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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Harris Touts Her Background As Prosecutor on Campaign Trail; Trump on Accuser: "She's Not My Type, Never Happened". Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired June 24, 2019 - 19:00   ET

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


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: ... example I threw away all of the clothes that I was wearing during that shoot. That may have been an abundance of caution, but I've been there three times, I'm not sure I'm going to go there a fourth and a fifth.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I would hold up. All right. Thanks very much Matthew Chance in Moscow. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next breaking news, the President in a new interview tonight says he doesn't need congressional approval when it comes to Iran. This is Trump drops what he claims our powerful new sanctions. Plus, Kamala Harris, the prosecutor, now she's laying out Trump's rap sheet and vowing to go after him. Will it work on the campaign trail? And now Trump speaking out tonight about a new accuser who says he sexual assaulted her in a department store. His response. Let's go out front.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, President Trump speaking just moments ago saying he can go it alone and take on Iran without congressional approval.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like the idea of keeping Congress abreast, but I wouldn't have to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. Nancy Pelosi actually said you have must have congressional approval, so you disagree with her on that?

TRUMP: I disagree. I think most people seem to disagree but I do like keeping them - they have ideas that intelligent people, they'll come up with some thoughts, I actually learned a couple of things the other day when we had our meeting with Congress which were, I think, helpful to me. But I do like keeping them abreast but I don't have to do it legally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That's a big claim. We're going to speak to Congresswoman Jackie Speier about that in just a moment. It comes as the President announced today what he calls hard-hitting sanctions against Iran's supreme leader and his associates. A move the President claims will force Iran's hand into submission. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran's increasingly provocative actions. We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran until the regime abandons its dangerous activities and its aspirations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The president talked about how effective these sanctions are. He's Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin echoing his boss.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN MNUCHIN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: We've literally locked up 10s and 10s of billions of dollars. These sanctions will come along with additional entities where people are hiding money. So, no, these sanctions are highly effective.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Highly effective or are they? Is this real action are just tough talk? Take for example Iran's supreme leader. No one really knows where his money is to even lock it up. He hasn't even left Iran in years. Plus our Fred Pleitgen who spent last week in Tehran tells us tonight that these sanctions have no wider impact on Iran's military or political leadership than the ones already in place.

What sanctions are doing is hurting the average Iranian, causing prices to surge and, of course, keep in mind this fundamental fact, Iran's largest trading partner is not the United States, it is China, which to state the obvious is not sanctioning Iran as Trump engages in a trade war with China. So then what exactly is Trump's endgame with Iran? This is a must answer question. The President has repeatedly said he doesn't want war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm not looking for war and if there is, it'll be obliteration like you've never seen before but I'm not looking to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Throwing the word obliteration around without saying exactly what you want is a problem, because right now America is at economic war with Iran. Military tensions are escalating and tonight Iran's naval chief is threatening to shoot down more American drones. The White House owes the American people more than just tough talk, but real answers and specifics like what exactly today's new sanctions were retaliation for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to be clear, is this the U.S. response to the Iranian shooting down the drone?

TRUMP: You could probably, Steve (ph), add that into it. But basically this is something that was going to happen anyway.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So going to happen anyway or what he said at the beginning of the program strong and proportionate response to the drone and other aggression. Kaitlan Collins is out front at the White House. Kaitlan, is the President and his team offering any clarity at all on these sanctions? What specifically they're going to do?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, you'll remember last Thursday when the President called off that strike, he said that new sanctions have been imposed on Iran leading to confusion because the Treasury Department hadn't made any announcements and now today we're seeing what those sanctions are looking at.

And essentially they're targeting Iran's supreme leader, barring him from using the international banking system as well as going after several of their military commanders. Though that's raising questions about just how many of them have financial assets in international banking systems and what the impact of that is going to be.

One notable thing that the Treasury Secretary said today when he was briefing reporters here in the briefing room at the White House was at the end he said that the President had personally instructed him to add the nation's top diplomat to this sanctions list later this week. Now, that's unusual because he wasn't in the treasury list that they later released talking about the people that they are adding to this sanctions list.

