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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Beto Running for President, Says He's "Born To Be In It"; Top Mueller Prosecutor Leaving Special Counsels Team. Aired on 7-8p ET
Aired March 14, 2019 - 19:0 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN: How cute that little baby is. Congratulations to the entire wonderful family. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. Tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, CNN: OutFront next, the pardon problem. Do emails between Michael Cohen and a lawyer linked to team Trump proved that Trump was dangling a pardon? House investigators digging in, the feds want those emails. Obstruction of justice on the line. Plus, Trump says things could get very bad, that's a quote, if his police and his military get tough on his opponents. Is that a threat?
And the son of a U.S. citizen detained allegedly tortured by Saudi Arabia speaking out in his first television interview. Why is President Trump silent again when it comes to abuses by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince. Let's go OutFront.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, Trump dangling a pardon. President Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen says Trump tried to dangle a pardon in front of him. He says he's got emails to prove it. Now, two powerful Congressional Committees, the Chairman and federal prosecutors think that those emails may prove something.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY NADLER, CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I take that as the President or people on his behalf may have been dangling the possibility of a pardon in front of Mr. Cohen to say to him, "Don't tell the truth. Don't implicate the President."
ADAM SCHIFF, CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We'll be looking to corroborate the evidence we've received and this is very much a deep interest of ours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And we're learning tonight the federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York want to review those emails as well. Here's why. The emails were sent after Cohen's home and office were raided by the FBI, OK, after that, but before Cohen pleaded guilty. Sent during a time that Trump new information was in investigator's hands that he did not want out. He didn't want them to have it.
During a time that Trump needed Cohen to toe the line, the emails were between Michael Cohen and a lawyer named Robert Costello. Now, Costello was essentially supposed to be a back channel to Trump's team. At the time that team had a joint defense agreement with Cohen. Costello was a longtime friend of Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and that's the that's the connection it seems here.
Now, here's part of the email that Cohen released to try to corroborate his claim that the President's team was dangling a pardon to try to, obviously, influence and get him to support the President. Costello wrote to Cohen "You are loved. Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places." Now, remember Trump tweeted just last week, "Bad lawyer and fraudster Michael Cohen directly asked me for a pardon, I said no."
So this is actually not just a matter of semantics or wanting to get to the bottom of it just for the sake of it, who brought up the pardon first is an important question, because it could mean obstruction of justice if the answer is the President of the United States. Shimon Prokupecz is OutFront in Washington. Shimon, you've now got the Southern District of New York looking at these emails as well, what are they looking for? What do they want?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER, CNN: So the only thing really that you could think of here is whether or not - really the best way to explain is whether or not the President, whether the people close to the President were essentially trying to by Michael Cohen off or with the idea that they were dangling this pardon.
It's very clear that everyone knew that at the time that Michael Cohen was on shaky grounds. He did not feel comfortable. He was uneasy over the raid. He was very concerned of his arrest and the fact that the FBI and the Department of Justice was coming after him. And the President and his people were certainly concerned where Michael Cohen stood.
And when you look at all of this, the fact that they're doing this back channel communication to Rudy Giuliani that somehow getting to the President, you have to wonder what else could this possibly be. And a lot of focus has always been on whether Robert Mueller is looking at obstruction. But it could very well be that this issue is now before the Southern District of New York in the Michael Cohen investigation and whether or not they were trying to dangle this pardon and say, "Hey, we're going to take care of you. Just do the right thing. Don't flip on us."
They don't have to come out and say that but their actions and their activities certainly could point to that. And the only other thing I want to point to is the fact that when you look at the way the President behaved surrounding this investigation, when you look at the way the people around the President, the organization behaved around the payments of the hush money, they made every effort to try and hide those payments.
So when you take all of that in its totality, the investigators have to be wondering, "Well, what the hell was going on here?"
So you have to see that this is probably part of an obstruction investigation.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Shimon. So obstruction, obviously, is crucial. It's crime. So it's a crime in any sense of the word and, of course, it's also an impeachable act. OutFront tonight, a member of the House Oversight Committee Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly. Good to have you back with me, Congressman. So I know you've seen the same information that Jerry ...
GERRY CONNOLLY, OVERSIGHT & GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: Good to be with you, Erin.
BURNETT: ... sorry, that Jerry Nadler has. Do the emails prove that Trump dangled a pardon or not at this point?
CONNOLLY: Well, on their face they certainly don't prove it, but they certainly create, I think, circumstantial evidence that merits a lot further scrutiny. When you use phrases like you can sleep well tonight and you have friends in high places, what does that mean? I mean, we're going from friends in high places and sleep well tonight versus otherwise you sleep with the fishes. I mean, what is really being said there.
