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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Chief Prosecutor Admits Smollett Could've Been Proven Guilty; Growing Questions About Boeing's Role in Vetting Its Own Jets. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired March 27, 2019 - 19:00   ET

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WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN: And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. Tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, CNN: OutFront next, breaking news, the Attorney General not committing tonight to releasing the Mueller report. This is according to the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the House. Why is Barr refusing to do it? Also breaking, the White House admitting it does not have a new plan to replace Obamacare even as Trump brags Republicans will come up with something better. And Chicago's controversial Chief Prosecutor breaking her silence in the Jussie Smollett case. Now, she's saying her office could have proven Smollett guilty, so then why dropped the charges? Let's go OutFront.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight the breaking news, Attorney General Bill Barr tonight refusing to commit to releasing Bob Mueller's full report. This is according to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler who just told CNN that he spoke to Barr for about 10 minutes this afternoon. Here he is with our Manu Raju.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: So the Attorney General would not commit to release the full report?

JERRY NADLER, CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: No, he would not. I just had a conversation with the Attorney General, I asked about the length and breadth of the report. He said it was a very substantial report, so substantial that I don't see how you can summarize it in four pages fairly. He said it was a very substantial report.

I'm most concerned that when I asked whether he could commit that the American people and the Congress would see the entire unredacted report and the underlying evidence, he would not make a commitment on that. And that is not acceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Not acceptable to Nadler or to the American people? Just look at the new poll we have tonight, the country is split, and the majority 56% of voters saying President Trump and his campaign have not been exonerated of collusion. Let me just repeat that. Has not been exonerated of collusion despite Barr's memo, the four-page summary, which cleared the President, his campaign of conspiring with Russia.

Clearly, we need the full report and tonight there are not just questions about when Congress will see the report, but also if the American public will see it at all because for the second time this week the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a resolution that called for Mueller's report to be released. That resolution have cleared the House 422 to zero. This is a bipartisan issue. Why would McConnell do that? After all, if you take President Trump at his word, he's all for the report's release.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's up to the Attorney General but it wouldn't bother me at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Of course, he doesn't always mean what he says and the question is whether McConnell is trying to protect the President. Evan Perez is OutFront live in Washington. And Evan, obviously, pretty incredible Nadler saying this conversation with Bill Barr, what's the likelihood that Congress gets, let's start there, the full Mueller report?

EVAN PEREZ, SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, I think they're probably going to end up having to fight this out in court, Erin, before they get the full report. I think Bill Barr is speaking the way he has been speaking all along which is he's not going to make a commitment, that they're going to get the full report. He wouldn't do it during the time that he was being confirmed by the Senate.

And you can see why the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is also doing the same thing. I think he's trying to give some cover to the Attorney General, because they know that there's parts of this that I think they're going to have to deal with the idea of getting Grand Jury testimony, perhaps, cleared by a judge. They need permission from a judge before they can include that.

So there's a lot of, I think, some hurdles for the Justice Department and that's the reason why bill Barr is certainly answering the question that way. But I think you're right, I mean, I think in the end the people the American public wants this. I think members of Congress is a bipartisan consensus that this needs to be released. And I think eventually they might find a judge who will eventually agree that this report should be released to the American public and certainly to members of Congress.

BURNETT: And Evan just before you go, Manu had asked Chairman Nadler further in their conversation about how long - emphasizing how substantial it was and Manu had referenced some people banding about 700 pages. Do you have any sense of what substantial means?

PEREZ: Yes. That's what's so incredible about this. The Justice Department won't even tell us how many pages is in this thing. It seems to be a closely guarded secret. Certainly, Jerry Nadler said fewer than a thousand pages so at least we're getting closer.

BURNETT: It's incredible that a thousand is the bar, I mean, obviously, it could be anything less than that, but - wow, all right, thank you very much, Evan.

PEREZ: Sure.

BURNETT: I want to go now to Democratic Congressman Jackie Speier Member of the House Intelligence Committee. And I appreciate your time.

[19:05:00]

OK, Congresswoman, so Chairman Nadler says that he talked to Bill Barr today, the Attorney General, and Bill Barr will not commit to releasing the full report, an unredacted report with the underlying documentation, and that's the bottom line. You heard Evan saying this could go to court. Is there anything you can do about this to force the Attorney General's hand?

JACKIE SPEIER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We can certainly subpoena the report and then, of course, that will go to court as well. But here's what's so ridiculous about this, the American people paid for this report. The President and the Attorney General say the President is exonerated.

So what are we hiding and why are we hiding it from the American people? They won't even tell us how many pages is in the report, but they do say it's very substantial. Well, if it's very substantial, we have every right to see it. And again, the American public is going to demand it.

