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Trump Claims "Tremendous Support" For Background Checks, At Odds With Republican Lawmakers And NRA; Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) Is Interviewed Regarding Trump on Gun Laws; GOP Senator Tim Scott Says If He Runs For Re-Election In 2022 It Will Be His Last Race; Dems Flock to Iowa State Fair to Boost White House Bids; U.S. Official: North Korea Launches More Short-Range Missiles. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 9, 2019 - 19:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: ... a moment he won't remember, but we won't forget this past week, will we? What kind of world is baby Paul entering? A better one, we hope, and the one we lived through this past week. I'm Jim Acosta. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, the President says it's time for meaningful background checks, but history shows you can't take him at his word. Plus, more Democrats are calling Trump a white supremacist. Could those attacks put Trump back in the White House in 2020? And breaking news this hour, the U.S. confirming North Korea has just launched two more missiles as the President says he got another beautiful letter from Kim. Let's go out front.

And Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, Trump's empty promise. The President today promising gun control. The problem is it is a promise he has made before and broken.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to have meaningful background checks. We need meaningful background checks so that sick people don't get guns.


BURNETT: OK. So today, you heard him, President Trump used the word meaningful 17 times. Seventeen times he used the word meaningful when talking about background checks. But if he means what he says, then he can take a stand. He could write an executive order now. He could let the NRA and some in the GOP fight and he could take it to court. He could lose but he could stand.

So tonight Trump has a big choice to make, whether or not to be a president of his work because here are his words 18 months ago after the Parkland mass shooting.


TRUMP: We're going to do very strong background checks. Very strong, we're going to do background checks.


BURNETT: Again, that was nearly 18 months ago and he has done nothing since then on background checks. So his lack of action, his broken promise, is actually odd for at least one really important reason and that is a reason the President knows. Here he is again today.


TRUMP: On background checks, we have tremendous support for really common sense, sensible, important background checks.


BURNETT: He is right. The American people, a majority of Democrats and Republicans support background checks, meaningful ones. Quinnipiac poll from March found 86 percent of voters support the background check bill that already passed the House. That is a tremendous number. So you would think that Trump would, knowing that, even have more reasons to step up and take action, but instead today he punted. He said, "I called Mitch McConnell."


TRUMP: I spoke to Mitch McConnell yesterday. He's totally onboard. He said, "I've been waiting for your call." He is totally onboard.


BURNETT: OK. Mitch McConnell is not totally onboard and Donald Trump knows it. He didn't call the Senate back in session. He definitely has not said he is for background checks. In fact, if he were background checks, he could have voted on that bill that 86 percent of Americans support, but he didn't. He has refused to bring it to the Senate floor for months.

In fact, all he has said since these latest terrific shootings was this yesterday.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): There has to be a bipartisan discussion here of what we can agree on.


BURNETT: If that's taking a meaningful stand. So again, the buck stops with President Trump. He can take McConnell on.


TRUMP: I can tell you there's tremendous goodwill for meaningful - I'm talking about meaningful, add that word, meaningful background check so that sick and demented people don't carry around guns.


BURNETT: OK. So, President Trump, is he going to keep his word or will he make meaningful become a meaningless word? Pamela Brown is out front at the White House at this hour. So Pamela, why doesn't the President just do something if he says he believes in it?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, I mean, he could call Congress back from recess and take a leadership role in this, but he's choosing not to do that. This as he's once again calling for what he says are these intelligent background checks to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. But we know NRA's Wayne LaPierre is already in the President's ear, Erin, telling him that it wouldn't have prevented the recent mass shootings and that'll turn off his supporters in deep red states.

Now, after Parkland, the President, as you pointed out caved under pressure from the NRA on background checks. And while some analysts believe a bruising leadership battle inside the NRA weakened its influence in Washington, Trump says he'll take their calls, he wants their support in 2020.

After speaking with the NRA today, the President struck, Erin, a hopeful and optimistic tone that really didn't line up with reality. He said he believes the NRA will get there and supporting it, background checks. He says there's tremendous support on both sides of the aisle for background checks, including with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

But as you pointed out shortly after McConnell spokesman said the Senate Leader hasn't endorsed anything and that McConnell has only promised to discuss background checks and red flag warning legislation. We're also told he won't call Senate back early from recess.

[19:05:06] So the question tonight, Erin, is will there still be the same appetite after the five weeks recess has passed?

BURNETT: Thank you very much and I like the thought that Pam poses that question, because in a sense, obviously, it's rhetorical. They all know as it has time and time again, they're hoping it goes away. Again, he used the word meaningful 17 times. It's either that or it's meaningless.

Out front now, Democratic Congressman Jennifer Wexton. So the headquarters of the NRA, obviously, right on your doorstep and I appreciate you taking the time, Congresswoman. So President Trump came out today, OK, let's just take today, 17 times he says he's for meaningful background checks, 86 percent of the American people support the bill passed in the House, Democrats and Republicans majorities of both. Do you think he means it?