And remember as you said, Erin, if you're dangling a pardon in exchange for a silence and obstruction of justice, that's a crime.
BURNETT: Right. So let me let me try to understand. So you're saying they don't prove it, but there's obviously circumstantial evidence here. You want more information. So what do you not have? Do you have all of the emails pre and post? Do you feel like you have everything you need? And if not, how are you going to get it? What are you missing?
CONNOLLY: Yes. I think we're going to have to see more documents. I think we're also going to have to see what was the context and I think the reporting that we just heard did a very good job of putting this in context which certainly does not put the President or Mr. Giuliani or for that matter Mr. Costello in a good light. So I think this investigation has to go forward, but this is a very troubling development, no question about it.
BURNETT: So let me just though understand if Michael Cohen brings it up first, maybe that's what things will show, who knows. He brings it up first, he asked about a pardon or he asked about pardons in general or something like that, but then the emails proceed the way they did. Could it still be obstruction of justice if it was then offered, put out there, dangled?
CONNOLLY: It certainly could if the expectation was that in return for - or even discussing a pardon you need to be uncooperative with the Special Prosecutor and you need to basically stay with the code of Omerta, don't talk, like metaphor.
BURNETT: Right. I just think it's an important point to make, because in a sense then it doesn't matter what came first, it matters what the President's team was saying, how they were saying it, when they were saying it on an absolute basis. Now, you have said ...
BURNETT: ... Congressman, it's too soon to decide on impeachment. If you found that the President dangled a pardon or someone else do it obviously on his path, Giuliani, Costello, whomever it may have been when it comes to Cohen, is that grounds for impeachment?
CONNOLLY: Yes. No question. Right now we're at the early stages. We've only been in the majority. This is our third month. We've had one public hearing and that was with Mr. Cohen himself as (Mr. Nava)noted, they've put out a broad net requesting 81 individuals to provide documents looking at a wide range of potentially illegal activity by the President and his organization.
And this is where the fact-finding phase of this and we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves, but neither should we downplay the gravity of what we're uncovering.
BURNETT: So there's the issue of a pardon you're looking at now. I know you are also investigating Jared Kushner's security clearance and just to remind our viewers, the New York Times has reported that Trump personally intervened, they've got memos from John Kelly they say which show this that Trump personally intervened overrode concerns from national security officials and said, "Give it to him." And the President was asked about this today. Let me play the exchange, Congressman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, Did you intervene in Jared Kushner's security clearance and Ivanka Trump's?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Just to be clear, because I think context does matter here that refusal to answer the question came as he answered 10 questions before that question and two questions after that question. So that question was one he did not want to answer. Have you made any progress?
CONNOLLY: Right. Not yet. My hope is that general Kelly who had been as Chief of Staff and possibly Mr. McGahn who had served as White House Counsel will be forthcoming in providing copies of their memoranda. They each memorialized their concerns about the Presidential order overruling serious reservations about providing Mr. Kushner with a security clearance. This was not a technical or trivial matter.
And the fact that they felt compelled to put their thoughts to writing in terms of their concerns if not objections about the President's action, I think is worthy of a much further scrutiny and I'd love to get my hands on both of those memos.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time, Congressman Connolly.
CONNOLLY: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, President Trump in a new interview threatening his opponents saying his military, his police and his biker pals could make it very bad for Democrats. What does that mean when you're talking about police and military? Plus, Beto O'Rourke is running for President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O'ROURKE, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a defining moment of truth for this country and for every single one of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And Mueller star prosecutor leaving, does it mean it's over? The end of the Special Counsel probe?
New tonight, President Trump saying his police and military supporters could make things very bad for his opposition. Here's the quote that he said to Breitbart, this is the President, "You know, the left plays a tougher game, it's very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don't play it tougher, OK? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don't play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad."
Abby Phillip is Out Front at the White House. Abby, this sounds like a threat.
ABBY PHILLIP, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, a lot of people are certainly taking it that way, Erin, and it's not the first time that President Trump has used almost identical language to talk about his supporters in this way, talking about the military, the Bikers for Trump and others who he says are tough and tough in a very specific way. The President also implying in this quote that the left is tough too. He used this language when he was talking about antifa saying that his supporters might be able to go up against antifa at a campaign rally back in September in Missouri.