[19:05:01] And, of course, if they're saying that they're not going to put those sanctions on until later this week that essentially breaks a long-standing protocol that you don't telegraph sanctions before they are imposed because then it gives that individual a chance to try to invade the worst impacts of those sanctions. So that's raising questions, but essentially what we're going to see over the next few days is a waiting game coming out of the White House to see whether or not Iran buckles to the pressure, the economic pressure that they're going to be feeling from these sanctions or whether or not they continue to try to provoke the United States and if so if the President listens to his National Security Advisers or if he does like what he did last week and follows the outside counsel of people who are talking to him outside of the West Wing,

BURNETT: Kaitlan, thank you. Out front tonight Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier. She sits on the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committee. So Congresswoman, you would know as much as there is to know about what's going on right now. Do you know exactly what these new sanctions are?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Well, you're assuming a fact, not an evidence, Erin, because the administration does not necessarily talk directly with us particularly in the Intelligence Committee about steps they're taking. It's regrettable that they are so compartmentalized. But I will say that the President appears to be deaf, because it is clear that what the Iranians are doing is signaling to us that they want to negotiate. And rather than de-escalation, the President is escalating and that

means trouble. That spells trouble for us and for our men and women in service around the world.

BURNETT: So the President today laid out his reasons of why he thinks that imposing new sanctions is the right thing to do. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You shut down the drone, I guess, everyone saw that one and many other things. These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran's increasingly provocative actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Do you support new sanctions being added right now at all or is what you're saying, "Look, they want to negotiate, let's hold back and wait."

SPEIER: I want us to negotiate. I want us to negotiate with our allies. Once again, the President is going it alone and that is a prescription for disaster. So first and foremost, we need to go to the negotiating table by imposing more sanctions all he's doing is creating yet another obstacle that we have to overcome.

We've got to remember that the Iranian population is mostly young very high percentage are young. They like Americans. They have a high unemployment rate right now in Iran. They've seen their gross domestic product actually decline. All of those are signaling that they are in an economic crisis. And yet what are we doing? We're putting more oil onto the fire and making it even worse.

BURNETT: I have to say one of my memories from being in Tehran was how nice everyone was at a rally as they were chanting death to America, knowing that we were Americans. It was an interesting moment that I've never forgotten. The Hill TV just did an interview with the President in which he said he does not need congressional approval to do anything when it comes to Iran. Is that your interpretation?

SPEIER: No, it's absolutely false. And once again, the President is acting as if Congress does not exist and Congress will not exist if we don't speak up. There is a resolution led by Congresswoman Barbara Lee and others to make it crystal clear to the president that he cannot engage in any kind of military force against Iran without our approval.

Congress has the authority to wage war, to initiate a war and the President cannot rely on the AUMF the authorization of using military force back in 2001 in order to engage against Iran.

BURNETT: Today, a senior official with Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, traveling with him in the Middle East said he, Mike Pompeo, did not raise the issue of Jamal Khashoggi. The brutally murdered journalist with the King of Saudi Arabia. The senior official also said, Congresswoman, that he wasn't sure if Pompeo raised it with the Crown Prince who, of course, the CIA concluded ordered the murder. And this came after Trump was asked in an interview whether he talked

to the Crown Prince about the murder in a phone call just a few days ago and Trump blatantly said he did not bring it up and then this exchange happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United Nation said they'd like the United States to order the FBI to investigate Jamal Khashoggi's death and possibly MBS' involvement in it. Will you allow the FBI to do that.

TRUMP: I think it's been heavily investigated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By who?

TRUMP: By everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the FBI?

TRUMP: I mean, I've seen so many different reports.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the FBI?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So many different reports, of course, is not true. Why do you think, congresswoman, that the President of the United States continues to take the side of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and takes a stand against the CIA?

[19:10:11] SPEIER: So I have my questions one of which is and we'll not know the answer until we can get the president's tax return and the tax return of Mr. Kushner as well, are there some financial reasons why he is so interested in cozying up to Saudi Arabia and to the Crown Prince. The UN has come out with a very comprehensive study that's very specific and says that the United States should investigate further.

It is very clear to me that this President does not want to take the side of a person who was working as a resident in the United States, was working for The Washington Post who was murdered in the most egregious manner and we sit silent. I am circulating a resolution right now to draw attention to the fact that this is an incredibly heinous act and one that we should all be speaking out about.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Congresswoman, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

SPEIER: Thank you.