REP. JENNIFER WEXTON (D-VA): Well, if he means it, he has an opportunity to show us by asking Mitch McConnell to bring the senate back to vote on the bill. I personally believe that they're trying to slow walk this and hope that something knocks it off of the front page and knocks it off of the new cycle in the next five weeks. BURNETT: I mean, unfortunately, it's hard to dispute what you're

saying because it does appear to be what's happening here. I mean but when the President says there's tremendous support for background checks, his word tremendous, obviously, as I point out, 86 percent of the American people support that bill that you are referencing.

He said McConnell is onboard, but you heard McConnell, he said, "Let's talk about something. Let's just be bipartisan about it." Is there any chance Mitch McConnell brings that bill to the Senate floor? I mean is there any chance in your mind?

WEXTON: Well, he said since February to do it and it is a bipartisan bill. It passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan vote. So he has a great opportunity to do it if he's sincere. I question his sincerity, because as I said he's had since February to do it and has absolutely ignored it and deliberately left it sitting on his desk.

BURNETT: So the President today said he thinks that his base is going to get onboard. Here he is. Here's how he put it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is your base supporting background checks?

TRUMP: I think my base relies very much on common sense and they rely on me in terms of telling them what happening.


BURNETT: So he's right about that except he told them one thing and then he didn't do it and now here he is, 18 months later, telling them the same thing. Do they just not care or what?

WEXTON: Well, I mean, the question is he going to follow his base? Is he going to follow the NRA? Is he going to follow what over 90 percent of American public wants which are universal background checks. Because if he really want some meaningful background checks, he has an incredible opportunity to make that happen with H.R. 8, which passed the House of Representatives in February with bipartisan support.

So there is a great opportunity to do that. He has an opportunity to show the American people that he's serious about it, but I question his sincerity at this point.

BURNETT: So look, I mean, it was bipartisan, but obviously it was vast majority Democrat. A lot of Republicans still have trouble with this. They may personally think it, but you have Will Hurd, you have seven others who supported it, but this is still an issue. OK, and you flipped a red district blue. All right, Congresswoman? And you did that while backing stricter gun control.

So in other words, you took a red district where a lot of people, Republican end up voting for you and you're coming out for more gun control. So why do you think so many Republicans are still scared to do that when the majority of Americans, Republican and Democrat support it?

WEXTON: That's a good question because I beat an incumbent who had an A rating from the NRA and that didn't help her in the 2018 cycle. And I'm not the only member of the class of 18 who ran on this issue. We have Lucy McBath from Georgia. We have Jason Crow from Colorado and many, many other of us who flip districts.

From the suburbs with groups of Moms Demand volunteers, Everytown volunteers who have had enough who are afraid of their kids going to school and being frightened to have to shelter in place and do these active shooter drills in school and yet nothing happens. And we see massacre, after massacre, after massacre and Members of Congress, members of the elected leadership, unwilling to do anything about it, and they've had enough.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Congresswoman. Thank you so much. Good to have you on again.

WEXTON: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, a growing number of Democrats are calling the President a white supremacist. But is this exactly what Trump wants them to do? Plus, Republicans saying sayonara to Party's only black senator, Tim Scott. Is he following the only black Congressman, who's Republican, on his way out the door? And breaking news, North Korea just test firing two more missiles escalating tensions hours after Trump said this about Kim Jong-un.


[19:10:02] TRUMP: He really wrote a beautiful three page and it was a very positive letter.


TRUMP: I'd love to give it to you. I really would.



[19:13:55] BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump firing back at the growing number of 2020 Democrats accusing him of being a white supremacist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does Democrats calling you and your supporters a white nationalist, a white supremacist help you?

TRUMP: I don't think it helps. First of all, I don't like it when they do it, because I am not any of those things. I think it's a disgrace and I think it shows how desperate the Democrats ...

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: This comes as Axios reports that Trump campaign officials

and allies believe that comments like this by Democratic hopefuls will help Trump win in 2020.


ANDREW YANG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Based on his words and actions, yes, he has a white supremacist.


BURNETT: And we'll give you 17 more of those in a moment. Kyung Lah is out front in Iowa. Kyung, obviously, all of the Democrats, pretty much all of them are where you are this weekend, 20 of them. And it seems that President Trump being a white supremacist is a crucial question. They're all being asked it and they are almost all answering it.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, 21 candidates expected to show here at the Wing Ding dinner tonight. They are crisscrossing the state in the meantime.

[19:15:03] And what you're seeing behind me, Erin, are the greeting crews before these candidates go in. It is the question that they are absolutely being asked by political reporters. "Will you label Donald Trump a white supremacist?" And that direct question is being asked. About half of the field saying, "Yes."

