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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Source: Biden Campaign Keeping Close Eye on Warren; NYT: U.S. Officials Kept Details of Cyberattacks on Russia from Trump; Trump Orders Troops To Middle East Amid Tensions With Iran; Pentagon Releases New Photos As Proof Iran Was behind Attacks; Some Allies Skeptical; Trump Orders Troops To Middle East Amid Tensions With Iran; Senior Iranian Official: U.S. & Iran Headed For Confrontation; Trump Says It Is "For Too Early To Be Focused" On Polls As New Poll Show Him Trailing Biden By Double Digits; Trump Says He's Doing Great In Polls After Firing Campaign Pollsters; Trump Fires Campaign Pollsters Just Before 2020 Campaign Kick-Off Rally Tomorrow; Trump Falsely Denies Existence Of Dismal Internal Polls; Warren Slams 2020 opponents For Headlining Events "Behind Closed Doors With A Bunch Of Millionaires"; Source: Biden Campaign Keeping Close Eye On Warren. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 17, 2019 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: ... right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. Tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Thanks for watching. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next breaking news, President Trump orders more troops to the Middle East as the Pentagon declassifies new images to make the case that Iran attached two oil tankers. Are Iran and the U.S. headed for war. Plus, Elizabeth Warren takes a swipe tonight at her fellow 2020 Dems. Are her sharp elbows one reason she's surging in the polls? And Trump Cabinet Secretary under fire, accused of using her official role to help her family's business. Let's go out front.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. The U.S. preparing to send additional forces to the Middle East. This as we have new images, just declassified tonight of what team Trump says is an Iranian attack. The images of the attack on two tankers last week are detailed, they are close up and they have only been declassified after U.S. allies refused to accept Trump's blame of Iran.

So let me show you some of what we now have. This one, a clear image taken by a U.S. helicopter showing an Iranian Revolutionary Guard boat. Moments after that crew removed, we'll show you this, what the Pentagon said last week was this unexploded mine. That's what you see there in the circle from one of the tankers.

Now, there's another image which shows what the Pentagon says is another leftover mine and then the image of a hole. Look at that. That's a hole in one of the tank or holes from the blast. So they put all of this out all in 11 new images coming after a video was not enough to convince key allies including Germany and Japan that Iran was responsible for the attack.

And by the way, one of the ships was even Japanese. The German Foreign Minister said the video was quote, not enough. And this frustrated Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who said, "Just believe me, it's what U.S. intelligence says."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I wouldn't have said it if the intelligence community hadn't become convinced that this was the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: He says the U.S. intelligence community became convinced Iran attack those ships so just believe him. The problem is the reason allies do not trust Pompeo and just believe him because he said so is because he himself has undercut and questioned the U.S. intelligence community. Take the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which to use his word, the CIA concluded it was ordered by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. When asked about the CIA's conclusion, here is what Pompeo said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POMPEO: There's no direct evidence linking him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Pompeo's cherry picking of when to believe U.S. intelligence mirrors that of his boss who obviously directly sided with Saudi Arabia instead of the CIA in the Khashoggi killing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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: Trump and Pompeo's skepticism of the CIA then coming thanks to the Saudi Crown Prince being a friend of Trump's White House. But now, when it comes to Iran, team Trump wants the world to blindly believe the CIA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, Iran did do it, and you know they did it because you saw the boat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: No second guessing his intelligence leadership this time. Kaitlan Collins is out front live outside the White House, Fred Pleitgen is live for us in Tehran tonight. And I want to begin with you, Kaitlan in Washington. What more are you learning about the administration's latest moves against Iran tonight?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has announced that the Pentagon has authorized 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East for what he says is, quote, defensive purposes to address air naval and ground based threats in the Middle East. Now, Erin, we had a feeling this was coming because the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said the administration was weighing all of the options here including military ones.

But we should note that in his statement, Shanahan says, quote, the United States does not see conflict with Iran. He says the action being taken today with these 1,000 additional troops is just to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working in the area. But, of course, this comes as we are seeing Pompeo say not only they are considering a range of options, but also as the U.S. is trying to work to get allies to be on their side and convinced that it was Iran who was behind these attacks.