And many people remember back in the campaign, President Trump talked about Second Amendment people, Second Amendment people, referring to people who advocate for gun rights in this country being able to stop Hillary Clinton from appointing judges, left-leaning judges to the court if she were elected President. So this is a President who has repeatedly used this kind of language sometimes playing fast and loose with his words and leaving it open to interpretation for people to believe that this is a door open to people who might want to use violence in the public sphere. The President almost never clarifies and the White House certainly
doesn't either, but a lot of people raising more questions about the President's language here and why he doesn't do more to be clearer about his words if violence is not in fact what he is implying here, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Abby, thank you very much and a really good point, if violence isn't what you're trying to talk about, then why are you talking about things getting very bad when you're talking about your supporters as the police and the military as monolithic groups. OutFront now Steve Cortes, he's on President Trump's 2020 Re- Elect Advisory Council and Keith Boykin former Clinton White House aide.
Keith, when you hear the President say things could get very bad, very bad if police and military - the police, the military get tough, what do you think he's saying?
KEITH BOYKIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE UNDER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I think he's clearly threatening violence or hinting at the possibility of violence. It's a part of a pattern that we've seen from Donald Trump going back to the Presidential campaign when he would consistently talk about he wanted to punch people in the face, tell people to knock the crap out of protesters, he offered to pay their legal bills for people who roughed up protesters. He just consistently behaved in a way that was detrimental to creating collegial atmosphere in a Presidential race and he doesn't show any sense that he's learned anything since he's become President.
STEVE CORTES, MEMBER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP'S 2020 RE-ELECT ANDISORY COUNCIL: Look, I think it's important here to be very precise in talking about what the President actually said and he did not in any way infer or say that he was going to use the military, meaning in an official capacity or the police in any way. What he's saying is among those groups he has enormous support and that's very clearly true. And he's saying that those groups can, in defensive, can defensively act with force if they have to because there is no doubt that violence from the left is on rise in this country.
BURNETT: Wait, Steve, are we seriously talking about having a military in a violent confrontation with the left in this country?
CORTES: No. I just said the opposite. I'm saying ...
CORTES: No. No. No, this is exactly what I'm saying, Erin. He's not saying the military or the police are going to take action. He is saying that among those groups he has enormous support many, many, in fact, most overwhelmingly military people --
BURNETT: You did say that, but then you continue to say they could fight in defense.
BOYKIN: And he said it would get very, very bad.
CORTES: OK, I'm saying as individuals - no, no, and as individuals, not as a military force, not as police forces, as individuals if they need to they will defend themselves because we've seen a market rise in serious violence from the left from antifa and from other groups.
CORTES: Look, you can't blow this off, they are shooting congressmen, they are punching student activists in the face, they are rousting speakers from podiums on campuses across this country and what he's saying is his supporters are tired of being pushed around.
BOYKIN: Steve. Steve.
CORTES: It's never OK to instigate violence but it is very OK to defend yourself and he's saying that if that's necessary, if the left continues the prevalence of violence ...
BOYKIN: This is outrageous, Steve.
CORTES: ... that his supporters will be forced to defend themselves.
BOYKIN: Steve, we've never had a President like this before who's not only encouraged violence in his campaign while a black woman in Louisville was pushed around or a black man in Fayetteville was punched in the face. We saw during the actual presidency of this guy, he went to Montana and he praised Greg Gianforte, a Congressman for body-slamming a reporter. We have people who are out there who are Trump supporters, who are sending bombs to this office at CNN where I sit today, people who have been engaging in violent activity.
The President of the United States has encouraged this type of behavior or at least hinted that he doesn't disapprove it.
CORTES: No, he has not.
BOYKIN: When Charlottesville happened, when violent people were actually marching with tiki torches in Charlottesville, the President said they were very fine people.
This is a guy who has a history of stoking ...
CORTES: No, he did not say that. No, he didn't.
BOYKIN: ... he said they were very fine people on both sides.
BOYKIN: This is a guy who has a history of stoking the plains of violence. CORTES: On both sides of a monument debate. That's an incredibly
important distinction. He said there were fine people on both sides of the monument debate and there are fine people on both sides. That's a serious debate. It's a historical debate.
BURNETT: So he didn't say ...
CORTES: He did not say they were fine people on both sides of that protest.
BOYKIN: Steve, why didn't Republican even ...
BURNETT: ... even try to use that defense, it's a good one but no one has even tried to use it, so you just tried to use it now.
CORTES: In fact he said exactly the opposite.
CORTES: ... from the White House where he completely denounced racism. He called it "repugnant to Americans," any form of racism. So he actually very specifically denounced the neo-Nazis who were there, but again you keep --
BOYKIN: Why did he offer to pay the legal bills for people who were roughing up people in his campaign rallies? Why did he go to the police chiefs and tell them that it was OK to engage in police brutality and rough up suspect? Why did he invite Ted Nugent to come to the White House for an Oval Office photo op after Ted Nugent threatened Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama with a machine gun. This guy has a history of playing loose with words and it's not helpful in a country that's already on the edge.
