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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
The Dow Closed Early And Deep In The Red; Defense Secretary James Mattis Now Leaving His Post Much Sooner Than Expected After President Trump Became Angry Over His Resignation Letter. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 4, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN: Thank you so much and to our viewers thanks very much for watching. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. You can tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, CNN: OutFront next, investigating Trump. Democrats launching a sweeping probe on the President. Could it be the biggest threat to Trump yet. The man in charge, the House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is my guest. Plus, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman says the Mueller report is the "bare minimum." Whoa, all right, we'll talk about that. And the art of contortion, top officials twisting themselves into pretzels, denying reality, lying just to defend the President. Let's go OutFront.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the biggest threat to President Trump, his name and it's a person, is Jerry Nadler. The powerful new Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The Committee with the power to lead impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.
Today, Chairman Nadler sending letters to 81 people and organizations in Trump's orbit. Now, this will be the most extensive and sweeping investigation into every aspect of the President's life thus far. Now, Chairman Nadler is going to be OutFront in just a moment.
But first, let's talk about these letters. I've got two here. These are to Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr.
The House Judiciary Committee sent letters like these to 81 people in the President's orbit. You'll see the name scrolling. They demand information. You can see some of the names, family, friends, business associates, some of them include Allen Weisselberg, the Chief Financial Officer of the Trump organization, Rhona Graff, longtime assistant to then Donald Trump, the business person, his sons and Jared Kushner, along with David Pecker, the NRA, and the list goes on, and on and on.
The investigation goes well beyond Russia, I want to be clear about that. The Chairman of the Committee, Chairman Nadler is looking for answers, answers about potential obstruction of justice, and collusion, emoluments, so what's the President's reaction?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you going to cooperate with Mr.
DONALD TRUMP, President OF THE UNITED STATES: I cooperate all of the time with everybody and you know the beautiful thing? No collusions, it's all a hoax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK, here's where we are tonight. Mueller is expected to wrap up his investigation any day. We could be hours away from that, but Mueller may only be the beginning of threats to Trump's presidency, that's because Nadler's investigation is one of, at least, six committees investigating the President. His response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Unfortunately, you put the wrong people in a couple of positions and they leave people for a long time that shouldn't be there. And all of a sudden they're trying to take you out with ...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Chairman Nadler will respond to that in just a moment. I want to begin though with Abby Phillip. OutFront live at the White House. Abby, the President - look, obviously, not happy.
ABBY PHILLIP, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Not happy at all, Erin, and I think what you saw there over the weekend in that two plus hour speech at CPAC was the President trying to lump together the Russia investigation, the Mueller probe with these investigations that are on the horizon in the House of Representatives. The President is essentially saying, They didn't find collusion and so they looking other avenues, looking at my businesses, my personal finances, looking at my children for other areas to investigate me."
And so the President is kind of seeing lawmakers going toward what he'd called a red line for the Mueller probe which is his personal and business finances. And now Congress seems to be stepping right across that line. And what we've heard from the White House today, however, has been virtual silent. There has been not much of a response to this letter from Capitol Hill. They said that they received it and that they would respond in due time, but it's also worth noting that as you've mentioned, there are other committees asking the White House for information on their investigations including on the security clearance issue.
One of those deadlines was today. So far, the White House hasn't responded to that either. So I think we should not be surprised if we see them attempting to sort of stall here, answering on their own time as they figure out exactly how to deal with what is the very new reality here in Washington where they no longer have a window into what's going on in the House of Representatives because Democrats are in control, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Abby. And OutFront tonight, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler. Chairman, I appreciate your time.
So you have this list, 81 names on it thus far and these are people from every aspect of President Trump's life, some of them have already testified before Congress, what is your goal?
JERRY NADLER, CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, our goal is to hold the administration accountable for the obstruction of justice, the abuse of power and the corruption. Our goal is to vindicate the rule of law and protect the rule of law in this country and that's our core function as a Judiciary Committee of the Congress and we have to find out what's been going on, and we have to lay out a case to the American people and reveal it.
Because we have not seen an administration in a long time prior to this and we've seen so many attacks in the rule of law, attacks on the Justice Department, attacks on the press, attacks on the judiciary, attacks on the norms that we depend to maintain democratic government.
BURNETT: But you say we have to lay out a case, is that what you're trying to do?
NADLER: Well, to lay out what's been going on. I don't mean a case to establish any in particular, but what's been going on, what are they been doing, and how can we fix it. How do we protect the rule of law. That's the real question. How do we protect the judiciary against the incessant attacks? How do we protect the press against the incessant attacks? How do we protect the rule of government so that it is not use for personal enrichment in violation of the emolument clause of the Constitution?