BURNETT: And out front next, a wide-ranging exclusive interview, Trump talks about Joe Biden not getting an endorsement from Barack Obama. We have the reporters who just spoke to the president and they are out front next. Plus, a fierce battle brewing between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Sanders now trying to outdo Warren when it comes to promising really big expensive things. Can he stop her momentum? And a writer standing by her accusation tonight that she was assaulted by then businessman Donald Trump and what would amount to rape. The President responding moments ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:15:22] BURNETT: In a new interview with the The Hill moments ago, President Trump questioning why President Obama hasn't endorsed Joe Biden. Watch this exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There has to be some reason why he's not endorsing him. He was a vice president. They seem to have gotten along and how President Obama's not endorsing him is rather a big secret. If you want to know, if you know the answer, please let me know, because I think it's very - and then he goes and lies and said, "I asked the president not to endorse me give." Me a break.

He said he asked the president because he's embarrassed by the fact that Obama is not endorsing him, so he goes and says I asked President Obama not to endorse me. Well, he was trying to get the endorsement so it could be that President Obama knows something. But there is something going on, on that brain of his.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK. So then the reporters followed up, what exactly is going on in that brain of Biden's and Trump continued, quote, I think he's off, he's different. We've all known him a long time. I've seen him for a long time. Frankly he looks different, he sounds different, and he thinks different. Other than that I hope he does very well.

Out front now, the reporters who just spoke with President Trump Saagar Enjeti, Chief Washington Correspondent and Host of Hill TV and Jordan Fabian White House Correspondent for The Hill. All right. Thanks so much to both of you.

So you obviously talk to the president about a lot of things. Jordan, let's start though with this exchange about Joe Biden. The President seemed fixated on Biden not getting Obama's endorsement.

JORDAN FABIAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE HILL; INTERVIEWED PRESIDENT TRUMP: That's right, Erin, and it's part of this effort by the president to raise doubts about the health and mental capacity of Joe Biden. He's raised the age issue with Biden before who's 76 even though the President is only three years younger and he's taken repeated shots at Biden sometimes against the advice of his aides to try to knock him down a peg from being the Democratic frontrunner and he seems to be wanting to do that more and more as the first debates are approaching this week.

BURNETT: I mean Saagar, it seemed like he just sort of wanted to go on and on about it.

SAAGAR ENJETI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, HILL TV; INTERVIEWED PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes. Erin, he feels very strongly about Joe Biden being weak in this debate. He said it was Joe Biden's debate to lose and he focused a lot about his relationship with President Obama. I thought it was noteworthy, I wish I could have asked him if that meant that Mike Pence automatically had his endorsements and he's his vice president.

BURNETT: Well, you know what to your point as he slams Biden for not getting Obama's endorsement, this whole issue of Mike Pence, he actually as you point out, he won't even endorse his own vice president. Here he is in just the past couple days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, it's far too - look, I love Mike. We're running again. But, you know, you're talking about a long time. So you can't put me in that position.

I'm not even thinking of it, it's so far out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

TRUMP: I mean, it's so far out. That would be the only reason. Now, what happens in 2024 I don't know that Mike is going to run. I don't know who's running or anything else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I mean does he sense any hypocrisy? Do you think, Jordan?

FABIAN: No. I mean, we followed up with him many times on some stances that seem to be hypocritical. One was the Supreme Court where we asked him if he would fill that seat if the seat becomes vacant leading up to the 2020 election. He said, "Of course, he would." He would do it three days even before the election. Even though he supported Mitch McConnell's decision to block a vote on Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016.

BURNETT: Saagar, so I want to ask you about the new accusations of sexual assault from magazine writer and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll. She talks about what by any definition would be rape in a dressing room of the New York department store. You asked Trump about it, he said she was totally lying and continues to say and quote out - this is how he answered the question to you about whether this happened, quote, I'll say it with great respect, number one, she's not my type, number two it never happened. What was the look on his face to his response when his answer to you was number one she's not my type.

ENJETI: Well, the President was very angry about this. He said emphatically he believes that she was lying. He went into actually great detail. He's saying this is Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s. There were a lot of people around. It's impossible that anybody wouldn't have seen to think that something like this could have gone on within the dressing room. He was animated.