BURNETT: When you talk about a country already on the edge, can I just play what Michael Cohen said last week. Forget the messenger for a moment, Steve, let me just play what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Given my experience working for Mr. Trump I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power and this is why I agreed to appear before you today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: There are people who have that fear, a lot of people. There's people on the left. There's people on the right. When the President says I have the support of the police and the military and if the other side plays it tough, it'll get to a certain point and then it would be very bad, very bad. Isn't that the specter that a lot of people hear, Steve? CORTES: No. Now, listen, I think he should be more careful with his
words, I do. I think for example during this interview he should have said, it's never OK to instigate political violence, never. It's OK to defend yourself. It's not OK to be an instigator and I wish he had said that.
BURNETT: But Steve he doesn't say it. He knows he could say it. He chooses not to say it.
CORTES: No. Look, here's the difference though, I think what you're doing tonight, Erin, and what media has done to him since he entered politics is always ascribe the very most nefarious interpretation possible of his words. The American people don't hear him that way though.
BOYKIN: Are you kidding me, Steve?
CORTES: We hear him as somebody who speaks very plainly who doesn't speak in a lawyerly or political manner. So for instance when he said - Abby mentioned in the preview of this story, she mentioned that and I had to fight this a lot during the campaign, she mentioned his - talking about the Second Amendment supporters who could stop Hillary.
What he meant was not that they were going to shoot Hillary. He meant that they could use their political power as a political force to stop her judges if necessary in the Senate if she were to become President.
BURNETT: OK, can I play? No. No. No, I want to play it. Hold on. Hold on, everyone stop for a second. I'm going to play some things that he said. The last one is the one about Hillary in the Second Amendment. I'm going to play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. OK, just knock the hell - I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees I promise.
I love the old days. Do you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks.
Hilary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way and if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks, although the Second Amendment people maybe there is, I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOYKIN: Yes, this guy has a history of playing loose with his words intentionally designed to stirrup and fan the flames of fear. Remember, Steve, when he went out there he said, "He could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and he wouldn't lose a supporter." This is a guy who knows that his supporters are on the edge. He wants to tee them up to the point where ...
BURNETT: A frenzy.
BOYKIN: ... during the 2016 campaign, he was even threatening that he wouldn't even accept the election result.
CORTES: But Keith that was a very funny comment from him.
BOYKIN: This is what dictators do. No, it's not funny for the President of the United States to threaten to murder somebody and to think that he has no consequence for doing so.
CORTES: He didn't mean ...
CORTES: ... but here's the thing, you can have it both ways, OK, because here's what I hear constantly from the left that he's a feckless President who can't get anything through Congress, can't even pass a bill through the Senate from his own Republicans to back him on the border, but at the same time he's a tyrant and a dictator who's going to use National Security forces to enforce his rule. Well, which is it? Because those two things don't jibe.
BOYKIN: Nice try, Steve.
CORTES: In other words, if he actually had the tendencies - no, if he had the tendencies that he's being accused of by people like Michael Cohen, I have no idea where he gets his evidence.
BOYKIN: Just because he's not good at being a dictator, doesn't mean he's not trying. Let's just leave it at that.
BURNETT: OK, final words, Steve.
CORTES: So he's an incompetent dictator.
BOYKIN: That's the best you could probably say for him at this point.
CORTES: I wish the President had been more careful with his words in this case, I do.
BOYKIN: Thank you. Thank you.
CORTES: But I also believe that we on the right when we are attacked by antifa, by leftist violence, I live in Chicago and I was at the rally that was shut down by a violent mob in this city that attacked police and Trump supporters. I think the Trump supporters have to be ready to defend themselves and that's what the President was after.
BOYKIN: I'm in a building where pipe bombs were sent because of the Trump supporter.
BURNETT: Nobody should be implying that violence is an acceptable way to deal with political disagreement and that's what comments like this imply. That's the fundamental issue and I think we all agree political violence is unacceptable and unAmerican, so let's agree on that. Thank you both. And OutFront next ...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'ROURKE: I'm just going to be me. I'm going to run for everyone, run with everyone, listen to everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Beto O'Rourke is running for President but which issues is he running on. And the Prosecutor who helped put the squeeze on Paul Manafort is leaving Robert Mueller's team. Is this it, the sign it's over?
