J. Trump. It's from 2017. That's evidence. But your saying to trust him on other things.

MALONEY: No. I think it's important that his testimony be corroborated, but I think it's important that we keep an open mind and we care about the truth of what he is asserting.


And when he brings clear evidence, really overwhelming evidence that the President of the United States actively engaged in a conspiracy to violate federal campaign finance laws that he structured payments to disguise the reimbursement that he did that while he was President, that's pretty serious stuff and it's well supported. When we go over into the Russia area, obviously we want the same level of corroboration and evidence. And I don't think we should rely on any one witness.

BURNETT: So meaning like the Roger Stone conversation with Julian Assange, that you want corroborated?

MALONEY: Look, that's an important piece of testimony. It's just one piece of testimony, but this puzzle is coming together, Erin, and I think that this week will prove to be an absolutely critical week when all is said and done.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Congressman Maloney. Thanks.

MALONEY: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next we have breaking news, the New York Times is reporting this hour that President Trump ordered his Chief of Staff to give Jared Kushner a top security clearance. This he did even though top intelligence officials and the White House top lawyer told him not to do it. OK. So not only did he go against his own intelligence officials yet again, he also went against this.


MAGGIE HABERMAN, AMERICAN JOURNALIST: Did you tell General Kelly or anyone else in the White House to overrule security officials? The career veterans?



BURNETT: Well, is that a lie? Plus, a one-time Trump associate, Russian born Felix Sater, you just heard his name. He's going to be testifying publicly before Congress. He's next. What does he know about that all-important Moscow Tower. And Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, he claims there's not a racist bone in his body, so how does he explain this?


MARK MEADOWS, UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: We'll send him back home to Kenya or wherever it is.



Breaking news, the New York Times is reporting tonight that President Trump ordered officials to give his son-in-law and his senior adviser Jared Kushner top-secret security clearance last year. Now, keep in mind that he did this even though intelligence officials and top White House lawyer said that he shouldn't.

It alarmed the then Chief of Staff John Kelly so much that he wrote an internal memo and the memo was about how he had been "ordered." This was the word he used to give Kushner the top secret clearance. Then the White House Counsel, Don McGahn, also wrote a memo detailing all of the concerns that had been raised about giving Kushner the security clearance.

So just to be clear, here's the President of the United States goes out and says orders it according to John Kelly, going against his own intelligence officials and the White House Counsel gives Kushner the security clearance. That's a problem, but then on top of it, it appears he lied about it. Here he is just last month and his daughter echoing what he said just a couple weeks ago.


HABERMAN: Did you tell General Kelly or anyone else in the White House to overrule security officials? The career veterans?

TRUMP: No. I don't think I have the authority to do that. I'm not sure I do.

HABERMAN: You do have the authority to do it.

TRUMP: But I wouldn't. I wouldn't do it.

HABERMAN: OK. You never ...

TRUMP: Jared is a good - I was never involved with his security. I know that he - just from reading, I know that there was issues back and forth about security for numerous people actually but I don't want to get involved in that stuff.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The President had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance.


BURNETT: OK. Well, let's go now to one of the reporters who contributed to the story, Matt Rosenberg; National Security Reporter for The New York Times, our White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins also joins us, and former FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa.

All right, Matthew, let me start with you. Look, it's pretty amazing, "I was never involved with the security. I know just from reading." Well, it appears off from the reporting that you all are putting out not only did he know that John Kelly felt that it was a "order" from the President to give Kushner that security clearance. Tell me about it.

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, at this point I think the President and we have to ask does the President understand the process. What we were told is that Jared had numerous problems, they went back to the very beginning of the administration, finally last year the President say, "Give him a security clearance." And that John Kelly understood it to be an order.

He wrote a memo about it at that time. In addition, Don McGahn, the White House Counsel wrote a memo outlining kind of the issues here and yet because the President definitely does have the authority to order somebody to be given a clearance, Mr. Kushner and Ivanka Trump both got their clearances.

BURNETT: So the President is saying he was not involved at all. I mean, that's clearly false, John Kelly interpreted it to be an order even if perhaps that word is a matter of interpretation, the President was not being honest when he said to you all, when he was in the Oval Office with Maggie a couple of weeks ago when he said, "I was never involved with his security. I know just from reading." That's not true.