I think he's watched her on a couple of these shows, including CNN, and he felt that this was a good opportunity to respond and to hit back.

BURNETT: Jordan, what was your response? Were you surprised when his first response was number one she's not my type?

FABIAN: It was certainly surprising. We're sort of been giving a word of warning beforehand that he might be a little riled up about this subject, but it was still surprising to hear him go that far. And he said something that really stuck with me which is I want you to be very strong on this.

So he almost seems to be ratcheting up the rhetoric in such a way that he really just wants to stamp out this allegation even though he's tried this sort of thing in the past and yet all of these women are still standing by their stories.

[19:20:16] BURNETT: Well, they certainly are and, of course, it would seem if you're accused of rape, the first response being she's not my type is frankly quite disturbing to me. All right I want to ask you about you asked President Trump about whether he would nominate someone to the Supreme Court up until election day. Saagar, you just mentioned this so let me play that exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FABIAN: If you put forward a nominee between now and the election if there's an opening on the Supreme Court?

TRUMP: Would I do that? Of course. Do you have any recommendations?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And that was the hypocrisy you were referring to, Saagar, certainly when it came to what Mitch McConnell did with Merrick Garland under Barack Obama.

ENJETI: Well, the President sees no hypocrisy in that point. What he said to us was the reason that they did that is because they didn't control the Senate. He told us later on in the later print interview that he would do it even three days before the election and hoped that he would be able to do that.

BURNETT: Jordan, what else stood out to you from your extensive conversation with the President tonight?

FABIAN: Well, I think he's definitely in a fighting mood. I think he's doing a string of interviews with this launch of his campaign last week and yet he's still commenting on pretty much anything you throw at him. I mean we asked him about the Federal Reserve for example and he almost went as far as saying he has the power to fire Jerome Powell as Fed Chair.

And so that was something that was like a little surprising and something that could probably prove markets to be honest. So he doesn't seem abode by really any of the perceived critics that are around him. BURNETT: That's something that will disappoint - markets disappoint

his own party as well. And Saagar, before we go, also saying he doesn't need congressional approval to do anything with Iran. I just played her sound bite to Congressmen Jackie Speier who said, "Absolutely not." I would imagine there are many Republicans and Democrats who will agree with her and be very frustrated with what he just said.

ENJETI: Absolutely, Erin. I followed up with him twice. I said, "Specifically, the House Speaker says you need congressional approval to go forward with this strike." He said, "I do not agree with that." But that he was happy to keep Congress abreast and all the developments going on. He's very firm in his ability to strike Iran without any congressional approval.

BURNETT: All right. Lots of lots of headlines there. And Jordan and Saagar, thank you both very much.

FABIAN: Thanks, Erin.

ENJETI: Thanks.

BURNETT: And next Bernie Sanders trying to one-up Elizabeth Warren with a new plan to help people who have student debt. But will it actually help some of the people that Sanders likes to rail against?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At the end of the day, the very, very wealthy get richer and almost everybody else is getting poorer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Plus, Kamala Harris making a name for herself by going after witnesses in the Senate. So why are her skills as a former prosecutor helping her climb up in the polls?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:26:55] BURNETT: Tonight, the fight for 2020, Bernie Sanders trying to beat Elizabeth Warren at her own game. Sanders unveiling a new plan to make all colleges and universities tuition free and debt free and he wants a one-time cancellation of $1.6 trillion of student debt held by all Americans. OK. That is a heck of a price tag. In fact, it is twice as expensive as Warren's tuition plan. Warren who happens to be gaining on Sanders in the polls twice as expensive means more people who benefit.

Out front now, Joan Walsh, National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation and Paul Begala, Democratic strategist who served as White House counselor to President Clinton. So, Joan, Elizabeth Warren was the first to come up with an idea of school forgiveness.

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: Right. BURNETT: But her plan was much more based on income levels and it

wasn't just like, "OK, here we get a one-day wonder for everybody." But yet she's been rising in the polls. So is Bernie Sanders looking at Elizabeth Warren going, "Oh, that worked. I can do a little bit better and it'll help me."

WALSH: I think there's a little bit of that. I think that Bernie gets a lot of credit for opening the door to big ideas like Medicare for all, tuition free college. But I think where he's fallen short is a little bit of the implementation. The plan, he hasn't always had the plan. He hasn't always had the funding mechanism, so what he's doing today is saying first of all this is a grand plan.