BURNETT: So I want to ask you a few questions here, but first I want to go through the list, lots of people on the list, President's sons are on the list, his son-in-law is on the list, but his daughter isn't, she's a top aide in the White House, she was crucial to the campaign, top executive in his business for a long time, why isn't she on it?
NADLER: I'm not going to answer why any particular person is or isn't on it. We think that anybody on it has information of use to the Committee in establishing things. So we may add other people, we've had ...
BURNETT: So you're not saying she isn't of interest.
BURNETT: She's just maybe ...
NADLER: She's not on the initial list, that's what we can say. We're also saying that all of the people on the list have given information already to either the Special Counsel or the Southern District or somebody and all we're asking for at this point is the information they've already turned over so that it can be done quickly and without questions of privilege. BURNETT: OK, so when you say initial list, there's going to be more
NADLER: Well, there are going to be initial - more request that may or may not be more people.
BURNETT: OK, so there's going to be more request but may or may not be more people. I'm just trying to understand.
BURNETT: You're saying everyone on this list has gotten request before from various places, so that might be one way you sort it, but is she eventually conceivably on ...
NADLER: Conceivably certainly, I can't say it, but quite conceivably.
BURNETT: So we shouldn't read anything and anybody not being on this list?
NADLER: That's right. That's right.
BURNETT: OK. All right, so one person on your list, the list today was Randy Credico who, of course, is related to Roger Stone and WikiLeaks, and Julian Assange. In your letter to him, you ask in part for any contacts involving WikiLeaks or anyone associated with it. I spoke with spoke with Randy Credico today, he said he's not going to give you any communications with Julian Assange. What do you do about that?
NADLER: Well, he will give us any information for which we credibly ask him as with everybody else, otherwise they will be subject to a subpoena and eventually to contempt. It's not up to them to decide what information to give. One can resist the subpoena by saying there are some privilege but it's very difficult.
BURNETT: Right. So you're willing to go to subpoenas, you can move to go to subpoenas?
NADLER: Absolutely, we have to get the information here to vindicate. For two years, the Trump administration has been attacking the core functions of our democracy and the Congress has refused to do any oversight. They've refused to - they've shielded him, they acted more as shields than as what the Congress is supposed to do which is to be a check and a balance.
We are going to be the check and the balance. We are going to find out, we're going to lay out the facts to the American people and see what we can do about it, and to protect the rule of law.
BURNETT: All right, so you see this as a check and a balance, the President sees this Congressional investigations very differently. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: They don't have anything with Russia. There's no collusion.
So now they go and morphing to let's inspect every deal he's ever done and all of a sudden they're trying to take you out with (INAUDIBLE), OK, with (INAUDIBLE) ...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NADLER: Well, the President obviously doesn't recognize the role of Congress in a democratic system. Congress is supposed to be a check and a balance on the administration. It's supposed to be a limit on the freedom of action of the administration. It's supposed to hold the administration accountable. That's what we're trying to do. For two years, you had a supine Republican Congressman which refuse to do its job and he doesn't want Congress to do its job.
He wants to have the dictatorial authority to do what he wants, when he wants without any check and balance on his power and that's not the American system government.
BURNETT: I will supine is an underutilized word in cable television, but when - someone says you're just hunting for something, this is basically what he is saying, that you're looking. You're looking, you're looking, you're trying to kill his presidency by a thousand cut. One way or the other you're going to take him out. Why is that not what you're doing?
NADLER: Because it's not. We're simply exercising our oversight jurisdiction and he doesn't understand or he's not willing to concede to Congress that we have an oversight jurisdiction. We have to - you've had two years of sustained attacks by an administration of the nature that we haven't seen probably in a century or more against the free press, against the courts, against the law enforcement administrations, against freedom of speech.
We now see allegations that the President is trying to get the Justice Department to intervene in a merger dispute ...
BURNETT: I'm going to ask you about that anyway, yes.
NADLER: Because he doesn't like news coverage. All of this would be illegitimate if it's true. We have to make sure as to what is true and what is not true and maybe come up with legislative limits on power or maybe do other things. But we have to make sure that this is not a dictatorship and that the rule of law is respected.
BURNETT: You say the President has obstructed justice. You've been clear about that. But you said yesterday --
NADLER: There's certainly a lot of evidence that he has, but that's exactly the kind of thing we have to look into.
BURNETT: OK, so now you're not sure he's obstructed justice.
NADLER: Personally, I think he has, but we have to look and see. BURNETT: OK. But the reason I ask is obviously if he obstructed
justice, that's a crime. It's an impeachable act. You don't have to have a crime to be impeachable, but a crime is an impeachable act.
NADLER: Not every crimes is an impeachable act, that one would be.
BURNETT: That one would be. OK. But you personally think?
NADLER: I do.
BURNETT: Absolutely, your personal opinion matters greatly here, Chairman, because you're the Chairman of the committee that would initiate impeachment proceedings.