BURNETT: Do you share Chairman Nadler's concern that four pages is not enough to summarize what was in this report when we're talking about substantial and all we know is that it's less than a thousand pages?

SPEIER: In some respects it's laughable. I mean when Barr was auditioning for the job of Attorney General, he sent a 19-page opinion on why the Special Counsel was unconstitutional and why the President could not be indicted and yet he presents to us and the American people a four-page document that is supposed to cover upwards of 900 to a thousand pages of a report. I think something is very fishy here.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about something that just happened a few moments ago, we just heard from, obviously, the former FBI director, Jim Comey, who President Trump fired. He just spoke to Lester Holt and Lester asked Comey about another question here. There's two issues. There's the issue of collusion and whether that was established and whether the President has been exonerated of that and whether you need an underlying crime to have obstruction of justice to obstruct investigation into that crime. Here is part of how Comey answered that question. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Every day in this country people are prosecuted for obstructing justice to avoid embarrassment, to avoid harm to their business, to avoid threats to their families where there isn't an underlying crime that they committed and you wouldn't want it any other way because if you had to always prove the owner in crime, you would create incentives to obstruct because people get away with both if they successfully stopped an investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Politically, in this case, does there need to be an underlying crime for Congress even if you see the full report to move forward with obstruction of justice?

SPEIER: I'm not prepared, Erin, to say you need an underlying crime or not, but look at Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen isn't responsible for the unlawful issue around a gift during a campaign that was illegal, but he's going to jail because he lied. And, again, I think it makes the case that you can look at conduct that appears to be an effort to obstruct justice even though there isn't a crime, but I'm not really prepared to opine upon that tonight.

BURNETT: Right. I guess, well, you want to see more of the report, I would presume, so you can gauge what's there and if there's there, there or not a there there. Again, the President, Congresswoman Speier, said he's fine with the release of the report. And, obviously, he said he was fine to sit down and talk to Mueller too and it doesn't seem like you he ever really meant that, it never happened.

But in this case he says he's fine with it and you've got this unanimous vote in the House, Democrats and Republicans agree they want it, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate agree they want it released except for Mitch McConnell has blocked it, has blocked the vote from going forward here in the Senate that would allow this to be clear ...

SPEIER: Because there's a collusion there?

BURNETT: ... why is he doing that?

SPEIER: I think there's collusion there between the President and Mitch McConnell. I mean this is no different than everything else that President Trump has done during his entire campaign and election. He also say he wanted to release his tax return. We're still waiting two and a half years later for that tax return and he doesn't talk about it anymore.

He doesn't talk about a rigged election after he won the election. He is a man who will do whatever is convenient at the time knowing that he can use it somehow later and in this case I think he has a deal with Mitch McConnell.

BURNETT: So if you think there is a deal there, I want to get back to this point of the underlying crime which, of course, would be collusion or - conspiracy, obviously, would be the legal term. It's very clear. Bill Barr says that it didn't meet that level. The Chairman of your Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff tells The Washington Post, "Undoubtedly there is collusion. We will continue to investigate the counterintelligence issues."

Of course, the Barr memo specifically quotes - the Mueller report is saying the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government."

[19:10:06]

This is your committee, do you guys have evidence of collusion?

SPEIER: I think that we are still - no, I don't think we can say that we have evidence of collusion. I think what we can say is we have evidence that there was an effort to coordinate. We still have Roger Stone sitting out there who's been charged. We don't know what kind of evidence has been secured about Roger Stone and WikiLeaks. We do know that the chairman of the Trump campaign who is now a convicted felon met with a Russian operative who was associated with the Russian spy agency and was willing to give him polling information.

At some point you just add all of these puzzle pieces together and I think you can get a coordination or an interest in coordinating whether it was actually consummated, maybe a question, but the American people, I think, want to know why it is that there is such an interest in Russia and the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization and Russia.

BURNETT: All right. Congresswoman Speier, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

SPEIER: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And breaking news at this hour, a White House official just revealing they do not have a new proposal for replacing Obamacare. So how does President Trump explain this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out. We will have a plan that's far better than Obamacare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Plus, she has met with just about every 2020 Democratic contender, but does Stacey Abrams want something more than number two?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STACEY ABRAMS, FORMER GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: You don't run for second place. If I'm going to enter a primary, then I'm going to enter a primary.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Plus, breaking news, Chicago's Chief Prosecutor says she

believed her office could have proven Jussie Smollett guilty. The President of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police who is furious that the prosecutors dropped all charges against Smollett responds OutFront.