It's everybody and I like the ambition of it. I like the value of it that we settle this two generations, we're going on two generations of having this kind of debt. I'm forgiving all of it. And here's a plan to do it, here's how we pay for it.

BURNETT: And it's going to be free for everybody in the future.

WALSH: In the future and then it goes along in the future tuition free college and community college.

BURNETT: Right. Paid by transaction taxes and trading and financial services, Paul. Look, critics of both plans say that it would actually benefit people who already are among the most lucky in American society. A former Obama Treasury official tells The Washington Post, "Warren's proposal would actually benefit the top 40 percent of earners."

They would receive two-thirds of the benefits partially because I suppose those are the people who are going to go to the schools and benefit from the debt forgiveness plan and Sanders' plan would probably be even higher, because more people are going to benefit. So what do you say, Paul, is this realistic?

PAUL BEGALA, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Well, I mean, you could do it, but I do think there is a problem with disproportionate impact, 60 percent of Americans do not have a two or a four-year education. And so they wouldn't benefit from this, maybe in the future the lower or zero cost tuition would help them. But I do think that Democrats do better the way I think Barack Obama and Bill Clinton did where they talked about service in exchange for earned benefits. Serve your country.

Pete Buttigieg has talked about that in the past when he was in Congress. Beto O'Rourke has talked about that. But that's a different model. I do think there's great parallel if the Democrats look like they're for free stuff and for smarty pants rich kids, I think that could really be a problem, politically.

[19:29:54] BURNETT: And yet, Joan, look, the fact that this would help people at the higher end of the income scale is certainly not what you hear from Elizabeth Warren and Sanders here. They both are.

WALSH: Right. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We got a government that works great. It works fabulously. It works terrifically for the rich and the powerful.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At the end of the day, the very, very wealthy get richer and almost everybody else is getting poorer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well, the fact that those comments are somewhat inconsistent with this plan hurt or not?

WALSH: I don't think it hurts. You know, I think one thing that can actually help Warren today is the fact that her plan is now in the middle. You have Bernie's plan which forgives everybody. It makes hers look a little more moderate, Julian Castro --

BURNETT: She is seen as less progressive.

WALSH: She is seen as being less out there and maybe more thoughtful about the unintended consequences of forgiving so many rich kids, to put not too fine a point on it.

Julian Castro, I should also say, has a forgiveness program but his is less generous still than Warren. So, now, she's in the middle.

BURNETT: Right, which is interesting and could help.

I mean, you know, Paul, look, we are far from doing this. But I mean, on some level I'm thinking government will set the price and the really elite schools will get more and more expensive and you're going to end up with another problem with elite education. But again, I don't want to get too many details right now.

The reality of it is that Sanders has been afraid of Warren rising in the polls and that's part of what might have prompted this. Here is what he has been saying about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: Senator Warren will run her campaign. I think what the evidence will show is that I am, in fact, the strongest candidate to defeat Trump.

I've certainly known Elizabeth for many, many years, and she's a friend. One of the reasons that so many Americans are dispirited about the political process is that they hear candidates come forward and say, I want to do this and I want to do that and I want to do that, but nothing happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: It's getting a little nasty out there. WALSH: Yes, you know, it could be worse. These are two people who

are friends. I don't expect it to get super nasty.

I'm one of those people who is a little bit sad about our setup because I would love to see Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders take each other on on this. I love to see Warren against Biden on the debate stage talking about bankruptcy. We're not going to see that quite yet.

But there is plenty to talk about. The other good thing for Bernie today is that he is out there with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She has not endorsed yet. He would like her endorsement. So would Warren.

He is out there with Pramila Jayapal, who's sponsoring this in the House.

BURNETT: That's right.

WALSH: You know, Ilhan Omar, those progressive women that he really wants to be associated with their energy and so does Elizabeth Warren, he is with them today. So in terms of day to day politics, it's a good day for him.

BURNETT: Paul, what's the smarter move? To go far left and own that lane in the primary, or to be seen as more moderate and perhaps by some as more electable in the general?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, my own politic is far more moderate than Senator Sanders. But setting my views aside, that is what the data indicate. The percentage of Democrats who want their party to be more moderate rather than more liberal is over 50 percent and rising since Donald Trump became president. By contrast, the vast majority of Republicans want their party to be even more conservative. They are becoming an extremist party.