NADLER: Yes. But the personal opinions are limited. If we're going to do anything, you have to have proof. I think there's a lot of evidence, but we have to get a lot more than just ...
BURNETT: So that's what this is about, you don't yet have the proof.
NADLER: It's part of what this is about. It's part of what this is about and it's not just the obstruction of justice in the - I mean, I think in plain sight all of those interferences with the Mueller investigation is - that everybody knows about amount to obstruction of justice. But we have to go a lot further than that and look at other cases too and decide what we can do about it.
BURNETT: Do you feel the pressure? People like Tom Steyer, they're having town halls in your district, they're saying, "Come one. Step up to the plate, impeach." Do you feel the pressure?
NADLER: No. I have sworn an oath to the Constitution and I feel that very strongly and the key - my entire history in politics, my motive in politics is for civil liberty, civil rights, the rule of law and that's what we have to protect. And if protecting that says no impeachment, then I will not support impeachment. If protecting that says go to this different course, I will go that course.
And someone coming and saying, "Short-circuit the process. Do this. Do that." I'm going to ignore. I have to follow my oath and my duty to the citizens of this country.
BURNETT: So even though there's 81 people and more coming, you are not yet there when it comes to impeachment.
NADLER: No. No. No. As I've said, far from that we would have to see and this is not a pre impeachment hearing. Our goal is not to decide whether it is impeachment, it may come to that if the facts show that and it may not. Our goal is to protect the rule of law, to protect the country, and our liberties and our separation of powers against the administration that is violating all of them. That is abusing power, seizing power, denigrating the role of Congress, attacking the courts, attacking the free press.
We want to hand down - I want to hand down this country as democratic with a small D after this administration as before. That's our goal. BURNETT: So I want to ask you about the AT&T, which you raised,
obviously, now the parent of CNN. According to a report today, the President pressured Gary Cohn who was then his Chief Economic Adviser, Director of the NEC to tell the Justice Department to block the merger between AT&T and Time Warner. What will you do about that if that is true, if there's actually proof that happen?
NADLER: Well, that's very tricky because I might on the merits favor blocking the merger as a separate issue, as an antitrust question. But the President should not be weighing in with the Department of Justice on a given case. He should not be saying, "You must block the merger," or, "You must indict this person," or, "You must not indict that person," and he certainly must not be doing it because he wants to hurt somebody because he doesn't like the news coverage that CNN gives. That's a violation and a threat to freedom of speech and a threat to freedom of the media and to a free press.
BURNETT: Is that an impeachable act if he did it?
NADLER: I'm not getting into it as an impeachable act. It's certainly an abuse of power.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Chairman Adler. I appreciate your time as always.
NADLER: You're welcome.
BURNETT: And next, as Congressman Nadler digs in, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says the Mueller report is just the bare minimum. Could the nonstop investigations backfire on the Democrats? Plus, Trump's top officials struggling to explain what Trump meant when he said very bluntly and directly that he takes Kim Jong-Un at his word, but Kim did not know about the horrific torture and death of American student, Otto Warmbier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR OF THE UNITED STATES: When he says, "I'm going to take him at his word," it doesn't mean that he accepts it as reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And we remember one of the stars from Beverly Hills 90210, Luke Perry, dead tonight at the very young age of 52.
Breaking news, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler who would be in charge of any impeachment proceedings is defending the wide reigning investigation but he has just launched into President Trump, his business and his personal life. He insists the investigation is not about impeachment. Here's what he just said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NADLER: This is not a pre impeachment hearing. Our goal is not to
decide whether it is impeachment. It may come to that if the fact show that and it may not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OutFront now, a member of Trump's 2020 Re-Election Advisory Council Rob Astorino and National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation Joan Walsh. Rob, he says this is not about impeachment.
ROB ASTORINO, MEMBER OF THE PRESIDENT'S 2020 RE-ELECT ADVISORY COUNCIL: Witch hunt. Come on. Look, I was at election night in New York City leaving the Hilton at 3:30 in the morning or 4:00 in the morning whatever time it was and there were already protesting outside, "Impeach. Impeach. Illegitimate. Not my President."
JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: It wasn't Jerry Nadler though.
ASTORINO: No, it wasn't Jerry. I thought I saw someone that looked like Jerry but it wasn't him. And they've been doing this ever since. Seventy Democrats refused to show up at his inauguration. Maxine Waters, before he was inaugurated said, "He must be impeached. Why? We'll figure that out."
So this has been playing out since election night and going into every part of his life now. In America, we investigate crimes. We don't investigate people. It might lead to a person, but this is just what can we find because Russia is falling apart.
WALSH: We investigate potential crimes all of the time.
ASTORINO: Crimes, yes.