ROSENBERG: I mean our reporting directly contradicts that and we know from multiple intelligence officials that there were numerous concerns raised by the FBI, the CIA, the NSA about Kushner's dealings with foreign businessmen who had ties to their own country's intelligence services, concerns about his judgment whether he had the proper discretion to be trusted with American secrets, whether he had entanglements overseas and potential business opportunities. That would create situations in which he could potentially be compromised.

BURNETT: I mean, Asha, we know there's been reporting that there were at least four countries; Mexico, China, the UAE, Russia that thought that they could use Jared Kushner in some way. He updated his security clearance form and included a hundred contacts with foreigners that he had not included. These are the issues among others that were with his security clearance. What do you make of this reporting from Matt and The New York Times?

ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, Erin, we were trained in the FBI to conduct security clearances and there are nine different areas that agents will ask about when they do this. It's character, associates, reputation, loyalty, ability, finances, bias, alcohol, and drugs, and anything that raises concerns in any of these areas could be a reason to delay your clearance.

The two most common reasons to delay or deny a security clearance are either financial issues or foreign influence. And these are the two things that Jared pinged on.


And the reason here is that A; you don't want someone who has either divided loyalties or people who can compromise you or have any kind of leverage over you in a financial capacity. So it's really astonishing that these concerns which were raised by multiple agencies were not heated and I think it kind of goes to how much this administration really cares about the trustworthiness of the people who hold this sensitive information. And, of course, the ultimate arbiter is the person sitting at the top.

BURNETT: And Kaitlan, I mean you hear obviously the reporting here that he went against the recommendations, very clear recommendations, and have them do it anyway. And then I guess let me just replay, because I want everyone to hear it, the reporting is that there is these memos that Kelly was ordered by the President to go ahead and give the clearance to Jared Kushner and then this is just - this was a year ago. And then a few weeks ago, the President is directly asked about it by Matt and his colleague Maggie Haberman, let me play it.


HABERMAN: Did you tell General Kelly or anyone else in the White House to overrule security officials? The career veterans?

TRUMP: No. I don't think I have the authority to do that. I'm not sure I do.

HABERMAN: You do have the authority to do it.

TRUMP: But I wouldn't. I wouldn't do it.

HABERMAN: OK. You never ...

TRUMP: Jared is a good - I was never involved with his security. I know that he - just from reading, I know that there was issues back and forth about security for numerous people actually but I don't want to get involved in that stuff.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The President had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance.


BURNETT: So the reporting now directly contradicts every single thing that they just said, Kaitlan, does the President when he said this a few weeks ago he knew it was untrue, he just think nobody would look into it, it wouldn't matter and no one would find out that he wasn't telling the truth it seems?

KAITLAN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, and that's what's fascinating if the President was operating under that impression because Jared Kushner's security clearance as well as Ivanka Trump's has been a subject of discussion since last spring, when all of this came to the forefront because of Rob Porter, that staff secretary who was accused of domestic abuse.

His security clearance, he was having trouble securing one which is unusual for that staff secretary job where you handle so much paperwork and that's what put attention on Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump's security clearances. Now, Erin at the time, our reporting showed that they were actually blaming John Kelly, the Chief of Staff for the holdup in their security clearances because they thought that he had something against them because they were the President's children, there have been questions about whether or not they should be working in the West Wing and they've blame John Kelly for it.

So it's interesting based on this reporting from The New York Times, it was actually the President who ordered John Kelly to be the one to authorize them to get the security clearance they could operate under this. So it raises a lot of questions about that role. Also, Erin, I'd like to point out that right now Jared Kushner is on a tour through the Middle East pitching his Middle East peace plan right now to several countries and now that is something he only had access to some of that information because of the security clearance he got, because before this he just had secret which isn't enough to get access, it's all of the information he would need for that.

BURNETT: And Asha, there's also the issue of there are now people actively leaking things from the now former Chief of Staff and White House Counsel, these memos which the President no doubt thought would not get out. Now, these kinds of things are coming out.

RANGAPPA: Yes. I think what is important here is that look at the end of the day the President does have the authority to make this kind of decision. This is something that people should consider when they decide who becomes the President. If that person is not trustworthy, then they may have people who are not trustworthy to get clearances. But the problem here is that he's continues to demonstrate lack of transparency.

If you're going to make a decision then at least be accountable for it and I think he believes that he's unaccountable. And the fact that these people continue, whether it's in the FBI or John Kelly and his own administration to have to document it, tells you how beyond the pale they believe these decisions are.

