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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Pelosi On Impeachment Trump: "He's Just Not Worth It"; Pelosi: Trump "Just Not Worth" Impeachment, But Says Trump Is Ethically And Intellectually Unfit To Be President; Rep. John Yarmuth (D) Chairman, Budget Committee Is Interviewed On What Speaker Nancy Pelosi Said Regarding Not Worth It Comment About Impeachment Of President Trump; Trump Requests $8.6 Billion For Wall In New Budget; White House Won't Say If Trump Said Dems Hate Jews; White House Dodges Trump's Claim That Cohen Asked Him For Pardon. Aired: 7-8p ET

Aired March 11, 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: To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. You can always tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, CNN: OutFront next Nancy Pelosi in a major statement to her party and the nation saying Trump is not worth the trouble of impeachment despite the fact that she says he's unfit to lead the country. Plus, did the President really say Democrats hate Jewish people? The White House struggles to answer today and the FAA demands Boeing modify its 737 MAX jets after the second deadly crash involving the planes. Why are U.S. carriers still flying them? Let's go OutFront.

Good afternoon, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight. "He's just not worth it." Those words from the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when asked about impeaching President Trump telling The Washington Post "Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he's just not worth it."

Not worth it. Even though she also told The Washington Post that she thinks President Trump is "ethically unfit. Intellectually unfit. Curiosity-wise unfit. No, I don't think he's fit to be President of the United States." So let's just summarize here. She thinks all of those things, but she thinks he should remain President.

This could be the moment, the moment the Democratic Party splits, because this is what some other Democrats are saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RASHIDA TLAIB, DEMOCRAT, MICHIGAN: We're going to go in there and we're going to impeach the ...

MAXINE WATERS, DEMOCRAT, CALIFORNIA: I believe that we have everything that it needs to basically impeach him. I believe that ...

ILHAN OMAR, DEMOCRAT, MINNESOTA: We won't be having these conversations on whether to do it, but it's going to be when and how.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Moments after Pelosi's comments were made public tonight, the man who has made impeachment his calling, who has spent millions to get other Democrats onboard, billionaire Tom Steyer released a statement that reads in part "Is doing what's right worth it? Or shall America just stop fighting for our principles and do what's politically convenient." So why is Nancy Pelosi doing this right now? Well, it might be because she just rewatched this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A resolution impeaching William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States for high crimes and misdemeanors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The impeachment of Bill Clinton in December of '98. Clinton not only survived those impeachment hearings, he thrived. A CNN poll at the time found Clinton's approval rating jumped 10 points after the House voted to impeach him. So let me just be clear, three days before impeachment Clinton's approval rating was 63 percent, a day after 73, an all-time high, a surge, and at the same time the unfavorable view of the Republican Party which, of course, led the impeachment proceedings also jumped 10 points.

And the price was not just in the short-term polls, the next election, Republicans lost seats in the House, and Bill Clinton cruised to re- election. Pelosi doesn't want to repeat history. Phil Mattingly is OutFront live on Capitol Hill. And Phil, look, this is not going to go over well with a whole lot of passionate and outspoken Democrats.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes. There's no question about it, Erin. There are a number of Democrats who ran on impeachment, certainly the grassroots of the Democratic Party has been urging impeachment even though there's only two, three months into the Democratic majority. But there's a couple things here and you laid out quite nicely one key component of it.

One is the political reality. There's a recognition and Speaker Pelosi says this in the interview that basically as of now where things stand, this would only serve to divide the country in her view of things. There's also a recognition of numbers and that is while the House can pass an impeachment resolution on a simple majority, the Senate would need at least 20 Republicans to join all 47 Democrats to be able to move it through.

Something that nobody, at least, at this point based on the last couple of years of Republicans in the United States Senate is something that's even possible and I think that more than anything else is what Speaker Pelosi has pointed to. Don't do it just because the House can pass it. Only move forward with it if you believe it can actually come to fruition or there's an actual end game there.

The other thing and I think this is really important to keep in mind, Erin, what I've been talking to senior Democrats over in the House just a short while ago, several made this point to me, it's not just the progressives that are in the Democratic caucus right now. There are several many, many moderate members who are essentially the reason why Pelosi is now Speaker of the House once again who don't want to deal with this issue, don't necessarily want to go home and answer questions for this issue.

There are chairmen who are now just launching investigations into the Trump administration who don't want to be rushed in those investigations. So as one senior Democratic lawmaker told me just a short while ago, Speaker Pelosi is running cover. She is basically saying, "I will take the hits for this and give the rest of the caucus the opportunity to kind of be able to avoid the question for the time period to come."

Now, there's no question, Erin, there's going to be tremendous pressure from certain segments of the left to start to move forward on something, but at least at this point in time Speaker Pelosi is making very clear.

[19:05:01]

Impeachment is not on her agenda. It's not on the party's agenda and for the time being, they're going to focus on the investigations and continuing doing their legislative work not moving forward on impeachment, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much Phil. And I want to go Out Front now to Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth and I appreciate your time. Congressman, look, you were among a group of Democrats, you had introduced articles of impeachment in November of 2017 for President Trump. So you've already introduced articles yourself, you've said repeatedly that President Trump has committed impeachable offenses. What's your response to Speaker Pelosi saying it's not worth it?