WALSH: And there are many potential crimes here.
ASTORINO: This is people. This is a person.
WALSH: No, this is a person who might have had dealings with Russia in order to get Trump Tower Moscow. This is a person who apparently signed off on payment - probably illegal payments to ex-girlfriends to keep people from learning about it right before the election. This is a person who has threatened Robert Mueller in public, who has threatened Jim Comey in public, who has threatened Michael Cohen in public, all things looking like obstruction of justice.
The reason that so many things are going on around this person is this person does a lot of really shady looking, let's just say shady looking things, Rob. There's a lot to look at.
ASTORINO: But, look, I think if there was a waitress from a Queens diner 40 years ago that said, "I think Donald Trump stole 40 packets of sugar." They'd opened up an investigation.
WALSH: That's ridiculous.
WALSH: No, it's not.
BURNETT: So to that point, Joan, let me ask you because this is the argument that they're making, Ari Fleischer, former Press Secretary for George W. Bush was warning Democrats about those lines of argument could end up being fruitful. Here's how he put it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARI FLEISCHER, PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: And our nation has been through this before when Bill Clinton got impeached and these things typically backfire in the party that does them. Now, that the Democrats are going to try to switch from collusion to some other reason, it makes them continue to look like sore losers who didn't accept the will of the people in the last election, so they'll do anything to get rid of that President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, are they running that risk?
WALSH: No, not yet. I mean, first of all Democrats don't really take advice from Ari Fleischer, so if he thinks we're doing the wrong thing, I think we're doing the right thing. So, of course, there's always a risk, Erin, but people are so quick to say that there's a risk. The reason that this feels radical to us is because Paul Ryan did nothing, that the Senate has done nothing. Republicans have dropped the ball on oversight. Maybe there would only be 13 people subpoenaed or sent letters because - if the Republicans had done some kind of oversight on all the things that have come up before. It seems like a lot, because for two years these people were supine is that the word Jerry Nadler use?
ASTORINO: It's a good word.
BURNETT: Very impressive.
BURNETT: It was a very good word and it was very well used, Rob.
ASTORINO: Yes, it was.
WALSH: Very correct.
ASTORINO: Here in New York and there were races like this around the country, but in New York specifically and other Attorney General races, there were four people running for Attorney General in the Democratic line. All four ran on one issue. "I'm going to investigate Donald Trump. I'm going to find something I'm going to investigate." And that is really just a microcosm of what's happening in the Democratic Party not only in States but federally. BURNETT: So if you knew that he did something illegal, whether it's
proving obstruction of justice which would be while he was in office or something illegal before he's in office, that if we don't know about it now that looking into it would be wrong?
ASTORINO: To use official congressional hearings to go into any and every little thing, look, this is a guy who has business practices in New York for, what, 30 to 40 years. He's been audited. He's been investigated if he had to be investigated. They've never come up with anything. Now, all of a sudden he gets elected and they want to look into every little contract whether the I was dotted, the T was crossed, if not we've got to have an investigation.
BURNETT: Well, of course, he and his business have settled a ton of things which - that's not admitting a any wrongdoing, but there's tons of ...
ASTORINO: Yes, and that's not unusual to a lot of businesses to do all of the time.
WALSH: More than the average. Somewhat more than the average.
ASTORINO: I mean, look, you can go into anything, you can go into any major corporations. They've got a million lawsuits all of the time.
WALSH: He had to shut down his foundation. I mean, the reason that New York office holders are talking about is because he has big footprints in New York and he did a lot of slimy things in New York. He had to shut down his foundation because of what they found. They did that without - they're basically admitting that that was problematic before anything was released to the public. So there's a lot to look at and that's why it's being looked at and that's why --
BURNETT: Joan, are you at a point that where you're willing to say it has to be a crime? Because, obviously, you can impeach, we all know. Impeach is a political word for anyone who doesn't understand at this point, it's a political word. So you could say someone lacks the character and the integrity to be President. There are plenty of Democrats who would say, "This President should be impeached on that alone."
ASTORINO: And the Republicans would have said that about Obama and they would have been wrong.
WALSH: And they would have been very wrong, much wronger. No, I'm not ready to say that. Look, impeachment is a political act and I think that the way that Jerry Nadler is going about it is the right way. You investigate and you present evidence and maybe you find very little, but for Rob and I think that Democrats are cautious because of, thanks Ari Fleischer, but because of the --
BURNETT: But they don't have the Senate.
WALSH: They don't have the Senate. BURNETT: Again, they're not actually going to succeed at picking him
ASTORINO: We know it's not going to work.
WALSH: But can I just say if somebody is going to sit here, not that you're saying this, and say, "Republican Senators, no matter Jerry Nadler and other committees find, Republican Senators will never impeach." That's pretty scary.