[19:15:00]

Breaking news, no back-up plan. A senior White House official telling CNN the White House does not have a plan to replace Obamacare if it is struck down in court. This is as we learned that Attorney General Bill Barr is now taking on Trump over Trump's push to get rid of Obamacare. A source telling CNN that Attorney General Barr does not agree with Trump's decision to back a judge which is trying to strike down Obamacare and neither does Trump's hand-picked Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Trump is forcing the issue, causing a fiery Oval Office exchange between the White House Counsel Pal Cipollone and the Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Kaitlan Collins is OutFront at the White House. And Kaitlan, obviously, this is a pretty important moment. They've got no plan, your reporting, and you've got two of the President's staunch allies, his hand-picked people totally at odds with him on this.

KAITLAN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes. And the fact that they have no plan to back this up into what happens if they do repeal of the Affordable Care Act is really what led to that fight in the Oval Office on Monday. Now, things got pretty heated and here's essentially where things stand. The Attorney General Bill Barr is worried that the Trump administration doesn't have the legal ground here to - so that it would be upheld in court. That's his concern.

Then you've got the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar who is worried that this could amount to essentially a policy failure because there is no back-up plan and that millions of Americans would be left without their insurance. Then, also in that meeting was the Vice President Mike Pence who was on Mulvaney and pushing forward trying to nullify this healthcare plan but he was worried about what would happen if they succeeded because they do not have a back-up plan.

So if they succeeded in repealing this, where do they go from there. Now, Pence's Chief of Staff Mark Short was just on CNN. He said that President Trump plans to introduce a healthcare plan to Congress this year. We asked him to narrow down that timeline, but he didn't really expand on when exactly that plan is going to be, but clearly it's going to have to be a plan that they develop.

Now, Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill are pretty skeptical about this, because for several years and, of course, you've seen those two failed tries in the most recent years while Trump's been in the White House, they have not been able to find a way to fix this, so now they're pretty skeptical that they're going to magically find something to do right now. But the President made clear, he was siding with Mick Mulvaney on all

of this, he wanted the Justice Department to agree with that lawsuit striking down Obamacare and that is where they are going from here. So even though Pat Cipollone and Alex Azar still have those reservations, they're essentially getting onboard with Trump.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. Well, it's either do that or get on the highway. OutFront now former Clinton White House Aide Keith Boykin and former Republican Senator, Presidential Candidate also Rick Santorum. Senator, let me start with you.

Look, it's not insignificant when you talk about the counsel for the White House, you talk about the Health and Human Services Secretary, the guy who leads the Justice Department by God Attorney General Bill Barr who put out the memo which Trump adores. They are taking him on. Why does the President think he knows better than everyone else here?

RICK SANTORUM, 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, because he knows Obamacare has been a disaster. I mean you've seen premiums got more than double and more important than that, you've seen out-of-pocket cost and people not even covered by Obamacare are feeling this. People in the employer market are feeling the tremendously high cost of healthcare going up, and up, and up, and the principal reason is because of the defect of Obamacare which did nothing to control cost.

And so what President Obama is - excuse me, President Trump is doing just to respond to that is let's put something else in place that we know can work. And the idea that the President doesn't have a plan --

BURNETT: Well, that's a big thing, he's not putting anything out there because no one has any idea it seems of what would work.

SANTORUM: Actually, the President did. If you look at his budget, the President does have a proposal in his budget on healthcare that calls for program grants to the states, take the money that is now being used for Medicaid expansion and for subsidies and get that money out to the states and give them a program grant that gives them some direction to make sure that we have a robust competitive private marketplace that can lower cost for the American consumer.

BURNETT: OK, Keith.

KEITH BOYKIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE UNDER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: That's not a solution, Rick. What the President's plan is, I heard Lindsey Graham say the same things earlier today, basically block granting healthcare, so --

BURNETT: By the way, you're both giving him credit for a plan. The White House tonight is admitting --

BOYKIN: That they don't have a plan.

SANTORUM: The White House needs to look at their budget, Erin.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: ... their budget to plan, they're saying they don't have a plan.

SANTORUM: Erin?

[19:20:07]

BOYKIN: I don't say it's a pun, I'm just using Rick's words.

SANTORUM: Erin, it's in their budget.

BOYKIN: You can call it what you want but it's a hoax. The reality is, Rick, you know this as well as anyone, healthcare is very complicated. Democrats are --

SANTORUM: That's why the federal government shouldn't do it.