JOHN YARMUTH, DEMOCRAT CHAIRMAN, BUDGET COMMITTEE: Well, I think there's a lot of validity in what Nancy said and I respect that. Ultimately, it's going to be her call. I just think that I have a little bit different perspective that if you think the President has committed impeachable offenses which I do and most recently I think it's been at least documented that he committed a crime while in office that impeachment means nothing if you don't use the power and begin the process.

So to me it's not a question of whether, it's a question of when and probably right now is not the right time, but I think at some point it's going to be inevitable.

BURNETT: OK. So let me just be clear, so you're saying you think he should be impeached and you think that there have been crimes committed that would rise that bar, you're making that very clear. But you're saying not now, then why not now? If it's a matter of principle and you already have what you need, then why would you wait?

YARMUTH: Well, I think there are these other investigations going on. I think if you are a prosecutor, I'm not a prosecutor, but if you were, you would want to have all of the information available to you to make the case. I think there's plenty of information already, but some don't, and we still would want to have a process where even if we can't convict the President on impeachment, we at least are able to give him impeachment resolution passed in the House.

So I understand why we should wait for a lot of these investigations to take their course. But, again, I think it's a question of when not whether.

BURNETT: OK. When you look at what happened with President Bill Clinton and the numbers that I just laid out, I don't know if you heard them, but basically I was just showing how his approval rating jumped 10 points in a matter of three or four days before the impeachment vote and then after when he was impeached. It was good for him and it was good for him because who knows why but because it looked political, it looked completely political, because you couldn't get Democrats onboard.

You're in the same situation right now. You're not going to get Republicans onboard. It's not even going to be close in the Senate at this point. So do you think that she has a point? I mean, you might actually be helping the President by impeaching him in the House.

YARMUTH: I think she does have a point. Again, I believe that the impeachment power is in the Constitution for a reason and if we don't use it, then it becomes meaningless particularly when you have a President who's committed crimes while in office, who has abused the power of his office and many other reasons why I think he's committed impeachable offenses.

So I think she's absolutely totally right and I think that affects timing, but I don't think it can be a political decision or a political calculation. I think it has to be a recognition of constitutional responsibility.

BURNETT: OK. So it sounds like what you're saying though is there's already enough there, but you want to try to get enough more that you can get Republicans onboard.

YARMUTH: That we have enough Democrats onboard.

BURNETT: OK.

YARMUTH: We still have to have 218 Democrats vote for an impeachment resolution, I'm not sure we're there yet.

BURNETT: You're not there yet. OK. So you think you need to do more to get Democrats, but I just want to be clear, Congressman, you don't buy this whole bipartisan basis because she uses the word bipartisan specifically, impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan. I don't know what it would take to get something to get those 20 senators onboard. I don't know you know what it will take.

YARMUTH: No, I don't either and I know we can't get any Republican votes in the House. But, again, I'll just keep coming back to the fact that impeachment is there for a reason and I was a staffer here on the Hill during the Nixon impeachment process and I remember it very, very well. And it's there for a situation like this. I mean, the analogies between the Nixon situation and now are very real.

BURNETT: But just to be clear, you believe and you will support going ahead with this even if it isn't bipartisan, which would put you at odds with the Speaker.

YARMUTH: Well, you have to understand the process. So the Judiciary Committee holds hearings on an impeachment resolution. They gather evidence and hold hearings. That's the first phase of it and then if they decide they have enough, they vote on articles of impeachment.

I think the process actually probably has begun with the investigations that the Judiciary Committee has initiated. So I think we're actually on a course and whether we get to the point where there are enough Democratic votes or enough votes to get a majority in the House, I don't know.

[19:10:06]

I don't know when that will be but I think we need to begin the process.

BURNETT: All right. And I want to ask you before you go, you're also the Chairman of the House Budget Committee which is obviously an important position given that you've got the budget today, the President releasing his 2020 proposal. He asked for $8.6 billion dollars for the wall and, of course, he's already declaring a national emergency which will caught up in the courts, but nonetheless he was going to get money that way, but now he's asking again. Last time he asked, he got a shutdown. Is this going to cause another shutdown?

YARMUTH: Well, ultimately it could. My co-Kentucky legislator Mitch McConnell said once, "You don't learn anything from the second kick of a mule." Apparently, Donald Trump wants to get that second kick. Maybe that'll take that to - he can learn that he's not going to get the funding he wants for the border wall. If he wants to precipitate another shutdown as he did in December, then we can't do much about that. We're going to proceed with trying to fund the government for the next two years. That's what our responsibility is.

Again, it's a battle we've already fought. He lost and he would lose again. So it's up to him what ramifications come from that.

BURNETT: All right thank you very much, Congressman Yarmuth. I appreciate your time tonight.

YARMUTH: Absolutely.

BURNETT: And next, why can't the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders answer a question that is sort of absurd?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALLIE JACKSON, CORRESPONDENT, NBC: Yes or no, does the president truly believe that Democrats hate Jews?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I am not going to comment ...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right, plus, President Trump claims Michael Cohen asked him directly for a pardon. So why won't the White House give the evidence? This should be pretty easy. And details about the former owner of the spa where the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is accused of paying for sex. Is the owner trying to give the Chinese access to people in the President's orbit?