As you've heard and you just showed there Pompeo saying pretty unequivocally and the President saying it as well. Now, the question going forward is if they're successful and if they're able to do that, because so far the President has been convinced that his maximum pressure campaign here was going to work and now you're seeing Iran really resist that pressure from the Trump administration.

Now, Shanahan says he made this decision, Erin, about the 1,000 additional troops in conjunction with the White House U.S. Central Command which made the request, he said. And, of course, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And we should note that Pompeo is expected to travel to Florida tomorrow to go to U.S. Central Command which oversees all of these military deployments in the Middle East.

[19:05:14] BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan. And let's go straight to Tehran. Now, Fred, how is Iran responding tonight?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Erin, and the Iranians are continuing to say despite what the Trump administration is putting out there, that they unequivocally were not behind the attacks on those tankers. At the same time, a troubling development with a senior Iranian official telling CNN that he believes Iran and the United States are on a confrontation course and he believes that could have devastating consequences for the entire Middle Eastern Region.

Now, the Iranians are saying they're absolutely not going to back down. They don't necessarily believe that President Trump wants an escalation that could lead to a shooting war between the Iranians and the United States, but at the same time they do believe that there might be people in the administration that you kind of want to push the administration into that direction. So certainly an extremely dangerous situation that's going on here in this region. At the same time also some pretty bellicose rhetoric going on from the

Iranians themselves. The chief of the general staff of Iran saying today that if the Iranians wanted to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, they could easily do that, because he believes Iran's military is strong enough to do that, but he also said the Iranians would do that in plain sight in other words not through the kind of tanker attacks that we've seen in the gulf in the past couple of days.

Of course, that indeed would be devastating for the world's oil supply, Erin, about 20% of the world's oil supply goes through the Strait of Hormuz. I can tell you, I've gone through the Strait of Hormuz myself. It really is a very, very narrow area, so it could be very dangerous if there is a confrontation there, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, absolutely. Thank you very much, Fred. And I want to go now to Admiral William McRaven, former Commander of U.S. Special Forces. He oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, among many other famous operations including the capture of Saddam Hussein. He's also the author of the new book, Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations.

And Admiral, I appreciate your time tonight. The latest reporting, of course, the Trump administration getting ready to send more troops to the Middle East as tensions rise with Iran. Are you, Admiral, concerned about what seems to be a very quick escalation in this currently war of words with Iran?

WILLIAM MCRAVEN, FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND: Yes. Thanks, Erin. Good to be with you. Candidly, I'm not as concerned as a lot of others seem to be. The fact of the matter is we've been dealing with Iran for decades and these sort of proxy attacks or attacks, we've seen them before. You go back to the late '80s when we had the tanker wars, the mining of the straits and the military, certainly the U.S. Navy knows how to deal with these kind of attacks by the Iranian.

So we'll make sure that if something like this happens that we have a measured response and I know Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Shanahan have been looking at those sorts of responses.

BURNETT: So given that I think it's interesting you point out about the mining, obviously, that happened before. Mines are part of the reason that they are saying they're so confident that this was Iran. And obviously they've had problems getting people to believe them, given their history on other issues. In this case, though, they have put out 11 new high resolution photos that they say prove that Iran was responsible for the attack on two tankers, including that giant hole in the hull.

Do you have any doubt, Admiral, that Iran was responsible? I mean is there any doubt in your mind at all?

Well, I do trust the U.S. intelligence community and I certainly trust Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Shanahan. So if they say that it was Iran, then I think we accept their position on this. Now, again, looking at those photos, what you see our limpet mines. So these are mines that somebody put above the waterline and that's an

important point. The fact of the matter is these were not underwater mines that certainly could have sunk or severely damaged these ships. So this was a message either Iran or somebody was sending to us to say, "Hey, we have the ability to affect the shipping." Of course, this was outside the Straits of Hormuz. This was in the Gulf of Oman.

BURNETT: Yes.

MCRAVEN: But nonetheless this is another signal that the Iranians I think are sending to us.

BURNETT: And do you understand why allies, I mean, obviously Japan, these ships, one of them was Japanese, the other linked, they're refusing to accept the video proof, the Germans refusing to accept the video proof. That's part of the reason they had to put these additional photos out. Do you understand why there is that hesitation from allies given - well, obviously, you could look at the Russian meddling in the election, skepticism of the U.S. intelligence community, but obviously the example we just gave as well with Saudi Arabia. Do you understand why allies are skeptical?