Tonight, born to run, that's what he says after declaring to Vanity Fair that he was born to be in it. Former Democratic Congressman from Texas Beto O'Rourke announced his candidacy for President today, kicking off his run in Iowa, explaining how he says he will differentiate himself from more than dozen candidates he is buying for, for the Democratic nomination. He says one big way that he's going to be different is just to be himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'ROURKE: I'm just going to be me. I'm going to run for everyone, run with everyone, listen to everybody, try to answer every question. This very divided moment in our country, people want to come together and they want to see us do something bigger than we would otherwise be able to do on our own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So he grabbed the attention of his Democratic opponents who jumped right in.
Kamala Harris, unafraid of deploying his name in a fundraising email right way.
And he also got the attention of his Republican rival as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think he's got a lot of hand movement. I've never seen so much hand movement. I said, is he crazy or is that just the way he acts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: More on that later on in this show. Only Jeanne can handle that particular comment perfectly.
Now, let's go to Patrick Healy, political editor of "The New York Times", Nia-Malika Henderson, our senior political reporter, and Sasha Issenberg, author of "The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns".
All right. Patrick, so this announcement comes hand in hand with a very fancy, glossy, Annie Leibovitz cover. By that, it means, you know, posed. I mean, you know, she's the top of the top when it comes to this.
OK. How much real substance is there behind him? What do we really know about Beto O'Rourke's policy?
PATRICK HEALY, POLITICAL EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. We know he was not Ted Cruz in 2018. That was very exciting down in Texas. But in terms of substance, you know, on immigration, he's got an El Paso message that he can certainly talk about, getting rid of the border wall down there. He's able to speak with authenticity around that.
On climate change, on health care, on other kind of standard Democratic issues, he's more center left than a really progressive like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. But what you're getting at, Erin, is central here. It's not at the policies that are exciting people. It's, frankly --
HEALY: -- a guy who's on the cover of "Vanity Fair" cover. This is who Barack Obama eventually became in the summer of 2008 when he was giving this huge, huge rallies, and sort of a rock star and, John McCain derided him as sort of a celebrity candidate.
Right now, you know, Beto O'Rourke needs to show that he believes in something and he doesn't want to go down the trail of inviting questions about, kind of where's the beef question, you know? What does he really stand for?
BURNETT: I'm running with everyone and with everyone and --
HEALY: Yes, and the dangers of him and the dangers of him getting ahead of himself and saying I was born to do this without sort of showing he's either earned it or deserves it is the question.
BURNETT: And those are crucial questions.
Sasha, here's what we did, you know, right, obviously he lost to Ted Cruz. But he's a three-term former congressman. Obviously, Ted Cruz sort of made him famous with that loss. You've spent a lot of time with him, covering him, Sasha.
Is he ready to take on Trump?
SASHA ISSENBERG, AUTHOR, "THE VICTORY LAB: THE SECRET SCIENCE OF WINNING CAMPAIGNS": I think from the perspective of somebody running a campaign, he proved himself remarkably credible last year. I mean, he raised more money than any candidate ever. By the end of the campaign, he had 830 people on his field staff, which is roughly the same size as Donald Trump's entire national campaign payroll by the end of 2012.
And so, when you accept that a candidate is a CEO of a strategic and marketing organization, I think he acquitted himself pretty well. That's some preparation to run. I think the stuff Patrick talks about, you know, can he talk about foreign policy, that was not something that was ever really demanded of him and he wasn't able to -- he didn't have a primary contest last year, so he didn't get a lot of tough scrutiny from -- he didn't have a serious primary. So he didn't get a lot of scrutiny from liberal interest groups.
ISSENBERG: And in the general election, people across the spectrum in Texas were able to project onto him a lot of what they wanted to project onto him and he's very good at being all thing to all people.
BURNETT: That's, of course, something you can do until you can't. He talked about being on a road trip, tired of being in a Senate race, tired of being in a, quote, funk, the fog, the confusion, a lot of poetic posts there.
You wrote a piece for CNN about it and you wrote in part, quote: This could never, ever be a woman, Betsy O'Rourke, as Patrick were saying, if she wrote about being in a funk. That would be a big problem. But for him, it did not hurt.
Is he aware of the privilege he has?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: In some ways, no, and this, of course, came up in the article that I've written this piece, I guess, Amy, his wife bristled at the notion that I was supposedly criticizing him for leaving his kids at home and she said -- well, he wasn't, you know, leaving the kids at home, I was there to take care of them, which is exactly the point I was making is that his wife who's privileged enable him to leave his house, leave his kids because his wife was at home.
And also, you know, the idea he could give an interview to the "Washington Post" and the question of immigration came up and he was pretty comfortable in saying he didn't know that. I don't think a woman could do that. I don't think an African-American candidate could do that, or a minority candidate could do that either.
[19:35:00] This idea if you're a woman candidate or minority candidate you have to be twice as good to get after half as far, and I think a lot of the candidates we've seen. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, sort of embody that in a way that we aren't seeing from Beto O'Rourke at this point.