[19:15:00]

New tonight, Sanders sidesteps. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders today refusing to confirm or deny an Axios report that the President told donors that "Democrats hate Jewish people." Here's one exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON: Does the president truly believe that Democrats hate Jews?

SANDERS: I am not going to comment on a potentially leaked document.

JACKSON: Does he think Democrats hate Jewish people as he said on the South Lawn?

SANDERS: I think that they've had a lot of opportunities over last few weeks to condemn some abhorrent comments.

JACKSON: But I'm asking about the President specifically.

SANDERS: I'm trying to answer you. If you'd stop talking, I'll finish my statement.

JACKSON: Just a yes-or-no question.

SANDERS: The President has had - and laid out clearly his position on this matter. Democrats have had a number of opportunities to condemn specific comments and have refused to do that. That's a question, frankly, I think you should ask Democrats what their position is, since they're unwilling to call this what it is, and call it out by name, and take actual action ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So is that a yes?

SANDERS: ... against members who have done things like this, like the Republicans have done when they had the same opportunity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Q So I want to ask you about Paul Manafort, but I just want to be very clear. You're not answering the question. Is there a reason? MS. SANDERS: It's kind of a strange thing and honestly it's like - here's a moment when you say - I can't believe we're asking the Press Secretary of the United States if the President said Democrats hate Jewish people. But according to Axios he said it and by the way here's what we know he said publicly, can I just remind everybody about why this is so realistic?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party, they've become an anti-Jewish party and that's too bad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK, so from anti-Jewish to hate Jewish people, not a big step to make rhetorically when you're perhaps in a room where everybody agrees with you, you think. OutFront now Rob Astorino, a member of President Trump's 2020 Re-Elect Advisory Council, and Keith Boykin Democratic Strategist. OK, Keith, so you buy it, I mean, she won't answer, this she's dancing around the issue.

KEITH BOYKIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE UNDER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Well, if she knew that Trump didn't say it, then she would have said that. So I think her non-denial is a statement in itself. It's a reflection and they continued divisiveness from the President. It's also ridiculous considering Democrats consistently perform well with the Jewish community 70 percent in Presidential elections routinely, 71 percent for Hillary Clinton.

Every member the United States Senate who is Jewish is a Democrat, all but two of the Jewish members of the House of Representatives are Democrats. The Democrats are not the problem. Really the probably is the Republican Party. Donald Trump is out there saying offensive things and the Republican Party members are saying offensive things repeatedly including about Charlottesville most notably.

The idea that when neo-Nazis are marching to Charlottesville saying Jews will not replace us and the President of the United States says they're very fine people, that's a party that has a problem with anti- semitism.

ROB ASTORINO, MEMBER OF THE PRESIDENT'S 2020 RE-ELECT ADVISORY COUNCIL: Right. Well, how do you explain Louis Farrakhan?

BOYKIN: Louis Farrakhan is not a member of the Democratic Party. He's not even part of this discussion.

ASTORINO: No. No. No. The Congressional Black Caucus - no, I'm drawing the same parallel, the Congressional Black Caucus routinely, routinely consults with him. You have Maxine Waters and others taking pictures with him and nobody will condemn him and he is the biggest anti-semite and has used extraordinarily hateful language.

BOYKIN: If this is the best you got, Rob, this is ridiculous.

ASTORINO: No. No. No. Now, let's go back to the resolution.

BOYKIN: I will personally condemn Louis Farrakhan of anti-semitism because that will give you something about this ridiculous diversion.

ASTORINO: OK, there is a growing problem.

BOYKIN: The fact that Donald Trump is the one who's been repeatedly anti-semitic though in this context.

ASTORINO: No, come on.

BOYKIN: Donald Trump's campaign --

BURNETT: He has ...

BOYKIN: Remember when Donald Trump went to the Republican Jewish Coalition and said, "You probably won't support me because I don't need your money." He said that --

BURNETT: He tweeted a star of David --

BOYKIN: He tweeted a star of David on a pile of cash and attack on Hillary Clinton, not to mention the Republican National Committee going against Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg and George Soros.

ASTORINO: Now, please --

BOYKIN: Talking about an international cabal. Kevin McCarthy apologize for that tweet.

ASTORINO: And he should have because ...

BOYKIN: We should have because it's a reflection of --

ASTORINO: ...just because it happens that the Jewish is the biggest Democratic donors and maybe in the world, they are ...

BOYKIN: And he knew what he was saying ...

ASTORINO: ... putting hundreds of millions of dollars.

BOYKIN: ... when he said they were buying the election. It's a whole notion ...

ASTORINO: When you put - that's the dark money that you're so oppose to but it went to hundred million dollars on their side.

BOYKIN: ... it's a whole notion of using the ...

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: What I'm curious about if we're going to do - if we're going to make this equation, and by the way I think we can all acknowledge that just because you think somebody is not calling out hate, doesn't make it OK for someone else to not call it out, OK, so these kind of false equivalencies. But let me ask you about one of them, because you raise representative Omar which is this comes down to, right?