MCRAVEN: Well, I understand why allies want the intelligence. Anytime you have a situation like this, it's important for those that have the intelligence to be able to share it, certainly with our allies in Europe, our allies in Japan and to provide the evidence that's necessary before anybody takes any sort of military action or diplomatic action. So I think it is incumbent upon us as it looks like the secretaries have done to showcase the intelligence in a way that is meaningful to our allies.

[19:10:06] BURNETT: When President Trump said, Admiral, that he was revoking the former CIA Chief, John Brennan's security clearance and this was last August, you spoke out, you wrote an op-ed and you wrote in part, I quote you, Admiral, "I would it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency. Like most American, I had hoped that when you became President, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs. Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eye of your children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation."

Admiral, we're now in the middle of June, 10 months, has your view changed?

MCRAVEN: Yes. What I'm certainly hoping, Erin, and I've mentioned this before is I had the opportunity to work for President Bush, Bush 43 and, of course, President Obama. And while I didn't agree with either man on every issue, they were men of great integrity and great character and we're always trying to do what was right for the nation. And my hope and my prayers continue to be that President Trump will see that integrity and character and doing what is right for the nation, which I think he tries to do, but I would offer that you may want to look at the examples of the two presidents that came before him and continue to do the best for this country.

I will also add that as a former military officer, we have an obligation, we have a sworn obligation to follow the Commander in Chief.

BURNETT: Yes.

MCRAVEN: And it is important that we always do this. The Commander in Chief is the elected representative of the people of the United States. We have an obligation as military officers to follow the Commander in Chief. We should do that. If we can't follow the Commander in Chief, then we have an obligation to resign, it's that simple. And as long as it as a lawful legal order, we have an obligation to follow him.

BURNETT: Right. And obviously I know that you and others who have retired from those roles have felt an obligation to speak out more forcefully, obviously, than those who are in service now, who do not and should not. In your in your new book, Admiral, you tell the story of planning for the rate of Osama bin Laden, then you talk about sitting in THE SITUATION ROOM with then President Obama, and you write about a phone call you had within the night before the raid.

He says, "Well, Bill, I just wanted to call you and wish you and your men Good luck." You reply, "Thank you, Mr. President." He says, "I want you to tell them I am proud of them. Make sure you tell them that, Bill." "I will sir." "What do you think is here? Is he there, Bill?" He's referring to Osama bin Laden. You replied, "I don't know, sir. But I do know that if he is there, we will get him and if he's not, we'll come home."

There was a slight pause on the other end of the line, you write, "Maybe I was reading too much into it, but I felt the President understood the risks my men were taking and truly appreciated their courage and their patriotism." President Obama again says or then says, "Well, again, good luck, Bill." "Thank you, Mr. President," you reply. You write, "I hesitated just a second wondering whether I should tell the President of the United States that I understood the difficulty of his decision, and that I appreciated his leadership.

Now, has President Trump shown the same ability to lead Admiral?

MCRAVEN: Well, again, Erin, I don't want to comment on President Trump's leadership because I never served under President Trump. What I can tell you is that you have the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, who is absolutely one of the finest officers I ever worked with.

I've had a chance to meet Secretary Shanahan. He seems like a very good man. I know that they are going to provide the President of the United States the best advice and counsel they can. And it's my hope that the President will always take that advice and counsel and do what's best for the men and women of this country.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Admiral McRaven and I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you. MCRAVEN: My pleasure. Thanks.

BURNETT: And next, President Trump telling his supporters not to believe the polls. So what happened to this man?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I love polls. Everybody knows I love polls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Plus, Elizabeth Warren taking on her 2020 opponents blasting them for wining and dining millionaires. Is that the key to her newfound momentum? And President Trump tells his chief of staff to leave an interview all because he dared to do this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Let's do that. Oh, he's coughing in the middle of my answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, OK.

TRUMP: I don't like that, you know?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:17:51] BURNETT: New tonight, ignore the polls. That is what President Trump is telling his supporters on the back of polls showing him doing badly in the 2020 race. The President tweeting, quote, only fake polls show us behind the Motley Crew. We are looking really good, but it is far too early to be focused on that. Much work to do. Make America great again.