Everyone from Elizabeth Warren earlier in the week, Andrew Yang you just heard, Kirsten Gillibrand, they are all saying he's either a white supremacists or white nationalist. But then there are some who are refraining notably two top-tier candidates, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They have both refrain from using that label, sticking that label on Donald Trump. Making that concerted effort to not go there.

And actually, I asked that question to Senator Harris and asked her why would she didn't want to go there. It's very clear that she doesn't want to focus on labels. What she is saying is that he is racist. She believes that his actions certainly have not helped people here in this country.

And Erin, I walked through the Wing Ding, it's a packed auditorium and I talked to hardcore diehard Democrats, do they care if the candidate labels Donald Trump a white supremacist or not. The great majority of them said they don't care what the label is, they do consider Trump a racist, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Kyung, thank you very much. And I want to go out front now to former DNC Communications Director Maria Cardona and Advisor to President Trump's 2020 campaign, David Urban. Thanks to both of you on this Friday. So Maria, is the Trump campaign right that calling him a white supremacist is actually going to help him win in 2020?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, absolutely not. And in fact, what kind of era are we living in when his allies kind of gleefully say, "Oh, they're so glad that the 2020 Democrats are calling their boss and the President of the United States a white supremacist." I mean, that should tell you everything.

What these Democrats are doing are calling it like it is. We just have had three shootings, one of them in El Paso where the shooter put out a manifesto using the same exact language attacking Hispanic immigrants that the President of the United States did. There is an USA Today story out today a study that they did were more than 500 times Donald Trump used in his rallies words like invasion, words like criminals, words like rapists, all of these words and then you can tie in the same kind of language that white supremacists use.

He cuddles them. He emboldened them. And what Democrats are doing are calling it out ...


CARDONA: ... and saying this is not the kind of ...

URBAN: Wrong.

CARDONA: ... American values that the President of the United States should represent.


URBAN: So, Maria, stoking extremism through rhetoric is bad on both sides, Maria, and I hope you recognize that and call it out. So the President is stood on the lawn there before I go to the helicopter and said, "Look, I don't want people to say that about me. I think it's a terrible thing." He's called out white supremacists.


URBAN: Look, if you go back to the seminal event, listen, you go back to the seminal event how this all started in Charlottesville and if you're truthful and you read the transcripts and you're truthful about it, the President never said they are fine people. He never equated the white nationalists within 1915 [00:03:16] saying they're fine people.

CARDONA: He did though, David.

URBAN: No, Maria ...

CARDONA: He did.

URBAN: ... he did not grit it.


URBAN: Maria, you're not being truthful. Maria, you're not being truthful. I encourage the American people to get the truth.

BURNETT: I'm reading it, he did. He did. He did. But he did.


BURNETT: That's exactly what he said.

URBAN: Erin, he did not.

CARDONA: He did, David.

URBAN: You're wrong. Erin, no, you guys are both wrong. Erin Burnett ...

BURNETT: He said, "I think there's blame -" I'm quoting, I'm reading you the transcript.

URBAN: Yes, read it.

BURNETT: Yes, I think there's blame on both sides.


BURNETT: If you look at both sides, I think there's blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it. And you don't have any doubt about it either, OK.

URBAN: Maria, hey, Erin.


URBAN: He called out white supremacists at that press conference, he said they're horrible people. He did identify, I talked them down there. He talked them down every opportunity. This president, listen, white supremacist, would a president who's a white supremacist put in policies first step back that released black and brown people to disproportionate rates from prisons and reduce their sentences?

No, what a president who's a white supremacist put in fact in place, excuse me, economic policies which lower taxes on African-Americans and African-African business.

BURNETT: OK, but this is - OK, but this actually ...

URBAN: No, hear me. No, hold on.

BURNETT: ... I'm glad you raise this point.

URBAN: No, listen. It's still my turn.

BURNETT: Just hold on. You're getting to the heart ...

URBAN: It's still my turn.


URBAN: No, no ...

BURNETT: I'm saying, David, you're raising a point which is economic should be important. URBAN: ... still my turn, so opportunity zones, yes.

BURNETT: OK, I understand the point. So Maria, to that point you can say ...

URBAN: No, I'm not saying economic should be more important.

BURNETT: OK, but you're saying, look, you're doing incredibly well, the unemployment rate is at record lows. It's a real point. So I asked you, Maria, when that's the environment and you have Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro both saying, "Yes," when asked if President Trump is a white supremacist. You have at least eight other Democratic candidates who have called him a white supremacist or white nationalist. I'm curious what their strategy is. Let me just play them so people can understand how sort of overwhelming this drumbeat has become in recent days here. They are.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you think President Trump is a white nationalist?


GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE (D-WA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we can no longer allow a white nationalist to be in the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a racist and white supremacist.

[19:20:06] ALEXI MCCAMMOND, REPORTER, AXIOS: Do you think that President Trump is a white supremacist?


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I few of your Democratic rivals including Beto O'Rourke, by the way, have described President Trump as a white supremacist. Do you agree?


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And he is not only egging on white supremacy and white nationalism, but he is one himself.

YANG: Based on his words and actions, yes, he is a white supremacist.

TAPPER: Congressman Beto O'Rourke told me this morning that he believes President Trump is a white supremacist or a white nationalist, do you agree?



BURNETT: So Maria, who do they think they're winning over by talking like that?

CARDONA: Well, I think what they're doing, Erin, is again telling it like it is and what I think they're also doing ...


CARDONA: ... is a repeat of what happened in 2018. Let's remember that Donald Trump doubled down on his xenophobic rhetoric going into 2018 talking about caravan invasions at the border. And what happened? He lost independence. The Republicans lost independence, Republicans lost white suburban Republican women. That is exactly the same track that he's going down.

And David I know you protest ...

URBAN: So Maria ...

CARDONA: ... but do you also, hang on, hand on a second ...

URBAN: ... you're making the point --

CARDONA: ... do you also protest when Donald Trump at his rally when he asks what do we do about those people and one of his supporters says shoot them and he laughs, do you think that's appropriate?

URBAN: Yes, terrible. But no, Maria, it's not appropriate.

CARDONA: That is something that white supremacist say is great.

URBAN: It's not appropriate.

CARDONA: They rally around him ...

BURNETT: OK, David, go ahead.

URBAN: No, it's not appropriate, but listen being racially insensitive but letting people make stupid comments is a far, far cry, a bridge too far to make - claiming white supremacy. I mean it's ridiculous.

CARDONA: It's not when it's taught for the chorus, David.

URBAN: And Maria you're talking about all of those voters. Maria, listen - Maria, you're talking about all of those voters, all of those voters are going to say, "Wow, this is a little too far." This is something now we know the Democrats are not talking through.

CARDONA: Or maybe it's not. If they feel like this president is using rhetoric that they feel ashamed of, that they cannot point to their children and say, this is the President of the United States, be proud of him.

URBAN: Maria.

CARDONA: They cannot say that today. That is not the kind of representative they want in the White House. BURNETT: So Maria, let me ask you, because I'm curious - hold on, one

point ...

URBAN: So if repeating the same divisive rhetoric ...

BURNETT: ... hold on, I want to just - the former FBI Director James Comey and obviously he and the President have no love lost, OK?


BURNETT: He recently tweeted, quote, millions of 2016 Trump voters are not racists. Now those Americans need the strength of character to resolve that they will not again vote for someone who clearly is.

CARDONA: Yes, right.



BURNETT: So he's making the point, but he's also making the point that a lot of people who voted for Trump in his view are now racist, millions of Americans voted for Trump.

CARDONA: Yes and I agreed with him.

BURNETT: So if all of these Democrats are going to call Trump a white supremacist, could Trump rightfully have a lot of those voters think, "They're calling you a white supremacist." And that's really hard to make those people like you then, isn't it?

CARDONA: Or what these Democrats should be doing and some of them have are flipping it which is what I think the truth is. When Trump uses that kind of rhetoric and when his allies say that that's going to help him in 2020, they are making the worst assumptions about his base assuming that they're going to eat up that rhetoric because they believe his base is racist and that is what those people I think should be looked at and Democrats would be point that out because that is an insult.

BURNETT: Final word to you, David, as Maria have the first.

CARDONA: That is an insult to his base.

URBAN: So as an advisor to the President, I think it's a terrible thing. I think it's a terrible thing to be called. I don't think it's helpful in any way, shape or form.

CARDONA: Good, I'm glad you think that.

URBAN: I think divisive rhetoric that doesn't unite us is bad on both sides and I wish you'd call it out, so ...

BURNETT: All right. Thank you, both. I appreciate your time.

CARDONA: Thank you, Erin. BURNETT: And next, a new problem for the Republican Party, the only

black Republican in the Senate signaling he wants out of politics after the only black Republican in the House did the same thing. And the 2020 candidates swarming Iowa facing a crucial test to win over voters.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've got to be tough. They have to be not wimpy.



[19:28:35] BURNETT: Tonight, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate saying his days in office are numbered.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How longer do you see yourself in politics? Are you running for reelection in 2022?

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): I'll probably run for reelection but that will be my last one if I run.



BURNETT: If I run, my last one. Scott's comments are jarring because they come just a week after Congressman Will Hurd, the only African- American Republican in the House announced he's done with Congress, retiring at the end of his term.