[19:20:05]

ASTORINO: Yes. The resolution.

BURNETT: That she has tweeted and said some things that were broadly considered to be anti-semitic. They put this resolution out as you point out it got broadened, watered down, depending on what side of it you're on.

ASTORINO: It wasn't about anti-semitism anymore.

BURNETT: OK, but the President was quick to jump in on her, quick to say all of these things about her that she should be called out. But when Steve King is called out, a guy with a long history of supporting white supremacy and white nationalist, he was asked about seeking one he would call out, I want to play for you how he responded in that case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You know, I don't know anything about the situation. When did he announce that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's today.

TRUMP: I have not seen it. He hasn't told me anything, so, we'll have to take a look.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK, hasn't seen anything, hasn't seen anything, where to Ilhan Omar he's constantly saying she should be relieved of her committee. So he goes to Twitter ...

ASTORINO: But the reactions were very different. The reactions were very different. The Republicans in that House condemned Steve King.

BOYKIN: Are you kidding me?

ASTORINO: Listen, they condemned Steve King by name and it was a very strong condemnation. They took him off the committee.

BOYKIN: First of all ...

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: What about the President? What about the President pretending he didn't know about Steve King?

BOYKIN: Now, let me just say this, Steve King --

ASTORINO: OK, hold on a second. The question was does the Democratic Party have a problem with anti-semitism, let's go back to that perspective.

BOYKIN: No, let's go back to this ...

ASTORINO: Because they have a very brewing party right --

BOYKIN: ... Steve King is a 69 ...

BURNETT: OK, let Rob finish and then go ahead.

ASTORINO: There's a massive brewing part problem right now in the Democratic Party. If they can't even agree within the Democratic caucus to go after anti-semitism alone, period, full stop, then there's an obvious problem within the party.

BOYKIN: Why they know Jewish members of the United States Senate who are Republican?

ASTORINO: And only - and wait a minute, and then they come up with this ridiculous nonsense of condemn everything under the sun and what was the spin afterwards?

BOYKIN: Rob. Rob. Rob, OK.

ASTORINO: The spin afterwards were 22 Republicans voted against it and it was a condemnation of anti-Muslim ...

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: Steve King - first of all Ilhan Omar and Steve King are not the same. Secondly, Steve King is a 69-year-old member of Congress who's been there for nearly two decades and it took them that long before they finally said a damn thing about it.

ASTORINO: OK ...

BOYKIN: Meanwhile you had Omar who's been in office for barely two months. She's a freshman representative, she's 37 years old, she's just getting started.

ASTORINO: So what?

BOYKIN: And you have the nerve to attack the Democrats when you guys did nothing for two decades about a white supremacist in your own ranks.

BURNETT: But this is where it gets, Keith, why is it ...

BOYKIN: Give me a break.

BURNETT: ... OK, so blew it, but why does that then excuse the other ...

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: I think the Democrats have been very clear about this. Not everybody agrees on every issue.

ASTORINO: Clear? BOYKIN: We can get into the question about anti-semitism ...

ASTORINO: She wasn't condemned and ...

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: ... the Democrats have routinely condemned anti-semitism. Again, as I've said before, the Democrats routinely win the Presidential vote among Jewish voters. There's no question that the Democratic - and the President of the United States needs to not be dividing people on these issues about Jews, anti-Jews or Jews, this is not helpful ...

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: OK, and on this issue of he calls out Ilhan Omar, OK? He is an African-American Muslim woman, she wears a headscarf.

ASTORINO: OK, but we have to stop --

BURNETT: Steve King is a white guy, the President pretends he doesn't know what he says.

ASTORINO: No. No. No. It's either wrong or it's not, right?

BURNETT: Yes.

BOYKIN: Was it wrong when --

BURNETT: OK. But hold on, but hold on, there is an important thing here.

ASTORINO: And by the way --

BURNETT: Why does the President of the United States think that he's going to call out one and pretend he doesn't know about the other?

BOYKIN: Because he's a hypocrite.

ASTORINO: He should have called out Steve King immediately.

BURNETT: OK, that's all I was getting at.

ASTORINO: Absolutely.

BOYKIN: But it's just Steve - why don't you call him out for when he said that he doesn't like black people counting his money. He only wants Jews counting is money. That's an anti-semitic statement right there. Nobody even talked about that or all of the other things that Donald Trump himself has done including tweeting anti-semitic comments on his Twitter post.

ASTORINO: Here's the big issue --

BOYKIN: This is just not acceptable argument. It smacks of hypocrisy. If you want to talk about anti-semitism, let's talk about the 57 percent increase in anti-semitic incidents in 2017 after Donald Trump ...

ASTORINO: And you can blame it on Donald Trump, right.

BOYKIN: ... took office, the Anti-Defamation League saw a surge in anti-semitic incidents.

ASTORINO: And a lot of fake ones too. We've seen that all over the place.

BOYKIN: Including predominantly or, excuse me, largely from Trump supporters in 2016.

BURNETT: OK, quick final words to Rob, Keith, since you started.