BURNETT: And now, the president, though, Patrick, of course, takes him seriously. He likes to talk about and many of his rivals. But he has not been hesitant to talk about the guy he calls a Beto. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Beto O'Rourke is highly overrated. When I heard about him, I think he must be something a little special. He's not.
He pretends to be a moderate, but he's actually a radical, open borders left winger. That's what he is.
The young man who's got very little going for himself except he's got a great first name --
I think that's probably the end of his political career.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Trump knows every time he says someone's name, he helps them out or even doesn't say their name.
BURNETT: So what's the strategy?
HEALY: Yes. I mean, Trump usually attacks at least when someone is getting under his own skin. I mean, he took on Elizabeth Warren and belittle her with sort of the racist nickname, you know, Pocahontas because she was fearless in calling him out. You know, she went right for him. That's where he goes, that's where he goes.
I mean, his comment about Beto O'Rourke having something wrong with his hands sort of uncomfortably for me brought up, you know, Trump mocking a colleague of mine at "The New York Times," as if he has a physical disability. Trump -- he decides to go personal very quickly and likes to sort of make fun of people even if it's not based on any kind of reality.
BURNETT: So, one thing, though, the first day of O'Rourke's campaign, Sasha, today, he flipped on a very, very big issue that's going to be central to this election. Here he is today and then in our town hall, which was just a few months ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'ROURKE: I think the American people are going to have a chance to decide this at the ballot box in November 2020 and perhaps that's the best way for us to resolve these outstanding questions.
I do think there's enough there for impeachment and if asked, I would vote on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. Now he wants the ballot box, if asked I would vote on it, a few months ago.
Does a flip-flop like that -- everybody's got to evolve, Sasha -- but is something like that an issue? ISSENBERG: Yes. Actually over the course of last year, he adjusted
between being open to beginning an impeachment proceeding and whether he would vote for it. I mean, there's some pressure has been relieved. He's no longer in Congress, so he's not going to have to face a vote on this, and I think that all the Democrats are going to have to deal with the fact the facts are going to have to change in the next six months, or the next 12 months.
We'll learn things when the Mueller report comes out and the congressional hearings. And my guess is that no Democrat will have the same position on this or same language on it now that they do when people start caucusing in Iowa.
BURNETT: Yes. From your editorial you write, quote, O'Rourke, tall, handsome, white, and male, has this latitude to be and do anything. His privilege even allows him to turn a loss in the most despised candidate into the cycle into a launching pad for a White House run. Has O'Rourke miscalculated, Nia? Is 2020 the wrong year for someone of his profile, his description?
HENDERSON: You know, I don't think we know yet. This has come up in the "Vanity Fair" article, this idea that somehow he's disadvantaged because of his race and gender, because he's a white man in a field, according to this article, where Democrats are yearning for, you know, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris.
None of the metrics so far show that somebody like Kamala Harris or somebody like Cory Booker is tailor made for this moment or this field. But at this point, Joe Biden is leading. Bernie Sanders is leading in terms of a fundraising.
So, I don't think it's really sort of credible to argue that being white and male is going to hurt this candidate at all. I think in many ways it's going to be an advantage for him. It allows him to be all things to all people as Sasha was talking about.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all.
And next, a man team Trump loved to hate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: Andrew Weissmann, you know who Andrew Weissmann is. He's a complete scoundrel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And now, Robert Mueller's star prosecutor is leaving the team. Does that mean it's time for the Mueller report?
And the American detained in a Saudi Arabia, in prison, allegedly tortured. Yet President Trump is silent. Why? The detained American son is my guest. It's his first television interview.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:43:09] BURNETT: New tonight, the strongest sign yet that the end of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is nigh. Mueller's office confirming the top prosecutor Andrew Weissmann will be leaving the team in the near future.
This is a big deal. He's core to the Mueller operation, a storied prosecutor, one of the first to join, the one who led the case against the Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and someone that team Trump has regularly attacked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Andrew Weissmann, you know who Andrew Weissmann is. He's a complete scoundrel.
Andrew Weissmann will be regarded by many defense lawyers and prosecutors as a disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Disgrace, scoundrel.
OUTFRONT now, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean.
So, John, (INAUDIBLE) Rudy Giuliani thinks, what does Weissmann's departure tell you about where Mueller is? Is he done?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, it doesn't necessarily mean he's totally done. It looks like a phase of his operation is done. I'm told he's not only a good prosecutor and good in the courtroom but he's also a good administrator and good at running investigations.