Out front now, former Republican Governor, Congressman Mark Sanford of South Carolina. And look, you've been in the midst of this, you've been in the midst of the Trump frenzy. You've worked with Senator Scott for a long time. What do you make of this all happening right now?

FORMER REP. MARK SANFORD (R-SC): I think it's probably a little bit of a mountain than a mole hill and that we're talking about 2028 if he runs again.

BURNETT: If he runs and he wins.

SANFORD: Right, it's be 2028. That's 10 years from now, basically. And that's a long run, I mean politics has a wear and tear that goes with it. Tim is a fabulous human being and the idea of doing something else with the rest of his life and not making politics the whole of his life is completely consistent with Tim.

BURNETT: OK, which I understand but the other context here is there's been nine Republicans who have announced in the House that they're not running for reelection, obviously, shorter terms there.

SANFORD: Sure. Sure, right.

BURNETT: One House GOP fundraiser puts all of this blame on Trump. The comment literally to CNN was they're all tired of trying to defend the SHI blank show. This is about (inaudible), yes.

[19:30:05] SANFORD: I know that movie, but again in Tim's case I think it's probably, again, conjecture in that some people said maybe run for governor of South Carolina.

BURNETT: He could do more politics.

SANFORD: Right, he could do more politics.

BURNETT: Are you worried about moderate Republicans saying, enough of what we hear here the S-H-I-blank show?

SANFORD: Yes. I'm a very conservative Republican. You know, I had my --

BURNETT: You had enough.

SANFORD: Right. My -- locked horns if you will on the president of a couple of issues. I don't think it's simply a moderate issue. It's a wear and tear issue based on the way in which you used to be a member of the House or Senate and talk about the issue and we could agree or disagree on issues but it wasn't response to the latest crazy tweet.

BURNETT: OK. So, look, as you pointed out, you had the locked horns but more than that. He was nasty. He made it personal. He celebrated when you lost.

When you tried to stand up to him, he retaliated, OK? He backed your primary challenger, he made a big stink about it, he slammed you after you lost and he went personal like this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She beat a man likes flamingo dancers from Argentina, you know about that. He was supposed to be vacationing on the Tallahassee trail. But he was actually in Argentina.

Never liked him too much. I wasn't a big fan. The Tallahassee trail. Must be a beautiful place. Unfortunately, he didn't go there.


SANFORD: The irony there is it is the problem with Donald Trump. For a lot of Republicans and Democrats alike, which is it's a cult of personality. If you look at my voting record, I voted with him more than 90 percent of the time, in the world of politics. I mean, I love my brothers and sister but don't agree with them 90 percent I have a very conservative voting Republican record, very much consistent with some of the things they tried to do in the administration every oh the two years we overlapped. But, again.

BURNETT: But he tries to --


SANFORD: Right. But again, for him, it's about not just, will you agree with me on issues, but will you, in essence, fall into this cult of personally which I think is really problematic in terms of our democracy?

BURNETT: Does it intimidate Republicans? People don't want to hear.

SANFORD: Yes, I mean, if he goes --

BURNETT: They don't want to become the butt of a joke at a rally and when he tries to embarrass you.

SANFORD: Right, and that's -- that's what -- that's what's turning off many Republicans to Donald Trump. Whether it's with the retirement that you have seen, wear and tear on that front or, frankly, soccer moms in the coastal district of South Carolina that I used to represent. That district went Democrat for the first time in about 50 years, because a lot of soccer moms that I talked to said enough is enough. This is getting too crazy.

BURNETT: OK. So, you talk about Republicans.


BURNETT: I spoke to one this week. I don't know if you know him. Nebraska state senator, OK, John McCollister.

He was saying enough in terms of Republicans and race. He felt that they were failing. The Republicans overall are failing to denounce the president's racism here is what he said.


JOHN MCCOLLISTER (R), NEBRASKA STATE SENATOR: I'm particularly disappointed in Republican officeholders for allowing President Trump to say some of the hateful things that he has said. And I think it's time for them to stand up for a change and make it known that they don't condone that kind of hateful speech.


BURNETT: He is a lifelong Republican. OK? He says that, Republican Party in his state of Nebraska then calls for him to change his registration and get out of the party. What does it say to you?

SANFORD: Well, it says, one, political parties have always circled the wagon around the person in power, period, particularly at the top. But what it says it is right now that phenomenon is on steroids. It is really a cult of personality with Donald Trump where in I'd have conversations with folks back home where I say, I agree on this, this issue and they had say one thing, which is are you for or against Donald Trump? I said, no, it's not about for or against Donald Trump, it's about being for or against certain conservative ideals I stood for for 25 years.

And so, I think what he gets at there is right, which is people need to speak out where they can and where appropriate to say I disagree with some of the crazy show.

BURNETT: Right, which you've done, right?