ASTORINO: But we know it was the same thing on the opposite side of the coin though with Clinton. Clinton did, he was, he admitted to lying to a Grand Jury, to obstruction of justice, witness tampering and they didn't ...
WALSH: Get impeached.
ASTORINO: ... he got impeached but the Senate, Democrats did not follow through.
BURNETT: Right, they didn't follow it through and the guy comes out, Joan, stronger than ever.
ASTORINO: And look what Trump --
WALSH: But it's a very different set ...
BURNETT: Rolls into reelection.
WALSH: That's not going to happen to Donald Trump if that's what you're asking.
ASTORINO: Well, look where Trump is right now.
WALSH: I mean, that was people - people thought it was lying about sex. I know that technically there were laws broken.
BURNETT: Well, hush money payments would be lying about sex.
ASTORINO: But, look, gale-force winds against Trump since election night, correct? He's at a 46 approval with the NBC poll.
WALSH: That's an outlier.
ASTORINO: Well, but Rasmussen had him at 49 or 50 last week.
WALSH: They're always wrong. They are.
ASTORINO: So his numbers are steadily going up and even when he gets knocked down he comes back up and I think the risk, and I like Jerry Nadler, personally, I like Jerry and I think Jerry is in the toughest position out of every member of Congress, because he is getting browbeaten by the far left, "You better impeach."
WALSH: He doesn't care about that.
ASTORINO: And there's other who are probably saying, "Look, this is politically -" like Nancy Pelosi, I think she knows this is going to hurt us tremendously if we keep going this way.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both. We have a lot more coming because that was just an initial list of 81 people and then there's subpoenas and all of that. And next, Trump's top officials contorting themselves to cover for him after he sides with Kim Jong-Un. Will they regret it? Plus, Democrats are demanding to see President Trump's tax returns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, DEMOCRAT NEW YORK: We should be talking about taxes, taxes, taxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Would a subpoena succeed in getting those tax returns?
Tonight, the art of contorting for Trump. That's what the Secretary of State and top security advisor are doing, trying to pare it or at least not expose the insulting absurdity of Trump saying Kim Jong-Un didn't know about the horrific torture of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who came out of North Korea in a vegetative state and then died.
USA Today asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo if he held Kim responsible for Warmbier's death. And Pompeo pretended to answer the question with this, quote: The North Korean regime is responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier and the humanitarian violations that are continuing to take place.
Clever contortion of words, right? But Kim is the dictator in North Korea. He is the regime. He is a demigod-like ruler. And then there was Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you take Kim Jong-un at his word?
JOHN BOLTON, WHIT HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The president takes him at his word.
TAPPER: I know he does, but what about you?
BOLTON: My opinion doesn't matter. My opinion is --
TAPPER: You're the national security adviser to the president. Your opinion matters quite a bit.
BOLTON: I'm not the national security decision maker. That's his view.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: But this is not the first time to the president has taken the word of an autocrat over outside evidence.
BOLTON: He's taking the word, he said, I'm going to take -- when he says I'm going to take him at his word, it doesn't mean he accepts it as reality. It means he accepts that's what Kim Jong-un said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK, like I said, you could use the art of contortion to describe the craziness of what we're watching here. I mean, seriously, this is absurd. It sort of defies belief.
I want to go now to David Gergen and former FBI special agent, Asha Rangappa.
Asha, let me start with you. How damaging is it to see, you know, such well-informed, smart people doing this, contorting, covering in such a way for the president?
ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, Erin, I think it's damaging in two big ways. So, you know, internally, let's remember that in a normally functioning administration, these kinds of public statements about things that are happening on the world stage are typically very carefully choreographed within the executive branch, crafted together by the National Security Council because of the signals that it sends. And I think right now what you're seeing is a manifestation of what is likely a lot of dysfunction happening behind the scenes because they cannot get a coherent message together.
And it's incredibly damaging externally, because what they are telling the rest of the world is, don't listen to the words of the president of the United States. And I think that this is the first time in recent history where, you know, Republican or Democrat, what the president says used to matter. And I think what is now being said is, it doesn't really matter, he may not know what he's talking about, we disagree and he didn't really mean it in the way that he said.
BURNETT: I mean, right, because, David, let me just remind people about what the president sail actually said. Now we've heard the very awkward, at best evasions and defenses of his top security advisers. Here's what he actually said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't believe that he would have allowed that to happen. Just wasn't to his advantage to allow that to happen. He felt very bad. He knew the case very well, but he knew it later. He tells me that he didn't know about it and I will take him at his word.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: I don't believe he would have allowed it to happen. He felt very badly. He tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word.
David, that's what the president says. It's very clear what he says. So I guess Pompeo and Bolton have no choice but to parrot that?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You're absolutely right, Erin. Listen, when the president says, "I take him at his word," what that means, very clearly, to everybody, I accept that what he believes is reality.