BURNETT: All right, thank you all very much. A point in final words there, if don't think someone is trustworthy then you should consider whether you want them to be the person deciding on security clearances. OutFront next breaking news, the Russian born businessman at the center of the Trump Tower Moscow deal, he's now going to be appearing before Congress for us all to see. What does he know? Plus, Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, he said there's not a racist bone in his body despite saying President Obama should go back to Kenya. We're going to talk to someone who work with him, does she agree?


New this hour, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announcing that former Trump business associate, Felix Sater, will testify publicly March 14th. Now, Felix Sater is a really important name. He was born in Russia. Played a key role in trying to make the Moscow Trump Tower happen and the project, of course, we have learned was being discussed all the way until the election despite what then candidate Trump initially and publicly and repeatedly claimed which is that he had nothing going on in Russia, nothing at all. Obviously, that was not true.

OutFront now CNN's Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez, former Assistant Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Harry Sandick, and former Adviser to Four Presidents David Gergen. So, Evan, let me start with you, Felix Sater, how significant is it that Mr. Sater who had a key role in the Moscow Trump Tower project, the plans, the discussions there is going to be testifying?

EVAN PEREZ, SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Look, I think it's very significant simply because he is at the center of this project that for many months we were told the President had abandoned, that the candidate Trump had abandoned, that it was something that had been put aside while he ran for President, and we find out that that was not true. That these were discussions that were going up now. We now learn from Rudy Giuliani all the way through the election.

So I think it is very important that Felix Sater who is someone who obviously has mob ties or Russian mob ties, going back to the 1990s, that's where he got in legal trouble previously, and yet he still ended up being close enough to the President, had an office on the same floor as the President according to Michael Cohen's testimony yesterday.


So look there's a lot that Felix Sater can shed light on as a result of where he was.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And so, Harry, to that point what Evan just mentioned, Felix Sater was close, there is a lot of things that has proven to be true, not just his involvement in Trump Tower Moscow and other projects, but what he said about this office in Trump Tower that he had -- I'm sorry -- what Michael Cohen said.

Let me play the exchange yesterday that is about Felix Sater and his office in Trump Tower.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't it true that because of Mr. Sater's relationship to the Trump Organization, that he had an office in the Trump tower?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 26th floor is important why?

COHEN: Because it is Mr. Trump's floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, he had an office on the same floor as President Trump?

COHEN: In fact, his office, when he left, became my office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And isn't it also true that convicted Russian mobster Sater even had business cards indicating that he was a senior adviser to Donald Trump as reported by the "Washington Post"?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did convicted Russian mobster Sater pay rent for his office?

COHEN: No, he did not.



HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Kind of an interesting person to have around. I mean, to say the least, right? He is a logical person for Congress to want to hear from. He may well already have met with prosecutors one would assume that if the Mueller team is interested in Trump Tower Moscow and we know they are, they talked about that in their submissions in Michael Cohen's case. And certainly say it would be of interest to them. And now, also to Congress.

And, you know, consistent with what people talk about yesterday, so Trump surrounds himself with Michael Cohen who has done some very bad things in his life, 500 threats to people. And also with Felix Sater who has these convictions.

BURNETT: So, let me just -- you know, David Gergen, do we have Donald Trump talking about Felix Sater? Do we have it?

OK. So you just heard what Michael Cohen said, right, that Felix Sater got his -- sorry, he got Felix Sater's office on Trump's floor he had senior adviser to Donald Trump as his business card. He works on Donald Trump's floor. Didn't pay rent for his office?

So when Donald Trump is asked about Felix Sater, this was a few years ago, here's what he said.


INTERVIEWER: About how many times have you conversed with Mr. Sater?


INTERVIEWER: Over the years.

TRUMP: Not many. If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn't know what he looked like.


DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is chilling. Chilling to think that Russian mobster would have an office on the same floor and clearly, Cohen had a major office, corner office, something very close to Trump, and now, Sater had been there.

I do think, you know, this is the first of a number of people we're going to see who are going to be testifying both in public or in private as a result of Michael Cohen's testimony yesterday. He has put a spotlight on people that Congress will feel emboldened now to bring in and push hard.

BURNETT: I mean, and, Evan, it is when you hear that, it is chilling when you think about it, right, an officer on the same floor as the future president of the United States, right? A person with ties to the Russian mob, a ties whose person said senior adviser to the president of the United States -- sorry, to Donald Trump who was not yet president.