ASTORINO: See, this started off as is there a problem in the Democratic Party and it went from one second and let's put that aside because we don't want to deal with it, let's just make it all about Don Trump, and that's the argument now that's happening in America. It's all Donald Trump's fault. This was a singular issue, Omar, period, stop. It's condemning.

BOYKIN: It's not a singular issue.

ASTORINO: That incident was --

BOYKIN: This is a larger context and the President of the United States must lead by example and he does not do that.

BURNETT: Well, then you know what, Rob, then you know what, Sarah Sanders should have said, "You bet he said Democrats hate Jewish people."

ASTORINO: No.

BURNETT: Then, she should have answered the question.

ASTORINO: No, she didn't know that he said that.

BURNETT: She didn't want to say it.

ASTORINO: You know Erin and Keith, you don't know what ...

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Well, I know what he said.

BOYKIN: Then why would he deny it? Why would he deny it?

ASTORINO: Because it wasn't --

BURNETT: Then she should have said he didn't say it. But what he did say was they're anti-Jewish and ...

ASTORINO: She doesn't know ...

(CROSSTALK) BURNETT: ... she know he said they're anti-Jewish and then she knows he's in a closed door room.

ASTORINO: These comments that he made ...

BURNETT: She knows like we all know that it's ...

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: ... possible and very likely that he said just when he's ...

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: He has no credibility to talk about this issues.

BURNETT: So she didn't want to deny it.

BOYKIN: He should remember ...

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: ... and shut up.

BURNETT: How can you even ...

ASTORINO: None of us know it's true or not.

BURNETT: How can any of us think it's OK.

BOYKIN: We knew that Trump said neo-Nazis are ...

BURNETT: That we're discussing whether it would be true.

BOYKIN: ... people in Charlottesville.

BURNETT: We should be saying, "There's no way the President of the United States would speak like that."

ASTORINO: Correct.

BURNETT: But we aren't saying that because he does speak like that.

[19:25:05]

ASTORINO: What he said on record, we should be attacking, we should be talking about that.

BOYKIN: And we know that he's the leader of the country and he's the most divisive President we've had in an amount of time.

ASTORINO: But again to make my point it all becomes Donald Trump when the issue was - so that Democrats have a big problem.

BOYKIN: The fish rots from the head. The fish rots from the head, Rob. You got to show leadership. The buck stop somewhere.

ASTORINO: OK, there's a lot of rot right now with Democratic Party.

BOYKIN: You can't continue to pass buck to everybody else.

ASTORINO: There's a lot of rot in the Democratic Party right now and they're not dealing with it.

BURNETT: All right, pause there. Thank you, both.

BOYKIN: True.

BURNETT: And next, President Trump insist Michael Cohen asked him directly for a pardon. So why won't the White House just come out and provide the evidence? He's been black and white about it. The evidence should be black and white. Plus, new questions about the former owner of the spa linked to Robert Kraft's prostitution solicitation case, why was she trying to give Chinese executives access to people close to Trump?

New tonight, the White House refusing to backup President Trump's claim that Michael Cohen directly asked the President for a pardon. Trump made that claim in a tweet, you see it there. "He directly asked me for a pardon. I said, 'No.'" And here is Sanders non-reply when asked about the details of this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: I'm not going to get into specifics of things that are currently under review by the Oversight Committee and other committees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Oh, my gosh, the Oversight Committee. I guess now they're going to cooperate. They love it. All 81 people and entities give it all over. We're going to work with House Oversight Committee. Kaitlan Collins is OutFront the White House. Kaitlan, the President when it comes to this issue, right, no problem saying that Michael Cohen asked him for the pardon, point-blank, and he said no.

[19:30:04]

So why can't Sarah Sanders just answer the question and give the specifics?

KAITLAN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, that's really the question of the hour here, because it was the president who made this remark. And typically, Sarah Sanders is there to either explain the president's remarks, elaborate on them. But the president made this remark on Twitter, and reporters haven't had the chance to question him about it since then.

So, today, when Sarah Sanders is asked, she simply referred back to the Oversight Committee. But reporters wanted to know if the president did -- if Michael Cohen did ask the president for a pardon and he denied him, how did Michael Cohen ask the president? When did he ask him? Was it here at the White House? But those were answers that Sarah Sanders did not give to reporters today.

Now, there's a chance she just doesn't want to say, and that's why she said that it's before the House Oversight Committee and that's why she couldn't go there. But, Erin, I've talked to some people inside the White House and she said there's also a chance that Sarah Sanders doesn't know what the answer to that is, because it's not that long ago that Sarah Sanders said that president didn't know about those hush money payments to women when later the president actually revealed he did know about those payments.

We've seen that pattern with White House spokespeople before. They don't want to get out ahead of the president, because they fear being contradicted later on and that could be what the case is with this tonight. But that wasn't the only thing related to Michael Cohen that she wouldn't talk about. She also wouldn't answer those questions about the checks that Michael Cohen the president wrote him while in office, which he said were to reimburse him for those hush money payments.

So, a lot of questions about Michael Cohen here but very few answers tonight.

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

We're going to talk about that check exchange, at least one of them in just a moment. I want to go now to former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean. White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Network's April Ryan, and our senior political analyst, John Avlon.