This has Trump fires three of his own internal pollsters after bad internal poll numbers for him leaked, so these were their own poll numbers that leaked out. Of course, it is pretty hard to call your own polls fake. Out front now National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation Joan Walsh and former Republican Senator and presidential Candidate Rick Santorum.

Senator, if the internal polls are so great, why did Trump just fire these internal pollsters?

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA): Because the internal polls are probably not so great. I think he fired him because they leaked and then maybe he feels that they were homehow responsible for that leak. But he is right that you don't worry about early polls.

BURNETT: That's fair.

SANTORUM: I win 20 elections maybe with the exception of three or four, I was behind in every early poll at this point in time and I've won a bunch of elections. So the reality is there's a long way to go and the President sometimes, I know it's going to shock, you over reacts to these things.

BURNETT: Well, I mean, Joan, I guess the truth is maybe the biggest anger he had was the fake polls or his own polls.

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: Right. And also I think someone may be trying to tell him something like, "Dude, you're not doing as well as you think and we've got to put more into this." So I'm sure he was enraged at that. But I mean I think it's funny, we now know two things that Donald Trump will not tolerate, coughing in front of him and bad polling. Don't bring him bad polling numbers. So I think the idea of firing your pollsters because he don't like their numbers is weird.

BURNETT: Well, OK, so I have to say, Senator, we had great enjoyment putting some of this together today. Trump adores polls, OK, this is the reality. The man adores polls. He obsesses over polls. He lives by polls and popularity contest.

SANTORUM: When it's good polls.

BURNETT: Yes. He has spent, in fact, 20 years gloating about polls. Here are a few times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[19:20:02] TRUMP: The polls have been unbelievable, so I am going to form a presidential exploratory committee.

When they put me in polls, everyone says I should run for president.

I love polls. Everybody knows I love polls.

I believe in polls.

You know, I'm a poll maven. I became like the old-time expert on polls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK. Senator, a maven who believes in polls except for now?

SANTORUM: Yes. Well, the President likes good polls. I mean you'll hear him talk about those and I actually agree with Joan. I think this is probably a good thing that they're presenting him with some bad polls. I mean he's got work to do.

And I think he knows that, but these individual polls in these states, I know when I go to the White House, "Is he going to win Pennsylvania?" I get that question all of the time and my answer is ultimately I think he will but he's not winning Pennsylvania right now.

BURNETT: Interesting.

SANTORUM: Because number one he doesn't have an opponent and number two he's got a lot of work to do to explain the good things he's accomplished for the country.

BURNETT: Right. I mean I think part of what's interesting though about this whole exchange about polls is that it appears that he didn't tell the truth, Joan, because it cut too close to the heart. So he told George Stephanopoulos that's where this exchange happened when George Stephanopoulos confronted him about these leaked polls, which were bad, which were leaked from team Trump.

He told him that that wasn't the case. That's not what the leaked polls really showed and here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I just was given a meeting with my pollster who I frankly don't even believe in pollsters if you want to know the truth, you just run a campaign and whatever it is it is, but I just had a meeting with somebody that's a pollster and I'm winning everywhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I mean you got to wonder and I'm curious from a psychological point of view whether he does believe that now or knew that to be untrue and just said it because he wasn't sure what to say because obviously if it were true he would be bragging about the numbers because listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I love those polls when they're good. Now, if they're no good I don't report them.

The Los Angeles Times has a six points up nationwide, good poll. If it weren't, I wouldn't be telling you about it, I promise.

If we're doing badly, I don't know about polls. No it's true. When we do badly I don't know about polls, right? But when we're doing well I know about polls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK. So does he know that he's doing badly to both what you and the Senator is saying, he needs to work on it or is he just pretending that it's fake and he can ignore it and say it's not true?

WALSH: I don't know what he knows to be honest with you. I mean The Washington Post has already caught him in 10,700 lies since inauguration day. So he is capable of saying what he thinks the situation deserves. We know he hates losers. What's worse in the world than being a loser, so I think he's got to deny these polls.

BURNETT: So Senator, the core of the polls was that Trump's internal polls showed him losing to Biden and he's been focused on Biden, talking a lot about Biden and now Biden is really stepping it up and bragging about some big sweep. Here's Biden today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I plan on campaigning in the South. I plan it if I'm your nominee winning Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina believe it or not, and I believe we can win Texas and Florida if you look at the polling data now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Whoa, that's aggressive, Senator. But right now I will say the Fox News poll out shows Biden leading Trump 49 to 39, so I guess that's where Biden is getting all of that bluster.