BOYKIN: Well, let me say Democrats have been trying to extend healthcare to more people, going back to Harry Truman when he was President, Lyndon Johnson, of course, is able to get Medicare passed through. When I was in the White House with Bill Clinton, Hillary and Bill Clinton tried to get a healthcare plan passed. They couldn't do it. Obama took a year to try to come up with a plan, it was very hard to get it done. It's very complex. And now Trump just --

BURNETT: And George W. Bush out of prescription drug, I mean, it's a bipartisan thing.

BOYKIN: Yes, but Trump came in by saying only that he was going to repeal and replace Obamacare with something terrific. And no he never expressed or explained what that something terrific was. That lack of specificity for something so complex was a failure of leadership on his part, but it's a reflection of just how he leads.

BURNETT: Can I just say --

SANTORUM: Keith, I would --

BURNETT: Yes.

SANTORUM: I would agree with you, Keith, that it was a failure of leadership on the part of the President and on the part of House and Senate Republicans a year and a half ago. And that's why for the last year and a half I've been working with over a hundred groups around this country state think tanks, folks here in Washington, the United States Senators and folks in the administration, yes, many people in administration.

That's why you've heard Mick Mulvaney, you heard others arguing to take this battle on, because we've been working on a plan and it is a plan that I think will work. You say it's just a pun. It is not a pun. It is giving states who have been in charge of healthcare up until this takeover by Obama have been in charge of charging healthcare giving them the resources ...

BURNETT: Do you guarantee coverage of pre existing conditions, Rick?

SANTORUM: ... to be able to take care of the people who need to be taken care of to get insurance for folks who can't afford it and that's what we're going to do and to me it's --

BOYKIN: The problem is, Rick, you're just going back to where we were before.

SANTORUM: No, I'm not. We're providing resources and we're providing oversight to make sure those resources develop private markets.

BOYKIN: Since the Affordable Care Act passed, twenty million people have gained healthcare coverage.

SANTORUM: Yes, through Medicaid mostly.

BOYKIN: We also know not only do we have 20 million people who have health insurance, we also have coverage for pre-existing conditions. We also have a system where people ...

SANTORUM: We're all for that, Keith.

BOYKIN: ... who are 25 or under can stay on their parents' plans. We also have a system where there's no more discrimination against women. We also have a system that actually does have some components in place to try to control cost despite the fact that it hasn't been completely effective.

SANTORUM: Completely effective ...

BOYKIN: But the only way to really ...

SANTORUM: ... you've seen exploding cost, you ask the American consumers, it's ridiculous.

BOYKIN: ... that's not true for everyone, but remember this too, Rick, why is it that Obamacare is so popular today? It's more popular than it was when it was started in 2010.

BURNETT: This is true.

BOYKIN: The majority of Americans actually support the Affordable Care Act, because they know that it actually is an improvement of what we had before and your solution is just to go back to where we were before.

SANTORUM: Actually thanks to the last couple of years, thanks to Donald Trump's changes in the Affordable Care Act that have actually made it more affordable, and stabilized prices and States that have done things ...

BOYKIN: No.

BURNETT: In what way?

BOYKIN: No.

SANTORUM: No, states, like the State of Maryland that was supposed --

BURNETT: Getting rid of the mandates that require people to have health insurance so you only end up with six people in premiums surge, in what way is that stabilized in here, Rick?

SANTORUMM: Hold on one second, if you look at what the state waivers that have - Obama wouldn't give any waivers to states to try innovation.

BOYKIN: That's not true.

SANTORUM: Well, under the Trump administration, you've seen several states here in the backyard of Washington, the State of Maryland was expected to get a 30% increase in premiums, Governor Hogan put in a high-risk pool and they actually had a reduction in premiums as a result of that. You leave innovation out there, that's never allowed under Obamacare. You will see lower cost and benefit.

BOYKIN: First of all, Rick, it's not true.

BURNETT: Rick have the first word, you get the last.

BOYKIN: Rick, that's not true. Innovation is ...

SANTORUM: It is true.

BOYKIN: ... it's still a part of what you can do under the Affordable Care Act. The reason why it's so popular is because the American people know that it's an improvement of the past. And the reason why people like Kevin McCarthy and people like, I think, Mike Pence perhaps and Alex Azar are opposed to taking this on right now and the Republicans had it, because they realize that it's a political loser.

Republicans lost in this election at 40 seats, they lost in the House in 2018 while they were running on this healthcare issue and Democrats were running on the healthcare.

SANTORUM: They were running away from the healthcare issue. They need to run to it.

BOYKIN: Exactly, the American people made it very clear that they support the Democrats in this issue, not the Republicans.

BURNETT: Seventy-five percent of the people who thought healthcare was the top issue in the midterms, 75 percent of them voted for Democrats. So there is a political point there.

SANTORUM: It's because we didn't have a plan. We need to have one and the President is leading I applaud him.