So, John, here's what I don't understand. Sarah Sanders does her first press briefing in 42 days. She knows these things are going to be asked, and yet, this is what we get.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It gives the impression of a press secretary who is forced to go up and basically issue absurd denials, because she's got nothing. Because she can't even trust the president's own word.

I mean, the president tweeted that. Why not say, well, the president has spoken. She's concerned that actually, that might not be true.

And we see that over and over again. It's one of the worst jobs in America.

BURNETT: She didn't say, the president said what he said, and that's the facts. She said, I refer you to the House Oversight Committee, which I guess who is supposed to investigate who's lying.

AVLON: Over and over again, it's, don't believe what you're saying, don't believe what you've heard, and just as little as exposure as possible, because too often the White House press secretary's job is being a paid liar to support the president who's lying. She's only as good as the information she gets and she knows it's bad. She's got a bad job.

BURNETT: All right. John Dean, so the pardon -- this whole issue, right, why she is asked for evidence of what the president said, right, that Michael Cohen asked me directly and I said "no" comes from Cohen saying something during the hearing. When he was under oath, he said he never asked Trump for a pardon. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: I have never asked for, nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK. Now we know that his lawyers did, at one point, OK? So that's an issue. But then the president said it happened to him directly and he weighed in on it publicly on Friday. Here it is.

(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Michael Cohen lied about the pardon. It was a stone-cold lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK? And then the tweet came out an hour later, John Dean, right, when he said, he directly asked me for a pardon, I said "no." This is obviously hugely significant if it happened.

Why not just give the details to back it up? This should not be hard, John.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It should not be hard. Erin, I've seen a press room under fire before, in my time, but I've never seen one as non-responsive as this one. It's really quite remarkable. She goes out there and she's either unprepared or afraid to get out on a limb, because he's going to change his position, as soon as she takes a position.

So, it's just a consistent performance. You've had clips of it throughout the broadcast tonight. And it's kind of sad, really. I don't even know why she bothers, because she's not responsive when she does come out.

BURNETT: I mean, April, the question is, you know, why did this happen? It's been 42 days. She comes out today and this is what we get. Why even bother to do it, if she's not going to answer the most basic questions.

And to be clear, these are the questions she knew she was going to get. These are not hugely shocking or insightful questions. These are the basic questions she knew she was going to get today.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Today, Erin, Sarah was the queen of dodge ball. But at the same time, you have to remember, it's best for everyone involved to keep their mouths shut, even though the president went on Twitter and tweeted something, Sarah is in a situation where it's a he said/she said, and she probably felt that she shouldn't say it, number one, because she's now starting to take the advice of real lawyers, to keep their mouths shut until everything is done and you're in court or in hearings.

But at the same time, she knew she couldn't win, because the president says one thing, his credibility is shot, and then you also have Michael Cohen whose credibility is shot.

[19:35:07] And you don't know which way to turn. But you know, why have a briefing? Because of transparency. People need to know what's going on.

BURNETT: Yes.

RYAN: And the unfortunate thing, you see it unravel in real time that she is the queen of dodgeball.

BURNETT: And right, and perhaps, you know, she's hoping that the takeaway from this will be, why bother, so she doesn't have to do it again. No, the takeaway is, keep coming out, you know, and start giving us some answers. And, John, on that point, she was also asked about the hush money payments. Michael Cohen has produced the check, multiple checks now, and some to Congress and more to the "New York Times," that were from the president, reimbursing him for payments for Stormy Daniels.

OK, we all know that's what they were for. The question I suppose is the motive as to why the president was doing that? Campaign finance violations or personal reasons.

OK. He was also involved with hush money payments to Karen McDougal, Michael Cohen was, and the Southern District of New York, part of the reason why they sentenced Cohen, right, he's going to prison. They write, quote, as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both the payments, the acted in coordination with and at the direction of individual one. We all know who individual 1 is. OK, this is kind of like, we all know who individual 1 is, OK?

AVLON: Not hard.

BURNETT: OK. Sarah Sanders today was asked, who is individual 1.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: During his time at the White House, does the White House deny that the president is individual one?

SANDERS: I'm sorry?

REPORTER: Individual one in the Southern District of New York --

SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to comment in that, on an ongoing case. What I can tell you is that the president has stated his position and made it clear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: I mean, look, again, it is a terrible job, being the White House press secretary. But it's also involving buying into the reality distortion field. We all know who individual one is, so does the press secretary, but she can't go out and say it. We know she's been caught in the president's lies about the money and the checks. So, now, she can't deal with those facts even on their face.

So, it's a really difficult job, and April calls her the queen of dodgeball, and that's a great term. But she's laboring an almost impossible position, there needs to be more transparency, but she actually cannot -- doesn't have the confidence that her principles are telling the truth, so she can't go out and acknowledge basic facts.

BURNETT: So, John Dean, before we go, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, says he believes that special counsel Bob Mueller is making a mistake by not having the president testify in person and at this point, we believe that train has left the station, not going to happen. Let me play for you Chairman Schiff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I do think that ultimately, it's a mistake, because probably the best way to get the truth would be to put the president under oath, because as he's made plain in the past, he feels it's perfectly fine to lie to the public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: John Dean, was the ultimate victory for the president, that he seems to have gotten away without having to do that?