Democrats just won their largest landslide since women got the right to vote with the most diverse slate of candidates they've ever fielded, and the most moderate. I just want to say as a Democrat, it's a wonderful thing to see them competing on ideas. They're not attacking each other. This is not Donald Trump insulting some of these hand sizes or mocking John McCain. This is what politics ought to be, let's get on the field of ideas and see who's got a better one.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both.

And next, Senator Kamala Harris gearing up tonight for her first primary debate. After a promising start, what does she need to do to regain momentum?

Plus, President Trump speaking out tonight about the author accusing him of sexually assaulting her in a dressing room. Could those allegations play any role in 2020?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:37:46] BURNETT: Tonight, Senator Kamala Harris, her prosecutorial skills have made her stand out on the Hill. It's how you've seen her over the years in those moments. But how has the response been among the ultimate jury, primary voters?

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Drumming up support in South Carolina ahead of this week's Democratic debates. Kamala Harris used the words of the courtroom to tout her record as a prosecutor.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So let's read that rap sheet, shall we? Yes, black Americans, he said, what do you have to lose? Well, we know civil rights investigations are down, hate crimes are up. We had a lot to lose.

LAH: Her argument on why she is best positioned to make the case against the president.

HARRIS: Let's talk about looking at that rap sheet where he has embraced dictators like Kim Jong-un and Putin and taken their word over the American intelligence community. Let's prosecute the case.

BEVERLY DIANE FRIERSON, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I think today was a good preview of what to expect. You can tell there was fire in her spirit.

LAH: Beverly Frierson, a retired teacher first noticed Harris during Senate hearings.

HARRIS: Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?

BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I'm happy to answer a more specific question.

HARRIS: Male versus female.

LAH: That handling of powerful Washington players also swayed Brandi Brooks.

BRANDI BROOKS, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: When I saw the Kavanaugh hearings, I thought she was amazing, super strong.

LAH: From Supreme Court nominees to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

JEFF SESSIONS, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.

LAH: To most recently the current Attorney General William Barr.

HARRIS: Has the president or anyone at the White House asked or suggested you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no, please, sir.

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president or anybody else.

HARRIS: Seems you would remember something like that and be able to tell us.

LAH: Viral cable moments racking up millions of views online.

But there is another narrative about Harris's prosecutor past that as a district attorney and then California's attorney general, she was more cop than reformer.

[19:40:08] Harris has pushed back on the trail and in interviews.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For whatever reason, they think a black person should never lock up black and brown people.

HARRIS: Yes, but here's what how I feel about this Charlamagne. Are you saying if a child is molested, if a woman is raped or somebody is shot down and killed --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should go to jail.

LAH: In the days leading up to the Democratic debate, Harris is determined to showcase that career as a top credential.

HARRIS: I know how to get that job done. We need somebody on our stage when it comes time for that general election who knows how to recognize a rap sheet when they see it and prosecute the case.

FRIERSON: She no nonsense. Sometimes people play games with you or attempt to do so. She makes it clear, you don't try that with Kamala Harris, because I'm well-prepared and I can handle it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: Now, Ms. Frierson who first was impressed by the courtroom skills expects her to deliver in the first Democratic debate. Harris will be on stage with Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, two older white men who currently lead her in the polls. Erin, her campaign tonight says that she is in Miami for last minute debate preps -- Erin.

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

And I want to go now to go now to Keith Boykin, Democratic strategist.

All right. So, Keith, Karen Tumulty, a "Washington Post" columnist, wrote when Harris entered the race it seemed the senator from California might be the one who had it all, experience, charisma and exciting potential to make history as the first African-American and Asian woman to sit in the Oval Office.

And then Tumulty talked to a voter, a 30-year-old woman in South Carolina who said, quote, she is intrigued by Harris and excited about a possibility of a female president, but she thinks Harris needs to soften up a little bit and let people in a little bit. She is all business. If she would show personal side, I think she'd be amazing.