BOYKIN: So you're going to trust him to make something out of thin air in the next few months that he's never put down on pen and paper.

SANTORUM: We're working with him.

BURNETT: All right, we'll leave it there. Thank you. And next, Stacey Abrams on why she believes she is not getting the same attention as other 2018 candidates like Beto O'Rourke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ABRAMS: I think race plays a part. I think region plays a part. I

also think phenotype plays a part.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Plus, breaking news, Chicago's top prosecutor says her office have the evidence to prove Jussie Smollett was guilty. So why then did they drop all charges?

[19:25:00]

Tonight in demand, virtually every single Democrat running for President has been talking to Stacey Abrams who ran for Georgia governor and lost. She is a hot ticket now and she is saying settling for second is not what she's aiming for. Jeff Zeleny is OutFront.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS: I think you don't run for a second place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORREPONDENT, CNN(off-camera): With those words and with that smile, Stacey Abrams closing the door to all that talk of an early partnership with Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS: If I'm going to enter a primary, then I'm going to enter a primary. And if I don't enter the primary, my job is to make certain that the best Democrat becomes the nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY(off-camera): For now Abrams is leaving unanswered big questions about her future. As a leading voice in the Democratic Party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS: I do not know if I'm running. I am thinking about everything and it's a Senate race, it's possibly running for Governor, it's possibly running for President, and my responsibility is to take seriously the opportunity to give credibility to those who are asking me, but to make sure I'm the right person, this is the right time and it's the right job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY(off-camera): Yet, one thing is clear, Abrams is everywhere. After narrowly losing the Georgia Governor's race last year, she introduced herself to the nation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ABRAMS: I'm Stacey Abrams and I'm honored to join the conversation

about the state of our union.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY(off-camera): And now is playing a central role in the 2020 presidential race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Run Stacey run. Run Stacey run.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY(off-camera): Call it the Stacey Abrams primary. A recent lunch with Biden touched off a wave of speculation and headlines like this, "If Joe Biden wants to win, he needs Stacey Abrams now." But Abrams has also met recently with Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, as well as former Governors John Hickenlooper and Terry McAuliffe.

[19:30:05]

And spoke by phone with Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

[19:30:07] Her aides say Beto O'Rourke has not called and Abrams says the attention showered on his presidential campaign after losing to Ted Cruz last year in Texas hasn't gone unnoticed.

STACEY ABRAMS (D), FORMER GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I would challenge people to consider why we were not lifted up in the same way. I think race plays a part. I think region plays a part. I also think phenotype plays a part.

I want people to understand that I may not look like the typical candidate but that does not diminish my capacity to run for this job.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: So, Abrams saying exactly out loud what Democrats have been asking privately. Why has she not been getting as much attention as Beto O'Rourke and some others have?

But, Erin, there is no question she is now front and center in the conversation. But I am told, yes, she is thinking about a presidential run but is much more likely to run for the Senate from that seat in Georgia. She'll likely make up her mind sometime next month -- Erin.

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

OK. So, CNN political commentators, Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for "The Nation", and former Republican Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah join me.

So, Mia, Stacey Abrams says she was not lifted up, those are her words, in the same way as Beto O'Rourke. By the way, right, he lost his race as we hear about all the time. And she says race is part of the reason. It's one of the reasons.

Is that fair?

MIA LOVE (R), FORMER UTAH CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, I think that it's definitely going to have some sort of play.

One of the things I wanted to mention, that I actually witnessed that in my race. I was in an R-plus-13 district and I was heavily targeted by Democrat because of what I look like, and the voice that I provided on the other side. And I have to tell you, it's one of the things I talk about all of the time. The Congressional Black Caucus, not one of them came after me. They cared more about the community and the fact that I had a voice on the GOP that actually helped push those policies.

So, Stacey wants to find someone that is -- a group that is actually going to help her and lift her up. She should actually go to the Congressional Black Caucus, because they care more about the community than they actually care about the politics of everything.

So, you know, I don't agree with her much, but this is an area where I do think that race comes into play.

BURNETT: I mean, you know, Joan, you look at Beto O'Rourke, he's getting the "Vanity Fair" cover.

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: Uh-huh.

BURNETT: And the next Obama questions and all this and he's a loser. As Trump will say -- right? He lost.

WALSH: He lost by more than she did.

BURNETT: So, she's a loser too, and yes. Now she did the State of the Union rebuttal. It's hard to say she's not being treated like a rising star.

WALSH: Oh, she is.

BURNETT: She is not getting the Beto treatment. Is it fair to say race is part of the reason?

WALSH: Of course it is. It's race and it's also gender, I would say.