GERGEN: And that's very different from what Bolton -- Bolton has been trying to dance back. I have some empathy for him. I've been there before, trying to defend things like this. And you know, it's not easy, but he's clearly trying to distance himself, send the signal that he doesn't agree, but be as loyal as possible to his boss.
I must say I disagree a little bit about what message it sends to the world. And that is, I think that his continuing stance of, you know, putting Putin's word over his intelligence community's, accepting the Saudi crowned prince on Khashoggi's death, and accepting Kim with regard to the death of young Otto. All of these things are of a piece of sending a message to the world that human rights do not mean very much to me in the United States.
This is a retreat for what the United States has stood for since the end of the Second World War. Donald Trump clearly has other priorities that he's walking that back and is sending a clear message to the world. Listen, I believe these autocrats.
BURNETT: And, Asha, I want to remind everybody what he did. Obviously, the CIA concluded the Saudi crowned prince was personally ordered -- the killing, right, of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. The president, though, as David said, did back MBS instead of his own intelligence community.
Here's how he put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hate the crime, I hate what's done, I hate the cover-up, and I will tell you this, the crowned prince hates it more than I do. And they have vehemently denied it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:35:03] BURNETT: Pompeo, of course, backed those comments up, Aisha.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: America is not covering up for a murder. The president has been very clear, couldn't have been more clear, as we get additional information, we'll continue to hold all of those responsible accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Asha, will Pompeo regret this?
RANGAPPA: Well, we'll see, if he keeps his job or not.
But I think David makes a very good point that, you know, to the extent that people are listening, what the president is saying is very chilling. He is, on one level, he's giving a green light to these autocrats, to be able to continue to behave in the way that they're doing, with impunity. He is making people who have traditionally looked to the United States as a beacon of hope, making them lose faith in the values that we've stood for.
And I think, importantly, it's actually, I think, very chilling for Americans and for American citizens and residents who might be abroad. The president is, for all intents and purposes, our dad, OK? When it comes to the outside world. He holds the power to be able to intervene, to make appeals, and we've seen now with Putin taking a U.S. person in custody and Saudi Arabia, that he's not willing to do that.
BURNETT: And, David, do you think that someone like Mike Pompeo will eventually regret these words? Obviously, Jim Mattis ended up stepping aside. He had been really, frankly, one of the most respected members of the Trump administration, but finally had had enough of this.
GERGEN: I don't see Pompeo. I think he's a different person from Mattis. Mattis had his own independence out of principles that were not in alignment with the president's, and Pompeo has a set of principles that seem much more in alignment with the president. So, I don't see him as being deeply distressed about this. I think he's, you know, he's sort of taking it as a matter of course and moving on.
I mean, he and the president sort of seem to share this view that what matters is power and not human rights and what matters is trying to protect America's interests as they define it.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you, both. I appreciate it.
GERGEN: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, some Democrats say Trump's taxes could be the most damaging thing to Trump's presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: You hear the president say no collusion, no collusion, no collusion, right? We should be talking about taxes, taxes, taxes and his bank account. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: One top Republican in Congress responds next.
And he's the man Democrats are running against in 2020. So why are some candidates going out of their way to avoid saying his name?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I plan on prosecuting the case against people who do not tell the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Tonight, the call from Democrats demanding to see the president's tax returns is growing ever louder. Here's Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OCASIO-CORTEZ: You hear the president say, no collusion, no collusion, no collusion, right? We should talking about taxes, taxes, taxes, and his bank account, his bank account, his bank account, his financial statements, statements, statements. Because that's where I think actually some of the most troubling practices are with direct relevance to the American people under the scope of oversight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Republican Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas, the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is one of the only committees that can subpoena the president's tax returns, which would be the first important step obviously, of course, Congressman. Then you have to deal with Secretary Mnuchin and whether you would even get them.
But let's start with where your committee is, right? Your chairman, Congressman Neal, he is preparing to ask the Treasury Department for these returns. That's the reporting that we have. Should they be subpoenaed, if necessary? Would you support it?
REP. KEVIN BRADY (R-TX), RANKING MEMBER, WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: The answer is "no" and here's why. The law prohibits Congress from going after an individual's tax returns for political purposes. That's exactly what this is.
In fact, the law protects Americans from Congress using their power to target individual Americans. And this is exactly the case here.
Look, I think if Democrats weaponize the tax code to target the president, the future chairmans of the Ways and Means Committee, as I once held that post, would have the ability to target any American they choose for political purposes. In the meantime, there are already checks and balances. BURNETT: So let me just interrupt for one second. Because when you
say political purposes, and I understand what you're saying, you don't want to be able to go after everybody, but it's political, is the word that I'm questioning here.