So, it looks like with the Manafort case wrapped, and Gates pleading, that sort of heavy financial angle has come to an end. I think that the counterintelligence part of this investigation --
DEAN: -- is probably going to be ongoing for several years.
So you think Mueller will put out some interim report on where he is, or do you actually think everybody is completely wrong on where this is?
DEAN: I think what's going to happen is people overestimated what his report is going to be. The regs just called for him to explain, you know, why did he decline or why did he prosecute somebody? That's really all he has to report.
So I don't think there will be much more than that. It will be pretty bare bones.
BURNETT: Hmm. [19:45:00] And then you're saying the conspiracy part would continue
for several years?
DEAN: The counterintelligence -- the counterintelligence part.
BURNETT: All right. So I want to ask you the context of all of this, of course, is everybody talking about your role and Nixon, and we have a new series coming out, "Tricky Dick," which looks at Nixon's life and his career and life altogether, and some of the parallels between then and now.
Here's a brief clip, John.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: The tougher it gets, the cooler I get. I have what it takes.
CROWD: Impeach Nixon now. Impeach Nixon now.
NIXON: I want to say this to the television because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook.
This crap about Watergate --
Let others wallow in Watergate. We're going to do our job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Briefly, you appeared in that clip, and, of course, you know, your testimony before Congress at this time was crucial, right? You told Nixon the Watergate cover-up was a cancer on the presidency. When you said that, that played a huge role in his eventual resignation and that huge moment in history.
What do you think is going to happen here? Are we going to have more hearings, impeachment hearings? What happens here?
DEAN: I think this is a little different than Watergate in the sense that Watergate, you actually had hearings going on while you have special counsel investigating. They were both parallel activities. They would evolve into an impeachment inquiry based on the information that really Nixon had no answer for, and his tapes were so telling that he decided he didn't want to try to fight it even.
I don't see an exact parallel here, but I do see the oversight in the House that's beginning now is going to educate voters about what's really going on.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, John Dean.
DEAN: Thank you.
BURNETT: And don't miss "Tricky Dick." It premieres this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN. And next, a U.S. citizen detained, allegedly tortured in Saudi Arabia.
His family wants to know why President Trump remained silent. His son is OUTFRONT in his first television interview.
And on a much lighter note this evening, a call to arms and hands, the body language of 2020.
BURNETT: New tonight, taking on Trump and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and fighting for an American doctor being held in Saudi Arabia who has allegedly been tortured.
Today, the senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy, accusing the Saudi Crown Prince MBS's government of being a, quote, criminal enterprise in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and jailing of Dr. Walid Fitaihi.
Dr. Fitaihi is an American. He has been held in Saudi without charges for nearly 17 months. Fitaihi got his medical degree, did his training at George Washington University and Harvard, living in the United States for decades before returning to Riyadh to start a hospital. Fitaihi was helping people, also talking about human rights, when he was arrested in the crown prince's purge, first detained at the Ritz Carlton Hotel with 200 others, then put in prison where he is still held now, without any charges.
[19:50:15] His family says he is being beaten and tortured. Today, his son met with Leahy and other members of Congress, but President Trump remains silent.
OUTFRONT now, Dr. Fitaihi's son, Ahmad.
And, Ahmad, thank you very much. You were there. You were with your father when he was arrested more than a year ago. What happened?
AHMAD FITAIHI, SON OF DR. WALID FITAIHI: Basically, what happened was one day me and my dad were sitting in his office chatting when suddenly we heard a knock on the door. We opened the door, and it's a group of at least six to seven police officers dressed as civilians. They grabbed my dad extremely aggressively, and they take him to the side. At that time, they promise that they just want to talk, you know?
So, they said that he is going to return by the time lunch is ready, he'll be ready. He'll be back home, which is in a couple of hours, which as we all know that was a lie, because one year and a half later, and he is still there.
BURNETT: And so he is rounded up, along with other people that in most all cases were not charged at the Ritz, and he ends up in prison. Did you ever get any updates, anything about where he was, what they were doing, anything at all?
FITAIHI: Well, that's the most frustrating part about all this. Since the beginning, I've been watching this case, and the first couple of months we said you know what? Let's play the patience game. Let's give them their time. Maybe this is a misunderstanding.
FITAIHI: So we waited. After that we said, OK, what's the next step? The next step is let's navigate through the Saudi legal system.
So, we looked for a Saudi lawyer. The problem is not one lawyer wanted to touch this. It was radioactive. Nobody wants to touch this.
BURNETT: Because -- because it was perceive had the crown prince is on the other side?
FITAIHI: Exactly. And out of fear and obviously security of their own safety, they don't want to take the case. So, I was left with no choice but to come here to the U.S. and try to raise the issue on the higher ups. So I went and spoke with the Congress. I went up to the Hill. And they've been actually very helpful.