And when Donald Trump was asked about this guy a few years ago, said I wouldn't know him if he walked in here. That is chilling to hear.

PEREZ: Yes, it is and we have to remind people it is rare for us to see public testimony like this there someone of this -- someone who has this kind of station frankly, this close to what became the president of the United States. And so I think that it will be very important to hear this partly because even if he has been part of the Mueller investigation, we don't know how much of this will ever be made public from the Mueller investigation. So this is why public system by -- that Congress can order is very, very important for us to sort of get the story, for us to understand exactly what happened, because we may never hear this from Mueller position.

BURNETT: And these are crucial for some respect. And, Harry, when it comes to Trump Tower, right, in Moscow, of course, the president repeatedly said discussions had ceased and Michael Cohen admitted that that was fall, continued up until the election. Rudy Giuliani admitted that.

So, Trump Tower Moscow is important because what happened, who were they trying to sell things to and in exchange for what. Let me play this from yesterday.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Did Mr. Trump tell you to offer Vladimir Putin a free penthouse?

COHEN: No, ma'am. That was Felix Sater, a marketing stunt that he spoke about.

[19:35:03] SPEIER: So, Felix Sater had suggested to you that Mr. Trump offer a penthouse to Mr. Putin?

COHEN: Yes, because it would drive up the price square foot.


BURNETT: What is the significance of that if it happened?

SANDICK: I mean, it looks like something part of quid pro quo. We don't know the full context of that offer, but while running for president, while taking positions on issues related to Russia, while making statements about Putin during the campaign, while changing the Republican Party platform on the key issue of the Ukraine, he simultaneously talking about offering a $50 million penthouse to Vladimir Putin in a building that could never be built in Moscow without Vladimir Putin and the Russian government's approval. To do business with Russian businesses, you are doing business with the Russian government and that is Putin.

BURNETT: Right, and Trump knew that.

Go ahead. Final word, David.

GERGEN: And it would be the tallest building in all of Europe if it were built?

BURNETT: Yes, I remember where they were saying that.

GERGEN: Here's what I think was happening, though, the larger picture is, there's a lot of talk now that Mueller will put a report will be damaging but not legally explosive, that tell not nail Don Jr. or the president or anything like that. So I think from a Democrat's point of view, there was a concern that if he came in with a relatively clean bill of health, there would be enormous pressure from the Republicans to close down further investigation to Congress, stockpiling on.

I think Cohen's testimony bolsters the Democratic view that there are other things that are important that we need to know about our president.

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

And next, the Republican congressman accused of racism in the Michael Cohen hearing now on the defense about these comments.


REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: We'll send him back home to Kenya or wherever it is.


BURNETT: Plus, President Trump's shocking comment about Otto Warmbier, the American student who died after being tortured and imprisoned in Kim Jong-un's North Korea. The president siding with Kim.


[19:40:50] BURNETT: Tonight, Republican Congressman Mark Meadows says he is not a racist. This after Meadows brought a surprise guest to the Michael Cohen hearing yesterday. It was Lynne Patton. She's a black woman who works in the Trump administration. Meadows used her as an example to refute Cohen's allegations of Trump racism.


MEADOWS: You make some very demeaning comments about the president that Ms. Patton doesn't agree with. In fact, it has to do where your claim of racism. She says as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama, that there is in way that she would work for an individual who was racist.


BURNETT: OK. Meadows is still dealing with the fallout today. And he is taking the issue head-on.


MEADOWS: Anyone who knows me knows that there is not racial bone in my body.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Mia Love, former Republican congresswoman, and, Karen Finney, former senior spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

OK. Congresswoman, you know Mark Meadows. You have worked with him. You've got personal experience with him.


BURNETT: He brought out Lynne Patton to say, look, here is an African-American woman, she worked for Trump so Trump can't be a racist. Do you agree that there is a racial bone in his body?

LOVE: Well, first of all, the exchange between Mark Meadows and Representative Tlaib, I thought the way that Chairman Elijah Cummings handled that was absolutely respectful, civil and just classy. I know both of them very well. They have a great admiration for each other and great respect for each other.