Is this relevant to the fact that she has been sort of flat-lining in the polls?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know. I think the voters get to decide whatever issue they want to determine whether this candidate is acceptable for them. In this case, I wonder if this is not some sort of gender issue because the same issue I remember when Hillary Clinton ran they felt she was too strong.

BURNETT: The word soft is a flag.

BOYKIN: Exactly.

It happened in 2008 and 2016 when she decided to run as a grandmother for Hillary Clinton. I think, you know, if you look at Kamala Harris's record as a prosecutor, she kind of scares Republicans. When Jeff Sessions testified in front of Senate Judiciary Committee, he said that she made him nervous.

BURNETT: Yes.

BOYKIN: You know? Donald Trump called her nasty. She tripped up Kavanaugh and Pompeo.

BURNETT: She is really good in those moments.

BOYKIN: She's really good on those moments, and I think that can be a good thing and a bad thing for her. It is good for the general election especially at going against Republican. But it can also hurt her in the primary process when she has to face people who criticize her being too harsh.

BURNETT: So, you heard Kyung say she is in Miami for last-minute debate prep. What does she need to do on the stage with Biden and Bernie Sanders?

BOYKIN: I think -- I honestly believe the first thing she needs to do is introduce herself. I mean, if you look at where she is at the polls, look at the great announcement she had back in February from Oakland.

BURNETT: Yes.

BOYKIN: She hasn't really been able to take off from that point. I think part of it is that people say, according to the CNN polls, that they are intrigued by her but don't know enough information.

BURNETT: So, she needs to introduce herself which sometimes starting with the basics is the way to go.

All right. Thank you, Keith.

And next, President Trump's new defense saying the woman accusing him of sexual assault in a dressing room is not his type.

Plus, Jeanne Moos on President Trump and whether he read the Mueller report. He has now told us two very different things.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:47:37] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump said he didn't sexually assault magazine writer E. Jean Carroll. She's accused him of assault in a New York department store dressing room. And what she describes is rape.

He responds to her accusations: I'll say it with great respect, number one, she's not my type. Number two, it never happened, it never happened, OK?

When asked if she was lying, this is in "The Hill" interview, he said, quote, totally lying. I don't know anything about her. That was in "The Hill" interview, and Trump's comments.

Columnist E. Jean Carroll is telling the story of what she says happened for the first time. Sara Murray is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): Tonight, author and columnist E. Jean Carroll is standing firmly by her claim that Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in a department store dressing room two decades ago.

E. JEAN CARROLL, COLUMNIST: The minute he closed that door, I was banged up against the wall.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: He slammed you against the wall.

CARROLL: Yes, hit my head really hard. Boom.

MURRAY: Carroll is publicly detailing the alleged attack for the first time in her new book, "What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal".

The now 75-year-old "Elle Magazine" columnist says she had a chance encounter with Trump at Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s. But she says what began as a light-hearted exchange turned violent when they ended up in a dressing room.

CARROLL: He pulled down my tights. It was a fight. I want women to know that I did not stand there. I did not freeze. I fought.

And it was over very quickly. It was against my will 100 percent. And I ran away.

MURRAY: Carroll goes into more graphic detail in her book, writing he opens the overcoat, unzips his pants and forces his fingers around my private area and thrusts his penis halfway -- or completely, I'm not certain -- inside me.

But Carroll still struggles to call it rape.

CARROLL: Don't want to be seen as a victim because I quickly went past it. It was a very, very brief episode in my life. Very brief. I am not faced with sexual violence every day like many women around the world. So, yes, I'm very careful with that word.

MURRAY: On Saturday, President Trump vehemently denied the allegations.

TRUMP: I have no idea who she is. What she did is terrible, what's going on. So it's a total false accusation and I don't know anything about her.

MURRAY: Yet a photo shows them chatting at a party in the 1980s.

[19:50:03] TRUMP: There is some picture where we are shaking hands it looks like at some kind of event. I had my coat on.

MURRAY: And while Trump dismissed Carroll's account as a publicity stunt, today, she suggested it wasn't an attempt to sell books.

CARROLL: I never mentioned Donald Trump in the description of the book, on Amazon, you don't see it.

MURRAY: During the presidential campaign, an "Access Hollywood" tape from 2005 surfaced showing Trump bragging about sexual assaulting women.

TRUMP: And I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.