SANTORUM: I hope that he spends a lot of time in the fall of 2020 in South Carolina. I think that would be a really aggressive strategy, a very confident move on Joe's part and so I encouraged him to spend time in Georgia and South Carolina and Texas and stay away from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Iowa.

BURNETT: Joan, final word.

WALSH: I hope he doesn't listen to you, Senator, and I trust he will not. But look, I think it's good for Democrats to say they're going to compete on the South. I think writing off a whole swath of the country is crazy. So the President is elevating Joe Biden with all these talk about Joe Biden. He's doing him a great favor. So if he's really afraid of Joe Biden, he should zip it.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you, both. And next, the fight for 2020, CNN learning team Biden is keeping a close eye on Elizabeth Warren in addition to Donald Trump and she is not afraid to take on her opponents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not spending my time behind closed doors with a bunch of millionaires.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Plus, the U.S. reportedly stepping up its attacks on Russia. So why are the President's aides keeping him in the dark about it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:29:07] BURNETT: Out front tonight, the fight for 2020, Elizabeth Warren with a tough swipe at her 2020 Democratic opponents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: I've been to a lot of places around this country. I've taken more than 2,000 unfiltered questions from folks. Shoot, I'm over 30,000 selfies now. Yes. So I'm in this, but here's the deal, ask yourself why I've got the time to do that and most other candidates don't and the reason is because I'm not spending my time behind closed doors with a bunch of millionaires.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Biden advisors telling CNN they're keeping a close eye on Warren's rise which has been very clear in the polls and a new one now shows an uptick in enthusiasm for the Massachusetts Senator while on that count both Biden and Sanders drop. Jessica Dean is out front.

And Jessica, you have been covering the forum today where eight candidates have been speaking, Warren among them. So when you looked around the room and gauge the response, what was the energy like for Warren compared to others?

[19:30:06]

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is interesting because the crowd was told you don't applaud too much, don't show favoritism. We are here to listen to what the candidates have to say.

But there was a clear energy when Elizabeth Warren walked into that room. She was very comfortable on that stage. People were very engaged with what she had to say. They were listening.

And, you know, this is the thing we have seen from Elizabeth Warren. She talked about it herself in that bit that you showed that she has done so many of these town halls. She is very comfortable talking about her plans of which we know she has many, talking about his policy proposals and always no matter what the question is being able to navigate her answer back to what she wants to tell voters about her plans and policies.

Now, we also saw Joe Biden at the event earlier in the day, as well. This was the first cattle call type event that he had done with multiple candidates. He has been kind of striking out on his own until now.

This as Elizabeth Warren is rising and hearing reporting from my colleague Jeff Zeleny about Biden's team keeping an eye on Elizabeth Warren's rise. They acknowledge they are keeping an eye on it. But they really believe that she is eating into Bernie Sanders' support. They are dismissing reports that they are like singularly focused on this, that they want to keep forging ahead with his strategy which, Erin, of course, is to make it all about Donald Trump and to make the case that he is the person to take on Donald Trump in 2020.

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

So, now, let's go to Basil Smikle. He served as senior aide to Hillary Clinton. And Keith Boykin, former Clinton White House aide.

All right. So, Basil, what do you make of Warren slamming her opponents for specifically not being out there as much because they are too busy trying to raise money for millionaires?

BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it's typical of someone looking at her opponent, someone who has been leading in the polls and hitting him on his Rose Garden strategy. He hasn't showed up as much. He started to do that a little bit now.

And there seems to be vulnerability in the most recent polls. If I look at where Elizabeth Warren has come from now overtaking Bernie Sanders, if you are a Democrat and you are a little concerned whether it is age -- I don't always subscribe to that, but some are. If you are concerned about age, concerned about baggage, here is Elizabeth Warren who seems to be a champion of the left who is an actual Democrat. So, you get that, too.

So I see her as a really interesting and important alternative. There are others certainly, but an alternative --

BURNETT: And now, what do you make, Keith, of this -- one thing that is interesting when you bring up age, age is a fair question. As Biden has acknowledged that it is.