I mean, Erin, you and me and I all know the political media team is disproportionately still white male. The political consultant class is disproportionately still white male. They look at Beto and they see themselves.

His real name is Robert Francis, which I believe is after Robert Francis Kennedy. So he gets all these Kennedy-esque comparisons. I like him, don't get me wrong. But there is definitely a way in which he scratches an itch for a certain kind of campaign pundit as well as campaign consultant. And women out here love Stacey Abrams. BURNETT: So, Mia, Abrams today talked about that meeting she had with

Joe Biden. And Biden, by the way, has now addressed the issue of race. Here he is last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: We all have an obligation to do nothing less than change the culture in this country. This is English jurisprudential culture, a white man's culture. It's got to change. It's got to change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Mia, the big question is, is Joe Biden the right white man to do that?

LOVE: Well, it's really interesting. Because he talked about Anita Hill and how he could have done more. But this is years after.

So this delayed apology is a little suspect to me. I'm trying to figure out why so many years after you're feeling like I should have done more.

Look, I understand what's going on. And I actually -- I agree with Joan. I can't tell you how much pressure was always put for me to go above and beyond, because people already just assume that you're not educated enough, or you don't have the right upbringing. And I always had to rise to the occasion.

And I can understand some of that pressure that she has. You have to do a lot more, twice as much. And I think that just stepping out there and being involved and actually putting your name out there and the fact she said, look, I'm not going to be a number two. I think that's a great step.

But this whole thing with Biden is blowing my mind.

[19:35:00] I find it really disingenuous.

BURNETT: You know, I mean, I said that to be -- I wouldn't say funny, Joan. But I was -- the irony.

WALSH: Ironic, yes.

BURNETT: I was making a point of the irony.

WALSH: Yes.

BURNETT: You've got Joe Biden as the white grandfather in all of this, the white man saying it's a white man's culture. OK. It's got to change.

WALSH: I have an idea for how he can change it. Don't run. Come out and support a woman. There's six women in the race, four female senators. If you want to change it, that's a way to change it.

You know, I admire Joe Biden. I am a fond Democrat. He was a great vice president. But you want to change it? Don't run.

And his treatment of Anita Hill will remain a huge issue if he does run. A lot of his apologies --

BURNETT: Do you think there is genuine change and he says, OK, I regret it, or is it all political expediency?

WALSH: I think he genuinely regrets it. I'm going to step out and I'm going to give him that much credit.

BURNETT: Yes.

WALSH: But I'm not sure -- I believe that he has never actually said those words to Anita Hill. If I'm wrong, I will take that back. I'm pretty sure I'm right.

I also think some of the things he's been saying in the last couple of days, and Mia will back me up on this -- he regrets the way she was treated. He was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He was the person who decided not to allow corroborating witnesses as well as he let some of his male Republican colleagues treat her shamefully. He was not a back-bencher who just watched this happen.

BURNETT: No, not at all.

All right. Thank you both very much.

And don't miss tonight's presidential town hall, Senator Cory Booker. Don Lemon moderating at 10:00 Eastern here on CNN.

And next, Chicago's controversial chief prosecutor under huge pressure tonight. Some are blaming her for dropping all charges against the actor, Jussie Smollett. She recused herself of the case, but said guess what, my office could have totally proven it.

Plus, Boeing scrambling to get the popular 737 MAX back up in the air. And they have a new software fix, even though they said there was no problem.

We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:40:38] BURNETT: Breaking news: Chicago's top prosecutor says her office could have proven Jussie Smollett guilty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIM FOXX, COOK COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY: The court has not found him guilty. I believe based on the facts and the evidence that was presented in the charging decision made by this office, this office believed they could prove him guilty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So those comments from Kim Foxx are deepening the mystery surrounding the sudden dismissal of charges against Smollett, right? So the charges just got dropped. She's now saying they could have proven it. She actually recused herself from the case. And she's already under fire for having had contact with the actor's family before he was charged.

Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, for the first time, the state's attorney, Kim Foxx, speaking out and addressing the criticism for dropping all charges against "Empire" actor, Jussie Smollett.

FOXX: I don't want people to believe there are two measures of justice for the privilege and those without. That's why we're so transparent. And I think the course of the last couple of days and once the rhetoric and the emotions stop, we will stand by our record.

SIDNER: She said sealing the entire case was not supposed to happen.

FOXX: I think what happened was the clerk sealed the whole thing. We did not advocate, do not believe, that the court files should be sealed. We believe in transparency, even on difficult situations.

SIDNER: Foxx, who was elected to her post in 2016, said her office should not be making examples of people, and the city has more serious crimes to worry about.