DEAN: I think Chairman Schiff makes a very good point. And I say that because the law is strongest when the grand jury is seeking information from a president. That's where the most precedent is, and that would be the most likely way to get him under oath. So I think the chairman is making a very good point that a special counsel on behalf of the grand jury could force this issue. Much more easy than the House or the Senate or any other body that would likely look at this.

So it's a point well-taken. I'm not sure the game is over yet, though. I'm not sure that the special counsel won't.

BURNETT: That is an interesting takeaway from this conversation. Thank you all very much.

And don't miss John Dean, brand-new CNN original series coming up this weekend. His historic testimony during Watergate featured in "Tricky Dick", which airs Sunday night at 9:00 on CNN.

And OUTFRONT next, the former owner of a spa linked to the Bob Kraft prostitution allegations reportedly has ties to President Trump and Chinese executives. This is like, are we living this a spy thriller? Could this be a national security threat?

And U.S. airlines are still flying the Boeing jet after a second deadly crash involving the exact same plane. The FAA declining tonight to ground the jets.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:42:49] BURNETT: Tonight, new questions about the woman in this picture with President Trump. She is the former owner of the massage parlor where Patriots' owner Roger Kraft is accused of soliciting prostitution. It's like, right there, I sort of, kind of, jaw drops.

But then, "The Miami Herald" is now reporting that she arranged for Chinese business executives to attend a Trump fund-raiser in New York city. And that she now runs a consulting company that promises Chinese investors access to people in Trump's orbit.

Kaylee Hartung is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This photo introduced us to Li Yang, who goes by Cindy, seen here with President Trump at a Super Bowl party at one of his Florida golf clubs. "The Miami Herald" first reported that she's the former owner of the massage parlor where police saying New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and others solicited prostitution. Yang sold the facility several years ago, and is not charged in relationship to a wider human trafficking investigation, but her connections to Trump are becoming more clear.

Yang now runs a consulting firm based in Florida, GY U.S. Investments. The firm advertises to the Chinese business community, its Website in mandarin, promising access to dinners at the White House, on Capitol Hill, and VIP-only activities at Mar-a-Lago. These pictures from her firm's website show Yang delivering on her promises, giving her clients the opportunity to mingle with the president, members of his family, and other political elite. We're blurring the images of people we cannot identify.

"The Miami Herald" points to a fund-raiser for Donald Trump in December 2017 as an example of this. Yang reportedly arranged for a group of Chinese investors to attend a New York City event.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We interviewed a source who said that Ms. Yang gestured widely to a group of Chinese businessmen from mainland China and said, essentially, they're all my guests.

HARTUNG: Campaign finance laws allow foreign visitors to attend U.S. political fund-raisers, as long as they don't pay their way in. Only American citizens and permanent residents can donate to political campaigns. FEC records show in the days leading up to the 2017 event, Yang donated nearly $30,000 to funds supporting Trump.

If any of Yang's foreign guests reimbursed her for their cost of admission to the event, that would be illegal.

[19:45:05] Yang is a naturalized U.S. citizen, according to the "Miami Herald." The RNC sponsored the fund-raiser and tells CNN in a statement the president's campaign only accepts contributions from American citizens in accordance with the law. They deny any wrongdoing on the part of the RNC or Trump's campaign.

Yang, who has not returned our requests for comment, tells "The Miami herald" she's out of the spa business. "The Herald" reports she's made a new business out of selling access to the president and people close to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Yang seemed to appear out of nowhere politically speaking. She hadn't voted in ten years before the 2016 general election. In 2016, 2017, starts to give tens of thousands of dollars to the point where she is able to have access to the president, the governor, Ron DeSantis, one of Florida's U.S. senators, Rick Scott, at, you know, seemingly as often as she wants.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARTUNG: Three weeks ago, this day spa was closed following a raid by local police. That led to this complicated web of connections being uncovered, which has led us to put President Trump, Robert Kraft, and Cindy Yang's names in the same sentence. Robert Kraft, the only one of the three charged with doing anything illegal, allegations he denies. He'll be arraigned at the end of this month.

But, Erin, as it was said on this program the night we first saw that Super Bowl selfie, the optics of all of this are just very difficult to wrap your mind around.

BURNETT: They really are, so well said, Kaylee. Put all those names in the same sentence, it's unbelievable.

Thank you so much.

I want to go now to former CIA operative, Bob Baer.

So, Bob, it is hard to understand hold up all these three names could even be in the same sentence. You say you have no doubt whatsoever that any interactions that Li Yang had with President Trump or his associates, that any of those, the Chinese government knows exactly what happened. Why? What makes you so confident?

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Oh, Erin, I have no doubt about it. The Chinese intelligence uses American Chinese to get access to the White House wherever they can. That's their modus operandi.

And for somebody advertising access to Trump, they're not going to miss this. They're all over the net. They see it. Whether she unwittingly provided information to Chinese intelligence or not, we don't know.

But then again, neither does the Secret Service. The reason he meets these people at Mar-a-Lago is there's not a list. And the National Security Council isn't allowed to intervene. They can't say, no, you can't see that person, they're probably connected to whatever.