BURNETT: You were with him on the day he was arrested.
FITAIHI: That's correct.
BURNETT: You then decided you were doing everything you could to try to help him get out.
FITAIHI: That's correct.
BURNETT: So, you go to the airport. And you go again, and again and again. Finally, somebody lets you out.
BURNETT: You come here because you have a U.S. passport.
BURNETT: But then what do they do, the rest of your family?
FITAIHI: They go and they take both my family's Saudi and U.S. passports.
BURNETT: So no one else can leave?
FITAIHI: Yes. No one else can leave. Not only that, they have frozen all our accounts.
So, it's extremely hard to move since we have all of us nine American citizens. We're two people away from becoming an American football team. We're an extremely big group of people. So, that also plays a big role in our inability to move.
BURNETT: So since your father was detained, Secretary of State for the United States Mike Pompeo, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner have been over to Saudi Arabia, there have been multiple visits. Neither of them have taken this issue or raised it, as far as we know.
The president, President Trump has backed the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, even though American intelligence concluded he personally directed the brutal murder of American resident Jamal Khashoggi.
Here is how President Trump responded when he was asked about Khashoggi's death.
(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 crown prince hates it more than I do, and they have vehemently denied it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I know that's hard to hear, Ahmad.
BURNETT: Why? Why do you think he says that? Why do you think he stays silent about your dad?
FITAIHI: To be honest, really, I think about this every single day, honestly. And it doesn't make sense to me at all.
I mean, he is one of the most law-abiding citizens ever. It's as easy as black and white case ever just -- you know, it's clearly a misunderstanding of some sort or the government has arrested him on false pretenses, and now is trying to fabricate a case that doesn't exist.
BURNETT: So, Ahmad, if your dad is watching, if he sees this, what do you want to say to him?
FITAIHI: I want to tell him I'm going to do everything I can to save him. I love him. Hang in there.
BURNETT: I hope that this is heard, and I hope that you see your dad soon.
FITAIHI: Thank you.
BURNETT: Your mom, all your brothers and sisters.
FITAIHI: Thank you so much.
BURNETT: That you have been separated from. I know you can't go back. They can't come here. It's just terrible.
[19:55:01] FITAIHI: Appreciate that a lot.
BURNETT: Thank you so very much, Ahmad.
FITAIHI: Thank you. Appreciate it. BURNETT: And here is hoping the Trump administration will take a
stand on this.
OUTFRONT next, all hands on deck for 2020.
BURNETT: Tonight, Beto O'Rourke up in arms.
Here is Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When Beto O'Rourke literally jumped into the presidential race, he was up in arms, his arms.
O'ROURKE: Beyond the shadow of a doubt. And if you look at the climate, to get all this done, we would be fools.
MOOS: Disarming Beto was not an option.
O'ROURKE: And I think we should begin with the end.
MOOS: Even when sitting with his wife.
O'ROURKE: The last great hope of earth.
MOOS: His other arm kept escaping from her clutches.
O'ROURKE: From every single one of us.
MOOS: It was almost as if he were doing sign language.
Even President Trump tipped his hat to Beto's hands.
TRUMP: Well, I think he's got a lot of hand movement. I've never seen so much hand movement. I said, is he crazy, or is that just the way he acts?
Study it. I'm sure you'll agree.
MOOS: Study it? Study yourself.
TRUMP: We're winning too much. It's too much. We can't stand it.
MOOS: President Trump is a genius of gesticulation.
TRUMP: They're not going to get their way anymore, folks.
MOOS: But Beto wouldn't take the president's bait, making fun of his arms.
O'ROURKE: I have nothing to say to that. I think people want us to rise above the pettiness, the smallness.
MOOS: I guess Beto won't be going after small hands. Body language expert Chris Ulrich compared Beto.
CHRIS ULRICH, BODY LANGUAGE EXPERT: Almost like the blowup man you'll see at car dealerships as you go by.
MOOS: Such motions are known as illustrators.
ULRICH: It helps people focus in on you. You're more watched, you're more dynamic. People see you more clearly as charismatic, likable.
MOOS: As long as he doesn't put someone's eye out.
A fellow panelist protected herself from Bernie Sanders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
MOOS: The only way to tame Beto's hands is to put something in them. Be it a coffee cup or a jacket or a sweater. Before taking question, Beto kept saying --
O'ROURKE: I'm all ears.
I am all ears right now.
MOOS: And here we thought you're all arms.
O'ROURKE: By extension.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.
O'ROURKE: I will remember this forever.
MOOS: New York.
BURNETT: And Anderson starts now.