Age could be an issue. We'll see. But, you know, she is about to turn 70. She is not young but she conveys energy and enthusiasm and a vibrancy that perhaps Biden and Sanders do not.

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think she absolutely does. She has a sense of enthusiasm and energy about her when you see her speak. I think people resonate with that. There's also the sense that she has a compelling message.

I mean, she goes out there. She's been doing this for several years, which is she sort of deconstructs the idea that socialism is a bad -- even though she's not a socialist, she talks about how the government is an important institution that helps build bridges and the road and police officers and firefighters, they help to build businesses. I think that that's a message that resonates with the progressives. She was talking to a progressive audience today, the Poor People's Forum.

And so, there is this wing of the party that you think Bernie Sanders is going to get them because he's the far left candidate, but Elizabeth Warren has credentials, too. She is a big threat to that race.

SMIKLE: If I can add very quickly to that, the interesting dynamic between those two, Sanders and Warren, is that Sanders is very good at articulating the problem. But what we have seen with Elizabeth Warren is she is about solutions.

BURNETT: She's about the solutions.

SMIKLE: And voters are attracted to that, because it provides them a pathway forward. So that's another reason why I think she thinks she's doing well.

BURNETT: So, we see, Keith, an enthusiasm. Obviously, she is ticking up, Biden and Sanders ticking down. And, you know, I got an e-mail today from the Pocahontas PAC, OK, referring to what the president is going to do. I have to say I sort of laughed when I got it.

The point is they are going to continue to try to capitalize on the issue with the ancestry and the DNA test. And here is what the president said.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now she's a Pocahontas is doing better. I would love to run against her.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is going to do whatever he thinks helps Donald Trump. I think the way that we win is to go out and talk to people all across this country about our plans for the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So, will this -- he is going to push it and push it. He still tweets about it. There are PACs supporting him. Obviously, he is not involved with a PAC.

But this whole Pocahontas. She is not biting right now, Donald Trump, keeping it professional.

[19:35:02] BOYKIN: She shouldn't bite at this right now. I think it's an indication that the Trump campaign is apparently worried about Elizabeth Warren. And I think they should be because the polls show she beats Donald Trump just like Bernie Sanders does or Joe Biden does or Kamala Harris does. Even Pete Buttigieg is beating Donald Trump for the presidency right now.

I think the other part is that Elizabeth Warren has a message that sort of transcends where Donald Trump is going. She doesn't have to go fight on this turf because the Democratic Party vote is very litigated. It came up last year.

We're over it. We're moved on. Trump is going to raise it no matter what.

BURNETT: He's going to hope it is a general election issue.

BOYKIN: He's going to try to raise it, but, you know, the party faithful I think have moved on from that. The people most offended by this probably would be Native Americans and they are likely not to support Donald Trump, the big Andrew Jackson supporter. So, I don't think its going to be a big issue against her even in the general election campaign.

BURNETT: So, how worried is Joe Biden about Elizabeth Warren right now?

SMIKLE: He should be taking it seriously. Look, of course, there is a lot of time. We know that. We will start to see these go up and down throughout the rest of the cycle. But he should be worried.

And I don't know if it's going to show up on the debate stage. I'm not sure. I expect that Biden is going to try to sort of continue to put -- sort of poke fingers at Donald Trump to preview the general election.

BURNETT: Yes.

SMIKLE: But I think his others opponents --

BURNETT: Right, to say it's beneath me to talk to her -- (CROSSTALK)

SMIKLE: And his opponents on the stage will go right after him. So, yes.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

And next, the U.S. reportedly escalating attacks on Russia's power grid, but the United States President Donald Trump was not fully briefed. Why? Do his own aides trust him with classified information about Russia?

And then Jeanne on the president's chief of staff told to get out after he did what I just did.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:40:57] BURNETT: President Trump's own defense and intel chiefs reportedly kept him out of the loop about escalating American cyber attacks on Russia's electrical power grid. Why? Well, according to the "New York Times", the reason is there was fear that the president's reaction would be to overrule them on these attacks or to discuss the attacks with foreign officials including Russians.

OUTFRONT now, former CIA operative Bob Baer.

Bob, you know, it is pretty stunning the reporting here that they didn't tell him everything that they were doing because they were worried that he would tell the Russians themselves or make them stop doing it.