So they're getting around this. It's pay for play and intelligence services know this and they abuse it. BURNETT: How worried or how troubling is it to you that you see a

picture of her, a selfie with her next to the president of the United States at that Super Bowl party?

BAER: Well, who knows what he's saying? I mean, he doesn't have a filter. I mean, what he's saying -- or who's whispering into his ear about policy. Because he seems to get his policy ideas down at Mar-a- Lago.

He's not getting them from the National Security Council or the State Department or the CIA. So I've never seen anything quite like it.

BURNETT: All right. Bob Baer, thank you very much.

And next, the second deadly crash of Boeing's most important passenger jet in just months. There are calls tonight for American carriers to stop flying them now.

And a much lighter note. Why the president can't just let go of Tim Apple.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:51:45] BURNETT: Breaking news. The Federal Aviation Administration in a major statement tonight says it will order Boeing to modify its 737 Max jets. The FAA says that this is due to the Lion Air crash in which 189 people died, but the announcement is only coming now, the day after another 737 Max 8 crashed killing all 157 onboard. That is two fatal crashes involving a 737 Max 8 in legs than six months.

While major airlines around the world have already grounded the plane, the three American carriers that fly the Boeing Jet Max 8 and Max 9, American Airlines, United and Southwest are still flying those planes as of tonight.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.

And, Tom, what more can you tell us about the Boeing Max jets?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you, Erin, that the pressure from this accident for people here to have these planes grounded has steadily been growing throughout the past couple of days. And here's the issue. We're talking about the Boeing 737 Max 8. This is a plane that's growing in popularity, especially with American carriers out there and other carriers around the world are also having them.

And yet the FAA has said we're not going to ground them. Boeing says it's OK to keep flying them. But China, Indonesia, now Ethiopia among others have said, no, we are grounding them until we know what happened. Why? Because they're thinking as much about this other accident which happened off the coast of Indonesia last fall, the Lion Air crash, 189 people died in that accident, very similar, shortly after takeoff. And at the time, even as the investigation began, the Federal Aviation

Administration here issued a directive to pilots saying there is some software issue with this plane which can cause difficulty controlling the airplane's significant altitude loss and possible impact with terrain. In other words, Erin, the plane can under certain conditions fly itself into the ground.

BURNETT: Possible impact with terrain. Why one would write it that way. In practical terms, how could this happen?

FOREMAN: This airplane, if you take a look at a model of it, it has these very efficient engines of it. One of the reasons out there, the placement of the engines also have the tendency to make the plane want to nose up a little bit in flight.

So, the solution was to put a software package on board that when the plane starts nosing up it pushes it back down automatically to level flight, but if you get false inputs from a bad data reader, that same software can push it right down towards the ground. If the pilot starts fighting the airplane, instead of turning off that automatic system as you've been instructed to do now, then the plane can start porpoising through the air with potential fatal results. The result is, people are saying, look, is that a possibility? Let's park these things until we know how to avoid it -- Erin.

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

And next, Trump takes another bite of the apple.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We appreciate it very much, Tim Apple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:56] BURNETT: It's take two for Trump on Tim Apple.

Here's Jeanne.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPODNENT: Forget an apple a day. How about an apple explanation every few days? All because of how President Trump referred to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

TRUMP: We appreciate it very much, Tim Apple.

MOOS: Late night laugh, Twitter joke about other industry giants, Bill Microsoft. Elon Tesla. Alexander Graham Telephone?

But the president wasn't laughing when he tweeted Monday, I quickly referred to Tim plus Apple as Tim Apple as an easy way to save time and words. Trump saved a valuable 0.27 seconds snarked "The Washington Post" analyzing how long it would have taken to put the Cook between Tim and Apple.

TRUMP: Tim Apple.

MOOS: "Axios" reported the president told a different story to a group of donors. Trump told them that he actually said Tim Cook Apple real fast, and the Cook part was soft as in hard to hear.

Media reporter at the White House briefing ask in vain --

REPORTER: Why does the president deny saying something that was caught on tape?

MOOS: Almost a year ago, the president botched the name of Lockheed Martin's CEO.

TRUMP: I may ask Marillyn Lockheed.

MOOS: Actually, her name is Marillyn Hewson.

MARILLYN HEWSON, LOCKHEED CEO: Mr. President, Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin.

MOOS: But calling a CEO by the wrong name is kid stuff. I once called a president by the wrong name to his face. How do you blow Nixon's name, even if I was a rookie reporter back then.

President Reagan -- sorry, President Nixon.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I've been called worse than that.

MOOS: Tim Cook didn't seem to mind either. He ditched his old name on Twitter, embracing Tim Apple. Even Ivanka Trump seemed amused.

The president avoids acknowledging flubs. This ICE agent's name was written in the president speech as CJ.

TRUMP: Celestino Martinez. He goes by DJ and CJ, he said call me either one. So we'll call you CJ.

MOOS: For finessing that, we award the president an apple.

TRUMP: Tim Apple.

MOOS: Jeanne CNN.

TRUMP: Marillyn Lockheed.

MOOS: New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Thank you for joining us.

Anderson starts now.