BURNETT: I mean, it's fair to say you would say let's -- you do you agree make it known I don't condone the hate speech.

SANFORD: Completely.

BURNETT: You have -- you're considering a primary challenge to Trump, OK? Are you going -- what's going to make you make a decision on that? What's going to make you decide yes?

SANFORD: It's an impossibly gargantuan task.

BURNETT: Yes, it is.

SANFORD: And therefore, that would give any reasoned person a lot of pause. It's a tug of war between head beliefs that we're not just on the issues we talk about today which are the issues of the day but on a much more foundational level, we are sinking our republic. If you lack at the debt numbers and the deficit and the spending, it's historically been a benchmark or at least a talking point with the Republicans that's gone out of window.

[19:35:03] BURNETT: Yes.

SANFORD: And we are going to see trouble because if the debate is about more versus more on the Democratic side, versus no comment on the Republican side, we end up with more versus more, and I think we're going to go over the cliff financially. And I think it's going to have wrenching impact in terms of our social ties, not only our financial ties and the ability to sustain the republic.

So, long story short I'm struggle with that issue, with the obvious pause given how crazy and gargantuan the task would be.

BURNETT: But soon, you'll decide?

SANFORD: Yes, ma'am.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Mark Sanford, thank you.

SANFORD: Pleasure.

BURNETT: Former, as we said, congresswoman and governor.

And next, nearly all the 2020 candidates are in Iowa tonight on the Democratic side, fighting to win over voters who are trying to find the one, the one, that they say can defeat Trump.


REPORTER: Have you become more politically active in the last four years?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so woke I can't believe it.


BURNETT: The new details about the abrupt resignation of this country's deputy spy chief.


BURNETT: OK. That is live pictures right here. Governor John Hickenlooper speaking in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Twenty -- more than 20. I believe 21, 22 of the Democratic presidential candidates are there at the dinner, the Wing Ding Dinner. They are all hoping that this weekend is going to be a turning point for them, putting them on the path to victory in the crucial first state to vote.

[19:40:00] One key stop is the state fair. It's starting.

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT.





ZELENY: A mandatory stop on the road to the White House.

BIDEN: You like the fair? What do you like best?

ZELENY: A parade of Democrat I can't candidates pressing flesh and pounding pavement.

CROWD: State fair!

ZELENY: Every four years, presidential hopefuls become one of the attractions, although none as likely as popular as the butter cow, a staple here since 1911.

Six months before the Iowa caucuses, voters like Claudia Roven, are sizing up the field.

(on camera): You've been watching this Democratic race. What are the qualities, though, you're look for?

CLAUDIA ROVEN, IOWA STATE FAIR ATTENDEE: They've got to be tough. They have to be not wimpy.

ZELENY (voice-over): Roven said she has never been politically active until president Trump took office. Now, she's searching for someone who stands the best chance of defeating him.

ROVEN: Kamala Harris. She looks tough. She looks like she could take him on. I like Elizabeth Warren. I like them all.

ZELENY (on camera): Have you become more politically active in the last four years?

ROVEN: I'm so woke I can't believe it.

ZELENY (voice-over): She likes Joe Biden but worries that he is too nice to take on Trump.

Not Maureen Murphy who says Biden is the best candidate for the job.

MAUREEN MURPHY, IOWA STATE FAIR ATTENDEE: People are saying Joe is getting a little old. No, Joe is one of the wisest, smartest man and I would put all my trust in him, and I do.

ZELENY: At the Iowa Democratic Party booth. All candidates get equal billing. But Biden is at the center of the conversation.

(on camera): So, you're not sure that he is the front runner?

JON NEIDERBACH, DEMOCRATIC PARTY BOOTH: Well, he is the front runner right now. But remember the time Howard Dean was the front runner. He obviously didn't win the caucus. It's a long way to go yet.


ZELENY (voice-over): We learn a lot about the politicians at the fair. How they handle the heat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you like about flipping pork chops?

DELANEY: Well, it gets me one step closer to eating a pork chop.

ZELENY: And how they slide.

(on camera): Governor, do you have to do a slide like that to be president?

GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, it's actually a lot of fun. It's great to have my family here, although my wife got a little bit competitive on that, Jeff.

ZELENY (voice-over): So far, no 2020 candidates have arrived in helicopters as Donald Trump did four years ago. And there have been few bumper car sightings as Barack Obama did when he ran for president -- a moment he later used as a metaphor.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: To prepare for this debate, I rode in the bumper cars at the state fair. ZELENY: As the full Democratic field flocks to the fair this weekend,

the race is on to make a good impression. Time is running short to make friends. Or in this case, supporters at the Iowa caucuses.


ZELENY: And before the weekend is over, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders and all Democratic field will be coming here to the state fair to make the case to voters. Erin, less than six months until those Iowa caucuses.