MURRAY: Since then, at least a dozen women has accused Trump of sexual harassment, assault, or lewd behavior, all from before Trump was president. He's denied all of their claims.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, E. Jean Carroll said she told two friends about the alleged attack some 20 years ago, right after it happened. I spoke to both of those friends and both of them told me that they remembered her telling them about this incident and that she seemed like she was in shock at the time -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Sara, thank you very much. Of course, significant that Sarah was able to speak to both of those friends.

OUTFRONT now, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, President Trump is responding by saying he denies anything about Carroll, right and OK, they were in a picture together but he didn't know who she is. Tonight, he says: I'll say with great respect number one, she's not my type. Number two, it never happened.

So his first response is she's not my type.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Which is been keeping with the responses that we heard from him after the multiple allegations back in 2016 that Sarah was just reminding of us about her report, you know, what we are used to with when you hear and see a person who is accused who denies it, the first thing that they say is I would never do that. How can you say I would do something like that? I would never do that. Not she's not my type and it never happened.

Having said that, when it comes to Donald Trump, as I mentioned, this is his kind of classic response to something as he vehemently and firmly denies it as he did again tonight.

BURNETT: Yes, and, you know, this morning in that interview on CNN, Carroll had an emotional reaction to the president's patterns of denial that you're referring to. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: He denies it. He turns it around. He attacks and he threatens. That is -- and then everybody forgets it and then the next woman comes along and I am sick of it. I am -- Alisyn, I am sick of it. Think how many women have come forward, nothing happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And she, of course, you heard her layout yes, I'm writing a book but I didn't mention him in the preamble, et cetera, but he's using that why now? Why when there is a book?

Are Americans numb to this? I asked this in the context to another election and possibly that we may learn more stories. Are they numb, Dana?

BASH: It's such a good question. We don't know the answer to that. I'll tell you talking to people inside the president's reelection campaign, they believe and are banking on yes, that it's baked in at this point when it comes to voters, that's a quote from a senior aide.

Earlier today having said that, we just don't know if there is a difference between what people tolerated in 2016 when they knew he was a celebrity. They knew he was somebody who was, you know, different from every other politician and now when he's the president of the United States, even though the allegation is from before he was president, well before.

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

And E. Jean Carroll will be back with Anderson coming up in the next hour on CNN.

And next, Jeanne on Trump's Mueller report flip-flop.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:58:07] BURNETT: So, did President Trump read the Mueller report?

Here's Jeanne.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Did President Trump read the entire Mueller report?

Pick an answer, was it what he told George Stephanopoulos on ABC.

TRUMP: The report said no collusion.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Did you read the report?

TRUMP: Yes, I did and you should read it, too. You should read it, too.

MOOS: Or was it what he told Chuck Todd on NBC.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Did you not read the Mueller report?

TRUMP: Let me tell you, I read much of it. I read the conclusion.

MOOS: Well, that's pretty conclusive. After all those time he badgered George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He said there was insufficient evidence that said there was a conspiracy. I read every page.

TRUMP: Excuse me, read the report, read the conclusion of the report. Just read it, OK?

MOOS: He himself had read just the conclusion.

(on camera): But if the Mueller report at 400 pages is a bit too much, there is an alternative coming that is half the size.

(voice-over): And this one is illustrated by Shannon Wheeler, a cartoonist who draws for "The New Yorker" and published a book called (EXPLETIVE DELETED) my president says: The illustrated tweets of Donald J. Trump.

The graphic novel version of the Mueller report is being written by a journalist. Due out next year, it's sort of like cliff notes or an idiot's guide but with drawings. Wheeler says it reminds him of Dick Tracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had to tip off that two crooks Mumbles and Stooge Villers are making counterfeit money.

SHANNON WHEELER, CARTOONIST: Just look at the characters. I mean, look at Manafort. And there is Mumbles and there's Flat Top. It's straight out of a Dick Tracy rogue's gallery and Mueller is Dick Tracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take those crooks off your hand.

MOOS: The goal of the graphic novel approach is to have people read the Mueller report and we know a certain someone who prefers briefings illustrated so maybe he'll finally get around to reading it.

Jeanne Moos, CNN.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you read the report?

TRUMP: Yes, I did, and you should read it too.

I read the conclusion.

MOOS: New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Thanks for joining us.

Anderson starts now.