I also know Mark Meadows really well. And I call him like it is. I call out Steve King and I call these people who have done horrible things and I have to tell you, Mark Meadows is not one of them. As a matter of fact, he is the only member of the House Freedom Caucus who stood up and said I want to help you with temporary protect difference status when the president was trying to do away with it especially with Haiti Americans that I know could in the go back to their country.

So, I -- you could see it was incredibly emotional and I know him very well. And I can tell you that I have had -- I've experienced nothing but a kind respectful human being who did not -- that respected me and admired me as a black woman.

BURNETT: All right. So, Karen, obviously that is significant coming from her, she knows him. Meadows yesterday when he was in this exchange with Rashida Tlaib which I'll play more in a moment, what she's saying putting up a black woman saying here is a black woman so he can't be a racist because she says he's nice isn't of itself racist, he obviously, as Nia points out, he got very emotional and he says he is not racist because, in part, he has family members of color. Here's what he said.


MEADOWS: My nieces and nephews are people of color. Not many people know that. You know that, Mr. Chairman. And to indicate that I asked someone who is a personal friend of the Trump family who has worked for him, who knows this particular individual that she is coming into be a prop, it's racist to suggest that I asked her to come in for that reason.


BURNETT: Karen, what do you make of that logic?

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER SENIOR SPOKESWOMAN, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Well, a couple of things. I mean, first, let's start with what happened in a hearing. I certainly can understand from Congressman Meadows' perspective why he would not understand that for many of us, former Congressman Love may not be one of them, watching what he did felt very racist.

It felt like a racist act, because simply saying look, I had a black person who worked if me -- and by the way racism is not just black and white -- I have a black person who works for me, therefore I'm not racist when particularly we know that it was the practice of the Trump Organization, the real estate company, to mark a "C" on the applications of people of are color, of black people back in the day. That was their practice. So merely them putting up one person is not the way to dispel racism.

Now, I also thought that the comment frankly from Mr. Cohen was kind of a side show and it felt like Lanny Davis had him throw it in there.


FINNEY: But I have to say something else here. I'm a biracial person. My mother is in weird descendant of Robert E. Lee. So, it doesn't get anymore, you know, to the South than that. And my father, I'm a descendant of slaves, who are owned by the Finney plantation.

And what I can tell you is, I have white members in my family. They are good, kindhearted people, they don't think of themselves as racist, but they still do and say things that are absolutely racist and I still find myself saying, hey, you've got to be careful what you're saying there because this is going to be perceived as racist. So when we talk about racism, what we have to understand is part of getting through these barriers, part of understanding each other is understanding the perspective of the person who is saying hey, that felt racist to me. That act felt racist.

It's not about whether I hear Congressman Meadows was offended and upset. But the real way you move forward is to say, I hear what you're saying. I don't agree with you, that is not what is in my heart, but let's have a conversation about this.

BURNETT: I mean, Mia, I guess the question is, you know, his response to this, and I played a moment ago when he said we'll send Mr. Obama home to Kenya, that was obviously a few years ago and he admitted that he shouldn't have made those comments, right? He's apologized.

But is the response to what he did yesterday, instead of saying there is not a racist bone in my body to say I didn't mean that to be that and I'm very upset someone could have felt that way and I apologize -- I mean, is there a way that he could have handled it better instead of saying there is not a racist bone in my body?

LOVE: I don't think that -- first of all, to assume that this person was brought in as a prop, I think that that's actually an injustice to a woman who decides to stand on there on her own, to make to -- whether it is being an example of what is being said by Representative Meadows, I think that, you know, she got up there, she stood on her own and she is the one that decided with her own mind to stand there.

FINNEY: But he offered her as evidence of someone's not racist.

LOVE: Let me finish. Let me just finish. He shouldn't have -- I don't think that that was the place for that.

As a matter of fact, I think that unfortunately being racist is not a crime. It is stupid. You know, I look at -- that shouldn't have been the place for that.

And to have to actually give any credit to Cohen for bringing some of these things up, I think it wasn't the place for it. And I think that that is where Mark made a mistake. He shouldn't have done that.

But again, the best -- the way that I saw it handled by Chairman Elijah Cummings and Mark Meadows to me was a great way to really give respect to the institution which is the house of the American people to say that, you know, we're going for squash this right now. So I think that was the best thing to handle it.

BURNETT: Karen, let me give you the final word.