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

And next, North Korea just launching two ballistic missiles. So, why did the president talk about a three-page beautiful letter he got from Kim today then?

And Trump keeps slamming Democrats for doing nothing to help Baltimore. But he promised to help rural communities. And, well, here is what we found in one of them.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rural America rose up and voted for him. He could throw us a bone too.



[19:46:33] BURNETT: Breaking tonight, North Korea launching missiles. A U.S. official tonight telling CNN, Kim Jong-un's regime launched multiple short-range ballistic missiles today. The launch just coming literally hours after President Trump touted another, quote, beautiful letter from Kim Jong-un.


TRUMP: He really wrote a beautiful three-page -- I mean, right from top to bottom, a really beautiful letter. It was a very positive letter.

REPORTER: What did he say?

TRUMP: I'd love to give it to you. I really would.


BURNETT: Top to bottom, three full pages.

Tonight's launch is the fifth by North Korea in less than two weeks. So, in that time frame, North Korea's tested 10 missiles. And now, Trump is claiming that this spate of tests has nothing to do with the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: He didn't say a warning to the United States. I can tell that you. He didn't say a warning to the United States.


BURNETT: So that's what he said after the last couple of ones were tested a couple of weeks ago, last week.

It's unfortunately not true. Kim Jong-un has made it clear that the tests are about the United States, and specifically a warning to the United States. North Korean state media quotes Kim calling Tuesday's test, quote, an occasion to send an adequate warning to the joint military drill under way now by the United States and South Korean authorities.

Now, Trump says it's all good on the test because Kim is technically sticking to their agreements on missile types. But if that is his standard, then why did he walk away from the nuclear deal with Iran, a deal that evidence shows Iran was honoring? Like the deal or not, it was being honored.

OUTFRONT now, former director for national intelligence under President Obama, James Clapper.

And I appreciate your time, as always, Director.

So, you've negotiated with Kim Jong-un's North Korea. You traveled there in 2014. So, in the past couple of weeks, Kim launches 10 short-range missiles. He sends a three-page letter that Trump notes was top to bottom three pages and says was beautiful. And the tests are all fine.

What's your reaction to that?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Kim Kong-un is getting it both ways here. He is continuing missile testing which, of course, are a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and apparently as long as he sends the beautiful letters -- love letters back and forth and he is playing to his own military constituency, and because they're not intercontinental range, I guess, the president rationalizes that doesn't pose a threat to the United States.

Well, it does, as you indicated, because of our forces and their families that are now positioned in South Korea, not to mention South Korea itself as well as Japan. So, this is -- it's a really good deal for Kim Jong-un.

I wish in the love letters it would have a serious exchange, first an answer to a question to be posed to Kim Jong-un, what is it you need to feel sufficiently secure that you don't need nuclear weapons? In the absence of knowing that, I don't know how we have any negotiating strategy.

And it would also be cool if we agreed on just what denuclearization, whatever that is, what that means to them.

BURNETT: Right. That's certainly.

CLAPPER: And to us.

BURNETT: And we don't.

I mean, so, in the letter which Trump says, oh, I'd love to show you. You know, it's like -- he keeps saying this, right, the beautiful letter. Trump does say that Kim says that he was not happy with the military drills between the U.S. and North Korea.

As you point out, you've got 30,000 U.S. troops, families all right there.

[19:50:03] So, the president today says that this is what Kim expressed and then takes Kim's side on the American drills. Here he is.


TRUMP: He wasn't happy with the tests -- the war games, the war games on the other side with the United States, and, you know, I've never liked it either. I've never liked it. I'm never been a fan.


BURNETT: OK. So, I understand, he's speaking extemporaneously. But he's pretty clearly saying, you know, the other side with the United States. I've never liked it either. I mean, he's very clearly taking Kim side against the United States. Does that bother you?

CLAPPER: Oh, sure, it does. And Kim Jong-un, again, is taking advantage of this relationship and president so badly wants to maintain this love-in (ph) with Kim Jong-un that he gives him a pass.

You know, I'll tell you, the North Koreans understand exactly the purpose of those exercises and they are a defensive in nature and the reason we need to do them is because of the turnover. Every year, everybody out there does a one-year tour. So, you need to have those exercises for readiness purposes.

Kim Jong-un and his military understand all that. So, this is just so much --

BURNETT: Right. Otherwise, you have Americans -- I mean, I've been over there and met them. These are young folks that come and they do their tour, they go to another tour, right? So, if they don't get trained and something happens, then they are not ready.

I want to ask about Sue Gordon before you go, if I can director. The country's number two intelligence official, she's stepping down. I know you know her well.

Sources tell us that the timing of this decision became urgent because on Thursday, her boss, the outgoing DNI, Dan Coats, who also know well, interrupted a meeting she was holding. She was having a meeting on election security. He runs in and apparently we understand it's very urgent and says, I need you to submit a letter of resignation and to do it now.