BURNETT: What if there is crime, evidence of fraud in those tax returns? That would then not be political, that would be a crime?
BRADY: So shouldn't there be evidence of that? Right now, the president and the vice president's tax returns are audited automatically each year, by the IRS. And my guess is with a great deal of scrutiny. They have a criminal investigation's unit, just as they investigate and audit us, they do, I think with special attention. And both the FBI and the special counsel have access to if there are challenges or problems, concerns within those tax returns.
So I think that is where, who is best equipped to tackle this, because in this case, I think Representative Ocasio-Cortez just made the case, we want this for political purposes, and I'm telling you, that's weaponizing the tax code. It sets a very dangerous precedent.
BURNETT: OK, but when you speak of precedent, obviously, every president since Nixon has released their tax returns.
BURNETT: Right, but that is a precedent.
BRADY: Yes, it is a voluntary precedent. And the president made it clear, now, people can disagree. They should have made them public or not, it doesn't matter. The issue here is, should Congress, for purely partisan political reasons, be able to access that private individual's tax accounts? Because if they can do that for the president, they can do it for anyone.
BURNETT: If someone alleges a crime, if someone comes forth with a crime, you have details, Michael Cohen, things out there, I'm just saying. Is there any situation in which you would think it was fair to get his tax returns?
BRADY: So I think there are several committees in Congress who do have subpoena powers based on some type of legitimate evidence. Right now, there isn't. The Ways and Means Committee, though, can only seek an individual's tax returns if they're looking at how the tax code is administered.
[19:45:07] Is it being administered properly?
That's got nothing to do with this case. And that's my point. This is a very dangerous precedent.
Having been chairman of that committee and refused to seek, as chairman, private tax returns of anyone, I just think that's the wrong thing to do. BURNETT: OK, so when he testified before Congress last week, the
president's former fixer, his lawyer, Michael Cohen had something to say that seemed rather poignant. And I wanted to play it for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I did the same thing that you're doing now, for ten years. I protected Mr. Trump for ten years. And I can only warn people, the more people that follow Mr. Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I'm suffering.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is there a part of you at 3:00 in the morning, you ever wake up and say, do I really want to defend this guy?
BRADY: No, from the standpoint, look, if that's the accuser, if that's the level of credibility against this president, I choose the president.
Secondly, if there are legitimate accusations -- real evidence-based approach, then we ought to absolutely follow that. But right now, I think this is all, including Chairman Nadler's investigation, is a rush to impeachment. And I think it is what the abuse of power that people fear out of Congress.
And meanwhile, so while Mr. Cohen was testifying, we were holding a hearing on China and the impact of that on trade and jobs and people's welfare. So I feel, I try to be focused on the business of the people. And the Judiciary Committee, by the way, what happened to immigration reform? To patent reforms on drug prices? What happened to a number of the priorities they said to Americans that this is what we'll do.
BURNETT: OK. You have a lot of interesting points there, but I want to ask you one thing, because you said evidentiary based. Michael Cohen had checks signed by the president of the United States while he was in office. That's not Michael Cohen's credibility. You said, I'll take the president over Michael Cohen. That was evidence.
BRADY: Look, I think we ought to look at any legitimate, credible evidence. I do think in this case, both Mr. Nadler and others are really, they are in the deepest of fishing expedition, under incredible pressure to impeach the president and find a means to do it.
This isn't a crime looking for a suspect, this is a suspect they've chosen, President Trump, and now they're trying to find a crime.
BURNETT: But just to understand, when I want comes to, say, violating the law, the hush money payments, if that happened, obviously, you still have -- you have room to wiggle, as Congress. You say someone broke the law and that's still not impeachable, because we choose to make it not so. That's not impeachable for you?
BRADY: Look, I would like to see the evidence. I know this. When Chairman Nadler in 1999 defended president Clinton --
BURNETT: Which he did, fair point.
BRADY: -- he made clear he didn't believe the president committed perjury or obstruction of justice, and quote, if he did, neither of them are impeachable offenses.
He's singing a much different tune today. My belief, because he's under incredible pressure to rush this to an impeachment, while ignoring, I think, the big issues of the American people really want us to focus on.
BURNETT: Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much, Congressman.
BRADY: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, for Democrats, 2020 is all about Trump, so why will none of them say his name?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got to beat that person in the White House.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The guy who always wants to be in the spotlight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And some of the biggest names in Hollywood paying tribute to "90210" actor Luke Perry who died at the very young age of only 52.
[19:52:36] BURNETT: New tonight, the former governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, the latest Democrat to jump into the race for 2020. He's saying the words that many of his fellow Democratic candidates won't -- Donald Trump.
Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In the opening round of the Democratic primary, one name is often going unspoken.