What's your reaction when you hear this? Could you imagine a scenario like this?

ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, never. In all my years, Erin, in intelligence and around it, studying it and the rest, I have never heard of an operation intentionally kept away from the president. It just doesn't happen ever. I know of no circumstances. I'm talking 50, 60 years that it has ever occurred.

When I was in the CIA, we had a channel we thought something was particularly sensitive that involved the security of the United States we can send it right to the White House. It went to the Situation Room and landed on the president's desk by law.

So for the Pentagon or Cyber Command, whoever kept this away from the president is stunning. I mean, truly, it is.

BURNETT: What does it tell you that they would make such a move, that they would keep President Trump intentionally in the dark about details of what they were doing aggressively against Russia?

BAER: Erin, they don't trust him. It's as simply as that. He goes to Mar-a-Lago, talks about operations. He invites the Russian ambassador into the Oval Office, talks about compartmented operations, and on and on and on. If you if have anything to do with Russia in the government whether

it's the FBI or the Pentagon, it's self defensive to keep it out of the president's hands.

BURNETT: So if he knew details about these attacks and shared them, which, of course, he didn't know the details. So, I'm just remembering back to remember the sensitive operation in Syria and he shared information with the Russian foreign minister which apparently Israel was worried could have put lives at risk. There have been instances where information was shared with him which upset the intelligence community greatly.

If he knew the details and overruled the intelligence community or shared the details in any way with a foreign official, how bad would that be?

BAER: It's terrible. These things are top secret. The hacking codes are supposed to be clandestine.

Now that the Russians know that there is malware in their power grids, they can find it. It's going to setback the national security agency, Pentagon and everybody else. I mean, these steps are well tightly held only to be shared in the White House with the president, national security adviser. Now we know.

And what really disturbs me, Erin, is not trusting the president. I have never seen that before. I wonder what is going on inside the government.

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

BAER: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, is Elaine Chao, how the president's transportation secretary, who happens to be the wife of the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, using her official position to help her family's business?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELAINE CHAO, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: I was so pleased that I was able to bring my father on Air Force One with the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And Jeanne Moos on the cough that caught President Trump off guard.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:48:16] BURNETT: Tonight, House Democrats say they are looking into ethics allegations about another Trump cabinet member, this time the Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. New questions are being raised about whether she used her position to help benefit her family's shipping business.

Drew Griffin is OUTFRONT. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is the Trump administration's top official overseeing shipping in the United States, which is exactly the industry that has helped make Elaine Chao rich. Her family's company built by her parents both Chinese migrants and now run be her sister Angela is a global leader in dry boat shipping and does major business in China, which is why Chao's use of the office to put her family and its business on display is raising more than a few eyebrows.

KATHLEEN CLARK, GOVERNMENT ETHICS EXPERT: She has attempted to use and she has used government office to help her father and his business.

GRIFFIN: In 2017, Elaine Chao used the Department of Transportation as a back drop for multiple interviews with Chinese and Chinese language media like this one -- her father at her side --

JAMES S.C. CHAO, ELAINE CHAO'S FATHER: President guest.

GRIFFIN: -- and showing off his lapel pin he received flying on Air Force One.

E. CHAO: Well, my father and I traveled on Air Force One. That is always an experience. And I was so pleased that I was able to bring my father on Air Force One with the president.

J.S.C. CHAO: President spent about seven minutes with me.

GRIFFIN: The family company called the Foremost Group is based in the U.S. but the company builds ships in China, hires workers in China, does much of its shipping to and from China. Elaine Chao's sister Angela sits on the board of the state-run Bank of China and even though there is no evidence Elaine Chao used her office to influence government policy to benefit her family's business, she has repeatedly travelled to China for major company events.

[19:50:09] Several Chinese government and business experts tell CNN her relationship to the family sends a message intended or not.

Chinese expert Robert Lawrence Kuhn said though there is a recent crack down on corruption in China, personal relationships remain very important.

ROBERT LAWRENCE KUHN, CHINESE EXPERT: The perception is that if you are seen in the company of powerful people or relatives of powerful people within China, that is good for your business relationships.