FOXX: I do want to use our resources effectively. I do want to go after violent crime. I do want to make sure our streets are safe. And when there's an alternative to use diversion for nonviolent offenses involving people without a criminal background, we will do that.

SIDNER: Foxx is now facing questions about her handling of the case, questions that arose early on when she recused herself from the case due to contact with Smollett's camp, spelled out in e-mails and texts.

Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, emailed Kim Foxx saying she was in touch with Smollett's family. I wanted to give you a call on behalf of Jussie Smollett and family who I know. They have concerns about the investigation, she wrote.

Smollett's family member then contacts Foxx asking for a chat. Foxx eventually responds, spoke to the superintendent earlier, he made the ask, trying to figure out logistics. I'll keep you posted.

Smollett's family member responds, OMG, this would be a huge victory. Foxx responded, I make no guarantees, but I am trying.

The Fraternal Order of Police initially asked for an investigation into Foxx's recusal. Now they want more.

KEVIN GRAHAM, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: We'll be asking for a full investigation on the entire matter. Why the charges were dropped, and the state's attorney's involvement in the case.

SIDNER: Still, Smollett's attorneys maintaining political connections were not used to get the charges dropped.

PATRICIA BROWN HOLMES, ATTORNEY FOR JUSSIE SMOLLETT: There was no political influence in this case. There were a team of lawyers. We communicated with the state's attorneys, and we convinced them that the right thing to do in this case was to dismiss the charges.

SIDNER: The mayor of Chicago has blasted the decision.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think it was a corrupt decision?

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: I don't think it's as I said yesterday and I stand by what I said. And that's why everybody across the city and Chicago and I have gone over parts of the city. It's not on the level.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: Now, Smollett, for his part, has repeatedly said that he is innocent of all the charges.

We should mention this, though, Erin. The prosecutor, you heard her there, states attorney, saying that they didn't really want the entire case sealed. But in court, when this case came up to the judge, the defense attorneys asked for it to be sealed, and the prosecutor did not say no to that. Essentially, they agreed by their silence -- Erin.

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

I want to go now to Kevin Graham, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. And you just saw a brief clip of him there in Sara's reporting.

You know, look, obviously we all know a lot of the evidence that you all had accumulated, text messages, check transfers, you know, was incredibly damning. And the Cook County state's attorney, Kim Foxx, right, she says her office could have proven Smollett guilty.

[19:45:02] She seemed extremely confident of that.

When you hear her say that, what do you think?

GRAHAM: Well, I think what we did, asking for an investigation over a week ago was the correct move. I think we were on top of it. I think we were pointed in the right direction.

We had sent a letter to the U.S. attorney, northern district of Illinois, asking for that investigation. And that was long before yesterday's offense. I think we certainly are looking out for the people and the city of Chicago. We're looking out for our members, the detectives that worked hard and I think they probably will do an investigation.

BURNETT: But do you agree with the Mayor Rahm Emanuel, not on the level? This is not on the level?

GRAHAM: Well, the -- the mayor and I don't agree on very much. But I would say we agree on this. There's something that is just not right.

And I want to back up just a little bit. One of Smollett's attorneys, Patricia Brown Holmes, was also the special prosecutor just a few weeks ago for Cook County. And she accused three innocent police officers without a shred of evidence of wrongdoing, and then they were acquitted. So something is not right over in the prosecutor's office.

BURNETT: OK. So, let's talk about Foxx herself, right? She recused herself. She announced she was recusing herself from the investigation on February 13th, which just to be clear, was a week before Smollett was charged.

Do you think she had anything to do with the charges being dropped? Technically, she had recused herself. So the answer to that question should be no. But I -- understand that you're not confident in that.

GRAHAM: Here's what we believe. We believe that in this Smollett case, there should have been a special prosecutor of appointed, because we don't believe anybody from her office who she had already had contact with an outside attorney from Los Angeles should have been involved in it at all. So, we believe a special prosecutor should have been called at that time.

Now, I think that that is probably the -- where it should have gone. It didn't go that way. And that's -- and when we found out about the text messages, we felt that it was improper and we need to ask for assistance from the federal government.

BURNETT: All right. Kevin, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much, as the story develops.

GRAHAM: Hey. There is one thing, though. Our detectives worked extremely hard, and I am very proud of them. They did an outstanding job. And it was a rock solid case.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. And sounds like on that front, you agree with Kim Foxx. You're saying rock solid. She said they could have proven him guilty. The big question is why the heck is that not happening? Thank you.

And next, Drew Griffin with an OUTFRONT investigation into the grounded Boeing plane, the 737 MAX. Did Boeing cut corners?