BOOKER: We've got to beat the -- that person in the White House.
ZELENY: Never mind that the 2020 presidential race revolves almost entirely around that person, though you seldom hear the words Donald Trump from those eyeing his job.
WARREN: I think that, in some ways, is the biggest punishment to the guy who always wants to be in the spotlight. It's just turn the spotlight off. ZELENY: Turning off or dimming Trump's spotlight may be easier said
than done, considering how he looms over today's politics, and how eager he is to shape the Democratic primary.
TRUMP: I just want to be the Republican that runs against them.
ZELENY: Most Democratic candidates are still finding their way, navigating Trump, searching for a balance between showing strength and not taking the bait. Even Senator Bernie Sanders, who calls out the president by name more than any of his rivals, has this message on the campaign trail.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This struggle is not just about defeating Donald Trump.
ZELENY: While Democrats have spent more than two years rallying against the president --
(CROWD CHANTING: Donald Trump has got to go!)
ZELENY: -- it's striking how little his name comes up on the campaign trail, where candidates say going after Trump would get in the way of introducing themselves and defining their candidacies.
BOOKER: We have got to understand, this is not about him, it's about us. And we should be motivated not by what we are against, but what we are for as a country.
ZELENY: Senator Cory Booker is choosing the high road over the hammer.
(on camera): One name I noticed you didn't mention was President Trump?
BOOKER: Look, it's not about what we're against, it's got to be about what we're for as a country. Clearly, clearly, this election is an urgency to make sure he's not the president after 2020.
ZELENY: You don't even mention his name, you call him "he" or "that president."
BOOKER: Look, again, it's about justice, about unity, about bringing our country together.
ZELENY (voice-over): The argument Senator Kamala Harris is making against Trump is a bit more subtle, using it as an opening to remind voters as her career as a prosecutor.
HARRIS: I plan on prosecuting the case against people who do not tell the truth and who are purveyors of injustice in this country.
ZELENY: It's Senator Elizabeth Warren who has felt Trump's sting more than all Democratic hopefuls, including this attack over the weekend.
[19:55:04] TRUMP: I should have saved the Pocahontas thing for another year. ZELENY: She says she's not afraid of standing up to him, but she's
also trying to avoid distraction.
WARREN: Never let bullies run over you, but we've got to get out there and talk about what we believe in.
ZELENY: Now, Erin, advisers to all campaigns say they want their candidates to be remembered for positive attributes and their ideas rather than any zingers or one-liners against the president, no matter how clever they may be. So for now, they may be taking the high road, but it may be doing the thing that irks Mr. Trump the most of all. That is, ignoring him -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Jeff, thank you very much. Live from Iowa City tonight.
And next, Jeanne remembering "90210" star Luke Perry.
BURNETT: Tonight, TV star Luke Perry has died, gone too soon. He was only 52.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hard to believe, a massive stroke at only 52 could take away the heartthrob of the '90s. The actor Letterman introduced as --
DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST: The hunkiest rebel in Beverly Hills, Luke Perry! Luke?
MOOS: A guy who helped make almost all of us able to recite a certain zip code.
LETTERMAN: Beverly Hills 902, 02, 02 --
MOOS: On the show, Luke played a teenage stud with a drinking problem.
LUKE PERRY, ACTOR: Hi, girls. Hop on. My bike, that is.
MOOS: In real life, he told "Entertainment Tonight" --
PERRY: I've only ever had one addiction, and there she is. There she is. No, there she is. See, that's my only addiction I have.
MOOS: His fans once got so rabid, he had to escape a mall appearance.
PERRY: They said, get in that laundry bin and we'll cover you up. And I jumped in and they covered me and they rolled right out of the crowd. MOOS: In remembrance, actress Leslie Grossman tweeted: When I was lucky enough to work with Luke Perry, I told him about the pillow of his face I used to sleep, and he yelled, you're such a weirdo!
But there were plenty of weirdoes with that same pillow. His sideburns are burned into our memory. How many of you grew long sideburns because Luke Perry made it look cool. Hewent on to do everything from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" --
PERRY: You're not like other girls.
MOOS: -- to roles not like his other roles, for instance, in the gritty prison drama, "Oz."
PERRY: That is showbiz on a stick.
MOOS: He got his start in a teen drama and his final role was as a father in a teen drama, "Riverdale."
PERRY: (INAUDIBLE) hair on Archie's head, I will kill you.
MOOS: It's not easy following your own act when you've been dubbed the epitome of cool. "Vanity Fair" one asked, is Luke a fluke? Nah.
CARTOON CHARACTER: You look familiar.
CARTOON CHARACTER: Yes, I'm that guy you wish you were.
MOOS: That guy you wish didn't have to go so soon.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: So sad and so shocking. Thank you for joining us.
Anderson starts now.