GRIFFIN: A spokesperson for Elaine Chao is quick to point out the transportation secretary has no official correction to the Foremost Group, but the Foremost Group has certainly helped make her rich. Chao and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, received between $5 million and $25 million in gifts from Chao's parents according to 2008 Senate financial disclosures, catapulting McConnell to becoming one of the richest member in the Senate. Elaine Chao's extended family has donated more than a million dollars to McConnell's political pursuits.

And Elaine Chao could inherit even more wealth as Foremost Shipping continues to flourish, making scenes like this all the more troubling according to law professor and government ethics expert Kathleen Clark.

CLARK: It's a clear-cut violation.

GRIFFIN: Clark says regardless of the perception in China, this use of office violates U.S. government ethics rules, specifically this one, on endorsing organizations, products or persons.

(on camera): Executive branch employees may not use their government positions to suggest that the agency or any part of the executive branch endorses organizations, products or people.

CLARK: If Secretary Chao did not violate that regulation under these circumstances, then the regulation means nothing. Then any government official will be able to, you know, endorse any kind of outside enterprise associated with the family member.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In or out of public office, visit after visit, it is Elaine Chao who appears to be the Foremost Group most important unofficial representative in China. She is accompanied her father or sister to more than a dozen events there, often meeting top Chinese officials.

In 2008, when she served as labor secretary, Chao brought her father on an official visit to meet the Chinese premier. In 2015, she is sitting prominently with a party leader and introduced as the former U.S. labor secretary.

According to a Chinese report, the meeting was to promote mutually beneficial cooperation between Foremost Group and Hooby (ph) Products.

New watchdog group headed by Democrats is now suing the Department of Transportation for any agency documents that mention the Chao family business. Several house Democrats say they are concerned about Chao's use of her office.

But for now, the Department of Transportation is calling the attacks political, an attempt to fabrication a web of old, tired innuendos and baseless inferences, reflecting a lack of understanding of the department's responsibilities while demonstrating deep cultural misunderstanding.

Chao, the spokesman, says has done nothing wrong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: And, Erin, when asked if the Chinese could interpret Elaine Chao's behavior as an endorsement of her family's business, that DOT spokesperson said, say we don't speculate on who interprets what in China and went on to call some of the media attention racist, stating if her last name was Smith, none of this would raise a question -- Erin. BURNETT: All right. Drew, thank you.

And next, Jeanne on how to stop President Trump in his tracks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Let's do that over. He's coughing in the middle of my answer. I don't like that, you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:52:49] BURNETT: So when President Trump speaks you better think twice about coughing. Here is Jeanne.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you have to wipe your nose, don't wipe it near this guy.

TRUMP: I'm also very much of a germophobe.

MOOS: And if you cough during an interview.

TRUMP: But at some point I hope, they get it. It's a fantastic financial statement.

MOOS: Prepared to be thrown out like a used Kleenex.

TRUMP: Let's do that over. He's coughing during the middle of my answer.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Yes, your chief of staff.

TRUMP: If you have to cough, please, leave the room.

MOOS: Not some intern but acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.

On the bright side, Kim Jong-un would have had him killed.

A former campaign staffer told "The Washington Post" it's something they are warned not to do.

JOHN KASICH (R), FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: Thou shall not cough.

MOOS: Imagine how Hillary would fair.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Can I get a cough drop or something?

Every time I think about Trump, I get allergic.

MOOS (on camera): A lot of people kept coughing up the coughing conspiracy theory.

(voice-over): That Mulvaney was trying to signal Trump to shut up about his financial statements.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, THE VIEW: This is my theory. I think he was doing, don't talk about how you're broke.

MOOS: Anthony Scaramucci tells of the time he had a sore throat while meeting with President Trump aboard Air Force One. The president banished him to the sick bay for a shot.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: There I am traveling on the most famous plane in the world. My pants are down and I'm taking a shot of penicillin like I was in the second grade.

MOOS: The ban on coughing left some wondering, sniffing OK, though? Trump has a tendency to order things out.

TRUMP: Get this thing out of here, will you?

MOOS: From teleprompters to crying babies.

TRUMP: You can get the baby out of here.

MOOS: But at least he's no Caligula, when a young man's coughing irritated him, off with his head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've cured his cough.

MOOS: Will President Trump keep his head the next time someone coughs?

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take it away. It looks horrible.

MOOS: New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MOOS: Thank you for joining us. And don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime anywhere, just go to CNN Go.

In the meantime, "AC360" starts right now.

END