FINNEY: Look, I agree. Congressman Cummings handled it perfectly because again the purpose of the hearing was completely on a different topic. And as I said, I don't think that Mr. Cohen should have raised that in his remarks. But again, having had it happen, I would hope that Mr. Meadows would be open to understanding why certain people might see that racist. That's how we move forward.

BURNETT: Thank you both very much.

And, next, President Trump sides with Kim Jong-un over the death of Otto Warmbier. Why?

Plus, Beto O'Rourke promised to announce he's going to run in 2020 by tomorrow. That's next.


[19:51:01] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump siding with Kim Jong-un. Kim telling Trump that he didn't know North Korea was torturing an American student.


TRUMP: I don't believe he knew about it.

REPORTER: Did he say -- did he tell you that he did not -- did Kim Jong Un tell you --

TRUMP: He felt badly about it. I did speak to him. He knew the case very well, but he knew it later, and some really bad things happened to Otto, some really, really bad things.

REPORTER: Why, why are you (INAUDIBLE) --

TRUMP: But he tells me, he tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Trump takes Kim at his word, a murderous dictator who controls everything in North Korea, including what happens to be the rare American imprisoned there.

University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier was in North Korea. He was there on an organized tour. He spent 17 months in prison until Kim made a deal with the Trump administration, returning Warmbier to the United States in a vegetative state. Warmbier then died.

It is stunning for President Trump to, quote, take him at his word and say he feels badly about it. Even some of Trump's closest allies taking issue with the president today, like the former U.N. Secretary Nikki Haley. She said Americans who know the cruelty that was placed on Otto Warmbier by the North Korean regime. We will never forget Otto.

OUTFRONT now, our senior political commentator, John Kasich, also former Republican governor of Ohio, former 2016 presidential candidate.

Look, he is from Ohio, and I know you've been in touch with his family, his parents. One can only imagine what they went through.

JOHN KASICH (R), FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: Imagine what the mom and dad are thinking today when they heard these words. I got a lot of phone calls from people in Ohio saying can you even believe he did this. It's just completely inexcusable.

And I remember when Otto was first taken. I had conversations with Mrs. Warmbier. Got Bill Richardson in the middle of it, trying to get information. And they were so hopeful, so hopeful that this would be resolved, that the North Koreans would come to their sense, and, of course, it wasn't.

And then the president was -- I mean, this man, un, is a vicious dictator. I mean, he killed his --

BURNETT: Half-brother.

KASICH: The story is his half-brother. He used an artillery gun to kill one person.

You know, there is no limit to how mean, nasty and vicious he is. And to say I'm going to take him at his word is ridiculous.

BURNETT: Well, of course it's ridiculous when you think about it, a lone American. There are not many Americans there.

KASICH: No, of course.

BURNETT: The associations going on. To think it's going on without ozone knowledge.

KASICH: There is a thousand there and therefore I lost track of him. He knows all of that. And when you have Americans captured in a place like, that they become pawns. They become people who can be traded. We had one man there from Dayton who was held for a while, and somehow he was released. Otto clearly, when they talk about his physical condition when he was there, they must have viciously tortured him.

I don't even like to say that on television because I hope the family is not watching this. I mean, enough already of this.

BURNETT: But when the president says I take him at his word, he feels very badly about it. When I hear that, the immediate thing I hear is what the president said about another murderous dictator, who in this case directly authorized according to the CIA chopping somebody up into pieces.

KASICH: How about Putin?

BURNETT: So let me play him.


TRUMP: I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.

I hate the crime. I hate what's done. I hate the cover-up. And I will tell you this, the crown prince hates it more than I do. And they have vehemently denied it.


KASICH: You know, Erin, I know that when you're in a negotiation, sometimes you want to try to build some kind of a bridge, but to throw your principles out or the principles that affect another family directly or the Khashoggis.

BURNETT: An American family, right.

[19:55:00] KASICH: Yes.

BURNETT: That he ostensibly was trying to be sympathetic to.

KASICH: So, I'm going to throw that away in order to get something else. That's not the way you negotiate. That's not the way you do this.

And when it comes to North Korea, we can never forget their human rights violations. I mean, they are horrific over there. You think about North Korea. You think about what's happened in China.

I mean, America, why is it America matters so much? Because we stand for human rights. We stand for freedom. And the fact is if we start moving and somehow just putting shade over the top of this, trying to cover something up, we lose the high ground.