Plus, Pope Francis making it clear how he feels about letting people kiss his ring.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:51:23] BURNETT: Tonight, Boeing trying to get 737 MAX planes back in the air. The company revealing a software fix that investigators think could be linked to two deadly crashes. This as Boeing facing tough questions about whether it cut corners on pilot training and it's too cozy with FAA, its regulator. Drew Griffin is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The FAA allowed Boeing to roll out a new designed 737 with new computer software called MCAS on board, no engine formations, redesigned winglets and yet the FAA allowed Boeing to promote the MAX as being so similar to recent versions of a 737 that airlines would save millions on training because experienced 737 pilots would require no more than a computer course to fly it.

ED WILSON, BOEING CHIEF PILOT: The FAA approved this for two and a half hours of computer-based training for the transition between the two aircraft.

GRIFFIN: 737 pilot and union rep Jason Goldberg says his training consisted of 56 minutes on an iPad. It never mentioned MCAS.

JASON GOLDBERG, ALLIED PILOTS ASSOCIATION: Our pilots were not aware of the existence of the MCAS system at all, nor do we have any reference prior to the Lion Air crash that the MCAS system existed or what it actually did.

GRIFFIN: On Capitol Hill, the question is why.

CALVIN SCOVEL, DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION INSPECTOR GENERAL: Clearly, confidence in FAA as a gold standard for aviation safety has been shaken.

GRIFFIN: Why did the FAA allow Boeing to roll out a system that no one knew about? Why would it make training requirements so minimal? And was the relationship between federal regulators and Boeing so cozy that FAA overlooked some crucial safety issues? It is all under review, say U.S. transportation officials.

DANIEL ELWELL, FAA ACTING ADMINISTRATOR: The FAA will go wherever the facts lead us in our pursuit of safety.

GRIFFIN: Fact is the FAA doesn't have the resources. The federal agency tasked with making sure new airplanes are safe is allowed to outsource inspections, to delegated organizations which are designated to perform the authorized functions of the FAA. Who are they? In this case, they are Boeing employees hired by Boeing, paid by Boeing, to oversee Boeing.

DAVID SOUCIE, FORMER FAA INSPECTOR: Boeing hires their own people. They certify their own people and they oversee their own people with how they get this airplane manufactured. The FAA has very little, if anything, to do with the actual manufacturer of the aircraft.

GRIFFIN: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Capitol Hill admitted there is a problem.

ELAINE CHAO, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: The FAA does not build planes. They certify. They need to have the input from the manufacturer. Having said that, I am of course concerned about any allegations of coziness with any company, manufacturer --

GRIFFIN: As lawmakers debated with regulators, Boeing rolled out software fixes it hopes will lift the grounding of the 737 MAX. Not an admission the system caused the crash but according to Boeing, a way to make it more robust and we're making that change now.

The company said it is MCAS computer system that points the airplane nose down in the event of a potential stall will not engage unless two instruments that measure the angle a plane is flying agree something is wrong. Up until now, the plane relied on just one reading with no back-up.

Once FAA approves, Boeing officials say planes could be back in the air in days and for 737 MAX pilots, all you'll have to do is take a computer-based training around the upgrade, which would last about half an hour.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFEN: Erin, Boeing is also going to make standard a warning light about the angle of flight which in the past was sold to airlines as an upgrade.

[19:55:05] But until the FAA approves all of the changes, that 737 MAX will remain grounded --Erin.

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

And next, is it a germ concern? Jeanne Moos on Pope Francis trying to stop people from kissing his ring.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Here is Jeanne.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When it comes to kissing the pope's ring, he doesn't seem to like the ring of it. Watch Pope Francis yank his hand away time after time as Catholics lined up at a shrine in Italy to pay their respects. One guy looks like he ended up kissing his own hand. It is as if the devoted fans had cooties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is like a weird video game where you have to try and kiss the pope.

MOOS: But it is not as if the pope tells everyone to kiss off when they go for his ring. He usually goes along with it. Most memorably when this circus performer did it last year.

Ring kissing does tend to slow down the line. This man puckered up and got hustled away. On the day in question, Pope Francis allowed folks to dive bomb him for ten minutes before he started playing hard to get.

Supporters say it is the pope being humble, preferring to wash people's feet rather than have them kiss his ring. Most hand kisses don't involve a ring, be it the queen or Melania Trump or Kellyanne Conway.

One guy -- who doesn't refuse it is Don Corleone, and you better not refuse him.

Someone tweeted that Pope Francis looks like he's batting off flies but he did stop for hugs, a papal treat.

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: It's also good if you add an ice cream cone.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right. Thanks for watching.

Anderson starts now.