What do you make of that, that it became that urgent to do that?

CLAPPER: I don't know and I hadn't heard that before. I think the die was cast with the president's tweet when he said there would be an announcement shortly on an acting director. The law, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, is clear about filling vacancy for the DNI and that is to be by the principal deputy.

In my view, Sue did the right thing. Maybe she should have done earlier and I think she did it in a very classy way. She's a consummate professional served decades in CIA and all parts of it, and served with great distinction as director, deputy director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, one of my old agencies, and she is a true professional and that's probably what disqualified her.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate your directness as always, Director.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, Trump promised to rescue the coal industry so what happened in rural Kentucky?


[19:55:30] BURNETT: President Trump slamming Baltimore, calling it rat and rodent infested, but when it comes to struggling rural areas, the president has been silent.

Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kentucky's fifth district, ruggedly beautiful and deeply poor Appalachia, for decades, has struggled with the boom and burst of coal.

GWEN JOHNSON, BLACK SHEEP BAKERY AND PIZZA: We've had a mono economy of coal for over 100 years, so then --

MARQUEZ (on camera): And coal is gone?

G. JOHNSON: And -- pretty much.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Gwen Johnson in her spare time runs Black Sheep Bakery and Pizza in Hemphill, Kentucky. The money it brings in helps the local community center stay open.

G. JOHNSON: We're fighting for a better community here. We got people who are hurt and coming out of incarceration.

MARQUEZ: Not only have high-paying coal jobs sharply declined since 2012, despite promises otherwise.

PETER HILLE, PRESIDENT, MOUNTAIN ASSOCIATION FOR COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: In 2017, we added fewer than 20 jobs, and in 2018, we lost a few hundred more. So the coal industry in Kentucky has not come back.

MARQUEZ: Opioid and drug abuse dealing rural Appalachia a double punch.

BRAD JOHNSON, RECOVERING ADDICT: Once I tried heroin, I was 100 percent addicted like the first time.

MARQUEZ: Brad Johnson served three years in the military, one tour in Iraq, he's now in recovery what he calls the toughest fight in his 34 years.

B. JOHNSON: I drink so much when I wake up and look around, I'd see all the drug paraphernalia that I had done and don't remember doing.

MARQUEZ: Trying to get off heroin, he became addicted to prescription opioids, eventually serving time for trafficking drugs and receiving stolen goods.

B. JOHNSON: I've been on recovery for four years.

MARQUEZ (on camera): How tough is that?

B. JOHNSON: Here, it's really tough.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Tough for thousands here either addicted or in recovery, many with criminal records. If you overlay this map of economically distressed counties in 2018 and deaths and drug overdoses in 2015, Kentucky's fifth congressional district is right in the middle. The president and his administration have focused on combating the opioid epidemic and spoken glowingly about places like Kentucky that supported him by 30 points in 2016.

TRUMP: It's a great, great state, and he is turned out to be a great, great governor, Matt Bevin.

MARQUEZ: Compare that with what the president reserves for his political opponents and their districts.

TRUMP: Those people are living in hell in Baltimore. They are largely African-American. You have a large African-American population, and they really appreciate what I'm doing.

MARQUEZ: Baltimore is about 65 percent African-American, Kentucky's fifth congressional district about 97 percent white. Some 23 percent of Baltimore residents live in poverty, more than 29 percent of Kentucky's fifth congressional district lives below the poverty line.

The president had a similar attack on John Lewis' congressional district in Atlanta in the suburbs, tweeting shortly before his inauguration, Congressman Lewis should spend time on fixing and helping his district which is in horrible shape, and falling apart, not to mention crime infested, rather than falsely complaining about election results. Crime rates have sharply declined in Lewis' district since he took

office in 1987. But on many occasions, the president portrayed cities with large minority populations as failed.

TRUMP: No one has paid a higher price for the far left's destructive agenda than Americans living in our nation's inner cities. For decades, these communities have been run exclusively by Democrat politicians.

MARQUEZ: Here in Kentucky's fifth congressional district, even some who voted for the president say they wish he'd spend less time attacking his opponents and more time focused on making good on his campaign promises.

G. JOHNSON: Rural America rose up and voted for him, and he's talking about urban America. You know, he could throw us a bone, too.

MARQUEZ (on camera): So, you think he's talking about Baltimore, the places negatively, at least he's talking about them.

G. JOHNSON: He's talking about them and he's paying attention.


MARQUEZ: Now, President Trump won this district by a wide margin. Everyone you speak to here remembers Hillary Clinton's words that she was going to put a lot of miners out of work. But many people here say they want the president to stop with the political fighting and focus on what's important -- Erin.

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

And thanks to all of you.

Anderson starts now.