And the summit itself, by the way. Some people are just happy he didn't make a deal because they're not sure what it would have been. But how do you go to negotiate with somebody like that without knowing what the closing of the deal was going to be? It hurts us. BURNETT: So you have a lot of ideas, and, you know, today the

Republican National Committee Chairman Ronna McDaniel was asked about you, and the Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, about whether either of you would challenge the president in 2020.

She's the chair of the RNC. Here's what she said.


RONNA MCDANIEL, RNC CHAIRWOMAN: They have the right to jump in and lose. That's fine. They'll lose horribly. I mean, the president has 93 percent approval in our party. Have at it. Go ahead, waste your money, waste your time, and go ahead and lose.


KASICH: Well, first of all, all my options are on the table. So, I don't know. She must be worried about me to bring me up.

Listen, she is elected by 150 people. She's at the Republican national committee. I think in some ways they're trying to stack the deck so that the president gets easily renominated. And I don't worry. I could care less, to tell you the truth.

And when I look up at Michigan, of course, they lost everything. Maybe she should spend a little more time in Michigan. Look, I know her. She is fine. It doesn't bother me.

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

KASICH: Thank you.

BURNETT: And I appreciate your time.


BURNETT: And speaking of 2020, Beto O'Rourke announced he has made up his mind, and Leyla Santiago is OUTFRONT.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When will you make that announcement?


SANTIAGO (voice-over): Former Congressman Beto O'Rourke says he's reached a decision about a run for the White House after setting a timeline during an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

OPRAH WINFREY, TV HOST: Have you given yourself a deadline? I'm serious about that. Have you given yourself?

B. O'ROURKE: And the serious answer is really soon. It is really soon, before the end of this month.

SANTIAGO: Weeks later, with a big smile, he tells us --

B. O'ROURKE: I'm going to be making an announcement soon. I'm going to be making the same announcement to everyone at the same time. I'm going to want to do it the right way. So that's what we're going to do.

SANTIAGO (on camera): Last night, he told me he was waiting to make the announcement to do it, quote, the right way.

You know him. What does that mean? What is the right way for him to announce?

CHARLOTTE O'ROURKE, SISTER OF BETO O'ROURKE: Well, I think that all his family would have to be there.

SANTIAGO (vice-over): His sister Charlotte O'Rourke tells us she is eagerly awaiting an announcement, just like everybody else, and hasn't been an indication on when or where that could be.

(on camera): He said that it's important for him to make sure that his family is on board before he makes a decision.


SANTIAGO: You're telling me you are on board?

C. O'ROURKE: I'm on board, absolutely.

SANTIAGO: What about the rest of the family?

C. O'ROURKE: I think honestly everybody's on board, for him to do what he wants.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Sources say O'Rourke has already ruled out an attempt to challenge Texas Senator John Cornyn. Since his lost against Ted Cruz, O'Rourke has visited Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Illinois, Wisconsin.

B. O'ROURKE: We are making a stand for the truth.

SANTIAGO: He has challenged President Trump's rhetoric and counterprotest during his visit to Eel Paso.

B. O'ROURKE: We stand for America, and we stand against walls.

SANTIAGO: And he's still e-mailing supporters, closing one of his latest messages, saying "courage makes victory possible." His actions have inspired his supporters.

MICHAEL REYES, O'ROURKE SUPPORTER: Beto for president 2020.

SANTIAGO: Michael Reyes made these signs, hoping official signs could come soon. Born and raised in El Paso, he is a long-time O'Rourke supporter.

REYES: I think he would make El Paso proud to have someone that ran for president or that became president from our town.

SANTIAGO: In an already crowded field of Democrats vying for the oval office, O'Rourke could be the next to announce.

B. O'ROURKE: Au revoir, everybody.

SANTIAGO: When and how he won't say.

But those closest to him say he'll do it his own way.


SANTIAGO: And, Erin, I don't know if you took note of that smile he had when he was talking to me, but his sister certainly did. And she says that is the same smile he had when he decided to run for Senate for the midterm election. She tells me she is still waiting to hear from him more specific. So much so that the family hadn't made any summer plans, waiting to hear what he has to say.

Now, a bit of news that we learned this afternoon. We understand that his aides have spoken with Democratic operatives. We understand that in the last week, those conversations have shifted to talk about possible staffing for the eventual campaign, although no jobs have been offered according to a source familiar with those conversations.

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

And thanks to all of you.

Anderson starts now.